Thursday, 28 May 2015

Josiah Stubb - In the Top 100 in the UK

Josiah Stubb has made it into the top 100 in a category in the good ol' UK! It was even better this morning (#63) but I didn't have time to post it.

#71 in Kindle Store > Books > Literature & Fiction > Historical Fiction > United States

Monday, 25 May 2015

Guest Blog

My good friend, Viv Drewa (The Owl Lady,) was kind enough to have me as a guest on her blog. I've been asked this question many times, but it's a subject that I'll never grow tired of.

Saturday, 23 May 2015

An Incredible Review for Adventures in India

 I, personally, can't help but adore a reader who will go to such lengths to write such a meticulous and well thought out review.
Thank you very, very much, Hrtls, I'm deeply gratified.

on May 22, 2015
'Adventures in India' reminds me why I became an avid fan of the books of C.W. Lovatt. Everything that I admired so much about his previous two books is in this one: the cast of unique, often eccentric, but believable and engaging characters; the clever dialogue that brings his characters to life in such an entertaining way; the humour he injects into characters and situations; the flashes of really brilliant descriptive writing and his skill at scene-setting; the well-developed plot, full of surprises and suspense; and the well-researched details of the actual historical background that gives his readers the opportunity to learn about little known events, in a little known place and time.

One of the things I appreciated the most about this book is that, although it is a work of historical fiction, it is historical fiction with an edge: in this case, the events of the actual historical background are much stranger than fiction, the 'hard facts' more bizarre than make-believe. Many times, I had to remind myself what the author, who has extensively researched the incredible incidents of the ill-fated British diplomatic mission to Bhutan in 1863, stated in his preface: 'many of the events actually took place exactly as described.' C.W. Lovatt manages to meld all the unbelievable real people and events, and the more credible fictional characters and events, into an absolutely amazing and gripping story!

There is so much I could say about 'Adventures in India', but due to space considerations, I will focus on three aspects of the book (and of C.W. Lovatt's work in general) that really stand out for me.

First, there is the way he draws his hero. Charlie Smithers is my favourite kind of hero: as one of Lord Elgin's 'Specials' ('a man of proven worth over rough country'), he has all the attributes any true hero must possess: his courage is absolute, as is his sense of what is right, and neither ever needs to be considered, regardless of obstacles or danger, before he takes the action he deems necessary. He is clever, steadfast, loyal, fair minded and compassionate, a man whose religion is his duty to his master, the Empire, and his family name. To top it off, he possesses enough humility and humour to keep him free him from vanity and selfishness. In short, while Charlie Smithers is not perfect (he is subject to weaknesses of the flesh), his faults only serve to make him more human and more real, and as C.W. Lovatt has written him, he is very real!

The second thing I love about C.W. Lovatt's writing is the way he injects humour into the characters and situations in the story: some of it is gently ironic, and sometimes it is laugh-out-loud funny.

I love the hilariously memorable scene in which Charlie's master, Lord Brampton, drinks a large quantity of marvelous Indian tea - in which the main ingredient is cannabis - of which both men are totally unaware. This occurs immediately before Lord Brampton has a very important meeting with the Viceroy of All India and other senior government and military officials. Both the journey to Government House, when they are caught in a downpour, (although Lord Brampton is barely aware of it - 'his mouth sagged open, a string of drool mingled with the rain',) and his later appearance at the formal meeting in a dressing gown, his mind still meandering, are very funny.

Later on, in Bhutan, after Charlie discovers that the luscious Charula Kahr is travelling incognito among the bearers, he begins subconsiously to watch for her, while becoming aware that he 'was becoming rather too familiar with the sight of many of our bearers' backsides.'

Third, I have to say something about the exceptional quality of C.W. Lovatt's writing. For me, there are two things that stand out: the first is his use of wonderfully apt similes and metaphors, and his often poetic descriptions - the kind that make a reader smile, and go back to reread the passage.

The following are just a few examples of this: describing the Cheeboo in his robes - 'looking like a deflated balloon in his silks'; 'Lord Brampton's voice cut across my thoughts like dawn's first light upon a dream'; about Lord Brampton, perched high above the ground on his elephant, 'looked out at the world much as God Himself must have done on the seventh day'; about Charlie's last conversation with Charula Kahr - 'her gaze slowly slid from my face like a tear down a cheek, to settle upon some object on the floor'; and this wonderfully poetic passage describing Charlie's unexpected discovery on a bitterly cold, dark night of the nearly lifeless Charula in the snow - 'the object's dark form mingling into invisibility on the moon shadows of the rock.'

