Sunday, July 24, 2011

Sven the Zombie Slayer - Update

Sven the Zombie Slayer is now several drafts closer to final, looking right on target for September 15th release.

 

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Sven the Zombie Slayer

SVEN is scheduled for release on September 15, with plenty of time to spare before Halloween.

Stay tuned for more updates!


                       

When a zombie outbreak of unknown origin hits their town, strongman Sven, gun-lover Jane, track star Lorie, and video game warrior Milt find that their lives have become entangled in zombie gore.

Monday, July 11, 2011

What I'm Reading - Mark Twain

I'm listening to a public domain recording of The Mysterious Stranger. I'm about halfway through it and so far it is excellent. I keep surprising myself lately with how much I like Mark Twain and his style of storytelling.

And public domain=free!

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Rats on Strings - New Excerpt...The Monkey Dream!

By popular demand, here is chapter 34 of Rats on Strings.

Enjoy!


34

I had a dream that night.
It began in my apartment above the Pats’ bar. It was morning. I got up out of bed and dressed for work. Then I went to check how I looked in the bathroom mirror.
I had a full beard.
After the shock subsided, I knew what I had to do. I had to shave it off. All of it. So I opened the mirror to get my razor, but it wasn’t there. I looked everywhere, but there were no razors to be found. I would have to get one at the corner store and come back to shave.
I rushed out the door and down the stairs. I burst out of the building and began to run to the corner store.
My run died at once. I froze. My jaw dropped. The street was teeming with people on their way to work, and all the men had beards. The beards were long, and some of their owners even had to carry the beards over their shoulders to keep them from dragging on the ground.
I shook my head, tried to keep my gawking under control, and walked to the corner store. All the facial hair around me kept me from resuming my run.
In the store, I went down the aisle where I knew the razors were. I had bought some there before.
There were no razors there now. In the place where the razors had been, there were beard combs. I tried the other aisles, but I still couldn’t find a razor. I felt my throat begin to close up, like a slow panic setting in. I had to shave before work or, or—it was better not to think about that.
I went up to the man at the counter. His beard was on the counter.
“Good morning,” I said. My voice cracked. “Do you have razors?”
“Do I have what?” the man asked.
“Razors? Do you have razors?”
The man stroked his beard with one hand. “What is razors? You mean raisins? We have packs of raisins. They’re good, very fresh.”
“What is razors? What do you mean what is razors? A razor for shaving my face.” I pointed to my beard. “I need to shave this off before work.”
The man looked puzzled. “Why would anyone ever do a thing like that? Like shaving cheese? Do you feel ill? Maybe you have a fever. Here, I have some fever reducers. They’re good, very fresh.” The man put some pills on the counter. “But not as fresh as the raisins,” he added.
“No, I don’t have a fever. I need to—” I decided there was no point. I walked back out onto the street.
I stared at all the beards walking by. Maybe I could show up to work like this, I thought. I didn’t see one clean shaven man on the street. Maybe no one did shave. Maybe I did have a fever. I considered getting those fever-reducers, but after feeling my forehead and deciding that I didn’t have a fever, I set off for work.
Every man I passed on the street had a beard, so I began to think that it was ok. I began to think that it had always been that way.
I got to the firm, took a deep breath, and walked in. I went up the elevator to my floor. All the men in my department had beards. Even Mr. Pitchfork had one. I passed by Tom’s office and saw that his beard was on his keyboard. I came closer and saw that his beard was hitting the spacebar. I walked around and looked at his screen. He was typing. He was typing with his hands and his beard.
Then time sped up. There was an office meeting. It was revealed to us that we were about to take on some new hires, since we were so understaffed. Beards went up and down in approval. Six new hires arrived. Then time slowed to a normal pace again.
The new hires were different. They had more facial hair than the rest of us. They were strange. They liked to work behind closed doors, and they held secret meetings that the rest of us couldn’t go to. When I did see them, they were jumping up and down on their chairs and banging on their keyboards. I could hear them hooting and jumping and banging on things all day long.
They did these things because they were monkeys.
It worked out well at first. The monkeys billed like they were born to do it. Their work was perfect. They churned out deal after deal and loved to work nights and weekends. They were better at the work than we were.
Then it all went sour. The monkeys began to charm the clients. They wined and dined our clients and began to gain control of the source of our business. The rest of us—the humans—had all been ok with the monkeys doing the job better than we did, but this was different. The monkeys were on track to take over the department. Rumors started to go around that more monkeys were coming soon. They might take over the whole firm.
Something had to be done, and Mr. Pitchfork came forward to save the day. He had a plan and he asked all of us non-monkeys to meet away from the office so that he could brief us. We couldn’t hold the meeting in the office because the monkeys were always there, and they might overhear. So we were to hold the meeting at Mr. Pitchfork’s house in the Hamptons.
The dream sped forward and dropped me into the house. Mr. Pitchfork welcomed us in. A servant came out and offered us drinks. I declined. Mr. Pitchfork told us that a spread had been prepared for us, and was ready out back. That’s where we’d have our meeting. We gathered around Mr. Pitchfork and it became clear that we expected him to lead us out back. Mr. Pitchfork just stood there, looking uncomfortable. He said he didn’t know how to get there. He called to a servant and asked her to take us out to where the meeting would be.
