Short Story: The Long Deceit

I have mentioned it before, but I am currently working on my MA in Professional Fiction Writing.  It’s been a long couple months (with a year and a half to go) but I wanted to share the short story I wrote for one of my classes that recently ended. I would appreciate any feedback.

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Tom climbed the stairs from his basement—as he had many times before—without a care. It was well past midnight and he had an early conference call. The stairs creaked beneath his feet, alerting his dogs who came running from the second floor. He hoped they hadn’t awakened his wife, Jessica.

When he walked into the family room, he startled. The lamp was on. She never left any lights on. He let the thought go and walked toward the kitchen. Although he was ready for bed, he always made sure he put his cups and dishes in the dishwasher. It wasn’t Jessica’s job to clean up after him. In the little light offered by the small lamp in the other room, he clearly made out the three Skoal cans on the kitchen counter.

Shit! Did I leave those out earlier? That thought wasn’t plausible. Jessica would’ve noticed them. But that meant she put them there and surely there’d be an argument. I’ll just ignore the cans—and this whole situation—until tomorrow. It’ll be best that way.

He put the glass in the dishwasher quietly—still concerned he’d wake his sleeping wife—and turned. Jessica was sitting in the family room chair, glaring in his direction. His heart beat intensely, and sweat beaded on his forehead. How am I going to get out of this?

“What are you doing awake, honey?” He knew full well why she was awake.

“Do you want to tell me what those are?” She pointed at the counter.

“What? What are you pointing at?”

She rolled her eyes. “You’ve got to be kidding me. Are you a child? Am I talking to our eight-year-old right now?”

He walked around the counter and acted like he was searching. “Oh, these. I don’t understand. Where did you find them?”

“Do you ever tell the truth? I don’t understand why you keep doing this to me.” Her voice caught in her throat. Tears welled in the corners of her eyes and she turned away.

“They have to be old… before I quit.”

She spun around and anger flashed across her face as she stormed across the room, unconcerned with how much noise she was making. She grabbed the three cans and showed Tom the first one. “Really? Old? Look at this. The seal isn’t even broken. It’s not old; it’s BRAND NEW!” She threw it at him.

“Whoa, calm down. I know you’re upset, but you’re going to wake the kids. I still don’t understand where you found these.”

“You… are… unbelievable. You think you can turn this around on me?” She jammed her finger into his chest. “I don’t even care about the chew. I’ve told you that before. Whatever you want to do you can do. For some reason, you had to make a big deal about quitting, and then you lied to me about it. Why?”

“I’m not lying to you. With the exception of tonight, I never said I don’t chew.”

“Are you kidding me? You think you’re going to get out of this on a technicality? I… I can’t even begin to tell you how upset…” She turned her back and her voice trailed off.

“I can tell you’re angry, but it’s after midnight. The kids need to sleep.”

“THEY AREN’T HERE!” She pulled at her hair.

He jumped back, shocked by her scream. After a moment, he said, “They’re not here? Where are they?”

She slowly turned and faced him, wiping the tears away from her eyes. “I was trying to hang the picture I painted the other day. I needed a hammer.” Realization filled his eyes, and she noticed. “That’s right. When I went to get the hammer I found your secret stash. I knew if you were lying to me about this, there had to be more. This fight was inevitable and I didn’t want them around. I took them to my parents’ house a couple of hours ago.”

‘You don’t get to make those decisions.”

“Oh… I believe I do. You lost that right the second you started lying to me again.”

“I haven’t been lying. Maybe I was hiding something…”

She interrupted him. “It’s deceitful—which given our track record—is the same as lying.”

“It’s not.”

“Do you think I’m your parents or something? Like you’re some six-year-old with his hand caught in the cookie jar? You can’t talk your way out of this, so stop trying.”

“What the hell is that supposed to mean?”

“It means your children are more honest than you’ve ever been with me. I don’t feel like I know you anymore. You were once my knight in shining armor. Now, you’re like a roommate. I have a better rapport with our dogs than I do with you.”

“That’s ridiculous. So I lied about my little habit. I’m sorry. I won’t do it again.”

“I wish I could believe you, but I can’t. I’m not staying here tonight. I’m going to my parents’ house.”

Tom ran forward and put his hand on her shoulder. She shrugged away. “Please don’t go. We’ve hit rough patches before. We’ve always gotten through them by talking it out. Surely we can do the same thing now.”

She turned around—her eyes red and puffy—and stared at him. “You want to talk. Fine! Let’s hash this out. What else are you lying about?”

Tom’s eyes drifted toward the ground. “Nothing.”

“I don’t believe you. Did you open any more credit card accounts? Do we have new personal loans I need to know about? You’re gambling again. That has to be it, right? Any more fake checking account registers you want to show me? Is bankruptcy right around the corner? Come on. You wanted to talk so let’s talk.” Between each question she paused, waiting for him to respond.

