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We are proud to present chapters 37 through 48 of Brandon’s novel, “The Difficult Ones.” We will continue to serialize his book in future issues. See our prior issue for the first 36 chapters.

Chapters 1-5

Chapters 6-13

Chapters 14-18

Chapters 19-26

Chapters 27-36

WRITING NUMBER 37

What is needed here is a scene without dialogue or no scene at all. What is very much needed now is some quiet lyrical writing that will let Tom and Dennis go off silently by themselves for a while, a good long while both of them I hope. Maybe Tom can take a business trip to his factories in the Caribbean to inspect the operations with a scowl on his face, and Dennis can be stuck in bed with a three-day flu. That way, nothing can happen between them, not even a phone call.

One problem with that approach is that I must write a lyrical scene where nothing happens and I have never been able to write such scenes. Those quiet uneventful scenes are the well-known scenes of description, though it is not entirely true I have never been able to write those scenes. I can write descriptive scenes and I have written them, but the truth is I have never written one well enough to command attention.

Tom needs to meet Andrea and he will of course meet her and they need to have a conversation and they will, they will oh yes, and they need to be physically attracted to each other and that will happen also. Some people may see immense significance in an initial and powerful physical attraction but I do not.

I will try for Andrea’s sake, not for Tom’s because Tom is just a slut with a penis, but for Andrea’s sake I will try to see her attraction to Tom as quick and powerful and valid and disturbing. I will try to justify Andrea’s attraction to Tom and make her attraction to him comprehensible because I respect what Andrea is seeking to learn about herself. I will try to make Andrea’s initial attraction to Tom a serious one and not some piece of common foolishness that she must later regret.

Andrea must regret taking so long to discover how selfish Tom is and how ignorant and how brutal, there is nothing I can do about that regret. But the first blush of Andrea’s sexual attraction to Tom, no, I hope she will not need to regret that also.

Certainly not every sexual attraction is misplaced though most are, of course. Nor is every sexual attraction short-lived and quick to wither though most are, and, if anyone need honesty here, the great majority of lightning-bolt sexual attractions most certainly are misplaced and doomed to fast decay unfortunately.

But for Andrea I would like something more than what is generally the case with us humans and our quick-to-wither sexual appetites. I would like something compelling for her and breathtaking, as if strong fingers had suddenly grabbed her wrist and pulled her, or better, grabbed her by her hips and pressed her back against a tree.

Andrea will need to feel her body awaken and a deep longing surface in her mind so that she will be able to whisper to Tom after their first love-making that he was the only man she had ever met that she could not keep her eyes off. Andrea must be able to confide in Tom that he was the only man she had ever sat with where she quickly desired his touch and where she thought from those first moments, this one is for me.

“This one,” that is the soft misleading voice Andrea must hear that summer evening in the park when she sits near Tom, “I know it is this one, this is my fellow, this is the one, this is him.”

End of writing number 37

*

WRITING NUMBER 38

On his way to Andrea’s office, Tom bought a five-dollar bouquet of red tulips from a sidewalk vendor but two blocks later he thought they looked cheap and stale so he left them on a bench.

After another few blocks, Tom stepped into a florist’s and bought a fresh white carnation because he thought white meant “peaceful”. When he looked at the carnation in the sunlight, he judged it skimpy so he returned to buy eleven more.

The florist smiled mockingly when Tom replaced his order, or that is how Tom, aggravated as he was, interpreted her smile. As she wrapped up the twelve carnations the florist asked him, “Trouble?”

Now Tom was able to curse his mother with all his heart. Here he was flailing about on the sidewalks unable to decide whether to buy stale red tulips or fresh white carnations for a woman he had never even met!

But Tom was flailing about not because of Bertie but because he did not know what to do or how to be and because once again, the little crud, he had lost all confidence in himself and needed to lash out at someone. Tom, in his usual self-protective way, blamed these excruciating problems he was having with his self-confidence not on himself nor his abysmal lack of development as a human being but on his elderly and absent mother.

One time before, Bertie had engendered a similar behavior in Tom.

