Daily Turmoil

Less than Thirty (Prologue for next book)

It was published by St. Martin’s Press in late 2013 although it failed to garner anything more than a handful of negative reviews until mid-2014 when the planned shipment of 50,000 copies of mass market paperback were cancelled due to the poor sales of its initial hardcover run. As per my contract I kept my measly ten grand advance and instead of readying for the book tour in the summer, I continued work on my sophomore effort – knowing it was my last chance (the publishing industry is much different than it used to be; decades ago publishers had their writer’s backs and stayed with them, fought for them – they were a team) – to make an impression on the world. I’d been working on the second one since early 2011, while I was still looking for a publisher for my debut, and after overcoming a six-month bout of writer’s block I figured it all out, dotted my i’s and crossed my t’s then shipped out to Sonny Meghan (my editor at St. Martin’s). The summer’s sun shined bright and I decided to take a break from it all, stop worrying about the incoming criticism from Sonny and all the other bigwigs at the publisher and leave Manhattan for a few weeks.

I spent the fourth of July weekend in Atlantic City staying in a free suite at Bailey’s playing the poor man’s Blackjack table drinking complimentary White Russians and basking on the beach wearing a pair of swim trunks from Banana Republic and knockoff Versace sunglasses I bought on the boardwalk trying to tan and reading the newest issue of GQ. During Happy Hour at the beachside bar I met a pretty little college thing who bought me two shots of Fireball liquor, and an hour later we were in my suite fucking in the big bathroom while housekeeping cleaned the bedroom.

The sex was good and I sure as hell needed it – for some reason I’d forgotten how important mid-afternoon pleasures can be. Afterwards, I laid back on the freshly-made bed and watched what’s-her-name scramble about looking for her panties and once she found them and dressed, she held out her hand for a tip. I laughed, suggested dinner and a T-Pain concert that night. Fortunately for me I didn’t lose it all downstairs, so when her pimp (6’5, black and wearing a mean old grin) showed up out of nowhere and I realized the fun was over and it was time to pay for the games, I was able to wrangle up enough cash and chips to settle my debt with a meager black eye and only one broken rib – oh-so lucky.

Not much longer my phone rang. It was the publisher, not Sonny – just a generic-sounding voice who in less than twenty seconds told me about all the miraculous work I’ve been doing, that I was much appreciated but (there’s always a but), that St. Martin’s was going in a different direction and I just didn’t fit into their new corporate ideals. What the fuck? But it was what it was and what could I, Christian Kane, failed journalist and poor novelist, do about it? The answer: not a damn thing.

I mean, who am I really?

Christian Kane, the once-hyped “new kid on the block” of the literary scene by The New York Times as they put it after they’d gotten an advanced copy of my underwhelming-selling-debut? (Yes, you read that right – even a positive review from The New York Times didn’t help the book.) Or was I Christian Kane, son, who put his mother in a nursing home at only age 50 and who lives some two-hundred miles away just so I can use it as an excuse not to visit? Or, better yet, am I Christian Kane, the “recovering addict” who put down the China-White just to pick up the “other” white – again?

Who the fuck am I? Who the fuck are any of us really? And, shit, does it make any difference anyway?

 

Daily Turmoil

Island (Flash Fiction)

It’s the smell of stale cigarette smoke and the lingering presence of pot in the air that first wakes me up. The sun that creeps through a crevice in the curtains maybe a close second. Two near-empty bottles of vodka and a litter of beer cans line the floors, tables and the trash cans overflow with spilled ashtrays and bloodied tissue paper – empty baggies that once contained more than a nights supply. To the left of the couch two naked kids are splayed out on the floor. The boy’s face is in the girl’s vagina and his ass appears black and blue all over sprinkled with some blood on top – which I could only assume is a messy menstruation cycle gone horribly wrong. Look around the room and see a splash of dark paint covering the walls. This’ll come off the credit card, I think. After I tug at myself for a while and realize I’m not coming anytime soon I get up and walk to the curtains and swing them open watching morning waves crash while I smoke a cigarette and let my erection disappear. A breezy fall wind from the tornado set to touch upon the island later today steers me back inside and I walk past the motionless kids and into the bedroom where I partake in last night’s leftover blow and then look to the bed to see the love of my life but she isn’t peacefully sleeping. She’s not even here. Memories more mixed than a jigsaw puzzle slowly unfold and the vault that contains yesterday’s snapshots creeps open.

