This final novel excerpt before A Jagged Journey is released on April 15th, introduces you to a key character, psychologist Gretchen Marks, and her unlikely friend, Amit Singh, an Uber driver who comes to her aid when no one else is available. Gretchen’s life has taken a cruel detour, in part because of her way of being, in part because life is oftentimes no respecter of persons.
“Are we going to the same place today, Doctor, where you have previously visited?”
“Yes, please.” Gretchen glanced at Amit and then out the side window. “Unfortunately, it will be a place I visit every day for a few weeks. If I had my choice, I’d rather have a root canal, but it appears God has chosen to punish me so I get to have these treatments instead.”
“I do not know what this root canal is of which you speak. Is that something to do with the hair on the top of one’s head?”
A smile broke out on Gretchen’s face at the innocence projected by her driver. “That’s a good one, Amit. Thank you for making my day.”
“A good one you say?”
“A root canal involves the teeth, not the scalp. It’s when a really bad tooth needs a lot of work, and it’s not enjoyable at all. But given how my treatments make me feel, I think the dental work would seem like child’s play…it would seem like something far easier than what I’m doing.”
“I see, yes, my splendid wife, Faria, had something similar to that soon after we arrived in this country – there was a cavity in one of her teeth. And you indicated that these treatments you are enduring are a punishment from God?”
Gretchen thought it was just like a foreigner to take idioms literally, but she had to admit his way of thinking was somewhat refreshing. “It’s just an expression people sometimes use when things aren’t going well for them. And a contrary statement might apply if, when we arrive at our destination, there’s a parking space available at the front where you can pull in and let me out. If that were to happen, I might say, “Well, I must have done something right in my life and now God is rewarding me.”
“Thank you, Dr. Gretchen Marks, for your very thorough explanation about expressions Americans use in their speaking.”
Amit and Gretchen arrived at their destination, Amit pulled into an open space right in front of the building. “I see, Dr. Marks, that you must have done something right because God has graced us with this parking space.”
He parked the car and stepped out to assist Gretchen. He guided her out of her seat by her elbow and helped her step over the curb. “There you are, Dr. Marks.”
“You know, you can call me Gretchen.”
“Oh no, Doctor, you have attained a very important status in life that accords great respect. Unless it offends you, I will continue to address you as Doctor.”
“That’s fine, Amit, and regarding this parking space?”
“Yes, Dr. Marks?”
“It was because of your good works that God arranged for this space to be available. I’m quite certain my past works didn’t warrant such a benefit.”
“Either way, it is good that we are able to claim it, yes?”
Gretchen fumbled with her purse for a tip. “Yes, it is very good. I’ll see you after my appointment later today and I will call you a half hour before I am done.”
Gretchen’s appointment did not go well as she received some devastating news – said news put Gretchen on the defense when her Uber driver picked her up later that day.
Amit picked up Gretchen at the appointed time and although he tried to engage the doctor in conversation, he wasn’t entirely successful. At one point, Gretchen lashed out at him.
“Amit, are you a United States citizen?”
He looked at her in the rear-view mirror. “Not currently, but that is my goal, Dr. Marks.”
“How long have you lived in this country?”
“Four years, Doctor.”
“What’s taking you so long to become a citizen?”
Amit drove a couple blocks then asked Gretchen a question. “How many amendments does the Constitution have?”
“What? What has that to do with anything?”
“Amendments. Name one of the writers of the Federalist Papers that were written in support of the Constitution of the United States.”
“I have no idea. I’m not sure I’m even familiar with those papers.”
“I am. James Madison and Alexander Hamilton were two of the writers.”
“Good for you, you’ve memorized the answers on the civics exam for citizenship, that doesn’t make you a US citizen.”
“In this country it does.” Amit pulled up in front of Gretchen’s condo. Looking straight ahead, he had one more question for her. “Who lived in America before the Europeans arrived?”
