A note from Pablo D'Stair on his new novella:
this letter to Norman Court is a novella consisting of 22 sections (each between 1000 and 1250 words) I am releasing by way of the following experiment: I am trying to serialize the piece across blogs, by reader request. If you read and enjoy the section below and have a blog the readers of which you think would enjoy a selection, as well, please get in touch with me to be an upcoming host. A little hub site is set up at www.normancourt.wordpress.com that has a listing of the blogs that have featured or will feature sections—please give it a look, get yourself all caught up if the below piques your interest.
It is my simple hope to use this as a casual, unobtrusive way to release this material to parties interested. There is some suspense, in that if a new host does not appear after each posting, the train comes to a halt (back tracking to previous hosts is not an option in this game). So, if you enjoy what you read and would like to host an upcoming selection, please get in touch with me via firstname.lastname@example.org. I welcome not only invitations, but any and all comments on the piece (positive, negative, or ambivalent) or general correspondence about matters literary.
this letter to Norman Court
I got down stiff from the train right about past three in the afternoon, lit up as soon as I’d made my way out to the street, scanning this way and that through a wince of cold. It made the most sense to try Herman at the office address I’d been given, so I fished the sheet out of my duffle, went into a shoe store to ask directions—clerk seemed pretty unsure of just about everything so I tried the bank across the street, right after.
The building was a generic catchall, had to find the company name on the tack board in the lobby, rode the elevator to the ninth floor, antsier than I wanted to be. Better here than have to do this his doorstep, though, no chance he’d try something, even if there were elements at play I was unbeknownst about.
In the corridor just outside the closing elevator doors, I tucked the letter from my duffle into my coat pocket, chided myself for not thinking to put the thing in another envelope, phony little address, make it seem a delivery, nothing to even bother looking at me about.
Through a glass door, a reception desk, no obvious way to bypass it.
-I’m trying to get to see Mister Herman Flake, I said, briefly scanning were any of the business cards up on the countertop his.
The receptionist dialed a number, seemed to be listening to someone, nodded, but didn’t say Goodbye or anything when she hung up.
-Mister Flake is away, just now, at a conference. Had you made an appointment?
I lied about Yes I’d had an appointment, casually taking a look at one of the cards to get some context, but the man the thing belonged to was labeled Assessor and having no idea what this meant I admitted I might have got the time wrong.
-Maybe he’d meant he’ll meet me he pops in after, any idea when the thing gets out?
The conference was out of state, he’d not be back until the day after next. I ducked a bow of thanks, down the elevator, stepped into a new cigarette, outside.
Two days staying in town, even as on the cheap I might manage, that’d be another sizable hit to the paycheck, this all amounting to some chump’s errand rather quickly. It didn’t make sense the guy’d’ve not known Herman was out, seemed as brothers they weren’t on good terms—no surprise, maybe, but I couldn’t figure my guy wouldn’t at least know about some conference, anyway, when to expect the letter might be delivered.
No point to it, I decided I’d have a look at Herman’s house, very least I could do the idea of leaving the letter inside a different package, trust no one would open it in the meantime, it’d be there Herman got in—added in to which, what did I care about the letter? I should really leave it with the missus, let her have a narrow escape, especially this two grand wasn’t exactly making it worth my trouble—not my trouble to the tune of two grand, anyway.
Cab driver was nice enough to save me some money, told me which bus’d get me closest in to the address, said I couldn’t find it from there a cab would cheaper by that point, anyway.
It was evening when I was through the bus, the walk, not unpleasant though the cold got considerably more physical around me, couldn’t tell properly were my breaths out cigarette or me, which of the two more prominently thick.
Perfectly quaint little place and one car in the driveway, probably Klia herself at home, lights on throughout. Figuring I’d come out all this way, I should at least get a peek as much as I could at the principle players, I knocked at the door, hadn’t even figured out what the thing was going to be I’d say I was doing there when it opened.
A woman, plain in clothes casual enough to lounge in, proper enough to step outside, gave me a not unpleasant side tilted head, nodded a shy hello.
-Mrs. Flake, is it?
-Now she quizzed up a bit more, tentative smile. Yes?
-Sorry, just wanted to be sure the address was right, going by memory. I work with your husband, I’m handling something of his, he’s out of town the conference a few days, was supposed to pick up something he’d left around for me.
She shrugged, seemed bored, said he hadn’t told her he’d left anything, she could get him on the phone, maybe. I waved that off, started explaining it might’ve been he’d couriered it the office, instead, I’d not checked my messages right—I didn’t believe a word of what I was saying even sounded plausible, but she just nodded through my polite hem hawing until I said Goodbye.
I got a cigarette up just down the block, started to laugh at myself—nothing to be worried about and anyway it was fun to have a look at her, get the general idea about the things I’d read in the letter. I had her painted less the fatale, now, more the quiet twig of a thing met the one guy rooted her right so her head was so addled up about it she’d write these book length letters out to Norman about she couldn’t get shut of this beau and all of it.
I was cementing and cementing this idea about her as I got back where I’d get the bus back to the city, ducked in for a drink someplace first, do something about I couldn’t feel any of my extremities.
It was a bit of a letdown, I got to admitting to myself, two drinks in of the off brand bourbon—not that she hadn’t been attractive, but what’d I been thinking, Herman’s out of town maybe I try on his old lady?
Well, maybe a bit, couldn’t be helped from the letters, to go by those she’d be one to twist around backward and underneath about—and maybe she was, at least as far as it went with Lawrence. Still, I thought, third drink down at a hard mouthful, I needed something to pass the time of day with for two days, unless I was going to punch out, take my losses.
I felt bone broke, meandered toward the bus stop. There must’ve been something the matter with me, I have a letter in my pocket worth two thousand it depreciates point A to point B, something about me I can sour even a quick buck into hardly room and board and meanwhile make a chore of it, on top.
Letter worth two grand to someone, I thought, but what else might it be worth, someone else? Two grand’s what some guy I stole his wallet’d pay me to get it down the street two towns over when meanwhile he could’ve done that on his own—what’d it be worth to Kila to see that it didn’t get delivered?
This never would’ve crossed my mind she’d fit the mental image I’d had of her reading the letter, but seeing her now, weakening her to someone’d had this one tryst, ever, no chance but Herman Flake other than that, flavored it different.
Gas station just up the way had a copy machine, didn’t see how it could hurt for trying. The last of the last shot I’d taken slipping up around me warm, I paid out the two bucks something in quarters into the slot, almost felt it was the first clear profit coming my way since this’d begun.
Pablo D’Stair is a writer of novels, shorts stories, and essays. Founder of Brown Paper Publishing (which is closing its doors in 2012) and co-founder of KUBOA (an independent press launching July 2011) he also conducts the book-length dialogue series Predicate. His four existential noir novellas (Kaspar Traulhaine, approximate; i poisoned you; twelve ELEVEN thirteen; man standing behind) will be re-issued through KUBOA as individual novella and in the collection they say the owl was a baker’s daughter: four existential noirs.