Fourteen e-mails promptly went the way of the recycle bin, one from his thankfully far removed editor in New York busting his chops over a deadline received a thorough reading, a snort, and the delete button, and three more, one from a brother in Colorado Springs, another from a sister in Denver, and the obligatory daily from his mother in Butte were left unopened for later consumption.
If Joshua has been misrepresented to the reader heretofor as a man without acquaintance, even a man without family as a frame for his identity, an orphan having exploded into this vast expanse of wilderness like a human Big Bang, it is the fault of the writer and must be set right.
Friends he had, of mostly past or long distance acquaintance, and family as well; family of even a markedly normal and functioning quality, family that faithfully attempted contact with him, though more and more they resorted to one-sided e-mails, to which he responded, eventually.
This family consisted of his parents, a retired sytems analyst for a small freight company, and a semi-retired nurse who still worked one day a week for insurance purposes; one brother, married, with three children and an interesting to say the least career niche chiseled out of online marketing; two sisters, one a housewife, one child, and a burgeoning E-Bay customer base, the other sister, the youngest, recently married, bearing a master's degree and no children, and a promising if not lucrative future in cataloguing southwestern cultural history and native American contributions to eventual modern society.
The family had always been close, existing with a high level of functionality, and forgiving compatibility that many families only dream of.
The in-laws got on very well, as did the cousins, minus the usual competitiveness and awkwardness that will plague several young relatives who see eachother only two or three times a year and always in the confines of a backyard, a cleared out garage or family room.
The adults fared a little better, the conversation buffered in the courtesy supplied by adulthood. The women were perfectly content to shoulder the massive food burden necessary to family gatherings, as long as the men and the children made no great nuisance of themselves, getting on very well, thank you, the interaction graced with the social kindness of the sex, and later complaining only mildly in the privacy of their allotted bedrooms of the others' rambunctious children or the inevitable dispute over the use of glass or plastic, china or paper plates.
The men oscillated between the garage, the shop, the den, and the respective vehicles in the front drive, providing there was a new one or one with a particular confounding ailment. The interaction here was easy and relaxed, lacking the stress of competition that festered among the male gender of so many extended family circles. The camaraderie had only recently been jarred by the discordant addition of the youngest sister's husband, an energetic, ambitious, supremely confident young Cingular Wireless salesman who sported a year-round tan, a regrettable lack of subtelty, a strident conversational voice, and a hearty fake laugh.
However, even this dissonance was soothed by time and the new guy's realization that his male in-laws were not quick to be impressed or possibly didn't need to be. The gusto was quieted, and the laughs were reserved for things found genuinely humorous, instead of anything and everything related to his promising career, including but not limited to anecdotal on-the-job training. When the restraint became too much, and the energy ebbed too low in the masculine discussions, this brimming chalice of sanguine-choleric personality would bolt, like a caged tiger, for the kitchen in search of wide-eyed feminine appreciation.
Perhaps no family is completely normal.
But if general compatibility can be supposed to contribute to the sum of "normal" this family functioned at ninety percent.
This nearly normal family discussed often among themselves the frequent absence of their brother, for whom they all exhibited a fondness of such a degree that was to him almost inexplicable and at times, an irritant.
Joshua hadn't always been so reclusive. At an earlier time at any family gathering, he might've been generously titled the life of the party. His poor mother, clearly the most distraught over her eldest son's "self-imposed exile", as she called it, was forever trying to place a particular point in time or circumstance to his remarkable change in demeanor and habits.
His father, less disturbed, but still puzzled, reasoned perhaps it was due to his being single, a writer, and a psychology major in college.
"Any one of the three is enough to weird a man out, Janet." he pointed out to his wife. "At any rate," he inevitably concluded, "it's a phase, just like all the others. Remember the genius phase?"
Todd, his father, was here referring to an extended phase of Joshua's thirteenth and fourteenth years, when after reading a biography of Albert Einstein, he had decided to be a genius, and had affected all the trappings. He labored intensely over each subject in school, especially math and science. But chemistry, which wasn't available until the eleventh grade, became his passion. The school library became devoid of a large segment of the non-fiction section from 323.575 to 323.975 for weeks on end. He lusted after petri dishes and test tubes but scorned the Nickolodeon chemistry set his mother purchased at Wal-greens, utilizing only the blue microscope, with smiling ameobas on either side, and only after he had scraped the ameobas off. He spent hours with an open chemistry book and various bathroom and kitchen chemicals.
At least he never blew anything up, besides maybe his hair, his father, ever the irreverent one, was fond of saying, referring to the tousled hair-do that Joshua refused to admit, but everyone speculated, was emulative of his new idol.
His expectation for every test and review quiz was nothing less than a 100% A+, and he was disconsolate when he received a B+ in science and an A- in math, and became indignant when his sister pointed out that "Einstein was an idiot in school, too."
That phase weakened gradually and eventually died, but this phase, as his father insisted it was, was now years in dying off.
Just a note. This "serial" is written sheerly for my pleasure, and with no particular drift or plot in mind. You have just as much inkling about the next turn of events as I do. Throw me a nice plot twist idea, if you like. I don't promise to take it. There is just a touch of my protagonist in me.
Book Review: Peace for Today
10 months ago