Justin Campbell Justin Campbell
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The original line I translated via Google Translate; having forgotten what it was, I tried plugging this in from Russian to English and got half of what I remember it to be, arranged completely differently. Funny how it works.

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Justin Campbell Justin Campbell
Recommendations: 6

Daniel Morgan [12]


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Under the Double Star - Chapter One

May 22, 2002


       Daniel stood by the phone. He was nervous and flustered and not happy. He was waiting for a call. In the other room, almost mockingly, Lauren was playing “Hanging on the Telephone” by Blondie. Unlike most households these days, they still preferred to keep a running record player in the living room over a CD player.


       He understood his wife’s music choice; she’d been amazingly supportive, and she’d gently prodded him forward over the last three years since his accident. She was edging him on, trying to get him to stop worrying and think about better, distracting things by playing the song. To his surprise, their relationship had grown much closer than it had been before, as he’d felt that it had been waning a little heading towards the latter half of the nineties. But he couldn’t blame her – he’d been an idiot all that time, worrying about what choices to make in his career and stressing and going back and forth, and just when he was coming off it and feeling good about himself and starting anew, he’d run that red light, sending him back to square one. Yet here she was, reminding him that all worry did was breed more worry by playing that Blondie song.


       Daniel was still troubled. He still lacked his own self-trust. His psychologist, Mark Howard, often told him he was simply taking it all too hard. On himself.


       “Say your own inner self was a physical entity, a complete clone of you,” he’d suggested once in between gulps of Nestea. “Now, say, in contrast to your physical inner self, you’re sad and scared. You’re sad and scared because you let your inner self – control it – to literally beat you up into such a pulp you’re barely alive. And so you’re scared and lack any confidence as a result, because you literally beat yourself up, bully yourself into submission. You are your own inner demons.”


       This was why Daniel was waiting for this phone call, which had a high importance for him. He had taken a big risk, at the repeated suggestion of Dr. Howard and the gentle prodding of his lovely wife. He’d talked to Nelson. It had been an idea that had been circulating around his head for a few years, and it was something he was originally going to propose back in 1999, if he hadn’t been waylaid by the accident (the Ottawa Citizen article of which he kept in his bedside drawer to remind himself how humanly stupid he was). Nelson had thought it was a great idea, especially after he’d seen and read his written material.


       It was a little out of date – everything was three years old – but it was sellable. And right now, Daniel was waiting for the phone call from his longtime agent to relay the news that the executives reading his pitch and ideas had accepted or rejected it, and if they had, how much they were willing to offer in terms of creative freedom and control, and money figures.
--
       Daniel, despite his long recovery and self-loathing, had managed to do some minor stuff starting around the start of the new millennium. He still provided voice commentary on radio commercials and appeared in a couple of hit music videos by a couple of big bands at the moment, both Canadian and American. The biggest thing he managed the courage to do was a guest appearance on Canada AM several months after his accident, in September 1999. Since he was a notable person of the city, famous largely for his time on CJOH, his commercials and his voice-acting role, they’d asked him, when he was ready, if he could come on. His wife encouraged him until he finally promised that he wouldn’t go on there and punish himself by talking about how stupid he was to the point of alienating the audience.


       It had been a much more thankful experience than he’d expected. The host, Dan Matheson, only asked him one or two questions about the crash – how it happened, and what was going through his mind at the time – and then moved on to his career, which was something Daniel realized he felt much better talking about. It was something good that he’d done. The host had also sympathized with him on certain aspects.


       “I’ll be honest, the first few times I travelled to Ottawa with my wife years ago, we saw a movie at that theatre. It was a nice place.”


       “Well, yeah, you know, the thing that really clicked in my mind as I was crossing the street was that I was, hey, driving the same car that I saw movies in at that place, but that drive-in was gone and there I still was, driving by. You know? Things tie each other up, always come around in life.”


       “Did you salvage the car?”


       “The Maverick, yeah, originally I was going to let it to the scrapyard, as I was depressed and felt hopeless and all that stuff, but my wife made me keep it. And honestly, I’m glad she did.”


       “Is it a reminder of what happened?”


       “In a way it is, but the reason she made me keep it was because it wasn’t really that destroyed. The side of the car was mangled, a couple of doors ruined, but otherwise the engine and general frame and rest of it, really, it’s mostly fine. I’m sorry to say the front of that courier van was more crushed by my car.”


       “Well, Daniel, are we going to see you in any new TV commercials? Or films? You’re almost like the Ernest P. Worrell of TV.”


