this letter to Norman Court is a novella consisting of 22 sections (each between 1000 and 1250 words) I am releasing by way of the following experiment: I am trying to serialize the piece across blogs, by reader request. If you read and enjoy the section below and have a blog the readers of which you think would enjoy a selection, as well, please get in touch with me to be an upcoming host. A little hub site is set up at www.normancourt.wordpress.com that has a listing of the blogs that have featured or will feature sections—please give it a look, get yourself all caught up if the below piques your interest.
It is my simple hope to use this as a casual, unobtrusive way to release this material to parties interested. There is some suspense, in that if a new host does not appear after each posting, the train comes to a halt (back tracking to previous hosts is not an option in this game). So, if you enjoy what you read and would like to host an upcoming selection, please get in touch with me via firstname.lastname@example.org. I welcome not only invitations, but any and all comments on the piece (positive, negative, or ambivalent) or general correspondence about matters literary.
this letter to Norman Court
Down to my last three cigarettes, enough to get me through the walk to the coffee shop I’d agreed to meet the man at, pick up the money, the letter. I more than halfway expected he wouldn’t be there, still had some dull little anxieties he might be setting me up to do something, except all I’d done was agree to deliver a letter.
Two thousand dollars wasn’t enough I could live carefree, but I couldn’t think of the last time I’d had that much money on me at once, didn’t know had it ever happened even back when I was working legitimate, checks every other week. Money goes someplace, always does, the same place, away.
As it was, what did I think was better: deliver a letter, get the two grand all in one handful or just stay the grind nabbing briefcases, wallets, whatever to make it enough to kick this friend or that enough to stay on in their apartment?
Not a question, really.
I was coming up on the coffee shop, the guy at a table outside reading some newspaper. Both the letter and the money, all neat in its own thick envelope, were inside of a Happy Birthday gift bag he set on the table, mentioning casually I would take it when we left, but I could go to the toilet, give the money a count if I felt like it.
-I don’t need to count some money, there’s not two thousand when I look later it’d be kind of a waste on your part, right?
This’d obviously occurred to him, but maybe he wanted some antics, something to texture this all out a bit more for him.
-My brother lives in Mill Creek, he said and when I stared he smiled, added That’s in Maryland.
-It didn’t matter to me a bit, sort of made it nicer, a trip into the deal, but just to put it out there I said How do I get to Maryland?
-I think you might have two thousand dollars, right?
-I didn’t know some of that was cab fare.
-Then pretend it’s yesterday and I’d said I’ll pay you fifteen hundred dollars to deliver a letter to my brother, he lives in Maryland, though, so I’ll kick five hundred on top for travel.
It wasn’t sharp, nothing belittling or glib in his tone, but it still put me off his saying it like that, he didn’t seem the type should be smug, but he was smug—though really there’s no reason he shouldn’t be except it put me off, I guessed.
I puffed air out my nose, affirmative, giving my head a tick, peeked into the bag, the tissue paper open with scissored second third finger—the letter, the money pack. I asked was his brother’s name, address in there and he told me Yes.
We settled this would be it, we’d be seeing no more of each other, he stood up to go. I kind of wanted to ask him how was he to know I’d delivered the letter, seeing as how the idea played out it was this guy’s brother was supposed to have no idea this guy was the actual sender, therefore not something this guy could bring up in conversation, but thinking it over instead I didn’t care.
Down the block with the bag, I ducked into a bookstore toilet. It was two thousand dollars—fifty-dollar bills, not exactly new feeling, not exactly old. From all I could tell, it was real money. In with the bills was a folded sheet of paper—the name Herman Flake, an address, another address for the office Flake worked at.
I left everything except for two bills in the bag, not wearing anything with suitable pockets, went out of my way eight blocks to a tobacco shop I knew the foreign guy working there always put a special pen to bills twenty and larger—not in a suspicious way, just something he always did and I’d remarked it. I asked for a pack of Daphne Durant’s, watched him slip the pen across the bill I paid him, the ink acting right, not showing up.
Not that I’d thought it’d be phony, I couldn’t think of anything more ridiculous than that, giving someone two thousand phony dollars to skip a few states over hand little brother a letter—I assumed it was little brother, anyway.
I smiled as I took in my first long breath of the first decent smoke I’d had in what seemed it was coming up on two years. I suddenly wanted to buy a new coat, something—some gesture to make the money a bit more real, something it’d got me a bit more substantive than a stump of filterless. So, I window shopped my way back to my friend Murray’s apartment, where I’d been up the last month, sort of grumbling to myself that I’d had two grand for something fifteen minutes and already it was dribbling down—train ticket, theoretical coat, cigarettes—but did my best to reassure myself at the end of the line I’d come out twelve, thirteen hundred up, easy, even with some frivolous distraction. Anyway, even were it a clean thousand that was something.
No one home, so I did my light packing, the money a bit bulky as a lump so I kept seven hundred on me, the rest wrapped up in a shirt in the middle of my duffle, I’d not let it out of my hand. I took the letter itself out for the first time, rolling my neck around, shushing coffee cheek to cheek, sitting on the arm of the sofa.
It was a fully addressed, stamped envelope, but obviously it’d not be sent, not been sent a good while back, just the wear to the creased up corners anyone could see that. It was addressed to Norman Court, written from a woman called Klia Flake.
I downed the last of my coffee, held the envelope up to the light, inspected it, completely layman, to see had someone got it opened before, didn’t seem they had.
-You naughty girl, Klia I said, gave the thing a flick, then added Poor poor Herman Flake.
Though, thinking about it, that didn’t seem to be his brother’s attitude regarding the matter. Something like this, the caring thing’d be to get Herman aside, give him the hard news through a few shots down the bar, sadly show the letter off as the unfortunate proof.
I picked it up, again. Had it been opened? How would my guy know the contents?
But just as quick I tossed it back in my duffle—not only was it irrelevant, but it could easily be my guy’d found it out about whatever Klia’d been pulling behind Herman’s back, there was this letter going to the fellow he knew she was off cuddling with, gave it the swipe, because what else could it be?
I grabbed some junk mail flyer, scribbled a note on the back for Murray—cryptic, just Goin’ to Kansas City, Kansas City here I come—then took two fifties out of my pocket, set them on the note, added Don’t go letting the room out, the meantime. I re-read it, took one of the fifties back, gave my duffle a final pat, inside and out—the money, the letter, etc.—went back to the note, took back the fifty and left down the change from my cigarettes earlier, instead. Just out the door, I turned back around, grabbed up one of the twenties, left just the rest—shouldn’t be getting loose with the money, last thing I needed was the appearance I could be counted on for more than my usual next-to-nothing.
Pablo D’Stair is a writer of novels, shorts stories, and essays. Founder of Brown Paper Publishing (which is closing its doors in 2012) and co-founder of KUBOA (an independent press launching July 2011) he also conducts the book-length dialogue series Predicate. His four existential noir novellas (Kaspar Traulhaine, approximate; i poisoned you; twelve ELEVEN thirteen; man standing behind) will be re-issued through KUBOA as individual novella and in the collection they say the owl was a baker’s daughter: four existential noirs.