My First Chapter Sneak Peek

I’ve had a number of people over the last month ask me about my novel.  I know, it doesn’t seem like I’m ever going to publish it.  I assure you I will–in full–in November.  That doesn’t mean I shouldn’t share a little with you right now.

Those of you that have signed up on my email list were given a sneak peek (although it was just a paragraph) a while ago.

So, here is my first chapter.  I hope you enjoy it:

(1)

Matthew Bryerson

December, 1996

That scrawny looking guy that looks out of place amongst all of these people having a good time.  That’s me.  Not the one that lost his map to math lab and took a wrong turn, he is wearing a sweet orange vest though over that nice collared long-sleeve black shirt.  Go B’s!  The other guy standing next to him with the beer in his hand; the guy with the glasses and the short ratty hair, that’s me.  I’m the host of this god awful festival if you can believe that.  Look at all of those debauched little fools dancing around like its Mardi Gras.  Well, at least I get to make sure the music is good at my own party.  Once “Free Bird” hits the ears I know that it is time to jet.  You won’t hear that shit kick’n’ piss tonight.  Look at all those assholes and elbows banging together to some alternative tune that half of these people don’t understand the words to or recognize.  They have no concept of who the artist is, the name of the song, or why the poet wrote it.  All they know is that it has a good beat to slam into each other with in unison so that no one falls over and gets trampled.  I enjoy this kind of music for different reasons.  Right now I just want to listen to the words and try to understand why this song is speaking to me in this moment.  I don’t know why he titled it “Lithium”.  Maybe it was because that is how he felt after taking it.  Maybe that is how he thought he might feel if he took it, who knows?  “I’m so happy…I’m so lonely…Sunday morning is every day…Light my candles in a daze….YEAHHHHH!” Every time I hear it, I try to see myself doing and being those things that he describes.  I never can relate it to Lithium though since I’ve never taken it.  Besides, I think an upper would be more appropriate.  I might act like these guys and enjoy myself.

I used to have fun at these things, but lately I don’t have that much to cheer about.  Now, before I continue, I’m writing this so you get a perspective of what it’s like to be an average guy digging through a trough.  I’ve hit some peaks, but as I write this, I tend to be in what I am hoping is a small gutter with low flow.

That girl’s alone.  I should go talk to her.  I hate this part.  This is the shit that I have never been good at.  She’s alone and waiting and I’m bumbling around with my hand in my pocket trying to think of something clever to say.

Oh, man.  Asshole spilt beer all over me!

I didn’t need that.  It’s one thing to be witless and dry, the wetness adds an anxious bonus.  Now, before I take this plunge, I should probably give you a little back-story so that you get to know me before I make a total and complete jackass of myself while trying to woo this innocent girl with my evil man powers.

Four months ago my life changed…

September, 1996

I woke up to an empty bed and my unhappy girlfr—ex-girlfriend—was packing the remaining portion of her stuff.  What the hell, right?  Well, I kind of saw it coming, but no one—I’m talking no one—wants to go through what those days offer.  So I got up and watched her finish packing.  Yes, it was stressful and I did take my glasses off and rub my temples.  You’ll find that I do that a lot when I am trying to think of something clever to say.

She just kept packing that damn box and didn’t act like I was even there.  The packing kept getting louder and louder with each object that hit the bottom of that box.

Thump!  Thump! THUMP! THUMP!

“Don’t go.  Please, I know how hard it is to live with me.”

That’s about as clever as it gets when I am stalling—pathetic, but honest.

She just kept packing that goddamn box as if I had not said anything at all.

THUMP! THUMP!

“Just…Can we talk some more?”

THUMP! THUMP!

“I know we hashed the hell out of this but….”

THUMP! THUMP!

“COULD YOU STOP PACKING FOR A SECOND AND LISTEN TO ME?!”

THUMP, went one more item as she crossed her arms and glared at me.  I may have come on a little strong with that last request, but I got the result.  It was probably the first time I had her full attention in the last six months.

“Thank you.”

I had to stop and think for a second before I lit the fuse.

“Now I refuse to believe that this entire time that we’ve been together you weren’t happy.  How can you be with someone seven years and not tell them that you’re unhappy?”

Question of fucking Questions if you ask me.

