Chapter 19. Dear Reader/Corpse gets an assignment

veronica.jpgPhoto by Heather D'Augustine

'Veronica Street' is a novel of Los Angeles by Jenny Burman, serialized here at LA Observed. Read previous chapters.

Dear Reader, it's Thanksgiving Friday as I write this; the big meal was yesterday. There is snow outside and cold, fresh, friendly air. I am writing this from the Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia, and Veronica Street, in Ashland Park, in Los Angeles, is very far away. So is Cincinnati, Ohio, and a lot of other habits of mind. So it seems like a good time to exhale and consider events on Veronica Street.

One of the reasons I wanted to write Veronica Street that way I am doing--in "real time," fictionwise, on a blog--was for the fun of always going forward, which is not to say that revision isn't part of the process: Each installment is written and revised in a word document and then moved onto LAO. But once it goes live, in other words gets published, it's done. I might make an editorial correction, a spelling, or fix an awkward phrase (though honestly I can't remember doing that for any of the 18 chapters committed so far). But none of the characters' actions will change--Frank cannot walk into his house in a cheerful mood, hungry for dinner, having given up his mistress and having had a great day at work; James cannot choose a different day to initiate the permit process for Ayla's project; Marisol cannot undo the curse.

Or can they? The blogger's code of honor says no: No changes after publication. Snapchat being the ultimate--and opposite--expression of this. And allowing changes would turn this fiction into a draft instead of the finished thing it was conceived to be.

In the meantime, there are so many choices. This form allows for a multiplicity of characters and events. It could go on for many years or wind up in a few months. Each of the characters who have shown up to be part of the story has been pestering me to get into the action. "Where are my lines?" they all want to know. All of them! And the quieter of them, the ones who are less pushy, they deserve attention, too. Like Eugenio. Sometimes I think he's my favorite. Sometimes not. You haven't seen much of him yet. But I can tell you this: while James is busy looking through the backend of a telescope, Eugenio is at Vega's carniceria buying several pounds of raw meat. He may be in that store, among people who loathe him, for one more week, or maybe four. I am sorry, Eugenio, but that's the format.

If you have any thoughts or suggestions you'd like to share, you can email me at jennyb@laobserved.com.

Meanwhile, following is the short scene that I sketched out over a week ago and completed today. James's past has come back for him:

The first thing Alicia did when she got back to her desk was look up specs for Jimmy's Ashland Park project. Then she got to work on a scuttle.

She could still taste the smoked mozzarella of the sandwich she'd barely half-finished. It had been clear--all these years he'd barely given her a thought. All of these years she had counted him as one of the important ones. And to think, she had tried to help him get straight. She had done research. She'd made calls. She'd talked to him about AA and rehab, how you might work the system to get services.

And then, seventeen years later, he's sitting there with his pious sobriety, looking down on her--?? What the fuck. He'd said, I should have come to you with my apology when I was doing the steps. He laughed and shook his head, looking down at the tabletop.

"You must have had the whole damn city on your list."

He'd sighed. Honesty--she knew that was an element in recovery. Honest and tact were not making music together for him, or her, at this moment. He'd grown strong inside, she could see. But that was not an apology.

Dear Reader, it's Thanksgiving Friday as I write this; the big meal was yesterday. There is snow outside and cold, fresh, friendly air. I am writing this from the Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia, and Veronica Street, in Ashland Park, in Los Angeles, is very far away. So is Cincinnati, Ohio, and a lot of other habits of mind. So it seems like a good time to exhale and consider events on Veronica Street.

One of the reasons I wanted to write Veronica Street that way I am doing--in "real time," fictionwise, on a blog--was for the fun of always going forward, which is not to say that revision isn't part of the process: Each installment is written and revised in a word document and then moved onto LAO. But once it goes live, in other words gets published, it's done. I might make an editorial correction, a spelling, or fix an awkward phrase (though honestly I can't remember doing that for any of the 18 chapters committed so far). But none of the characters' actions will change--Frank cannot walk into his house in a cheerful mood, hungry for dinner, having given up his mistress and having had a great day at work; James cannot choose a different day to initiate the permit process for Ayla's project; Marisol cannot undo the curse.

