Save the Date!

Save the Date! Excerpt 2 – Lengua

(For my birthday I want ALL the website hits so here’s a bonus excerpt from Save the Date!, one of the new projects I’m working on right now. Tell your friends! -Erik)

Excerpt 1 – En Medias Humerus

2. Lengua

We’ll leave Nate for the moment, unconscious on the kitchen floor in the Hotel California and flashback to his initial entrance into this tale of intrigue, hijinks, state-sanctioned proclamations of love and prescription-footwear-clad fork-stabbers. It all started with a phone call or, more precisely, seventeen phone calls.

Our hero was asleep in the finished bedroom of his mother’s basement where he had lived “temporarily” for nearly three years since failing to engage in his college studies when the sixteenth call came and went unnoticed. It was past one o’clock in the afternoon and Nate’s roaring jackhammer snores filled the Pasadena house, disturbing and causing great concern to Frisky, the family’s venerable curmudgeonly Persian cat. Minutes before our hero’s waking to enter our story, Frisky made his way to Nate’s right shoe where he left a carefully placed coil of shit inside. Not content with his fecal revenge, Frisky traversed Nate’s splayed body and sat directly on his face.

Nate woke, unable to breathe, with a mouthful of cat. He sat bolt upright in the futon, shaking Frisky loose. He coughed and gasped for breath. Frisky skittered away into an obstacle course of Nate’s discarded dirty clothes. Nate spat used cat litter from his lips.

“Cat!” Nate shouted and Frisky purred. “Come here, kitty, kitty,” Nate cooed to the Persian. Frisky peed on a garish orange and purple Hawaiian shirt. “Cat!” Nate shouted again and shook his fist.

That’s when the seventeenth call came and Nate heard his favorite instrumental piece from Executive Order Omega coming from somewhere buried in the bed.  He hesitated to answer the phone, keeping his eyes on his feline nemesis as Frisky dug his claws into the Hawaiian shirt. He was smiling, Nate was sure of it though he didn’t know what a cat smile looked like. “This isn’t over,” he told Frisky and fished through his bedding for the phone. He finally found it stuffed under his pillow where he’d been somnabulantly ignoring calls for over three hours. The caller ID showed it was his brother calling.

“Jazzy Jason,” Nate answered. “What’s the rumpus?”

“Jesus fucked up Christ, Nate,” Jason replied with exasperation. “I’ve been calling you all day.”

“That sounds like a Jason problem more than a Nate problem,” Nate told him.

Jason audibly sighed. “Look, I need to talk to you and I want to make sure you’re paying attention.”

Nate slid into his computer chair and put on his headset. He launched Executive Order Omega. “I’ve got a full day here, JJ. Not sure I can fit you in.”

“I’ll buy you lunch,” Jason offered.

“Joke’s on you, bro. I haven’t even eaten breakfast yet. I’m not even wearing pants.” He looked down at his legs. He had guessed correctly.

Jason sighed again. “Breakfast then. I’ll buy you breakfast.”

Nate’s mouse hovered over the icon to log into the EOO server. He hesitated. “Anywhere I want? None of your bullshit Jason vetoes?”

“Yes, anywhere you want.”

“And you’re definitely buying? Drink too? You’re not gonna cheap out on the drink?”

Jason cursed away from the phone. Nate could make out at least three four-letter words and a bunch of other words that weren’t as interesting. “Drinks, appetizers, dessert, whatever you want, Nate,” Jason told him. “Just pick a place. Can we make it fast?”

“You can’t rush digestion, Jason,” Nate chided him. “The tummy is a delicate ecosystem.”

“Where, Nate?” Jason asked impatiently.

Nate tried to think of the most expensively obnoxious restaurant he could think of, something French or possibly one of those places where they make steak-flavored foam. Then he decided he wanted a burrito. “Burrito Betty’s,” he said.

“Burrito… wow. Okay. Meet there in 10 minutes?”

Nate snapped his fingers. “I can make that happen, JJ.”

Nate hung up the phone and hopped to his feet. He dug out of a pair of pants from the floor and gave it a quick sniff. Cat-pee free. “This round’s mine, Frisky,” he said and stepped into his shoes. He knew precisely what was happening when he felt Frisky’s sticky present.

