18 Jul 2011

Hello, here's an excerpt

Yes, it's been a while, hasn't it? The reason is that for the moment I've shifted my online 'presence' across to Facebook. Add me if you like. With a baby boy on the scene I haven't had the time or inclination to post here of late. Besides, very little is new in my world beyond said baby. I'm still working on the rewrites of the novel which will likely be called either Dead in the Water or The Boy with Seafoam Eyes. I haven't decided which. Two very different flavours, I think you'll agree. Anyway, I'm popping on here to post a brief excerpt - 951 words to be precise. Have a look, tell me what you think if you wish. It is only an excerpt, so don't expect to get all that much from it other than a hint of the flavour of the book. I've used that word flavour twice now. Three times. I must be hungry. So while I run off to look for something to eat, here you go:

Chapter VI
Present Day Interlude: The Post-It Note

I quickly turn the monitor off at the sound of someone approaching and it's not until my wife is standing in the study doorway in her pink towel robe and Alpaca fur slippers that I realise I have been holding my breath the whole time I was typing those last few sentences about Ella.

I call this place a study but it's more of a nook with room enough for a narrow computer desk, a two-drawer file cabinet, and an office chair you can't spin on without scudding your feet along the pale blue walls. The small six-pane window allows in a certain amount of light on these bright July mornings—I call it a lure of light since it tries to draw me outside on those frequent occasions when memory and then imagination fail me. At thirty-six, yes, they are already failing me. I am increasingly dependent on my morning ritual to crowbar me into "the zone": the kick-start of coffee drunk in big swallows, the gathering of information (at times hard to find and at others even harder to believe) by leafing through Ella's dog-eared diary, and the ten minutes and upwards of contemplative gazing at the cracked snow globe that sits on a corner of my desk. Eventually, my hands hover over the keyboard, fingers twitching like those of a magician willing his trick to work. But the words come fast when they come—when I'm not interrupted by my wife who chooses the worst moments to loiter and who it seems has nothing more to say to me after seventeen years than:


Not even good morning either, just "morning."

"Yeah," I say. "It is."

With that agreement forged between us—and before I can pass her the Post-It Note—she turns and pads off toward the bathroom at the end of the hall where, a few moments later, the showerhead spits and hisses into life. Which strikes me as odd. No, not odd: unusual.

Ever since I started writing this book I have begun to notice certain things about Mrs Thomas Crouch, fellow educator of primary school children. How she showers less frequently. How she rarely shaves her legs. How the hair she once wore in a sexy tight ponytail now hangs in limp and greasy blonde ropes. And perhaps saddest of all: how those blossoms of colour on her cheeks that only a few years ago were roses sprung from passion's seeds were quite possibly now the engorged blood vessels of a constant and furious embarrassment. Of what or whom, she never says. But it has become apparent to me that by focusing on the details of Ella Bradburn's life my insights have become sharper, my thoughts—some of them at least—clearer, like signals gathered in by an antenna on the morning after a storm.

But despite having this new ability to recognise that Sally Crouch of Today is a completely different woman from Sally Crouch of Yesteryear, I still cannot put my finger on why or when this transition occurred. Maybe it's because most of my attention has been focused on the kids I teach, the twenty-four eleven-year-olds who look to me to lead them to the path that will take them through the forest of Secondary Education (and from there on to the darker forest that is Adulthood), and who have among them that special, gifted child we educators lie in bed at nights and pray to have the good fortune to stumble upon just once in our careers. Yes, Brian Trimble is the reason—

Come on, Tom, be honest; he is one of many reasons.

—why I sit in this study every night; why I sometimes lock myself in here away from Sally and the kids for entire weekends at a time.

No, this is not really about the Trimble kid. This is about more than my fear of one day standing in that classroom and not having the answer to one of his questions, me blank of face and blank of mind while he pins me with information-hungry eyes and the rest of the kids scoff into their hands at Mister Crouch in a corner, Mister Crouch in a bind. This is about more than some youthful Prince usurping an elder King. It is about my Queen, and last night.

For months now, Sally has been wandering our house like a dog chained to a post. She virtually ignores me and the three girls, barely functioning in her role as wife, mother, and even, I suspect, teacher. It seems she cannot wait for late evenings and the opportunity to plug herself into the girls' videogame console, an Xbox 360 we bought for them as a shared present last Christmas. And then it's on with the headset, on with Xbox Live, and on with the youthful banter or "trash talk" or whatever the hell the kids call it these days. It is the only time I see her come alive, when she's burning round some racetrack with the voices of other players in her ear, laughing as she leaves one of them in her dust, in a verbal exhaust of teasing and taunts, and then giggling, yes, giggling like her own eight-year-old any time she fucks up, crashes, and dies.

Last night, quarter to midnight, I woke up in bed and rolled over. When my outstretched arm met no resistance on its way to her cool, empty side of the mattress, my eyes snapped open. I sat up. Swung my legs over the side. Toed around in the dark for my slippers. The whole time, from our living room, I heard the high-pitched snarl of a super-charged engine.

Not this again.


Fiona.P said...

You certainly have Me interested..Think I may have to seek out some previous work to possibly, truely appreciate a taster but definately sparked an interest. Not really been reading much proper "horror" lately, been sticking to crime fiction recently (Cornwell, Slaughter, Macbride and the likes) Laziness really. lol But certainly sounds good to me so far. But I'm no expert!

Tuonela said...

Hi Steven

Everything old is new again… Bob has restarted CB, if you’re interested. I think a lot of the old gang will sign up just to keep in touch.


Cheers mate (& Happy New Year!)

Ian Rochford (iamacamera)