Vote for The Smart One!

It’s alive! For the next 30 days you can nominate my new novel #TheSmartOne for publication in the #KindleScout program, and if chosen, you’ll be given a free e-copy for your trouble. So flex your mouse-clicking fingers and let’s make this happen! #ShareIt

The Midnight Hour

At midnight this link goes live and you can vote for my new novel, The Smart One, in the Kindle Scout program. If it’s chosen for publication by Amazon, you’ll get a free Kindle copy when it’s officially released. And for you luddites, yes, there will be a paper version available…

(PS. In case of confusion for you subscribers, this site is being re-ported to the URL joecliffordfaust.wordpress.com.)

https://kindlescout.amazon.com/p/MCL386TP7QX4/

The Smart One

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Tune in tomorrow for some news.

The Smart One

#Calexit Diary, 2016 – 2020

canstockphoto22366211I used to occasionally get paid for thinking about the future, and this whole #Calexit thing has tickled my fancy. So I decided to dust off those arcane skills and have a go at the old crystal ball. Here’s what I’m thinking.

NOVEMBER 2016 – Dissatisfied with the results of the election, many Californians begin a movement to break off from the United States.

MARCH 2017 – The initiative to secede appears on the primary ballot and passes. Succession is to take place within the year.

JUNE 2017 – The northern part of the former California decides that they have never been properly represented by the urban south, and vote to break off and go back to the United States.

AUGUST 2017 – In their first election, the new nation tries to decide their name, whether or not to have an army, what the flag and national anthem should be, and if Aaron Sorkin should write their new constitution. There are so many initiatives on the new ballot that voting takes two hours per person.

SEPTEMBER 2017 – Election finishes and results that come in at the month’s end are inconclusive. Everyone wants to do their own thing, man. The new nation immediately splits into 37 sub-nations, known collectively as, um, The Collective.

OCTOBER 2017 – Hillary Clinton invited to be the first Presydent of The Collective.

DECEMBER 2017 – The Winter Solstice is chosen as the first day of the Presydential Term and the beginning of the new nation. The party begins!

FEBRUARY 2018 – The party finally winds down.

MARCH 2018 – The last of the hangovers finally clear, in time for the first anniversary of the birth of The Collective. The party begins again.

APRIL 2018 – Fryncysco declares itself the world’s first micro-aggression free zone.

JULY 2018 – President Trump cancels the wall between the former California and Mexico and extends it between Arizona and The Collective and Upper California and The Collective.

AUGUST 2018 – In their second election, The Collective legalizes objectophilia. Toastersexuals from around the world rejoice and flock to The Collective.

DECEMBER 2018 – The first anniversary of The Collective. Party!

MARCH 2019 – As hangovers clear, the next election declares December a holiday month and January a work-option month for recovery.

MAY 2019 – Presydent Clinton’s progressive Parkinson’s disease makes it difficult for her to rule. Her brain is transplanted into a new body grown from fetal stem cells. The new Presydent immediately receives more than 6,000 marriage proposals, even some from toastersexuals.

JULY 2019 – The last taxable business in The Collective goes under. In an emergency election that lasts through August, The Collective votes to become The Commune. It’s a groovy thing.

SEPTEMBER 2019 – Incessant partying has driven the price of legal weed up to $120 a joint. Protesters take to the streets. Presydent Clinton assures them that everything will be cool, and they all go home.

NOVEMBER 2019 – A Chinese submarine lands a small scouting party of troops on a beach near Los Angylys. After 48 hours of reconnaissance they return to the sub and nothing further is heard from China.

JANUARY 2020 – Democrats in the U.S. invite Michelle Obama to come back from The Commune and run for President. She considers it.

FEBRUARY 2020 – Texas considers succession if Michelle Obama becomes President. They look at how The Commune turned out and change their minds.

MARCH 2020 – Michelle Obama turns the Democrats down. Her new body is still in the growth chamber.

