Posted by: steveonfilm | January 10, 2008

The Tools of Character – Exercise Six: Part One, Tom

Here it is…Tom’s backstory/life. I start with his parents, before Tom was born, and then flesh out a lot of Tom’s life. I’ll continue to add to it as I move forward, but I’ve got enough down that I feel I know Tom pretty well….

Tom’s Biography:

Tom was born to Alan Burkowski and Vanessa Venturini on November 3rd, 1978 at St. John’s Hospital in Detroit, Michigan. Alan was an engineer at GM, Vanessa was a stay at home mother who made her rounds at the social clubs in Gross Pointe. As with all Gross Pointers, they always thought of themselves just a little bit better than everyone else in the Metro Detroit area, something that would eventually shift some fifteen years later when suburbs further out would catch up to the wealth in and around the Points.

Alan and Vanessa didn’t always live in Gross Pointe. As a matter of fact their first place was a large apartment in St. Clair Shores…which conveniently bordered Gross Pointe. Alan had always wanted to live in gross Pointe, so he made it his mission to get as close as possible until he could. Vanessa couldn’t be more enthusiastic about it. Her mother always said that the Gross Pointe yacht club was the ultimate social gathering spot. Once Alan finished graduate school and got his engineering job at GM, they moved into a small three bedroom house in Gross Pointe Woods. Two years later Tom was born.

Childbirth was hard on Vanessa. She had a thin, small frame, and weight gain did not sit well on her frame. Although her belly looked cute, the reality was that it was extremely painful for her, and caused significant head and back problems. Her Italian family teased her since the rest of the women in her family seemed genetically engineer to breed. However, Vanessa took on the traits of her father’s side of the family, which was from Northern Italy, and had more of a classical European look, tall, thin, blonde, blue eyes. Unfortunately, she missed out on the tall part. Labor took well over twenty four hours, but overall went without any significant problems. Tom was born at 4:13 a.m. on a rainy overcast day. Alan remarked since it was so miserable out, things could only get better for their son.

The early years on Tom’s life were quiet. Vanessa knew early on when she was Pregnant with Tom that her and Alan would be one an done parents. She wasn’t going to be having another kid and dealing with that all over again. Which was a shame for Tom, because he could have really used a sibling. For the most part Tom’s first few years were that of any other baby. Lots of family visits. Attention. Love. Although Vanessa and Alan weren’t smothering with their love, they were attentive and overall good parents. It could be said that at times Tom was more of a nuisance to Vanessa than a pleasure, but all parents go through moments like that. Sometimes you just don’t get to go to bridge club and you have to deal with it.

When Tom was almost four he was put into pre-school, and Vanessa couldn’t be happier. She could finally have the days back to herself. Alan was a bit more apprehensive. He thought they should keep Tom at home as long as they could. Alan didn’t win that argument.

Pre-school was hard for Tom to adjust to. He was used to being the center of attention in his family, especially at family get-togethers. Now he was just a face in the crowd. When at preschool, and into his first year of kindergarden, Tom would take the submissive route in class. He never raised his hand. Was slow to talk to other kids. And wasn’t very active in recess, a time when all kids should be going crazy.

Instead Tom sat and watched. He watched little Robbie Mathers always pick on Scott McMillian, no matter what they were doing. He’d watch Suzy Alexander pick her nose, and then eat it. He’d watch Mrs. Smith, their teacher, take a sip from her “special bottle” when she thought none of the other students were teaching. He was good at watching, so good that he’d learn people inside and out. So good that he know what they were going to do before they did. So good that he could tell you what a whole person’s day is going to be before they even thought about it.

Tom would use this in his pictures. It was evident he was good with his hands form an early age. His hand eye coordination was phenomenal from an early age. Crayons. Pencils. Paints. He could use them all, and use them significantly better than the rest of the class. Tom would take cartoon strips from the news paper and redraw them, free hand, but instead of the characters in the strip, he’d replace them with students from his classes, teachers, people he’d see at the store, anyone and everyone that he came into contact with. He’d create adventures for them. Things that these people never could possibly do in their real lives. But that never stopped Tom. If he could think it up, he could do it.