Back in Junior High I missed curfew when my six-dollar Wal-Mart watch failed to conform to society’s bi-annual time switch. Seventy lashes courteous of good ole’ Dad and his rusty old belt taught me never to trust clocks again so I watch impatiently and unconvinced as the digital switches over to the next hour. Sit, chill, wait … nothing. I fumble for a smoke, light up and watch the empty bedroom cloud over. One minute switches to the next and I’m glad that Dad educated me on the importance of time in this world. The ash grows larger than the cig and I end up ditching it inside her half-empty Snapple bottle. By the time the telephone rings I’m too overcome with anxiety, unable to get a grip and compose myself and I end up taking a spill and smack my head against the nightstand, further distancing myself from this Hell we call life.

Shrouded in darkness, confused, head pulsing. Ring…ring…ring. Every three seconds, one seemingly louder than the next. Finally I snatch up the receiver and after a moment of hesitation, say “Hello?”

Nothing.

“Hello?” the voice says over a static line hard to hear – the result of a bad connection. “Morning sir,” the voice continues, this time a bit clearer. “This is your 9 A.M. wakeup call. As you know, checkout’s at 11. Y’all be cautious getting off this island sir. Storm’s s‘pose to be movin‘in real thick right ‘round noon.”

I manage a weak thanks before the line goes dead and I’m left lying on the floor, the fog from outside manifesting itself inside – all further judgment is hopeless. And then I remember my love: dirty blonde hair wavering in the wind wearing her high-school cheerleader hoodie and her glasses – the non-prescription-slashawrist-emo-screamin’-shits). Her lips: a voluptuous pink, tweaked and smirking. Her eyes: a traffic signal saying floor it fella’. The green-light, the go-ahead. But proceed with caution because as much as I’d love to say it all started just a few days ago, whatever nerve that triggers that primal instinct to carry out the madness in me – in all of us really – began long before the Internet-crazed, sex-starved, fucked-up nature of this shit-filled dump.

Daily Turmoil

Chapter 1 “A Decade Under the Influence”

(This novel is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.)

Fall 2008

ONE

Nobody can be alone anymore. Oh-so typical – even when it’s over she still has something to say. As if she still had power over me. Nobody can be alone anymore, I think yet again. Alone. I suppose that’s the irony in it, being that in the same two-hour drive when, while playing with her new iPhone and all but ignoring me when she said it, she also had another sentiment – that one being that we should break apart. “Space,” she had said. “It’s just that, y’know it’s our senior year, and we’ve been together for, like, ever. I guess I just want to see what else is out there.” And then, as I put the Audi in park – right in front of the apartment she shares with her former Cheerleader friend and Class-A-Bitch Skye – she said “I don’t know who I am without you Christian. I need to be alone right now. Figure out who I really am.”

I look across the crowded room, everybody drunk and jolly (especially the new fresh faces) and catch a glimpse of Amy and Skye laughing and flirting with two guys whose faces I can’t see through the darkly-lit room. I finish my beer and walk to the keg. “Excuse me,” I say to some random dude hovering over the keg trying to fill his cup. He tilts his head sideways as nothing comes out, stunned – puzzled perhaps – and too stupid to realize it needs to be pumped first.

Typical Freshman, I think pushing him to the side. “Hey,” I yell over the music. “Let me help you with that pal.” He’s wearing a pair of Aeropostale jeans with more holes than denim and a dumb fuckin’ two-sizes-too-small tee shirt that may as well be his sisters (why these young kids think showing off their biceps is cool is something I’ve never quite understood). Perhaps it’s a jock thing, who the fuck knows? I pump the keg, fill my and the dumbass Freshman’s cup and exit through the side door.

Outside on the porch overlooking a fenced-in yard, a pool in great use tonight, it takes me three matches to light a cigarette (Marlboro Reds, forever and always) due to the wind on this August night that is still so young – much like the sea of Freshman who, for the first time in their short lives, finally have the freedom to drink, smoke and fuck whatever and whomever without Mom and Dad breathing down their neck.

