I’m still working on the draft. Even my sorry excuse for a blurb is a draft.
The novel is expected to be completed by mid to late March and will be available on iBooks, Amazon and more.
Feel free to let me know what you think, and expect to find atrocious spelling and commas in all the wrong places.
Charlie Fortin is a young highschool teacher who desires to love and to be loved. He meets the man of his dreams, Buddy, who has a mysterious past.
Falling in love with Buddy is not as easy as Charlie would like it to be. It’s not right, and there are people who have voted against this kind of thing, Charlie included. When he decides to bite the bullet and purpose, Buddy is taken away from him.
Now Charlie will push his morals and ethics aside as he fights to take back what is his. His obstacle: a giant Japanese tech company.
Meanwhile, Charlie’s mother, Vera, searches the streets of Texas and beyond to hunt dont her husband’s mistress. She doesn’t yet know what she will do when she finds her, but she knows it won’t be pretty.
Charlie Fortin paces the lawn of his parents home with a cigarette screwed between his lips. The corners of his eyes crinkle under the bright orgold Texas sun, and he stretches in a futile attempt to loosen the sweat-soaked shirt that clings to his body.
He has gone almost ten months without visiting his parents. Wishes he had gone twelve more. With his Lucky Strikes – extra strength, Charlie thinks about life. Highschool-duties, school politics and notions. Young faces, equations and chemistry. Such is all he knows of his existence – barring the two weeks off every other month when, having nothing more interesting to do, he spends his paycheck on movies for one, or at his favourite drinking bar which sits timid behind his apartment building. His only companionship: a prostitute who won’t share her name. Charlie calls her Candy. He won’t touch her though, and she won’t look at him. Perhaps because they drinks at the same bar. Perhaps it’s because Charlie swears they went to high school together, and perhaps she knows they did. The rest of Charlie’s money is eked out by sober visits to relatives or old friends. The former of the two is the worst. Each time Charlie comes and knocks on the white-wood barricading his parents from the dry-bone outside world. Each time his parents old minded ethics flare. Each time is called for a wander to the front lawn, a padded pocket, a pack of Lucky Strikes.
For eight years, he has dreamt of something more. He wants to visit the silent centre of America or maybe even further. The top of Australia. Somewhere hot, but not too populated, yet with enough faces to meet someone new – tall, short, fat or bald. At this point, it no longer matters. He wants to find love. To be loved.
Charlie notices him right away. Through the low hanging haze of smoke, across the manicured hedges and shrubs, a tall, beefy man balances himself on top of a ladder. Slick, black and untamed hair feathers across his eyes which are slits of concentrations as he trims the delicate and useless hedges that skirt the perimeter fence.
“Wow,” Charlie mutters to himself.
Charlie is used to the sculpted men his father seldom hires for odd jobs around the house, but they haven’t come close to parallel with this one; a specimen designed by God to be observed, like floating pink sunsets that stains the Texas skies in the evenings. The essence of the man in his entirety, beautiful. The very molecules he breathes seems alight with something else entirely; that is, until he loses his balance. His foot catches with the ladder in passing before his barrel-chested body torpedoes to the ground.
Charlie flicks his cigarette to the side and runs along the gravel footpath, his boots kicking lose stones into the air. He kneels down, ignoring the half buried pebbles and fallen twigs sticking into his shin.
“Shit, man. Are you ok?”
“I think I’ve broken my ankle,” says the man, intertwining his dirt-stained fingers over his raised knee.
Charlie runs his own finger through the dark sprinkles of hair along the man’s leg.
“It doesn’t look swollen. Do you think you can stand?”
The man with the dancing blue eyes takes a moment to consider this before shaking his head.
“I don’t think so.”
Charlie finds his cell phone in his back pocket and slides it out long with a ten dollar note that falls to the ground before taking flight again. Despite the morning’s cooperative sun, a storm has been rumored for the afternoon. Justine Henderson on the nine o’clock news said so. His mother said so. And now the first sign of clouds boil the sky in a bruised colored blanket. As the wind sends the man’s fringe to tangle across his eyes, Charlie dials 911.
The dispatchers voice is barbed.
“What do I need an ambulance for?” Charlie repeats.
The dispatcher promises an ambulance sometime in the evening before hanging up. Charlie tosses his phone to the side and says, “fuck em. We can take my mother’s car. But I’m going to have trouble getting you to the driveway.”
The man is a beast and it would take another to help him off the lawn before the rain hits. Charlie can’t do it alone.
The man shakes his head. “The ambulance are at the end of Flint Street. They’ll be here soon.”
