this letter to Norman Court is a novella consisting of 22 sections (each around 1250 words) I am releasing by way of the following experiment: I am trying to serialize the piece across blogs, by reader request. If you read and enjoy the section below and have a blog the readers of which you think would enjoy a selection, as well, please get in touch with me to be an upcoming host. A little hub site is set up at www.normancourt.wordpress.com that has a listing of the blogs that have featured or will feature sections—please give it a look, get yourself all caught up if the below piques your interest.
It is my simple hope to use this as a casual, unobtrusive way to release this material to parties interested. There is some suspense, in that if a new host does not appear after each posting, the train comes to a halt (back tracking to previous hosts is not an option in this game). So, if you enjoy what you read and would like to host an upcoming selection, please get in touch with me via firstname.lastname@example.org. (As of now, 4 slots remain out of the 22) I welcome not only invitations, but any and all comments on the piece (positive, negative, or ambivalent) or general correspondence about matters literary.
This letter to Norman Court, part 8
By Pablo D’Stair
Before I left to wait around would Lawrence show up, I ducked into my room with the new photocopy I’d made of the letter, the motel office. I debated should I slip it in the original envelope, or how exactly should I play it? With Klia, it’d been almost obvious I’d give her the original letter, at least some hope at peace of mind, but the thing was different here as flat fact I was only gaming Lawrence with a replica. It didn’t mean he was any less in tight he didn’t pay me out the two thousand I’d be charging, but this little tick of propriety held me up, especially through the blur of the second handful of medicine tablets getting up over me.
Shouldn’t I save the envelope for Herman, some connection to the actual—yes, I decided finally, touching at my lip to find it wet, a sleeve of mucus over it, if there was someone to keep up appearances for it was Herman, Lawrence more a sitting duck I just needed to give the spook to, nothing much of consequence.
I took a seat on some shop steps across from the movie theatre, the plumbing shop in view kind of peripheral, mostly obscured by a shut closed kiosk set to the sidewalk. I smoked and shivered, any chirp of wind a bit different in pitch taking my attention.
It was getting ten past eleven when headlights came up against the theatre face, over the kiosk, little ugly car parked, shut off, the driver keeping put. When no one’d emerged after five minutes, I made a casual stroll to the plumbing shop door, gave it a tug, started to walk away after a glance at the car window I couldn’t see through—behind me heard it open, thump shut a dull crack kept mute by the chill, was around the corner, new cigarette just going when Lawrence wandered around.
-If I’m to believe everything I read, you’re quite the kisser.
He seemed terrified, not at all the sort I’d pegged him for, easy flab to him, relaxed into his role as husband and daddy.
-How old’s the youngest? I asked, a little tense he’d not gone ahead with so much as a What do you want? in the minute already he’d been there.
-Thing here is I can have as many of these made as I feel like, print them up one a week enough I’d get quite a following I managed to get place let me leave them around.
I handed him the photocopied pages.
-Klia’s good with words, don’t know if it’s flattery or what, but she knows how to fill a page—page five’s a real example, you get there yet?
He hadn’t even looked through them, so I suppose he had the idea. I stifled a rising sneeze, sucked phlegm and spit, a long string of it thick from over my chin to my coat sleeve, didn’t bother with tugging at it, just took a bit in with a slurp and went right on.
-You can see I’d rather be taking sick time, just today, so we’ll do this easy—you get me two thousand, it’s the last you’ll have to think about it.
It was like it hadn’t occurred to him this was going to be the thing, he seemed at a loss.
I wiped my palm up over my nose, roughed it into the coat over my ribs.
-Anytime works for you, Stephanie, or what else it’ll be is right now, what do you think when?
-I don’t have two thousand dollars.
-Even I have two thousand dollars, it can’t be that hard to come by.
-Not in cash.
I spit a long dribble down onto the pavement, made a real thing out of leaning forward, stubbing my cigarette in it, tapping down on it dainty with my shoe toe.
