Happy New Year!
I’ve got a present for you. Given the punny and parodic nature of my titles and my love of self-promotion…I present the first chapter of THE DARWIN SUBPRIMACY. It’s to be novella length, and worse than horrible. This is a draft and may differ from the final product, but I’m having entirely too much fun.
The Darwin Subprimacy
Chapter 1: Sociology
©2015 Ian McLeod, All Rights Reserved
William F. Finance, Jr. proprietor of the unfortunately-named Bill Finance Auto Cars Sales, Inc. of Soddy-Daisy, TN, sat on a park-bench by an old cemetery reading a book by a world-famous author and musician. It was a satire about the un-discovery of America.
Finance’s unusual name originated in a clerical error at Ellis Island, when his great-grandfather, Guido Firenze, had his surname misspelled by a drunken immigration clerk right off the boat from Italy. Guido Firenze became Guido Finance and moved to Bristol Tennessee, where he did not at all fit in as a local dago. His son, Guido Finance, Jr. ran moonshine to Chicago from Bristol for Al Capone and drove a fantastic race-car in the nascent days of stock-car racing, until being shot in the face over an unpaid bar tab. His own son, William Forrestal Finance, our protagonist’s father, owned three or four Italian restaurants and briefly considered changing his name back to Firenze, but died of a stroke at 43 before he could do so. And now, our protagonist, William F. Finance, Jr., himself in his forties, recently purchased an automobile sales lot in Soddy-Daisy as a way to escape the hustle and bustle of what he deemed “big-city-life” in Bristol.
Unfortunately, the clerk in the Office of the Secretary of State of Tennessee was receiving a blowjob by a secretary (whist also completely hammered on fine Tennessee Whiskey) while processing the paperwork for Will Finance Auto Sales, Inc. Thus, this clerk mistyped the business name and left William F. Finance up the proverbial creek of fecal matter. It would take years for the Secretary of State to admit a mistake was made, and thus, Bill Finance Auto Cars Sales, Inc., was only the latest in a long line of problems caused by government regulation and alcohol for the unfortunate but resilient Finance family.
He was, despite the ridiculous name of his business, marginally successful thus far, for Finance was an intelligent man—for an Italian hick in Tennessee. He enjoyed avant-garde literature, fine wine, cigars, and had a particular interest in black-velvet nude portraits of Marilyn Monroe–of which he had a substantial collection. His wife, Billie Sol Finance–named for Billie Sol Estes–a criminal of some renown in the ‘60s and part of the JFK Conspiracy Theory, tolerated his love of Marilyn, as she herself closely resembled Norma-Jean, only prettier and with bigger tits. Finance’s psychiatrist insisted that due to an early exposure to a photoshoot of Marilyn in a magazine brought by another boy to his school in 3rd grade, he had permanently sexually imprinted upon her, like so many children of his generation.
So, William and Billie lived a happy life together, but as he read this unusual book, he found himself displeased with the course his own life had taken. Rather than do what other men in their forties do, like stab a world-famous author or buy a sports car and run off with a younger, prettier woman (as if that were possible), William shrugged, closed the book, smiled a little at the inscription on the back cover, and whistled his way through the cemetery while imagining himself and Billie in a threesome with Marilyn–no…not that kind of threesome–just playing golf and then that might lead to something else–but down that road led sin and he explored it no further. That was his favorite fantasy.
“Hey William,” shouted groundskeeper Bart Hill, who always greeted William during his cemetery reading rituals. “Y’all readin’ another book?”
“I reckon I’m done with the readin’ for the day,” William called back. “I’ll holler at y’all.”
“Alright, William. See you Sunday.”
William continued down his usual route to the Catholic parking lot where he always left his mint-condition 1975 Flint Motors Thundercrash each Saturday as he went on his reading-expedition in the cemetery.
Despite his active lifestyle, William was quite fat, weighing in about three-hundred pounds. Between that and his greased back, balding hair, he’d earned some Mafia-related nicknames around town–The Don, The Godfather, things of that nature. Despite his ancestral affiliation to Al Capone, none of his nicknames were warranted–as aside from being a used-car salesman and husband to a Marilyn lookalike, he was also a deacon at the Church of Christ (he’d converted in order to marry Billie Sol), and a generally decent fellow–his mediocre and almost depressingly tame peccadilloes aside.
