Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Grind Joint

I started a new project this week and have a readable draft of the first chapter. Any comments or suggestions are appreciated. (I promise not to post the whole thing like it was a friggin serial; I'm just curious to see if people would want to read more after reading this.




Kenny Czarniak scraped ice off his windshield before he drove work, middle of April for Chrissakes. Punch in by five, get the lights and heat on and do an inspection before the work crews arrived at six. Lots of work to be done, less than a week before the Grand Opening of the Allegheny Casino. Even Kenny thought it was a shitty name. The joint wasn't that close to the river, and the town of Penns River was in Neshannock County, not Allegheny. The creative thinkers who put the deal together wanted to call it Penns River Casino, but the Rivers Casino people in Pittsburgh had a shit fit about trademark infringement and confusing consumers and half a dozen other things, so they changed it. Calling it the Allegheny Casino made it seem closer to downtown than Neshannock, which most people in the Burgh thought was redneck, anyway, and wouldn't come there to gamble. Like they wouldn't figure out where it was once they got directions.

Kenny was on the rag because he was a little hung over, his back and feet hurt from walking around all day, and he was tired of getting up in the middle of the goddamn night to watch other people work. He'd worked twenty-eight years at Osteen Tool and Die until they laid him off a year-and-a-half ago. His boy showed him an article in the Post-Gazette, how a lot of guys his age might reach retirement age before they found jobs, never work again. Every day the mayor was on the news, talking about how Pittsburgh's focus on the education and health care industries made the area recession-proof, which didn't pay Kenny's mortgage during the weeks at a time when Congress held back on unemployment extensions for political reasons he didn't understand. Mostly over whose dicks were bigger, he guessed.

He drove once around the building, looking for anything out of place. He was supposed to walk it, but fuck them. It was too goddamn dark and cold and he didn't feel like it. Thought about how excited Michelle had been when he saw the ad. Join the exciting gaming industry right here in Penns River. Hundreds of jobs. Kenny thought maybe he could be a dealer. He heard they made nice money and good tips. Hell, tending bar would be fine with him. Instead he got the 5:00 to 1:30 shift as a watchman making half of what he made at Osteen's. The good jobs all went to "gaming professionals" from out of town.

The building used to be a mini-mall. Penney's on one end, Monkey Ward's on the other, with a handful of little local shops in between. Nail salon, barber, wing joint, liquor store. They closed years ago, boarded up the windows. The Blockbuster in an outbuilding went tits up last year. The toy store next door saw half a dozen re-inventions before it managed to scrape by as one of those joints where everything was five bucks or less. That and the bank all that were left. Kenny had no idea who had money to put in the bank.

He parked fifty yards away from the service door in back. Room for at least a thousand cars in the lot, the constructions crews wouldn't take up ten percent of the spaces, but casino management wanted the employees to get used to parking remotely so customers could have the good spaces when the doors opened next week. Pulled his gloves on with his teeth and fished the casino keys out of his jacket pocket.

Some assholes had left bags of trash by the door again. Not everyone was in love with the idea of a casino in town and some thought it was funny to pull some half-assed harassment like piling trash in front of the doors. Didn't occur to them the only person they inconvenienced was Kenny, who was just like them and didn't give a shit whether there was a casino in town or not, so long as someone opened a place for him to work.

He looked down to find the key he wanted and when he looked up he saw the pile of trash for what it actually was, a bum sleeping one off. They rarely came this far from the old business district. Too spread out here, a five mile walk to the shelter where some of them took a bus into Pittsburgh to bum quarters off shoppers. Kenny'd nudge him awake and tell him to keep moving, point him west on Leechburg Road, town's that way.

Eight feet away and Kenny saw the off color of the skin on the guy's face. Leaned over and realized the strange coloring was ice crystals. Then he saw the bullet holes, one above each eye, and dropped the keys grabbing the cell out of his pocket.


Declan Burke said...

I like the voice, the mood, the tone. I like Kenny, I'm on his side from the get-go. Seems to me the casino could be a good metaphor for the Wall Street roulette.

If I may make a suggestion ... I'd come in with, "The building used to be a mini-mall ..." and run straight through to " ... grabbing the cell out of his pocket." You could still work in a mention of the casino, the weather, the ungodly hour. Then you could open up the next section with Kenny's circumstances, the wheres and whyfores of the casino ...

Just a suggestion, sir. But I do like it.

Cheers, Dec

Charlieopera said...

I like Dec's suggest (a lot) my own self.

Of course I'd keep reading ... and expect to.

You're missing "to" in first sentence (to work) but that's me being anal

Dana King said...

Thanks, gentlemen. It took both of you, and the Beloved Spouse, but I finally get it, and I'm an idiot (eejit, Dec) for not seeing it sooner.

You're good enough writers to know intuitively Kenny needs to have a role in the story beyond finding the stiff. That hadn't occurred to me until I thought about your comments. Now I realize he's the portal into the town's economic troubles, and needs to be a significant part of the book. Maybe not a major character, but a pivotal one, maybe a little like the mechanic in John Connolly's THE REAPERS.

Next beers are on me.