It was the time when Bertie’s brother Seth lay in the hospital dying grotesquely. This Uncle Seth, whom Tom had met once only, had had an horrendously complicated by-pass operation. The surgeons had removed an artery in Seth’s pelvis and spliced it to one in his chest that had been so clogged by years of careless living and beer drinking, beef eating, fats and sugars that it had finally stopped carrying blood. At sixty-four, Seth had suffered a massive heart attack and, despite the horrific and outrageously expensive operation that had turned his body into a stitched-up shapeless blob, Seth was going to die soon anyway.

When Bertie telephoned Tom to suggest he call his dying Uncle Seth to wish him well, Bertie expected her son to embrace her suggestion lovingly. Seth was, after all, very seriously ill and truly close to death. However, Tom refused to call his uncle.

When Bertie demanded why he would not make a simple telephone call to a dying relative, Tom said his Uncle Seth would not remember him. Bertie scolded Tom for being “cold-hearted”, and when Tom said he was no such thing, Bertie told him, “Then call your uncle! Seth will remember you very well, Tom, so don’t say he won’t! All you have to do is sacrifice a few minutes of your life for a sick relative. I’m asking you to make a small sacrifice of your time for your uncle, that’s all I’m asking you to do so there’s no need to over-complicate it!”

When Tom, like the weak and dutiful son he sometimes was, did call the hospital and said, “Hello, Uncle Seth, this is Tom,” Uncle Seth snapped at him, “Who?”

When Tom explained he was Bertie’s son, Seth said nastily, “Why are you bothering me? What do you want from me, Tom? Don’t you know how sick I am?”

During the short and strained conversation that followed, Uncle Seth confided in Tom that as soon as the surgeons had removed the artery in his pelvis, his penis no longer would grow erect. “What the hell good am I with a strong heart,” Seth complained matter-of-factly, “if my penis doesn’t work?”

“I don’t know, Uncle,” Tom answered helplessly. “I guess there’s other things you can still do.”

Like what, Seth wanted to know.

“I can’t say off-hand.”

“‘Course you can’t!” Seth scolded. “You can’t say today what to do with a soft penis and you won’t be able to say what to do about it tomorrow or next year either. Other things to do! Like what? Golf with lesbians?”

As their short unpleasant phone call was ending, Seth advised Tom to refuse such operations. “Don’t let them cut you up, Tom. It’s not life what’s left to you after these doctors are through. You’re still breathing enough to be bothered, but you’re not good for one god-damn thing. I can’t even walk well.”

It was only after he had hung up the telephone Tom realized why his mother had insisted he make that call to his dying Uncle Seth. That sympathetic call was designed not to cheer Seth up, nor was it to find out whether his uncle’s penis still worked, nor to learn from an older man how to face life’s difficulties sensibly. With that thoughtful phone call, with that gentle reminder of love and distant family, Bertie had hoped that the dying stitched-up soft-dicked Uncle Seth would be influenced in his last days to remember Tom gratefully in his will.

“God damn every greedy bastard on this planet to a hell everlasting!” is how Tom cursed to himself as he entered the building where Andrea worked.

End of writing number 38

*

WRITING NUMBER 39

Today is going to be a bad day at this desk, that is guaranteed. All my characters have faded and the situations they are living through appear trivial and false.

I must accompany Tom into that poisonous nest of real estate brokers, there is no way around that, I have to go in there with him, but I am unable to begin.

Certainly my inability to write is not unusual, but that inability is usually a vague and shadowy fear that simply paralyzes me for hours and even days and makes me feel worthless. In this instance my inability seems to me to stem from that wise-mouth Dennis’s assertion that all real estate brokers are sadists waiting to torment strangers and someone like me.

But maybe real estate brokers are not sadists.

Maybe many real estate brokers are genuinely religious and kindly people, working off a fair and modest commission to provide food and niceties for themselves and their loved ones. Some of these brokers could be kindly, especially if they went to large state universities outside the metropolitan areas and especially if they majored in business and took only survey courses in the arts and the humanities.

Many of these business majors could have read as little as they had to in order to graduate so their minds retained a large child-like and uncultivated dimension. What does Dennis know about business majors at large rural universities who were raised like the ignorant Bush children and refused to read?

What does Dennis know about business majors who take survey courses and graduate with the same sweet childish prejudices they had when they entered college, having learned nothing significant in four years, neither about themselves nor the world?

Such mentally lazy self-satisfied uncurious anti-readers and mildly religious American college students could become decent and conventionally polite and well-dressed real estate brokers that Dennis maligns unfairly as cows and sadists. These real estate brokers might simply be book ignorant and book ignorant people do not want to torment strangers necessarily.

