Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Coffee read–DeVante’s Children excerpt

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Good morning and welcome to Thursday Morning Coffee!

Since DeVante’s Children is being released in paperback this month, I thought I’d give everyone an extra-special sneak peek…

Read Chapter 1 HERE… How to Choose a Fledgling, then close the window and READ MORE for Chapter 2, How to Leave Home. And then please feel free to click the cover at the right and pre-order the whole book from Rebel Satori Press!

Happy reading and yay, it’s almost Friday!




DeVante’s Children Chapter 2, How to Leave Home

Daniel felt a kind of fascinated pride when he saw the wrecked car in the impound lot. Title the scene 'Corvette versus Big Old Oak.' He'd have to draw it, and soon. Take that, fucking car. Take that, dear old dad.

It was a '76 Stingray, viper-red with t-tops, and it had been in mint condition when Daniel stole it. But now the Stingray was clearly the loser in one round of car-hits-tree.

The damage was impressive. It hadn't occurred to Daniel when he sized up the tree that he might hurt himself. The 'Vette listed awkwardly to one side because the left front tire was flat. The windshield was spider-webbed, and the front end was, well… description failed. The best he could think of was that it was broken.

Pieces of the left quarter panel above the flat tire were missing, leaving fiberglass edges jutting toward the ground like ragged, broken teeth. The small dual grills from the lower part of the front end hung by a few fibrous threads. There was a crack straight down the hood, from the windshield to the Corvette emblem between the headlight pockets, and Daniel could almost see how close it had come to snapping right in half. He was probably lucky to be walking around on his own two legs.

He thought his dad might kill him, and jumped about a mile when a door slammed and his dad stalked toward him from the office of the wrecker company. The shit was about to hit the fan.

His dad gestured at the car and spit in Daniel's direction. "Look at it! Just look at what you've done, asshole. It was perfect. Might as well go to the junkyard, now."

Daniel shrunk a little inside. He hadn't made his dad this angry in a long, long time, and he felt like he was a little kid again, all scared and in trouble and shit.

His dad shook his head, and scrubbed his face with his hands like he couldn't bear to look at the car again. "Ruined it, you little shit – " He dropped one hand from his face and stared at it for a second, and then, without warning, the palm slammed across Daniel's cheek with a loud snap.

Daniel allowed his head to whip to the side, and the sting of the slap rising up his cheek felt like a slow burn. He didn't say anything, because, what, he didn't deserve at least a slap? Sure he did.

"What the hell's wrong with you?" his dad asked. "You don't even act ashamed."

"It's just a frickin' car," Daniel muttered.

"Yeah, it's just a car. A collector's car. You put more miles on the odometer in one night than I have in fifteen years. And wiped the front end clear off. What the hell were you thinking?"

Daniel's dad paced along the fence that separated them from the Corvette, hands now safely tucked into his pockets. "Do you know how long it's going to take me to fix it? I was going to sell this car for your college education – you can kiss that goodbye."

Bullshit. He didn't need to sell the car to pay for Daniel's education or anything else. The car was a macho thing, something to prove, so he could tell people he was building a hot rod like what's-his-face, from the cable show. Daniel's dad could replace the damn car in a minute, if having a perfect Corvette was important. Hell, once his dad got over being mad, he'd be thrilled. He could fix it up all over again, shake his head and tell his friends what a pain in the ass it was, fixing the car after Daniel smashed it up. His dad was so full of shit.

"Yeah, right, Pop. You'd sell me first."

Too far. He'd gone too far.

His dad boiled over, face going red to the top of his balding head, arms flailing in the air like he was going to hit Daniel again. Daniel flinched and stepped back. "That's it," his dad said, jabbing a finger into Daniel's chest. "You can get the fuck out of my house. I'm done with you and your cocksure little attitude. You can't respect my things, and you can't respect our family. This was your last chance, and you blew it. When we get home, I expect you to pack your shit. Go stay with your fag friends. Autumn and I don't need these kinds of problems. She doesn't want you around the baby, anyway."

Okay, so Daniel and his dad had never been best friends and never would be, but this mean, angry tone was brand new, and it hurt. What the hell? Fag friends? It clicked. Daniel had told them he was gay, and now they wanted him gone. The crashed car was a convenient excuse.

"They're not gay." Daniel said. "Jeez, what do you think, everybody's gay now? You think I want it to be this way? I'm sorry I even tried to talk to you."

