Blackout – An Excerpt

April 2, 2012 5:45 pm by MRM in Writing

I’m back! Huzzah. March was been a crazy month for a number of reasons, the most exciting of which (for me) is that I bought a house. That was the single most stressful transaction of my life, but it’s all over now, so I can finally feel like a grown-up. Yes, I’m over thirty and my little brother has a kid, but I’ve always felt like I was in a state of suspended post-adolescence, probably because I was in school until I was 27.

One other exciting thing has been going on, writing-wise: I’ve really been powering through my latest work, Blackout, and I thought you might enjoy a sample of the reason TWDY 5 has been a little delayed. I mentioned Blackout in my previous post, but I just to recap: the MC is a math teacher in west Philadelphia who is being periodically possessed by the Angel of Death to assassinate members of a demonic cult. None of this is particularly important in the snippet below, but I’m really jazzed about how easy and quick the sentence long elevator pitch for this book is.

Our hero is one Malcolm Anders, teacher, boxer, amateur parkour enthusiast, and unconscious killer. Here, Pae Xiaolu, one of his former students, now a senior in college, brings her parents and friends to watch him in a parkour competition in Center City Philly. I had more fun introducing her parents than I have any other characters in any story I’ve written, except perhaps for Roland in TWDY. Sundari is a fellow teacher at Malcolm’s school and his best friend. Hope you enjoy.



Sundari marveled as I set about checking the obstacles and planning my freestyle routine. There were fifty competitors meandering about, occasionally doing warm-up front flips off the walls. The biggest crowd was around the Love sculpture and the drained fountain beside it. We weren’t allowed to touch the actual sculpture. Years of being a public work of art ensured it was sturdy, but they couldn’t have a bunch of idiots vaulting off of it for show. Everybody had a plan to incorporate it nonetheless. Other than the Liberty Bell, it was the most famous symbol of the city. I wondered whether or not the stand counted as part of the sculpture. If it was only the letters that I couldn’t touch, then I might be able to vault up and do a handstand, framing the sculpture with my legs for a second before I flipped off. This needed clarification.

Sundari tapped my shoulder. “Why does the scaffolding go up so much higher than the seats?”

“So I can climb it and jump off.”

Her eyes bulged. “Are you kidding me? You’re going to jump off of that?”

I shrugged. “Probably. I might have to for the speed course.”

“That must be thirty feet high!”

I pointed out a raised wood platform. “That’s only about fifteen feet down, and if you hit it and roll, you’re fine. You just have to be ready to jump back off the platform to the ground when you come up from the roll.”

By ten o’clock, the crowd had started gathering. I checked in and got my number and my times to report to the speed course start and the freestyle start. I’m not famous, so I had an early start time. I knew I could be competitive, though. This was my city, my day, and damn it, I still had a buzz from killing someone this morning. I probably shouldn’t have enjoyed that aspect of my preparation, but something in my body really did.

At quarter to noon, I saw Pae. How could I not? She was wearing shorts that were arguably cut to be a bathing suit bottom and a bright pink midriff-baring tank top. Her three friends were similarly attired and proportioned, but had the misfortune of walking next to her. The only person turning more heads than Pae was the taller, older woman behind her. I recognized her instantly: Pae’s mom.

I had thought Pae was bullshitting me when she’d said her mother had been a Swedish bikini model. I forget what the context of the conversation was. That night, I had googled her mother’s name. And that’s how I had come across a few dozen pictures of Aaltje Mikkelsen in her twenties. In some, she wore a barely-there bikini and wore it well. In others, she wore less, and wore it even better. Pae waved and steered the group towards Sundari and I. When they were ten feet away, the cluster of Amazonian blondeness parted enough for me to see a pudgy, balding Chinese man walking beside Aaltje. That would be Yu Xiaolu, who must have saved the planet in a previous life. He wore a yellow, short-sleeved button-down shirt with an Asian-style half collar, khaki shorts with cargo pockets, and Rainbow flip-flops. The top three buttons of his shirt were undone, revealing a white tank top undershirt and a tuft of chest hair. I could only assume he wore his shorts so loose to accommodate his gargantuan balls, because I’ve never seen a couple more mismatched. Aaltje was four inches taller than him without the pumps she wore, and in a clingy blue and white summer dress she started my blood boiling before she lowered her stylishly-oversized sunglasses to get a better look at me.

