A Sneak Preview of “Head”

HeadFrontCover

Here’s a totally free, totally awesome preview of “Head,” my new novella now available on Kindle and in paperback.  It’s a sleazy story of office life and the desperate need to keep a job during bad economic times.

“Head” is meant to be improbable -though not necessarily impossible – in the real world.  Approach it with a drink in hand and a laugh prepped in your gut.

Head
by Nik V. Markevicius

1

“Get me head,” my boss said via intercom.  The connection clicked off in my earpiece, leaving me stunned at executive reception.  I don’t believe it, was the first thought in my head.  The press wasn’t exaggerating about him.

A second ticked off the clock on the wall before my next thought, which was I don’t need this shit, but that didn’t ring true.  I did need it.  Eight months ago, I’d been downsized when a big conglomerate swallowed the community bank I worked for.  My duties were redundant, so I got a pink slip and cheap severance package.  I’d been on the job hunt until two weeks ago, when I took a gopher position at a snazzy downtown advertising agency that did football commercials and high-profile campaigns that often go viral.  An entire wall of industry awards bombards visitors the minute they step off the elevator.  There’s an aura of power in the air that’s distinctly warmer than the frosty traditionalism of upper-echelon banking.

Beyond all that is me, behind a desk so bright blue it makes my eyeballs ache unless I wear my shades all day.  My stark banker suits so far seemed to disturb the creatives, but what was I supposed to do?  My first paycheck was still a week away.

Another – later – tick of the clock, and I looked at the problem straight-on: when the boss says, “Get me head,” how am I supposed to react?  Directives like that start out on the wrong side of the line, especially when one takes Bert Holland into consideration.  He’s on his own special back nine of a golf course that’s located in the hottest part of the Sahara, and only accessible by camel.  He owns the company and he makes tons of money, so he plays by his own rules.  Industry people view him as visionary; working for Bert is a feather in the cap of every creative-type in advertising.

He’s got a reputation with women that redefines sleaze.  I used to read about his girl-on-each-arm approach to recreation in men’s magazines.  One website even called him a modern Hugh Heffner.

I drummed my fingers on the desktop as I took a couple deep breaths.  Very probably, I was misunderstanding Bert in some way, and even if I wasn’t…well I still needed this job.  And so, with nobody to babysit and nothing on the switchboard, I got up and walked to Bert’s office.  The brass sign at eye level said NO ADMITTANCE WITHOUT ESCORT.  I was that escort, so I knew the trick to the locked door.  My thumb pushed the hidden button on the bottom of the knob, and I went in without knocking, just like I’d been instructed on day one.

The corner office glowed with summer sunlight, making me glad for my sunglasses.  I admired the warm wood paneling, the framed prints of the firm’s most famous ads, and the Olympic memorabilia in lighted custom display cases.  In the center of it all was Bert, holding an autographed rowing oar with a small American flag glued to the broader end.  He wore nothing but a flesh-tone Speedo, which I nearly missed because the fabric matched his fake-baked flesh.  I halted as my mind went blank.  Bert frowned beneath his porno star mustache, staring at me like he had no clue who I was or why I was in his office.  It lasted just long enough that I lost my last shreds of initiative.

“Nathan!” he cried with an almost childish triumph that opposed his next words.  “You got me head already?  Impressive!”

My upper lip curled.  I panted out my all my air.  The bank was never, ever like this.

Bert circled around his desk near the far window-wall and sat down.  He held the oar upright when I said nothing, like a king with a scepter.  His left hand stroked his desk like I’d pet a dog.

At length, he asked, “Well?”

“Uh…no.  Not yet.”  My mind turned and turned and wound up right back at What now?

“Listen,” he said as his hand dipped below the desk.  A drawer rattled out.  Bert never took his eyes off me as he pulled out a binder-clipped sheaf of papers and flopped it back and forth in his fist.  “Know what these are?”

Sweat trickled down my back as I took a quick glance.  The formatting was all too familiar.  “Resumes.”