The second thing I really appreciate about this author's writing is the very visual - almost cinematic - quality of the way he sets his scenes. A great example of this is at the beginning of the assault by Charlie and his small group of brave fellow-rescuers on the castle in which Lord Sangay has imprisoned Charula Kahr, in the dead of a very dark night. The author has the true storyteller's gift of using as many senses as possible to set a scene so clearly that it plays in the mind like a film. Look what he does with just four short sentences: 'On the far side was yet another door, this one of stout wooden planks. Beneath its sill was a faint glimmer of light. I could feel the close presence of my comrades gathered behind me, hear the excitement of their breathing, and smell it on their sweat. There was the soft 'tink' as one of their sabre points came to rest on the stone flags of the floor.' The entire scene is dramatic and exciting and suspenseful, and made even more immediate by such evocative details.

And finally, I must mention the scene that is probably my favourite in the book, and which I have read again and again just to appreciate how he does it! It happens right at the end of the book, and the author again shows the screenwriter's skill - this time using the simple device of an umbrella as a prop, to focus a great deal of dialogue and pertinent information between different groups of characters, and he does this in a very subtle but very interesting and effective way.

Some months have passed between the scene at the end of the last chapter, right after the rescue of Charula, and this one. The characters are back in India; there is a march-past in front of the Viceroy of troops on their way to war in Bhutan, and, once again, it is raining.

At the beginning of the scene, we find Charlie, Dr Simpson, and the Cheeboo 'huddled beneath the remains of the Cheeboo's well-travelled and tattered umbrella' and while they are thus together, much necessary information about what happened after the mission left Bhutan, and why the troops are off to war is delivered to the reader.

Then the Viceroy on the dais spots Charlie, and dispatches Ram Singh - with his umbrella - toward the group to tell Charlie that the Viceroy wishes to speak with him, and, 'as Ram's umbrella offered greater shelter from the elements than the Chee's,' Charlie willingly accompanied him.

In the course of Charlie and Ram's making their way to the dais, with Ram 'linking a companionable arm through mine, and sauntering along as if we were the best of chums', more pertinent information is passed on to Charlie, giving answers to two great mysteries from the beginning of the book: the motives of Lord Brampton's wife, and how Lord Elgin knew about Charlie's discoveries in Africa - which had led to his being chosen as one of Elgin's 'Specials' for the trek to Bhutan.

By this time, Charlie and Ram having arrived at the canopied dais, the Viceroy, to secure some privacy for his own discussion with Charlie, turned to Ram Singh with the words, 'Lend us your umbrella, will you?' Charlie 'hurried to accept it from him and held it over both our heads as he led me out from under the canopy, while I wondered what on earth this could entail.' Again, very important information for Charlie about what might have happened to the mission if he had not acted as he had, and about another offer of employment from the Viceroy, along with Charlie's response, is passed on under the umbrella during this encounter. It is an amazingly well-constructed scene, and an ingenious way to pass on information among characters and to the reader.

This really is a terrific book - and I'm convinced it really would make a great film as well!

Friday, 22 May 2015

Adventures in India - My Posters Arrived!

Squeeee!! Give a look at what showed up in the mail today! Arentcha just know, with envy...?

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Another Damn Fine Review For Adventures in India..!

Thanks very much, Terry.

5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent follow up to The Adventures of Charlie Smithers (in ..., 20 May 2015
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Charlie Smithers: Adventures in India (The Charlie Smithers Collection Book 2) (Kindle Edition)
Excellent follow up to The Adventures of Charlie Smithers (in Africa). Great story, great characterisations too. The book really took me back to the days of the Raj and for someone who has spent a fair bit of time in the Sub Continent I found every bit totally believable. Reminded me of days gone by when it truly was a Great Britian (with all its flaws). Thanks for the journey. Terry

Monday, 11 May 2015

The Charlie Smithers Collection

Here are books one and two (along with the links, of course) of the Charlie Smithers Collection. Look for book three, "Adventures Downunder," closer to summer's end.

Sunday, 10 May 2015

Rather a nice Review For "Adventures in India"

This is a nice review for Adventures in India.

"5Smithers is a real hero
ByKing Bennetton May 8, 2015
Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase
I really like this style of book, a Flashman lover I enjoy all the traveling and adventure plus real history. Smithers is a different type of character than all the Flashman types that are showing up, he is a real hero, and I hope after reading both of the Smithers books that we will see more of him soon."

