I’ve just had some folks over at Goodreads ask me about my hockey-vampire novella SUDDEN DEATH OVERTIME.
I figured that the best way to tell them was to give them a little peek at the writing.
So – without further ado, here’s an excerpt from SUDDEN DEATH OVERTIME – one of the opening chapters.
Sudden Death Overtime
Tuesday night 9pm.
No one noticed quite exactly when the long black bus stole into the parking lot of the Anchor Pub. As far as anyone knew the bus just sort of drifted into the Labrador coastal village of Hope’s End like an unexpected snow flurry.
Things happen that way around here.
Slow and unexpected.
Judith Two-Bear leaned her elbows against the wood grain of the unvarnished table top. Her cigarette glowed like a lighthouse’s lonely beacon, bobbing as she nodded three beats behind the music of the static-ridden radio. She’d parked herself at the window seat since dinner time. She liked to watch the world go by from the sanctuary of the town’s only drinking hole – the Hope’s End Drink and Drop Tavern.
Several long slow warm beers later Judith Two-Bear found herself staring vaguely at the names and dates carved and inked into the table top. She knew some of them. She could guess at some of the others and she wondered just who the hell the rest really were. How many lonely souls had made their mark on this table and had then just sat here like so many half finished glasses of warm draft beer – just waiting to be swallowed but not quite yet.
Truthfully, she didn’t think of any of this.
Not in those exact words, any way.
People don’t really think that way – only in books and poetry and movies and other such bullshit. Rather, Judith Two-Bear felt it, perhaps. She breathed it in with the stale pub air. Her grew her own sort of loneliness, nursing her drink and her evolving disappointment and her unvarying boredom that were as much a part of her as was the blood that sludged through her tired veins.
Nothing was left.
She had lived her life and had nothing but time left to her lonely keeping. She had seen her kids grow up and run away, her lovers grow cold and run away, she had seen life pull up to the curb and wave gaily once or twice before passing her right on by.
Her hands weighed heavy on the scarred pine tabletop. Her knuckles were cracked and leathered like old alligator skin, tattooed with nicotine and age. Her eyes had grown dull and nothing that hinted of girlhood was left to her save a shotgun blast of freckles playing hide-and-seek within the wrinkles and worry-lines that troughed down her cheeks like a memory of tears.
She stared at her flat beer.
The time drifted past the hope of anyone offering to take her home for any other reason but pity. Fergus had said he’d see her here, but so far he hadn’t showed. She believed he’d only told her that to be kind. Fergus was a good man, after all, although he spent far too much time out there on that damned hockey rink with old Sprague.
What in God’s frozen earth did grown men see in the rattle of sticks, the slashing of steel over ice and hockey sweaters worn way beyond funk?
Judith sat there, disinterestedly listening to the soft current of gossip prowling through the Drink and Drop Tavern; folks wondering just where the black bus came from. Perhaps it was a fresh oil rig crew, or perhaps a wandering rock band. Perhaps a pack of tourists, far off course, with their pockets jingling with cartwheels of American silver and the promise of better days.
Judith knew better. No one in their right mind would come to Hope’s End, Labrador where the only thing that kept the town going was the influx of oil rig workers who stopped here between shifts to get drunk and fed and laid; the three weeks of seal hunters who would stop here to get drunk and fed and hopefully laid; and the occasionally dangled promise of incoming government money.
There were a lot of them – so many promises washed up like waves on the rocky beach, only to be pulled away just as fast.
She stared at her beer.
The lights dimmed as the town generator kicked up a notch.
The last tune on the jukebox crackled out, only to be replaced by another goddamn hockey game.
Judith stood up carefully.
Fergus wasn’t coming, she decided.
She laughed to herself.
There had never been a hope that he would come.
Life doesn’t really work that way.
Love is nothing more than a lie told in a midnight poker game where everyone cheated and nobody won.
She leaned backwards and listened to the creaks and cracks in the fossil that her doctor laughingly referred to as a spinal column.
