With gratitude to Chelsea Station Editions and Michael Graves, we are honoured to present the first Chapter of Michael’s debut novel; Parade. Over the course of the next five days you can read a week-long serialisation of Chapter One; ‘Genesis’. Enjoy…
Morning cracks to life.
The custard-colored sky douses Reggie Lauderdale. He sleeps, a rosary twined around his neck. But Reggie’s dreams are packed with heaves, groans, and whaps.
A neck bite.
A scrotum flick.
Inside his slumber, Reggie is making love to Jesus Christ. Tingles begin to boost through him. Then, the boy spurts like a dropped can of cola that has been snapped open. Reggie awakes.
Goo warms his briefs.
“God.” he pants.
This is the sin Reggie could never confess. This is the nightmare he has fought since his twelfth year and now, at nineteen, it still won’t cease. It still won’t cease. He feels dead-ended.
Reggie’s mother had always urged prayer. She had taught him to bind his penis with dental floss or burn out the sin by daubing his slit with salt. Nothing works any longer. He knows he must be ill. He knows he must have a condition. A disease, a sickness.
Reggie rises and pokes at his buttery crown of curls. He kneels before the window and weaves both hands together. Reggie prays, “Hail Mary, Full of Grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now, and at the hour of death.” Reggie repeats this prayer five times while petting his rosary. Semen clings to the rubies.
Like always, St. Leo’s Church begins to call. Bells tinker, the chimes surfing over rooftops, chirping sweetness. Reggie attempts to smile since, recently, there hasn’t been a shooting, a bank heist, a kidnapping, a teenage car wreck, a rapping, a terror plot, a killing. Even though Reggie feels blasphemous, he does grin. “God…I’m so sorry. Please save me. Help me stop sinning. Please don’t take me away. And God…thank you for one more day, one more Friday. Thank you for taking care of mom in your eternal kingdom. Thank you for dad. Thank you for Cousin
Elmer. Thank you for this apartment. Thanks for my job at the church. Thank you for Maria. Thank you for last night’s meat loaf. God…thank you…I guess…for everything. Amen.”
Later, Reggie crams a pot pie in his mouth, showers and reads three more pages from the Book of Revelation. After, he scrawls more on his list of sins. Next, he dials the telephone. “Hi, Jo Jo.
Could I make an appointment to see Dr. Dann? For today? I think there’s something really, really wrong.”
I know this is the genesis of Reggie Lauderdale’s truest life.
I see that Elmer Mott has finished painting his lone campaign sign. With bold, blue paint, he has filled in each letter: VOTE 4 ELMER MOTT. The L in ELMER is only smudged some.
Now, Elmer’s favorite Parliament cassette bumps. Jitterbugging, he grooves around his bedroom, bareback and crooning.
But the Arcade calls and he needs a pack of Durels. Plus, there’s the gift he has planned for Pinky.
Elmer clicks off the player—grabs a once-worn T-shirt—-nabs his key—goes. He twinkle-toes down three flights, bursting out to the stoop. Sunrays jacket his bare spine with heat.
Mrs. Lolly, in her rocker, bobs on the sidewalk. A bottle of bubbles remains locked between her brown thighs. She plucks out the wand, blows gently and swirly rainbow globes sail down the street. “Mornin’ boy. It’s an Indian summer! ‘Bout time you came out to meet the day.”
“Been busy,” Elmer says, topped in scrappy hair.
“What? You smokin’? You readin’ those dang newspapers? Thinkin’ ‘bout Pinky, yo sweetheart?”
He jerks with a grin. “She’s not my sweetheart.”
Mrs. Lolly says, “Ya want her to be, though. Don’t ya?”
“But ya gonna go an get a present for her like ya always do. Aint ya?”
“She’s yo sweetheart! Don’t care what ya tell me!”
Elmer says, “It’s just your old age, Mrs. L. You’re just seeing things that aren’t there.”
She cackles. “Get on over here so I can give ya a good one.”
Elmer shuffles closer and Mrs. Lolly whacks his rear twice.
“I aint old,” she says. “Seventy-three aint old. And all I see is the truth, boy.”
Mrs. Lolly says, “Pinky called down and said she aint gettin’ no picture on her TV. Just one big box of fuzz.”
“I’ll make it work.”
“Ya do an awful lot for that girl, Elmer. Ya get her all those frozen dinners she likes. Ya get her videos. Ya take her for walks around the block. I don’t know what she’d do withoutcha.”
Elmer scratches his naked gut. “It’s nothing.”
He always says this. Nothing. Still, I know that Elmer tallies her unclogged drains, her winter-proofed windows. He doesn’t forget the pleas, the gestures. Elmer has tried to capture Pinky for three years (even wishing and hoping and praying, secretly, like Reggie).
Mrs. Lolly says, “It’s nice that ya take care of that gal. It’s just lovely.”
Elmer’s grin has now become wider and goon-like. He pulls on his T-shirt. “You want me to pick up some of that stuff for you?”
“Please, baby. Colace. The store brand. Generic.” She puffs out more and more bubbles. They glide. Bounce. Break. They leave wet dots on the concrete.
