The Elevator Ride -- 849 words

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Joseph Schmol

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I posted this in Lit SYW also. I have mixed feelings on whether I might cut it down or lengthen it. It doesn't feel set at this length. Any thoughts on length? Any other comments also will be entirely welcomed. Thank you.




She was already on the elevator when I returned home from the grocery story. It was Tuesday, almost perfectly mid-afternoon, maybe 2:45, the ideal dead zone for someone wanting to avoid all human contact. Yet there she was. She must have parked on the fourth level and some how I failed to notice her when I drove past up to my parking spot on five. I looked carefully. I always look.

The doctor had restricted me post-surgery to lifting five pounds, a restriction he hasn't yet come close to removing. He also said no driving. But I needed a few groceries and it's a damn inconvenience to wait until Saturday when William or Laura or one of the children can come take me. Plus I had nothing else to do. What would be the harm in picking up some fresh produce and some half and half, maybe a whole chicken for soup?

It felt very nice to be alone at the store. It felt like I'd been unexpectedly freed. It felt like I'd been cured of a medical condition I didn't know I had until after it was gone. As might be expected, I found myself in no hurry to leave. I pushed the cart through the aisles almost merrily, near filling it in the process.

It near exhausted me transporting my groceries from the car trunk to the elevator foyer. When the elevator doors parted, there she was. She stood just inside the door to my left, by the control panel. I needed to pause the elevator to load my groceries but she was in the way. Rather than step into her personal space I asked would she mind pushing the button for me? She smiled the smile one smiles while dropping an envelope into the passed collection basket at church, or when slipping a dollar into a bum's grimy hand. It is fully gracious but heavily detached. It is the poor you, poor poor you, smile, and it sets me off. But I didn't have time to be angry at her. I had my hands too full, literally, needing both to lift each bag and then grunting and groaning from the strain.

"Let me help you with those." No. Please don't help me, can't you see I've got it all under control. "Please?"

She stepped in front of me, grabbed the remaining four bags in one swoop and set them down beside the others. Then she turned and faced me square on, rolled up a sleeve on her blouse to show off a muscle she might've been working on an hour earlier at the gym. She smiled an almost laugh while exaggerating a body builder pose. She posed one way then another while the elevator door closed and the bell chimed. When done posing, she stepped closer towards me, cutting the elevator in half, or maybe a third, like a skilled boxer cuts a ring. She had cornered me, just like that.

She stood inches away, entirely in my space and it was jarring. What I noticed first was the wash of her breath across my neck. Her breathing was full and deep, came in rushes, like a soundless elegant bellow. There's no preparation for this sudden taste of her. Jesus. Her breath pouring across my neck, bending me over, pulling my face towards the source, compelling me to lean closer. When her breath reached my eyes I felt I might weep. But one needs oxygen to weep and it's at this point I realized I hadn't been breathing. I pictured myself as a stickman, a bent stickman with mouth agape.

I did not weep and I did not suffocate. Somehow I got air into my lungs without choking, while appearing, I think, almost normal. But there was nothing normal about this predicament: me, weakened almost to death, barely a cardboard box of a man; her, so spectacular as to defy description with an intelligent exuberance pushing against her person's every seam. It wasn't lost on me that we were like two opposite ends of a spectrum, two distant outliers.

We were two opposing forces confined to tight quarters. The battle had already been lost but I'd been slow to realize it, more focused on the shame of my inferior army. But the force of her insisted and so she pushed into me, all of me, even the dark places I will not visit alone. Like a plumber's snake, winding and winding, no telling what it will find. Her snake found words: blurted shabby words at the first, like how a dope gabs, the first thought into the pea brain gets spat out lest it be forgotten. As her breathing washed over me in encouragement, maybe salve, blurted shabby words fell away, replaced by banter. Words and words and more words fell over each other, like a goddamn race to see who can get the most words out. There came laughter and smiles, her hand warm upon my arm. No shutting us up while the lights on the control panel next to my head blink and blink.
 
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Elle.

