Sunday, November 29, 2009

In Honor of 200 Posts, Here are Some Excerpts from the New Novel

I wrote in a recent post that my outlook on things tends to be schizophrenic, how sometimes the exact same thing will affect me 100% differently depending on the day (or sometimes even the hour).

I mention that because my blog has become decidedly schizophrenic. I want to write about topics that will be of interest to many and become a place where people read and respond and return and comment like crazy and amazing conversations transpire and world peace breaks out and--well, you get what I mean, anyway. Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately, it depends on how you look at it), this blog has become a potpourri of those philosophical debates I wanted it to be mixed in with writing, teaching, and more about my personal life than I ever thought I'd put in (although all names and identifying whatever blah blah have been changed).

I decided I wanted to do something about my writing to celebrate my 200th post, but I couldn't figure out what. I contemplated doing a character motivation explanation: you know, something like, "My main character, Roy, is a combination of three people--about 70% my street smart, wrong side of the tracks, kind from the very bottom of his heart although you'd never know it if you didn't give him a chance friend Andy (there are several conversations and events taken verbatim from chats I've had with Andy--he'd better not sue me for copyrights) except better looking ;) ... and taller (Andy's not a blog-reading kind of guy, but if he was, I would razz him even further since he really is a pretty good-looking guy and he knows it--I did tell him that Roy's much cuter than he is), 20% my brilliant and soulful friend Roland, and 10% one of my former students, a stellar athlete with a quick wit and a gift at bouncing back from adversity without allowing it to change his positive essence." But then I realized, who really cares? You don't know who I'm talking about (either the characters or those making up their composites), and there are only two people reading this that have read the entire first novel and any of the second. Well, that I know of, at least.

Okay, I'll stop wandering and stick in excerpts. These are never-before-read and are from Novel #2 (unfinished, unnamed, and quite unloved at the moment)

All three excerpts are from the first 50 pages and the WIP's at 150 pages right now, so I don't think I'm destroying any major plotlines here. Just giving you a taste--please let me know what you think. Oh, and they are not necessarily in order ... but for some reason the spacing keeps getting messed up every time I try to copy and paste them, so they're just going to stand the way they are for the moment, considering they're just excerpts. Enjoy : ) And please (this means, "I beg of you") leave comments if you have something to say : )

Excerpt 1:
When school let out for the day on Friday, the vast majority of the upper forum knew that, at around seven, they would be heading to Hampton Beach, essentially dead with the passing of Labor Day until it bloomed anew with Memorial Day the next spring. Jamie and Bobby drove over to the chalet as soon as they could, Jamie to spread enough cash to the evening staff to keep them away from the party and Bobby (whose contacts always seemed to surprise his friends) to meet the guy bringing the kegs.

By ten o’clock, the party was in full swing. The music was loud (although not too loud), the gaggle of kids had oozed onto the beach, and there were half-full pizza boxes and the remains of various Chinese take-out boxes spread around. A dripping contingency huddled in blankets after swimming in their underwear, plastic Solo cups of beer and all.

Susy watched the party with both discomfort and distaste. As far as she could tell, she and Roy were the only people drinking Coke instead of beer, and Roy was high enough on life (plus had been a non-alcoholic fixture at parties for so long) that nobody noticed; he had in fact led the chilly evening swim that had included both Christian and Addie. She sat alone, watching their group slowly dry off. Christian found her eyes and winked, and she smiled pleasure she did not feel in return.
Truthfully, she was exhausted. She was sitting off to the side—aloof, those who didn’t know her well would say—on a large rock, shivering despite Christian’s heavy soccer sweatshirt. The lights from the hotel office were very far away, and she happened to be looking in that direction when the blue lights pulled into the round driveway. She jumped off the rock, ran down to the water’s edge, and grabbed Roy’s arm.

“What’s up?” he asked her, laughing at a classmate Susy thought was named Charlotte—although she was generally good with names, the sheer number of new faces sometimes overwhelmed her—as the girl tripped over a breaking wave and went briefly underwater.

