WARNING - this story may contain adult content including coarse language and/or sexual content which may be offensive to some
a short story by Mark Kolke
June 20, 2011
It was a strange idea at first.Ralph Gratton had pitched his new novel to Roger and Simon with the most unusual request. He wanted to use Roger, Simon and Trent’s real names in the novel. He thought it was a clever idea – characters in a story need names and it doesn’t much matter what the names are as long as the characters hold true to form through the entire story. As effectively as white hats and black hats were sufficient in silent movies and early television.Roger and Simon agreed, subject to editorial license to change their minds if they didn’t like it.
When the manuscript came in they discussed it again.Having so many characters in the book so exactly mirroring their own family and romantic connections was a little spooky, but they agreed it worked – and mostly they agreed because Maddie and Jackie thought it was great fun to have a wild-west novel portraying their brutal killings by a deranged bastard son in a quest to capture and lay claim to his legacy.
And now, it was time to promote that book, to make some significant sales.
It was a regular thing, at these book signings, to have the author read a few passages from the book everyone is gathered to buy.So, Ralph Gratton sipped a glass of water, and launched into reading his third passage of the evening, a portion of narrative by the main character Vernell, the villain:
“I was nearly done now. Shots were fired. Bodies were buried.Roger and Jacqueline would speak no more. Next, I would ride down to Missoula to plug Simon while he works late at his desk. Then, the inheritance that is rightly mine will finally come to me. Being the bastard son of Clay Sumner had been no picnic. I’d waited a long time for this.The brothers were all dead now; Trent died in a rodeo accident, Craig took his own life – I staged his murder to look like a suicide and Kevin was going to be hanging, but that never happened because he died in a prison knifing while on death row for killing his father Clay.It was my time . . . at last. . . .
It had been a long time in the planning, and now the time for execution of the marketing plan was upon them – with not enough time to spare.
Earlier . . .
It had been a long day, and now a short night before Simon and Roger would both have to hit the road for Montana; separate cars, separate routes and a busy day for both of them culminating with a soiree in Missoula.
Roger Dempster and Simon Whitestone were partners in the Flathead Printing and Bookbinding Co., a modest sized press with offices in Missoula and Calgary. Their principal business was publishing books by western - ranchers and cowboys – authors who needed regional and national exposure for western novels, cowboy poetry and short story collections.
Their stable of writers had dwindled. Most of their revenue the last three years had come from material written by Simon.Growth of the internet taken together with dominance of Amazon online and big-box retailers like Chapters, Barnes & Noble and Borders had decimated Flathead’s traditional distribution channels through small book stores in Montana, Idaho, Alberta and British Columbia. This had been the mainstay of Flathead operations since it was founded in the early 1960’s by Trent Sumner in Missoula.
Trent grew up on a ranch just outside of Missoula, son of a third generation father Clay and his mother Patricia.The large portion of the ranch acreage was Patricia’s family’s land holding but she folded it quite happily into Clay’s family operation.Trent grew up with all the western culture and ranch exposure one could want without the responsibility of having to take over one day. That was clearly a designated role for his older brothers Craig and Kevin.Trent was an afterthought, conceived by accident when Clay took Patricia to Las Vegas to celebrate their twentieth wedding anniversary.
Trent attended the University of Montana campus in Missoula where he earned a degree from the English department; he majored in History and minored in Native American Studies.He went off to New Hampshire to do post-graduate work at Dartmouth, but he was back in less than a year, homesick for Big Sky Country and committed to finding a way to write and publish from his home town.
He built a fledgling business and published a few of his own titles too.He travelled on business – led the lifestyle of the Marlboro Man and never married. He dated lots, but once he’d dated all the single women in Missoula he didn’t know what to do, so he pretty much gave up trying.
The Calgary office came into being as a by-product of Trent’s move to Calgary – itself a by-product of a great love affair in the mid 1980’s when Trent met and fell in love with a hot pistol of a woman he met at the Calgary Stampede, Therese Whitestone.