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Hi Joseph,

I've read this several time. It reads fine but I can't that I like it as much as your motel stories, and I'm not entirely sure why. I think maybe I am not fully engaging with the story, and the characters. What did you intend the story to be when you wrote it? Sorry, I feel like I'm not being helpful at all. Looking at the comments I've put below I think it's maybe just me not getting it. Sorry if that's the case.

I have added a few comments below, feel free to use or ignore as you see fit.


I posted this in Lit SYW also. I have mixed feelings on whether I might cut it down or lengthen it. It doesn't feel set at this length. Any thoughts on length? Any other comments also will be entirely welcomed. Thank you.




She was already on the elevator when I returned home from the grocery story. It was Tuesday, almost perfectly mid-afternoon, maybe 2:45, the ideal dead zone for someone wanting to avoid all human contact. Yet there she was. She must have parked on the fourth level and some how I failed to notice her when I drove past up to my parking spot on five. I looked carefully. I always look.

The doctor had restricted me post-surgery to lifting five pounds, a restriction he hasn't yet come close to removing. He also said no driving. But I needed a few groceries and it's a damn inconvenience to wait until Saturday when William or Laura or one of the children can come take me. Plus I had nothing else to do. What would be the harm in picking up some fresh produce and some half and half, maybe a whole chicken for soup? Not sure that paragraph is necessary, feels too much like exposition.

It felt very nice to be alone at the store. It felt like I'd been unexpectedly freed. It felt like I'd been cured of a medical condition I didn't know I had until after it was gone. As might be expected, I found myself in no hurry to leave. I pushed the cart through the aisles almost merrily, near filling it in the process. Too much repetition in a small paragraph especially a filtering word like "feel".

It near exhausted me transporting my groceries from the car trunk to the elevator foyer. When the elevator doors parted, there she was. She stood just inside the door to my left, by the control panel. I needed to pause the elevator to load my groceries but she was in the way. Rather than step into her personal space I asked would she mind pushing the button for me? She smiled the smile one smiles (repetitions) while dropping an envelope into the passed collection basket at church, or when slipping a dollar into a bum's grimy hand. It is fully gracious but heavily detached. It is the poor you, poor poor you, smile, and it sets me off. But I didn't have time to be angry at her. I had my hands too full, literally, needing both to lift each bag and then grunting and groaning from the strain.

"Let me help you with those." No. Please don't help me, can't you see I've got it all under control. "Please?"

She stepped in front of me, grabbed the remaining four bags in one swoop and set them down beside the others. Then she turned and faced me square on, rolled up a sleeve on her blouse to show off a muscle she might've been working on an hour earlier at the gym. She smiled an almost laugh while exaggerating a body builder pose. (this feels awkward. I'm sure why she is doing this, especially the rolling-up her sleeves. Is she just hinting she's not weak?)She posed one way then another while the elevator door closed and the bell chimed. When done posing, she stepped closer towards me, cutting the elevator in half, or maybe a third, like a skilled boxer cuts a ring. She had cornered me, just like that. (again I'm not sure. The boxing image implies that he feels threatened and she is menacing him but I'm not sure why.)

She stood inches away, entirely in my space and it was jarring. What I noticed first was the wash of her breath across my neck. Her breathing was full and deep, came in rushes, like a soundless elegant bellow. There's no preparation for this sudden taste of her. Jesus. Her breath pouring across my neck, bending me over, pulling my face towards the source, compelling me to lean closer. When her breath reached my eyes I felt I might weep. But one needs oxygen to weep and it's at this point I realized I hadn't been breathing. I pictured myself as a stickman, a bent stickman with mouth agape. I have to admit that you lost me. I am not sure if he's aroused or appalled, and why. The fact that he's not breathing also makes me think of bad breath for some reason)

I did not weep and I did not suffocate. Somehow I got air into my lungs without choking, while appearing, I think, almost normal. But there was nothing normal about this predicament: me, weakened almost to death, barely a cardboard box of a man (nice image); her, so spectacular as to defy description with an intelligent exuberance pushing against her person's every seam. It wasn't lost on me that we were like two opposite ends of a spectrum, two distant outliers.