We followed the servant, and Mr. Pitchfork followed us. He nodded in approval at the things he saw around him. He poked at the walls, picked up vases, and examined knickknacks. It looked like he was taking the place in for the first time.
We sat down around a large round table. The spread was wondrous, but no one touched the food.
Mr. Pitchfork began to pace around the table.
“Thank you all for coming on such short notice,” he said. “As you all know, the monkeys have begun to take over the firm. We don’t know how deep their influence runs, but that doesn’t matter. The fact is they are taking our clients and you can all be sure they will push us out. And even if they don’t, I will not stand idly by while they take my clients.” He paused and raised a finger. “They will not take my clients. I am still head of the group, and if you all don’t go along with my plan then you will be out of here. Not that you wouldn’t go along, because you all want the monkeys out too, don’t you?”
Everyone nodded. I found myself nodding too. What everyone knew and no one would admit, was that the monkeys not only did the job better than us, but the clients liked them better too. There was little doubt that given a choice, the clients would pick the monkeys. Our pride was at stake.
Mr. Pitchfork went on. “I have been working day and night to come up with a way to get them out.” He paused for effect. “And I have found it.” At this, a small cheer rose from the group. I found myself cheering too.
Then I reached for a chip on the table, dipped it in some fresh-looking guacamole, and popped it in my mouth. It made a loud crunch and some heads turned to look at me.
Mr. Pitchfork gave me a harsh look. “How can you eat at a time like this? What’s with you these days?”
“Sorry,” I said. “I thought the food—”
“Never mind, are you with us or are you with the monkeys?”
“What? With you guys, of course.” My voice was a whisper. The chip was good, and the dip was even better. I wanted another one, but I didn’t dare reach for one now. Maybe I could grab one just when he paced past me, but then the crunch was so loud. I sat on my hands.
“Let’s move on,” Mr. Pitchfork said. “Here’s how we’ll do it. As a condition of working at the firm, we’ll require that our employees all remove their beards.”
At this, fear and confusion swept across the faces around the table.
“I know what you’re thinking,” he said. “What do you mean? Why would we do that? We’re not wheels of cheese. I know. I know all of that, I’m not stupid. Don’t you see? It’s just to get the monkeys out. But we have to make it sound as if it’s more than a pretense.” He paused. “And I have found a way to do just that. Get ready for it.” He paused again. Then he pulled something out of his pocket.
“A razor!” I said, pointing to the razor in his hand. “So there are razors here after all.”
Everyone turned to me and looked at me as if I was crazy.
“A what?” Mr. Pitchfork said. “That’s not what it’s called at all. And anyway, I made it so I will be the one to name it.” He harrumphed. “Are you ill today? You look a little under the weather. Do you want some fever reducers? I have some, they’re very fresh.” Mr. Pitchfork reached into his pocket and pulled out a small bottle of pills. Then he put it on the table in front of me.
He shook his head. “Where was I? Ah yes, let’s move on. This,” he pointed to the razor, “I call this the de-monkey tool. I’ve made one for each of the men in our group, and I will put the new no facial hair rule into effect starting Monday. Those who do not comply, will be fired.”
Just then, Mr. Pitchfork passed in back of me. I took the chance to reach for one more chip. I got it, but Mr. Pitchfork turned just as I was in mid-dip. Damn. He bore down on me with his eyes and I let the chip go. It sank into the dip like a sad little chip.
“So,” he said, turning back to the table, “are you in, or are you out?” A cheer rose up from the table, and then Mr. Pitchfork was passing out de-monkey tools to all of us. I took one in my hand. I looked at it and knew it was a razor. I knew what it was for, but some of the men around me had a lot of trouble with the concept. After hours and hours of discussion, the confused men decided that the only way they could remember how to use the thing was to tuck it into their beards. So they did.
Then we all thanked Mr. Pitchfork and left the meeting. A servant led us out, and then went back inside, probably to fetch Mr. Pitchfork. I took a car back to the City with two other men. Their de-monkey tools stuck out of their beards. Mine was in my pocket.
Then the dream sped up once more. I was back at the office. My beard was gone. I walked around the office and saw that the monkeys were packing up their things. All the other men had shaved, but the monkeys refused. They wouldn’t touch the de-monkey tools. The de-monkey tools had worked.
Once the monkeys were gone, Mr. Pitchfork made us carry him around the office on our shoulders. Then he made us make him a trophy and bake him a cinnamon cake.
The dream continued on fast forward. Mr. Pitchfork was on CNN telling the anchor about his de-monkey tool. It had caught on fast. Beards fell all over the City. Monkeys held protests. They took their battle all the way up to the Supreme Court. The Court ruled against the monkeys. The de-monkey tool, the Court said, did not target monkeys, in spite of its name.
Once they had lost in the courts, the monkeys began to leave the City en masse. Work product got much worse, but the people didn’t care so long as the monkeys were gone.
The monkeys went back to the forest. They left because they were monkeys, and monkeys, as a matter of principle, would never shave.
I woke up from this dream with a sore throat. I got up, drank some water, and shaved my face. I looked at the razor in my hand and thought of the monkeys in my dream. I thought of the way they had left after their case had been decided. There were no riots. There were no uprisings. The way the monkeys left it seemed as if they saw the bright side of living in the forest. Maybe they wanted to go back. Maybe they belonged there.
I put the razor down. The “de-monkey tool” was a stupid name for it.
I got dressed, drank some more water, and left for work. I walked to the firm, all the while rubbing my face to make sure I had shaved every spot of it.

