Archive for the 'Second Novel' Category

06
Nov
08

Writer’s block…yeah it sucks

I’ve been blocked for six months now. It’s no coincidence that this coincides with the time I’ve been in training with the Army. But it’s a horrible feeling for a writer.

I read once that one of my favorite authors, Kurt Vonnegut, used to worry that he would lose his gift–his writing ability would simply vanish. I have the same fear. I wonder if my ideas will dry up and I’ll have nothing left to say.

When I’m relaxed–my creativity flows and the writing process is trance-like. My first book was almost easy, if not published…. I’ve begun a second, and I’m not sure that I’ll ever finish it. That’s not to say that I won’t begin another one, though. Before I went to basic, I published the first chapter of my second book here: https://magus71.wordpress.com/2008/04/19/my-second-novel-chapter-1/

Well–here’s the secnd chapter….

Chapter 2

 

The best thing about being out of prison is air conditioning. I know that’s a strange thing, but Jonny really likes air conditioning. Growing up, it always seemed that people who had air conditioning in their homes had their shit together. This air conditioning is blowing through the vents of Nameless-Man’s Lexus. Jonny reclines in the leather seat, arms folded across his chest, eyes closed. Put your seatbelt on, Jonny. He can’t hear me like you can, just a habit I have. He’s not wearing his seatbelt, partly because he never completely shucked off his rebel nature, and partly because a sliver of him still wouldn’t mind being vaulted through the front window of a nice car. With air conditioning.

     “First thing’s first. You need clothes, a car, and a woman.  Any preferences?”

     “I don’t do suits. Something fast. Anyone who won’t make me nuts—more nuts.”

     Nameless-Man nods. “We can do that.” He spins the steering wheel a hard right. The car bumps up into a car lot. “Anything you see here?”

     Jonny’s eyes pop open. He shades them from the light with his hand while surveying the lot. He points. “That right there. The black Acura.”

     They both step onto the hot tar, walk to the Acura.

     “That what you want?”

     Jonny looks inside the tinted window, trying hard to ignore his own reflection. He hates his reflection. Six speeds, onboard nav-computer. “This is the one.”     

      “Be right back.” As Nameless-Man trots off toward the office, Jonny continues examining the leather upholstery. Through the tint, he can’t see many flaws; just a few crumbs wedges into the creases of the passenger seat.

     “She’s all yours.” Turning, Jonny’s hit in the sternum with a set of jingling keys. He catches them before they hit the ground, presses the flesh of his thumbs into the key grooves as he studies the man in front of him. “I’m going back in to finish some of the paperwork. You know how to get to the Seven Eleven, up the street?” The man thumbs north. Jonny nods, opens the car door.

     Inside the car, he can smell the leftovers of someone’s dog, some sort of Sheppard, Jonny decides, from the long hairs woven into the floorboard upholstery. That doesn’t matter. This is still the best car Jonny’s ever had. He slips it into first, and rolls to the edge of the parking lot, turns right onto the road.  He reaches the Seven Eleven, pauses the car in the road, staring through the dark lenses of his sunglasses at the parking lot. Who the fuck is Joe, he’s thinking. And why should I talk to him, when I could just fuel up, grab a case of Bud, and be done with all this shit. He edges his car to a back corner of the parking lot. Sits for a while watching rednecks meander in.

     The Jester likes all kinds. Age doesn’t matter; man, woman, toad. Toads don’t get the Jester’s adrenaline amped up to really high levels though, mostly because there’s so few sentient life forms that will appreciate atrocities committed upon toads. Planting a forest of worts upon a thirteen year old girl’s nose may cause psychosis. The toad however wouldn’t know the difference and his friend’s would simply sit stoically nearby, like grotesque Buddahs, or gimping around in cool mud. No fun at all. Everyone, even the Jester, needs to feel noticed and like the child who can’t get attention for brushing his teeth properly, or keeping his elbows off the table at dinner, the Jester is prone to screaming in the grocery store, or kicking grownups in the shins while wearing an inane smile.

     So humans are the preferred victims, mostly because they love pain—both in themselves and others. Some love victimhood, some express glee at the misfortunes of others, but all worship pain in some way.