“We had fun.” PRESENT TENSE, PRESENT TENSE! “We have fun.”  I stumbled over that one.

“I love Thursday mornings.”

On Thursdays, we alternated making breakfast in bed for each other.  We hadn’t missed a Thursday in the seven years we lived together.

“You’re a great cook.”

Lie.

“That’s our catch up day.  I love breakfast.  I . . . I love you.”

Stalling again.

“Don’t you see that?  Now, I know that I am miserable, but I have always loved you.  You’re the only one I’ve been with since high school.  If that ain’t love, I don’t know what is.”

You can’t see her face right now, but she is mentally slitting my throat; bad time for a joke.

“Seven years.  Do you really believe we’ve been wasting our time?  We can work it out.”

When she stood up and picked up that box, my heart crushed my balls.

“You seem content.  But, if you ever had a feeling at all that we weren’t doomed from the beginning, you’ll empty that box and talk to me.  But if you leave, that means you never really loved me.  It was just words every time you said it.”  Heartless manipulation, I know, but she was leaving with the last box.  

There was a blissful moment there when I looked up into her eyes and I thought for a split second that I had her, but her mind was made up.  When she slammed the door behind her, it was a slap to the face.  I got up and had to say something.

“Seven fucking years!”  I shouted at her.  “What a cliché!”

It’s unfortunate that I am one of those “has-to-have-the-last-word” kind of guys.  Even though she didn’t say anything the whole time, that door slam was louder than any of those expletives I yelled at her.  So I tried to slam the door louder than her a couple of times, but it just never seemed to get as loud as hers no matter how much force I put into it.

I don’t remember a lot of the details that day, except when I broke the news to my “friend(s)”.  You have to tell someone.  They’ll find out eventually and it’s just better to get it off your chest.  It was after practice, and I had a shitty practice.  Everyone noticed.  My best friend Billy sat down next to me after practice when we were taking our cleats and shin-guards off.  I only had what happened with Randy on my mind, as you can imagine.

“Whew, I am one sweaty bastard,” he said.  “I think that was all right for me any way.  You okay?”

No, my girlfriend left me.  How are you?

I really said, “Randy left me.”

I thought that he was going to throw up.  I guess that’s how best friends react.

“Fuck you, serious?” he asked.

I just gave him a look and he understood how serious I was.

“Fuck, sorry man.  What happened?”

I was surprised by all the expletives.  He doesn’t curse a lot—especially with the “for unlawful carnal knowledge” word.  I didn’t know that I had it in me to make him swear so much.

I couldn’t answer his question.  I needed more time to think about it, but I didn’t particularly want to be alone, either.

“Let’s go to Emery’s and we’ll talk about it.  I don’t want to do it here.”

Just a side note, Emery’s is my favorite sports bar.  Wonderful food, any beer you want, and—it’s locally owned so there are no corporate douche bags worried about sales and expanding.  Fucking Cheers man.

Anyways, as I invited Billy to the bar, I didn’t notice the tall drinks of water standing behind me; Davy and Brock.  I would call them friends, but  with friends like these—well, I guess all best friends give each other shit, that’s why they’re your best friends.  Musketeer wise, Davy is to Aramis as Brock is to Porthos as Billy is to Athos.  Yeah, I’m fucking d’Artagnan.  I’m telling the story, I’m d’Artagnan.

So, not noticing them, they heard “Emery’s” and their ears perked up.

“Emery’s?  I’m down,” said Brock.

Before I could say anything, Billy blabbed, “Randy left him.”

“Fuck off man.  Serious?” asked Davy.

I couldn’t describe the look I threw Billy.  I don’t think he felt comfortable with his back facing me the rest of that evening.

“Well, let’s go get some pizza bombs,” suggested Brock.

“And beer,” Davy added as he looked at me and shook his head.  “Shit man.”

We made it across the street and started talking after we sat and ordered our food.  I was definitely ready for sympathy night, but Brock and Davy weren’t selling.

“She basically told me she never really loved me,” I continued.  “I know I’m a fucking asshole, but come on, I made some sacrifices for her.”

That was the point at which I hoped the conversation would lead to my “friends” reminding me of all the sacrifices I did indeed actually make, but they weren’t going to tug on that line.

“Like what,” asked Brock.