“Balls,” he cursed and scanned for the four legged fur bastard. Frisky was nowhere to found. “Cat!” Nate bellowed and shook his fist to the heavens.

A shoe and sock change and a brisk walk later, Nate entered Burrito Betty’s and sat down at the table with his brother.

“It’s all about the lengua and eggs burrito, big brother,” our protagonist explained to Jason Singer. Jason Singer, a future business leader of America was taller and broader than his younger sibling. His hair was stylish but masculine, a respectable and enviable variation on blond. He had a strong handshake and was generally described as a straight shooter. He played golf sincerely and enjoyed skiing in Utah during the winter. From a distance, a discerning person could spot Jason Singer and immediately know that he was a go-getter, the kind of young responsible American that brought a tear to the eye of veterans of foreign wars, the kind of man fathers judged their daughter’s boyfriends against. If Nate had been a more sympathetic or even just a more observant brother he would have seen the exhaustion and stress in Jason’s weary eyes but all Nate saw was blah blah blah I’m Jason and I do responsible things like keep my clothes in drawers, pay rent and hate all that is happy and joyful.

“Are you wearing Mom’s shoes?” Jason asked Nate, looking down at the familiar deck shoes.

“No,” Nate lied. “Did you order already?”

“Are your feet really that small?”
Nate ignored the question. “You said drinks were included, right?”

“Get whatever you want, Nate.” Jason gave his brother a twenty dollar bill. It was a crisp bill straight from the ATM, folding neatly into his wallet.

“Wizard!” Nate said, happily. “I’ll be right back.”

Our hero was not unfamiliar with Burrito Betty and her burrito-y charms. Nate had, in fact, eaten more Burrito Betty burritos than anyone else ever. They had his picture up by the registers giving two thumbs up with a mouthful of burrito. Conversely, Jason Singer, the exhausted groom and desperate brother, had only been to Burrito Betty’s three times. They were all with Nate. He found that the food was too adventurous for his digestion and avoided eating it.

After high-fiving Nando, the pimply faced teen at the cash register, and placing his order, Nate returned with a big cup full of root beer and orange soda.

“Sup?” Nate asked his brother and crossed his legs, waiting intently.

“Do you know what last night was?”

“Tuesday.”

Jason stared at Nate for a moment and blinked his eyes slowly. “It was Thursday actually but that’s not what I was asking.”

“Huh,” Nate said and took a sip from his drink. “So, today’s Friday? Sweet.”

“Nate,” Jason said softly. “Focus.”

“Of course I know what last night was.” Nate said with a chuckled.

Jason was skeptical. “You do?”

EOO quarterly update. I was online at midnight waiting for it. There are some pretty big bugs in the Sarajevo map. It’s ridiculous they let things like that get past the beta testers.” He leaned forward seriously. “I reported that shit, JJ but they didn’t listen.”

Jason gave a nod that turned into one of Jason Singer’s patented disappointment head shakes. “It was my bachelor party, Nate.”

“Oh,” Nate said. He sort of remembered something about a bachelor party. “Did I get invited to that?”

“Yes. Four times. I texted you. And emailed. And called.”

Nate took another drink. “It’s been a busy week and I, uh, I’m sorry, man.” For the first time Nate noticed that Jason was his usual self. “You know I’m not really good with your friends. Conrad always calls me Gnat, like a bug, Jason. He calls me a bug. It’s hurtful.”

“That doesn’t matter, Nate. Listen to me.”

“Nate!” Nando called out from the cash register.

Nate jumped to his feet. “Hold that thought, Jason.”

Nate ran to get his burrito and put a splash more orange into his root before returning.

“Alright,” Nate said. “Undivided attention.” He unwrapped the foil around his burrito and took a bite. “Lengua, Jason.” He showed the burrito to his brother. “Lengua.” He wagged his tongue and moved the burrito around for emphasis.

“Can you put the burrito down for a second please?” Jason asked.

“It’s fucking amazing, Jason,” Nate told him. “I’m telling you, I used think I was purely a chorizo man but Betty has made me see the light.”

