Chapter 1 of “The Man in the Box”

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Vol 1, No 1: Paradise

Robby downed the last of his neat whiskey and dropped the glass on the roaming server’s tray, chinking the remaining ice. He checked his phone and noted that his scheduled massage was in twenty minutes. The resort’s app instructed him to ask for Alana at the spa’s front desk. He watched a young couple necking each other on the pool steps, the water licking their waists. As he admired the tanned lovers, he lathered more sunscreen on his arms; he could feel a light, threatening burn fester on his skin. He also coated his face, careful not to get any in his eyes.

He basked in the tropical sun and listened to the seagulls caw overhead as they glided above the ocean just steps from the pool area. The faint rumble of the tide swooned and sighed with each swell.  He had just come in from riding those waves, and now his arm and leg muscles rested, along with his mind. At long last, he, Robby Lake, had reached paradise.

He eyed a pretty dark-haired woman as she strolled past him in a green and white string bikini, bouncing her round hips not unlike the pendulum hanging from his boss’ wall clock thousands of miles away. The woman batted her eyes at Robby and her lips curled into a smile as her feet made soft schluckingsounds through the puddles of pool water on the sizzling concrete. A wisp of her coconut-lime sun lotion drifted into his nostrils as she glided past, her breasts bouncing perfectly in rhythm. He closed his eyes when she exited the grounds through the gate and lost himself in the heavenly “Ka Loke” wafting from speakers concealed behind palm trees around the crowded yet perfectly still pool area.

Another server, a native, in the resort’s issued soft white button-down and a black bowtie, placed another whisky on the frosted glass table beside Robby and asked him if he needed anything else.

“Bring me a plate of pulled pork and chocolate-covered pineapples,” he answered dismissively. He was already dreaming of the hula dancers he’d soon be lusting after later that on the star-lit beach, the campfire embers dancing their own hula at his bare feet.

“Right away,” the server said. And then his voice dropped: “You’re dead.”

Robby eyed the server curiously who still had a soft smile on his face as though still happy to take his order. Then he said it again.

“Dad, you’re dead.”

Robby turned his head toward the voice and saw his son sitting next to him where the server had been. The sun was gone now; in its place was a scoreboard hanging on the far end of a high school gymnasium. Below it, a volleyball court replaced the sparkling blue pool, with sophomore girls dotting both sides, his daughter being one of those dots. And the chill of an overworking A/C blew away the sauna warmth of the great Pacific.

“Give it over, Dad,” Jeremy said to Robby. “You’re dead. It’s my turn.”

Robby glanced down at his son’s Nintendo 2DS and saw that he had indeed died; it was Jeremy’s turn to play. He passed the device over to him and looked out at the court six rows down from the bleachers.

East Louisville High was hosting the JV volleyball game this evening, which had drawn several friends and parents of the players from the early May rain that thudded on the gymnasium roof like a steady applause.

On the scoreboard, the bulbous number 16 blinked to 17, causing a handful of people to clap their hands with little enthusiasm. (Let’s face it, it wasn’t exactly the Barnum and Bailey circus.) The pullout bleachers groaned underneath Robby as a few patrons stood to their feet. “That brings the score to a tie at 17,” the young adolescent voice announced through the loudspeakers.

Rosalynn sat on the other side of Robby cheering Taylor on, doing her best to ignore Robby’s video gaming. She’d expressed her disdain for it, arguing that Taylor looks up and sees that he’s not interested in her game, but he had argued that at least he was there, being a good dad. Most of her teammates didn’t have dads that cared enough to show up, or were stuck at work, he had said. His presence had to count for something, right?

While Jeremy took his turn with the Nintendo, Robby applauded along with everyone else. His arms were once again pasty white and dry, no longer brown and oily from his creamy Sisley sunscreen. He managed a wane smile when Rosalynn looked over at him to see if his excitement matched hers. She saw that it didn’t, and she knew he was somewhere else. God, how that annoyed her. Many of their fights were spawned because of his incredible ability to zone out at crucial times like during Taylor’s volleyball games, conversations about budgeting, at the dinner table, and on occasion, even during sex. She returned the smile then turned her attention back to the game when the applause died down and the ball on the court was back in motion.

Robby glanced at the clock on the scoreboard with a sigh as everyone else sat back down and the excitement morphed into a casual anxiety to see who would break the tie. But try as he might, Robby could not properly invest in his daughter’s game. Each Thwump! of the ball was like a clock ticking painfully slow through the workweek: Tick … Tock … Tick … Tock …Tick…

Tomorrow was Thursday, which marked his eleventh anniversary at CipherMill Publishing House. To celebrate his tenure he had splurged and bought himself a present, which was currently tucked away in his nightstand: a plane ticket to Hawaii. Yes, in just fifty-six hours, he would be on a plane headed west to the Aloha State.