Daniel didn't know what he'd been thinking, coming out to his dad. Just that he did love his father, and he missed his mom desperately, and he needed help. Direction. He guessed mostly he wanted to hear that his dad loved him anyway. That Daniel didn't have to be alone in this… this thing, whatever it would be. But no, his dad hadn't followed any of the best-case scenarios Daniel had hoped for. But then, he hadn't followed any of Daniel's imagined worst-case scenarios, either. Well, until now. Getting kicked out of the house was definitely a worst-case scenario.

At the time, though, his dad had only gone tight-lipped and pale, and said, "Don't be ridiculous, Daniel. You're a kid, you can't know you're gay. You don't know anything about anything yet."

End of conversation.

Apparently it hadn't been the end of the conversation between his dad and his step-mom, and now the significance of the Moorehead University Early Acceptance application slapped Daniel in the face. His dad and Autumn wanted him to apply for entrance to a college at the far side of the state. Daniel had another year of high school left, for Christ's sake, and they wanted him to go away. Well, what the fuck? "The baby" was almost three years old – what did they think he'd do to her, anyway?

Being gay didn't make him a pervert. Did it?

***
Daniel settled in at Johnny J's apartment that night and, within a couple of weeks, everything seemed pretty much all right. Johnny J was the eldest of his friends, twenty-two, and had a job, an apartment, and a car.

Daniel knew he needed a job, soon, to help pay for stuff, but he had no idea where he could work. He could draw, but how do you make a paycheck out of that? His photography class last semester had been awesome, and he wished he could work for the News Tribune, or a local magazine or something, but he figured they probably wouldn't hire a kid who still needed to finish high school. Then again, he'd be eighteen next month – not a kid anymore. He'd have graduated this year if he'd have been able to keep his shit together after his mom died, but maybe he'd have to skip the rest of high school and test for his GED so he could work. That'd be all right. In the meantime, he'd have to get a lame-ass job bussing at the Perkin's restaurant or something.

He shook the thoughts away. Hanging out with the guys was supposed to be fun, fucking around, the five of them crammed into Johnny's bright blue Civic with ground effects and tuned exhaust, cruising Canal Park for chicks on a Saturday night. They parked at the Marine Museum and tumbled out of the car, waiting to see who all showed up. Daniel grinned as he watched Eric scale a lamp post, showing off like a tall, skinny chimpanzee. "Whoo-oo-hoo-oo," Eric called down. "Betcha can't follow me, Danny-boy!"

Danny-boy. Daniel hated the nickname, but they all caught onto it at once, and the more he told them to stop, the more they used it.

Daniel brushed his hair out of his eyes and stretched his arms up, grabbing the post just above his head. He was about to boost himself up when a violent shudder ran through him. From head to toe and back. Twice. His arms came down and he bent over to cradle himself, wracked with the uncomfortable sensation.

Eric called down, "I knew you couldn't do it!"

"Smokin' too much weed, Danny-boy," jeered Marcus.

Thomas boosted Manny up the post toward Eric.

"Hey, shut up, guys, he looks sick." Johnny J's voice was just loud enough to be heard. "What's the matter, Danny?"

Daniel straightened up. Shrugged. "Nothing. Somebody walking over my grave, that's all."

"Sure, Danny, sure. Maybe you better knock off the stuff, anyway, just in case. Clean yourself up. I don't want'cha drowning in your own puke at my place. Be a mess of trouble. Got it?"

Daniel got it, but didn't know if he could stop. He knew he could give up drinking – he didn't like the taste of beer anyway, which was what they could collectively afford. But the weed, man, Daniel liked how it made the big picture of things make sense.

When he was high, he was proud of who he was, proud of everything Daniel, and could see bits of himself in everybody else, too. Like how Johnny had a secret smile just for him, one that could be interpreted as indulgence for the youngest of them, but which Daniel knew, when he was high, meant he probably wouldn't be rebuffed if he made a pass. He just hadn't got up the nerve yet. When Daniel was sober, all he wanted was to get out of this town, but when he was high, he could see in perfect clarity how to do it, and how to make Johnny go with him. He never felt real fucked up, just above it all, like there was a barrier of knowledge between himself and other people, and he was on the better side. The smarter side.

Alcohol, well, that was different. Daniel got messy when he drank, miserable, and sick, eventually puking his guts up and crying his eyes out. He pretended to drink, but he spilled or poured out most of his beers, paranoid that he'd get shitty drunk and do something stupid like hit on Johnny J, or come out to the whole gang all at once.

In the couple weeks he'd been staying with Johnny J, he'd been smoking pot every day. Maybe he was making himself sick, but if nobody else cared, why should he?

