“What are you doing here?” asks the girl at the till.
I’m in a coffee shop, buying coffee. An unwarranted question, I think.
The girl’s left breast is labeled Luna. I assume the name applies to all of her.
She continues. “Everyday, same time. Same table. So what you doing?” Luna is possibly Polish and certainly rude-ish.
“I’m writing a novel.”
“Aha, that so?” I could see her making an immediate translation.
“I’m writing” = I’m totally
“a novel’ = unemployed
Something sparks in me – an urge to decorate this comment with unnecessary detail.
“It’s called Romeo Spikes.”
She shoves my coffee over. “I like title. What does it mean?”
“It’s a little hard to explain. You kinda have to read the story.”
‘Then I don’t like title. Good title should have natural meaning.”
And there it is. Luna’s first crit. I skillfully sweep up my coffee but don’t take the crit that well.
I sit down at my usual table. Write nine hundred words, same as always. Pack up and rise to leave. Luna’s passing farewell comes like a playground pull at my pony-tail.
“Tomorrow you tell me what book about. Then maybe title work OK.”
I trudge home. It is winter and the snow is thick but I don’t mind. Trudging feels good. I emphasize with every step the reasons why Luna knows nothing about titles.
Everyone loves it. I have tried it out on friends and family - frequently. And everyone says the same: “Romeo Spikes, that’s so cool.”
Trudging on – translating now.
Romeo Spikes = shit, is she still talking about her bloody novel?
That’s so cool = just kill me now
Next day, Luna leans on the counter, a wall of flesh between me and my coffee.
“So what’s it about?”
She looks strong and healthy as if she might live past a hundred. I don’t know why this bothers me.
“Luna, y’know – it’s a funny thing. But sometimes, talking about the creative process, it’s not good.”
“Not good, eh? Maybe story no good.”
‘The story’s good, Luna. I just don’t want to talk about it.”
“Give me one line. The soul of it.”
The soul of it? Please God let it be that her English is so limited, simplicity sounds like genius.
At my usual table, I write nine hundred words, expanding a novel that has no soul and a meaningless title.
I leave. I go home. There is no snow. I trudge harder.
The next day is busy in the coffee shop. Every Wednesday, mother and baby groups gather to test the acoustics and Luna is forced to flit back and forth, memorizing orders and punching at the till. I take some pleasure in choosing this morning to regale her with the main points of my novel. She cunningly counters by ignoring me. A simple tactic but surprisingly effective.
I collect my coffee – decaf. Defeated.
I don’t go back to the coffee shop. I find another. The coffee is weak but the criticism is less bitter. I tell no-one that I’m writing a novel. I try to look like I’m unemployed. I succeed brilliantly.
A year later, novel in hand, I go back to the original cafe. I flourish the book at Luna. I don’t know what I’m looking for. Closure, perhaps.
“Hey Luna, you remember me? I was in here everyday. Writing. This is the novel. I got it published.”
Luna looks at me and a memory flickers, like a star that died four billion years ago.
“Novel lady, yes. I remember.”
I place the book in her hands and she scans the front cover, fixing on my name.
“How you say this?”
“It’s spelled with an “e” but it’s pronounced Ray, like sun ray.”
Luna pulls a face. “You should spell it how it sounds.”
I take the book back.
Romeo SpikesLo'Life Trilogy 1
Gallery Books, August 14, 2012
Hardcover and eBook, 416 pages
Working the Homicide squad, Alexis Bianco believes she’s seen every way a life can be taken. Then she meets the mysterious Lola and finds out she’s wrong. More weapon than woman, Lola pursues a predator with a method of murder like no other.
If you think you’ve never encountered Tormenta, think again. You’re friends with one. Have worked for one. Maybe even fallen in love with one.
They walk amongst us—looking like us, talking like us. Coercing our subconscious with their actions. Like the long-legged beauty who seduces the goofy geek only to break his heart, causing him to break his own neck in a noose. Or the rock star whose every song celebrates self-harm, inspiring his devoted fans to press knives to their own throats. The pusher who urges the addict toward one more hit, bringing him a high from which he’ll never come down. The tyrannical boss, crushing an assistant’s spirit until a bridge jump brings her low.
We call it a suicide. Tormenta call it a score, their demonic powers allowing them to siphon off the unspent life span of those who harm themselves.
To Bianco, being a cop is about right and wrong. Working with Lola is about this world and the next . . . and maybe the one after that. Because everything is about to change. The coming of a mighty Tormenta is prophesied, a dark messiah known as the Mosca.
To stop him, Bianco and Lola must fight their way through a cryptic web of secret societies and powerful legends and crack an ancient code that holds the only answer to the Mosca’s defeat. If this miscreant rises before they can unmask him, darkness will reign and mankind will fall in a storm of suicides. Nobody’s safe. Everyone’s a threat.