Yo. This week we’re talking about querying, and how an indie author can learn from it. What? Yes, you heard that right.
And now, this week’s text to read along:
The first thing Wiles did when he returned from the trailer park was to change his clothes, as some droplets of Mitchell’s blood had spotted his white t-shirt. He opted for black, which he always thought worked better for him anyway. Next, he ran some cold water to take the sting from his battered hand. Now, both of his hands had bruised knuckles. Good thing I don’t have any beauty contests lined up this week.
Finally, he started looking through the closet, and had searched through the first two shelves before Britton knocked on the door. When Wiles let the kid in his house, he said, “good, you’re here. I was just looking for something for you.” Wiles led Britton to his bedroom, where half the contents of the closet lay strewn about the room. He opened a shoebox on the bed and rifled through it. “I got my old one in here somewhere,” he said.
Britton looked at him, with that same stupid expression, as if he were about to launch another million questions at him. The kid never stopped asking.
“Brian got jumped last night by three guys behind 24-hour. It sounds like it was Mitchell and them.”
“Yeah, I know,” Wiles said, now digging underneath his bed.
“Oh, I see. Would have been nice if you kept me in the loop.”
Wiles dropped to his knees and swiped his aching hand below the bed. The caught the edge of something, and grabbed it. Bingo. He brought a cigar box out from underneath the bed. “Ahh, here it is,” he said. “After I tore out the whole damn closet, it’s not even in there. Figures.” He sat down on the bed and ran his hands over the top of the box.
“Why did you send Brian to get beat up? What was the point of that?”
“Those motherfuckers weren’t just supposed to beat him up,” Wiles said as he opened the box, which contained a pistol wrapped in a cloth rag. “One of them got cut up real bad, so they freaked out about it and took off before they did what I sent them there to do. If you want something done right… you know. Don’t worry about that, though, I gave them a stern lecture about responsibility.” He grasped the gun by the barrel and pointed the grip-end towards Alex. “Here, you’re going to need this. It’s not exactly a Desert Eagle, but it’ll get the job done.”
The hair on Britton’s arms stood at attention. Wiles had hoped for a better reaction. “I’m going to need that for what?” Britton said.
Wiles pulled the pistol back. Britton was like a five year-old, constantly requiring explanations for everything in the world. Wiles had no patience. “Are you in? I thought you said you were in.”
Britton tried to laugh it off. “You want me to take your janky old pistol? How do I know that thing will even fire?”
“It’ll work,” Wiles said, extending his arm to hold the pistol closer to Alex. “I’ll ask you one more time. Are you in?”
Britton swallowed. “Yeah, I’m in,” Alex said as he placed his hand on top of the pistol and gripped it.
“You ever held a gun before?” Wiles said.
Britton hesitated long enough that Wiles knew what came next would be a lie. “Yeah, of course,” he said.
Wiles stood up and pointed at the switch on the side of the firearm. “That right there is the safety. You already know this, I’m sure, but always know which position it’s in. Know it so you don’t have to look at it; you can feel it with your hand.”
Britton took the gun and slid it into his waistband. “I got this,” he said.
“Brian is first, and then Miguel,” Wiles said. “We’re going to clean house and let everybody know what happens when you try to fuck around with me. Fresh start. Things are going to be a lot easier when this is over.”
Britton cleared his throat. “What do we do first?”
“Don’t worry about that yet. I got all that under control.”
Brian got his release from the hospital the morning after checked in, with little fanfare. No punctured lung, no concussion, not even broken ribs. Just a purple football-shaped bruise on his stomach and a minor facial fracture on his upper right cheek, giving him one bloodshot eye. One red eye, one brown. They sent him on his way with some Vicodin and strict orders to rest for two weeks.
First, he took a taxi to the 24-hour Fitness, and with little surprise discovered that his car had been stolen. Stumbling on Brent Gartner and now having a cop’s phone number might prove useful. He did have a vague recollection of speaking with a couple of uniformed officers while in his hospital bed, but had virtually no idea what he told them. For all he knew, he was supposed to be at the station giving a statement, or maybe he already did that last night.
