Grievances against demanding schedules, a chapter from ‘Impossible Monsters’

Eek! Terribly busy week, and it doesn’t look like it’s going to be an easy day today. Yikes. Yes, I’m thankful to have a job, but that doesn’t mean I can’t complain about being busy. It’s the American way!

Anyway, I’m actively trying to get my novel Impossible Monsters published, which, at this point, means I’m attempting to get a literary agent interested in representing it. Daunting, to say the least. However, I have faith in my abilities as a wordsmith, and while my novel could be classified as literary fiction—a genre that, for some reason, scares the pants off a great many readers—I know it is only a matter of time before something happens.

So, I was perusing the book, just randomly reading sections, and figured I’d start posting some of it online, here and there, because…well, because I can. The book is narrated primarily by three characters, students of varying ethnicities and hang-ups passing their time at the fictional Wellington Ayers University (in jolly ‘ole England). In the following section we find Anthony, a nineteen-year-old American student, getting ready to meet his father for a quick bite at Heathrow during a layover. You really get a sense of who Anthony is in this section, of the strained relationship he has with his dad and how that seems to affect how he sees/interacts with the world.

Hope you enjoy.


Heathrow, early evening.  Sixish.  Sitting on a bench next to the Currency Exchange closest to the security check, not far from an escalator that seems to rise up and disappear into an abbreviated McDonald’s.  Waiting.  Listening to The Kinks on my MP3 player and humming along to the words, Long ago life was clean / Sex was bad and obscene / And the rich were so mean.”  Check my watch and realize I’ve been sitting here for an hour.  I have a clear shot of the departure/arrival screens and I know his flight is on time, so I decide I’m leaving in ten minutes if he’s not here.  See a threesome of Asian tourists walk by, a family.  Father: Visor, puffy navy jacket with brown fur-lined hood, exasperated look, skinny jeans, patchy beard, squinty eyes, no smile.  Mother: Long hair ponytailed, thick black ski jacket, green shirt that says Von Dutch in pink, dark denim with a high waist, all white skater-looking shoes, two bags on each arm from the Duty Free, camouflage bucket hat, thin lips, long nose, small breasts.  Daughter: Fuckable, pigtails, bowed legs, dark tight denim, shoes similar-looking to her mother’s, zipped up baggy blue hoodie with red flowers painted all over, green knee-length hooded puffy jacket, nude-colored tote bag with Japanese writing in black surrounding an art deco version of Hello Kitty, smiling, confused.  They pass by speaking sharply.  Disappear into a crowd of blond-haired Pan-Europeans waving their hands as they’re being counted off by a tour leader.  Yawn.  Look up to the ceiling and study the avant-garde pattern of the rafters.  The individual terminals for each airline.  The goddamn ants stuck in line. The looks on their faces.  My hands shaking.
            I don’t see Alexander approach.  I’m staring over to my right at the line forming at the Currency Exchange while thinking about buying a ticket to go to North Africa for some reason when I hear his raspy voice.  Startled.  Look up at him and he’s already looking over me, beyond me…not at me.  At anything but me.

“Glad you could make it,” he says, Louis Vuitton briefcase in hand, nervously checking his gold Rolex now, then, “I don’t have much time.  Did your mother tell you?”

“Tell me what?”            

“That I don’t have much time.”


            “Have you been waiting long?”

            “I guess not.”

            “Where would you like to eat?  I saw a pub on my way down.  This airport is set up like a goddamn maze.  Just to get here I had to…anyway, it’s a bit annoying, the layout.  How about that pub I saw?”

            “Do they have beer?” I say sarcastic through my teeth, head pounding, in need of a Vicodin or…something.  Anything.

            “It’s a pub, Anthony.  I assume they have the usual selection of English beers and ales,” he says looking to his left now, watching a group of highschool girls and boys who seem to be part of some traveling choral group.  Studying them.  Fixated.  Hungry.  Silent.  Does not look at me as I stand with no words following him to a down escalator I missed when I was wandering earlier.  The back of his jacket wrinkled.  The shoulders broad and meaty, traits I did not inherit.  Genetic failure.