APRIL 2020 – U.S. Border Patrol guards along The Commune wall report it’s been awfully quiet in there.

MAY 5, 2020 – Mexico annexes The Commune.

Cicadas and firearms and stolen doughnuts…

…and more. For those of you still not on the bandwagon, the Kindle version of Drawing Down the Moon is on sale for $1.99. Get it before they run out! Oh, wait, it’s an e-book. They won’t run out. What kind of call to action is that? Anyway, just buy the thing. I’m about to submit another book to them and want my sales figures to look as good as possible. And you want to read that next book, right?

The Smart One – Chapter 5

The Smart One
A Wapakoneta Novel

armstrongSign
Author’s Note
Wapakoneta, Ohio as seen in this novel is an alternate universe, entirely fictionalized version of an otherwise very fine and beautiful community. It is not their fault that I fell in love with the name.

Eventually Paulie roared the Mustang out of the parking lot, mad by the way he was driving and Dink couldn’t really blame him. From a distance the Mustang looked like the driver’s side was covered with some kind of tribal tattoos. Dink thinking, still, couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy.

He was rounding up the shopping carts – again – checking to see if the ones that hit the car had any paint transfer, but it didn’t seem to stick to the chrome, or maybe the rain flaked it away. Looked back over his shoulder to see old man Spangler, looking down at where the Mustang had been, kicking at the wet asphalt with the toe of his shoe. Had to be looking at those paint flakes.

Dink clattered the carts into their bay at the front of the store then held the customer door open as old man Spangler approached. He waggled a finger at Dink, and Dink walked back out into the rain.

“You’re going to pay for this, young man.”

“I didn’t do anything,” Dink said.

“My insurance premiums went up after Louetta Holzer took her tumble in the produce aisle and my agent is going to have a cardiac if I have to call him about this.”

“It wasn’t me.”

Old man Spangler spoke through gritted teeth. “Look, you’re lucky I don’t fire your sorry ass over this.”

“My sorry ass? C’mon–”

“I saw you flipping Paulie Spitale off as he was walking into the store. That bad enough, but if one of my customers had seen it? A lot of church ladies shop here. No, maybe you didn’t push the carts, but you’re mixed up in this, I can tell.”

“Sir, you heard what Crystal Beekman said. This is so unfair.”

“If you want fair, you can go find another job. I can’t account for Crystal Beekman, maybe she was in on it.” He turned, looked across the parking lot. “Which car is hers?”

“I don’t know,” said Dink.

“Well find out so I can check the bumper. Anyway, I don’t want the claim on my insurance, and if Paulie Spitale wants his car repainted, it’s coming out of your pocket, so find a place to do it cheap. Not too cheap. Paulie did it cheap and that’s why you’re in trouble now. So no watercolors, okay?”

“This is not okay.”

“I’ll pay cash, take it out of your pay, twenty-five, thirty percent per check till we’re even. You don’t like this, you got a better way to do this, you go talk to Paulie Spitale’s dad, see what their lawyer has to say. But from what I hear, his daddy probably won’t waste the lawyer’s time dealing with you. Hear what I’m saying?”

Dink nodded. It made rain drip off of his nose.

“You been a good worker these last couple of weeks, that’s why I’m not sending you kicking rocks down the road. I was gonna give you a raise after ninety. You keep your nose clean here on out, I’ll still do that. Get your debt off faster.”

Dink nodded again.

“Good. Any questions?”

“Before or after tax?” Dink asked.

“Don’t be a smartass,” said old man Spangler. “That’s why you’re in trouble now.” He turned and walked into the market.

Dink trying now to do the math in his head, two times twenty-nine times minimum wage minus one-third. It made his head ache. By the time he took groceries to Albanee for rent there wouldn’t be a whole hell of a lot left for–

Now wondering how much it would take to repaint Paulie’s car, how long he’d be short for, how long to pay it off at one third times minimum wage times twenty-nine times two. Heavy with the sadness of it, he looked out across the parking lot, at the cluster of carts that had been left out there since he’d rolled the others back, the job of that sissy guy again.

