- Journey From Night
- A Debt to Pay
- Dead Man’s Hat
- Bare-Assed Messiah
- Atomic Punk
Release date: August 1.
Available at online bookstores and direct from the author.
Release date: August 1.
Available at online bookstores and direct from the author.
As intellectual as we pretend to be, at heart, all humans are animals and survival is our first priority.
Whenever I come home and find someone parked in one of my spaces, I worry someone has sold my house and taken my furniture.
We can’t rely on politicians to fix the political system. They benefit too much from it being broken.
Trust me, no one wants to know what’s involved in being a cereal sex offender.
If Salvador Dali had become murderous, would he have been considered a surreal killer?
Humans are believed to be the only species on the planet able to pull a quarter from someone’s ear.
The real tragedy of Joanie Loves Chachi is that its failure meant we would never get a Ralph Malph spinoff.
I don’t have anything against naked people; I just don’t want them running around my house if I don’t know them.
In 2017, everyone will appear in public as he or she looks first thing in the morning, for, at least, fifteen minutes.
Sometimes we like to shake things up at the library by playing Purple Haze.
I’m not one to leap out of bed, ready to take on the world. I prefer to ease into the day. It takes a while.
I wonder if any of my employers ever looked at my permanent record from high school.
Never underestimate the dark side of human nature.
Every sexual act is political.
“Your grades are exceptional, your MCAT was in the top percentile, and you have professional experience in a clinic, not to mention your extracurricular activities. It might not seem like editing a book or playing music would matter for medical school, but it shows you’re a well-rounded individual and that you can multitask.”
“Great. How do I handle the interviews?”
“Be yourself. They want to get to know you. In my experience, they were more like conversations than straight Q&A sessions but it differs from school to school and between interviewers. They have certain things they want to know, but they’re more interested in how you conduct yourself, how you’ll fit in and adapt, how you perform under stress.” He leans forward and rubs her shoulder. “Don’t worry. They’re going to love you.”
Since she’s local, Abigail arranges to stay at Leah’s the two days she’s to be at Emory so she can better utilize public transportation. She hasn’t yet told her mother because Rhiannon is coming to town in early-November, and Abigail wants to tell her in person. Rhiannon has stated she wants to meet all the friends and family Abigail has connected with in the short time she’s been in town. Winn and Roger insist on hosting another party for them. Abigail requests that Rachel and Claire be included on the guest list as well as Gloria. Genevieve requests that Steven be added.
In the meantime, Abigail, Genevieve, and Gloria continue to gather and edit Rebecca’s blog entries. Genevieve has noted several themes in Rebecca’s writing and proposes grouping them together accordingly which meets with the approval of the others. At length, they weed it down to fifty articles from which to choose, several of which are multi-part posts which they combine into single essays. They meet at Leah’s to hammer out the final selection and the ordering and to finalize a rough draft — Abigail feels they should be grouped by publication date, whereas Genevieve believes they should be grouped by theme. Gloria proposes a compromise, grouping them thematically, but ordering them by date, to which the cousins agree. At length, they settle on twenty-four articles for the first collection. Once the final rough draft is done, Gloria volunteers to work through it, editing for grammar, punctuation, and continuity, with Genevieve backing her up. For a title, they agree to use the name of Rebecca’s blog, The Frantic Feminist.
Rhiannon arrives November 3 for a week-long stay, and books a room at the Hyatt Regency downtown where her conference will be. Abigail meets her there, and over dinner at the Polaris, the blue domed restaurant at the top of the Hyatt, she tells her mother about her interview with Emory.
“I am so proud of you, kiddo,” Rhiannon says, putting her arm around Abigail and giving her a squeeze.
“Don’t you think I’m a little too old for you to call me that now?”
“Okay, how about Dr. Kiddo, then?”
Abigail spends the night in her mother’s hotel room, catching up on news of her grandmother, and friends from Seattle. The following evening they have dinner with Genevieve and Leah, and the evening is spent trading stories about Rosalind. Leah’s easily rival those of Rhiannon. Genevieve shares a few, but mostly listens.
