{excerpt from ‘all things considered…’}

I’ve actually managed to spend most of this week working on fictional writing (meaning writing of the fiction genre and not pretending I was writing when I’m actually marathoning Parade’s End, which I would totally not do ever and definitely not last weekend).  The upside is that I got some writing done.  The downside is that I don’t have an actual blog post to share with y’all.  Solution:  share some of what I’ve been working on on the blog.  I am a problem solver.

Fair warning:  there’s some of what my mother refers to as ‘inappropriate language’ in here, including a xenophobic slur.  It would probably earn a rating of PG-13/14 on the Nielson scale/12 on the BBFC scale.  You were all warned.

*****

     Dov is bigger than he is.  He’s never noticed before; it was never important.  But now he shoves Jordan against the brick wall of the alley as easily as the quarterbacks in high school did.  Dov’s face is too close to his, smelling of whiskey and another man.  ‘You smell like a Mick,’ Jordan mutters against the hands on his collar.

‘D’you feel better now?’

‘No.’

Dov slams him hard against the wall and the last bit of air hiding in his lungs rushes out.  ‘What is wrong with you?’  He lets go and Jordan crumples against the dumpster.  Dov sinks down next to him and steals the pack of cigarettes out of Jordan’s coat pocket.

‘I thought you were going to punch me.’

‘Yeah, and I still may.  Jesus Christ.’  He tugs a cigarette between his lips and flings the pack back at Jordan.  He runs a hand through his hair.  ‘I’m too old for this, Joe.  I don’t know what you want from me and I’m tired of trying to work it out.  So you can either tell me now or fuck off back to Idaho.’

‘Iowa.’

‘What?’

‘I’m from Iowa.’  Dov stares at him.  ‘They’re completely different states.’

‘Is that answering my question?’

‘No.’

‘Well?’

‘I don’t know how to answer it.’

‘Jesus Christ.’  Dov struggles to his feet.  ‘You are–’  He yanks the cigarette out of his mouth.  ‘You are literally the most frustrating person I have ever met.  Do you know that?’  He shoves the cigarette back into his mouth and tries to take a drag.  He groans.  ‘Jesus Christ, would you give me your bloody lighter?

Jordan finds his feet and lights Dov’s cigarette.  He watches him smoke with wide eyes.  ‘I–’  Dov glares at him.  ‘I’m sorry, Dovi.  I don’t know what to say.’

‘You never do, do you?’

‘I guess not.’

‘Jesus Christ,’ he says again.  Jordan wonders if he has forgotten how to say anything else.  Dov takes a drag and peers at him.  ‘You know what your problem is, Joe?  When you get right down to it?  It’s not that you’re a bad guy, you really aren’t.  You’re a mess, mind, but you’re all right.  Clever and fun and quite cute — and no, I don’t care what you say, you are.  Shut it.’  He shakes ash off his cigarette and Jordan cringes at the waste of good tobacco.  ‘But you can’t let anything go.  You can’t ever just be a normal human being.’

‘What does that mean?’

‘My birthday, Jordan.’

‘Oh, come on!’

‘No, we were out for my birthday with my friends, and what did you do?’

‘You know, you really need to get over that.’

‘You start in on how much of a bastard your old man was.  Right there in front of everyone from my work.’

‘And I don’t let anything go?’

‘Okay, fine.  How about Christmas?  How about last Christmas?  In Manchester.  With my parents.’

‘Look, I said I was sorry!’

‘And you going on and on about some bloke my poor mother has never even heard of when I’m sitting right next to you!

‘Donovan, I told you:  I’m sorry.  I was drunk and I’m sorry.  I’m still sorry!’

‘That’s not the point!’  He chucks the cigarette down the alley.  Jordan watches it fly still smouldering through the air.  Dov is on him again, Jordan’s back scraping against the rough brick of the wall.  ‘Five years, Joe!  I gave you five years of my life.  I left the country, just for you.  Does that mean nothing to you?’

Jordan shoves him off.  ‘Of course it does!’

‘Then prove it!’

‘And what do you think I was doing tonight?’

Dov laughs.  ‘What, just now?  No, mate.  Doesn’t work like that.  You spend five years wasting my time, dreaming of someone else every night, and you think you have the right to yank a bloke off of me when I’m in a club trying to forget about you?’

‘Well, not when you put it like that.’

‘Would you grow up for five minutes and actually have a conversation?’

‘I would if you’d quit shoving me!’

‘Shut up!’  Dov pushes him again, blind to the irony of his action.  ‘Just shut up, alright?  I’m sick to death of you and your–  Your juvenile behaviour!  No!  Don’t you dare say a word.’  Jordan bites his lip.  He thinks better of it and fishes for a cigarette of his own.  Dov’s eyes sparkle in the tobacco fog and Jordan realises he’s crying.  ‘I love you.  You know that?  You’re a bastard and a child, but I love you.  You put me through hell, Joe.  The least you can do is give me is some kind of explanation.’

‘Explanation of what?’

‘Of why I’m not bloody good enough.’

‘Don’t be ridiculous.’

‘Jordan.’    His voice is just this side of pleading.  ‘Please.’

He sighs.  He fiddles with his cigarette.  He swallows.  ‘Okay.’  Dov’s eyes feel like nails pressing into his skin.  ‘It’s like this,’ he says at last.  ‘I won’t say he completes me.  That’s a stupid thing to say.  It’s not that I’m missing some vital organ that he somehow manages to replace.  It’s much more like…like when you’re at the library and you find a gap where your book ought to be.  You know?  It’s jarring.  Disappointing.  And, yes, I’d say there’s a sense of loss — at least there always is for me.  But you’re fine.  You won’t die or anything.  It’s just that, maybe, if you’d been able to get that book, something about your life might just make a little more sense.’  He wipes his nose on the back of his sleeve, a lost, childish gesture.  Dov won’t take his eyes off of him.  He wants to crawl behind a dumpster and disappear.  ‘But you can read other books.  And some of them, they’re good; they make you happy.  And maybe you find some book that sort of feeds your appetite for that other book you couldn’t get.’  Dov makes a sound in the back of his throat.  Jordan barrels on.  ‘But that’s the thing about appetites:  if you want a burger and you order the salad, you’re still hungry, aren’t you?  So you keep reading.  But the longer you go without that book, the more you start to feel…sort of itchy, I guess.  The more you feel like you’re missing out.  And you just keep thumbing through the stacks, hoping you’ll stumble upon it someday.’

‘And that’s Charlie, is it?’  It takes a moment for Jordan to nod.  He sighs.  ‘Alright.  Fine.  It wasn’t worth five years of my life, but fine.’  Jordan stiffens at his remark but stays quiet.  Dov toys with a loose thread on his cuff.  ‘So what are you going to do about it?’

He wets his lips and takes a slow drag.  ‘I guess I’m gonna keep reading.’

Dov coughs a hollow laugh.  ‘Of course.  Okay.  And may I ask why?’

Jordan flicks his cigarette to the ground, taking his time to crush it beneath his toes.  He shoves his hands in his pockets and meets Dov’s gaze for the first time.  ‘Because one of these days, I’m going to walk into that library.  And I’ll see my book where a gap used to be.’

© Kiri Palm 2013

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