Sunday, July 26, 2009

Chapter 59: Vincent Matches Fire Against Water

Fri November 27, 2074 8:02 pm- 88 Wilkins Ave. Camden, Pleasantview

The patio door opened, forming a tear of yellow light against the ashen shingles. Vince hurriedly shoved his broken lighter and unlit cigarette back into his pocket. He fully expected to see stray wisps of wild red hair pass through the door before the feet or even the face but the black sneaker that landed on the deck did not belong to his sister. Vince took the cigarette back out. His visitor was a man who carried his own fire like the churning belly of a volcano.


"Oh. I'm sorry. I didn't realize that anyone was out here." Vince brushed a snowflake from his shoulder, shaking his head at the intrusion. Kvornan could come and go wherever he pleased as far as Vince was concerned. Any quarrels that he might have had with this man were forgotten the instant Ermengarde opened her eyes. "It just seemed to be a good place to hide. Ermengarde is playing her Patty Peppercorn tapes," Kvornan continued dully. Vince nodded his head up towards Kvornan.

"You got a light?" he asked. Kvornan shrugged in response.

"That depends. You got another cigarette?" Vince reached into his sweatshirt and produced the half-empty pack. He pulled one of them free and pointed the filter towards Kvornan, who hesitated before taking it. "Does your sister know you do this?" Kvornan asked.

"Are you kidding? She'd crucify me," Vince said. Kvornan shrugged, seemingly in agreement. Shoving the cigarette into his mouth, Kvornan rolled up his sleeve, baring his pale wrist. He cupped his left hand and a small flame sprang from the center of his palm.


Startled, Vince jumped back, watching the tiny flame dance in the wind, white gold and smokeless. He laughed uneasily. He could remember Kvornan doing things like that to amuse him when he was very little but now it was more frightening than fascinating. The chains on the swing set in the yard rattled, gruffly coerced by the breeze.

"That's pretty cool," Vince said, leaning forward to light his cigarette. He placed the filter to his lips and inhaled.


"If you think that's cool, you should see me grill a burger." Kvornan spoke around the cigarette dangling between his lips. His face reflected the light like lunar dust as the fire leapt from his hand. He opened his mouth to release a gossamer cloud of smoke. "I haven't done this since I was your age," he said, smirking at the cigarette in mild disbelief. Vince blew smoke through his nostrils.

"Why'd you stop?" he asked. Kvornan's gaze darted some place behind Vince's head but did not focus on anything in particular. He flicked his ashes onto the deck.


"Girlfriend got pregnant. Didn't want to smoke around her or the baby," Kvornan said stiffly. A brusque wind crept under Vince's collar, stinging the sensitive skin above his clavicle. He clutched his shoulder near the base of his neck.

"That sucks," Vince commiserated.

"Yeah, I thought so too at first. But then the kid transitioned from womb to room and well..." Kvornan rolled down his sleeve, falling silent. Vince hardly knew anything about this man's past other than what his mother told him before she died- And that was simply not to ask Kvornan about his past.


"Do yourself a favor," Kvornan continued. "If given the choice, don't sit on the shelf beyond your sell-by date." Vince laughed dryly.

"I'm fourteen and I smoke three packs a day. I don't think I'll have to worry about that."

"Likewise, don't let life make you so prematurely jaded. That'll kill you long before these things do."


Vince bit his lower lip and looked away. By this point, he'd been on the receiving end of innumerable lectures from teachers and guidance councillors, neighbors and social workers. An endless parade of grown-ups that had never lost anything of significance in the whole of their lives- Each one of them dead set on telling him how to run his.

He didn't sleep anymore. Ermengarde's condition had seen to that. Instead, he spent his nights pacing the yard, paranoid and jittery. The smoking helped in small measures and only for as long as the cigarettes lasted. But he had long ago passed the point where a nicotine buzz and empty words from barely accountable adults would dig him out of his crumbling reality.