The night has just begun.

 

I’m still on the porch when Neco comes walking up, dripping wet from the pool and when he sees me, he smiles and we shake and slap each other’s backs. “Christian,” he says, throwing a towel over his shoulder and leading me to the other side of the porch where there’s a table and several patio chairs. “Sit, sit.” I do so. When Neco says something (whether it be a small, kind gesture or a downright command) it’s wise to do as he says or asks of you.

A couple weeks into Freshman year me and my roommate Dan, along with Tim who lived in the room next to us, sharing the same shitter and shower, wanted to score some cocaine but the only dealer we knew lived down the hall from us and only sold shit-weed with enough stems and seeds you could start your own farm. I thought back to our first night as free men – the huge party everybody in school seemed to be at and remembered something, someone.

When I met Neco back then, he was a Junior (perhaps not in credits but certainly in years) and during a chance meeting at the party a few weeks back, remembered him telling me that if I ever need anything – “anything at all,” he’d said – to let him know. That was three years ago. Neco has been my dealer ever since, and over the years we’ve even become friends.

“So how was summer?” he asks, and the memories of what used to be flash past in what seems like seconds and five minutes later he tells me he needs to get changed so I follow him in, once again tossed into the sweaty crowded quarters, and down the hall to his room. He unlocks it, says something about “these cocksucking fucks” and listen to him bitch about some “whore that owes him money” as he takes off his shorts and dries off as I gaze around the room, silently jealous of his new house, and then he throws on a graphic tee and says “catch” as he tosses it – the viva la white girl – and after a few lines courtesy of him, it’s back to the party, the fucking zoo, people everywhere.

I’m looking for Dan and Tim while trying to avoid an encounter with Amy but it’s just so crowded and dark that it’s hard to see much of anything and this pale-looking Asian chick with short black hair and lots of piercings wearing all black and who is likely a vampire (and a Freshmen at that) gets tossed on me and without even attempting anything, she drops her Solo cup and pushes me hard against the wall and sticks her tongue down my throat and a minute later we’re upstairs. She tells me I’m hot. She says I listen better than Ricky ever did. I go with it and a minute later we’re in the laundry room, with her blowing me. It couldn’t come at a better time I think, so I let her go down on me for a few minutes before grabbing her ass and tearing whatever clothing she does have on off, and then proceed to fuck her. She moans, groans and makes pretty much every other noise in the book while we go at it, her ass atop the dryer with me pile-driving her. After two or three minutes she brings up the fact we’re not protected. “Daddy,” she calls me in mid-come. Daddy? Seriously, what’s with girls wanting to fuck their fathers? Something I never quite understood. But fuck it, what’s there to do anyway? I slam her even harder and, again during orgasm, she calls me Daddy. It’s loud enough (even in the laundry room) in the house for me to pretend I don’t hear her and when I do, I put a hand to my ear and say “Me speak no Chinese.” After two more minutes and another orgasm (yes, she is a squirter) she begins to bore me so I speed up and as I pull out ready to come, guess what? Here we go again. Our bodily fluids wind up on her jeans (woops!) but I manage to stay clean so I dress quickly and leave the laundry room so quick I forget my briefs and undershirt. Shit happens.

 

Close to midnight and we’re at The Talion, renamed from G’s a year ago, and unlike the other bars in town, The Talion’s more of a nightclub than the traditional sports bars (The Glider and The Corner Bar) and since we’re in a college-town, it’s cliental is sketchy – stretching from the townies hoping to fuck young, drunk and dumb coeds to shady dealers selling cut garbage and roofies to the people this club is for: those young, drunk and dumb coeds. The Talion’s a good mile or so from the college, just past downtown and straddles the city-limits. It’s last stop – the club doing the majority of its business after midnight. Except on Thirsty Thursdays or even a Saturday night Bar Crawl that students take so serious – y’know, those good old college rituals.

What a joke.

Rock Bottom University is an understatement.

Red and blue and green and yellow lights illuminate a packed dance-floor while strategically placed strobe lights flash throughout and the club has two separate bars, but the few tables they do have are packed away, leaving the dozen booths the only place to sit. It’s a clusterfuck in here with sweaty assholes dancing like idiots, others standing around spitting “game” to drunk chicks they have no chance of fucking, and then there’s us – the fortunate few with booths. A twenty at the door to some big, black bouncer guarantees one every time, without fail.

