My novel, The Game of Hearts, is available for free downloading starting today, for the next five days.
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This novel, my fifth, was written last year. I’ve been editing it for some time, adding illustrations and generally fussing over every word, paragraph, chapter and punctuation mark. But every writer must eventually declare an end to a project, and thus I have declared mine. The general consensus (a few readers) was that this story was engaging enough to read in one go; thus I’m going with it first. There are others which are also ready to go, but one has to start somewhere. I suggest having a look at the Kindle site, where you can read a good amount of the story and see if you like it. Then perhaps you’ll be compelled to buy one version or another. That I admit, is my hope.
The paperback (illustrated with 42 sketches) at Amazon.com here
and e-book for
The lives of two young couples are intertwined when on the night of a full moon Helen and Joan, strangers, arrive at hospital where each gives birth to a son. Some years later, Joan meets Helen’s husband George, who ignites her desire for passion. They discover the connection of their sons’ common birthday, but there the similarity ends. One boy is an ideal child, the other a holy terror. Joan and George become lovers, each filling a hole in the life of the other. But all the while Joan’s son Johnny is going from bad to worse, until one day a tragedy strikes at both families. When Joan’s husband Larry gets a heart transplant he discovers a mysterious connection with the donor that he takes to his grave, until the day Helen finds a strange letter.
Larry opened the door and went in. Johnny was lying on his bed reading a car magazine he’d stolen from the corner store.
“If you’ve been taking my car I want it to stop,” said Larry, not bothering to ask if it was so. He assumed it was true, since he had every reason to trust the source.
“Sorry, Dad. I only took it around the block, once.”
“OK, but don’t do it again. If you get caught we’ll be in a lot of trouble. And my insurance won’t help if you get in any kind of accident. If you were injured the insurance wouldn’t pay, and if you injured someone else, I’d be sued. This family would be ruined financially.”
He didn’t bother to say that in his mind they were already ruined in every other way.
“Dad, I don’t steal your car, OK?”
From that moment on Larry decided to hide his keys just in case. But Johnny already had his own copy. He took the car over to Bruce’s house the very next day, and he was in a foul humour.
Mickey and Keith were there, and they were rolling joints. Johnny walked right over to Mickey who had the paper between his fingers, rolling it into a neat cylinder.
“You asshole,” Johnny said, swiping at Mickey’s hands, sending the half rolled joint flying. “You had to tell everyone I had the car?”
Mickey stood up and Johnny swung at him, landing a punch on Mickey’s head. Mickey swung back and hit Johnny square on the cheek. Then they grappled and fell to the floor. Keith and Bruce pulled them apart.
“I didn’t tell anyone,” said Mickey. “Don’t lay it on me.”
“Bull shit. Your father told my old lady,” Johnny spat out.
Mickey hung his head and put his hand up to his brow.
“Oh fuck,” he said. “I never thought it would go anywhere. I only told my mother that I saw you again, that’s all. I had no idea it would get back to your parents.”
“Are you that naive, doofus?”
“Sorry, lay off alright? It was a mistake.”
“Doesn’t matter. My old man hid his keys, but I made my own!”
“Let’s go for a burn,” said Bruce.
“I need a joint first,” said Johnny.
“Have the one you knocked on the floor,” said Mickey. “We already smoked the rest.”
Johnny got down on his knees and retrieved the joint from under a chair. Mickey tossed him a pack of matches.
“That’s better,” said Johnny, taking a drag. He looked at Mickey, who had a dark bruise on his face. “Sorry about that, Mick.”
Mickey looked up at Johnny, who also had a welt on his cheek. Then he began to laugh.
“Jesus, you have a wicked temper,” he said.
“Got it from my mother,” said Johnny.
“You don’t know my mother,” said Mickey. “She blew her top today.”
“My mother’s a worse bitch than yours, I bet you,” said Johnny.
“Yeah, but she’s never around to tell you what to do all the time is she?”
“Naw, she’s working or getting drunk with her boyfriend.”
“How do you know what she’s doing?” Mickey asked. “Do you follow her?”
“No, but I can put two and two together. She’s got some guy on the side, I can tell. And my old man knows too, I bet. Only he’s too tired to do anything about it.”
“Is that why he doesn’t bother to stop you from taking his car?”
“You got it.”
“I wouldn’t take my Dad’s car,” said Mickey. “He’d kill me.”
“Your Dad’s cool,” said Johnny. “Doesn’t he have an old MG?”
“Yeah, it’s at my Grandma’s. He’s always there working on it.”
“Let’s go have a look,” said Johnny.
“OK,” Mickey said. “My Grandma won’t care.”
They piled into Larry’s car and headed off to Mickey’s grandmother’s house. They didn’t know that George and Joan were also on their way.
The boys arrived first. Johnny parked right in front of the house, and they all waited while Mickey went inside. A few minutes later the garage door opened to reveal Mickey and the MG. Everyone piled out of the car and walked into the garage.
“This is so cool,” said Bruce. “Do you know how to drive it?”
