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Kindle Nation Daily Bargain Book Alert: Steve Silkin’s THE TELESCOPE BUILDER is Our eBook of the Day at just 99 Cents, with 3.6 Stars on 5 Reviews, and Here’s a Free Sample!

Here’s the set-up for Steve Silkin’s The Telescope Builder, just 99 Cents on Kindle:

A collection of 15 short stories about coming of age “in California in the 1970s … drugs, sex, family break-up, teen suicide … all told in a minimalistic style that in all reality belongs to the teenage male.”

From the book: “I had just moved to a new neighborhood freshly carved out of a hillside on the western edge of the San Fernando Valley.

My junior high was named after George Ellery Hale, the man who built the telescope that unveiled the secrets of the universe. I’ve thought about Hale over the years, the man, his telescope, the school named after him and the students and teachers I knew there. It was in those days that a body was dumped up the street from my house. Then there was the kid who went home from school one day and shot himself in the head. And then there was the classmate I admired who later got addicted to crack and died of exposure sleeping on a downtown street. I’ve thought about it all a lot.

“It must mean something. It must.”

From the reviewers:

Jonathan Penton, editor of Unlikely Stories, says: “He sets up his characters, reveals the situation and then tears through your consciousness like a bullet. His stories tell tales of lessons learned in the most agonizing possible ways, traumas that leave scars on the flesh and minds of their victims … Chilling and direct.”

At once a celebration of young adulthood and list of regrets over misspent youth, these tales depict rites of passage, from young love to misadventure, and other universal moments of adolescent angst and euphoria that help forge who we become as adults. Growing up in the San Fernando Valley in the 60s and 70s, the setting for this book, I was drawn in by the sense of time and place and subsequently discovered crisply written prose, well-drawn characters and the recounting of everything from the ridiculous to the sublime. – “Book Guy”

There is something about a youthful narrative that always ropes me in. It could be my early exposure to the genius of Harper Lee and J.D. Salinger, or more directly (and more likely), the honest optimism I find in such a voice. A gallery of high school recollections, ‘Telescope Builder’ focuses on not one particular event or even any life-changing moments. It is simpler than that. Our twelve year old narrator is the new kid at George Ellery Hale Junior High, going through the obligatory adjusting and social shuffling of evey new high school student the world over. In the subsequent chapters we are treated to a candid look at school days in California in the 1970s … drugs, sex, family break-up, teen suicide … all told in a minimalistic style that in all reality belongs to the teenage male. – Joanne David

Visit Amazon’s Steve Silkin Page

Steve Silkin was born in New York, grew up in Los Angeles, then traveled across Europe. He once escaped arrest for trespassing at a skyscraper under construction by fleeing from the LAPD on his bicycle.

And here, in the comfort of your own browser, is your free sample of THE TELESCOPE BUILDER by Steve Silkin:



KND Kindle Free Book Alert for Monday, January 2: 168 BRAND NEW FREEBIES in the last 24 hours added to Our 1,500 FREE TITLES Sorted by Category, Date Added, Bestselling or Review Rating! plus … Just 99 Cents for Steve Silkin’s Collection of THE TELESCOPE BUILDER and 14 other stories (Today’s Sponsor)

