I decided to post the first chapter to a novel I wrote a couple of years ago. It was for the ‘National Novel Writing Month’ contest, and I had completed the 50,000 word goal. This novel will probably never see the light of day, or get developed into anything other than what it is. However, I may use Morton in something else in the future.
Let me know what you think!
The Incredible Story Of Morton William Geebles
By Clinton Nix
Morton unfolded the newspaper that he stuck into his coat pocket in a hurry to catch the train. “A house mysteriously caught on fire on 15th Ave,” he spoke aloud. “Hmmm. Some things you can never explain.” His commentary annoyed the nearby passengers. For as long as Morton could hold a book, he always had the habit of speaking aloud what he read. Morton blindly reached out his hand in an attempt to grab the cup of coffee by his side. “Aw, now I’ve done it,” he pouted as the pool of coffee dripped off of his coat and pants and onto the floor. He rummaged through his pockets for a single tissue, but to no avail. “Argh.” He clumsily pulled himself on his feet, grasping the metal bar on his right side. The woman sitting across from him grimaced as he brushed against her in a mad dash for the lavatory. Morton always found an excuse to walk, ever since he bought his new shoes. They were made of a shiny leather, custom tailored to his feet. He was very proud of the shine, and made sure that everyone saw them. They made a squishy sound if he walked slow, and a dull tap if he walked fast.
Morton’s pace increased steadily as he passed each cabin. “Why does the bathroom have to be on the OTHER side,” he grumbled. Suddenly, someone shouted.
As Morton turned his head to see who was shouting at him, his left foot caught on the support for the seat nearest him. He took a tumble and fell face down on the floor. “Ugh, my shoe…” He was clearly not worried about his own safety, but rather if the shine on his left shoe would be dull compared to his right. He pulled himself back on his feet, slowly anticipating the stares and the “aws” of the surrounding passengers.
“Morty, you goofball, I knew it was you. You are always getting into trouble. Are you okay?” It was Caroline, a former classmate of Morton’s. They had become good friends, and ended up having classes together, and sharing projects. At the time, neither of them had many friends, so they always relied on each other. At some point, Caroline’s popularity changed, and she stopped spending as much time with Morton as she used to. The last time that Morton saw Caroline was about two years ago.
“Um, er, of course. Y-you see, the c-combined actions of looking around and walking at an uncomfortably fast pace is something that has a definite learning curve.” As Morton spoke,he shook his head a bit from side to side, out of nervousness. Caroline looked a little confused as Morton explained his situation with striking detail. “Morty, you haven’t changed since then. How’ve you been? You gotta keep in touch!” Morton remembered that Caroline always talked so fast that he couldn’t get an answer in for quite a few moments at any point in time. He always wondered how she was able to breathe between all the questions. “My number is still the same. I gave it to you, do you need it again? Call me some time!”
“Yes, I reckon I still do have it. Writing it down in my planner,” he responded as he pulled out a pad and pen and continued to scratch something down. “See ya,” she said, turning to her friend who was seated by the window. Who knows what she was doing on this same train, where she was going. Morton didn’t have time to ponder it.
Many trees could be seen passing by the windows. “We’re still near Tacoma,” he thought. The train had not made it far past the tri-city area. His attention was then pulled back to his coffee soaked coat and pants, to reality. “Oh…” Morton made for the lavatory with great haste, eventually reaching the door. “Occupied…Hmm.” An awful smell was exuding from the other side of the door. Morton thought hard about entering the bathroom, carefully analyzing the pros and cons. “Well, I’ll be able to clean my pants,” he thought. “But, the smell might be so unbearable that my stomach might churn…I do have a sensitive stomach,” he countered. “If I see Caroline again, I have to be more dignified.”
“But no…it is decided!” He exclaimed. Morton turned around and headed back to his seat, being careful not to be seen this time. For Morty, his shoes were his most important deciding factor. If he went in the bathroom, there was a chance that they could be spoiled by something that may lurk there on the floor. He would not have that.
On his way back Morton tried to sit in his usual spot, but it was taken by a large boy, who was absorbed in his ice cream cone. He had a blue shirt that had dark smears on it. Morton looked around, and found an empty seat further back. He walked over and sat down; he was minding his own business when the man next to him gave him a good hard look. He was a guy with a big frame, with a large, squared face. He wore a suit and a round hat to match. He made no effort to conceal his stares from Morton.
“Hey, boy, what’s your name?”
“Me? I’m Morton, Morton William Geebles.”
The man looked at him intently, and put his hand out for a shake.
“I’m Sam, Sam Goodpenny. Nice to meet you there, Marvin.”
Morton became irritated with Sam; he never liked it when people pronounced his name incorrectly.
“It’s Morton,” he said, giving a few seconds pause before meeting Sam with a handshake.
“What’s a man like yourself doing on this train at this fine hour?”
