Thursday, July 14, 2011

Deleted Chapters #4 (Meeting the Princess)

Painless opens with Billy having already rented the cottage and he had previously met Carolyn during his initial visit to look at the property on Labor Day. This original chapter details that initial visit, and his running into resistance. During the visit, he meets Carolyn for the first time. The chapters were basically condensed into one, so it began the same way, with Billy pulling up to the house and seeing the children playing on the lawns, which brought back hurtful memories. This “deleted chapter” picks right after Carolyn and Billy meet for the first time (as was described in flashback in the book)

Why cut: Wanted to get more quickly into the story. Not that it opened with frenzied action, but thought a day of house-hunting would slow things down. Also, many of the elements described, such as Billy and Carolyn’s initial meeting could be done with flashbacks, and things like his visit to her room ended up taking place at a later stage in the book.

The picture: ...but you can call me Princess. Didn’t have any pictures handy of Princess Carolyn, so Princess Kate will have to do. Not to mention,  she's a lot easier on the eyes than the hockey goalie from last week. 
As always, the deleted chapters are unedited, and might no longer fit the context of the final version of the story. 

"First Meeting"
“Why don’t you wash up for dinner, sweetie,” Beth addressed Carolyn while Chuck set her down.

“Can we play for five minutes?” she continued to negotiate.

“The steaks still aren’t even defrosted yet,” Chuck stepped in, “Why don’t you let her play for a few minutes?”

Beth relented, but didn’t look happy about it. “If it’s okay with Mr. Harper, then five minutes.”
Carolyn began hopping with excitement. “You wanna see my room, Billy?”

He shrugged. “Sure, why not?”

“You better hurry—I only got five minutes!”
They climbed the stairs the balcony and arrived at a heavy Dutch door, split into two sections. Carolyn opened the bottom half and cruised through. Billy ducked under and followed.

On the other side of the door was a cavernous room that looked like an airport hanger. The roof was twenty-foot high and secured by large timber beams. It ran all the way to the back of the barn, which was about the size of a football field.

“This is your room?” he asked with astonishment.


“Wow, you really are a princess.”

“I told you.”

She led him by the hand to the wall where a small bed sat. Next to the bed was a stream of dolls and colorful plastic toys. On a table next to the bed sat a fish bowl. It was your typical toddler’s room, except situated in the Grand Central Station of children’s rooms, it looked almost lonely.

Carolyn first brought Billy to a row of dolls. She held up a furry reddish doll, “Elmo, this is my new friend Billy.”

Billy greeted Elmo, and repeated the process with the remainder of her Sesame Street characters like he was going down a reception line at a wedding. She then brought him to a kid-sized hockey stick lying beside her bed. “Mr. Stick this is Billy—Billy this is Mr. Stick.”

Carolyn introduced Billy to her fish, and to keep with the hockey theme, its name was Puck. The next stop featured three dolls in hockey uniforms with dark mops of hair and thick glasses.
“Billy, I’d like you to meet the Hanson Brothers.”

“Like from Slap Shot?” he asked, surprised. Slap Shot was the 1970’s cult-classic movie about a minor league hockey team starring Paul Newman. Not really something ideal for a three-year-old. 
“Put the foil on coach,” she said, performing a pretty good imitation of the eccentric, optically challenged hockey enforcers from the movie.

“You watch that movie?”

“It’s my favorite. But don't worry Billy, I put my hands over my ears when they say the bad words."

He couldn't help but to laugh. It was quite clear to him that Carolyn Whitcomb was not your average child.

They passed a bookcase that was overflowing with Dr. Seuss books and framed pictures of a still-in-diapers Carolyn showing off her infectious smile. The journey ended at a red tricycle with a silver bell and ribbons hanging off the handlebars. 
“Do you want to see me ride my bike?”

Billy shrugged. “I guess.”

He helped her strap on her helmet so she didn’t get what she termed “bain bamage”, before she peddled off into the distance. She picked up speed as she shrunk into the horizon like a lonely cowboy off to round up the herd. She turned and waved at him, lost her balance slightly and almost tipped. He waved back.

Upon reaching the end wall, she performed a graceful spin and headed back toward Billy. “Here I come, Billy!” she shouted excitedly, not a care in the world.

She approached quickly—maybe too quickly. She wobbled, but this time she couldn’t catch herself and the bike spilled violently onto its side and came to a scraping stop. Carolyn bounced over the wood planks of floor before landing with a nasty thud. 

Billy instinctively ran to her. When he arrived, he realized that he had taken it harder than her, as she was actually laughing, “That was fun!” she exclaimed.

Out of the corner of his eye, he noticed the foot-long splinter sticking out of her hand. It was like she was shot with an arrow. She didn’t even acknowledge its presence. Billy cringed.
Seconds later, the Dutch doors flew open and Beth ran to Carolyn. Her initial tone was of concern, but it quickly turned to a scolding. “Carolyn, I thought I told you not to ride fast in the house!?”

