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This is Carl Brennan
By Gareth J. Letheby
“Blah, blah, blah...” When would she stop? He'd been forced to listen to this
same lecture before from countless girls in countless situations, and always Carl would give the
same reply. He just wished they wouldn't even bother, the words no longer held any meaning for him.
`That's just the way I am,” he would say, and fix her with his calm, grey eyes. “If you
can't accept me, then that's too bad. I will not change myself for anyone, and perhaps we were truly
doomed to failure from the beginning.” Then the girl, whoever it was, would invariably toss
her hair and flounce off in various degrees of irritation. This time was no different; she was just
like all the others, and when she stormed off down the pavement he only showed the tiniest stab of
regret at her leaving.
He brushed a few brown leaves off his shoulders and turned on his heel, striding off and out of the
woman's life and back to his self-imposed exile. No physical exile, but an exile of the soul. He had
been an outcast and a loner from a very young age, a teenager early in to high school if I recall.
His personality began at that time to collapse under the strain of living a double life, and the
hurt he endured matured in to a cold acceptance and horror of all that was human in the world. He
took to writing as a form of escape; only in spinning the threads of his stories could he be
released for a while from his grim existence. The characters of his creation, drawn from that deep
well from which all his inspiration comes, would not hurt him. At least most of the time. Sometimes
a character or thought would flee to those dark areas of his soul which he had foresworn to protect
himself from his fears. Then he would grieve long, and there would be no comfort to come to him in
the bitter night; the loss of any of his creations was an unbearable pain, for they were all he had.
He was constantly afraid, afraid that his feelings deep down might leak to the surface and let
themselves show to the shadowy figures that passed him by with barely a glance on the sidewalk. As a
child he had been burned too often, rejected too often, and was forgotten. Love was the only thing
he knew now; love of the beauty he saw in everything and everyone. When he fell in love he fell in
love deeply and completely, and the others with their fleeting affections were afraid of such strong
emotions, afraid of the burning intensity that would sometimes kindle in those steady eyes.
Thus Carl wandered through life, a prisoner of his own fears and friendless. In his house he kept
reams and reams of stories, threads trailing out of the dim past when he had still felt and talked
and laughed, which he wove in to the present as expressions of his true self. He tried constantly to
get them published, to reach out to the people around him and show them that he was no monster.
Perhaps today would be the day. The phone-call that had drawn him away from the quiet solitude of
his house had been the most promising in a long time, for no hope dawned in Carl, for it had no seed
from which to burgeon, but it sparked in him a grim determination.
On Carl strode, his black overcoat flapping about his ankles and blowing aside the blanket of leaves
driven against the pavement by the chill autumn winds. He passed right by me as I walked, greeted me
briefly with a nod of his head and a flick of his eyes. I smiled and tried to reach him, but I don't
think anyone can. He's blind to the love that others feel for him; I think he sees it as scorn. But
I try anyway, every time I see him; I smile and give him the chance but he won't take it. I've known
him so long, loved him so long, watched him struggle to find acceptance in a world that doesn't
understand what motivates him, and ultimately retreat in to the comfort and pain of solitude. And
all along never realising that he passed daily by one who loves him. But perhaps love requires a
certain kind of courage too, just like reaching out beyond your bounds and the parameters you have
set for yourself.
The meeting with the publishing representative went badly as usual. Carl had arranged it at the
usual place, the caf? on the corner, shaded by the oak trees he loved so much. The man had seemed
barely to acknowledge Carl's presence. He passed a few curt remarks to Carl, who replied quietly and
politely, and the man flicked in a non-committed way through Carl's manuscripts, before shrugging
his shoulders. He shook his head, and after a brief conversation he rose and left Carl sitting
I was watching from the street corner opposite the caf?, and just for once Carl let his emotions
show, because he thought he was alone and safe. His shoulders slumped visibly, and I wondered if he
might not now be a little more receptive than usual. His moment of weakness passed in an instant,
and he was Carl again, cold, hard and distant. I felt my own hopes begin to fade even as I knew that
somewhere in the darkness of his soul his own hopes must be fading.
Carl strode across the quiet street, and glanced to either side before heading for home. A young
woman was leaning against one of the plane trees lining the street, a little ahead. He recognised
her as the girl he would pass sometimes on his walks in the late autumn drizzle, strangely the only
other person he knew of who didn't flinch and draw away from the coolness of the rain or his eyes.
As he approached, their eyes met, and those eyes of deepest brown, full of understanding and care,
reached out to him with the force of a jet of flame, and he felt something. He actually felt
something. Somewhere deep inside him, an emotion stirred. He felt dizzy as the walls of restraint
that had been his life for so long collapsed, as his head fell on to her shoulder and she took him
in her arms and stroked his hair. Years and years of cold and pain shattered and fell, from that
simplest of gestures, and for the first time in almost twelve years Carl Brennan smiled a true
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The preceeding was a work of fiction. Any statements regarding any person, place, or other entity (real or imaginary) is the sole responibility of the author of this work of fiction. Fan Works Inc. takes no responsibility for the content of user submitted stories. All stories based on real people are works of fiction and do not necessarily reflect on the nature of the individuals featured. All stories based on other copyrighted works are written with authors knowing that these works violate copyright laws.
Please see the Terms of Service for more information.