Saturday Sampler: Conditions by Christoph Fischer
October 31, 2015
In our mission to connect readers, writers, and books, Caleb and Linda Pirtle has launched a new series featuring writing samples from some of the best authors in the marketplace today. Saturday’s Sampler is an excerpt from Conditions, A YA novel of family live and loves by Christoph Fischer.
As one reviewer said: Christopher Fischer creates a cast of emotionally charged quirky characters to pull us into a very well-crafted and complex tale on accepting the human condition.
When Charles and Tony’s mother dies the estranged brothers must struggle to pick up the pieces, particularly so given that one of them is mentally challenged and the other bitter about his place within the family.
The conflict is drawn out over materialistic issues, but there are other underlying problems which go to the heart of what it means to be part of a family which, in one way or another. has cast one aside.
Prejudice, misconceptions and the human condition in all forms feature in this contemporary drama revolving around a group of people who attend the subsequent funeral at the British South Coast.
Meet flamboyant gardener Charles, loner Simon, selfless psychic Elaine, narcissistic body-builder Edgar, Martha and her version of unconditional love and many others as they try to deal with the event and its aftermath.
Martha was petite and fragile looking with bleach blonde hair, very light skin and lots of freckles. She seemed lost in her overly large black dress. When she saw it was a stranger answering the door she trembled, mumbling a barely audible greeting. Charles quickly stuck his head out of the kitchen and shouted:
“Martha, this is my friend Simon.”
She looked puzzled.
“Remember, I said there’d be someone from Torquay. The orchid guy?”
She nodded slightly, hesitantly stepped into the hallway and looked searchingly around.
“Talk to each other while I’m making dinner,” Charles ordered them. “I’ll be out soon. Go, sit in the living room!”
Martha shrugged and gave a little grin, then stood there waiting for Simon to do something.
“You have been here before, haven’t you?” he asked surprised at her lack of initiative.
“Yes, of course,” she said, continuing to stand until he started to walk. Only then did she move towards the living room, following his lead. She sat down on the sofa, put her handbag on the floor and folded her hands over her knees. She remained that way, without saying a further word, her gaze averted towards the floor. Simon sat down on the other sofa and tried to think of the right thing to say, but was stumped. Although she was as shy as Charles had predicted, there was something quite forceful underneath that exterior that didn’t sit comfortable with him. An unspoken pressure surrounded that woman and tensed up the atmosphere. She, too, had very attractive features, he thought. A hint of Meg Ryan maybe, if only her face was more relaxed.
“Can I get you a drink?” he eventually asked, grateful that something had finally sprung to mind.
“No thank you,” she said, her voice cracking halfway through the first syllable. He noticed that her eyes were melancholic and seemed to be continually searching for something. She smiled and shrugged as if to apologise for it. Only then did Simon remember being told about her drinking problem and felt the sting of embarrassment. To add to his discomfort Martha now seemed to have lost some of her initial shyness and looked expectantly at him. The mounting pressure began to feel very uncomfortable.
He remembered her story vaguely from one of Charles’s long monologues. Martha and Charles had met in hospital after his accident at the estate while she was being treated for nasty bruises and fractures – souvenirs from a recent fight with her latest abusive husband. The memory made him even more self-conscious as to what to speak to her about.
“How was the journey?” Simon had finally thought to ask.
“Alright,” she said, repeating her grin and shrug routine.
“Are you still living in…” Simon paused, realising that he couldn’t remember the name of the town.
“I’m still in the same place that I lived in with my ex-husband Clive,” she said eagerly. She had moved to the front of the seat and was leaning towards him. “It has to be sold to complete the divorce settlement and the sale is taking its time,” she added.
“Sorry to hear that,” he said, surprised by her sudden change of attitude.
“Like our marriage, the sale has turned into a tedious and painful affair,” she said, giggling slightly.
“I see,” Simon said, feeling embarrassed by the sudden intimacy. “I hadn’t meant to ask that, of course.”
“I don’t mind talking about it,” she said. “I’m in AA and there we share everything. Clive and I worked at the same firm and nothing about the split has ever been secret. Everyone knows my story and in parts I find that quite liberating. Charles probably mentioned the saga to you. At least he probably told you why I don’t drink,” she added.
Simon was stunned into silence by her forwardness.
“You don’t have to get embarrassed,” she assured him.
“I am embarrassed,” he said, to which she just shrugged her shoulders.