“I told you I’d never do any of those things again.”

“You told me you’d never do this again either, which I DON’T EVEN CARE ABOUT. Yet, you had the nerve to lie to me about it. Oh, I’m sorry.” She waved her hands in the air. “You weren’t lying; you were just hiding it from me. So let me rephrase. Tom, what else are you hiding from me?”

“Nothing!”

“That’s it? That’s all you have to say to me. I rail on you, and your only response is ‘nothing’? I’m glad we’re talking; glad we’re working this out.”

“I’m sorry.”

“Oh, I know just how sorry you are. You’re sorry you got caught; that’s what it boils down to. I know there’s more going on in that head of yours, but you continue to feel the need to leave me out. I never know what you’re feeling. You keep everything hidden and I can’t take it anymore.” She walked around the corner and came back pulling her suitcase. “I’m leaving until you can grow up. I’ve seen you with our kids. You’re a great father. There’s nothing you wouldn’t do for them. You love them so much and I see it every day. I can never take that away from you. I don’t think I’ve ever seen you lie to them. I hate that I have to worry about it. But I do, every day. Do you know what that does to a person?”

He wanted to respond, but she didn’t give him a chance.

“You don’t. Because you don’t ever worry about that. I love you so much—you were there for me when I thought no one could be. You were my rock, and I thank you every day for it. But as a husband, you’re an asshole.” Tears ran from her eyes down her cheek. “My only wish is that you loved me as much as you love them.”

“But I do love you, with all my heart. You’re all that’s important in my life.”

“No.” She shook her head. “You don’t. If you did, you’d stop doing this to me. Deep down, I still love you—which is something I hate myself for—but right now, I despise you.”

She turned and walked away. Tom wanted to go after her, but something told him to stop. He heard the car start up and he walked to the garage where he watched her pull out of the driveway. When the lights disappeared up the street, he turned and punched his toolbox. He knew he’d feel it in the morning, but right now he didn’t care.

He walked back into the house, shaking his fist. It was dark… dark and silent. There was none of his wife’s normal laughter. There was none of his childrens’ laughter. He didn’t care for it.

His home was built on a tumultuous relationship. She was emotional. He was not. They were the yin and yang needed to live a balanced relationship. It was okay if she had a history. He didn’t and was always there to pick up the pieces. But a relationship doesn’t work when both sides don’t communicate. Did Tom not have issues of his own|? Of course, he did. The problem was, he never let her pick up the pieces. He was so closed off and emotionally detached, he never let her in. He never let her be there for him. She resented him for it.

Something she’d said struck a chord with him and he had to think about it for a moment. He never did lie to his kids. Why was that? Because they’re innocent in all this and I have to raise them better. To be better than me. But is that more important than being honest with his wife? The one person he loves more than anything else on this planet? She deserved better, and he knew this. So why does he keep lying? Where did all of this start? He shook his head to clear it. There was one thing he needed right now.

He walked to the kitchen and reached into the cabinet where they stored the liquor. Their drink of choice had always been whiskey. He had a bottle—a bottle he should’ve never purchased since they had no money, and this particular bottle cost eighty dollars—hidden deep in the cabinet. Behind all their cheap vodka and gin was the Holy Grail. A bottle of eighteen-year-old Glen Garioch scotch. Hard to find—and in recent years very expensive—he’d bought it on a whim. She’d never know. At least, that’s what he thought at the time. He worked hard and deserved to spoil himself from time to time. She never felt this way, and he felt a little resentful just thinking about it. But of course, he’d never tell her.

Standing in the kitchen—only two lights lit in the entire house—he pulled off the lid and took a long sniff of the cork. The oak and spices apparent with even the smallest of breaths, it called to him. He tossed the cork aside and took a long drink from the bottle. He was all alone; what did he care?

No! He had let her down. For over 15 years he’d let her down. He should’ve let her in sooner, but it never seemed pertinent in the moment. As long as she was happy, he was happy. That was his mantra. It was what he lived by. Everyone jokes about happy wife, happy life. But isn’t there some truth in that statement? He walked a fine line every day, trying to make sure he kept that balance. And what did it get him?

He took another drink from the bottle, almost forgetting how expensive it was, and forgetting all about the rich flavors. What have I done? She was gone. She’d taken his children. She was upset—at her breaking point—and unwilling to work through the situation. Could he blame her? No… he couldn’t. Another drink. He put the bottle down and gazed about the room. If he couldn’t have his family, maybe life wasn’t worth living. He decided, maybe it wasn’t. He left the kitchen and made his way upstairs. Each step on the twenty-year-old stairs creaked beneath his feet. A constant reminder of “what are you doing?” And, “are you sure you want to do this?” He shrugged them off.

