Hello, Surf Reporters! Today I’ve decided to post the first chapter of my new novel, Crossroads Road. There are obvious reasons for this… I hope folks will read it, like it, and feel COMPELLED to buy seven or five copies right now. I also want to have somewhere I can direct fence-sitters for a free sample. So, if you’ve already read the book, I apologize. But, you know, I almost never update on Saturdays anyway… so it’s not like this is taking the place of something else. Sheesh. Please note: I’ve taken the liberty of putting the piece into an internet-friendly format. The book itself is traditionally formatted.
Dr. Larsen suggested I write it all down. He believes the process of putting everything on paper, and reliving it in detail, will help me identify the source of my “struggle.” And, he added, since I fancy myself a writer, it probably wouldn’t hurt to actually write something every once in a while. Which I thought was a bit snarky, coming from a man who looks like a bearded newborn baby.
I’d like to make it clear upfront that I’m not really the psychiatrist-visiting type. I’m from West Virginia. But after The Incident, I got some pressure from my wife’s family (ha!), to seek counseling. I resisted at first, but eventually warmed to the idea of being allowed to blow off steam to an uninvolved third party. For some reason that seemed appealing to me.
I’d tried to talk to a couple of drinking buddies and a bartender about it — those were the only kinds of counselors I knew about. But after a few minutes they all had incredulous looks on their faces, and were saying things like, “Jesus man, I wouldn’t put up with that kind of nonsense for fifteen minutes. Why don’t you grow a set?”
So, I started seeing Dr. Larsen, who I believed would be a little more understanding, and might actually listen to me. You know, since my insurance company would be paying him wheelbarrows full of cash to do so. I didn’t believe I needed help, I knew all too well the source of my struggle, I was just looking for emotional release. I needed a psychological prostitute, an emo-hooker.
So I hope it’s clear that I’m not a psychiatrist kind of guy. You get that, right? Good.
The Incident, which is capitalized because of its unparalleled, towering, never-to-be-forgotten significance around the neighborhood (sheesh), was an overreaction on my part. I understand that as well as anyone. It was a mistake, OK?
But it didn’t happen in a vacuum. Not by a long shot. What’s conveniently forgotten is all the madness that led up to it: voodoo, classic rock, an incredibly ugly dog, funnel cake, Kickstand Martinez, freaking Smuggles the Bear…. Good lord, my whole body goes rigid every time I think about it.
But think about it, I must. I have to get it all down on virtual paper. The Incident itself is grossly overemphasized. The buildup is what’s important; that’s the key to it all. And putting everything into proper perspective is the reason I agreed to undertake the writing of this report, or testimony, or whatever you want to call it. The historical record cannot be left to a gaggle of kooks.
Perhaps I should introduce myself? My name is Jovis McIntire. My real name is Joseph, but when I was a kid my younger brother couldn’t say it the right way. Our parents thought it was just the cutest thing, and made his pronunciation the default setting. I don’t mind, though. I can’t remember being anything other than Jovis. And it’s a whole lot more interesting than the original identifier, don’t you think?
I met my wife Tara at work, in Atlanta. For a few years we were both employed by a company that sells and distributes industrial piping, and engages in a little light soul-killing on the side. Man, I hated that place like a dog hates a meter-reader. But it led me to Tara, so the pain was worth it.
Tara grew up in Oregon, and we’ve somehow managed to build a family consisting of two parents, two kids, and a cat — all born in different states, none of which happen to be the one where we currently reside.
We’ve moved a lot because of job opportunities, each adding five to ten thousand dollars to my yearly salary. It took a while, but I was finally making a halfway decent wage. I worked in the field of logistics and distribution, which was something I was reasonably good at, but don’t really understand how I got into. It just kinda happened while I wasn’t paying attention.
The moves were hard on Tara. She makes friends easily, and it’s difficult for her to say goodbye. Luckily, I don’t have that problem. Most of my friends have been in place for many years. I don’t want or need any more; the roster is full.
In fact, around the time I started drinkin’ ‘n’ complainin’ with a guy from work a few years ago, I had a falling out with an old friend in Georgia. We no longer speak, on account of his lying-sack-of-shit ways. It was an unfortunate turn of events, but it saved me from having to make a difficult decision. A new friend had come along, so another one needed to go. I was thankful the gods took care of the problem for me.
Tara and I have two great sons, named Jesse and Zach. No, seriously, they’re great. I’m not just saying so, to play the part of mature adult here. I’d tell you if we were raising a couple of wormy, pasty, mama’s boys, because I’m honest and remain unencumbered by the heartbreak of maturity.
No, ours are normal kids, who receive normal grades at school, and get into a normal amount of trouble. I love them dearly, and wish it to be noted that I didn’t destroy any of their stuff during my episode last summer. Nothing. And how many fathers can make that claim?
My struggle, so-called, was set into motion almost two years ago, when my mother-in-law shuffled into a Go Market convenience store, undoubtedly to buy a National Enquirer, a soda so large it takes two hands, and something from the candy bar family, but meat-based. And almost as an afterthought, won $234 million.