PLEASE NOTE: Powered by our magical Kindle free book tool, here are this morning’s latest additions to our 1,500+ Kindle Free Book listings. Occasionally a title will continue to appear on this list for a short time after it is no longer free on Kindle. ALWAYS check the price on Amazon before making a purchase, please! If a book is free, you should see the following: Kindle Price: $0.00
But first, a word from ... Today's Sponsor
He sets up his characters, reveals the situation and then tears through your consciousness like a bullet. His stories tell tales of lessons learned in the most agonizing possible ways, traumas that leave scars on the flesh and minds of their victims ... Chilling and direct.
The Telescope Builder
by Steve Silkin
3.6 stars - 5 reviews
Supports Us with Commissions Earned
Text-to-Speech and Lending: Enabled
A Collection of 15 Short Stories
Here's the set-up:
I had just moved to a new neighborhood freshly carved out of a hillside on the western edge of the San Fernando Valley. My junior high was named after George Ellery Hale, the man who built the telescope that unveiled the secrets of the universe. I've thought about Hale over the years, the man, his telescope, the school named after him and the students and teachers I knew there. It was in those days that a body was dumped up the street from my house. Then there was the kid who went home from school one day and shot himself in the head. And then there was the classmate I admired who later got addicted to crack and died of exposure sleeping on a downtown street. I've thought about it all a lot. It must mean something. It must.
One Reviewer Notes:
At once a celebration of young adulthood and list of regrets over misspent youth, these tales depict rites of passage, from young love to misadventure, and other universal moments of adolescent angst and euphoria that help forge who we become as adults. Growing up in the San Fernando Valley in the 60s and 70s, the setting for this book, I was drawn in by the sense of time and place and subsequently discovered crisply written prose, well-drawn characters and the recounting of everything from the ridiculous to the sublime.
Book Guy
UK CUSTOMERS: Click on the title below to download
The Telescope Builder
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A forbidden prequel romance to author S.M. West's Trusting the Ex...I’m screwed.Pippa just showed up uninvited with plans of staying the weekend.I can hardly handle an hour with her, let alone two days.Despite more than a year of dodging her, nothing has changed.She’s the only woman I want.Smart...
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Resisting the Best Friend's Sister
By: S.M. West
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That smoking hot one-night stand with a former rock star? Turns out he’s my son’s new music teacher. The night I met Campbell all I knew was he played my body the same way he strummed a guitar — like he owned it. Now I’ve learned he’s the man coming to my house twice a week to teach my...
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Malignant narcissism is a psychological disorder that's an extreme mix of narcissism, antisocial behavior, aggressiveness, and sadism. It has all of the characteristics of narcissism - but it takes them to the extreme. I suffered at the hands of a malignant narcissist for seven years. I was...
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I don’t belong here. I’m in way over my head. But I have debts to pay. They call my name. The spotlight is on. The auction starts. Mr. Black is the highest bidder. He’s dark, rich, and powerful. He likes to play games. The only rule is there are no rules. But it’s just one night. What’s...
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Black Edge
By: Charlotte Byrd
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"An informative revival to quilting techniques tied to American history."--5 Stars, Readers' FavoriteBegin a brand-new hobby today.Quilting has been around for centuries and won’t soon disappear. It’s a time-consuming process, but the results are truly beautiful. Dive into the wonderful world of...
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"Fast-paced and action-packed, Mechcraft: Cataclysm is a blockbuster of a novel with a high-octane narrative." –Readers' FavoriteIt's the end of the world, and Jake London is nowhere to be found. Comatose and kidnapped by relentless Sasha, his friends and family scramble to find him. The word is...
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A podunk town. A demonic rabbit. An exorcist with no idea what she's doing...Kat is pissed when her prior sends her to Ipswich, a godforsaken town in the middle of nowhere, to confront a demon-ravaged rabbit. But as she begins to investigate, she discovers a pattern to this possession—one that...
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Queen Victoria took being a queen to the head literally. Anyone she didn’t like would be sent to the chopping block where she became famous “Off with their heads,” and off they went, but one day that would all change when she yelled out “Off with his head.” When the guillotine rope was...
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In To Make Negro Literature Elizabeth McHenry traces African American authorship in the decade following the 1896 legalization of segregation. She shifts critical focus from the published texts of acclaimed writers to unfamiliar practitioners whose works reflect the unsettledness of African...
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Not much bothers him…until his best friend’s little sister moves to town.Carefree personal trainer Drake North is long on charm and short on connections that do more than skim the surface. His main ties are to his family and his best friend, so when his friend’s little sister moves to town,...
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KND Kindle Free Book Alert for Monday, January 2: 168 BRAND NEW FREEBIES in the last 24 hours added to Our 1,500 FREE TITLES Sorted by Category, Date Added, Bestselling or Review Rating! plus … Just 99 Cents for Steve Silkin’s Collection of THE TELESCOPE BUILDER and 14 other stories (Today’s Sponsor)

