I was tagged in one of those “post the 7th paragraph on page 7″ dealios. The only problem is the 7th paragraph on page 7 is rather insubstantial, so I’m going to post a 1500 word excerpt surrounding page 7 because you actually do want to read that much. It’s from the book I wrote last summer and am currently editing. So, yeah, it’s pretty much a done deal. If I ever publish anything ever again, it will certainly be this book:
After sifting through the pamphlets, many of which were yellowed with age — why print new ones when there were hundreds of old ones still in boxes? — Oso discovered the most hideous 3-D face he’d ever seen, molded to the top of a box, and with eyes that shifted and followed Oso’s movements once he’d uncovered it (her?). She blew the last pamphlet from off her mouth.
“What is this hideous creature?” Oso asked Gillilander. “I thought you quit the chimeras years ago.”
“She’s not a chimera. She’s a face with a mind for money.”
“I always found that to be true of the world, but generally the face directed others’ minds with its beauty. This face is…grotesque.” Indeed, it had a pair of fat lips covered in orange lipsticks, round cheeks falling from age, deep circles under eyes that bore an expression of self-satisfied intellectualism. Oso shuddered.
“Grotesque, maybe. Her face reflects her ideas, which are grotesque. See what happens when you feed her mouth with money.”
“What? I’m not feeding her mouth with money. She eats money?”
“Sure, she eats money. She prefers hundred dollar bills. She tends to spit out the ones. I’ve tried to train her to give charitably to those who only have ones, but she still spits them out.”
“What does she give?”
“Advice. Usually pretty sordid. Meet Helen Freud. Dr. Helen Freud.”
“Dr. Helen Freud? Don’t tell me she spouts psychoanalysis for cash.”
Dr. Gillilander glared at Oso, whose mockery he should have been used to after all these years. “She does. It’s exactly what people want and expect. She won’t even speak unless you feed her enough money. She’s either the perfect woman, or the most vile. I haven’t decided. Here, come closer, I want to tell you a secret.”
Oso humored his old friend and lowered his head.
“I feed her counterfeit bills. She doesn’t know the difference.”
“Does she analyze you for counterfeit cash?” Oso couldn’t help it; he laughed out loud.
“Shh. Keep quiet. She can hear everything. Her ears never stop functioning.”
“All right. So what advice has she given you?”
“It isn’t advice, per se. She begins by arguing with me. Then she interprets what I say, and then she accuses me. The last time, we argued about why I can’t bring myself to take the garbage out. It’s filthy and full of diseases, I tell her. I can’t bring myself to touch it. If I keep adding to the garbage in the house, I’ll do the opposite, she tells me. I’ll spread disease. That’s even if I organize it before it promulgates disease. That’s what I try to do; I organize the garbage. What is garbage? she asks. How does it represent my lack of self-actualization? According to her, it represents my vision of masculinity, of which I’m afraid. Finally, she accuses me of being garbage myself, spreading my disease and filth in society. I should organize myself, not the old sandwich wrappers.”
“As a matter of fact, not really,” Gillilander chuckled a little too wildly. “I hire someone.”
Oso narrowed his eyes to slits. He was never quite sure about his crackpot friend. “To do?”
“Take out the garbage! I hire a maid. She also does the laundry.”
Gillilander was wearing a particularly rumpled and stained shirt; it was a lavender button-down and a decent offering in the way of clothes — Oso had an aesthetic for clothes — but it didn’t demonstrate the skill of a trained laundress.
“Has this laundress washed your clothes recently?”
“She doesn’t travel with me. She did pack the bags, though. She folds things very nicely in the suitcase, just as I like them.”
Oso reached out his finger and scraped at a crusted egg yolk on Gillilander’s lavender shirt. It was a shame. The egg grease would probably leave a stain.
“I got caught up working and forgot to change my shirt.” Gillilander sniffed under his arms. “I may have slept in it last night.”
“You haven’t changed a bit, my old friend.”
Gililander laughed again, but it rang with a nervous trill this time. “You have. You’ve changed a lot.”
“I had to.” He noticed his lavender-shirted friend didn’t agree with this declaration, barely affirming it with what appeared to be a slight nod before he turned his attention back to whatever he was reading. What was it? Something called Space out of Time.