Thank you King. Hope you read this, because I just want to add that my publisher is aiming for August/September for the release of Charlie Smithers: Adventures Downunder.

Thursday, 7 May 2015

Voices - One Last Little Boast

One last little boast from the launch on Sunday: another certificate to hang on my office wall, and the latest issue of Voices. That's six certificates to date (this one looks quite cheerful, doesn't it?); I'll have to start a second row.
Now might be as good a time as any to announce my retirement from this most excellent contest. I could say that winning it three years in a row is enough, and that it's time to give someone else a chance, and all that would be true. However, I secretly wonder that, having owned the Adult Fiction category for so long, I might not take it so well if some hot shot writer suddenly came out of nowhere and bumped me off the/my throne? Either way, it's time that I stepped down, and it's a bonus that I can go out a winner.

Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Voices - Another Story - "Diary of a Long Weekend"

I think I may have mentioned that this latest issue of Voices included another of my submissions. I wasn't aware of it until just prior to the start of the launch. Previously, whenever one of my entries did well in the competition, my regular submission would get bumped until the next issue, but not this time. I'm very pleased; "Diary of a Long Weekend" is one of my favourite stories. It's not too long - a little over 2300 words.

If you like what you see, follow this link for other issues of Voices. I go back with them for a few years.

Also, here's the link to my Amazon page. You'll find all my books there:


                       Diary of a Long Weekend

                                                                                    CW Lovatt – 16/06/09

Saturday - 6:00 A.M.
            Open eyes – check. Take long luxurious stretch and leap out of bed – check. Go to the kitchen and make coffee – check. Feed cat – check. Go to the bathroom and relieve bladder (mental note: improve aim) – check. Wash hands – check. Brush teeth – check. Return to the kitchen and pour coffee – check. Go into the living room and drink coffee – check. Light cigarette and daydream about the decadent luxury of having absolutely nothing better to do all this gorgeous long weekend but work on your writing (Far out! Hallelujah! Totally right on!) – double check!
Oh yeah baby, this is gonna be so cool! It’s been a long time coming, but at last the waiting’s over. It feels like Christmas morning, and there’s this gorgeously wrapped gift with my name on it, looking just the perfect size to hold a Macintosh laptop with, like, a gazillion bytes of RAM. – that’s how mind-blowingly excited I am!
Hold on! Hold on! Don’t burst out of the starting gate just yet. Pace yourself, my friend. Take it easy…take it cool.
I try to force myself not to gulp my coffee, but sip it instead. Too much time’s been spent planning; I don’t want to squander this rare opportunity in one crazy burst of enthusiasm.
Don’t let it get to you. Don’t let anything get to you. This is your time, don’t screw it up!
But of course the java ends up being guzzled all the same. At last, when the mug’s empty I rinse it out and, with a book this time, re-enter the bathroom so that my body might…do whatever it feels it must.
Don’t let yourself get too involved in reading; just a couple of pages to keep your mind off things. Whatever you do, don’t think about what you’re going to write – that’s major taboo. It’ll be good. Hell, it’ll be great. Forget that, it’ll knock the world on its literary-fucking-ass!
Finish up. Flush. Re-wash hands (thoroughly).
At last, go to the study and fire up the computer!
I click on ‘Word’ and a virgin screen appears, virtually bursting with potential.
Tap, tap, tap, tap, tap, tap, tap, tap, tap, tap, tap, tap, tap, tap, tap, tap, tap, tap, tap, tap, tap, tap, tap, tap, tap, tap, tap, tap, tap, tap, tap, tap, tap.
This is not the sound of typing, but the sound of a contemplative fingernail rapping against my teeth. The virgin screen has yet to be deflowered.
Okay, don’t panic. This is going to be good. In fact, it’s going to be outrageously fantastic…whatever it turns out to be.
Tap, tap, tap, tap, tap, tap, tap, tap, tap, tap.
I click on my ‘Ideas’ file.
It’s empty.
But that’s impossible! I’ve been overflowing with ideas for months now!
Didn’t you write any of them down?
Tap, tap, tap, tap, tap, tap, tap, tap.
I spring out of my chair and grab my yo-yo off the desk. The distraction helps me think.
Flip – catch. Flip – catch. Flip –
Bonehead, my orange tabby, sees the yo-yo. He wants to play and knocks it for a loop. I drag it along the floor for him to bat around, but he’s already lost interest.
I return to the computer only to spring up yet again. I’m too excited. No, that’s not it. In my eagerness, I either drank my coffee far too quickly, or made it way too strong. Now my heart’s thundering away at something like eight hundred beats a minute. Any fool can see it’s impossible to write under these conditions. I need something to slow it down.
I check the time – 6:30 A.M. I’m not ordinarily a morning imbiber, but this is an emergency. I go to the liquor cabinet and let my eyes play over the bottles. No use messing around, I need something with some punch.
The fire from a short, medicinal shot of mescal dissipates before it’s halfway to my stomach. A minute passes in consideration. My pulse is still going great guns so I pour myself another. Two or three later, it finally strikes home. Almost at once the thunder begins to subside.
Congratulating myself on having averted disaster, I try to get back to work, but now my mind feels confused - ditto my vision. The room starts to heave around like a ship on the high seas.
Damn! Overdid it. Best take a break…maybe a nap.
I return to my bed and lie down, staring at the ceiling while it spins around my head. Half an hour later it stops, but I’m still staring. It’s no use, can’t sleep; might as well watch some television. I go downstairs and turn on the set, but there’s nothing worth watching this early in the morning.
So I flip to ‘Pay Per Vu’.
There’s a movie I’ve been wanting to see for quite some time. It’s just the distraction that’s needed, and well worth the price of seven dollars.
Within minutes of it starting I’m deep in slumber.
When I wake up it’s two in the afternoon. Groggy now, I turn off the blank screen, go the bathroom, splash cold water on my face, and get back to my desk.
Tap, tap, tap, tap, tap.
 It’s no good; my mind’s still blank, probably worn out from work. I’d been driving myself pretty hard to be free this weekend, but of course there’s a price to be paid. Stupid to think I could just start in like this.
Never mind. Try not to be disappointed - it takes time for the juices to flow. Tomorrow’s sure to be better.
I switch off and call it a day.