Abigail is surprised to learn of the educational resources available through her company. When she mentions to her supervisor that she hopes to attend medical school, she’s pointed to a host of programs Bickering Plummet provides to employees who want to pursue higher degrees. Since Abigail’s focus is on becoming a researcher rather than a practicing physician, that’s viewed as a potential asset to the company, and funds are available to assist. She begins to wonder if she’ll need the money Leah and Alyssa set aside for her.
“I’ve never had so many people who wanted to just give me money before,” she confides in Rhiannon. “Plus Emory offers scholarships.”
“You’re worth it,” her mother says. “If you don’t think so, it’s time to start.”
At the party, Rhiannon hits it off with Winn, Roger, and the Caines, who bring the baby. Leah Naomi quickly becomes the center of attention for the other guests, everyone wanting to have a turn holding her, or fawning over her. Abigail is happy to see Gloria seems to fit in with everyone, especially her mother. Rhiannon is happy to see Rachal again, and Claire seems to hit it off with Roger and Winn, spending much of her time talking to them. When she’s introduced to Genevieve, and hears how she came into being, Claire takes an extreme interest in the process. Leah and Genevieve give her a brief overview, explaining about the remaining embryos. This sends Claire back to talk to Winn about a confidential matter. Neil and Zoë are there and Neil teases Winn about the circumstances of Leah Naomi’s birth. Winn takes it in stride. “You did good little brother.”
By mid-December, Abigail, Genevieve, and Gloria have settled on a final manuscript of The Frantic Feminist, and print out copies for Steven, Rachel, Claire, Alyssa, and Leah to read over and offer comments. The final version contains twenty-four essays covering several of Rebecca’s favorite topics, including movies, music, relationships, and politics and is around two hundred pages. Steven is extremely happy with the manuscript, and treats the trio to dinner at a nice restaurant. Claire requests that several references to “the girlfriend” be altered, as she feels they too closely identify her, and Genevieve, who has come to know Rebecca’s writing the best, undertakes the assignment. Everyone else responds positively, including Tim, who’s read Alyssa’s copy. Satisfied, Abigail contacts the literary agent who knew Rebecca, who requests a full copy of the manuscript.
As January rolls around, Abigail becomes more anxious about her interviews, despite reassurances from everyone she knows. Rhiannon tells her during one of their regular phone calls that she wants to know immediately how Abigail feels she did. The night before, Leah takes her and Genevieve out for dinner and a musical event at the Rialto downtown to help get her mind off things.
The following morning, Abigail heads to Emory’s campus where she spends the next two days in a whirlwind of activity, meeting faculty and students, discussing her goals, interviewing for two concentrations, and hopefully making a good impression. She befriends several other prospective students including a guy from Oklahoma, a woman from Kenya, and a married couple from Columbia, and they all hang out between scheduled events. When it’s all done, she heads back to John’s Creek to assess all that went on and begin the process of worrying again.
Fortunately, she has her music to distract her. She and Gloria have been writing songs and playing at open mic nights as Worthy Savage and have been getting much positive input. She especially likes it when they’re on the bill with Neil’s band, who, with the core of Neil, Zoë, and Genevieve, have undergone a number of personnel and name changes. Recently they’ve been going by Kneel, suggested by Zoë to placate her boyfriend over the fact that she and Genevieve get most of the attention. Neil doesn’t seem fazed, though, as he’s integrated himself into a group of musicians who perform jams around town, playing covers of classic bands like The Stones or Steely Dan, and genres like Prog or Country Rock.
Abigail receives notice in mid-February that she’s been accepted for matriculation at Emory, and is invited back for a revisit in March. At about the same time, she hears from Rebecca’s friend who tells her a publisher is very interested in The Frantic Feminist. She and Steven meet to discuss how they’ll proceed. Since he doesn’t have a background in literary contract negotiations, he arranges a meeting with a colleague who does. After a few meetings with the agent and publisher’s representatives, they agree on terms, and a timeline for publication. Separately, Steven and Abigail agree on the percentage she and the others will receive on any royalties or other profits the book earns, and the terms meet with the approval of Genevieve and Gloria. The remainder will go into a separate account which Steven plans to use for philanthropic endeavors in Rebecca’s name.
At her revisit with Emory in March, Abigail makes her final decision to attend. She’s happy to see a couple of friends she met during interviews are there as well. When the session is over, she gets a packet containing the form she needs to return once she’s made her decision.