Buried deep in their closet was a safe. It was dusty and hadn’t been opened in awhile. He typed in the code and looked upon their most valuable possessions. He pulled out their passports and couldn’t help but open them up. The smiles haunted him. They were so happy once, before all of this happened. He couldn’t look at them and tossed them aside. Then he came upon his marriage license. What a special day. A pang filled his heart. It was literally the happiest day of his life. Watching her walk down the aisle. Why did you fuck it all up, then? He didn’t know and pushed the license gently to the side.

Under a stack of important papers, he found what he’d been searching for. The Heckler and Koch VP9. It was small and compact. It would do the job and he’d feel little remorse. Except he already did. He picked up the weapon—the metal smooth against his skin, like it belonged—and walked to their bed. They’d called this home for so long. He remembered when they brought Adam home. Such a small precious child. But he’d really grown into himself. Tom only wished he was as smart as Adam when he’d been in middle school himself. In a flashing moment, he saw Heather. She was daddy’s little girl. A smile crossed his face and his eyes fell to the gun he held folded in his lap. Could he orphan them? Could he leave them without a father?

He stared at the gun, and for the first time all night realized, he wasn’t thinking about her. What am I doing? Gun still in hand, he walked downstairs. He grabbed the bottle of whiskey and plopped himself on the couch. He took a long drink.

He grabbed his cellphone and dialed her number. Two rings and straight to voicemail. “Jessica, we have to finish this conversation. I know you sent me to voicemail; it only rang twice, unless you’re talking to someone else at one in the morning. Please call me back.”

He tossed the cellphone on the coffee table and picked up the glass. From the corner of his eye, the gun taunted him. How can I fix this? I can’t unless she calls me back. We have to finish this conversation. But he wondered if it would really help. He had to fix himself before they could fix their relationship.

Still holding the glass, he took another drink. When did he start lying? He’d never had a great memory but tried to recollect where it all began. His earliest memories were all good. Eating in a restaurant with his family. They were always engaged, always asking questions about his day. They were young, but that didn’t matter. They always made things work. Every year they went someplace new on vacation; even if it was a hotel room a six-hour drive away, it still felt special. There was always a closeness. Something wasn’t adding up. Frustrated, he found the unopened can of Skoal and put a pinch behind his lower lip. His thoughts cleared as the nicotine tingled through his bloodstream. He sat back down on the couch and dug deeper through his memory.

The most foreboding moment was when his mother showed up while he was working at a fast food restaurant in high school. She walked through the door casually and ordered a coffee. As he gave it to her, she asked him to join her.

He clocked out for his break and walked toward the seating area. The lighting was dark—not as bright as before—as though he were entering a damp cave and a creature waited, ready to pounce. His heart pounded in his chest, about to burst through his ribs. Each step grew more difficult as if he were walking in quicksand. He reached the booth and sat across from her. It was rough and cold beneath his skin. Her eyes locked on his and he could see her disappointment. Her anger bored deep into his soul.

His throat constricted; he couldn’t breathe. Sweat trickled down his forehead. The walls closed in around him, and the booth grew smaller. He scratched his head and started bouncing his leg. Instead of saying anything, she only stared. He looked around for an escape. He wanted to get out of here. He had to get out of here. But he couldn’t. There was no doubt; she’d wait all night if she had to.

After an eternity, she spoke.

“I got a call from Mr. Dryden at school today. Is there anything you’d like to tell me?”

Tommy crossed his arms in defiance. “No.”

“When are you going to grow up? In just two months you’re going to graduate from high school, God willing. You can’t be doing crap like this.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

She rolled her eyes and looked out the window into the parking lot. After a moment, her gaze returned. “Cut the crap. I know you missed third period today.”

“No, I didn’t. I went to the bathroom and was just late getting to class.”

“Tommy, cut it out. Mr. Dryden said he walked to your classroom near the end of the period and you weren’t there.”

Tommy, who’d been doing his best to ignore his mother’s penetrating eyes, turned and looked deep into them.

“How do you know? Were you there? That old man keeps a bottle of vodka in his bottom desk drawer and I know I’ve smelled it on his breath before.”

She sighed. “Kind of like how I can smell the stench of cigarette smoke wafting off of you right now?”

Tommy reverted to old habits and looked away.

“Your father and I only want what’s best for you. We’re not even pressuring you to go to college. Why can’t you see that?”

He didn’t respond.

“In two months you’ll be done. Until then, you have to abide by our rules. You need to graduate high school.”

Tommy harrumphed.

“I spoke with your father, and until you do finish school, we’re taking your car away except for driving to work. And that’s only because we don’t have the time to drive you back and forth five days a week.”

Anger filled his eyes as he turned his head and faced his mother. Spittle flew from his lips.

“You can’t do that. I paid for that car. What gives you the right to take it away?”

Again, her gaze shifted to the window. “All you do is lie. You never tell us the truth. You may have paid for that car, but you’re still living under our roof. And you’re not eighteen yet. So until that time comes, you will listen to what we have to say.” She brought her eyes back to his. “Do I make myself clear?’