     Except for one: Joe.

 

     Jonny knows who Joe is the second he sees the man. Why he would know this, he can’t say, but subconsciously knowing the Jester as he does and knowing the mark left by the Fool, Jonny makes a connection. There’s Joe, in the blazing sun, cooking on the blacktop, an opaque, white beard hanging just below his Adam’s Apple. He’s limping, maybe from an old war wound, Jonny surmises. He’s wearing a pair of unfashionably faded jeans, sneakers with Velcro straps; sneakers that Joe would surely call “tennis.” His t-shirt, red, says “Gotta go, Gotta go!” on the back. Johnny estimates Joe’s to be midfifties. A ball cap finishes the look of a retiree’s mocking surrender to age. None of this tells Jonny that Joe is indeed Joe. What does, is the fact that Joe’s pushing around a steel oxygen tank on a two-wheeled cart. A tube sways between Joe and the tank, crawling up his chest and reaching into his nose like snot-prodding vines. All the time, while laboriously sniffing pure O2, Joe brushes unseen specks of dirt from the 7-11 parking lot, a small push-broom in hand, a dustpan hanging from his belt. Joe’s not huffing and puffing for his sweeping effort, he’s breathing hard for breathing’s sake.

     Jonny parks his best car ever, slouches down in the seat, watching Joe do his work. Joe carries the oxygen tank as if it’s only a can of soda, setting it aside to pick bubble-gum wrappers from the base of the building, or to lift trash bags from bins. Joe disappears around the corner of the store.

     Jonny cares. He gets out of the car, slams the door and walks to the back of the building where he last saw Joe. There, he finds him, standing next to a garbage dumpster, repeatedly flicking a lighter under a filterless cigarette. His oxygen tube hangs flaccidly under his chin, suspended by a plastic loop.

     “That off?” asks Jonny, nudging his chin at the tank.

     “Nope.” Joe continues flicking his lighter. He holds it to the sun and shakes it, squinting for lighter fluid, then resumes his flicking. Jonny feels a sense of shock at Joe’s lack of frustration.

     “You, Joe?”

     “Got the password?” says Joe, lowering his cigarette after a satisfying draw.

     “What password? I wasn’t given a password. I don’t even know why I’m here.”

     “I know why you’re here, but without the password, I can’t help you.”

     Jonny shrugs. “Fine. I don’t need this anyway. Something from a man named Joe, who wants a password that I know nothing of and should have been given to me by a man I met for the fist time today.” He shifts to leave.

     “Wait.” Joe’s face is serious, crystal blue smoke curling from his barely separated lips, up through his mustache, recycling through his nostrils. His chest heaves with the breathing. Suddenly, laughter gushes out of him like a burst water main; heavy laughter crackling with phlegm and coming to a close with deep, baritone coughs. He takes his hat off, wipes a sheen of sweat from his balding, sun-spotted head. “That’s your first lesson. First lesson right there. Stop trying so hard to not care. There is no password. If you want to not care, then don’t, but stop posing.” The way he says posing indicates a familiarity with a skateboarder underground. Jonny imagines Joe performing Nollies and Railstands down at the bus stop, his oxygen tank harnessed to his back, the kids circling in awe. Skate Legend Joe.

     Plowing through his intermittent cough, Joe continues. He looks really serious now. “You may not be the worst case of faking it that I’ve seen.” He waves his hand in the direction behind Jonny. “See that?” A kid, seventeen, maybe even in college, walks into the store. He’s wearing gaudy plaid pants, different colored shoes, his head shaven bald. His ears are studded with all variety of metal piercings. His nose has one too. “That kid right there—he’s a harder case than you. He’s all like—‘Look at me, Look at me! See, I don’t care!’” Joe flaps his arms and does a little jig. His foot bumps his oxygen tank, knocking it over. Jonny expects the clang of metal to be accompanied by a gaseous explosion. “And that kid won’t be able to not care until he has something bad happen to him. Maybe many bad things. He can’t relax, he’s always worried that someone may think that he’s normal, that he stands out in no way, means nothing and will mean nothing to this world.”