“The police are here,” she said quietly, not wanting to create panic. She’d seen enough parties when she lived with her brother where the mere mention of police created unnecessary chaos that led to arrests. “Out front.”

“Shit,” Roy whispered, grabbing a blanket from the sand and wrapping it around his dripping boxer shorts. “Okay, come on, Susy, let’s go.”

“I’m coming too,” Christian said, his words slightly slurred.

“You’re fucking two beer queer, McKenzie,” Roy said. “Stay here.”

“You’re fucking naked, man,” Christian retorted, a response that seemed to make perfect sense to him.

Roy shook his head and grabbed Susy’s hand, pulling the blanket tighter around himself. He swore under his breath as his bare feet hit the gravel driveway of the hotel but didn’t slow down. The policeman, a young kid identifiable by a silver tag on his uniform as Jones, was halfway out of his car.

“Good evening, officer,” Roy said, his breath coming in pants.

“Kind of a loud evening if you live on the beach,” the cop replied, making a hawking sound in his throat then spitting near Roy’s feet.

“Oh, we’re just having a little get-together,” Susy said quickly when she saw the flash of anger in Roy’s eyes. “I didn’t realize how loud the music was up here. I’m awfully sorry.”

“I’m sure.” Jones turned back to Roy. A boy clad in soaking wet underwear was evidently more interesting than a fully dressed, obviously sober girl, Susy reflected. “You been drinking, son?”

Son? Roy asked himself incredulously. If you’re older than twenty-two, I’ll eat my … shorts. “No, sir,” he replied aloud, stifling a laugh.

“Really. Well, I got a call about a bunch of drunk kids in the ocean.”

“I was swimming,” Roy admitted needlessly. “Me and a bunch of my friends. Listen, officer.”

“What’s that?”

“I know you have a job to do. I assume you have a breathalyzer machine with you.”

The cop nodded, unaware that he was losing control of the situation. “For if I feel it necessary,” he said importantly. He couldn’t know that the arrogance in his voice only encouraged Roy.

“I’ll tell you what,” Roy said, dropping the blanket. Both Susy and the shocked police officer looked away from the wet fabric of his underwear. “Test me.”

“Well, you’re acting like I should, son.”

Roy, who had been standing upright, slitted his eyes and staggered into Susy. “I’m not drunk,” he said, an intentional slur to his voice making Susy giggle. “Really, ossifer.”

“Okay, you asked for it. Come with me, son.” A few moments later, Jones registered the 0.0 on his machine with wide-eyed shock. Roy winked at him and smiled, standing up straight again. He pulled the blanket back around his waist, too, much to Susy’s relief.

“Want my friend here to weigh in?”

“No,” the cop said shortly. “I want your name.”

“Why?”

“Because you’ve been jerking me around, wasting my time.”

Susy spoke then, averting a comment that would no doubt have related in some way to Dunkin’ Donuts and would have further escalated the situation. “I’m very sorry, Officer Jones. He thinks he’s funny. We’ll go right back down, turn the music off, tell our friends to get off the beach.”

Ignoring her, Jones looked annoyed. “I asked for your name, kid.”

“My name? Roy Pentinicci.” He paused, watching the young cop’s eyes when he realized who he was talking to. “How’s my friend Detective Sweeney?”

“Sweeney? She’s, uh, she’s fine.”

“Please tell her I said hello, that the family continues to be extremely grateful for her assistance.”

Jones turned to Susy. “Turn the music down? Don’t make excessive noise on the beach?”

She nodded gratefully. “Yes, sir, we’ll do it right away.”

“Have a good evening, then.” He got back into his car, turned off the pulsating lights, and drove away. Susy noticed that his neck craned toward the chalet and the beachfront, but he must have written off those dancing in the sand as “drunk” in the way that Roy was. Fortunately for them.

Roy picked Susy up and slung her over his shoulder, whooping with happiness as he ran back to the party. He put her down next to Jamie’s treasured stereo, moved carefully to the hotel from his dorm room at Stephens, and pulled the plug, interrupting Tupac Shakur mid-phrase. There was an outcry from numerous voices, and he walked into the doorway of the chalet so he could address the lushes outside as well as in.