Maybe if he hadn’t been a sissy. Punched Paulie Spittle a good one in the nose when he said that about Albanee, strangled him right there in the rain and left him lying in the lot, taken the keys out of his cold dead fingers, hopped in the Mustang and gone for a nice, long drive–

“You’re getting wet.”

Crystal Beekman saying this, standing in the overhang of the market, two pink bags from Spangler’s dangling off one hand.

“Suits my mood,” Dink said.

“I heard the old man ranting about you in the meat department,” Crystal said. “What he’s doing to you, that sucks.”

“Could be worse.” Dink wiped rain out of his eyes, decided he was being stupid standing there and getting wet, stepped up under the alcove next to Crystal. “But hey, thanks for sticking up for me. I owe you one.”

“Darn right you owe me one. That car I described? Belongs to my boyfriend.”

“Damn it, Crystal–”

“It’s all right. He deserves it. He’s cheating on me. I just haven’t gotten around to breaking up with him. Gotta find a place to crash before I make my move.”

“I hear that.” Dink wishing he’d been that smart, he wouldn’t have ended up in this situation with Albanee, though it did have its benefits.

“So who was the genius pushed the carts into Paulie’s car anyway?”

“My big brother,” Dink said.

“What the guy who went to Afghanistan, something weird like an army cook, but ended up getting decorated?”

“Andy,” Dink said. “No. This is my other big brother. Brad.”

Crystal’s upper lip twitched. “Brad? He’s kind of–”

“I know,” Dink said. “Whatever you’re thinking. Whatever you’ve heard. But he’s family and Paulie Spitale would have taken him apart, so thanks for covering.”

“You owe me, Dink. I’m serious.”

“You name it. I’m serious.”

Crystal looked out across the parking lot. Lips turned up into a smile. “I do need to get moved.”

“With your boyfriend around? He won’t get the wrong idea?”

She laughed.

“Don’t get me wrong. I meant anything, but you can probably understand that after right now I just want to keep my head down and my nose clean.”

Crystal laughed, deep and throaty, didn’t match her looks at all. “Nothing like that. I mean, if it came to that you could take him down easy. But that’s not it. This is something else, needs to be done by the end of the day. Quick in and out–” She stopped and looked at his face. “Nothing illegal, nothing risky. Just need a hand with some business.”

Dink nodded. “Okay.”

“When you get off work?”

“They close at eight, I do some cleanup. Call it eight-thirty?”

“That works.”

“You want me to meet you somewhere?”

“I’ll pick you up here. It’s close by. Bring you back when it’s done. Lemme think about it, maybe I can think of something to help you out with this car thing. Might cost you another favor, though.”

Dink studied her face, one corner of her mouth turned up like she knew a secret, wasn’t telling him everything. “Let’s see how this one goes before we commit to anything else,” he said.

“You got it, cowboy.” Her lips went to a full blown smile. “I see why they called you the smart one in high school.”

Dink surprised. “Who did?”

Crystal shrugged. “My crowd.”

“Was that before or after I dropped out?”

“There’s more to smarts than book learning. Guy I know with his doctor’s degree in something something is working a Mickey Dee’s in south Lima. ‘Would you like fries with that?’ Two roomies in a slum and he sleeps on the couch. You sleep on a couch, Stapleton?”

Dink shook his head, glad she hadn’t asked that a couple of weeks ago.

“All right. Pick you up here, eight-fifteen then?”

“Eight-thirty.”

“Right.” Back down into that half-smile again. “No putting one over on you. You really are the smart one.”

Her turning and walking across the parking lot, strings of denim covering the bottom corner of her ass, Dink realized. No clue on that tan line thing. Thinking he wouldn’t cheat on that, what kind of a guy was she hooked up with do something like that.

