Sunday, November 29, 2009

Chapter 10

Fisher had no business working at the restaurant and Jo knew it. But when Jan (or was it Pam, Fisher could never keep the waitresses names straight ) called in sick, Jo needed Fisher to jump in and help her get through the high tide at lunch. In less than an hour Fisher had dropped a plate of steamed shrimp, fought with the line chef over an incorrectly written dupe and tossed a customer out for whistling at him for a beer. At that point Jo guided Fisher to the door. "Go. You're not helping,” she said, before buying drinks for everyone in the restaurant Fisher had offended. “Go? Damn right, I'm going,” he told her. “God damn right.” He took the car and drove straight to his real home.

Christ on a bike, thought Fisher when he saw that his usual seat at the racetrack bar was taken by a woman with short blond hair. It was turning into a shit-ass day all around. Earlier, when he opened the stall in the clubhouse men's room, he found a thin man crouched on the floor as if praying.

“Scuze me,” the man said revealing two rows of piss colored teeth, “this is my lucky stall.” Fisher backed away and found the next available toilet. “Lucky stall,” he muttered.

Fisher well knew that horse players clung to their superstitious like life rafts. If you were on a winning streak you'd repeat everything you could possibly think of; you'd bet at the same mutual window with the same teller, you'd watch the race from exactly the same spot even if it meant you had no clear view of the race, you'd wear the same clothes, eat the same food, buy your program with exactly the same amount of cash and change, you'd stand on one leg like a pelican and whistle "Saint Stephen" if it had brought you a winner. Finding a man facing the shitter as if it was Mecca was well within the bettor's boundaries. Fisher's luck had been running cold for a week, so fine, he thought, maybe he could use a change in toilets and bar seats.

The blond woman was deep into a discussion with the bartender.

“They shot her?”

“Had to,” said the bartender. “Leg was broken in four places.”

“And she was the favorite?”

“Pick of the field. Leading by two lengths when she went down.”

“Ominous shit, man,” said the woman. “I mean a rank horse, then you could see it. But when the favorites start to go down... Ominous shit.” She pulled a Marlboro out of the pack and turned to Fisher. “Got a light.”

“Uh, yeah,” he said. The was something vaguely familiar about the woman, and she smiled in recognition as he lit her cigarette.

“I know you! You're David, right?”

“Uh, yeah.”

“I'm Sarah. Sarah Dupre. We met in Rosehill.”

“Right. Right.”

“Probably didn't recognize me cause I cut my hair. What do you think?”

“Don't know. I'm kinda a long hair guy.”

“Yeah. But it's too hot down here to wear it long. Too hot.” For emphasis, Sarah flapped the top of her jersey.

If Sarah ever wore underwear, Fisher had yet to see it.

“I thought you were a northern boy," Sarah said. "What are you doing down here in the land of the orange juice?”


“Oh, I don't know about that. I think you're looking pretty... ripe. Look at that tan. And me, white as a ghost. Boo!” She laughed and Fisher smiled. She was a world class flirt. “So, are you still writing for the newspapers and everything?”

“Uh, sort of. Kinda between stuff. Thought I might start on a book.”

“A book!” Sarah shook her head. “I don't know how you do that, being a writer. You always hear...,” she said dropping her gaze between his legs, “ hard it is.”

“Yeah, tortured geeks standing in front of a mirror pulling away at Mr. Happy.”

“And then they go blind.”

“Yeah,” said Fisher “Then they go blind. Sarah slowly raised her eyes to meet Fisher's. "So...", he asked her, "'re living here or...”

“I'm in clown college.”

“Yeah, aren't we all.”

“I'm serious. Ringling Clown College. It's world renowned. I was in before, but I had to drop out.”

“Clown college drop-out.”

“It's not funny,” she said putting on a mock frown. “They make you start all over. Floppy shoes 101. Basics of pies-in-the-face.”

