by David B. Seaburn Genre: Literary Fiction
“I don’t know how, and I don’t know why, but I think I died today.”
So begins the complex and mysterious journey of Gavin Goode and his family. What happened to Gavin and why? What secrets will emerge along the way? Frankie, his wife and a dress store owner, feels guilty, but why? His son, Ryan, who owns an ice cream parlor, and daughter-in-law, Jenna, who is a bank manager, are expecting their first baby. How will this trauma affect them? And what of Rosemary, Frankie’s best friend? Or Ben Hillman and eleven year old, Christopher? How are they implicated in the events that unfold around Gavin’s misfortune?
This is a story of despair and hope, dreams and reality, uncertainty and faith,humor, secrecy, forgiveness and beginnings. As in his previous novels, David B. Seaburn demonstrates his in-depth understanding of the human experience and his storytelling mastery.
“I don’t know why and I don’t know how, but I think I died today.”
Gavin is a perceptive guy. He looks at this problem from every angle. Where is his body, for instance? Why doesn’t he see anything or feel anything? Hear? Smell? Where has the world gone? He doesn’t have a clue what happened. He doesn’t remember anything. Surely there would have been a warning sign, something that cried out, “Mayday, mayday! Brace yourself!” But there was nothing… He traces his final hours as best he can… He thinks back a little further, searching for clues. Last Tuesday he saw Dr. Nguyen for his annual. Blood test, prostate exam (not a fan), ticker check, everything was normal. “You are in good shape for your age, Mr. Goode,” said the doctor. “What does that mean?” thought Gavin. “Someone my age? I’m fifty-two, which isn’t young, I’ll grant you that, but it’s not old, not these days. Maybe in my old man’s time, but not today. Fifty has to be ‘the new’…something younger…”
He’d been afraid of death for as long as he could remember. Every lump or bump was cancer. And every odd looking crap was also cancer. He always assumed the Big C was sneaking around his insides, like ISIS metastasizing, calling up reinforcements, slinking around in his cracks and crevices, waiting for the right time to attack. It happens. Let’s say you feel great but you’re due for your flu shot, so you go to the doctor’s and just as you are leaving, you say, “By the way, doc, before I go, could you take a look at this thing on my leg?” And your doctor’s eyes narrow as she studies the tiny black bruise. She excuses herself and returns with a senior colleague who takes his glasses off the top of his head so he can get a better look, only to remove them again and shake his head. Your doctor shakes her head, too, and says, “Should have come in months ago.” You know the rest…
Gavin has issues. It all started with his grandfather, his Papa, who lived with them when he was a boy. He was close to Papa, who played catch with him, explored the woods near their house with him, read books with him, made bird houses with him, did just about everything with the young Gavin. As Gavin grew up and Papa got older, things changed. They didn’t hang together as much. Papa stayed home watching TV most of the time.
One day Gavin comes home from school and Papa is sitting in his recliner, Days of Our Lives blaring on the TV. Gavin calls to him, “Hey Papa, how’s it going?” When he doesn’t answer, Gavin figures he can’t hear, so he cranks it up, “PAPA, HOW’S IT GOING?” Nothing. So he walks over to Papa’s chair and taps him on the shoulder, at which point, Papa slumps over to one side. Totally scares the shit out of young Gavin. He thinks of doing CPR, but he can’t bring himself to get that involved with his grandfather’s mouth. The creepiness factor is too high. Anyway, as far as Gavin can tell Papa is long gone.
So he calls his mother who totally freaks at the news. She drops the phone and dashes home as fast as she can. But no matter what she does, it still takes at least twenty minutes for her to get there. Twenty minutes alone with dead Papa. What to do, right? Watch the show with him? Talk to him? Close his mouth? Prop him up and comb his hair so he looks more like himself when Gavin’s mother gets home? In the end, Gavin can’t touch his grandfather.
