Today we are proud to present an excerpt from Maybe Kevin from Brian Kiley.
Book Description: Tom returns from World War II to discover his father and brother have turned their backs on him. Julie hopes to find a father for her beloved Kevin. Plot twists, sacrifice and raw emotion greet the reader when the lives of the two protagonists intersect as they each try and preserve what’s left of their family.
Brian’s Bio: Maybe Kevin is the second novel from Brian Kiley who has been a staff writer for Conan O’Brien for 23 years. He’s been nominated for 16 Emmy Awards (He won in 2007). He’s appeared 7 times on the David Letterman show, 12 times on Late Night with Conan and 4 times on the Tonight Show and he has his own Comedy Central half-hour special. His jokes have been featured in Reader’s Digest, Prevention Magazine, GQ and the New York Times Sunday Crossword Puzzle. You can find Maybe Kevin and Brian’s first novel, The Astounding Misadventures of Rory Collins on Amazon. Read more about Brian on his website and follow him on Twitter and check his comedy on You Tube as well.
Curt was acting weird right away. When he came in he kissed her without making eye contact. He sort of missed, his lower lip just grazing her upper lip. Technically, it was a kiss but just barely. She’d have to look at the replay. Fuck, he’s breaking up with me.
Normally, he’d take his coat off and sit and they’d talk and smooch a bit before they went out, but now he remained standing with his coat and even his gloves still on. In his left hand, he clutched his car keys. What’s the rush? She didn’t have her shoes on so they stood eye to eye, or would have if he had looked at her.
It was because of last week. It was because of “The Christmas Debacle.” Julie liked to name the events in her life like “The Great Balloon Fiasco” or “The Day We Were All Almost Killed.” She had dubbed last week “The Christmas Debacle.” That couldn’t be it, we have laughed about it on the way home. That must be it.
This was the first time they’d seen each other since Christmas and its debacle. He said he’d been really busy, some of his workers were away for the holidays. When they spoke on the phone, she chattered away while he barely said two words, so everything seemed normal, but kisses don’t lie. Not lower lip to upper lip kisses any way. That had been her experience.
When you’re supposedly “in love,” six days apart is a long time. She knew he was shorthanded and busy and she could accept that but she also knew that two days earlier he had gone to visit his father and his terminally ill uncle without her. Why didn’t he bring me? I’ve still never met his Dad and I like visiting the terminally ill as much as the next guy.
He seemed nervous, he never seemed nervous. After all he’d been through this year, the shooting, the funeral, the pre-trial hearing, the visit to the home for the criminally insane, he’d nohandled it all with aplomb. Yet, he was standing in her living room, fidgeting with his keys in his gloved hand and looking uncomfortable.
“Do you want a drink?” she asked.
He looked at her funny. Julie didn’t really drink but it was New Year’s Eve. 1989 couldn’t come soon enough.
Julie didn’t drink because her mother drank, drank enough for both of them. Julie didn’t drink because she knew Kevin wouldn’t like it and she wanted to be a good mother. She promised herself many times that she’d be a caring, empathetic, fun mother. The kind of mother that Kevin deserved. The kind she didn’t have.
“I bought some gin today. Do you want a gin and tonic?”
“All right,” said Curt, “One quick one.”
Julie traipsed from the living room to the kitchen of her tiny apartment, trying to appear as though there was nothing wrong. Her bare feet were chilly on the kitchen tile. She poured a healthy shot of gin into two glasses, not really sure what she was doing.
Even before Curt when she was unattached and went out with “The Committee” on Thursday night, she didn’t drink and often ended up giving the other committee members a ride home. “The Committee” wasn’t really a committee. It was what she called her friends from work because they acted like a committee. They acted like every personal decision was a group decision to be proposed and discussed and decided on by consensus.
She handed him his glass and he took it without sitting down.
“I made reservations for eight,” he said, “So we should probably go.”
“Gimme a sec,” she said, ducking into the bathroom and bringing her drink with her. She stared at the mirror looking at her thirty-six year old face wondering if it still looked good and for how much longer. She hadn’t eaten all day so she could fit into her New Year’s Eve dress. She had squeezed herself into it with grim determination just before he showed up, mind over matter. It was a little too tight and made her look a little more boobalicious than she actually was. “What the hell,” she thought, propping them up like a woman trying to get out of a speeding ticket, “Maybe these will change his mind.”
She couldn’t believe he was breaking up with her. She was convinced he was “The One,” almost from the moment they met, at least since the funeral. He was perfect. Okay, he was shorter than she would have liked and quieter than necessary, sometimes maddeningly so, dispensing valuable information in tiny dribs and drabs and he had an odd habit of mumbling to himself when he thought no one was looking. Other than that, he was perfect.
It was only recently that things had gone bad. Her birthday and Christmas, even before they drove to New Jersey when he said, “I have something for you.” For one micro-instant, she thought it might be a ring but the box was long and slender instead of short and square. It was a watch and not an elegant one for evening wear, a digital one she could wear to work.
“I noticed you didn’t have one,” he said.
Julie didn’t wear a watch on purpose because she found when she did, she looked at it compulsively, sometimes two or three times in the same minute. “Miss, do you have some place to be?” one customer asked one day at the bank, the last time Julie had ever worn a watch.
“I love it” she said, pretending she loved it, not wanting a watch. Isn’t a watch what a company gives someone that they’re retiring? “Here you go, here’s a watch, now get the fuck out of here.”