Dennis shoots his mouth off whenever he wants, that is why he irritates Tom, and Dennis makes horrible remarks about people, which is why Bertie prefers to stay away from him, so why should I take seriously what Dennis says?

Still, there is no way I am going with Tom into Andrea’s real estate office today. Tom’s carnations are wilting and Andrea is poised to fall in love with him but the carnations must wilt a little more and Andrea must remain without love. I can do nothing, not for Tom, not for Andrea, not for the wilting white carnations nor for Andrea’s love-filled looks and her hopes for deep long-lasting and satisfying sex and companionship, not today.

End of writing number 39

*

WRITING NUMBER 40

Hopeless.

End of writing number 40

*

WRITING NUMBER 41

Andrea’s real estate office was on the second floor at the end of a long narrow hallway. “Daniel Albero Investment Properties” was engraved on a nickel plaque on the door but someone had scratched “The Cheap Prick” after “Dan” and “Thief!” over “Properties” so up-close it read “DanThe Cheap PrickAlbero Investment Thief!perties”. The scratching had been crudely done, probably with a key, it looked like to Tom. When no one answered his knock, Tom pushed the door open and entered.

The room was large and filled with desks, most of which sat empty. From another room, a ringing telephone went unanswered.

I can’t, I just can’t.

End of writing number 41

*

WRITING NUMBER 42

Nothing.

End of writing number 42

*

WRITING NUMBER 43

I see now that this narrative is finished. I have been beating myself up uselessly all this past week trying to continue it.

I was unable to write and failing day after miserable day because I was unaware I had already finished. I was unable to write, not because of my ineptitude but because I had finished The Difficult Ones. That was the reason: I’m finished! At last! My novel is finished! Great!

I should be celebrating.

End of writing number 43

*

WRITING NUMBER 44

I know what panicked me into believing I had finished writing this narrative. It was that short description of Andrea’s real estate office with its empty desks and the eerily ringing telephone that went unanswered.

That description read to me as if some other writer had written it, a writer expert in the shadowy world of bureaucratic sprawl. Yet how could this other writer have entered this narrative unless I had lost control over my writing voice? And if I had lost control of my voice so shamefully, how could I not be panicking about it?

A touch of other writers here and there might not prove too damaging to these pages, especially writers expert in bureaucracy or some other forms of expression. Their influence could be taken as a sign of my reverence as well as my lack of originality. Who among us is not without precursors whose words echo in our heads! Still, I am not writing this narrative to take a smorgasbord walk through a literary cemetery, but because I, Claude

End of writing number 44

*

WRITING NUMBER 45

I am trying to find my bearings, that is all I am doing, probably.

I am suffering through a mild case of writer’s identity loss, that is my problem. It has incapacitated me so terribly because I was unprepared for it, that is all.

I was writing along smoothly as happens occasionally and observing to myself that finally the writing was progressing fairly honestly as my writing does some times and the end of this narrative was almost in sight. The great challenges were well behind me! The challenges of determining plot, creating believable characters and placing them in motion, those great challenges.

Finally, the characters were becoming believable, finally they were moving around a little, and finally they had found something to do with themselves, the elusive shadows! Now my work should have been a matter merely of keeping my thoughts pure, conserving my strength with early bed times, rising to a healthy breakfast, then sitting down immediately to follow where these characters led me.

After all, what I had to face was not that difficult. I had to write a scene where a man and a woman met in a conventional office environment and fell in flawed love after one pleasant date. Such flawed office romances must occur at least one million times a week in Europe and the United States. World-wide, maybe two million times! Maybe even three million considering the high-tech offices that are mushrooming in India and China.

But perhaps Andrea and Tom should have a few dates. That is one question that distressed me terribly and continues to distress me. I am still not sure whether after one date Andrea could fall into flawed love with Tom and he with her. Their flawed love could unfold that way. Maybe one date would spark their flawed love affair.

Tom suggests a quiet dinner somewhere out of the city, something bubbly to drink on the veranda first and their conversation seems to flow effortlessly – No no, their conversation does flow effortlessly! Not seems to, it does! It’s amazing how connected to one another they are! – and then after this one date they both knew.

Knew? Really? What?

