My latest novella, “The Devil Wears Black Leather” is now available at Smashwords, check out the excerpt below:
I’ve quit smoking for four hours when the air conditioner breaks. A bead of sweat falls on the keyboard, I think about where I placed an old pack of cigarettes. I’m about to check the black blazer I wore bar hopping in LES last Friday when the doorbell rings, it’s Jagger. He walks in not saying a word, looks over at the air conditioner and takes off his shirt. Jagger sits down on the couch and turns the TV Guide channel and begins going through the movie channels, pausing at Point Break, finally settling on a movie with Will Smith playing a butler.
I go back to my desk and stare at a Word document that has notes for my new novel that is tentatively titled Making it Rain. I stare for minutes, only able to think about Jagger’s back sticking to my fake leather couch. I turn around and ask him to put his shirt back on. He agrees and then walks over to the air conditioner, turns down the thermostat to fifty-nine degrees and nothing happens. He again removes his shirt and returns to the couch. When I turn back around he says, “Man, I really need to sell a piece of art this week, I literally owe twenty thousand dollars in bills.” He watches Will Smith make an inappropriate joke as he serves a family at a dinner table and then says, “You should come over and see the two lamps I just got, they are Japanese!” Jagger gets up and goes to my refrigerator, then says something about not finding an ashtray. I turn back to my computer and go to Wikipedia, looking for Meat Loaf songs, then sign into LinkedIn and add porn stars and Indie musicians as contacts to my network.
My iPhone alerts me to my Motto of The Day: “You can tell the ideals of a nation by its advertisements.”
I check my text messages to see if Jolie has called, Jagger senses this and says “She’s gone”, still focused on Will Smith who is now playing the role of a butler mentoring a misguided child.
I go to the freezer and pull out a cherry Fla-Vor-Ice, placing it to my forehead, and then cut off the end. I begin sucking on the cut end, staring at Jagger who is now sprawled out on my couch. I can see beads of sweat forming on his chest which has more hair than I remember; although, I can’t specifically remember the last time I’ve seen him bare-chested. The hair makes my new beard itch, but I don’t do anything about it because my Fla-Vor-Ice is melting down my arm. A plate of cheese sits in front of Jagger, also beginning to sweat, “It needs to warm up”, Says Jagger and then says something in a bad French accent. I stare for a moment and then he says that the only two things the French have ever gotten right are not refrigerating cheese and smoking. This statement prompts Jagger to pull out a cigarette from a pack of Lucky Strikes and light it. I mention I quit smoking. I don’t even ask where he finds Lucky Strikes. Jagger stares at me as he exhales smoke and then asks where he can find an ashtray. I find an old tin ashtray, finish my Fla-Vor-Ice and then chase it with a grape flavored one while reading comments of a short story published on an online site named Demented Tales and then quickly close the browser after I get the feeling I’m sitting in a mirrored room.
Jagger asks me what channel The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air is on and I tell him I don’t know and he says, “That’s interesting.” I open up Gmail and send out a query for a new short story titled Spaghetti & Eightballs to Playboy magazine, an online site named White Walls, and an agent named Sandy Weinstocks. The messages in my Inbox contain rejections for my new story from GQ, an online site named The Abyss, and an agent named Joseph O’Reilly. Jagger mentions again how he needs to sell a piece of art and then hits me in the back of the head with a piece of cheese.
I turn around and he asks, “Are you listening to me?”
“Sure”, I force out, “You are broke, and this isn’t news to me.”
“Whatever man, I just want to be successful, could use a little support.”
I finish off my Fla-Vor-Ice, “Me too, who doesn’t want to be famous?”
“Not fame. Success. Big Difference, how do you not understand that?”
There is a pause and then Jagger asks, “Do you have cockroaches? Before I can respond Jagger adds, “If so, watch out because they love the heat.”
Comforting words from my shirtless friend, on my fake leather couch, watching a Will Smith movie.
