Our prompt for the May 2018 writing contest has been:
If you could insert a new character into an old classic book, what would a new scene from the book look like?
And the winner is: Jovi Banks!
Jovi’s addition to The Great Gatsby certainly reshuffled the cards of a well-known story. Way to go, Jovi!
By Jovi Banks
When I arrived at the Buchanan residence I expected to be greeted by a grand abode perched gorgeously above the bay, but instead I laid eyes on a bleak mansion with a palpable air of sorrow. I shuddered in my coat. Even the wind there was frigid, a stark contrast to the warm breeze that rustled the trees before I made the drive to East Egg. A feeling of angst stirred within my chest and for a brief moment I savored the idea of visiting the Buchanans another day, perhaps a sunny afternoon where the mansion might absorb the rays of warmth and appear somewhat less dreary. Then I shook my head as if to rid it of such cowardly thoughts as I took my first steps towards hell’s gate.
A single knock on the door seemed to rattle the house itself, even the elaborate walls and arches painted red and white. To my surprise, I heard the elevated voice of a rather frazzled woman. “For heaven’s sake, Jordan, please leave Victoria alone!” she called out. The great wooden door swung open and there was Daisy Buchanan herself. She froze for a moment— I suppose she was startled— and then flashed a grin bright enough to mask the mansion’s gloom. “Oh, Nick! Is it really you? Why, it’s been ages!”
I smiled, more at ease. “My apologies, Daisy. I was off fighting in the war.”
Her grin became a pout. “You even missed my wedding, you brute!” She giggled as she caught me by the sleeve and dragged me through the doorway. “Let me introduce you to Jordan.”
The slender, elegant figure of a woman lay draped across the couch in a mass of white dress. A pair of pale eyes wandered my face dispassionately. A girl, perhaps on the cusp of adulthood, sat nearby, dark hair grazing her shoulders like a mourning veil. She donned a rosy dress, soft pink like the frosting of a cupcake or the cheeks of a blushing bride.
Daisy swept into the living room. “This is Jordan Baker,” she said, gesturing towards the woman on the couch. “Why, Nick, I’m sure you’ve heard of her! She’s a famous golfer, one of the greatest. Isn’t that right, Jordan?” Miss Baker shrugged in response.
Daisy gasped, squeezing my arm. “Oh, I’m sure Tom would love to see you! Tom, honey, come say hello to Nick!”
“I’m on the phone, just give me a minute.” His voice sounded deeper, gruffer than I last recalled
For a fleeting second Daisy’s grin was shattered and her brow creased with worry. Then a weak laugh escaped her throat, as if her husband had merely uttered an awful joke. “The girl over there is Victoria, by the way. Jordan’s sister.”
“Well, it’s a pleasure to meet you,” I said to no one in particular. Miss Baker hardly stirred. Victoria scrutinized me. Her eyes were small black discs that appeared simultaneously chastising and inquisitive. They carved into me, as sharp as daggers, and the room suddenly felt much cooler, chilling as the wind outside. The corners of her lips lifted to form a cheerless smile. I averted her gaze.
Silence hung over our heads like a guillotine.
“I guess I’ll go fetch Tom,” Daisy muttered. “You can all wait on the veranda for dinner, if you’d like.” She brushed out of the room in a flash of white fabric.
“Who are you?” demanded a stern Victoria, nearly startling me.
“Nick Carraway, a cousin of Daisy’s. I’m new to Long Island, actually. I recently moved into a home in West Egg.”
“West Egg?” A flicker of curiosity brightened her dark eyes. “You know Jay Gatsby.”
Miss Baker pried herself from the couch, her dress fluttering like a mass of feathers. “What do you know about Gatsby?”
“I know he’s rich and he loves to show it. And I heard…” She tossed a glance over each shoulder, as if someone might be eavesdropping, before leaning forward with a conspiratorial smirk. “I heard he’s a crook, that he even killed a man once.”
“A criminal?” Miss Baker scoffed. “What do you say, Nick? Jailbird or gentleman?”
“Well, I have yet to meet the man.” They both frowned in disappointment. “But,” I added quickly, “he does happen to be my neighbor. Even so, I haven’t heard much about him.”
Miss Baker rolled her eyes. “You aren’t one to gossip, are you? Have you even heard about Tom’s woman?”
I stared, dumbfounded.
“You really didn’t know?” Victoria gaped. “Everyone in New York knows about Tom’s mis—”
Daisy had glided back into the room, her blue eyes darting across our startled expressions. She offered a sugary smile as her face transformed into a mask of blithe naïveté. “Tom’s what?”
Tom, a hulking mass of muscle, Daisy’s arrogant beast of a husband, sauntered in behind her. “Nick! it’s been too long. What have you been up to?”
“He was fighting in the war,” Daisy said, this time with a hint of bitterness. “He missed our wedding.”
“Well, isn’t that a shame? Ha, some cousin you are!”
Victoria lifted her chin as she regarded Tom, her voice dripping with sincerity. “Was it that woman again?”
Both Daisy and Miss Baker peered at her curiously.
Tom’s face turned to stone. “I beg your pardon?”
She sounded like a child asking why the sky was blue. “The person you were on the phone with. Was it that woman?”
“V-Victoria,” Daisy squeaked, her face flushing. “Victoria, sweetheart, who are you talking about?”
“I answered the phone earlier. She said she wanted to talk to a Tom Buchanan. Said it quite sultry, too.” Her brow furrowed in contemplation as her sister’s cheeks reddened from stifled laughter. “I think her name was Marilyn. Or maybe just Meryl.” Then her face brightened again. “No, I remember, it was—”
“None of your business,” Tom growled. He stepped forward and everyone with the exception of Victoria shrank back, suddenly stricken by claustrophobia, as if his presence filled every crevice of the room and pressed us against the walls. “Don’t you come into my house and start trouble, Victoria, and I mean it.”
The girl smiled sweetly. “Myrtle. Myrtle Wilson.”
Miss Baker shrieked with feigned surprise. “A married woman? Scandalous!”
“Oh please, Jordan, that’s enough,” murmured Daisy, her eyes brimming with tears. “Nick, I’m so sorry about all of this. I- I can—”
Tom swung and knocked Victoria to the floor. Time froze. She lay still for what seemed to be an eternity, then grazed her fingers against the red-violet bruise blooming along her cheekbone. Daisy backed away screeching.
I assumed that was my cue to leave.
“Nick, you should go,” Tom said, as if it weren’t clear enough. He squeezed my shoulder in farewell. “Don’t worry about the girl. A man’s got to earn some respect around here,” he added with a wink.
“Oh, yes, certainly,” I said, nodding as I felt I ought to do.
Miss Baker reassumed her position on the couch, gazing up at the ceiling as though she were waiting for something to fall down from it, perhaps a miracle, or even a shooting star. She folded her arms across her chest and shut her eyes to the chaos. Daisy’s sobs echoed down the hallway. Not a soul bothered to comfort her.
Victoria smiled, still on the floor, still bruised and somewhat bloodied. “Welcome to New York, Mr. Carraway. Please, do come ag—”
I was in my car in the blink of an eye. I turned on the radio, stuck a cigarette between my lips, and watched as the smoke clouded my view of the mansion. The sunset was an unimpressive one— no peach-colored clouds, no reddish streams of light, no flash of gold as the sun dipped below the waves. It was terribly grey.
I shook my head, speeding my way down the winding road. God save Long Island.