Fisher laughed out loud. He realized he hadn't laughed in weeks. Sarah smiled, playing again with the top of her jersey. The day definitely seemed to be turning around. The track announcer called, “Five minutes to post.”

“So, who do you like this race?” asked Fisher.

“I like to bet names. Honey Pot, Chief Longdong.”

“I didn't know he was running.”

“Or numbers. Especially number seven. I love seven.

“Is that right?”

“Uh-huh. So who do you like?

“As a matter of fact... number seven”


“Yeah. I know this horse. Made some money off him.”

“Twice Told Tails?”

“That's the bet,” he said.

Daylight poked through the venetian blinds of the motel room. Fisher, his head throbbing, sat up on the third attempt and managed to get his feet on the floor without waking Sarah. He blinked at the clown masks and wigs hanging from the bedpost.

He dimly remembered wearing one of the wigs the night before, letting her cover his face with clown-white, while he finger painted orange tiger stripes across her jiggling tits and drank cheap tequila straight from the bottle. This was followed by an extended ritualistic act of sixty-nine, followed in turn by his mounting her from behind and cracking a riding crop across her ample ass.

"Harder," she begged. "Hit me Harder." And like a jockey urging his steed across the finish, Fisher complied.

But now came piper-paying-time, and if his aching head was any indication, he'd be paying in spades.

The bathroom was tiny, with the shower in the mini-tub. Fisher pulled on the control knob, and a torrent of brownish cold water shot from the spout forcing him up against the tiled wall. He tried to adjust the spray and temperature, but managed only to unscrew the handle as icy water cascaded into his face. Ducking in and out of the downpour, he finally screwed the handle back on and shut the water off. Shivering, he reached for the rack to find only a hand towel.

Sneaking back into the room, he hoped to get dressed without waking Sarah, but she was already sitting up in bed, her striped painted breasts bouncing as she fended off a coughing fit by reaching for a cigarette.

“Got a match?” she asked. Fisher dug out a pack from his pants and tossed it her.

Sarah lit up, and studied the boat on the matchbook. “Slop John B?”

“Sloop. Sloop John B.”

“What's that?”

“A restaurant.” He pulled on his pants and searched for his shirt.

“Any good?”

“It's a dump.” He found his shirt on the floor, the sleeves inside out.

“There's a place in Martinique called 'Le Sloop.' 'La Sloop'? Something. It's right on the water. Waiters bring le drinks right up to you on le beach. Ever been to Martinique?”

“Uh, no,” Fisher said.

“Oh man, it is so beautiful. Volcanoes, black sand beaches, casinos, the Caribbean staring you straight in the face like a dare.” Sarah climbed out of bed and stretched. There was no getting around it, her body demanded to be looked at.

But there was something about her, something a soap and shower couldn't wash off. He had one shoe and scrambled on his knees looking for the other.

“Soon as I get enough money I'm going back.” She smiled and swayed back and forth as if trying to hypnotize him with her nipples. “Want to come with me?” Fisher laughed, and she looked hurt. “You think I'm kidding?”

“No. No.”

“Then come.”

“Uh, it's not that great a time right now.”

“Why not? You can work on your book there. You should think about it. You really should.”

“I'll think about it.” If he could just get out the door.

“Promise? Couple more days at the track like we had... We can write our own ticket.”

"I will definitely think about it.” He smiled, backing out of the motel room, sprinted for his car and drove north without looking back.

To hell with Jo, he thought. To hell with the "Slop" John B. What the hell did he need with a restaurant? Kidding me? He had seven thousand dollars in his pocket, about six-and-a-half more than he had when he deplaned in Florida last fall. Time to start over. Why the hell not? The south was filled with horse tracks. Drive, baby, drive. But as the day drifted into night the Floridian panhandle looked like the gateway to nowhere. Fisher, feeling a hole growing in his gut, pulled the car off the road. What was this? It felt as if he'd lost... lost what? It felt like... like homesickness? How could he be homesick when he had no home?

He turned the car around and headed back south.

