Authors: Craig Lancaster
Tags: #General Fiction
PRAISE FOR 600 HOURS OF EDWARD
“It’s a spare, elegantly crafted whizz-bang of a book that, on its surface, is as quiet and orderly as Edward Stanton, but underneath, also like Edward, a cauldron of barely repressed rage and desire seeking escape.” —
“Craig Lancaster has created a wonderful character and put him in a memorable story.”
“This endearing hero deserves the fine ending the author has bestowed on him. The final pages leave the reader wanting to know what happens next for Edward, in his newly acquired red Cadillac.” —
Lively Times (MT)
“This is a wonderful book. Mr. Lancaster’s journey…into the imaginative pages of fiction was one well taken, for himself, for readers and certainly for the lovingly created Edward Stanton.” —
“…A nearly perfect combination of traditional literary elements, mixing crowd-pleasing sappiness with indie-friendly subversion, a masterful blend of character and action…” —Chicago Center for Literature and Photography
The characters and events portrayed in this book are fictitious. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead, is coincidental and not intended by the author.
Text copyright © 2012 Craig Lancaster All rights reserved.
No part of this book may be reproduced, or stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without express written permission of the publisher.
This book is for Angela Dawn, who believed that I could do it then and believes in me still.
Our story goes on and on, sweetheart.
To whom it may concern:
This is a story of how my life changed. That is what one could call a dramatic statement. It’s like when people find God; they say, “I found God, and it changed my life.” I did not find God. I am dubious that anyone can. When someone says he has found God, he doesn’t mean it in the way that one would say he found a penny or something else tangible. He is talking about inner peace or something like that, I suppose. I don’t know. I haven’t found God, and I don’t like supposition. I prefer facts.
Even without God, my life did change, and Dr. Buckley suggested that I write about it. She said that writing about it would be a good project for me and one that might even help me understand how it happened and why. Dr. Buckley is a very logical woman, and I always need a new project.
In looking back, I can fit what happened into twenty-five days, or six hundred hours. I prefer to think of it in terms of hours, as I live my life as much by a clock as a calendar. I will tell it as it happened, from where I viewed it. Others may have seen it another way. They can tell their own stories if they want to.
I’ll start with the last day that everything was normal, or what I believed normal to be. That’s the problem with belief: if you rely on it too heavily, you have a lot of picking up to do after you find out you were wrong. I prefer facts.
My eyes flash open. I wait a moment for the dull blur of morning light to come into focus, and then I turn my head ninety degrees to the left and face the clock: It is 7:38 a.m. I have been awake at this time for the past three days, and for eighteen out of the past twenty. Because I go to bed promptly at midnight, I am accustomed to stirring at 7:38, but occasionally, I will wake up a little earlier or a little later. The range isn’t large—sometimes it’s 7:37, and sometimes it’s 7:40, and it has been 7:39 (twenty-two times this year, in fact), but 7:38 is the time I expect. It has happened 221 times so far this year, so if it were you, you would expect it, too. (You’re probably wondering how frequently I’ve been up at other times: fifteen for 7:37 and twenty-nine for 7:40.) Although I do my part by going to bed at midnight sharp, the variances occur because of things I can’t control, like the noise made by my neighbors or passing cars or sirens. These things frustrate me, but I cannot do anything about them.
I write down the time I woke up, and my data is complete.
You’ve probably done the math and know that it’s the 287th day of the year. The reason, aside from the sheer scientific fact that Earth has rotated on its axis that many times, is that it’s a leap year. I have to take the leap year into account in my
calculations, but that’s easy for me to do, as it comes up only once every four years.
I can tell when my feet touch the floor that the house is warm, warmer than it usually is for October 13, and this has nothing to do with the leap year. The house has hardwood floors, which are good for reflecting whether it’s hot or cold. I have read about newer houses with something called radiant floor heating, where the floors are the source of heat for the home, but this house doesn’t have that. While I am intrigued by the notion, I have to remember that this house was built in 1937, and the cost of retrofitting it for radiant floor heating would be prohibitive. My father could afford it, and it is, in fact, his house and not mine, but he never would do it. He’s never here, and so it probably doesn’t make any difference to him that radiant floor heating would be a lot more economical. It should matter to him, as he pays the heating bill, but my father sometimes is not a logical person. I can’t worry about this now, although I have half a mind to write him a letter and tell him that he is being foolish for not thinking of radiant floor heating.
I walk across the hardwood floor of the house, open the front door, and pick the
off the stoop. According to the front page, the temperature will reach seventy-two degrees today in Billings, and that is as I suspected when my feet touched the floor: It will be warm for October 13. It’s far warmer than last October 13 (fifty-six degrees). Of course, I won’t know for sure until tomorrow’s newspaper comes, the one with the official temperature for today. The number on the front page today is just a forecast, and forecasts are notoriously off base.
I flip over to the back page of the Local & State section and look at the weather data from yesterday, Sunday, October 12, the 286th day of the year (but only because this is a leap year). The
weather data is always on the back page of the Local & State section, and while it does bother me that the Local & State section is sometimes Section B and sometimes Section C, I have learned to cope with this inconsistency, as I have no choice. I once wrote to the editor to complain about it, but I did not receive a reply.
The high temperature yesterday was fifty-three and the low temperature was thirty-one, and those are much more in line with the ten-year trends that I have recorded in my notebooks. I write those numbers down, and my data is complete.
– • –
My father bought this house eight years ago. Actually, it was eight years and eighty-six days ago. He bought it for me to live in because I had become “a distraction whose presence was proving divisive in the family home.” My father didn’t write those words; his lawyer did. I have never heard my father refer to the “family home” before or since.
The reason I know that his lawyer wrote the letter is that it arrived on the lawyer’s letterhead. I do sometimes talk to my father face-to-face, but many times, it is followed up with a letter, sometimes on his letterhead and sometimes on the lawyer’s. I have not figured out how to predict which letterhead I will receive, although I can always predict the letters. I don’t trust predictions anyway. I prefer facts.
I live in this house alone. When my father bought it for me, he made it clear that I was to have no roommates without approval. I don’t know why my father worried about it. A roommate would probably mess up my routines and fool with my weather data. I know how roommates are. I have seen the television comedy
, although not in many years, as it
was canceled in 1993. I liked Balki Bartokomous. He was very funny. If I had a roommate like Balki, though, I would have to keep watch over my weather data. His rambunctiousness (I love the word “rambunctiousness”) would wear on me if he started fooling with my data.
– • –
The two-drawer filing cabinet in my bedroom holds one of the most important collections I have. Inside are my letters of complaint. I have them filed in green office folders under the name of the person I am complaining to, and in those files, the letters are arranged by date.
You are probably thinking that it is odd to keep copies of letters of complaint, and you would be right if not for the fact that these are not copies. These are the actual letters of complaint, and they will never be sent.
The letters are Dr. Buckley’s idea. I don’t know where she got it, but it’s a great one. Eight years ago, after my father and his lawyer persuaded Garth Brooks to drop the restraining order against me, my father bought this house for me. He seemed to suggest that the “Garth Brooks incident,” as he still calls it, was what caused him and my mother to decide that I could no longer live in the “family home.” I think that my letters of complaint to Garth Brooks were entirely justified. If you look objectively at country music, you cannot come to any conclusion other than he ruined it. He also ruined a lot of pop music, especially when he pretended to be that Chris Gaines person and when he covered that song by Kiss. I merely wrote to him and let him know about the damage he was doing, because I thought that maybe he didn’t know and would stop if he did. I had to write to him forty-nine
times before he wrote back, but it wasn’t really him. It was his lawyer.