Schemes and Scenes – Part Six
As they sat quietly catching their breath, Getz said, “We’ve all been diving together for a long time and are very comfortable with each other. I understand you’re experienced but you are new to us, so I wonder if you would mind my giving you a quick quiz, just to satisfy ourselves of your basic competence?”
“Go ahead, Sir.”
“Okay, this is easy. What is your maximum no-decompress bottom time at three atmospheres?”
“The U.S. Navy tables allow sixty minutes at sixty feet with a standard rate of ascent.”
“Good work, Mr Wheeler. Welcome aboard. You see, we try not to take chances. We are frequently more than ten hours from a competent physician and there is no recompression chamber. We don’t ‘push the tables.'”
Lou grinned boyishly, speaking with a cigarette in is mouth. “You mean we don’t regularly ‘push the tables.'”
They sat on the side of the pool, catching their breath. Getz said, “Wheeler, don’t take this wrong. But, the gang’s been diving together long time. We know each other inside out. But you’re the new guy. Okay if I ask a couple of questions? Get to know your diving ability better?”
“Go for it,” Wheeler said.
“Relax, Wheeler. This is easy.” Getz leaned forward and smiled. “What’s the max no-decompress bottom time at three atmospheres?”
Wheeler laughed. “The Navy tables say sixty minutes at sixty feet with standard rate of ascent.”
“Right you are, Mr Wheeler,” Getz said. He stuck out his hand. “Welcome aboard. You understand, we can’t take chances. We’re ten hours from the nearest Doctor. And, there’s no recompression chamber. We can’t afford to push those Navy tables.'”
Lou poked his head around the corner and grinned. “What he really means is we don’t…regularly…push the tables.”
I peered through the front window of the garage, which did me no good, since light hadn’t been able to penetrate that window since man walked on the moon. “Anybody here,” I tapped on the door.
A man came from the shop wearing greasy, half-unzipped coveralls with the name “Lester” stitched over the pocket. I hoped he took those off before he got in my car.
“Yeah, wha’ can I do for youse?” he grumbled as he took his cigar stub out of his mouth and spat near my feet.
“Well, my name is Mr. Baumgarten. I’m here to pick up my car. Is it ready?” I said sweetly. Truth is, I was ready to get the car away from him whether it was ready or not.
“Hang onna sec.” He stepped back into the shop and picked up a greasy clipboard with a thick wad of forms stuck under the clip. “Wha’ wuzza name again, Bumgarden?”
“BAUMgarten,” I said. You cretin, I thought.
“Yeah, right,” he said, pawing through the forms. “Don’t see youse here, Mr. BAUMgarden. Sorry.”
“What do mean, sorry? You have my car in there. Either it’s fixed or it’s not.” I’m a patient man, but my blood was beginning to boil.
“Loo’, mistah, whaddya think — I got time to get, like intimit wid all my clientele?” Oh, I get you get intimate if they’re pretty enough, I thought. “You could be BAUMgarden, you could be his cousin, you could be Governor Pataki for all I know,” he went on. “But I ain’t giving you no car ‘less you got papers and I got matchin’ papers. Far as I’m concerned, you ain’t on this clipboard, you don’t exist.”
“Anybody here,” I asked.
Looking through the front window of the garage didn’t do me much good. No light had shown through the grimy window since man walked on the moon. Grease was everywhere. Even the grease had grease on it. Cringing, I tapped on the door.
A man came out, wearing greasy coveralls, the kind with names stitched over the pocket. His name was Lester. I hoped he took them off before he got inside cars.
Lester took the cigar stub out of his mouth and spat. “Yeah, want something?”
“Yes,” I said. “My name is Baumgarten. I’m here to pick up my car. Is it ready?” I was ready to take it whether it was ready or not.
He mumbled something and stepped back into the shop. He returned with a greasy clipboard with a thick wad of forms clamped to it. “What’s that name again, Bumgardner?”
“Mr. Baumgarten,” I said. I emphasized the first syllable. I wondered what kind of cretin he was.
“Yeah, right,” he said. He pawed through the forms, then he shook his head. “Nope. Don’t see you here, Mr. Baumgarten. Sorry.”
“What do you mean, sorry,” I asked. The way he mimicked my pronunciation, I knew he was mocking me. It made my blood boil . “Look. Don’t you know who I am? Baumgarten? Give me my car. I don’t care if it’s fixed or it’s not. I want it. Now.”
“Look here, Mister. I got no idea who you are.” His eyes grew hard. He put is hands on his hips. “You think I got time to get, like…intimate…with all my clientele?”
“But, I am Baumgarten. I guess I lost the papers.” I open up my wallet. “Look at this. Here’s my driver’s license. Credit cards. Everything.”
“You could be Baumgarten, you could be his cousin. You could even be almighty Governor Pataki for all I know.” Lester tapped the clipboard. Then he shook his head. “No papers. No car. Got to match my clipboard. If you ain’t on this clipboard, you don’t exist.”
That was just great. Intimate? What kind of word was that? For him? I bet he got intimate if they’re pretty enough.
For me to make dialog and exposition sound real, I need to do two things. First, the words and internal thoughts need to ring true for each character, as well as their viewpoint. Especially in the second passage, we might see this exchange between a mechanic and a lawyer. Each should talk and think like it. Their mood should also be reflected. If the kid is nervous in the first, his speech should show it. If the car owner is having a bad hair day, it should show (which is does.
The second passage was a setup. The book warns the reader that the author of the book wrote the passage. I immediately thought back to F. Scott Fitzgerald’s passage. I would have written it differently that than Fitzgerald, and considered changes, but I made as few changes as possible. (Call me stupid.) I approached the author’s passage with the same caution. The author’s passage needed a lot of work. I didn’t completely rewrite it, the thought occurred to me.
The slang was a challenge. I decided I did not want the reader to stumble over strange words, misspelled, with missing letters. I feared it would pull them out of the story. So, I replaced most of the slang and incomplete words. Since I portrayed a less educated person, I resorted to a few double negatives and grammar errors. I deemed that enough to capture his level of education.