It was that goddamn car. His dad won prizes for taking such good care of it, and no one gave prizes for taking care of a kid. His dad loved that car more than anything else. Aw, man, Daniel remembered the power he'd felt when he'd tromped on the accelerator of that car. And the rush when he lined the front end up with the tree trunk. The tree hadn't been damaged at all, and Daniel had immediately declared it the official winner.
Daniel forced out a laugh. "Cold bastard deserved to lose that car, right? He got more upset about the car than he did when my mom died. Right, guys?"

Manny tumbled, knocking Thomas to the ground, and Johnny J tapped the light post just beneath Eric's foot. Johnny spoke casual-like, not looking at Daniel. "Is this what the stomach trouble is, blond boy – you still worried 'bout your old man?"

Daniel felt himself flush. Yeah, and pretending to be normal like all the other normal guys, picking up chicks, pointing out the cutest girls in the crowd… hiding, always hiding that it was Johnny who made his dick twitch. Terrified he'd have to actually hook up with a girl, and that he'd be so stupid and awkward about what to do with her that everyone would know. And then there was the phone bill.

He figured he'd better 'fess up to that one now.

"I owe you some money, Johnny. I used your landline to call my sister in California."

Johnny glared for a split second, then grinned. "Good thing it's free long-distance."

Instant relief. "So it's cool?"

"Yeah, it's cool, but maybe you need to get a job pretty soon. You know, help out. Your sister, oh man, I remember her – she was hot last time I saw her, but she's old, right?"

"Thirty-four."

"Damn, that's old. Still, she was a nice-lookin' chick. You gonna go live in San Francisco, the queer cap of the world?"

Daniel shrank a little inside at the slur. "She sounded like I could if I wanted to. Said it was probably good for me to get away from my dad, that I would be way better off. She said she ain't never comin' home, she hates my dad's new wife and their spoiled-brat kid. Called her a 'tart' and the kid a 'tartlet.' She said maybe I should move out to California because she loves it out there. I don't know. This is dumb, but I kind of like the kid, you know. I took care of her a lot."

Johnny seemed like he was listening, but his eyes were tracing the street, trying to make contact with a tall, slim, black-haired girl standing at the curb. "Forget it, Danny-boy, you'll have babies as soon as you figure out how to make it with the ladies."

Daniel grinned like he was supposed to, but girls were never going to ring any bells for him. Johnny, on the other hand...

Johnny yanked Eric's foot, pulling him down from the light post. "Hey!" Eric yelled, and they were off, leaving the car and pounding across the grass to the ship canal, laughing and chasing and hitting at each other like little kids.

Daniel trailed behind, feeling different from the rest of them. Talking with his sister was good, but he hadn't told her about his problem yet. He could have, though, because she was a lawyer out in California for people with AIDS who'd been fired from their jobs and other stuff like that, and Daniel was pretty sure she wouldn't care if he was gay or whatever.

Talking to her made him miss his mom. His mom always told him how smart he was and what a great kid he was. His mom always kept everything going, kept the peace, and when she died, Daniel became invisible.

Then he'd failed his classes and gotten held back. His dad was so pissed about that it seemed like there wasn't any point in even talking to each other anymore. And really, that was okay. His sister was already gone to California. He and his dad just left each other alone. Everything was cool. Daniel figured he'd hang on until graduation, then go away somewhere to college. Blow this town.

But then his dad married Autumn. And she was kind of a bitch behind everybody's back, but only Daniel seemed to notice. She acted nice to Daniel in front of people, but it was a fake nice, not the same as if she actually liked him. The wedding wasn't even a whole year after Daniel's mom died. So suddenly there's this lady taking over the house, making rude sounds at night with his dad, and always telling Daniel what to do – rake the yard, clean the garage, whatever, like his dad didn't hire people to do that shit anyway.

And then she got pregnant and chattered on and on about how much fun he'd have babysitting.

Daniel was kind of pissed at first when the kid, Mystery, came into the house and cried all the time at night and stupid Autumn didn't wake up to take care of her. It didn't take him long to figure out the baby was going to cry until someone did something, so he figured out how to change diapers and mix formula. And she was warm in his arms and kind of cute. One night she smiled at him, and that was cool. He was important to the baby. He called her Missy because Mystery was too stupid to be a real name. She was almost three years old now, and crazy about Daniel. Made him feel like a big shot.

The shiver sensation and the sick feeling in his stomach was some new weird thing, and Daniel would have just blown it off, except it was happening a lot.

Maybe it was too much pot and booze. But then again, it was just a quick, silly, little feeling and not like any sign of some disease or anything. At least, he hoped it wasn't. Maybe that was a gay thing, too, feeling weird shivers around other guys. But it wasn't a good feeling, it was kind of scary.

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