I receive a text message from Izzy that says: ‘Where were you? Walking around a party with a bottle of Jack Daniel’s at age thirty doesn’t get the same reaction as back in college.’ I think about this for a second and then wonder what party Izzy is referring to and whether I was suppose to go, or if I had gone to it and don’t remember. Last time I went to a party with Izzy it ended with me blacking out, but other than that it was a pretty good party. Picturing Izzy carrying a bottle of whiskey makes me thirsty for an Arizona Iced Tea, but it’s too hot to move at the moment so I go back to the freezer and tear off an orange Fla-Vor-Ice.
I log back into LinkedIn and update my profile to include my new novel in process, check if there are any comments on my WordPress blog, and then check Facebook for new friend requests. Jagger makes fun of me because I still use Facebook and then mentions something about a girl or boy named Brandy he slept with, either is plausible, and then despite the temperature rising to eighty-five degrees inside my apartment, lights another Lucky Strike. He begins fidgeting with his belt and I yell “NO!”, and he sighs and buckles back up. On TV there is a breaking news story: residents are concerned over a python that has escaped The Bronx Zoo. Blowing smoke out his nose, Jagger is telling me about a new Karaoke bar located somewhere between SoHo and NoLita and how we really need to go because they are advertising a Happy Hour and all the Stella you can drink. Interesting to me is that Jagger refuses to have the same drink twice, so I’m not sure how this applies. It is too hot to debate, plus I if I invite Izzy can see if in fact I missed a party. Reluctantly, I agree to go to the Karaoke bar if Jagger agrees to put his shirt back on.
Outside McCarthy’s Irish Pub, which is located near Little Italy there is a man arguing with a hot dog. I enter the pub and text Izzy: ‘Are we suppose to still be vigilant and report suspicious behavior? I’m Here.’ I look back outside at the man and his hot dog, then text back to Izzy: ‘I’m sitting at the bar.’
I order a Stella and listen to a man in a suit with a Hitler mustache discuss the new tax laws and I begin to feel the same depression I do when listening to PBS. I am starting to wonder if I picked a good place to meet Izzy before we go to the Karaoke bar and meet Jagger. Izzy shows up and tells me that he’s been sleeping a lot more during the day. I know where this is headed; Izzy has been watching vampire shows on HBO and believes he is becoming a vampire. Izzy orders a Sierra Nevada IPA and then places his arm next to mine to show me how pale his skin is. I tell him he is not a vampire and Izzy just stares back at me blankly. A man at the door is having trouble getting past the bouncer checking IDs. I elbow Izzy and say he should try the I’m Abe Froman, the sausage king of Chicago line, but Izzy doesn’t get my reference so we finish our beers which leaves me a little light-headed and craving a cigarette. I ask about the party and Izzy looks at me like he doesn’t know what I’m talking about, instead talking about Texas where he went last week, “Just to chill”, He says.
Izzy has this thing where he tattoos his body with places he’s been. Sort of like people used to do with luggage, before planes were flown into buildings. So we go to a sex shop on 6th Avenue that also does tattoos and Izzy explains to the tattoo artist that he wants Texas on the right side of his back, above Cancun, below Montreal. I just sit there watching the guy next to Izzy who is getting a tattoo of a Golden Retriever on his arm. His shirt is off; showing off abs that look the abs Jesus has in paintings. On our way out I mention to Izzy the Jesus abs and he just stares at me blankly.
Izzy is riding his new tattoo high and it’s time to go meet Jagger at the Karaoke bar. I tell Izzy the bar is near where we originally came, but all this does is queue Izzy to take off his shirt and show me Texas. On the walk to the bar it gets noticeably more humid, several cockroaches cross in front of us, we are both sweating when we reach our destination. Jagger is at the bar so we grab seats next to him. The bar is near the rear, the rest of the establishment is tables surrounded by chairs, the whole scene looks like a supper club without food. Jagger is holding a brochure that he hands over to me.
“This is the one, that one, right there.” Jagger is pointing to a car, well not just any car, but a 50K Mercedes Benz. “I sold the Warhol knock-off, got 20K, so you know…” Jagger looks up at the ceiling then back to me and says, “I’m thinking about going to the track, what you think?” I shrug, but I don’t have any reason to stop him so I just say, “I guess.”