       Daniel laughed. “I have some characters in here. But for the moment I’m not doing anything right now. I’m not really ready for it yet, emotionally.”


       After that appearance, during which he got an outpouring of support from his neighbors and even fans, he retired in a way; he rejected suggestions from Nelson about auditions and also turned down any scripts any studio sent, not that he got many (he wasn’t that famous). Leonard, in L.A., was doing fine in the meantime. The Testimonial had done fairly well in 1996, garnering a warm critical reception, but it wasn’t a huge hit or a wide release. The studio managed to make back its budget in box office sales, but only just. It did open up doors for Leonard, however, so that he was able to work his mind around more projects and make his mark on Hollywood. He did have a difficult couple of years struggling to write a film adaptation of a book about a court trial involving the timbre industry (the book had a useless narrative) but he strived for uniqueness. “I’m not going to end up doing what Charlie Kaufman did with Adaptation,” he’d said once, flustered and determined. “This is gonna work whether it’s artificially flavored with sensationalism or not!” The result had been a dramatic 2.5 hour film that took absurdity to a whole new degree, and while critics weren’t that stupid, mainstream audiences ate it up right away and the box office had a huge profit. Leonard had basically done his job.


       Colin, Edwin and Brooke got quickly used to coming home after school to find their father running the house with their mother out. Colin was almost thirteen and finishing 7th grade at Sir Winston Churchill, the same school Daniel, Beatrice and Leonard had gone to. He still had big struggles with Math, causing the school to put him in a slower class, but he was amazing in English. At the age of ten, he’d been diagnosed with a very mild form of Autism, specifically Asperger’s Syndrome, when his fifth grade teacher, who’d had constant issues with him, suggested it to Daniel and Lauren on a parent-teacher night. “I’ve been taking part in some workshops on Autism and while I’m not psychologist, I’d recommend getting Colin looked at. He’s a very bright boy but he can’t seem to concentrate or focus unless he’s very interested in the subject matter.”


       The two parents had always known Colin to be a bit odd – maddeningly literal most of the time, obsessed with one major interest or another, very socially awkward – but they’d always attributed that to a simple personality quirk and nothing else. Of all the family relatives, he’d bonded the most with his aunt Beatrice, as she seemed to engage him in all the right ways.


       “I’d always known he was different in some way or another, probably in an autistic way,” she’d revealed to Daniel on the phone after the boy was diagnosed the summer after his accident. “I never told you two because I thought you already had it figured out.” Being a teacher and having a degree in sociology, it wasn’t that difficult to spot from her point of view considering her background and the children she taught every day.
Daniel and Lauren mostly saw the whole thing as merely one of the boy’s attributes and avoided seeing it from a negative perspective as much as possible – which was difficult for Daniel considering he was still recovering from his car crash at the time. Now in middle school, he was getting the required support he needed, if he needed it, though the boy was almost always fine academically (except for math). It was just certain social aspects he had difficulty with.


      Brooke was another story altogether, and it had been way more evident with her much earlier. In 1997, when she started junior kindergarten, they noticed with increasing worry that she was easily anxious at most things young children would have minor difficulty with. It wasn’t an environmental thing, psychologist David Harris said after interviewing them. The issue – social anxiety – was just something she was born with from the beginning.


       “God. My cousin Larry has that,” Lauren had replied. “It must come from me.”


       “There isn’t really an obvious trace of where it’s inherited,” Harris said. “And there’s medication for it. But as parents you’ll have to help her with this as positively and encouragingly as possible.”


       “Damn right we are,” Daniel had said. “I don’t care about the setbacks if there are any, she’s going to be happy.” He turned to Lauren. “Don’t blame yourself, honey. I don’t care where it comes from. The point is we know about it and we can help little Brooke in any way we can now.”


       Brooke was now finishing third grade at Century P.S. and doing relatively all right. It had taken awhile to get the girl used to taking medication every day but she had become quite used to it by now. She knew she was different, and had difficulties, but she also had a relentless optimism that always made both Daniel and Lauren’s hearts melt.


       Of all three of Daniel’s children, Edwin had been the one child that had turned out to have no issues of any kind. He was always a shy, quite boy, and learned to speak late, but otherwise he excelled in school and had one best friend, named Benny. Edwin reminded Daniel of himself the most out of his children – he had blonde hair, did well academically, and kept few friends. The ones he did keep, he was close to, just like Daniel had always been close to Nick. Edwin was in fifth grade at Century and looked after his younger sister now and then, and even let her play with him and Benny at recess. It was all good.