Kindle Nation Daily Free Book Alert, Monday, February 28: 7 Brand New Additions to Our 200+ Free Contemporary Titles on Kindle! plus … Steve Silkin’s The Forbidden Stories Provide 5-Star Reading for Just $1.99 (Today’s Sponsor)

This morning’s latest additions to our 200+ Free Book Alert listings cover a wide range of interests from crockpot recipes to social media and marketing innovations….

But first, a word from … Today’s Sponsor

A straight 5-star rating for this short story collection the author calls, “Eros and Thanatos. Stories of sex and death“…

“These are great stories. Really enjoyed them. Transgressive, odd, some straight ahead, some dreamlike and surreal. Highly unusual and original.”
–Daniel Loeb


The Forbidden Stories
by Steve Silkin
5.0 out of 5 stars 5 Reviews
Kindle Price: $1.99
Text-to-Speech: Enabled
Don’t have a Kindle? Get yours here.

Forbidden, yes, but read it anyway!”


Here’s the set-up via reviewer Gabriela Popa
Forbidden Stories is a collection of vivid, expertly crafted fiction stories spanning a wide range of events (growing up as a kid in Los Angeles, traveling to Europe, living in France) told with passion, nostalgia and – some of them – a relaxed wisdom that borders a zen-like attitude… Anyone who wants to explore the human condition will appreciate the multilayered “Green Parrot at My Window” – a complex story about death and the inextricable EXIT sign that awaits us all. A tangled criss-cross of relationships develops in “The Cake Girl”, “Euro-Looting” and “La Hongroise”- stories in which the author, part mastermind and part subject, keeps a keen eye on what’s happening around him while himself progressing as a character along the story.

Yet for all their significant metaphorical content and multidimensional messages, these stories are charmingly accessible and captivating and speak about the universal value of human relationships. This is a great collection of stories – and a must for literature lovers.”

And don’t miss Steve Silkin’s novel….

Did you love L.A. Confidential? Boogie Nights? The Candidate? Pulp Fiction? Weave them all together into a smart, edgy, fast-paced political thriller that you can read right on your Kindle for less than two bucks, and you’ve got Steven Silkin’s The Cemetery Vote.

by Steve Silkin
5.0 out of 5 stars – 4 Reviews
Text-to-Speech: Enabled

Jace Kingman, a drug dealer, is recruited to round up Latino day laborers and take them to the polls on Election Day. Dan Vienna, a fired police officer on the road to become an Internet porn producer, tries to extort a million dollars from a losing candidate for U.S. Senate by claiming he can prove the election was stolen. Jace and Dan will cross paths as both schemes go awry. Can they save themselves? Or will they destroy each other?
The Cemetery Vote takes you on a roller-coaster ride over a landscape of ballot-box stuffing, Internet porn production and drug trafficking, plus a love story – or rather two or three or four of them. Featuring iconoclastic twins, an ex-con philosopher and an X-rated actress who’s more than she appears. It’s a political thriller with philosophical underpinnings….


What the Reviewers Say
“These stories, forbidden or not, are written in prose so clear it’s nearly transparent, allowing you to see all the way to the deep sense of loss that lies like muck at the bottom. Maybe that’s why they’re forbidden; the current’s strong, and you can’t tell how deep the water is. Still, each piece is laced with enough humor and insight to keep them from feeling like they’re going to pull you under. I’ve enjoyed Silkin’s other books but this one’s my favorite, and not just because I have a crush on Cake Girl.”
–R. Toady

“After reading Silkin’s “The Cemetery Vote” I couldn’t wait to sample more from this perceptive talent. I’ve read all his books now, but this one was my favorite. With “Forbidden Stories” Silkin has taken that forbidden step into the dark recesses of human relationships, and this is something that most of us dare not do. What makes this collection of stories so disconcerting is that they resound with the clear ring of truth.
–Gregory J. Barina

