Something Different

Something Different

With the Dream books finished for the moment (except for editing,obviously), until I come up with a more fleshed-out idea for the next one, I’ve started on something else.

I’ve had the idea for a while for a light-hearted adventure story featuring Jane Barnaby, a character who’s mentioned briefly in “Dream Student” and “Dream Doctor.”  She, like Sara, started life as a character in a role-playing game.

Jane, in this incarnation, is a grad student in archaeology, just starting at Oxford University in England.  The story I’m envisioning for her takes place around Christmas of that first year (we’re back in 1990 again).  Jane’s been asked by her faculty advisor to drive his brand new Land Rover from England to his second home (and the center for his archaeological work) in Mallorca, Spain.

Jane will have various difficulties and adventures on the trip.  I’ve written a bit that takes place very near the end, on a twisty mountain road on the island of Mallorca, when Jane’s lack of driving skill comes to haunt her.  This bit also may have provided the title for this story (hopefully book): “Queen of the Idiots”.  For your amusement, here it is:

The entire car was protesting as Jane rounded yet another curve, struggling to keep it on the narrow strip of road.  There was still nothing outside the drivers-side window except a bright blue sky.  There was no shoulder to the road, no grass or fields or anything beyond it.  And no guardrail between her and a drop of – Jane had no idea how far down it was.

It didn’t matter, really.  Fifty feet was the same as five hundred, or five thousand.  If she lost control, a drop of fifty feet would be more than enough to smash the car, and her, to bits.  She could picture it quite clearly.  It wouldn’t explode in a massive fireball; that only happened in movies.  But she’d be just as dead from a broken neck, or from being impaled by the steering column, or from any of the hundred other things that would happen in the moment of impact.  The only difference the length of the drop would make would be to determine how many of those hundred things she could contemplate before the car – along with her – was destroyed.

Jane hauled the car around the next curve.  She was no mechanic, but she was certain that an engine was never supposed to make that sound.  She was in the wrong gear, probably.  Honestly, she wasn’t even sure which gear she was in.  She cursed under her breath, then muttered to herself, “Why did I ever tell him I could drive a stick?”

Jane knew perfectly well why: because you’re never supposed to say no to your faculty advisor.  And saying no to Bill was almost impossible in any case.  He had a way of making you believe that you could do whatever he asked of you, no matter how obviously impossible it seemed.  And then you went and did it.  Not because you didn’t want to disappoint him, but because you didn’t want to disappoint yourself for not being everything he knew you could be. Even if you didn’t yet know it yourself.

But this was one of those occasions when she should have broken the rules, and disappointed herself.  Better that than driving his brand new Land Rover off a cliff and leaving behind remains that Bill could mail home to her father in a manila envelope.  Maybe not even a letter-sized envelope.

Especially because of what was coming around the next curve, only a few hundred feet ahead of her.  It was all the way around the curve now, headed straight for her.  It was a bus.  A huge bus, taking up both lanes except for a foot or two on either side of the road.

As Jane fought with the gearstick, trying desperately to put the car into reverse, she thought, Oh, my God!  I am an idiot!

She found reverse, finally, and she twisted her neck to look back, hoping against hope that she would see road and not sky behind her.  She wasn’t just an idiot.  That didn’t do her justice at all.  Jane laughed; what else was there to do, other than throw her head back, and shout at the top of her lungs, “Jane Angela Barnaby, you are the undisputed queen of the idiots!”

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