Sunday – 10:45 A.M.
Tap, tap, tap, tap, tap, tap, tap, tap, tap...
So, what’s it going to be? Short story? Novella?
Don’t worry about that – no use forcing it. How many times do I have to tell you? Better to let it write itself.
But should it be drama? Romance? Tragedy? Comedy?  I’ve never written a comedy, yet I feel there’s one in me that’s just itching to get out, just not at this moment.
Whatever it is, make sure it has legs - you don’t want to get bored - and there has to be a catalyst, some sort of great thought binding it all together.
Okay sure, a great thought, no problem…coming right up.
I sit…
I wait…
My stomach growls.
Of course! I’m hungry! How can anyone concentrate on an empty stomach?
But it’s midway between breakfast and lunch. I’ll just have to wait.
 What am I thinking? I’m a bachelor; I can eat whatever I want, whenever I want – in my underwear if it suits me. I look down and realize I am, in fact, still in my underwear – yesterday’s underwear, come to that.
When was the last time you had a bath?
Must have been Friday after work.
By the time I’m out of the shower and have a three-egg omelet tucked inside me it’s well past noon.
When I try to put my dirty dish in the sink, I’m forced to notice that it’s already full of dirty dishes. So is the top of the stove and most of the counter.
I hate washing dishes, but unless eating off the floor’s an option, I’ll just have to break down and do them.
Ha! Ha! Very funny! Eat off the floor, that’s a good one!
Hopefully, I look down at the floor.
Grease, dirt, old sauce stains, a forest of dust balls, and something I don’t quite recognize stare back at me.
When was the last time you washed the floor?
Dunno…sometime last fall?
I hate washing floors.
Well, in for a penny...
I run hot water in the sink and add a generous amount of detergent. While the water’s running, I step out on the deck for some fresh air; then to achieve balance, smoke a cigarette.
During the interlude I give thought to my imminent blockbuster. Should I write it in the first or third person, or should I come up with something completely different – something no one’s ever tried before?
Forget that, that’s just crazy!
Should it be about world peace? The rights of man? Both?
What do you actually know about any of that stuff?
 When I come back inside, the sink is well and truly overflowing. A mountain of suds is cascading down the face of the cupboard and spreading itself generously over the floor. I get out the mop, then shut off the water and begin to swab the linoleum. Soon it’s sparkling, good as new. So are the basement stairs, and a sizeable portion of the basement itself.
Leaving the dishes to soak, I go back to my study.
Tap, tap, tap, tap, tap...
Significantly, my teeth do double-time to the ticking of the clock on the wall.
In desperation, I flip to my old stories file. Perhaps inspiration lurks there.
They’re pretty good, I have to admit it. In fact, as I affectionately linger over one cherished piece after another, I idle away the rest of the afternoon adoring my past work.
Finally hunger drives me out. I go into the kitchen to fix something to eat, and notice the forgotten dishes in the sink - the water long since cold.
Two days gone and nothing to show.

