VOICES: The Interviews
Allow me tell you about the little project AJ Brown and I are working on. In the coming months, one character from each story in AJ Brown’s collection VOICES will be interviewed by me! Hmm… Actually, let me tell you what AJ says about our project:
“No, this is not your typical interview session. What I want to do is make each interview like a story, one that continues until we reach the end. Some of these are going to be short. Some of them might be long. I don’t know. Like you, I will find out just how long each interview is based on the questions Lisa provides me. I don’t know the questions ahead of time and neither do the characters.
Since this is an interview, I will go ahead and say up front there are spoilers in each session. If you have not read Voices, I urge you to do so before continuing. If you haven’t read the collection, you have been made aware of possible spoilers.”
So, as the man says, Spoiler Alert!
* Spoiler Alert * Spoiler Alert * Spoiler Alert *
While this project was originally intended to be a promotional piece, it has taken on a life of its own… or maybe the characters have taken over. It’s hard to say. Read Voices, follow the interviews here and at Type AJ Negative… let me know what you think.
Voices: The Interviews
Session 2: Mr Worrywort
Lisa takes a deep breath. She didn’t expect the defiant tone in Spencer’s voice. She didn’t expect him to sound as if he enjoyed what happened to Sarah and Bobby. She wonders, very briefly, if Spencer knows Sarah didn’t die. Oh, Bobby had and he had suffered greatly before doing so, but Sarah still lives and is currently housed in the Century Falls Mental Institute, a place surrounded by brick walls that span twenty feet from the ground. One could try to climb it, but with no foot or hand holds and the top laced with razor wire, no one is getting in or out that way without paying a painful price.
She releases the breath and looks around the horseshoe shaped chairs. Fourteen are occupied. The one where Spencer had sat seems, to her, to have never had anyone occupying it. The cushioned yellow seat appears bland compared to the others. The brown of the metal legs are lighter than the others. Lisa shakes her head.
It’s all in my head.
The faces of the other fourteen individuals in the room are turned in every direction except toward her. One of them … one of them looks different. She cocks her head to the side and stares at him. She doesn’t recognize him from the character sheet she had been given before arriving.
“You,” she says.
The man she speaks to flinches, but doesn’t look up.
“Excuse me. Who are you?”
“That is Mr. Worrywort, Ma’am.”
To her right a man whose skin is like mahogany sits forward in his seat. His elbows rest on his knees and his hands are clasped together as if he is about to pray. He looks as if he has worn life on his shoulders and the weight is pulling him down.
“How do you know that, Sir?”
The old man smiles. His teeth are yellow and there is only a twinkle of hope in them. “We all has a bit of Mr. Worrywort in us, Ma’am. It’s our thinker.”
Chet! her mind screams. The sudden realization strikes her and she knows the questions she needs to ask.
“Mr. Worrywort?” she asks.
This time the man looks at her. His features are plain, almost nonexistent. She studies him for a few seconds. She sees his eyes and nose and even his lips, but she can’t make any of them out. She knows that later when she tries to recall anything about him, she won’t remember.
Sometimes, remembrances are not good, she thinks, then wonders if the voice in her head is her Mr. Worrywort, or in this case, a Mrs. Worrywort. She licks her lips and speaks again.
“Are you still willing to speak with me?
“Thank you. I will keep this short. Okay?”
“You are the inner voice of Chet, right?”
This time he shrugs, then nods. “I suppose so.” His voice is monotone, flat, a voice she won’t remember.
“Is ‘inner voice’ the correct title for you, or do you prefer something else?”
She hears him take a deep breath. When he releases it, his words come with it and there is a touch of resignation in them. “That’s what some people call us. Others say we’re this thing called a conscience.” He makes invisible quote marks in the air, using two fingers on both hands to do so. “Some people see us as a devil or an angel who resides on their shoulders. However, most people call us demons, and use us as excuses for why they do bad things or do nothing at all. Chet calls me Mr. Worrywort because I try to warn him when he is about to make a bad decision.”
“I’m getting the feeling you don’t care much for Chet.”