     “Look, why am I here? That’s all I want to know.”

     “I’m your trainer.” Joe looks Jonny up and down. “And you have a lot to learn.” He smashes his cigarette butt into the pavement.

     “About what?”

     “Self-defense, women, the world you think is real and in fact is, but not as real as you think.”

     “You’re wasting my fucking time, Joe. And I’ve spent the last two years wasting my own time.”

     Joe doesn’t flinch at all at the rage that’s seeping from Jonny, he simply begins sweeping around the garbage dumpster. “I’m just about done here for today. Just hold on about five more minutes. I’ll clock out and we’ll head to my place.”

    

***

       

     “Probably been a while since you had one of these.” Joe slides a bottle of Amstel Light across the kitchen table at Jonny, who sips from it. Joe sits down with his own bottle, lights another cigarette, and gazes at the tabletop, pondering. He reaches down and does something to his oxygen, pulls the tubes from his nostrils. “Look, what I’m about to tell you is going to confuse the hell out of you. You won’t believe me, you’ll want to leave. But I’ll keep giving you good beer so you won’t. And some lung cancer too, ‘cause you love that.” He held a cigarette out for Jonny. “Jonny, this world is messed up.”

     “No shit, really?”

     “Yeah, really. And it’s messed up because of there are things going on behind the scenes that few glimpse. They think it’s all random and some of it is, because the asshole behind all of this can’t be everywhere at once. He has limits. Limits that the universe placed on him lest the cosmos become a three-ring circus. But the universe likes to be entertained. Kind of like a Roman emperor. It knows that rules and law are what give him manifest power, but it doesn’t mind seeing a few slaves and Christians eaten by lions. It’s all about balance, at least that’s how the universe sees it. Sucks to be a slave or a Christian.”

     “I’m not into philosophy or tarot cards.”

     “This isn’t any of that. It’s reality, or one of them. Okay, there’s this…guy. Call him The Jester.”

     Jonny sets his empty bottle down hard enough to tell Joe what he wants.

     “Help yourself,” Joe points back to the kitchen. Jonny does. “You know The Jester, but you don’t know you know him.”

     Jonny clenches his jaw. Something about the tune of the name, something about the way Joe said it.

     “Some people are fed up, Jonny. The Jester’s gone too far, pissed off all the wrong folk. A coalition of the willing has been formed. Misfits, outcasts, gimps, neurotic malcontents like yourself. Some carry with them unique abilities bestowed them by a laughing cosmos. I know about your gift. Pretty cool, moving through walls like air. The problem is you care about not caring, you’re trying, so you can’t control it.”

     “Again, why do you need me here. I want to see my daughter. That’s all I care about,” says Jonny.

     “Do you want your daughter growing up in this type of world? A world of one-armed piano players, a world where they actually make a sequel to Battlefield Earth?”

     Jonny cringes.

     “What we, the coalition need, is someone of your talent to take out a few of The Jester’s agents. And maybe in doing so, you can earn your way back to a nicer world.”

     Holding up three fingers, Jonny says, “Oh yeah, besides philosophy and tarot cards, karma is the other thing I don’t believe in.”

     “It’s not karma, Jonny. It’s the way things are. You don’t remember except maybe in dreams, or maybe when you’re staring out a window and that dark feeling comes over you, the feeling that you don’t belong, don’t fit in. The courier explained it a little to you. Or he was supposed to. You see, Jonny, you used to work for The Jester.”

     “I have no idea what drug you’re taking old man, but I’d like some of it. What is it, Lysergic Acid, Depakote?”

