** Bring me your tired, derivative, overwrought dead manuscripts, yearning to be erased from memory… This is the second in an ongoing series where authors get to share a piece of a novel/writing project that died long before it ever could have proven its worth to its parent, its master: the author. Instead of letting the maybe-horrible, maybe-unbearable Word doc remain untouched in some far off and forgotten file folder, why not let the readers at ENCLAVE have a look? Think of it as closure. They won’t laugh, I swear.
This time we have J David Osborne, author of Low Down Death Right Easy and Our Blood in its Blind Circuit sharing an excerpt from a dead novel entitled, “Toomoth.”
If you are interested in having an excerpt featured in the “From the Grave” series, be sure to email me at michael @ coping mechanisms dot net. **
Langley’s job options were limited. He trolled Monster. None of it seemed doable. Didn’t know what the fuck a Technical Adviser did. Craigslist was next. Those jobs seemed more realistic. He copied down phone numbers and thought about checking the For Sale section for couches, then thought better about it. He turned his computer off and sat on the floor where the couch used to be and tried to think of ways to get Carla back.
He purchased a Glock 19 from a handgun pawnshop on 19th and Lee. He’d been nervous, walking up to the frog-painted façade, intending to simply go in and get a few pointers on how he might end up with a permit and maybe, one day, eventually with a gun, but the alligator woman behind the counter had set her Beth Moore paperback to the side and coughed and told him, “Hell, son, you can take one of these bad boys home today, if your qualified.”
“How do I qualify?”
“You a felon?”
“Got any warrants?”
“I’ve had one, once.” He felt stupid even as he said it, like he was bragging. It was a nothing warrant, a clerical screw up on a speeding ticket.
“But do you have one now?”
The old woman waddled around the counter and flipped up the divider and came right up to him. She looked into his eyes and clawed around the pockets of her jeans. Lit a cigarette and blew smoke in his face. “So you qualify.”
“Did you bring it?”
The alligator woman smoked thoughtfully. She looked him over, turning him over in her mind. Trying to figure out if he was playing her or just stupid.
“Your permission slip.”
Langley had the feeling when he walked into the shop, that you’re-in-the-grocery-store-and-that-weird-looking-guy-is-really-happy-to-have-his-bag-of-chicken-nuggets-could-he-be-retarded? feeling. Something about the shopkeeper’s underbite, and the way she ground it and muttered to himself tipped him off, but, like with most people with the feeling, the realization that this person was, in fact, not all there, he suddenly felt the urge to play along, to patronize, but for the love of God, not to look in the eyes.
“Don’t be sorry, but I need that. Sent you home with it last time.”
Langley studied the glare coming off of a poster of a woman in a camoflauge bikini, shoulders slumped with the weight of a grenade launcher. He was confused.
“Oh, right. I forgot. Can I have another one?”
The woman put out her cigarette with her shoe. The carpet was covered in burn holes. Gave Langley something to stare at. She reached behind the counter and came back with a stack of light pink slips, the kind they fire you with. She tore one off and wagged it in front of Langley’s face. “You’re qualified, so just get this signed so your mom don’t come in here and shit a brick.”
Langley nodded, trying his best to appear thankful. He dinged out into the hot sun, walked to his car, and rummaged. He found a pen in the island between the driver and passenger seat and filled out his permission slip on the hood. The gun store had no windows, and he was out of the sight line of the doorway. He finished up and signed his mother’s name as best he could. Laughed at himself. He was actually trying to make a genuine forgery.
He folded it up and walked back into the Frog Pawn, and the alligator glanced up and greeted him, oblivious. She asked him the same questions, was he qualified, and after answering in the positive Langley waved the pink slip like he was fanning himself. “I got my permission slip.”
The alligator lady cackled and took the pink slip between two nicotine-stained fingers. “Your mom didn’t mind none?”
“She was fine with it. After I explained.”
She climbed a stepladder and tacked it to the wall, between a poster of Journey and a cabinet full of ninja throwing stars. “Very good. Now, let’s get you something that’ll kill something good.”