And that imagination of his was the one thing that truly prohibited Tom from excelling in school. By the first grade his teacher was always complaining to Alan and Vanessa that Tom never paid attention in class. He was always drawing, doodling, looking out the window, in a dazed state, when he should have been sitting there listening to the teacher. Of course, none of this made sense to Alan who didn’t understand why the teachers were so upset if Tom was still scoring highly on the assignments and tests. Of course, that didn’t matter to the teachers. They wanted control, total control, and Tom wasn’t doing what they wanted, so in their eyes he was trouble, and trouble isn’t tolerated, it’s put aside so it didn’t interfere with the other students who did follow the rules.

After a long discussion wit Vanessa, Alan decided to home school Tom for the second grade.

This was great for Tom, or at least he thought it was great. Tom absolutely adored his father. Being home schooled allowed him to spend even more time with him. Vanessa wasn’t thrilled, since she once again had to share the house with Tom during the day, but since Tom was older now and able to amuse himself and do things without direct supervision it didn’t bother her as much. Tom would race through the assignments that Alan gave him, getting them done as fast as possible so he could go back and draw, read, paint, build forts, Lego houses, whatever. It was perfect for Tom.

Then, the summer between his second and third grade year Alan and Vanessa left for a trip to Europe. They hadn’t been there since their honeymoon. Alan’s mother Jeanette was going to watch Tom for two weeks. Tom always enjoyed when Grandma J came over. Alan’s father had died before Tom was born, but that didn’t bother Alan much since he didn’t get along with his father to begin with, and their relationship had been strained since he had left Jeanette about fifteen years earlier. Grandma J would act as if everything Tom did was the most amazing thing in the world. She just sit and watch, smiling the whole time, as Tom would draw, paint, build, and explain ever step he did as if it was a home cooking show. Sometimes Grandma J would fall asleep while watching, but that didn’t bother Tom, she was old and old people need to take naps.

Alan picked up Grandma J from her house and brought her over. They packed the station wagon, and drove to the airport. Tom sat in the back seat with Grandma J. He loved the drive to the airport because they passed the Big Wheel, which he thought was the coolest thing ever. At the airpot they dropped off Alan and Vanessa, said their goodbyes. Alan had a little “man of the house” talk with Tom, telling him it was important that he made sure Grandma J took her heart pills, and he didn’t let anything happen to her. Tom took his job seriously, as Alan said this was serious business. With a pat on the head Alan and Vanessa went inside and Tom and Grandma J got back in the car.

On the drive back home Grandma J put on the oldies station. She always had the oldies station on. She loved oldies. She knew every song’s lyrics, which Tom thought was amazing. She was singing along to Good Vibrations when a news broadcast came over the radio about a plane crash. They didn’t have a lot of details, but Tom could see that Grandma J’s face was worried. She turned off the radio and just stared at the road ahead. When they got home Grandma J told Tom to go into his room. She had to do some important Grandma stuff and she needed to be sure that she wasn’t distracted. Tom did as he was told and played with some matchbox cars for a while.

After an hour or so he had to pee, so he went to the bathroom. He thought he heard Grandma J crying. Tom slowly walked down the hallway and to the top of the stairs. He looked down and into the family room and saw Grandma J sitting on the couch, her head buried in her hands, crying. On the TV was a news report showing some sort of fire. Tom was about to go downstairs, but instead backed away, and went back into his room. He climbed up onto his bed and sat there for a while, just staring at the wall. He knew something was wrong, but didn’t know what. After what seemed like hours Grandma J came in, sat down next to him, and told him that his parents were dead and that he was going to live with her now. She hugged him and held him tight. Tom didn’t cry, he wasn’t really sure how to feel, he didn’t really understand, but he knew that Grandma J was really really sad, and that he should be sad too.

The next day Uncle Will came over and helped Grandma J pack Tom’s stuff. A few other family members came over too. Aunt Tilly. Aunt Janice. The neighbors down the street dropped by. Everyone brought in food, flowers. Everyone wanted to know how Tom was doing. For the most part Tom just stayed in his room, sitting at his desk and playing with his little army guys. Uncle Will tried to talk to Tom a few times, but Tom never really answered back. Finally Uncle Will just patted him on the head and left him be. That night Tom just lay in bed and cried himself to sleep.

The wake and funeral were very overwhelming to Tom. He didn’t really understand. It seemed silly that they hung out at a funeral home instead of at his house. He played with his cousins, and got a lot of hugs from relatives, friends, and neighbors he didn’t really know. Everyone asked how he was doing. His parents were dead, how did they think he was doing? Of course he never said anything like that out loud. Instead he just kept it quiet, bottling it inside.