The evening had passed as slowly as a year of chronic constipation.
She was six beer older.
Maybe seven – who the fuck really counted?
The television commentator shouted as someone banged the puck home. A few onlookers moaned and someone listlessly cheered. No one noticed as Judith emptied her glass of warm beer and turned it bottom-up on the table top.
She walked out the front door.
It was cold for a January evening. She pulled her shawl about her, holding it close. The shawl was the last gift that Little Jimmy Pinto had given to her before he’d got drunk five months ago and had fallen from the ferry, halfway home to Newfoundland.
Jimmy Pinto had washed ashore three days later. The current had carried him to the beach, shrouded in seaweed and picked at by the gulls. There were nights when Judith nightmared over Jimmy Pinto’s tide-swollen memory, the tears drowning in the memories his eyes, a crab picking listlessly at a bit of unfingered ear wax.
Other nights she dreamed of him singing – tone deaf and lustily bawling out that old Gordon Lightfoot standard, “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald”, over and over – the only tune he knew straight through. The nightmares were her only company these days. She welcomed them as a lonely woman welcomes the nightly visit of a phantom lover.
“Damn it,” she swore at the shadows.
She had truly hoped that Fergus would have shown tonight. She had hoped that he would replace her memories with a little actual companionship.
But Fergus wasn’t coming.
“God-be-Jesus damn it.”
The wind was cold in the parking lot.
There were only a few cars. Most people lived close enough to walk.
The black bus loomed in the darkness. There was no other word for it. It loomed – like the shadow of a mountain cast over a lonely gray tombstone.
It was heavy.
Black and implacable.
For just a half an instant Judith Two-Bear felt the urge to turn and run back into the pub and scream her panic – drowning out the hockey game and the clink of beer bottles and the tired rattle of conversation.
But what the hell would that accomplish?
She drifted a little closer to the black bus – as if she wanted to prove something to herself.
This close she saw that the windows were painted over.
Even the front window, all black.
How could a driver see his way through the night?
It might have been one-way glass, she supposed. You could see out, but nobody else could see in. But it looked more like the window glass had been spray painted over. All black, as if something were trying to hide. A part of her wanted to run from the bus and the parking lot but she was too tired to listen.
She leaned over and gently touched the side of the bus.
She felt a rhythm, like a tide, like a heart beat, throbbing within the strange blackened walls of the vehicle.
Her hand sank inwards into the cold black paint, like she was reaching into a basin of cold black water. Then she leaned a little deeper. Something purred, deep within the colour of the bus. Something purred and something drew her in. She felt it inhaling, her knees buckled slightly.
Her skin paled and the paint on the bus darkened.
She could see the grill and headlights grinning at her. She wondered just how that was possible. She was leaning on the side of the bus, nowhere close to the grillwork. She shouldn’t have been able to see it.
She didn’t care.
Fergus wasn’t coming.
She leaned there against the bus, allowing whatever was hiding inside it to drink its fill.
She wasn’t trapped – only comfortable.
The bus door grated open.
Judith drew her hand from the lulling cloy of the paint and freely entered the bus, still dreaming of the Edmund Fitzgerald.
The bus door closed behind her. If there was any screaming it was drowned in the lonely swallow of a North Canadian night sinking home. It began to snow, soft fat flakes that promised a hard storm to come. The snowflakes melted and slid across the grinning grillwork of the night-dark bus.
Fergus showed up at the tavern, one hour too late.
If you want to read the rest of this tale you can pick it up in either paperback or e-book format at Amazon.com.
Or – if you are from the UK you might want to get it on Amazon.com.uk!
Or – if you are from Canada and you’ve got a Kindle pick it up here!
Well, I think that I have about run past my quota on exclamation marks – not to mention self-promotional links – (another link and WordPress is going to start asking me to limit my blog entries to one character OR LESS!!!) – so I want to think you if you’ve read down this far and pardon you if you haven’t – which doesn’t really matter if you HAVEN’T read down this far.
Yours in storytelling,