Sunday, April 08, 2007

Current Novel Excerpt: Tomato soup and Johnny Carson

It's been a while since I posted a fiction excerpt, so I thought I'd pop something up to remedy that. Since I'm gearing up to spend a lot of time with this project, I thought maybe you'd like to learn a little more about my protagonist, whom you last saw getting ready for work in Chapter Two. This excerpt is from Chapter Thirteen and is set in April, 1986. The normal, first-draft disclaimer applies.

Baranatalo pours most of the soup into a large mug and carries the mug with him into the living room, where he drinks it on the sofa while staring again at the muted television.

The man on the screen now is Johnny Carson, running through his monologue in front of a curtain. Baranatalo can see from watching Carson’s face where the punchlines are, and smiles to himself when the comedian reaches one, enjoying the expression on the man’s face more than he might the jokes he tells, as Baranatalo does not understand a lot of the jokes on the program.

He drinks the soup and finds it delicious. It tastes like something familiar and reminds him of childhood. He cannot recall purchasing the can in the first place, as it is not a part of his normal diet, but he is suddenly grateful for its presence in the cupboard. He likes it, and he will add it to his list of consumables to be obtained from the market the next time he goes.

He drinks it fast, relishing the heat against his throat as he swallows. There is something like safety in the warm liquid, and he drinks it greedily and refills the mug with the rest of the soup from the kitchen, drinking that down, too.

The soup has recharged Baranatalo, even though it is bedtime. He is almost always asleep by the time Carson brings out a guest, but over the lip of the mug he can see that Carson has moved to the desk and is chatting amiably with a beautiful woman. This is just another thing people on television do that Baranatalo does not fully understand, talking to each other excitedly, at ease with themselves and each other, apparently unaware of the physical attractiveness of one another. Or aware, and acting somewhat differently sometimes, luring the other person into a kiss or a dimly lit room and a commercial break.

There is the television and there is the soup, and Baranatalo is wide awake at nearly eleven at night enjoying the latter as he puzzles over the former. The beautiful woman laughs at something Carson has said, throwing her head back and putting her hand on the desk. Carson beams at his triumph, and Baranatalo wonders if the two are lovers. He watches to see if Carson will kiss her or lead her into darkness, but the commercial break comes and they are still at the desk, the woman still touching the desk, Carson still looking into the camera to say something, and the large sidekick sitting silently on the other side of the woman. Baranatalo thinks it is perhaps the sidekick that prevents the kiss. He is possibly there to chaperone the event, to keep things from moving too far.

Either that, or the kissing is what they do while they watch the commercials.

When the camera again shows the desk, Carson’s is the only face in the frame. He says something into the camera and another person walks out from behind the curtain, this time a handsome man wearing a beige sportcoat he has pushed up his arms to catch on his elbows. Underneath the jacket he wears a bright red t-shirt, which hangs low down his neck to display a forest of chest hair. The woman moves away from the desk, and Baranatalo wonders what it is she has done to be discarded in such a fashion. Carson does not speak to her again.

13 comments:

Ian said...

very nice. i see this person. i know him. i feel like i understand his confusion even though i know he is a world apart.

i think you're finding your tone for this work.

The Moon Topples said...

EEyan: First comment! Gold star!

I'm still working out different tones and experimenting a bit. I figure once I find the tone, it's easy enough to make the other sections fall in line during rewrites and editing.

Still, as always, I thank you for being so incredibly supportive of all this. You're a great friend.

Liz said...

Nice. Glad I have insomnia so I can check this out and entertain myself. How fascinating to think of the way a late night show must look to the uninformed. Very relatable character as well. We've probably all wondered some of the same things at one time or another.

Verilion said...

Yeah, I like this. I have many questions about Barantalo (I love the name by the way), so you're getting you're reader hooked and then the present tense keeps us as confused as Barantalo, nice device. Keep posting excerpts please.

That's so pants said...

I envy you - such coherence in a first draft. Mine read like Serbo-Croat - which I must learn one day. I'm enjoying this and looking forward to the next installment.

Leesa said...

I like that you used soup with Carson - subconsciously reminds me of Warhol as well. Nice.

~*SilverNeurotic*~ said...

You have a really easy, relaxed way of writing. It's really engaging though, which is the important part.

Caroline said...

I like the voice it makes me feel uneasy (which is good). You've hooked my curiosity.

x

The Moon Topples said...

Liz: I'm glad you have insomnia as well, I suppose. OK, not really. Thanks for the insights, though...

Verilyon: Thank you for the encouragement. I will continue to post excerpts as I plug through the first draft.

TSP: Maybe your first drafts are entirely lucid in Serbo-Croat? At any rate, I appreciate the comment.

Leesa: Hmmm. I hadn't thought of that...

SilverN: You are extremely kind.

Caroline: Unease is probably good for now. I may have to work on that in the long haul, though. Glad you're hooked. You never know what sort of response a fiction snippet might get...

Reading the Signs said...

He engages me - his state of mind and the thing about the soup. I want to know the flavour of the soup, though.

maht said...

RTS: I am authorized to inform you that it is Campbell's Condensed Tomato Soup.

Reading the Signs said...

Thank you for not pointing out that I missed something crucial in the title of the post. But good to know that it's Campbell's.

maht said...

RTS: I went back and checked the title before I replied, because I thought I had put that in, but felt there was no point beating you up over an honest mistake.