Or can they? The blogger's code of honor says no: No changes after publication. Snapchat being the ultimate expression of this. And allowing changes would turn this fiction into a draft instead of the finished thing it was conceived to be.

In the meantime, there are so many choices. This form allows for a multiplicity of characters and events. It could go on for many years or wind up in a few months. Each of the characters who have shown up to be part of the story has been pestering me to get into the action. "Where are my lines?" they all want to know. All of them! And the quieter of them, the ones who are less pushy, they deserve attention, too. Like Eugenio. Sometimes I think he's my favorite. Sometimes not. You haven't seen much of him yet. But I can tell you this: while James is busy looking through the backend of a telescope, Eugenio is at Vega's carniceria buying several pounds of raw meat. He may be in that store, among people who loathe him, for one more week, or maybe four. I am sorry, Eugenio, but that's the format.

If you have any thoughts or suggestions on this state of events that you'd like to share, you can email me at jennyb@laobserved.com.

Meanwhile, following is the short scene that I sketched out over a week ago and completed today. James's past has come back for him:

The first thing Alicia did when she got back to her desk was look up specs for Jimmy's Ashland Park project. Then she got to work on a scuttle.

She could still taste the smoked mozzarella of the sandwich she'd barely half-finished. It had been clear--all these years he'd barely given her a thought. All of these years she had counted him as one of the important ones. And to think, she had tried to help him get straight. She had done research. She'd made calls. She'd talked to him about AA and rehab, how you might work the system to get services.

And then, seventeen years later, he's sitting there with his pious sobriety, looking down on her--?? What the fuck. He'd said, I should have come to you with my apology when I was doing the steps. He laughed and shook his head, looking down at the tabletop.

"You must have had the whole damn city on your list."

He'd sighed. Honesty--she knew that was an element in recovery. Honest and tact were not making music together for him, or her, at this moment. He'd grown strong inside, she could see. But that was not an apology.

The fact that he hadn't opened his mouth to try a lie on her--that in itself was almost unforgiveable. Until this morning she had forgotten him. And now he wanted to get things started again. And to be honest--with herself--she did, too. And she didn't.

"How's your son?" she'd asked.

He had nodded his head. "He did okay. No thanks to me. He's a junior in high school. He goes to a Catholic school. St. X's. That's where his mother wanted him to go. He still don't want to see me, not much at least. I gotta live with it."

Now she pulled on the drag-down menu and selected "Under Review." Then she forwarded it to herself. She co-assigned a recently deceased co-worker and sent it off to gather dust. She didn't care if he found out, if he had a clerk-informant with access. She'd apologize for the mistake. There'd be no repercussion. She actually came to work--as in she showed up at the building and she spent part of the day doing the work she was supposed to do, even when she didn't get paid. There were people in this building who would protect her. There were still people who wanted to make the city work. Heroes. In fact, people like her, who came even when the payroll stopped. Give her shit for accidentally co-assigning the wrong person? No.

There had been a time, not long ago--make that yesterday--when she wouldn't have done this kind of thing.


Dear Reader, it's Thanksgiving Friday as I write this; the big meal was yesterday. There is snow outside and cold, fresh, friendly air. I am writing this from the Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia, and Veronica Street, in Ashland Park, in Los Angeles, is very far away. So is Cincinnati, Ohio, and a lot of other habits of mind. So it seems like a good time to exhale and consider events on Veronica Street.

One of the reasons I wanted to write Veronica Street that way I am doing--in "real time," fictionwise, on a blog--was for the fun of always going forward, which is not to say that revision isn't part of the process: Each installment is written and revised in a word document and then moved onto LAO. But once it goes live, in other words gets published, it's done. I might make an editorial correction, a spelling, or fix an awkward phrase (though honestly I can't remember doing that for any of the 18 chapters committed so far). But none of the characters' actions will change--Frank cannot walk into his house in a cheerful mood, hungry for dinner, having given up his mistress and having had a great day at work; James cannot choose a different day to initiate the permit process for Ayla's project; Marisol cannot undo the curse.