Of course, three other tickets for his family were paper-clipped to his, but he made sure they all knew that this was his vacation. Like when Rosalynn had asked him what sort of tours they should schedule, Robby said, “You guys can go do anything you’d like. I’m renting a surfboard and taking on the waves. And when you get back from your little lava tours, you’ll find me at the pool with a book.” And one day, Jeremy had asked Robby what kind of food they served in Hawaii. Robby answered, “Anything and everything that can’t be found in Kentucky or anywhere else in the continental United States.” “No fried chicken, then?” Jeremy had asked. “Not unless they can catch it in the ocean,” Robby responded. “And even then, we’d eat it raw, because that’s what they do on de islands, mahn.” (Robby had taken up the annoying habit of calling it de islands, much to his family’s chagrin.) Naturally, this caused Jeremy to lose his excitement for the trip and Rosalynn had to spend a lot of time building it back up, assuring him that they’ll find fried chicken somewhere, or pizza, or whatever.

“She’s doing good out there,” Rosalynn said during a long match.

“Uh-huh,” Robby said, pulling himself back to the present. The ball popped and zipped back and forth, sneakers squeaking jerkily on the gym floor. He couldn’t even tell what position Taylor was playing. “She’s doing great,” he added.

“Do you even know where she is?” Rosalynn pressed with an annoyed smirk.

“Yeah, she’s uh—”

But more cheers mercifully cut him off as people got to their feet. The announcer declared that the Owls had won, which meant Taylor would be going out with the team to celebrate. The spectators all stood to their feet to descend down to the court to congratulate the players. Typically Robby and his family waited until the crowds died down before going down, but Robby noticed the old man in front of him struggling mightily to stand up. He had told Robby and Rosalynn before the game that he had flown in the day before to surprise his great granddaughter for her birthday.

Seeing the man unable to stand up on his own, Robby went to help him.

“Thank you, sir,” the elderly man said. “I hope to be as kind as you when I get to be your age.”

Robby laughed. “When you get to be as old as me, I’ll challenge you to our own volleyball match.”

He helped the old man all the way down the bleacher steps to the court. He figured since he was already there, he’d look for Taylor.

Robby nudged his way down to the court through pockets of friends, siblings, and parents while Rosalynn and Jeremy hung back in their seats to chat with a neighbor. He spotted Taylor and was about to stretch his arms out to offer an embrace, when a college-aged guy, dressed in a tight black T-shirt with a red scarf wrapped around his neck (and equally tight faded jeans), unapologetically invaded Taylor’s personal space by putting his arm around her waist and kissing her.

Robby would not have been more furious if the kid had kissed Rosalynn. He strode up to the two spit-swappers and asked invasively, “Who’s this?” It did notseem like Taylor’s first kiss.

Taylor pulled away from the lip-lock, masked her embarrassment with a grimexpression, and grumbled, “This is Dwayne. Dwayne, my dad.” Her voice dropped down to a mutter at the word Dadas though it was painful to admit.

“If I ever catch your mouth on my little girl again, I’ll neuter you with a lawnmower,” Robby wanted to say. Instead, he settled for something a little less aggressive and said, “I’m Robby.” He stuck out his hand and squeezed the kid’s own damn near as hard as he could. He released when he counted three cracks that sounded like popping bubble wrap.

Dwayne didn’t show any response except to say, “Your daughter played great tonight, didn’t she, Mr. Lake?”

“She always does,” Robby responded as though this kid had just stated the obvious.

“Dad,” Taylor said before he could say anything else, “can Dwayne come over for dinner tomorrow night? You know, since we’ll be gone all next week?”

Robby had to choose his words carefully here. He’d already refused to let her go out with another guy a month ago because his Facebook profile was a picture of him sticking a gun at the viewer, holding it sideways gangstastyle. Fearing the same situation and imagining his family laying in pools of their own blood at the dinner table while this Dwayne guy stood over them and laughed mightily, Robby said, “Let’s keep it just the family tomorrow to celebrate, huh? Maybe next time after we get back from de islands?” Because next time, this guy would be out of her life and no longer an issue.

Taylor shot her dad an icy look, but he stood his ground. These high school-college romances never lasted.

“Do you have a ride to the party?” he asked, changing the subject.

“I was going to take her,” Dwayne cut in.

“The hell you will,” Robby snapped with a humorless smile before thinking.

