So, before I begin with the writing part of my writing blog, the Kobo is a little bit bad for me, as I like to read multiple books at the same time. Right now, on the Kobo, I'm pushing through both The Passage and The Angel's Game, two, wildly, different books. The latter of which, on a side note, if you go to the web-site, has a pretty nice soundtrack, written and composed by the author Carlos Zafon Ruiz, for free and downloadable.
Now, on with the writing. Much like my reading I'm stuck between two projects. One - a zombie novel, as I've mentioned in a previous post. Truthfully I'm not sure if it's a full fledged novel yet, as I've only the idea for it and am currently writing it and can see it turning into a novella or short story. Two - is "Davie St." A 'Tales of the City' type story about a group of friends just trying to find their piece of happiness in the world.
I recognize that it's an embarrassment of riches when you have multiple ideas to write about but, also, wish that a clear winner would approach the forefront and just take over for me.
(Tip) Unlike with Stephen King, alcohol hasn't made the decision for me, sadly.
So I'm going to put my rough draft's for each of those first novels on here and we'll see who wins the vote. I realize that I only have two readers, which makes this, sorta redundant, but those two readers have very good taste, so I, most likely, will listen to their opinion. Unless, that is, there are more of you out there that haven't posted comments yet. If so, I invite you to do so now.
Hell In A Hand-Basket
Hell in a Hand Basket
Hell in a hand basket wasn’t all it was cracked up to be.
Awoken by a loud crash in the alley behind their house, Carlos sat up quickly. His wife, Sarah, remained asleep, oblivious to the noise. For whatever reason, he found himself covered in sweat. Was it a dream, the noise, and that’s why his heart was racing, or was it real? Sitting quietly, he listened, over Sarah’s deep breathing, waiting for something else to go bump in the night.
Another crash and what sounded like a yelp.
The cats were back, he was sure. The previous summer he had been forced to store his trash in the garage, a small ten by something rectangle, just big enough to park a car in, with barely enough extra to open the doors and squeeze in. They had always laughed that the garage was their weight loss motivation. If either of them gained any weight, the car would be stuck there, they wouldn’t be able to get to it anymore, and they would end up having to ask one of their skinny friends to back it out for them.. During the hot days of summer the trash, sitting in that small space, was anything but funny. Smelly, yes, funny, no.
“I’m not doing that again.” He pushed the sheets off and walked toward the window. His head peaked above the sill and he could see out toward the fence but nothing past that.
“Bloody, hell.” He muttered under his breath, afraid to wake Sarah.
In the dark he fumbled around for his bath robe, a terry cloth looking thing that was on the verge of becoming rags. It had been Sarah’s second anniversary present to him, cotton being the theme, and he refused to give it up, until it refused hang on his shoulders anymore, he would keep it. Thinking of how many holes had popped up all over the thing; Carlos gave a brief thought to throwing on a pair of shorts, as well. After another crash, however, he settled for synching it tighter around the waist and hoped that the wind wouldn’t pick up and show him off to the neighbourhood.
Outside the spring air quickly embraced him, sneaking up the robe, and causing goose pimples to burst out all over. “Christ.” A flashlight in hand, he walked down the narrow path toward the back gate and, with a quick fumble, released the latch. Not being level, the gate swung wide, of its own accord, but stopped short of slamming into the fence.
There was a grunt from behind the wooden gate. Turning and pulling the gate back closed, at the same time, Carlos flicked the light on, with his free hand, and screamed.
There were cats, dead cats, a few of them, strewn around the garbage cans, but it was the man, hunched over, flesh falling from his face, that rattled Carlos.
“What the…” Was all he managed to get out before the man lurched towards him. The gate saved Carlos. In that instant, he was thankful for being such a lazy fuck and for his propensity for procrastination. Had he fixed the gate, levelled it, so it didn’t swing wide and slam into the fence, every time it was opened, it wouldn’t have hit the man, with such force, and it wouldn’t have become a barricade. The man wouldn’t have slammed his shoulder into it and been unable to grab Carlos. Had he fixed it he would have never seen the man and there would have been no obstacle between the two of them.
When the man lunged and when his shoulder crashed into the gate, the gate closed. Carlos was now alone in the alley, without a clear path back to his house. He had to flee, robe and all, down the alley. Turning, he ran and tried not to notice how the hard pavement assaulted his bare feet. He felt the noticeable tweak of sliced skin and remembered the small party of homeless people that had been breaking bottles in ‘said’ alley, the night before. It didn’t matter, cuts could heal, sore feet could be massaged, but life was delicate and fragile. A hot bath and some Kenny G couldn’t get you breathing again.
