Saturday, May 24, 2014

Shadow's Night (Excerpt) Chapter 05 - Boredom

It was late and no one was in the coffee shop.  Breakfast had the most people, lunch was stretched out, and after people got off work was the most sporadic, but any time she could Heather sat transfixed with a book.  She was supposed to be learning the business, her business, but it was boring.  Her father owned it and she had been running it since she graduated from high school, a deal they had worked out given her lack of ambition to go to college.  Going some place local felt too much like going back to high school, if they weren’t the exact same kids it was still too close, and she didn’t feel like going away, not with her father the way he was, not with the business being his only support. 

She was reading Breakfast of Champions that evening, thinking Vonnegut got it wrong and that she lived in the asshole of the Universe and that if she wasn’t careful she might live there for the rest of her life.  She moaned at the thought.  She wanted a distraction and she thought about Kevin.  She hadn’t talked to him in weeks since he had been back to class.  She took out her phone and called him.

“Come down and visit me,” she said as soon as he picked up.  “I’m bored and no one is here.”

Alone in his room with one hand pressing the phone to his ear and the other scrolling through his dashboard he looked to the clock.  He was bored too and there was nothing he had to do immediately.  He agreed and ended the call before he got up from his desk chair, tightened the belt to his jean shorts, and made sure his fly was up.  He stuck his phone in his pocket, checked the weight of it there, and headed out. 

No one was there to notice him leave.  He slipped his shoes on at the front door, pulled the door shut behind him making sure it was locked before he turned on his feet and made the quick five minute walk to Main Street and the coffee shop.  He looked through the main window to Heather who looked back with her chin propped on her hand still bored.  He opened the door to the smell of coffee and baked goods.  His hands in the pockets of his hooded jacket he walked to the counter.

“Do you want something?” she asked.

“Uh,” he said before he looked back to the two people by the window.  “I don’t know.  Calories, you know, maybe just a tea.”

“No problem, go have a seat and I’ll bring it over,” she said.

He suddenly felt guilty for her waiting on him, and he hadn’t even paid.  He reached into his pocket for the few loose dollar bills but when she saw him she shook her head and motioned for him to go where she had told him to go.  He pulled out the dollars anyway and put them in the tip cup before he walked to the table, did a quick assessment of where she would need to sit to keep and eye on the door and sat in the opposite spot.  He listened to her.  She was getting a tea for herself, something to eat. 

Was it something to share?  He groaned at the thought.  He was hungry, just a little bit, but he knew he’d look better if he denied it rather than indulge.  She stepped out from behind the counter and walked to him where she set down a tray.  There were two teas and two scones. 

“You’re mean,” he said.

“Just a few carbs,” she said.  “Besides you get plenty of exercise.”

“This will be an extra mile, maybe half,” he said.

“Skinny Mr. Kevin,” she said.  She saw him wince at the comment.  “Sorry, it just came to mind.  We haven’t talked about it in a while.  Does your father still check up on you?”

“Sometimes,” he said.

“That’s nice,” she said.  “He cares.”

“So what do you want to do?”

“I don’t know, blow my brains out maybe.”

He recoiled at her sarcasm.

“Sorry, it’s been a long day,” she said.  “I’m going to buy bullets with my tips.”

He raised an eyebrow at her and crossed one leg over the other to turn away from her slightly mocking her desperate, bitter attitude.  She pulled her hands to her face and let out a grunt of disgust before she stretched out her arms and lay face down on the table for a second before she raised her shoulders with an inhale of air.

“That bad?”

“I’m here breakfast, lunch, and dinner everyday.  I can take time off here and there, I convinced my father to get someone to help but it’s all just the same.  It was bad when there were more people I knew from high school but there’s been two classes since we graduated.  They get dumber each year.  Somehow the place became hip.

“God, the other day there were a group of teen girls in here who talked about the television show Friends the whole time and how they wanted to go to New York.  Boy are they going to be disappointed.”

“Reruns,” he said.  “It gives us such bad impressions.” 

“My father likes it but ugh, I’d rather be in some bookstore somewhere, reading quietly in the back, only sell things occasionally.”

“People would steal your books,” he said.

