I was going to write a long blog post about point of view. I hopped ahead in my sharing and decided to post the second point of view, I am working on now, which is the other main character in The Harvest, the novel I'm drafting. (He is the only main Latino in this piece, but he is vastly disconnected from his roots.)
However, as I was debating what to write, I decided the third person point of view would be OK, as long as the characters were developed well and the setting was different, at the setting will necessarily will be because Ashley will be in the belly of the beast and Alan in the margins for a time. Their pats will not cross for a long while. In general, I find switching from first to third person to be tedious and cumbersome, at least in the novels I have read where authors do this switch, but I did it on accident anyway. In fact, I didn't realize I did it until I read over the draft this morning. The past tense also bores me to no end, so both sections are in the present tense.
Like all of the posts I share, this is a draft, even though as I have written this novel numerous times. It’s a fresh rewrite with echoes of past drafts, and I like it a lot better. It's clunky and simplified, but I like where it is going.
This section focuses on the tattered revolutionaries that are not really all that effective, and Alan's awakening. Let me know what you think.
An Excerpt from The Harvest: A Novel
Before Alan’s disappearance, the streets are clear from vagabonds and stray dogs. Cats roam abundantly hissing at people who walk by because they know their place in the food chain has shifted.
Alan kicks at one when no one is looking, and he rushes down the street. If he doesn’t get home in five minutes his mother will beat him. He carries a heavy package wrapped in brown paper. It is about three feet long, and Alan doesn’t want to know what is inside because it smells like bad meat. He also carries a gallon jug of water.
The wheezing is so loud now, some people avert him with suspicious glares. I am just sick because I can’t afford lung mods, he wants to scream, but instead he walks onward. After all, he doesn’t want to get processed illegally. Alan knows something he has kept from his friend Ashley: People do cannibalize. It has been happening more and more, but nowhere as bad as Junk Town and places way out on the outskirts of town where government meat is scarce. He has known for a while, but has kept that from his best friend.
“She worries too much as it is,” he says out loud smiling at the thought of her. He thinks about her fighting style. For someone her age, she is a battling genius, and she is his, for the moment.
The rattling in his right lung forces him to pause. He looks up to the sky and his vision grows snowy.
As he drops to the ground, he wonders, “Did my Mom drug me?” The gallon stays intact and the package falls also in unison with him.
The neighborhood where he has fallen used to be an auto industrial area many years ago. There are abandoned factories that have been gutted of everything useful. Not even homeless people sleep there because the floors have rotted.
A man emerges quietly. He wears rare clean army pants, a Hawaiian shirt, a baseball caps with an Indian on it, “Well, what have we here?” he asks, inspecting the package and water.
“Awe, come on Dad, really?!” Exclaims a young man, not much older than Alan. His head is shaved, and he wears a mismatch of dirty sweats and a military jacket with patched ups sneakers, the old kind with rubber soles.
The man puts his hand up, “Shut up Strike. I’ve been watching this one. He is smart and agile. Plus, his family is shit, pure shit.”
“What? You can’t know that from watching him run errands. Fuck Dad, we are already starving, and I am sure as fuck not eating that whatever is in that package. I can smell it from here,” he stands firmly.
His father smiles warmly, “It’s goat idiot. And to your point, you can tell a lot from watching a person walk in this dehumanizing world, what they do—“
“Damnit, stop preaching,” says the young man holding up his hand, “You carry his ass. I got the goat leg and water, murky shitty water.” Strike walks away continuing to mumble to himself.
Mr. Brown chuckles, “That’s my boy.”
The old man picks up the stranger as he would a baby. The boy is wheezing hard and weighs almost nothing. Still, the man struggles as he puts Alan over his good shoulder. He calls to his son in a weak and disingenuous appeal, but he knows Strike will not be moved. With his left hand he grips a makeshift cane made out of a mop, bat, and a lot of duct tape, hard. As he walks, he hums an ancient song his father taught, “Summer of ’69.”
They go to their secret place and vanish.
Alan wakes up with a pounding headache. It is hot, blinding black, and it stinks of shit and rotting things. He realizes he is upside down.
“Don’t be afraid,” Says a deep comforting voice, “We found you passed out on the sidewalk.”
They are going to process me! He starts to fight, but the man is strong. He whips up and starts to slide down, but the man hugs him awkwardly. Alan bites hard.
“Strike,” he says calmly as Alan punches his captor in the face. The man drops Alan, but before he can run, Strike punches him in the stomach and twice for good measure.
An angry voice says, “Hurt my dad one more time, and I’m leaving your ass down here! Do you understand?!” A beam of light hurts his eyes. Alan still can’t see them, but he also knows running will be pointless.