When Vince looked up, he found Kvornan studying him intently. The shiver that ran throughout his extremities had little to do with the cold. Anyone who spent any amount of time before the gate of Kvornan's stare would necessarily see into the abattoir of his misery. It was destabilizing to say the least. Here was a bird who flew on broken wings.


"So what keeps you going?" Vince asked after a moment of silence.

"Elise." Kvornan invoked her name with the same finality, the same assertion that a person only ordinarily reserved for self-evident truths. Snow is cold. The sky is blue. Elise is my reason to live. "There's nothing in heaven or on earth quite like your sister."


Just then, the door flew violently open. Kvornan spun around and walked backwards for a few paces. Vince froze in mid-action. Elise was charging out onto the deck with the ruinous force of a flash flood. Vince tried to hide his cigarette behind his back several seconds too late.

"What do you think you're doing?" she screeched.


Vince began to stammer out a reply but was cut off when Elise turned to Kvornan and yelled, "I wasn't talking to you!" Deeply confused, Vince looked back and forth between the pair. Kvornan was laughing now, though Elise was still dangerously seething.

"I didn't say a word." Kvornan snickered.

"You're in hot water too, Mister! You're encouraging him!" As she shouted, her ears crimsoned beneath her crow's nest of hair.


Vince sank into the background, nearly forgotten while Kvornan and Elise continued to squabble. His presence was rendered extraneous, even in a conversation that was essentially about him.

Extinguishing the nub of his cigarette on the wooden guide rail behind his back, Vince thought to himself that he was going to quit. And it had nothing to do with his sister's fury. He would not be eaten alive by trials too big for him to overcome. Not anymore. Kvornan was right. Vince didn't have that kind of stamina.


  1. Sorry for the drabble, ladies! I'll make it up to you in spades on the next chapter. Spades.

  2. Dude, you're talking to someone who puts out about five drabbles for every relatively important chapter with her own work. There's no way I'm going to complain about anyone else writing drabble.

    Not that there was anything to complain about. This was beautifully written, Pen. It was nice to get a look into Vince's head. The poor guy puts on a brave face for his siblings, but really, he's just as lost and confused as they are.

    So Vince's mother mentioned Kvornan to Vince before she died? What else did she tell him about the whole thing with Kvornan and Elise?

  3. hehehe D'aw, I love your drabblings.

    And thanks, Van! Vince has sort of overestimated his own ability to keep things going within the family unit. I'm not sure that he took his own well-being into consideration in all of this either. However, he thought that he didn't have a choice BUT to be a parent to the other three before Kvornan stepped onto the scene. Now, he's willing to give up his mantel.

    Their mother talked a lot about Kvornan before she died but Vince just thought that she was delirious. He kinda sorta remembered Kvornan coming by a lot when he was little. She did tell Vince about the nature of Elise's connection to Kvornan and gave him a heads-up that if anything should happen to her, Kvornan would come for them. But until the point where Kvornan turned up on their doorstep, Vince had just thought his mother was delusional.

  4. "Here was a bird who flew on broken wings."

    Are you serious? Like... seriously? Pen your writing will never fail to drop my jaw. Really, every chapter, something (or EVERYTHING) makes me stare at the screen with my face falling off like... Is she serious.... Like... seriously?

    Oh my geebus.

    I don't know what the balls a drabble is, but if this is one, I love them. A Kvornan-Vince conversation was overdue, and I was so surprised to Kvornan open up like that... well kind of open up. And I also had not expected that comment about Elise, especially not to Vince. I can't remember if Kvornan ever verbalized his sentiments about his connection to Elise (REMIND ME PLEASE IF IT HAPPENED, I'M STALKING YOUR SITE ANYWAY, HELL I'M UNDER A GOTDAM DESK RIGHT NOW)

    And I agree with Vince. Fire palm is fun when you're 4, freaky when you're 14. But that shot was definitely cool beans. The coolest beans.

