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progress..... - KRAD's Inaccurate Guide to Life
ramblings from a mad fedora'd writer
Last night I finished Chapter 6 of A Furnace Sealed. The book's at 23,000 words. I have no idea how many chapters it'll be, but I'm happy with where I am word-count-wise versus where I am in the proposal.

Here's an excerpt from the recently completed chapter. The one bit of background you need is that Hugues is the person who trained our hero, Bram Gold, in how to be a Courser.
Around nine p.m. that night, after taking a refreshing nap and an even more refreshing shower, I called a cab company and had a car take me over to Woodlawn. No way I was going to drive, as I was guaranteed to be too impaired to operate a motor vehicle within an hour of my arrival. Less if Hugues was already there toasting his daughter. And mass transit would take too long, as it required two buses to get from Riverdale to Woodlawn, on a Sunday schedule no less.

As a general rule, neighborhoods in New York were always changing. Woodlawn was one that hadn't. A tiny wedge between the Bronx River Parkway, the Yonkers border, Van Cortlandt Park, and Woodlawn Cemetery, this neighborhood of narrow streets and small houses became an Irish enclave in the early 19th century for immigrants working on the Croton Aqueduct, and was still an Irish enclave today.

Up and down Katonah Avenue—the only street inside the neighborhood that was commercial—were dozens of pubs. A lot of them catered to émigrés from particular counties in Ireland.

One place, in between a bakery and a private house, was the Kingfisher's Tail. Six days out of the week, it was a County Wicklow haven, where folks who'd emigrated from that county came to hoist a few.

Sundays, though, the owner only opened the bar to Coursers. Brendan Sheehan's family came to the U.S. when he was ten years old, he became a Courser when he was twenty, and retired when he was thirty-five after blowing out his knee chasing down a rabid werewolf. His parents owned the bar, and he'd run it with them after he retired, taking over when they died. For twenty-five years now, the Kingfisher's Tail was known as a Courser bar, at least on Sundays.

When Hugues first took me here after I turned twenty-one, Sheehan had said to me, "Nobody came on Sundays. They'd all been out Saturday night, and spent Sunday morning confessing their sins at church. Sunday night, they're still repenting, so I figured let's boost business and give my old lads a place to hang their scythes."

I had immediately turned to Hugues. "We get scythes?"

He had glowered at Sheehan. "What you gotta be puttin' ideas in the child's head for?"

Sheehan had just grinned and poured a shot of rum and poured a light beer and had put it in front of Hugues without his having to ask for it, which was the coolest thing ever to twenty-one-year-old me.

Of course, tonight when I walked in, it was my usual that Sheehan poured as soon as he saw me enter: an amber beer.

The Kingfisher was your basic hole-in-the-wall. Small sign over the blue door in lettering that was really hip when it was first painted in 1957, with a silly drawing of a bird that sorta kinda looked like a kingfisher next to it. Sheehan had touched up both the lettering and the artwork over the decades, but refused to change it. "Then no one would be able to find the place" was his usual rejoinder on the subject.

Once you pushed open the blue door—which you sometimes needed to throw your shoulder into, as the damn thing kept sticking—you saw an old wooden bar taking up the right-hand side of the narrow space, with tiny round tables all around the floor arranged in no particular pattern or order, making it impossible to walk in a straight line anywhere in the bar. Luckily, few people ever were capable of walking in a straight line when they were in here, so it all worked out.

The one and only change Sheehan had made to the place over the decades that wasn't straight-up maintenance was replacing the stools at the bar and the cheap wooden chairs at the tables with wireframe chairs that gave you back support. Dunno about the regulars who were here from Monday to Saturday, but the guys who were constantly nursing nagging injuries like ribs bruised by crazed unicorns appreciated that little bit of ergonomic assistance.

When I entered, the first thing I noticed was that a bunch of the tables had been pushed together so Hugues could hold court. I figured he was carrying on about Antoinette's graduation.

Sure enough, as I approached the bar to get the beer that Sheehan just poured for me, I heard Abby Cornwell ask, "So did she look beautiful in her cap and gown?" Cornwell was one of three women in the bar, and there were a dozen men—thirteen now that I came in, fourteen if you counted Sheehan. This was about the ratio in general of male to female Coursers, as it happened.

"Jesus, no," Hugues said, "she looked like she was wearin' a damn tarpaulin, okay? They all did!"

Sal Antonelli asked, "How borin' were the speeches?"

"Completely." Hugues shuddered and sipped more of his rum. "The salutatorian talked in a damn monotone, and the valedictorian sounded like someone fed her helium before the speech, okay? I could not even say what the speeches were about."

I came over to join the group with my beer. "I'm gonna go out on a limb and say they were about the future and the importance of education."

"Why you say that?" Antonelli asked.

"They're all about that."

Hugues frowned. "When you get here, child?"

I sighed, having long since given up getting him to stop calling me that. "Just now. Obviously, I'm behind on drinking, since you're facing the door and didn't see me coming in."

"I was tellin' my story!"

"Hey, it's fine, it's not like you taught me to be aware of my surroundings or anything."

Hugues went back to his pontificating. "Now the worst part of the whole thing, okay? That was the keynote. The man was some kind of descendent of the man who founded the university—"

"Russell Conwell?" That was Dahlia Rhys-Markham, who was the one we all wanted as our partner on trivia night. Seriously, she knew everything about everything. I made a mental note to ask her what she knew about immortals in the Bronx later.

Or maybe tomorrow. Later, we were unlikely to all be upright.

"How the hell should I know the man's name? I was falling asleep during the speech, okay? Started droolin' out my mouth onto my nice suit."

I held up a hand. "Wait a sec, you were wearing a suit?"

"Of course, I was wearin' a suit, it was Toni's graduation, okay?"

"You own a suit?"

"I do now." He grinned. "It was Toni's graduation. You got an issue with that, child?"

Shaking my head, I said, "No, no issue at all, I'm just impressed that you spent more than ten bucks on an article of clothing. That's must've been traumatic."

Hugues just snarled at me and said, "Someone shoot this child with a crossbow."

"Hey, none of that!" Sheehan cried out. "You know how hard it is to get blood outta the floor? You wanna kill Gold, do it outside."

"Thanks, Brendan, appreciate the support." I shot him a mock-annoyed glance.

Antonelli said, "Actually, Gold's right, you usually dress like shit."

"Shoot him, too!" Hugues yelled.

Everyone laughed, and Hugues talked about the graduation some more, and then I had another beer, and then Dahlia started talking about her son's high school graduation and how it was the first time she and her husband spoke in ten years, and then I had another beer, and then Antonelli talked about his own high school graduation when a snake ate the principal, which lasted right up until I pointed out that that was the third-season finale of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and then he admitted that he didn't actually graduate high school, so he told that story instead, and then Dahlia left when I ordered another beer, which annoyed me, as I wanted to ask her about immortals, and then I had a bunch more beer. Also, beer.

Current Mood: accomplished accomplished
Current Music: "No Anchovies, Please" by the J. Geils Band

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