Gretchen looked at her lap, then out her side window. “You win, Amit, and I’m sorry for being such a horrible person today. My doctor gave me some bad news and it’s made me angry at the world.”
Amit got out of the vehicle, opened Gretchen’s door, and helped her out. “This bad news, is it something you want to talk about with Amit?”
She patted the hand that rested gently on her forearm. “Maybe tomorrow, Amit. Will I see you at eleven?”
“It would be my extreme pleasure, Dr. Marks, thank you.”
There are many characters that are a part of the lives of those with whom you have already met: Charlie Brooks, the high school teacher and his fellow teacher Jamila Sanders. Single mother, Hannah Palmer and her engaging son, Sammy. And now, Dr. Gretchen Marks, and her Uber pal, Amit Singh. The cast of characters you will meet in A Jagged Journey are varied in age, life experience, and intent. I hope to see you soon, within Journey’s pages.
There, I’ve said it.
Don and Pat Desaulniers (who later changed the spelling of their surname to Desonier to make it easier for Americans to pronounce…it didn’t, they still slaughtered the pronunciation) and Donald and Mary Desaulniers moved to Philadelphia, PA from Canada and eventually relocated to Los Angeles, CA.
Not me. I was born in Pasadena, CA shortly after my family moved to the west coast. Does it get any more American than that?
You see, way back when, my father was a hard working employee of Manufacturer’s Life Insurance Company, an international company based out of Toronto, CANADA, and he was offered a position in !AMERICA! that he felt he couldn’t refuse because he loved his wife and young family and was given the opportunity to move up in the company’s employee ranks and by God he jumped at the opportunity. My father retired from Manulife after 50 years of service with them.
My parents felt strongly about being an involved, integral part of American society so they let go of their Canadian citizenships and became American citizens along with my brother and sister, and of course since I was born in America, I was instantaneously a citizen. Lucky me.
I’m quite certain most people reading this post can trace their ancestry to other countries, and many of you don’t have to go very far back – just as I only needed to go back to the early 40s with my immediate family to find the start of my ancestry’s foray from a foreign country into the United States.
Other than Dad, no additional members of his family of six moved to the United States but four of six adult children in my mother’s family of eight are immigrants. Counting my siblings, aunts and uncles, and numerous cousins, close to 68% of my immediate Desaulniers/Conroy family members made the move to the United States and I assure you, they were welcomed, and as far as I know, the United States still treats its Canadian immigrants as they did my parents so many years ago. Or maybe I missed current headlines declaring that Canadians weren’t welcome and that a wall should be built between our northern border with Canada…
Did I miss something?
Why aren’t American citizens up in arms about the influx of immigrants from non-Muslim countries and those from countries that aren’t Mexico who’ve made the United States their home: Canadians, Eastern Europeans, the French, Italians, Australians, New Zealanders and Germans to name just a few? Americans’ arms are spread wide for those who aren’t a part of America’s “no-entry” list, and I applaud their generous gesture.
Answer me this: do intelligent Americans actually believe that if you’re coming into our country from a primarily Muslim country, you’re a terrorist? Seriously? And do those same Americans believe that immigrants from Mexico are murderers and rapists and have taken away the jobs in which they, the Americans, are most interested?
I believe as my parents did, that when you’re living in a country and benefiting from its resources you should give back to the country, which sometimes means becoming a citizen but not always. What about those legal immigrants who – having families just like mine – want to do all they can to create a safe, healthy, and financially secure existence for their loved ones by working in America, getting involved in commerce (aka buying stuff in America), volunteering in their communities, and being good neighbors? They are an integral part of the melting pot that we so proudly boast as being what a well-rounded and diverse society should look like.
I don’t know, maybe we should just scrape the inscription off the Statue of Liberty if indeed Americans are no longer willing to welcome those whom we’ve graciously invited to our very shores for so many years. If the invitation is no longer being extended – or if it’s being ruthlessly discriminatory – don’t tease the huddled masses from afar, and don’t pretend to be the extraordinary country I’ve called my home since 1953.