Thursday, January 25, 2007

Phone Book of Revelations

In Progress


I met Catarine and Eric while I was doing research for a novel. A novel I still haven't finished, seeing as how I have a much more interesting assignment now.

I wanted to place my characters in a "bad neighborhood," but I was just a dumb white kid; what did I know about anything? And being a dumb white kid, I figured the best way to learn was to spend some time in a bad neighborhood. At a bad school, specifically, volunteering for sports programs in the afternoons. Micah was my stroke of luck.

The ten-year-old caught my attention because he didn't just want to play basketball or make friends or have a place to be until his parents got home in the evening. He knew he was going to grow up to cure cancer. Period. No doubt in his mind. He told me it was "in the book."

"What book?" I asked him.

"The phone book." Micah was so matter-of-fact, he made me feel stupid for not understanding what he meant.

But regardless of any weird book nonsense, Micah was the type of American Dream character that begged to have his story written. A young black boy in a poor neighborhood with a bright future. Micah, I decided, was my case study.

The next afternoon, Micah relayed a dinner invitation from his parents. And so on Friday, I walked home with him after intramurals. My mind had taken two different directions at that point. Part of me was a friend, a teacher; part of me cared the way people should care. The other half of me was writing my novel, narrating our journey through the streets. I made note of the grey sky, the mist in the air that wasn't quite rain, the abundance of concrete. Everything was grey and concrete. An environment designed to stifle. It could have been an abandoned city. We were the only pedestrians, the only people in the world.

My silence must have made him uncomfortable, because he moved a few paces ahead of me. Following him felt almost like a game - he skipped a little when he rounded a corner, he ducked under the rail as he began moving up stairs, he moved like an athlete.

He came to the second level of a quad and opened the screen door without a word. There were three other older children inside, their hands joined as if playing Red Rover. And then Catarine appeared at the door.

"Come in!" She was slender, pretty, and mischievous-looking. She stretched out a long arm and held the door open for me.

"Thank you, Ms. Carter. It's nice to meet you." Her husband Eric was white - in fact, he looked like John Cleese. And had that same mischievous look to him as Caterine.

All seven of us gathered around the living room with salads and cokes and full plates until we'd stuffed ourselves, and as the food settled, Catarine hefted the largest book I'd ever seen from the coat closet. It took the full width of her forearms to hold it, and the thickness of it covered most of her chest.

"Tanya," Catarine said, "we've asked you here because you're going to write about the phone book."


It's kind of a relief to know everyone has ulterior motives, I thought, since I had indeed come here for a story. I waited for her explanation, while Catarine waited for me to tell her she was crazy.

"Prophecy," she began, "tends to deal with events. We feel alone and insignificant in the face of the inevitable..."

But every event has a person tied to it. A living, breathing human who, in some way, alters the course of history. Not realizing this, most of us fall down on the job. We're not aware of how much we matter.

The phone book is different. You look up the person, and only then do you see events. There are millions of shifting entries. Billions of names have appeared. Everyone's number is here, when it's up.

I've got one of six volumes. And I've got an entry. It calls me "the guide." My job is to help the rest stay on their paths.

You have an entry, too, Tanya. Here - look.



Apple Oracle said...

Was the Revelations listing in Google on purpose or an accident? You should be an SEO!

Sabra said...

You write very well.