Monday – 11:00 A.M.
I’m downstairs playing Risk on my Play Station. I don’t like games that demand quick reflexes. I like Risk, all you need is savvy. But I’ve played this game so many times it’s no longer a challenge.
I hate challenges – I like to win, and have no problem if it’s preordained.
I’m feeling bloody-minded. I haven’t gone near the computer, nor do I have plans on doing so for the rest of my life.
I’m through, done, washed-up. This was the first thought to greet me when I opened my eyes this morning, and it stuck. I don’t know why I ever thought I could write in the first place, let alone create an epic.
Maybe I had something once but it’s gone now, that’s for sure. It stole away in the night, leaving me a worn out husk [-of depression]. I try not to feel self-pity, but it sucks to be a has-been-that-never-was. My friends have all gone to the lake this weekend. They’re drinking beer and hitting on girls in bikinis. But in my conceit I chose to stay home, convinced that it would be for the benefit of a grateful world.
God, I’m a fool! I’m nothing - just a pathetic joke!
But I’ve learned my lesson. If there’s one thing that’s certain, it’s that I will never, ever, ever write again. Finally I understand how incredibly vain it was to think that I ever could.
With my mind not really anywhere, I play my turn then press the ‘X’ button repeatedly while the machine finishes the round. The futility of any meaning does not escape me (compared to hitting on girls in bikinis, this must come a poor second). Neither am I blind to the metaphor between the game and myself. When all is said and done, we’re both nothing but fraudulent packages without anything of substance or value inside.
Yet, in a way, I’m relieved; now shorn of that deluded ambition, I’ve been set free. In one decisive act that millstone has been effectively cast from my neck. In fact, I’m a new man, tolerably hopeful that all sorts of exciting new possibilities lie waiting, hidden somewhere in the impenetrable fog of the far distant future.
Then suddenly, for no discernable reason, my thumb freezes on the control, my head tilting to one side as though listening to a far away sound.
On the ceiling, a moth dances at the light, casting flittering shadows across the room.
Then I’m thundering up the stairs. There’s a close call when Bonehead saunters across my path, but I manage to leap over him without any harm.
I’m at the computer.
There’s a tentative tap, then another, and - more quickly - another. Soon there’s a flurry.
Then, as though all this time there’s been a part of me waiting by the side of this forgotten road, something comes along…and takes me.

At last, when the present reclaims me, it’s dark outside, and the monitor’s screen is full.
For a long time I sit in silence, listening to the rhythm of my heart, uncertain as to whether this is the world of the day-to-day or still that of dreams; even more uncertain as to which is real. Finally my head clears sufficiently for me to click on ‘Save’ and switch off, not noticing how my movements are wooden, like a marionette in the hands of a novice puppeteer.
It’s late, but there’s no use trying to sleep. Instead, still wrapped in afterglow, I feel the need for quiet celebration, so take a glass of merlot out to the deck.
There’s a chill in the air but I don’t feel it. What I do feel is the pulsating ache in my lower back and the thrill of memory. But these sensations are old and ghostly familiar, and so, welcome.
There’s a full moon on the rise, flooding the world with a silver hue. The residue of what took me is causing muscles to leap and twitch throughout my body.
I raise my glass.
To the moon I simply nod a greeting, and whisper a single word: a deeply satisfied, “Yes!”
But I’m trembling too much. Wine spills from the glass, soaking my fingers before spattering down onto the weathered planks of the deck.
Black in the moonlight, I stare at the droplets, yet make no move to wipe them away. In the fading dregs of trance, I see them for what they are…a libation, an offering of gratitude to the ethereal.
Then, just like a little child, I burst into tears.

                                              The End

                                                                        CW Lovatt – 16/06/09

Tuesday, 5 May 2015

Story - Fear of Flying

As has become my habit over the years, after the release of "Voices," I'm posting Fear of Flying - the story that won First in Fiction in this year's Write on the Lake Competition. This is the third year in a row that my work has been so honored and, while the first two stories were heavy on the dramatic, this one is quite a bit lighter. Less than 2500 words. Enjoy.

