Indie Author Answers #37: Missed Opportunities

Oh, hi there.

Our tip of the week this week is about the myth “the best marketing is to write another book.” We’ll talk about how, sometimes, that’s just not true.

Anyway, here’s your section of The Problematic Virtue for this week:


13: Alex


Wiles had foretold the truth. When Alex followed Wiles into the trailer, he became overwhelmed by the decadent atmosphere. Aluminum foil covered the windows and every piece of furniture contained at least one burn mark. Flies buzzed around a sink full of dirty dishes. Alex immediately wanted to leave.

Wiles introduced him to Larry, Ben, and Mitchell, three white-trash tweakers with stretched earlobe piercings. All three of them were so skinny they were little more than flesh stretched over skeletons. Mitchell, the alpha, was a toothless, lanky man with a mohawk and large septum piercing.

Wiles had said he wanted Alex to meet them, as if this visit were some kind of educational ride-along. However, soon after everyone had exchanged first names, Wiles and Mitchell went into another room. Alex figured this one to be Wiles’ crack guy, and Wiles had come to deliver some rocks and collect some money.

Larry and Ben invited Alex to sit with them in the living room space of the gloomy trailer. Larry and Ben debated the merits of a certain Nascar driver versus another while Alex tried to give the appearance of being amused with an empty pack of cigarettes that he found sitting on the table. Alex flipped the pack over and over in his hands, and pulled down the cellophane then pushed it back in place. They tried to engage Alex in the discussion, but Alex knew nothing about car racing. All three of the inhabitants of the trailer wore stained wife-beater shirts, despite the drizzly cold outside. All Alex thought about was his growing urge to escape, and his yearning to do another bump of the meth in his pocket. He could feel the pressure from the bulge of the little plastic baggie pushing against his thigh, but he dared not go in the bathroom to snort it; he would not share his stash with these crackheads.

Alex began to feel that familiar tightness in his chest, his internal clock signaling time to smoke a cigarette. He still had the pack in his pocket, but it contained no relief sticks. The desire was currently manageable. It might become prickly if they stayed too much longer.

After Wiles’ business concluded, they said their goodbyes and exited out the front door. Across the lot, a swarthy man and frumpy woman argued on their front porch, and the man slapped the woman across the face. The woman fell to her knees, sobbing.

Alex tried to hide his raised eyebrows from Wiles, and Wiles just laughed. “This used to be such a nice neighborhood,” he said as he cinched up his sagging jeans. Alex could not believe this sort of thing existed in Boulder. Even though only two or three miles from campus with its privileged future lawyers, doctors, and politicians (who had never come close to seeing a domestic dispute that involved violence), Alex and Wiles were a world away.

Back in Wiles’ Jeep, Alex relaxed. Fine with him if they never came back here. They left the trailer park and did not turn back towards campus, but instead in the opposite direction.

“Where we going?” Alex said.

“Just got to make one more stop,” Wiles said.

Wiles drove into a neighborhood, then after a few turns, idled the car alongside a curb. He pointed at a house a few doors down. “That’s his house,” Wiles said.

“Who’s house?”

Wiles did reply. A minute later, the front door opened and Tyson, the meaty man Wiles had almost battled the night when Alex first met Wiles, walked out his front door with a bicycle.

“There goes that tubby bitch now,” Wiles said.

Tyson mounted his bike and started to pedal away from them.

“What’s the deal?” Alex said.

“I fronted that motherfucker an ounce of weed a month ago, and he hasn’t returned my phone calls.” Wiles shouted at Tyson to stop. Tyson craned his neck to look, saw Wiles, and pedaled faster away from them. Wiles hit the gas, yanked the steering wheel to the left to reverse direction in the street, and then drove up onto the sidewalk, bumping Tyson and causing him to fall off his bike.

Wiles jumped out of the car. Alex did not know if he should stay, or go with him. With clenched fists, Wiles approached Tyson, who had fallen on the grass by the sidewalk. Tyson coughed and sputtered. He tried to scramble to his feet, but Wiles already was upon him. Wiles kicked Tyson several times in the ribs, and with each kick, the poor fat bastard emitted another yelp.

“Derek, look, please don’t do this.”

“When I leave you messages, and you don’t call me back, it makes me motherfucking angry!” He kicked Tyson again in the stomach.

“I’m sorry,” he blubbered, grasping his side as he spit onto the sidewalk. “I was going to call you, I really was.”

Wiles ripped Tyson’s bike away from him and raised it up above his head. Tyson opened his eyes just in time to see Wiles looming over him. Tyson lifted up his hands for protection, but not soon enough to stop the bike when Wiles swung it down on top of him. Tyson’s nose made a sickening crack sound as the bike pedal smashed it. He whimpered, and rolled over onto his side.

“We can talk about this more tomorrow,” Wiles said to the quivering Tyson as he returned to Alex, still sitting in the Jeep. On the one hand, what Alex just witnessed was brutal and shocking, but, on the other hand, if Tyson had it coming, then he had it coming. Cause and effect.