“Flint Street,” Charlie repeats. “How could you know that?” But he doesn’t wait for an answer. He tilts his face back to catch the remaining sun that pokes through the rolling dark clouds, then narrows his eyes down at the magnificent in front of his bent knees.
A pink earthworm slips across the footpath as both men think of ways to break the new silent void where the hollowness of their conversation lay bare.
“If I think real hard,” begins the man. “I bet I can guess what you want to ask me.”
Charlie smirks and tugs at his shirt collar. “Okay.”
“You want to ask me for my name. Am I right?”
“One of two so far. I’m Charlie.”
Charlie has to swallow a chuckle. “Buddy? Like the old song, B-U-D-D-Y? Like Buddy Clark and Buddy Hackett? Like Buddy Lembeck?”
Buddy’s mouth twitches as he tries to fight a smile. “Like none of those. I’m much, much taller. What was the second question?”
Buddy arches his back. “You said you had two questions. What was the second?”
“Come on,” Buddy says. He smiles and specks of gold sparkle in his irises. They grow and swallow the blue. “Don’t be shy.”
Charlie fake coughs into his hand giving him an extra few seconds to wonder why it is so difficult to ask for a phone number. After years of surfing dark bars it’s been proven to be a challenging conquest.
He blinks at his attractive opponent. In comparison, Charlie feels he is a stain on a white-velvet sofa. A head shaped like an egg with a broad, turned-up nose, and the threat of an early receding hairline. To ask a man like Buddy for his phone number seems like a crusty punchline someone might tell when they’ve used up all their good jokes.
“Tell you what,” Charlie begins. “We get your foot checked out, then….” Charlie hesitates. It hadn’t occurred to him that Buddy might be straight. He let his eyes trace up towards Buddy’s shoulders. Broad. Inviting. His eyes linger for a fraction longer than he would like to allow himself. Can’t help it.
Charlie swallows. “Then I’ll ask you that second question.”
A white van speeds along the road, crewed by figures in navy-blue jumpsuits. Ready in position, the back doors swing open and two of them tumble out. They race down the pebbled path, pointing towards the injured patient, and when they approach they begin with the round of questions they’d been taught to ask.
“What’s your name? Where are you injured? What’s your Medicare number?”
Buddy answers none of them, but cooperates as they help lift him from the ground. Raised elbows and thrusted arms and makes it hard for Charlie to see if Buddy’s face shows any pain.
“Jesus, Mary, and …. this man’s heavier than a mountain,” one of the paramedic cries.
As they move down the footpath circling the front entrance towards the van, one of the paramedic bends forward to pick up a stray ten dollar note, and the other loses his grip. Buddy falls face first onto the grass.
“Jeez,” says Charlie, jogging behind them. “Couple of morons.”
Inside the van, the radio is tuned to a classical FM broadcast. Charlie sits down on the padded bench seat while one of the paramedics slides into the driver’s seat and the other presses a firm finger along Buddy’s foot and ankle.
“Does it hurt here? No. What about there?”
There’s a lot of “ums,” and “ahs,” used as padding between more questions before the paramedic rubs his chin and says, “this don’t even feel like bone.”
Charlie closes his eyes as his thoughts sweep to Gioachino Rossini. Music too good for a van filled with three imbeciles, an overgrown yard boy and a highschool teacher; but Charlie has always loved classical music, ever since he reached knee high and wore Clarks to school.
“What did you say back there?” The driver asks.
“I said his foot don’t feel like normal bone.”
The paramedic shakes his head a few times in an attempt to loosen his neck muscles.
“Boy, have you broken your foot a bunch of time?” He asks Buddy.
The van’s engine continues to sing with the radio. Charlie’s forehead creases as the hiss of pressurised air brings him back from his classical trance.
“What’s the problem here?”
Like promised, a sheet of rain falls onto the windshield while thunder rumbles in the distance and a bolt of lightning cracks the sky into two. Soil grows dark besides the spinning wheels of the ambulance as it chases the white lines through the centre of the road, winding like a tarmac river down Flint Street.
The paramedic who tries to induce himself as Fred, but can’t be heard over the white, frozen beads gathering on top of the ambulance roof, lifts Buddy’s shirt over his stomach, reaches towards the shelf above Charlie’s head, and takes – what he thinks is his stethoscope – he is right, but it could have easily been his cutting tool. The stethoscope slips from Fred’s hand and falls onto Charlie’s head, who is too busy admiring his new friend’s washboard abs, to take much notice. Charlie says, “ouch.” Fred says, “sorry,” and that is that.