“No one steals books,” she said.  “They’re not worth anything.” 

She broke off a piece of scone and stuck it in her mouth, began to chew.  Kevin watched her, looked at his own scone, looked away.

“How’s class?” she asked.

“Boring but I’ll get through it,” he said, “we’re supposed to research our local town and write a piece about it for our final paper.  It’s not due for a long time though.”

“Not much to write about here,” she said.

“Some white people took land from some natives who suffered on a reservation until a loophole allowed them to open a casino where poor people of all colors go to gamble and buy cheap cigarettes.”

“Wow, that doesn’t sound bitter at all,” she said.

He laughed mockingly at her causing her to smile.

“So really what do you want to do?” he asked.

“Tarot card reading,” she said.

“Aw, come on?”

“No, it’ll be good.”

She got up from the table and went behind the counter to her bag where she retrieved a cloth bag that held her Tarot cards and returned with it.  She sat across from him with renewed energy.  She opened the bag, got out the cards, and shuffled them.  She held them close to her body with her eyes closed, readied herself across from him before she slid them in his direction.  He picked up the cards.  They had been through this several times but each time he relied on her instruction and her creativity for what the cards meant.

“You deal your own fate,” she said.

He shuffled the cards, toyed with her a little before she instructed him on how to lay them out for a twenty-one card reading.  She looked at them for several minutes when something else caught her eye, a spark.  She looked up through the main window to the sidewalk where she saw a young man, a stranger, Conrad, with a cigarette in his hand signaling for someone to join him.  The stranger was handsome.  He wore a leather jack, the collar up towards his face to protect him from the wind.

“Who is that?” she asked.

Kevin turned on his seat to look out the front window.  He looked to the young man, was captivated by his handsome face, his button nose, and kissable lips.  He didn’t have to be gay, he thought, anyone would want him. 

“Holy shit,” Heather said, “look who’s walking up to him.”

Kevin turned a little more to see the direction the young man was staring to see a familiar person stop in front of him.  He knew that face.

“It’s Simon Winters,” she said.

Kevin turned around back to her, his muscles and joints slightly ached by the way he was turned.  He let out a grunt of pain and looked her in the eye before he turned back to see the two young men outside the coffee shop talking, then he looked back to her with one ear listening for the door.

“Do you think they’re coming in here?” she asked.

“Has he ever come in here?”

“No, I’ve never seen him in here.  He usually sticks to himself.  I only ever see him in the library sometimes but he’s always alone.  I’ve thought about going up and saying something to him.”

“More like getting his autograph,” he said.

“He’s infamous, not famous,” she replied.

“Is he moving in this direction?”

“I think they are,” she said.

They looked to the door where Conrad pushed his way inside followed by Simon who walked with his hands in his pockets.  Heather jumped to her feet and made her way behind the counter to where her patrons took turns looking at each other, the selection of baked goods, and coffee.

“I’m terrible at this,” Conrad said.

“I told you I’ve never been here,” Simon replied.  He was annoyed for having been dragged along and didn’t want it to be any easier.

“Can I help you?” Heather asked.

Conrad leaned against the counter and looked into Heather’s eyes, looked her over before looking to Kevin who sat staring back at him.  They caught each other’s eyes and looked away, each with nearly the same thought, he’s cruising me, here.  Conrad shook off the thought.

“I usually just get black coffee and a scone,” he said.

“We can do that,” she said.

“What about your friend?”

Everyone looked to Simon who held up a hand of slight protest.  He looked to the floor and out into the street trying to show no interest.

“He’ll have the same,” Conrad said.

She rang up the order but she wanted to know more.  She had an idea.

“I uh, usually call out a name,” she said.

“Conrad,” he replied.

Heather and Kevin looked to each other as Conrad began to count out cash.  He paid with a ten dollar bill and when he got back the change he dropped a dollar and the change in the tip cup.  Simon looked ready to leave but Conrad led him to a table where they sat.  Conrad cast one last look across the room to Kevin who had focused back on the Tarot cards on the table.  He spied the young man’s muscled calf and the way he played with his hair.  Maybe there were queers here after all, he thought, and maybe I should get to know them.