Alan tries to catch is breath and nods.
“Can you walk, son?” asks the old man.
He nods again gripping his stomach, “Please, I don’t have much meat in this sickly body. Not worth the risk. Besides, I think I ate bad rat.” Alan fakes puking, like girls area taught as a last defense, but nothing comes out because he hasn't eating in days.
"You nasty fucking worm!" cries Strike, "What are you doing?"
Mr. Brown says, “We are not eating you son. We are liberating you.”
“What?” asks Alan between labored wheezes.
“Oh shit,” grumbles Strike, “Here we go.” Strike fumbles around in the dark.
“Put the light against your face. This fucker bit you hard Dad. And if you try to run way, I will beat you until you piss blood, you sick dick hole!”
The light shines on the man. Mr. Brown is wearing camouflage like men used to in old military photos and a strange shirt with bright colors. He he has short cropped hair and a perfectly groomed beard. The left check sports a bloody wound Alan made. Still, the man’s eyes are kind.
Mr. Brown explains about the social conditions and oppression of men, which Alan already knows about, but is never supposed to say out loud. By the time Mr. Brown is done lecturing, Strike is finished.
They walk on for what seems like forever in the heat and stench. They reach an area where it doesn’t smell so bad and when they emerge, they are in a cool building.
“Where is this?” he asks.
“Junk Town,” answers Strike, “Stay close. If anyone asks, you’re my cousin.”
Alan takes in his surroundings. People come rushing to meet them. Some children hold out their hands in expectation, both boys and girls.
“Gosh, you really stink!” says a redheaded boy.
“No fair!” says a blonde girl, “I worked harder than he did.”
“What happened to your face?” asks a little brown boy. Alan has never seen a brown person in real life. He takes in the short tight curly hair and amber eyes. Mr. Brown passes out small gifts to each of them, trying to be equal in the distribution.
Then, Alan freezes. In the distance two teenagers are kissing, a boy and a girl with near level three mods, but the mods are odd because only part of her skin is covered in fur, the neck area. He stares for a long time.
Strike sneers, “Those two assholes just got married. Wait a few months ‘til they start hating each other.”
“But she’s. . .”
“She was an elite or going to be one,” says Mr. Brown, “We’re working on making her normal again.”
“What?” asks Alan, “Why?” Who are you?
“Great, ask more fucking questions,” spits Strike.
“A conversation for another time. Let me show you around,” says the old man.
Everyone is staring at him. Some people smile others avert him.
There are more men than women, most of them working together. The building actually has multiple floors. The second floor seems to be the scavenging room where they sort through goods. There are shoes on one pile, clothes on another, and plants in the center, which are the main focus of the sorting. The third floor holds an indoor garden, and Mr. Brown gives Alan some strawberries.
He lets them sit there for a long time. They are small and sweet, intensely red like the color Ashley hates. They are delicate with a little green hat. Then, he eats them until they fade into his mouth, except for the green part, which he realizes too late he is not supposed to eat.
“The next floor is the dorms, and the top floor is for grown ups only. You must never go there, or you will be thrown out of my compound, if you want to stay, that is. . .”
“Are you kidding me?” Asks Alan, “I don’t care if you’re processing people upstairs. I’m staying. I can work hard—“ A painful cough stops him.
“Come on, let’s get you to Nurse,” says Mr. Brown, nearly carrying Alan, “I have business to attend to.”
Slowly, they reach the sleeping quarter,s and Mr. Brown puts him on a soft bed, “He’ll be by soon. Strike will keep you company until then.”
“He?” asks Alan.
Mr. Brown laughs as he walks away, “Yes. He.”
“I’m supposed to be scavenging not babysitting this dead fucker!” cries Strike. He glares at Alan who smiles at him, “What the fuck are you smiling at?”
“I’m not dying now, for sure,” answers Alan.
“What? Is that supposed to be funny, you Annoying Fuck?!”
Alan laughs but then he starts coughing. Warm mucus is on his hand, and he inspects closely. He starts to cry, not from the pain but because he is coughing blood.
Strike curses and grabs a towel from a shelf, "Here, you idiot."
A man in his mid-forties, unusually confident and built brings an old generation Med Unit. It is loud, and the writing is faded. Strike grabs the towel and holds it up.
“Hi,” he says, “I’m Nurse, just Nurse. Let me take a look-see.” He examines Alan and scans his lungs, “Strike bring me the new machine.”
“For this puny asshole?” He leaves in a huff.
“I like him,” says Alan.