“I only had five minutes.”

“Don’t smart-mouth me!”

Carolyn turned into a stone-faced statue, appearing on the verge of tears.

Beth turned her wrath to Billy. “What made you think it was a good idea to allow my daughter to do a Lance Armstrong imitation in the house?”

“I didn’t think it…”

“That’s right—you didn’t think.”

“I just wanted Billy to see me ride my bike,” Carolyn interjected.

“Carolyn!” her mother raised her voice, before again turning to Billy. It was clear who was going to be Beth’s scapegoat for the fall—this wasn’t Billy’s first rodeo when it came to such things. “Why don’t you go downstairs and do something you can handle, like have another beer.”

Billy left without escalating the situation, as Beth began the process of removing the large splinter from the little girl’s hand. But before he exited stage left, he took one last look back at the mother and daughter. Carolyn’s reaction was stuck in his mind. Something wasn’t right.


Billy descended the stairs to the living room. He had enough of Beth Whitcomb to fill two lifetimes and figured it would be best if just left. He had become quite adept at running away. But then he heard Chuck’s voice. “In here, Billy.”

Billy followed the voice to a room off the living room. Half of the room was full of framed hockey jerseys on the wall, hockey trophies, a Foosball table, and an arsenal of guns in a glass case that would make the Branch Davidians jealous. The other side featured an office motif. A large oak desk displayed a sign that read: Women’s Office—No Men Allowed. The wall behind the desk was lined with bookcases. Most of the books were political in nature. 
“This room keeps our marriage alive,” Chuck said with a grin. “Half mine—half my wife’s office. We can spend time together without cramping each others style.”

Chuck opened two more bottles of Klein Beer with an opener, even though Billy had the impression he would’ve enjoyed using his teeth. Billy maneuvered behind one side of the Foosball table and a game instinctively began without a word. 
Is Carolyn okay?” Chuck asked, in mid spin. He didn’t seem overly concerned.
“I think so. She crashed her bike—got a big splinter—Beth is with her now.”

“Beth has been under a lot of stress lately, please don’t take any of this personally.”

“I’ve been treated worse.”

Chuck scored and put his arms in the air like he just won a gold medal. “Carolyn’s tough—she takes after her daddy—she’ll be fine.”

“She described the crash, and subsequent splinter, as fun.”

“That’s my girl, eh. Three years old and already the neighborhood street hockey champ. You should’ve seen her take out some eight-year old boy last week,” he gushed with pride.

Chuck smiled. Billy had stereotyped all hockey players as not having front teeth, but Chuck had a full set. He scored again and this time did a little dance, if it’s possible for a six-foot-six man to do a little dance.
Beth and Carolyn re-entered, and Billy could feel the oxygen being sucked out of the room. He glanced at Chuck’s arsenal of guns and wondered if he would need to use them to get out of here alive. It wouldn’t be the first time.

Carolyn ran to her father. “Look Daddy, I got a Big Bird Band-Aid!”

Chuck scooped her up again, which appeared to be his pet move, and she showed him the palm of her hand—the place where the splinter had been lodged.

Chuck inspected it, and said, “It almost makes it worth it to cut your hand.” Then he pretended to cut his own hand.

Carolyn laughed a deep belly laugh as if it was the funniest thing she ever saw. “You’re silly, daddy!”
“Did you have fun playing with Billy?” he asked her, which received a disapproving look from Beth.

Carolyn leaned in to tell Chuck a secret, but it was plenty loud for everyone to hear. “He’s a keeper!” she beamed.

“Can I talk to you in another room?” Beth interrupted. It was not a question.

Chuck put Carolyn down and she gravitated to Billy’s side. Chuck then followed his wife into the next room, his shoulders slumped as if he had been summoned to the principal’s office. Just like Carolyn’s failed attempt at whispering a secret, the Whitcombs were talking loud enough for all to hear.

“I like him, Beth—he’s the first real person we’ve interviewed,” Chuck started strong. “I don’t want Carolyn to grow up around these snobs who live around here.”

“I don’t think so, Chuck.”

“You know how we always say Carolyn has that sixth sense to know what a good person is. And if he’s good enough for Carolyn and Dana, then he’s good by me.”

“First of all she is three years old, and you know what a disaster Dana’s boy toys are.”

In the other room, Carolyn laughed at Billy. “My mom called you a boy toy.”
Billy smiled back. “I guess so—what do you think of your Aunt Dana?”

“My daddy says she’s a piece of work, but she’d be the first in line to give us a kid’s knee if we needed it!”

“Do you mean a kidney?”

She laughed. “You say kid’s knee funny.”

The voices in the other room grew louder. “I want Carolyn around a good person,” Chuck demanded. “Not everything is about money.”

“You just met him, for God sake, and besides, I think he’s too irresponsible. We left her alone with him for five minutes and look what happened.”

