No need to jump, part two

I have found a way to work my latest story idea into a long-standing unfinished novel that has been brewing for roughly thirty years. The main character, Roger Sorenson, will be the poisoning victim I mentioned in my last post. The story begins with his death and the beginning of the police investigation. It then jumps backward in time to the beginning of his relationship with Rose Gardner, his ex-wife who is a suspect in his murder.

Ernest Gardner had nothing in his life but his business and his family, and long ago he combined the two into one. His wife is long-gone, but all three of his daughters—Rose, Lily, and Violet—work at his florist shop. (Those names may be too cute, but for the time being they will work as place-holders.) Ernest’s florist shop is no small business at one end of a strip mall, ordering produce from chain suppliers. The shop occupies most of a city block, complete with greenhouses, showrooms, and office space. Ernest inherited the business before he was married, and his daughters have grown up with the business. Violet is still in school, but she works in the shop evenings and weekends. Lily is a full-time worker in the greenhouses. Rose, the eldest, has taken business classes and earned a degree; she is the company bookkeeper for Ernest’s shop.

For several years, Ernest has hired a student or two from the university across town to assist in the office with clerical work. He has never hinted this thought to any of his clerks or to any of his daughters, but at the back of his mind Ernest is always hoping to create a match. He would like to find a husband for his daughters, an educated man, but a man willing to take an interest in the family business. Rose is old enough and set in her ways; Ernest doubts at this point that any romantic match will come her way. Lily and Violet seem more eligible matches for the young men Ernest hires. Rose is strong-willed, firm in her opinions, and confident in her abilities. (Shakespeare may have helped a tiny bit to invent this character and her situation.)

Roger Sorenson is this year’s clerk. He is finishing his classwork to earn a doctorate in Philosophy. He has already begun contemplating the topic of his thesis. Most of his mind is focused on his schoolwork, but he appreciates the extra income from the clerk’s position. Moreover, Roger is a quick learner. In a few weeks he learned the basic tasks in the florist business; not only can he handle office paperwork, but he is also capable of serving in the shop, waiting on customers.

One day, when Roger and Rose are in the shop, a man enters and attempts an armed robbery. Roger heroically protects Rose from harm and disarms the robber, but not before Roger is injured. (I have fantasized this event in many ways over the years; the details will not be hard to write.) Because all his family is out of town, Roger is welcomed into the Gardner household to continue his recovery once he is released from the hospital. Rose is at his side as often as her schedule allows. Romance and marriage will follow.

Since Roger is studying philosophy, he will have many opportunities during his convalescence to explain the workings of philosophy to a skeptical Rose. To show the value of his discipline, Roger will begin with aesthetics—the question of what things are beautiful, and why. Rose must analyze flowers and flower arrangements according to structured thought rather than intuitive design. From that beginning, Rose will also learn about ethics and finally about the eternal questions regarding the universe—what is real, and how do we know? These questions become increasingly important as the accused robber and his friends present a version of what happened that fateful day in the shop which is dramatically different from the event as Roger and Rose remember it.

A jury hears the evidence, including the conflicting testimony, and it convicts the robber of attempted murder. He spends the next several years in prison, learning from his fellow prisoners about crime, making connections with other members of the local criminal community. His release from prison happens only a few weeks before Roger receives the package of poisoned candy. By this time, Roger and Rose have been married and divorced. Did she send him the candy, or was she framed by the man who once threatened her with a gun? Will the truth ever be found?

This story permits the insertion of various explanations of philosophy and its applications to contemporary life. One version or another of this book has been in my mind for many years. Like me, Roger Sorenson is a Christian, a fan of Kierkegaard, and an avid reader of western civilization’s classic works. Can he share this passion with Rose, or will the Great Thoughts be the nemesis of their relationship? J.

Calling all inventors!

Over the weekend an email appeared in all the inboxes of all the email users where I work. Perhaps you have seen this email too. It describes how internet uses can get to secret web sites where they can hire hitmen, buy and sell drugs, and conduct other illegal activity. A member of the IT department chose to send us all a follow-up email, making sure we knew that this was spam, and assuring us that our employer does not endorse or encourage the use of hit men.

Of course in the twenty-first century, the proper noun would be hitperson. (Even if SpellCheck says there is no such word. SpellCheck also says that SpellCheck is not a word.) Hitman should have gone out with policeman and fireman. I’m sure I have seen women perform hits in movies and television shows. On the other hand, if one is already engaged in criminal activity, compounding the crime with political incorrectness probably does not matter very much.

More than that, though, the emails caused me to ask myself whether I would ever want to hire a hitperson. Naturally, the first person who came to mind was Mrs. Dim. The truth is that I do not want Mrs. Dim to die. Especially I do not want her to die a violent death. I would approve if she would move to another state. I would even help her pack. Her leaf blower would be the very first thing I would tape into a box to send on its way.

But Mrs. Dim is not planning to move. Our other dimmer neighbors are unlikely to move out so soon after moving in. They took out another tree this weekend. From the number of hours the chain saw was roaring, I have to assume that they were dismantling the tree six inches at a time. They didn’t even finish Saturday; they had to do some chain sawing Sunday afternoon as well.

If a hitperson is not the answer to my problem, what would bring me relief? I have in mind an invention that would help, but not being one of those creative STEM types, I need to send out a call for help. What I need is a noise-seeking missile. As a heat-seeking missile is drawn to its target by the heat of the target, this noise-seeking missile would be drawn to loud machines, such as chain saws and leaf blowers. They would not be powerful enough to maim or kill the operator of the device, but they would have the power to render the device inactive. I would like to base these missiles in my attic, with several missiles targeted at Mrs. Dim’s property and at the dimmer neighbors’ property. I would not have them armed at all times; the neighbors can make all the noise they want when my family and I aren’t at home. When I need things to be quiet, though, the missiles would be armed and ready to defend the peace of the neighborhood from senseless noise.

I expect that the missiles could be calibrated to react to certain annoying pitches. They could also be set to respond to five minutes of continuous noise or five total minutes of sporadic noise (such as a chain saw). I wouldn’t want to accidently destroy a barking dog or the city’s garbage truck. I have mixed feelings about a car with a damaged muffler; I suppose the missiles could be set to finish off a car if it has been driven for a week without being repaired. The motorcyclist who roars through the neighborhood every pleasant evening—clearly having disabled the motorcycle muffler to add to the driver’s enjoyment—would be fair game. I would want to be sure that the inventor knows that these noise-seeking missiles need to be able to target, follow, and disable a moving motorcycle.

Interest inventors can reply to me on this post. J.