Indie Author Answers #35: Making Promises to Readers

New Intro! New Outtro! All professional and crap. If this doesn’t make me famous, I don’t know what will.

Anyway, on with the show:

10: Brian


Brian strolled along a crowded sidewalk on the Pearl Street walking mall on an overcast February afternoon. The kind of day when, just behind the clouds, the sun shined enough to morph the gray into a bright white, but not quite enough to require sunglasses. The day brooded somewhere in that peculiar space between melancholy and expectation. Later, Brian would realize that he should have taken the strange weather as a sign. He had no idea that in a few minutes, he would be holding the bloodied body of a man on the edge of death.

Brian had spent his morning playing amateur detective by tailing Alex. Brian had no agenda, he just wanted to see how deep Alex had gone into the game. Alex drove around, made deliveries, awaited people in parking lots; Wiles had not lied that Alex tended to be careless. He held bags of dope out in plain sight, he seemed to care little about who was around when these deals were transpiring. But what could Brian do? It’s not as if Brian could give Alex advice about how to sell meth, and the kid would not listen, anyway.

At the library, Brian received a text from Graham, asking his whereabouts. Brian told him, and Graham replied that he was near Pearl Street and he would come find him. Brian decided a small break might refresh his mind, so he went to Starbucks while he waited on his friend.

After his break, it would be back to the library for a few more hours, and then an evening class. He hoped that steady commitment would result in better comprehension and better grades. He had to make better grades this time. He doubted if he would get a third chance at financial aid if his GPA slipped below the threshold.

Standing in line at Starbucks, for some reason, the barista reminded him of Heather, even though she did not look anything like his ex. Maybe her smile, or her eyes, but something about her struck a bittersweet chord in Brian and brought back an abundance of memories. He had almost gotten to the point where could focus on the happy times they had, and not so much the rough times. Almost.

The barista flaunted a charming smile as she made his cappuccino.

“How is your day going?” Brian said.

“Not too shabby, how about you?”

“Just hitting the books, you know, pencil to paper and all that.” Brian cursed himself for emitting such a stupid phrase. But maybe she liked that kind of cheesy banter.

“Oh, sure, totally,” she said. “I can sometimes study around here when it’s slow enough.”

“Oh yeah, is that right?” Brian said. Then he blanked on what to say next. She stared at him. Precious seconds ticked by.

She finished steaming his drink and pushed the cup across to him, with a tentative smile on her pretty face. “Yep. Thanks for coming in. Hope you enjoy your coffee.”

Brian grimaced and accepted the coffee. That did not go as well as he had hoped. He remembered being able to talk to girls before, but things had apparently changed.

As he left the Starbucks, Graham was waiting for him outside. “Hey there. Fancy seeing you out here,” Graham said.

“Just taking a study break,” Brian said as he lifted up his coffee for Graham to see. “I’ve got a lot to get through. I’m sorry; I know I said we could hang out, but I don’t really have time today. You could come to the library with me, if you want.”

Graham surreptitiously looked left and then right, seemingly to check if they were alone… ironic, because the Pearl Street Mall teemed with pedestrians. He leaned in close to Brian. “Before you go back to studying, what say you and me hit up that one spot in the trees along the Boulder creek path and smoke a little? I got some Thai stick… well, at least the bloke told me that it’s Thai stick, I have no way of knowing for sure. Either way, I haven’t had a chance to smoke any yet, and thought you might like to help me break into it.”

Brian shook his head. “I’m tempted, but I for-real need to study. Maybe I can smoke with you later, after I get all my stuff done.”

Graham placed his palm against Brian’s forehead. “I don’t feel a fever.”

Brian grinned politely. “Yeah, yeah, I know, I’ve just got to get back. I promised myself that I would spend the day studying, and I’m doing pretty good so far. If I get high, no way I’ll be able to study after that. It’s a rule I have.”

“Okay, then, how about a quick appetizer at Walnut Brewery? I have a rule about studying on an empty stomach. I know that’s an offer you can’t resist.”