He glanced at his watch. His ten-minute break was over two minutes ago. He couldn’t do this any longer.

“Fine!”

“I mean it. And if we get another call from the school we’ll get more drastic. We’re both fed up.”

“Whatever,” he said and stood.

“Now get back to work before you lose the only good thing you have going for you in your life.”

He spun around and stalked back to the counter so he could finish his shift. He never saw her leave, but as soon as he was sure she was gone, he said, “Bitch.”

He shook his head to clear it. This wasn’t where everything went downhill. Far from it. He remembered the pain in his mother’s eyes. He remembered how she looked. How she couldn’t believe they’d gotten to the point they were at. Looking back at it now, he knew she was right, especially now that he was a parent himself. There was nothing they wouldn’t do for him. They only wanted the best, and for him to be happy. But he always resisted. Just like when he smoked in high school. They always knew. He thought he was so slick. He carried a bottle of mouthwash in his car and always had a fresh stockpile of gum. He hadn’t smoked in years, but when anyone stepped outside to smoke around him now, they stunk for an hour. Who did he think he was fooling?

He sipped a little more from the bottle of scotch, now that his glass was empty. Damn, this really is good. He had to go deeper if he wanted to get to the root of the problem. He conjured an image from when he was twelve. His friends had wanted to ride bikes to the nearest convenience store to buy candy. He wanted to go too. But he didn’t get an allowance. His parents didn’t believe in paying their children. They had chores and responsibilities around the house, but he had to ask for money. He’d gone to the pool the night before and his parents had given him money. They also drove him and his friends both ways. They were always doing that; they were very accommodating. So when they said no, he couldn’t understand why. He asked his dad, who of course said no since he’d gone to the pool the night before. He took matters into his own hands. He had two siblings: a younger sister and brother. He was the oldest, his sister next. They were all born three years apart. His sister was a bit of a hoarder. Anytime she got money, she stashed it in her room. After his dad said no, he snuck into his sister’s room. He raided her usual spots but only came away with a little more than a dollar. He didn’t have time to search her room any further and resorted to his backup plan.

His dad kept a sock filled with change in his drawer. He’d never taken money from his dad before, and something inside told him to stop this before it got out of hand. But he really wanted to get some candy. He stepped into the hall. To the left was the family room and a clear conscience. To the right was his parents’ room. After a moment of thought, the need for candy won out and he raided his dad’s change sock. He didn’t take much—just a couple dollars—before sneaking out of the room and lying to his dad that he was going to play with a different friend.

That night, his sister accused him of stealing from her and told his parents. It was such a low amount and she didn’t have any proof, so his parents let him off with a warning about theft. He didn’t listen and continued taking from his sister and dad until his dad finally noticed. When confronted, he lied about it. It didn’t matter, they still grounded him, but only for a week.

Tom looked at the clock. It was after one. He did have the conference call in the morning and should be getting in bed. But something in him stirred. He needed a resolution or he didn’t think he’d sleep at all. He tried calling Jessica again, twice. When she didn’t answer, he resorted to texts. He sent several. For five minutes, he stared at the phone, but she never responded. The bottle of whiskey he longed for sat on the table, but he decided to take a break. He drifted back into his memories. Everything so far had been long after he started lying. Then it hit him. He remembered fourth grade. Before that year, he’d always been a good student. But in fourth grade, he ran into Hitler. She was an aged teacher who he thought wanted nothing more than her retirement. She didn’t engage with him like he thought she should and so he gave up. He felt she labeled him a troublemaker. She gave out happy and sad grams every Friday. The time he got his first sad gram, was the day that changed his life.

She walked down the aisle and handed out a yellow letter to each kid. They all knew the drill because they got them every Friday. They were happy grams, her version of a weekly progress report, letting parents know how their kids were doing in class. At Tommy’s desk, she handed him a blue paper. What does blue mean? I’ve never seen one before.

Mrs. Larkin leaned close and whispered, “This is a sad gram. You didn’t turn in two assignments this week and I need you to have your parents sign this over the weekend, just like they would a happy gram.”

Tommy glared at the paper. He knew he hadn’t turned in a couple of assignments, but he fully intended to make them up. Now he had to tell his parents? It was his worst nightmare come true.

The bell rang and while the students packed up their bags and prepared for the weekend, Tommy couldn’t get the sad gram out of his mind. He didn’t even bother putting it in his backpack. Instead, he stared at it. He kept staring his entire walk to the bus, and selecting a seat in the back, he couldn’t tear his eyes away from it. Kids screamed, papers were crumpled and thrown. He tuned it all out. How am I going to explain this to my parents? I’m supposed to be playing the new Zelda all weekend.

The bus pulled into their neighborhood and dread filled his veins. He folded the sad gram in half and stuffed it into his backpack. There was a time and a place for unpleasantness and he decided he’d save this for later. Except, once he got into his room, ready to enjoy the weekend, he couldn’t stop thinking about it.