The funeral was very nice, at least Tom thought it was, but odd. There were two caskets, but no one was inside of them. Maybe that’s why it felt surreal to him. He still expected his parents to come home at any moment, walking into the funeral home and wanting to know why everyone was so sad. Of course that never happened.

Tom moved in with Grandma J, in St. Clair Shores, a few days later. Up until that point her and Uncle Will had been staying at Tom’s house. But Uncle Will explained to Tom that they needed to sell the house to pay off what his parents owed on it. He also overheard Uncle Will telling Gandma J they needed to invest the life insurance money for Tom, and that it should go into saving for college. Tom didn’t want to move out. He had a hard time letting go of it. It was his house. The only form of security he had left that reminded him of his parents. It was sad, and he screamed, but Uncle Will put Tom in his truck and they left.

Tom didn’t make any friends that summer. He just hung out in the park behind Grandma J’s house with his action figures. He didn’t draw much. He didn’t paint. There weren’t forts. There was just him and his little guys. He’d talk to them, as if it was a lecture session at a college. They talked about death. Life. What was important. Of course he tried to sound a lot more intelligent than he was, using words he didn’t know the meanings of, and were often not in the right context, but I guess it was Tom’s way of healing.

That fall Tom started school again. It was a disaster. After having been home schooled for the last two years, Tom didn’t know how to adjust to the rigamarole that regular school forced kids to do. Tom just wanted to get his work done so he could do other things. he didn’t know why he had to sit and be quiet when he was done with his test, or his work, or whatever. The only class Tom really felt relaxed was art class. He didn’t want to leave, and looked forward to when it came twice a week. Other kids hated it, they’d rather be in gym, but Tom loved it. It helped him feel normal again, and his art teachers loved him back.

Tom still didn’t make many friends, and didn’t talk much in class, which in turn just made the kids make fun of him. Some of it was brutal. A few kids would wait for Tom after school and beat him up, or at least try to, just because he “was weird.” Truth is, the kids were jerks and picking on someone just made them feel better about themselves. Tom was always able to handle himself, and fortunately never really got hurt. One time a kid jumped on his back. Tom immediately ran backwards and slammed the kid into the wall. The kid cut open the back of his head and had to get stitches. No one messed with Tom much after that.

The next year Michelle Perez moved in down the street from Tom. Michelle was a cute little girl with freckles and pig tails. She loved horses and would talk about them to anyone that would listen. Michelle’s father was a garbage man, and as soon as the kids found out the teasing never stopped. Maybe it was because she sensed Tom was an outcast too, maybe it was for some other reason, but Michelle sat with Tom on a bench one day for lunch. They didn’t talk, they didn’t even look at each other, they just sat together in silence and ate their sandwiches. It was the firs time either of them had felt normal since they got to that school.

School went on for Tom. He did well in school but was always in trouble for doing something he wasn’t supposed to be doing. Drawing. Writing. Not paying attention. He had more detentions without getting up from his seat than anyone else had ever gotten before in the history of the school. The principal, who in secret thought this was all dumb too, talked to Tom and wanted to know why he couldn’t just sit and be quiet. Tom said, “I do sit and am quiet. If I’m done with my work, and not talking, why does it matter if I’m drawing? Seems like an inefficient waste of time if you ask me.” That was something he remembered hearing his dad say when he was arguing with VAnessa about Tom’s behavior at school, it was ultimately the thing that mad Alan want to home school Tom. Alan thought a lot of things were an “inefficient waste of time.”

That summer while Tom was in the park a boy came up behind him. “My name’s John, what’s yours?” Tom didn’t answer. John wouldn’t give up, and just kept talking. He just moved there from Montana. He had a sister named Tammy. His cousin Mitch was living with them. He was older than Tammy. His dad drives a big tractor. He used to go camping a lot. He liked to fish. He just talked and talked until Tom finally warmed up to him. That night Tom was ecstatic and told Grandma J about the new boy that moved in. Grandma J didn’t remember hearing about anyone moving in the neighborhood, but she assumed she must have missed it. She’d had a cold for a long time lately, and her head had been cloudy,

Tom continued to hang out with John, and Tom eventually meet Tammy and Mitch, in the playground behind Grandma J’s house. However, whenever Tom wanted them to come to his house to play they always said they weren’t allowed….likewise their parents didn’t allow them to have friends over. John always said that his mom would rather live in a museum than a house, and made sure that everyone knew it. Either way, they had fun and played late into the nights. It really lifted Tom’s spirits and seemed to help him gain confidence in himself, at least that’s what Grandma J observed.