He spent the next few hours a mile into the scrub behind his apartment. Somewhere in the distance a dog barked. Somewhere further in the distance, there were gunshots. Another guy with a similar idea. Nobody called the police if they heard the shots coming from that direction. He set up his cans and loaded his pistol and shot at them. Nothing hit. He scared some rabbits. He felt better.
Langley came up the incline toward his apartment complex, pistol unloaded and tucked in the small of his back. He walked around the side of the building, holding his breath as he walked past the blast of hot air coming off the boxy AC unit.
He intended to head up the stairs and wallow for a little bit, pretend like he was going to plan to get her back but really just sit there and think about her face. The sound of a motor running caught his attention, instead, so he headed across his front lawn to the public pool. The maintenance man sat in one of the pool recliners, watching the water drain. Langley’s stomach folded up like a deflated football. At the bottom of the pool, he clearly recognized the couch he thought he’d lost a couple days ago.
The water was running off of the armrests when he walked around the pool to where the maintenance man sat.
“I understand that.”
The maintenance guy stared at him for a few moments, not because he thought Langley was stupid, but because he, in fact, was.
Langley Toomoth decided he’d get right to it. He knew the maintenance man, John Riley, the same as everyone in the apartment complex. He was an open, friendly guy. He recalled a specific time, he’d been doing laundry, and Riley had burst into the room so fast he dropped the T-shirt he was folding and yelled, “Hell, man, ain’t you got a woman to do that for you.” The thoughtful Langley Toomoth was temporarily phased by the loud, happy sexism, leaving a gaping hole for the man that lives in every man to come out: “Shit buddy, which one?” Which didn’t really make sense once it was thought about, but at that moment was instinctually understood to mean that Langley couldn’t field all the pussy he got. Riley had roared and slammed the door.
And one thing that everyone in Savannah Acres knew, was that John Riley liked to get obscenely drunk and fire guns from the window of his Ford F-150. So much so that he couldn’t legally purchase a weapon in the state of Oklahoma. Langley’s plan hatched quickly. “You want buy a gun?”
Riley spit tobacco juice on the hot concrete. “Well hell, son. Of course I do.”
Langley took his shirt off and squatted down, grabbing the piece from his pants like a hot pan. He presented the Glock to Riley, a little Jesus wrapped in swaddling clothes.
“That’s a plastic piece of shit.”
“Fuck it, I need it.”
Langley sold it to him at 5% mark-up, a better price than he’d get from the other illegal gun dealers in town. He also got Riley to help him haul the couch up the stairs to his apartment.
“This thing is heavier’n a motherfucker.”
“Time, my sister’s man needed me to come over help him move this old war cannon out his garage, no shit.”
“’S heavier’n this. This is still heavy as fuck though.”
“I need a beer.”
Langley gave him a beer and thanked him. Riley pointed his bottle at the couch. “Leave that shit on the deck to dry. Can’t have you fuckin’ up the carpet, now.” Toomoth thanked him again and told him he’d keep it there. As Riley walked down the steps, a sense of dread came over him. He couldn’t put his finger on it until he got high. On his third bowl the thought came flooding over him with the high. It had to do with God. Toomoth was at a low point in his life. Girlfriend gone, jobless. God was up in heaven, looking down on Langley Toomoth, and recognized that his child was hurting. Langley needed a Deus Ex Machina, and God was going to give it to him. Unfortunately, as he proved time and time again, God knew very little about what made human beings tick, and he’d seen Langley’s sadness at his couch being taken off and completely misinterpreted the sentiment. He’d intervened in an extremely literal sense at something that had bothered Langley on a metaphorical level. The fear, the dread, was that God, satisfied that he’d successfully helped him, would walked away from the situation, wiping his hands and whistling and with a little extra spring in his step, while Langley’s real, human world remained completely unfixed. That was scary. He set the bong on the floor among the ruins of his endtable and fell asleep.