Sean Paul Murphy, Writer

Sean Paul Murphy, Writer
Sean Paul Murphy, Writer

Monday, December 26, 2016


Welcome to a preview of my new novel.  Please read the earlier chapters first.

Click here to read Chapter One.
Click here to read Chapter Two.
Click here to read Chapter Three.
Click here to read Chapter Four.
Click here to read Chapter Five.
Click here to read Chapter Six.
Click here to read Chapter Seven.
Click here to read Chapter Eight.
Click here to read Chapter Nine.
Click here to read Chapter Ten.
Click here to read Chapter Eleven.


T H E   H A R B O R

When I stepped outside I found Bob already waiting for me in his Chevrolet Malibu. His wife Barbara drove the ubiquitous mini-van that housed three car seats for the kids.

I think Bob enjoyed our lunches the best. His responsibilities as a father gave him little opportunity to socialize with his old friends in the evenings or on weekends. I rarely went to his home anymore. Not because Barbara didn’t like me, per se. She simply didn’t know what to do with me. After my breakup with Gina, she tried to fix me up with single friends four times to no avail, despite the fact that some of the women were both reasonably attractive and on the hairy edge of desperate. To her, an unmarried man approaching forty posed a threat to the natural order of things. As a result, I only found myself invited to their suburban house for large parties, but not the more intimate gatherings when my third wheel status would be more glaring.

We were only about fifteen minutes away from the Baltimore Inner Harbor, where, in theory, Mike was already getting a table for us at the Cheesecake Factory in Harborplace. Bob was worried because Mike hadn’t returned any calls or messages since about ten in the morning. That didn’t concern me. Mike was a great guy, the comedian of the group, but he was easily distracted. So distracted that I was surprised his fifteen-year marriage to Holly had survived. No woman escaped his notice: Tall, short, fat, skinny, beautiful or ordinary. It didn’t matter. He evaluated them all. What made it all the more absurd was that Mike was the head of human resources at a large corporation. You’d think he would be aware of the rules governing sexual harassment. Still, I don’t think he would ever cheat on Holly. As ladies men went, Mike didn’t rate much higher than me. He was lucky to get Holly and he knew it. 

When we arrived, we found Mike sitting at a table outside overlooking the water just as I expected. He always said he liked going to the Cheesecake Factory because it was close to work for him, but I knew the truth. He liked to sit outside during the summer months and watch the tourists walking along the waterfront promenade in their skimpy summer outfits. Always the horn dog.

Usually our lunches were light affairs, dominated by recounting our nerdy glories in our own coded language of Mystery Science Theater 3000 and Everquest references, with occasional nods toward the Coen Brothers’ classics The Big Lebowski and Raising Arizona. We could spend a whole afternoon just riffing on Nicholas Cage films alone. Today, however, was not going to be our typical stress-free gathering. I caught a few worried glances between Bob and Mike. I knew what was up. They were gathering up the courage to tell me the bad news. I decided to let them off the hook.

“Hey, you’re not going to believe this, but Gina’s getting married,” I said matter-of-factly.

They both seemed shocked that I knew. “How’d you find out?” Bob asked.

“She called me yesterday and told me.”

“You guys still talk?” Mike asked.

“Sure, we’re still friends,” I replied, adding a little smile to sell it.

Mike and Bob exchanged a relieved glance. “Man, I thought we’d be breaking the news to you, Ricky,” Bob said.

“She’s all over Facebook showing off her new ring,” Mike added.

“Can I see it?” I asked.

Mike and Bob shared a quick little glance before Mike took out his cellphone and produced the photograph. He handed it to me. The picture was taken in a jewelry store. It wasn’t a selfie. From the angle, it looked like the jeweler took it. Gina and Chuck were standing happily with their arms around each other. Gina was holding up her hand with her big ring in front of herself.

Gina looked great, as usual. The warmth of her smile brought one to my lips. I remembered when I was capable of eliciting a similar response in her. Aware of Bob and Mike’s, I tried not to reveal any unhealthy emotion as I took a look at Chuck. This was the first time I saw a photograph of him. Good-looking guy. He seemed more athletic than me, but I had more hair. That was some consolation I suppose. My eyes drifted down from the photo to the comments. They were squeals of congratulations and delight. I recognized most of the names. I was not surprised to see that my sister Janet was among the chorus. They still talked, too.

I handed the phone back to Mike. “She looks good.”

“Yeah,” Mike said. “I’d do her.”

“Holly might object,” I warned.

“One question,” Bob said.

We both turned to him. “When she called you,” he continued. “Did she ask you for one last quick one?”

“Don’t you mean one last short one?” Mike asked as they both exploded into laughter. Nothing like a small penis joke to break the ice. Guys are guys are guys.

My eyes drifted toward the water. They were drawn past the tourists to an older woman standing at the very edge of the concrete pier. She was turning away from me just as I caught sight of her, but I saw enough of her face to notice her resemblance to my late mother. Even from behind, she looked like her. Same height. Same hair color. Even the dress looked familiar. I was about to comment on her to Bob and Mike, when she suddenly stepped forward and dropped out of sight with a loud splash.

“No!” I shouted as I jumped up from my seat. 

I didn’t say anything to Bob or Mike. I just started running, jumping down from the raised patio of the restaurant through the pedestrians walking along the brick promenade. The tourists all turned to me, startled and confused. I was appalled. Why were they looking at me? Why weren’t they helping that poor woman? I pushed my way through the crowd without hesitation gaining speed with every step. As I neared the edge of the pier, I didn’t see any disturbance in the water but I took a deep gulp of air and dived in anyway.

My eyes were closed when I hit the water. I had my arms fully extended in front of me out of fear I’d hit the bottom since I had no idea how deep the water was. When I opened my eyes, I could detect some light trying to push through the greenish, brown murk, but I didn’t see the old woman as I drifted lower. I wondered what had happened to her, and I also began to wonder, fearfully, how deep was the water. It seemed to go on forever.

My lungs were beginning to ache when I finally saw the woman coming up toward me from the depths. I saw her hands first, reaching up toward me. Then her face slowly came into view. It was indeed my mother, but not from the time of her death. She looked younger, her reddish brown hair swirling in the water hadn’t turned gray yet, but she was still dead. Her freckles stood out like small pox against the deathly white pallor of her skin. Her eyes were wide open and angry. I had never seen her look at me with such undisguised rage while she was still alive. 

She opened her mouth in a breathless scream. I screamed too, expelling the last of my oxygen, as I protectively put my hands ahead of me. She grabbed them, knitting her fingers together with mine. She started dragging me downwards. I struggled for a moment, but I lost my strength when I lost my last breath. As I drifted out of consciousness, I wondered how far down she would take me.

Would it be all the way to hell?

Click here to read Chapter Thirteen.

Copyright 2016 by Sean Paul Murphy.  All Rights Reserved.

Be sure to read my memoir The Promise, or the Pros and Cons of Talking with God.

No comments:

Post a Comment