Lockdown: community efforts
Takeback Tuesdays are my small way of speaking out for what I perceive as sanity in the current political state of affairs. But in recent months, I’ve been struck time and again by how my life as a writer and my life as a person walk the same path. When I wrote Lockdown, I had no idea where 2017 was headed–in, for example, the fragile, tenacious strength of community. So although I don’t normally mix my Tuesday blogs with those for the rest of the week, today’s post occupies that overlap area of community.
Many, perhaps most of my books are about the strengths and triumphs of individuals: the Russell stories find our heroine standing alone, or with Holmes, against the winds of stupidity and wickedness. Stuyvesant & Gray only manage an occasional partnership; Kate Martinelli has partners both professional or personal, but is essentially on her own; Rae Newborn, Anne Waverley, Dian—these are protagonists whose feet are planted against the world.
Lockdown is the story of a community. Its strengths rise out of its parts which, seemingly adrift and unconnected, nonetheless link together during the course of the day. But its weaknesses come from those who, through fear or anger or a too-complicated history, remain apart. Such as Gordon:
5:17 am, Career Day
Gordon ran beneath the waning moon, fighting the need to circle the park.
The fight lay not in the running, but the circling back—although granted, three and a half years ago when he’d first made this circuit, he thought his lungs would explode. He’d been old, then: washed up, worn out, ready for the knacker’s gun. Not put out to pasture, though. Men like Gordon Hugh-Kendrick were not generally granted a placid retirement. Men like him ran until they were brought down.
To his astonishment, it turned out he’d merely been tired: bloody tired and older than his years, so wretched he’d made one last mad, whimsical, despairing lunge for shelter—only to hit pure gold. Instead of a farewell tour, he found haven, and comfort, and a degree of purpose. The affection of a good woman.
Forty-four months later, Gordon was . . . if not at the top of his form, certainly better than he could have dreamed. And surely the low cunning of age counted for more than the dumb muscle-mass of youth?
Which would be fine (he reflected, dodging a fallen crate on the road) but for two problems. One was specific: he’d got sloppy, back in September, and let his name appear where it should not. He couldn’t even blame Linda, not entirely. Despite thirty years of rigid habit, he’d failed to check a list he knew was headed for the police department. And though five months on, he seemed to have dodged that particular bullet, he couldn’t risk a second mistake.
The other problem was more general. With a fit body and faint return of optimism had come restlessness. The familiar itch of being in one place for too long; the inborn need for challenge—his kind of challenge, which was thin on the ground in a sleepy farm community of California’s Central Coast. Hence the hard joy of running a little too fast through a hazard-strewn dark, and the temptation to keep going.
But not today.
He’d been honest with Linda from the beginning—well, more honest than he’d been with anyone for many a year. And not only had she lived up to his terms (apart from that one slip), she’d only just begun to sleep through the night again, after the disappearance of Bee Cuomo. Gordon would cut his own throat before letting her down. Not forever—maybe not even for much longer, but today? Today was important to her.
So this morning he would circle the park and turn back. He would polish his shoes, shave his face, and don the appearance of an ordinary man, to spend the day walking amongst the unsuspecting.