“I’m so bored. I hate my life.” - Britney Spears

Das Langweilige ist interessant geworden, weil das Interessante angefangen hat langweilig zu werden. – Thomas Mann

"Never for money/always for love" - The Talking Heads

Sunday, October 02, 2005

seeing what this looks like

For a long time I’ve meant to put little pieces of my novel on this post, and today is a good day. I’m hoping for comments. The title of this novel has gone through long and elaborate metamorphoses, from Holly’s Folly to The facts in the Sterling Case to The Favorite. I know the first title won’t fly. My latest title is Party of the Jealous God, partly because it sounds echt thriller-ish.

Those of you who have seen versions of this have not seen this version. I’m not sure how much my tinkering has changed the thing. The “thing” – my baby monster, my daydream, my spoiled child, my Holly, my fourteen chapters

The first four pages.

Chapter 1 – Party of the Jealous God

Patrol Officer Candidate Foxton liked rigging up. He liked the squeak of getting off the hot leather seat. He liked the whole ritual of the helmet - not taking it off, lifting the visor just at that spooky little angle, revealing the unprotected shaven chin and lips, a bit of dark moustache, shades on, the unmistakable bluish black of the shirt and the black belt and the pistol making the approach to the standard safety distance, peering in on another householder rolling down the window to ask how fast was I going, as if this was something you had to call out the goon squad to track down. As if the damned car wasn't equipped with a damned speedometer right in the driver's eye-space. You had to get used to the sweat - it was a hotbox job, no two ways about it. But Foxton considered himself a man inured to mere temperature. He'd drilled out there in 110 heat index weather in the Guard, to which he still had a commitment, still had time allotted. So the burn of the day is just going down. Austin summer days, when you could scan the sky for hours and not find one fault in the blue of it. The western sky is still glowing with purple closing to blackish blue and a thin flare of orange on the horizon. That window before the move to turn the car lights on becomes mandatory. Foxton jacked down the kickstand, thrust the bike back, the blue light is making the nice Dragnet background, dancing against the gravel and asphalt and the ditch and the trees, he's approaching the Lexus. There's a wire fence above the ditch, and beyond a little underbrush there's the rough dip of twig and dirt and patchy grass up to the lip of the turf surface which the wise chipper knows will carry to the seventh hole four yards in. Foxton knows this himself, although his swing is, typically, a little too forceful on these kinds of shots. He is always overstroking.

Nothing is emanating from planet Lexus.

Ten miles away, Maury Lockwood is using his police scanner. He's got it hooked up to a tape recorder. Maury is a postal employee. He's not married. He's thirty five. He weighs two hundred fifty pounds, and stands 5 foot 9. He stands, however, as little as he can, sitting on a bar stool at his window. Maury's boss has the forms his doctor filled out in his file ("Mr. Lockwood's gout makes it painful for him to stand for abnormal stretches of time. I strongly recommend an environment in which Mr. Lockwood can support himself without standing. It is recommended that Mr. Lockwood use a chair, if at all possible.") Maury’s boss has shifted his quota of unsuitables for the year, so for the moment, Maury’s position is stable. Maury has some hilarious tapes. Mostly, though, it is bureaucratic chatter, a lot of acronyming, bullshitting, old jokes, positioning. The channel between APD's Sense and Respond Unit (SRU) and sundry jarheads. Heading in, heading off.

Foxton taps on the driver's window, notices a human form lying in the back seat. The window is slightly tinted. Must be sleeping it off. He goes around.

Maury is bored with the fire at the Wildwood Apartments on Braker Lane. Another porch barbecue affair. Early twenties, they get bombed and begin gassing up the charcoal and it happens.

Foxton moves around the Lexus. Notices the license plate. F-I-S-H.

Maury tunes in to this:

AF: SRU, I have a, uh, situation here . I have apparently an unconscious sleeper here, 98 Lexus, let's see ... lying in the back, no reaction to me, I'm tapping on the window, unconscious, back seat. Possible drunk. Possible illegal substance. I'm thinking I might need a car.., over.
SRU: I'm reading you, PC 40, coordinates please, over ...
AF: Oh my god. God. A fucking wagon!
SRU: Where are you, PC40, over
AF: Get an ambulance! A fucking wagon! Lake Austin Boulevard, SRU. Fuck the SRU, this is Donna, right? You remember, Arn? Arn Foxton. You know me. Listen, you gotta help me, Donna. Do something for me. Now now now.

After Donna oriented herself (were you that guy at the rookie party?) and Foxton made some spitting noises (the damn smell, the smell), Foxton revealed a fact that soon made Lake Austin Road a media site:

AF: . Please, just get the murder [division] down here. I'm patrolling the area. Keeping the scene pristine. The plate is F-I-S-H, fish.
SRU: Where are you exactly, PC40? Over.
AF: Breathe in, breathe out. Square it off. So where in the living crap am I, Donna? You know the corner of Exposition and Lake Austin? You know, up towards the student housing? The Colorado River authority?
SRU: Down towards that Tex Mex place?
AF: You mean the Hula Hut. Yeah. Down on that stretch next to the golf course, that's where I am. Over.

Lockwood called up the manager of KXOX. He had dealt with them before, but never had anything of this quality. The manager had given him a home number. The deal was quickly made. F-I-S-H. By June 3, 1998, KXOX owned the tape. Lockwood made a couple of thousand. KXOX made a multiple of that, selling it to its national network.

