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This Design Is Called Paisley
The Seduction of Mister Slickery (novelette)
© 2012 James LaFond
Dust Cover
Robert Slavie is a sixty-year-old librarian; a life-long bachelor, overqualified for his job, with no place to go but home. Other than the possible achievement of his life-time goal to read 50,000 books before retirement, Robert does not have a lot to look forward to. But one winter morning a young woman bypasses his female colleague at the front desk and comes directly to him for assistance. When she immediately concocts a pet name for him and schedules another visit he feels the silent footfall of doom. Is there any way he can survive the web of seduction he is being drawn into?
“Every person should strive to stay out of James LaFond’s non-fiction books. It should likewise be the goal of all fictional characters to avoid appearing in his fiction.” -Adam Swinder, September 2012
"This Design is Called Paisley."
And thus began the end of his life, with words, which, if uttered by any other of God’s creatures would not have had the slightest impact on him. But these words, coming from the ruby lips of Miss Casey May Huang, a woman precisely one third of his sixty years of age, completed his seduction. She now owned his once strong heart, his once sharp mind, and his still faltering soul.
She smiled with her luscious cheeks, and twitched her little chin, as she snared the lapels of his old paisley shirt in little copper-hued hands, and pulled him closer while she looked up into his tired eyes with her bright brown ones. “Thank you very much, Mister Slickery, for getting me these apartment listings. A girl moving into town alone can’t be too careful. If it weren’t for you and the library I don’t know how I’d find half of what I need to get started.”
He paused, in his halting tone, which always irritated him, and made him a joke as a public speaker, “Oh, oh yes Ms, umm—Miss Huang…your inquires into the local history, and your beadwork manuals are, ah, being shipped out from the central library. They, should be here, in two days.”
She pushed him back farther between the stacks, his tall awkward legs back-stepping uncertainly. She then seemed to smile to herself and looked slowly up into his eyes. “Do you know why I named you Mister Slickery?”
“Ah, ah, no Miss—”
“Because you think so much about how you would like to do things—like how you would like to get to know a certain curious girl new to town—and then so slickly avoid saying what you want.”
He was frozen, and made to look around for his coworker Mrs. Horning, and the wonderful little woman licked her lips and grinned. “And do not even pretend—Mister Slickery—that you have not already calculated our chances of privacy as highly favorable before walking me back to Ancient History to present my apartment listings.”
“Oh, oh my—”
She then rose up on her tip toes and reached out with her teeth and playfully nibbled his shirt collar and snarled like, well, like a bunny rabbit would snarl if it could. “What do you want—from me—Mister Slickery?”
“Oh, oh my—well, really, ah, how does a cup of coffee sound? Perhaps—”
She then kissed his chin and placed a card in his shirt pocket and walked away, out from among the stacks, across the common space, past the computer terminals, and then to the sale rack. She then stopped, seemed to think, and tossed her long brown—no bronze-tinted black—hair back over her shapely shoulder and regarded him with deep brown eyes, and smiled with her bright white teeth, before walking out the door purposefully.
“Oh my, she is a delight.”
He then plucked the card from his pocket, regarding its printed side. The card read: Exotic Beadology and Herbal Therapy, Casey May Huang, Consultant. There was a cell phone number and a pleasing graphic of a girl sniffing some potted herbs.
He then frowned and flipped the card over to its back, where, penned with a dainty hand in pink ink, was the following: Hotel Eight, Compass Drive, Room 304—knock on the door or be a bore; tomorrow morning at ten, see you then.
He began to sweat; his hand to shake. Then a chill began rising ever so slightly up his spine. “Oh, oh my!”
He then lowered his voice to a whisper, as he was quite embarrassed about his particular eccentricity, which was speaking to himself. “Oh my, I am doomed. A lifetime without love, and I am now in its sizzling embrace; and to what end?”
The answer never came, as his train of thought was utterly wrecked by Mrs. Horner’s shrill voice. “Mister Slavie, are your materials requests complete, or are you still toiling away for that little vixen?”
“Oh, oh yes—quite right Mary; directly that is…the requests are on my desk. I shall—”
“I do not possess an entire day of leisure Mister Slavie!”
Thus chastised, Robert Slavie; known by his associates as Mister Slavie, by his only friend as Bob, and affectionately known by a certain spritely goddess as Mister Slickery, lurched toward his office. He was clutching her card so tightly he became worried that he might smear her pink cursive—so perfectly wrought for such a young lady of this touch-screen age. He was unable to even put his sudden yearning for her repeated touch into a safe corner of his mind; every corner apparently being filled to capacity with the academic and incidental chaff generated by a life lived in the stacks...
"Your Honor, The Mirror Rests its Case"
“And the accused pleads guilty.”
He stood before the inanimate prosecuting attorney, gazing forlornly at the tall gangly old man in the full-length mirror on his closet door, all too aware that he inhabited the reflected body.
The socks matched the loafers, the slacks the socks, the beige sweater not quite so; and there it was, the narrow face of an old fool, with deep inset eyes, the kind of eyes that should not have bags under them but did, thankfully obscured by too-thick glasses. His chin was too sharp, his cheeks a little sunken. His brows, he had managed to trim with his toenail clippers, their grey rows hidden behind the rims of his worn glasses.
The balding dome was a bit large and barely sprinkled with enough feathery steel-colored foliage to form a respectable wreathe. One lonely hair, which he could not bear to pluck, signifying as it did his once energetic youth, laid over his crown. He slicked it down and hoped it would not rise to embarrass him at some inopportune moment.
“Oh my, you old fool. What good can come of this venture?”
“Ah yes—the suede vest!”
He turned, nervous somehow, even in the comfort of his own house of forty years, for the deep brown vest of brushed leather draped over his bedpost—and managed to trip and fall across the bed.
As he pushed himself to his feet he groused at himself like an old friend grown irritated with a clumsy acquaintance. “Superstition would be an ally just now; that pathetic fall an omen to be certain, that my lust will come to naught!”
He pushed himself upright with a groan and put the vest on in some haste. He then turned to the Impropriety Attorney on the closet door and looked on in dismay, even as he arranged her emerald card just so in the vest pocket. “It is a dream at least, perhaps even a mistake—but a man must be a man. Oh, that was positively Hitleresque, Clintonian at the least.”
“Yes, indeed. But a bore I am not—or do not want to be in this case.”
“Go then, and try to recall Miss Jeraldine’s counsel.”
“Oh that—must her obstructive hoop earrings always dominate this unrequited corner of my mind with… Ah, she was a woman of some skill.”