This earned Robby an exasperated look; wide eyes, open mouth, the kind of look Rosalynn always gave him whenever he said anything inappropriate in front of the kids. “Taylor, why don’t you just let us take you?” Robby tried, pretending he hadn’t just utterly humiliated her.

“The hell I will,” Taylor snapped, mockingly.

Now it was histurn to return the look. Dwayne stood helpless beside the two, tick-tocking his head back and forth as though watching another volleyball match. “Um, should I leave you two alone?” he asked.

“No, it’s fine,” Taylor said. “Just take me to Michelle’s.”

Robby couldn’t stop his daughter from grabbing Dwayne’s arm and pulling him through the small crowd away from him. For a split second he saw his four year old girl in pigtails grabbing her best friend’s hand and running off to play.

“Eleven o’clock, then! It’s a school night!” Robby yelled after her. He wasn’t certain but it almost looked as though his daughter flipped him the bird just before a fat woman with a loud laugh stepped between them. “Love you,” Robby tried anyway.

He pursed his lips, knowing he had just blown it again with Taylor. He kept hoping for one of those moments where they’d connect again, share a smile, laugh at something stupid like they used to all the time when she was younger. It was hard to believe that once, he was her whole world, and now … well, now it seemed the whole world was pushing them further apart from each other.

Taylor was going through the stage where she was embarrassed to be seen with her parents, especiallyher dad. She had stopped talking to him the moment she realized his jokes were outdated and he couldn’t keep up with the latest music, movies, or fashion trends. Robby had long ago resigned to the fate of just waiting it out until she grew out of it. But why was that so much harder than intervening?

“You can’t keep saying no to everything she asks,” Rosalynn said from the passenger seat of their Honda Accord on the drive home. The Accord hummed along the road as the rain began to disappear behind a darkening sky. The evening’s curtain call.

“So, what, you’re saying I should just give in to her every request?” Robby asked.

“I’m saying you should at least give in a little. It’s not like we had anything special planned for tomorrow night. What was he like?”

“What do you think?” Robby said, glancing over his shoulder to merge. “He’s a sex-crazed twerp.”

Rosalynn laughed. “You say that about all of them.”

“That’s because I wasone of them. Guys that age don’t hang around Taylor because of her ability to pull off knee-high socks.”

Robby glanced in the rearview mirror and called to the back seat, “Hey Jer, check out the dinosaur outside your window. It’s eating someone. Blood, guts, everywhere.” The mirror reflected Jeremy glued to a game on his Nintendo 2DS. Robby turned back to Rosalynn and said, “We can talk candidly. We’re not being bugged.”

Rosalynn gave Robby a wry look. “I know we agreed to be firm with her, but there also comes a point where we could ease up.”

He knew she was probably right, but still, Robby insisted, “I’ll look him up on Facebook tonight.”

Rosalynn sighed and stared blankly out the window, signaling the end of the conversation.

“Did you learn anything at school today, buddy?” Robby asked Jeremy, hoping to break the silence. But he was again met with no response.

At least Jeremy would be easier to manage when he turned sixteen. He wasn’t bound to be as moody and hormonal as Taylor. His problem would likely be complacency with the bare minimum. Jeremy was pretty stellar at just about anything he put his mind to, but when he didn’t apply himself, he failed big, and he didn’t apply himself often.

Unlike Robby, who had spent most of his adolescent years competing in extreme sports and making local newspaper headlines. So he pushed Jeremy, too hard sometimes, to excel at what he might be good at, like computers and video games. “You could be a computer repairman,” he had told his eleven year old recently. But the suggestion seemed to push Jeremy away from that field and he started reading more comics instead. It didn’t matter that he had more of an interest in video games, the higher priority for him was giving his parents adequate pushback to whatever they said.

The summer before, Jeremy had set up a lemonade stand per Robby’s suggestion. He put a little effort in setting it up on the corner by the street but ended up back in the house watching videos about video game engineering with a sign outside that said, “Help yourself. $1.50 per cup.” When he had gone back out to count his earnings, he found that his Igloo cooler had been stolen and the table was flipped upside-down on the street, cars swerving around it to get by. But he just shrugged his shoulders, cleaned up the mess, and disappeared back inside the house, kissing entrepreneurship goodbye.

And now, as Robby studied his son through the rearview, he imagined him five years older, Taylor’s age, still engrossed in his stupid video games while colleges from all over stood by to receive his applications. The applications he would never fill out because he would rather beat level eight in Beasts and Dragons or something dumb like that.