We were two opposing forces confined to tight quarters. The battle had already been lost but I'd been slow to realize it, more focused on the shame of my inferior army. But the force of her insisted and so she pushed into me, all of me, even the dark places I will not visit alone. Like a plumber's snake, winding and winding, no telling what it will find. Her snake found words: blurted shabby words at the first, like how a dope gabs, the first thought into the pea brain gets spat out lest it be forgotten. As her breathing washed over me in encouragement, maybe salve, blurted shabby words fell away, replaced by banter. Words and words and more words fell over each other, like a goddamn race to see who can get the most words out. There came laughter and smiles, her hand warm upon my arm. No shutting us up while the lights on the control panel next to my head blink and blink. Do I understand correctly that she got close to him, and after overcoming his initial shock he started talking to her?
 

TexasPoet

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I like this story. I could relate.

I don’t think “up” is needed in the first paragraph and “it” is overused in at least one paragraph.

I felt as Elle did that I felt sorry the protagonist had been through surgery....the girl....I don’t know what to think about her.....why was she attracted to him?

It’s tougher to cover so much ground in flash.

The feel of this story is excellent however.

tp
 

Joseph Schmol

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Hi Joseph,

I've read this several time. It reads fine but I can't that I like it as much as your motel stories, and I'm not entirely sure why. I think maybe I am not fully engaging with the story, and the characters. What did you intend the story to be when you wrote it? Sorry, I feel like I'm not being helpful at all. Looking at the comments I've put below I think it's maybe just me not getting it. Sorry if that's the case.

Well, I didn't have an intent before I wrote it. I had a feeling that needed expression.

After getting involved with the story I hoped to convey how jarring unexpected close physical proximity can be. The young woman in the story position herself within inches of a stranger while riding in a much larger elevator. Can you imagine if a man did such a thing, to either another man or a woman?

I have added a few comments below, feel free to use or ignore as you see fit.

The comments are helpful. Thank you. And as to your last comment, the question: Yes. That is what happened.

I like this story. I could relate.

Then I'm pleased.

I don’t think “up” is needed in the first paragraph and “it” is overused in at least one paragraph.

Thanks for pointing that out.

I felt as Elle did that I felt sorry the protagonist had been through surgery....the girl....I don’t know what to think about her.....why was she attracted to him?

I don't know that she was "attracted" to him, other than, perhaps, as one human being to another. Much of the story is him projecting onto her -- her pov is only shown by his interpretation of her actions.

It’s tougher to cover so much ground in flash.

Agreed. I also wondered if I might make it shorter, or longer. It feels in no-man's land right now.

The feel of this story is excellent however.

Good to hear.
tp
 
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The Urban Spaceman

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She was already on the elevator when I returned home from the grocery story. It was Tuesday, almost perfectly mid-afternoon, maybe 2:45, the ideal dead zone for someone wanting to avoid all human contact. Yet there she was. She must have parked on the fourth level and [some how <<somehow>>] I failed to notice her when I drove past up to my parking spot on five. I looked carefully. I always look.

For a moment, I was completely lost on what "on five" meant, then I re-read and realised it related to the fifth level. Might be clearer to say "on the fifth" but it's your choice.

The doctor had restricted me post-surgery to lifting five pounds, a restriction he hasn't yet come close to removing. He also said no driving. But I needed a few groceries and it's a damn inconvenience to wait until Saturday when William or Laura or one of the children can come take me. Plus I had nothing else to do. What would be the harm in picking up some fresh produce and some half and half, maybe a whole chicken for soup?

I'm struggling with that weight restriction. At five pounds, the MC would barely be able to lift his own coat. I'm not sure whether it's too light a restriction to be believable. I would favour a rewrite of line 1 to "My doctor [has] restricted my post-surgery lifting to..." because "had" shifting me back to past tense at this points interrupts my mental flow. The [has] would be optional.

It felt very nice to be alone at the store. It felt like I'd been unexpectedly freed. It felt like I'd been cured of a medical condition I didn't know I had until after it was gone. As might be expected, I found myself in no hurry to leave. I pushed the cart through the aisles almost merrily, near filling it in the process.