AF: Jesus, I shouldn't have had that tuna salad sandwich. I can feel the mayonnaise coming up on me. Here it comes!

As soon as the murder team found Foxton and the car, the license plate became an issue. Detective Chuck Reilly left his partner with Foxton and personally made the drive back to HQ, calling Hudson at home on his cell. 'See me at the office," Reilly testified later, "something like that. That's what I told him."
When Lew Hudson got to the scene at 10:00, he'd had his talk with Reilly.

"I just told him that it was the Governor's wife's car. No sir, I didn't tell him we got a bomb on our hands. No, I never used the words bomb, explosion, any of that, to my recollection. No, I don't know why they printed that, sir. I figure they got the wrong end of the stick."
Hudson had put in a call to Greenbriar, the Police Chief, but Greenbriar was in transit to another job in Pennsylvania. It was never clear anymore if he was in town or in Pittsburgh. Greenbriar said, “shit, this is almost not on my watch.”
Hudson said, “I’ll handle it.”
“Keep in touch,” Greenbriar said. Greenbriar seemed to be bitter about something. Hudson got along with him all right. As far as police chiefs go, Hudson’s favorite was Odem, who had been the police chief when Hudson was signed on. Odem’s reign was mythologically long, forty years or something. A monument. Had a problem with the post civil rights era, though. Greenbriar had been brought in with great fanfare as Austin’s first African American police chief. He was a photo op, much liked by the politicos, disliked intensely by the Union. Well, he seemed to wear out. He began to make out of state trips. He photo opped in San Francisco. He photo opped in Seattle. Conferences, a spokesman about a new national drug policy, the name in the rolodex for the news show about the Broken window theory of policing. Just not there. Until photo opping in Pennsylvania, he got a better offer. People later agreed that the APD was in a state of unusual disorganization for this to be dropped into their lap.

Everybody at the scene by 10 p.m. was aware that this was on a Need To Know basis.

Everybody at the scene did not include Foxton, who was being debriefed at HQ. In the three months remaining of Foxton's time on the force, he expressed a few theories of his own. These theories were disregarded by the D.A. His superior called him in, once, to tell him loose lips sink ships. 'What does that mean?" Foxton asked. 'Shut up," his superior explained. His testimony at the trial was tight and short. By that time, Foxton had heard his voice on that damned transmission one hundred times. At his regular spot, The Cedar Door, the bartender never seemed to tire of asking him if he'd had a tuna salad sandwich today. Foxton ceased and desisted going there. “I’m tired of the place,” he told his girlfriend, whose office regularly TGIFed at the Cedar Door. “Give me three good reasons I have to show up to see your manager get shitfaced.” Then Foxton's troubles dominoed: he got into a fight in a bar, he got into an altercation with a neighbor, his girlfriend moved out, and his buds on the force became distinctly glacial to him. So he resigned, picked up stakes, moved elsewhere, leaving his parents' address to forward mail to.


Patrick J. Mullins said...

You've got some Austin details, but I wonder if it's possible for you to get the place really specific, to own it more forcefully. Places generally are NOT in contemporary America anymore, at least Ann Beattie makes them seem that way. But I sometimes wonder if she isn't attracted to those very homogenized things even when they aren't the only ones; and maybe that she even adds homogenization when it wasn't there, secretly likes it. Anyway, you'd have a real opportunity if you can pull it off (and if it's there to pull off), because there may be some Austin literature, but not many people know about it. I don't have any sense of Austin except coarse descriptions from people, I haven't been there, but have been to Houston and Dallas/Ft. Worth, know what they feel like, don't feel like. Anyway, you may do more along these lines later, or may not care to.

I'm not sure you need 'Here it comes!', but you'll know whether the mood needed it. Made me think of Elmore Leonard for some reason. There was a lot about tuna sandwiches in 'I Heart Huckabees,' although that doesn't mean anything probably.

roger said...

Patrick, thanks for the comments. I'm always interested in dialogue. I often eavesdrop on people speaking and try to write down what they say -- a sort of oral sketch -- to get down the rhythms of speech. On phones, I've noticed, when people sneeze or cough, they often supply "stage notes".

But perhaps I should cut out the here it comes as de trop.

Actually, the site of this novel moves around -- it is located generally in Texas, in Houston, Austin, San Antone, and a little made up place, Dutchover, south of Lubbock.

I actually learned something from seeing the text on my site. I changed some wording, straightened out the way I wanted to treat Foxton. I'm not going to put up consecutive parts of this novel, but bits of it. I think the next bit will be from the second chapter.

Patrick J. Mullins said...

'I'm not going to put up consecutive parts of this novel, but bits of it.'

Yeah, that's the better way to go, you don't want to give it all away. You don't want to end up with an e-book, because there's still a little time before that's all there'll be. Being stingy with the Internet is always a good policy, since it's so predatory.

So now that it includes more Texas than just Austin, you'll be able to play against some other kinds of locales like C. McCarthy's, that some of us imagine as having richer textures, and maybe even some McMurtry--I remember Wichita Falls on a 105 degree day, now that was romantic even in its discomfort. I can't imagine Austin as romantic, but maybe it can be.