“You were spacing out again earlier. You okay?” Rosalynn inquired, snapping Robby back.

He waved her off. “Yeah. I’m fine. Just trying to hold it till I get home. I don’t want to use those nasty high school bathrooms. Might slip on some teenage jizz.”

She hit him on the leg for dropping the J-bomb, but said, half-smirking, “Liar.” But really, Robby hardly ever lied to his wife when he could help it. His dad beat him with the metal end of a belt when he was six after denying taking a paperback novel out of his nightstand and ripping the pages out to fold airplanes. From that time on, lying became the very last resort in any circumstance. Except when it came to his pot habit. He had lied to Rosalynn on more than a few occasions when he continually relapsed as a newlywed.

“How are youfeeling?” he asked, turning the conversation around.

“I’m fine. I didn’t sleep much last night.”

“Pre-flight jitters?”

“Something like that.”

Robby could almost sympathize. As much as he was looking forward to his Hawaiian vacation, he couldn’t shake the feeling that it would be the last good time of his life. But what he didn’t know was that he wouldn’t even get to have that, because he would never make it to de islands.

At least not the ones he was planning on.

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How Your Personal Hygiene Can Help You Finish Writing Your Book

So you’re a writer. Or you try to be, anyway. With kids and doctor appointments and work and school and your spouse’s psychological mommy-issues, you’re lucky if you can manage to write one paragraph in any given day.

But suppose one day the heavens opened up, the school’s not calling you to pick your kids up, it’s slow at work, and it’s just you and your pen and your paper.

NOW you can write!

But the clock is ticking. Tick-tock, tick-tock.

Your pen touches the paper and… You’re stuck! You’re so ecstatic by the calm in the storm that you don’t know what to write.

The last time you visited your book-to-be, you had your protagonist dangling off the edge of a cliff by his teeth. His wife was in one hand, his X-Box console in the other. Whom does he sacrifice? Whom will he save! What’s going to happen!!!

Ding! “Time’s up,” says Alex Trebek in the form of your boss checking in on you or a customer demanding your attention (or your spouse texting you with another problem about how his parents didn’t support him enough when he wanted to be an American All-Star).

Those glorious minutes you had all to yourself vanish like a mist as though they were never there, and your paper is still an empty canvas.

Take my advice. Think ahead. Prepare for those brief moments. One of my favorite times of the day is when I get to shower. That’s when I disappear mentally into my book. I analyze what I’ve already written, I dissect my characters, but most of all, I plan ahead.

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He’s hanging there by his teeth, I think. He’s got his wife and his X-Box. His wife nags him, but his X-Box brings him unlimited, albeit meaningless joy. But his wife gives him kids. Does he even like his kids? But his X-Box makes him late to work, which he hates. … Hmmm… nagging wife, meaningless video games, kids that annoy him (and quite frankly isn’t even sure are his), a terrible job… THAT’S IT! He opens his mouth and screams!! Now they’re all dead! 

Then I refine and refine that scene and by the time I get those glorious undisturbed moments back five new-moons later, I don’t have to worry about that time being wasted because I already know what the next scene is going to be about and how to resolve it.

It’s kind of like, I hate that I can’t take my phone into the shower with me and watch Netflix, but at least I can play my own movie in my mind while I wash up.

So there it is. Take advantage of yourself in the shower, and you’ll be surprised what goodies you’ll pop out!

Poll: How Can We Please You?

As you know my publishing company Endever has just released two books in ebook form. One, a teen romance novel about a girl who falls in love with a guy after he dies. (You can check it out here.) The other, a mainstream novel about the Angel of Death, named Dee, who’s got an attitude and a playlist to match, always on the lookout for the next victim of an accident or crime to take into the great beyond. (You can check that one out here.)

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They’re both up on Amazon. I want to thank each of you who has bought our books and hope that you will write an review of them and pass them along to your friends and family. But to those who have not purchased your own copies, I’d like to politely ask why. I’m not mad. I’m just curious.

As the owner of Endever, I sincerely want to know what will catch your attention. What will it take to get your support, for you to purchase our books? I’ve created a poll for you to participate in if you would like to provide feedback.

I provide feedback to my employers all the time and they kind of get annoyed by me. I’m not that employer. I genuinely want to know how to grab your attention. So if you have not purchased our books from Amazon yet, please tell me below, either utilizing the poll tool or via a comment in the comments section.

Books for Just $3!