Jo was totaling out for the night when Fisher entered the Sloop's office carrying a huge bouquet of tropical flowers. “They're beautiful”, she said staring at the heliconias, African tulips, orchids and birds of paradise.

“And...,” said Fisher, counting out from the stack of hundreds he pulled from his jacket, “'s the money I borrowed the other day, and the day before, and last week.” He kept counting. “Here's the interest, and here's the bonus... Why?” He beamed. “Just because.”

Jo shook her head. “Very impressive.”

“I was on fire. I won the fifth race, the seventh, hit the exacta on the feature, and the ninth! On fucking fire. You should have seen it. You know how it is. Suddenly it's all so clear. Horses leap at you off the page. Everyone else is sweating it out, you're sitting back, relaxed, like some blessed minister. Doesn't matter if your horse is running last, or boxed at the turn... he is gonna come in. Such a God damn wonderful feeling. You know how it is. You remember. That time we hit seven days in a row?” Jo nodded. “So, come on out. We can do it again. Come out with me.”

“I can't.”

“You can. You can, Jo.”

“I'm trying to run a business,” she said spreading her arms out over the desk full of receipts, credit-card dupes, bar checks and inventory print-outs.

“So run a business. Nobody is stopping you. But take a day off, for Christ's sake. You deserve it. Tomorrow is Monday. We're closed.

“Fish, I have so much to do...”

Jo, you need a break. One day. Come on out with me. It'll all come back to you. I need your handicapping. No one can pick them like you.

“I can't.”

“Don't say that. You can. You can. When you were at Edgar's you got your work done. But you lived. You, you went to the track. We went out, we stayed out all night. Remember?”

“It's not the same.”

“Why not?”

“I didn't care about Edgar's.”

“Why do you care about this? This is the same thing.”

“It isn't.”

Fisher was getting angry. He was trying to understand, but if what she was saying what he was thought she was saying... “It is the same, Jo. The smell of it, the people crying for this, wanting that... It's the fucking same. It's just a God damn restaurant! The deal was...” He had to double clutch to fight back down the bile rising in his chest. “The deal was to set it up and sell it. Get the place on its feet. That was the agreement. I don't get it. All your life, this is what you've been doing. I thought you wanted to...” Didn't she realize? They had gotten away with it. They should be so happy.


No, he wasn't going to lose. He played one more card. “Hey, you know what horse turned it around in the fifth? 'Twice Told Tails.' Remember him?

Jo smiled. A sad smile. “I can't Fish. I can't.”

One of the waitresses, Jan, or was it Pam, entered the office with the final take from the register. Staring at the bouquet she said “Who died?”

Friday, November 20, 2009

Chapter 9

A tall man, with a thick neck and blond hair tied in a ponytail, addressed the meeting. “Hi, my name is Stan and I'm a compulsive gambler.” “Hello Stan” answered the group sitting in rows in the canary yellow community room of the recreation center. The room was awash in vivid colors. The folding chairs were bright red, the event schedules were printed on sky blue paper held up by a veritable rainbow of push-pins, and the walls were covered with elementary school finger paintings of dancing green alligators and orange trees. “It's been four months since my last bet,” said Stan. Jo joined the group in applauding.

She had recently cut her hair short. Much easier to handle in the Floridian heat, even if it did reveal the worry lines on her forehead. She tried to pay attention to Stan's testimony, but her mind kept wandering back to the new restaurant and how the rear wall needed to be repainted and the cocktail glasses she'd ordered were two weeks overdue. She hated the ones she'd been making do with, and she had her doubts that her partner would remember to pick up the loaners from Desota Slims. She knew where he inevitably was and that he'd undoubtedly shorted the deposit to use at the track. Under normal circumstances grounds for certain dismissal, except normal circumstances ended eleven months before and a thousand miles away when the Nassau County Hospital doctor told her that her husband was dead. Jo's stunned expression at the time wasn't due to acting. She had been stunned from the moment she found her husband in an advanced state of hypothermia on the floor of Edgar's walk-in freezer the morning after Thanksgiving.