“Steve Silkin’s growing list of titles–which also includes Telescope Builder and Cemetery Vote–is bolstered by this latest collection of stories, some autobiographical, some semi-autobiographical, and a few completely imagined, set mostly in Europe and the far reaches of the LA suburbs in the days before the freeways were even finished. Written without any pretense (think of Hemingway or Fitzgerald wandering the San Fernando Valley), the tales exhibit Silkin’s overriding desire to communicate many things–among them feelings of sadness and loss, with some youthful jubilation occasionally peeking through. If you’re looking for a well-written title with pathos, humor and other actual, human emotions, step away from the James Franco…and buy or download Forbidden Stories instead.”
–Book Guy

Click here to download The Forbidden Stories (or a free sample) to your Kindle, iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch, BlackBerry, Android-compatible, PC or Mac and start reading within 60 seconds!

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Free Kindle Nation Shorts – February 26, 2011: Three Complete Stories from The Forbidden Stories, a Collection by Steve Silkin

By Stephen Windwalker
© Kindle Nation 2011  

Not that it is my job to state the obvious, but Kindle Nation readers don’t need me to tell them that not every fine novelist can write a great short story. Which is probably a part of why so many very talented novelists submit excerpts of their novels rather than free-standing short stories to the Free Kindle Nation Shorts program. Not that there’s anything wrong with that: the generous excerpts offered here often lead our readers to discover terrific new novels and distinguished new novelists who come to occupy the top shelves in our Kindle libraries.

But I wasn’t sure what to expect when Steve Silkin offered three of his short stories to share with our readers through the program. I had already made it clear what I think of his talents as a novelist, when I wrote at our Kindle Nation blog back in November:

Did you love L.A. Confidential? Boogie Nights? The Candidate? Pulp Fiction? Weave them all together into a smart, edgy, fast-paced political thriller that you can read right on your Kindle for less than two bucks, and you’ve got Steven Silkin’s The Cemetery Vote.

by Steve Silkin
5.0 out of 5 stars – 4 Reviews
Text-to-Speech: Enabled

 

Jace Kingman, a drug dealer, is recruited to round up Latino day laborers and take them to the polls on Election Day. Dan Vienna, a fired police officer on the road to become an Internet porn producer, tries to extort a million dollars from a losing candidate for U.S. Senate by claiming he can prove the election was stolen. Jace and Dan will cross paths as both schemes go awry. Can they save themselves? Or will they destroy each other?
The Cemetery Vote takes you on a roller-coaster ride over a landscape of ballot-box stuffing, Internet porn production and drug trafficking, plus a love story – or rather two or three or four of them. Featuring iconoclastic twins, an ex-con philosopher and an X-rated actress who’s more than she appears. It’s a political thriller with philosophical underpinnings….
Now that I have read Mr. Silkin’s stories, I can tell you he is one of those rare writer who is as comfortable in the short-form arena as he is with the form of the novel. His gifts for observing the human animal in its various habitats are not lost in the shorter form, and he tells his stories with the same wit and command that animates The Cemetery Vote.  And it doesn’t hurt that he is offering the collection of stories at the same great $1.99 price that has been set for the novel.
  
Scroll down to begin reading three free short stories by Steve Silkin
  • Darren in  the Van
  • Euro-Looting
  • La Hongroise

Click on the title below to download the complete collection of stories to your Kindle or Kindle app for just $1.99!
by Steve Silkin
Kindle Edition