Tom continued to do well enough with his grades that he didn’t attract attention, but always excelled in art class. His “friendship” with Michelle continued on, sort of. They never talked to each other, but always ended up sitting next to each other in class, gym meeting, or whatever. Neither ever said a word, and if you asked them they’d both say that they didn’t know each other.

Jr. High was pretty bland for Tom. He usually sat by himself, but was polite enough to chit chat when talked to. If anything, he opened up a bit more. John, on the other hand, went to a private school, so Tom didn’t have him, Tammy, or Mitch to hang out with in school. Tom had a few friends at school he ate lunch with, albeit as more of a back ground personality. There was Kevin Lenters, who played trombone and loved to watch Speed Racer. Melissa Fender, who was in choir and had teeth that were just horrible. Karen Hughes, who was in band with Kevin, and rumored to have each been their first kiss. Peter Fantasmio, that was at least the last name he gave himself, that thought he was amazing at all sports. However, in reality, he was a chubby out of shape kid who for the most part complained everyone cheated when they beat him, and they always beat him. Frank Izzo, who was into role playing games and whatnot. And then there was Megan Shepard, Tom’s first crush.

Megan always sent Tom notes in science class asking what he was going to eat for lunch. It was weird. But it meant the world to Tom. For whatever reason he thought she really loved him. He was convinced they would get married. Sure, this was the head of a 13 year old, but he had it all figured out. At the spring dance she broke his heart when she decided to dance with Mike Chello instead of Tom, because Mike was cooler. Tom never really talked to girls again.

It was around this time that Grandma J had her first heart attack. Tom came home from school and found her passed out in the kitchen. He called 911 and they came and brought her to the hospital. She had a mild heart attack, the result of her not taking her medication. From that day on she needed a cane to walk, and was told to lose weight, although she never did. Each morning Tom made sure she took her pills. he wouldn’t go to school until he saw her take it.

Freshman year of high school was pretty uneventful. Tom got into the drama and art clubs, making a few new friends. It was about this time that John, Tammy, and Mitch moved away. John said something about having to move on now that he’d done what he needed to do. Tom was sad, but there wasn’t anything he could do. Tom found out he really liked acting, although loathed performing in front of crowds. He always thought that performing demeaned the idea of acting, as it was more of a case study of a fictitious personality, an exercise in the ultimate psychological study, instead of a form of entertainment. It was because of this idea that he never auditioned for a lead, he was usually a backup, and only played as secondary characters.

On the flip side his art got better and better. he quickly became the “art kid” in school. His drawings, projects, and everything else were usually showcased in various display cases in the school. Tom continued watch Michelle all through high school. They never shared as much as word between them. However, they each knew each others schedules, hobbies, and life. It was odd, but neither spoke of it, nor did they tell anyone else.

Tom decided to get his degree in graphic design. He lived at home with Grandma J, worried that if he left her she’d stop taking her pills. One morning Tom was about to leave, he had a big final in his classes, a 4 hour work session where they did some project that involved 3-d sculpture, and he noticed that Grandma J didn’t look so well. He was going to stay home but she insisted that he go, saying she had a flu. Begrudgingly he went. He did well on the test. When he came home he found Grandma J dead, in her chair.

Grandma J had become his whole world. She was the rock that his whole life was based on. No matter what happened to him he knew that she’d always be there. No matter what his friends did, what his classes did, she was there, arms wide open. He blamed himself and sat in the living room, alone, for hours after the authorities took the body away. It was Uncle Will who was the first to talk to him.

Uncle Will was always good to Tom. He was his favorite uncle. Maybe it was because he looked so much like his dad, Alan. Maybe it was because he always had a good joke about everything. Regardless, he was Tom’s favorite, and is put Tom at ease to talk to him. Will stayed there for several hours with Tom. For a long time they didn’t say anything. Will knew that when Tom was ready to talk he would. Will had lost his mother, Tom had lost his grandmother, they each needed each other. Tom stayed with Will for a few weeks, until things calmed down for him.

Will never married, so his house was quiet, which didn’t really bother Tom much, since he didn’t really want to be bothered by noise. Tom always had suspicions that Will was gay, but never asked him about it. He just knew it was strange that a grown man in his 50s never married, and as long as he could remember never had a girlfriend. Sometimes there are things a family doesn’t talk about. Sometimes. But Tom knew that the only way this was normal was if Will was a priest, and he wasn’t, so he knew something was up. Not that any of this really mattered. Tom found it fascinating. That a grown man would hide his life from people for so long, worried about what others might say or do.