She later said she’d debated whether or not to waste three more dollars on the lottery; she’d been playing it for decades with little return. But since the jackpot was so elevated (and it was February, the shortest month to stretch a disability check), she decided to pull the trigger. You can’t win if you’re not in, as they say down at debtors’ prison.
And that ball-blowing machine on TV picked her numbers! It was both impossible and true. She was the third largest single-winner in the history of American lotteries, and told the fill-in host at the Today show she was going to buy a bullet-proof Hummer, a house with a doorbell, and possibly the Pizza Hut Corporation (because she likes “that cheese in the crust deal”).
During the interview she had the corner of a blueberry Pop-Tart stuck to the front of her jacket, and at one point blew her nose with what looked like a Wendy’s napkin. As I sat and watched this spectacle unfold, I thought the floor of my ass might fall out.
Behind her back we call her Sunshine. Her real name is Donna, but she’s been Sunshine for so long Donna sounds unnatural. She earned the moniker because of her disposition, which is anything but sunny. The woman was stuck on perma-bitch: never satisfied, always the victim, perpetually angry and simmering about some perceived slight.
Years ago Tara suggested we take Sunshine, and her husband Mumbles (his nickname is self-explanatory, I believe), out to dinner for her birthday. We went to Claim Jumper, and three of us ordered ribs. After we told the waitress what we wanted, she brought our drinks and a big stack of napkins. And Sunshine considered the napkins to be a slap in the face.
“What? Do they think we’re just a bunch of mouth-breathing trash over here? That we can’t eat without making a mess?! Is that what they think? I WAS FOUR CLASS CREDITS AWAY FROM BECOMING A NURSE!” she shouted, loud enough to be heard in the parking lot. Indeed, every head in the place ratcheted in our direction.
Tara, mortified, tried to explain that we’d ordered ribs, and they’re messy. But Sunny would not be persuaded. She turned surly and disagreeable, and after Mumbles mumbled for her to “get over it,” she became wounded, a martyr. She spent the rest of the evening staring off into the distance, stoic and strong against the myriad injustices she is forced to endure.
All this because of napkins.
The whole family is crazy, to varying degrees. One of Tara’s sisters, Nancy, is a militant feminist vegan, with armpits so hairy they look like Loggins and Messina. To help save the Earth’s natural resources Nancy and her pantywaist husband Kevin sometimes shower together while standing in a galvanized steel tub. Afterward, the captured water is transferred to the washing machine, and they do their laundry in it. That’s right, in crack ‘n’ ball water….
Tara’s brother Ben is a California — by way of Oregon — faux-hillbilly, if you can believe it, and used to drive the only bigfoot truck in Santa Clarita. He cranks off an occasional rebel yell, then goes surfing with his buddies. It’s bizarre.
Tara’s other sister, Sue, tips the scales at roughly 400 pounds, and craves any kind of attention she can manage.
A few years ago, on Christmas Eve, everyone heard a Friday the 13th scream go up, and we discovered Big Sue wedged between the toilet and bathtub, with her gargantuan pants and underwear around her ankles. It took three of us upwards of ten minutes to extract her from her porcelain straitjacket, and none of us could muster an appetite until about two days before New Years.
When Kevin yelled, “Be careful, that thing’s about to snap back!” I swore I could hear an echo-ey vibration coming off her calf fat. It was terrifying. And later, while doing shot after shot of whiskey, we all agreed the episode had been orchestrated, to make Sue the center of attention again. That was the day we started to figure her out.
How Tara came from the same house is one of life’s great mysteries. As far as I can tell she’s relatively normal and well-adjusted. Sometimes I call her Marilyn, in reference to the only non-scary member of the Munster family. And while she doesn’t always join me in complaining about her relatives, she also doesn’t object. Because she knows. Oh, she knows real good.
So why did I agree to live with them all, you ask, in their crazy-ass commune of crazy? Well, that’s not an easy thing to explain. It is, as they say, a long story. In simplest terms, it was supposed to be a means to an end, a way for Tara and me to realize some of our dreams.
When Sunshine approached us with her offer, my instinct was to shout, “Hell, no!” In fact, I think that’s exactly what I did. But then we started thinking about it… feeling the temptation.
A nice new house with no mortgage, and two million dollars in the bank? I’d be able to pursue my dream of becoming a full-time writer. And Tara could stay home with the kids, which is something she’d always felt guilty about not doing. We could travel and, if we played our cards right, never worry about money again.
Sure, the price would be steep, but over time I convinced myself it wasn’t such a bad deal. So what if we’d have to live on a customized cul-de-sac created by, gulp, Tara’s mother? And what did it matter if ALL our neighbors would be, um, Tara’s family? We’d still have our own space, a personal sanctuary, perfect for both shelter and escape.
Thanks for reading! All 28 chapters, and 262 pages, of Crossroads Road is available now, in the following places:
See you guys again on Monday!