Nurse smiles, “Yeah, Strike is a great guy, once you get past the façade. He’s had it rough, rougher than most.” Alan waits to hear more, but Nurse offers none. Nurse works intensely and finally lets out a long whistle.
“Look son, I’m not going to bullshit you. You’re dying, and unless you get some mods, you’re fucked. Best I can do is alleviate the irritation and give you pills.”
Before he can ask how long he has, Strike returns.
“Put the little fucker on suicide missions,” he says.
“Wow,” says Nurse and punches Strike on the arm, hard, “Go get some carrots and make him some juice, and tell me to fuck off, and he gets your dinner. Go.”
Nurse smiles at Alan, “He’s my newest apprentice and has to do what I say.” He hands him three pills, which Alan swallows after three tries. They feel like boulders going down.
Alan waits and three things happen: First the pain nearly vanishes; second he is able to breath better than ever; third he starts to hallucinate and begins to see her. He talks to her and lets her know everything is fine. Nurse vanishes as he tells Ashley about Mr. Brown and Strike.
“Boy has a big heart, but he’s screwed,” says Nurse.
Mr. Brown walks behind him, “Ye of little faith.”
Nurse lists all the problems wrong with the boy, “Harry, you can’t keep using her for medical favors.”
Mr. Brown waves him off, “We’ll see.”
Strike returns carrying four ounces of juice, “Shit sticks! He is high. What the fuck did I make this for?”
“Give it to him with a straw. Before long, he won’t be able swallow.”
Strike pulls a straw from his jacket pocket and glares at them both, but he does his job well, pacing Alan, and tilting his head.
“Get him well enough to take to her,” Mr. Brown says calmly.
Nurse tries to plead with him, but it’s not use, “He’s a boy! What is she going to do with a boy?”
“She doesn’t care,” he asserts, “Plus, they denied her right to adopt, those merciless bastards.”
Strike eavesdrops, “He won’t be free there.”
Mr. Brown pauses for a moment, “Still, he will die here.”
Just then, a woman comes in screaming, and Nurse and Strike move fast.
“What happened?” asks Nurse.
Between sobs she tells them they were scavenging and attacked by a gang of children.
“Strike, prep for surgery and get Betsy to scrub down. Grab the morphine,” Nurse gives one final pleading look towards Mr. Brown, but the conversation is over.
The injured man is missing part of his left leg and his right ear, “Jesus.”
He ties the man down with straps, and shoots him up with an injection.
“Hold the light closer to the leg,” Nurse tells Betsy, “Steady.”
It is only her third operation, but Nurse knows talent when he sees it.
Strike has gauze, and the blow torch ready, “We have to cut parts out?”
“Nope. These savages made a clean cut on the leg. Ear, not so much,” he sighs through the mask, “Pat, bite down.”
Even through the haze Pat keeps saying, “I’m worthless now. I’m worthless now. I’m worthless now.”
“Nonsense,” Assures Nurse, “You’re great at math and cleaning guns.”
“Yeah, we’re going to hunt down the fuckers who did this to you,” promises Strike.
“Practice mercy, Strike,” mumbles Betsy, “They’re feral and don’t know any better.”
“Shut the fuck up. They’re a damn infestation,” answers Strike and he holds the man down.
They wait a few more minutes as silly smile passes over Pat's face.
The torch burns the cut clean, and Pat screams so loud, Nurse is sure the Red Guard will come at any moment.
“You want me to knock him out?” asks Strike.
“You just like to punch,” says Nurse, “Louis, give him the sleeper.”
“What? Why’d you wait so long,” asks Strike.
“Seriously, have you learned nothing from me? It makes you bleed,” he shakes his head in disdain, “Now, patch up that ear, fast.”
Strike stitches the mess expertly and covers it with gauze, “We don’t have that much penicillin left.”
Louis takes a small device with an needle and sticks on the side of Pat's head. The needle pulses inserting the liquid rhythmically, ten times.
“I know,” says Nurse, and watches as the sleeper puts Patrick in a long restful sleep.
Strike sighs, “I’ll do the run.”
“Like hell,” says Nurse, “I’m not training another asshole to do your job. We’ll send Scoots and Junior.”
Strike wants to argue, but he knows better.
In Junk Town penicillin is worth more than fresh meat and soap combined, so the only place to go is the city. The city is a two-hour walk, but they know Mr. Brown will walk himself if they don’t send a scavenging party.
Over the next two days, Alan grows well enough to walk around, and no one bothers him. He catches them staring at him and talking about him behind his back, but he feels welcome anyway.