     “You’ll remember. We’ll make you remember. Actually, I can tell you right now” Joe stands, then pulls his oxygen behind him into the living room. There’s a metal filing cabinet there. He places a pair of glasses low on his nose, then paws through rows of thick manila files. “Yep. Here we go. Jonny Kimble.” Joe sounds too satisfied, like he’s about to one-up Jonny for the Depakote joke. Oh, he’s gonna one-up him alright. “Says right here, and I quote, ‘On 18 January, 2736, Altropis Time Band, Jonny Kimble, employed by the Terran Space Agency as an Astrophysicist Engineer, reprogrammed the mainframe of Generation Ship, Azure Horizon, which was originally bound for Zeto-Cryla III, to arrive instead at Calicosus, in the Rigel system.’” Joe coughs, looks up to make sure that Jonny is properly stunned. Seems to be. “’Calicosus is and was known to host intelligent, biped felines (Calicoeans), who throughout the centuries developed a severe addiction to the tobacco products harvested on twenty first century Terra. In their attempt to procure the secret of tobacco cultivation, the Calicoeans have turned to piracy, harvesting captured human data bases, and stealing the rare and occasional pack of cigarettes found on board human ships. Their extreme addiction prevents them from chemical analysis of the cigarettes—they smoke them immediately. All this despite the provisional law enacted restricting all human consumption of tobacco. It is also well documented that when Calicoeans fail to procure tobacco during one of their raids, they fall under severe psychosis; a mental derangement which can only be properly termed in slang, as nic fit. Instead of the normal human response (teeth grinding, yelling at spouses), the Calicoeans achieve a vociferous appetite for human flesh. So intense is their hunger at this point, that upon discovering a human while under the control of nic fit, a pack of Calicoeans will pick clean of flesh the human’s bones. Calicoeans possess razor sharp claws and teeth. They are very proud of their teeth too, so the other item of Terran manufacture that they have interest in is whitening toothpaste, particularly after smoking large quantities of tobacco.’”

     His limp seemingly amplified, Joe moves to the table, slaps down the file. Right in front of Jonny’s eyes.

     “So, you see, The Jester had you doing some dirty work and you pulled off the mother of all dark pranks. Wiped out Earth’s future, all of them just pristine skeletons sleeping in their cryo-tubes when the Calicoeans got done with ‘em. The kitties had enough toothpaste to last about a hundred years.”

     Jonny flips through the file, the official looking stationary with strange stampings. In a corner, stapled through the folder, a plastic photo card, Jonny’s own eyes staring at him from another time and place—him but not. Terran Space Agency, just like Joe said. Above Top Secret. Engineering Division. Project: Azure Horizon.

     Jonny needs yet another beer.

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19
Apr
08

My second novel: Chapter 1

This is the first chapter of my second novel. Don’t know if I’ll ever finish it. Its taste may not be for everyone; it’s decidedly influenced by Vonnegut. See what you think. I’ve got about 9,000 words done. There were some texting issues at the end of this chapter from transferring it from a Word file.

Chapter 1

 

 

Come now and look. This way, just down this damp, gray hall. Let’s look, as we pass each barred cell, notice the shades within. No not the shadows, the cool, ever reaching shadows that fill those concrete cubes. Notice the men, each with a dream, his own history and pains. They are animals, each and every, have no doubt of that, Friend. But so am I, so are you. Don’t stare too long and most definitely don’t make eye-contact. Obey their code while you’re here, just for a short time and then maybe you’ll understand, maybe you won’t judge or feel repulsion.

     Just a bit further, to cell one hundred forty. Look in there. That’s Jonny Kimble. Three years ago, Jonny learned that the universe will stab you in the back when you’re not looking, twist the knife just to feel the bones separate. Jonny found out that not everyone in life comes out a winner, no matter how some may try or how well-intentioned they be. Yes, three years ago, Jonny came home to his lovely wife blowing Jonny’s neighbor. And all he knew how to do is what he did. He smashed the toilet to a pile of powdered porcelain with his not-so-noble neighbor’s face. The only thing that really bothered Jonny was hearing his little girl crying from her bedroom, awakened by the horrific thunders of flesh-on-crapper and the woeful simpers of Mr. I-like-to-stick-it-in-my-neighbor’s-wife.

     He didn’t say a word to his wife after that, just saw her in the courtroom during the divorce. He’d called the police himself, while the horny neighbor rolled on the floor, grasping his visionless eyes, smearing blood on his naked skin, covering that with sharp biting granules.

     “There’s a man in my bathroom that may die,” he’d said. “But I’d prefer that he didn’t so if you could send an officer and an ambulance that would be great.” 