Friday, July 8, 2011

an undead update!

the zombie novel is moving along nicely, and I plan to unveil the cover and title in the next few days.

stay tuned, the big reveal is on its way.

he's coming, he's coming, he's coming!
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sbRom1Rz8OA

Thursday, July 7, 2011

What I'm Reading - Dan Brown

I've been on a Dan Brown stint of late, and I'm currently making my way through Deception Point.

I'm a big fan, and I appreciate how Brown always tricks me into learning something. He sparks my curiosity about things and I always end up on google looking them up, looking at pictures, and checking his facts. It's pretty cool. The guy really does his research.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

an excerpt from Rats!

Copyright © 2011 by Guy James.

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the author.

The characters and events portrayed in this book are fictitious. Any similarity  to real persons, living or dead, is coincidental and not intended by the author.

The rat candle and permission to feature it on the cover were given courtesy of D.L. & Co.
—Modern Alchemists and Purveyors of Curious Goods—
http://www.dlcompany.com/


1

The man stood at the end of the block. He was holding a cup of coffee in his hand and minding his food cart. From where I was it looked like the cart was filled with meat on sticks.
Then he, and his cart, were gone.
I turned to Kelsey and pointed to the spot where the man and his cart had been.
“Did you see that?” I asked.
The ground shook as a train passed beneath us.
“See what?” she asked.
We were walking south on Park Avenue, in the low fifties. I watched the steam leave my mouth and then vanish. I shivered, and tried to get deeper into my coat.
“I thought—I just thought I saw something, that’s all.”
What was that? The man and the cart had been there, I was sure of it. But how could they have been? People with coffee in their hands and a food cart to look after didn’t just vanish. I’m not sleeping enough, I told myself.
“You’re not listening to me,” Kelsey said. “You always ignore what I say to you.”
“I’m not ignoring you. We’re talking about it now.”
I didn’t know what she was talking about, but I didn’t like the tone of her voice.
Then a woman crossing Park Avenue caught my eye. She had something strange in her hand. I watched her. I looked at the thing she was carrying and something in me caught on fire. There was a flash in my mind, and at that instant it all changed. She had a—
“Hey!” Kelsey said.
“What?”
“Who are you looking at?”
“Nothing, I mean no one.” I turned back to Kelsey.
Kelsey looked in the direction I had been looking, saw the woman, pursed her lips, and turned back to me.
“I think you should move out,” she said. “I can’t keep waiting for you to grow up.”
“What are you talking about? I was listening.”
“No you weren’t,” she said. “You’re a child-like moron.”
“What?” That caught me off guard. A child-like moron? “Where am I supposed to go? I mean, we picked our apartment out together.”
“You can find a place, or stay with your friends or something, I don’t know. I’ll give you your rent money back.” She moved her pursed lips this way and that, scrunching up her face. It looked like she was trying not to cry. She wouldn’t look at me.
“I don’t want it back,” I said. “You think I’m a moron?”
She sighed. “That’s not it. I feel like you don’t care.”
“But I do everything for you,” I said. “All I do is try to make you happy, I mean I go out of my way to take care of you.”
“That’s not enough. I just, I just can’t keep waiting, all my friends are getting married.”
“That doesn’t mean they’re happy,” I said.
She shook her head. “I’m never dating another guy my age again.”
“Good afternoon sir,” a strange and unfamiliar voice said, “would you be so kind as to spare some change for a soul in need?”
The owner of the voice was sitting on a standpipe. His hair was unkempt, his clothes dirty. He looked me straight in the eye. His eyes glimmered.
Couldn’t he see we were fighting? I ignored him.
My now ex-girlfriend and I kept walking. I looked back at the man. He was still sitting on the standpipe, looking at me.
I turned back to Kelsey. “Don’t you wanna try to work this out?” I asked.
“We’ve tried enough,” she said.
I searched my mind for something to say, something that would fix things. I could fix these fights most of the time. It was just a matter of saying or doing the right thing. Maybe a card or some flowers or a nice dinner. Maybe all of those.
Then I looked at Kelsey’s face, and I knew that nothing I said or did would change her mind.
We walked south some more. When we reached Kelsey’s block, she turned right, toward her building. She didn’t wait for me to walk with her. She didn’t look back.
That was how she ended our two and a half years as a couple. That was it.
I stood on Park Avenue, and watched her leave.
I stood there for a while, not knowing what to do. Then I turned around and walked north. I stopped in front of the homeless man who had called out to me before. He was still sitting on the standpipe. I felt bad about the way I had ignored him. I pulled out my wallet and gave him a few bills, catching a few dirty glances from passersby as I did so.
“Thank you kindly,” he said, and smiled. “It looks to me like you’re having a rough day.”
I nodded, and began to walk back to Kelsey’s apartment.