    Hope day one at the new job ROCKED! ORGANIC LUNCH BITCHES!!!

  5. *hehe* Shucks. *puts Veron's face back on*

    Oh boy, so many things are overdue in this story. So very many things. Originally, we would have gotten a Vince/Kvornan chapter a little earlier than this. The chapter that became "Ermengarde Is Populated" was on the schedule as being from Vince's perspective. Ermengarde was not originally due to have an attack at that moment. Kvornan was going to show up at the front door like, "WASSUP, MINDELSOHNS???" and Elise was going to be all like, "Oh Kvornan, I'm so glad to see you!!!" and Vince was going to be all like, "Who is THIS asshole?" (because at the time, I wasn't planning on Vince having any memories of Kvornan) and the Ermengarde was going to be all like, "OMG, it's the scary psycho killer qu'est-ce que c'est from my dream!!!" But then I had a few much better ideas.

    That whole scene didn't feel plausible to me because I couldn't see Kvornan gaining either Vince's or Ermengarde's trust in that instance. And as far as Ermengarde's dream goes in the actual cannon of the story (alternate universes of discarded chapters not withstanding), let's just say that she doesn't recognize Kvornan without all the gore. And let us also hope that Kvornan never goes out to chop wood in Ermengarde's presence.

    Uhhhh Where was I? That was a total rant.

    A drabble is a chapter/installment that's pretty much just character development and does not advance the plot very much. I suppose this one advanced the plot in that we find Vince more susceptible to being lead back to Veronaville (and indeed, he does agree to go off-camera) but the center of this chapter was the convo and the inner monologue.

    Ya know, Kvornan... He doesn't push 100% of everyone away. He wants to be friends with Vince. If the idea of godchildren existed in the world of this story and the Mindelsohns were so inclined, Vince would have been Kvornan's godson. He was named after Kvornan. And for that reason alone, Kvornan feels a sort of bond with him that he doesn't feel with the other three.

    When Kvornan is truly pushing someone away, it is ordinarily for one or more of the following reasons (ignoring any outliers like Alexei who just have seriously messed-up, FUBAR relationships with Kvornan-- We'll meet another such outlier in the very near future):

    1) Kvornan has a problem with women. He has a problem with Tara, even though he feels a great deal of respect for her and even cares about her. He has a problem with Elise even though he worships the ground she walks on. He had problems with Jennail. He had problems with Nylissit. He had problems with his female students when he was a professor. He is, in brief, a misogynist. And he always has been. If I were to rationalize it, I would guess that it gets back to his daddy issues. Daddy hated women too.

    2) Kvornan has a problem with authority. But you knew that.

    3) Kvornan is bored by ordinary people who lead ordinary lives. He doesn't want to talk to Miss Susie Homemaker or Mr. John Doe. He just isn't bothered.

    4) And then there are those that Kvornan doesn't have a problem with at all but he feels like he's doing them a favor by pushing them away. Tara fits into this category as well. He likes them too much to screw up their lives simply by being a part of their lives.

    Anyone else is fair game. He would open up to them freely.

  6. Message To Veron, part deux:

    And are you joshing me?? Kvornan never shuts up about his feelings for Elise! He could write poetry! I'm not certain that he HASN'T written poetry!

    hehe Veron, I am going to gain 100 lbs at that job. The kitchen is open to me all day long. And do you know what's in that kitchen? Cookies. AMAZING cookies. There is also a wide assortment of ice cream but I haven't had that yet. Holy crap, man.


    That isn't my response to this loveliness, but I'm crazy distracted. And oh my god I've been listening to psycho killer non stop for weeks. I'LL BE BACK!

  8. Betta run run run run run run awwaaayyyy! Oh oh oh ooohhhh!!! Ai ai ai ai ai ai! OOoooooooOOooooo!

  9. I AM BACK. It is 1 in the morning, but I am back. My grandfather... the crazy south african/french canadian one... sent me a dog. In the mail. Because he knows that I "do the pup thing". Yep.


