I was writing on my third novel today (fiction thriller) and as sometimes happens the protagonist decides to take off in his own direction. As background; this is the POV reoccurring character named John J. Cannon who decided to take a leave of absence from a prestigious San Francisco law firm to try his hand at the fishing charter business. He relocates himself to the Texas Gulf shore, buys a boat and sets himself up in business. He gets involved in a nasty situation where his boat is wanted for a strike against America by a terrorist group which he thwarts setting him up as a target. (synopsis of second novel).
John has worked non-stop for ten years and has not been forced to think of others outside the legal spectrum. As a result, he sometimes lacks some empathy for those around him and is of the often mistaken opinion that he can help make things better. While I was writing the paragraphs before the scene outlined below I was trying to keep John from making a phone call to the mother of a girl who was killed by the terrorists trying to assassinate John (deeper story here than time allows). He decides to go ahead anyway. He finds out quickly that his belief in his ability to comfort the girl’s mother is truly a symptom of arrogance on his part. He does atone for his mistake but he should have listened to me in the first place since this arrogant side of him is now exposed. Here is what happened after John dialed the number:
(Excerpt from third novel) The phone is answered on the first ring by a guy who sounds pretty gruff like he is sick and tired of answering the phone. I ask for Mrs. Preston and he tells me that she is not feeling well but asks what I want. I explain that I was with her daughter Julie when she was killed and would like to offer my condolences to her mother. The man asks me to hold on and then seems to drop the receiver on the floor. I can faintly hear people talking and can imagine the house is full of relatives and neighbors who are trying to support Mrs. Preston. I hear a rustling sound like someone picking up the phone and then a very soft voice.
“Hello,” says an old and tired sounding woman.
“Hello, is this Mrs. Preston?”
“Why yes, yes it is. Who is this?”
“I am John Cannon and I was with your daughter today. I was buying a phone and —”
She cuts me off. “You are that man who stopped the terrorists. Aren’t you?”
“Well um yes I suppose I am —”
“And these terrorists are still trying to kill you.”
“Yes they are —”
“Then why don’t you stay home so others won’t be killed like my baby.”
“I am sorr—”
The line goes dead and I realize that this poor woman did not need to hear from me today. In fact, my own arrogance and guilt did not need to expose this poor creature to additional pain and suffering. I wish now that I could relive the last three minutes. If so I never would have made that call. I am sure there is a place in hell reserved for self-centered pricks like me who have no idea how their own feelings affect the feelings of others. This woman lost her daughter not an hour ago and who gets on the phone with her? The answer is; the asshole that caused her to lose her life in the first place. Why did this asshole get on the phone with this poor woman? The answer is; because in his own bull-headed way he thought he could be of comfort to the woman and thus be less guilty. It clearly backfired and I need to accept the fact that I was the one who caused this girl to die and also caused her mother to be forced to give me a lesson in what would amount to be a lesson in good manners. “Damn,” I say out loud.