2

I moved out that same day.
I moved out into my firm. It was easy, because I didn’t have a lot of stuff. I had my clothes, my laptop, my Bloomberg Businessweek magazines, and my Russian Standard vodka. Kelsey’s apartment was twelve north-to-south blocks from my office, about a half mile. It took me four trips to move everything.
Kelsey had gone to a friend’s so I didn’t see her on my trips back and forth. That way there was no more fighting, no awkward encounters, nothing. I was grateful for that.
In my office, I stowed my things under my desk and in the hall closet. I spent most of my waking life there anyway, so moving in wasn’t that much of a change.
My stack of magazines was quite large. It took up most of the space from the floor to the bottom of my desk. I used to get rid of them on a regular basis when I went to the gym. I would take three or four with me, flip through them while I did my cardio, and then leave them there for someone else to read. But I hadn’t been to the gym in months. I couldn’t remember the last time I had had the time to go, and told myself that I would have to start getting rid of the magazines, even if I didn’t take them to the gym. The stack was just getting too big.
It was dark by the time I finished my move. I went to the break room and made myself a French Roast. The machine whirred, whizzed, and burped at me as it made my coffee. I knew the sound too well. It was like the voice of an old friend—a friend I could rely on. The milk we had in the office tasted like old clothes, so I took my coffee black. Then I set out on a lap around the floor as I drank my coffee. It was bad. I had taken the spicy French Roast instead of the regular French Roast by mistake. I drank it anyway.
I was the only person at the firm that Sunday evening, and it was good to be alone. I began to think of those characters in John Grisham novels. There was always intrigue, blackmail, or mafia in their lives. The books weren’t about boring, aging, no-name lawyers at big law firms in New York City. There was no novel anyone could write about me.
At least now I had an idea to work off of, I told myself. I didn’t expect it to work, and I wasn’t sure it could work. It probably wasn’t something Grisham would want to write about anyway. But there was something about it that made me hope. It felt nice to have some hope on a post-breakup Sunday evening at the office.
On my way around the floor, I stopped outside Mr. Pitchfork’s office. There was a cockroach on the ceiling just outside the door. It sniffed around with its antennae—or whatever it was cockroaches did with their antennae—and it made me think of Max. It had been a long time since I’d last thought of him, and it had been a long time since anyone at the firm had talked about him.
Max had worked there years ago. When he was a first year associate, he picked a fight with a ceiling cockroach in this very spot. I remembered it well. It was the kind of thing you didn’t forget.
The fight took place on a busy day at the firm. Everyone was in, and everyone was hard at work. On one of his trips back and forth across the floor, Max must have spotted a cockroach on the ceiling. Like this one, it was outside Mr. Pitchfork’s office. I was in my office at the time, so I wasn’t there to see how the battle began. Maybe Max wanted to show everyone that he wasn’t afraid of a cockroach. Maybe he wanted to show us that he could get the job done, at least as far as fighting cockroaches went. I heard a commotion, and I left my office to see what was going on. What I saw was a small circle of my bosses and coworkers, looking on as Max stabbed at the cockroach with a broom. Max’s sleeves were rolled up, and sweat poured from his brow. But the cockroach was wily, and it wasn’t about to let a lowly first year end its life.
Each time Max jabbed at it with his broom, the cockroach scuttled away. Max jabbed again and again, but each time the cockroach scurried just out of reach, as if it was mocking Max. Max and the cockroach danced back and forth for a while. Max came at the cockroach with his broom and the cockroach fell back. Then the cockroach came at Max and Max fell back. It went on and on.
After a while, it looked like Max was starting to take the battle close to heart. The whole department was watching, and some passersby from other floors had joined the crowd too. Most cheered for Max, but I heard someone say, “Poor cockroach.” I don’t remember who said it.
At last, Max swiped the cockroach with the broom. The swipe didn’t kill the cockroach, but instead flung it into Mr. Pitchfork’s office. From where I stood, I couldn’t tell if the cockroach landed on the floor, or flew, or what. There were shrieks of horror, and by the time I got in a position from which I could see into the office, the cockroach was in place.
It sat on a framed photo of Mr. Pitchfork’s wife, flicking its antennae at her face. There was some stifled laughter. I bit my lip but still felt a smirk creep onto my face. Mr. Pitchfork was nowhere in sight, and someone suggested that Max get the cockroach out of there while he still could.
Then Mr. Pitchfork came walking down the hall. He took in the crowd gathered around his office. People fell away as if pushed, and returned to work. I stood and watched as Mr. Pitchfork walked up behind Max, who was reaching for the cockroach on the photo.
“What are you doing in my office?” Mr. Pitchfork asked. Max froze. He didn’t say anything, but Mr. Pitchfork’s eyes followed the poor kid’s hand to the cockroach on the picture of Mrs. Pitchfork. Max began to stammer something. He was probably trying to explain what had happened. Then Mr. Pitchfork swung the door shut.
