Most stories come to me first as a scene, or a fragment of a scene. The Golden Boys came to me in a completely different way.
Over the course of years, one character and then another has staked out turf in the back of my mind, disappearing for long periods but occasionally coming forward to whisper, "What about me? When's it going to be my turn?" Long-suffering editor, Judith David, made some suggestions for reorienting another story. While playing out the what-ifs, I realized this was exactly the situation Ethan would find himself in. The plot developed from that kernel. Part of Ethan’s character was that extended family members were integral parts of his life, but I had only sketched out his mother, his lover, and the relative who was a law enforcement officer. I couldn't bring the LEO to focus in my head, though. Worse, every time the LEO spoke or acted, I got the nagging feeling he was too close to an FBI man I'd used in another story. After a couple of alternative characters refused to work out in that position, I simply replaced the unfocused LEO with my FBI man. Now that I had Ethan, two crucial relatives, his love, and the core of his plot, the other characters rapidly came out of the mental warehouse, morphing characteristics and developing new ones until they meshed with Ethan's character and his situation. During that process, they became people I could talk to, people I could clearly see, people I could order lunch for.
Jell was not initially the love interest in this piece, but the initial love interest kept losing my interest as well as Ethan's. Meanwhile, this minor background character, Jell, kept kicking pieces of the stage scenery and growling, "What about me, woman? What about ME?" So I shot him. That's when everything fell together in my head. I backed up, deleted the third young male character, and reworked the story back to front, then front to back.
I really hope this comes across: Ethan is a genuinely nice guy, a quiet hero. I can see him going into a disaster zone. He'd handle everything from washing bedpans to stitching horrific wounds, whatever was needed, and then he'd leave without giving his name. But this story takes place when he's lost his way, when he's fumbling for a new self image and purpose.
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With his easy laugh and knowing eyes, Jell grew up street--while I was raised to be a pillar of society. Now we're half naked and escaping a psychiatric facility. We're lost, cold, and being shot at. And did I mention half naked?
Jell plopped sprawling in the chair beside the bed and sneered again. "What happened to med school? Or did you switch to divinity school?"
"I flunked out." I pulled the old fashioned blood pressure cuff out of the wall rack, and turned on the conveniently placed miniature spotlight so I could better see what to do with it. My penlight cast a bluish light that would make his skin look like something dead. In the spotlight, he was not quite the color of penuche, or pralines. His skin was fine-grained doeskin, stretched taut over wiry muscles. He'd lost weight since I'd seen him last.
He sat a moment, while I tried to remember how to wind the cuff around his arm. When he spoke, his voice had lost its serrated edge. "Ethan? For real? Your parents must've shit."
Metaphorically speaking, yes. "You might have heard them from wherever you were, but you might've mistaken the noise for sonic booms."
"Did they throw you out? Hey, you need money?" He put his hand on my arm. A study in contrasts.
I'd been the golden boy all the time we were growing up. He'd had the bright skin, but I'd had the bright future, the parents still married to each other, the certainty I wouldn't just graduate--I was going to be a doc-tor. I was going to have a three-car garage and a house on the beach so I could watch the waves roll in at night. Now Jelly Richardson had a beach house and I made my living washing crusted vomit out of people's hair.
And self-pity wasn't going to get me anywhere. "They didn't throw me out, and I have a job." I also have a side job, which I have to take on faith won't involve betraying you. My finger fell on the problem, and why I'd blurted out my mission at the first opportunity. If this job did constitute screwing a friend, there wouldn't be any subterfuge about it. I'd twist his arm as best I could, but I wouldn't lie to him.
"You can't tell me the folks are down with this shit."
"No. But they're just giving me those...looks, you know?" And besides, since Monday they'd been a lot more concerned about my sexual orientation.
"You 'spoze to wrap it with the tube thing coming out right in the crook of the elbow. If you need a place out from under them, come stay with me. I have plenty of room."
And plenty of people to share it with. Including a girlfriend. "Go from bumming off my folks to bumming off my friends?"
"You could tell your uncle you're keeping an eye on me. He might pay you for that."
"Why? What have you been doing to catch the attention of the FBI?"
"Is this place bugged?"
"If it is, they didn't tell me. And if it were, would they hire me to lure you out of here so they could talk to you?"
Visit www.ShapeshiftersInLust.com tonight!
Visit www.ShapeshiftersInLust.com tonight!
Awesome, awesome scene, Amber. Thanks so much, Love, for stopping by to share a bit of Golden Boys with everyone!