Sam had a fast way of speaking, so much so that Morton had trouble following his words.
“I’m on my way to Portland.” Morton nodded in assurance.
“Oh, what for? Family? Business? A girl?”
Morton was annoyed with this comment. He replied in haste, making sure that he set the boundary with the man.
“No, sir, not for those reasons. I am going for, uh-” Morton paused, forgetting what he was going to say.
“It’s fine, Marvin, fine.”
Sam got the hint that Morton didn’t really want to talk. The two of them sat in silence for a few moments. Sam looked around, and then with his eyes, he was trying to look at Morton without turning his head. He couldn’t wait any longer, and let out a question.
“Where you from?”
Morton looked at Sam with a dumbfounded expression. He thought it was obvious, since they where on a train from Seattle. Nevertheless, he responded.
“I’m from Seattle.”
“Oh, nice, the good ol’ rainy city. You know, I used to live there. I’ve been traveling about- I’m a salesman after all- and I have family in Seattle.”
“Did you visit them just now?”
Sam looked away, toward the other side of the compartment.
“Yeah. But I can’t stay too long in one place. I’ve got traveling in my blood.”
The man sitting opposite of them looked up from reading his newspaper, and stared at Sam for a few moments.
“What are you looking at?” Sam shouted.
The man didn’t respond, and instead, looked back down into his newspaper, meanwhile his stature slunk down a couple of inches.
“Some people, I tell ya. It’s like pulling whiskers on a cat, and the cat swats you but he doesn’t have any claws. All they are, is talk, and I’ll show those people a thing or two.”
Morton was surprised by the stranger, and by Sam and his actions. He didn’t know whether to be afraid or to laugh.
“Ha ha ha.” Sam chuckled hard, and slapped his hand on Morton’s back. He spoke, pointing down toward the stains on Morton’s pants.
“Look what happened, buddy. You’re really clumsy, you know that? Don’t worry, I’ve got something for you.”
He picked up his briefcase and opened it, revealing an array of different products inside.
“Let’s see. This one is new, just came out of the lab.”
Morton wasn’t interested, but he was cornered, and had no way of escaping.
“It’s a stain remover, and I can sell it to you for forty dollars. It’s a steal.”
“Oh, no thanks, no thanks.” Morton wanted to get the stain out of his pants, but he knew a scam when he saw one. Sam made a sour face, and tried to convince him of the greatness of the product.
“If not that, then I have this watch, from Switzerland…”
Sam pulled out the watch, and swung it around, as if to demonstrate its durability. He was spitting out the features, dimensions, the color, and the history of how it was made, as if he was reading from a piece of paper. To Morton’s relief, the train finally made its last stop, and his escape seemed within reach.
“Whew, finally here.” he said aloud.
“It was nice, uh, Sam, sir….this is my stop, goodbye.”
Morton bowed his head and started walking away, in a hurry, while Sam was spitting words out like a machine gun, trying to keep Morton from leaving. Sam was now out of sight, and out of mind, and Morton could continue on with his journey. Every month or so, Morton traveled three hours by train to Portland, from Seattle. He did this for one of his great passions, which he kept solely to himself. Every month, a new issue of Glorious Tony came out, and the first prints were always exclusive to Portland, the author’s home city. To Morton, Glorious Tony was his brother, his companion…he felt a strong familiarity with Tony that he couldn’t quite explain. Maybe it was the way he dressed; always looking crisp, wearing the top Italian suits, even if it cost him every penny. Perhaps it was the way he spoke to others, with such diligence and formal wording. Perhaps it was the fact that he always ended up in the right places at all the right times; he was there to save the diner from robbery, or to save the child falling out of a nearby window. These are all things Morton aspired to do, and be; even though he failed miserably at almost all of them, he knew one day he could be glorious, like Tony.
Morton contemplated what was going to happen in the next issue as he left the train, making his way to the bookstore. Perhaps Tony was going to meet his untimely end? At the end of last issue, it appeared that he had swallowed just a bit more than he could chew. Most of the time, Tony ended up in the right situations…but this time, it felt a bit different, and it scared Morton. Tony had chased down a mugger, who was taking advantage of a helpless old lady- only to run right into the gang that the mugger was a part of. It killed Morton to wait for the next issue, but now it was here- finally.
“Scepter Books.” Morton felt chills as he spoke the name of the only place that carried new copies of Glorious Tony before the official release. By now he had totally forgotten about the coffee stains on his coat and pants, but they had almost dried anyway. Morton entered the store, heart pounding heavily. Before he was even able to greet the salesperson, his vision started to fade; all the books and people in the store merged together into one big blur. Morton was out before he hit the floor.