So he hopped into his car and went down to the Italian restaurant he frequented (they even set aside his own private table), just as he did every Saturday, and ordered their exquisite, bought-in ravioli.
“Think we’re going to win this year, Godfather?” asked Bob Crawford from another table where he was working on accounts. Bob was another pillar of the community, as he owned the Italian restaurant as well as a gas-station.
“No, ‘Bama just can’t be stopped,” said William, who heretically rolled with the tide.
“I think we’ve got a chance,” Bob felt firm in his conviction, but his voice betrayed his inner doubts.
Neither said anything else for several minutes, until the aged and cantankerous waitress, Dianne, emerged from the back with the ravioli and set it down with entirely too much force in front of William.
“What’s eatin’ you?” William asked.
“It’s that car you sold my boy. Valve cover gasket went out last night. We ain’t never buyin’ from you again.”
“Dianne, I told you not to bother him with that, you’ve been on a tear all morning,” said Bob.
“You know I ain’t gonna listen to you. It’s a free country–I say what I want. You gonna make it right, Mr. Finance?” The scorn with which she said his name burned through the restaurant like an M2 Flamethrower in a South Pacific Island cave.
“My mechanic went over that car with a fine-tooth comb,” said William, and it was true. “But y’all bring it down tomorrow, I’ll make it right.”
Dianne’s demeanor immediately changed: “well, thank you. Here’s your check, I’ll see you at church tomorrow.”
William smiled at Bob, who rolled his eyes. “You’ll never make it in cars if you keep that up,” Bob said. “Nobody listens to her, anyway.”
“Think she spat in my food?” asked William, while chewing a large mouthful.
“Naw, she’s more likely to spike your sweet tea with arsenic.”
William drank deeply of the sweet tea, finished eating after only a few more minutes, and dropped a $20 bill on the table. He rapped the table twice with his knuckles, “I’ll holler at y’all tomorrow,” said William.
“See you at services,” said Bob.
William got into his car and, as he did every Saturday, drove a roundabout route back to his home on Sneed Rd.
Billie was not home yet, as her own Saturday ritual involved going to Chattanooga, buying entirely too much from the mall, and watching a movie.
William turned on the TV, an old 27” CRT from the mid-90s, grabbed a gallon bottle of prosecco from the cabinet under the kitchen sink, and watched Andy Griffith on broadcast from the comfort of his torn and dilapidated easy-chair. He wasn’t a poor man, not by any means–the moonshine money had never completely run out, but he enjoyed his own comfortable life. The only new things he owned were books, and an eight year old laptop he’d bought at Gus Holt’s Gun and Pawn down in Chattanooga.
But halfway through one of Andy’s moralizing speeches to Opie, William had a dawning realization. Perhaps it was something from the book he’d been reading, about how dismal it was to live in America (he thanked God he wasn’t in South Carolina, like the protagonist of that book), or perhaps it was something deeper than that–an ancestral memory of the Old Country. Perhaps it was the ravioli. He let out a deep belch and a simultaneous fart, and took another drink from his cheap gallon of prosecco.
The feeling did not pass as expected.
With that, William stood up, clicked off the TV, and walked into what he called his “study.” It was a third bedroom with another easy chair, piles of books, and the aforementioned black-velvets of Marilyn. He began digging through his piles until he found a book he’d ordered from Yangtze some months back. One of his friends in Chicago had written him about it and he never got around to reading it, but as he held the book in his hand, the sense of unease turned to something else, as he let out another loud belch. That was better.
He turned the book over and read the blurbs about author John Darwin, and wondered, at first, why this man was so important (at least near as important as his friend Donovan had intimated.) He’d remembered the news stories about him being stabbed, but he didn’t really follow any of it as it was, admittedly, completely overshadowed by the tremendous civil unrest in the more urban areas of the country.
So instead of rounding out his Saturday in front of the TV, as he always did, he sat down in his study amid the hoarded books and old newspapers and black-velvet paintings of Marilyn Monroe, and read [redacted].