I'm a big fan of repetition for emphasis and effect, but the three "It felt..." just don't do anything for me here. As well, "unexpectedly freed" doesn't have enough context for me to believe in it as a real feeling. Feel free to take this with buckets of salt, but a slight tweaking to, "It felt nice to be alone at the store. Like I'd been unexpectedly freed from imprisonment, or cured of a mental condition I didn't know I had until after it was gone."

This is also one of those times when I hate the word 'almost.' It's not one thing, it's not the other, it's almost. Can't it just be merrily?

It near exhausted me transporting my groceries from the car trunk to the elevator foyer. When the elevator doors parted, there she was. She stood just inside the door to my left, by the control panel. I needed to pause the elevator to load my groceries but she was in the way. Rather than step into her personal space, I asked would she mind pushing the button for me? She smiled the smile one smiles while dropping an envelope into the passed collection basket at church, or when slipping a dollar into a bum's grimy hand. It is fully gracious but heavily detached. It is the poor you, poor poor you, smile, and it sets me off. But I didn't have time to be angry at her. I had my hands too full, literally, needing both to lift each bag and then grunting and groaning from the strain.

I like the 'smile' repetition here. The last sentence reads awkward, like he has his hands too full with grunting and groaning, but you don't need hands for that.

"Let me help you with those." No. Please don't help me, can't you see I've got it all under control. "Please?"

She stepped in front of me, grabbed the remaining four bags in one swoop and set them down beside the others. Then she turned and faced me square on, [rolled <<rolling>>] up a sleeve on her blouse to show off a muscle she might've been working on an hour earlier at the gym. She smiled an almost laugh while exaggerating a body builder pose. She posed one way then another while the elevator door closed and the bell chimed. When done posing, she stepped closer towards me, cutting the elevator in half, or maybe a third, like a skilled boxer cuts a ring. She had cornered me, just like that.

Sentence 2 reads awkward and missing an action, but easily fixed with a change of the word tense. I think almost laugh should be compounded to almost-laugh. I like the boxer analogy, it's a strong mental image.

stood inches away, entirely in my space, and it was jarring. What I noticed first was the wash of her breath across my neck. Her breathing was full and deep, came in rushes, like a soundless elegant bellow. There's no preparation for this sudden taste of her. Jesus. Her breath pouring across my neck, bending me over, pulling my face towards the source, compelling me to lean closer. When her breath reached my eyes I felt I might weep. But one needs oxygen to weep and it's at this point I realized I hadn't been breathing. I pictured myself as a stickman, a bent stickman with mouth agape.

I wasn't aware until this paragraph, but that's quite a lot of repetitive 'she' sentences I just highlighted purple and it just got a little too repetitive. The orange is an awkward past/present verb switch that could do with rephrasing. Also, because of earlier statement about William/Laura/the kids taking him grocery shopping, plus the obvious frailty following surgery, I'd put this MC down as an elder gentlemen... someone maybe in his sixties; probably in his seventies. I'm now getting all sorts of awkward mental images from this scene.

I did not weep and I did not suffocate. Somehow I got air into my lungs without choking, while appearing, I think, almost normal. But there was nothing normal about this predicament: me, weakened almost to death, barely a cardboard box of a man; her, so spectacular as to defy description, with an intelligent exuberance pushing against her person's every seam. It wasn't lost on me that we were like two opposite ends of a spectrum, two distant outliers.

Like is like almost and maybe. It was almost this but not that, and we were like something; why not just be something?

We were two opposing forces confined to tight quarters. The battle had already been lost but I'd been slow to realize it, more focused on the shame of my inferior army. But the force of her insisted and so she pushed into me, all of me, even the dark places I will not visit alone. Like a plumber's snake, winding and winding, no telling what it will find. Her snake found words: blurted shabby words at the first, like how a dope gabs, the first thought into the pea brain gets spat out lest it be forgotten. As her breathing washed over me in encouragement, maybe salve, blurted shabby words fell away, replaced by banter. Words and words and more words fell over each other, like a goddamn race to see who can get the most words out. There came laughter and smiles, her hand warm upon my arm. No shutting us up while the lights on the control panel next to my head blink and blink.

This last paragraph kinda read like a really awkward erotica paragraph. The first sentence is very heavy on the metaphor and is basically just repeating what the previous paragraph ended. I've highlighted another weak "maybe" case. How about "encouraging salve"? I really do like the last line, though.

