Here's an excerpt from the book. Patty, the main character, has recently discovered that she has a step brother. They share a derelict father named Jack . I'll warn you ahead of time that her brother, Charlie, likes to use adult language. (Perhaps I should put an R rating on the excerpt?)
I took the photo at a pond near my house. There's a lake, a made-up place called Babylon Lake, that figures heavily in this book. I imagine it looks something like this in the fall.
I was feeling the buzz of the first two glasses I’d consumed. It was not an entirely bad feeling. Maybe that’s what Jack went for, that little buzz that made all problems seem a little less problematic. Only in Jack’s case, it had backfired. “Sure. Why not.”
“Unfortunately, all I’ve got left is wine in a box.”
“It’s not.” He went to the kitchen and came back with a carton. “But it is cheap.” He poured us each a glass. “So tell me about Jersey.”
“Tell me about Valerie.”
“I asked first. What are you running from?”
“Nothing.” I knew I sounded defensive. “I’m just trying to…” How could I put it? I didn’t know myself, really, what I was trying to do. Not in my frontal lobe anyway. Somewhere deep inside myself I understood. But how do you word that? “I’m trying to figure some things out,” was the best I could come up with. I lay my head back on the couch. My shoes were off. I had the thought that I felt about as much at home as I ever had anywhere. It must have been the wine.
“And hanging around here is going to help you figure things out?” Charlie wasn’t joking anymore.
“I don’t know. Maybe. Maybe if I can get to see Jack, I can fill in the missing pieces. I keep making wrong choices. Not wrong, maybe. More…it’s like I don’t make choices at all. Things just happen and I let them. Maybe it’s in the gene pool. Maybe if I meet Jack, I can fix it.”
“I’ve known Jack a long time, and I’m still fucking things up.” Charlie sat up in the recliner. I was staring at the ceiling. “Jack doesn’t have any answers. You can trust me on that.”
It was a tin ceiling. I remembered it as soon as I looked. It hadn’t changed in thirty-six years. “You think he’ll remember me?” My eyes filled, washing the tin plates. I took another swallow of wine.
“I have to tell you something. That first day, you showed up here with that stupid plant? I wanted to kick you out. I’ve hated you for most of my life.”
I sat up. “Why?”
“Because. Jack, he’d get drunk and talk about you. It was “my Patty” this and “my Patty” that. It hurt my mother. She never had kids with him, you know. Couldn’t, I guess. And he used you like a weapon. Did it to me too. “My Patty” was always better than me. He used to say “your sister Patty would never act like that,” whenever I messed up. And I’d think fuck you and fuck Patty too. She’s not my sister. Said it aloud once or twice. He beat the crap out of me when I did.”
His words stung more than I thought possible. “I’m going to go.” I stood up and swayed before regaining my balance. “I’m sorry you feel that way.”
“That your solution for everything? Say I’m sorry and run off?”
“You hate me. There’s no sense in my staying.”
“Thing is, Patty, I don’t hate you. I don’t know you well enough to hate you.”
He picked up the box of wine. “Have another drink. We’ll talk, get to know each other, then I can hate you.”
I handed him my empty glass. I wasn’t sure how I’d get back to the motel anyway, feeling as buzzed as I was. I could imagine getting stopped for DWI.
Like father, like daughter.