Jo had been prepared to find Jack shot dead and lain across the forced open safe in her trashed office. But when she entered the room not a single thing was out of place. Where were the signs of the staged robbery? Where were the bullet holes? Why was the gun back in the drawer? What had or hadn't happened?

Her shaky voice on the call to 911 sounded legitimately shocked. Jo followed the ambulance to the hospital and waited for more than an hour outside the emergency unit before a doctor spoke to her and listed all of Jack's dire conditions: hypothermia, shock, heart failure, skull fracture...

“Will he live?” Jo asked.

“We will do everything we can,” said the doctor.

But what if Jack lived? Sitting bedside watching the pale remnant of her husband, Jo didn't think there was a way in hell that Jack would survive, but what, if by some miracle, he did? What would he remember? What would he say? This wasn't part of the plan. He was suppose to be dead. Still stunned, Jo was walking the hospital halls when the detective introduced himself.

"Mrs. Landy?”


“I'm Lieutenant Dan Paduano, Rosehill Police. Can I get you anything? A cup of coffee?”

“No thank you, Lieutenant...?”

“Paduano. I'm in charge of the investigation.”

“I didn't realize it was a matter for the police.”

“It's procedure when 911 is called.”

“I see.”

“May I ask how he is doing?”

“Not very well, Lieutenant.”

“I'm so sorry. Are you sure I can't get you anything?”

“No, thank you.”

“When it's convenient, Mrs. Landy, I'd like to ask you some questions.”

Jo disliked Paduano from the start. She sensed that he was a natural bloodhound, with his droopy brown eyes he even looked like one. Clearly he was going to be a pain in the ass. Jo missed and resented Fisher. She knew they agreed that he needed to be far out of town, and that it would be months before they could get back together. But, God damn, she wished he was here to clean up the mess he left her with. All her life when the shit hit the fan she'd found someone to lean on. She had never felt this alone.

She sat vigil at her husband's bedside not out of any loyalty, but purely to make sure he never woke up. What would she do if he did? What tube should she pull, which lifeline needed to be cut? If it came to that could she do it?

When she returned to Edgar's from the hospital she was surprised to find Paduano scuttling around the floor of the walk-in like a crab. He apologized and waited until the next day to question her in her office.

“We found a marijuana 'roach' next to your husband's body in the freezer. Did Mr. Landy smoke marijuana, Mrs. Landy?”

“Yes. Are you going to arrest him?” Seeing Paduano raise an eyebrow, Jo apologized. “I'm sorry, Detective. Watching him laying in bed fighting for his life...”

“I understand, Mrs. Landy. I'm only trying to make sense of what happened.”

“Does it always make sense, Detective?”

The phone rang and Jo picked it up. She recognized the doctor's voice and knew it was over.

Paduano waited until a week after the funeral to continue his questioning. Diligently, he went over the lab reports with her, showing Jo how the potency tests indicated that the pot was of high grade. Jo had to stop her self from asking “Am I suppose to be proud?”.

Eventually the questioning stopped. The hospital and the Rosehill and Nassau County Police Departments ruled that Landy's death was accidental. Everyone was satisfied. Everyone but the bloodhound.

Jo looked up from her reverie and realized the G.A. meeting was ending. The Trusted Servant beckoned the members into a circle. Jo joined, taking the hand of a woman in plaid shorts and the man with the ponytail. They recited in unison: “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can...”

Fisher perched his sunglasses on top of his head, lifted his binoculars, and looked over the palm ringed racetrack out to the boats sailing on the Gulf of Mexico. A soft warm breeze fluttered their creamy sails as the crafts rose and fell with the waves. In all his years in and out of the Sunshine State, Fisher had been on a boat but once, and that had been a moored schooner serving as a floating bar. He felt the reassuring bulge in his jacket pocket; an envelope stuffed with cash from the “Sloop John B.” A stupid name, but nobody had asked him. He held no affection for the restaurant, so taking from the till was no skin off his hide.