He walked toward the stairs, and then headed smoothly down toward the front door, calmed by his recollections of Miss Jeraldine. The woman was a professional companion to older men, hired by Cram Phillips, Chess Player Extraordinaire, and sent to Robert’s house on his 60th birthday, ten long months past.
Robert had been reluctant. But there had always been that nagging worry about the excruciating fate of an underused prostate gland. After some consultation with Miss Jeraldinethey had agreed that their dalliance was to be conducted in the spirit of instruction, just in case there would arise in Robert’s life the occasion to actually dally with a woman. It appeared now, after forty-three years of repressed desire and ten months lived in a state of guilty confirmation, supplied by Miss Jeraldine’s mercenary hands—that it was now finally time to dally!
"May I Help you Sir?"
He stood, stammering before the woman at the counter, partially because he did not wish her to think him a fool, and partially because she was magnetically attractive, and short like he preferred. He then began to drift into a self-critical examination: was he just over-sexed now thanks to the ministrations of Miss Jeraldine; was he just some ravenous beast who found many women attractive, lusting for this blonde buxom one even as he procured a gift for his spritely brunette love-interest? What was next, was he to suddenly discover a yearning in his loins for the matronly school crossing guard! What had become of Robert Slavie, Doctor of Library Science—who yet toiled in the stacks as an assistant branch manager to that prattling hag Mrs. Horner!
The sultry yet genteel voice of the woman, who looked more like a country music singer than a florist, came to his rescue. “Sir, I’m Miss Savanna Lee, and I will do my level best to make this easy on you.”
She then came from around the counter, with her all-too-curvaceous figure unsuccessfully concealed beneath a somewhat gaudy dress, and placed a soft calming hand on his quivering wrist. She looked up into his eyes—perhaps that was why he liked them short, because he got to enjoy seeing their eyes open wide when they looked up, at him, this towering monstrosity…
He must have been very tense, because she pressed finger to lips in the attitude of placating an infant and ‘shushed’ him silently. “What color is her hair Sir?”
“Brown—no, bronze.”
She winked at him. “That was an important observation, a demonstration of her preference.”
She stepped over to an open stand and picked up a bronze-colored plastic vase. She then winked at him again, and asked a pointed question, already knowing the answer. “The nature of the call: business, cordial, platonic or—romantic?”
She then dismissed him with a smirk and a wink, and wiggled over to a refrigerated case, him following with his eyes only, and then looked back over her shoulder as her curls bobbed unnaturally above her shoulders, as if her hair were an intelligent form of plant-life that knew to brush against that expensive dress was certain death…
His eyes had glazed over considering her hair and she brought him to full alert with a crisp snapping of her fingers. “How much younger is she?”
It was as if he had been stricken by the hand of Miss Casey May’s mother, who would still probably be but a child compared to him. “Oh, ah—umm…very.”
She seemed intrigued and came back to him with the vase between her soft hands. “How very?”
“Ah, um—ah…very…very.”
She then, somehow, pursed her lips and purred audibly like a kitten and winked both of her big brown eyes up at him and smiled as she spoke, “Yes, our great state still produces men of the highest caliber.”
She then produced two white gloves seemingly from nowhere and marched back to the case and lifted a whole bucket of roses from it. She then crouched over the bucket on the turquoise tile floor and began snipping away at the thorny little branches that supported the big silky red flowers, suddenly possessed like a rabid homemaker. “She is young, size and quantity will mean a lot. Your great height wows her and hints at other fulfilling characteristics. She waits for you now, primping in the mirror, making sure to be appealing from every angle, employing her beauty products to the best affect.”
Like a magician she then popped up on her feet, still, in her high heels, not even coming up to his chest, and blinked both eyes again. “Do not take her to bed, you have been around—you must project that even if you haven’t. Make her work. She already knows that she will get what she wants in the end. Not being predictable and easily led will encourage her to expend some effort. Make the little lady work for it Sir.”
He was unsettled by the conspiratorial train of thought expressed by this woman so elegantly. She fairly danced back behind the counter, wrapped the rose-sprouting vase in satin cloth and a pink bow, taped a box of chocolates to the neck, and presented it to him by placing it in the center of the counter. “That shall be one-hundred-and-eighty dollars Sir—the advice is free of charge.”
He proffered his card, now oddly feeling at ease, signed the screen, signed the receipt, and bowed his head to the commandingly attractive belle. She returned his bow with a curtsy and a double wink. “And, Mister Robert, do tug on that bronzed hair ever so slightly—that’s why it’s there, and, more importantly, why it is bronzed.”
He felt his eyes bug out as his lower back collided with the shoulder of the UPS driver barreling through the front door. Miss Savanna Lee somehow managed to smile to both of them at the same time while she waved to a little girl and her mother passing by on the sidewalk outside.
“Oh my, what a presence she has…how assuring it must be to be so socially deft; so sure of one’s self.”
When the jingle of the doorbells played behind him he felt like a rejuvenated soul, a bird set free over some fair meadow—and then self-doubt came swooping down like a hawk, and he proceeded stiff-legged to his 1979 Monte Carlo, still not a scratch on it, and waxed again, in his temperature-controlled garage, just yesterday…
Room 304
So it was labeled, the portal to his dreams, a place where, already, he imagined long-delayed pleasure and much-earned contentment. He could not tell how long he stood there, staring at the door, its number declared in raised plate lettering.
He whispered to himself in the hallway, conscious of the probable thin quality of the hotel walls. “Do not take her to bed Slavie; you have, after all, ‘been around’. She would like to believe that she is just your latest, yes, but most desirable, conquest. Yes indeed, I have ‘been around’ and shall be rushed into nothing by Lust, not even when that wicked word holds out the promise of her cultivated sister, Love!”
He felt better now, like a man who has just been addressed by his charismatic leader on the eve of some battle. He stood a little straighter—a ridiculous impulse, setting his eyes even with the top of the door frame as it did. But straighter he stood, Robert Masden Slavie, a bachelor who has ‘been around’—well around Miss Jeraldin’e considerable hips perhaps; but ‘around’ none-the-less!
Time crept by slowly; framing his conflicted plight like the satin cloth in his hands framed the vase of roses. He was passed first by a businessman departing on some errand, twice by a bustling maid; innumerable times by a child gnawing on a crumbling cookie, already dressed against the January cold and apparently awaiting the emergence of her parents from their rented room.
Eventually, after the child and her parents finally departed under a mountain of ill-packed luggage, complete with underwear hanging from a hastily closed suitcase, all-the-while chastising the child and arguing between themselves over the particulars of their destination… he knocked, and the door opened immediately, revealing the woman of his dreams draped in a translucent yellow evening gown that swept the floor of the tolerably appointed room.