I hope everyone had an awesome Thanksgiving and is loving the hustle and bustle of Black Friday. I wanted to drop a little tip. If you happen to be on Amazon, stop by and pick up my book These Great Affects, and another incredible indie book, A Deathly Compromise by Coral Rivera. Both are just $3 instead of $10 this weekend. Here are the links:

These Great Affects by Andrew Toy – The story of a fifteen-year-old girl who meets a guy and fall in love with him just a little too late. Like, after-he’s-dead-too-late. Click here to check out more!

A Deathly Compromise by Coral Rivera – Dee is the queen of the underworld incarnated into the form of a young woman who has taken up residence in a Portland hospital. With a killer attitude and a playlist to match, she spirits away the souls of the dying for their journey to the great beyond. Click here to read more about it and purchase it!

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How My View of the Horror Genre Has Changed

517n7y7xjulI used to be adamantly against anything that fell into the horror genre. Unless it was something by M. Night Shyamalan. Because M. Night movies are to horror shunners as Will Smith’s albums are to white guys who don’t listen to rap.

Then I started watching The Walking Dead. And obviously, like everyone else in the Western world, I was hooked.

I always thought the gratuitous blood and gore would get in the way of the storytelling, and sometimes it does a little bit, but the show proved to me that horror can work as mainstream. Why? Because, to quote Adelle Hitchens from my teen book, These Great Affects, “It’s the blood and guts with a little bit of heart.”

It’s those lovable, admiral characters  that draws me in.

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I just finished reading the monster of all monster books, It. It’s the first Stephen King book I didn’t hate (well, I liked Under the Dome, too). I had no idea it was so widely received.

Everywhere I walk I have a book in my hand, especially at work. While everyone is hunched over their cell phones, I’m hunched over my latest book in the elevator.

This is the only book I’ve read where I was consistently stopped and told how good the book I’m reading is.  (It was awkward when I was reading the weird and unnecessary scene with the kids in the sewer in the dark and someone says, “What part are you at?” … “Um…the kids are playing?”)

paavpdqsbtggtmn4smxsBut other than that, the book was spectacular, and I almost even teared up in a couple of spots. The book had violence and creepy stuff, but the heart and soul of the story was the love these seven protagonists shared with each other. I’m just really hyped up about the remake now!

Even before my  evolving love of horror set in (actually, it’s still a reluctant like to tell the truth), I always loved the darker movies. I love Pixar because their movies are generally darker than their competitors.

The darker the story is, the brighter and more exultant the ultimate victory is at the end. The harder the battle, the darker the foe, the more loss that’s suffered, only makes the survivors that much stronger, which serves as a more triumphant, feel-good ending.

Our world is so dark and gloomy anyway, and it’s rare we see evil defeated. I think that’s maybe some of the subconscious point of the horror genre. To shed a little light on a dark and disturbing world, and the satisfaction we feel when evil is trumped (no political pun intended…seriously.)

So please! Share your favorite horror stories that you’d like recommend to me.

A Little Birthday Treat for Everyone

When it’s your birthday, you’re expected to bring cupcakes to work with you (I always thought it should be the other way around, but whatever). However, I try to play by the rules. So, consider this portion of chapter 1 of my book These Great Affects like a tray of cupcakes. Enjoy and pick up your copy on Amazon!

these-great-affects-cover-2Heather told Adelle one day, “When your parents give you the ‘It’s-Not-You-It’s-Us’ talk, text me the code word ‘BAD FISH.’ It’s an acronym of all the bad words. You’ll want to yell them all if this announcement ever happens. Repeatedly. I’ll be here for you to yell them at or text them to.”

“What does the I stand for?” Adelle had asked, clicking through all the bad words in her mind.

“That’s a freebie. It can be interpreted into anything you’d like.”

As Adelle types “BAD FISH” into her phone, she turns the corner onto River Road and meanders down the sidewalk. It takes less than thirty seconds for her phone to chirp, signaling Heather’s urgent call.

Adelle passes a fire hydrant and a street sign as she brings the phone to her ear. From behind her she hears an inflated POP! POP! of tires bouncing onto the curb. She spins her head around and finds her entire line of vision filled with the front bumper of an approaching car. She flinches, throwing her arms up protectively, waiting for the inevitable impact, but the car never makes contact.

At least not with her.

At the sound of metal compacting, Adelle lowers her arms and no longer sees the front of the car. Instead, in its place is a thick veil of mist, spraying Adelle with cold water, which is oddly refreshing in this late July heat. The air around her is filled with deafening static noise like the aftermath of an explosion. It all happens too fast for her to be scared or have any rational thoughts outside of, I’m dead. This is what it’s like to die. It’s…wet.

But when Adelle realizes she still has to breathe in and out in order to stay alive, she knows she’s not dead.