List Price: $1.99

Buy Now

 


excerptFree Kindle Nation Shorts - February 26, 2011   

Three Complete Stories from 
The Forbidden Stories

A Collection by  Steve Silkin
Copyright 2010, 2011 by Steve Silkin and reprinted here with his permission.
DarrenDarren in the Van
Darren and I made friends right away. On the first day I picked him up in the school bus I drove, he called out to me from the back.
“Hey bus driver!”
“Yeah Darren?”
“Yes means no and no means yes!”
“Is that what they taught you in kindergarten today?”
“No, I figured that out myself.”
Sometimes we’d talk, or sometimes we’d just sit silently together in our pointless trajectory across the suburbs.
It wasn’t a real school bus, it was a van. Darren was five, and for some reason his kindergarten program ended more than an hour earlier than the ones at other schools. Once he’d climbed aboard, we headed off across the San Fernando Valley to pick up Josh at 12:30. We’d sit in the van for about twenty minutes to wait there. Then we went back to the private school where I worked. This struck me as kind of insane for poor Darren – all that time in the van with me driving back and forth across the Valley for no reason. I talked to the director of the school about it.
“Cindy, can’t I just take Darren back here at 11 instead of keeping him in the van with me for almost two hours?”
“No. His parents won’t pay the extra for him to have the last part of his kindergarten day here, so this is how I’ve solved that problem.”
It didn’t surprise me. Her husband was a lawyer and they’d set up this school as kind of a large-scale baby-sitting program for their other lawyer friends and some people like Darren’s parents who had the misfortune of happening upon it.
So Darren and I made the best of it. I taught him songs I remembered from elementary school, like “The Cherry Tree.”
White in the sunshine, green in the rain
Leaning out from a hill at the top of the plain
The cherry tree watches the people who go
Down the hill fast, up the hill slow
He’d sing with me. He wasn’t all that into it, though.
I was saving for a trip across Europe and I knew a little French, so I figured I’d practice with him – and that, he loved. “Un! Deux! Trois!” he’d shout, repeating after me. I taught him some colors, too. “Rouge! Noir!” When Josh got in the van, they’d show each other their drawings and talk about their families and their pets and what they saw on TV and what they did over the weekend. Sometimes we even practiced a little French together. The three of us were having a pretty good time.
One day, though, we drove to Josh’s school and waited as usual, but when kindergarten got out – no Josh. I walked into the office to ask about him and the woman there told me she was sorry, she was supposed to have gone out to the van to tell me that he would be off school for two weeks. His parents had taken him on a trip.
Okay, I said to myself. Cindy doesn’t know or she would’ve told me, probably. This means I’ve got two hours to kill every day. If I tell Cindy, she’ll make an issue about Darren’s parents not paying and she’ll find some other scheme to deal with him, maybe even crazier than having him spend two hours in the van. And she’d find something for me to do, too, like wash windows or help serve lunch. I decided hanging out with Darren would be more fun.
So the next day, when I picked him up at his school I said:
“We don’t have to pick up Josh. Whatcha wanna do?”
“I dunno. Shouldn’t we go to school?”
“Well, we could if you want to. But I asked them and they said you weren’t in the program until the afternoon. Tell you what, I’m going to the bank and then I’m going to go say hi to a friend. Wanna come?”
“Sure.”
So I took him to the bank. I didn’t think the tellers would notice I had a five-year-old with me, but they knew I was another nineteen-year-old Valley stoner like them, so they did.
“Is that your little brother?” one of them asked.
I explained I was a school bus driver and I had a little extra time so I was running some errands. Then I went up to Mike’s house. He didn’t think there was anything unusual about me dropping by before noon with a five-year-old. He knew I was driving the van and I’d told him about some of the kids. I introduced them once we got inside.
Mike had just woken up and was about to have cereal. He poured a bowl for Darren, too. Then he found a channel still showing cartoons that late in the morning. They watched cartoons and had their Rice Crispies and milk together. I browsed through the copy of Newsweek on Mike’s family room table.
“Do you guys like alligators?” Darren asked us.
“They’re okay,” Mike said.