“Alright, okay, you got me there. But we gotta be quick, I mean it. Just an app, and then I gotta go.”


11: Wiles


Wiles and Britton entered a trailer park on the southern edge of Boulder, one of the rare low-income spots in town. Blackout by Method Man and Redman boomed from Wiles’ Jeep, and the two 15” subwoofers in the back sent out enough bass to rattle the windows on some of the shoddy mobile homes. Occupants frowned at the noise from their front porches and from behind tilted window blinds.

Wiles had a nice mellow high from some weed he kept in the freezer and brought out only occasionally, but Britton was practically vibrating in the seat next to him. His jaw bounced and clicked in time with the track from Wiles’ stereo.

“You alright, son?” Wiles asked him, turning down the music. “You’re vibrating.”

“I’m straight as an arrow, homie. Like a fucking rock. I didn’t sleep last night. I was up working on this drawing of a dragon eating my Biology professor, and it was the pimp shit, and then I spilled beer all over it. It was like the crime of the century. Did I cry myself to sleep? Hells no. I did a line and got started working on a new, better version. When I’m done with it, it’ll be some classic art shit like you read about, hanging on a museum wall.”

“I like to take a Valium, something small like a five milligram, after doing a line. Not enough to ruin my tweak, just put a little edge on it. Too much of one cancels out the other, but if you get the cocktail just right, it feels incredible.”

“Me and this dude from class rolled a blue V into a joint the other day,” Britton said. “We crushed it up and just rolled it right in with the weed. Tasted awful, like licking an Aspirin.”

Britton seemed to get himself into all kinds of stupid experiments like that one. “Don’t do that, it doesn’t work. It’s just a waste of Valium. When you smoke that shit, it won’t metabolize that way. Some you can crush up and shoot, some you can snort, but mostly, you can only get high off pills by eating them.”

“That’s kinda what I thought, because we didn’t actually feel it after. I don’t know if I would have felt much of anything though, dude, ‘cuz I was so chalked up on the lines we’d been doing. That was a serious tweaker day. Organized my sock drawer about a billion times, know what I mean?”

“Have you tried coke and meth together?”

“No,” Britton said. “What’s that like?”

“You rush on the coke, and by the time you come down from that, you’re going pretty good on the meth. You should try it. But listen to me, you gotta keep your head on straight. I can’t have you wigging out on me.”

“I’m not going to wig out. Just trying to have a good time.”

Britton rarely gave Wiles the answer he hoped. “What do you think we’re doing all this for?”

“Money?” Britton said.

“Well… yeah, but it’s more than that. We’re trying to build something. You’re gonna land yourself in rehab, or lose your step on me like Connelly.”

Britton’s ears perked up. “What do you mean by ‘he lost his step’?”

Wiles weighed the question. Britton was pretty smart for a tweaker, and Wiles found he couldn’t keep things from him for too long. Britton tended to figure things out. “Whatever, I don’t care anymore. I’ll tell you. Your boy Connelly was my top weed guy once. He was so good, he could have been my only guy. He could sling an ounce broken up into eighths in about ten minutes just by walking around campus. It’s like motherfuckers could just smell it on him and they’d walk right up to him and ask him if he knew where to buy smoke.”

Driving though the trailer park, a young girl with ample cleavage grinned at Wiles, and he felt his manhood stir in his pants. He hadn’t had sex since he told Heather to stop calling him a few weeks before. A worthwhile trade-off.

“And Connelly was quick with his hands, too. He could whip out a bag and take somebody’s money before you even knew what was going on. He was perfect, really. But then all that stuff in Commerce City happened under the bridge, and he lost his taste for it, I guess. He turned into a little bitch.”

Britton didn’t seem satisfied with the answer, but he kept his mouth shut, which was just as good. Maybe Britton got the picture, after all.

Wiles parked the Jeep in front of a dilapidated trailer with a jumble of rotting porch steps, and killed the ignition. Keeping his eyes forward, in a low voice, he said, “I want you to meet these people, but don’t say much, or anything if you can help it. They’re really motherfucking shady. Just be cool.”