            The “pub” is a cluttered and generic version of what I assume the designers and investors figure tourists would like to see if they were on layover and this would be their only chance to see the country.  To drink the culture in.  A steaming pile of generalities and assumptions jammed together.  Various beer paraphernalia tacked to the wall.  Mirrors with beer logos.  AYE WE SERVE BEER written in silver cursive scrawl on a simple wooden slat hanging from small chains drilled into the overhang above the bar.  Fake red phone booth.  Murals of double-decker buses and Bobbies.  Shit…everywhere.  Alexander picks a round table next to a stone fireplace with a gas fire bubbling that emits no heat.  He takes off his sportcoat and is wearing a generic blue polo shirt with the words SCHOTT MANUFACTURING stenciled on the left breast in white.  Still doesn’t look directly at me, over toward the bar instead.  Squints at the draft beer selections and mumbles to himself.

            “What?” I ask, looking him directly in the eyes.  Waiting.

            “I was saying it looks like they have…Carlson, uh…Dark Brown…what’s that one beer, the one with the…uh, you know, the uh…what’s the animal?” he says stammering, gesturing with his index finger.

            I turn and look at the draft pump and see a deer up on his hind legs, his front legs kicked in the air.  Look back to Alexander and say, “It’s Warwick’s.  It’s cider.”

            “Oh, a buck.  I see it now.”


            “What looks good?” he says oblivious.

            “Don’t know, haven’t looked at the menu yet.”

            “Do you think they have scotch?”

            “I’m sure they do.”

            Good scotch, son.  The good stuff.”

            “I guess you’ll have to ask, won’t you?” I say throwing down the laminated menu, studying the words FOX AND HOUND on the front which I figure is all too common of a pub name in England. 

            A man with an incredibly large gut comes into the pub with a small suitcase on wheels, sits at the bar.  Hair lacquered back, slick.  Double-breasted suit, black, black wingtips, white socks.    He answers a cell phone and begins speaking German which piques Alexander’s interest.   He watches the man, slowly taking him in, his conversation, then looks directly at me for the first time catching me off-guard.  His eyes neon green.

            “If I could go back, I would have taught you German,” he says glaring like it’s my fault.

            “Well, doesn’t really help me now, does it.”

            “Do you know what he’s saying, the man at the bar?” he says, pauses, then realizes I don’t and continues, “He’s talking about the economy, talking to his business partner.   Wirtschaft means economics.”


            “What are you ordering, do you know?” he says and looks away from me again.


            “What kind.”

            “And soup.”

            “I think I might have…fish and chips.  Typical, I suppose, but…it’s on the menu, at any rate.”

            Alexander sets his menu down and pulls his briefcase up and sets it on the empty chair at his side.  Silence between us for about two minutes before an ugly, pudgy waitress deep into middleage comes over.  Large nose.  Dry-looking hair, red-brownish.  Big lips.  Large breasts.  Head hurts…pounding…

            “Ello, me lovelies,” she says squawking.

            “Evening,” Alexander says, charming per usual.

            “What can I get yuh?”

            “Just a bowl of soup for me,” I say, cutting in before Alexander can talk.  “Spicy parsnip.”

            “And yuh, love?”

            “Fish and chips and…oh, I’ll have a Budweiser.”

            Groan at his choice of beer and wave her off after telling her I want water.  Extra ice.  She nods and leaves.

“Mom said you…that there was urgent business in Frankfurt,” I say.

            “Yes,” he says.

            “Well…what kind of urgent business.”

            “They’re shorting us on costs for raw materials, and I…anyway, I’m sure you don’t really want to know.  It’s just come down to me needing to speak to Rudolf in person.”

            “Ah…gotcha,” I say.

