Thursday, August 6, 2015

"Even Better Than Before" - Another Excerpt

Some of you may remember that earlier this year I shared some excerpts from my first novel, Even Better Than Before. It takes place in North Myrtle Beach, SC, and since I sit in that same place this morning it seemed appropriate to share another section today. Enjoy!

When you reach your forties and have raised kids through the years of attending early soccer games and driving them all over town for myriad reasons the concept of sleeping in on a Saturday morning is one that you no longer understand. So despite the late hours the night before by 7 am parts of the house were starting to stir. Steph, Jeff, Bobby and Allyson had made plans to get up and run on the beach before breakfast so they were up and moving. Dan and Billy were staggering around trying to get some coffee going. And Craig was dragging Brent out of bed only 4 hours after he got there. “Doughnut time, my friend!” Even as tired as he was, you only had to mention hot Krispy Kreme glazed doughnuts once to get him up and moving. He, Craig and Dan had decided years before that those doughnuts were actually manna from heaven. They dressed quickly and headed out to the MG, where they got the top down with the speed and precision of a NASCAR pit crew. This was not their first clandestine Krispy Kreme run. As they took a quick moment to wipe the dew off the windshield, Craig spotted the green Honda Civic with the Tennessee tag in the parking lot and laughed. “I cannot believe you still have Clyde!” How old is that beast?” Brent smiled and said, “You are not the only one with a classic. It’s a 1999. And still a beauty!” Craig shook his head in disbelief. “1999. So you bought that after you started making the big bucks. You are a real piece of work, Thomas!” The two men grinned, jumped in Moneypenny, and took off in search of hot doughnuts.

They headed south on Ocean Blvd. The sun had risen over the Atlantic and was already bright. There was a cool morning sea breeze in their faces. Craig had purchased this car when he was in his early 20’s, and it was still in mint condition. He reached down to adjust the volume on the stereo, and the strains of I Saw Her Standing There came blasting from the speakers. Brent grinned as he looked at his old friend. “Dude, you do know there has been some pretty decent music in the last century, right? I even made some of it myself!” Craig just smiled. “Yeah- but it was too close to country to count. I still can’t believe you sold out on me.” Brent laughed out loud. He had already laughed more in the past 12 hours than in the previous 12 months- or at least it felt that way to him. He looked over at his friend and smiled. Craig was such an old soul. From his musical tastes to his vintage 1975 MGB that he called Moneypenny after the secretary in the James Bond movies, Craig was his own man. He was also the closest thing to a brother Brent had ever known. He and Billy had the creative thing between them, and they knew how to entertain. But Craig had always been a rock, always there for Brent ever since the 8th grade. Dan had been there too, but Craig was the man. Still, he couldn’t let him get away with that line about selling out. “Maybe my comeback album should be acoustic covers of classic Beach Boys songs. You know, just me and the guitar. Beach Boys unplugged. Then would you buy one of my damn albums?” Craig looked hurt. “I always buy your albums,” he said with a straight face. “I never know when we might get to go SPAM hunting again and I’ll need something worthless to blast with a shotgun!” Craig had cracked them both up, and as they tried to recover they realized they had gone too far and missed the turn that would take them up to the Krispy Kreme bakery. Fortunately traffic was very light, so a quick U-turn and they were back on track again. Craig suddenly turned serious. “I know you were joking about the Beach Boys thing, but seriously bro- is there going to be a comeback album?” The question brought a look of concern to Brent’s face, a doubt that Craig had not yet seen that weekend. He had come this weekend expecting to keep his future plans close to the vest, because they were, in so many ways, still very uncertain. But this was Craig, and they were alone. It might feel good to tell someone what was going on. They pulled into the Krispy Kreme parking lot and Brent said, “Let’s get the doughnuts and I’ll tell you on the way back.” Craig smiled in agreement and they went in to purchase some hot glazed goodness. There were two people in line in front of them, and as they waited the lady behind the counter (a time-worn grandmotherly type) kept looking at Brent. He had seen that look before and knew it could be good or bad. She might be a real fan. Or she might say something insane like, “Aren’t you the guy I saw on TMZ beating his wife that one time?” He just never knew. He briefed Craig on the situation and Craig decided to launch his own preemptive strike. When it was their turn to order he again called upon his extensive knowledge of dialogue from Animal House. “May I help you?” asked Annette (or at least that was what her name tag said), still giving Brent the eye. “Yes!” said Craig in his best Flounder impression. “Could we have 10,000 marbles please?” Annette was dumbfounded. Brent shook his head and tried to help. “Please forgive my buddy. He’s had mental issues. What we actually need are 12 dozen hot glazed to go.” Annette smiled. “Yes Mr. Thomas, coming right up.” Brent gave her a wink. Now to the uninitiated twelve dozen doughnuts may seem like an awful lot for 16 people. To Craig and Brent it seemed a tad conservative. Plus they fully expected there to be only eleven dozen left by the time they reached the Betsy B. Annette returned with the twelve boxes. “I’ll ring ‘em up as buy one, get one free for Mr. Thomas. Soulmate is my all-time favorite song.” As Craig paid, Brent grabbed a napkin and scribbled a quick note. To Annette- my favorite doughnut lady. Thanks for the treats! Xoxoxo – Brent Thomas. He handed her the note, and the look of appreciation on her face made him wish he could put a $100 tip with it. He flashed her a smile, told her to have a good day, and they headed back to the car with their treasure. When they got outside, Craig laughed at his famous friend. “Soulmate is her favorite, huh? She probably thinks you wrote it for her- just like every woman in the house this weekend!” Brent snarled at his buddy. “You know it’s about Nancy. I still can’t believe the hottest woman in the world married YOU!” Another laugh, and then they loaded up the trunk and headed back to the Betsy B
~ Carl Jones

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