“Fisher? Is that you?” asked a freckled face shaded underneath a straw hat.

“Hey, Red! How's it going?” Fisher shook Red Phillip's hand with enough fervor to make the older man wince.

“Easy there, buddy.”

“Sorry, Red. Just glad to see you. Everyone seems to have moved or died”

“Yeah, I heard you were back in town.”

“Yeah? From who”

“Robbie Jenks.”

“Jenks? Is he here?” Fisher looked around hopefully.

“No. He's covering the Bucs.”

“Ah. Too bad. Use to be a passable handicapper.”

“Now, did he tell me you opened a saloon or something?”

“Restaurant. 'The Sloop John B'," Fisher said handing Phillips a business card. "I had a good run at the track and thought I'd invest in something for a change.”

Phillips looked at the sailboat on the card and scratched his head. “Jesus, Fish. I thought restaurants were risky business.”

“Yeah, well what isn't, besides keeling over in your sleep.”

“I guess you're right. I guess.” Phillips took of his hat and fingered around the brim as if he was looking for something hidden. “You doing any writing?”

“Uh, you know. Some freelance,” Fisher was lying, and he and Red both knew it. News of Fisher's firing from the Dispatch had followed him south, and finding work, particularly on the Gulf Coast, had been nearly impossible.

“Good, Fish. Glad to hear it. You're too good a writer to give up the ghost.”

Too good a writer, eh? But not good enough to hire. Lonely as a castaway, Fisher fought the impulse to sail the old man's hat onto the track. “Hey, Red. Let me buy you a drink.”

“I wish I could, Fish. But I got a story to get in.”

“Write it at the bar. Remember the way we used to get our copy out between races?”

But Phillips lowered his head and was back at his hat. “I can't Fish. I really can't.” They stood for an endless moment until Phillips broke the silence. “Really good to see you. Really. And good luck with the saloon.” Phillips trotted away like he had the Aztec-two-step.

“Yeah, sure,” said Fisher. It was still a beautiful afternoon, four more races yet to be run, fifteen minutes to post, plenty of time to pick a winner, and there was an open seat at the bar with his name on it. Life was good. He wasn't going to let the brush-off from an old fart like Phillips spoil it.

Fisher ordered a Cuba Libre, his drink of choice below the thirtieth parallel. As he watched the bartender garnished the cocktail with a round of lime large as an orange, he briefly flashed on one of his assignments. Desota Slims. Glasses. Right. Plenty of time. That seemed to be the mantra for the day, for any day. “No sweat, man.” Ignoring the slight ache gathering in the corner of his forehead, he studied the program. He liked three horses in this race, the six, the four, and the two. The two, Sexy Sadie, was a definite long shot, so he figured he'd box all three in a trifecta and bet only the six and four in an exacta.

Fisher counted out five hundred dollars from the envelope in his coat.

“And they're off,” called the track announcer. “Number three, Franklin's Bell, to the lead.”

Fisher slumped by his car in the parking lot watching the sun drop down into the Gulf. A long line of cars slowly moved from the lot out into the bumper to bumper traffic. He studied the small boat Jo had engraved in the upper left corner of the now empty envelope. Classy. He held the beer can to his aching head and mumbled the numerous terms for “also-ran”. “No factor.” “Tired.” “No threat.” “Gave way.” “Weakened.” “Faded.” “Out run.” “No factor.” A haiku for losing.

He took the long way back to the restaurant and parked the car in the lot the Sloop shared with the Palmetto Bay Marina. A half drunk moon tilted in the dark sky over the pleasure boats and day sailors. It was well past closing, and the two-tiered restaurant was dark except for the neon beer promos over the bar.

He let himself in, turned on a set of lights, and walked quietly through the dining room. Fisher had to admit, with its pastel blue walls, the hand painted tables, the scale model of a sloop hanging over the mahogany bar, the Sloop John B. was a sleek looking place. Classy. Without a doubt.