Alexander burps and touches his neck just below his ear like he’s in pain.  Yawn and watch him burp again and he avoids looking at me.  Awkward hum between us and I think about asking him if I can go with him to Germany.  If we can spend some quality time together.  But the words don’t come and I’m glad they don’t.  Look outside the restaurant and I see the choral group from downstairs wander by in a stupor, maps unfolded and music players hooked to their ears. The leader of the group is a woman with a great blonde wiggish mat of hair on her head, her waist skinny and her thighs fat like big posts.  Lips thin, ears large.  Makes me smile, two kids toward the back holding hands, a tall girl with brown hair, very plain.  A boy who reminds me of myself, only taller.  More adequate.  Back to Alexander and he’s listening intently to the fat man at the bar speaking German into his cell phone.  The waitress comes back with our drinks and he wipes his lips and looks at her and says “Thanks” with a halfcocked smile, then looks directly at me.  It’s like daggers when he does and while we stare I see that our noses are almost identical.  Slender through the bridge and pointed at the end.  He takes a sip of his beer and I scoop some ice out of my water and crunch it loud in my mouth.

“Are you getting along here, son?” he says, staring.  Assuming.

“You mean here at this place?  Or at Wellington?”

Wellington er…I mean, I hope you’re enjoying yourself now…too,” he says and looks away back toward the bar.

“School’s fine.”

“Worth the effort getting here?”

What effort?”

“With the visa issues, remember?”

“Wasn’t effort.  Just…annoying.”

“Well, was it worth it?”

“Worth what? I don’t understand?” I say angrily for really no reason.

“I’m glad things are fine, son.”

“Yup.  Super duper.”

Alexander perks up when he hears the Fat Man say “Gleichzeitige technik” and I can tell he probably wishes he had a more motivated son, which is fine.  Totally fine.  Groovy, even.  Head pounding through my skull.  Need pill, any pill.  Some…thing…

            “Are you still with…what was her name, that one girl?” Alexander asks, simply, reading the drink menu like a newspaper.

            “What girl?”

            “You used to…see her years ago, I think.  Reddish hair.”

            “If you’re referring to Deirdre, Father, we dated my junior year in high school for three months.”

            “Your mother tells me you two are still very…uh, close.”

            “And what, I can’t have friends that are girls?  If I have a friend that’s a girl she has to be more than a friend?”

            “Well, who then?”

            “Who then what?”

            “Which one’s your…you know, special friend.”

            “Jesus.  No one.”

            “No one?

            “Not really, no.”

            “Any reason why not?”

            “Don’t find anyone particularly interesting at the moment,” I say, thinking it’s pretty much true anyway.

            “Oh,” he says, takes a drink of his beer.  Pause.  He looks at me again, sternly, then, “You know, some…boy came by the house a bit ago, looking for you.”

            What boy?  When?”

            “It was, maybe…two weeks ago.  Did your mother not tell you?”

            “What boy?  What did he want?”

            “Didn’t want anything, just…to see you, he said.  Seemed very surprised when we told him you were here, at school.  Shocked, even.”

            “What was his name, Father?”

            “I’m trying to think.”

            “God, why didn’t you guys tell me this over the phone?”

            “Well, we both just assumed he’d get in touch with you.  Has he?”

            “No, he hasn’t…clearly.”

            Tyler, I think.  Or Tom.”

            “Well, I know a Tyler and a Tom…so which one?”

            Tyler, I think.  Should we call your mother and ask her?”

            “No.  I want you to be sure.  Do you remember his last name?”


            “Are you asking me?”

            “I’m pretty sure it was Weeks, or Wicks.  Do you know one of those names?”

            “Yes, Weeks,” I say annoyed.  Thinking.  Then, “What did you tell him…exactly.”

            “Just that you had been here, in England, since September.”


            “And I don’t know.  He just seemed…surprised, I think.”


            “Who is he?”

            “A friend.”

            “Didn’t you tell him you were coming here, to school?”

            “Didn’t come up.”

            “Oh,” he says, head down.  Slurps beer, looks back to the bar.  Clears throat.  Panic on my face.