I order a Stella and continue looking back and forth from Jagger to the brochure, not saying a word. I’m about to ask him how he can afford this when he says, “It was Bruce Springsteen’s Aunt, she’s the one who bought the Warhol, knock-off Warhol.” Jagger pauses to drink what appears to be a grapefruit and rum drink. “So you know, I’ve now got a whole new client list.” I keep my eyes on the brochure, and then look back up at Jagger. “New Jersey! I can be THE art dealer for the bridge and tunnel crowd. You know, once you get a Springsteen, you’ve got Jersey.”
We decide to grab a table (we have to sit in the back corner for Izzy because it’s the darkest part of the bar). Izzy and I order more Stella beer, Jagger orders a house drink called Atomic and then takes Izzy outside to smoke. I glance outside, through the window, and see Izzy taking his shirt off to show Jagger his new tattoo.
After our drinks I mention something about leaving, but Jagger has the song book open. He is scanning the book with his eyes, his right hand moving down the page. “You should sing this one”, Izzy points to the book.
With one foot on the floor, heading out the door, I take a glance at the book. “It’s My Way, Frank Sinatra”, Says Jagger.
“Oh I don’t think so”, I say, and then Izzy orders two more Stella beers before I can stop him.
Jagger grabs a pad of paper where people sign up to sing. “Did you know the New York Times reported that people in the Philippines actually murder people that do bad karaoke renditions of this song? That’s interesting.”
“Yeah, it is interesting”, I say.
At the table next to us a girl wearing a fedora is listening to us. She approaches and puts the fedora on my head, “You have to do My Way, I love that song”. The fedora being placed on my head distracts me from Jagger signing me up to do the song. When he comes back he tells me it shouldn’t be long. The girl’s boyfriend joins her at the table, she explains why I’m wearing her fedora and he just laughs.
Apparently I wasn’t next to go on because it was two hours later when they called my name. By this time I have consumed two more Stella beers and ‘graduated’, as Izzy put it, to Jack and Cokes. I believe I was on my third Jack and Coke when my name got called.
I step up to the small make-shift stage, the music starts, and I immediately notice this large mafia looking man sitting in the front row. He has his hair combed back, a neutral expression, and is wearing dark glasses. The music starts. I clear my throat and begin.
And now the end is near; And so I face the final curtain…
In the back I notice the girl and boyfriend are taking pictures and laughing. Jesus Abs is entering the bar, making his way over to Izzy. Jagger approaches the girl and boyfriend, it is unclear which he is interested in, it could go either way.
My friend, I’ll say it clear; I’ll state my case, of which I’m certain…
Izzy and Jesus Abs are now comparing tattoos. Both of their shirts are off. I begin to feel extremely drunk and start to panic, my voice cracks.
I’ve life a life that’s full; I’ve traveled each and every highway…
The mafia guy now has a look of discomfort, I know this feeling well. He begins looking back at the bar as if he wants to pull the plug. The girl and boyfriend are now in hysterics. Jagger has his arms around both. Other faceless patrons begin to laugh and yell.
And much, much, more than this, I did it my way
My head begins spinning; I begin to get my facts mixed up. Did Izzy say New York Filipino bars? Did I see a neon sign for San Miguel beer when we walked in?
Regrets, I’ve had a few; But then again, too few too mention…
Izzy is now bent over, allowing Jesus Abs to get a closer look at Florida.
I did what I had to do and saw it through without exemption; I planned each charted course, each careful step along the byway…
Mafia guy stands up. My life begins to flash before my eyes: Childhood, Family, Friends, and Cheeseburgers on Stone Street.
And much, much, more than this, I did it my way…
The boyfriend yells something and the mafia guy reaches inside his jacket.
Ten minutes later I wake up, still on the make-shift stage. I am still wearing the fedora and am covered in sweat, did the air conditioning break in here too I ask to no one in particular. Jagger says I blacked out, apparently tripping on the microphone cord, falling to the ground and hitting my head on the floor. I screamed, “I want another cheeseburger” on my way down. “It was interesting”, Says Jagger. Izzy nods and then they both go outside to have a cigarette. Drenched in sweat I’m not sure if I’ve ever been this hot before. As I begin to lift myself up a girl grabs my arm and helps me up. “I guess, you did it your way”, She chuckles. I look up at her, staring into not just green eyes, Girl Scout Thin Mint green. This is how I meet Lucy.
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