He hopped over the bar and pulled a bottle from the beer cooler. “Pacifico.” He was an adventurer now. He heard Jo enter from the back.

"Hey, you want a beer?" he asked reaching into the cooler.

“Where were you?”

Uh oh. Now he was remembering; something about a wall? “A truck broke down on Tamiami. Traffic was backed way the hell up to...”

“You were suppose to paint the back wall.”

“I could do it now.”

“I already did it.”

“Yeah, but if you didn't do it, I could do it now.”

“You pick up the glasses?”

“Oh, shit.” The glasses. The fucking glasses at Desota Slims. Shit storm for sure coming dead ahead.

“Fish! I told you. I told you five times, if you did nothing else today, pick up the glasses.”

“I know.”

“You know? If you know then why didn't you pick them up”

“I'm sorry. I forgot. I ran into somebody. Red Phillips. I used to work for him. I'll do it tomorrow, I promise ”

“We were busy tonight.”

“That's good.”

“No, Fish. We ran out of glasses. That's the whole point. We couldn't get them out fast enough. The busboys were washing them by hand. If the board of health found out...”

“I said I was sorry, Jo. What do you want me to do?”

“We're trying to run a place here. There are responsibilities. If you say you're going to do something you can't just...” Fish picked up a bar nap and waved it like a flag asking for surrender. Jo shook her head and said something Fisher couldn't hear.

“What was that?”

“I said you just gotta tell me.”

“About what?”

“When you take the deposit to the track.”


“The bank called. Three checks bounced.”

“I'll get it back. I was up. I was up all day, and then the fucking five horse in the seventh, you wouldn't believe this Jo, the horse is leading halfway down the stretch and I don't know if the jockey pulled him up or what, we all thought there was gonna be an inquiry but the stewards let it stand. Thing stunk to high heaven. If that horse comes in....”

“Jesus, Fish.”

“Would you stop with the 'Jesus, Fish'? For crying out loud. Yeah, I took some money, and I lost it. It happens. You gonna go all schoolgirl on me? Make me stand in the fucking corner suck my thumb? I'll get it back.”

“Just tell me,” she said, and left him at the bar.

Fisher finished the beer mumbling to himself. “Can't talk to me like that. God damn right.” He took the car keys out of his pocket and slammed them on the bar. “Not gonna wait around here all night.” He'd walk back to the condo. That would show her.

Truth was he liked to walk. It cleared his head. The fall Floridian nights were mild and dry. Once he hit his pace he could cover the four miles to their condo in under an hour. They lived in a development along the Manatee River. A resident from the next unit told Fisher that a twelve foot alligator had been caught on the banks two weeks ago, so to watch where he walked. But all Fisher ever saw was palmetto lizards scooting under the palms. He'd been trying to come up with an idea, something to write about, but his mind was as barren as the drunken moon following over his shoulder.

Fisher had expected the rust, he had written his way out of slumps before. It should be easy, there was no pressure, he owed money to nobody except for the cash he helped himself to from the Sloop. So what? He couldn't be fired, he co-owed the damn place. The deal of deals. Free beer and all the stone crab he could eat. He and Jo were partners. Only one little problem. They had killed a man. A face glared at him through the windshield of a passing black Jeep. What's the matter, fuck face, Fisher thought, never saw someone walking before? Off in the distance, he heard the wailing cry of a police siren. He held his breath until the cry faded away.

From the moment he woke alone in Claire's guest room the morning after Thanksgiving, Fisher was sure he was going to be caught. He smelled the bacon frying, and had to fight hard to keep from throwing up. He washed his face, went downstairs and forced himself to eat everything Claire put in front of him. He tried not to jump out of the seat each time the phone rang, and when Claire left the room, he slipped a shot of brandy into his coffee to calm himself down. His plane didn't leave until the evening, but he told Claire he needed to get home and pack. He promised to send her his new address and never noticed the look of disappointment on her face when he half-heartedly returned her kiss good-bye.