-This town have a bank, cash machine?
-I can’t take out two thousand.
I sneezed, two lines of mucus I felt them slick out my nose, a sheet over my upper lip, didn’t touch to clear the mess, stepped in close to Lawrence.
-You might think it’s something people’d think charming you’re out getting some dowdy housewife to feel she’s found that secret someone while meanwhile your own wife’s at home growing your kids up, but I don’t think generally it’ll play off that way. You think I think you own a shop and there’s not some two thousand dollars cash you can get your hands on in a pinch? I’d start thinking with your head right, because that’s just exactly what this is, understand me?
And sick to death of the words tasting of wet salt, I scooped at my face, a loose handful, wiped it a streak across Lawrence’s coat front. This seemed to put the matter to him a bit more pointedly, because like a light had gone off his arms came up appeasing.
-Alright, yes, I hadn’t been thinking that. There’s money.
-Golly, is there? You keep that here or the store?
I nudged my nose he should turn and walk and as he got the door open, just after I told him I’d wait in front, he said I don’t have money, this isn’t my money, really, this is payroll, I wasn’t thinking about it.
-That sounds like it’ll be a real headache, Larry—hey, maybe I’ll put a rock through the window to make it look suspect for you, alright?
He seemed he almost thought the offer was serious, probably he’d swing back by later, do just that very thing except he seemed just smart enough it’d occur to him someone probably was watching us one of these little town windows and that was bad enough, some gossip might make it back his wife’s way, no need to give himself any more to dig up out of.
The whole time he was in the shop, I was sneezing, both hands over my face, warm bursts of breath up over my eyes, spilled over my cheeks, three sneezes I’d have a good fistful of slop, kept roughing it on the brick by the glass of the window.
He handed me the letter back with the money, so I gave it back across, but he stepped away, head shaking, wanted nothing to do with it, didn’t even want to chance getting rid of it himself in case some little sliver would set off an alarm.
-There’s over three grand in there, you’ll see, alright? There isn’t anything else.
I eyed him, peeked in the bag he’d given me, just as quickly knelt and trundled it into my duffle.
-That’s payroll, right, nothing really to do with you. There a cash machine around?
He looked like he was going to cry. I thought of Klia, but really the comparison was ugly—she’d at least seemed devastated, this guy just seemed a kid I’d outsmarted him he thought he’d drink one soda already while reading the magazines then just pay for another to take with him.
-You said two thousand, there’s almost four in there.
-Then I’m sure another five hundred’ll make it four and’ll save me even thinking about a return trip any time soon, right?
He said Klia’s name, but it was a weird blurt, I couldn’t catch any tone of context in it, might’ve even been he’d been telling me Go get the rest from her. But he fell in to step, I followed him up the way to a cash machine outside the bank, snorting and feeling my stomach loose and ready to turn, hand to grit my teeth and clench my buttocks.
He practically slapped the money at me so I struck him across the mouth with the side of my fist, not hard enough it’d hurt him, I didn’t think, but he just kept there, face to the wall like he was seething but knew what’d happen he lost check.
-In fact you put your head against that little wall and you count two hundred, Steph. I’m walking that way, but I give your house a call twenty minutes, it’d better be you picks up.
I ran my hand over his shoulder a last time like I was using him as a tissue, though I wasn’t, sneezed in to that same hand by the time I was half block off in whatever random direction I’d went.
Pablo D’Stair is a writer of novels, shorts stories, and essays. Founder of Brown Paper Publishing (which is closing its doors in 2012) and co-founder of KUBOA (an independent press launching July 2011) he also conducts the book-length dialogue series Predicate. His four existential noir novellas (Kaspar Traulhaine, approximate; i poisoned you; twelve ELEVEN thirteen; man standing behind) will be re-issued through KUBOA as individual novellas and in the collection they say the owl was a baker’s daughter: four existential noirs.
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