                                 Fear Of Flying

            Douglas Adams once wrote that the main ingredient in flying is to hurl yourself at the ground and miss.
I had always thought that was a clever thing to say. In its pure simplicity it alleges that flying might prove to be a bit difficult. For instance, if, say, a million people were to hurl themselves at the ground, all in unison, odds are really good that – not nearly, not virtually, but – absolutely all of them would hit it, and hit it hard enough to make them think twice before trying again. Pain talks, believe me: it’s only common sense.
That’s my weakness, by the way - common sense. You see, I haven’t any, but to continue on…
Of course Mr. Adams’ theory is also a metaphor, meaning that the greater the risk, the greater the reward, because let’s face it, flying would be really cool, but the risks attenuated might be considered egregiously dire, although by some, worth taking. In fact, flying is the most awesomely cool thing that can be imagined, and therefore the greatest reward that there is, making winning the lottery pretty boring by comparison. That, combined with my appalling lack of common sense, goes a long way toward explaining why I had fallen so madly in love with Jenny.
Jenny Anderson has that Girl-Next-Door look, if you know what I mean. There wasn’t anything about her that wasn’t untypically pretty, and I loved her desperately. She, on the other hand, was way out of reach, and despised the ground I walked on…or pretended to anyway…
“We should hang out.” I said it lightly - light as a feather, actually - like I had just had this brilliantly amazing idea, only modesty kept me from shouting it from the rooftops, so light and easy was the only way to go. I made it sound like it was no big deal if she hung out with me or not. I mean, amazing as that idea was, I made it sound like it was no biggy, one way or the other. I came across as though amazing ideas were merely commonplace with me. She could buy into this one if she so chose, but it didn’t really matter; there would soon be other opportunities. My next amazing idea was bound to be just around the corner.
I thought that it sounded good, but she didn’t bite. Maybe because this had been the same amazing idea I’d been having for weeks, and it didn’t seem likely to improve any time soon.
“Thanks,” she said, with a distinct lack of interest, “but no thanks,” and after a pause, found the energy to explain, “I’m washing my hair.”
“Tomorrow then?”
“It’ll need washing again.” She gestured casually around the street, her untypically pretty nose wrinkling with disapproval at the passing, exhaust-ridden traffic, then over to where a city crew were patching potholes in the pavement - the heavy aroma of hot asphalt clinging to the sweltering air - and finally to the fast-food establishment we were walking past just then, ripe with the rancid smell of old cooking grease. Her very posture displayed utter helplessness in the face of a polluted world. It protested that it wasn’t her fault that her hair required such an effort. Pity, but there it was.
I had to admit that it was an eloquent gesture, but then it was one she could afford to make with comparative ease, I mean, seeing as how I was carrying her books and all. When not gesturing eloquently, her arms were free to sway casually at her side, or fold protectively across her breasts, while my own were wrapped around what seemed like every textbook that had ever been printed, my biceps trembling from the strain…although I made every effort to appear casually content, in a disinterested sort of way.
“What about later?” I asked, determined not to sound determined.
Her arm barely paused from encompassing the world before a flick of her wrist indicated the freight I was carrying. “I have to study.”
“We could study together.”
“I’m a Psych major,” she pointed out, more bored than ever, “ and you’re…” She left it at that, like she couldn’t bother trying to remember what my major was, as if it was beneath her interest or something.
“English Literature.”
“Right.” It was the same tone she used when she said, ‘Whatever’.
“So what’s the big deal? You could study Psych, and I could catch up on my Fielding. We could just hang out.” I resisted the urge to add, ‘C’mon, it’ll be fun’. I didn’t want to sound like I was desperate or anything.
“I don’t think that’s a good idea.”
Although I was careful to remain outwardly impassive, my heart gave a flip that probably registered on a Richter scale somewhere out on the west coast. Maybe it was nothing more than another case of my natural avoidance to all things logical but, at that moment, it struck me that she might be entertaining suspicions about my intent. If so, then the idea of the two of us alone, with the possibility of my making advances, had appeared at the forefront of her thoughts, and therefore been given life. You know what they say - wherever there’s life there’s hope.
I couldn’t let the moment pass.
“We could order take-out.” Take-out wasn’t a date – not an actual date – but it was close.