The pieces start falling into place as she looks around. The thick wall of mist is actually water shooting up from the ground and falling back to earth. When her senses start regrouping, she sees that the street sign she just passed has been mercifully spared but the yellow fire hydrant next to it has been smashed completely off its bolts, causing the explosion of water.

Adelle peers through the water to see the car that caused the upheaval. It’s a black Nissan Altima. As she observes the chaos before her, she realizes how close she had just come to dying. Her knees shake and she’s tempted to drop to the ground, but she can’t because the water is already up to her ankles.

As Adelle tries to collect herself, a passerby rushes around the gushing water. He’s soaking wet and excitable. He’s about Adelle’s age, maybe half a foot taller, with long skinny arms and wild hands flying all over the wet air.

He’s yelling something, but it’s inaudible because of the tumultuous water pounding the concrete all around them. Nevertheless, he continues to yell indistinguishably while pushing his wet hair back and bending over to catch his breath as though he has just completed a marathon.

He holds his phone up and begins taking pictures of the crash site. She crosses over to him to see if he’ll help her get the driver out of the vehicle, but the guy holds his finger out to hold her off.

Adelle yells over the thundering water. “Shouldn’t we help the driver?”

The guy leans forward, dripping wet, cups his ear with his hand, and leans toward her. She grunts in frustration and pushes him out of the way, her feet sloshing through the water so she can get to the driver’s door. But it’s already wide open, and there’s no one in the seat. She wonders if the driver ran off.

She turns back toward the guy and points toward the river, away from the downpour. The guy nods and follows her, but not before snapping another picture of the car with his phone, a big grin spread across his face.

They step across the street, away from the accident, rounding a large white pillar that holds up the walking bridge. There they find a bench facing the river. But before she can say anything, the guy speaks up first. “Did you see that?” he asks, as though spotting a deer from the highway.

“Um. I kinda had a front row seat,” Adelle answers lamely. She’s starting to wonder if this guy is the driver, but judging by his misplaced excitement, she doubts it. 

“Good! You saw it, so you can testify to the police that I wasn’t drinking or anything. The cops will want your version, not just mine. I’ll need you to back me up.”

“Back you up? From what?” Adelle asks, wondering if she did in fact hit her head.

“From a felony, I don’t know,” the guy says. “I’m sure the car’s totaled. I don’t know what that means as far as a write-up goes. This is my first accident.”

Maybe his tongue is just wet and slippery from the water, but the guy talks incredibly fast, and it takes a moment for Adelle to catch up to what he’s saying. “Wait. You’re the driver? You almost hit me!”

The guy looks at Adelle quizzically, squinting his eyes as though trying to recall her. “Um. I’m not aware of almost running over someone with my car. That’d be kind of hard to miss, wouldn’t you say?”

Perhaps it’s because of her parents’ out-of-the-blue divorce, or because she’s suddenly soaking wet, or because she was just reminded of her frail mortality, but with everything compounded, she erupts like a zit long neglected.

“You’re a BAD FISH! You can’t just almost kill me and then not own up to it.  And you certainly shouldn’t ignore me by standing there taking pictures on your stupid phone! At least see if I’m okay, idiot!” She wonders for a brief moment if that should be her freebie, but throws it from her mind.

“Whoa,” he says, putting his hands up. “Did you just call me a ‘bad fish’? What does that even mean? Did I offend you in some other life?”

“Believe me, being offensive would be the least of your crimes,” Adelle says, scathingly.

The water on her sunglasses is drying up against the sun and collecting into obnoxious white droplets obscuring her vision. She pulls them off to clean them with her dress, and she hears the guy catch his breath. Adelle looks up and finds him staring at her.

“What,” she says, “choke on some water?”

He clears his throat and nonchalantly holds his phone up to his face, then lowers it.

“Did you just take a picture of me?” Adelle demands.

“Wait. What?” he says, acting confused. “I just needed to know the time.”

Liar.

For some reason he looks dumbfounded and it’s annoying her.

A car slows and the driver peers at them and asks if they need assistance. “We’re good,” the guy says, waving the driver on. “We’re good.”

As the vehicle crawls away, Adelle reaches into her purse in an attempt to fish out her phone. But instead of finding it, her fingers grope her pink “Write On” notebook and she discovers that it’s sopping wet.

“Damn it,” she says, pulling it out of her water-balloon purse, dripping it all over her feet.

“Is that your diary?” the guy asks.

“I don’t keep a diary. It’s not 1992.”

“Right. Sorry. Is it your little black book? Only, you’re a girl, so it’s pink. Want to add my number?”