“I guess I like ’em,” I said to Darren. “Do you?”
“I love alligators.”
“Why?”
“Because they’re the closest things we’ve got to dinosaurs!”
We killed half an hour or so that way – we talked about helicopters, too, and we all agreed they were pretty great, along with trumpets, pianos and guitars – then I took Darren back for day care with kids his own age and headed out for my afternoon pickups.
The next day, though, I really didn’t know what Darren and I could do to waste time, so we took a drive. We went up to the top of a hill that looked out on a huge expanse of chaparral, an undulating plain covered with brush that would turn into tumbleweeds when summer came. They were going to build a freeway there. It had been a foggy morning, and there was still some mist clinging to the barren landscape.
Darren and I climbed from the van to stand on the ridge and take in the view. We were out of our usual element of storefront-lined avenues and suburban tract homes. It looked otherwordly up there.
“You know where we are?” I asked him.
“No.”
“This is where people go when they die.”
He looked up at me with wide eyes and an open mouth. A cool breeze blew over us, tousling his hair slightly.
“Is my dog here?”
I felt bad immediately.
“No – ” I was about to tell him I was just messing with him. I didn’t want him climbing out of his window at three in the morning and trying to look for his dog. But before I could, he asked:
“And is my grandma here?”
He was getting intense. I knew I had to calm him down.
“Darren, Darren, I was just teasing. Man. Don’t take me so seriously. It’s just a field. I was just kidding. They’re gonna build a freeway here. That’s why there’s nothing up here. It’s just a field.”
He was still looking at me.
We got back in the van. He was silent.
“You know I was just kidding, right?” I asked him as we drove away.
“No.”
He didn’t believe me. He thought I’d showed him where people – and dogs – go when they die. He figured I was trying to cover it up.
I pulled over and stopped the van and turned around to look at him.
“Darren, you gotta understand. Nobody knows what happens when you die. Nobody knows. Some people think there’s a heaven. Some people don’t. But nobody knows. It’s a mystery. But one thing you gotta know, guy: That field I just showed you has nothing to do with it. I was just kidding.”
I had forgotten what it was like to be five. And I’ll never know what it was like to be Darren, Mr. Yes-Means-No.
“You believe me, now, right?” I asked him when we got back to the school. He just stared at me. I could tell what he was thinking: “You let me in on a secret and now you’re trying to tell me it’s not the truth.”
When we got back to school, Cindy saw us and asked me where Josh was. I gave Darren a signal to go ahead to his classroom and explained that the woman at Josh’s school told me he went on a trip with his parents.
“Yeah, I just got the note on that. So where were you?”
I had underestimated her attention to detail. One kid, two kids, one hour, two hours – I really didn’t think she’d notice.
“I took Darren with me to gas up the van.”
“All this time?”
“I talked to the guy at the gas station for a while. I had him check the van over. Then we went for a drive. You told me you didn’t want Darren here too early, so I was taking as long as possible.”
I could see the gears working in her lawyer-wife head: “Should I challenge him? What’s the upside? What’s the downside?” She decided to walk away.
A couple of days later, though, she called me into her office.
“I’ve had some complaints.”
“About …?”
“Well, some of the parents said you take their kids to the doughnut shop.”
“Not me. That’s Joan. She used to work at Winchell’s. They give her free doughnuts. It’s a treat for the kids. She told me she does it sometimes. I wouldn’t do it. They wouldn’t give me free doughnuts.”
“And Darren said you took him to a restaurant.”
“Nope. Never happened.” Where’d he get that?
“And to the bank.”
“I stopped at the bank for a minute that day I didn’t have to pick up Josh. I was killing some time. Remember, you told me you didn’t want Darren here too early. Speaking of which, what are you doing with Darren now that I bring him at 11?” She didn’t answer, though.
“He said you brought him to your friend’s house.”
“No. I would never do that.”
I was waiting for the next part. What was I going to say? I was waiting in dread. But it didn’t come.
“Okay,” Cindy said. That was the end of our meeting.
I wonder why Darren didn’t tell her I took him to the place where people go when they die. Maybe he figured she’d deny it, too, like I did. Just another liar in a world full of them, huh Mr. Yes-Means-No? They built that freeway up there. You can’t see that field anymore, so dreamlike in the morning mist. It’s gone. I know. I’ve looked for it.