Or can they? The blogger's code of honor says no: No changes after publication. Snapchat being the ultimate expression of this. And allowing changes would turn this fiction into a draft instead of the finished thing it was conceived to be.

In the meantime, there are so many choices. This form allows for a multiplicity of characters and events. It could go on for many years or wind up in a few months. Each of the characters who have shown up to be part of the story has been pestering me to get into the action. "Where are my lines?" they all want to know. All of them! And the quieter of them, the ones who are less pushy, they deserve attention, too. Like Eugenio. Sometimes I think he's my favorite. Sometimes not. You haven't seen much of him yet. But I can tell you this: while James is busy looking through the backend of a telescope, Eugenio is at Vega's carniceria buying several pounds of raw meat. He may be in that store, among people who loathe him, for one more week, or maybe four. I am sorry, Eugenio, but that's the format.

If you have any thoughts or suggestions on this state of events that you'd like to share, you can email me at jennyb@laobserved.com.

Meanwhile, following is the short scene that I sketched out over a week ago and completed today. James's past has come back for him:

The first thing Alicia did when she got back to her desk was look up specs for Jimmy's Ashland Park project. Then she got to work on a scuttle.

She could still taste the smoked mozzarella of the sandwich she'd barely half-finished. It had been clear--all these years he'd barely given her a thought. All of these years she had counted him as one of the important ones. And to think, she had tried to help him get straight. She had done research. She'd made calls. She'd talked to him about AA and rehab, how you might work the system to get services.

And then, seventeen years later, he's sitting there with his pious sobriety, looking down on her--?? What the fuck. He'd said, I should have come to you with my apology when I was doing the steps. He laughed and shook his head, looking down at the tabletop.

"You must have had the whole damn city on your list."

He'd sighed. Honesty--she knew that was an element in recovery. Honest and tact were not making music together for him, or her, at this moment. He'd grown strong inside, she could see. But that was not an apology.

The fact that he hadn't opened his mouth even to try a lie on her--that in itself was almost unforgiveable. Until this morning she had forgotten him. And now he wanted to get things started again. And to be honest--with herself--she did, too. And she didn't.

"How's your son?" she'd asked.

He had nodded his head. "He did okay. No thanks to me. He's a junior in high school. He goes to a Catholic school. St. X's. That's where his mother wanted him to go. He still don't want to see me, not much at least. I gotta live with it."

Now she pulled on the drag-down menu and selected "Under Review." Then she forwarded it to herself. She co-assigned a recently deceased co-worker and sent it off to gather dust. She didn't care if he found out, if he had a clerk-informant with access. She'd apologize for the mistake. There'd be no repercussion. She actually came to work--as in she showed up at the building and she spent part of the day doing the work she was supposed to do, even when she didn't get paid. There were people in this building who would protect her. There were still people who wanted to make the city work. Heroes. In fact, people like her, who came even when the payroll stopped. Give her shit for accidentally co-assigning the wrong person? No.

There had been a time, not long ago--make that yesterday--when she wouldn't have done this kind of thing.


Until this morning she had forgotten him. And now he wanted to get things started again. And to be honest--with herself--she did, too. And she didn't.

"How's your son?" she'd asked.

He had nodded his head. "He did okay. No thanks to me. He's a junior in high school. He goes to a Catholic school. St. X's. That's where his mother wanted him to go. He still don't want to see me, not much at least. I gotta live with it."

Now she pulled on the drag-down menu and selected "Under Review." Then she forwarded it to herself. She co-assigned a recently deceased co-worker and sent it off to gather dust. She didn't care if he found out, if he had a clerk-informant with access. She'd apologize for the mistake. There'd be no repercussion. She actually came to work--as in she showed up at the building and she spent part of the day doing the work she was supposed to do, even when she didn't get paid. There were people in this building who would protect her. There were still people who wanted to make the city work. Heroes. In fact, people like her, who came even when the payroll stopped. Give her shit for accidentally co-assigning the wrong person? No.

There had been a time, not long ago--make that yesterday--when she wouldn't have done this kind of thing.


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