It was a long night of drinking and sweaty sex that started it and it continued until his death in 2005.Truth be told, Trent hit the motherlode of dumb luck. Therese was spectacular in so many ways. She had spirit, great connections in Calgary – which she delighted in proving each time she introduced Trent to yet another writer, book seller, journalist or financier.
Therese had grown up in Calgary, daughter of a wildcatter who’d made it rich-quick in the TurnerValley boom and, unlike so many others of his type, kept most of his money, invested it safely. By the time he died, leaving most of his legacy to a charitable foundation, he had staked each of his children to a good education and lots of how-to so they could make their way in the world.Therese was a middling quality writer in her own right, but her strongest skills were in relationships – she could schmooze a foot of shelf space from the stingiest bookseller and somehow had a talent to squeeze a dime out of a nickel.Trent could not have found a better partner, lover and wife if he’d had her designed by da Vinci and carved by Michelangelo. And, cowgirl perfect, she fit her jeans, boots and buckskin jacket like the hottie on the back cover of Simon’s last cowboy novel.
A writer first and cowboy second, Trent should never have entered that old-timers rodeo event at the Livingston Roundup.Rumor had it that someone dared him to enter. There must have been a night of drinking involved. Anyway, he held a good account of himself in the first go-round of the saddle bronc event, but the second one – not so good.He drew a horse named Back Breaker and that’s what he did.Trent died of internal injuries and a broken back early the next morning in the LivingstonHospital emergency room.
Soon after, Therese developed ovarian cancer and perished quickly, lacking the will to live.Her son Simon inherited what she had just inherited – Trent’s publishing company and its backlist.Roger was managing the Calgary office for Therese prior to her death. Simon had little choice – he needed to take control of both Missoula and Calgary offices. He could handle the travel, but he needed continuity of the Calgary operation which had become the cash-cow of the two. Roger was a strong editor, a reasonably good manager and had been on staff long enough to have met and worked with most of the writers Flathead published.Roger wanted a piece of the action, and a partnership was quickly delivered with Maddie acting as a midwife of the deal. She became business manager of the firm and moved her sole-practitioner law practice into the Calgary Flathead office. She did some corporate work, divorces and pre-nups and some small claims work.
It had been the wettest spring in a long time. Predictions of a record hot summer were hard to imagine for Simon as a rain-chilled mid-June evening wafted in. It was raining outside his writing room window, again.
Raining, still. Would it ever end?Simon was tired, it was late, Sunday evening – and he had a pile of Monday waiting for him on the edge of his desk. And he had to leave right after lunch tomorrow to make it in time for the evening event in Missoula.
As he staggered . . . weary from endless hours at the keyboard, or maybe it was one too many scotches while he worked . . into their bedroom down the hall his muffled, “honey, I’m home” in hopes of rousing Maddie for a quickie before bed but his words fell on deaf ears.”
Simon had been writing hype, tripe and all about tripe, too long. A novel about murder at the abattoir was going to sell well, he was sure of it, but the subject matter and the research had numbed his mind – he knew far too much about slaughtering cattle at this point and far too much about butchering.
He needed fresh stimulation before bedtime - inspiration and a reason to roll over sweaty in bed.That was Maddie’s job. But she was out cold.
When they married thirteen years ago, that was the deal – a bargain made in sane times, when they agreed to be hot lovers forever and that, whenever one of them was feeling down or weary - physically or mentally – the promise of each to the other was to make love as if life itself depended on it.Make love till morning came. Making love like there was an endless supply of unwrinkled sheets waiting to be spread so they could keep their sweaty legs entangled a few hours longer.But Maddie was exhausted – Roger had her working extra at the office while he was away this past week and she had a bad cold.She was there in spirit, but her body was sacked out.Her fever hadn’t broken and the sheets were sweaty, but for the wrong reasons.