“Can I just fill it out and give it to you now?”
With that, she completes all the requirements for admission. As she heads home on MARTA, she finally sits back and allows herself to relax. She has no idea what the future holds, but for once, she’s confident she’ll be ready.
Note: This concludes the serialized episodes of Worthy. Please use the link in the blog’s header to catch up on previous sections. I’m hoping to have the editing completed before Summer. Keep an eye out for the finished book.
To fill her free time until she hears from Emory, Abigail volunteers to help Steven with a project. His sister, Rebecca, who died in a car crash in 2005, had a blog and published numerous articles in online publications around the region. Steven has wanted to compile them for publication, but has never had the time or know how in tracking down all Rebecca’s posts. A few years earlier, Leah managed to salvage a number of files from the hard drive of Rebecca’s laptop, which was severely damaged in the crash, and supplies Abigail with a CD of the text files she was able to save, and Steven has continued to pay the annual fees on Rebecca’s main blog account, so those posts are still there. For the rest, Abigail will need to mine the Internet. She employs Genevieve, who’s more than eager to assist, and whose research skills rival those of Abigail’s.
For background, Steven suggests that Abigail meet with Claire, who was dating Rebecca at the time of her death. Claire invites Abigail to meet her at a club where Claire works as a sound engineer one afternoon while she’s setting up and testing some new equipment. Abigail hopes to gain insight into Steven’s sister, but also has some curiosity about Claire and Rachel’s relationship.
“Steven said you and Rebecca had a rather contentious relationship.”
“That’s an understatement. He should know, though. He saw enough of it close up, poor guy.”
“Why’d you stay together?”
“Rachel’s always saying I’m drawn to lost causes. Becky was certainly that. She was so out of control when I first got to know her, I was afraid she’d harm herself if I left.”
“That sounds serious.”
“I guess the psychologists would say it played on my need to save someone.”
“What finally happened between you?”
“After she settled down, we both started to lose interest, but she got killed before we could resolve anything.”
“Steven told me you didn’t date for a while.”
“I don’t date now. Steven used to attribute the tendency to my relationship with Becky, but the truth is I just don’t like to date. It’s certainly not for lack of offers. Some of the women who hit on me are more aggressive than some of the men. Becky sure was.”
As they talk, Claire lets down her guard and her speech drifts from the indistinct Atlanta accent she’s developed back into more of a slow drawl common to middle Georgia where she’s from.
“Becky liked being with other women. She thought she was hiding it from me but she wasn’t very subtle about it.”
“I’m guessing that was a problem.”
“Sometimes. I kinda understood it though. They gave her something I never would.”
“You’re telling me you and Rebecca never had sex?”
“I only had sex one time in my life and that was forced on me. If it ever happens again it’s going to be my choice.”
Abigail lets the topic drop, not wanting to pry too much into Claire’s private history. Instead, she decides to ask about Rachel.
“Would you mind if I ask you a personal question?”
“Ask. I’ll let you know if I mind.”
“Are you in love with Rachel?”
“I love her and I’d do anything for her because she’s the kind of woman I’d be if I could.”
“But you’re not together. At least, not a couple.”
“That’s her decision and I understand her reasons but it’s not for me to say what those are. I care enough for her to honor her decision.”
“She cares about you, that’s obvious.”
“Lost causes. It’s enough for me to be near her.”
“You don’t identify as a lesbian.”
“What does that even mean? The man I grew up thinking was my father thought I was just because I had a good friend when I was in school. We weren’t doing anything and I didn’t even think of her that way. He just looked at us with his twisted and perverted mind and decided he had to stop it. I don’t even ask myself that question anymore because he and my mother beat any curiosity I might have had out of me when I was sixteen.”
“You don’t have to—”
“No, that’s all right. Leah and Rachel helped me to see that I don’t have anything to be ashamed of. All I can tell you is I don’t like men, but I got a lot of good reasons that don’t have anything to do with that. Maybe if I’d stayed home, didn’t have so much trouble with my family, I might have met some guy, got married and settled down. That’s what was expected of me and I didn’t have reason to question it.”
She turns so she’s facing Abigail.