“I can’t drive,” said Mickey. “Anyways, it’s a standard.”
“I bet I can drive it,” said Johnny. “What do you say we take it out for a spin?”
“If my Dad finds out I’m a dead duck,” said Mickey.
“He’s at work, how’s he going to know?” said Johnny. “Are you chicken?”
That was it for Mickey. Johnny already thought he was a naive doofus, but to be called a chicken, even by implication, was too much.
“No, I’m not chicken, I just don’t know how to drive it, that’s all,” he said. “If you can drive it we’ll take it out. But just around the block, OK?”
“Fine with me, where’re the keys?”
“They’re always in the car,” said Mickey, opening the door. “Yep, they’re here.”
Bruce crawled into the empty space behind the seats, and Mickey got in the passenger seat. Johnny started it up. It idled away spewing smoke for several minutes until it was warm, then he put it into reverse. He didn’t really know how it worked but he had some notion of what a clutch was. He let it out and the car stalled.
He tried again. This time he gave it more gas and they shot backwards out the door and halfway down the driveway before Johnny stepped on the brakes and stalled the car again.
“Are you sure you know what you’re doing?” Mickey asked. He was beginning to regret this.
“Yeah, I know. It takes a little getting used to, that’s all,” Johnny replied.
He started the car again and gave it some gas. Just then George pulled up.
“Oh shit,” said Mickey. “Just say we were only taking it out of the garage to hear the motor,” said Mickey.
George saw the boys in the car and guessed what was going on. He wanted to get out and give Mickey a piece of his mind, but he knew that Joan might show at any moment. He was frozen. Then he had an idea. He jumped out of the car and hurried over to the MG. Mickey was getting out with a look of fear on his face.
But George wasn’t looking angry. In fact he was smiling, and looked like he was ready to apologize to Mickey. This was weird.
“Sorry Dad, I was just showing off the car. We took it out to have a look in the daylight. I’ll put it right back.”
“No problem,” said George. “Does Johnny know how to drive it?”
“Yeah, he says he does,” Mickey replied. “We weren’t going to drive it.”
“Take it for a spin,” said George. “But just be careful, OK? Go slow and don’t run any stop signs.”
“Really?” said Mickey, aghast.
“Really. Go on, be quick. Ten minutes, no more, alright?”
“Sure, thanks Dad,” said Mickey, getting back in the car.
“What did he say?” Johnny asked. “Are you in shit?”
“No, he said we can go for a ten minute drive.”
“Are you kidding? Does he know I don’t have my license?”
“No, I didn’t bring that up. Come on; let’s just go before he changes his mind.”
“Alright,” said Johnny. “Your Dad is totally awesome man.”
Johnny backed out to the street and stalled the car again. George was standing there watching, looking very anxiously down the street for Joan. Then Johnny got the car going and they chugged away and turned the corner. The car jerked and sputtered as Johnny mishandled the clutch, but it kept rolling, and they drove out of sight. George nearly fainted.
George checked his watch, standing at the curb looking up and down the street. Five minutes passed and he was ready to panic. He checked his watch again. Seven minutes had passed since the boys had driven off. Where was Joan? He should have told them to go for an hour, but he was afraid they’d get into trouble if they were gone that long.
Ten minutes had passed and Joan still hadn’t shown up. George looked at his watch. His heart was pounding, and he took a deep breath. Then he saw her car coming around the corner. He began to run up the block towards her, waving his arms. She pulled up beside him and rolled down the window, looking perturbed.
“George, what’s the matter?” she said.
“No time to explain,” he said. “Just get out of here fast. I’ll explain later.”
“You want me to leave?” she said, looking very annoyed.
“Yes, go, just go. I’ll call you later,” he pleaded, waving his head like a crazy puppet.
Joan looked at him like he was insane, and raised her hands in disbelief. George was almost frantic.
“Go, now,” he said, waving his arms, his eyes almost popping out of his head.
From the look on his face Joan guessed he was very serious. She drove away, too slowly for George’s liking, and he watched her go, holding his breath. He checked his watch as she drove out of sight. When she was gone he heaved an enormous sigh.
Joan got as far as the corner when it dawned on her that Larry’s car was parked in front of George’s mother’s house. She also remembered that the garage door was open, and the MG wasn’t there. Her eyes grew wide and her hands started to sweat. Then, away down the street she saw it; the MG was coming towards her. She turned into the first driveway she saw and pulled up to the house. A woman was in her front yard, carrying a pail and a garden rake. Joan smiled at her, and watched the rear view mirror.
The MG went by, and Joan rolled down the window as the woman came over towards her.
“I’m looking for the Jones’s house,” she said. “I think I have the wrong address.”
“Nora Jones lives down the block that way,” said the woman. “I don’t know her number, but it’s the place with the green garage door.”
“Thanks,” said Joan, putting the car in reverse.
She backed out onto the street, and drove away in the wrong direction, as the woman with the pail stood watching and wondering what that was all about.