Wanting to hear Jo's voice, Fisher called the county hospital from the airport. He needed to tell her, tell her how it happened, how Landy swung at him with a bat, how now if it came to it, he could say it was self defense, how he went to Edgar's to be straight with the guy and... But when the hospital operator answered, he hung up.

They had agreed that there had to be zero contact. Zero. He looked at his hand and it was trembling like a leaf. He stumbled boarding his plane. Jesus Christ, keep it together, he thought, and then proceeded to hyperventilate into a paper bag the whole flight to Ft. Lauderdale.

Through the winter, he rented a hole-in-the-wall apartment in a town twenty miles north of Miami He found a job writing for a small weekly, edited by an alcoholic who could've cared less what the hell Fisher had done with his life as long as the copy got in on time. One of the Miami daily papers carried Landy's obit. Apparently he'd been a golf champ there in his youth. The obit mentioned that his death had been accidental, but Fisher still shuddered every time he heard a siren.

The plan was that he and Jo were to wait on opposite sides of the state until Jo was sure all of the authorities' questions had been answered. Only then would Jo contact him by postcard at a P.O. box Fisher opened in North Miami under the name of “F. Chambers”.

Winter was endless. He borrowed his editor's car and drove to North Miami twice a week, praying for the postcard, even though he knew it was too soon, way too soon. In the small hours of the night as he sat sleepless on his cot, doubts bubbled in his mind like bitches brew; what if she didn't... what if she wasn't...what if... But invariably other thoughts pushed their way in; thoughts of Jo's smell, of the softness of her hair, of the moan she made and the way her head fell back when he was inside her. His cock rose from under the sheets demanding attention. Fisher masturbated like a teenage boy, two, sometimes three times a day until his member was red raw. By spring he was climbing the walls, looking for trouble. He came up on the losing end of a brawl with two drunks outside a bar in Hialeah. He left before the police arrived, waking up with two black eyes and a fat lip.

By the third day the swelling had gone down and he rewarded himself by driving to the mail drop. There was a single postcard waiting for him.

He held onto her so tightly she couldn't breathe. He had her stand naked on the bed so he could touch every inch of her body starting with her toes, following up her legs, caressing her thighs, rubbing his face against the cheeks of her bare ass, palming her stomach, cupping the undersides of her breasts, kissing the lids of her eyes, luxuriating in her hair. “You're beautiful,” he said.

“I'm getting old.”

“No, you are not.” He stood on the bed naked with her, letting their bodies meld. “I missed you. I was going crazy.”

“Me too.”

“Not being able to see you, touch you...” his slid the back of his hand across her pubic hair causing Jo to shiver.

“I was so scared. The police. All the questions.”

“What did they think?”

“An accident. He banged his head.”

“He came at me with a bat. He tried to kill me!”


“With a bat, tried to choke me, he had it against my neck...”

“Fish. I don't want to think about it.”

“But we did it. Jo, we fucking did it!”

“We did.”

“And nobody knows.”


They made love for a week, fucking in every room, on every surface in the condominium, until famished and dehydrated they staggered into the kitchen where they ate stuffed crab and drank Cuban beer Jo had brought home from the restaurant.

“Did you get a chance to see it?” Jo asked.

“See what?”

“The Sloop. The Sloop John B.”

“No. I came here on the fly.”

“It's great. It's open, clean, not cluttered with all the chochka shit we had clogging up Edgar's. You walk in, you swear you're out on the sea.”

“Great,” said Fisher. “How much do you think we can get for it?”



“What... what do you mean?”

“When we sell it. How much do you think... I mean that's the idea, right? Sell the place, take the money and, you know, do whatever we want. Go to the track everyday.”

“The track?”

“Yeah. Opening day is in two weeks. I guess no way we can sell it that fast.”

Jo's face tightened and Fisher could feel the air being sucked out of the room. “What?”

“Nothing,” she said.

“Why are you... I don't know, you're all... like you're angry.”