He smiles. This she sees. It is plain … nothing worth remembering. “I care quite a bit for him. After all, without him, I do not exist. I’m like a rudder on a boat meant to steer the vessel on its course and out of trouble. Some people’s rudders are broken. They are tired or even lazy. They’ve given up on their vessel, so they let them float in the waters, near the rocks, into storms. I … I don’t do that. I do my best to steer him clear of bad actions.”
Lisa’s lips purse for a second, maybe two. “Do you feel like Chet listens to you more or ignores you more?”
“He …” Mr. Worrywort pauses. “He used to.”
“Yes, before he married that woman.” There is anger in his voice, a true emotion, though some might say it’s not a real feeling at all, but a secondary one, something easily controlled and is never truly felt.
“You mean Kay?”
“Yes, she is who I’m talking about.”
“It’s not interesting!” he yells. The room shakes. The characters in the other chairs are all looking at him now. Some of them look fearful, while others look bored or amused. “She’s going to get us killed one day. She’s almost gotten us killed a couple of times, but the last time … the last time was the worst. ‘Let’s take a trip,’ she said. ‘It will be fun,’ she said. ‘If it snows I’m sure we can find something to do.’ She said that all flirty-like, knowing Chet wouldn’t—couldn’t!—resist her. It was snowing! I hate driving in the snow. But Chet wouldn’t listen, you see. Chet was all, ‘okay, Babe,’ and she almost got us killed.”
“I don’t see how she almost got you killed, Mr. Worrywort. Chet made a decision—it was his choice.”
“He ignored me because of her! If not for her, we wouldn’t have been in that situation.”
“I see. So, since he married Kay, he ignores you more and more. Is that what you are saying?”
His arms are crossed over his chest now. His legs stretched out and crossed at the ankles. “Yes, that’s what I said. If he would have just listened to me when his friend offered to ‘hook them up’ we would never have to deal with the things she does and the danger she puts us in.”
She nods and shifts the conversation slightly away from Kay. “How do you feel when he ignores you?”
Mr. Worrywort laughs. It is much like Spencer’s and something she feels is a sign of a deteriorating conversation. His chair creaks when he sits up. There is a frown on his face that appears to have been carved into his nonexistent features. “How do you feel when someone ignores you?”
Her first thought is, I ask the questions. She doesn’t say that. Instead, she answers him. “I don’t like it.”
“You don’t like it?” Another of those angered laughs comes out. “I hate it. I loathe it. How can you ignore someone who is always right?”
“But, are you really always right?” It is out before she processes it. Again, she wonders if her inner voice came up with that one.
Mr. Worrywort says nothing right away. He appears to be thinking on it, or maybe stewing about the truth.
“When it comes to Chet, I am always right. Always.”
“I think Chet would beg to differ with you there.”
A black cloud of anger hovers on Mr. Worrywort’s face. His breaths are loud, in/out, in/out, the sound of a freight train chugging along the tracks.
“What do you know? What do you know about me or Chet or anything for that matter?”
Lisa smiles at this. Though she doesn’t want conflict she thought there could be some before arriving there that morning. The subjects are touchy and the characters have been through more in a span of four to twenty thousand words than the average person goes through in a week. But this guy … she knows exactly what this guy is. She has come across his type many times in her life.
“I know you are manipulative. I know you get angry when you don’t get it your way. And I know you are selfish and self serving and don’t have Chet’s best interests in mind.”
“His interest is the only thing I have in mind!”
“No, Sir. Your interests are what you have in mind. You are afraid to live. Kay is not and she has shown Chet not to be afraid to live, to laugh, to love and to care. Maybe you should take a lesson from her inner voice, or maybe your own.”
“I don’t have an inner voice! None of those like me do.”
“Maybe that’s your problem. Maybe you need one.”
“I’m done here,” Mr. Worrywort says. He stands up in a hurry. The chair pushes back, tilts on its back legs and falls over, folding in on itself. Mr. Worrywort turns, shoves the fallen chair with one foot. It scrapes across the tiled floor. He doesn’t go to the door. Instead, he hurries to one darkened corner and fades into the shadows.
Lisa stares to where he went. One thought enters her mind. I can see why he might be called a demon …
To be continued …
If you missed it, read Voices: The Interviews Session 1 here