Friday, March 1, 2024

The Freaks of Lark Street Teaser

 

Fiction

Date Published: 01-04-2024

Publisher: Pageturner Press and Media


 

Julius T. Downer has lost his job at a prestigious Wall Street firm, his lovely girlfriend who has run off with his best friend, and his shoebox of an apartment where he and his girlfriend have been locked up in Pandemic-stricken New York City during COVID. Without much money left, he has little choice but to dump it all and relocate to Albany, New York, where he lives hand-to-mouth at a Motel 6.

Demoralized, Downer knows he must get on his feet. He ventures to the most cosmopolitan street in Albany, which is Lark Street, hoping to find another girlfriend similar to the one who just abandoned him and also hoping to have a little fun before he searches for another job. Instead, he finds an antagonistic and unwelcoming crowd who snub him at every turn. The only ones who welcome him in are those he terms as "freaks." These are the homeless, the drunks, the addicts, and the sex workers on Lark Street.

But his downward slide is mitigated by an outsider artist who takes up residence in one of the few coffee shops that are established there. With the help of this outsider artist and his group of "freakish" friends, Julius T. Downer finds that he has a special supernatural ability when it comes to viewing art.

And Downer enters Albany already hating artists and everything about them. But after finding that he has this new ability bestowed upon him by this outsider artist, he finds that his new relationship to art and the art world around him can help many people who are suffering and struggling through their own lives. Downer finds a new path to follow with the understanding that he is just a "freak" himself.

 

Excerpt

Chapter Three

 

Even on the crowded subway, he grew impatient while hanging onto the overhead handlebar, his weight rocking to and fro, the train car abruptly jarring its passengers off their feet.

As soon as he opened the door to their studio apartment, he dropped his bag to the floor and embraced his girlfriend.  He loved feeling her skin again, his body reconnected to hers.

“God, did I miss you,” he whispered on her earlobe.

“I did too,” said Elisa, “but you know we can’t continue this way.”

“What way?”

“Well, I was talking to my mother today, and she said that we need to do things differently, now that we’ve been locked in here for so long.  It’s unhealthy, at least emotionally.”

He wanted to say that her mother should go fuck herself, but he didn’t say that.  Instead, he slid his hand down her back in an obvious attempt to seduce her and return to the single organism they had been during the Pandemic.

“We’re not going to go through all of that again, are we?” she whispered.

“It has to be gradual, sweetie.  A gradual separation.  Otherwise, it will hurt too much.”

She removed his hand from her back and held it between their bodies, as though he were a kid caught stealing candy.

“It’s not healthy,” she said.  “It’s like we’re addicted to each other.”

“I can’t stand being away from – ”

“ – my body.  You can’t stand being away from my body.”

“That’s not true,” he said.  “We are one body.”

“It doesn’t work that way.”

“Who says?” he insisted.  And then more seriously, “honey, we can’t listen to your mother all of our lives.   It’s our lives together, and not all three of ours.  You and me alone are ones who have to live it.”

“Why don’t I make us some dinner, and we can talk about something else for a change.”

“Like what?”

“How about we watch the news or start reading books?”

“The news?  That will only make us angry and depressed.”

“We have to get into something new.  How about music?”

“It’s all the same recycled, trained-monkey girl garbage.”

She pulled away from him.  She wasn’t happy with him now, he guessed.  Maybe he should have opened himself up to her new ideas.  Then, he remembered to ask her about Mace’s party that weekend.

“Hey, I’ve got an idea.  We’ve been invited to a party this weekend.  My buddy at the firm.  We can go to that and meet other people.  That will definitely help.”

“Honey, it’s only Wednesday.”

“So?  We maintain the status quo until Saturday night.  I don’t see anything wrong with that.”

“We have to start changing right now,” she said matter-of-factly, as though her mother were a doctor who had written a prescription for them.  “It has to be immediate.  Cold turkey.  I’ll make you some dinner, and when we go to sleep, we shouldn’t be touching each other.  Think of it as an experiment.”