“Oh my, why, ah…you appear exquisite this morning Miss Casey May…I…I…n—I”
She took the vase without inviting him in and sauntered over to a sitting table, where she bent over—needlessly as the table was waist-high—with sensual deliberation, looking back over her shoulder at him, and placed the vase in its center. The only other furniture in the room was a television stand, a chair, and an end table, all arrayed around the reason for this room being here, a large plush bed. She spared a sideways glance at the bed and returned slowly to him.
After his encounter with Miss Savannah Lee he was feeling like he had some insight into the workings of their alien minds; these wonderful female creatures—with the exception of the dreadful Mrs. Horner that is! The buxom florist would be, he supposed, a Doctor of Seductive Science, well-versed in all of the ways of her prey—being men—and supremely skilled in her art.
Miss Casey May Huang here was brighter of eye, more lustrous of complexion, and less—far less—gaudily attired. Although one could clearly see through the wispy cloth that masqueraded as a dress, she was but a neophyte, perhaps possessing an associate’s degree from the local Community College of Lust Management. As delightful as it was to watch her glide across the carpeted floor in her bare feet, beneath the mosquito-net evening dress, she lacked the feline grace of the older woman; the years of calculated seductions… Robert Slavie now felt like a toiling insect, about to be devoured by a spider just come to adulthood, about to savor her first victim!
His body broke into a cold sweat. But somewhere, somewhere deep down inside of his sublimated ape’s brain, his animal impulse to possess this luscious creature—to make her his—rose within him. Too cultivated a man to ever let an impulse rule him, he dressed up the possessive emotion with his notion of civility, and decided on praise as a vent for his animal craving for her. The end result of this moment-long process of sublimation was a feeling of open confidence. He found himself, to his surprise, openly admiring her copper form, clearly outlined behind the yellow shift, and made to apologize. “Ah, um, uh—”
She wrapped her arms around his neck and hung from him like a child on a piece of playground equipment and smiled with apparent delight. “I thought you would never knock on this door Mister Slickery!”
“Yes, well, ah—”
“And what about that crazy family next door! That kid was up bouncing off the walls all night while they yelled at her to be quiet. They must feed her sugar twenty-four seven!”
“You know, they say—”
“I don’t care what they say Mister Slickery, just kiss me and come in here!”
He knew himself now to be utterly lost, without a chance of ever knowing freedom from such fearful attachment again—and he did not care, did not even consider his long held fear of intimacy. Miss Jeraldine’s tutorial on kissing came to mind and he let himself fall for what seemed forever as he closed his eyes and kissed her, and she dragged him down into the room with one hand as she pulled the door shut with the other. In the back of his mind the wagging finger of the elegant Miss Savannah Lee hypnotized him while she ‘tisked’ and tried to remind him to ‘make the little lady work’.
Ridiculously he began to speak to himself, and then stopped, bringing his hand to his mouth. She then looked up and sat back on the edge of the bed; gazing up at him with a devilish grin as she undid his belt.
“Miss—oh my…”
‘Well’ supposed Robert Slavie, the little lady did seem to be engaged industriously in an activity that his flexible intellect could loosely define as ‘work’. The admonishing ghost of Miss Savannah Lee would have to be content with that interpretation of events. As his mind raced to justify his taking advantage of this young woman barely out of childhood, he forgot all about Miss Lee’s reminder to tug the young lady’s hair. However, apparently an understudy of the florist, Miss Casey May Huang reminded him herself, without sparing a word, because, of course, she could not—at least not at that very moment.
“What has gotten into you?” exclaimed Cram Phillips, Medical Doctor, fellow Mensa member, international chess competitor, and Robert Slavie’s one and only friend.
Around Cram alone, Robert did not stammer and search haltingly for words. The man had a gift for relaxing Robert, and, for the third time this Saturday afternoon, before answering, he repaid his best and only friend by checkmating him once again. “There is a lady friend, a young lady friend, currently occupying some of my time—joyfully I might add.”
“Wait a minute,” said Cram suspiciously, “You are not paying her?”
“A bouquet of roses perhaps, some lucid conversation, a guiding hand…”
“You old horn-dog! Is she good-looking?”
“I hate to break this to you old friend, but if she is young and beautiful, then she is in for the whole enchilada. Expect to mortgage that house of yours to buy her clothes. Women are materialistic; they want things, comforts. Men are just a means to those things. Of course that is changing now with these younger males today becoming mating drones and adopting a quasi-female role. Suffice it to say, my good friend, that you are already financially and emotionally ruined—another game for now. It seems I won’t have long to avenge this humiliating defeat. You’ll probably be dead of a Vi-agra overdose by next week.”
“Why, thank you Cram, for that sage and uplifting counsel.”
“Don’t mention it. Hopefully the positive effects of your recent estrogen bath are now dissipated.”
“Don’t count on it sir!”
With that the two old men settled down, with hunched backs and knitted brows, to a battle of wits not for the faint of heart.
"Is She Good-looking?"
Cram’s words were haunting him. It was now late Saturday afternoon, dark already. There had never been a more perfect day. He had spent from 10:30 AM to 1:00 PM in her embrace, and had then spent a few hours brutalizing Cram in chess—but something wrestled with his ape brain in the back of his mind, and that was suspicion, suspicion of a thing that might be too good to be true.
“She promised to be waiting for you at ten tomorrow morning. She just needs some time and money to get the things she needed for moving in. Blast that chess commitment with Cram. If not for that I could have stayed with her—would not be feeling this insecure.”
“You did give her your debit card and pin number fool.”
“But she gave me her hotel room card—I can just stop by.”
“Well then you should! Go see her. Make love to her again. Take her to purchase her things.
“Good God, she does not even have a car—came to town on the bus.”
“She can easily afford a cab.”
“No, I must see to her myself. I do not even like being away from her. How can this be, this feeling of dreadful separation. I have never experienced this?”
“Now you know why Cram looked at you like you were a drowning man and he a man that could not swim. Just go retrieve her; take her home now!”
He pulled up at the hotel next to a red Scion, just the type of small vehicle he had always envied, as he was far too tall to ever climb into, let alone drive, one. His classic Monte Carlo had all of the legroom he required though. The red car seemed to sink like a damning metaphor into his mind, the symbol of this world into which he barely fit, and an age that was passing—had indeed long since passed—him by. The reverie triggered by this red car gave him another chill up his spine, not a thing that often happened to him.
He could not wait, could barely contain himself. He bounded up the stairs and vaguely recalled that he had been a passable collegiate basketball player many decades past. He took six exceeding long foot steps down the hallway, stopped, straightened his paisley shirt collar, having put it back on without even washing it on a nostalgic impulse, and then swiped the electronic key card.
