I scheduled today as the day to use my final options for offering my novella, King’s Long Search, for free. I’ve written about this work previously, but I thought for today, I would post a teaser from the book. I’ve decided to post the part that gives a brief background of the main character’s, Abe King’s, family history. Abe’s past contributes to the confusion that he feels during the time frame of the story and helps explain why he is not the most pleasant of people.
All of his siblings remained on the East Coast. He called his brother Ben often, the two brothers being only a couple of years apart in age. At one time, he spoke to his brother Charlie fairly often, but in recent years, Charlie had started acting eccentrically, even for a King. In the seven years since 9/11, it seemed that Charlie grew more and more paranoid and had even begun rehabilitating the old bomb shelter in his yard that their father had encouraged all the King children to build in the 1980s, convinced that the Cold War was going to exact its toll. It was about that time that King grew frustrated with his family and moved west. Last he spoke with Charlie, he talked of stockpiling guns, warning King of the imminent collapse of society. King’s concern for Charlie only went so far. Hearing of Charlie’s slow meltdown, King grew worried about keeping his own paranoid tendencies in check. He complained to Ben about his demotion, but Ben was never a sympathetic ear and often dismissed King’s job as a baseball scout, pointing out that it wasn’t exactly as important as being a doctor or a fire fighter or police officer.
Barely making an effort to show up for his appointments, King spent most of his time cruising from restaurant to restaurant, putting on weight at an incredible pace, not that he was exactly thin to begin with. King recognized that he was heading down an ugly path, but he was so emotionally comforted by this excess that he couldn’t summon the means to pull back.
The King family, for a variety of hereditary, social and psychological reasons, were a hefty family. Since distancing himself from Charlie, he only talked with Ben. Their father, Walter, named his children in alphabetical order. Abe was the oldest, followed by Ben and Charlie and Doug and then, after a not insignificant gap, Ed. After the death of their mother, Adel, Walter remarried. His new wife had a daughter from her previous marriage, conveniently named Faye. The sons suspected that Walter married this woman in a large part to continue the order of the names. When he was 66, Walter sired one more child, Gina. No one doubted that Walter had his sights set on one day fathering a Xavier and a Zelda, but time caught up with the King patriarch, and the line petered out with Gina. Charlie, in reaction to their father’s presumptuous naming practices, named his one and only daughter Zoë. King, now sixty-three, had a brief childless marriage and had spent the past twenty years alone. Ben, likewise, lived a quiet, mostly solitary life. Doug had two sons. King all but lost track of Ed; the age difference made keeping in touch difficult. Being even younger than Ed, Faye and Gina never made it onto King’s radar.
Walter King, originally König before moving to the United States from Germany at the ass-end of World War II and settling in Philadelphia, was a tall, thin, serious man and a war hero of some sort. King never quite understood the importance of what he had done but knew that his father was a physician at some kind of research institute. Stories about his voyage to America were couched in terms of escape. Entering America was called dangerous. Until his death, Walter harbored fears that unseen forces were after him.
King suspected that his father having survived the war and seeing, if not orchestrating, so much death was a driving force for Walter wanting a big family. But he also always suspected that the King children were some kind of experiment themselves. There were always little “games” they would have to play. Flash cards with numbers on them that they would have to repeat. Similar cards with colors. Cards flashed in front of them so quickly that they could not tell what was on them. Following a flashlight with only their eyes with their heads held disturbingly still by their mother. Getting woken up in the middle of the night to answer simple math problems and the horrible dreams which followed. The first four King children turned out surly and overweight. Ben reported having similar headaches and leg shakes. Their father was dead and, seemingly then, also any answers regarding these experiments.