I wanted to knock the smug bastard off the back of his bar stool.

“Like staying here instead of trying out,” I quickly reminded him.  “I went to school because she wanted me to.  I wanted to go try out for the Foxes…didn’t happen…I stayed here for her.”

“You were really going to try out?” asked Davy, raised eyebrow in tow.

What the fuck?

“YES…as sure as you’re sitting there.”

I couldn’t let him think that I wouldn’t.

“So go try out now man, you’re free,” said a positive (and appreciated) Billy.

“Next year man.  I missed this year.  Next year.”

Brock shook his head wearing a pompous smile, “I think that’s your problem right there.”

“What?” I asked.

“You’re always putting shit off. There’s no decision making, just excuses.”

“Nice Brock,” said Billy.

At the same time I said, “What the fuck man?”

All Brock could muster at that point was, “Hey, I’m just saying.”

My steam whistle was getting ready to go off.

“Do you have to say it now? Dickhead!  My girlfriend just left me after seven fucking years.  The only woman I’ve ever been with.”

All three of them sipped their beer and ate their pizza.  I lost my appetite.  It was very uncomfortable.  Davy broke the silence.

“Brock makes a good point though.”

“Don’t encourage him,” said Billy.

Davy replied, “No, hear me out.”

He looked at me and smiled, I didn’t want to hear what he had to say, but I knew I was going to.

Davy continued, “When did you finally declare a major?”

Low blow.

Everyone knew I didn’t want to be in school, so how the hell was I supposed to pick a major.  I replied honestly.

“When I had to.”

I wanted to call him a dickhead, but I don’t think he would have heard me.

“How many times did you switch majors?”

The fucking questions! I just wanted them to eat and leave.

“Five times.”

I couldn’t look at them.  I just looked up at one of the televisions and drank my beer.  I didn’t care what was on; it could’ve been “Beverly Hills 90210 for all I cared.  I wasn’t going to look at those assholes.

I could feel their eyes on me for a split second. I know those two bastards shared a smug glance with each other.

Discomfort.

Damn silence.

“What kind of friends would we be if we didn’t point out the obvious,” asked Davy.

At least the douche bag broke the awful silence.

“The kind that do it later,” said Billy.

I could have kissed him.  He took the words right out of my mouth.

He continued, “Like not the day that someone’s been fucked over.  I know he’s an asshole—hell he does.”

“I do,” I said.

Please continue sir.

“It doesn’t mean he needs to hear this shit right now from you assholes.”

They ARE assholes! I don’t know why I hang out with those two.

“Well he needs to hear this,” Brock spouted off.

“I’m sitting right here,” I wanted to hit him.  No one likes it when they’re being talked about like they’re not there.

“You need to hear this,” agreed Davy.

Motherfucker!  I want to kick his ass too.

“You guys are out of line,” said Billy.

Speechless for too long, I got sick of the silence.  I did what every guy I know does when he is having a conversation that is going nowhere and he no longer wants to have it.

“I gotta take a piss.”

And I did.

I didn’t see it, but I imagine Billy shook his head like he always does when he’s disgusted beyond words.

I don’t think I’d do that to them if they were in this circumstance.  I don’t think they know better….but sometimes, friends feel that being self-righteous is the only way to be a true friend.  That’s Brock and Davy.

So the day after my friends reminded me of what an asshole I was, we had a game.  The game was not one to be remembered, but what I do recall was very interesting—I “shared a moment” with someone at that game.

Okay, that sounds weird, I know, but I’m banking on it’s not what you think.  I’m not the kind of guy to get sappy and write about what a wonderful, kooky experience I had and how it changed my life for the better.  As much as it changed me, I don’t have a gift of visions where I go from town-to-town helping people change their futures. Like Kane from “Kung fu”…that would be badass—but…no, not that kind of “moment.”  I don’t write those stories.  I write what I know and I know that it was a perception, but it was a little more selfish than the average, uh, “gift.”  That’s probably why I don’t write those kinds of stories.  Yet again, we are aware that I’m an asshole; well established.

I remember the whistle clear as day as the ref called a foul on Billy for tackling from behind.  The next thing I know me, Davy, Billy and Brock are setting up the “wall”.  Davy was on my left facing the ball.  Billy was on my right facing the ball.  Brock was next to Davy with his back to the ball as he looked to our keeper for directions.