Things had to be settled with Grandma J’s estate, or lack thereof. Unlike when he was a child and all of this stuff was taken care of by his relatives, Tom was very active with Grandma J’s affairs. He and Uncle Will carried out the will of Grandma, making sure everything went the way she had planned. Tom was left with a substantial amount of savings, left in a trust fund until he was 21, six months away, along with the money left from his parents life insurance. In addition, her house was left, paid for, for the family to decide on. Many wanted to sell the house and split the earnings up, but Will asked if Tom wanted it. Tom decided he did, and would live there. It was his home. And he wasn’t ready to leave it, not like he had to leave his house. He wasn’t ready.

However, once there, alone, without someone else to keep him company Tom really started to get scared. He didn’t have friends. No one came over other than Uncle Will to look for things now and then in the basement. Tom finished his AA degree in graphic design and had a lot of trouble finding work. He got an odd job here and there, but not enough to make a living on. Fortunately, he was able to live off the interest on the savings from Grandma J. However, it was during this time that he started to get really depressed. Never an outgoing person, Tom didn’t have much human contact. Without a job he didn’t have much of a routine. Without Grandma J’s encouragement he stopped believing that he could do anything. He spent the better part of a week in his bedroom, just crying. He missed his grandmother, his mom, his dad…he was sad, but also angry, angry that he never got to live the life that he thought he should have lived. The life that he thought all kids lived.

Little league. Peewee football. Hockey. Baseball games with his dad. Long car trips with the family to Virginia Beach. Prom. Dating. Things that he’ll never get the chance to do again. Things that he’ll only be able to live out in fantasy. Things that he always saw other people doing, either in books, on TV, or in the movies. He really felt along, trapped, at a dead end, like there was no way out.

When Tom felt like everything was out of reach, at he deepest, darkest time, there was a knock at the door. Tom answered and it was a grown man. He looked somewhat familiar to Tom and said he was here about the ad in the paper about a roommate. Tom was surprised. He didn’t remember putting an ad in the paper, let alone looking for a roommate. Must have been something Uncle Will did without telling him.

Tom and the man sat at the table in the kitchen and talked for a while. Tom told him about his grandmother passing away, in the house, and if the man was okay with it. He said he was, and actually used to play in the park behind the house when he was a kid. He knew a lady who lived here with her grandson, and wondered what ever happened to them. Then they realized that they knew each other. It was John. They hugged and quickly caught up. John worked for an engineering firm, much like Alan used to. Tammy is in college, graduates in a year. Mitch is in a band, but mostly just hangs out in his apartment and smokes pot. It’s likely that he’d end up hanging out here a lot if John moved in. Excited about getting the old gang back together, and maybe having a second chance at his childhood, Tom jumped at the chance of having John move in.

With some interaction Tom started to come out of his shell a little bit, but was still miserable, and this bothered John. When asked about it, Tom said more than anything that he just wished he could find a job. After that he knew that the other things would fall into place. John thought that maybe between he, Mitch, and Tammy, they could come up with something. The foursome at down and tried to figure out what Tom could do. It was then that Mitch had an idea. Tom liked to draw, what about starting your own comic. Tom didn’t like the idea, he didn’t have subject matter. John suggested that he could do storied based on where John works.

John said all sorts of shenanigans goes down at the office. Affairs in the supply closet. People stealing in the warehouse. Incompetent management. Hooligans skateboarding in the parking lot. There must he hundreds, if not thousands of stories that he could write about. Tom started to warm up to the idea. He said that he’d only do it if Tom agreed that no subject matter was off limits. Any story was a go. John was hesitant, but in the end gave in. That night everyone celebrated with beer and pizza. However, the next morning there was a ton of beer in the fridge, and most of the pizza was left. Tom figured that must be how they all stay to skinny…no eating.

A bit of backstory about a few bad experiences that Tom had growing up. Ever since he realized that his parents died in a plane crash Tom has been scared of planes. Both looking at them and getting on them. He had a panic attack once when he and Grandma J were going to fly to Long Island to visit some family. They ended up having to cancel the trip. John only got as far as the tunnel into the plane.

