Read Excerpts

Following are two excerpts from the book:  the first chapter and an excerpt further on in the book:

Chapter One

It was Friday night in the city, somewhere in between Cleveland, Ohio and St. Louis, Missouri, both geographically and demographically.  As was usual for him on a Friday night, Arland Thomas was at one of his favorite dance clubs checking out the women. Tonight he was sitting at the bar of Rumours, a semi-private dance club downtown, on its opening night. At the other end of the bar, two attractive women, a blonde and a brunette, were talking.

Arland called the waitress over and, pointing in the direction of the two women, said, “I’d like to send her whatever she’s drinking.”

“Which one?” asked the waitress.

“The blonde.”

Just then, a man walked up to the blonde and kissed her romantically on the lips. Deadpan, the waitress looked back at Arland. With a bemused smile, he said, “Brunette. Whatever.”

The waitress delivered the drink to the brunette, who looked over at Arland and, without expression, raised her glass slightly to him. Then the two women began whispering to each other.

Studiously ignoring the women, Arland turned in his chair to gaze around the room. When he turned back, the brunette was standing in front of him.

“Thanks for the drink,” she said.

“You’re welcome.”

“Why?”

“Why what?” Arland asked.

“Why’d you send me the drink?”

Arland thought for a few seconds and then, with a smile, offered, “I ordered an extra by mistake? I’m trying to cut down? Work with me here.”

Without returning Arland’s smile, she replied, “No, really.”

“What do you mean, ‘Why?

The woman didn’t respond. Arland laughed. Then, lightening up a little, she said, “I was just wondering.”

“Because I thought you were cute.”

“There are lots more attractive women here.”

“Yeah, and I chose you.” Then he added, “I thought you looked familiar—from another lifetime maybe.”

“I was just wondering, that’s all.”

“Well, as long as you’re not defensive. That’s the important thing.”

The woman, Rebecca, as he would soon find out, smiled slightly and replied, “Men are pigs.”

Arland smiled back. “Of course they are. Bad experiences, Gracie?”

“One or two.”

“Want to tell me about them?”

“Guy at the office was dating both me and one of my co-workers. I was the only one in the office who didn’t know.” Tears filled the corners of her eyes.

“I’m sorry,” Arland said, and put his hand on hers. “I’m Arland. Have a seat.”

Settling into the seat next to Arland, she said, “I’m Rebecca, really, but everyone calls me Becky.”

“Come here much?”

“I haven’t gone out much since I stopped dating that guy.”

“What kind of work do you do?”

“Advertising. Assistant Copywriter.”

“Do you have to see him at work?”

“Sort of. He’s one of the bosses.”

“So how are you doing?”

“Not very well.”

“What are you going to do now?”

“You mean after I kill him?”

“Yeah, after that.”

“Plead innocent.”

“On what grounds?”

“Men are pigs.”

Arland laughed. “Of course, that’s always been one of my favorite defenses.”

“What do you do?”

“Lawyer, of course. You didn’t keep seeing him?”

Rebecca just looked at him scornfully.

“What if he’s sorry?”

“I’ll kill him less slowly. You married?”

“No. You?”

Rebecca laughed.

As they were talking, several people came by and wished Arland good luck, and he thanked them graciously.

“You know a lot of people,” Rebecca said. “Why are they congratulating you?”

“Because I’m a nice guy.”

“There is no such thing. My girlfriend said she saw you on TV.”

“I get that a lot. I must have a common face.”

“Let’s hope not.” Arland just looked at Rebecca. “I’m kidding!” she said. “My girlfriend said you’re in politics.”

“Sort of. I want to be.”

“Are you running for something?”

“Yeah, but I can’t remember what…dogcatcher, I think.”

“I hate politics.”

“Me too.”

That made Rebecca smile. She asked, “Are you going to win?”

“Someone on a radio call-in talk show today said I couldn’t get elected dogcatcher of my apartment building if I were sleeping with the dogs—which she said I probably was.”

“Are you?”

“One more rejection from women, I’m going to consider it.”

“Rich lawyer on TV…I’d think you’d have lots of women.”

“You’d think. I can’t figure it out either. If you do, let me know. Maybe it’s because I’m not that rich, and I think you have to actually win a big election before you can sleep with whoever you want. It’s a law or something. Listen, I have to leave pretty soon. Can I see you again?”

“I’d like to, but I can’t.”

“Why not?”

Rebecca smiled a little. “Men are pigs.”

“Oh, yeah…I forgot. I usually am, too, but I’ll try not to be like that with you.”

“I don’t know. I haven’t dated since that guy from the office.”

“How long had you been seeing him?”

“About six months too long.”

“How long is that?”

“About six months.”

“Let’s discuss over dinner whether you’re ready to start dating again.”

“Sounds a lot like a date to me.”

“Just friends—no sex—at least during dinner. You can pay for yourself if you want.”

“I’m not that much against dating. Dinner? Where?”

“Anywhere you want.”

“When did you have in mind?”

“Tomorrow.”