He burst into the room with a seductive grin of his own on his face, and there she was, sitting on the floor naked eating pizza, while the television roared with explosions, and a young Hispanic man with muscular tattooed arms, and wearing boxers and a muscle shirt cursed at the screen from the bed as he frantically stabbed at a video game controller with his thumbs, a headset on his ears.
He was frozen in horror. They both turned their heads in wide-eyed dismay, which turned to tears in her eyes and rage in the young man’s. The man leaped up off of the bed and tore loose the headset as Casey waved Robert back and said, “No, no!”
He was feeling dizzy with betrayal, calculating the lies, coming to the conclusion very quickly that he was to have walked into an empty room tomorrow morning. Then the harsh voice erupted in his face. “What the fuck you doin’ in my crib old man!?! Get yo ass out a here!”
Robert turned to Casey, who was covering up and cowering in a sheet with tear-filled eyes and a guilty frown, and held up the room key. “Why Miss Huang?”
The man then shouted at Casey, “You gave him the fucking key bitch! Whach a madder wit you! Hah?”
She squirmed away from him up against the base of the TV stand as he took a step toward her. “Just let him go Tiendo—don’t hurt him.”
The young criminal was now hovering over her, clenching his fists. “Are you kidding me bitch! You like this muthafuca. So what else did you give him punta. I oughta slap the taste outa’ your mouth girl!”
Robert’s chest heaved in anger and he felt his face flush. The woman might have been a conspiratorial seductress but she was a woman, and, he still really cared about her. He could not leave her with this beast of a man. He advanced on the man and laid a hand on his shoulder meaning to spin him around and warn him not to strike Casey May in his presence. “Young ma—”
The wind left his lungs with a painful groan as the much shorter but much stronger young man, barely out of his teens, sunk his fist into Robert’s stomach. His world shattered into a sheet of pain as he fell to his knees and gasped for a breath that he seemed unable to gather into his lungs. Even the sounds of the squabble over his body were drowned out by the hollow beating of his heart and the pounding of his aching temples. He could tell vaguely that Casey May was struggling with the young man who was kicking him as he curled up on the floor. He heard a loud slap and then her yelp of pain. She was then pleading with him. “Tiendo, he’s a nice man. Please let him go. We have his money.”
“Shut up bitch!”
Hot breath now poured into his face as the beastly little criminal rolled him over on his back, stuck a hard knee in Robert’s stomach, and pulled him up by his paisley shirt collar. “Listen old man, I’m gonna walk yo old ass down ta your car—and if anything happens to me; if I get arrested, any of that chit, den my homeboy carves this bitch up and cuts your balls off—got it!?! Got it!?!”
Robert could not speak, but knew that the crazed youth needed reassurance, so he nodded ‘yes’. He was then dropped on his back. “Catch a breath old man—bitch, get packed. You gave him the fucking key! Are you kidding me!?! Leave all you’re girly bullchit here. Get movin’ while I take your boyfriend downstairs—move girl!”
The man then yanked on Robert’s legs and began massaging his stomach. “There you old piece-of-chit, breathe. I don’t need your old ass dyin’ on me.”
The man lifted him up and began walking him toward the door with the sounds of Casey May vomiting and crying in the bathroom assaulting his ears. Tiendo walked him to the elevator. When a family emerged, the criminal put on an impressive act. “Here Uncle Bobby, just lean on me. I told you not to eat those tacos; damn wetback cooks never wash their hands. Thank you Sir, have a good day Miss—those are two beautiful children there. Remember to mind your parents kids!”
Finally the elevator door shut and Tiendo transformed again. “I’m not doing anymore time Pops. If the heat comes for me she dies first. You want that on your conscience Pops—her pretty chink face saying, 'Sugar Daddy where you at; why jou call down the heat on Tiendo?'
Robert salvaged some dignity along with his voice, and strangely did not stammer, “Silence, agreed.”
Tiendo seemed to relax. “Good, glad to hear it. She don’t want you no how. You were just a score, and she’s a girly girl so feels bad about you being a nice old man.”
They emerged from the elevator and walked out through the lobby past the clerk. Tiendo was all grace. “We’re good Miss, just walking my Uncle Bobby back to his car. He’s not feeling too good.”
He then whispered to Robert as he pushed through the lobby doors. “Besides, you a big boney somebody holmes, en I forgot my chainsaw—ain’t no way jour long ass is fittin' in the trunk a my baby girl here.”
With those chilling words they stood between the red Scion and Robert’s ’79 Monte Carlo. Tiendo was impressed. “Nice ride holmes! My Uncle Felix had one a dese! You do all the work?”
“Yes, Tiendo, I did.”
Again, he had not stammered.
Tiendo then became dismissive. “Okay old man, you bought jourself a twenty-thousand dollar piece of Chinese ass. Lez jus call it even.”
He felt indignant, more for Casey than himself, and again, did not stammer. “She is Korean, Korean-American.”
Tiendo was dismissive. “Whateva jou liberal muthafuca. My ass is cold, so get jourself home Pops—later!”
The terribly adaptive young criminal then pranced like a fairyland elf across the cold asphalt in his yellow socks back into the hotel. Robert sat down behind the wheel of his car and looked searchingly in his rearview mirror. “Cram was right, and you, fool, are a greater fool than he could have imagined.”
As he drove home he considered calling the banking service and having his account closed and transferred, or at least his pin number changed. Then thoughts of Tiendo’s probable rage, and what he might do to Casey entered his mind like an evil specter. “Goodbye Miss Casey May Huang. I could have done without the beating, but the company was worth it. For an entire afternoon I was in love. At least I know what it is like. Please remember to duck the next time you talk back to him.”
"Back in the Stacks"
“Yes old friends, it is nice to be back in your musty embrace.”
He had returned to his old love, the stacks; the rows of rarely touched bookshelves in the library, a once hallowed building that was now little more than an internet dating nexus. He had not read every book in this collection. He did still read one book every day, his pace having slacked off some over the years, so as to be well-versed in every subject, at least from a bibliographical point-of-view, for whichever reader might wander in to ply his or her archaic art among the stacks.
Robert Slavie, had, in his life time, read 46,507 books. His annotated reading list occupied 26 binders, catalogued alphabetically, each with a 3-sentence review, and had pride-of-place on the mantel above his fireplace. He was not a writer; not an original thinker; not the creative type at all. He was a walking talking archive, an out-of-pace resource that would, in ages past, have been a cultural treasure. Now however, in what was ironically termed ‘The Information Age’, he was an anachronistic oddity, a living study in obsolescence.