Elmer looks up to the third floor and sees the ghost-like girl.
Pinky is waving, but then, she is gone.
I know that Reggie carries a list of sins inside his front pocket. He records them two, three times a day. After his lunch break confessions with Father Fink, Reggie places a perfect check mark beside each of them. Today, he has penned his largest sin. Gazing at his words, he is cloaked in fear.
- A) Getting mad at Elmer.
- B) Smelling the front pews after Saturday’s wedding.
- C) Thinking dad was fat.
- D) Saying the A word (because Elmer made me).
- E) Getting angry with Vic at the convenience store (it’s really NOT his fault they ran out of More Money scratch tickets).
- F) Littering on Fourth Street.
- G) Laughing when Ms. Prickles fell at the Sunday service.
- H) HAVING IMPURE DREAMS AND THOUGHTS ABOUT JESUS CHRIST.
I have read Reggie Lauderdale’s lists. Yes…yes…I have read all that he has written.
Al’s Arcade, like always, is juiced with buzz. Chic’s “Everybody Dance” mingles with video game beeps and pings.
Elmer feeds “The Claw” fifty-cent doses. He cranks the joystick round and round. Elmer targets a mint green bunny rabbit. “The Claw’s” buzzer drones. Its silver hand opens, then sails down, then dives through the plushy mound, then clamps, then rises back to the top of the blinking box. Elmer is bunny-less.
“Fuck,” he whispers.
Maria saunters over and says, “Are you trying to win me something, honey?”
She is perfumed, shimmery. Lipsticked, wondrous. Maria pulls at her violet tube top which dips low, revealing her flat, boy chest. Stamping her heels, she pouts and peers in at the stuffed animals.
“Nobody wins nothin’ from this piece of shit. ‘Cept you, Elmer.”
“I’m “The Claw” champ,” he says, screwballing.
“Why’s a guy like you need all these teddy bears?”
Elmer dumps in more quarters. Again, he jams the joystick. “These little guys…they aint for me.”
“Who they for, honey?”
He glances away from the machine. For only two seconds. “It’s a secret.”
“Don’t play. I thought you were gonna marry me?” she says, her words drenched in titters.
The crane drops again, but plucks out nothing.
“Jesus Christ,” Elmer says.
Maria knocks on the game’s glass wall. “You’ll like me like me when I get titties, Elmer. I was meant for girl parts. Swear to God.”
“I already like you, Maria.”
“Yeah, but you don’t liiiiiike me.”
“Maybe I just never told you that I liiiiiike you.” He slips in more money, tries again.
“You speak lies.” She purses her lips like a shutterbugged starlet.
Elmer says, “Don’t be jealous.”
At last, the shiny, metallic fingers pull out his prize. A koala bear.
“Yes! Fuck yes!”
Tune in tomorrow for Part 2 of our week-long serialisation of Parade, Chapter One.
Read Michael’s exclusive essay for STORGY: ‘I’ve Learned a Thing or Two: Lessons from My First Novel’
Michael Graves is the author of the novel, Parade. He also composed Dirty One, a collection of short stories. This book was a Lambda Literary Award Finalist and an American Library Association Honoree. His fiction and poetry have been featured in numerous literary publications and anthologies. Visit his official website: www.michaelgravesauthor.com.
To purchase a copy of Parade and/or Dirty One click on the images below:
Reggie Lauderdale suffers from a crisis of faith. His cousin, Elmer Mott, dreams of becoming their hometown mayor. Both boys are stuck in suburbia trying to be adults… but they aren’t sure how to bethemselves yet. When a twist of fate sends them fleeing in a stolen limousine, the cousins escape to Florida where they meet a retired televangelist, who inspires them on a path of glitzy sermons and late night parties. But are the celebrations sincere or deceptive? And who is keeping tabs? Who is watching?
Parade is a tour-de-force, comic tale of religion and government.
Set in the 1980’s, Dirty One follows a pack of adolescent characters who live in the acid-drenched, suburban town known as Leominster, Massachusetts—the plastics capital of America, as well as the birthplace of Johnny Appleseed. In the story, “From Kissing,” a sixth-grader named Butch has his first homosexual tongue kiss during a monster truck show and, after a bout of the flu, he is convinced he has somehow contracted AIDS. With “Curls and Curls,” nine-year-old Lee hates his kinky, brown head of hair and is seemingly possessed with magic, casting spells to unfurl his evil tresses. In “A Snow Day,” eleven-year-old Cassidy longs to be the next mega-watt, teen pop star, but is forced to deal with her crazy classmates, her gay father, and her dog that continually vomits in the driveway. “Do It” follows a tween named Denise as she seeks her first sexual experience with a boyfriend who can never remain erect. Denise strives for high school greatness while her gay best friend is crowned king of all local paper routes. These selections join five more, constructing the remarkable world of Dirty One.
Read more of Michael’s fiction below:
Eclectica – ‘Black Doll’
Soft Cartel – ‘The Keepers’
Post Road Magazine – ‘Balloons’
You can find and follow Michael at:
Twenty-four short stories, exclusive afterwords, interviews, artwork, and more.
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