“You have any of these counterfeit bills?” Oso asked.
Gillilander lowered his book, a smile back on his face. He handed Oso a stack of twenties.
“Where do you get these? You don’t make them, Gilly, old buddy?”
“Maybe I do, maybe I don’t. In all this changing you’ve had to do, you haven’t turned into a law and order type, have you? Please tell me you haven’t.”
“Only when my own conscience is stricken. Which it’s not in the case of counterfeit bills. Not that I would make them myself.”
“Ah, that old rhetorical trick,” Gilly said. “You wouldn’t do it yourself, but you’re not going to tell anybody else they shouldn’t?”
Oso clapped his hand on his friend’s back a second time. This time, Gillilander was ready and kept himself rigid.
“I don’t believe in such silly tricks of rhetoric, if you could call it that. A better term for it would be the words of the weak. No, I don’t give a rat’s behind if you crank out bills, as that’s exactly what the Federal Reserve does on a much grander scale than you could achieve in your garage. In light of that, your bills are a raindrop in the ocean.”
“That’s very poetic of you. I like the thought of being a raindrop in the ocean. Now, will you feed the useless piece of paper to my dear analyst? She’s looking hungry.”
Oso stuck a bill between the clinched lips of the face. She opened enough to suck the rest of the bill in. She narrowed her eyes.
“Problems, darlin’?” Oso asked her.
“I would assume you were the one with the problem,” the mouth spoke, her voice mechanical.
“Whoa, tsk, tsk. Watch the attitude, hon.”
“Have you ever heard the question, ‘Watch your privilege?’”
“No. Because it isn’t a question. See, I was married to a writer for about forty years. A writer of mostly erotic fiction, but that changes nothing. She corrected my grammar nearly every day. Oh, also, for the record, I’m a POC, so no privilege here.”
“Have you ever had difficulty finding a job?” the mouth asked, completely nonplussed, no signs of emotions on her face at all.
“No, never, but that’s because I’m tall and handsome. Not to mention a real charmer. But I’m the kind of man who creates jobs, so what do you have to say to that?”
“Have you ever experienced sexual harassment in the workplace?”
At that, Oso snorted. “Nearly every day before I retired. Good times, good times.”
“Have you ever been called a bitch for your aggressive behavior?”
“Lady, you need to shut up. You sound like the twentieth century.”
Still, the face revealed no emotions. Her eyes darted back and forth for a few minutes as though processing the latest information. “How many sexual partners have you had? More than twenty, I would guess. Does that statistic bother you?”
“That depends on where you got the statistic. Okay, I’m done. Can you shut her down, Gilly?”
Gillilander shook his head and pushed up his glasses. “No, she won’t shut up until the end of the session, which will probably be in about thirty seconds since you only fed her one twenty.”
Oso turned his back on the face, even though it kept repeating nonsense questions for another five minutes: Have you ever been careless with your financial affairs? Do you know what it’s like to have your flaws projected onto everybody in your gender?
In the sea of people who moved around him, her voice dimmed to almost nothing. Gillilander seemed to find the analyst hilarious, though. Oso sighed. Sometimes, his friend’s sense of humor was tedious. Speaking of tedious, he spied a lovely head of dark hair bouncing in the crowd. He smiled; he couldn’t help himself. “Heads up, here comes the Great Gonzo.”
“The Great Gonzo?” Gillilander asked.
“You know, my thoroughly obnoxious granddaughter, Stephanie Gonzalez. She’s the one with the big behind.”
“Just like her grandma,” Gillilander mumbled. “I didn’t mean that.”
“Yeah, you meant it. Berna had a big behind. Why would I deny the truth when it’s verified generation to generation? They all have those big Bambi eyes, too.”
He crossed his arms as she approached, a short rather attractive woman in a sea of tech types. Her professional attire was an almost-but-not-quite. She was a member of the Free Press Guild, and as such, she had a steady but low-paying job as a journalist working for the Albuquerque Journal in the old-fashioned way. That is, she had to hit the streets and get her evidence herself. The members of the Free Press Guild took a vow not to use the government controlled streamers.
“Hello, Stephanie,” he said in a long, dry drawl. “What favors do you want today?”
“Grandad!” She rose up on the balls of her feet and hugged him, also giving him a peck on his cheek.