I always get jazzed up when I’m standing in the wall.  It is one of the few experiences in life that can be generally physically painful, but emotionally rewarding at the same time.  It was different that day, my mind wasn’t in the game.

I remember looking into the stands for any sign of Randy.

I also felt that was a great moment to share my pain and frustration aside to Billy.  I’m not sure why, but when you feel shitty, you just want to talk about…a lot.  To anyone that will listen.

“I can’t believe it was all a sham.  I thought she loved me.”

Billy humored me.

“She fooled all of us,” he said, a little distracted.

Yeah, my head was not in the game.

“Man, seven years.  All on one girl,” I said as I turned to Billy.  “One fucking girl.”

“Well,” he replied lowly, “you have to admit, you haven’t actually been beating them off with a stick my friend.”

I jerked my head toward him and glared.

Startled by the abrupt and honest comment from Billy, I heard the ref blow the whistle and as I turned back to react, I remember seeing a white and black checkered sphere spinning toward me as blackness flashed.

Yes.  Right in the forehead between my eyes.

It all happened in slow motion when I thought about it later. I remember being able to read the Adidas label on the ball right before it struck my head.

Billy told me I was out for over a minute.

The light faded in and I opened my eyes.  I woke up to Billy’s out-of-focus mug standing over me.  He was smiling like he just got laid.

“Bright side—you saved a goal,” he said.

Like I’m concerned about the score—we were getting our asses kicked.  I sat up, moaned, wiped the drool/snot from my mouth and felt that red spot on my forehead.  When I stood in the mirror later I could read sadida.

“Bad news—I think you gotta concussion dude.”

Billy helped me up and I don’t remember walking off the field.  I was thinking that it was going to be a late night talking to Billy because I knew that asshole wouldn’t let me sleep if he thought I had a concussion.

I guess everyone clapped when I got up and walked off.  Funny thing, the biggest cheer I ever got while playing was when I had to leave the game because of an injury (I didn’t score a lot of goals).  Billy helped me off with one arm over his shoulder and I made my way.

Now, I don’t know why, but it was like the sun was a perfect spotlight on that girl I saw in the stands.  She stood up from her seat and began walking down the stairs, all in slow motion of course.

I made it off the field as she was making her way down the stadium steps when our eyes met.  She stopped and I felt my heart race.  My head was heavy.  Something was going to give.  Billy lost his grip on me and I hit the ground, knees first.  My head followed as it slammed into the track that enveloped the barrier of the field.

I remember what I saw when I was out again, but it was difficult to describe.  I was in my apartment, it was dark, and there were a lot of people.  I couldn’t hear anything, but everyone looked like they were having a good time mingling, and some were jumping and dancing to the music I couldn’t hear.  I was floating through the crowd, not flying above them, just hovering through them.  I was drawn to a light that was coming from an open door.  Everyone else there didn’t notice it like I did.  I know because I checked.  I felt invisible.  I walked through the door.  I saw the girl I noticed at the stadium as I passed through the doorway and the spotlight hit her at the end of my tunnel vision.

I wanted to find out who she was.

I know that I was “awake” at the game, but everything was fuzzy and I didn’t start to remember anything until after I got home.  Billy was there to make sure that I was okay.  Good guy, but I remember being annoyed because I was tired and wanted to sleep.  He wouldn’t let me.  Like I said, I had an awesome new forehead tattoo. He went and got an ice pack ready and told me to put it over my sadida.

I was inebriated and I just started talking about whatever came to mind.  Of course I talked about her.

“Did you see her Billy?”

“Who?”

“I’m not sure, some girl.”

I felt so tired and wanted to doze off.  Billy humored me; allowing me to babble on.

“She was so…so pretty.  She…was sweet looking and gentle.  I noticed her leaving as I fell.  She had her hair up in a ponytail.”

“I love the ponytail,” he said.

“Me too,” I replied.  “It’s so…so cute.  She had this delicate little smile.  Her hair bobbed up and down as she descended the steps.”

I remember seeing her face in that moment.

“There was this holy glare about her as if she were the only one that stood out among one-hundred people.  I wish I would’ve gotten her number.”

“Okay,” he said.  “You got hit really hard.”

I did.

——

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