    NOOOOOO! I'm not joshing you. Okay, as I said before I was doing some MINOR site stalking... which I do on a fairly regular basis... minor, minor stuff... that lasts hours... but outside of responding to mentions of her, or feeling a personal sentiment in his head, or simply showing her affection... Kvornan doesn't seem to actually have VERBALIZED his sentiments. And I don't count when he was tellign her that he was her Ib, because she was going to know anyway. UNLESS I'M TOTALLY WRONG AND I'M MISSING SOMETHING. It just struck me as odd because even to Alexei (who I miss dreadfully, by the way, evil ass and all) he didn't really open up in that way.

    But in any case, I love how you ended up doing it. The way it turned out makes the conversation and the resulting "opening up" much more setting-appropriate. And thus more believable.

    Holy shit, Kvornan is a misogynist. I don't know why that didn't already hit my brain before you said it, but that sure as hell fits and explains a boat load. But otherwise those are all great reasons to be an ass, but it is still unexpected to see him relaxing with this youth, especially when the relationship was volatile in the first place and especially when he rarely lets that side of himself show. Love.

    COOKIES AND ICE CREAM. DAILY. I think you've hit jackpot, lady.

  10. WHAT?!?! A mail dog??? I didn't know they could do that! Your grandfather is awesome.

    Hmm, Veron, now you're making me wonder! This may have been the first time he got all mushy about it out loud and without the other person mentioning her first. In Chapter 26, he does say to Tara that he lives for Elise but Tara brought it up first. Heh. I hate to direct you to that chapter. Not one of my better writing moments. But how intriguing. I could have sworn that Kvornan was starting to go more gooey than that.

    This question made me revisit Chapter 36 (Kvornan Writes In The Dust) where I discovered some ideas that I have since revisited about the nature of his relationship with Alexei and his sentiments about the Kelly LeCroix murder. So I kinda uhhhh yoinked them out. *shifty eyes* Hopefully it's been long enough that no one will notice. There is a bigger reason why he tries to distance himself from Alexei than that murder although the murder was a symptom of the larger problem. The murder was more like Kvornan's cue to exit stage left than it was the pith of why they couldn't be bosom friends anymore.

    *Sigh* Ok, I looked at the schedule. Alexei is slotted for Chapter 79, which is a highly important chapter. But that's a long time from now so maybe we'll see him before then. However, he is currently on good behavior. We might have to see him in a flashback.

    haha! Yeah, it took me a moment to realize that too but then I started to think about his past and current relationships with women and I thought, "Hmm. I sense a pattern here."

    And now we interrupt this heartwarming tête-à-tête with Vince to bring you Kvornan at his most inaccessible. :/

  11. I think it was great seeing things from Vince's point of view. It's kinda lonely for him isn't it?

    And that's about all I got! LOL! Sorry this is delayed! I've been feeling a bit blah!

    This was a really great piece though Pen! Descriptive writing and the cool flame in the palm trick!! Wicked!

  12. I don't mean to keep this going, especially since its kind of a tiny thing, BUT I was actually thinking about his conversation with Tara when this whole thing came up in my head. It's always been a "meant for" or "live for" thing as opposed to a "There's nothing in heaven or on earth quite like your sister". Like an actual verbal admission of a SENTIMENT about this individual. Yes, you give amazing context clues and there is always SO MUCH to read into with Kvornan in his actions, especially when thinking about his past, I'm just in a weird mindset about why he would tell this to VINCE of all people. He is Elise's brother after all, and could this be some sort of... like... asking of permission of sorts... although Kvornan wouldn't ask a soul for permission to do a damn thing... but maybe like a way of saying that he means no harm despite what may come of things. Maybe I'm reading too much into it.

    Oh and the dog? is a maltese. I have four other dogs. Three great danes and a pit bull. One of these things is not like the other. I've been yelling at my grands all day.