“I'm not. I'm not. Just wasn't thinking of selling so fast. I mean...We've hardly opened.”

“Sure. O.K. Get it on it's feet. I understand.”

“You do?”

“Yeah, only...”

“What? Fish, what?”

“What... I mean what am I suppose to do? How do we explain why I'm around?”

“You're my partner.”

“In the restaurant? Me?”

“Yeah. Sign the papers and everything.”

“Me in the restaurant business?” Fisher laughed.

“Fish. We're partners in everything.”

The final half-mile of the walk home cut through the Gulf Winds Country Club. As he crossed the cart-bridge over a water hazard, Fisher couldn't shake the feeling that someone was following him. When he heard a splash, he stopped and peered into the black lagoon. He took a penlight out of his pocket and followed the ripple line in the pond. For a moment the light reflected in a pair of yellow eyes just above the surface.

A rustling emanating from the palms behind him caused Fisher to turn, and by the time he pointed the light back on the water, the eyes had disappeared. A chill went up his spine and he ran the rest of the way home.

When he reached the condo, the car was back. He saw the light go on in the bedroom. He waited outside, watching her like a stranger as she took off her clothes and readied for bed. Why the hell had she cut her hair? Where did she go in the mornings? How long had it been since they stood naked on that bed exploring each other's bodies like Adam and Eve? It seemed like forever-and-a-half.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

A note from the artist

[Please use the links in the Table of Contents to the right to access the story]

Don't worry, Shadow Bay chapter 9 will be appearing in a week or so, with any luck. Donald & I were taking a break after finishing part 1 of the book (chapters 1-8.) The rest of the chapters make up part 2 which will take us to the end of the story.

We are looking for a publisher to make this available in book form. If you are a publisher, or know one, please don't be shy in approaching us. Also, please tell your friends, via email, Facebook, Twitter & so forth about this blog-novel (nog? blovel?) We'd like to reach as many people as possible.

OK, that's the marketing out of the way. I'd like to spend a couple of moments talking about the art. When Donald Rothschild called me out of the blue a few months ago, & asked me if I'd be interested in working on some artwork for his novel, I assumed he maybe wanted 2 or 3 dozen pictures. Maybe 50 or 60 at most. However, it gradually became evident that it would take far more than those numbers to illustrate his work. Now, more or less at the halfway point, I've done 188 drawings/paintings (they are a combination of pencil, monochrome acrylic paint, & china marker, which as you may know is a type of crayon that will put a mark on just about any surface.) The finished book will probably have around 400 images, give or take...

It all started (as Donald has mentioned in his previous note) when we held a cocktail party in my studio. Donald had noticed a painting on the wall in a corner that somehow put him in mind of his book. Here is the painting:

Stranger on the Shore, 2008, acrylic & china marker on paper, 24" x 19".

So, at least that gave me a clue as to the look of the piece. I imagined a world that was somewhat dark, oppressive & depressing, like maybe Leeds in England, near where I grew up. I'd also recently read Camus' The Stranger while waiting for my car to be serviced, so an industrial wasteland version of Algeria is in there somwhere. Finally, Donald had recently seen & mentioned an article on James Ensor, the Belgian artist, in the New York Times magazine, I think. Thus, the pieces fell into place.

James Ensor: Skeletons Fighting over a Pickled Herring

Ensor's grotesque yet strangely appealing worldview, replete with skulls, masks & the like, had always attracted me, since I had discovered his work for myself 30 or so years before. We resolved to put a little of Ensor's darkness & surreally expressionistic imagery (or my warped version of it) into the novel here & there. And so it was.

I could go further & point out more influences & reference points, but that's enough for now. I don't want to spoil the fun by pulling back the curtain too far. Maybe I'll tell more later on, or maybe Donald will. In the meantime, here is a painting that I did recently:

Shadow Bay, 2009, acrylic on unstretched canvas, 55" x 53" approx.

Thanks for reading. That's it for now. See you soon back in Shadow Bay.