None of us ever saw Max again. Sometimes I wondered what had happened to the cockroach.
I stared up at the cockroach that was on the ceiling. Maybe it was the same cockroach. Thinking that it was made me smile.
I left the cockroach in peace, finished my coffee, and returned to my office. I closed my door, leaned against the stack of deal documents that looked the softest, and closed my eyes.
Images began to flash in my mind. I saw the man in the food cart, he was drinking his coffee now, and the cart behind him was full of donuts and fruit, alongside the meat on sticks. And I saw the woman crossing Park Avenue with the—
I caught myself nodding off. If it wasn’t for the cup of coffee, I wouldn’t have caught myself. That wasn’t the first time I had slept in my office, and it was only for a few seconds anyway, so it didn’t really count.
Sleeping in the office aside, I had a nice life as an associate. My firm called itself a lifestyle firm, and although no New York City firm was a lifestyle firm, mine was better than others. Or at least it was better than some others. The main problem with my job was that I could never plan anything. If I made plans, the plans would be broken. But while the hours weren’t steady and called for a lot of plan-breaking, they weren’t excessive either. Unlike many of my friends from law school who worked in big New York law firms, I had never worked more than ninety hours in a week, and I almost always got some time off on a Saturday or Sunday. That was in part because I lived just a few blocks away, so it was easier for me to sneak away for a bit, but it was true all the same.
Now that I was single, I thought, I could be a better associate. I could be the kind of associate that partners’ dreams were made of—the kind of associate with no social life to stand in the way of work. I would have nothing better to do but work. Because of that, it was better not to tell anyone that Kelsey was out of the picture. Even though the partners expected me to come in when they called, it was easier for them to pick on those associates who had no personal lives. If I let on that I was single, that would invite the partners to throw more work my way. I didn’t want that.
Thinking about work made me realize that I didn’t want to spend the night in my office. The thought of sleeping at the firm made me depressed, and I needed a shower. I had to find a friend’s couch to crash on. I picked up my BlackBerry and called Sanjiv.
“Hey,” I said.
“Hey man,” Sanjiv said.
“What’s going on?”
“Same old nothing, you?”
“Is it ok if I shower at your place for a few days? Kelsey kicked me out.”
“What? Wow. Uhhh, yeah, sure. That should be fine. Are you guys really broken up this time? I mean you guys have broken up like a million times.”
“Yeah it’s for real this time. My stuff is in my office. I’m looking at it.”
“Sorry man, that’s rough I guess. Yeah, ok, come by whenever. I’m not doing anything.”
“Ok that sounds good.”
“We’ll have some beers,”
“That’ll help.”
“Alright, later.”
“Thanks.” 
I hung up and looked back at my screen. I searched for apartments on Craigslist and found a few listings close to the office. I sent some emails to inquire about the apartments that looked promising.
Then I left for Sanjiv’s.
I knew Sanjiv from law school. We were the same year. Both of us had come to New York to live the big firm life. That’s what you did after you graduated from law school with loans to pay off. We called it Biglaw. It was a derogatory term. The loans were how the firms got us.
Sanjiv and I bonded in law school because we were both outcasts. Unlike the uncool kids who took advantage of law school as a place to redefine themselves, to move into the incrowd, Sanjiv and I were at ease with our lack of coolness. And we were both poor. Or maybe our friendship had nothing to do with either of those things. Who knew why people became friends? Some personalities just clicked with each other. We clicked.  
On the way to Sanjiv’s, I stopped at the corner where the man with the food cart had been—if in fact he had been there at all. I looked at the sidewalk, the curb, the street, the cars parked on the street, the puddles, the building on the corner. They all looked normal.
But one thing was out of place. On the corner where I had seen the food cart man, just beneath the curb and half-submerged in a puddle of sludge, was a coffee cup. Not that there was anything strange about a coffee cup lying in a gutter. But this was no regular, run-of-the-mill coffee cup. It wasn’t any kind of coffee cup I had ever seen before, and I knew my coffee cups. It was a black paper cup, with a five-pointed star etched into it. Just a star, and no other markings I could see. I wanted to see more, but I wasn’t going to reach in and touch or disturb the sludge in which the cup lay.
Was it the vanishing man’s coffee cup? I couldn’t tell. I closed my eyes and tried to recall the scene from earlier that day. I must have looked strange standing with my eyes closed on a street corner—but not strange by New York standards. I could see the food cart, the man, the corner, and I could feel Kelsey walking next to me. I tried to focus in on the image in my mind—to zoom in on the man’s hand. But I couldn’t. I couldn’t make out the cup. I opened my eyes and looked back at the cup in the gutter. It could have been the food cart man’s, but I had no way of knowing. I stood there a little while longer, staring at it.
When I got back on my way to Sanjiv’s, I was sure about what I’d seen. The cup had a strange crispiness to it. It had the look of a cup that had been singed with care.

