by Richard Siciliano

ISBN: 9780692658796

Publisher Empire Publishing

Published in Literature & Fiction/Drama, Literature & Fiction

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Book Description

Arnold Haus's parents grew tired of him and gave him away. He grew up thinking he had no place in the world except that created by his job and possessions. After losing these he finds himself among people whose existence also seems pointless. He experiences an obsessive hunger for food , a metaphor for redemption, belief and love. A series of comic misadventures lead him to an unused rectory in which he discovers the meaning and purpose of his life and sustenance from Someone whom he had never taken the trouble to recognize or understand.

Sample Chapter

"What I meant was the everyday fears that often preoccupy people, the spiders and airplanes and so forth." Arnold paused. He stared at his hands which were washing themselves below the lip of the doctor's desk. This was the truth and yet as he listened to himself attempting to explain it he detected intimations of pomposity and evasion, as well as the potential for insult if this man, his occupation notwithstanding, secretly harbored commonplace phobias of his own.

The doctor continued his notations, his hairy and spotted appendage moving seamlessly across the notebook page. It seemed impossible that Arnold's thoughts could have any connection to whatever was being recorded. Though it was probably to his advantage to appear supercilious or delusional he had been reluctant to offer any more of himself than what he thought was necessary to qualify for the disability benefits and actually would have momentarily felt better had the doctor stopped writing and complimented him on his self-awareness and assured him that there was nothing wrong with him. But he could not stop himself from continuing to clarify his motivations.

"You see I have always thought of myself as an extraneous person, if that term has any significance for you. So it has always been the possible consequences of danger or violence or misunderstandings that have concerned me rather than whatever the actual source of danger might be. In other words, a situation that might prematurely terminate or obliterate or negate my existence before it had an opportunity to acquire any inherent or lasting meaning or value. And so that threat has always, in the abstract, of course, been rather daunting and horrible to me."

He had wanted to add something about the gulf that he saw between himself and the rest of the world which spawned hopelessness but at the same time helped insulate him from fear but he pressed his lips together to stop, realizing that no stranger could comprehend what he was saying, least of all this weary old man whose breaths rose and fell audibly as he wrote. What sort of physician needed to rely on government referrals to make his living? Had he even been listening, or was he preoccupied trying to calculate if he had reached the quota of evaluations that would qualify him for a check, much the same as the one that Arnold was seeking, albeit a different color.

Behind the desk a messsy bookcase stood like a gravestone in the musty window light. There was probably a spiders' graveyard that had flourished undisturbed for decades in the space between it and the wall. The leather on the office chairs was cracked, the rug was faded, the ceiling yellowed. Arnold had studied the lobby directory upon arriving, taking note that the small building was mostly occupied by independent professionals, counselors, accountants, brokers, and others with strings of letters following their names which he was unable to decipher. The bottom feeders of their fields, he had thought, each whiling away his or her day behind a desk similar to this one, immersed in a private sea of dust motes, trying to fashion enough activity to justify commuting home. Why did they keep at it? How did they sustain their self-esteem as the years of failure passed? What did they believe in?

Suddenly the doctor closed the notebook and also began to rub his hands together, though seemingly with a rehearsed intent and again as if preoccupied with matters entirely apart from Arnold's mental health. "Thank you, Mr. Haus, for your candid responses," he said with a voice full of phlegm. "As you know, this type of application has many components, of which my examination is but one, and when they have all been submitted a decision will be made by the regional office that determines eligibility. Today we have merely collected some information nedded to assist the process."

Arnold raised his eyes and realized that he was leaning against a streetlight pole and that his hands had been rubbing the cold slick aluminum behind his back. He straightened himself and pulled the lapels of his raincoat together. The sun was hanging disjointedly above the wall of rooftops and utility wires that circumscribed the horizon on the opposite side of the block long city park in front of him, but the March wind still bore the icy exhalations of winter and postponed hopes. At this time of year the park was little more than a sloping tree-lined strip of muddy grass, somewhat resembling a battlefield across which a troop of heavy cavalry had recently cantered. On secord glance, there was an actual cavalry still in the midst of its charge, endlessly reinforced legions of dead leaves and litter skipping toward him as if intent on overrunning his shoes. As he watched they tumbled suicidally across the sidewalk and into the street. He concentrated, monitoring the vibration of his heart as if his chest was a radio that played an unsteady and ever evolving noontime concerto.

He knew that he should not become overly concerned with the psychiatrist's report, since the principle basis for his disability claim was his heart attack and its uncerain aftermath. That alone. It had been the intake worker who had urged him, after narrowing his eyes, to add a psychological component, asserting that it would only improve his chances for acceptance. "PTSD is applied in all kinds of situations, Arnold," he had chuckled. "You have nothing to lose. After all, you're not a doctor, you can't analyze yourself. It's important for a claim to reflect whatever is currently considered a societal problem, fashionable, if you want to think of it that way." But the fellow had seemed to know his business, Arnold could tell by the way he had guided him through the paperwork with smooth efficiency almost by rote, a manner with which he himself could identify as an ex-employee of the County Water Department. And so after concluding with the doctor he had succumbed to the urge to report his change of address to the state agency in person, although it was doubtful that without an appointment he would be seen. However if could possibly review the psychiatric interview with someone while it was fresh in his mind he thought it would do much to relieve his anxiety.

He had stood in the long reception line occupying himself with noting the similarities of this office with his own. When he had reached the counter a form had been pushed at him, as he had expected, as he himself would have done to his own clients. Then he had stood to one side, awkwardly completed it with the pencil stub provided, and dropped it into a slot. Would it ever get to his worker? Would his annotation, 'Doctor visit went well! How long do you think?' even be noticed?

"You'll be denied initially by the government doctors," he had been warned. "But that's just to weed out the applicants who aren't serious. Then you can get an advocate, file an appeal, submit additional documentation from your own physicians, maybe have a hearing, and be accepted. You might even get a nice retro check back to the date of the onset of your disability, or at least from the date of your application."

Despite the season a number of people were stretched out on the ground reading magazines or listening to their radios. A woman in shorts was exercising three galloping white dogs, while a muscular bare-chested man nearby performed millitary calisthenics. An overweight girl in baggy sweatclothes trudged jog-walking up the slope, pumping her arms with an exaggerated motion that belied the fixed smile on her face. In the distance a Frisbee hung in the air seeemingly belonging to no one. Arnold eyed everything critically, searching for flaws in each person's veneer of good health and contentment, wondering if they would know what to do should it suddenly be rent. Gradually the scene became a tableau of pretension, a sham, doomed bees in a flower garden, just as his own health and heart had apparently been underneath the well-being that he had always taken for granted. There was soemthing bitter as well in their indolence. Why weren't they at work? Did they know of some secret means to exist without responsibility? He could not imagine baring his body to the world in the month of March no matter how healthy he might again become. His heart had become his body.


Excerpted from "Extraneous" by Richard Siciliano. Copyright © 2016 by Richard Siciliano. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Excerpts are provided solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
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Author Profile

Richard Siciliano

Richard Siciliano

Richard Siciliano was born and raised in Connecticut. He attended Washington and Lee University and for many years was employed by community and social service agencies. He now lives in a small town in Northern California

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