Wednesday, February 23, 2011

An excerpt from my mystery-noir novel, So Young, So Tardy, So Dead: A Trip Duncan High School Mystery

The hallway outside Room 167 was dark and dank. The air was fetid. I lit a cigarette against the chill and slouched against the wall, pulling my slouch hat low over my face and balling my hands into fists. Two days’ worth of beard stubble rasped against my coat collar. My eyes were blue steel. My eyes bored holes into the mug in front of me. My eyes could beat the snot out of him if I so desired. And as it happened, I did so desire.

“You’re going to talk, punk,” I rasped. “We can make this easy, like a day at the beach, or we can make this hard, like breaking rocks with the heel of your palm. Your choice.”

“I just…I just need to go to the bathroom,” he said uneasily, producing a hall pass. I smirked, grabbed it from his hand and lit it on fire with my cigarette. Then I dropped my cigarette, so I had to use his hall pass to light my next one. Then I burned my hand on the hall pass. I cursed as I flapped my hand to put the fire out, hopping around in what I hoped was still a threatening, no-horse-manure-allowed manner. At first I was worried I might have lost some ground, but he still seemed suitably scared by my blue steel eyes and slouch hat, so I figured I wouldn’t have any trouble with him after all. Provided he started talking before I got tired of waiting and started using his head for a punching bag.

“I know you know what went down last night, when the dame got herself iced,” I rasped. “You know I know you know. So let’s cut the square dancing and get right to the second course. Empty your pockets and I won’t have to empty your skull.”

He blinked. “What?”

“Spill it, punk. What happened to the broad?”


“The broad, the dame, the femme fatale, the vixen who can make the earth move. Stop playing dumb, punk, or I’ll make sure you never think straight again after I pound your head into last night’s leftovers.”

He blinked some more. “I…uh, I don’t know to whom you’re referring.”

I lit a cigarette. “I think you do. And in a minute, I’m going to lose my temper. Only when I’m angry, my minutes seem a lot more like seconds.”

“So…you’ve already lost your temper? I’m confused.”

I smirked and lit a cigarette. “Keep talking dumb, punk. It’s better than a Bach concert.”

“You know…you, uh, already have a couple of cigarettes going.”

I looked down at myself. Sure enough, the punk was right. One in the lower lip, one in the left hand, one tucked behind my ear. No wonder my hair was on fire. I sucked deep on the cigarette in my mouth and coughed wildly, smacking my hair and putting the fire out. Sooner or later, I’d have to start smoking these things for real.

Never mind. He’d never notice. It was time to break out the big guns. I grabbed him by the shirt and thumped him against the lockers behind him.
“Start squealing, little piggy, or you’re never going to the market again.”

“Hey!” he yelped. “I have a hall pass!”

“Nuts to your hall pass, maggot. Tell me about the girl or your eyes will be playing tennis with your tonsils!”

“I don’t know what you mean!” The punk started sobbing hysterically. “You keep mixing your metaphors, your pronoun referents are ambiguous, and you use dime store clich├ęs with which I’m not familiar! For God’s sake, talk to me like I’m a product of the 21st century!”

My eyes narrowed. So: he was an AP English student. I’d have to change my tactics.

“All right, dummy,” I rasped, lighting a cigarette (and then remembering my other one, and swearing, and hiding it behind my back). “Your main idea is what happened to that young woman Nancy Caskin. Now for your evidence, you’re going to tell me where you were last night.”

“And…and my link?” He looked up, starting to appear hopeful.

“It’s going to link where you were to where she was.”

“Okay.” He breathed more calmly. “Okay.”

Now it was only a matter of time. And a graphic organizer…

Next week: Opening STACS of Death!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Push, by Sapphire: A Review

Push is the stream-of-consciousness novel by Sapphire, poet and performer, that created such a ruckus when first published over a decade ago and which was turned into an acclaimed film, Precious, in 2009. It's the story of a young woman who...holy fuck, this book is disturbing.

Ok, let me start over:

Push tells the story of 16-year-old Clareece "Precious" Jones, who, at the novel's beginning, is pregnant with her father's child. She...I mean, seriously, her father's kid? That's messed up. Plus, get this--it's her father's second child by her. The first one? She had it at the age of twelve! And it's got Down's Syndrome. That is too much.

Okay, where was I? Precious lives with her abusive mother who...oh Christ, I forgot, the mom abuses her too! Sexually, physically, psychologically, you name it. It is totally off-putting. One minute the mom is all, "Make me some dinner!" and then she's clocking her in the head with a frying pan. God.

Right, right, the novel. Well, it's written in the form of Precious' thoughts, stream-of-consciousness, like I said, plus journal entries she writes for class. In these entries, she finds a new voice and a new freedom of being able to love herself and not see herself with the eyes of others...

Her parents? Good God, both of them? Plus she winds up getting AIDS from her father! Like Sapphire decided, "You know what, I don't think this kid is sympathetic enough for an emotive character. What else can I give her?" I'm surprised she didn't pop her into a time machine and dump her on the deck of the Titanic or something.

There are truly moving scenes in this novel, though. Like the extended hands of fellowship Precious finds in an alternative school. Kind of hard to keep those scenes in mind, though, when you remember Precious' account of her father climbing on top of her. Hoo. Man. I mean...boy. Did anyone see the movie? How'd they pull that one off?

Okay, so in closing, Push is an emotive, poetic dagger through the heart of the discerning reader. Precious becomes a Job for the twenty-first century, and as we see her spirit begin to take wings, we are reminded of the transience of life and love, and that both truly are precious for all the right reasons...gah, I can't get those abuse scenes out of my head. Messed. Up.

Fuck me, anybody got any weed? Need to shake this book off.