The four of us (Dan, Tim, Tyler and me) and three Sophomores (all pretty and on the soccer team) the guys picked up at the party but weren’t able to close the deal were all eager, despite being underage, to go to the club. Halfway there they began to have second thoughts but Tim is smooth and a natural-born ladies-man, so he re-convinced them, promising we could get them in – something I was unsure of myself. I don’t know exactly what Tim said or how much he paid to get the girls in, but he was obviously successful.

Having been here for a little over an hour and getting tired, not to mention bored watching the three of them use various flirtatious techniques, I space out and sit in the crowded booth, smoking cigarette after cigarette and nursing a vodka tonic, ignoring the terrible club-music blasting from speakers above my head I didn’t know existed and scan the scene: despite being overcrowded, I see clear as day two dudes and one girl three-way-kissing, all dressed in typical emo-attire (skin-tight black slacks, the guys both wearing beanies and black hoodies with the girl in similar goth fashion); the DJ getting head, although I can’t see who is giving it to him; some townie wearing dirty Levi’s, a similarly filthy jean jacket and a red hat, middle-aged, over 40, grinding 20-something-girls-asses until they turn around, appalled at who was just rubbing their cock against them; and fags, everywhere, the majority all clean, good-looking guys and I wonder if maybe tonight was supposed to be “rainbow night” or something; otherwise, it’s all so typical and no different from any other night, so I lose interest and wonder why the fuck I’m in the middle of a booth while six people all but fuck around me, sandwiched between them.

 

Thirty or so minutes later the booth’s cleared out, the girls all gone. Tim left with two of the three, including the brunette Dan was hooking up with, essentially cock-blocking him from any future sexual activity. The redhead Tyler had fingered while sitting next to me was the first to leave. The shyest of the three, even speaking intelligently while plastered (Props), I think she was starting to sober up and feel both awkward and embarrassed. I’ve seen worse, much worse, but still a slut all the same. I give it a 5 on the Richter scale. After the girls left, Tyler and Dan were ready to call it a night so after two more shots I asked the waitress for the bill.

Here they go again, I think, while I listen to them drunkenly talk music. But they’re so trashed, a single sentence doesn’t make sense in any world – drunk or sober. So I listen to the two of them scream at each other while once again caught in the crossfire and yes, I’m a little drunk but mostly I’m just coming down from the coke and therefore a mind-numbing headache begins to set behind my eyes and somewhere in the midst of multi-colored lighting effects and my increasing frustration with Dan and Tyler shouting over super-loud music I begin to lose control, the anger building at an alarming rate, the headache sharp, fierce and throbbing. With no end in sight I simply put my head down, sit there and wait for the fucking check wishing to be home, in bed, asleep.

Finally the check comes and I charge everything to Dad’s AmEx, call a taxi and head towards the door when everything stops, freezes, reality on pause – or maybe the world stops revolving around its axis (I don’t know) – and in that second my eyes lock with hers and I see her so clearly, so vividly, wearing a dress and heels, framed glasses with the most gorgeous set of eyes that are mine, and mine alone to observe: hazel with a tint of blue unlike anything I’ve ever seen and she is so beautiful with fine and delicate features, not pale but not too tan like the rest of them and she’s smiling, her lips luscious, full and a vibrant red; but then suddenly the film starts up again, reality shifts, the Play button is pushed and I’m gone, outside, my world shrouded in darkness.

 

 

Two days later I’m in class for the first time since May suffering through some new Econ-professor in his late-50‘s with a terrible receding hairline wearing quite possibly the most hideous sweater I’ve ever seen with ill-fitting slacks and a belt that doesn’t match his shoes, and in his introduction to the class, Microeconomics, he attempts to humor us with a lame joke that flies over everybody’s heads and I sigh, roll my eyes, lean back in my seat and think this is going to be a long semester. I’m wearing grey jeans and a darker, charcoal-grey blazer over a black vintage tee that says BROOKLYN on it that I bought in New York City this summer and when I check my watch, the Bulova, I realize only 10 minutes have passed. Forty more to go.