  13. Phoenix!

    hehe It's cool. I'm behind on just about every story I read right now too. (EEP! RG included.) But I hope you feel less blah!

    Hmm I think Vince might very well be pretty lonely for a certain type of company. Elise is his only friend in his age range and there's a two year difference between them. The Mindelsohn kids have difficulty making and keeping friends. Their parents had them constantly on the move as a safety precaution, knowing what Elise is. Arnaud has Cathy for a friend but he's going to lose touch with her soon. And if all goes as planned, Vince, Ermengarde and Arnaud should be acquiring best friends after they move to Veronaville. *bunny dance*

  14. No, no, you're quite right! Interesting. We don't get Kvornan's perspective so it's hard to know what made him say that. I have a feeling that it was just a knee-jerk reaction to the question, never mind the audience.

    *snickers at the idea of Kvornan asking for permission for ANYTHING*

    And holy crap, I hope he wasn't asking for permission. Granted, it would be very far in advance permission (like 20-30 years in advance) but Kvornan's love life is SO, SO complicated as it is. *cough*

    HAHAHAHA! The next dog he sends you will be a papillon!


  15. This was exquisite Pen. I was ready to WHAT?? DRABBLE?? you until you explained drabble was only character development, and to that I say Carry on! I loved this.

    Also, I had the same reaction as Veron. I've been reading at the pace you've written so it's been a while since I've read some of these chapters, but to me this really felt like the first time Kvornan has just expressed something for Elise that can't be chalked up to duty or some inevitable fate. Like he's just doing his job.

    He may have expressed it otherwise than with words, but it is not the overall impression I've gotten. Due to the flashbacks, we've seen Kvornan in so many situations with other people he's loved, it may have deemphasized his relationship with Elise in the present. But that could be just me... I always want MOAR Elise+Kvornan.

  16. After my little search, this is most certainly the first time that Kvornan has been verbally sentimental about Elise. I'm not even sure that we've gotten too many thoughts from him in that vein. And I know exactly why this has happened, too- Every time we've seen Kvornan and Elise together thus far, it has been from Elise's perspective! I certainly didn't do that on purpose. It's something to ruminate over for the next time we see them together though. Because now, it HAS to be from Kvornan's perspective.

    I personally find Elise's feelings for Kvornan to be more interesting than Kvornan's feelings for Elise so that could be what was unconsciously influening my decision to make their chapters from her perspective. He loves her deeply but a lot more quietly than he loves certain other people who shall presently go unnamed.

    And you shall have MOAR Kvornan and Elise! Oh boy. You've come to the right place.

    Thanks, Lothere! :D

  17. I starred this in my Reader and could not for the life of me believe I had not come back to comment! Read it at work and marked it for commenting later which I guess never came.

    Anyway, I liked this look at Vince. The conversation between him and Kvornan was a bit awkward but interesting. He really is young and somewhat lonely isn't he...and yet he has a lot of responsibility on his shoulders.

    I did do the jaw drop when Kvornan voiced his feelings to Vince of all people. I wonder if that surprised him as much.

  18. I absolutely love this. I love everything about it. The cold, the flame from Kvornan, Elise and what she means to him, and Vince and the ashtray he evidently feels like. I love the way you describe Elise's ears. and her hair.

    This is a perfect gem.

  19. Gayl:

    Heh, no worries at all. Blue Lake will be here, whenever you get to it. :)

    Vince has a lot of worries, not just for someone his age but for anyone. And I think he's just through. It says a lot about him that he's been able to keep things going for this long, though.

    If Vince's thoughts were any indication, then he was definitely surprised. But I don't think that he was quite shocked. Maybe things have gotten to the point where nothing shocks him anymore. With the possible exception of that fiery palm thing.

  20. Beth:

    hehehe Vince as an ashtray. I may have to explore that metaphor.

    Thanks, Beth!