Maybe I don’t have to tell them. I can just forge my mom’s signature and everything will be OK.

He rifled through the trash and found several of his mom’s discarded receipts while his dad typed away at his computer, immune to what the children were doing in the house. They were all busy playing with Legos or dolls, but he wouldn’t know that. Satisfied Tommy had what he needed, he took a quick glance over his shoulder to make sure his dad wasn’t watching and scurried down to his room in the basement.

At first, he practiced tracing his mom’s signature. He did it time and time again until he covered several sheets of paper. Looking at his progress, he was quite pleased but decided to fill up just one more sheet. His dad had other ideas and called him upstairs. After a quick dinner, he started again. He made it about three-quarters of the way down the blank piece of paper before sleep won out and his head fell on his arms on his desk.

In the morning, he startled himself awake. Bleary-eyed, he looked around the room and realized he’d spent the whole night at his desk. His younger brother snored in the bed opposite him. He had no idea what time it was, but his stomach screamed at him for food. While stuffing his face, he noticed the snowflakes falling outside his patio door. He remembered his plans for his video game. With just a bit more practice, he was confident he could sign the sad gram and get down to the fun he had planned.

His mom walked in and asked him about school. He’d never lied like this to her before. He told her everything was great, but he had an assignment to finish before he could play his video games. She didn’t respond; she just smiled. He could see how proud she was and he couldn’t take it, quickly averting his eyes.

Sunday evening, his arm hurt. He never could quite replicate the ungraceful scrawl of his mother. So he had stayed at it… all weekend. As bedtime approached, he knew his time was coming to an end. His brother was busy snoring in his own bed across the room. He tried one last time on a blank piece of paper. It was close enough. At any moment, one of his parents would crack open his door and tell him it was lights out. He put the pen to the sad gram and hesitated for a second. Footsteps echoed in the hallway, forcing him to action. He scrawled his mother’s name. Staring at it for a moment, he was quite pleased with himself. But he couldn’t waste any time. He folded the paper in half and stuffed it into his backpack before throwing on his pajamas and rushing to the door. His dad peeked inside.

“Light’s out Sport. You have school tomorrow.”

“I know, Dad. I was just about to brush my teeth.”

He smiled. “That a boy. Be quiet so you don’t wake your brother.”

“I won’t.”

His dad ruffled his hair, and Tommy disappeared down the hall.

A couple of weeks later, his mother was going through his backpack. The thing about the happy and sad grams was it wasn’t a new one each week. There were enough signature lines to cover an entire semester. So when she found the blue sad gram in his backpack, she pulled it out and started looking at it closer. He’d gotten a sad gram four weeks in a row. She stared long and hard at the signature line. Tears filled her eyes and she disappeared into her bedroom. Later that evening, his parents called him up for a conversation. They were angry. His mother admitted, she couldn’t remember signing it, but it looked like her signature. He couldn’t think of a way out, so he had to confess his sins. They made him talk to his teacher—which didn’t help his relationship with her—and he had to serve a suspension. One would think he’d straighten up and walk the straight and narrow after that, but Tommy couldn’t help but think he almost got away with it. He did for well over a month. With a little effort, he could perfect his style and maybe not be in trouble at all. It was so easy.

Tom jumped to his feet. This was it. He’d been searching for the problem for the past twenty-five years. The bottle of scotch called to him and he took a drink. It burned down his throat and he coughed, before spitting the Skoal out of his mouth. He’d finally found the moment, the instance where lying became his norm. He had to call his wife. No answer, so he tried texting. He sat down while awaiting her response. Seconds turned into minutes, minutes turned into half hours. The wait was excruciating. He kept texting because he had to talk to her, tell her his breakthrough.

The minutes continued ticking by. Five turned into ten, then twenty. He couldn’t stand it any longer and jumped to his feet and paced the family room. The room wasn’t large, so after a few steps, he turned and headed back in the other direction. With each pass of the coffee table, the gun cried out to him like a baby crying for its mother. He ignored it: looked away, tried his best to distance himself from the table. Maybe if I don’t see it, don’t make eye contact, it’ll leave me alone. But it didn’t. Like a lighthouse guiding a ship, it was a lantern signaling, piercing his eyes to let it in.

His phone rang. This was the moment he’d been waiting for. “Hello.”

“Stop calling me. I’ve said my piece and I have to get up early in the morning.”

He froze. He had so much he wanted to say. There was so much to be said, but he couldn’t find the words. Her agitation was evident over the phone and he had to say something. “I’m sorry.”

There was a long pause. The courage built inside him. When he opened his mouth to speak, her voice filled the emptiness.

“You don’t get it. Maybe you’re not listening to me. Maybe that’s been the problem all along. You only hear what you want to hear. My pleading has always fallen on deaf ears and I don’t think there’s any changing you. You are who you are. I love you for most of your qualities, but I don’t know if I can ever get over this. How can I trust you?”

