A day late and a dollar short — story of my life.
I’m nearly ready to publish Anika takes the long way home up soul mountain. The final revisions are done, the beta readers have had their say, and I’m just updating my website and back matter for my other books to complete the preparation for publication.
For today’s post, I thought I’d give you something that isn’t going to be in the book. It’s a deleted scene from Chapter 19, in which Anika and her love interest are out on a date. In this flashback, which I ended up condensing in the final version, Anika explains to her date a little bit more about how her little brother Gerry’s problems started…
Back to the future: Fourth of July, circa nineteen years ago. Summer after my sophomore year in college.
“Gerry?” I call as loudly as I dare.
Another firework explodes above the baseball field a mile away, spidering through the night sky in reds and purples, and I sigh, because Jenny’s over at the field watching fireworks without me, enduring Mom’s frostiness, Dad’s stuttering attempts at friendliness, Dutch’s strange passive-aggressive remarks which are fucking impossible for me to interpret and she’s my sister.
And here I am in the park, on a wild goose chase to find my missing fourteen year-old brother.
My phone chimes in the pocket of my shorts, and I’m hoping it’s from Mom or Dad, telling me Gerry’s showed up, but it’s not — it’s Jenny.
I think your sister might hate me even worse
now than when we were in high school
She doesn’t hate you
I write back. I try to reassure her:
I don’t know what she said to you, but
I’m sure it’s just Dutch being Dutch
Don’t let her get under your skin
You’re the only one I want under
Speaking of which. When are you
I promised I’d find Gerry
Be back as soon as I do
I squint through the darkness, hoping to spot some sign of my brother here at the park, his last known location.
A few paper plates and Solo cups that didn’t make it into the trash bins skitter across the dry grass when the breeze catches them, but they’re the only signs of life at the park.
I’ve been sent on this mission because I get along better with my baby brother than anyone else in the family. Dutch always criticizes him because she’s perfect and criticizes everyone, and with Gerry’s plummeting grades, goth friends, and general teenage boy obnoxiousness, he’s the perfect target for my older sister’s sharp tongue. And PJ and Gerry don’t get along because they’re like aliens to each other — PJ is quiet, responsible, eager to prove himself, eager to stay ahead of Dutch’s rolling tide of judgment. By contrast, Gerry’s got a foul mouth, like me, and apparently decided years ago that he didn’t have to prove himself to anybody. Instead, he just aims a big middle finger at the world and dares it to fuck with him.
All of which I can appreciate. Which is why I’m here instead of them.
I catch a glimpse of movement over by the bandstand. With only a single floodlight above it to provide illumination, it’s hard to say if there’s something / someone really there, or if it’s only shadows playing tricks on my eyes.
“Ger?” I call tentatively.
“Anika!” a hoarse whisper comes back. “Over here! Quick!”
I follow the voice, catch a flicker of movement again, think I see a thin frame and a baseball cap flit between the vertical slats of the bandstand railing. I round the corner of the bandstand and a hand grabs my wrist, pulling me further into the shadows.
Ah. Found him.
“Get down!” Gerry whispers urgently.
Thinking maybe he’s got kids from school threatening him again, I go in the opposite direction of his advice — I pull myself up to my full height, chest out like the statue of Custer, scanning for the danger Gerry’s so afraid of.
But he tugs hard on my wrist again, like he’s trying to yank my shoulder from its socket.
“Ouch! Jesus, Ger — ”
“They’ll see you!”
“Who? Who’s after you?”
Eyes wide, he whispers his answer so softly I can’t hear him.
I lean down. “What?” I ask, but that’s when I notice two things: First of all, the kid’s eyes are as big as klieg lights. The pupils are so huge there’s barely any iris left, like he’s an anime character. Second, his clothes reek of pot. Incredulous, I say: “Gerry, are you… high?”
“Yes, yes,” he says impatiently, “but that doesn’t matter right now. If we don’t get out of here right now, they’ll find us and they’ll take us.” He glances around furtively, and before I can stop him, the crazy little fucker darts off into the night.
I chase the kid around the park for another ten minutes before I finally catch him and strong-arm him back to Jenny’s car. I’ve already texted her, so she’s waiting for me there by the time I arrive, and the two of us get my stoned and shroomed brother back to my house, where we manage to get him more-or-less quiet by the time my parents come home. He sleeps it off; I tell my parents he’d just gone home early.