3

I got there at ten.
Sanjiv’s place was about a fifteen block walk from my firm. On the way, I got more dirty looks from strangers than was normal, on a per-block basis. They looked at me like I was a thief, and upon seeing me, many put their hands in their pockets, or clutched the bags they carried closer to their bodies. When I got to Sanjiv’s, I had a look in the mirror. I looked the same as I always did, as far as I could tell.
Sanjiv and I had a few beers and talked over an episode of Dexter, the show about a lovable serial killer who kills people that deserve it. His victims have it coming. They’re all bad.
At first, Sanjiv and I talked about my former relationship, but after I had had a few beers, I steered the discussion in a different direction. I didn’t want to talk about Kelsey anymore that night, and I knew full well that people would be bringing up my breakup for a long time yet. I wanted that night to be about something else.
“You know how we always talk about what a mistake law school was, and how we should have gone to med school instead?” I asked.
“Yeah,” Sanjiv said, “except we didn’t have the grades for it.”
I nodded. “Well, I have an idea that I think might get me out of law.”
“Oh yeah? How’s that?”
“Something weird happened today, while Kelsey was breaking up with me. We were walking down Park Avenue, and I had some kind of vision or something.”
Sanjiv raised his eyebrows. “Drug-induced?”
“No, I mean, I thought I saw something, and then I did see something, and then I had this idea. It just came to me.”
Sanjiv just looked at me, so I went on.
“I saw a man with a food cart, and he had a coffee in his hand, and then he just vanished. He just vanished, you know. I mean—”
“How much coffee did you have?”
“That’s not the point—”
“How much?”
“A lot, but that’s not the point.”
Sanjiv shook his head. He looked at the TV. Dexter smashed a plate in anger. Dexter’s new love interest was leaving him.
Sanjiv turned back to me and shrugged. “So what’s the idea?”
I told him. He listened, but he looked more and more dismissive as I went on.
“That’s stupid,” he said, when I had finished.
I could always count on Sanjiv to be honest.
“I know it’s a little out there, but I think I can do this. The way it came to me, it just seems to me that it’ll work—like I have to give it a try.”
“Yeah, well it seems to me like you were stressed out from working too much, and that you’re still stressed out from that, and from Kelsey leaving you. I don’t think it’s a good idea.”
“Look,” I said, “I want to start a business. I want to quit law and do my own thing, where I’m my own boss. I want to have free time. I want control of my own life. I want to stop carrying this around.” I took out my BlackBerry and pointed at it with an accusing finger.
Sanjiv nodded. “I know, I know,” he said. “But it’s a big risk, and it’s way out there. I mean, it’s not like you’re gonna deliver bread. That I would get. People like to eat bread, so you might get some business. But this—this is just nuts.”
“So is staying in law, so is never trying. I have to try to do something, and this seems like the right something.”
“If you build this business and fail, it sounds like you might be out a lot of money, right?”
I took a moment before answering, because I hadn’t thought about that yet.
“I think so,” I said. “But I’m gonna follow through on this. It’s the only good idea I’ve ever had. I think it’s once in a lifetime. And now that Kelsey’s out of the picture, now that I’m single, I don’t have to worry about supporting anyone. I can take a risk. I need to take a risk.” I paused and took a breath. “So...I guess you don’t want in?”
“No, I don’t want in, and I don’t think you should want in either. You have a good life. Maybe you don’t have as much free time as you want, but we went to law school to be lawyers. You can’t back out for something like this. Not that it’s too late to back out of law if something good comes along, but this isn’t it. What you’re talking about is crazy.”
Sanjiv shook his head again and looked back at the TV. We sat in silence for a few minutes. Then the door opened, and Sanjiv’s fiancĂ©e, Amberley, walked in, click-clacking her heels as she went.
“Hey guys,” she said, smiling. She got herself a beer and sat down between us. “Wow my night sucked, some gross guy threw his smelly boxers into my cage. I mean, like, who does that?”
Sanjiv laughed. “It’s a dangerous job,” he said, and gave Amberley a playful jab in the ribs. Then he pointed at me. “He’s single now.”
“Really?” Amberley asked.
“Yeah,” I said.
“I’ve got just the girl for you,” she said, and began telling me about her perfect coworker.
That was all I needed right then, a cage-dancer to date.
“Thanks,” I said, when she had finished. “But I’m gonna take it easy for a while.”
“Ok, let me know if you change your mind.”
Then Amberley told us about her night. While she talked, she took her pet bunny Freckles out of its cage for her cat Retro to play with. Retro swatted at Freckles. Freckles tried to get back into her cage. Retro swatted some more. And then, something strange happened. Freckles swatted back. We all saw it.
Amberley’s jaw dropped. “I’ve never seen her do that before,” she said. “She never swats back, she just ignores Retro or runs away. That’s so weird.”
Sanjiv and I agreed. Retro and Freckles kept on swatting at each other. They were at an impasse. Amberley let the two go at it and hopped in the shower.
Amberley’s boxer shorts story had put my business idea out of my mind. That was for the best, because after Sanjiv had weighed in on it, I didn’t want to think about it there anymore. I was going to go through with it no matter what he said. I was going to be stubborn.
Once Amberley was out of the shower, she made the couch up for me to sleep on. I thanked her, and she and Sanjiv went into the bedroom.
As I lay on the couch, I thought about what I had done so far in my life. I thought about all the schooling that I had been through. How was it that I was so educated and knew so little? I felt like I knew nothing of substance. My work knowledge I had picked up on the job, and it was just a set of arbitrary rules. Was there any more for me to learn now that I was in the real world? I tried, but I couldn’t think of any topics I cared to know about. I thought about how teachers had once held me rapt in my want for knowledge. I wanted that feeling back. I wanted to learn and be creative, like when I was a kid.
As I slept that night, developing a crick in my neck, I dreamt of Kelsey. In my dream, Kelsey was married to Dexter, the same Dexter from the TV show. Kelsey and Dexter had a bunny and a cat. They all got along. The cat didn’t swat at the bunny, and the bunny didn’t swat at the cat.