Robert did not engage in self-pity, did not mourn; did not feel anger over the termination of his phoenix like love affair of barely two days. He did, however, Miss Miss Casey May Huang deeply. How, he thought, could he have fallen so easily into that web of deceit?
He did not dwell on it though. He had his work to occupy him. He wanted to break 50,000 titles before retirement. But with teaching high school dropouts how to use the library’s free online services, so that they could listen to obscene music and arrange drug-deals via the internet, one had little time to read in one’s library. He made up for this by reading the new acquisitions while shelving them, one page at a time, on the sly as it were, out of view of the dreadful Mrs. Horner and her ever-seeing eye.
He was shelving and reading two particularly daft romance novels at the moment. He absorbed the first page of each, predicted the ending, skipped to the final page, and found his suspicions justified. With a triumphant “Hurumpf!” he placed the books in their niche, and found himself rudely interrupted by Mrs. Horner, dressed, today, as if in a Lutheran sanctuary drapery, in order to hide her prodigious girth. “Romance today, is it Mister Slavie? Was your dalliance across the Thirty-eighth Parallel not enough to satiate your whimsy?”
Robert had always stammered in the presence of Mrs. Horner, indeed before any authority figure. He did not wish, however, to humiliate himself with his own inadequate verbiage just yet, and instead, quite defiantly, and perhaps even disrespectfully, lowered his glasses, and peered down over their rims from his great height disapprovingly at the portly woman, nearly twenty years his junior.
She seemed to ‘feel’ his eyes upon her and winced visibly, and then countered with an accusing tone. “Some young people have been calling here for you while you were assisting Terence with the loading of the Reading Rover. I believe one of the voices belonged to your little vixen—whatever have you been up to Mister Slavie?”
He took his glasses off altogether, and spoke, to his own surprise, commandingly, “Mrs. Horner, please be so kind as to divert any such calls to my voicemail. I’ve grown tired of the youngsters already. No quantity of mind-altering substances could make any more of their adolescent discourse bearable.”
She twitched her nose in disgust and leaned back slightly even as he felt himself leaning and eventually looming above her, like some villain in a fairytale. So he went for her psychic jugular, and said with a hissing quality, “One now quite understands Mister Horner’s penchant for strong spirits!”
Mrs. Horner placed her hand on her amply padded heart and gasped as Robert Marsden Slavie walked past her and patted her ever so gently on her enormous rear end.
He then busied himself attending to some indigent nitwit attempting to access his own e-mail account. Mrs. Horner was not the same for the next hour or so, now seemingly respectful of the overqualified assistant that she had so long tormented, and ever mindful to stay out of looming and patting range. He imagined now that her demands on his time would become less frequent, and may thereafter seem more like requests.
After helping the man recall the date of his birth, Robert straightened up, towering over the morons that surrounded him, and felt for all-the-world like Tarzan of The Apes among his adopted simian family. It then occurred to him that he had not stammered since being punched by Tiendo and that he had not spoken to himself—unless one counted speaking to the books—since rising this morning. He felt almost as if the young gangster had liberated him somehow from his social cocoon. Robert Slavie now knew that he was done being pushed around. As much as he missed Casey May, he was happier—if he could use that word—now, than he ever was before he had met her. He simply pushed aside the hopeless notion that he could ever be as happy again, as he had been for that brief time he spent together with her.
While checking the current magazines to be certain they were at the fore of the rack and the back issues behind, he recalled that he had not visited his regular lunch spot, The Diner, since meeting Casey. So he walked over to Mrs. Horner at the service desk, placed his hands on its edge, and announced, “I shall be taking my lunch out of turn today Mrs. Horner. I’m quite up for some whole wheat pancakes if you do not object.”
The proverbial shoe of insecurity was apparently now on the other foot. “Yes, well, certainly—of course Robert, I hope, ah, you enjoy your meal.”
Mrs. Horner then unconsciously moved the red-tinted hair of her bob away from her jaw-line, and Robert, seductively puckered his lips and winked! Mrs. Horner’s hands then broke out into goose bumps and she absently fumbled with the collar of her dress to make certain it was buttoned all the way. “Oh, my…you slay me Robert.”
With that, Emanuel, their homosexual associate, seated just to her right, made an “Ooo” of disgust and pushed away from the desk. “Gag me—two ancient breeders! Get a room people!” and walked off toward the computer stations.
Mrs. Horner then sat a little straighter, thus pushing out her oversized upholstered bosom, and blushed. “Could you please bring me back some mozzarella sticks Robert, with some ranch dressing, please?”
Now, feeling in control of his surroundings, he used his most reassuring tone, the one he had just utilized to annul the embarrassment of the man who could not recall his birthday. “It would be my pleasure Mary—see you in a few.”
Robert walked away from the desk, just knowing that his portly—and apparently sexually repressed—manager was admiring his every long stride.
The Diner
“Yes, to The Diner it is, for an hour of relaxation.”
Robert walked out over the bleached concrete patio before the entrance at 10:00 a.m., which, for ever after, would have to be his favorite time of day. He looked up at the light blue winter sky and then headed for his Monte Carlo, fumbling with his keys—as it seemed some things never change. A small pickup truck almost swept his long legs from beneath him. After waving apologetically to the tobacco chewing moron behind the wheel, who just happened to be the fellow who could not recall his birthday, he looked up toward his car, and felt his heart sink into his stomach, as if he had been punched all over again.
Leaning on the driver’s side door was Casey May, her head hung low, dressed in what looked like boy’s clothing. He immediately expected a trap and looked around for the red Scion or its criminal owner, and saw no one. She did not look up, did not seem to see him coming. He walked over to her and stood before her. She saw his feet but would not raise her face to look at him, just kept staring at his feet. Her shoulders indicated that she was sobbing, and tears dripped on her sneakers.
He did not feel, strangely enough, any anger towards her. Worry would have been closer to the feeling, but not completely accurate. Perhaps morbid curiosity tinged with concern would have been a more fateful description. He placed one hot-dog sized finger under her chin and raised her head so that he could look into her eyes—and they were both blackened and swollen, her lips split, a bloody crust around her nostrils.
He felt a pang of anger and quickly submerged it beneath that thing that had seemed to grow within him after he was beaten by Tiendo. He just hugged her while she sobbed and mumbled into his sweater, “I’m so sorry, I just had to see if you were okay. He said you were. But how could I know? I’m so sorry Mister Slickery. I’ll go.”
She then pushed away from him, but he held her shoulders between his hands and looked into her eyes. “How did you get here?”
“I hitchhiked up from Virginia Beach.”
She then sniffled and dug into the pocket of the high school letterman’s jacket she was wearing for a tissue.
