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05 March 2007 @ 09:39 pm
Don't Mean to Brag, but...  
 this is another one of my personal favorite fanfics.

 Title: Halloween's Isolation.
 Author/Artist: Zaphod236.
 Pairing: None
 Rating: G
 Summary: Some Jack angst on Halloween night, a year before the events in Kong.
 Disclaimer: I am willing to admit in a court of law that I don't own any part of Kong.

October 31st , 1932.
     As his the fingers of his left hand lightly perched on the keys of the typewriter before him, Jack Driscoll picked up his ham-and-Swiss cheese sandwich with the other. Biting into it again, he thoughtfully chewed while he cocked his head, sparrow-fashion, at the half-complete page rising in front of him.
    Condescension, he’d titled it. This particular play was about a wealthy, horribly arrogant man named Scott Taylor, who deliberately went out of his way to belittle and cruelly scorn those who, God forbid, were just too lazy or unlucky to have approached his superior status. But pride goeth before the fall, and even though he still had a fair way to go, Jack had a satisfyingly nasty role reversal coming for Scott indeed. Yes, both socially relevant and comforting to audiences without a doubt.
 But for now, he worked at a scene where Scott and his equally haughty friend and business partner Paul were remorselessly verbally bullying a poor seamstress by the name of Susan.
 Susan: *sobbing desperately. Please! Just leave me be!
 Scott: *snidely. Oh come on now Miss. You should be happy that people like us-people who matter-are actually giving you some attention!
 Paul: *laughs.
 Scott: After all, we normally don’t think much of poor, weak, ragamuffins like you. And that’s why you don’t have any friends, right? Admit it.
 Susan: *gushing tears. NO! That is not true! Why, WHY do you jackals have to pick on and make light of us?!
Paul: Because-WE CAN! HA HA!
 Suddenly, for maybe the twentieth time this evening, there was a little knock at the door, and a sweet, high voice that proclaimed, “Trick or treat Mr. Driscoll!” Getting up from his desk, Jack walked over to his apartment door and opened it, smiling at little William Rodger, dressed in a simple dog costume. Behind him stood his mother, Ruth, who said in excitement on William’s behalf, “Well can you believe it Will, Mr. Driscoll’s here to give you some treats!!”
 “Hold on one moment,” Jack told them both, ducking to the side to retrieve a bowl of shelled pecans and Bing cherries. The look of delighted ecstasy in the boy’s brown eyes on seeing the contents was a warming sight to behold, and taking “only one of each” as Ruth told him, William added them to the contents of his lunch pail.
 “Thank you Mr. Driscoll!” he said as he followed his mother to another friend’s apartment. Jack sighed with pleasure as he shut the door and had a pecan himself. With the nation right in the stranglehold of the Great Depression, so, so many people had to struggle just to keep alive, with little or no time for simple luxuries. And as was so often the case, it was the poor children who suffered most.
   Jack knew he was very lucky. The Federal Theatre paid him a nice salary for being their playwright, and his four-room apartment, while no palace, was a heck of a lot better than the abysmal conditions others had to endure. And in this spirit, he certainly didn’t mind, as long as it was within reason, doing something to brighten the day of his neighbors and friends. Besides, being half-Irish, it was just part of his heritage to be hospitable to others.
   Returning back to his desk, he looked at his watch briefly. “Looks like it’s time to get dressed up and go,” he muttered casually before bolting down the rest of his sandwich. As he had done last Halloween, his editor, Calvin Harrison, was putting on a big costume party in one of the theater’s back rooms, which would last all night long. It would’ve have cost a small fortune, and there would naturally be plenty of games, talking, dancing, and good eating there.
   Putting the bowl of cherries and pecans away in the fridge to finish off at a later date, Jack noted how substantially diminished the contents were before shutting the door. Making his way back to his bedroom, he undressed and then started putting on his simple costume. Calvin adored having parties with themes for costumes, and he’d told Jack that this year, he was going to have an Ancient Roman theme, even teasing the writer that with his nose he’d have no trouble looking the part.
 Jack had chosen a Roman senator’s attire for tonight’s party, and could still hear in his head the excited, overjoyed babbling of his younger neighbors, not just on this day, but whenever he did them some kindness, the disjointed memories swirling around in his skull.
Wow! Thank you so much for the cherries Mr. Driscoll!
Jack, it’s always a joy to see how happy you make my sisters.