     Jonny sat in the bathroom’s doorway watching the man. There was no rage, just the question of why. And the question was not directed at his bellowing neighbor, after all, he knew what the man’s answer would be or at least should be: “I had to get me somma that.” No, the question was intended for the Cosmic Jester. Jonny thought he’d slapped the Jester around and put him in his place in previous years, thought the Universe’s Fool inhabited a straightjacket somewhere on the plains of Nebraska. That’s where Jonny had last seen him, on a night that sleep had rescued him from one more day, Jonny laying in an abandoned car, empty Twinkie packages licked clean and strewn across the backseat.

     You see, our man in there loved his wife. And she’d said that she loved him too, couldn’t live without Jonny. And that had given him the means to pull himself from his sewer-of-a-life. No more stealing and lying and losing. Got a job, he did, went to college. Didn’t wear his blotchy tattoo quite so proudly. Love was the only thing that had ever motivated him, ever made him anxious to wake up and do something. Well, other than wanting to see the sun so that its warmth could be his. Love latched onto him with a steel cable and yanked him out of the ditch. But love’s banishment came that night, on the second story of his little blue home.

      Elevated aggravated assault. That’s what the District Attorney hit him with. And he didn’t fight even a little, didn’t pull the woe-is-me garbage. He’d argued with his attorney over a crime of passion defense. Looking at the event truthfully, he didn’t remember any passion, just a cold Fuck You to the laughing Jester as the toilet exploded. Besides his daughter, there was no reason to get up and go to work, to brush his teeth, to pay taxes or mow the lawn. A better thing actually, and he’d thought about it carefully, was to play in the heavy traffic on I-95. Not rush-hour. The vehicles moved so slowly then. He thought that a good game of Hacky Sack, performed in the passing lane, would be sufficiently romantic, with a copy of Joseph Conrad’s, Heart of Darkness, tucked into his back pocket. That’s the way he wanted to be found, flattened and thrown into the weeds—rundown by a teenager talking on her cell-phone, a stinging classic which condemned all-that-is jutting from his pants. He wondered if the Jester liked to read. Jonny was sure that he did, in between sending children to burn wards and pushing old ladies in front of speeding cars.

     By the time the police arrived, Jonny had mapped out the dramatic I-95 plan, but he was in shackles before he could find his Conrad classic. The Jester laughed again as Jonny was escorted out the front door, because Jonny caught a glimpse of Heart of Darkness on a lamp stand in between a copy of Ain’t Life Funny? and Why married men live longer.

     Other than what I’ve told you, there’s nothing that special about Jonny Kimble. Except that he can walk through walls. Phase out-of-sync with the Jester’s universe. The prison’s cinderblocks are but burned-out illusions to Jonny; that is when he can muster the courage to care. He’s only cared on two occasions since discovering his wondrous ability. He cared about a pack of smokes then he cared about seeing the leaves change color one October. Actually he did care one other time. He wanted to see his daughter, but she lives too far away. Each time after caring, he’d returned to his cell, phased back to the Jester’s reality and lay back down in his cot.

     There was never any question as to whether he would come back to the New Hampshire State Prison. After all, there was no other place he could so easily not care. Even his Hacky-in-traffic idea had faded. Instead of a persistent despair or a gnawing desire for self-annihilation, buzzing numbness had settle on Jonny causing him to act like a stoned automaton. Get up. Piss. Lay down. Get up. Stare at a corner. Lay down. Read, The Crying of Lot 49. Wonder what the hell the book meant. Scratch his ass. You get the idea.

     Back up for a minute. Here comes one of the guards. Oh, that’s Bill Bompus. Don’t say anything about the chili on his lapel, and don’t stare at his bulging gut. Looks like he’s got something to tell Jonny.

     “Kimble. Someone here to see you.”

     “I’m not available.”

     “Yes you are. This guy’ll see you in your cell.”

     Must be Jonny’s lawyer, got an appeal lined up, a technicality to throw into the gears of Justice.

     “Hello, Jonny.” Never trust a man wearing a black sport coat and armed with a briefcase.

     Bompus slides the metal bars aside, the suited man walks in. He sits on the steel toilet, opens he briefcase without looking up at Jonny, who’s laying on his cot counting the spiders on the ceiling.

