The Mansion©

By Jerry D. Haight

The Mansion is a work of fiction; a short novel of approx. twenty-five to thirty thousand words whose purpose is to develop a character in the round, one who encounters conflict and is changed by it. It also attempts to engage flat, uncomplicated characters that do not change throughout the course of a work. A goal of the work is to develop a permeating plot weaving in half a dozen subplots supporting the overall storyline or thyme.

The protagonist, Charley Newell, in his professional life, was a prominent engineer and planner, mainly in the area of airport design and construction. He holds an advanced degree in engineering and spent many decades in practice. He has an extremely analytical mind that assimilates a wide range of data, draws rapid conclusions and quickly turns them into solutions. He spends little time cycling through what he terms "the unproductive stages of denial, anger and blame while looking for a miracle solution".

He immerses himself in his complicated professional pursuits like dealing with environmental concerns and designing the infrastructure of large metropolitan airports. The greater the complexity the easier it is to keep his life focused and his demons at bay.

His antagonists are his “demons” (regrets, grief, memories, guilt and losses), resulting from a number of tragic events occurring in the course of his life. They come in the form of memories, haunting him to his very core. His reliance on his professional challenges is his way to relegate them back to the closet of his mind.

First, there was the incident in Vietnam when, while under fire, his action resulted in the death of a child, then an entire village. In professional life he got entangled with crooked politicians and union officials who were “on the take”. There were the mafia kingpins most willing to accommodate and whose associations caused him to lose his business, personal reputation and nearly landed him in jail.

At nine years of age, Charley and Lynn’s daughter Lindi died tragically throwing Lin and Charlie into a marital cyclone. In his mind, he was personally responsible for all of the events. His “demons”, never too far from him, seemed bent to never let him forget or forgive.

The story describes the protagonist as past his working years. His body lets him know it by aches and pains from arthritic knees and elbows; his indolent fingers keep him from his beloved piano and a growing mass in his lung makes breathing difficult.

The stage is set with a call from Shannon, described as “the one with ice water in her veins” and “that unsmiling vixen who managed the doctor's office.” Her opening words are, “You have cancer," then she coldly informs him about his appointment in two weeks, warning him not to be late and demanding he bring his proof of insurance and co-pay. He felt sorely threatened, stranded, alone, terrorized and, more important, to the story, totally out of control.

The story line continues that “With so much on his mind and unable to sleep, in the wee hours of the night, a meandering Charley finds himself in the closet adjacent to his bedroom. There, where his bathrobe should be, he finds a door instead. Very curious, but in utter disbelief, he opens the heavy door and is astounded to find himself on a balcony of a rather large seaside mansion. It is no dream, nor coincidence he found the door in his closet. The door, ushering him into an entirely new reality also releases, with him, his demons into a fantastic yet frightening realm where he has neither point of reference nor, control over much of anything.”

Much of the storyline occurs in a part of the mansion called “The Hall of Memories”. On both walls, hang a procession of picture frames. These are about the size of a 42" TV set, but that is where any comparison ends. Charlie is impressed with high definition 3D television, but their exquisite resolution is even more spectacular. Mentally Charley puts their number in the tens of thousands. As he approaches, each comes to life with sights, sounds and smells. While viewing a scene, he can also sense feelings, passions, sentiments, motives, and other nuances making for perfect clarity in understanding. Here he will find in “The Hall of his memories” truth; complete and without pretense, rationalization or distortion. Just maybe he will have to face his demons there.