“When I first came to Atlanta, I got a job as a waitress and when I was old enough I worked in bars. Guys there would hit on me all the time and I hated it. Not just their words but the way they’d look at me. Even when I wasn’t dressed sexy, they’d stare like hungry animals. It’s why I started bartending in gay clubs, because the men there left me alone. With the exception of Steven Asher, almost every decent man I’ve ever known has been gay. I can be any way I want in front of them and they don’t care; they just accept me or ignore me.”
“I can understand that.”
“I am who I am because of the circumstances of my life. Rachel accepts that. Becky never could. You ask me if I’m in love with Rachel. How could I not be?”
They talk for another fifteen or twenty minutes and when they conclude the interview, Abigail gives Claire a long hug. “Take care of yourself, Claire.”
Abigail ends her day back at her room at the Caines’ with Gloria, discussing their favorite topic.
“We can always get married in Seattle,” Gloria says.
“But your family’s here. Mine is mostly here now, except for Mom, and I don’t think she’d have a problem traveling. Even if we get married there, it won’t be recognized here.”
“Think we’ll ever be able to get married in Georgia?” Gloria says.
“Maybe. Probably not for a long time, though.” She lies back and leans against Gloria. “Just one thing. If we decide to hyphenate our names, yours should come first.”
“Why do you say that?”
With a laugh, Abigail says, “Otherwise, we’d be Worthy Savages.”
Gloria thinks about it, then they both burst into laughter.
“Hey, that would be a great name for our act, though,” Gloria says. “Worthy Savage.”
Abigail considers it. “You’re right.” She sits up in bed. “I think before we talk about marriage, we should at least have our own place. As accommodating as Alyssa and Tim are, I know they want to raise a family of their own.”
“Agreed. House or condo?”
“Condo. Who wants to cut the grass.”
“I don’t know. I kind of like working outside. Having a garden would be nice.”
“There you go, then. That’s the issue that finally comes between us.”
Gloria swats her with a pillow. “Considering we’re nowhere near affording a studio apartment in Atlanta, we have quite a while before we need to decide on long-term accommodations. I’ll wear you down.”
“Something to look forward to.”
“How’s the project coming along.”
“Steven thinks his sister wrote enough for a book, but honestly, I think there’s too much for one book. She published an original blog post once a day for nearly two years, plus she published weekly in five or six local publications for more than a year. For all her faults, being diligent in her writing wasn’t one of them. On top of that, Steven says she kept a diary for as long as he can remember.”
“Need any help?”
“Yes. Genni’s helping me compile things and she’s a decent writer and editor, but she’s taking classes now so her time’s limited.”
“Put me in, coach. I edited my campus newspaper in college, and I know my way around a computer. You can attest to my literary skills.”
“Welcome aboard, then. What do you know about this Cloud stuff?”
“Quite a bit. They’re using it at the hospital.”
“Wonderful. We can set up some type of collaborative effort with Genni.” She sits up. “I heard from one of Rebecca’s former friends who’s an agent. When she found out I was working on this, she asked me to send her a sample chapter when it was ready. Turns out she was talking to Rebecca about it before she died and knew a publisher who was interested.”
“That’s a good start. Show me what you have so far.”
They move to the computer and start reviewing files.
It takes Abigail a little over a week to arrange an outing including Genevieve, Neil, and others in the band for Gloria to meet them. They’re playing at an open mic competition at a club in Norcross, not far from where Gloria lives, and this time, Abigail insists on picking her up. She and Gloria also have a surprise for the others, since they’ve been playing and writing songs together for several days. They’ll also be competing in the open mic as a duo.
“I can’t explain it,” Abigail tells Genevieve in a phone call, “the moment we met, I felt a connection. Ever since, we’ve just gotten closer.”
“I’m glad to hear you’ve found someone. I’m always worried you’re too driven to have a personal life. The band is the only thing you’ve done for relaxation.”
“I like to work. Sue me.”
“By the way, I may have convinced Steven to come to the show.”
“How did you manage that?”
“He was at the office the other day and I played him an MP3 from our last show.”
“And he wasn’t just saying he’d be there to get you to stop bugging him?”
“No. He sounded genuinely interested. But, he might bring a date.”
“You know, if you looked around, you could probably find some geeky guy at Tech you’d have a better shot with.”