What could they possibly know about each other after one or even ten dates? What are they so eager to learn about each other anyway? Did they worship the same god perhaps? So Tom and Andrea had an effortless conversation on a restaurant’s veranda, did they? About what? Or does anyone think what Andrea and Tom conversed about that evening is unimportant? And since when is conversation effortless?

They will probably need to have a few dates, those two, before they know enough about each other to touch and kiss, god damn their reserve. They will definitely need a few dates together before something clicks for them and quiets their fears and lessens their doubts. Although maybe not, maybe they could click quickly together, who can say? Not me for one, I am not able to say one word about their love moves toward one another, not now.

I have no idea what will happen between these two on their date and yet somehow they must end up naked in a bed soon. Or they could end up lying half-naked on the ground the first time they have sex because they were unable to wait, and why should they wait if they were someplace isolated and it was warm outside?

They could be stepping down a dark path in an expectant silence and Andrea could stop suddenly to fix her shoe and Tom could turn to her unsure whether to help. With one step Andrea would trip closer to Tom and slide her hand down outside his pants to feel his cock.

“Do me,” she whispers hoarsely, her cheek against his. “Right here, Tom, do me, right now, quickly!”

Without another word, they step into the tall bushes behind them, clinging tightly to each other. Tom pulls Andrea up against a tree and, with his strong fingers circling her hips as was mentioned earlier, he undoes the button on her something and so on.

But before any hip grabbing and cock feeling and hoarse whispering can happen, Tom must invite Andrea to dinner and Andrea must accept his invitation. Dinner is the way oftentimes these first significant carnal steps towards one another must be taken and I wish I knew why.

Tom better invite Andrea to dinner and Andrea, she better accept his invitation with no hesitation on her part. Andrea better be pleasantly surprised and say something cordial like, “Thank you, Tom, dinner sounds lovely. Dinner sounds very lovely. What time should we say?”

End of writing number 45

*

WRITING NUMBER 46

Blah.

Oh man, Andrea, who are you talking like? “Dinner sounds lovely, very lovely, Tom, what time should we say?” Do you hear yourself? No wonder your thoughts attack you at night!

What time for dinner should “we” say? Well, do “we” really want to know what time our lovely dinner together will be? Because I will tell us both: how about when hell explodes? Would an explosion in hell be soon enough? Or when the sun freezes? Will a frozen sun work for us if hell fails to explode in time for our dinner date?

Because if a frozen sun will not work either, we can simply ring up the maître d’hôtel at the Colombe d’Or and postpone our reservation until their toilets are fixed. Oh, really? You had no idea the toilets were backed up and spilling onto the stoves at the Colombe d’Or? How did you think their Billi-bi soup attained that distinctive salty tang?

End of writing number 46

*

WRITING NUMBER 47

“May I help you?” asked a man coming briskly up to Tom. He was perhaps fifty years old and clutched a claw hammer and a beat-up screwdriver in his left hand. “I’m Dan Albero, ‘the cheap prick’!” he added furiously.

“Tom Irwin.”

“I’m sorry, who? Who?”

“I said my name’s Tom Irwin!”

“Those pretty carnations aren’t for me, are they, Tom Irwin?” Dan said smiling over Tom’s irritation. “Just kidding. Peace,” he added holding up his free hand as a stop sign. “What can I do for you?”

“I’m looking for a broker named Andrea.”

“You sure?”

“Yes.”

“My Andrea’s not a licensed broker though she does some brokerage work for me. She’s just a temp I’ve kept on.”

“Well, I’m here to see her,” said Tom.

“Hold on a second,” Dan said and he turned to shout over his shoulder toward the desks behind him, “Andrea!” but none of the women at those desks looked up.

“She’s around somewhere,” he said scanning the room. “If you can wait a few minutes, she’ll turn up.”

“OK,” said Tom.

“But I should tell you,” Dan said lowering his voice and turning back to face Tom, “a different guy comes in here every other month bringing Andrea flowers.”

“Look, you’re taking me all wrong,” Tom said shaking his head.

“Hey, I’m kidding you, Tom! No one comes to see Andrea! Andrea’s a single mother with a brain-damaged son who can’t feed himself. Who wants to get involved with that?

“I’m just joking!” he added quickly. “Forget that one. That one’s nasty. I don’t want to be nasty but that sign’s got me thoroughly upset. It cost me money to engrave nickel. You’re a friend of Andrea’s?”

