Monday, April 20, 2009

Excerpt from Novel #2

Novel #2 is a work in progress. A most unfinished work in progress. However, I don't talk about my writing a whole lot on here, nor do I share much. I need to get better at that. In that vein, here are the first two chapters of the aforementioned Novel #2. Please feel free (and that means pleasepleaseplease :-)) leave comments. Oh, and I'm well aware of the correct spacing/paragraph techniques (I'm an English teacher :-) ) ... it just for some reason isn't making the voyage from Microsoft to very effectively.

Christian McKenzie was sixteen years old the last time he used a time clock to punch out of work.
His sneakers left green smudges on the cement floor of the main storage building at Peter Neal Landscaping as he walked toward the back office to turn in his timecard. He tapped the buff-colored rectangle measuring out a forty-hour work week against his khaki shorts. Christian was surprised to see Pete Neal himself, owner of the landscaping business that had employed him for two summers now, sitting behind the desk in his tiny office.
“Why you still here?” Pete asked, standing and hitching up his fatigue pants. Although his pants were always falling down, his t-shirts were never without oval sweat stains at the armpits, and his few remaining teeth were gray and rotting, Christian liked him. Pete had always been fair.
“I wanted to finish that stone wall for you, sir. It’s my last day.”
Pete nodded. “Yeah, Pentinicci already reminded me.”
“He still here?”
“Hell, no. He was gone soon’s his eight hours was up.” Pete grumbled a bit more before saying what he’d been leading up to. “I told him job’s here for him next summer, same as I’m saying to you.”
“Thank you, Mr. Neal. I’ll be needing a job next summer between graduation and college, and you’ve been good to me.”
“You’re a good worker, McKenzie.” Pete held out his hand, and Christian shook it gratefully.
“I’ll, uh, see you around, I’m sure.” Christian was uncomfortable. Pete’s company did the extensive landscaping at his parents’ mansion, a fact that both of them were a little embarrassed about and which neither of them mentioned. “And I will be back next year, sir.”
But he wasn’t. The trajectory of his life changed forever that evening when his girlfriend told him she was pregnant.

Christian checked the time as he walked to his red Saab convertible. He wouldn’t be able to go home and shower before soccer practice, and that bothered him a bit. Most of his teammates found it absolutely hysterical that Christian and to a slightly lesser degree his best friend Roy Pentinicci labored in the hot sun for forty hours a week all summer. Although their teasing on the rare days he showed up with green ankles didn’t really bother Christian, the sense of bewilderment in their eyes did.
His father was one of the wealthiest men in the country. There wasn’t a reason in the world for him to slave away mowing lawns, weeding gardens, erecting stone walls and other landscaping paraphernalia, accompanying balding, sweaty men with bad grammar.
But then, Christian had always been something of an enigma to his peers, a fact that bothered him not in the least. They wondered where his drive to excel came from, of course, why he worked his ass off to earn straight As at the prestigious Stephens Academy, what made him attend intensive extra baseball practices when he was already one of the best high school pitchers in the northeast. It seemed unfair, of course, that Brian McKenzie’s son should be brilliant, talented in numerous areas, and model-handsome in addition to being filthy rich, but Christian was just too likable a guy to hold it against him.
So they had asked Roy, who was not quite as likable and not technically a McKenzie, why on earth the two of them worked for a landscaper instead of just pushing paper at one of Mr. McKenzie’s many offices. Roy had been taken in by Brian and Belinda McKenzie when his famously dysfunctional family imploded in the fall of his freshman year. They were his legal guardians, but they were not his parents. He explained that his Porsche was a strings-attached present for his sixteenth birthday, the strings being that he pay for car insurance with money he worked for. As a three-season athlete and an honors student, this was impossible to accomplish during the school year. Hence, a summer job was necessary. That Brian McKenzie had made the same arrangement with his own son (and bought him a far less ostentatious car) when Christian turned sixteen a year later was what confused, almost frustrated people. What could possibly be the point?
Christian toiled without complaint, Roy with characteristic token grumbling. They both knew full well this was a life lesson that Brian McKenzie wanted them to learn young and completely, something akin to the two of them leading Christian’s younger sisters and brother out with shovels whenever it snowed rather than hiring a plow truck to clear their more-of-a-private-road-than-a-driveway. They worshiped Brian McKenzie equally.
Christian was early for practice, so he took a quick locker room shower, watching the greens and browns disappear down the drain with something akin to relief. He got dressed, put on his shin guards, and walked to the field. Although practice didn’t start until four, there were already a number of boys in gym shorts and Stephens Academy Soccer t-shirts running around on the field.
One of them, a good looking dark-haired boy with brown eyes that dominated his face, saw Christian walking down the hill to the field and ran over. “You just leave work?”
“Yeah, took a shower here.”
“Clearly a better man than I am, McKenzie. I got the hell out as soon as I possibly could.”
“Pete told me he offered you next summer in advance.”
Roy nodded. “Yeah, it was strangely nice to hear.”
“You seen Bobby?”
“Yup!” Both turned and looked up the hill as their longtime friend Bobby Smith started down, his gait unsteady. “Yup, you’ve sure as fuck seen me now.”
The other team members had started moving toward them, drawn by the decibel of Bobby’s voice. A tall African-American boy, Jamie Costello, took in the situation and sprinted suddenly to Bobby’s side. Jamie had been tight with Bobby, Roy, and Christian for years, and he knew that Bobby needed to make it to the net; as long as he was in his element, nobody would notice that he was extremely drunk. Roy followed Jamie, getting on Bobby’s other side, and the two lifted him up and past their teammates to where Christian was busily moving the net into position in anticipation of Bobby’s arrival.
It was an old drill.

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