REQUEST FOR FEEDBACK
Attached is the beginning of a novel, a bit of a farce I play with from time to time. It's set on the Gold Coast of Connecticut. The protagonist, married to a financial bigshot and living the 'good life', is at odds with the effort to 'keep up' and yearns for a simpler life.
I'd like to know your reactions. I apologize for the formatting. i could not link it as a pdf. Thanks for reading!
“Pink flamingo on your side! Minus twenty-five points!”
As Jessica watched the workmen on the lawn below position Adam’s’s latest purchase into place, memories of the childhood car game came flooding back. She had been around ten on that long ago trip, sitting behind her mother in their Oldsmobile station wagon, as her father spelled out the rules.
“Jess, you watch the right side of the road, I’ll take the left,” her father stated as they traveled from Tennessee to Kentucky on narrow back roads. “If you see a yard ornament on your side of the road, you get points: twenty for a wishing well, five for a whirly-gig; a burro and a wagon is fifteen; a bathtub madonna, twenty. But, and you have to be honest, if you get a pink flamingo on your side, you lose twenty-five points.”
It had been a rare occasion that day because she had won out over his eagle eyes. What value would he have assigned to Adam’s new decoration?
“A thousand friggin’ points!” she muttered.
She leant against the limestone balustrade surrounding the raised veranda on which she stood overlooking Long Island Sound. The sun-soaked fieldstone floor radiated warmth from the June sun, and she shed her sandals to allow her manicured feet their freedom. It was a balmy day with gentle salt tinged breezes and the occasional annoyance of a weed trimmer. In the harbor, sailboats, large and small, were anchored for summer residence. A few were already gadding about, ferrying their passengers to islands offshore, sandy beaches, and fashionable restaurants where one could tie up and dine dockside. Enjoying the long awaited summer air on her bare arms, she pushed her chestnut hair away from her eyes and turned her face upward to catch the morning rays. What a glorious day to be outside! Her reverie was interrupted by a harsh grinding noise, and she returned her gaze to the goings on below.
Stretching to the seawall, from the diligently maintained boxwood hedges surrounding the terrace, was a carpet of golf club worthy grass. An expansive curving dock elongated the view across the water and to the horizon. In the midst of this putting green perfect lawn, on a berm of freshly compacted sod, a burly delivery man was supervising the unloading of three enormous antique stone orbs. Purchased by her husband, at considerable expense, from a respected London dealer of ornamental garden decor, they had just been delivered. Also at considerable expense. The men below had put two in place on custom steel supports and were lowering the third onto a similar mount. ‘Bespoke’, Adam had called the stands made to elevate his acquisitions; a more aristocratic term, evidently, than ‘custom made’. Adam and his baubles was how she viewed them, them being the costly items he had a penchant for buying. The estate was a showplace.
More like a showing off place.
And Adam was showing off right then. He was yelling, and pointing frantically, at the lift operator.
“Careful! They have to be perfectly positioned! You’re too far to the left!”
Jessica watched the workman shift gears and swing the giant ball to the right.
“Too far!” Adam yelled. “Watch what you’re doing!” He was getting shrimp faced; red as a prawn thrown into boiling water. Impatience, undiluted: that was Adam. It would be futile for her to interfere. From past experience, it was best to let him do things his way. Sometimes they worked out, sometimes not.
The hoist swung slightly back to the left, and the operator began to lower the huge ball. “Looking good, looking good,” Adam shouted.
From her view, above the action, it wasn’t looking so good. In fact, it seemed somewhat off its mark, and she yelled at her husband. He shook his head at her and waved his hand past his ear as if to say he couldn’t hear her.
Or he doesn’t want to hear me.
“Let her drop!” Adam yelled.
The operator released the orb onto the steel stand and backed away.
Great. We now have, on ‘bespoke’ tees, three giant gray golf balls in our yard.