Bert laid his oar on the desk.  He slapped the resumes atop the paddle, hefted the whole thing as he rose back to his feet, and stuck the sheaf right beneath my nose.

“Not just any resumes,” he said.  “These are the rejects for your job.  Y’know, in case you turned out to be a meth-head or a moron.”  He arched his manicured eyebrows and flared his nostrils.  “You don’t smell like meth.  Are you a moron?”

It was so non-PC, I retreated into meekness.  In a small voice, I said, “I don’t think so.”

Bert flipped the resumes like a flapjack and caught them face-down on the paddle.  “I was about to throw these out.  I was just thinking about how hiring a non-creative for a non-creative job was a stroke of brilliance, and then you walk in here empty-handed.”  Another flip of the stack, back to face-up.  “Can I toss these out, Nathan?”

The familiar haunt of unemployment rushed out of my subconscious.  “I guess-”  I caught myself, squared my shoulders and looked him in the eye.  “I mean, yes.  You can count on me.”

Bert nodded.  He pivoted and swung the loaded oar at the interior wall to my right.  The stack of resumes thumped off the wood paneling and flopped into a blue recycling bin.  My boss rotated all the way around until the empty paddle was hovered right beneath my nose.  His face was redder than a stroke victim.

“You’re new,” Bert said as he came around his desk, “so I’ll give you a break.  Consider it a verbal warning.  I get what I want, when I want it.”  He drove me backwards toward the door.  “I can say that because I make all this happen for everyone.  In return, I demand your loyalty.  Do I have it?”

He herded me into the hallway before I stammered, “Y-yes.  You do, b-boss.”

Bert stopped at the threshold.  The oar’s paddle dropped to the carpet beside his foot.  “Good.  Now pay attention: I want head.  I want head now.  Go to work.”  With a final glare like a tent preacher spotting sin in the front row, he backed up and slammed the door an inch from my nose.

Trollbooth Blog #9

 

Designed by Margie Markevicius @ margiesmark.com
Designed by Margie Markevicius
@ margiesmark.com

If you haven’t been following my Trollbooth blog, you can catch up here.

Time for the 3rd draft!

After spending a week or so clearing my plate so I can focus on one big task for a while, I’ve returned to the revision of Trollbooth.  The goal here is to take the typed manuscript and fill it out from rough narrative to full telling.  You can see how my writing process works here.

Since I’ve intentionally stayed away from this project for a stretch of time, I felt the best way to begin was with a read-through of my 2nd draft.  It’s like a survey; what exactly do I have out there?  What in general is missing?  I’m keeping notes as a go using an app called Evernote, which I love because it’s cloud-based and works on any device.  I make notes on my phone, and within seconds they’re updated on my Mac and my tablet.

So far, I’ve read about 50 of 175 pages.  My major concern is for the opening chapters.  It’s clear I was still finding my way when I originally wrote them.  There are contradictions and narrative breaks where the story doesn’t flow, and even a few passages I want to take out entirely.  That’s just how it works for me.  The beginning is important for the usual reasons, but I’m also feeling pressure to make it as engaging as possible.  Trollbooth is, after all, the start of a series.  If it sucks at the onset, nobody’s going to read as second, let alone finish the first.

The good news is that it’s not as bad as I’d imagined.  Most of the elements I want are present and fairly well-developed, but out of sequence.  Reading the manuscript has helped me see how to fix it, and I’ve got a notion of how the one from-scratch addition I’ll need to make is supposed to go.

I expect the reread to be done by this weekend.  I don’t know yet if I’ll tackle the new beginning first, or if I’ll get down to line-editing the manuscript and leave the major work for last.  It’s likely I’ll do both at the same time, drive myself  a little crazy, and love every minute of it.  The one thing I know for sure at this stage is the book isn’t as shabby as I feared.  I’m entertained to read it; now all I have to do is make it so the reader’s experience mirrors mine.  It’s a tall order, but it’s do-able