This week, I’m going to talk about what makes a good book description, and how I learned to write them.
And now, the problematic virtue:
Miguel and Maria had a blow-up in the morning and she’d stormed out. She had been gone all day, and Miguel resisted the urge to call or text her. He fought the impulse to fix it right away. Instead, he spent some time in his favorite chair trying to finish the last few chapters of Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian, but he couldn’t focus. Instead, he invited Theo over to play PlayStation and smoke weed to distract himself from the confrontation. Theo had always been a dependable friend. He was devoted, trustworthy, and unhesitating; the kind of guy you could tell nearly anything.
Except Miguel couldn’t tell Theo the whole story about the bridge, or about the selfish things he did afterwards, like keeping the truth from Maria and Brian and killing Ray to protect them. These were the reasons why Miguel drank whisky and smoked pot every waking minute most days, and why he saw the faces of the men he murdered in his sleep, and why he dreamed about unstoppable forces coming to take away his sister because of his own powerlessness to stop them. Some days better than others. Today, he just wanted to run.
He thought about the last thing Carl had said before Miguel killed him. Your boy, the white guy. Brian. Wiles told us to scare him, but then you showed up with that shotgun. What were we supposed to do? If the North Side mafia were just putting on a show on Wiles’ behalf, and then Miguel’s arrival caused the situation to go sour… then that made the entire thing his fault. He couldn’t reconcile the differences between what he remembered, what Wiles told him, and what Carl had told him.
Killing Carl hadn’t brought Miguel the relief he craved. There had to be a next step to quiet the voices of guilt and shame inside of him, but Miguel had no answers. He had no one left to kill and no confidant or Oracle to seek for advice.
In the afternoon, the doorbell rang and Miguel paused his game with Theo to open the door for Brian. “Special delivery,” Brian said.
Miguel welcomed Brian inside his house and embraced him in a well-meaning bear hug so severe that Brian had to wrestle free.
“It’s good to see you, too, big guy,” Brian said.
“I still can’t get used to your short hair. We’ve been bored as shit, just waiting all day for you to come by. Where you been at, Brian?”
“Yeah, I’m sorry about that,” Brian said. “I went for a hike up in Chautauqua to clear my head. I had a lunch date today with a girl, and she stood me up.”
“What a shitty thing to do.”
“I know. It’s not a big deal, it’s just a let-down.” Brian stuck his hand underneath his shirt and returned with a large bag of bright-green weed. The weed was a collection of tight cylinders, like fluffy green soda cans. “I heard you were looking for some of this, so I wanted to hand-deliver it.”
Theo’s eyes bulged at the sight of the buds. “Holy crap, that’s the stuff. I never seen it looking like that before,” he said.
“Is it really hydroponic? I haven’t been around any of that since way back,” Miguel said.
“I sampled some the other day and it’s the real deal, no seeds and no stems. Compact as hell, so one little nugget will burn forever,” Brian said.
“Well,” Miguel said as he opened the bag and took in the aroma, “you should sit with me and Theo and play some Madden while we burn through as much of this as we can stand. It’s the perfect thing to take your mind off that girl.” Miguel tossed the bag to Theo, who proceeded to break the cylinders into pieces, which he stuffed into the bowl of a tall glass bong. Tearing the dense green hunks released the sweet, skunky fragrance into the living room.
“I’m sorry, Miguel, I can’t.”
“I’ve been working on that card trick you taught me. Maybe I could show it to you. You can give me some tips.”
“I would love to stay,” Brian said, “but I have to get to the library today. I know I haven’t seen you guys in forever, but I just came by to drop this stuff off.”
“Oh, come on,” Miguel said, beckoning Brian to the couch. “You can’t just leave, just like that. Don’t you want to hang out with us for a while? Let’s kick it like we used to.”
“Nuggets game coming on soon,” Theo said.
“Stay and watch it with us,” Miguel said.
“How are the Nuggets doing this year?”
“Terrible, but that ain’t the point. Hang out with me and Theo today. You don’t need to spend all day thinking about some girl who ain’t worth it.”
“I shouldn’t, I mean, I have a rule about that. But… okay, alright, just for a little while. I can smoke one bowl with you. Maybe two. I mean it, though; I have to go to the library.”
The three of them took up position on the couch, then Miguel sparked the bowl and inhaled deeply. “Why are you doing this, Brian?” he said.
“Selling weed and that other stuff for Wiles. I mean, I’m glad you came by; it’s good to see you, but what are you doing working for that snake? I only do shit with him because I have to. If you need money, you can do stuff for me. Safer work, too, where you don’t have to handle product. Wouldn’t you rather do that?”
“I’m going to get out of here,” Brian said. “I’m getting some money saved, and after I graduate, I’m going to take off. Just leave. I know it’s still a ways off, but it’s gicing me something to focus on.”
“You could work for me in the meantime.”
Brian took his turn with the bong and let the smoke drift out of his mouth in a thin stream, letting several seconds pass before answering Miguel’s question. “I don’t think Wiles would like that very much. I appreciate it, Miguel, I do, but it’s more complicated than that. I made a deal with Wiles.”
Miguel pursed his lips. “What kind of deal?”
“My roommate is starting to get into some bad stuff. I talked to Wiles about it, and he’s going to help keep him out of trouble.”
Miguel laughed. “You think that dickweed will do anything for anybody else? What makes you think you can trust anything that piece of shit says?”
Like you can trust me? Like how I kept from you the truth about what happened to your brother? He wanted to tell Brian the whole story, but he’d harbored the lie for so long, what if the truth destroyed his friend?
“I have to believe that he will do right by me,” Brian said. “I can’t help Alex, and I’m worried that he’ll go too far. He doesn’t listen to me anymore but he does listen to Wiles. Maybe Wiles can keep him away from the hard stuff, and help him get his priorities straight. This way, I can almost keep an eye on him.”
“If he’s taking advice from Wiles,” Miguel said, “then he’s in a lot more trouble than you think.”