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Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Shadow's Night Promotional Sale

Shadow's Night
After shooting a man while on a bender of drugs he was supposed to sell Conrad flees the city and goes to a place where he believes no one will find him, the home of Simon Winters, an old cellmate from his years in juvenile detention.  But he knows he can’t stay for long and Conrad’s greed inadvertently causes Simon to confront his past and his life in a small town where memories run deep.  How will Simon survive Conrad’s path to darkness?

Sample Chapters: ch 1 -

ch 2 -

ch 3 -

Friday, May 16, 2014

Shadow's Night (Excerpt) Chapter 02 - Spilled Blood

After shooting a man while on a bender of drugs he was supposed to sell Conrad flees the city and goes to a place where he believes no one will find him, the home of Simon Winters, an old cellmate from his years in juvenile detention.  But he knows he can’t stay for long and Conrad’s greed inadvertently causes Simon to confront his past and his life in a small town where memories run deep.  How will Simon survive Conrad’s path to darkness?   

Present Day...

Rain fell against the windshield of the parked ‘94 Lincoln as it sat in the back of the grocery store parking lot away from customers and light.  Inside the car two men, Conrad and Marcus, sat contemplating their fates and what one of them had done.  Conrad, the younger of the two, looked out through the splattered rain drops into the night sky.  He wanted to confess something they both knew.  He wanted to say it even though it didn’t seem rational.

There had been minutes of silence between them after Marcus had picked him up and driven him to the lot.  Marcus had been a mentor and his lover for over two years.  He was a strong man, tough and unsympathetic.  He had decried sentimentality and empathy on a regular basis.  And Conrad was afraid how the man would react.

“Marcus, I shot someone,” Conrad said. 

When Marcus didn’t respond he looked to the older man who sat next to him blowing smoke out of the partially open window.  Marcus knocked ash onto the floor.  He stroked his beard, scratched at his throat as if he were massaging the words there.

“Tell me about it,” Marcus said.

“I was over at Tina’s.  It was early morning so no one was there.  I was playing 9-Ball alone just to hone my skills.  I had been up a few days snorting Ritalin and whatever else so I was scratching and getting frustrated.  I was lining up a shot and not paying attention, bam, he blindsides me.” 

Conrad thought about the way the enforcer hit him, lifted him from the ground and sent him flying into a nearby table, the feeling of the edge against his back, falling to the ground, and the way the carpet felt on his hands.  He shook off the memory. 

“I look up and it’s Dylan.  He never liked me and he’s got this look in his eye because for once he’s justified to kick the shit out of me.”

“But how did you get mixed up with that sadistic bastard?” Marcus asked.

“He had that pharmaceutical connection.  I thought it would be easy money.  Everyone at the clubs and parties wants the pills because they know it’s uncut and high quality and I knew I could overcharge them.  It would be a hustle but still it would be worth it.  The weed from you was good but this was... I’m sorry.”

“Hey, it’s your life.  You were being an entrepreneur.”

“Anyway, he’s on me but it’s like he’s toying with me.  That was the worst part.  I’m saying anything I can to get him to stop.  I say, ‘I’ll do anything’ and he laughs at me.  He tells me he had a bet that I’d try to bribe him with sex and how fags were good earners but could never be real members. 

“I start to get to my knees but I’m dizzy and he grabs hold of my hair, I fall against him.  He starts laughing.  That’s when I got my gun from the ankle holster and I press the barrel up into his balls.  Fucker turned white as a ghost, he was scared of me or some freak accident. 

“I had him good.  He lets me go and backs away.  I get to my feet but stagger.  He moves like he’s coming at me but there’s too much distance and I steady myself.  I can feel as I look at him, this maggot is mine.”

“You shot him?”

“No, not like that.  I was ready to let him go.  I just wanted some sleep.  He starts saying things like how this isn’t over and how I owe money, and how the next time he sees me it’s personal, that he’ll take my head off and let guys use it for a toilet.  It all felt so weird.  I knew what I was doing but I don’t know.  He says to me, ‘Next time I-’ and that’s when I pointed my gun at his chest. 