“That’s crap, Beth. You know we turned our heads for a couple seconds on the Fourth of July and she burned her hand on the barbeque. You’re looking for reasons.”

“What about the drinking?”

“We had a couple beers on Labor Day—you’re the last person to be judgmental about that.”

They then must have moved further away, because the voices turned muffled. But regardless, it wasn’t looking good for Billy, and he doubted he wanted to spend anymore time with Beth Whitcomb, anyway. Not to mention, he would need to find a winning lottery ticket to be able to afford the rent.

“I’m going to be foe,” Carolyn said, as they continued to unintentionally eavesdrop.

“I know,” Billy replied in a whisper.

“I’m gonna have a big party.”

“I heard.”

“I didn’t mean to get you in trouble—I usually don’t crash.”

“Didn’t that splinter hurt?” 
She giggled. “I got a Big Bird Band-Aid.”

After a long period of silence, Chuck and Beth returned and everybody awkwardly acted like they didn’t just hear the whole conversation. To Billy, it didn’t really matter—he wasn’t going to drag this out any longer—he was leaving.

Chuck and Beth stood before him, side by side, forming a united front. Billy reached out to shake their hands. “I want to thank you for showing me the cottage, especially on Labor Day. I hope it works out for you—I’ll give my best to Dana for you.”

He then turned to Carolyn. He had only known her for an hour, maybe less, but it would still be a tough goodbye. She was wise-beyond-her-years and understood the situation. She morphed into the stone-like character that came out when life took a sad turn against her wishes.

“Why don’t you stay for dinner, Billy. We got steaks,” Chuck affably offered, without a hint of charity.

Carolyn came out of her catatonic state and seconded, “Yeah, we got steaks!” 
The offer surprised him, but Billy figured Chuck was just the typical softy father who couldn’t bear to see a hint of sadness in his daughter’s eyes. No need to keep prolonging the inevitable. “I really should be going.”

“If you had something to do on Labor Day, you’d be doing it, eh? We got plenty of food.”

Beth remained quiet.

Carolyn went into master-negotiator mode. “And we got strawberry milk!”

Billy couldn’t help but to grin. “Now how could I turn that down?”

Chuck grilled the steaks on a brick patio in the back of the barn. Carolyn was his assistant, proudly showing Billy a burn on her hand from when she got too intimate with the barbeque on the Fourth of July. “She didn’t even cry,” Chuck said with pride.

Beth returned to the kitchen to make the potato salad and only ventured out of the barn-house to warn Carolyn to stay away from the barbeque every two minutes. She didn’t acknowledge Billy’s presence.

As the sun sank down over the trees, the Whitcombs and Billy Harper ate flank steak with Carolyn’s favorite, “Montreal steak sauce!” Along with potato salad and corn-on-the-cob. Due to the tongue incident, Carolyn’s dinner had to be put through the blender, making it steak and potato soup, which wasn’t a pretty sight. Nobody had discussed how it had happened, and Billy didn’t ask.

When dinner finished, Beth instructed Carolyn to “go play”. She initially protested on account that Billy couldn’t come with her, but quickly relented, and began running around the well-lit backyard, trying to catch fireflies in a glass jar.

Chuck then put his arm around Beth in another united front. Chuck spoke for the both of them, “Billy, we’d like you to rent the cottage to you. We’ll work something out on the money if you’re willing to watch Carolyn. We promise she’ll stay off that bike of hers.”

Billy was stunned. He glanced at Beth, who didn’t object, but didn’t look happy about it. 
“I don’t know,” he wavered, caught off guard.

“We got strawberry milk,” Chuck said with a smile and held up a cup.

Billy never liked charity, but since he’d been living in his Cherokee for the last few months, he was in no position to be prideful. “Now how could I turn that down?” he said and clanked his beer bottle with Chuck’s cup of strawberry milk.

Beth remained silent. She was going to be a tricky mine field to maneuver, to say the least, but after the challenges he’d faced over the last couple years, Beth Whitcomb would seem like a trip to the beach.

After an exhausting firefly hunt, Carolyn returned, skipping with excitement and singing, “I scream for ice cream”, and then let out a primal scream. The princess was reprimanded by the queen, but soon was granted her wish. She ended up wearing most of the vanilla ice cream on her face, but seemed to enjoy it, nevertheless.

“Princess, I got something to tell you,” Chuck said, while Beth cleaned the ice cream off her nose with the soft dab of a napkin.

“I know—Billy’s moving into the cottage.”

“How’d you know that?” Billy asked.

She shrugged, “I know stuff.”

Billy then was selected by the princess to assist in her capture of the elusive fireflies. This went on for about an hour before Beth announced the princesses bedtime. After negotiating to stay up for “five more minutes” for at least another hour, Beth finally carried Carolyn off to bed. She looked back at Billy and gave an energetic wave goodbye.

He waved back at her. He never found the lottery ticket, but he did find a princess.