“Yes. I know. Leah says the same thing.”
“Well, maybe you should listen to her. She knows Steven better than you do.”
“And she says he’s not looking for a long-term relationship currently.”
“Why does that encourage you?”
“Because I’m not either. Hopefully, by the time I am, he’ll be.”
“Sounds like a long shot.”
“Sort of like coming all the way to Atlanta and having a medical recruiter introduce you to the love of your life?”
“Yeah, something like that.”
On the night of the show, Neil reserves a block of tables for the crowd they expect. He and Zoë get there first, followed soon after by Genevieve, Abigail, and Gloria. Abigail makes the introductions and everyone welcomes Gloria. They head over to the tables while Genevieve waits in front for stragglers.
Steven arrives with an attractive woman who appears to be of South American descent. He introduces her as Matilda Alavares, a public defender for Fulton County. As they’re shaking hands, Genevieve says something to her in Spanish. Matilda, a bit surprised, replies in Spanish, and she and Genevieve have a brief conversation, mainly relating to family origins.
“My friends call me Mattie,” she tells Genevieve.
Genevieve leads them to the tables the band has reserved.
“Is Leah coming?” Neil asks.
“No, she has plans with her college friend,” Genevieve says.
“You’re the one who delivered Alyssa’s and Tim’s daughter, aren’t you?” Steven asks Neil.
“Yep, that’s me,” Neil says.
“Oh, I have got to hear about this,” Matilda says. “Someone in the office was talking about it when it happened.”
Neil and Abigail tell them the story.
The band is scheduled to go on toward the middle of the show, which gives them time to get acquainted. Abigail is pleased to see Gloria seems to fit in well. Matilda recognizes her from a poetry slam a few months ago in Decatur.
“I think I should let everyone know why I can’t play tonight,” Abigail says.
“Yeah. I was wondering about that,” Neil says. “Hang on. I saw a group in the lineup called Ab & Glo.”
“That’s us,” Gloria says. “We’ve written a few numbers we’d like to try out.”
“You’re stealing her away from us already,” Neil says, shaking his finger at Gloria.
“Does that make me Yoko?” Gloria says.
Neil considers it. “No. If you’re Yoko, then I can’t be John Lennon. You can be Linda Eastman.”
“What’s the big deal?” Genevieve says. “I can play everything Abby can.”
“That’s true,” Zoë says. “And I can play just about everything else.”
“Stop,” Neil says, holding up his hands. “You’re not kicking me out of my own band.”
“What’s up with Freddy, by the way?” Abigail says.
“Annie insisted he return to Portland,” Zoë says. “She gave him an ultimatum; either he comes back or she’s going to drive his Mustang off a cliff.”
“Okay.” Abigail shakes her head. “I thought they were in therapy.”
“It actually seems to be working,” Neil says. “Before she’d have just done it.”
The show runner signals to Neil to get ready.
“That’s us,” he says. To Abigail he says, “Hope you brought your A game, sis. We’ll be hard to beat.”
“You’re playing one of my songs,” Abigail replies.
“Then we’ve got this in the bag,” Neil says over his shoulder.
With Freddy absent, Neil takes the drumming duties, while Genevieve and Sarah team up on vocals. They do an Abigail original and a Neil and Zoë collaboration. Each group gets two songs, and if the audience likes them enough to make the final three, they get another song. The band’s set is very well received.
There are two acts between them and Ab & Glo, and while the second group is finishing their first song, Abigail gets the nod from the show runner.
Their set consists of two collaborations, combining alluring harmonies with complex guitar work, which also has the crowd on their feet. Neither group is surprised when they both get called back for the final three. The crowd seems to respond to the trio a bit more, so they end up in first place with Abigail and Gloria second. Still, they regard the evening as a success.
“So, what did you two think?” Genevieve asks Steven and Matilda.
“I had a great time,” Matilda says.
“Same here,” Steven echoes. “You’re very talented, Genevieve.”
Genevieve later confides to Abigail that she also regards the evening as a success.
Purchase the print version from Amazon and download the Kindle version for free.
These essays originated on this blog in their earliest forms, but have been revised, expanded, and, in some instances, combined in the book.
Disclaimer: No actual babies were harmed in the writing of this book.