4

Work dragged on the next day.
I got a few emails in response to the ones I had sent in my apartment search. A few were ads that tried to get me to click on a credit score website. After clicking on a couple of these, I learned to spot and ignore them.
One of the emails that wasn’t spam intrigued me. Or rather the landlord’s asking price intrigued me. The listing was for a one bedroom going for only $1,500, which meant that something was wrong with it. But it was in a good location—only two avenues away from my office. It was a six minute walk at the most, and I liked to live as close to the office as I could.
I followed up and got another reply. My suspicion that there was something wrong with the place grew stronger when the owner emailed me directions and told me to go to Devil Bar on
56th Street
, and to ask for Pat at the bar. It sounded sketchy, but I figured it was worth a look. Maybe I’d get lucky and find a hidden gem.
I also had an email in my inbox from Kelsey. My heart began to pound harder when I saw it. I opened it, and a hollow feeling crept into my stomach. It felt as if the air had been sucked out of me, and breathing in just made it worse. Kelsey wanted to know how I was doing. She asked if I had found a place to live yet. She said she was sorry she had made me leave without having a place to go to. She said she should have let me crash on the couch. She said I could still do that until I found a place. She said she hoped I was well.
The hollow feeling in my stomach had grown worse as I read. I reread the email a few times. It was just a few lines. I didn’t know how to respond. I didn’t know if I should respond. I deleted it. Then I clicked on my trash folder and pulled the email out. Then I deleted it again. Then I pulled it out again. My finger wavered over the mouse. I sighed and closed the browser. I stared out the window for a while, but I couldn’t shake the hollow feeling.
I had a lot of work that day, but not so much that I couldn’t spare an hour out of my day to look at the Devil Bar apartment. I needed to find a place where I could relax, or at least to find a place that wasn’t my desk. I didn’t like the fact that my usual joke about living at the office was taking on a whole new meaning, and I felt that if I didn’t push myself to move into a real apartment, I might never leave. I might end up living at my desk until I died. That was a depressing thought.
My appointment to meet Pat at the bar was for 4:30 in the afternoon. I would look at the apartment and then go back to work. I hoped the place would be decent enough for me to rent for a while, and that the owner would be flexible on the length of the lease term. I was desperate, but if the place was terrible I wanted to avoid being tied to it for too long. I put my game face on and tried to look cheerful. I didn’t need Pat seeing that I was in dire straits. That meant trying to push the corners of my frown up. There was no cheer in me at all.
On my way out of the office I ran into Bill. He saw me getting into the elevator and I froze.
“Are you going up?” Bill asked, pointing up with his thumb.
“No, down, sorry.”
Bill’s eyes narrowed and he looked me and up down. He was still looking when the doors shut. That was bad luck. That was bad luck because Bill was the “cool partner.”
Every law firm had at least one, and most had a team of them. We had our share too, and Bill was head of the “cool partners” at my firm. He was boss “cool partner” man. That was his unofficial title. Law firms needed “cool partners” to seduce new hires during the summer program, when the “cool partners” tricked summer associates into thinking that the firm was a great place to work. “Cool partners” liked to talk about work-life balance, vacations, fancy lunches, and the prestige that came with a career in law. If “cool partners” were trying to get a law student into the firm, they wined and dined the student in a single-minded pursuit to win the student over. They took the student out on a series of dates. The student and firm dated each other for a while, and the “cool partner,” since he was the firm side of this, was always on his best behavior. The “cool partner’s” courtship tactics did the trick most of the time. Young law students never saw it coming.
Bill played this role in our group, and in my firm as a whole. Unlike some “cool partners” at other firms, Bill didn’t wear board shorts or talk about surfing. We weren’t that kind of firm. But he did wear striped shirts sometimes and I once saw him wear jeans on a Jeans Day. Bill wined and dined summer associates as he tried to get them to join our group. Then he wined and dined new hires as he tried to get them to stay in our group. Bill was generous with his high fives, his questions about family, and his gifts. He knew how to win the associates’ trust, and the associates felt comfortable with him, like he was one of them, like he was their friend.
But, “cool partners” had a dark side. They played a dual role. Their job went beyond new hire seduction, and included constant associate surveillance. They were there to keep a watchful eye fixed on the associates who already worked at the firm, under the guise of friendship. It was their job to get in good with the associates and learn all they could about them. “Cool partners” were spies.
Once Bill felt that he knew an associate well enough, he wrote a memo. I saw one of these memos once. The memo was, at its essence, a long list. The list was nicely formatted. Bill had been doing this for years, after all, so he had had a lot of practice. The list defined the associate in terms of his most basic traits, fears, debts, and anything else that Bill thought was important for the firm to know, and that he had learned in his dates with the associate. The list even included food preferences, drugs of choice, relationship status, and as many likes and dislikes that Bill could get a handle on. Bill circulated the list to all the partners in the group, and sometimes to all the higher-up partners at the firm.
If an associate had been the subject of a list that stood out, the associate would, after a time, begin to hear the things he had said to Bill on their dates together. The associate would begin to hear these things from other people, with whom there had never been dates. He would then wonder if he had told these people his secrets. Then, after he’d heard them from people he’d never even talked to before, it became obvious that the firm social network had a leak somewhere. The leak was Bill.
It happened a lot. Once they got a sense of what was happening, associates that had been the subject of Bill’s memos kept a low profile. Those who didn’t came to learn of an updated memo that Bill had circulated. Bill loved to update his memos, and it was best not to give him any more to write about.
I never got to see the memo about me, even though I always wanted to. I knew it was out there somewhere.