Yet, whatever inner turmoil I was causing, outwardly Jenny was fielding my assault on her willpower with casual – if not jaded – ease.
That’s when I decided, and took a very deep breath, before slowly letting it out again. My options had now dwindled to one. The moment had finally arrived, and I was nervous as hell. But it all came down to whether I could continue with the status quo, or discover if there was any chance that it could lead to something more. The problem was that what little I did have with her would be lost forever if I failed, and that seemed all too likely. Still, if there was a chance of our going further, both of us would have to see something in me other than what was currently being displayed. So, girded with thoughts of how God hates a coward, I took the plunge and opted for Plan B:
 “We could go out.”
I had just metaphorically hurled myself at the ground, even though I could already see how it lay: hard as flint, and unforgiving as sin. No two ways about it, this was gonna hurt like hell.
To be sure, Jenny sighed, long and loud; then her eyes did this dramatic roll, like this was something that had been expected all along, but was totally unwelcome.
 “Look Kevin, I don’t…”
“To Ottavio’s.”
She stopped in mid-sentence.
Ottavio’s wasn’t trendy like what the university crowd was used to, but it was posh and romantic, with a maitre d’, and the whole nine yards. It was also expensive…which would be why I’d be working double shifts at Giuseppe’s for the next six months, on the one-in-a-million chance she said yes.
In fact, she didn’t say anything. My mentioning Ottavio’s had got her thinking, like she realized that I was offering her the impossible, like the Taj Mahal or something. I was surprised by her hesitation, but I wouldn’t say I was delighted – I didn’t dare.
Then she laughed. I thought that her laughter was untypically pretty, too.
“You’re pulling my leg! We couldn’t possibly get a table on such short notice!”
I found myself speaking around this huge lump in my throat, vaguely aware that it must be my heart.
“Say yes,” I told her (completely disinterested, you understand), “and it’s as good as done.”
Jenny wasn’t just kidding about how difficult it was getting into Ottavio’s; she was speaking from experience. Untypically pretty girls attracted untypically rich guys like ants to honey – the type that liked to impress. That didn’t always work with Jenny, though…or with Ottavio’s either, for that matter. In addition to being posh, romantic and expensive, it was also pretty exclusive, requiring reservations being made weeks – if not months - in advance. To just walk in off of the street and not be turned away was so unlikely, it seemed like madness even to try.
It was my boss who first put me onto the idea.
Giuseppe could be difficult to work for. Sometimes he could be a real pain in the butt. He was one of your swarthy, sharp-tempered Italians who ran his pizzeria like a fiefdom. But he had a heart behind that teakwood exterior…and he had an Italian’s passion for amore.
Just the other day he’d cornered me in the kitchen, and said, “Listen-a to me, boy,” in a deep basso-baritone, the thumbs and middle fingers of both hands forming perfect ‘O’s. He held them to the sides of his face and shook them at me, the way he always did when he…well, the way he always did. “It’s-a seemple! You like-a this-a girl? Then you must-a feed her!” He continued, with his face twisting in ecstasy. “Food! She’s-a the heart of-a life! But wine! Wine she’s-a the soul!” and brought the lecture to an end by tapping a sagacious finger against my chest, “A woman, she knows-a theese!”
By omission he was admitting that Giuseppe’s wasn’t the right fit for what was required. If I was serious about Jenny, I would have to set my sites altogether higher, and in our town, that meant Ottavio’s.
Meanwhile, Jenny continued without speaking, and I could almost feel the wind in my face as the earth rushed up to greet me. We’d just reached Twenty-fourth and Park; the apartment she shared with three other girls was another block over, so I slowed to a crawl, forcing her to follow suit. I had to admit that it didn’t look good, but one way or another, I wanted an answer before we reached her front door.
Finally, still mesmerized by something on the sidewalk, she said, “I really do have to study.”
“Sure thing.” I tried for light and breezy, but the weight on my chest was pulling me down to my destiny. No surprise there.
“So, even if by some sort of miracle you did manage to get a table, I wouldn’t be able to stay very long.”
At first I didn’t understand. Inside, I was already curling into a protective ball, bracing for the inevitable collision with the ground. So when her meaning finally filtered through, I had to do some radical uncoiling. She was actually considering saying yes! I might not be flying – the earth was still coming up pretty fast, but it hadn’t reached me yet. This was an updraft under fledgling wings: not strong enough to keep me aloft, but sufficient so that the words ‘hurtling downward’ no longer applied. For someone who bore too many bruises from too many encounters with the downside of life, this was a very big deal.