“He held out his hand and you know the funny thing is that I shot it.  I shot his hand.  I’ve barely used a gun but it just popped up, bam.  I see him start to go weak but I’m thinking I have to finish this so I shoot at him.  One shot hits the wall, another hits some glass, and I’m panicking so I close on him and bam, bam, he’s down and out.”

Marcus sat in the passenger seat slowly nodding.

“What do I do now?”

“Now you run,” Marcus said.

“What?  Why?  No one else saw me.  Did they?”

“Some waitress named Brenda saw the whole thing from behind the door.  She called the police, said you shot him in cold blood.  The police have a sketch of your face and a description.  They don’t know your name but they’ll probably find fingerprints.  The Brotherhood got to her after that which is how I know.  I heard it from her directly, and they know your name.  They’re coming after you.” 

“Even you?”

Marcus gave him a look and Conrad let out a nervous laugh.

“I care about you but this can’t be fixed.  You have to get out of this city and start over somewhere.  You can’t go home and you can’t go to any relative’s place.  Drive out to the West Coast and get lost there.”

“What about us?”

“Maybe one day, when I retire or maybe I can meet up with you sometime, somewhere on a vacation but you know everything I do is with the club.”

“I’ll be alone,” he said.  He didn’t know if he loved the man.  He didn’t believe in love.  But he did need the man.  He could rely on him.

Some part of him wanted to be just cold and calculating.  Some part of him wanted to believe Marcus cared.  He wanted to believe it wasn’t a facade like when he pretended to be tough and when he pretended to be straight.  He had to find out.  He had to make the man feel something for him.  He winced and looked to his hands.  He felt like he could cry but he knew that would be too weak to Marcus.  He had to have strength enough to hold the tears back.

“Do you have enough?”

“I’ve got a little of what I was selling, some cash I was going to pay him, a few things but nothing of real value.”

Marcus reached into the breast pocket of his leather jacket and pulled out a roll of bills wrapped in rubber bands.  The wad had been stuck together for some time and was old and not bills recently taken from a cash machine.

“There’s three grand there in small bills mostly.  That’s the best I can come up with right now from my squirrel fund.”

“I need more than this,” Conrad said.  “I can’t live like I did before when I was on the street.  I can’t go back to that.”

“Do you have some place you can stay for a while?  I can get you some more money unless you find some of your own.”

Conrad slouched in his seat as he tried to think over his friends in life, someone the police and the gang wouldn’t know about, couldn’t find through a simple background check.  There was one name that came to mind, they had been close once for a brief time but never stayed in contact.  It would be easy enough to track him down.

“Yeah, I might know someone,” Conrad said.

“Good, take the car and drive out now, as far as you can.  No one knows what you’re driving so don’t get panicked.  You find a place off the main road somewhere and crash for a few days to sleep this off.  We’ll stay in contact through my second burner phone, no one knows about it.”

“This guy, he lives-”

Marcus silenced him with a finger.

“I don’t want to know where.  You need to get safe, let this blow over, and I’ll contact you.”

“Thank you,” Conrad said.

“Come here,” Marcus replied.

Conrad leaned over to hug Marcus but was lifted to his lap where they embraced and kissed as the older man ran his hands under the younger man’s shirt to his shoulder blades where he grasped at the skin there.

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Shadow's Night - Prologue Going Home (Excerpt)

After shooting a man while on a bender of drugs he was supposed to sell Conrad flees the city and goes to a place where he believes no one will find him, the home of Simon Winters, an old cellmate from his years in juvenile detention.  But he knows he can’t stay for long and Conrad’s greed inadvertently causes Simon to confront his past and his life in a small town where memories run deep.  How will Simon survive Conrad’s path to darkness? 
Eight years ago...

They’re going to remember me, Simon thought as he walked out of his high school headed home, anyone messes with me they’re going to remember it.  I might not be big, I might not be strong, but if I have to fight, if it comes down to it, then I will scar them in some way, I don’t even have to win, just leave them with something so they remember.  He thumbed the knife in his pocket.  His jaw was tight and shoulders raised. 

