Today, I have the honor of sharing a selection from my new novel Permanent Spring Showers. This is the second excerpt that has appeared on the site (the first you can find by clicking here). And stay tuned to the end, where there are links to where you can snag a copy of my latest novel.
This is from the second chapter in which you meet Steve, our romantic. And he wants you to meet him at his worst…
The Restaurant Meeting, Part 2
I almost considered starting with “Call me Steve,” but I realized—even with my education primarily being in architecture—that was in literary terms, a bad idea. You don’t want a bar like that; I am not Ishmael. Not even close, and while there is something akin to a white whale in my hearty tale, there is no Ahab. I’ll get to the whale in a bit though, and there are harpoons thrown in a way.
So what does a person need at the start of a story?
Christ, I thought I would be better than this. Facts!
I am 24, I am trying to make a living as an architect, but if you spoke to the people in my office they wouldn’t believe it. They think I am training to make coffee all day or take notes at boring meetings or something. But really, that isn’t important.
Let’s see… my hairline is disappearing a little faster than I would have hoped by this age. Maybe that is not crucial information, but it does feel that way to me each morning after I shower. I live in a small studio apartment, nothing spectacular. Actually, it is so tiny and drab that I find it depressing to come home to each night, especially since Anna left.
Well, I am single, that feels more important than the hair or the apartment. Oh and it’s not by my choice, and that is important as well. Let’s get that out of the way.
I once took a 101 course on creative writing as an elective while as an undergrad. The professor, in a very bored tone, described stories using this simple drawing that looked like a very fancy V upside down; I’m sure you’ve seen it. This is how it works, there’s a straight line that starts the story, it is for the introductions/beginnings; and then the story builds and builds as the line arches up. Think of it as walking up a mountain to a pointy tip, which is the climax. From there, the tip of the line falls steeply down working towards a conclusion, the resolution.
Yeah, it all makes sense and you can see how every story mirrors that little mountain man going to the peak. But for me, I started wondering why we as readers are so okay with writers taking us slowly up the side of the mountain in the first place, holding us in suspense? We want the climax, why make us wait?! Just helicopter us in and drop us off on the peak with our little flag!
There is so much trust there if you think about it. We trust that the writers are building to a climax we want, but we have nothing but hope to stand by around that. But for me, the fact is I don’t want to make you wait. I want you to see how big of a jackass I can be at the start; I’ll deal with all of the mountain climbing after it.
Let’s put all of my cards on the table first and get right to the peak.
Yeah, I want you to see me at my worst first. So that’s why I’m throwing you about a month into the future.
It was around the middle of April, and a surprisingly crisp day, when I stepped into the quaint little Italian restaurant where I was meeting my former fiancée and her new friend… oh, hell, I need to say it: her future husband.
I was wearing my one tie (brown with red spots), my one blazer (brown), a slightly collar-stained white shirt, and a pair of jeans with a slight hole in the knee.
This is me at my dating best, ladies!
I even got a haircut.
“You’re going to be fine, aren’t you, Steve?” A male voice with a British accent said behind me as I scanned the restaurant for the person I once considered my soulmate.
“Like warm applesauce,” I mumbled in reply, not bothering to turn around and face Vince. Vince is my age and has a resumé an arm’s length long, painter, poet, performance artist, etc.; and he looks the part for all of those roles, from his black trench coat with the collar up to the tight shirt with an obscure artistic expression on it to the jeans with the holes that are a little too perfect. He has black hair, blue eyes, and from what every girl tells me, he is frightfully handsome. Hanging out with him can make a person feel like a pre-destined wingman, chosen by a maker never to be the center of attention. Oh, by coincidence, I met Vince at the creative writing course I mentioned earlier. He spent the entire time correcting the teacher and even once he stood on his desk screaming about romantic literature (I still don’t understand half of what he said), the whole class was sure he came in drunk that day, but he might’ve been acting. There is a lot of acting around Vince. Did I mention he’s pretending to be British right now? And no, I don’t mean RIGHT now, I mean for the last four months right now.
“Applesauce?” His accent rising a little in confusion.
I didn’t bother to say anything more to him because I had found her; and, shit, she still looked like a fallen angel. Even the light from the window seemed to agree as it reflected magically off her blonde hair giving it a shine that shouldn’t be human. She seemed to move in slow motion for me as she rose from her chair, her white summer dress rising and swaying in almost a dance. Everyone else in that room seemed to disappear into oblivion as she walked by them, ceasing to exist for me, leaving only her. Just her and me…
This is the impact Anna has always had on me. I had never met someone before that could so easily manipulate my brain, turn me to mush, inspire me. I can’t even guess how many mornings I spent lying in bed, looking at her sleeping with her head resting on the pillow next to me. Even in sleep she was perfect, now and then mumbling one or two words that I would not be able to make out, but sure it was poetry straight from the hidden recesses of her heart and memory.
I wanted to grow old with this woman. I wanted to see her smile permeate on each of our twenty children’s faces. To see her now, back in my life, walking towards me, yes, that one word took over all others in my mind: “want.” And when she smiled at me at that moment in that dress in that restaurant with the sun on her hair, I forgot the six months of hell she had put me through. In that wonderful second, I forgot every minute and every hour of the pain and loss I felt.
