I wanted to give you a look inside my book, but I wanted to do something a little different. Typically, when I share an excerpt, it focuses on some of the primary characters, and I usually try to provide something with a little action to hold your attention. This time I'm going to shift the focus to two of my favorite secondary characters from the book, a pair of wannabe rockstars named Gunnie Chesterbaugh and Gash Wright. I would say that these knuckleheads represent the comic relief in my novel, and that is probably their ultimate purpose. Having said that, I will note that there is a lot of comedy in TPT&V, so Gunnie and Gash get a lot of help on the comic relief front, and they may even kick a little ass once the shit hits the fan. Regardless, they're lovable losers I like to laugh at, and hopefully you will too.
The following scene takes place at the nursing home where they work as custodians, and this sequence is taken from the third part of the book, a section titled Omens. A few hours after this scene unfolds, all hell will break loose in the small town of Little Drop as war erupts between the living and the dead. Gunnie and Gash are safe for the moment, however, and they're actually on break at the moment. Let's join them.
TPT&V Excerpt: Gunnie and Gash
Gash and Gunnie were sitting outside with their backs against the brick exterior of the nursing home so that they could enjoy the warmth of the day. Fortunately, the sun was still low in the sky and they were blessed with the shade the building provided.
“Remember that time you were shit-faced and you climbed out the window at Shawn Fallon’s place in Manchester,” Gash snorted, trying to hold back his laughter long enough to tell the tale. “You were standing on the fucking roof, doing Gary Sinise’s lines from Forrest Gump, challenging God and all that shit.”
“I remember,” Gunnie said meekly, hoping to derail his friend’s account of the incident.
Gash ignored him. “All of a sudden, your foot slipped, and you started pinwheeling your arms and screaming like a woman.”
“I wasn’t screaming like any woman.”
“Oh yes you were, you were a banshee right before you fell off that roof, Chesterbaugh.”
“I broke my fucking arm.” The singer’s nostrils were flaring.
“Yeah, but that part kills humor in the story, so I usually leave it out.”
“Oh, you don’t mean that.”
The two aspiring musicians were on break. They worked as custodians at a nursing home on the outskirts of Bisby. It was a nasty job and the hours sucked, but they never worked evenings and they were off every weekend. That gave the band plenty of time and nothing mattered more to either of them. They might bitch about it a lot, but no one had ever said that they weren’t dedicated.
As usual, Gash’s dad, who had been working at the home since June of 1973, had picked them up at the crack of dawn. The old man liked to get to work at least thirty minutes early. That gave him time to suck down four coffees every morning and pick through the newspaper. Neither of the bandmates was all that crazy about the extra half-hour at work, but riding with Mr. Wright saved them gas money. Besides, they still hadn’t driven the truck home from the bar.
Gunnie was getting worked up, which wasn’t much of a surprise. Gash had yet to meet anyone else half as excitable. “I don’t talk about that time you were jamming out with no shoes on in Tommy’s basement and you wound up getting shocked and you shit in your pants, do I?”
“Yes! Every chance you get you tell that fucking story! And I didn’t shit my pants, I just squirted a little.”
“Yeah, squirted a little shit, and that’s the same difference, hoss.”
“Hoss? Goddamn man, you been listening to Bocephus again?”
“Yeah, change the subject, you son of a bitch. I would too, only I ain’t shit in my pants since grade-school, so I don’t have to worry about it.”
“You’ve done plenty worse,” Gash sneered.
“Like Ruby DeLoache.”
“I thought we weren’t going to talk about that.”
“Hurricane Ruby,” Gash laughed.
“As I remember, I wasn’t the only one to feel the effects of that storm.”
Gash laughed again. “Hey, I stopped after a smoothie, but you took the bus all the way home.”
“I like to think of it as an act of drunken bravery, if such a thing is possible.”
As they talked, an old man wearing thin pajama pants and yellow flip-flops peeked around the corner.
“Hi there,” Gunnie said warmly. “Quite a day, isn’t it?”
“I know that the devil is watching us,” the thin man whispered. What little hair he had left was ghastly white in color. His thinning mane fluttered in the gentle breeze.
“Is that right?” Gash asked.
“The devil is in Technicolor, always in Technicolor,” the old man continued, stepping around the corner. His skin was leathery in appearance and sagged beneath his narrow chest. “He can see us all. His people are among us.”
“Could be us he’s talking about,” Gash said, nudging Gunnie with his elbow.
“I don’t know about this one here,” Gunnie responded. “He’s starting to freak me out.”
“The fire is coming. The fire is coming to burn this place clean again. I can smell it in the wind.” The old man cocked his head to one side and studied the afternoon sky, his eyes wide with fear. “The storm is almost upon us now. I can hear his children laughing at our expense.”
“Right,” Gash said at last, standing and looking to his lead singer. “I think it’s time we got back to work, huh buddy?”
“Yeah,” Gunnie readily agreed, rising to join his co-worker. “You enjoy yourself today, sir.”
“Hell wasn’t made with enjoyment in mind,” the old man said to no one in particular as they made their way back inside. “But you’re going to figure that out.” The old man smiled, an awful smile that gave his angular face the appearance of a leering skull. “We’re all going to hell. The storm is coming. The storm is coming to wash this place clean.”