Saturday, November 06, 2004

Chapter 8

Seamus got home and went straight up to his attic room. Sarah, who lived in the room directly below his, was playing her stereo, and Seamus could hear it through his floor boards, but he had long ago learned to tune it out pretty effectively. He pulled the book out and set it on his bed.

He had never cared much for keeping a journal. His mother had gotten him one when he was seven, to see if his enthusiasm for writing would match his enthusiasm for reading. He had made a few half-hearted entries along the lines of "I went to school today. I read 27 pages of The BFG, by Roald Dahl. I did my homework and played outside." But he had quickly abandoned it.

Later in life, he had tried starting a dream journal. Then that was given up as well, when he realized that he just kept dreaming about the books he was reading at the time. He figured there was no point writing all that down when he could just go pick up the books again if he wanted to read them later.

At another point, early in college, he had tried keeping a regular journal again. He had kept hearing from older friends and relatives about how college was supposedly "the best time of your life," which made him feel like maybe he ought to record more of it to look back on during the dull, featureless years that were apparently heading his way. But it depressed him to think that it was all down hill from there and besides, it wasn't like Stanford didn't keep him busy enough as it was. So that journal didn't last more than a few months.

Looking at the blank, empty book on his bed though, Seamus thought he could understand the urge to write. Somehow it just seemed to call to him, begging for a pen to be put to its clean, white pages. He turned and went to the table that served as his desk and pulled a pen from the old jelly jar full of pens, pencils, scissors and a ruler. Then he turned back to open the book.

He noticed that the leather fastening was undone, leaving the cover invitingly loose and ready to open. That was a bit odd, since he was fairly sure he had tied it up securely back at the library. But he let that go and opened the book to the first page. There, in large letters as for the title page of a book, he wrote:

The Journal
Seamus Gilbert

He started a bit, surprised at himself. That seemed somewhat rash, just declaring the book his journal like that. For one thing, it wasn't even his. Well, okay, let's face it – he took it, and he knew he probably wasn't going to put it back. Still. And then another thing: What made him think he would actually write in this journal, and not give it up like the others? He didn't like the way he seemed to have committed himself to it already. It would be a waste of a good book if he only ever made two or three entries in it.

But it was done now. The book had been christened. He closed it again and put it on his pillow, then realized that he hadn't had lunch that day. His stomach was beginning to complain mightily, so he headed downstairs to find something to eat.

Seamus had very modest dietary preferences, his main requirements being "easy" and "cheap." He had never really learned to cook much of anything since he didn't care too much what he ate and thus didn't see the point in spending too much time or effort on its preparation. Sandwiches, fruit, canned soup and the occasional quesadilla formed considerable portions of his diet. The fanciest he ever got was making pasta from one of those Tuna Helper packages. Just dump everything in a pot for a few minutes and he'd be set. He had made some the night before, so he pulled the leftovers out of the refrigerator and put them in the microwave. He watched the plate rotating in the microwave as he munched on an apple.

He heard a slight creak of a floor board behind him and turned around. Nathan was standing barely a foot away from him, with one of his slightly disturbing grins on his face.

"Oh, hi." Seamus said coolly.

"Did I surprise you?" Nathan asked with a giggle. "I can always scare Sarah when I sneak up on her like that. It's hilarious."

"No. And you should really go easy on Sarah. You know she's high strung." The truth was, Seamus hadn't know Nathan was there until he was right behind him. But he was also somewhat used to Nathan's sneaking around, and he didn't scare easily so he was able to keep his composure without too much trouble.

"I know she is. That's why it's fun." Another odd giggle, and Nathan moved off to sit at the small kitchen table.

Nathan had only been living in the house for a few months. He was chronically unemployed and taking various medications for depression and, Seamus expected, probably for other things as well. His social skills were effectively non-existent. He spent much of his time holed away in his room, where he had an extra stockpile of food. That was preferable though, to the times he was out of his room, when he would follow the other housemates around the common areas, as though somehow feeding off their normal lives. Occasionally you could have a decent conversation with him, but most of the time he was just kind of creepy. He didn't bathe or shave very often, and his straggly hair accentuated the not-quite-right look in his eyes. Matt had taken him in as a favor to a friend, but everyone realized fairly soon that this wouldn't last. At least, they hoped it wouldn't.

The microwave timer went off and Seamus took his plate out. He sat on a stool by the counter, since that's where there was a bit of free space to put his plate.

"I saw you coming home on your bike," Nathan said. "From my window."

"Yep. I'm sure you did." That was another thing Nathan liked to do: monitor the comings and goings of the other housemates from behind his curtains. Seamus usually just made a distinct effort not to care about it, since he figured any show of annoyance would just encourage him.

"You looked like you were in a hurry. Where were you coming back from?"

"Just the library."

"The library, huh? You were gone an awful long time. I think you left before 10 o'clock this morning, right?"

"Yeah. Well… I did some other errands and stuff today, too. The library was just the last place I was at before I came home."

"Ahhhh. I see."

They were silent for a while, and Seamus ate quickly. He got up and went to the sink to wash his plate.

"So did you get anything at the library?" Nathan had stopped staring at the kitchen table and was focused on Seamus again.

"No… no. I was just returning something that was going to be due before I made it back there on Wednesday."

"Oh, okay. Only I thought I saw you holding something when you came in. Like, holding it against your side, you know?"

"Um… I think I just had a bit of a side-ache. From biking too fast. That's all."


"Anyway… I'm just uh… heading back upstairs now. I'll talk to you later."


Seamus climbed the stairs with the usual feeling of relief that followed taking leave of Nathan. Back in his room, he picked up the journal again and opened it to his title page. There it was, "The Journal of Seamus Gilbert." He turned the page.

At the top of the next page, on a sheet that should have been blank, he read the words:

Welcome, Seamus.


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