I would have forgiven her for murder right then.
Yet, as she reached me with her arms outstretched, I saw him; and my forgiveness and joy disappeared like a cloud racing to cover the sun. That was the guy right there, the man she was planning to marry. A thunderstorm was forming in that gray cloud quickly, and I fought with every aspect of my being to hold it back. Could everyone see the lightning sparks in my eyes right then?
“Steve!” Anna said, moving into an awkward hug. I tried not to smell her hair, I really did… because if I did that would be… damn… her hair smelled like ripe honeydew melons sliced open on a warm summer morning.
As Anna greeted Vince behind me, I more intensely studied the man awkwardly rising from the chair, sizing him up. The word that replaced want in my mind.
That was the man she wants to marry.
That was the man she wants to have children with and spend her life with.
That is the man she chose over me and I needed to walk towards him, take his hand and be polite. A part of my soul just died like a fish gasping on land.
I need to take a breath for a second.
When I was a teenager I was in the marching band. It was my only extracurricular activity, and I was obsessed. But that is okay, the rest of the band was as well. It was almost a cult, and we had a collection of trophies that proved that this faith paid off.
This story is from my senior year and it was before State Finals. We were practicing on the school’s parking lot. One of the parents arrived with water and we all left our instruments in our spots, running over to see what treat came with the water, because there was always some kind of a cheap treat. Well, after I left my trumpet on the ground, an over-excited member of the color guard stepped on it, hard… ruining it and my chances to perform during the Finals.
There was no time to get it repaired, and there were no spares available. So, in the line of trumpets in the all-important show that weekend, there I stood hands at my side, feeling exposed and naked without my trumpet, trying to hold back my anger, knowing that all of the eyes in the audience were on me, wondering what happened. Under those hot lights, I sweated and fumed like I had never done before in my life, cursing under my breath the entire time, wishing seven levels of death on that stupid sophomore that destroyed my beautiful trumpet.
Up until this moment in April, I thought that would go down as the angriest I would ever feel in my life.
His name is Darrin. At least that is what I remember Anna saying to me as we all sat down. It could have been Aaron for all I know; my ears were not my biggest concern at the moment. It was all about my blood and my heart rate right then, and it sounded like a set of timpani in my chest. Boom Boom Boom Boom.
Vince began some small talk as Anna asked him about his art and accent when I couldn’t help myself anymore. Just like a member of AA struggling in a bar, I really couldn’t help myself. “My God, you’re fucking fat,” I blurted out.
Everyone at the table froze. Darrin (or Aaron or Moby) seemed the most shocked by the outburst I had just made.
With only a second of hesitation I continued, getting louder and faster with the timpani pounding away: “I mean, I didn’t expect you to be manly or anything. Well, not as manly as me, but I was expecting someone a little cool, but you are plump like a turkey on Thanksgiving. You look ready to come out of the oven. And I bet you will get more and more plump as the years go on, more and more stuffing. Every year… a few more pounds here, a few more pounds there, until you’re a nice round white whale, ready to scare the children at the beach. Is that genetic, or is that lazy? I mean, are yours and Anna’s kids going to be like this? A little army of perfectly-sized goalies? Who would want to reproduce with you, let alone sleep with you? Does she demand the light off when you take your clothes off? I mean, the nose hair you have can be trimmed, you do know about them, right? But the size I mean that is just… Wow.”
To my side, I heard Vince mumble in his fake accent, “Bloody hell.” Anna was getting up, but my eyes were focused squarely on him.
I took a breath and got even louder, feeling the heat rise higher and higher up my spine; the eyes of the other customers in the restaurant turning more and more towards me. I was a spectacle as obvious as that suffering high schooler so long ago under the bright stadium lights. “I mean, look at you Darrin, you are a fucking joke. I mean, how much did you have to bribe Anna to date you, let alone fall in love with you? You must have one hell of a personality to pull off this shenanigan. Or is it blackmail? Do you have something on her? Is it scandalous? More scandalous than actually wanting to see someone as hideous as you naked? I mean, there is nothing appealing about you. Do you have an ounce of muscle on you, or is it only located in your wrist for masturbation or in your palms for holding your comic books? I mean, I have seen some pathetic people in my life, but you are, without a doubt, the mother fucking worst piece of worthless shit, I have ever…”
And it was then that the whale threw the punch I had been waiting for…and it all turned to sweet, angry, aggressive bliss.
Just published by 5 Prince Books, Permanent Spring Showers is available from all online book retailers. It is available in print for 17.95 and as an eBook for the LOW price of $3.99. Here are some links where you can find it.
- Amazon– http://amzn.com/B00T74HH0Q
- iTunes– https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/permanent-spring-showers/id964243135?mt=11
- Barnes & Nobles– http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/permanent-spring-showers-scott-d-southard/1121151697?ean=2940149923335
- Smashwords– http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/512831
- OmniLit– https://www.omnilit.com/product-permanentspringshowers-1730791-230.html
I hope you grab a copy today (and maybe one for a few friends too)!