Charlie uses his index to navigate circles around the spot of his head where the stethoscope hit. Fred continues to lift Buddy’s shirt, higher and higher, until the hem reached his pink nipples. Spread across Buddy’s chest is the word WAKAYAMA inked in black, broken up with patches of chest hair.
Fred tips his head to the side and barks out a short laugh. He wraps his knuckles on the glass that divides him and the driver and says, “hey, Andy. Hercules over here ain’t even human.” It is lost beneath the thunder that rolls-overhead.
Fred yells this time. “He’s one of those damn life-like robots you see on the commercials.”
Earlier that day
Vera slammed her fist onto the table. It hurt, but not as much as her husband’s infidelity. She had tried to keep her suspicions to herself. Tried to wait until she knew exactly how to handle it. She might have even had a suitcase packed and a room waiting for her at the four-seasons. A nice room with Egyptian cotton towels hanging from chrome bars – courteous of Thoma’s credit card, of course. But the anger wouldn’t wait until she was ready, it rose up – desperate for daylight, whether she was prepared or not.
“Damn’t, Thomas. Who is she?”
It began three weeks ago. It was midnight – hot and Vera couldn’t sleep. The window had been left open – because Thomas liked to sleep beside an open window. The whir of air conditioner was blowing at full-blast, yet the hot air from the outside weighed Vera down. Her legs tangled in the grey, silk sheets. She sat up in bed and considered turning on the bedside light. Then she could read a book; The book that sat in her bedside draw. Thomas said, “oh darling, you look so good in that hat.” It was the first time Vera had heard Thomas talk in his sleep. Vera hated hats – had never worn one in her life. Vera decided she’d been hearing things, but just to be sure she poked Thomas in the shoulder. Not hard, just enough to get him to talk again. It didn’t work.
The next day, she made herself coffee. This was usually Linda’s job, but Linda was off for the day – birthing classes, and meternatity shopping – and Vera didn’t trust her robot to make coffee.
After her third attempt at making something that resembled a coffee the way she liked it, and after burning her tongue on the second try, Vera sat down at the kitchen table. Her top lip broke the murky surface of her latte. Her form-fitting nightgown, a pristine pink, pooled around her like liquid silk. There was a charred smell of burn from Linda’s early morning bacon fry, and a hushed voice that could be heard from the study room upstairs. It was her husband’s voice. Vera listened intently – she couldn’t help it.
She thought she heard, “Vera is home,” and “not now. Later.” Then the squeak of the stairs – immediate and loud.
“Who was on the phone?” Vera asked her husband. “A work colleague?”
“Yes,” said Thomas. “Peta, from accounting.” Thomas sat down at the opposite side of the table and waited for Linda – who was on the other side of town – to bring him his morning coffee and buttered toast.
Vera tried to think of a Peter from accounting.
“I don’t think I’ve met Peter, yet.” She said. “Is he new?”
“Peta is a she,” Thomas said, listening out for the sound of toast popping.
“And you have met her. Last year at the Christmas party.”
Thomas smiled across the table. “You liked her, remember?”
“By the way. Where’s Linda?” Thomas asked.
During the next few weeks, there were little things. Like Thomas returning home later than usual. Like phone calls and text messages at odd times during the night. Like Thomas smiling to himself instead of focusing on the price is right – his favorite game show. All these, according to Vera, were red flags. Red flags of infidelity that could not be ignored.
Now, Vera sat at her usual place at the kitchen table gripping onto a Polymer Clay bull-massive Thomas had purchased on the internet.
“She’s nobody, dear. There’s nobody,” Thomas said, and for the fourth time that hour.
“Tell me who it is, or your dog becomes a pile of ash.”
Thomas looked for an exit. There were two. The front door, and the back. If you counted the windows, there were fourteen. He blinked as his thumb and index finger pinched the back of his neck.
Vera wasn’t bluffing.
The fireplace was seven inches away.
Thomas loved that fucking dog.
Where had he gone wrong? He had been so careful not to leave his phone in reach of his nosey wife.
“Wendy Harris,” he spat, his vapid eyes never leaving the dog in Vera’s hand. The dog was a one of a kind, hand sculpted and reminded Thomas of his childhood friend, Bear. He had to say something.
“It’s Wendy God-damn Harris.”
Vera’s mouth formed the shape of an O and her chin wobbled.
“Wendy Harris. Our old cleaning lady?”
Black spots appeared in front of Vera’s eyes. Tiny specks of dark voids blurred out her husband’s grimacing face as he shifted in his chair.
“The woman is sixty-two years old with the skin of a leather clutch. My God, Thomas. You’ve ruined a thirty year marriage for a woman named Wendy Harris?”