She shook her head at the huge ornaments. Their mass was better suited for a craggy castle in Scotland than a pseudo chateau on the Connecticut shore. As if aware of her contempt, the stand, on which the last and largest orb sat, began to sag under her abuse and sank into the ground on one side. Tilting its immense burden towards the shore, and before anyone could stop it, the giant ball slowly rolled off its mount, as if gently putted. Down the sloped fairway of lawn it broke, gathering speed as the angle to the water steepened.
“Catch it!” Adam yelled, gesturing in distress and disgust.
The workmen scrambled to waylay the runaway but seemed unsure as to exactly what their actions should be. Two thousand pounds of rolling stone was not easily managed. Striking an outcropping of granite, the wayward sphere shifted its direction like a half shot. Its target of the dock was quickly affirmed as it hit the decking in a victory lap before falling onto the kayak tied up there and sinking to a watery grave.
Minus five thousand points, Adam.
There was little she could do. Adam would most certainly blow his top and blame whoever was in his sightline. He was already thundering at the poor lift operator. It was best to remove herself from any involvement sooner rather than later. She walked inside to the adjacent sunroom. With its tile floor and abundance of plants, it was the smallest and coziest room in their twelve thousand square foot manse. Adam had built the house before they married, tearing down the picturesque stone cottage that had sat there before. The interior was furnished, in juxtaposition to its classical architecture, with fine mid century furniture and fashionable artwork. A well known New York designer plied Adam with expensive temptations on a regular basis. It wasn’t that she didn’t appreciate the items or the house; it was that it had never felt like a home, at least not her home or even their home.
As the years passed, she had begun to see herself as just another of Adam’s baubles, acquired for looks rather than substance; and once acquired, forgotten. She had become part of the background, overlooked and taken for granted like the Ruhlmann bookcase filled with volumes Adam never read. It hadn’t been like that in the first couple years of marriage, but as his hedge fund took on additional and wealthier clients, Adam’s need for perfection in all aspects of his life began to take a toll. It seemed the only time he acknowledged her existence was when he needed something done. Then he bossed her around as if she were his butler rather than his wife. The nonsense of it all was exhausting. It was as if his possessions owned him, not the other way around. She was an onlooker rather than a participant in his life.
She went upstairs to get ready for a luncheon in town. As she entered her spacious, well organized dressing room, her cell phone rang. She looked at the screen, smiled, and sat down on the Danish bench beside the window to take the call.
“Maggie!” she exclaimed, to her closest family member. Her father’s younger sister, Maggie had been both aunt and mother to Jessica after her parents passed in an auto accident when she was sixteen.
“How’s my favorite niece?” Maggie’s central Kentucky accent vibrated in Jessica’s ear.
“I’m your only niece!”
“Then you must be my favorite.” It was a familiar exchange between the two of them.
“God, it’s good to hear your voice!” Jessica let out a sigh of relief more audible than she intended. At the moment she doubted there was anyone’s voice she more wanted to hear than Maggie’s.
“You doing okay, darling?” Maggie asked with knowing concern in her voice.
“It’s been one of those mornings.” Jessica related the morning’s events to Maggie.
“Lordy, child, that man’s got more money than sense. All he needed was a bigger pair of balls.”
Jessica snickered. “You always could get to the point. From the terrace, the damn things flank a tower with a cone shaped roof on the small island offshore. I’m sure you have a mental image of what that looks like!”
Maggie giggled. “I think you need to get out of there for a while. Come see me?”
“Is everything okay?” Jessica asked.
“Yes, dear. Just sounds like you might need a dose of reality.”
“In this town, always,” Jessica replied.
They talked a bit longer before Jessica begged off. If she was going to be on time for her lunch date, she had to get dressed. With the warmer day outside, she opted for a sleeveless shift and sandals. She tugged on a gold cuff bracelet for accent and left in place the simple gold studs that adorned her ears. It just did not feel like a diamond and pearls kind of day. With a light gloss of lipstick, she picked up her purse and went out. She could still hear Adam swearing as she left.