“Casey, I am headed over to The Diner. Would you like to join me for lunch?”
In answer she just hugged him and buried her head in his sweater…
…The pancakes were piping hot like he liked them and the coffee more so. Casey only nibbled and sipped. They sat along the row of booths in his normal seat across from the counter and not far from the door, with a view on the highway rather than the parking lot. She was in the process of tearfully confessing her crimes and sins. “I was so happy when he told me that he wasn’t going to pimp me out anymore, that we would be scamming rich guys, and, and”
He finished the statement for her, “suckers.”
She looked up with guilty eyes and frowned, “I thought that being a fraud would be better than being a whore. I was wrong. I liked you. We weren’t supposed to have sex. I was just supposed to lead you on and get your debit card. That’s why he beat me. Tiendo isn’t someone you cross. I just came back to apologize for taking you broke. I’ll leave in a couple of minutes.”
“Did you come back to me just to apologize, or do you need money?”
“He’s going to kill me. I have to get back to Chicago. But I can hitchhike there easily. Guys will pick me up.”
“Oh I know guys will pick you up!”
At this time a group of men in the booth behind her were becoming loud. There was a raspy-voiced man—a tall skinhead by his look. There was also a large Hispanic man wearing a ridiculous panoply of NFL branded attire, who could only manage ‘Unleash hell’ in English with his rumbling baritone. There were also two quiet types sitting on the interior seats. He gave them a look of disdain, before continuing. “Casey I will not let you hitchhike. I will drive you there if need be. But I would prefer you come stay with me.”
She looked up at him. “You aren’t tripping over your words anymore Mister Slickery. That’s, different…I ripped you off, took you broke. Besides, Tiendo will come looking for me. In Chicago I have family he doesn’t know about.”
He then held her hand and waved over Stella the waitress, with his other hand. “Stella, two orders of mozzarella sticks with—”
Just then the raspy voiced savage with the shaved head and the bomber jacket and jack boots, quipped, “Oh fuck me bro, you mutant motherfucker!”
This burst of profanity in a public space, during his conducting of business, angered him intensely. Robert leaned out of the booth and fixed the vicious looking skinhead with a meaningful stare, fully expecting to be thrashed for his trouble, but no longer having patience for such incivility. Their eyes locked, and he could sense somehow that he was in the crosshairs of a heartless predator, just as he could sense it when Tiendo talked so calmly with him in the elevator. Then, something softened in the deep gray eyes, and the man said in his raspy smoker’s voice, “Apologies Pap. It won’t happen again.”
Robert nodded respectfully to the younger man and got back to ordering Mary’s lunch. He then asked for the check. While Stella stopped to receive a belated apology from the animal in the next booth, he continued his train of thought, placing his hand back on hers. “Casey, you are not cutout to be a thief. You made off with the golden egg and left the goose that laid it sitting right here.”
She marveled, “You shut that guy up. He’s scary. What were you thinking? Aren’t you worried about him getting you outside—he has friends and they sound like complete jerks.”
“Casey, the only thing I am worried about is you. Young lady, you were my first girlfriend. I’ve spent forty years reading. I want to live a little before I die. What, even with the advances in medical science, most of my life is far behind me. Nobody cares about books anymore Casey—and I’m just a walking book, or was until you came into my life. I’m thrilled that you and Tiendo selected me for your nefarious scam. If a punch in the stomach could get me another morning with you I will take one every day!”
She bit her lip. “I would like to. But he would find us and you would get hurt. Even if that didn’t happen…”
He had placed his finger over her lips. “Casey May, marry me and go to college. I understand that I am not the man that a young woman’s dreams are made of, but I like your company. You can have your own room, I have a large house to myself, take the entire first floor if you like.”
She was crying.
“Casey, just come and stay with me for a few days. Let us discuss this after you have had your rest. You have been through a lot.”
He was beginning to feel guilty for pressing her for companionship in her current state, and for using his potential financial support for leverage. Then she looked up at him hopefully. “I really enjoyed our time together Mister Slickery. Maybe I could stay the night and you could take me to the bus station in the morning. One last night, that’s better than nothing right?”
He released her hand. “Yes my dear. That is far better than nothing.”
She smiled reluctantly and Stella brought over the mozzarella sticks and the check. “Stella, I would like you to meet my friend, Casey May.”
Stella was compassionate. “Oh you poor dear—Robert, see that she gets that checked out. Her orbit could be cracked. You know my sister lived with this one particular louse—”
Robert cut her off, “Yes, I’m certain she did Stella; and I will have Casey examined by Doctor Phillips before she continues on her journey. Now Stella, I would like to pay the bill for the table of fine gentlemen behind you. Don’t make a big fuss over it, and, here keep the rest for yourself,” he said as he handed her seven twenty dollar bills.
Casey looked at him with some admiration, and he knew that he was beginning to chip away at her resolve with this demonstration of his ability to provide for her. After all, Cham and Miss Jeraldine had assured him that women ‘liked their comforts’ and could be wooed effectively through largesse. In the past, before being beaten up by the Puerto Rican pimp, he would have considered this small display of wealth and generosity as crass. Now, though, it was simply the practical course of action. He would give whatever it took—short of another pin number—to keep her from leaving for Chicago.
She seemed to admire him just a little now, and to regain some of her confident tone. “You see, you are Slickery, Mister. That was generous and diplomatic.”
He then leaned closer as he pushed up out of his seat and took her hand. “Miss Huang, your estranged partner in crime has merely laid claim to the checking account into which my dividends were deposited, that which I used for the occasional trip to the automotive store. Now, let’s get you to Doctor Phillips—he’s a friend.”
He passed the Booth of Rudeness without a glance at its occupants, with Casey in his wake, and Stella behind her, to refill the syrup container for some Neanderthal who had eaten plate after plate of pancakes. Even approaching the front door made her nervous, and she shuddered like a hunted animal, so he handed her Mary’s lunch, tucked her shoulders under his arm, and walked with her held closely out the door.
“Hey Old Man”
“Wahchyo doin’ with my girl holmes? I figured a smart old dude like you would learn.”
And there he stood, Casey May’s estranged pimp, Tiendo of the much tattooed neck and hands. Also with him was another stocky and presumably less-heavily tattooed cohort, standing back a pace from his obvious leader. Casey clutched more firmly at his hand and cringed behind him.
Tiendo’s voice grated once again, “So old man, I said whachyo doin’ with my girl!”
He stood calmly before the thugs feeling…right.
