A Novel by Notre Dame College Professor Dalma Takács
Notre Dame College Adjunct English Professor Dalma Takács has published her most recent novel titled “The Condo: Or…Life, a Sequel.” Takács’s book is a science fiction fable of the human condition. The protagonist, Jasper Wergild, hoping to relax and get away from the frustrations of life, buys an upscale condo in a mysterious gated community. When he gets there after an automobile accident, he discovers that it is a gated community of a quite different kind. Everyone is allowed to enter but no one is allowed to leave. Among his neighbors are a Holocaust survivor, an abused wife, and a serial killer. What follows is an exploration of universal themes such as good and evil, acceptance and forgiveness, and redemption and individualism, as the characters struggle to confront their inner demons and achieve lasting peace.
The following is an excerpt from chapter 2, in which Jasper, on his way to Paradise Condominiums to inspect his condo, is involved in an automobile accident:
The next thing he noticed was the silence. He looked around inside the car. His seat belt was still attached, and the windshield was open. The rain had stopped. I must have passed out, he thought. I hope the cops get here soon. He wondered if he had any broken bones or maybe even a broken vertebra. He was uneasy that he felt no pain. Maybe I’m paralyzed.
Finally he saw an ambulance pull up next to him. He was surprised that he had not heard the siren. Could it be that I’ve lost my hearing, he wondered. Two men got out and approached him.
“You’ve taken long enough to get here,” he said.
“We got here just in time,” one said.
“You don’t look like paramedics,” he said. The men were dressed in long white robes with wide black belts and looked like a pair of judo instructors. One was a severe-looking tall man with black eyebrows and a drooping moustache like Genghis Khan’s. The other was a middle-aged man with a round face and a paunch to match. He smiled at Jasper as he opened the car door.
“Out you come, guv’nor,” he said in a comfortable Cockney brogue.
“Don’t you have a stretcher or something to put me on?” Jasper said. “I think I have an injured back.”
“Do as he says and don’t argue,” said Genghis Khan. “We must be on our way.”
Jasper was stung by fear. These men were definitely not paramedics. Trying to stall for time, he said, “Thanks all the same, but I think I’ll wait . . .” for a real ambulance, he added mentally.
“This is a real ambulance, sir,” the round-faced man said. “Just turn your body to pull your legs from under the steering wheel. Once your legs are out of the car, you’ll be free in no time.”
“I know how to get out of the car,” Jasper muttered.
“Then get on with it, man.” Genghis Khan was not impatient. He just seemed like a man used to being obeyed.
Jasper’s temper flared. “If you force me to move with a broken back and I end up paralyzed for life, you’ll have a whopping lawsuit on your hands, you can be sure of that!”
The two men looked at each other, and Jasper was astonished to see them break into a hearty laugh. He felt like child who has unwittingly said something that only adults find funny.
The man with the droopy moustache swallowed his laugh. “No one will force you to move. It’s up to you to get out of the car.”
“But I can’t.”
“Then we will stay here and wait until you can.”
Jasper was beginning to feel like a cranky three-year-old. It was no longer training. Traffic was moving briskly past the wrecked car, and he was anxiously looking for the flashing lights of a passing police car. If I can stall them long enough to make a call to 911, he thought, I might make it to a hospital.
“All right, I’ll try,” he said. “I’ll first try to move my arm.” If I stretch out my hand, I might just be able to reach my cell phone in its cradle. “Funny how it turned sunny all of a sudden,” he said, trying to make cheerful small talk to distract them from seeing his fingers pressing nine, then one, and one again. The phone was stuck, and he could not pry it loose. He had to press the speaker button.
“How can I help you?” The operator’s voice seemed to fill the freeway from New York to Miami.
“I’m sitting in a wrecked car, and . . . I don’t know if I’m hurt,” he said, trying to sound conversational.
“You are definitely hurt, but it’s OK for you to get out of the car,” came the reply.