The school year had started easily and he was looking for a new start after the summer he had but over the last few weeks, intermittently, a group of boys, led by his new archenemy Josh, had begun teasing him.  The first time he had mistakenly thought as they drove by and honked the horn it was some kind of hello and he had even, foolishly, waved back but he regretted that the next day and successive days when they would pass.  They honked at him, yelled at him, threatened him, and even tried to swing at him with their hands and a baseball bat.  

That was bad enough, but then it became something else as he passed Josh’s house.  He hated that house.  That house had been the site of his great embarrassment just that summer.  The year before he had become infatuated with Josh’s sister Lucy who was in the same grade.  He thought it was mutual.  She flirted with him every time they were together, more when they were alone.  She had been flirtatious and he had been awkward.  She would touch and rub against him.  He wanted her badly and had even asked her out but she politely refused.

It started with an impulse to see her, maybe something romantic like throwing stones at her window.  It was easy to find but he didn’t have the courage.  However, he found that sometimes, especially if he waited long enough he could see her undress. 

It was his secret until his mother followed him one night.  He was in the darkness with one hand down inside his pants waiting to see her again.  His mother was quiet, or else he was too absorbed, but she grabbed him from behind.  He let out a scream of panic that became screams of pain as she struck him.  The neighbors opened their front doors.  Lucy came to the window.  His mother pulled him to their front lawn.  By then Josh and his father were on the front porch.  He remembered Josh was in his boxers and for a moment he wasn’t sure who should be more embarrassed.

He thought for a moment his mother would make him apologize but she didn’t.  She dragged him away and back to their home, made him bare himself, then spanked him with the belt that had been left hanging in his father’s office.  He felt as if his sin, his mischievous act, had been beaten from him that night as the pain was burned into his flesh.

Sometimes he wanted to try and rub that pain as he passed by the house except he was usually too distracted by Josh and his friends.  Sometimes he thought they would run out and chase after him but one of the boys had another idea.  They got eggs.  It became a sporting event.  Any day they got back before he passed they would throw eggs at him, only once coming close enough to get splatter on his pant cuff.  He started to think about a day when it got worse.  He said something, they said something, or maybe they thought of something else.

It was the same as the time before when boys in his same grade made him take off his jeans and hand them over after school.  He had to walk the rest of the way in a pair of white briefs, trying to cover himself with his hands and shirt, sneaking through yards if he could but risking double the exposure.  The old people in the neighborhood watched their yards like a hawk ready to confront anyone who dared cross their manicured, green lawns.  He managed to sneak inside and up to his room without his mother noticing and he thought it was over.  The next day at school all his classmates knew.  Most didn’t say anything directly, just whispered behind his back, but others, other boys, they teased him, especially in the locker room.  Eventually the principal found out and confronted the boys, making Simon recount the incident in front of them.  The boys were threatened with suspension and his mother was told but little else came of it.  His mother only tried to console him when he got home.

But he vowed to himself that it was a once in a lifetime event.  He would only be humiliated like that once.  The next time someone might get over on him, beat him, strip him, but he would fight and he would mark them, leave a scar in some way.  He ran his thumb over the backside of the blade enjoying the feel of the blunt edge of the metal.  He had one plan for how to react.  He wasn’t going to flash it.  He wasn’t going to threaten them.  His advantage was that they thought they had the upper hand. 

He walked along the familiar route, head down.  The boys’ car passed him.  He felt a lump in his throat.  He got within 100 yards and for a moment he thought about trying to go some other way, but they’ll know I’m chicken, he thought, so he continued on.  He walked steadily as he usually did. 

Even when they threw the eggs he didn’t try to jump around and dodge them.  He let them hit as they usually did, but then he found himself doing something else.  He turned and gave them the finger.  It was a motion, a gesture that he felt ripped him from path in space and time, pulled him into some intangible present.  The boys yelled and taunted, grabbed at their crotches and flipped him off.  But he didn’t walk away.  He stood there for everyone to see, all the neighbors.  The boys began to call for him, invite him, and feeling half-possessed he walked in their direction.  He took his hand from his pocket as he stepped onto the grass. 

“Come on pervert,” Josh yelled.

