I’m thrilled to be welcoming fellow darkstroke author to my Thursday Themes blog today. Henry Corrigan joins me with a thought-provoking insight into his new novel, A Man In Pieces, which is released tomorrow.
After reading the blog post and brilliant excerpt below, I’m heading straight over to Amazon to get this ordered!
A Man in Pieces: An Unstable House
There is no good way of saying, “I can’t do this anymore.” No way to get it out and not have it hurt like hell. Which is a strange thing to admit because getting words out shouldn’t feel like pulling teeth, but it does, especially when they’re words we don’t know how to say.
Not all that long ago I was thinking about killing myself. Now, the acceptance of this didn’t hit me like a bolt of lightning, it was more of a quiet, whispery thing, respectful, even kind at times, or at least that was the way it seemed. It put its arms around me and said, ‘I know, I know,’ and I didn’t really start getting scared until I figured out it wasn’t letting go.
My depression, those deep, black thoughts, said that breaking down by inches was okay. ‘Everything was all right. Just let it come. You don’t have any other choice anyway.’
The night I finally told my wife how dark things were getting in my head, she asked me why I never said anything before, and I told her it was because I didn’t know how to say, ‘I’m not okay.’
The unfortunate fact is that this is true for most of us. When someone asks how we’re doing, the closest any of us come to a real answer is ‘meh,’ which might earn us a laugh before we move on to the topic at hand.
Now, please don’t misunderstand. This is neither an indictment, nor a call to action. None of us really want to share our intimate details with strangers, and we certainly don’t want them to share with us. I tried to be real with a coworker once. Poor thing. She came in looking for something and asked me how I was doing. I told her ‘terrible’ and she left so quickly, I honestly can’t remember if she found what she was looking for.
No, deep down this story, and my novel A Man in Pieces, are a reminder of how long I’ve really lived with my depression, because A Man in Pieces has been with me for the better part of a decade. I started writing it before I had a child of my own, before I moved my family across the country seeking a better quality of life but finding a worse one. Before the weekly therapy sessions and daily medication. Before the black thoughts of suicide even.
A Man in Pieces is my attempt to shine a light on all the malevolent, banal little cruelties that make up the American Dream. It’s the story of average men with average jobs slowly breaking down by inches and how far they’ll go when they think they have no other choice.
But as I look back at all the parts of me that I put into this novel, I force myself to remember that even though the black thoughts are gone, my depression is not something that I will ever simply get over. With daily upkeep and care, it can be managed, but whether I want to admit it or not…my house has always been built on sand.
Henry Corrigan is a bisexual, omnivore author, poet and playwright who writes every kind of story. Whether it’s horror or science fiction, erotica or poetry, high fantasy or children’s books, he writes it all because every story matters to him. They’re what keeps him going. Always an avid reader, Henry started writing poetry in middle school but it wasn’t until he started writing erotica in high school that he really learned the mechanics of writing. What started out as private stories and love letters, soon became publications in anthologies.
To date, he has the rough drafts of two science fiction books, one horror novella, one play, four children’s books, numerous poems and several song lyrics waiting in the wings. Above all, he wants to be known for not staying where he’s been put. To always surprise people, especially himself. Because that’s what makes it fun. The feeling that even he doesn’t know what he’s going to do next.
Driven by bad choices and worse options, a desperate father-to-be must battle his abusive boss for the last slot at a dead-end job, but the fight may lead one of them to murder.
Mike Harper would like nothing more than to burn his dead-end job to the ground. But with a wife on bed rest and a son on the way, discovering that the company is downsizing couldn’t come at a worse time. Now, struggling to stay afloat, Mike is forced to fight for the last remaining spot to secure his family’s future. It’s too bad that Tom, his obnoxious boss, is in the same boat.
Tom Downes is a man with few friends and even fewer prospects, but the aging veteran has never gone down without a fight. Now, with his health failing and his marriage falling apart, Tom is willing to do whatever it takes to keep his job.
With a blinding snowstorm closing in, these two desperate men will battle each other on a long and twisted road fraught with heartbreaking losses – and murder.
For when it comes to staying afloat, the American Dream can break anyone…
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A Man in Pieces: Excerpt
Friday January 22, 2016
Tom almost smiled, despite the pain.
Maybe it was how the kids laughed, or the way they moved, all flailing limbs and flapping jaws, their shrieks pealing across the street like remote controlled planes. There were four of them, all boys, and the tallest one, broad-faced with a nose like a putting wedge, dove headfirst into a snow drift before rolling easily to his feet. Every inch of him came up frosted, and his smile was as bright as the ice.
Two others, one thin and four-eyed, the other all braces and freckles, wordlessly dropped to their knees and started building a snowman together. The fourth, chubbiest by far, peeked sneakily from behind one of the cars in the driveway, a growing pile of snowballs at his feet.
With only one good hand and leg left to his name, Tom wobbled then hip checked the storm door open. He scowled at the flakes as they swept by. Light as confectioner’s sugar and deceptive as hell; the kind of shit that should fall apart but would pull at your tires in every turn.
The cold put his teeth on edge as he hobbled out on his stoop. Too late; he realized he’d put his keys in his usual pocket. He held his lunch bag between hip and cast and contorted himself until his muscles strained painfully, but the keys came out before any other part of him gave in.
He locked the door behind him, turning just in time to see the door across the street burst open. Out of it bounded a little one, half the size of the rest, same nose, same broad face as the tall one, but she lacked his coordination, and her long dark hair flew behind her like a personal flag.