Nathan.” Jason said firmly.

“Burrito in down position.” Nate put the burrito down on the table.

“Conrad got sick last night.”

“Well, that’s what happens when you’re shooting drinks with your bro men,” Nate offered. “Was it jager? I bet Conrad does a lot of jager shots. That fucking guy.”

“It wasn’t jager. He got food poisoning.”

“Oh.” Nate said and gave into the irresistible pull of his burrito and went in for another bite.

“All of the guys got food poisoning actually.”

“Wait,” Nate said. He put the burrito down and stared at Jason, seeming for an instant to have understood what Jason was telling him. He hadn’t. “Who has a bachelor party on Thursday? That’s not a good party day. That’s your first problem right there.”

“Well, it could have been Tuesday I suppose,” Jason said flippantly.

“No, Jason,” Nate told him. “You’re not listening. You want to do that on a weekend, man. Even I know that.”

“Wow,” Jason said. “Look, Nate, the grooms party, they’re all sick. Phil and Gary are in the hospital right now. I don’t even know how Conrad isn’t dying at the moment. He’s living in the bathroom.”

“Hey,” Nate said. “I’m eating lengua here. Come on.”

“The bridal party too. Chrissy. She’s got a fever and I’m actually late to get back and take her to the doctor.” He looked down at this watch.

“What were you doing spending your bachelor party hanging out with the bachelorette and her lady girls? I thought bachelor parties were all about body shots and homoerotic moments with Conrad. Mistake-o numero two-o, JJ.”

“We had a dinner before. That doesn’t really matter.”

“Huh.” Burrito bite. “Lame.”

Jason sighed. “You’re not following me at all here, are you? You’re not beginning to sense where this is going?”

Nate stared blankly at his brother. “Nope. Wait.” Nate took another bite from his burrito. He chewed it deliberately, thoughtfully even. “Hey,” he said finally. “How come you’re not sick if everyone is sick? Are you going to throw up on my burrito?” Nate carefully covered his burrito in foil.

“No,” I’m going to… Crab mousse,” Jason said simply but it was enough. The same camping trip that left our protagonist a 9-toed freak, also led to Jason Singer’s first discovery of his shell fish allergy. After eating crabs the family caught during a planned excursion, Jason’s face exploded to three times its normal size and changed color and texture to something approximating a lava peach. Jason’s tongue hung out his pudgy swollen cheeks and Nate mercilessly called him Fat Ugly Lava Peach Face. He did it for hours until Jason’s temperate demeanor broke. It was Jason’s screaming and punching his younger brother that distracted their father and led to Nate’s dismemberment. Fitting karma perhaps.

“Sucks,” Nate commented and shrugged.

“You remember I’m getting married.”

“Of course I remember. Saturday night. I’m borrowing a tie from Dad. Should I have a date?”

“Tomorrow night,” Jason specified.

“Yeah, Jason. I was kidding about thinking it was Tuesday last night. Come on. I have the internet. Google calendar. I’m going to be there. What is it with you and Mom and Dad? You don’t think I can even remember to show up to my brother’s wedding wearing clothes and on time even?”

“Nate,” Jason said.

“Jason,” Nate said.

“I need a best man.”

Nate was not expecting that. “What?”

“I need you to be my best man,” Jason told him.

“Are you messing with me?”

“Conrad, Phil, Gary – they probably won’t even make it.”

“Why don’t you just delay the thing until your bro guys are all recovered and stuff?”

“Chrissy has been planning this for over two years, Nate,” Jason told him. “We had to book the venue twenty months in advance. There are three hundred people flying in from all over the world. Trust me, I suggested it but Chrissy, she wants to make this work.”

Nate ate his burrito and drank his orange root beer silently for a moment or two. If he had a response to what his brother had said, it didn’t show.

Jason reached out and took the burrito from Nate. He took a bite. “This is a fucking amazing burrito, little brother. Best thing ever.”

“Lengua is tongue,” Nate said.

Jason put the burrito back down in front of Nate and took a sip from the orange root beer. Jason gagged. He coughed up cow tongue and orange root beer awful into a napkin. “What’s wrong with you?”

Nate shrugged. “I’m told there are multiple things.”