He didn’t want to fight them, not really.  He wanted them to stop.  He wanted to confront them.  He was the new cowboy in town and they were the bad guys.  He paid little attention to anything else, just them, but especially Josh.  He didn’t notice the grass, the birds in the trees, a bright blue sky, an airplane passing over, just them.  He got within ten feet and stopped.  There were five of them and Lucy, she was on the porch.  Had she organized this as some revenge?

“What do you want pervert?” Josh asked.

“I want you to stop,” Simon said.

Josh mocked him, adding an extra lisp to the phrase.  Everyone laughed.

“Quit it,” Simon said.

“Or what?”

“It’s not right,” Simon said.

“Why don’t you walk away so we can have some more practice,” Josh said.  “We still have about a half dozen eggs that needs used.”


“What did you say?  I’m giving you a chance to walk away from this.  You don’t want me to kick the living shit out of you.  I’ll do it.  I will beat you senseless, maybe pull off your faggot clothes, make you walk home naked.  Post some pictures of that on the internet, spank your ass.”

“You’re a moron,” Simon replied.  “You sound like a faggot talking about pulling off my clothes and spanking me.  Is that what your dad does before bed?”

He didn’t know where the last sentence came from, his skin burned from the intensity of it.  He had crossed over another threshold.  There was no going back.  He thought to run away, but when he looked for a path, a direction out, Josh was too close, they all were.

“My boys here are going to kick your ass,” he said.

Simon stepped back but readied himself.

“Your boys?  You need boys?  Are you too much of a faggot to fight me alone?”

Josh pulled at his shirt, up over his shoulders and off, threw it to one of his friends.  Several years older he had been going to the gym regularly.  His muscles were impressive, if not intimidating. 

“Do you like this faggot?”

“Leave me alone,” Simon said.

“Or what?”

Josh’s friends began to circle him and Simon dropped his back pack to the ground beside his feet, stepped away so he wouldn’t get caught on it.  He stared at Josh but was wary of the young man’s friends so he kept his attention open, ready for any move.  But the friends didn’t act, they weren’t ready to participate.  They wanted a show, a performance of Josh beating Simon.  He readied himself by raising himself on the balls of his feet.  He noticed Josh was more flat footed, over confident. 

When Josh moved to grab him he let himself be over taken but grappled back a little trying to hold him enough, slow him down.  He wasn’t prepared for the blows to his back, his sides, his face.  Punches and slaps meant to embarrass not severely harm, not initially.  Josh tried to manipulate him into a headlock, a chokehold, but he fought back, escaped.  They circled each other.  Simon didn’t throw one punch.  He knew he couldn’t get past the long arms and guard of his opponent.  He waited until they were locked up again before he tried his one move by pulling Josh to the ground.  It was a Judo move he had read about.  He didn’t expect it to work.  He fell atop Josh who was quick to roll with him until he was on top.

“I’m going to fucking tear off your head and shit down your neck,” Josh said between grunts.  He grabbed at Simon’s arms, his wrists, but Simon had one last move.  He reached for his pocket.  “I’m going to mess you up.”

Josh didn’t notice.  He laughed as he slapped and toyed with his prey.  It was the opening Simon needed as he pulled his knife out.  He flicked open the quick action blade and stabbed up into Josh’s soft belly.  He was surprised by the feeling of it, the moment when it hit and went straight into him, then when it stopped. 

Warm blood ran down over his hand, onto his shirt, he could feel it against his skin.  “What the hell?” Josh said.  He pulled himself away and Simon held onto the knife.  Josh almost got to his feet but fell back on his ass.  He looked around before his head hit the green lawn. 

“I’ve been stabbed,” he said.

Simon pushed himself away, first he sat up, then he got to his knees.  He cleaned the blade of his knife on his jeans, looked to the rest of them, but everyone else was in a panic.  Two of the boys were on their phones, Lucy ran to her older brother, grabbed at him.  She wailed and cried.  He had crossed another threshold.  He thought about running home, hiding somewhere.  He thought about the attic but there wouldn’t be enough time.  He knew he couldn’t hide from this. 

Police were being called.  No one else wanted to fight.  He threw the knife into the dirt before him making it stick up, available for use but also making him unarmed.  He didn’t have a choice in what would happen next, he told himself.  If Josh lived or died he didn’t have a choice, the past was some violent moment that would pull through the rest of his life.  He felt like he wanted to cry but stopped himself.  There was no weakness, he had been weak once but never again.

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Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Shadow's Night (Excerpt) Chapter 03 - Kevin

Kevin awoke to his alarm clock feeling as if he didn’t have time to sleep.  He looked to see it was 5:30 A.M. and turned off the alarm.  He sat up from his bed feeling renewed but slightly disoriented.  He dropped to the floor where he laid out on his back, put his knees into the air, and began to do sit ups.  He counted them under his breath until he reached twenty, then he rolled over on his stomach and did twenty pushups, jumped to his feet and ran in place for thirty seconds, did fifteen squat thrusts, then got back into position for more sit ups.  He did seven more cycles before he stopped just after the last squat thrust.  He rolled onto his back for a moment to catch his breath. 

He looked under his bed where he saw it was empty and smiled.  He was pleased that there was no clutter, no extra belongings hid somewhere.  He had gotten himself organized six years ago before he started high school and he wasn’t going back.  He sat up, pushed himself from the floor and stripped off his clothes, dropped them in the hamper and stepped in front of the full length mirror.  He was happy with his body for once.  His belly and the padding of baby fat on his face were gone.

Everything was in its right place, he told himself.  He went to the middle of his room and sat, crossed his legs and assumed his best meditative form.  He liked to meditate naked because it felt like his body was the most open.  He thought about the day before and everything he had done.  He thought about the things he needed to do.  He thought about where he had to go, the people he would talk to and deal with and among those people was Thad.

Thad was only minutes away, would be waiting for him on the corner to go for a run.  He smiled.  No, he told himself, be in the moment, put all those assumptions away somewhere.  He had thought it through but life wouldn’t happen exactly that way.  Embrace the chaos, he told himself.

There was the sound of his phone telling him he had a text message from Thad.  Was he running late?  He waited until he felt himself calm down, then he opened his eyes and got back to his feet.  He retrieved his phone, just a good morning message telling him Thad was five minutes early and missing him.  He smiled and deleted the message before he put down his phone and went to get his workout clothes from the drawer: a thin pair of shorts, t-shirt, jock strap, and cup.  He pulled the jock strap up, placed the cup inside.  He looked at himself in the mirror and was delighted because he never thought four years ago he would take pride in his body and exercise.  He finished dressing, put on his socks and shoes, made his way out of the quiet house.

He checked to make sure he had his house key tied on a string around his neck, that it hadn’t been pulled off while he slept in some accident or fit of rage before he closed the door and made sure it was locked.  He did ten jumping jacks before he dashed down the stairs and across the lawn.  He got to the sidewalk and turned.  He picked up his speed in anticipation of seeing Thad.

Suburban, colonial style houses that had been built over a hundred years ago, the rest of the neighborhood was still quiet.  Only a few mothers and fathers were awake, maybe the poor soul delivering newspapers, garbage collectors and people headed to work knew about this time and many of them probably didn’t appreciate it.  He liked this time of the morning, something few people ever knew about because most of them were still asleep.  Although there would be fewer of them with Fall approaching but sometimes it felt like only him and Thad as they ran the streets and through the park.  That made it easier.

He spotted Thad on the corner in the grass stretching his legs and smiled.  The man was possibly twenty years older than him but fit and good natured unlike any other person his age.  He could be disarming, took an interest in people like when Thad had been impressed that Kevin was a conscientious eater and exercised regularly.  Kevin felt comfortable admitting to him that he struggled with anorexia in high school until his parents got him a therapist who got him a personal trainer.  He learned about food and exercise the right way, he said.

They had talked for a long time about food and work.  Kevin had just begun his internship but he was eager to find out how the newspaper worked.  Thad had told him he was in the photography business for over a decade feeling that it would scare him but Kevin was intrigued by his career.  They talked any chance they got.  They met frequently on breaks and lunch.  Kevin asked him about his previous life and sometimes Thad told him about what it was like as if he wanted to have it again, as if they could have it together.

But even as comfortable as they were with each other coming out was still a process.  Finally, after weeks of talking Thad admitted that he had broken up with his long-term boyfriend before moving to town.  Kevin sat in silence for a long time.  He knew that each had suspected the other was gay but not wanting to offend each other they assumed the other was straight, neither of them even in these days wanted to risk offending the other by making some assumption.  Kevin had never told anyone his own secret but then he just said it.

“I haven’t had a boyfriend yet but I’m looking forward to it.”

They both looked at each other and laughed suddenly feeling ridiculous for not recognizing in the other, for being afraid of saying something for weeks.  After that it became more comfortable until Thad asked him to go jogging.  Kevin felt himself being excited about the idea.  Was it a date?  Was it the beginning of a relationship?  He found himself flirting with the older man if even only accidentally or unconsciously until he recognized what he had done, what he had said.  Thad noticed but said that he was afraid of being in a relationship with someone so young, but that was months ago.

Kevin came to a stop a few feet from Thad after signaling to each other a hello.  He began to run in place.  He looked up and down the streets but there was no traffic, a few inside houselights were on.  He signaled for Thad to get ready.

“How are you this morning?” Thad asked.

“Good,” Kevin said.  “How are you?”

“Old,” Thad said.

“Better hurry then before you get any older.  Last one to the park has to pay for lunch.”

Kevin began to run away towards the park and Thad gave him a lead before he dashed after him.  Thad got close enough to make Kevin look back.  Each let out a laugh before they doubled down and began to run as hard as they could.  They were even when Thad reached over and slapped playfully at Kevin’s arm.  Kevin tried to slap back or at least keep him away.  It was a long run into the back of the neighborhood to the park, a preservation, the as of yet unprocessed trees.

Kevin felt as if for once he was leading when Thad stopped playing and gave it his all.  He pulled ahead of the young man for just long enough that he touched the park sign first.  Kevin slowed himself enough, ran into the sign and let out a laugh.

“You’re too much,” Thad said.

“I think we’re both going to be tired today for work,” Kevin said.

“At least you’re only there for a few hours.”

“So are you,” Kevin said.

“Oh right, well, it’s nice to not have a good job I guess.  Hey that reminds me do you want to help me at my studio on Saturday?  I’d pay you something under the table, say twenty bucks and maybe a piece of pizza.”

“Yeah sure,” Kevin said.  That would be a good way to earn some money, maybe they could find some time to do something else, but then he reminded himself of where they were.  He signaled for Thad to follow him.

“I don’t know how I let you talk me into this,” Thad said.

They walked into the park, along the familiar trail.  Down one path, then off on another, and yet another going in a direction few walkers ever went.  Kevin signaled with his head for Thad to follow him along a thin path through the trees.  They had fooled around in different spots all over the park, mostly kissing and groping. 

He moved on impulse, searching out some perfect spot.  He walked until he felt far enough away so they wouldn’t be seen.  They stopped to catch their breath, to listen and make sure no one else was around and they wouldn’t be disturbed.

Kevin looked to the older man, stared him in the eye before he pulled off his shirt and threw it to him.  Thad shook his head as if he was shaking away guilt before he pulled off his own shirt.  Kevin let his shorts drop, stuck his thumbs in the waist band of his jock, ran them between the fabric and his own skin, moved his thumbs down to the straps where he toyed with them, toyed with Thad’s desire.

“You’re naughty,” Thad said.

“Maybe we both are,” Kevin said.

They listened for a moment to make sure no one had heard them.  They stepped to each other with their hands slightly out anticipating the touch.  They reached for skin at the same time.  They were simultaneously delighted by the feel of their touch and being touched. 

They kissed.

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Sunday, May 11, 2014

New Book - Shadow's Night Excerpt, Prologue

Down to editing the last chapter of my book I hope to publish soon so as a little celebration of my achievement I decided to post the Prologue today. I will post two other chapters soon...

After shooting a man while on a bender of drugs he was supposed to sell Conrad flees the city and goes to a place where he believes no one will find him, the home of Simon Winters, an old cellmate from his years in juvenile detention.  But he knows he can’t stay for long and Conrad’s greed inadvertently causes Simon to confront his past and his life in a small town where memories run deep.  How will Simon survive Conrad’s path to darkness?