From his hiding place, Chubby watched her too, and Tom didn’t find it hard to know what he was thinking. The minute she hit the snow she started running around the other three boys in chaotic circles. She wore a parka that was the pinkest thing Tom had ever seen in his life, and she chattered non-stop.
Chubby would peg her first, hard, and she’d probably cry and shriek, which would bring mommy out, but there was nothing for it. It was the way of boys and girls at that age. It’s what Tom would have done if he’d been Chubby.
As if he was keeping to a script, Chubby ducked back down and mashed two snowballs together until he had a real bellringer in his hands. Tom saw him smile and straighten; his arm cocked back with all that flabby weight behind it.
A small, white missile caught him right in the eye.
Chubby yelped like a kicked dog. He wiped furiously at his face. Tom blinked and shook his head in surprise.
The kid sister was beaming like a spotlight, both arms high in a celebratory V. It took less than a second for the other boys to start the pointing and laughing. Chubby’s face turned red, and Tom thought he saw the glint of tears, but that might’ve been the snow melting on his cheeks. Older brother gave kid sister a high five and then they went to help the others with their snowman.
Chubby and his stockpile were forgotten, and play resumed.
Tom glanced towards his car, which seemed a million miles away. The kids couldn’t see how fast it was coming down, or how it was sticking to everything in sight. They wouldn’t have to feel the ice beneath their tires and the ruts and the cracked roadways and the salt and sand so thick it could strip the paint off a car. The most they’d see of it would be watching their parents white knuckling the wheel.
Tom envied them for that. It had only been a couple hours since his last dose of pain meds but already he could feel it. His broken bits were starting to throb again, but it was a groggy kind of pain, almost slipshod, as if someone had laid a shawl across his shoulders that just happened to weigh forty pounds.
In the back of his mind he knew it was a risk heading out, even if he’d been a hundred percent. Already he anticipated the slip of the wheel and the stupid fucks out there driving like traction was something the other guy had to worry about.
Nothing for it, troop. Get your ass in gear.
The voice was right. He never called in yesterday and this was the wrong time to make a mistake like that. Who knew what Asshole Mike had been up to while he was gone? He couldn’t afford to let that sonuvabitch get a foothold, not this close to the end. If he did…if management even thought it was a contest…
Fuck it. Won’t happen.
So what if he hadn’t called in? It was his first sick day in what, a year? Hell, longer than that, had to be. He didn’t need to explain himself. He just had to walk in as he was.
Hey guys! How’s it going? Oh this? Yeah, it was nothing. Had an accident yesterday, but I’m here now. No big deal. Why am I not home, Pat? Come on, man. Got work to do, don’t I?
Nodding to himself, Tom pulled up the collar of his jacket, took a step down the walk, and almost had his feet shoot out from under him.
He teetered and staggered, nearly fell, managed to get his balance but at the cost of his bad foot hitting the ground hard. The bones twisted and howled, sending tracer rounds of pain across his whole body. Tom cursed loudly and sucked in a great big mouthful of burning winter air and then he was hacking like he’d never stop. He coughed ’til his chest burned, ’til his eyes watered, like there was something wet and sickly inside him he couldn’t get out.
He ended up bent over double with a bitter taste in the back of his throat. He breathed as deep and slow as he could ’til his heart stopped its panicky scramble, and he could see straight again. Straightening slowly, he filled his mouth with all that gunk, and spat it, long and wet, into the snow.
Being sure to keep his head high, he turned towards the kids, a hard glare ready for any of them stupid enough to be staring. But the effort was wasted. None of them noticed. Chubby had rejoined the ranks and their play had evolved into a bastardization of football and dodgeball, one kid tasked with making it to the curb before the others pelted the living hell out of him.
Tom wiped his chin and thought about the drive ahead. It would be a bitch, no doubt, but if he got his ass in gear, he could still make it with time to spare. That was all he needed, really. Just enough to fend off Asshole Mike and prove that he deserved to be there.
Stepping carefully, limping heavily, he inched his way down the walk. He’d forgotten his gloves inside, so by the time he cleared the headlights and all the windows, his hands were as white as porcelain and ready to crack.
It took more maneuvering but eventually he opened the door, and his ass met the front seat. As soon as the Crown Vic barked to life, Tom cranked the heater as high as it would go. He couldn’t afford to give it any warmup time, but he forced himself to sit there for a couple minutes anyway. The Vic was ten years old and not in the best of shape. Stressing it, even a little bit, in the middle of winter, was a bad idea. He stared at the dashboard clock as the seconds passed. The clenching in his gut, the way his skin and bones and fucking everything itched to get moving, made it seem like the seconds were taking their time. Out for a stroll through a warm and sunny park Tom would never find.
He closed his eyes and sucked in one long breath, hoping it would steady him, but before he could get that far, the hacking came back, stealing away what little breath he had.
This coughing fit hurt even worse than the last, and when all that wet filled his mouth again, he rolled down the window and hocked it into the snow. By the time he looked back at the dash, the last minute had passed. He threw the car in gear and peeled out of the drive. The kids didn’t notice his passing and he paid them no mind. He was too busy praying for a break in the lights.
Out in the street, he twisted the wheel, and headed for the main road. As he picked up speed, the wind stripped away everything he was too weak to reach – the icicles off his bumpers, the slush off the wheels, even the little bit of red off the door, the thin, drooling streak that stretched from the window to halfway down the paint. It slipped away unnoticed in the gray and white morning.