Behind him, he could hear the feet, with shoes, hitting the ground, crunching glass, but no breathing. Inside, he had been challenged to hear anything over the sound of his wife’s breath, but, out here, a man running behind him, he could hear nothing, nothing but the distant sounds of the carnival that should have been closed hours ago. Things were not right with the world, Carlos could tell you that, but he wasn’t able to place any of it. Now wasn’t the time for explanations or extrapolations, now was the time for running.
Thankfully the man was drunk, or high, so it didn’t take long to outpace him. At the end of the alley, Carlos came to a stop, turning to see how far ahead he was and whether or not the man had given up. There, half way between his closed gate and where he stood now, stood the man. Silhouetted by the moon and the dark of the alley, Carlos could see a man with a laboured posture. He half stood half hunched and he seemed to have poor motor skills. Limping down the alley at Carlos, the man could barely walk.
“Fuck you!” He yelled at the man. Considering himself, somewhat, liberal, his stance on the homeless had always been one of sympathy. After tonight, though, Carlos found that he might change his stance. The guy had been eating cats, in the alley behind his house. What if Sarah had gotten pregnant and they had a child and the child had seen that, he wondered? Could you spell T H E R A P Y?
Looking down at the sidewalk he could see the bloody imprint of his feet and suddenly all those cuts from all those pieces of glass hit him all at once. The pain was succinct and sustained. “Holy shit!” Now, the small walk, back around the block and to the front door, seemed like too far a place to go. “Holy shit.” He said, again, for no reason and to nobody but himself. A quick glace back down the alley told him the man had given up; someone else’s trash had become more tempting. “Fuck you!” The cussing seemed to make things better, if only slightly.
Limping down the sidewalk, passing quiet home after quiet home, Carlos became aware that his robe was open and he was showing off his birthday suit. Rearranging himself and synching the robe tighter, Carlos found he didn’t care much if his neighbours saw him naked. Making other men jealous was always a little bit rewarding, he thought. The humour of such bravado and the situation he had just found himself in and their juxtaposition made him smile.
A single siren preceded the flashing lights and Carlos stopped where he stood and watched a small procession of emergency vehicles come around the corner and drive down his block. They were off to the carnival; something must have happened there, he thought. Maybe a ride broke? Seeing how quickly the rides went together and the motley crew who did the assembling, it wouldn’t be much of a surprise, Carlos knew. A few of the vehicles, ambulances, passed him, without notice, but one of the next stopped, it was a military looking armoured van. The world around Carlos lit up as a flood light, attached to the passenger side window, cut through the night and caught him in its gaze.
“Place your hands behind your head and get on your knees.” A big, disembodied, voice echoed between the rows of houses.
“What’s going on?” Carlos followed the directions. In movies and books it never paid off to ignore disembodied voices, especially when they were attached to military vehicles.
Now, a smaller voice, from inside the van, spoke, but not to him, instead it was talking to the others in the van. “He’s safe, he can follow directions.” The side of the van opened, a big sliding door, and Carlos could see that it was already, almost, full of people, each in different outfits, some had been at clubs, some, presumably, walking their dogs, a leash in hand, with no dog in sight.
“In the car, sir.” It wasn’t so much a command as a strong recommendation. The kid, the smaller voice, had gotten out of the passenger side and was now standing to the side of Carlos. There was no other word but ‘kid’ to describe him, Carlos thought. He was a young, looking, eighteen year old, probably fresh out of boot camp and now, here on his block.
“What’s going on?”
“Terrorist attack. It’s happening all over the world. Please get in the vehicle.” This time the please sounded a bit desperate, as though the kid knew that if he had to ask a third time that things would get ugly, and that as much as he didn’t want them to get ugly he had no problem dealing with ugly, should it happen. “Our orders are to round up whoever we see, who are still normal, and bring them back.”
“My wife.” Carlos nodded with his head towards his house, just within his sight, a few houses down.
“We are not to enter the premises of any building. It’s too dangerous.” It was now that Carlos noticed, for the first time, that the kid was holding an AK-47 on his shoulder. “We can, however, contact her and inform her to stay inside and when we begin going into homes and remove her, at that time.” Now the kid broke ranks, somewhat. He leaned toward Carlos and a look of sympathy spread across his face. “It sucks, it’s not the answer you want, and I understand, but you need to know that I’ve…we’ve been instructed to shoot any runners. This thing is happening too fast and things are too strange for any chances to be taken, so it’s into the van or….” He let it hang.