“This is important, Nate. This is the most important thing ever and I need you come through for me just this once.” Jason looked so earnest. He looked so sincere. It looked like he could break out into a song or hug him or something.

Nate picked up the burrito and took a nonchalant bite. He finished it and chased it with orange root beer. “I got it. No problem, Jason. I’m your guy.”

Jason smiled. It’s possible he was proud. Our protagonist’s brother might just be that naive. “That’s great. That’s really great.”

Nate shrugged. “Seriously, how hard can it be? Stand up there looking like James Bond, rings in my pocket. I can stand. I stand all the time.”

Jason’s expression became serious again. “There are some things I need you to do.”

“I also do things. I do things at least every other day. I pretty much dominate at thing doing.”

Jason pulled out a piece of stationary from his pocket. The handwriting was precise, feminine, terrifying in its perfection. The bride. “Chrissy made a list.”

Nate nodded. “Of course she did.”

 

Advertisements

Save the Date! Excerpt 1 – En Medias Humerus

Notes: This is an early draft for the first chapter for a new/revived project I’m working on. It’s fast-paced, comic and a lot of fun to write. I’ll post more about this project and how you can read more soon. Lots of exciting things ahead! – Erik

1. En Medias Humerus

Our hero, Nathan Singer, Nate to his friends, Commander November Sierra to his Executive Order Omega squadmates, kid brother of the groom, replacement best man and king of all slackers, burst into the industrial kitchen of the Hotel California wearing neon green roller skates, the top half of a tuxedo, powder blue boxer shorts and an eye patch. He had a dull fork stabbed half an inch deep in his left shoulder and a pair of gold custom engraved wedding bands clutched in his hand. He flailed urgently and screamed in Spanglish immediately gaining the attention of a half dozen prep cooks and dish washers.

Salida! Salida God Damn It! Cuidado caliente – FUCK!” Nate shouted and then, unable to control his momentum, he barreled into a heavily tattooed cook named Ernesto and Ernesto’s hotel pan full of freshly defrosted calamari. Trying to keep moving but lacking the grace to do so without further calamity, our uncoordinated protagonist hit the unwitting cook and then continued, covered now in raw squid, to bounce off of a trash bin and then into Carl, the dishwasher, who, disgruntled from being a dishwasher in the Hotel California and sexually frustrated and insecure since his old lady went on a camping trip outside of Bakersfield with her sisters in sobriety, gladly punched Nate in the stomach. Hard. If only Nate had angled his trajectory ever so slightly to the right and headed for Oscar, the other dishwasher, who had recently been given a medical marijuana card and had been born again into the light and love of the Lord. Oscar probably would have caught Nate. He may have even given him a hug and asked Nate how he could help him find his pants again. Alas, fate and physics are frequently allied against our hero and Carl got his very satisfying gut punch.

After the punch that stopped his manic flight through the hotel, three things happened in what seemed, in Nate’s television corrupted mind, to be dramatic slow motion. The first thing was Nate screaming NO!!!!!!!!!!!! in anticipation and response to the second and third thing. It was a big open mouthed NO that may have been heard and disregarded throughout LA County as the excited utterance of a homeless mad man continuing his perpetual debate with no one in particular. It was certainly deserving of multiple exclamation points and capital letters. The second thing was Nate’s right fist opening like a blossom against his will, his fingers simply forgetting their current task and returning to a more relaxed and irresponsible state, much like Nate himself often did, and in that regard not terribly surprising. And of course, the third thing was the wedding rings, his and hers, imbued with personal, sentimental and societal significance flying from Nate’s sweaty grip into the steamy kitchen air. After those three things happened, precisely when the sensation of time being slow would have been most helpful in keeping his eyes locked on the rebel wedding bands, time resumed its usual flow and Nate was once again foiled by the rules of physics that remained as arcane and confusing to him as the math that often surrounded and helped define them. Unsurprisingly, Nate had no idea where those rings landed.

His dramatic moment over, Nate skidded in his skates and fell appropriately on his ass. He tried to breathe but found the task harder than expected. He hadn’t had the wind knocked out of him since high school roughly 5 seconds after he’d told Enid Costello that she had an impressive mustache. It was not an experience he hoped to repeat.