On first read, this is what I've come away with:

A man, possibly an older gentleman, always keeps a careful watch for a woman, but somehow misses her car despite his hyper-vigilance. Because he's had surgery and can only lift the equivalent weight of a small chihuahua, he struggles with his groceries until the object of his focus beats him to the elevator in some sort of unannounced race. There, she helps him with his shopping bags, breathes all over him, invades his personal space, and then something that sounds—at best—extremely gropey and violatey happens, and she consequently breaks through his barriers and into his deepest, darkest, scariest places; all in the space of about 30 seconds, and inside an elevator.

Now, I could've gotten the wrong end of the stick with that whole 'kids' thing, and maybe he's not a sexagenarian being hit on by Xena, Warrior Princess. I'm not opposed to the whole 'opposites attract' trope, and I don't think it's played badly here... but while the opening and the parts of the final paragraph that didn't sound like sexual violations had my interest, the whole middle bit, both back-story and descriptions of heavy breathing, just didn't do anything for me.

I do think you've got a great concept, and with an interesting MC and a less creepy LI I'd probably enjoy it more.
 

Joseph Schmol

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For a moment, I was completely lost on what "on five" meant, then I re-read and realised it related to the fifth level. Might be clearer to say "on the fifth" but it's your choice.

Good to know.

I'm struggling with that weight restriction. At five pounds, the MC would barely be able to lift his own coat. I'm not sure whether it's too light a restriction to be believable. I would favour a rewrite of line 1 to "My doctor [has] restricted my post-surgery lifting to..." because "had" shifting me back to past tense at this points interrupts my mental flow. The [has] would be optional.

It's a legit restriction, and it doesn't leave one with much to do. I suppose that's the point.

Good catch on the tense.


I'm a big fan of repetition for emphasis and effect, but the three "It felt..." just don't do anything for me here. As well, "unexpectedly freed" doesn't have enough context for me to believe in it as a real feeling. Feel free to take this with buckets of salt, but a slight tweaking to, "It felt nice to be alone at the store. Like I'd been unexpectedly freed from imprisonment, or cured of a mental condition I didn't know I had until after it was gone."

Yeah, that whole bit never felt quite right.

This is also one of those times when I hate the word 'almost.' It's not one thing, it's not the other, it's almost. Can't it just be merrily?

Thanks for pointing this out (and gain, later). It's a habit I need to kick.


I like the 'smile' repetition here. The last sentence reads awkward, like he has his hands too full with grunting and groaning, but you don't need hands for that.


Sentence 2 reads awkward and missing an action, but easily fixed with a change of the word tense. I think almost laugh should be compounded to almost-laugh. I like the boxer analogy, it's a strong mental image.



I wasn't aware until this paragraph, but that's quite a lot of repetitive 'she' sentences I just highlighted purple and it just got a little too repetitive. The orange is an awkward past/present verb switch that could do with rephrasing. Also, because of earlier statement about William/Laura/the kids taking him grocery shopping, plus the obvious frailty following surgery, I'd put this MC down as an elder gentlemen... someone maybe in his sixties; probably in his seventies. I'm now getting all sorts of awkward mental images from this scene.

I'm not sure what caused you to leap ahead to sixties & seventies. It was not intended. The gentleman in question is roughly 50 (plenty old enough to have adult children who drive).

Like is like almost and maybe. It was almost this but not that, and we were like something; why not just be something?

Yup. Again.

This last paragraph kinda read like a really awkward erotica paragraph. The first sentence is very heavy on the metaphor and is basically just repeating what the previous paragraph ended. I've highlighted another weak "maybe" case. How about "encouraging salve"? I really do like the last line, though.

Hmm, erotic? Okay. Nothing sexual occurred, but maybe his expression of events is too vague and confusing.