“Yeah, actually. So I can turn you into the police.” She’s looking through the other pockets of her purse as she says this. “Now will you shut up? I’m looking for my phone so I can call the cops for real. You should never be allowed to drive again.”

“That’s kind of harsh.”

Adelle halts, shoving her notebook underneath her arm, and tries to decide if he really just said that. “Dude. You almost killed me. I’d say that’s pretty lenient.” His eyes go wide and he leans forward as if pressing her for more. “Did you seriously not see me?” she asks. “I was right in front of you. No, I take that back, I was on the sidewalk!”

“Yeah, I definitely didn’t see you. It’s hard to concentrate on the road when you’re rearranging your playlist.”

“That’s why I almost got hit? Because you were playing with your stupid music?” Adelle can’t remember when she’s heard her voice sound this upset.

“Hey,” he says, suddenly defensive, “I wasn’t playing, I was rearranging. And besides, Coldplay is not stupid. Coldplay is something to be taken seriously as one of the greatest bands of the twenty-first century.”

 “You nearly commit a felony and you’re talking about a stupid band?” Adelle asks, incredulous.

“Again. Not stupid. Because of Coldplay, there is life. Coldplay is baby-making music.” And then he adds with a smirk and an obnoxious wink, “If my iPod still works, I’ll show you what I mean sometime.” He waves another car on without taking his eyes off of her.

Not one to be cowed, Adelle throws her sunglasses back on and says, “Right. I doubt they’ll let you take your iPod with you to jail. And any baby-making will not be with me.”

“Touché.”

Remembering she was holding her phone when she almost got hit, she looks toward the geyser and realizes it must be submerged somewhere in the muddy flood.

When Adelle looks back to the guy, he’s holding his own phone out to her. “Here. Use mine.” He’s holding out his wet device for her. “It’s waterproof. Password is ‘J-Law,’ one word, no dash, no spaces. Can you call an ambulance first? I’m a little woozy from the accident. Possible whiplash.” He says this while rubbing the back of his neck with his free hand.

“Why are you talking so fast? Are you nervous or something?”

“No, this is how I normally talk. Life’s too short to take your time, and some people have a lot to say, so I talk fast. I click my tongue when I’m nervous.”

She glares hard at him before snatching the phone out of his hand. “Jennifer Lawrence, huh?” she asks coyly.

“Oh, yeah. Big crush. Totally hopeless. If I knew she was going to visit me in jail, I would not complain about being arrested.”

Adelle unlocks his phone with his password. His wallpaper is a picture of a slightly older, chubby guy with a backwards hat posing like an extra from Straight Outta Compton. “Is this your accomplice?”

“Nah, that’s my brother Eric.”

She wouldn’t have asked such a snarky question had she read the caption on the bottom of the screen first: “Rest in peace my friend.”

“He’s dead?” she asks.

“Yeah. Can you call the cops now? I’d rather not tell you my life story at the moment. Unless you’d like to come to my house and I’ll grill you a mean cheese sandwich while we talk.”

The fact that he offered her his phone so she can call the cops assures her that he’s no menace after all. But she wonders if her next move is very smart. She stretches her arm out, offering his phone back. No, she will not be calling the cops on him today. She’ll leave that to someone else.

“Why don’t you hold on to that for me for a while,” he insists. “Borrow it.”

“It’s fine. I’ll go look for mine and get it replaced,” she says, hating that the edge in her voice is dulling. “Besides, I’m sure you need to call your parents so they can pick you up.”

“You think I’m in a hurry to tell them about this?” He waves his hands in front of him as though fending off a threat. “I’ll be taking my time walking home so I can put together a well-rehearsed confession. I’ll be like the prodigal son coming home from his countryside escapades. Except, I doubt my parents will throw me a party and feed me suckling bacon.”

“You’re telling them in person?” Adelle asks, surprised, and kind of impressed.

“Why not? Better than over the phone.”

Adelle laughs, thinking he’s joking. “Right. But at least you wouldn’t be there for the initial shock and outrage.”

“But that’s the best part. That’s the whole point of the Affect.” The guy says this as though speaking of holy things in a church. 

“The affect?” Adelle asks, scrunching her brow.

“Yeah. The Affect. Being present on purpose for the benefit of those tomorrow.”

“Present on purpose,” Adelle repeats, wondering if that would make a good slogan for some self-help gimmick. “That’s cool.” But then her tone changes to sarcasm. “I was afraid you’d be all nonsensical or something, so I’m glad you cleared that up.”

