Spent the last week getting the latest Pulp Friction book all finished up and ready to send off to the editor, and Out in the Cold should be ready for all of you on August 1st.
Now I just need to figure out what to do next!
Meanwhile, Brad and Clay are in quite a state...
Heart of Clay
(c) June 2014 @Lee Brazil
He'd never noticed a door there before.
Good sense. That's what made him speed on up past the turn off to Clay's place. Clay was home on vacation, and he'd brought a date. Brad owed him at least a phone call before he headed over to clear the air again.
At least that's what he told himself.
The truth was, he was shaken to the core. His fingers were damp on the truck's steering wheel, his t-shirt clung to his back despite the air-conditioning, and his mouth was dry.
He couldn’t believe he was really contemplating telling Clay how he felt, how he'd felt all those years ago. It was the image of himself, looking half crazy and stinking of sweat and nerves bursting into Nan's drawing room and blurting out feelings that he should have gotten over a long time ago that made him keep driving.
At home, he showered put on clean cotton pajama pants and a soft tee, then picked up the phone to make the call.
Nan answered, her voice as warm and welcoming as ever. "Brad! Why how are you? Are you coming to dinner tonight?"
He flinched. "Aren't you…don't you have company?" The idea of sitting across from Clay's boyfriend, the man he'd fought with after fucking Brad the other night…Despite the fact that he was used to eating with Nan and Pip once a week and cutting their grass, he couldn’t do it.
"Clay's friend went back home today, dear. That's where Clay is now. Taking him to the bus station in town."
His heart leapt, and foolish hope joined it. "I'm sorry to hear that."
"Well I'm not." Nan said tartly. "Clay had no business bringing that boy out here."
"He's entitled to a boyfriend, Nan."
"If he'd just open his eyes…I told him a long time ago…" She muttered unintelligibly for a moment then, "Come to dinner, Brad. Pip and I enjoy your company and Clay needs to grow up."
"I'll…" He swallowed the lump in his throat and heard himself agreeing to be at the Merk place at six. "Can I bring anything?"
"Just yourself. Now, I've got to go. I have fifteen minutes to get the roast in the pot before the Contessa comes on."
The line went silent and Brad laughed softly, a little raggedly as he was dismissed. Nan and her shows. She loved her cooking channels, even though she was the best cook in the county and as far as he knew, never made a thing that she'd seen on television.
At loose ends, and unable to contemplate tackling any of the myriad chores that never seemed to be done in the house and on the farm, Brad set his phone on the table and laid down on the couch. A nap, and then he'd take the tractor on over and get started on the grass up at the Merk place, pay for his dinner.
His eyelids fell and he breathed with slow intent, forcing himself to relax and clear his mind of the chaotic thoughts Clay's presence had resurrected. The mantle clock ticked away, one tick, two tick, exhale. One tick, two tick inhale for a count of two.
One tick, two tick, three tick exhale.
He was upstairs… in the attic where the old steamer trunks and dusty cardboard boxes held the stories of his people, of their trek from St. Joseph across miles of wilderness, to pan for gold in the California streams. There were the diaries and the trinkets of Jorgensons who'd taken ship from Scandinavia with hope in their hearts of finding something more…
And there, far at the back…
There was a door he'd never seen before.
He was compelled forward, unable to stop his steps from speeding, unable to wake as dread grew. That door didn't belong there, and whatever was on the other side…
He stiffened his legs but the distance stretched out before him, speeding past in a rush of blurred artifacts, Great grandfather's ski's from the great war, the war to end all wars, the painting done by some obscure plein air painter of his great-greats on their wedding day…
He stretched out his arms to catch hold of something, anything sturdy enough to slow his progress, but still he rushed motionlessly toward that door, unable to shout, or even to speak.
Then the blur stilled, and the air seemed to rush in to fill the space around him, warm and cold currents teasing at his pajamas, cold droplets of sweat? Snow? Rain? Tickling his toes.
But there shouldn’t be any…because he was inside, in the attic, wasn't he?
He looked up, and saw open sky above his head with a sense of relief. Dreams are like that…they have a way of changing. He swallowed a few times, let the cool rain wash his face. Then looked back, and nearly choked.
The door was still there, and this time?
It was cracked open, a thin sliver of yellow light glowing behind it.
He took an involuntary step forward.
Faint voices, laughter and conversation seeped through the opening.
He took another step forward.
The door creaked open another inch or so. The noise grew slightly louder, a white hand appeared, gripping the door.
Brad's left foot rose, landed again a foot or so closer to the door. His body followed.
The hand pushed the door farther open. A thick wrist dotted with golden hair appeared, poking out of a blue chambray work shirt.
His throat tightened again, his eyes stung. Jesus. No…He'd lived through all these nightmares he could handle.
"Buh…" Forcing out the single sound felt like someone had raked his throat with sandpaper.
"Brad!" The door vanished, and in its place stood a very familiar figure.
TO BE CONTINUED