“So the cops were here,” he began.

Jamie staggered to his feet, goosebumps rippling his muscular brown chest. “Oh, shit, man.” The hotel had his name, nobody else’s.

“No worries,” Roy continued. “Susy managed to convince the cops that we weren’t a bunch of drunk high school kids.”

“I’m not the person that blew a 0.0,” Susy teased, relaxing only when everybody began to laugh.

A chant went up then. “Pentinicci! Pentinicci! Pentinicci!” Roy put a hand up and yelled, “Shut up, everybody. No, seriously, this was Susy’s heroics. I’d be arrested for giving the guy a gift certificate to Dunkin’ Ds if she hadn’t been there.”

Susy realized then that Roy was giving her a gift. Acceptance by her peers, something she’d never before felt, enveloped her, warmed her. She blushed and pushed gently past Roy inside where she plugged the stereo back in and turned the music down slightly. The cheers that went up embarrassed and pleased her at the same time.

She saw Christian sitting alone on her abandoned rock when she stepped back outside. Although he was dressed, his hair was damp and sandy. His eyes were troubled. “Hey, beautiful,” he whispered.

“Hey.”

“So you saved the day.”

She shrugged awkwardly. “Guess so.”

“Can you drive a standard?”

She nodded. “Yeah, why?”

“I want to go home, and I don’t think I ought to drive at the moment.” He paused. “You shouldn’t have been put in that position.”

“Honestly, it was sort of funny.”

He smiled, but it didn’t touch his eyes. “You could have gone to jail, Susy.”

She looked at him gently. “That’s a bunch of talk,” she whispered. “I’ve seen more parties busted up by cops that resulted in nothing but a lot of talk. They dump the booze out and leave, then twenty minutes later there’s plenty to drink again.”

“This isn’t—a party like that. Like your brother’s.” Her face was unreadable as she looked out at the plethora of rich kids falling down drunk on three cups of beer, trying to be tough in ways they never would be. And he was no different, much as she loved him.

Excerpt 2:
After they left Bickford’s, Christian drove to the beach. Susy pretended she didn’t see the tears in his eyes. Neither one of them said anything until they parked in the mostly abandoned public lot and sat facing each other on the break wall.

Christian slowly took his wallet out of the back pocket of his Levi’s. He opened it and pulled out five one-hundred dollar bills, then he looked at Susy. “What we do about this, Susy, it’s your choice.”

“But—don’t you have an opinion?” she finally asked.

“Of course I have an opinion, but here’s the thing. You’re the one who’d have to put up with morning sickness, stretch marks, childbirth, being … you know, having a kid when you’re seventeen. If you want to take this five hundred dollars and call the clinic, that’s your right and your choice.”

“Is—is that what you want?”

Christian felt a bit guilty. He was employing a tactic that he’d observed his father use a dozen times, always with great success. He thought about abandoning that line of thought, of just pulling her into his arms and begging her to marry him, to keep the baby and they’d figure it all out, but a cold and calculating part of him that was a born businessman made him continue. “What I want is irrelevant for the moment.” He held the fanned money out again. “If that’s what you want, here’s the money. I don’t think I can be there, not for that, but I know Roy would drive you.”

“So you don’t want—”

He decided to tip his hand. “I want you to make the decision.”

She took the money and his heart dropped for just a second until he saw that she was folding it up. After she put the wad into his front pocket, she whispered, “As far as I’m concerned, that’s my decision. Unless you feel otherwise.”

“Oh, God, Susy, that’s what I wanted you to say. I just didn’t want to be the jerk who made you feel that way.”

Excerpt 3:
The brick office complex on Main Street was quite familiar to Brian McKenzie. The brief time he had actually been able to practice medicine had been divided here and the hospital across the street. After his father’s first hospitalization for the cirrhosis that would eventually kill him, Brian was able to return to Baltimore and finish the semester then transfer to Dartmouth Medical School. The magic was gone, though; he knew that sooner rather than later he’d have to focus his attention on the complexities of the McKenzie family fortune.

