This past week, I started really editing Spree. To be clear, up to this point, about all I’d done was what had been recommended from reading it in writing group and not putting in any of my own edits. But, since I’ve been in something of a writing slump lately, I decided this was a prime time to edit the story, especially since I finished writing the thing last December.
It’s turned out to be like visiting old friends. Some of the stuff I’d thought I might cut is now called into question. Turns out I did a better job of sticking with plot on this book than I did with the original Pipeline, which tended to wander back and forth some. I still haven’t decided whether or not to try and market Spree first, but I might. I think it’s a fairly strong novel now, rather that the one-off, damn near throw away story I once thought it was. It sticks with the story line very well, and I think most of the major cuts will take place early in the book.
What I’ve enjoyed the most is rediscovering the characters. Yeah, they’re pretty dumb on the surface. I’ve jokingly called this book the Beavis and Butthead North American Tour because Steve and Eddie resemble Beavis and
Butthead as well as Wayne and Garth from Wayne’s World. But that’s just their foundation. They’re definitely their own people, with distinct personalities. I admit that they weren’t fully formed when I started writing Spree, but I had an idea what I wanted to do with them. And by talking it over with a few trusted fellow writers, I was able to add plot elements that made it all the more interesting. The third character, Andrew, came along after a lot of browbeating and false starts, but he turned out to be as interesting in his own way as the other two, and served as something of an anchor for them.
So I started wondering: what’s happened to these guys since we last saw them? Or, more appropriately, since Ilast saw them, since the rest of you haven’t. (I’ll warn you right now, there will likely be some spoiler content here, so read at your own risk.) As luck would have it, they were here on a surprise visit back to the
country and dropped by to chat with me for a bit. They were understandably in a hurry because…well, you’ll see.
“’Sup, dude,” Steve says as he sits down across from me. He’s cut his hair and wears nice clothes now, rather than the faux-surfer stuff he used to own, but he’s still Steve underneath. No doubt about that. His grin is infectious as always.
I tell him I’m okay.
“Awesome. Yo, Andrew, c’mon in here, Lil Homie. You gotta talk to this guy, too.”
Andrew comes in and, if anything, the change in him is bigger. He used to be a pudgy, pasty guy who spent too much time indoors. Now, he’s buff—something his loose, expensive clothes can’t hide—and has the kind of tan that you only get by spending a lot of time outdoors. I can’t help but ask him about it.
“I took up golf, for one,” he says, a sheepish grin on his face. He’ll probably never quite get rid of that last bit of shyness. “And I really like working out. Maria and I love to bike up in the mountains around town, too.”
So the thing with Maria’s still going good?
“Oh, yeah,” he says. “Matter of fact we’re married and she’s expecting in a few months.”
Wow. Talk about changes. And what about you, Steve?
“Oh, things are awesome.” He glances toward the window, and I ask him if he’d like me to close the curtains. It’s not like anybody can sneak up on us, I live so far back on the only road in, but I can tell he’s nervous. “Might be a good idea, dude. I mean, we’re probably cool, but Vinnie says we’re still wanted, and they know we’re in Rio, so they’d love to get us.”
Well, that makes sense. I decide not to ask them how they got into the country. Probably better if I don’t know. But what about Consuela and the little girl. What was her name?
“Lizabet,” Steve says with a big grin. His eyes shine with pride, and he digs for his wallet like any proud dad would do, even though the little girl isn’t his biologically. “Here, check it out. Talk about awesome.”
He’s right. Lizabet is as cute as I’d heard, maybe more so. Large, dark eyes that shine with happiness, brown skin and lustrous blue-black hair. Her teeth gleam in her smile. I hand the wallet back and tell Steve he’s a lucky man.
“Yeah, that’s no shit.” He puts the wallet away and gets a thoughtful look. “Ya know, way back when me an’ Eddie” —his voice hitches a bit here—“um, when me an’ Eddie started out from LA, I never thought it’d end up like this, dude. But, hey, look at me. I’m runnin’ a big casino for Vinnie down in Rio—well, me an’ Little Buddy here—and I got a great family and lots of friends now. Hell, I’m thinkin’ of goin’ out on the golf course with Andrew before long. How weird is that?”
I wonder if he’ll make it to LA.
“I doubt it. I mean, it’d be cool and all, ya know? But, like, that’d be way too risky. I’m still way shocked we made it back in and they haven’t caught us. Feds want us bad.” He gets a wistful expression, staring up at the ceiling. “Wish I could go. Lil Homie’s never seen it, man. But, you do what you gotta. Rio’s way cool, and I don’t miss LA much. I mean, most of my life there I lived in the streets, so the way I live in Rio is way cooler. Naw, I don’t miss LA much.” Another pause. “I miss Eddie more.”
Even with how crazy he got there at the end?
“Yeah, even with that. He became the real Eddie again at the last minute, and that makes me miss him.”
What about Andrew? Does he miss Eddie?
“Some,” he admits, not looking right at me. “I mean, I didn’t trust him from the first. I think since I didn’t know him like Steve did, I saw the craziness right off the bat. But, like, what was I supposed to do? Being a criminal wasn’t what I thought it would be, but I love my life now, and I wouldn’t have it if it wasn’t for Eddie.” He shrugs. “Crazy as his reason was for going to Rio, I kinda wish he’d been able to do it. That would have been better then dying. Sorry, Steve.”
“It’s cool,” Steve says, but his voice is kinda flat.
I know what he’s thinking about. He had to kill Eddie there at the end. No help for it, but that wouldn’t change how he feels about it. I mutter an apology of my own, though I’m not sure why.
“It’s cool, dude,” he says, and puts on a brave smile. “Eddie said he woulda killed us anyway. He was getting way paranoid there at the end, ya know.”
That can’t make it any easier, though.
“It don’t. But I can’t change it, dude. Gotta learn to live with it. I think if me an’ Consuela ever have a boy, he’ll be named for Eddie.”
“I might get there first,” Andrew says with a smile.
You don’t know what the baby’s going to be?
“Nope,” he says. “We want it to be a surprise.”
That’s good. That kind of surprise can be a good thing.
“Yeah, that’s what we decided.”
Steve glances toward the window, then fidgets.
“Look, dude,” he says, looking back at me, “we probably should jet. I get nervous staying in one place too long here.”
But you only just got here.
“Yeah, I know. Sucks, huh? But that’s the life of a fun-lovin’ criminal, ya know?” He laughs, then gets up and holds out his hand. It seems a strange move from him, but I’m sure he’s changed in a lot of other ways in the last year or so. “Later, dude.”
Andrew and I shake too, and then they’re gone. I stand watching them drive away—they’re in a nondescript Camry, of all things—and feeling a little bit of a lump in my throat. It was good seeing them. But I have their phone numbers down in Rio now, and—
But, hell, they’re not real. Not outside my head, anyway. Still, it was nice to have a visit with them, catch up on old times. And who knows? They might make it back someday.