Novel Inspiration (3): The Scapegoat

INSPIRATION: Every addict needs a scapegoat.

Captain Simon McCullough’s motto: Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow you may die. This gets John Weldon’s goat. How unfair it is that Simon coasts through life suffering nary a scratch while drinking, womanizing and joking all the way?

Weldon fails to note the fatalism in Simon’s motto. He underestimates the friend he tries to hate.

There’s a type of 19th century military memoir tremendously fun to read. The accent is on the antics of  soldiers in downtime that almost trick one into believing war is quite a great time. I’ve always admired the way boys and men conduct friendship and briefly considered running away to be an intelligence officer in the Navy (to escape that first marriage and possibly  meet a naval officer–a weird twist of fate had me meet and marry a Navy man years later).

I often hear about those extroverts who skim the surface of life with little self-reflection. Simon McCullough only plays that role in his family. Never judge a book by its cover, they say.

“Have you read all these books, sir?” Weldon asked but regretted it.

Scott laughed tracing his fingers over the rim of his glass with a self-satisfied air. “These and more. A person is nothing without a mind for knowledge. I had high hopes for Simon and bought every book here for his education.” He sighed.

Simon took a drink, his expressionless face toward the fire.

“Well, when things turned sour, and we sent Simon off to military school…our Katherine kept reading for enjoyment sake, I suppose. She has a decent mind for a girl, but an education is wasted on women. And truth be told Simon was no scholar.”

Simon, with his light hair slicked back and his brawny shoulders pent up in fine summer linen, oozed a restlessness which annoyed his father and saddened Katherine who knew that Englewood was too small for him now. Simon poured another drink in the stifling silence. Katherine mourned over something lost in him. She went to a shelf and took out the scrapbook she had made since his first going away to West Point and then the war. She ran her fingers over the tintypes of Simon at war and the yellowing newsprint which had brought the battles home to her. The boy who used to bring her into his world had never come back as a man.            

Scott’s eyes fell upon Katherine with an air of sad disappointment.

Simon noticed and broke into story. “Father, you’d have been appalled at the antics of the soldiers away from home doing as they pleased. One officer even tended bar in a bawdy house in full uniform  . . . or so I hear.” Simon winked at Weldon. “And some of the girls were pretty . . . from a distance, anyway. Father, you know the Renner’s from English Neighborhood? Remember, Weldon, how we caught him out? It was a laugh. We were just walking through Murder Bay—for an evening stroll to round up the boys, Father, nothing more—and who do we come across after leaving a drinking establishment but Renner as tight as can be in an alley—how idiotic he looked with his trousers around his ankles and a Cyprian with her mouth around his . . .”     


Novel Inspirations: THE ADDICT


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The House on Tenafly Road by Adrienne  Morris

The House on Tenafly Road

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3 responses to “Novel Inspiration (3): The Scapegoat”

  1. “Education is wasted on women” – a common sentiment then, one you’ve personally soundly disputed, Adrienne. Sadly the final paragraph expresses what so many men thought about women and their roles as part of a man’s world.

    Katherine’s act is especially poignant and exhibits her thoughtful interior life undetected by the men. I wonder if Simon’s disappointment is because of all that was lost or because Katherine had no opportunity to prove her intellectual capacity within the confines of the social era. I suspect he missed the implications of his own pity.

    Very well written, Adrienne. You’ve suggested so many facets to this raw life.


    • As always I’m so thrilled by your comments and insights!

      After I graduated college my father suggested he could get me a job at my high school cafeteria. 🙂 He was pretty old school but not mean like Katherine’s father who was based on someone else entirely.

      What’s funny is that I’m not sure I would have become a novelist if I hadn’t been given the opportunity
      to stay home and raise kids. I’ve always thought men had less or worse choices–like proving manhood by going to war.

      There was a time when I was young that I wished I were a boy but finally I’ve embraced being of the fairer sex (maybe that comes with age).

      Life definitely is complicated, Sharon!

      Liked by 1 person

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