Left Coast Voices

"I would hurl words into the darkness and wait for an echo. If an echo sounded, no matter how faintly, I would send other words to tell, to march, to fight." Richard Wright, American Hunger

Weekend Warriors

Unwanted Heroes was much longer before my editor got his hands on it. A number of chapters were cut because they do not directly move the plot along. They seem to have something in common – my desire to show the many facets of San Francisco. I began sharing these passages with you on Wednesday and would like to share another one here.

There is nothing here that spoils anything in the book – which probably vindicates the editor’s decision to cut them!

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Chapter 4: The Weekend Warriors

The male weekend warriors’ single concession is to leave the ties at home and unbutton the tops of their shirts. The fact that it’s Saturday cannot deter them from coming into the City to work. The roads are empty, the parking easy and the coffee far superior to anything they can find on the East Bay, Peninsula or Marin. Okay, so maybe not the last part, but whatever their justifications, every Saturday, defying protocol, they come into the office.

I have to admit that this strange Saturday subspecies of the San Francisco commuter fascinates me. They come in all ages and sizes, married or single, and appear, from this side of the coffee counter, to be relatively successful, or, at least not frantically trying to meet a deadline. Surely they all own laptops with wireless connections and can work from home if they want? Most look healthy and often sport trendy, compact gym bags.

Some will even sit and open a newspaper, clearly sending a message to the world that they are commuters-by-choice. They will, however, sit for only five or ten minutes, before succumbing to the call of the office.

I wonder if they are truly commuters-by-choice? Take Mr. Partridge, for example. He is surely approaching retirement. Throughout the week, he dresses impeccably in a sharp black suit and exudes an undeniable air of control and authority. Transport him a few thousand miles across the pond, and he would undoubtedly sport a bowler hat, black umbrella and bow tie, and work in Westminster or the Civil Service.

“Good morning, Will. I see you drew the Saturday shift again?”

I always work the Saturday shift, but I appreciate him remembering my name. Even though he comes in every Saturday, I play the game.

“They have you coming in again on the weekend, Mr. Partridge? Business must be good.”

“It’s always preferable to be busy, young man. Believe me, the alternative is far less attractive,” and he too-promptly recites the latest unemployment statistics.

“I’ll be on the golf course all day tomorrow if the weather holds,” he says, as if to suggest that he does have a life. “How about you? Any plans for the weekend?”

I smile. “I’m on the prowl. Got a party tonight and I’m feeling lucky.”

We share a male-bonding wink and chuckle. Then he pays for his low-fat cappuccino with a five-dollar bill, dropping all the change nonchalantly into the tip jar.

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Alon Shalev writes social justice-themed novels and YA epic fantasy. He swears there is a connection. His latest books include: Unwanted Heroes and At The Walls Of Galbrieth. Alon tweets at @alonshalevsf and @elfwriter.

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