     “Have I got a deal for you, Jonny, a real sweet deal,” says the man.

     “I’m getting the Playboy Channel on my TV?”

     Presently, the man scans a dossier with Jonny’s name on its tab. “We can do that too, and the TV can be yours, just yours.” Nameless-Man flutters the sheets of Jonny’s file, hoping to disperse Jonny’s disillusionment. “We know about your abilities. And we can make use of them. You’ll be duly compensated of course. A new car, new clothes, and we’ve got an impressive lineup of Russian girls who’d love to meet you. Or perhaps Japanese. Little dark girls with cute smiles and submissive attitudes.”

     Jonny stops counting. You can hear his thoughts just as well as I can. Don’t be embarrassed for being able to read his mind, Friend. You’re here with me now, in the Jester’s Universe. I’ll walk you through it; just don’t lose sight of me—ever. I’m sure the Jester would love to have a little fun with you. Make you play with fireworks or run with scissors.  Didn’t you notice that the rays from the sun felt a little different, oblique and shifting? Or perhaps you can tell that the people’s souls are colder, just a bit. Like the entire of humanity has succumbed to a cool melancholy, admitted defeat, each person waiting for its turn in the barrel. It doesn’t matter that you don’t want to be here. We need you here, so here you are. Remember what you see, what you hear, but most of all—what you feel.

     “Let’s go for a ride, Jonny. You need to smell the fresh air, see the sights of the happy,” says Nameless-Man. “Get up. Let’s go.”

     “I’m not going anywhere. Take your shit and go.”

     “Jonny. I’m trying to be diplomatic here. Truly I am. But I do have certain…levers, if I have need to employ them.”

     “Get-the-fuck-out.”

     “There’s still some life in you after all.” Nameless-man looks at the dossier again. “Your first mission, should you choose to cooperate—and you will—is to meet up with Joe.”

     “Who’s Joe?” Jonny finally regards Nameless-Man, if only obliquely.

     “Joe works at the Seven Eleven two miles from here. Works nine to five, weekdays. Go there and ask for Joe. Get up, Jonny.”

     “Piss off. You’re out of your mind. I have no idea who you are, why you’re here or why I should do anything you ask.”

     “I’d love to tell you Jonny, that you should do as I say because it’s the right thing to do, and you always do the right thing. But the truth is…” Nameless-Man puts a finger to his lip, creases his brow and stares at the floor. “your daughter will remain unharmed should you cooperate.”

     Stand back, Friend; things could get ugly. A little further from the bars, should Nameless-Man get launched through them at an extraordinary velocity. Jonny swings his legs off the cot, his feet touching the cement like settling feathers. Look at those eyes—they care. Nameless-Man cares too, backs up a step.

     “I’m gonna kill you.” Jonny stands, deliberately slow.

     “We don’t want to harm her. But our mission is of the utmost importance. You’re not from here, Jonny. I know you feel that, you know it deep down. Have you ever felt like you belonged? Haven’t you always felt out of sorts, like your gears are grinding with the universes?”

     Jonny’s a lot of things. A fool isn’t one of them. He sits again. The Nameless-Man knows something about him. Maybe though, he’s employing the fortune teller’s trick. Speaking in generalities that apply to everyone.

     “Just go meet with Joe. He’ll fill you in on more than I can. You won’t need anything, since you don’t have anything. Follow me.”

     Nameless-Man’s hand beckons to Jonny. Nameless-Man presumptuously tells the guard to open the gate, steps out and looks back. Look. Jonny cares just a little—just enough. Maybe the inertia’s been broken. Stepping behind Nameless-Man, Jonny eyes the guard, who obviously approves of the prison-break.

     Down the hallway again, through the prison’s intake area. There’s paperwork for Jonny

to sign. Then out the heavy steel door to freedom. The sunshine stings his eyes, pulling forth

tears that had remained buried in dry tombs for many years. Too bad they’re not caring

tears. We’ll know, Friend, that Jonny’s journey is nearly complete when the wetness in his

eyes accompanies a softened heart. You’ll see. You’ll know. You’ll feel.




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