EuroEuro-Looting
Youu showed up in Paris with your friend Greg. You were going to ride your bikes to Barcelona. You were twenty years old and you grew up in the suburbs of Los Angeles and you’d never been to Europe.
You took the train from London to Dover and the ferry to Calais and then got on another train there and arrived at the Gare du Nord first thing one cold morning at the beginning of March.  You made your way across Paris and found your friend Julie’s apartment on the rue St. Jacques, up six flights of narrow, twisting stairs.
Julie was doing her junior year abroad. She’d been studying music, but they’d just fired her teachers in a pay dispute. So she was taking French classes and doing some drawing, but mostly just sitting in cafes and hanging out.
Her roommate, Joan, had lived down the street from you through junior high and high school. She had left Paris a few weeks before.
Julie and Joan had gone out one night and met two Nigerian guys at a café. They got to talking about life in Africa, in France, in the United States. They must’ve seemed like nice guys. So as the night turned to morning and the café was closing, they all went to the Nigerians’ apartment.
Once there, things got tense. The Nigerians wouldn’t let them leave. They thought there’d be sex. But that was not what Julie and Joan thought. Joan got nervous and aggressive with them. One of the Nigerians picked her up and threw her over his shoulder, as if she were a sack of wheat he had bought at the market. He was going to carry her to bed.
Probably the only reason they didn’t get raped is because Julie kept her cool. “Why are you doing this?” she asked them. “Pourquoi vous faites ca?” Good question. Maybe it was a reality check for the guys and it reminded them they were nice girls and didn’t deserve to be hurt. The Nigerians let them go home.
But Joan didn’t feel safe there anymore, so she packed her bags and moved back to L.A. She sent Julie a tape.
Julie played the tape for you the day you got to Paris. Joan talked about her nightmares. She would dream she was getting raped by a Nigerian. You put your hands over your face. “Oh poor Joan!” you said.
Julie’s new roommate was a gorgeous redhead named Lolly. You fell in love with her as soon as you saw her. She took you to bed. Then you and Greg went off on your bike ride to Barcelona. It was spring break so Lolly and Julie hitchhiked to Nice.
Lolly met a group of people on the beach, some young travelers from France and other countries, and some street people. They were squatting in an abandoned farmhouse on the outskirts of town, past the Chagall Museum. They’d been pooling their money for groceries but pretty soon they were broke. Lolly left Julie behind at their hotel and moved in with them.
Lolly became a valuable member of the gang because of her striking curly henna-tinged hair and remarkable curves. She would spend the day on the beach with the travelers and the bums. Men walking on the path above would lean over the wall and shout down to tell Lolly to take off her top. When they threw enough coins, she did.
A British busker named James was a member of the gang, and Lolly was sleeping with him. One night he got food poisoning and crawled out of their sleeping bag and walked to the hospital. That was the last she saw of him.
Marco was the leader of the squatters. He asked some of the other Brits and Belgians and French guys if they wanted a job. They said yes. He told them to follow him.
It was 2 a.m. They walked up the road, heading out of the city. They arrived at a house. It was uninhabited for the moment. They broke in. Marco found some pillowcases, and they filled the pillowcases with plumbing fixtures, doorknobs, anything that wasn’t nailed down and some other stuff that was. They carried the jangling pillowcases back to the squat. Marco said he could sell the stuff in the morning.
But it wasn’t morning yet and he was hungry.  Looting a house must work up an appetite. There were pigeons roosting in the rafters of the squat. Marco devised a slingshot and killed one of them. Lolly grilled the pigeon and Marco whipped up a sauce from a stick of butter and some flour and thyme and they ate it.
“How was it?” you asked her when you got back to Paris and she told you the story.
“The pigeon was awful,” she said. “But the sauce was really good.”