“I suppose you can’t, but I’ll do everything in my power to prove that you can,” he said.

“I don’t believe you.”

“You have to. I’ve made a breakthrough…”

She cut him off. “I don’t have to do a damn thing. We can’t do this anymore. It’s late and I need to try and get some sleep. I didn’t even want to talk to you anymore, but I saw your texts and missed calls. I hoped you’d had some profound revelation, but it’s apparent you haven’t.”

“Please, you have to listen to me. Baby, I love you.”

“No… no, you don’t. If you did we wouldn’t be where we are.”

“You don’t understand. I know what I’ve been doing. I figured out when all of the lying started and I think I can finally get help to fix it.”

“You had your chance. I’ve given you so many opportunities. You ignored my pleas and here we are.” He heard her sigh through the phone. “Maybe your next wife can help you with that. Maybe you can connect with her.”

Tears flooded his eyes. “Let me explain. I want to work this out and I don’t want another wife.” The phone clicked as she hung up. “Baby!” She was gone. Damn! She didn’t give me a chance to explain? He couldn’t blame her. He’d been lying ever since he was a child. It’s all he knew how to do. It had to stop, tonight. She was more important than this and didn’t deserve what he was doing. He put his phone in his pocket, before grabbing the bottle of whiskey—or what remained of it—in one hand, and the gun in the other. His life was in his own hands and he knew what he needed to do. He stared at the two items, got up, turned off the light, and made his way to their bedroom. He put the gun back in the safe—where it belonged—before collapsing in the leather chair nested in the corner of their room.

I have to stop lying. It was the first time he’d ever admitted it to himself, but it was the truth. He realized now, he always lied because it was the easier path, but in the end, he always got caught… and it was always worse. He’d go to her tomorrow. One of his coworkers could handle the conference call. He had to talk to her first thing in the morning. It wouldn’t be easy, but he had to take the first step. He had to convince her to stay. He loved her too much to let it end like this.

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Short Story

Writing a Short Story for my Fiction Writing Class. Here is the first part.

Sitting on the couch, Tom’s fingers were laced through his hair. His limbs shook and he couldn’t find any control. He leaned forward, putting his head between his legs, drawing deep breaths between sobs. On the coffee table before him was a bottle of whiskey, a tumbler filled with much more than two fingers, several empty cans of Skoal, a crumpled paper, and the gun. Oh yes, the gun, staring at him as if mocking, calling out to him to use it. He’d bought it a year earlier and only used it once at a range. He lifted his head and stared at the Heckler and Koch VP9. He wanted to cast it aside, maybe even toss it out a window or something, but then what purpose would it serve?

Sweat and tears dripped down his face, over his red and puffy eyes. How could she do this to me? He picked up the paper and read through the note, scrawled with the angry words of a scorned wife. This was the tenth time he’d read the letter, hoping each time, somehow the message had changed. But it wasn’t to be.

He took the glass, tilted back his head, and drained it in a quick gulp. The whiskey burned all the way down his throat, but he didn’t care. The pain was punishment for his actions and he deserved it. Maybe it’d burn a hole in his stomach. At least he wouldn’t use the gun. Who am I kidding? I’m a coward. His wife had given him every opportunity to be brave; far more than he deserved, but he couldn’t ever do it.

At least the whiskey allowed him to forget, if only for a few moments, maybe even an evening. Then he could deal with all of this tomorrow. He grabbed the bottle in his trembling hand and started filling the glass. Why bother? He brought the bottle to his lips. The burning dissipated in an instant—more than likely it was numb—allowing him to drink a good fifth of the handle.

His hand still shaking, he jumped to his feet and paced the family room. This was the home he shared with his wife and two kids for the past nine years. Their images flashed in his mind. Beautiful Brenda, the woman he’d loved for well over sixteen years. Their two kids, Jordan and Becky. They were too young, too innocent, and wouldn’t understand what was happening. His heart cried out to Brenda, but of course, she wouldn’t answer. It didn’t matter. This was all his fault. He had to fix it. That’s what he did best, wasn’t it? He fixed bad situations. Could he do it again?

The room wasn’t large, so after a few steps, he turned and headed back in the other direction. With each pass of the coffee table, the gun cried out to him like a baby crying for its mother. He ignored it; looked away, tried his best to distance himself from the table. Maybe if I don’t see it, don’t make eye contact, it’ll leave me alone. But it didn’t. Like a lighthouse guiding a ship, it was a beacon calling to him, clawing at his mind to let it in.

