I’ve been working on some small re-writes and proof reading to prepare for publication. This is one of the passages I worked on today. My beta readers might notice some significant changes to this scene. Enjoy!
“Merry Christmas!” bellowed a voice ahead of Bill in the coffee line. Surely, this guy was not queuing up for his first cup. Bill, who had been lost in a complete lack of thought, reacted slowly. His eyes followed the pale, pudgy legs up from their fleshy bases wrapped in black rubber garden togs, to emerald green Bermuda shorts whose waistband was straining and groaning under the burden of too many all-you-can-eat buffets, and beyond to a triple-extra-large Hawaiian shirt printed with Santa hat-wearing hula girls dancing under palm trees bedecked with Christmas lights. His eyes settled on a massive, grinning head topped with a lighted, foam Christmas tree masquerading as a hat. “Of course, it’s not Christmas Day yet, but every day’s like Christmas when you’re here, huh?”
Bill wondered what manner of escapist mentality could reduce a man to this level of buffoonery. Just because people were on vacation didn’t mean they had taken leave of their sense of sight…or taste. But this man had seemingly taken leave of both and his sense of shame to boot.
Bill nodded politely. He had a rule against making small talk. Nevertheless, he felt compelled to indulge people’s desire to make meaningless conversation ever since he was a boy, when he heard Father Macerney speak on a verse in Philippians that said you should consider others better than yourself. Since that fateful day — a day marked by one of those embarrassing, life-altering nothings of a moment that only happen in childhood — Bill had tried his best to do exactly that. He mostly failed.
That being said, he simply couldn’t bring himself to talk about nothing. Instead, when confronted with a bout of small talk, he would shoot for an inappropriately profound response, backing the person into a conversational corner. A simple, “Some weather we’re having” would yield a response like, “And to think one stray bit of space rock could rip away our atmosphere, leaving us gasping, helpless…metaphorically naked as the day we were born. We are so fragile, you and I. Let us silently revel in our fragility.” This usually led to the other person backing away slowly and avoiding eye contact.
He tried to assuage his guilt over doing this to people by telling himself it was his way of being salt and light in a dark, flavorless world. But he was simply killing the conversation as quickly as possible. Surely, Paul would have reconsidered his instructions to the Philippians had they been as annoying as your average American.