“We really should get going,” he said from outside the bathroom door.
“Okay,” she said cheerfully. She finished her drink.
If he was breaking up with her, she wanted him to do it and get it over with, not like with Michael, her most serious boyfriend before Curt. That relationship ended but wouldn’t end, hanging on for years like the Ottoman Empire, a slow, painful death. She’d rather a quick death like Pompeii, buried in a sudden heap of lava and ash where nobody knew what hit them.
As he drove she stared at his handsome profile looking for clues but his dark, inscrutable eyes revealed nothing. She thought about asking about his terminally ill uncle and then decided against it. That won’t lighten the mood. She made a joke about the tollbooth collector instead and he laughed. That’s more like it.
Curt liked that she was funny. It was what Michael hated about her.
When she got laughs at college parties or with friends, Michael sulked. The bigger her laughs the bigger his sulk. He wanted to be the funny one. He always had the latest joke at the ready but it was never his. It was always something he’d heard somewhere. Julie was actually witty which was what Michael wanted to be that more than anything else.
Their last night together was a year after graduation. They went to a dinner party where Julie told her classic anecdote about her days at an all-girls Catholic school. Sister Beatrice was a neat freak, always wiping her hands with one of the wet naps she kept stashed in her desk drawer. One day, while lecturing the class, Sister Beatrice discovered among her wet nap stash a condom and went ballistic. That’s what really happened. In Julie’s embellished, dinner party version, Sister Beatrice took out the condom without noticing. She kept her lecture going as she opened the condom and rubbed her hands with it. It wasn’t until after she had dabbed her lips with it that she realized what she was holding. It was a story Julie had told many times, a carefully honed piece of comedy material that she had added to over the years until the laughs built to an explosive crescendo. It was a story everyone loved but Michael, who barely spoke the whole way home. “You jealous, insecure fuck,” Julie called him when they broke up the next day.
Curt had laughed so hard the first time he heard that story. He laughed often at her, a jarring, explosive laugh so contrary to his quiet nature. A particularly hearty laugh would cause his eyes to squint and his nose to scrunch. He would then add a line or two and build on the reality she had created. God, how she loved that.
“Where are we going?” she asked.
“I made reservations at that French place downtown, Maison Richard.”
“I know that place,” said Julie, “It used to be called the Chateau Rich Douche.” Curt laughed again. She was on a roll. See, he’s not breaking up with me. I’m too funny.
He pulled off the Pike and exited under the Pru. Maison Richard was one of the fanciest places in Boston. It was a former residence turned into a restaurant amidst the banks and shops. It was set back against the street and guarded with an iron gate. Revelers in fancy dress heading for the First Night festivities strolled past them as they valet parked.
When they got to the table, he was nervous again and wouldn’t look her in the eye and once or twice, she caught him mumbling to himself. Shit, He is breaking up with me. They ordered another gin and tonic and some escargot that took forever. “Those snails must be walking to the table,” she cracked and then told herself to take it down a notch. No need to bludgeon him with jokes.
Her humor wasn’t for everyone. It had an edge. When her boss Simon had suddenly dropped dead and Bob was promoted from assistant branch manager to branch manager, it was too much for him. He couldn’t make a decision on approving a loan or even when to allow tellers their breaks. He was the perfect Number Two man but the type who panics when made Number One. When a story spread of a bank employee killed in a bank robbery out in California, she remarked how Bob had envied him. The tellers loved that one but her magnum opus came a week later when Bob had to call the district manager at home over a minor matter. “He’s Bob-solete” Julie cracked and the name stuck. From then on, the tellers called him “Bob-solete” when he was just out of earshot and sometimes when he wasn’t quite. He knew it had come from her. Who else would be so scathing? A few weeks later, Bob had a fainting spell and had to go home. The next day, Julie was called into the boss’ office and made branch manager. Bob would go back to his old job as assistant manager when he returned in a week. She was his enemy for life.
The waiter was middle-aged, which made Julie sad. Whenever her family made the trek from New Jersey to a restaurant in New York, the waiters were always young guys who thought they were actors. The waiters in Boston had no such pretensions. Here was a middle-aged guy resigned to his lot in life. The special was something with rabbit.
“You’re not having the bunny, are you?” Julie asked.
Curt looked confused.
“Bunny?” he asked.
What is with this guy?
They had the duck instead and another drink.
Julie talked about work and Curt yawned. Curt wasn’t a night person, and neither was Julie. They’d both rather be up at five and get the day going. It was one of the many things they were simpatico about. They even fucked in the mornings.
She was getting hungry and didn’t feel so great.
“I fuckin’ hate New Year’s Eve” she said.
“You’re talking kind of loud” he said, “And you’re swearing a lot.”
“Oh, fuck, I am? Oh, sorry,” she said. “I’m going to go to the bathroom.”
“That’s a good idea,” he said.
Why did he say that?
“Going to the bathroom is always a good idea,” she said, “I mean who wants to pee their pants?”
“Good point,” he said.
She meandered into the ladies’ room almost entering the men’s room until she veered off at the last moment. I’d better slow down a little bit on the gin. She entered the middle stall, peed and wiped and then decided to stay seated for a minute and not get up just yet. She knew baby Kevin was inside her somewhere and thought he might die right there on the toilet without anyone ever knowing about him. She leaned back, her head resting on the wall behind her. She closed her eyes and fell asleep.