Robert could feel her cringing in fear behind him, and somehow, he felt free. He was convinced now that he would die helplessly at her feet, no doubt stabbed, shot or beaten by these gangster thugs. But he felt oddly calm. He was at the end of an unfulfilling life as it was. Perhaps, he thought, they would kill him in public, be incarcerated for their crime, and Casey May would be free of this reign of terror.
Tiendo’s voice grated again, “I said Old Man whach yo doin’ wit my girl?”
She let out a little muffled squeal behind him as Tiendo approached more closely, menacingly flexing his arms beneath his windbreaker and jutting out his chin. His cohort was looking about, apparently for witnesses. Just as Tiendo came to within reach of Robert his friend said, “Yo, heads up holmes.”
With that warning Tiendo stepped back and regarded someone with an angry sneer of disgust on the stairs behind Robert. Robert made to turn his head and felt a very hard shoulder brush his arm as a man not much larger than Tiendo stepped forward between Robert and the thug and then turned to Robert. It was one of the men from the noisy profane booth behind them in the diner. He had sleepy sky blue eyes, a broken nose, a five o’clock shadow at 10:00 a.m., and wore a knit cap, sweater, jeans and sneakers. He was so muscular one could see the hard lines under the knit sweater and read his face like a musculature chart through the skin as he spoke. “I was meanin’ ta tank ya sir, fer da meal ya paid fer. Doc Robinson, my boss if ya will, would like a word back inside.”
Tiendo was now glaring at the seemingly dimwitted rural man while his cohort was closing in from behind. Casey, apparently having seen her estranged lover and his side-kick in action before, made a fearful little squeak even as Tiendo snarled at the man. “Yo retard, do you mind! I’m having a conversation here you stupid fucking redneck piece-of-chit!”
The man looked sleepily at Tiendo and said, in apparent blissful ignorance, “No I don’ mine man.”
Then as he turned again to regard Robert, the gangster behind him reached for something in his back pocket and Tiendo tore off the man’s knit cap and threw it down.
For a full two seconds there on the sidewalk they stood in shock, as the terrible scars from the top of the man’s bald head down to his cauliflower ears seemed to indicate some past attack by a giant carnivore. Then, after an instantaneous blank stare, the man’s face contorted in bestial rage and his lips peeled back to reveal unnaturally long incisors.
Tiendo leaned back with bugged out eyes and said, “Shit yo!”
The bald scared man then strangely, roared and punched Tiendo so hard in the body that the sound of ribs snapping sent a chill up Robert’s spine and made Casey cringe. Tiendo’s friend then plunged a switchblade into the man’s shoulder. The man reacted seemingly at the same instant, grabbing the thug’s wrist in one hand. Various loud snapping sounds popped off in quick sequence: the pinging pop of the blade snapping off in the shoulder; the hollow pop of the wrist snapping like a broomstick; and the sickening crunching pop of one leg being snapped by another harder more massive leg hurtling like whip.
There was a slamming of the door behind them and a rush of bodies past them even as the bald man crouched down over the disabled knife man and began to claw through his coat, shirt and skin with his right hand. Then the iron fingers pressed into the flesh below the now exposed ribs and began to tear the skin, as the hand pushed up under the ribcage like some member of the weasel family burrowing for its rodent victim. This was accompanied by a sickening slathering snarl from the bald man’s contorted mouth and the victim’s pleading moan for mercy. Then they were there, the two loud men from the booth, and a calm voice was behind them, the voice of a young educated man.
Robert now held the shivering Casey in his arms and turned to look at a tall thin black man in his late twenties, dressed in a suit, the fourth man from the booth, who was waxing apologetic. “Good Morning Sir, my friend came out to thank you for our meal, and give me the opportunity to thank you in person—but I see he is busy. He’s a natural with this sort of thing I’m afraid.”
Just then they turned their gaze back to the slaughter on the sidewalk. The tall bald white man was admonishing the bald muscular man. “I just can’t let you eat at the table can I bro? What-the-fuck—you had twenty pancakes! That’s it. Easy boy, let the nice little mud-person keep his innards. I don’t need any trouble with the local pork. This is a humanitarian mission asshole! We are transporting a fucking pie-in-the sky mad scientist not wrecking the local whorehouse.”
He was now literally petting the man, as the big grisly bear of a man who accompanied them placed the knit cap back on the scared head, and patted him on the back with baritone Spanish gutturals, “Loco Englese Gjingekwe!”
“Was that all in Spanish?”
The black man explained, “Bruco is not Spanish, although he has spoken an Old Castilian pastiche for half of his life. The one with a brain is Randy; a virulent racist I’m afraid. I think he has only preserved my life from our mutual enemies in order to keep me as something of a pet-slash-thesaurus. The cannibal warlord in the ski-cap is his half-brother Jay, improbably enough my childhood friend.”
The tall bald older brother was then hugging the man. “There you go psycho-bro; knit cap on the dinged-dome and we’ll have this cheap piece-of-spic-steel out of your shoulder before we stop for drinks. Now stay here with Doctor Strange Yo while we clean up the mess.”
The sinister man then turned to the former cohort of Tiendo, as Tiendo was still unable to breathe. “Hey Gut Pile, you have a car?”
“Yeah man”, he answered with pain-filled gasps, “da red Scion. Oh God I’m dyin’! Da keys in my jacket pocket.”
While the big man was heaving the moaning Tiendo over his shoulder like so much trash, the sinister older brother patted the prone and broken man on his chest gently and reassured him. “We will put you in the car. No hard feelings. I mean, if I killed everybody that was the wrong color, or deserved it, there wouldn’t be enough people left to grow the wheat used to bake my white bread, right? If you really want me to stay in tolerance mode, than: do, not, in, volve, the, freedom, fuck, ing, cops! It’s that simple subhuman; no pork up my ass, and hence no pig guts clogging up my boot treads, and you—potential trophy head mounted on the wall of my den that you are—do not have to worry about Cave Man Jones here crawling through your bedroom window at night and eating you alive from the heels up, right?”
The man gasped, “We cool man, real cool—please get me the fuck out of here!”
Robert turned to the young gentleman. “I suppose life makes strange bedfellows of us all. Your negotiator does seem to possess oratory skills suitable for his role. Perhaps you shall someday find a small South American nation for him to rule?”
The man chuckled. Casey jabbed him in the ribs with one sharp disapproving finger, and the frightening humanoids known as Randy and Bruco dragged off Tiendo and the terrified man with many broken bones like a pair of monstrous toddlers making off with two new dolls.
‘Cave Man Jones’, Loco Englese, or Jay, as he was variously known by his associates, now paced in small docile circles, like a bored child, hands in his pockets, eyes far away and gazing absently at the still visible winter moon above like a long lost lover. The young gentleman, who still had one calming hand each on both of Robert’s and Casey’s shoulders, then spoke smoothly, “Come back inside friends, for some coffee. I would like to talk a bit of things literal. The hostess told me you were a librarian Sir.”