“Well, I’d hate to have you get desperate and ask out one of those dogs in your building, it being an election year and all.”

“Yeah, you know how people like to gossip and take things out of context.”

“I’m just not sure about dinner. I’m sorry, what’s your name?”

“And after all we’ve meant to each other, too. Arland, A-r-l-a-n-d.”

“Arland, why don’t you give me your number, and I’ll call you when I’m ready?”

“Rebecca, I’m afraid I’d never see you again. I adore you already, I’m not even sure why. I think when people are meant to fall in love, the seeds of that love are planted within the first few minutes. Please let me call.”

Rebecca’s eyes locked with Arland’s. “Are you ever right about that sort of thing?”

“Not yet.”

“No one ever calls me Rebecca. And no one usually adores me, either. Do you use that line much?”

“Not that much.”

“Does it usually work?”

“Not nearly often enough. But I mean it with you.”

Time will tell. Do you know how a woman can tell when a guy is lying to her?”

“His lips move?”

Rebecca smiled. “Okay, I’ll give you my office number.” Rebecca wrote down a number on a napkin and gave it to Arland. “Are you going to call? If you don’t, after I finish killing that other guy, I’m going to start on you.”

“Got it.”

“What’s your last name?”

“Thomas. What’s yours?”

“Sestarsa. S-e-s-t-a-r-s-a. Just like it sounds.”

Arland stood up, and so did Rebecca. “I’ll talk to you this week, Rebecca. Bye.”

“Bye.”

Arland leaned over and kissed Rebecca gently on her cheek. “There’s something I have to tell you. The drink I sent you was meant for your girlfriend. But when I saw the guy kiss her, I told the waitress to give it to you instead.”

“I know. The waitress told me. That hurt my feelings.”

“I’m sorry. And what I said earlier about finding you attractive is true. I did right from the start. I don’t even know why I sent it to your blonde friend first…. I’m glad we met.”

Rebecca paused. “Okay. But don’t ever do anything like that again,” she said seriously.

Taken aback by Rebecca’s sharp tone, Arland asked, “Like what?”

“Just don’t, okay?”

“Like hurt your feelings?”

She just looked at him, then lowered her eyes. “Yeah, like that.”

“So, when are we getting married?”

Rebecca paused for just a second and then answered, “When you give up politics.”

I’d be reluctant to marry someone who’d give up their dreams for you.”

“Why is that?”

“I’d be afraid they’d give you up when you were no longer convenient.”

Rebecca just looked at him and said nothing as Arland smiled one last time and left.

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An Excerpt from Another Chapter

On the day before election day, Rebecca and Arland went out into the community, some public events and also door to door. She watched Arland give a couple of speeches and saw both how much the people meant to him and in turn how much he meant to them, and that they cared for him because of his obvious concern for them. Part-way through the day she got quiet and withdrawn, not unfriendly, but obviously something was bothering her. Arland asked her what was wrong, if she was bored, but she said she was okay. It was her first real exposure to needy, scared, powerless poor people with problems.

It was a cold March, in the 30s or so, with some snow. Later that afternoon, Arland campaigned outside of a supermarket in the west end neighborhood, a basically middle-class neighborhood. Towards the end of the day, as Arland and Rebecca greeted people, a tall, older man approached them from across the parking lot and missed a big step right before where they were standing. He landed hard on one foot, but caught himself and didn’t fall. He had no coat. He was black, 50 or so, perhaps, though it was hard to tell for sure because of his condition, unshaven and obviously having seen better days, at least presumably he had. The man addressed them. “Can you spare a dollar?”

“Sorry, sir,” Arland replied. “No.”

“That’s okay,” the older man replied, then turned the corner of the building and started to walk down the street.

Arland hesitated a minute or two, changed his mind and went around the corner after the man. Rebecca followed him. As the man saw Arland approaching at sort of a trot, he put up his hands as if to block an impending blow, and said, “Please don’t hit me.”

Arland stopped in his tracks, clearly taken aback, and collected himself. “I’m not going to hit you,” Arland said. He took the two dollars that he already had in his hand and reached back into his pocket for another five. He gave the money to the man. “I’m sorry, man, that’s all I have with me.”

“Thanks,” replied the man, then turned around and walked back in the direction he had come from. He was visibly limping.

Arland turned to Rebecca. “It’s going to be below freezing tonight. It’s supposed to snow more. He doesn’t even have a coat. For all we know, he’s not going to live through the night. He fell hard from that step. If his leg isn’t broken, it’s probably badly injured. Even if he lives through the night, he doesn’t have a very good life in front of him and, gratefully some might say, not a long one.” Arland’s voice was cracking some now, and his eyes were tearing. “You want to know why I want to be in politics? I’ll tell you why. That man isn’t a bum. He’s somebody’s son, and he’s probably somebody’s father, and he’s somebody’s brother, and he shouldn’t be ashamed of the life he’s leading. We should be ashamed of the life he’s leading. His life is a disgrace to this country. It demeans us all. This is a rich country and a great country. But we can do better. That could be our father, or our son, or our brother. That’s why I want to be in politics.”

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