I try to get through it but the torture becomes too much, totally unbearable. I root through my jeans looking for a Xanax, find it and eat it but it’s not an immediate fix so I listen to my iPod, randomly landing on John Mayer’s “No Such Thing” and by the time the song peaks the Xanax has too, and I totally fucking agree: there is no “real world,” it’s all bullshit fed to us by a failed generation of helicopter-parenting and a society where Reality TV and The Daily Show reveal more truth than CNN, and so I say “fuck it” and leave class 25 minutes early.

 

It’s twenty after twelve and I’m still on campus when I run into Dan. Like me, he’s got over an hour until his next class so we sit outside Commons smoking cigarettes in front of the NO SMOKING sign and look at the girls passing by, oh so young – year after year they stay the same as we grow older – when we decide to grab lunch. Normally I would never eat on campus, especially not the dining hall, but today’s the first day back and for some reason they actually make decent food the first week – my guess, to lure in the newbies because soon it all starts to taste like dog food. It’s no wonder you can’t even take a normal shit.

Upstairs trying to find a place to sit carrying an orange tray with hamburgers, fries and pizza with my right hand, having to raise it above my head more than once as Freshmen walk in droves not watching where they’re going and when I set my tray down for a quick minute to fill a cup with soda I scan the dining hall: hundreds of kids everywhere, some too young to even buy cigarettes, traveling in packs like wild dogs. It’s all just … too much. My anxiety from earlier returns, intensifies, and I’m lost in this crowd with no idea where Dan is or where I’m going and I realize I’m being stormed upon by a hoard of zombies; everything is blurry, unable to see, everything begins to melt away and then

 

Biff, who I’ve known since freshmen orientation, smokes a joint and my father calls twelve times within an hour and leaves at least three voicemails before sending an angry text message which I completely ignore while flipping through Biff’s massive CD collection sitting on a couch watching him play Call of Duty in his briefs, lying on the floor.

I ask how his classes went before taking a huge bong-rip, cough up clouds of smoke.

“Did they start already?” he asks, momentarily taking his eyes off the screen. He gets hit with an airstrike and dies. “Fuck,” and then, “so what about school?”

“I asked how classes went.”

“Yeah, damn, that’s too bad – fuck!” He screams “IED!” to somebody over the headset and then I hear an explosion and he sighs. “Maybe I’ll go tomorrow.” As an afterthought, he says quietly “I think I need to see my advisor … or someone.”

I say something disinterestedly and toss aside a sleeve of CDs and then stare at the wall opposite me, concentrating on a black smudge that looks like a cigar-burn for the next two minutes before I run a hand through my hair realizing I need a haircut. The last time I got my hair cut in this town, the dumb slut nearly shaved my entire head. I wonder what I’d look like with a Mohawk, picking up a small circular mirror we use to do coke on and inspect my facial features: hair long and starting to curl, check; and since I can’t remember the last time I shaved, I figure I have a week’s worth of stubble. Biff says something odd but I’m not really listening, and then I spend another minute looking at my hair, my face, myself in the looking glass, close my eyes and still have a mild out-of-body experience which leaves me feeling a bit nervous.

“Anyway, like I was saying,” Biff begins, the controller still in his hands and eyes glued to the tube “my dad got lucky on the horses and he’s wiring me, like, a fuckton of cash.” He stands up and walks over to the couch, sits down and gets out a notebook which he uses to help roll another joint. “We should throw down on an eight-ball,” he says, almost like an afterthought. “A quarter maybe.” When I don’t answer he says “Christian, you still with us dude?” snapping his fingers. He lights the joint and as he smokes it the scent overtakes me, beckons me to take one more rip from the bong.

“What?” I ask. Biff starts talking again but whatever he’s saying I can’t hear. It just sounds like a bunch of words strung together with no merit or meaning.

“So,” he says, walking back to the middle of the room and dropping back down on the floor, resting his arms and head on a pillow as he waits for his game to start up again.

“So … what?” I ask, confused.

“Want to split a ball?”

“I don’t know.” I sigh.

“What’s there to know?” As his game starts back up he stands in front of the television jabbing at the XBOX controller and the apartment is lively once again – shots fired, bombs dropping and people crying out as they die, the terror playing out through Biff’s surround-sound system. “The blow? Yes or no?” He screams over two airstrikes, exploding grenades, gunfire – overall mass-warfare.