And when she ducked down into her car at the far end of the lot he sighed and stepped back into the rain, toward the other loose carts, off to push that ball of dung or whatever it was back up that unending hill again.

The Smart One – Chapter 4

The Smart One
A Wapakoneta Novel

armstrongSign
Author’s Note
Wapakoneta, Ohio as seen in this novel is an alternate universe, entirely fictionalized version of an otherwise very fine and beautiful community. It is not their fault that I fell in love with the name.

There’s a laughing “Whoa-ho!” behind him that gets Dink thinking he should get the hell out, just start running, never mind that payday is tomorrow because whatever that two times twenty-nine hours times minimum wage amount comes to, it’s not going to be worth waiting around for, not right now.

Looking through the rain now at the cherry red Ford Mustang, half expecting to see smoke and flames coming from underneath it, but no. Nothing like that. Just a long snake made of shopping carts wrapped around the one side where it kept going after the collision, like a chrome anaconda trying to strangle a shiny new apple.

He steps toward the car now, thinking how he just has to look. That whole car accident thing. Can’t look away. Have to look and see the bodies crumbled in their seats, the air bag deflated around them like a used condom, and then have nightmares about it for a month.

Only there’s no dead bodies here, but the nightmare is real. The tight chrome wiring of Spangler’s carts was no match for the cherry red coats of paint on the Mustang and had left a line of scrapes across the driver’s side jittering like Morse code across the surface as the plastic wheels of the carts fought the rough surface of the asphalt, digging in especially where the framework of the cart was welded together.

Dink thinking now, hey, if he hadn’t parked like a jackwagon, the carts would have missed him. By a couple of inches, would have been close, but yeah. Parked diagonal like that, they were right in the path.

The rain carrying flakes of red paint down the side of the car and dumping them onto the ground, flakes of cherry red blood marking the scene of the crime.

Crime, Dink thought. Hey wait a minute–

Too late now. A torrent of profanity hits Dink’s ears and then an anguished cry.
“What the hell you do to my car?”

Coming right on top of that another anguished voice, deeper, older, just as mad.
Dink turned. Paulie Spittle advancing on the scene now, eyes darting back and forth at the line of carts around the Mustang, a cube of beer cradled in one arm. Right behind him the source of the other voice, old man Spangler, in his grimy butcher’s apron and waving his hands at Paulie.

“I don’t care what happened. You gonna pay for that beer? I don’t care who your old man is, you show some respect around here. You either gonna pay for that beer or take it back in, then worry about the car.”

Paulie Spittle grabbing Dink by the shoulder, all he really had time to do. He wanted to throw a punch, Dink could tell, but couldn’t, not with a handful of shirt in one hand and beer in the other. The anger welling up in Paulie’s eyes even worse now, his eyes getting red and watery like he’s about to start crying.

Dink trying hard not to smile at the beauty of it all.

“What the hell you smiling at, loser?”

The pipe tobacco smell of old man Spangler in his nose now, him stepping in to take Paulie’s hand off and move him away from Dink without actually pushing.

“Dink you want to tell me what happened here?”

“He ruined my car, that’s what,” said Paulie Spittle.

“Your name Dink?” said old man Spangler.

“The carts rolled over,” Dink said.

“From standing still across a perfectly flat parking lot?” said Paulie Spittle.

“Yeah, right. You pushed them.”

Old man Spangler studied the pileup, looking at the last of the line of carts carefully.

“Seems to me,” he said, “you hadn’t parked that way, this never woulda happened.”

“Doesn’t matter how I parked,” said Paulie Spittle. “You got six people in the store, they’re all over by the cripple spaces. I parked out here middle of nowhere, last coat of paint was still curing.”

“Still curing, you took it out in the rain.”

“Don’t matter,” said Paulie Spittle. “You’re gonna pay for this. And you.” Turning back to Dink, the free hand coming up with a well-aimed accusing finger. “You are really going to pay. You had no right to do this.”

“I didn’t do this,” Dink said.

