A Nanowrimo work in progress
Copyright 2013 EH Walter
Cover by Tirzah L Goodwin at http://acleverwhatever.blogspot.com
Discover other titles by EH Walter at Smashwords.com
With thanks to my 'cultural advisors': Sean, Gail, Beth, Andrew, Mary, Christie, Christina, Bobbi, Steve and Stephanie.
Chapter 1: The Butt End of the Universe
It was winter. As it turned out, it was one of the worst winters on record, but I wasn't to know that then, when the autumn leaves made everything look pretty. By the time spring came records were being rewritten.
Of course, being in a new country and continent I didn't know what normal was and saw and felt everything for the first time. It was my first ever trip to the USA, which was ironic since I've held a US passport since I was a few weeks old, although I'm told Americans don't get irony. Getting me a US passport was one of the few things my mother did for me before buggering off back there. Maybe she entertained an idea of taking me with her, however briefly. It didn't stick though and she left me and my dad to muddle through together without her, leaving me dual citizenship which wasn't much of a replacement for a mother's love and care.
Unlike me, Dad wasn't a stranger to the US. He'd been over many times to do book tours and meet with agents and publishers. He'd even been on a few TV programmes. It was his writing that made us move, he said he wanted to absorb himself in US culture so he could write the great American novel, or failing that one that would make a heap of money. I'd go with the heap of money any time, culture is over rated.
Thanks to his marriage to mum, which as far as I knew had never officially been dissolved, Dad got a green card so it was easy for us to up and move and although I did that teenage passive aggressive thing and held as much emotional blackmail over him as I could, I was actually looking forward to it. How many British kids got to spend a year in the US?
I think the other reason Dad wanted to go was to get me away from Felix. Not that he didn't like him, he just knew what could happen to teenagers in love - the result had been staring him in huge face for seventeen years.
We were meant to go for September, for the new school year, but my dad was never magnificent about organisation so we didn't go until the end of November, just before Thanksgiving.
When Dad said “America” I had visualised sun, palm trees and beaches. If I thought about the city, the bright lights of New York came to mind. So when he said "Wisconsin" the first thing I had to do was get out a map to see where the hell it was and then I tried to slay him with a look.
"Seriously Dad? You have fifty bloody states to choose from and you go for the dairy capital of the US, the 'Badger State'? What's wrong with California, New York or even Montana?"
"Gary lives in Wisconsin. He says it's very nice."
"Who is Gary?"
"You know, the freelance book designer I told you about. We became friendly."
"Gary the gay one?"
"Yes, he is gay."
"And he know you're not, right?"
"He knows I have a daughter."
"Like that's a badge saying ‘straight’. So Gary the gay lives in Wisconsin and that's why we are going there, not somewhere a little more fun?"
"It's the kind of place my character would wash up, help people and go on his way."
"This is after your character leaves the army, right?"
"Dad, you do realise your character is becoming more like Jack Reacher by the day?"
"No he's not."
I shook my head. Dad had it in mind to be the next Lee Child. All his ideas were a complete rip off, but he couldn't see it. The character was even called Zack, Zack Long.
So, because of this Gary guy and his friendship with Dad, and Wisconsin being the kind of place Zack Long might end up in, we went to what I considered to be the butt end of the universe. Wisconsin. The dairy capital of the US. To me, that guaranteed the place would stink of cow shit.
Our plane got in to Milwaukee from London Heathrow, via Chicago, the day before Thanksgiving. The airport looked and sounded like any other and we made our way through immigration controls, easy when you have a blue passport, and out to baggage claim. We had tried to pack fairly lightly, figuring we could buy what we found we needed locally and had two bags each which we reclaimed and slung on a trolley.