He laughs and suddenly he’s not talking at such a whirlwind speed. “What I mean is, yeah, it’s gonna suck when I tell my parents that I totaled their car. But I try to think in terms of tomorrow or next week if I meet new people, I’ll have an awesome story to tell. Or many years from now when I tell my kids about today, which I inevitably will because, let’s face it, today will be pretty hard to forget.” He’s not speaking so fast now. Each word is punctuated with importance and urgency as though delivering sensitive instructions, and he can’t afford to have his listener miss a thing. He crosses one wet leg over the other and continues. “So when I tell them about this, I want to be able to describe the looks on my parents’ faces. That’s the Affect you can’t get over the phone; that’s the Affect that will make this story worth repeating. For the benefit of those tomorrow.”

Adelle doesn’t have a clue how to respond to this except to say, “Gotta do it for the kids, huh.”

He flashes a smile that kind of affects her breathing. His eyes are sparkling blue and alert. They look like they don’t have the ability to show disinterest in anything. His cheeks are soft, but firm anyway. His dark hair is matted against his head, but Adelle can tell that if it were dry it would probably be brown and wavy. He’s wearing gym shorts and a white T-shirt, and she wonders where he was off to. The gym? His arms are skinny, but they’re toned; no strangers to free-weights, she suspects.

Adelle forces herself to look off to the side so as not to stare. Then he says, “Though, now I’m wondering if describing my parents’ faces will even be the big climax of the story.”

 “Yeah,” she says, still looking away. “I’m sure your kids will be more impressed about the totaled car and the flooded street.” By this point the water has washed over the entire width of the street. Another car sloshes through the flood and pulls up next to the site. The driver is already on the phone.

“That’s certainly a good aside,” says Trill, “but I was thinking the biggest Affect could be meeting my children’s mother for the first time in the falling sewage water.” Adelle chokes a little and her eyes instinctively dart back to meet his. Thankfully he saves her from having to respond. “Forward, I know,” he continues. “Isn’t life too short to drag things out? But I don’t need to remind you of that, do I, Second Chance Girl?”

Adelle’s mind seems to be on pause and fast-forward at the same time. Either way, nothing in her brain is coherent as she tries to comprehend his words, and it’s not because he’s talking fast again.

 “Anyway,” the guy continues, standing up from the bench. “You’ve got my number. Give me a call sometime. And don’t worry about your phone. I’ll fish it out for you. I know a guy who can replace it free of charge.”

“Wait,” she manages as he begins to walk back toward the accident. The other driver is getting out of his car now. Adelle’s voice comes out hoarse. “I have your phone, not your number.”

“Correction: You have my phone, therefore my number.”

“But how would I call you, then?”

“I expect to see several missed calls from my number when I get your phone fixed. My name’s Trill by the way.”

Trill walks away, back toward the flooded street and his smashed up car. Adelle stops him only to say, “‘Prim Forever.’ No spaces. Number 4.”

He raises her phone like he’s toasting and smiles. “Hunger Games. Good taste.” Then he continues on his way.

And that’s how Adelle meets her first love who will not live long enough to tell their story to anyone. 

Get the full book here!

The Polls Are In (once you vote)

9470a7dac90259b0ae2d3f70dd29cd79b376eba6d074908871c730a0775a76fa_1At Endever Publishing we are dedicated to brining success to our authors. But in the book industry, success equals readers. So, logically, we are dedicated to bringing readers to our authors.

In order to bring readers along, we must have something that pleases them, that entices.

Let me say this as unconventionally as I can:

As a book publisher we we want to lure and seduce you into giving us your hard-earned money in exchange for a night (or several) of pure, unadulterated entertainment. (No, we don’t publish those kinds of books.)

And  the books we have lined up for you…we firmly believe they will not disappoint. We are working-class citizens like yourself. We know how difficult and time-consuming it is to earn your money, and how much harder it is to part with it. But we also know that sometimes, good quality entertainment can be priceless.

But we want to know who we’re selling to. We want to get to know you as our potential readers. Consider this post a restaurant of your choice. You’re seated at the table. We’re here to serve you an entertainment value. And, since presidential polls are all the rave right now (of which I declined to watch last night’s debate because I figure I’d rather work since both candidates are gong to end up taxing me through the nose anyway…plus, circus side shows bother me), I have posted a couple of polls for you to indulge in.

These are your menu options. I’m not guaranteeing we have everything in stock, but I want to know from you, going forward, what you look for in a trusted entertainment company, one that Endever strives to be.

 

Thanks for your time in voting. This will help us gauge how to best serve you, as readers, going forward. If we think of more questions, we’ll ask and we trust you’ll answer!