“You did, on purpose,” Paulie said. “Because you can’t take a joke, and you’re too big a coward to say anything at my face, so you do this behind my back.”

“You do this, Dink?” said old man Spangler.

Dink shook his head. “I need this job.”

Old man Spangler, to Paulie: “I believe him.”

“Yeah, you go and you do that. Me, I’m gonna get my old man’s lawyer, we’ll see what happens. You gonna have to change the name of the store, better call your sign man. It’s gonna be Spitale’s Market now on.”

“He didn’t do it.”

A new voice from behind them. They all turned. Dink laid eyes on her, Crystal Beekman, that long, dirty blonde hair of hers, lips almost as red as what was left of the finish on the Mustang. Her tanktop showing both that she was braless and the tattoo on her arm, a rainbow coming out of a prism, that Pink Floyd thing. Homemade cutoff jeans with ragged strings of denim hanging off the edges, lots of thigh showing and Dink just knew he’d be able to see the bottom corner of her ass too, if she just turned the right way. Purple painted toenails in dollar store flip flops, perfect legs and a perfect tan, Dink wondering where the tan line was, if there was a tan line, and right then the blood left his brain headed for parts south.

“What?” Paulie Spittle the only one apparently immune to her charms at that moment.

“I was pulling in, saw the whole thing.” Crystal’s eyes staying on Dink’s a little longer than normal, that fog in his head growing thicker.

“So what happened,” said Paulie.

The fog suddenly clearing and Dink about to yelp, no, don’t give up Brad, you’ll only make it worse–

But Crystal was already talking before Dink found his voice.

“I was pulling in to come in, pick up a few things, you know–”

“Get to the point,” said Paulie Spittle.

“Well, I’m pulling in and this car almost hit me, backing out real fast, not watching where they’re going. So I hit the brake and this car comes out right in front of me, and I think they see the carts there because they hit the brake and their bumper just, you know, kisses the carts.”

Dink exhaled.

“And that’s all it took, they were off to the races then. Right into his car.”

Nodding at Paulie Spitale.

Old man Spangler looked at Dink. “And where were you during all this?”

“He was grabbing up carts over there,” Crystal said, nodding to a corner of the lot.

“He asked the loser,” Paulie said. “Not you.”

“I was grabbing up carts over there,” Dink said, pointing the same way.

Paulie looked at Crystal down the length of his nose. “And why should I believe you, you–”

“Easy,” said old man Spangler.

Crystal gave Paulie a look that made Dink glad he wasn’t on the receiving end of it.

“What kind of a car was it, ma’am?” said old man Spangler.

“Gray, silver, whatever that color is.”

“That narrows it down to ten million,” said Paulie.

“Four door sedan,” said Crystal. “Rear fenders rusting out. Dent in the rear passenger door on the driver’s side. Same door, the window had one of those Grateful Dead stickers on it, the skull with the lightning bolt through it.” Giving that look to Paulie again. “Didn’t get a plate number. Sorry, Sherlock.”

“Thank you, ma’am,” said old man Spangler. “See there, Paulie? We’ll call the police, report it as a hit and run, your insurance covers it–”

“Your insurance,” said Paulie. Looking over at Dink. “No, his.”

Dink, not having any kind of insurance on anything, kept his mouth shut.

“Hey, Einstein,” said Crystal. “Dink wasn’t driving, his insurance won’t cover it.”

“All I know, not my fault, I ain’t paying for it.”

“We’ll work it out,” said old man Spangler. “Give me your phone number, I’ll be in touch.”

Old man Spangler pulled a pen and pad out of his bloody butcher apron, jotted down Paulie’s cell number, putting it away fast before the rain soaked the page. Crystal shrugged and wandered into the store. Dink tired of listening to Paulie and the old man jabbering, went over and started to disentangle the mess of carts from around the Mustang.

“You. Hey.” Paulie’s voice a dog bark. “Get away from there. You caused enough of a mess today.”

“Just trying to help,” Dink said.