Writing Update

It has been a while since I posted, and I figured it would be a good idea to post an update. I initially planned to take a week or two off during the Holidays to unwind and enjoy my family (immediate and extended). We got a bit of a surprise when a couple days after Christmas, my wife’s grandma passed away unexpectedly. I took some extra time to support my wife and her family during this difficult time, and haven’t written as much as I expected lately. Only complicating matters, as am I writing this I’m expecting a message any time now that my grandfather has passed away. He has somehow survived for four days without his feeding tube and IV, but it’s only a matter of time (he always was stubborn). He has accepted it and is at peace with it, but that doesn’t make it any easier for the rest of us though. Needless to say, it has been a crappy end of 2015/start of 2016 so far. I don’t expect to do much writing in the next week, but you never know.

It hasn’t been all bad, though. I released Book 1 in The Keepers of the Orbs series, The Rising Past on December 1st, and I broke all of my previous records for single day downloads during a free giveaway. Let’s hope it leads to some additional sales. I’m currently waiting on four reviewers to give me their feedback (in process), but the first few I have received have all been positive. The most recent came in today and can be found HERE.

I am currently about 40-50% through writing the next book in the series and I expect to have it available on Amazon by the end of 2016, with a plan for the final book near the end of 2017 or early 2018.

My editor is currently done with 50% of her final review of another fantasy novel that is unrelated to my series. The title I’m working with is Elves of a Sugar Maple. I am excited by this story. It was originally an idea from my wife about a species of tiny beings who call a giant tree in our backyard home. I took the idea and ran with it. I incorporated many of the issues our society is currently facing (race, religion, sexual orientation, etc) and I’m quite satisfied with how it all came out. I should have it available mid-spring.

I’m also writing a serialized novel for Channillo.com. It is a Sci-Fi story and is an idea I have had for several years now. I’m releasing a chapter a week on Channillo. Currently there are 9 chapters available to read. I plan on making the full novel available on Amazon this summer. If you have a subscription through Channillo, you can access the story HERE.

That is all for now. I continue to squeeze in as much writing as I can as often as is possible.

You can get a copy of The Rising Past for Kindle HERE

The Rising Past Cover

Or  see how it all began by picking up a copy of the Prequel, The Unknown Man HEREAmazon Prequel Cover

Remember, do an author a favor by leaving a review 🙂

 

An Update

Things have been busy for me. During the day, I work as a Subject Matter Expert and support a sales staff around the globe. We are all focused on the upcoming Q1 (starts Dec 1) as our CEO believes if you have a successful start of the year, the rest will fall in line. Considering Oil companies account for a large portion of our business, the upcoming year is looking sketchy at best. So, I’m working extra hours to help in any way that I can (basically doing a whole bunch or research as to how we can grow accounts).

I know, you’re wondering how this is important to my writing. Well, the extra hours have limited the amount of time I have to write. Of course the wife is back teaching after the summer off, and my oldest is busy with his final year of elementary school, which is also cutting into my writing time.

I started querying THE RISING PAST, Book 1 in the Keepers of the Orbs series about ten days ago. As I am sure some of you are aware, this in itself is time consuming. I have a list of about 110 different agents I am querying (have only sent out a portion of those so far as I am trying to space them out). From my first wave, I have only received 3 “not interested” so far, so I’m keeping my fingers crossed.

Tonight I finished my second read through/edit/cut/update of THE ELVES OF A SUGAR MAPLE. This is not part of the Keepers of the Orbs series and is actually based on a tree in my backyard. It is one of the features of our house that sold my wife on the purchase twelve years ago. I’m very excited about this story. I love the way it came together and I feel like my writing is really starting to come into its own. I am now giving it to my wife to edit, but unfortunately she still has about 25% left to edit on a paying job, so it has to take a back seat for a couple more weeks. But I know she is just as excited as I am for to get her hands on it. The idea after all, was hers. In the time we have lived here, we have had many conversations and musings as to what creatures may live on this tree. She had initiated the idea that it was a race of Fairies and we talked about it at great length. I felt the whole Fairy thing has been overdone, so I changed them to Tree Elves, and I then let the keyboard guide me as I discovered this little story. It’s 70k words, so it’s shorter than my other books, but I feel like it is a wonderful little story and I have high hopes for it. So stay tuned for further information.

That means, tomorrow I am returning to the next book in the Keepers series. I started on it back in March, but had to put it down as I was unsure of a couple of things in THE RISING PAST that I wanted to have nailed down before I continued. With those loose ends tied up, I am exited to dive back into Raythum’s world. I’m very excited with the direction of the story and can’t wait to see how it all comes together.

In the meantime, feel free to grab a copy of THE UNKNOWN MAN, the prequel to The Keepers of the Orbs series by Clicking Here That’s all for now.

