Today’s guest post is brought to you by Robert Kirkendall. It’s the first chapter of his novel, Redwood Summer. Thanks, Robert!
aerial photograph Santa Clara, San Clara county, California
SAN JOSE, CA 1990
Was it all just too good to be true? Jason was in the passenger seat of a work truck as he reflected on the life changing events of the previous few months. He looked out across the austere expanse of unadorned one and two story concrete tilt-ups of Silicon Valley as the truck passed one building after another. I had a good job with room to grow, Jason recalled, I had all my friends, Christine and I didn’t have a care in the world. How did all change so quick? Jason lamented, then wondered if all the good times were gone. The morning sun was above the eastern Mount Hamilton range and shone across the late autumn sky. The faceless buildings cast shadows on half filled parking lots and dry landscaping.
“So what do you think about all this?” Hal asked from the driver’s seat.
“Huh?” Jason was knocked off his train of thought.
“You know, what’s going on in the Persian Gulf. They’ve been talking about it on the radio all morning.”
“Oh, I guess I wasn’t paying attention.” Jason once again noticed the news talk over the radio. He was a little annoyed at the interruption, then wondered how long his mind was somewhere else.
“Don’t you follow the news? This is going to be major.”
“Of course. I was just thinking about some other stuff.”
“We may soon be going to war,” Hal emphasized. “What’s more important than that?”
“Look, I hear ya,” Jason agreed, “but I got other things on my mind right now.”
“More important than what’s going on?”
“Maybe not, but it’s important to me.” Jason sensed Hal’s waiting for an answer. “You know, personal stuff.” He tried to hold onto the series of memories he was thinking of as he waited for the intrusion to end.
“Okay, I won’t pry. But you might want to start paying attention to what’s going on. I’m too old to be drafted, but you aren’t.”
“No one’s been drafted in years,” Jason replied. “I’m not worried about that.”
“Well if things gets worse, you’ll hear about it,” Hal warned.
“No doubt,” Jason said reflexively. They drove along further through the maze of nondescript structures.
“Well, maybe it’ll be good for the economy. Wars usually are,” Hal pointed out.
“Yeah, as long as you don’t get killed.”
“Serious, look around at all these tech businesses. This whole valley was built because of the Defense Department, and with the Cold War over we need something new to keep the wheels turning.”
Hal continued to talk as Jason looked out the window in thought. He tried to focus on the day and the job ahead, but the past kept drawing him in. When did it all start to change? he wondered. The year started out really good, every weekend was a party, I was working toward my A.A. Jason then remembered how credit card bills suddenly piled up at around the same time the rent on the house he was sharing went up. When was that, he wondered, April? May? He remembered how his parents let him move back home so he could pay off his debt quicker. He remembered how he told himself at the time that it was only to be temporary situation, but he also couldn’t help but be bothered by the idea that it was a step backward.
Jason leaned back in his seat and rested his arm on the window frame. Did my life already hit its peak? he worried. When did things began to go downhill? His memory searched from the beginning of the year onward. He thought back to a company meeting at his last job, not long after he moved back home, but when things were still good. That was some day, he thought. They said everything was looking up, and the future was only going to get better. We were true believers.
Jason focused on that day.
Robert Kirkendall grew up in San Jose, CA, lives in Santa Cruz, CA, and is the writer/producer/director of Pacific Television Theater, a live drama anthology broadcast from Community TV of Santa Cruz.