Dad's old college buddy, Rick Savage of Savage Motor Cars, was there to greet me at the Las Vegas airport, dressed as sleekly as a rotund man of 54 could in a navy blue suit and diamond-patterned tie. "Well, if you aren't the spitting image of your old man," he said with a hand outstretched.
Excerpted from the complete novel manuscript, Everything I Want You to Be.
In New York, it’s not the changing leaves that indicate fall is in full swing. Regardless of how much time you spend with chameleon pigments while walking through Prospect Park, trees aren’t the ultimate barometer. It’s not the texture of the air, either; sure, it doesn’t hang with paralyzing humidity as it does through the summer, but cool breezes off the water and steamy air vents at service hatches manipulate the temperature year-round. Quite simply, you can’t trust what your senses feed you.
Megan ‘The Love of God’ Jeffries moved her finger. Click. The subject of the email read Please proofread the attached cover letter (ALIGNMENT ISSUE: AN ISSUE AT ALL?). New email calmed her. She scrolled with the same finger and read the email thread. Fifteen people including herself were attached. The office was quiet in a purr of central air, Xerox machines, and the hidden fans of computers. Megan continued petting the scroll-wheel of her mouse.
Moving outward from their cubicles came the voices of Tanya, Carol, and Cheryl.
“Hey, what’s everyone doing for lunch?”
“I like egg rolls.”
“I’m good. Brought my lunch.”
“Oh, whaja’ bring?”
We've reposted this story from our archives in advance of this month's edition of the Truth & Fiction podcast with guest James Greer. This very funny and insightful episode airs Thursday, May 9. More info here.
Even the sun runs late in Paris. In the pre-bloom dark, from an unshuttered window five stories above the street, Thomas Early could hear the Turks on the sidewalk arguing about attar of Damask rose. In Turkey the production of attar is strictly regulated by a state-run collective, but these guys were rogue producers, distilling in moist cellars the fragrant oil that had, in the past, both started wars and ended them.
I’d stepped into the courtyard of Café Amelie to take the call from Hannah but I could only make out every third word she said: Sam, the police, hallucinogenic mushrooms, the Mississippi. Sam was always getting into it with the police and I couldn’t even tell if Hannah was talking to me or to Nick or to someone else at the bar. She hung up mid-sentence.
My father’s friend had taken me out to lunch because he was in New Orleans for a lawyer convention, and he’d been instructed by my mother to feed me and report back to her. I could see him through the window dabbing his mustache with the napkin every seven seconds like he was checking the rearview mirror. I came back inside and finished my plate of oysters Rockefeller, chewing slowly so that he would do all the talking.
Life Camp is also available in Joyland Retro Vol. 1 No. 3.
We are told the sea monkeys need a special place to live. They are handed out, three per plastic sandwich bag, to our teenage mothers preparation class. Brenda, my only friend from the outside, who is six months pregnant and still not showing, does a quick scan of the room—the vision boards with Hilary and Angelina and Oprah, the cradle dioramas, our oblivious teacher with her ironed three piece suit and ponytailed grey hair —and plops the bag in her purse.
This story will tell you nothing in a straightforward fashion. Though the pages are numbered, you must not confuse sequence with consequence. The pages are paths, and you will have to choose among them.
That is to say, whatever happens here will be your fault. But I will try to help you. Really, I will. I’ll make the choices clear. And I’ll make it possible for you to retrace your steps, over and over and over again, if that’s what you feel compelled to do.
So now the story begins:
Richard and I were in Maine visiting our friend Josey, who had restored a building beside a swing bridge. The building had at various times been a dance hall and a bowling alley, and you could see faded lettering and brickwork from its past. The windows framed boats, water, and sky, and you felt skipped along on a tide. Josey saw beauty where other people didn’t see anything. It was how she had found her house.
One night she invited another couple to dinner. We were all in our 50s or early 60s. It was August, and the air had a sultry feel against your skin. Veronica and George weren’t exactly a couple. They were friends or an on-again-off-again couple. Some people grow into each other like trees planted close together. Their branches and roots get tangled, even if they have not planned it. George knew about such arrangements. He worked as a landscape designer, getting down in dirt with knee pads. Josey had not met him before. Veronica was her friend.
Seven years ago I settled into the hydraulic chair at Shampoo, my regular salon in Kensington Market, turned to my hairstylist, Laura, and said, “Can you make me look like Grace Kelly?”
“Hmm,” she said while running her fingers through my dark, woolly hair. “We can do better than Grace Kelly.”
I am starting the Saturday ritual upstairs of moving the old boxes from the new bedroom back into the old bedroom when the doorbell rings. I’m not startled when it comes. They say old sounds are like this. I move to the window and call out to Lara. Her head cocks back and her grey streaks follow as if caught on wind. I take this as a sign of good will.
She comes in, walks the fourteen steps up, and says, Terry, boy, you moving again?
I am carrying boxes packed with relics from our time together, those which I cannot seem to let go and so I move them and move them again, a process that’s taken me three Saturdays and hasn’t progressed much.
Repacking, I say.
Strange. You have a smoke?