“Please send an ambulance. I am on the Florida Turnpike between Orlando and Miami,” he whispered, glancing anxiously at the two white-robed men waiting outside the car.
“I believe your helpers are already there, waiting for you to move,” the dispatcher patiently explained.
“But . . . are they . . . did you send them?” he blurted.
“I can assure you, sir, they are fully qualified to help you.”
Jasper was not at all reassured, but he knew he had no choice. He had to get out of his wrecked car. He swiveled in his seat and put one leg on the pavement, then the other. There was no pain, no paralysis. Next thing he knew he was standing next to his crumpled hood, staring at his car, which looked like a grotesque sandwich with the steering wheel and the front seat for a filling. He wondered vaguely how he had fit into the narrow space.
“Easy now,” said the round-faced man as he adjusted the purple scarf on Jasper’s neck. “My name is Michael. You can call me Mike. Where were you heading, sir?”
“I was on my way to Paradise Point Condominiums,” Jasper said, feeling his arms and legs, amazed that he was all in one piece. “I was on my way to check out a unit I’d bought. Can you give me a ride?” He was gaining confidence.
“That we can. Jump in and we’ll be on our way,” Michael said. He pointed to his tall companion. “By the way, this is Gene.”
Jasper was regaining his strength and his sense of humor. What a story this will make, he thought. Marguerite will like it.
Sitting between his two escorts in the front seat of the ambulance, he watched the vehicle eat the miles. Wishing he had grabbed the brochure for his condo, he tried to recall the directions. He wasn’t sure of the details, but one thing he did remember. “From the turnpike, take Exit 37 West to route 86.”
He watched for Exit 37. Exits 34, 35, and 36 peeled off the freeway in quick succession.
He turned to Gene, who was driving. “The next exit is the one I need. Go west on Route 86.”
Gene kept his eye on the road.
Jasper saw the sign for Exit 37. “That’s where we turn off,” he said, louder than before.
Gene kept driving.
“Better change lanes, so you can turn off at Exit 37.” He felt his voice rise.
Gene continued in the center lane. Cars were crowding in the right lane. Soon it would be too late. Jasper turned to Michael, who was looking out the window. “Does your partner have a hearing problem? We need to exit here to get to Paradise Point Condominiums.”
The next minute took them past Exit 37. Gene kept driving. Jasper felt his temper rising in his throat; then he realized that he was trapped. He thought he had a better chance with Michael. “Where are you taking me,” he asked.
Michael put a hand on his arm. “Don’t worry, sir. We are taking a shortcut.”
Jasper knew he had no choice. His only chance of escape was to stay on speaking terms with his captors. Gene kept driving, and Jasper kept looking for the next exit. Hours seemed to go by with no exit in sight.
He tried humor. “This shortcut sure is a long time coming. If you keep going this way, we’ll end up in Havana.” His weak joke was tactfully ignored by Mike. Gene kept driving.
At last it came: an exit without a number, but at least it would take them off this merciless freeway. Gene turned off onto a shady country road winding between orange groves. Jasper caught sight of a fruit stand and café ahead.
He suddenly had a plan. “Could you stop at that fruit stand? I need to go to the bathroom.”
“No you don’t,” said Gene.
“I’m sorry, sir, but that’s impossible,” said Mike.
“What do you mean impossible?” Jasper said. “I need to relieve myself. I
need to urinate. Do you want me to do it here in the car?”
Gene shook his head in frustration. “He still doesn’t get it. Mike, explain it to him.”
“Well, it’s like this, guv’nor. It happens to everyone sooner or later. You had a bad accident. You feel all right now, but there are some things missing.”
“You mean I’ve lost . . .”
“Believe me, sir, you won’t miss it. Just hold on until we get to Paradise Point. You’ll see . . . It’ll all turn out right as rain.”
“The Condo: Or…Life, a Sequel” can be ordered from your local bookstore or at Amazon.com, BarnesAndNoble.com and Xlibris.com. Takács is blogging about the book at www.condolifeasequel.blogspot.com.