His next stop on the taxi route took him to campus, to an appointment with his advisor. The advisor had called him two days before, promising good news. Brian only managed to remember because he had written the appointment time on a slip of paper, which he happened to take out of his pocket as the intern wheeled him out of the hospital.
The advisor, a lanky man with grey hair named Mr. Goode, greeted Brian with concern for his injuries, which Brian blamed on a bicycle accident on the Hill. This led to a diatribe from Mr. Goode about the negligent safety laws in Boulder. Brian listened dutifully. Brian did not know Mr. Goode’s home state, but his accent had a hint of regality to it, like the way people spoke in 1950s movies. Brian suspected he was from the northeast somewhere, maybe Maine or Vermont.
“The reason I asked you here,” Mr. Goode said after he finished his safety speech, “is that I have great news for you.”
The Vicodin made events occur at half-speed. “What’s that, Mr. Goode?”
“Firstly, I owe you a tremendous apology. I made a mistake filing your transfer paperwork from Front Range when we spoke last December. I looked at it again, and it appears that all of your FRCC credits will transfer, not just the ones in your major.”
“What does that mean?”
“That means, my good man, that you are only three hours away from graduation, after this semester, that is. Just three hours, in math, specifically. We’ll have to scramble to get all the paperwork filed to graduate you on such short notice, but don’t worry about that, I will take full responsibility, since this was my mistake. ”
Mr. Goode just gave him the first dangling vine in the quicksand of the last few weeks. “I graduate in December, then?”
“Even better. We’ll sign you up for a summer session Algebra class, but you can still walk in May with the rest of the class of ‘03.”
I can walk in May. If I live that long.
At home, Brian attempted to shower, which proved a challenge because every time he moved his body, a sharp pain slashed across his midsection. He soon discovered that any movement or activity at all, no matter how slight, caused him pain. Brushing his teeth also became arduous due to the demon-red eye and welt across his face. Lucky that Mohawk’s brass knuckles had not knocked out teeth or dislocated his eye.
Brian spent a few minutes meditating on the couch, then he picked up his guitar for the first time in months. As he strummed a chord, his phone buzzed, and he answered it when Miguel’s number appeared on the screen. Miguel skipped the pleasantries.
“I was worried about you,” Miguel said. “I called you last night and you never answered.”
Brian’s jaw ached with every word spoken. “I couldn’t answer my phone, sorry about that. I got jumped at a thing I was doing for Wiles. They beat the crap outta me and I spent the night in the hospital.”
“Yeah, I know. Maria told me she saw them wheeling you in on a stretcher. She almost had a heart attack. Are you okay?” Miguel said.
“Some bumps and bruises, I’m okay, and they gave me some pain pills to get me through. Have you called Wiles lately?”
“I don’t talk to Wiles anymore unless I have to.”
“Maybe you should,” Brian said. “Something is going on, Miguel.”
“You think Wiles had something to do with you getting attacked?”
“Probably. I’m still trying to piece it all together, but I’m not exactly going to call him to find out.”
“Let me take of this, Brian. I’m going to stop by your house later to check on you. I came by last night, but your gate code changed.”
Brian wanted to pass along the news about his impending graduation, but that seemed insignificant in light of everything else that had transpired. Brian told him the new code. Miguel made assurances to Brian, which eased his mind, to a degree.
Brian went back out to the balcony and watched cars enter and leave the lot for a few minutes. Normally, he would be smoking on his balcony. The impulse for cigarettes deluged him today… an expanding and contracting sense of urgency in his chest. He fought it, refusing to let the desire for a cigarette overcome him.
When he finished people-watching, feeling so exhausted that he needed to take a nap, he returned inside and a new text message appeared on his phone. It came from Miguel, telling him that he should leave town for a few days.
That’s a brilliant idea, Miguel, but I can barely walk and I have no car.