       As for Beatrice, her and Alan had become what Daniel, Lauren, Evan and Marie called the “Jenga Pair” because they always seemed to be doing very well, and then one minor thing would cause them to fall apart before starting all over and heading back to the top. These disturbances in their relationship ranged from petty little things to full-out rows that lasted half an hour. They had one son – Ewan – who was six years old now, and all of them worried now and then for the child’s welfare at home. The two of them had been to marriage counselling several times, but in the end neither of them wanted a divorce. The idea of sticking it out to the end, foremost for their child, was one of the few things they agreed upon with absolution. Evan and Marie often interjected themselves into the equation whenever the two of them were really having an issue, to take little Ewan with them. They’d take him for an ice cream at the Baskin Robbins or the Dairy Queen at Merivale and Clyde, and the ongoing issue was talked about often between them, Daniel and Lauren, and even Leonard out in L.A.


       “I think it takes guts for them to stick together like that,” Lauren once said at a family dinner that discluded Beatrice and company. “But the question that floats in my mind is whether or not them being together really is a good thing for Ewan.”


       “Certainly he seems to witness a lot of action at home,” Evan said, “and I do worry a little. He doesn’t say much when we see him.”


       “Kind of seems a little sullen, don’t you think?” Daniel asked.


       “Yeah. I wish Beatty would do something objective about the matter.”


       It was obvious to all of them that Ewan had a connection to his mother that was overstated in comparison to his father. It was an uncomfortable idea that creeped up on Daniel one afternoon when he’d tried golfing with Alan, just the two of them. Daniel had never been very close with the man and wanted to make an effort, so he’d phoned up and asked Alan if he’d like to; Alan’s enthusiasm spoke for itself.


       They were on the fifth hole when Alan started to vent some of his frustrations to Daniel. Neither of them was amazing at golf either, so as soon as Alan had opened his mouth, Daniel knew it was going to be a long afternoon.


       “How is life going with Lauren?”


       “Very good, her and I are quite happy.” Daniel looked away and grimaced; he knew he’d spoken too soon and encouraged the issue.


       “That’s neat. I wish it were the same with me and Beatty. Every week we have a disagreement.”


       “Oh, yeah? About what?”


       “Oh, stupid things. When we should do our laundry, what night it should be. Her work schedule trumps mine, blah blah blah. Ewan should take French in school. I don’t want him to take French. I never took French. You know how insanely wordy that language is? I look on a shampoo bottle, there’s the pitch on the back, right? In English it’s two sentences. In short words. In French it’s eight, in long, ridiculous words. I don’t want that additional pressure on him. You know what Beatty said? ‘He needs that to succeed here in Ottawa in a country that’s bilingual and runs services in English and French.’ Yeah, stick that on me. And what do I say? ‘What if he doesn’t want to live and work in Ottawa? What if he wants to travel? It’s a stupid language, why let it run his life from the start?’ What happens? We never agree.”


       Daniel sighed. Yes, it was going to be a long afternoon.


       “And of course, Dan, you know Ewan loves his mother. Way more than me. I’m a second guy to him. I think she poisons his mind against me, she does.”


       A very, very long afternoon. Daniel didn’t know what to say most of the time they spent on greens and sand traps, holding up the people behind them, and Daniel lost track of the time very quickly. All he knew was that it was an unpleasant day, and he found himself coming up with excuses to avoid taking up offers from Alan to go to a pub or meet up or “shoot the shit” almost every time afterwards; the only nice thing Alan said to Daniel at all was that he was a ‘good listener.’ Of course. So he could talk at length while Daniel sat, at a loss for words and much sympathy, and mindlessly listened.


       That left Evan, Marie, and Nick. To Daniel’s amazement, gratitude, and warmth, Nick and Ana had asked him to legally become their Isobel’s godfather not two weeks after she was born, while Daniel was still in recovery at the hospital, at his bedside. He was still wearing a hospital gown for heaven’s sake. How could they ever ask him such an honorable thing when he almost just got himself killed? The irony in the situation made him laugh out loud, and it was at Nick’s insistence that Daniel agreed to that title. The family was still happy; they both now divided their time equally between Toronto and Ottawa, with Nick now managing two studios in both cities. Ana and Isobel lived in Ottawa full-time whereas Nick commuted out to Toronto every two weeks and lived there for the same duration. Ana had little issue with the arrangement and often implied that it wasn’t permanent: “Nick and Isobel and I are definitely settling down somewhere, and I can tell you it’s not necessarily Toronto.” Her English was almost perfect by now – instead of broken sentences she only spoke with a mild accent, and they were raising Isobel to be fluent in both English, Ukrainian – and Russian.