Isn’t Mr. Driscoll just the nicest, politest man there is?
Guess what Mom? Mr. Driscoll told us three wonderful jokes, and he laughed at them with us!
Dad, I think I don’t hurt so much anymore, because Mr. Driscoll told me that Heaven is a place where all living things go, including Archie and Tiger.
If I didn’t know any better, I’d say Jack sometimes seems more like an uncle than our neighbor.
He’s never too tired to greet us and ask how we’re doing.
 I love how he always gives out treats each Halloween!
And then, there was a final, very sharp memory, one that struck right to the heart and made his green eyes become unusually morose. It was of Alex, who with his mother Patty, had to endure a miserable existence with his drunken and often abusive father Arthur from two floors above, saying to his mother wistfully as they passed by his door, “I wish he was my father instead.”  “I sure wish that he was too,” Patty told him in hardly disguised agony.
 Right then, looking back at his bed, Jack felt his heart crack at the memory. And it really wasn’t just because of the circumstances that the boy had said them in, but because this bed, this apartment, was where for at least six years, he’d lived and worked and slept by himself, without any wife, any son or daughter to greet him or reassure him after a new play had been rejected.
 It wasn’t that he was romantically hopeless or never without female company. His fame as a playwright and someone of high social standing was very attractive for many members of the opposite sex, and he’d been seen more than once bringing a comely lady on his shoulder to a diner or a performance of one of his plays at the theater. Sometimes, it had even resulted in a one-night stand.
 He’d also had three truly serious, passionate long-term relationships with a woman. Their names and faces seemed like distant whispers from Greek mythology now. Gracie. Christina. Helen.
One by one, the magic had just sagged like a pile of heavy sacks, and the two of them would inevitably permanently agree to disagree.
   God damn it Jack Driscoll, he told himself, quit mentally torturing yourself about how pathetic and gloomy your love life is. Feeling sorry for yourself is the ultimate in pointlessness, ESPECIALLY when you have such a wonderfully enjoyable event ahead of you tonight.
 But he couldn’t help it. Just like when it was hit by a furious blast of inspiration at any hour of the day, the playwright’s mind was on a roll. Thirty years old and didn’t have a wife or steady lover. Last time he’d called his parents in Pittsburgh, his father Jason had expressed that sentiment, saying pityingly, “You still don’t have a wife at your age then? I’m worried about and feel badly for my Black Jack. I deeply wish for your sake that you had a family of your own.”
 But it wasn’t that easy. It never was.
 Maybe the reason was that he loved working in theater too much. There was nothing like having a job where you could listen to your creative fires, one where you were paid to do something you actually enjoyed, cared about. But sometimes, it just paled in comparison to seeing the absolute joy and pride and contentment, the wholeness on many of his friend’s faces when they talked about or were beside their wives and/or children. Sharing your life with someone, forever, was clearly rewarding-and it was something Jack as yet couldn’t feel.
 Or perhaps the fault was in his very personality. One of the many strange paradoxes that he found just amazing about the human race was that nearly everyone craved interaction and quality time with their fellows, yet there wasn’t a single person who didn’t build up some sort of spiky wall around their innermost thoughts and feelings, so that few men and women could ever be truly close to one another. 
   Not immune himself, Jack also liked to keep a bit of distance, a bit of space for just him, and his thoughts, where he could coolly consider the world around him on his own terms. When you made a real commitment to someone that gap began to close worrisomely fast, and sealed up before you could even say, “What just happened?” In addition, he needed that psychological space as a battlefield, a forge to beat out and twist words into both art and a livelihood.
 The knowledge that having a relationship for keeps would likely interfere with those buffer zones of the mind unnerved him, and nervousness led to clumsiness. Both were always death knells to forming a rapport with a woman.
 Are you finished wasting your time wallowing in self-pity Jack? he admonished himself as he stood up. You’re going to attend a costume party, focus your mind on that.
It backfired badly though, for all it did was just remind him of a rather ominous comedown he’d had during last year’s. Calvin had had that one’s theme be about the U.S. Presidents/ First Ladies, and Jack had participated in a fortune-telling game called Puicini, an Irish Halloween tradition that he naturally knew very well.
 In observance of the rules, he’d been blindfolded and led to where seven saucers, each containing a special object. He’d lightly touched one, and the blindfold had been removed, revealing that he’d chosen the one containing a thorn-which meant disappointment in love. He’d joked about it at the time, and continued celebrating with his friends, but it had left him, in some nebulous way, very uneasy indeed.