            “He’s just…I met him through a friend.  Good guy, goes to Northwestern,” I say sitting back, chewing on the straw from my water trying to act nonchalant.  Nervous, excited.  More nervous.  Pause.  Then, “I owed him money, I think that’s why he was surprised.”

            “Money?  For…what?” Alexander asks accusingly, embarrassed.

            “Not drugs, don’t worry.”

            “You’re smart, I’m not worried.  But for what, though?”

            “Borrowed money from him at Six Flags last summer and…I dunno, I guess he just really needed it back.”

            “Oh.  Where is he from?”

            Hinsdale…I think.  Anyway, did he say anything else?”

            “No, he just left after that.”

            “What was he driving?”

            “I don’t know, I didn’t see.  Should I…do you need the money, I mean?”

            “No, I’ll take care of it over Christmas.”

            “Speaking of which, do you want to go down to the Keys this year?”

            “Not particularly, no.”

            “Oh, alright.  Dana and Paul are going and I just thought…you might want to.  But…it’s fine.”

            “Yup.  Fine.”

            “I’m hungry,” Alexander says after a silence has settled between us for a few minutes.  I nod.  “Have you spoken to your mother today?”

            “No, why?”

            “No reason.”

            “There’s always a reason.”


            “You used to say that, to me.  There’s always a reason.”

            “I did?”


            “When did I say that?”

            “When I was younger.  Middle school.”

            “Hm.  I don’t remember saying that.”

            “Well…you did,” I say and suddenly smell sausages cooking which makes my mouth water.  Stomach growls, head stops pounding.  One piece of my body shuts off while the other pains, it seems.  I sit back and just watch Alexander’s expressions.  The way he tightly places his lips around the beer bottle, his cheeks flushed and pink.  His hair short and gray.  Stubble on his jaw, also gray, some black.  His eyes wandering outside as people pass, thinking God-knows-what about them, about their possibilities.  Their usefulness.  We sit there for a few minutes, not saying anything, nothing left to say, really.  Think about telling him something deep and secret just to see how he reacts but his phone goes off, the ringtone made to sound like an old-fashioned house phone.  He fumbles it out of the pocket of his sportcoat and holds up a finger to me, as he always has.  A trademark of his person.  The lone finger shushing.

            “Jerry, tell me you talked to Paul?” he says, standing, moving away from the table, his voice deep and set in its work tone now. 

I turn back to the table and grab the drink menu he was looking at as the waitress brings our food, smiling and wiping her hands on her shirt after she sets the plates down.  She leaves and I’m alone.  Smell the parsnip soup.  It looks watery.  Turn to see where Alexander is now and he’s at the bar standing next to Fat Man.  Phone in his hand, clicked shut.  They’re talking, these two men.  Speaking German.  I watch them interact, talking business, talking whatever the fuck they’re talking about, the Fat Man smiling and jolly.  Alexander comfortable, enjoying himself.  Fat Man laughs hard, loud.  Alexander pats his shoulder like they’re old pals.  I just sit there, turned around on my chair, staring at him like I’m ten years old.  This man who I know.  He looks over at me finally between barreled laughs, his son who looks so desperate at this moment.  Weak.  He holds up the single finger again at me, turns back to the Fat Man and says, “Ich wünsche, dass ich länger mit dir sprechen könnte.”


3 thoughts on “Grievances against demanding schedules, a chapter from ‘Impossible Monsters’

  1. Great stuff, Rob. Can’t wait for publication so I can read the whole thing. I especially love the dialogue: it’s natural, not forced. You don’t load the story down with adverbs and adjectives that are supposed to tell the reader how everyone feels; that comes through in the actions and words of the characters. Really enjoyed it!

  2. Hey….I just sent you some suggestions after reading an earlier submission. But, in “Anthony” you did it. Your sentences are formed wonderfully, shorter and stronger. Dialogue is super. See! It works! I really got into this faster than the other submission I read….

    Great job!

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