‘I was born in 19…’ Dull, maybe, but he felt simplicity was the best tone for this. No need to embellish on a life that was already glorious. All the millions who will read this through ages to come will be mesmerized by the modesty of his prose - here, the greatest mind of all times, telling it as it was, no flourishing, no wise turn of phrase to disguise his humble beginnings. He was one of us, but better than us all.
If he could do it, we could, too, they can almost feel the thrill of fame coursing through their veins, then they look in the mirror and see they never will. There is only one Ruben Mallhour or there was…. who knows when they’ll still be reading the story of his life?
Ruben rose from his chair and started pacing the room, the idea unnerved him. Yes, knowing that people cannot put his book down would make him the happiest man in the world. It will also make him dead. The only story left for him to write was the one he could not allow himself to finish.
He was 75 years old, therefore he had 75 years-worth of things to tell. He must write down everything down to the last detail - even the color of the shoes Miss Johnson wore in first grade and the feel of the swing rising high above the fence, which always made Ma come out and threaten him with a rolling pin. How she looked and how he felt and the kind of pie they had for dinner. Everything.
His hand hurt. After hours of furious scribbling, his right hand was gnarled around a pen that was almost out of ink. He tried rubbing some blood into the stiff fingers, but what he needed was a hot bath to soothe his stiff back. His glasses weren’t much use anymore, so he spent his days hunkered over the white sheets of paper until he became all twisted and bent.
He was so lost in his memories, although truth be told they were not even his memories. He’ll try make it sound as if he remembered his baby years, but all he had were stories - he could only see baby Ruben through his parents eyes and Lizzie’s jokes about his angry squeals every time he wet his pants. No real memory of how he must have felt, no memory of his mother’s breast. If he could only remember the wonder of seeing the sky for the very first time. The first time he knew there was greatness in this world, something bigger than his small universe which he didn’t even master.
On the other hand, recording everything, even things he couldn’t have known was expected of him, he was the great Mallhour, the greatest historian of all times. Knowing everything was part of his magic.
The clock only showed seven, he still had an hour to write, enough time to delve into the colorful love life of his favorite grandma, the one on his mother’s side. The other, the one his mother insisted on calling Mrs. Mallhour, he remembered as an excruciatingly boring old lady, with a ridiculous green hat and a propensity for small talk that made your ears go numb. But grandma Edma Dubois would have you roar with laughter, with her outrageous tales of life in Paris the grandkids were not supposed to hear. Ma would shake her head and roll her eyes in a comical way when Edna reminisced about the dashing young gentlemen she danced the night away with. How they bought her flowers from shivering gypsy girls that trailed the streets in search of smitten young lovers to sell their sweet roses to. And then….
‘Maman’, his mother would cry out, putting an end to the story, leaving the children dreaming of passionate embraces on the streets of a city they’d seen only in Grandma Edna’ sepia photos.
Ruben was sure it was that small part of French blood that had made him such a romantic or maybe he was just as crazy as Edna, as his sister Lizzie loved to say.
Though he’d never shied away from presenting his romantic side, it had always been in vague terms, not because his reputation as a serious historian might suffer, but…
How do I even begin to describe Vanessa? That was the only thing that had been bothering him since he’d agreed to this crazy project. There was only so much he could write about her and yet he had to write down every little moment of their story together if he wanted Vanessa to stay alive.
End of Part 1
Story written for @mariannewest's freewrite challenge, today's prompt was: small talk! Check out her blog and join our freewrite community.
Thanks for reading!
Image Saint Jerome Writing by Caravaggio