The store was practically empty. Because a strange man passed out in the doorway, the unlikely event that it was, Morgan decided to temporarily close Scepter Books. “It’s not like I’m going to get many customers today,” Morgan thought. He brought the strange man to the back room, where there was a couch that was meant for break time reading, not for unconscious strangers. Morgan looked with quizzical face upon the brown stains on the strange man’s pants.
“What have I not seen now?” Morgan thought it ironic to be wearing such expensive clothes, yet to have them ruined by so thoughtless an action. “And the shoes, ha ha!” They were just so shiny. “I’ve got a walking comic in my break room!” Morgan laughed for a second, then became serious on the realization of what, in reality, lie before him. “Right,” Morgan thought. This man needed medical attention, after all. He never even thought of calling an ambulance. It just didn’t come to his mind. “I can’t imagine how it happened. Maybe he’s diabetic, and was desperate to get some sugar, so he ran to the nearest place, my bookstore,” Morgan hypothesized. “On second thought, not very likely. He might have just hit his head on the way in. He looked pretty frantic, probably too much coffee.” Morgan looked down. “The evidence is there,” Morgan said, pointing to the stain.
“Oh!” Morgan quickly got up and went to the bathroom. “This is the least I can do,” he said. He soaked a white rag, wringing it out several times. The steam fogged up the little mirror above the sink. “Okay.” Morgan went back to the hapless stranger, who lay unguarded on the green couch. As Morgan wet the stranger’s forehead with the steaming rag, he couldn’t help but notice the rips in the couch. He had wanted to throw it out long ago, but never got himself to actually do it. If he knew that this was going to happen, he would have gotten a new one.
Suddenly, the small finger on the stranger’s right hand twitched. “Oh!” Morgan jumped back, the tempo of his heartbeat increasing. “Are you okay?” Morgan asked to a deadening silence. His eyes were opening, so Morgan went closer.
“how many fingers am I holding up?
Whats your name?
…where are you from? What are you doing here?”
Morgan realized that he had asked way too many questions, even for a conscious person to answer. He decided to pause for five seconds between questions, at least until the stranger became conscious. Morgan waited for about a minute to ask his next question. “What’s your name?” He asked in a more composed manner that time. “..M….Morton.” The stranger struggled to get the name out. Then, “Morton…Morton William Geebles.” He seemed well enough to stress the proper wording of his full name. “I’m Morgan. Are you feeling okay?” “Why is it that you ask, sir? Do I appear unwell? Am I not normal?”
“Well…you just-” Morgan was interrupted by Morton’s quick rise to his feet. “Oh, Glorious Tony!” Morton exclaimed with profundity.
There was a short silence before Morgan spoke again. “What? is that why you are here?” “Ah, um…well, I just heard about it and..” Morton felt a little bit ashamed. “I’m trying to figure out why you passed out. Do you know of anything-” Morgan didn’t complete his sentence. He was waiting for Morton to fill in the blanks. That didn’t exactly happen. “Your lips are chapped, and you have coffee stains. Perhaps you just got a bit dehydrated.” “..oh,” Morton said in contemplation. He realized he didn’t have anything to drink in a long time, being so frantic about the new issue of Glorious Tony. “Are you sure you don’t need medical attention?” Morgan asked intently. “No, no, I’m fine. It’s okay, really.” Morton seemed like he was trying to assure himself. He brushed his pants off and looked at Morgan.
“Perhaps you need this,” Morgan said as he tossed the still-warm rag to Morton. “Oh, oh yes,” Morton responded as he fumbled to catch the towel, eventually dropping it on the ground. After a lot of rubbing with the towel, the stains still seemed to be there, with a pronounced outer ring that was dark and unmistakable. “Ugh.” “These things happen, it’s alright,” Morgan assured him. Morton knew that he was trying to make him feel better, but it didn’t help. “Oh yeah, since you mentioned…” Morgan said to Morton’s now-peaked interest. “Here’s the new copy of Glorious Tony. You can have it for free. It doesn’t sell much anyway…”
In that instant, Morton completely forgot about his stains. He just wanted to hold the issue in his hands. Morgan had a smile on his face; he didn’t understand what this guy liked about Glorious Tony. In fact, Morgan hated it; he thought it was poorly written and very cliché. He knew that Morton liked it, though; Morgan felt good for that reason. He could tell that it was hard for Morton to keep his eyes off of the copy in his hands. He knew that this stranger was now ready to go, and his bookstore would be quiet once more. “Alright,” he said as he patted Morton’s shoulder. Morton said his goodbyes to the shop owner and made haste to read the new issue of Glorious Tony. Morgan told him to come by any time, that he was still going to carry the new copies of Glorious Tony despite their low sales.
“Now it’s back to the usual, day-to-day,” Morgan muttered to himself, as he picked up his coffee cup for another sip. Morton sat at an old bench on an adjacent street. He was finally alone, undisturbed, and had the issue in his hands. “Here we go,” he said as he opened the cover to the first page.