A friend of mine in L.A. writes and produces really good movies. We have an intermittent dream of creating a story together that I write as a novel and he writes as a screenplay and then produces. The story idea is a May-December romance in which the December character, if you will, is profoundly sympathetic. The other “rule” we devised is that the December must wait until the May is legal. That’s how much integrity this character has. As he or she lusts after a minor. Sexy, chaste. HOT.

Motivated by our brainstorming phone calls, I cranked out a story. I had every intention of expanding it into a novel but so far it remains a short story—my first fictional short at that, and one that, reading it now, I love for its, well, brevity.

I suppose I must have been confident enough to submit it to the Schuylkill Valley Journal. Then I promptly forgot about it. This is a skill and a craft—throw it out there and move on. Once it’s in the atmosphere it’s not really yours anymore, so why fret. Develop productive amnesia.

The fiction editor emailed me I don’t know—months? A year? later to accept it. After a few edits suggested by the talented Fran Metzman, it was included in the Spring 2015 issue.  The issue is $10. Order here and feel good about supporting a reputable old-school lit journal.

SVJ reading at Manayunk Art Center

Here’s an excerpt to get your juices flowing…

The Removalist
2008 - Paris
The first time he sees her she’s regarding a painting in the Musée Picasso in Paris. The painting is called The Kiss. It was completed in 1969, the year the man was born. Picasso was eighty-eight at the time of its completion. In the painting, lips lock but eyes wander. It is the kiss of the disturbed—two faces, smashed, colliding. Love lost. Desperation in white, black and blue. The woman in the painting is modeled after Picasso’s second wife, Jacqueline, who was twenty-seven when she met Picasso, when he drew a dove on her house and brought her a rose a day until she agreed to date him six months later. Picasso was seventy-three. Forty-six years apart they were, yet married for twenty years. She killed herself. With a gun.
When Paul’s watching her look at The Kiss, it’s 2008, a year before the museum closes for renovations, a year before Picasso’s small red notebook is stolen, estimated to be worth over eight million euros. The museum won’t reopen until spring 2013, when their new security system is updated and approved. In the meantime, the 250 paintings, 115 sculptures and 347 drawings will reside temporarily in Wales, Seattle, Barcelona, Tai Pei, Abu Dhabi and Washington D.C. Not one of the works will go to New York City, where Paul lives. Paul. Pablo. A coincidence he’s only just noticed.
The young lady has a fetish for childlike fashion. Paul is at once taken by her in a way he won’t be able to explain for two years, to the police. This type of bohemian spirit never did much for him before—it reminds him of his dying mother. Paul’s fiancée wears no color at all outside inky denim. She keeps herself slim and angular and seldom smiles.
When he leans forward on the balls of his feet he can regard the girl’s profile but not enough to satisfy his urge to study her, to behold her. He takes notes in his head, as if cataloguing for future use.
The girl’s head tilts, a curtain of cinnamon swaying in the breezeless marble palace. Her hair is tangled with a jagged part down the middle. She leans on one sneaker, a faded black old school Converse Chuck Taylor with dirty gray laces and ball-point pen doodles rimming the dirty rubber edges. Paul decides that she is the only girl who can wear rainbow striped tights and manage to look completely and utterly fuckable. The strip of bare belly between her gauzy pink skirt and her tight white tank-top arouses him in a way he hasn’t felt in months. She’s not a rail; not zaftig either, but soft. And petite. Like a child. She turns to him for a flash. He expects a snub nose, painted lips. A girlish jadedness. What he sees is a face that could move men to wars—liquid brown eyes. Slightly large nose, full, wide lips and a startling presence. There’s nowhere else she’d rather be than here. Her skin is smooth, free of color or attention, almost gray in its pallor. He suddenly longs to bury his lips in the shadow below her cheekbone, to unhook the tiny down jacket from her narrow shoulders, pinch the black bra straps between his thumb and forefinger. Cup a small breast. Press his ear there to listen to her heartbeat—the heartbeat of a songbird—fragile, with hollow bones. He would confess to her his most terrible fears and beg her not to fly away.