“Or I’m shot?” Carlos was having a hard time understanding the situation, completely.
“Behind him!!!” The big voice yelled.
Carlos could see everyone in the van look up and past him and he could see the kid swing the gun off his shoulder and into his arms, like second nature. He turned around, to see what was causing such a situation and quickly noted that the man from the alley had crept between two homes and was now charging at them, if limping could be considered charging. Carlos was about to explain that the man was just drunk before he saw that the man could only be dead. Skin was flailing about, loose and unattached, and the limping was caused by a broken bone in the man’s leg, just below the kneecap the leg bent at a dramatic and sickening angle. More than anything, however, it was the man’s eyes that told Carlos he was dead. They were void of everything and slightly fogged over, as if drying out.
“Get in the van.” The kid’s voice had grown up, in that moment, and Carlos, again, did as he was told.
Quickly, Carlos scrambled into the van, finding a seat next to a girl, in a prom dress, and across from a father and daughter, the father was holding the girls head toward his chest while bending his neck, trying to look out the door, to see what everyone else was looking at.
The door swung shut and then there were a few loud pops, as the guns ripped through the man on the lawn.
A small dome light gave enough illumination for everyone to see one another. Carlos was about to ask a question when the girl, her face no longer buried in her father’s chest, spoke up. “I can see your dink.” She was pointing at Carlos’ crotch. He looked down and remembered, suddenly, that he was still in his holy robe.
“I’m sorry.” He pulled at the lapels and tried to close the gap down his front. Barely succeeding he tied it closed and began to cry. His wife, asleep in the bed, unaware of a changed world, awaiting her in the morning, was the only thought he could muster. He had to get back to her.
The sex was good, as it always was, a bit athletic, a little sweet and, seemingly, passionate. Now Brad was watching as Allen put his clothes back on. Stretched out on the bed, naked and a bit sticky, the sheets were strewn into a mess near the footboard, Brad observed as Allen, almost with a sense of embarrassment, slipped his underwear on. Allen had a retired baseball player physique, a bubble butt, a growing belly, but still, years after his last ‘real’ work out, retained the muscular mass of his youth. The big difference between the Allen of twenty years ago and the Allen of now, Brad knew, was the wedding ring on the finger and the two kids at home. Other than that, he still had a full head of thick red hair and tight, taught, skin over his body, gravity had yet to mark him with age, it seemed. A delight to look upon, Brad always thought.
“Same bat time?” Brad asked, hoping.
“Same bat channel.” Allen replied, as he slipped on his last shoe and, grabbing his jacket from off the bedroom floor, walked towards the door.
There was nothing else to say. This was a relationship without illusions. It was only about the sex, always about the sex and would remain about the sex. Still, to hear Allen say ‘Same bat channel’ was enough to send Brad’s heart aflutter. He asked every time, their code for same time next week, and, each week, he feared the letdown. Easy or soft, whenever it came, it would hurt the same. Instead, each week he was elated with the news that next Monday, like the previous eighteen Mondays, Allen would be back. First he would call, then he would come over, then they would spend the afternoon in each other’s arms and then he would leave again, their cyclical ritual repeated.
Once Allen had closed the door and once Brad heard his car start and then leave, Brad got out of bed. His body ached, he wasn’t the twenty year old he used to be, he thought. Holding those positions for extended periods of time used to be so much easier. Instead the twenty year old resided in a forty five year old body. All the desires and ideas were there, the body just wasn’t able to keep up anymore. It was a race to the bath room; having reached room temperature, the ejaculate began to slide down his chest and belly. Usually Allan stayed a bit longer, usually they showered together before he left but this time he was in a hurry. Something was going on, Brad knew, whether it was the beginning of the end or just a hiccup he didn’t know.
The phone rang.
He was one of the last people he knew to still have an actual land line phone in his house, as well as a cell phone. The old rotary phone, bought at a thrift shop, hung in the kitchen. A towel pressed against his front he went to answer it.
“You don’t waste any time, do you?” He knew who it was. It was the only part of the Monday tradition that Allen wasn’t a part off, the weekly call from Jeff, his ex and friend and neighbour from across the street.