5

I walked to the bar.
On the way there I told myself that Bill wouldn’t tell on me. Of course not, I had been at the firm too long, and he would have real work to do.
The bar was easy enough to find. A wax figure devil stood in front of the bar’s entrance. He beckoned at passersby with one well-cooked hand and held a beer in the other. He had the typical devil horns, moustache, and goatee. His face was singed a greasy red, like it had been fried in hot oil.
I tried to find a tail. There wasn’t one. Maybe the devil’s creator had forgotten that part. I preferred devils with tails, but that wasn’t a big deal. The wax devil made me feel a little better about life. I’m not sure why, but he did.
I walked past the wax devil into the bar. I walked up to the counter. There were two men behind it. They both turned to look at me.
“Hi, I’m looking for Pat.”
“You got us,” one of the men said, and he pointed at himself and then at the other man.
“We’re both Pat,” the other man said, and they both burst out laughing like it was the funniest thing in the world.
After they calmed down, one of them said, “Are you here about the apartment?”
“Yeah,” I said.
“Oh,” one of the Pats said, “then you want him.” He pointed to the other Pat and started laughing again.
“I’ll go get the keys,” the other Pat said, and went into the kitchen.
“Ok, sounds good” I said. I took a deep breath. This was way more happiness than I was used to during the day, and it was making me uncomfortable.
“You want a drink?” the remaining Pat asked.
“No I’m good, thanks,” I said.
The Pats were making my head spin. They looked alike and had the same mannerisms. They both talked too fast, and they both pointed to each other too much. I was having a hard time following along in what they were saying to me, and I got the sense they were talking more to each other than to me.
I stood by the counter and waited with the remaining Pat. He was calmer by himself, and he looked hopeful, as if he thought he could succeed in selling me a drink if only I stood at the counter long enough. That would have been true if it hadn’t been a workday, but I had resolved in advance not to have any drinks.
As I waited, my eyes began to run over the liquor bottles behind the counter, then turned to the taps. I looked away. A man was sitting to the right of me, drinking a clear drink. He looked like he was about to fall off his stool. I looked at my BlackBerry. It was 4:37 in the afternoon and this guy was drunk. He was a quiet drunk, and he didn’t look unhappy. I watched him for a while. He didn’t look over at me, or at the Pat at the bar, or at the TVs. He just sat there and stirred his drink, sipped at it, then stirred it some more.
A few minutes passed while the keys to the apartment were being found. I saw the Pat that had gone to find the keys get them from one of the busboys. That made me think for a second.
“Alright let’s go have a look,” the Pat with the keys said.
“Ok,” I said, and began to follow Pat out. I looked back at the drunk man. He was still looking down into his drink.
I followed Pat outside and one door over. We went up two flights of stairs. Pat opened a door, and there we were.

6

“It is what it is,” Pat said.
He showed me around, and it was what it was. It was ugly.
“It’s fine,” I said, as I looked into a small closet with no door.
“No fridge,” Pat said, pointing where I was looking. The small closet had a stove and a cupboard. That’s when I realized that the small closet was a kitchen.
“Oh,” I said.
“It is what it is,” Pat said, and shrugged. He had a sad look in his eyes, as if he had been trying to rent this place for a long time. He looked hopeless.
“It’s really convenient to my office,” I said. “And it won’t take much work to keep clean.”
I found myself wanting to make Pat feel better about the place.
“It’s got new carpeting, and it’s above the kitchen so you don’t hear much from the bar,” Pat said, “I can turn on the music downstairs so you can see how loud it is.”
“That’s ok,” I said.
Pat sighed and his shoulders slumped. “It is what it is.”
“Actually, yeah, let’s do that. Let’s turn the music on.
“You got it,” Pat said, straightening up.
He trundled out the door.
A few minutes later the floor began to vibrate. I could hear the music, but it wasn’t as loud as I had expected.
Pat walked backed in.
“It is what it is,” Pat said, and looked at me. The place seemed to depress him.
I took another quick tour of the place and walked back over to Pat, who was vibrating in the center of the living room.
“There’s some vibration from—”
I cut him off. “I’ll take it. Can I move in today?”
We shook hands, vibrated out the door, and that was that. I had a place to live.
I walked out of my new building and took a right, heading back to work. I had declined Pat’s offer to celebrate my new apartment over some drinks. I had taken a rain check instead. As I began to walk back, I pulled my BlackBerry out of my pocket and saw that I had eight new emails. I had only been out of the office for twenty minutes. It wasn’t unusual to get eight emails in twenty minutes, and most of the emails were unimportant. But one was from Mr. Pitchfork.
The subject line of the email had only four words in it, and the body of the email was empty. The subject read, “PLEASE SEE ME ASAP.” I looked at the time the email had been sent. It was fifteen minutes old, so it was sent a few minutes after I had left the office. I had no idea what it could be about. I was a short walk from the office, and I was already on my way back, so I didn’t respond. I would see what Mr. Pitchfork wanted when I got back.
I walked back to Madison Avenue, walked through my office building’s revolving door, and got on the elevator. On the elevator, I got another email. This time it was from one of the associates I worked with, Tom. The subject line of Tom’s email was “hey” and the body said, “fyi - pitchfork is looking for you, he is not happy.”
Tom and I had started at the firm at the same time. We had shown up as scared, green first years, and had spent years sleeping in windowless conference rooms. Our shared misery had made us fast friends. Since day one, it had been us against the firm. And now, even though we were fast growing into the firm ourselves, we still tried to look out for each other. If Tom had thought it was worth taking the time to email me about Mr. Pitchfork looking for me, it couldn’t be good.
A nervous tension began to creep up the back of my throat. I had been with the firm for years, but I had never become comfortable there.
When I got off the elevator, I walked straight into my office and sat down at my desk.
My phone rang.
It was Mr. Pitchfork.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

80 hour workweek, kindle nation sponsorship day

sorry it's been slow on updates lately. I just got to the other side of an 80 hour week, and needless to say, I had no time to work on my zombie novel.

today is my kindle nation one day book sponsorship for Rats on Strings, and I'm excited to see how that goes. the free book alert is here: http://kindlenationdaily.com/2011/07/knd-kindle-free-book-alert-sunday-july-3-kindle-nation-fave-j-c-phelps-color-me-grey-tops-the-latest-additions-on-our-magical-free-book-search-tool-search-over-750-free-titles-by-category-plus/


it's raining here in nyc this morning, and I kinda hope it keeps up, keeping me indoors to craft zombie carnage