That he was able to enjoy any time as a doctor was due entirely to the man whose name was on the frosted door he pushed open. And, of course, his wife, although he was the first to admit that he sometimes took her for granted.

“May I help you?” the secretary asked automatically, then looked up and recognized him. “Oh, hello, Mr. McKenzie.”

“Good morning, Gloria. Is Jerry in?”

“I’ll let him know you’re here.”

Brian sat in the waiting room for maybe thirty seconds before he heard his name. He looked up at the man who had been more a father to him than his own. He hadn’t seen Jerry in several months—they were both so busy—and was saddened by the sudden aging he saw in his mentor. It occurred to him that he didn’t know how old Jerry Bellwood was, just that he’d been a longtime friend of his father’s. That would have to put him at seventy at least.

“Good morning, Dr. Bellwood.” Brian stood and shook the liver-spotted hand that had brought all four of his children into the world.

“What can I do for you, Dr. McKenzie?” Brian’s smile was a bit sad; it always was when his stolen dream was mentioned.

“Could we talk in your office, Jerry?”

Jerry raised his eyebrows. He hadn’t seen Brian in a medical capacity since Belinda’s hysterectomy four years before had ended their hopes of another child. He closed the door and sat behind a desk piled with papers, charts, ultrasound reports. “What brings you here?”

The younger man covered his eyes for a long moment. “I’m going to be a grandfather.” The doctor had tipped his chair back on two legs, and it returned to the floor with a surprised crash. Brian might have been fuzzy on Jerry’s age, but Dr. Bellwood knew for a fact that his surrogate son was thirty-eight. Too young. “What the hell did Roy do now?” he managed.

“Not Roy. Christian.”

“Christian, as in your son?”

Brian nodded.

“The avowed virgin changed his mind?”

“It started … that weekend. The girl, she’s the babysitter Belinda hired for while we were in Boston.”

“Your boy made the best of a hostage situation, eh?”

Brian smiled weakly. “Evidently.”

“Do you want me to take care of it here in the office? Use anesthesia?”

“They want to keep it.”

Jerry remembered having a similar conversation with the father of the man sitting in front of him under much the same circumstances. He recalled how his old friend George, irresponsible drunkard that he was, had been devastated at the thought of his beloved son throwing his life away. “His father’s son.”

“Guess so. Listen, Jerry, I’m here more on her behalf—Susy’s—than as Christian’s father.”

“I’m listening.”

“Do you remember that big heroin bust a few years ago?”

Jerry nodded. “It’s not every day our neck of the woods makes the national news. For weeks.”

“The kid from town? That was her brother.”

“Josh Heidelman?”

“The very same. Did you know him?”

“Between you and I, I delivered a girl who named him as the father and aborted two more.”

“Jesus, that doesn’t exactly help the situation.”

“I can’t picture Christian with a girl like that. Christ, I can’t imagine Belinda hiring her to babysit your kids.”

“Susy … she’s not like that. She’s been scarred by what happened to her brother, there’s no doubt about that, but she’s a nice girl. A smart girl.” He hesitated. “I want her handled gently. I’m afraid that some of your younger colleagues might be rough on her, or at least she might perceive it that way.”

“Fair enough.” Jerry picked up the phone, his eyes still on Brian. “Gloria, what’s my availability for this afternoon? Hmm, how about tomorrow? Please write down Susy Heidelman for four o’clock. Initial Ob. You’re a gem, Gloria.”

“And so are you, Jerry,” Brian echoed as the doctor hung up the phone. “I really appreciate it.”

“Now, I need to emphasize something.”

“What’s that?”

“Christian needs to be here for every appointment. She’ll need support.”

“I’ll let him know that’s your recommendation.”

The old man shook his head. “Requirement, not recommendation.”

“I know he has soccer practice tomorrow until six. Maybe we can work something out with the coach.”

Jerry didn’t respond to that, and they got back into conversation following the brief awkward silence.