This week I decided to add an excerpt from a book I co-wrote with a friend of mine. We originally started this book as emails back and forth to each other and, after a few months, decided to turn it into a book. (Note: I don’t ever recommend doing this. Ever.) We’ve gone through three drafts, over a period of five or six years. It’s not finished yet, and has been put on hold for a very long time. I hope that someday we might come back to it. I’m not saying what follows below is excellent writing–it is from a long time ago. But she remains my favorite character that I’ve ever written.
Mahogany shelves with leather-bound classics filled the walls of Lana’s library. She often had guests shown into this room, where she would then make a showy entrance once they had the chance to marvel at her distinguished collection. Of course, the guests would then quickly be herded elsewhere before getting a chance to look at one of the three thousand books in detail and ask Lana a question about them. She had never read the books, nor even knew what were most of their titles.
A west-facing window was open, permitting into the room a pleasant, evening breeze, rustling the many fronds of the large fan palm in the corner. Lana sat with her sneakers propped up on the matching mahogany desk, pouring over a small stack of Cosmos and US Weeklys and sipping whiskey from a glass. She was in the middle of an article entitled Pleasing Your Man in 3 Minutes or Less, when a clanging came from a nearby room.
What the hell was that? her brain wondered.
Her head shot up and she frowned, looking toward the open door, which led out to the hallway. The clang sounded again—a metallic sound—closer than it had been the first time.
“Maybe it’s the air conditioning?”
Maybe blah blah blah, her brain mocked.
Lana pushed her leather chair away from her mammoth thing-of-a-desk and stood up slowly. “Clara?”
Dammit, if she’s breaking stuff again…
“She’s just a little clumsy.”
Clumsy doesn’t even start to cover your niece, sister.
Lana crossed the plush burgundy carpet of her perfidious domain and paused in the doorway. The darkened hallway sat deserted and silent.
Hey. While you’re up, get some Doritos.
She shrugged and walked the twenty feet down the foyer to the kitchen. Switching on the light, the overhead halogens brightened the already white room to an even more blinding colorless façade. She looked out the window above the sink to her dim backyard, the occasional firefly pulsing by. Lana reached up and opened a paneled cupboard door next to that which housed the whiskey and grabbed an unopened bag of “New Nacho Cheesier!” from the bottom shelf, opening it greedily. The aptly boasted flavor filled her mouth as she walked happily back to her office, strange noise forgotten. Lana reached the library doorway and froze. A figure crouched behind the large fern, peeking mysteriously out at her through the domesticated greenery. Silhouetted against the setting sun, the parts of him that were visible through the fern fronds were heavily shadowed.
“Ahh!” Lana exclaimed and promptly choked on a Dorito. She coughed several times, clearing her throat.
“You okay?” the figure asked. His voice was firm yet kind, as if he’d learned after several years of raising children.
“Who the hell are you?! How’d you get in here?”
He gestured toward the window behind him. “It was open,” he replied with a shrug. “I crawled in.”
Lana could feel her ears begin to heat—the first sign that she was losing her temper.
“You know my name?!”
“You calm down!” She took her opened bag of chips and chucked it as hard as she could at the stranger. Chips flew in all directions as the bag fell far short of its mark, plopping harmlessly on the floor a few feet in front of the potted vegetation and scattering cheesy chip goodness over the carpet.
“I’m here to help you,” the man replied.
“HA!” Lana retorted. “I’ve seen horror movies! That’s what the killer always says!”
“Name one horror movie where the killer says that.”
Lana’s forehead scrunched in thought. “Well, I can’t think of an exact title right now. But my point stands!”
“No, it doesn’t.”
“Get out!” she screamed. She turned and grabbed the nearest thing she could (a leather-bound book on gardening in Tokyo) and threw it, hard. Unfortunately, she threw like a small blind girl, and the book sailed harmlessly past the man and out through the open window.
Good thing that was open, Sammy Sosa.
The man looked at her questioningly.
“Not you. You just get out,” she demanded.
“Listen to me for a minute,” the figure pleaded, hands raised to show peaceful intentions.
“Listen to this!” She grabbed another book off the gleaming shelf and flung it as if it were a Frisbee.
“Dammit, Lana,” the man’s patience was wearing thin.
Both parties stood, breathless, staring each other down. Lana wished the blazing sun weren’t blinding her eyes of the man’s appearance. She would want to give an accurate account of the encounter to Frank later on over dinner. She figured it would be a more exciting tale if she embellished a bit, anyway. “Who are you?” she demanded.
After a pause, the shadow replied, “You can call me B.G.”
“I can think of a few other things to call you!”
“He’s going to need your help,” the man said.
“Who?” she blinked a few times. Her eyes were beginning to dry out from all the glaring.
“He hasn’t called you?”
Lana’s lack of response was his answer.
The silhouette sighed. “Your uncle may be able to help. He put it right next to Washington.”
“Well, you don’t know what you’re talking about. My uncle isn’t anywhere near Washington!”
“No, that’s not what I—.”
The doorbell rang. During the moment of distraction, Lana removed her tennis shoe and threw it high and wide, missing the man terribly. “Frank!” she called out to her butler for help.
“Frank!” she yelled louder, making a mad dash toward the intruder, arms flailing and screaming at the top of her lungs.
The man reeled backward in shock, holding his arms up to fend her off. He took a moment to glance behind him at the open window, only feet away. Before Lana could come within swinging distance, he turned and dove through the window, rolling and landing lightly on his feet. He broke into a run, moving around the house and out of sight. Lana poked her head out the window and yelled, “And stay out!”