Derry, Northern Ireland

Derry, Northern Ireland
A book I'm working on is set in this town.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Calling rewrite!

Here's the first 5 pages of The Vanishing of Owen Taylor -- jumping into the story a bit faster and with more insistence...I think...I hope...but you never know till it's done.


“Jake, why do you stay with Tone?”

It was my stepmother, Mira, asking. In English instead of French, to make sure I not only understood but to emphasize that she wanted a serious response. We were having lunch at an Indian café near Le Blanc-Mesnil, in Paris, with no way for me to blow off the question, so all I could do was load some Aloo Matar into my mouth to give me a chance to think.

Of course, when Mira asked that question, what she really said was, “Iacob, what is your loyalty with this Antony?” She always calls me by my Persian name, and I’m only one who gets to call my guy Tone.

He and I'd been together over two years, now, and this was the first time she'd raised the issue. Which is why it surprised me. She knew all about his trouble in Texas and why we were stuck there -- well, Tone was; I was just standing by my man. But she also knew how I felt about being in that god-awful state, and how happy I'd be when my guy and I could get the hell back to Denmark.

When I didn’t answer, immediately, she continued, “From the photos I have seen in the papers, he is an attractive young man. But you are better-looking and there are many of his type, so I know this is not the reason. I think, perhaps you wish to rescue him. He has need of someone strong to lean upon. But this denotes need on your part, which is a weakness and you are not a weak man. Is it only because of you being stubborn, Iacob? Remaining with him because others say you should not. Are you a man as foolish as that?”

"You forgot love," I said, half-joking. She just looked at me, so I shrugged. “What do you want me to say?”

“That it is not merely from pity.”

“I don’t pity Tone, Mira. He’d never let me.”

"So it is that you feel loyalty to him?"

I shrugged. She was the only other person in the world I felt like I could be completely open and honest with and know it wouldn’t get back to somebody, so I didn’t censor my feelings, in honor of that. “I prefer to call it love. It's not perfect. He can be hard as hell to put up with. Sometimes I'd get pissed off. Sometimes I’d get hurt. But usually I’ll be pretty happy, with him.”

She nodded and said, “In many ways you are so much like your father, and in others you are so completely different.”

Ouch. “Where did that come from?”

“An observation, only.” She dug deeper into her salad. “I notice you use the past tense when you speak of your problems, and the future tense when you speak of your happiness.”

“Psycho-lady, q’est-çe que c’est?” I snarled, joking. She just looked at me as she chewed. I shrugged. “It’s been rough, lately, no surprise. The crap we’re going through’d tear at anybody.”

She gave me a French shrug of agreement as she sipped some burgundy; she obviously felt some empathy for his situation, but that's her job, as a psychologist -- always making sure people understood that she understood and could trust her to increase her understanding.

I downed more of my Taj Mahal. I’ve known her a year and a half and still could not figure out how she and my father wound up together. Sure, he’s better-looking than I am, even in his fifties -- his hair still black, his eyes a bit sharper than mine, his features a bit less pronounced, his body trimmer. Tone told me he looked like a hungry wolf scouring the land for its next meal while I was a proud hawk. I laughed at him, but I loved that he said it.

Of course, dad's also rich as Solomon, but I never got the idea money's what Mira's after. On top of it, he’s an arrogant, selfish, controlling prick while she could’ve had any guy she wanted – raven black hair, full-figure, close enough to forty to make her sensual instead of just least, in France; in the twelve-year-old mentality of the US, she’d be over the hill. Plus in their ten-year marriage, she'd popped out five kids, including twin boys, and if my instincts were right, she was en route to bringing forth number at least the bedroom was happy.

She also had a mind of her own, something not so unusual in Persian women, and she wanted her full-Persian children to know their half-Persian brother. I got the sense she didn’t even give my dad a say in that. So while in America and Denmark my name was Jacob Michael Blaine, in Paris I was Iacob Mehrzad Darya-Bendari, and she made damn sure everybody knew it, out of respect.

That's why she and I were seated at a rickety table under dirty umbrellas on uneven flagstones behind an old French house. Whitewash an inch thick on it. Red tile roof on top. A fence of some green vines shielding us from the neighboring homes. Feasting on the best damn curry I’d ever had. I respect her as much I think she does me, but now all of a sudden she's wondering why I want to stick with Tone.

“What’s this really about, Mira?”

She deliberately did not look at me. “Did you know he let his therapist share his notes with me?"

"Yeah. He told me at the airport."

"Has he told you everything he’s done?”

“I got enough.”

“Then let me rephrase the question. Even if you do love him, is it wise to remain with him?”

“If I -- what do you mean?”

Her eyes locked on mine. “You are now a citizen of Denmark. Your work is in Copenhagen. It would be much more logical for you to be there than eight thousand kilometers away.”

“You don’t abandon somebody who’s got cancer or AIDS or heart disease, not if you love ‘em. Tone’s still healin’, both physically and legally. I’m stickin’ it out."

"So it is loyalty."

"Like a dog, huh?" I snapped. "Why're you askin’ me this? Is it Uncle Ari? You been talkin’ to him?”

“One does not talk to Ari; one only listens. He likes your work. His clients like your work. He wants you to become a partner in his business. It is an excellent idea, but you will have to return to Denmark to live. Antony cannot leave until next year, at the earliest. He could easily join you, then.”

Talk about a load of crap. Uncle Ari and my dad may be brothers, but Ari was open and gregarious and never met anyone he couldn’t like...and couldn’t keep a secret to save his life. He hadn’t even hinted about anything more than meeting a new client on this trip and sending more graphics assignments my way. So there was something else going on and she didn’t have the nerve to be up front with me. Which brought her down a notch in my eyes; if she can’t tell by now that I can be trusted, she never will...and that pissed me off.

“Don’t hand me this crap about Uncle Ari, Mira. What's really goin' on, here?”

She stopped in mid-chew and nodded and swallowed and took a sip of her wine. Burgundy with a salad; there’s something wrong about that.

"You are correct," she said. "I am too used to having to be careful with my patients."

"You tryin' to tell me I'm crazy for stickin' with Tone?"

She looked straight at me.

“Your mother has contacted your father.”

Slam-bam, blindside me, ma'am.

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