Amazon Prequel Cover

TIme to move on

So, I finally realized it was time to move on. Those who have been around for a while, know I self-published my first book, The Unknown Man. I had no idea what ramifications would come from this small action. The Unknown Man was the first book in what I planned on being a 4 book Fantasy series. It has always been my goal to pursue traditional publishers, but too many agents will not accept work that has been previously self-published. So, I did a bunch of research and found a dozen or so who represent fantasy that are also interested in self-published works. I queried them all and after three months it is time to start plan b. I just don’t think I had the sales they were looking for to be considered. Two different editors said my query letter was solid, so at least that is what I would like to believe anyway 🙂

Don’t misconstrue any of my words above. I completely understand where the agents are coming from. I get it. In my haste to get my work out there, I put a roadblock in my own path. Then again, I still think it was the best thing I ever did. I don’t think I would have made the strides I have made with my writing had I not put The Unknown Man out there. And as another point, I now know the book was nowhere near ready for the market. I was naïve and truly had no idea what I was doing. These things I would never have learned had it not been for self-publishing. It is a tough business, but it is truly the thing I love most (next to my wife and my kids of course). I only hope that one day I can make it my career 🙂

Anyway, on to plan b. When writing The Rising Past (what was supposed to be book 2) I had a feeling I had painted myself into a corner. So I wrote it with the idea that one day it may have to be book 1, and that is exactly what is happening. I am re-branding The Unknown Man as a prequel to the Keepers of the Orbs Series. It is being published on Amazon as we speak and I have decided to give the KDP Select program another chance, which means it will be exclusive to Amazon again (had it in the program for about a year previously, before putting it out for all formats).

Unknown Man Prequel COver- High Resolution

Above is the re-branded cover (I like it a lot better than the original). I completed The Rising Past (will now be the start of the series) in December, and it is 65% through the final edit. My hope is my editor will have it complete by the end of the month at which time I will begin querying it. So far the story has gone over really well with about 20 beta readers, so I am very excited, and hope this can set me up well with potential agents/publishers.

To give an update of what I have been working on. I edited The Rising Past for January, then spent several months refining The Unknown Man so I could query it (as mentioned above). I started writing the next book in the series, but hit a roadblock (needed to make a couple of final determinations on The Rising Past before I go any further). So I put that down in the middle of May and have been working on another piece ever since. I hope to have that story wrapped up and to the editor by the beginning of August, at which point I will start concentrating in the series again.

I know things may be moving slowly (The Unknown Man was originally completed in 2012) but as I indicated, I had no idea what I was doing and basically spent two years refining it. I also work full time, was going to school full time, and have a wife and two young boys, so it doesn’t leave a lot of time. However, I am carving about 3 hours a night out for writing after the rest of my family goes to bed. The Rising Past took 10 months (120k words), my current WIP will be written in 2 1/2 months (70k words), and I hope to have the next book in the series written by the end of the year (January at the latest, 100-120k words). So I really feel like I’m hitting my stride.

Anyway, that was a long update, but I wanted to let everyone know how I was re-branding and my plans for the future of the Keepers of the Orbs.

Keep writing and keep reading 🙂

Get a copy of The Unknown Man

And feel free to check out my Website

 

My Ideas

I know I don’t have much of a following, yet, but I still get asked where I get the ideas for my stories.

I’ll start with my current side project. My wife has been asking me for a couple of years to write a story about a Silver Maple tree we have in our backyard. I know that is vague, but that is how it all started. I kept telling her I would start on something when I had the time. I finally started making time for it, and I squeeze it in when I am bored or stuck on book 3 in the Keepers of the Orbs Series.

While she gave me a topic, the actual story came to me the same way the Keepers series and my short story Redemption (as well as several others that I have yet to create) came to me. You see, when I was younger (8 or 9 years old) I can remember several instances where I couldn’t sleep. My big problem was that my mind would be stuck on another topic and I couldn’t shut it off. I taught myself to tell stories in my head; something to distract me and shift my brain to another topic. I noticed I easily drifted off to sleep. One such time I can recall, I threw all of my blankets and pillows on top of myself, and pretended I was in a cave that collapsed. I had to try and survive, as well as find my way out. I know it sounds silly, but this trained me and any time I had an issue, I used this tactic to easily fall asleep.

I know most people can relate in that as we grow older, trouble finding sleep only grows, especially when you are faced with extra stress or worries. On many sleepless nights over the past ten years, I found a particular story kept coming to me. When I was laid off and finally got up the courage to do something, this one became the basis for The Unknown Man, which quickly grew into a series.

Since I have been writing for the past 4 years, I have adopted a new routine. I write until about 11:30 at night, get into bed and read until midnight (or later depending on how drawn in I am to the book) and then I start telling myself stories regardless of whether or not I can sleep. If I am working on the series, my mind is focused on that and I continue writing it in my head (usually only for about 3 or 4 minutes) until I fall asleep. It isn’t a lot, but it gives me a good point to work with the following night when I actually sit down to write. If I am taking a break from the series, I let my mind wander, and I just create whatever I am feeling on that particular night. Maybe something happened during the day, who knows, but it comes pretty easily. The ideas I like, I write down so I can revisit at another time (when I have nothing else going on).

So there it is. My ideas come to me as a tool I created long ago to fight insomnia.