“Whatever,” I say, stoned, lying comfortable on the couch.

“We could get meth,” he says, and while this proposal is interesting, it’s not really my thing.

I’ve never done meth and there isn’t much I haven’t done at least once but the excitement dissipates quickly and I say “yeah, some blow, sounds good,” because, well, fuck it, what else is there to do?

 

My house, Casa 220, is a mere two blocks down and another three up the hill from Biff’s and is at the intersection between campus and town which makes it the ideal place to live. The actual house is a former fraternity house, one who lost their charter for hazing when I was a Freshman, and therefore is very large (able to house up to twenty people) and equipped with all the necessities of a good party house: a sizable dance floor complete with DJ booth and speakers loud enough to alert the entire block; a downstairs kitchen converted into a bar – convenient in oh-so many ways – with two fridges, cabinets full of booze and liquor; another room in the rear used for beer pong or to play pool; a patio outside with some picnic tables; even a yard with a horseshoe pit. Three bedrooms on the ground floor, all unoccupied. Upstairs, second floor, several more bedrooms: Tyler’s to the left of the landing and down the hall; unfortunately faggot Mark Dreitol (a roommate of ours none of us can stand, particularly me); and then Dan and me down the hall, next to the bathroom, across from each other. Tim’s Fuck-Pad, easily the most lavish room in the whole house, is upstairs on the third floor and is huge – literally two rooms in one, as he knocked out the entire wall of the bedroom formerly next door (his father bought the house the summer before our Sophomore year so we’d all have a place to stay after that tortuous, tumultuous year in the dorms). This year, our Senior year, it’s just the five of us – there was eight our first year but then two failed out; by Junior year we were down to six, but halfway through last year Trevor (another friend from the dorms) dropped out to focus on his music career – but if I had my way, it’d just be us four and I’d kick Mark’s faggot ass out for good. Fortunately, he’s had a death in the family so he hasn’t yet returned from wherever it is he lives.

My room is very simple, nothing special. A bed, a computer desk full of notebooks and folders with stories and/or ideas I’ve scribbled over the past few years, a dresser and a closet. The walls are white and bare except for one poster, the cover of an album, emboldened with the deadly Reaper who appears to stare into my soul every now and then. Like I said, simple.

I finish the iced coffee I bought from Dunkin on my way home, turn on some music (Coldplay, “Viva la Vida” off their latest album that dropped this past summer) and hum along while I change out of my jeans and into a pair of sweats.

 

My father calls again and I really can’t avoid him forever so I answer it and of course he starts yelling, asking how it’s even possible to spend seven-hundred dollars for one night at a bar and why I withdrew more than a grand in less than two weeks, and then he plays Daddy telling me to be more “fiscally responsible” and reminds me the credit cards are supposed to be for “emergencies” only, not bars and strip-clubs. I tell him I wouldn’t have had to withdraw it if they accepted credit. He calls me a smartass, an “entitled bastard” and lectures me some more before he asks how my mother’s doing. I tell him I don’t know; say he should call her himself, declaring that “after all she is your wife.” Ex-wife, he reminds me and then I say “Oh yeah, you left your family.” Once again he calls me a smartass and I envision where this could end up so I say I need to go and he says that sounds like a good idea but before we get off the phone he asks if I need any money and even though I really don’t I tell him “yes I need to buy books” and he ends the conversation by telling me he’s at a Western Union right now sending me a thousand dollars and not to bother him for the next month because he’s going to be in Chicago on business and I say “don’t worry I won’t” and he hangs up first while I study the difference between two tee shirts that look nearly identical before blindly grabbing one and then Biff and I buy an eight-ball a piece from Neco around 9:30 and the rest of the night is a blur – when I open my eyes it’s 6:42 am and I’m lying naked with a hard-on next to some chick I’ve never seen before and I realize we’re in the North Hall dorms but when I stand up to look for my jeans the Freshman I’m in bed with grabs my cock and it’s still hard when she sucks me off while some naked dude pops out of nowhere and starts masturbating over top of us and this is all too surreal so after I come in her mouth I find my jeans and leave.