He was done his writing for the evening:
Voices. Choices. Why is writing so hard?It was one of those days; too many lately I think, when starting out, staring at a blank page of white on my screen . . . I want to start with:It was a dark and stormy night – again.
There, that was it, the forward piece he’d been struggling all night to distill.He wanted his economy of few words to reflect his state of mind, so his perspective as well as the plot of the story would make sense for the reader.First however, it had to make sense for him.
He hadn’t had that feel for a long time – thefeel one gets striking golf balls with a putter or pitching wedge to achieve just the right feel of it so you know the shot is going exactly where you want, with the control, speed and spin you want. In golf it is a zen-like state. In writing it is a flow-ing moment bringing ingredients together with the skill of a veteran delivered with the sparkle and drive that kept him up all night just a few years – pardon me – a few decades ago.
And the last bit . . . the final lines, the cliffhanger lines, for the last page of the book:
“Are we done Shirley?”,Bill barked.
Weakly, Shirley replied, “I don’t want to be done”.
Perfect. That ends the story, and leaves loyal readers a hook – a desire and hopefully a need to rush off to their favorite book store to order the next in Simon’s series of ‘Mess and Murder Mysteries’.
Across town, at that very moment, Roger was explaining his lack of enthusiasm, “Jackie, I am not really looking for a committed relationship right now so can't say I am feeling the need to grow old with and love someone. I am trying to get my own brain space in order. But I do hope you find the person you are looking for one of these days”.
“Roger, I’m so sorry – I didn’t want to piss you off; and now, it seems like I’ve done more than that, I’ve unearthed your total lack of interest in me,”, Jackie snapped.
“Listen, Jackie – don’t get me wrong, when I’m up for it, I’m up for it with you babe, but when I’m tired my cranky-monkey comes out. The last thing I am interested in after two days on the road and nights in Missoula and coming home in the rain only to have to head out on the road again in a few hours is being particularly sociable or sexual. Those little trips wear me out,” countered Roger.“The only reason I had to be out of town this week was because Simon is glued to his computer – putting finishing touches on our latest release so he can get it off the press before Stampede. We have deals worked out for distribution at every book store in the city and a booth at the Western Showcase where Simon will be on hand to autograph copies.You know he almost always does the trips down there, so I won’t be going down there again for quite a while.Meanwhile, we have this road trip tomorrow – and I really appreciate you coming along.You will be a huge help to me – you know how awkward I am at these events, making small talk, working the room. You are so good at it and when you are with me I am so much more at ease.”
And so it went, all evening and deep into the night as Roger tried so diplomatically to mend fences with Jackie, if for no other reason than to minimize the fireworks that would certainly unfold when Jackie’s brother Simon found out his buddy, his business partner had broken the heart of his sister.But hearts have to be broken sometime.Not so they’ll mend but because sometimes the only way to make a break is to make a clean one.
“What happens next?”, Jackie asked with a look in her eyes that told her pain – her feeling of being solidly and clearly rejected.
“What a fool I was, to think a relationship could be so simple,” Roger confessed. It was getting late, midnight had flown by two hours ago and they had both had far too much to drink and not enough sleep.Still, they had to leave tomorrow morning. And leave early. If they didn’t, morning traffic congestion on the Deerfoot alone would set them back an extra hour.
They needed to be at Crowsnest pass by 10AM to meet with Ralph Gratton, author of Bushwacked in Flathead Country, set in the 1890’s, a first novel about the murder of two business partners in the Pablo National Wildlife Refuge just north of Missoula. Gratton knew that area well and he brought lots of great detail into the story. It would be a good seller. They were picking him up at his home in Blairmore and then had to get to Whitefish by 3PM. They had a book signing at Bad Rock Books in Columbia Falls, then they would head down to Kalispell for an event/book signing at Borders in Kalispell, then on to Polson to meet with local media at the Polson Golf Club at at 6PM for drinks and then on to Missoula for the night so they could do the formal-official launch from there the next morning. It would be a spectacular affair - at the Bookstore at the U of M together with the university’s unveiling of a plaque in honor of Trent Sumner. It was a very big deal, this launch of Bushwacked in Flathead Country, with a book signing to follow. Simon and Maddie would be there.The culmination of so many months’ preparation.