   Jack wasn’t the kind of man to devote terribly much time to superstition. Despite your best efforts, things happened sometimes, and that was life. You accepted it, and then got back on your feet. As his mother Molly told him once, “When a situation like that comes along Jack, you’ll never be at peace about it until you accept that the way things occurred, are just the way things occurred.”
 Except he wasn’t at peace. He felt so, so lonely all of a sudden, and his throat felt so tight and hot. He couldn’t take it anymore. Jack, you are not going to cry, you are not going to start bawling. It’s not in keeping with your male dignity, it’s not in keeping with your male dignity, it’s not it’s not it’s not it’s not it’s not-
 A pair of green eyes did something rare then, and became shiny with sorrowful tears. Against his will, Jack let out a chocking groan of utter isolation and longing. No one heard it in the apartment complex, thank God, but they would’ve recognized it for what it was if they had. It was the cry of a creature in suffering, of something that just for a few seconds, was emotionally the walking wounded.
    Before he forced himself to snap out of it, Jack Driscoll sighed, saying in a raspy voice not his own as he thought of Alex, “I wish that I was someone’s father and someone’s husband as well kid.”                       
   He’d have to leave the apartment soon if he wanted to get a taxi in good order and arrive on time. It wouldn’t do to be beating himself up like this. As he examined his costumed figure in the mirror, Jack thought of another memory from last year’s party-but this one was more hopeful in nature.
   After the party had finally ended at around three in the morning, Jack had talked with a reporter friend, Howard Jones, for a bit before dragging himself out of the building to find a taxi and go home.
   Referring to his rather ill boding choice during the game, he told Howard in a dry, perhaps a little rueful voice, “I know there’s nothing to these beliefs, but it absolutely figures that I’d pick the saucer with the thorn. Just look at me Howard, women staying away from me like I have scarlet fever.”
 “I’m sorry about that Jack, but your love life will improve, trust me. There’s someone out there who when she claps eyes on you, will fall head over heels, she’ll be so smitten.” Howard replied.
   “Regrettably,” Jack wryly answered, “none of those types seem to be dwelling in New York at the moment.”
   “Oh Jack buddy, they’re definitely there. She’ll find you when you least expect it, and then, like I did with Gladys, you’ll both just know. You’re a huge playwright Jack, up right there with O’Neill. You’re smart, have a good sense of humor, aren’t bad-looking in the least-not that I swing that way” Howard instantly added, causing Jack to snicker, “and you’re way more sensitive and courtly than all those baboons out there.”
 “Reassuring Howard, but the fact is I’m not as lucky with holding onto the ladies as my pals have been. And sad to say, it does make me wonder if I’m going to grow old that way. Jesus, what am I doing wrong?”
   Howard thought for a few moments, then softly replied, “Jack, don’t get angry with me for saying this okay?”
   “Don’t worry yourself. I’m not the type to be angered by someone who is just being honest.”
   “Well Jack, I think a big part of it is that you’re missing a piece of the puzzle.”
   “Really. What is it then exactly Howard?”
   “How should I say this.? It’s not always about being in love with a woman and finding her beautiful. There are times where you might have to fight for her too.”
   “Howard, this is the 20th Century. We’re not like bulls with a cow in heat, and last time I thought it over, we’ve stopped dueling over a woman’s favor. And I’m a playwright for God’s sake, certainly not some valiant white knight. Not by a long shot,” he added.
 “I didn’t mean fighting in a physical sense Jack, although that does happen sometimes. What I’m saying by that is that often you’ve gotta risk something, go the extra mile. Show her you care by sacrificing something, or least being willing to make that sacrifice.”
 Holding up his hand for silence, Jack told Howard, “So basically, you’re telling me that when I get romantically involved with a woman, don’t do things by halves. In fact, I should take a leap in the dark if I have to, and then hit the ground running. Am I correct?”
 “Exactly,” Howard replied, “since you don’t have a second to lose.”
    Shoving his previous melancholy thoughts aside, the advice Howard had given him exactly one year before still hung in his brain as he stepped out of his apartment and locked the door behind him.
    It’s not always about being in love with a woman and finding her beautiful. There are times where you might have to fight for her too.
 If destiny gives me that chance, Jack thought, I swear to God that I won’t let it pass me by. I’ll do whatever it takes-and I’ll seize it.