Days of the Never Was – Excerpt

As I’m too lazy to edit a poem, here’s an excerpt from my favorite novelette (long short story), “Days of the Never Was.” The book (The Juice and Other Stories) is free Monday, 20 January 2014, the last free day for a while. I hope you guys get a copy and enjoy the stories. I have tons more in my head, but honestly, I need more feedback as motivation.

“Days of the Never Was” (Science Fiction / Romance)

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Griff sat on the hood of Peyton’s green 1965 GTO convertible, unwrapped another Hershey’s Kiss, and popped it in his mouth.

Peyton, seated in the dirt that abutted Maryland’s Interstate 70, glanced up at his companion. “You’re going to get fat eating all that chocolate,” he said. “And would you get off my hood? Your pants will scratch the paint.”

Griff grinned, unwrapped another candy, and slid off. “Dude, these are soft corduroy. They aren’t going to hurt your precious car.” He wiped dust off his bottom and turned to look at the car, which now sported a butt-wide streak of bright forest green amidst the layer of road dust accumulated along their trip from Chicago. “Hell, I oughta charge you for the buff job. Looks like Betty hasn’t been waxed in a while.”

The other man rose, likewise brushing himself off. “‘Soft corduroy.’ Now who sounds gay?” Griff continued chewing and smiled. Getting no rise from his friend, Peyton continued. “Betty’s been garaged until two days ago. I didn’t have time to make her look  pretty.”

Griff turned and ran a hand along the car’s right front quarter panel. “A beautiful girl like this needs pampering,” he said.

“Yeah, well, I wouldn’t know anything about that.”

This time, an uncomfortable look crossed Griff’s face, like a cloud passing beneath the sun; however, he remained silent. Calling the man stoic was like calling space empty; it was at once an inadequate description, and completely wrong, once you knew the subject better. He was not opposed to sharing his feelings; however, it took him time to get around to it. Patience was requisite. If Griffin McKenna wasn’t ready to share, there would be no sharing.

Sighing in frustration, Peyton brushed a long strand of dark hair from his face, gave his friend a sly grin, and walked to the car’s front. “Where the hell are we, anyway?”

“Last sign I saw said ‘Boonsboro.’”

Peyton looked around. There was little to see except hills dotted with snow, evergreen trees, and open fields. “They sure named it right.”

“I don’t know, I kind of like it out here.”

“You would … farm boy. It’s like home, just not as flat. You driving the last leg, or me?”

“I’ll drive. You drive like my grandma.”

“As I recall, your grandma ran the fastest hot rod in Southern Illinois,” Peyton shot back, handing over the keys. “What was she, like first or second on the drag circuit for a few years?”

“My point exactly. You drive like a maniac. I’d like to get to D.C. alive.”

“What ever happened to Griff the wild man? I remember that one time in high school they clocked you doing 110 in a twenty-five mph zone. Now you’re all … grown up.”

Peyton stepped back and looked his friend up and down. Even now, on the first Christmas break they had spent together in a decade, the tall brunette was dressed in a conservative turtleneck, corduroys, a stylish sport coat, and boat shoes. He looked as if he could have stepped out of the cover of Needless Markup’s latest catalog. Hell, maybe he had; he was certainly handsome enough.

“What happened was that I found out that guy couldn’t get a job. So, yeah, I grew up.”  Griff smiled with half his mouth, the way he always did when he thought himself clever. “You should try it some day.”

“I grew up once. It was boring. I decided to stay young and beautiful.”

Griff erupted in a short burst of laughter. “You haven’t changed a bit.”

Peyton fixed his friend with an intense stare. “That’s what I’ve been trying to tell you for ten years, Griff.” His voice was barely audible over the din of passing tractor-trailers.

“Peyt, I … I know, it-it’s just been hard to accept, Okay?” Vertical frown lines separated his eyes. “Jesus, can we not have this discussion again?”

They both sat back, leaning against the GTO’s gleaming grill. Peyton snatched Griff’s bag of candies and unwrapped one, pulling the little string with the care of a bomb squad expert, then unfolding the foil as if it were actual gold leaf. “I forgot how long it used to take you to open presents,” Griff said, chuckling. “You really are my grandma, you know that?”

“My ponytail is prettier,” Peyton said. He turned to his friend and shoved the chocolate into his mouth.

The taller man began to gag and cough, before recovering himself and chewing. “Jesus, you trying to kill me?” His cheeks and ears blossomed red, and he stood and walked to the driver’s door.

Peyton shrugged. “I thought you could use a kiss,” he said.

“That is so …” Griff started, but shook his head and entered in the car without finishing the sentence.

“Gay?” Peyton mouthed to himself. He allowed his eyes to close for several beats before exhaling and joining his friend in the car.

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