A power-nap would have to do . . . and with that thought, Roger set the alarm for 4:30AM and rolled over to sleep.So he thought.
He never complained – or stirred – now, semi-conscious, he could feel her arms spreading his legs like some giant surgical retractor to allow her head, her mouth, her hungry tongue to have access to his freshly showered ass, to bathe his balls with her soft tongue – which she commenced doing while her soft right palm wrapped around his stiffening shaft.He groaned softly, rolled a quarter-turn further to make her access easier.
As he had just nicely mumbled off to sleep, Jackie got busy.Her oral talents were at first a shock – a very pleasant one – when they first hooked up two years before. Roger had never known a woman to eagerly begin a blow-job with some ass-rimming; certainly, it was not something he would ever ask of a lover.But, there are rare instances of women who love it more than anything else for some reason.Jackie was one of those.Roger counted many of Jackie’s charms as his treasures, but this one skill was one he appreciated more than just about anything else.
He didn’t remember much – he’d drifted off immediately after she released his load . . . there was ringing.He lunged for the alarm clock, pounded down the snooze button but the ringing continued. It wasn’t the alarm. It was a phone.But it was a strange ring.
It was Jackie’s phone. What the . . . .
‘Jackie, wake up … .your phone – in your purse, your cell phone is ringing. Wake up, your phone is ringing.”
Jackie stirred … and without moving her body at all, reached down into her purse beside the bed, clicked the answer button as she pulled the phone to her ear, “Hu . . .hul-lo. Who is this?Hello, hello, HELLO!”
“Roger, it’s that god-damn breather again – what the hell is with this?I’ve changed my number three times now and he still keeps calling. Who is he?How does he keep getting my new number each time I change it. And he keeps getting Maddie’s number too – and she’s changed hers three times too. I know I’ve resisted before, but this is the last fucking straw. I’m going to report him to the police!”
Across town, Simon was awakened by a ringing phone. It was Maddie’s phone.
‘Maddie ….. honey, wake up - your phone, your cell phone is ringing.”
As Maddie rolled over, her sinuses clogged still, she grabbed for her phone on the nightstand and, with an arching motion reminiscent of her young gymnastic ways, she dropped it in Simon’s crotch, muttering something that sounded like “I cadn dalk”.
Simon answered, “Hello. Hello. Who is this?Listen you fuckhead … this is the last straw, I’m calling the cops. We’ll find you, we’ll break your fucking dialing fingers you cowardly prick.”
This had been going on for two months now with increasing frequency.With that, Simon started dialing 911 to report that call, and the whole series of calls made to Maddie and Jackie.
That call, at 3:30AM produced a police cruiser and a detective’s unmarked car screeching to their driveway within minutes.By now Maddie was up, making coffee and taking something to unclog her sinuses while Simon explained to the police officers that these were the same sort of calls his sister Jackie had been getting.
While the officers made their notes, Simon could not help himself – his mind drifting to a novel idea – in fact, what a great premise for a novel; business partners whose women were both getting obscene breather calls – likely from the same pervert, both of them getting calls at the same time and day, usually in the middle of the night and both within minutes of each other.
If you liked any Musing column, it would mean a lot to me if you let me know. Comments always welcome - please contribute to the discussion. Reply to: email@example.com. You can also connect with me on LinkedIn. You can sign-up friends at: MarkMusing.com . This site is updated daily, each column is retained in the archive when the next day's column is loaded ...
I publish FACILITYCalgary, weekly newsletter, free every Tuesday; to sign up, CLICK HERE