So you can get an idea of the writing that the Fiction Writing Department is producing, I am publishing excerpts from work by my fellow Fiction Writing grads. Alexie started the program a year after me, but is finishing when I do because she is a beast…a feminine beast. It’s awesome to see the progress that she’s made on her novel since last summer’s writing group on Dan Terrill‘s roof, and I’m about ready to see these words between two covers.
Here’s what Alexie has to say about the project:
This is an excerpt from Chapter 22 of my completed thesis/novel Communists Click Here. Bruce Tandang is an accident-prone Vietnam Vet with an affinity for junk food, a comb-over, a snaggletooth, and frequent panic attacks. In this scene, Bruce is the target of a multi-vehicular, motorhome chase through the Chihuahuan Desert of New Mexico. He has kidnapped a pregnant geneticist and two victims of a human trafficking scheme who are in the back of the Winnebago.
Up front, the slime coat greasing Bruce’s fingertips made gripping the Minnie Winnie’s steering wheel increasingly onerous. Though a well-known fact brought to light by years of therapy, Bruce’s anxiety often got the best of him over insignificant issues instead of the notable ones. On a normal day Bruce could plop to the ground, contort his calves into the crisscross applesauce position, and talk himself down from any emotional ledge by reviewing the four simple steps he had memorized to nip a panic attack in the bud. Today was not a normal day.
Bruce was suddenly hyperaware of his body odor. Pregnant women were known to have a super-human sense of smell, weren’t they? Were Lilah’s eyes watering from his wretched armpit fumes? She did seem to be shifting an awful lot on that tweeting old couch.
A clear bottle of Purell Instant Hand Sanitizer with a white hand pump and a return address label proving it had been pilfered from Larry’s supply closet was nestled in Tork’s cup holder. It was the best Bruce could do. Letting go of the wheel with his right hand, he pumped the neck twice and caught a mound of liquid jelly in his sweat-caked palm. His fingers dove under his neckline and frantically worked the goo into the thicket of his underarm hair.
The antiseptic scent of emergency rooms, community clinics, dental offices, orthopedic surgeons, college dormitories, and Mallory’s own laboratory triumphed over his musk. Bruce, however, had not been prepared for the burn. Like a cow being branded, the Purell brought with it a searing sting as abominable as that time he urinated after sleeping with a chlamydia-infested Las Vegas hooker.
Bruce’s lips flared. He gagged. He flapped his elbows up-and-down and hoped the added airflow would expedite the alcohol’s evaporation.
“What are you doing up there?” Lilah demanded.
“The Chicken Dance. I’ve had that tune stuck in my head all day long, don’t you know.” Sure, it was a ridiculous cover-up, but in Bruce’s defense he had spent many a night in the eighties swirling around and around the roller-skating rink flapping his beaks, wings, and tail feathers to the accordion tune of the Chicken Dance. “Hey, do you remember last July when Mallory cut my allowance and I picked up some daytime hours at that temp agency?”
“Uh-uh, sorry. I can’t recall.”
“Well, on the weekends, they had me working the street corner wearing a chicken costume outside the El Pollo Loco in Mission Valley. I figured, shit, since Brad Pitt did it before he hit the jackpot, I could, too. Then, one ninety-nine degree afternoon, I Chicken Danced my heart out and forgot to keep sipping on my water. Yup, well, I passed out, chicken breast-up.”
“How long did it take for someone to notice?” Lilah shifted positions on the sofa.
“They didn’t have to. The hombre in the hard shell taco outfit across the street sprinted right over and dialed 9-1-1 on the cell phone he kept hidden in his folds of lettuce. Apparently, he kneeled on the sidewalk, twisted off my head, and fanned me with his sombrero until the ambulance arrived. Nice guy, that taco.”
“Did you get fired?”
“No, I wrote Mallory down as my emergency contact, and when they phoned her about the accident, she quit for me.” The burning had subsided, but Bruce was too wrapped up in his story to notice. “Truth be told, I liked standing there, waving at cars, doing the Chicken Dance. Getting all those people to honk at me was exciting, you know? I mean, I think when people talk about finding a rewarding job, that’s what they mean.” Just as the epiphany struck Bruce, a ripe tomato thwacked the Winnebago’s windshield.