“I try not to. I’m just jealous though, so don’t mind me.” Due to the age and condition of the phone, his voice came across, metallic and with a slight echo, when, in reality, Jeff had a booming movie announcer tone.
“Nothing to be jealous of, in fact, I think I’m actually more depressed every time I go through with this.”
“Yeah I can see how having sex with a hot, married, straight guy can be depressing.”
“How straight can he be if he’s on top of me, once a week? Besides it’s the whole, I’m substituting something real for something temporary and something hollow. There’s all the pretence of some type of relationship, before we actually have sex, and then as soon as we’re done I get to watch him slink out of the room, as though he was just discovered jerking off by his grandparents. There’s nothing to be romanticised about that, believe me.”
“Well, in my head, it’s very romantic and fun and sexy. Besides, if you’re still hooking up, months after the first time, then I can assume the sex is fantastic?”
“I can honestly say it’s the best sex I’ve ever had.”
“Ouch, I’m offended.” Jeff gave a canned laugh, almost hiding his pain. First they had been lovers, for six months, then, later, friends. “Besides, since you guys finished a bit early this time, I thought you might want to go out for lunch with the guys today?”
It was the weekly ritual that Brad hadn’t kept since meeting Allen, the Monday brunch. Though, he could say, that missing it had become his knew ritual. The idea of going, after months away, was tempting but the idea of going, after months away, having an affair, was daunting too. Everyone would guess that they had broken up, as though there was anything to break up, and the questions, and assumptions, would come.
“Sure.” Brad looked down at his chest; the hairs were swirled together, pasted into clumps with bodily fluids. “I’ve got to shower first, though, so give me about twenty, and then come over.” He paused. “And you know I didn’t mean anything by it.” ‘It’ referred to the comment about the best sex and ‘it’ referenced the failed romantic relationship that existed between him and Jeff.
“I know.” The line went dead. Brad knew that Jeff still had feelings. Brad had, over the years, done his best to make sure those feelings always stayed at bay, never flaring up, but, now and then, like today, an uncomfortable moment occurred. One of the drawbacks, Brad had come to understand, to remaining friends with the men you had used to fuck.
From the bedroom his cellphone rang. “Jesus.” His eyes rolled and he began walking toward the sound. “From one end of the place to the other.” He maneuvered around furniture and corners, while holding the towel to his chest.
On the simple, white, beside table, sat two cell phones, each looking identical to the other. Brad and Allen had the same phone, down to the ring tone, a pre-packaged faux phone ring. The difference between the two was that Brad’s had a long scratch down the front display. His hand swung down to pick up the phone and, doing so, the towel began to fall and he quickly grabbed at it, not wanting to stain his carpet with lube and sperm. Then while holding the towel and accessing if there had been any dripping onto the beige, apartment style, carpet, he grabbed the phone and answered it.
As soon as he said “Hello?” he knew that he had fucked up.
“Hello?” A female voice spoke back. “Is Allen around?” Confused.
Shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, was all Brad could think, he could feel the blood falling from his face. It was the first time he had ever heard the voice of Allen’s wife. Previously, in his mind, he had always given her a much more ‘hag’ like sound but here she was speaking with a cute, sultry, voice.
“I’m sorry…” He began, not, entirely, knowing where he was going with this. “I found this phone…at the bank.”
“He forgot his phone again? Wow. And at the bank…again.” She seemed unfazed and, almost, expectant of this type of thing. “He’s going to be out of town, for the week, flying out today, is there any way we could meet, I could pick it up from you, at a coffee shop or something?”
He was flying out of town? For the week? This was all Brad seemed to have heard. He was about to ask where Allen was going and wondering to himself why Allen hadn’t told him anything, before he came to his senses. “Ummm, sure, yeah, let’s meet at Leonardo’s on Davie? You know where that is?”
“I happen to be very familiar with Leo’s. Is three, alright?”
“Good, I’ll be the one with a Celtics baseball cap on. My name’s Claire, by the way.”
“Sounds like a plan…” He stumbled, not wanting, unwilling, to use his name, he chose his middle name. “I’m Robert.”
“See ya then.” The line went dead.
“This can’t be happening.” He spoke to himself and was hoping that a voice, from whomever and wherever, would either respond with a resounding yes or no, as, suddenly, he felt things swing out into twilight zone territory. “And what is the Celtics?”
Alright, remember that these are the first drafts and 'very' unpolished. They are, literally, the rumblings of ideas put on digital paper.
I appreciate your opinions and hope you like them.