“No one’s asking you to.”
Then she did look at me: her untypically pretty eyes were cold, and the ground lurched dangerously close. “There’s something else we’d better get straight.”
“This wouldn’t be a date, understand?”
It took a super-human effort, but I forced a smile, and lied. “Nothing was further from my mind.” This was love after all. Everything was fair.
She continued to study me, like she was seeing me for the first time, or maybe she was searching for the lie. If so, I had it buried deep beneath the thermals, and never let on.
Then something curious happened. Whatever she saw in me must have prompted her to try for a little honesty herself, maybe for no better reason than to give us both a chance to back out, considering that an evening together was bound to be a waste of her time and my money. She cared that much, at least, and I felt the updraft again, and thought that maybe this time it was a little stronger.
She said, “I don’t like you, Kevin,” but the ground didn’t come any closer.
“I know, I was hoping to change that.”
“You’re just so…so…”
She gave me a glare…that gradually softened into a sad smile. My heart gave a turn when I realized just how untypically sweet it was.
“Everyday you’re around me like some sort of lost puppy, pestering away until I end up letting you carry my books.” Her mouth twisted into a bitter smile, but I didn’t think that the bitterness was directed at me, “and I always allow it.”
“Because you find me useful?”
“Because I find you useable, Kevin, there’s a difference.”
“That doesn’t reflect very well on me, does it?”
Every instinct I had urged me to say whatever was necessary to sooth her conscience, but then the cosmos took yet another quirky turn, and I found myself deviating from the script at the most crucial moment of my life.
I said, “It doesn’t reflect well on either of us.”
The smile grew sadder, and she nodded slowly to herself.
“I don’t have time for a boyfriend. My course load’s pretty heavy.”
“I’m not your boyfriend,” I told her. In the span of a millisecond, the idea had become juvenile. “I’m Kevin.”
Suddenly she laughed, and I could have sworn that there wasn’t anything bitter or angry this time. I also could have sworn that there was something playfully coquettish in the way she slapped my shoulder, and I was sure that the ground receded a few inches.
She took a breath – paused - then reached a decision.
“Okay, hot shot, you’re on.” She produced a pen and wrote her number on the back of my hand. “If you can arrange it, give me a call.” In the brief moment that followed, her smile became quizzical, like maybe she was wondering if I was a magician – maybe even hoping I was.
That’s when the ground fell away altogether.
After she disappeared inside her apartment, I was left with a sense of all parts of myself flying off in every conceivable direction. Compared to the miracle that had just happened, getting into Ottavio’s would be simple - in fact nothing could be easier.
Giuseppe was always willing to help when it came to matters of the heart.
“Boy, you get-a that girl to go out with you, just-a say the word to Giuseppe,” he’d shrugged with his shoulders hunched up around his ears, “an’ she’s a done-a-deal! After all,” he’d continued, with his eyes a-twinkle, and a wicked grin lurking deep beneath the heavy brush of his moustache, “Ottavio, he’s a smart-a boy! He knows-a better than-a to say no to his papa!”
I turned for home, soaring high above the clouds…and flipped open my cell.

                                     The End

Monday, 4 May 2015

Voices 15 - 1 - Photo Journey

Another launch has come and gone, and another reading to go with it. The Spring issue is usually well attended, because that issue is usually chock full of stories and poems of those who placed in the Write on the Lake Contest, and this year was no exception.

 Here the readers are gathering for a little pep talk just prior to the proceedings.
 And here is Voices excellent editor, Maurice Guimond, starting everything off. Actually, he's in the process of introducing yours truly.
This, and the following, are of that all important fellow - myself. I always like to include a few photos of me looking up, just to prove that I didn't have my face buried in my papers all the way through.

 Here I'm doing this thing with my hands, because one of my characters is Italian...and everyone knows that Italians always do 'this thing' with their hands when they're speaking.
 Here we are, gathered for a photo after the readings are finished. Maybe it's just me, but I think we look a lot more relaxed than we did before the launch began.
 Me with a copy of Voices 15-1. As usual, it's quite handsomely packaged. Something that I didn't realize until just before the launch was that I have two stories in this issue - of course my winning entry in Write on the Lake, "Fear of Flying," and a regular submission, "Diary of a Long Weekend."
A nice lady asked me to sign her copy.

You can purchase your copy of Voices here: