Ah, Wednesday. The week is almost over, Glee is on tonight, and most importantly, it's time for your weekly Glass Cases publication. This week's story is an excerpt from a novel, which the author describes as "the story of a discontented young college student who hopes to find meaning in life by following his idol, a larger-than-life adventurer and Scots Lord. His admiration turns to resentment when he falls in love with his hero's wife."
The author, Bob Young, is sharing with us the first chapter to this novel, titled "The Paragon of Animals." This chapter was a lot of fun to read and I think the novel has a fantastic title! Bob is a novelist, playwright, and screenwriter, and has worked in advertising. Enjoy!
The Paragon of Animals
By Bob Young
Chapter One: August 1988
It was the beginning of a miraculous change but no one realized it as the sun came up over Pike’s Peak. Everyone present was concentrating on the festival. And yet, something incredible was about to happen. One of the little people—a face currently lost in the crowd—was about to embark on the adventure of a lifetime.
The Green Global Day Outdoor Festival in Colorado Springs had begun. People from all over the state and beyond had come to listen to eco-friendly societies speak about global warming and the imminent environmental threats to the planet. Many of the people working at the event were college student volunteers or interns.
Somerset Rose looked around the green fields where tables and tents were being set up and people rushed around like army ants, trying to get things ready on time for the opening ceremony. There was a bigger crowd present than either Somerset or anyone else had anticipated, and dozens more were arriving continuously. It was rare that they got a crowd this large at one of these rallies. Apparently the environment was the cool thing to be involved with now.
Skinny little Somerset was proud of his part in arranging this major event. He was a zoology student who had worked on a college internship for two semesters now. He'd helped organize many a rally, for many a cause. This was to be the biggest yet. And Somerset was one of the event planners, so if this thing went kablooie, his was one of the heads on the chopping block. Therefore, Somerset Rose was very, very nervous. If he had been a nail-biter, he'd have worked his way down to his knuckles by now.
He was amazed when he got the job of event planner for this. He was normally such an ignored, unnoticed presence among his peers and superiors that he never expected to be given a responsibility like this one. True, he'd only gotten it because the two guys who were supposed to arrange things became suddenly unavailable. One was arrested for drug possession and the other spontaneously combusted. And so, skinny little Johnny-on-the-spot Somerset volunteered. No one else was available at such short notice. So, the kid got his big moment. He regretted it now. His nerves were frazzled like dried leaves.
However, standing nearby was someone so charismatic and interesting in his own rite that he stole some of the spotlight away from the event planners and speakers. Some speakers didn't really like the fact that they had competition for the admiration of the crowd, but they all knew that they needed the man in question. The man’s name was Hadrian Falconer. Among other things, he was a professional security expert. Hadrian was an amazing man. Somerset and the event planners had been advised to hire him when they began to get the death threats. Some crazy man was sending notes to the planners threatening to “massacre the damn tree huggers, and plant their entrails like seeds, and maybe they'll grow a new brain!”
It was a coup for them to get Hadrian there. Although he was only twenty-eight years old, Hadrian was greatly sought after, especially since he rarely charged for his services. He did it for fun. Fortunately, he believed in this cause, and so agreed to come and protect them. There he stood, a dashing, handsome and quite regal figure, demanding attention even with his silence. His well toned muscles were tensed for action, his brown eyes seeing everything. A redoubtable man, unquestionably.
Somerset had surreptitiously fled to a hill which overlooked the stage that he had helped set up near the base of Pike’s Peak. He looked down as the first speaker took the stage. Well, all the planning was over now. It was time for the presenters to do their thing. Somerset hoped they were up to the challenge, otherwise, heads would roll. His head would roll first. And no one would ever trust him with something like this again! At twenty-one, his career would be over.
Somerset tuned out the speech. He didn't want to think about it. He needed to take just a few minutes to feel peaceful and serene, away from the crowd and the responsibility. God, I hope I didn't screw this up!, he mused, nervously.
The sound of the gunshot erased all such thoughts from Somerset’s brain. Screaming and general sounds of panic and commotion came over the hill. Somerset ran down the hillside and back to the rally. He looked down and saw chaos. People were swarming around like bees whose honeycomb had just exploded. The police who were assigned to crowd control pushed their way through to the podium.
He reached the bottom of the hill and shoved his way through the crowd. It was hard to get near the podium. There were so many people who just wanted to stare at the scene. It made Somerset angry. Couldn't they find something less ghoulish to stare at? Go stare at a Pike’s Peak, you jerks.! It’s a great tourist attraction!
Eventually, he fought his way through. He saw that first speaker—an unfortunate fellow named 'Green Jimmy'—seemingly unharmed but looking pale and frightened. Green Jimmy was standing with a group of policemen who were surrounding the epicenter of the situation.
Somerset finally saw what was happening. Hadrian Falconer was restraining someone on the grass with a wrestling arm-lock. A gun lay nearby, dropped during the melee, apparently by the man who was being held down. Had this man taken a shot at Jimmy? Or tried to, only to be stopped by the formidable Hadrian.
Strong and skillful, confident of his prowess, mighty Hadrian seemed to be holding the other man down effortlessly, even though the suspect was a large (and smelly) fellow, and struggling like a wild beast. Hadrian shook his head disapprovingly at his prisoner.
“You must to be the worst bloody assassin I've ever seen,” he informed the angry gunman, accentuating his Scottish accent. “I wish you'd been the pratt they sent after Arch Duke Ferdinand. It would have saved everyone a lot of bother.”
The police cuffed the ineffective assassin and dragged him off, as he screamed corny threats of vengeance at Hadrian, who was in no way intimidated. Meanwhile, the shaken Green Jimmy was being consoled by a couple of young lovelies. He described his hair-raising ordeal in detail. He knew how to work it.
Hadrian, on the other hand, was much more nonchalant about the mass of people who swarmed to him, wanting his autograph. One girl pulled up her blouse and said, “Sign these!” Hadrian politely declined, stating that he hated to be a boob but he needed to accompany the cops and keep abreast of the bust he'd made. He moved through the crown like a nobleman, and everyone stepped back to let him pass. Hadrian just oozed authority. He was a perfect physical specimen, with his Cary Grant face and extremely fit body. His alert eyes twinkled with a puckish joy of life.
Somerset could only stare. He was in awe of Hadrian. Suddenly he had a new hero. This man, this extraordinary man, this famous adventurer, was everything Somerset wanted to be. Strong, handsome, capable, charismatic, confident and famous. Somerset, on the other hand, was Everyman. Frighteningly average in most ways, except perhaps for his underused intellect, which never reached its potential. His sister used to say “You have brains you've never used.” She was right, he knew it. He always had the feeling that he was waiting for something to happen. He didn't know what. He looked at Hadrian and wondered if the daring Scotsman ever had any doubts or fears. Surely he wouldn't be on the edge of a nervous breakdown if someone asked him to event plan!
As Hadrian passed through the mob, Somerset pushed his way to the Scottish adventurer’s side. “Hey, Mr. Falconer, remember me? I'm Somerset, one of the event planners.”
Hadrian stopped and grinned mischievously at Somerset. “Well let me think. I've not seen you in twenty minutes, so no, I dinna remember you.”
Somerset looked embarrassed, “Sorry, it’s just that people tend to forget…well, me!”
Hadrian put a hand on Somerset’s shoulder. “First of all, call me Hadrian. It’s a name that stands on its own, like Cher or Madonna or Attila. Secondly, you're not exceptionally forgettable, are you? Quite the contrary, lad, you're a good worker with a sharp mind. I wish I could have spoken to you more.”
Somerset was amazed at the compliment. No one ever complimented him, especially not an amazing guy like Hadrian Falconer. “Thanks mister…I mean, Hadrian. Anyway, I just wanted to thank you for saving the day.”
“It’s what I do,” Hadrian said. “Now, if you'll pardon me for riding off into the sunset so abruptly, I have to go to the police station. Reports to fill before I sleep. If I dinna see you again, it’s been a pleasure.”
“Yeah, for me too, definitely,” Somerset said.
They shook hands and Hadrian disappeared into the crowd. Somerset smiled. This had turned out to be a good day, despite the small mater of an attempted murder.
As chaos turned to quiet, Somerset sat on a rock. He looked up at the clouds. He gave himself a Rorschach test in the sky. What did he see? A chicken! That was definitely significant!
Somerset tried to decide what to do now. In the last few minutes, things had changed. True, discontent had been festering in his troubled brain for a while, but meeting Hadrian Falconer sparked a flame inside him. He supposed that this was just like when Truffaut first saw ‘Citizen Kane’. He hadn't realized how empty he had been until he saw greatness.
The truth was that Somerset was bored with zoology. He was bored with college. He had always dreamed of something more than this, of something special, something amazing! He once wrote a biography for himself, a view of his life from the other end. He predicted for himself an unusual life and a great love. Neither seemed to be in the cards. He was a nobody who was shy around girls. Things needed to change!
He needed to get away. Hadrian had inspired him. Somerset had seen a real hero at last. And everything changed. He needed time to think about this. He needed to go somewhere he felt comfortable. He needed familiar surroundings. He needed to be someplace quiet. He needed to see old friends. He needed to go home.
He had to take a step back before he could take a giant leap forward.