The rumble of the fridge motor firing up, and the sloshing of the dishwasher completing its final cycle, was enough to put Vera in an eye twitching frenzy. As if it wasn’t bad enough that she had to speak over the constant chiming of the doorbell.
“You’re sorry? Are you sorry? You sound unsure?”
Vera gazed at her soon to be ex-husband, at his bushy moustache splaying towards his jaw as if it intended to become a beard. Vera wiped at the beads of sweat on her forehead, cursing the heat as the doorbell at the same time. Thomas now sat still, except for his hands which pulled at the cuffs of his long sleeved shirt.
The doorbell kept on chiming.
I swear to God, thought Vera. If that’s another sales rep, I’m going to strike him in the throat.
Vera squeezed the dog’s neck so hard, the head snapped off.
The cat yelped. It had been curled up on the outside window ledge and had just been sprayed by young Dee Westmouth’s new water pistol.
The head rolled across the patterned linoleum, settling into a pile of onion-skin fragments in the corner of the kitchen.
Vera stood up, kicked the table leg and smoothed out her skirt. She took large strides towards the front door where her son, Charlie stood on the other side, arms weighed down with suitcases. Charlie is twenty-nine and a bit over five feet and nine inches, with his loved combat boots adding an extra inch if he’s lucky. Only his mother calls him fat, because in her book, there is no other nice way to put it, but Charlie’s friends call him hefty or plump when they try to describe him to potential suitors. Fat Charlie followed his mother into the kitchen, nodded at his father and took a seat at the table. Vera shuffled to the countertop, chin pressed against her chest.
“So,” Charlie began. “What’s new?”
“Same old, same old,” Thomas said.
“Except,” Vera added, “that your father is having an affair, and I’ve began menopause.”
Charlie looked at his father and asked, “dad, you’re not having an affair, are you?” Then he told his mother, “You started menopause the last time I was here, and the time before that.”
“Wendy Harris,” Vera said.
“Son, listen,” Thomas said.
Charlie listened with faint interest.
“A fat man goes into a fast food restaurant and orders his food. The cashier tells him that it will be a minute or two until his food is ready. The cashier hands the food to the fat guy and tells him, ‘sorry bout the weight.’” Thomas puts an emphasis on weight, and sticks out his arms, making them round like a cartwheel. Then he laughs and it sounds like a ripple in a still pond after a stone has been thrown in. The laugh radiates through the small kitchen where Vera stands and shakes her head.
“I see you’ve moved on from blonde jokes?” Charlie said, rocking back in his chair.
“Wendy fucking Harris,” Vera said.
Thomas tried to think of another joke.
“Anyway,” said Vera. She had managed to make three cups of tea and she carried them over to the kitchen table on a silver tray. One for Charlie, one for herself, and the one without milk for Thomas.
She sat down at the end of the table, not in her favorite spot this time, but closer to the window.
“Vera, darling,” Thomas said, staring into his tea. “You forgot to put milk in mine.”
“Ran out of milk,” said Vera swiftly before looking at her son. “So, Charlie. Found yourself a nice girl yet?”
Vera looked at her only son. Really looked at him, like she does whenever he comes to visit. She looked at him and thought, hopeless case.
He could have anyone. He’s handsome, fat yes, but handsome in a way that made the girls at church thrust their chests and play with their hair whenever he walked by them. He’s smart, and if he were good at saving, he’d have money. He could be married now, with the second offspring on it’s way, but instead he chose to fancy the men. But this, Vera hoped, was a phase.
“There’s a nice girl at church,”she said. “Her name is Lucy.”
“Lucinda,” Thomas corrected.
“Right, Lucinda. She’s about twenty-five, chubby faced, beautiful cinnamon eyes, and she’s looking for a boyfriend.”
Charlie buried himself further into his chair, and wished he’d brought his headphones. The ones he got for twenty dollars instead of the usual forty because someone had opened the casing.
“I don’t want to be one of those woman who walk around with a photo of her son in her purse,” Vera said. “You know how I feel about cliches.” She crossed one leg over the other. “So you will come to church on Sunday and meet Lucy.”
“Lucinda,” Thomas corrected.
Charlie looked at his watch – the plastic digital watch he found on the floor of the movie theatre. Still in good nick but cheap. He wouldn’t make much money trying to sell it, but he’d wear it. It said 9:05 am. He’d been sitting at the kitchen table for near ten minutes, and he already wanted to leave. Ten minutes down, thirteen days to go.
Copyright © 2017 Stephanie Heijkoop