This is from an early draft of a work in progress.
Billy Joseph has given up. A year past his high school graduation, he finds himself without a job, with no prospects for further education, and hopelessly addicted to alcohol and pain killers. His parents had tolerated him staying at the house so long as he made an attempt at gaining employment, but once it became obvious he wasn’t really trying, they gave up on him as well. Which is why he now finds himself wandering the streets, occasionally begging, and suffering acute withdrawal symptoms. He has nowhere to turn, no place to sleep and he fears where he may end up if he continues on the streets much longer.
At length, he finds himself at the Parkway bridge, which goes over the river. Every now and then, Billy has seen a news report about some desperate soul who used it as a final answer to his or her problems and now, Billy hopes it will provide him with the peace he needs. He checks to be sure there’s no traffic, no meddling driver who’ll stop to try to convince him not to proceed, then he makes his way to the middle of the bridge and climbs over the railing. He pauses to say a quick prayer, then closes his eyes as he starts to let go.
Suddenly a pair of arms wrap around his waist and he feels himself being violently dragged back over the railing. Whoever has him carries him to a grassy spot just off the bridge and dumps him onto the ground. Before he can process any of this, the person rolls him over and leans into his face. Billy looks to see a bearded, dirty, disheveled, and angry face hovering just above his.
“Now you listen to me, Billy,” the man says, barely containing his emotions. “Normally, I’d just let you fall and end your ridiculous existence, but you have too much to accomplish, so you’re not checking out on my watch.”
Billy sees the man raise his fist and the next thing he remembers is waking up in a hospital, apparently the victim of a violent assault. No one knows who brought him in but he’s surprised to see family is there to support him. He knows he has a long recovery ahead of him, but thanks to his mysterious benefactor, he’s finally getting the help he needs.
The guard in the monitoring station glances at the bank of screens in front of him and adjusts a remote camera until his colleague at the event appears on the monitor. He keys a microphone in front of him and says, “All quiet on the grounds, Jasper?”
The event is an exclusive art opening at the top gallery in town catering to only the highest of high rollers, and security is tight.
Jasper looks into the camera so he appears to be facing his distant compatriot and raises a thumb. He replies, “Yep. Nothing but the sound of money being rustled down here, Wally.”
“Looks like the crowd’s thinning out. How many you got down there?”
Jasper takes a quick head count. “I’ve got sixteen.”
Wally surveys his monitors. “You sure about that? I’m only seeing fifteen.”
Jasper counts again. “Nope. Definitely sixteen.”
Wally checks again. “Okay, I’m seeing six at the bar; four at a table and another five scattered around looking at the artwork.”
“Are you counting the guy in the corner?”
“What guy in the corner?” Wally says.
“Tweed jacket, jeans, long, dark hair with a glass of wine.”
Wally readjusts cameras but can’t bring the man up on any of them.
“I got nothing here.”
“I thought you had a full 360 degree view from there.”
“Apparently not. Check him out.”
Jasper walks over to the man. “Afternoon, sir. Mind if I ask your name?”
“Not at all,” the man says. “The name’s Nash.”
Jasper gets on his radio. “Wally, do we have a Mr. Nash?”
“Not that I can see,” Wally replies.
“Sir, would you mind coming with me? We just need to verify your credentials.”
“Oh, sure. I understand. Listen—” the man suddenly looks Jasper in the eye and says with firmness, “I have an invitation.”
Jasper gives him a blank stare.
“You have an invitation.”
The man checks his pockets.
“Yeah, it’s right— Oh, I guess I must have left it in the car.”
Jasper still displays no reaction.
“You left it in the car.”
“Yeah, maybe I should just go get it.”
“You should just go get it.”
“That’s a great idea,” the man says as he moves toward the exit. “I’ll be right back.”
“You’ll be right back.”
The man exits. Jasper moves away from the place he was standing. Wally watches him on the monitor then radios him. “Jasper, where’s the guy?”
Jasper looks around, confused. “What guy?”
“The one you were supposed to be checking out.”
Jasper looks around the room.
“It’s weird,” he says. “I remember approaching him and speaking to him, then he was just gone.”
“People don’t just vanish.”
“This guy did.”
“Yeah, I think you’re going to need to fill out a report on this one.”