“No, I’ve never met her.”

“Really huh? So what’s up?”

“Andrea talked to my mother about some buildings.”

Dan looked at Tom as if seeing him for the first time. “Is your mother’s name Bertie?”

“Yes.”

“But her last name isn’t Irwin.”

Tom waited for Dan to continue and when he remained silent, Tom said, “What are you asking me?”

“I’m just saying your mother and you have different last names.”

“Right. She kept her maiden name.”

“I am sorry then!” Dan said, gesturing behind him. “I’ll just leave you and Andrea to get on with your business!”

Dan went out the door quickly. Tom heard some taps and a scraping sound then Dan returned waving the sign and the hammer and the screwdriver at him. “Cheap prick,” he muttered disgustedly. “Morons!”

He shouted “Andrea!” again towards the desks. “She’s around somewhere,” he repeated to Tom and he walked away in the opposite direction leaving Tom standing alone a second time.

Tom looked to the area where Dan had shouted twice but none of the three women at those desks nor the two men paid him any attention.

He wrote on the flower paper, “Hello, Andrea, I’m Bertie’s son, Tom. Please call me so we can straighten out this dinner.” Tom put the bouquet on the closest empty desk and he left.

End of writing number 47

*

WRITING NUMBER 48

As soon as Tom returned to his office he called his mother and told her how things had gone with Andrea.

“Not well,” said Tom, “Your so-called real estate broker wasn’t there.”

“Andrea’s not my broker, not yet. We’re still becoming acquainted.”

“You should know she’s not a licensed broker, Mother. She’s just a temp.”

“Why would that matter?”

“Why does it matter? Is that what you asked me?”

“Yes.”

“I don’t know, look, I talked to the owner instead. He’s a loud-mouthed asshole. What are you doing with these people?”

“Was his name Dan Albero?”

“Yes. He wouldn’t let me finish a sentence.”

“Do you think he was nervous? Maybe he was nervous and that’s why.”

“He’s an asshole, Mother.”

“Yes, well, I should have warned you about that one.”

“I left flowers for your Andrea and my phone number, OK? That’s about it. I’ll call you if I hear anything from her.”

“Wait, Tom. You left flowers for Andrea? Why?”

“What’s wrong with flowers? I thought maybe you offended her.”

“I spoke to Andrea a few times on the telephone, Tom. I couldn’t have offended her very much. Certainly not enough to buy her flowers.”

“Well, good.”

“But she wasn’t there?”

“No.”

“You went to her office and you didn’t meet her?”

“Yes.”

“I’m surprised at that kind of behavior from Andrea. She seemed so serious. And you called the office and made a definite appointment?”

“No I didn’t.”

“No? But why not?”

“I’m going to strangle you, Mother. The next time I see you, I’m going to shake you until your nose bleeds then I’m going to wring your dirty wrinkled little neck.”

“Why are you going to strangle my neck? What did I do wrong?”

“You told me Andrea wouldn’t pick up the phone!”

“Andrea wouldn’t pick up the phone for me. For me, not for you.”

“I’m supposed to know that?”

“I didn’t think I had to explain all the details to you, Tom. Of course you should have called her office ahead of time in a professional way.”

“Then why didn’t you give me her phone number?”

Bertie paused and then said, “I should have, shouldn’t I.”

Dennis knocked and poked his head in. He was smiling. “Oh do excuse me!” he said pretending to be surprised. “Didn’t know you were using the telephonico. Is it with maman that you are receiving?”
Tom nodded that it was and covered the receiver.

“So terribly sorry to disturb you, sonny boy!”

Tom said, “Just a second, Mother,” and covered the receiver again. “What’s up, Dennis?”

“Girl named Andrea on the other line for you, sucker. You want me to tell her to get herself good-and-solidly-white-meat tuna fucked?”

“Hold on, Dennis.”

“She doesn’t sound like a real estate broker to me. Sounds about ready to have a nervous breakdown. What’s going on with that hesitant little voice? I could hardly hear her.”

“I said hold on!”

“She sounds like a humming being, not like a broker at all. Still, you know, who knows? She could be a brittle piece of fake commercial shit like the rest of them. What do you want me to do?”

“I’ll have to call you back, Mother,” said Tom and hung up the receiver.

End of writing number 48