He then extended his hand and Robert took it, shaking it firmly. “I am Doctor Charles Carver Robinson. Anything within my power to alleviate this unfortunate lapse in your tranquility shall be done; unless it pertains directly to alpha male dominance behavior.”
They smiled and Robert nodded with respect. “Robert Marsden Slavie—Mister Slickery to some—Doctor of Library Science, at your service, and in your debt. This is Miss Casey May Huang, my fiancée.”
He smiled to see her face light up with surprise—and hopefully joy—at that statement, despite her black swollen eyes. The three of them began to renter the diner. When they reached the top of the stairs, Casey turned around and nodded at the now docile man in the knit cap, casually swaying his head like a blind man listening to a distant soothing song, and looking dreamily up at the winter moon in the morning sky.
Doctor Robinson, obviously a prescient man, noted her concern with a nod. “Hey Jay-man, would you like some chocolate cream pie?”
The man looked up like a child suddenly pulled from a daydream. “A pie, a whole pie Charlie?”
“Yes Jay-man, an entire, three-hundred-and-sixty degrees of chocolate pie!”
Jay then smiled and took one step and leaped past them to the top of the stairs, clearing the intervening space like a great cat, and politely opened and then held the door as they entered. The dimwit nodded to Robert, with the respect due to the elders of whatever savage clan he belonged to. As Robert passed, and noticed the broken blade protruding slightly from the sweater, a sweater it seemed that was not stained with nearly enough blood, he experienced another one of those spinal chills that had been plaguing him in such an enlightening way ever since his first meeting with Miss Casey May Huang, and his transformation into the benevolent and ever-so-lucky Mister Slickery.
“Thank you, young man, for your courtesy and assistance this day.”
Just as he marveled at himself, at his new found ability to speak to strangers and in public without stammering or halting in mid-sentence, this strange young man elicited his empathy with a demonstration of inarticulate formality, that was, despite its poor execution, touching, “ Yesssir, ah...Mister...Sir.”
Robert could not help being excited about a discussion of literature with a scientist prominent enough to be escorted by obvious, if unconventional, professionals. He could not even wait to be seated. “Doctor Robinson, what is your specific interest at the moment?”
The tall young man paused before the booth while they waited for Casey to be seated, and looked up into Robert’s face. “Anything and everything extant on Archimedes, of the Siege of Syracuse, including Roman force composition and distribution; and, most particularly, any fragmentary references to lost ancient sources with location and date of composition and authorship if possible.”
Again, Robert had another chilling sensation, as if one of his favorite classics had just spoken to him; working it’s cover like an upper lip. As they took their seat he patted Casey on the thigh and regarded the man before him, a man who rivaled Robert in physical awkwardness if not the magnifying size, and appeared very young to have earned a doctorate. “I have already made the relevant notations in my reading journal. I tackled Cicero and Polybius for my master’s thesis before you were born I am sure.”
In the past he might have paused uncomfortably for the other partner in this dance of the minds to take up the lead. But today, Robert experienced his first stream-of-consciousness that had not been inhibited by his lack of social grace and confidence; and it seemed that Mary would be waiting—no. He turned to the man called Jay sitting on the outside of Doctor Robinson and handed him the cheese nuggets. “Young man, would you be so kind as to take these across the street to the library and give them to Mrs. Mary Horner behind the information desk, and please tell her that I am taking the rest of the week off?”
The man stood, said “Yesssir” with a military seriousness that seemed far out of place, took the nuggets, and headed out the door.
He then turned to Doctor Robinson. “Before we repair to my residence, which will be necessary to access my notes, may I inquire as to your field?”
The younger man smiled and admitted, “Quantum Physics—I know, the geek needle just went off the chart; and theology, so I do care!”
Casey nudged him and piped up, “Oh, I think this is a Mister Slickery convention!”
It felt good to laugh, together.
Author’s Notes
Robert Slavie is based on myself and a former coworker of mine who were both successfully preyed upon by attractive young women seeking to join with us in the cause of separating us from our money. Casey May Huang is a composite of one woman I coached and two women who targeted me as a sugar daddy prospect. (If the later had been as charming as the former I would have ended up living alongside of my like-duped friend in his cardboard box.) Robert was supposed to be a supporting character in The Sunset Saga; an older librarian, recently duped out of his checking account, recruited by Charlie Robinson for his time-travel project. I envisioned the encounter as a short story that would either serve as an epilogue for Of The Sunset World or as a prologue to Pillagers of Time.
The first book had grown oversized already. By the time I had gotten together a character sketch of my librarian, Jay Bracken was already cohabitating with a Neanderthal babe back in 33,000 B.C. in Beyond the Ember Star, Bruco was dealing with the Toba Eruption in 75,000 B.C. in Comes the Six Winter Night, Randy Bracken was terrorizing the supporting cast in 1868 in The World is Our Widow, and Charlie was reeling from the embarrassment caused by having a primitive handicapped child steal one of his rare time machines in Thunder-boy. So Robert got to have the story told from his viewpoint rather than Charlie’s.
Robert Slavie should enjoy a few appearances in The Sunset Saga. If enough of the other supporting characters go the way of Tiende and his unlucky side-kick, he may even get top billing. Oh yes, Tiende and his friend are based on two fellows who tried to rob me on Christmas morning eleven years ago down the street from the library and the diner where I did my research.
-James LaFond, 10/5/2012
First Contact
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Maureen     Dec 26, 2014

Fun adventure! And a rainbow of characters so the pc police should be happy. Soooo have you ever met a Black quantum physicist? Have you ever spoken with a brilliant skin-head (I know a former skin who remins me of Robert with regard to learning just for learning's sake but he's not an ugly old man.)
James     Dec 26, 2014

I have one brilliant skinhead friend who is now a Hindu, and said about his former cohorts that he could not tolerate their stupidity and their jealousy of blacks. He is 40% of the Randy Bracken character, and speaks just like Randy, and was always good at trash talking while he beat people up. Of course I made his tattoos far more offensive than they actually are.

I have not met a black quantum physicist but have seen one interviewed on science documentaries—on the Weather Channel in fact. Charlie is based on him, on two brilliant white boys I knew as a boy, and a tall Christian black kid who was one of the smartest kids I knew as a teen. The Jay character by the way is based on a fighter I once trained who is an outlaw biker and a good deal smarter than the character, who I cursed with my teenage intelligence.

Bruco is based on a historic character by the same name.
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