       “What’s the difference?” Daniel had asked.


       “There isn’t much,” Nick agreed, “but there is enough that I think it’s useful. She has relatives in both countries, and we think Isobel should be able to communicate with them effortlessly when the time comes. We might even have her learn French as well.”


       “Well, good luck. I don’t intend on learning any of them so she’ll be much better off than me.”


       “Suit yourself. I mozhet vy kogda-nibud' byt' prosveshchennym v lyubom sluchaye.” 1 comment


       “I’m not going to pretend I know what language that was,” Daniel said as Nick turned and walked away. It was Russian; Ana had been teaching Nick that and Ukrainian herself over the years.


       Evan and Marie still lived at the corner of Meadowlands and Deerpark, which since their purchase of the house had essentially remained the same. Their backyard was nicely screened off from the street thanks to mature privacy bushes instead of a fence, and despite always living at an intersection, the two had long ago gotten used to the traffic, which had increased steadily over the last four decades. The two of them celebrated their forty-fifth wedding anniversary in late March and had a family celebration to go with it. Evan’s hair had thinned out across the top of his scalp but he wasn’t bald yet; in fact there were still a few stray hairs that had retained their dark color. In May, the City of Ottawa – no longer Nepean, as it had been permanently amalgamized into Ottawa along with every other township and city in January of 2001 – released an environmental assessment to residents along Meadowlands and all of its intersecting streets, including Evan and Marie.


       “It’s nothing,” Marie said to both Daniel and Beatrice when they both saw the notice sign along the street.


       “They’re just resurfacing the road and updating the fixtures, you know, streetlights and bus shelters. They did it five years ago too.” The resultant work replaced the sidewalks, lampposts, street surface, traffic lights, and took the bus stop on Meadowlands from the Morgan’s corner of the street to the corner opposite, so people were no longer loitering on the edge of their property.


       “One thing the city got right for once,” Marie had noted.
--


      By 5pm, Daniel finally had his answer. His pitch – which was a half-hour morning talk show – had been met with a mixed review from executives from CBC.


       “Most of them are open to the idea,” Nelson started with, in an optimistic tone. “They can envision you in that kind of position. But the issue they have is how exposed you really are to the public, especially since you haven’t really been around for the last few years.”


       “I understand,” Daniel said quietly. “It’s like trying to break back into the market or something. Maybe I’ve been gone for too long.”


       “Don’t lose hope,” Nelson said. “They didn’t say no. They just need to deliberate on whether or not it’s a good idea in the fiscal sense. They like your material, you know. I think it’s solid – you going out and interviewing people on location and having guests on – but you may have to appeal to a new audience if you try this. Whatever following you had in the nineties may have forgotten you – you know how short peoples’ memories are these days.”


       “I see. Okay, well keep me updated, Nelson.”


       “I haven’t finished. They want to set up a meeting with you, in person.”


       Daniel was slightly taken aback. “Really? Where, in Toronto?”


       “Yeah. Next week. Would you be willing to do that?”


       “Yeah, I think so. This is a big step.”


       “You realize that you will have to move in some way or another to Toronto if this goes through,” Nelson warned.


       “I realize that. I’m not selling my house here, of course, but I know I’d have to find a temporary place over there while I’m filming.”


       “Okay, good. I just hope you realize that scope of that. All right, do you want to set the meeting up for Tuesday at 10am next week?”


       “Sure.”


       “All right. I’ll set it up with the guys. Well, I hope this comes to fruition, Dan. I’ve known you a long time now and I want you to finally have some fun, maybe break into something for once.”


       “Thanks, Nelson.”


       “Happy Birthday, by the way. I know it’s tomorrow but I might as well say it now.”


       Daniel chuckled. “Don’t remind me. It’s just a reminder of how old I’m getting.” Turning forty-four, he could be categorized as entering middle-age now, but he still reigned in as much energy as he could, to run his family and exercise the confidence he needed to do this.


       “Don’t complain,” Nelson admonished. “I’m forty-eight. Okay, see you soon.”


       “Bye.” Daniel hung up. Lauren stood in the entrance to the kitchen, hoping for good news.


       “I’m off to Toronto next week,” Daniel said.


       “They like your idea?”


       “They do. But they want to meet me first.”


       Lauren came forward and hugged him. “Oh, Danny, I hope they say yes. I really hope so. You deserve this.”
       Daniel could only hug her back. He hoped so, too.


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