Hey, it’s summer! Remember summer reading in school? Ugh, the worst. You take a look at that list in June and put together a regimented schedule of reading. 10 pages a day and you’ll have it covered. Then the 4th of July comes and you haven’t started, so now it’s 20 pages. No problem! Then August. Then Labor Day. Then fuck your English teacher for assigning books that aren’t on Sparknotes. And you skim the first and last chapters to get the gist, raise your hand in class to make some extremely broad point just so the teacher has you down for contributing, and try not to fall asleep for the next eight months.
The point is, mandatory reading can make even the hungriest bookworm toss those paperbacks on the bonfire. Historically, burning books has been a tragic and horrifying practice (see: Jewish libraries in Nazi Germany, Harry Potter as directed by churches in Charleston, South Carolina).
Luckily, we live in a time when reading doesn’t have to be hard! I recommend any/all of the recent female protagonist thrillers that are titled Feminine Noun + Preposition + Enclosed Space. I’ve read a few of these, and while it’s not exactly Faulkner, they’re always fun and you can read them fast, high, drunk, concussed… doesn’t matter.
And now, an excerpt from my upcoming novel, The Lady Near The Washer/Dryer.
It’s dark. And warm. More cozy than hot. My mouth is dry and sticky. I twist off the cap of a Ketel One nip bottle, enjoying the crackling sound of the seal breaking, and bring the tiny bottle to my lips. Just to take the edge off until Jerome gets home. He gets mad at me now when he can smell it on my breath. I check my watch. For a moment, I can only see the big hand. It points to the 12. That means… that means we’re on the hour. But what hour? Oh, the little hand must be behind the big hand, which means it’s also on the 12. So it’s… 12? Fuck this stupid, old-fashioned watch. Noon or midnight? I don’t know. I crank open another nip, Grey Goose this time, and down it. I find them in the pockets of Jerome’s golf bag when he comes home from corporate outings.
At my feet, a basket. The sheets are wet. I drank too much last night and wet the bed, then tried to blame it on Jerome when we woke up. He knew it was me though, because of the fourteen empty nip bottles on my bedside table. “Christ, Jane. Had enough yet?” he muttered angrily as he pulled himself out of bed. What a tool. I remember my first beer.
I actually don’t remember my first beer.
I pull out another nip from my utility belt and pour half the liquor into the washing machine and half into me. Jason Bourne used liquor to sterilize a wound; I can use it sterilize the piss out of my sheets. I check my watch again, and the long hand has crept away from the short. It’s 12:04. Still not sure if it’s night or day. We don’t have windows in the laundry room. I’ve had two-and-a-half nips in four minutes. It’s an extremely inefficient way to drink, but who cares. They make me feel like I’m on an airplane.
I fill the machine with clothes and sheets, and I don’t separate the whites from the coloreds. Leaving the basket, I walk out of our tiny laundry closet and sit down at the kitchen counter. Then I check the clock on the wall. This one doesn’t even have numbers around the edges, just tick marks, so you have to count from the 12. That’s going to require some liquid courage. I pop a nip off my belt and down it without checking the label. This one tastes faintly like rum, but I can’t tell anymore. They say don’t mix dark and clear liquors. Who says that? Pilots, forklift operators, priests, doctors… how responsible. How boring.
The doorbell rings. In the middle of the night? No, it has to be daytime due to all the bright sunshine. I’m stressed and tired. I just want my bed, but it’s soaked with piss. As I walk to the door, I drink two nips—Jameson and Sambuca. Delicious.
I open the door.
The world turns upside down. I fall into the bushes that frame our stoop. The screen door closed behind me, smacking me in the head. I’m lying in a tangle of shrubbery when it occurs to me: I may die here.
A hand reaches out. The UPS man, with a package from Amazon. I’m on a 13-day Prime streak. Yesterday, the wire sponges from Prime pantry. Today, it’ll be the new Gwyneth Paltrow cookbook. Can’t wait to let that marinade for the next seven years in some cupboard.
He pulls me out. “Are you ok?” Two minutes later, we’re breathlessly tearing each other’s clothes off, heading for my saturated bed…
Look for The Lady Near The Washer/Dryer, hitting bookstores summer 2038!