It always amazes me how many wonderfully uber-talented authors Dreamspinner manage to find and I'm delighted to lie down with another! Edmond is not only uber-talented and going to give us a snippet of his new release King Perry, but he's bloody hilarious, so you're in for a double treat :) I shall step back, take another cookie and leave you in his capable hands :)
*** Necessary Background ***
Perry and the narrator, Vin Vanbly, met a half-hour ago in a crowded art gallery. They know little about each other, except that Vin was raised in foster homes and Perry is an investment banker. Vin has an unusually strong interest in learning about Perry, so in this excerpt, Vin tricks revelations out of Perry as he tries to get to know the man he intends to "king."
*** Excerpt (rougly 900 words) ***
Let’s see how he handles some forced intimacy.
“Hey, Perry, ready for an art gallery game?”
He says, “Does this involve the shovel painting or the onion rings?”
“Neither. The game’s called Big Secret. We both share something big and juicy, not just ‘I cheated on my ’94 income taxes,’ but a big ugly secret about ourselves that almost nobody knows. I’ll go first.”
Perry’s face registers confusion, and he says, “Wait—”
I say, “See these tiny, crisscrossing marks right here by my hairline?”
I take his hand and guide his fingers to my skull, ignoring the alarm on his face and resistance in his arm.
“They’re from rat bites.”
He jerks his fingers away and looks at me with naked disgust.
But I can do this. I can show Perry all my love.
“When I was twelve, I used to hide in the basement of this one foster home. The guy and his lady neighbor pretended to be married so they could get foster money from the state. His name was Billy. Shitty place to live. Billy's idea of a garbage disposal was to throw food down there for the rats to eat. I would hide from him every third Wednesday of the month, and I thought if I lay still, the rats would get tired of biting me, but honestly, it wasn’t a great strategy. Twice, child and family services hospitalized me.”
With one hand, I draw quotation marks in the air. “Scars.”
All my love.
“I know that this makes me seem creepy, because it is creepy. It’s disgusting. That’s why it’s one of my big secrets. This is me showing vulnerability, Perry, and if you look into my eyes right at this second, you will see I’m afraid of you thinking I am disgusting.”
His face changes as he sees me, really sees.
Shit. That was harder to say than I thought.
“Your turn,” I say, as if I’ve been waiting for him to speak and my nod is additional encouragement to break his silence. “Something big.”
Perry looks around us. “Vin, I never said—”
“Go,” I say, adding the slightest urgency to my suggestion. “Do it fast.”
“C’mon, something big," I say in a commanding tone. “Go.”
“I don’t cry,” he says, the words falling out of his mouth. “I mean, I can. I broke my hand playing softball when I was twenty-eight and I—no, no, honestly, I didn’t cry then. I swore a lot. That’s mine. I don’t cry anymore. I’ve even tried watching sad movies, but nothing.”
“Could you ever?”
“I cried some at my mom’s funeral,” he says, “but that’s the last I remember, ten years ago. I miss her all the time; I just don’t cry. I don’t know if that’s normal.”
I nod and take this in. Good reveal. I say, “Your mom died when you were twenty-four?”
He says, “Yeah.”
He steps back, careful to make sure he’s not bumping into anyone, and he glances around to see who may have overheard. The crowd fills in the gaps around us, but nobody’s eavesdropping, and the constant chatter around us muffles our conversation. Nevertheless, this uncomfortable turn of events has left a crease between us.
I say, “Relax. It’s just a game to learn about each other.”
He says, “No, of course.”
His face and tone don’t match his casual words, a surprised discomfort lingering as he thinks about what he shared with a stranger. But his expression morphs quickly into something else.
“Seriously, are those…?” His fingers move tentatively toward my skull, and I turn my head to give him free access.
He slowly traces his way along my bristly hairline as his fingers tenderly express what verbally he cannot. He pushes over the blond spikes and stops to stroke the tiny canyons in my geography. I’ve run my fingers over them enough to understand that only the softest touch can fully trace the grooves.
Fifteen minutes ago, this great tenderness would have been far too intimate for a first meeting in public, for how little we know each other. But we’ve crossed another threshold together. His repulsion is gone, replaced by sad curiosity.
“Does it hurt?”
“Now? No. Just looks funky when you notice it.”
“I didn’t see it until you pointed it out.”
He presses harder, still in the realm of gentle, as he explores further. I hate it when anyone caresses these freakish souvenirs from a fucked-up childhood, yet I have to admit his fingertips soothe me.
“Were you scared?”
“Wait, why were you hiding again?”
“I hid from Billy, the guy who owned the house. He hated the rats, even though he fed them.”
I can’t explain more than that. I think he’s had enough creepy stories for the night.
A woman sidles up to the paintings and oohs in appreciation.
“People suck,” Perry says slowly. “They really, really do.”
Our new neighbor says, “Excuse me, who did this?”
“Richard Mangin,” I say, louder than necessary.
Perry looks disappointed but nods. His arm falls away, and he takes a step back.
“Is that a Dalí reference?” the woman asks, a petite blond with dangly, gold bracelets way too big for her slender arms.
Perry looks annoyed.
I don’t mind; I didn’t want to get all chatty about me.
Besides, it’s show time.
Visit the author website: www.edmondmanning.com
Thanks for spending a little time with us Edmond and I wish you many sales :)