It had been a long day at school. Gavin missed lunch because of a meeting with his school counselor and he’s starving. So he goes to the kitchen to make himself a sandwich. He thinks of going back into the living room, but it seems disrespectful to eat in front of Papa, considering the condition he’s in, so Gavin stays in the kitchen.
That’s where he is when his mother gets home. Let’s just say she isn’t pleased and she doesn’t understand Gavin’s reasoning. “He’s your last grandparent! At least sit with him! God knows he sat with you often enough!” Gavin wants to say, “Hey, I’m, like, I came home and there’s Papa sitting in front of the TV, all dead, and no one’s around and it totally scared the crap out of me. At least I stayed in the house. I didn’t run out into the street screaming like a crazy person, which is what I wanted to do. Shouldn’t I get points for that? It may not have been ‘A’ work on my part, but it wasn’t an ‘F’ either; it was at least a ‘C’ or ‘C-’.” But in a moment of rare wisdom he doesn’t say anything. He realizes that basically she is right, though he still feels that eating a peanut butter and sweet pickle sandwich in front of his dead grandfather would not have been in good taste.
In 2010 I retired after having been the director of a public school based free family counseling center.
Prior to that I was an Assistant Professor of Psychiatry and Family Medicine at the University of Rochester Medical Center for almost twenty years. During my tenure there I taught in a Family Medicine Residency Program, practiced Medical Family Therapy and was the Director of a Family Therapy Training Program.
In addition to this I am a retired Presbyterian minister, having graduated from seminary (Boston University) in 1975. I served a church full-time from 1975-1981 before entering the mental health field permanently. I am married; we have two adult daughters and two wonderful granddaughters.
My educational background includes two master's degrees and a PhD. Most of my career was as an assistant professor of psychiatry and family medicine at the University of Rochester Medical Center. There I wrote two professional books and over 65 papers and book chapters.
In addition to long fiction, I write personal essays, many of which have been published in the Psychotherapy Networker magazine.
I also write a blog, "Going Out Not Knowing," for Psychology Today magazine (http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/going-out-not-knowing).
My Writing Process
David B. Seaburn
When I start writing a new novel, I never know how it’s going to end. I trust that the impetus to move forward, usually a feeling that is difficult to articulate, will be enough to I get the journey started. Although I am going out not knowing exactly where I’m supposed to go, I am not going blind. I have well-developed character profiles and life circumstances in which to put them that will stimulate the kind of conflict that makes for good narrative.
In the process, I discover what the themes are that I am working with. This may seem counter-intuitive, but I often don’t know what I’m writing about until I start writing. The writing process is always one of discovery. And this purposeful not-knowing gives writing an energy and serendipity that is remarkably generative. I feel like I am not just the creator, but the created, changing through the writing process as much as my characters change.
It is exciting to know that for the next 14-18 months I will sit alone with these characters and wrestle with issues, dilemmas, and conundrums that are important to me, and, I hope, to the reader. The beginning phase is expansive as the characters develop and their options are wide. Somewhere past the midway mark, though, those options narrow, as it become clear that there are some thing the characters would do and some they would not. In a sense, the characters exert as much influence over the story as I do. The end of the story comes to me first as something intuitive, a feeling, a sense that I am on the final leg of the journey even though I may not yet have words for what it will be. Often it is in the last fifty pages that the end will take form and words will coalesce into final scenes, paragraphs and sentences.
Of course, that is not the end. Editing before publication may go on another year or more. The drafts get shorter, tighter and more to the point.
In terms of my writing routine, I don’t write every day, which is to say I don’t sit in front of my computer every day. But when I am working on a novel, I feel like I am always writing; that something is at work in my mind even when I am not trying to put it down in words. I often edit as I go, reworking sentences, paragraphs, scene choreography, even characters. I like to have a well-crafted chapter before I go on to the next, even though the whole thing may change later. I have an office downstairs where I am surrounded by books and quiet. In the summer, though, I prefer to write on our screened-in porch.
I rarely have writer’s block. I think this is because I have accepted that I not only don’t know, but I don’t have to know where I am going in order to write productively.
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