His heart sank.  All day staring into a computer screen, and this is what he gets.  He had been daydreaming about his lean body pressed to hers, his body on her body, as though nothing had mattered more than the prospect of holding her in bed until the time came to enter her.  He couldn’t imagine what their individual bodies would feel like or mean.  But he could tell that she stood firm on this new policy of hers, all to his detriment, proving once again that Elisa could handle it much more easily than any man.  She was much stronger in this sense, as though the new policy had been written in a textbook for all couples to follow, or at least advised in couple’s therapy when man and wife wonder how they went bankrupt or no longer had a place in each other’s hearts.  Maybe she was right, though.  Maybe their physical closeness was unhealthy.  Nevertheless, it did not alter his need.  Nor did she want to take off her clothes and crawl into bed with him.

“How about grilled cheese and tomato soup?” she asked him, smiling as though a new day had dawned.

“I’m not very hungry,” he said.

“Oh, c’mon, honey.  Don’t feel bad, okay?  We’re adults.  We’re not children.  We have to grow up.”

Nevertheless, Julius peeled off his clothes and climbed up the ladder to the loft above.  Under the covers, he could not lie still.  He kept rubbing his feet together, the back of his head pressing down on the pillow, his body fumbling to find a cool spot in the sheets.  Nothing worked.

Elisa cooked downstairs, and he couldn’t stand it.  The cooking became a new part of her happiness instead of cuddling with him.  A curse had set in.  A new life without touching her had manifested itself.  One part cleaving from the other.  If only she would stop her damned cooking and comfort his gaping vulnerability, he would have given her anything.  Instead, she ate her grilled cheese sandwich and turned on the television to a useless show about the lives of celebrities.  He needed her to say something, say anything, to rid him of this horrible curse, this unfathomable separation from her skin, breasts, and hips.  His need was immediate.  He became a lost soul in the hell created by his longings and her bodily absence.  It was visceral.  The acuteness of it cut through him like a surgeon’s blade.

Julius waited a couple of hours for her to join him in bed.  When he curled up against her in the middle of the night, she moved away, deliberately separating her body from his.  He tried several times, until she grew irritated by his gestures.

“Do you want me to sleep downstairs?” she asked.

“Please,” Julius said, “let’s not do this.  And besides, there’s no room downstairs.”

“Then sleep on your side of the bed.  You don’t have to touch me all night.”

“Why are you doing this to us?”

“Because I’m sick of being your plaything.  Now please, you have work again in the morning, and I have to research how I’m going to get back to college.  Go to sleep, or we’ll never get up.”

He blamed her mother for filling her head with these new ideas.  It came straight out of a Women’s Studies class, he figured.  Surely, a woman had to stand on her own two feet, but that didn’t mean abandoning her significant other.  Deflated, he rolled away from her, admitted defeat, and even though he longed to spoon into her backside, he didn’t want to anger her.  His childishness was now her annoyance, the unhooking of their flesh painful.  She cut off the umbilical cord and sent his body into a cold, shivering sleep.

 

About the Author

Harvey Havel has been a short-story writer and novelist for over thirty years. His first novel, Noble McCloud, A Novel, about a young, struggling musician was published in November of 1999. He now has nineteen books which include novels, short stories, and two collections of essays on current affairs and political matters.

His latest book is a serialized novel, The Queen of Intelligence: A 9/11 Novel, has just been released through Kindle Vella on Amazon.com in 2021.

Havel is formerly a Lecturer in English at Bergen Community College in Paramus, New Jersey. He also taught writing and literature at SUNY Albany and the College of Saint Rose, also in Albany, New York.

He currently lives there with his pet cat, Marty, and has many more books in store for his many fans in future.

Copies of his books and short stories, both new and used, may be purchased at Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble.com, Smashwords.com, or at your favorite local bookstore.

An excellent interview with Harvey Havel by Robert Nagle of Personville Press in Katy, Texas, can be found at Imaginary Planet.net.

His readers are encouraged to leave their honest comments about his work anywhere his fine books are sold.

 

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