Where Are We From?
...and the next installment of The Collector
I’m back in Boston this week for “Boskone 61,” the “longest-running science fiction & fantasy convention in New England.” Last month, I was here for another convention called, “Arisia,” and in July, I'll be in Quincy for “Readercon.”
All of this recent time in the Boston area has gotten me thinking about where I’m from and why I feel that way.
When I was born, my father was a med school intern. We moved around a lot as he progressed first through his education and then into his career as an Oncologist. My parents and brother were all born in Brooklyn, but I was born in Maryland when my father was interning at Bethesda Naval Hospital. When I was one, we moved to St. Louis (Barnes Hospital for Residency). When I was two, we moved back to Maryland (NIH doing research). When I was five, we moved to Newton, Mass (more research!). When I was seven going on eight, we almost moved to Israel and I spent two months there as my father explored a position in Haifa. Then, when I was nine, we finally settled in New York, where I’ve been since.
I’ve now been in New York for more than four decades and I am a New Yorker to the core, no doubt about it. I LOVE New York. Greatest City in the World. If you ask me what I’m am, I’d say I’m a New Yorker. But if you ask me where I’m from, I’d say Boston. How do I know this? Well, for starters, I’m a Red Socks fan (Sorry dad). (Okay, well, actually, I’m the only known Red Socks/Yankees fan. I know this should be crime, but when you spend all that time in the Bronx, how can you not love the Yankees? But enough about baseball). But it’s simple, Boston is where I spent my most formative years. It’s where my first clear and deep memories are rooted. I was too little and spent too little time in all of those other places to have formed much of an attachment. There are snapshots of moments, but no narrative of my childhood until I came to Boston. Walking to school each day with my brother along a path through the woods. Hanging out with my two best friends, Miriam and Rachel. My first sleepover with Elki and playing with her Malibu Barbie. Riding facing backwards in the Sodickson’s paneled station wagon. Playing “Ghost in the Graveyard” on Halloween with what felt like the entire neighborhood.
Childhood was Boston. This is where I’m from.
Next Installment of The Collector
In case you didn’t see my substack last month, I am serializing a crime novel and making chapters available to my paid subscribers. This was supposed to have come out Thursday, so sorry I’m a little late. Chapter One is short, so here are Chapters One and Two! (Last month’s chapter was the Prologue).
I will be sharing teasers for my free subscribers and whole chapters for paid. Please, keep sharing your thoughts about this novel in progress!
Content Warning: Graphic Sex & Violence
Chapter One: MONDAY NIGHT
Robert Arizona prefers his partners younger. To be exact, he prefers his students, the newest and most promising ones; the ones who adore him most. He thinks the relationship is consensual, but he’s God to them and you don’t say no to God.
I still half-wonder if he’s God, too. But God would know I’m watching, and Arizona is oblivious as he presses the woman face forward against the weathered steel. Pulling off her brunette wig, he throws it to the ground, shoving his hands deep into her bleach blond hair, gripping it hard, pulling her head back and biting that ghost-white neck.
"Don't leave a mark."
He bites as he pleases—the consequences are hers. They always are.
Male, female. He doesn’t care. This one is a bit older than he usually prefers, but still how he likes it—in almost public places where he could get caught at any moment. The woman is in her forties, but her body is twenty and she likes it dirty, and Arizona likes that, too.
It’s hard to watch, but I force myself not to look away. Margie Winters is nothing like the first Mrs. Winters; she’d been a class act. This one is something else. Something base and predatory. They deserve each other.
Margie whimpers, "Harder, baby. Harder."
It’s like cheap porn. Bile rises in my throat.
The most famous living sculptor in the world reduced to this: An old man with his pants around his ankles, his wrinkled, grayed-haired ass thrusting back and forth as some cheating, insecure housewife half his age wets his ego.
Margie's hands are splayed on the rusty, pitted interior of the sculpture, her nails sharp, shiny and blood-red against the dark surface. Sparks flash when electricity running through the piece hit her sweaty breasts and palms.