Tom should have been a decent enough of an athlete growing up. His father played Varsity football, basketball, and baseball. However, Tom never really got into sports, probably because his father passed away before he could really get Tom interested in anything. Nonetheless, Tom always felt that he should be playing sports, it was something inside him that just screamed, “Hey, this is something your supposed to be good at, give it a whirl, you might surprise yourself.” But Tom never really got a whole lot of a chance. Since he was so shy he was typically picked last in gym class. Instead of paying attention to directions he was day dreaming. So, when push came to shove, he usually failed at any sport he tried. By junior high he had given up on sports completely.

There is one sport though, one activity, that he will always hate more than anything else, kickball. 3rd grade gym was all about kick ball. The first time they played it he couldn’t kick a single ball, and when they did it was a pop fly that was caught. Then came recess. Tom didn’t want to play. He insisted on just sitting in the corner. However, Jimmy Hailey said they needed a pitcher, all he had to do was roll the ball. Roll the ball, that’s it. Tom gave in. First play of the game Tom did as he was told, he rolled the ball, it was kicked, and SMACK, hit him right in the face, breaking his nose, which is where he got the bump on the arch of his nose from.

Then there are the clowns. Oh the clowns. How he loathes clowns. It all started at the mall. Grandma J took him to the store to buy him some pants. He needed new jeans because the ones he had had worn knees in all of them and Grandma wasn’t about to sew patches onto all of them. Unbeknownst to Tom the circus was in town that day and doing some PR at the mall. Grandma J told Tom to sit where he was and she was going to go find some pants in his size. Of course, Tom didn’t listen and wandered around the clothes area, eventually getting lost. He started crying just as the clowns made their way into the store he was in. So here was a dazed, confused, Tom, crying his eyes out, and faces with bright, laughing, clowns everywhere he turned who all instinctively wanted to help the crying boy (I mean, come on, clowns aren’t bad people, and in this the people behind the clowns were legit concerned about Tom and why he was crying). They followed him around, trying to calm him down, and figure out what was wrong, but instead just freaked out Tom even more. Finally Grandma J burst throughout the crowd to tom’s rescue, like He-Man plowing through some of Skeletor’s minions, but it was already too late. The damage had been done. Tom has avoided clowns at all cost ever since then.

Tom isn’t a big fan of cab rides either. He’d much prefer driving himself than to taking a cab, even if that means it inconveniences him a lot. It all started when he was about twelve. Grandma J had to go to the hospital for a checkup but Tom had an appointment to get his hair cut that Grandma J wasn’t about to reschedule. She told Tom that at 12:30 a cab would come and get him and take him to the barber. She’d pick him up on her way home. The cab arrived and two middle eastern men, presumably brothers, were in the front seat. Tom got in. The back seat was filthy. Tom has this thing about sitting on stuff and getting the seat of his pants dirty. He sat on mud once and was teased that he’d pooped his pants the rest of the day at school. Ever since then he’s been worried about it. at any rate, Tom sat on his hands. The cab drivers were more interested in arguing with themselves than driving Tom. To this day Tom has no idea what they were arguing about, since it was in another language. But during the trip, the driver, super angry, stopped the car in the middle of an intersection and was in a fist fight with the passenger. Car whipped by, horns, sirens, eventually three cop cars were there, guns drawn, pointing at the cab, yelling. It was a disaster. Tom’s avoided cabs ever since.

Back to Tom’s life…John’s lived there for almost three years now. Tom has his comic “Everyday” published in six newspapers throughout the state. The money is slim, but Tom keeps at it. He’s tried to get it into more newspapers but nothing works. Tom’s “agent,” Leonard Mortimer the Third (how he introduces himself), a buddy of Uncle Will’s, seems more interested in his other clients than helping Tom grow his strip. Tom still continues to stay inside a lot, mostly in the basement, which he has turned into his studio. He has a pet hamster named Unjammer, which is from a game he played back in the day on the Playstation.

Tom’s routine is pretty bland. He wakes up at 8:00 everyday, typically as John is heading out for work. He has way too much coffee. Then he works at his comic, or tries to, putting together a strip, or several strips in a single day. He doesn’t get out much. Really the only time he leaves is to go to the grocery store. That’s where he see’s her, Michelle. She works as the assistant manager at the deli. Tom loves salami, and buys a lot of it, so he sees Michelle a lot. However, their conversations never evolve much past him asking for a pound of salami, and a quarter pound of muenster cheese. There was time when Tom thought he heard Michelle say something about looking forward to seeing him next week, but he assumed she was saying it to someone else.

Next up, Michelle.



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