“Here,” Ernesto said and offered Nate his hand.

Nate looked up at the tattooed Latino with calamari on his head and took the cook’s strong hand. Ernesto pulled Nate to his feet.

“Don’t roller skate in a kitchen,” Ernesto told Nate. “You’ll get yourself killed next time. We’ve got knives in here, cabron.”

“Rings,” Nate said when he was able. He looked down at two pieces of squid in his hand where the wedding bands were supposed to be and then scanned around the kitchen identifying a dozen places immediately that could conceal one or both of the rings: a sink full of water and dishes, a stock pot full of veal bones bubbling up a layer of fat to the surface, a big gray bin full of salad greens, mashed potatoes, prep cook Salva’s dreadlocks, a tub of ranch dressing bigger than Nate’s head, a half-full industrial blender, the slightly dented garbage bin or scattered across the prep counter and/or floor mixed with squid pieces. The possibilities for disaster were numerous and horrifically time consuming.

“Balls,” Nate cursed.

“This yours?” Carl asked and plucked the fork from our main character’s shoulder leading to a single spurt of blood, the sight of which immediately caused Nate’s body and brain to go weak. Our heroic but less than brave protagonist had been vulnerable to fainting spells at the mere sight of blood, especially his own, since his father had accidentally severed Nate’s pinkie toe with a hatchet during a family camping trip when he was seven (lazy and irresponsible fingers appear to be a genetic predisposition). After the loss of his toe and the accompanying loss of consciousness, Nate never wore sandals or flip flops or any kind of open toed footwear again. He avoided swimming in public pools, wore socks to bed and went out like a light when he saw blood, an affliction that proved to be particularly embarrassing when he first encountered the wonder of menstruation with his first girlfriend, Enid.

With his time in the waking world slipping quickly away and his body collapsing to a heap on the kitchen floor, everything once more slowed down in Nate’s brain. Our hero remembered the events of the last 30 hours that had led to his assault by cutlery in a narratively expository montage: from Burrito Betty’s to the gangland shoot-out at the Baby GAP, the accidental arson of the most beautiful place on Earth, his loss of pants and the roller-skated duel that preceded his current disaster. He remembered Bailey and her cute girl glasses, measuring his inseam while his tongue and lips turned numb and useless at her light, professional touch. He remembered Z-Dilly and the fog of the finest cannabis smoke in California, Marcus’s crying doll, the unbelievable stature and temper of Number 47, the groping, nimble hands of Mrs. Stroud and the lingering sickly sweet odor of her old horny woman perfume. He remembered Uncle Jack’s explosive car wreck, being kickboxed in and around his tender parts by the worst maid of honor in the history off maids of honor, his mother’s barely concealed doubt and his father’s defeated nonchalance about Nate’s inevitable failure. Before he hit the tiled floor our hero remembered Chrissy, the bride, crying and vomiting and telling him how important it was that everything be beautiful and perfect because she’d been planning the perfect wedding in her heart since she was a little girl eating dandelions and riding horses on a farm outside of Santa Rosa. Most of all he remembered Jason looking as serious as he ever had and saying, “this is important, Nate. This is the most important thing ever and I need you come through for me just this once.” Jason, the soon to be very disappointed groom. Jason, the best big brother the king of all slackers could ever ask for.

In that final moment before his cheek touched tile, Nate imagined the bride and groom standing without a best man, without rings, maybe Chrissy still had a bucket half full of her breakfast and maybe Conrad was waiting in the wings with his Best Man Handbook, ready to be the hero even if he could barely walk. Nate imagined Jason just barely shaking his head. He imagined Jason thinking only to himself because he was too decent a big brother to ever say it out loud; I knew it.

Nate’s face hit the floor. Carl dropped the fork and shrugged. Our hero blinked his eyes one last time before succumbing to the abyss. Before his lids closed, in a sliver of a moment, Nate saw a pair of familiar orthotic slip resistant black shoes approaching. The shoulder stabber. The wedding super villain. The antagonist of our story.

“He’s here,” Nate managed to say as our villain closed in on him and we all fade to black.