On first read, this is what I've come away with:

A man, possibly an older gentleman 50 ish, always keeps a careful watch for a woman for everyone -- he doesn't want to be seen in his weakened state, but somehow misses her car despite his hyper-vigilance. yes Because he's had surgery and can only lift the equivalent weight of a small chihuahua, he struggles with his groceries until the object of his focus a beautiful vibrant young woman beats him to the elevator in some sort of unannounced race. he only hopes to return home unseen There, she helps him with his shopping bags, breathes all over him, invades his personal space, and then something that sounds—at best—extremely gropey and violatey happens, they talk and she consequently breaks through his barriers and into his deepest, darkest, scariest places; all in the space of about 30 seconds, it's a tall building and time flies when it's standing still and inside an elevator.

A fine summation, although I offered a few adjustments.

Now, I could've gotten the wrong end of the stick with that whole 'kids' thing, and maybe he's not a sexagenarian being hit on by Xena, Warrior Princess.

Awesome summation! I love it.
I'm not opposed to the whole 'opposites attract' trope, and I don't think it's played badly here... but while the opening and the parts of the final paragraph that didn't sound like sexual violations had my interest, the whole middle bit, both back-story and descriptions of heavy breathing, just didn't do anything for me.

I do think you've got a great concept, and with an interesting MC and a less creepy LI I'd probably enjoy it more.

Thank you for the great comments, Spaceman. I added a few of mine own to dialogue.

It's clear I have much work to do in the rewrite. You've given me several points to consider.
 
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Joseph Schmol

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The Urban Spaceman's comments have got me thinking (questioning): to anyone who cares to answer: Have you ever seen something (someone) so stunning as to literally "take your breath away"?

I suppose this is the story I am wanting to tell: a man, weakened (broken) at present, who wants only to exist in obscurity whilst he heals. To be alone to lick his wounds, so to speak. Despite his precautions this spectacular woman suddenly appears and approaches him, seeing value in him he does not see in himself. It is a small everyday exchange (although if you are a man alone on an elevator with a young woman, she will not step close to you, not 1 in 10,000 times, especially if you are somewhat physically imposing. Hence his shocked reaction.

I will put it on the rack & see if I can't iron out some of the problems.
 
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The Urban Spaceman

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The Urban Spaceman's comments have got me thinking (questioning): to anyone who cares to answer: Have you ever seen something (someone) so stunning as to "take your breath away"?

Sure, and though your protag does seem to undergo the breathless effect during the elevator ensemble, it seems to be more an effect of having the woman step so close and being breathed on (and I echo Elle's sentiment that all I can think of when I read this part is bad breath). On reflection, I think perhaps some of the focus is on entirely the wrong parts of the story.

The LI also feels a little bit like a caricature. If I was in an elevator and a man in there with me was striking a pose, my honest reaction would be to worry for my safety and reach for the panic button. If he was a handsome man I'd think, what a knob. Same if it was a beautiful woman. It seems to me the sort of action one would perform when messing around with friends (I work in a college.... I could easily imagine this happening amongst the students) but here it just seems rather awkward and forced.

I suppose that is the story I am wanting to tell: a man, weakened (broken) at present, who wants only to exist in obscurity whilst he heals. To be alone to lick his wounds, so to speak. Despite his precautions this spectacular woman suddenly appears and approaches him, seeing value in him he does not see in himself. It is a small everyday exchange (although if you are a man alone on an elevator with a young woman, she will not step close to you, not 1 in 10,000 times, especially if you are somewhat physically imposing. Hence his shocked reaction.

I do like this summary, and would want to read this story. Buuuut.... that's not the story I just read :(

Part of my confusion about his hyper-vigilance towards the woman comes in because the bit about always looking comes in during the same sentence in which the LI is introduced. It's not clear the man is being hyper-vigilant towards everybody. As well, I'm struggling to wrap my head around that, as I assume that even at 14:45 in the dead zone, there are going to be at least a few cars parked home. Home workers, sick people, stay-at-home moms. If this isn't the case and the woman's car was the only one on level 4, then on his way past, the MC must be blind to have missed it.

Like you said, I think it needs work, but I'd like to see how your rewrite ends up.

Oh, I should also add, the way my mind interpreted that whole "Laura/William/the kids" situation was that Laura and William were his kids (or one kid and her spouse) and that "the kids" were their children, making him a grandfather with driving-age grandchildren around. That's why I had him pegged as 60 or (more likely) 70.
 
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