Pae greeted me with a hug. I wasn’t in much position to refuse. “Hi Malcolm! I had no idea this thing was going to be so huge. Are you excited?”

So it wasn’t Mr. Anders in front of her parents and friends. I could play along for a day. “Glad you could make it, Lucy.” She gave me a relieved grin when I didn’t call her Pae. “I’m always excited for a competition. This is my friend Sundari. Your parents, I assume?”

Aaltje stepped forward and extended her hand in an old-fashioned-lady-style kiss-my-hand kind of gesture. I caught myself leaning forward to do exactly that just in time to turn it into a step forward to clasp her hand in both of mine and shake it gently, the only other way I know how to meet such a greeting. She curtsied and flipped her hair.

“It is very nice to meet you, Mr. Anders. My daughter speaks highly of you.” Her accent could have come straight out of an eighties porno. “Tell me, you pronounce you name Ahn-ders, not Ann-ders, are you Swedish?”

“My grandfather immigrated. His name was Andersen, but he dropped the suffix when he came to the States. We still have family in Stockholm, but I haven’t seen them in years.”

Pae’s father stared at me from the back of the group. “Why’d you drop out of school, Anders?” If Aaltje’s accent came from an eighties porno, then Yu’s was from Breakfast at Tiffany’s. If I was ordered to come up with a racist caricature of a Chinese man, it would sound like Yu Xiaolu. He didn’t offer to shake my hand, so I stood my distance and didn’t try to shake his.

“I took a masters and went into teaching, Mr. Xiaolu.”

“Pae said you were PhD student when you taught her class. You got masters degree and left. I did my PhD at Stanford; we had people like that. They were dropouts.”

How kind. “I decided to focus on teaching, and I didn’t want to be a nomad, going wherever I could get a post-doc and then hoping someone died so I could find a tenure-track position at a college in a livable area. The market is pretty crowded at the high end for math professors.”

Yu pressed on with the interrogation. “You could do industry. Lots of math PhD’s in computer companies, finance. Pays much better than teaching.”

“I like teaching, and right now I’m quite glad I didn’t take the advice of the recruiter from Lehman Brothers who was after me when I graduated.”

Aaltje never flinched while her husband grilled me. I couldn’t be sure, but I thought I saw the corner of her lip turn up. She found the whole thing amusing. Pae, on the other hand, squirmed in place with a kill-me-now look. She didn’t interrupt her father, though. Her friends stood behind her and looked away, doing their best to hide giggles at the awkwardness of the situation.

Yu folded his arms. “Pae said you help with her classes.”

“That’s what she hires me to do.”

He gestured to the dozens of freerunners practicing on the equipment. “Why do all this?”

Really? I wondered if he thought I was banging his daughter. “Because I like it. I grew up a gymnast, and I like competition. It keeps me in shape.”

“If you have time to do that—”

I cut him off. “Mr. Xiaolu, I teach your daughter math on a contract basis. How I like to exercise and my career path isn’t relevant to that. Right now, I’ve got to go get ready for the first part of the competition. It was very nice to meet you.” I offered him my hand. He hesitated, then shook it. I turned back to Aaltje and shook her hand again. “Ms. Xiaolu.”

She flashed me a practiced, cover-girl smile. “Call, me Aaltje, please.”

“Of course.” I turned to Pae. “Lucy, thanks for coming. I’m up fifth on the speed round. You can probably get the best view of everything from up on in the bleachers there, and you should be able to get a flier that explains the course from one of the people wandering around.”

Pae hugged me again and whispered in my ear. “Sorry about that. And thanks for calling me Lucy.”

“Don’t worry,” I whispered back. “I’ve dealt with worse from parents.”


About the Author

Written by MRM

I'm a speculative fiction writer that spent lots of time trying out new places to live before finally settling in NC. I love code, craft beer, football, and fiction - in no particular order. My currently running works of serial fiction can be found on Kindle, Nook, and Smashwords. If you're comfortable moving files around to your ereader of choice, always pick Smashwords as your e-bookstore of choice - they give authors a much bigger slice of the pie!


3 Responses to Blackout – An Excerpt

  1. SusanTor March 11, 2018 at 1:42 am

    Кредит наличными в ОТП Банке: http://workle.website/71

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