This was what a perfect day for writing looked like. It was somewhat cloudy and cool, the morning sun peeking through to reflect off of the small creek that ran lazy and twisting behind Jensen’s new place. One of those perfect spring days, muggy, a light wind pushing the clouds across the sky and carrying the promise of a warmer afternoon. Jensen wondered if the water would be warm enough for a swim later in the day.
Wisteria hung on a trellis along one wall of the screened porch, making the light take on a kind of surreal green tinge. Jared had been right: the stuff did smell exactly like honey and burnt cork.
Jared had been right about a lot of things.
The porch’s wide planked floor felt rough beneath Jensen’s bare feet. It gave a rusty groan when he settled down into his chair, dragging it up to a small desk he’d slapped together out of cinderblocks and scrap lumber. A cardboard box full of blank paper sat next to his chair, his blown glass paperweight keeping them in place. Jensen lifted it, holding it up to catch the sun. It had a small chip in it, a short crack on a path to the center, and the light caught and refracted in the imperfection. Probably a result of the move. He’d been in a rush when he’d packed, had thrown out most of what he owned and given a lot of the rest away.
The shrill ring of Tennessee’s old telephone sounded through the open window. It rang three and a half times. Jensen ignored it, downed the rest of his cup of coffee, now lukewarm. The wind changed direction, and Jensen could hear the distant sound of his closest neighbor’s music, a half a mile away down a narrow paved road. One good thing about living in the middle of nowhere was that there weren’t a lot of distractions.
An open box sat at his ankle, a couple dozen first editions of his new book were stacked neatly inside, their glossy covers starting to curl in the humid air. There were three more cases like this one, all waiting to be signed and sent out to bookstores all over the country. He pulled one out and opened it, the spine creaking and the comforting bookstore smell of paper and glue hanging in the air. Jensen thumbed through the pages. They contained seven short stories and one novella. Early reviews had come back favorable, but that didn't matter a lot to Jensen. What mattered was that these three hundred some odd pages had bought him the time to work on something that he needed to write. He paused at the dedication, the thick paper catching on his thumbnail. He skimmed the words.
for jared, because there is honor amongst thieves
The trilling noise of the spring on the screen door sounded, followed by the slap of wood on the doorframe. Jensen loved that sound. It reminded him of summertime growing up in Texas, lazy heat and his grandmother’s back porch. Sneaking sips of sweet mint juleps while his grandmother and her sister pretended not to notice.
Jensen shivered some when Jared looped his arms around him from behind. His skin was warm from the shower, a little damp still. It took a long time to dry off when the air was so humid like this. Jensen leaned into the feeling of Jared’s chest along the bare skin of his back. He reached up, touched Jared’s hand, traced along the bumps of his knuckles, the bones of his fingers. He tilted his head to make more room when Jared kissed the crook of his neck.
“HarperCollins on the phone. That PR guy again,” Jared spoke into his skin. “He wants you to fly to Tulane for that book reading Misha won’t shut up about.”
Jensen hummed his reply. They both knew he had no intention of going anywhere. Not for the time being, anyway. He was working, had been writing consistently for the last few months, and was superstitious about it. Now wasn’t the time to break the pattern.
He flicked the switch on his typewriter, the metal case offering a comforting sort of vibration under his palm. He fed a blank sheet of paper into the roller, centered it and typed a number one.
“Are you ready?” Jared asked.
“I think so,” Jensen replied. He paused, chewing thoughtfully on his lower lip. “You know, someone once told me that there were only two kinds of stories in the world. One of them starts out, ‘a stranger comes to town’.”
Jensen felt Jared’s smile on his skin. “So how does the other one go?”
“A man goes on a journey,” Jensen told him.
Jared kissed the back of his neck, giving his shoulders a final squeeze. “Okay. Then go.” He crossed the porch, had his hand on the door handle and turned back again. “And Jensen?”
“Make sure you take the long way home.”
Thanks for reading.