He finds Mr. Brown with wiggly bugs he has never seen before arms deep in earth from time to time. Without saying anything, Alan tugs on the man’s large green jacket and says, “I can sort or help you with those, things.”
Mr. Brown smiles warmly at him, “These are earth worms.”
As usual, the old man uses every moment to teach and explain. He explicates how the worms help the plants grow.
Alan inspects the worms, “Can you eat them?”
“I suppose, but this tastes better,” the old man hands him something long and green.
His own garden has tomatoes, a lot of tomatoes, but this green thing is new.
Without rinsing it, he takes a bite. It is tangy but good.
“It’s a zucchini, and you can cook it with onions and tomatoes,” says Mr. Brown, “I’ll reheat some chicken drumsticks. You make this.”
Alan gapes and stammers, “What chicken?”
The old man squeezes Alan's should and pats him on the head, and earth trickles down his face. He follows dutifully cradling the zucchini. It is cool against his skin, and he can’t wait to cook it because amongst his many talents, cooking is one of them. In fact often when his mother would be off, which was most of the time, he would cook for his three sisters. When she wasn’t around, they were nice to him, giving him hugs and many compliments because he could make just about anything taste good, even near-rotting food.
The onions are sliced into big pieces, in case some Mr. Brown doesn’t’ like onions. His sisters were allowed to be picky, and they always complained about the onions. Then he takes a tomato and scoops out the seeds for drying later. He cuts that into squares and blends them with the other ingredients. At the end, he adds salt.
There are no stoves in the building, but small burners on a battered table and a few pans everyone fights for, before meals. They are the last to cook, so they can choose whatever they want.
Alan takes the zucchini and cuts it into even cubes. The oil Mr. Brown gives him is green in color and not the government issued oil that is murky and disgusting. Just for good measure, Alan tastes it, “Mmm.” Then, he adds some to the pan, not too much, because oil is also precious.
He turns the burner on medium and lets the pan sit for a few minutes and adds the zucchini, then onions and tomatoes. The smell makes his hunger pangs more fierce. To his left, Mr. Brown is searing some chicken legs.
“This will be done a little after your dish, so keep the flame low,” says the old man, as he whistles a foreign tune.
Mr. Brown takes a taste of Alan’s dish with his right hand, “Delicious.”
Alan waits in anticipation. He thinks he remembers having chicken as a child, but he can’t remember.
Mr. Brown takes two legs per plate and scoops up the leg. Out of nowhere, he pulls out some dense black bread.
He waits for Mr. Brown to start, but he is muttering quietly to himself, something he remembers his father doing long ago.
“Mr. Brown, asks Alan, "Are you talking to yourself?” Or worse, thinks Alan Are you hearing voices?
The old man laughs and so does a woman who sits next to them. Between hard laughs he says, “No.”
Alan looks at the old woman, “He’s not crazy. Well, not when he prays anyway.” Alan has seen the brown woman before, but hasn’t been properly introduced. The woman has feline eyes, but that is all. Her long dreadlocks reach her back, and her skin is the color of coffee with milk. Alan likes better that way.
“This is Louis Jones. Louis, this is Alan. Just Alan, won’t tell his old city name.”
The woman chuckles, “That is alright. We’re all trying to reinvent ourselves down here, or return to what we used to be.”
Alan doesn’t understand, but he nods, “Alan was my father’s name. He was a lot like you, Mr. Brown. Real smart and kind.”
The woman guffaws, “You have this one fooled. I’m the brains of this camp. He just totes a gun. Isn’t that right, comrade?”
Mr. Brown eats quietly, “Whatever, Louis. I’m not the one with a revolver strapped to my leg." He turns to Alan, "She sleeps with it."
“A lady can’t be too careful,” she winks.
The old man smiles, “Well, keep keeping those ladies safe at night.”
Louis gives him a friendly kick under that table, “Oh, that’s not very comradely, you bitch.”
Alan nearly falls out of his chair. Louis looks at him and laughs so hard, she does fall out of her chair.
Mr. Brown simply says, “Things are different here, but just here. We are all equals Alan, real equals. Not like the way they tell you in your arm-port or vid-screen.”
He looks at Louis, “Give her a hand son.”
Alan knows what to do. He has done it hundreds of times before getting his drunk mother off the floor. He braces himself, hooks his arms around her shoulders and pulls. However, Louise is not as thin as his mother. In fact, he is shocked to find that she is quite hea.vy, despite her small frame
On cue, Strike emerges, “Scoot over squirt.” He gives Louis a hand and she gets up still laughing, “For fuck’s sake. What is so funny?”
That sends her into convulsions, and she explains between breaths what happened.