I remember the feeling—sneaking in a similar creation at fifteen with my first girlfriend and feeling the electricity, the thrum of it coming through her and penetrating deep into my belly, like the art was alive and feeding its energy into me.
This piece is comprised of three monumental, concentric rings of weathered, electrified steel. Arizona pins Margie in a claustrophobic space between the central and inner rings where the sculpture tips outward, bending her body forwards and leaning in.
Arizona slams her two more times and then moans, collapsing against her narrow, tanned back. He slides out of her and started pulling on his pants. Turning around, she slithers against him, kissing his neck and saying, "What's the hurry, baby?" He shakes her off and continues dressing.
"Hey, what's the ---" She reaches for him.
He pushes her hand away.
Margie stands in front of him, naked except for her stilettos, arms crossed over her chest, forgotten brunette wig twisted around a heel. I can smell her—musk and anger overlaid with the briny scent of his semen.
"Are you dumping me?"
Arizona buttons his trousers, looking at her. “Friday’s the opening. Your husband's going to be here. I go back to Santa Fe two days later. It's for the best."
Margie laughs. "For the best?"
Bending down, she snatches up her clothing as I ease my way backward and out of sight.
“You just fucked with the wrong girl.”
I’m tucking into a shadow behind the outside wall of the sculpture when she emerges, stilettos clicking on cement, the sound reverberating in the cavernous room built just to house these behemoths.
"Don't be stupid, put your clothing on!" Arizona shouts after her. But she’d already disappeared around the bend.
He stands there, staring into the dark corridor that leads to the center of his creation.
Sliding his hand along the steel, he caresses the pitted wall, absorbing the flow of energy pulsing through him. He knows they are amazing, his sculptures. People call him a bastard, and he is. But some divine intervention has given him this ability to elevate people's way of looking at the world.
He flexes his weathered and calloused hands, hands with the ability to create these magical forests in which anything is possible. They are megaphones to the heavens and they are more perfect, more enduring, than anything he ever could ever create with his dick.
I ease out of the shadows.
Raising the blowtorch over my head, I swing it down, crushing his skull into a thousand, bloody pieces.
Chapter Two: FRIDAY MORNING
The landscape was a cinematic post-apocalyptic wasteland: discarded used condoms, rotten food, single tattered shoes, plastic bags gaping like wounds. But Chloe didn’t flinch from any dead body-- not even this one, dismembered purpling parts strewn about in bas relief over bone-white gravel.
She squinted against the glare of the early morning sun, getting the lay of the land. Detective Mark Armstrong stood just inside the perimeter of the crime scene, hands on his hips, back slightly curved over a graceful, lanky frame. With dark, smooth skin, he was younger looking than his fifty-two years, even now that he’d started to shave his head to disguise a rapidly receding hairline. With him assigned to the case, she could relax, knowing that he hadn’t allowed anyone to mess up her crime scene. She didn’t recognize the man standing with him, younger by at least two decades, tall and broad-shouldered, with close-cropped, dark brown hair. He was a detective, she could tell by the suit and gold shield, but not one she knew. The Medical Examiner was already in the process of probing the body and Chloe could see the bloat and discoloration all the way from here, the skin looking charred and fractured like dried mudflats. A uniformed officer standing some distance back from the crime tape held a defeated stray dog at the end of a makeshift rope leash.
She paused for a moment, inhaling like she’d done at her college swim meets. An inspiration so deep that it made her lungs ache. There was the shock upon entering the water and that long journey beneath the surface until she couldn’t hold it anymore and would break through, gasping. It was just like that— always this pause in time when she first approached a crime scene when, for just a second, the world held its breath with her. Adrenaline and morbid curiosity twisted up, not with fear, but with anticipation of seeing the dead for the first time. It was the thrill of the story— the body only telling her how it ended when that’s what mattered least. What mattered to the prosecutor was everything that had happened along the way. The story that they’d re-ravel over the course of the investigation so that it could someday be told to a jury. The story would end here, with this moment. This body and these two detectives. Where it began….Now that was the thrill.