You and Greg had done your ride to Barcelona and spent a week with a friend, Elisabeth, who was teaching English there. She was sharing her apartment with an American and a couple of Brits. It was spring break, and there was also a guy and a couple of girls from Belgium, too. The night you arrived the whole group went out to dinner. A young Irishwoman named Kaitlyn and her Spanish boyfriend came along. It was a dark restaurant, which was good, because that way when the rabbit came you couldn’t see that it was served with its brains. Greg told you about that later.
Kaitlyn’s hands were slightly deformed, but otherwise she was pretty. She had thinnish light hair and a nice face. The American and the Brits were teasing her with Irish jokes. A Brit said: “The Irish wolfhound chews on a bone all day long and when he stands up his leg falls off.” The conversation turned to the Irishwoman’s boyfriend. He’d recently finished his military service, where he’d been trained as the Spanish equivalent of a U.S. Special Forces officer. But he had long hair and he looked more like an artist than a soldier.
You were standing outside the restaurant after the meal and it started to drizzle. You were telling Elisabeth about the weird wet winter of heavy rains she’d just missed in Los Angeles. Suddenly, you were in the air! The Spanish soldier had picked you up by your thighs and was holding you in some sort of Spanish Special Forces carrying position, straight up, as if you were a tree branch or a flagpole that he’d locked his arms around, and he was running down the street, holding you aloft. He plopped you down on the hood of a car and he said:
“Steve, never stay with one woman for too long.”
Then he ran off down the street and disappeared into the Barcelona night.
Two days later, Elisabeth told you:
“Kaitlyn hasn’t seen Fernando since that night at the restaurant. She wants to know if he said anything to you before he ran away.”
“No she doesn’t. She doesn’t want to know what he said. Tell her he didn’t say anything.”
Greg stayed in Spain and you went back to Paris because you decided you were in love with Lolly. But if she’d ever had any real feelings for you, they were gone by the time you got back. You spent a week together, then she ditched you one night to go out with a French guy named Dominique. She came back to the apartment the next night. You said you wanted to take her out for a last drink. So you walked down the street together and went into the Closerie des Lilas. You went inside and she stepped on a Borzoi’s paw and the dog yelped just under the seat at the bar marked with the brass plaque saying that Hemingway drank there. You got a table outside and ordered a beer for yourself and a diabolo menthe for Lolly. You drank together without saying much except goodbye.
You left for Brussels and stayed there with one of Lolly’s friends, Suzanne. You took her out to a bar on the Grand Place and got her drunk. She threw up out the cab window all the way home. You left for Amsterdam the next morning. You spent two days in Amsterdam, walking around the canals and daydreaming. You didn’t go to the Van Gogh Museum. You knew you’d regret that for the rest of your life. And you do.
You took a ferry back to England and checked into the White House Hotel on Earl’s Court Square. The guy working there was a long-haired blond from Santa Barbara, his name was Rick and you knew some of the same people and places. He had grown up in L.A. You were about to book a flight home. But he said he was quitting and was looking for someone to replace him. You figured it might be fun to stay in London for a while so you said you’d do it.
Rick went up to Scotland to visit his friend Perry there. Perry was in prison. He was from Los Angeles, too. When Rick came back to London he told you the story:
Perry had been hitchhiking around the U.K. He met a girl in Edinburgh. She introduced him to her friends. They asked him if he’d come along with them on a job. He said yes. They drove out to the country in the middle of the night and broke into a mansion. He was the lookout. They came back out carrying candelabras, silverware, paintings, anything and probably everything else of value.
A couple of nights later the Edinburgh crew took Perry out on another job. They drove him up to the gate of another country estate, gave him a crowbar, told him to break in and come out with everything he could carry. So he did. But they weren’t waiting there. The police were. The gang had tipped them off and pinned the previous looting on him, too. That was to keep the cops off their trail. Perry told the cops everything, but the gang had skipped town by then. He got a three-year prison sentence.
A guard brought him out to the cafeteria to meet Rick.
Rick told him the prison didn’t look very secure. It was rather isolated, but still ….