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Danny

by Steven Harper

Danny - Steven Harper
Editions:Kindle: $ 2.99 USD
ISBN: 978-1-61138-528-1

Danny Marina’s new step-father takes him to the laser tag stadium, the movies, the go-kart track. He and his mother now have a new house and more money. Then Danny finds the cameras–in the living room, his bedroom, the shower. Which leads him to uncover the secret web site, the one devoted to him and his step-brother Eric.

Danny’s Mom doesn’t believe him–doesn’t want to believe him. Faced with the unthinkable as his stepdad brings home strangers, Danny and Eric hop a bus for Florida. Frightened, and with only each other for support, they flee to Aquapura, a crappy, decrepit resort town. But the streets of Aquapura have dangers of their own. A grinning hotel owner named Lucian ropes the boys into a prostitution ring, pimping them out to traveling businessmen who flash enough cash. The work crushes Danny’s body and threatens to steal his soul.

As an escape, Danny fills his notebook with a strange and secret story. He spins the tale of Ganymede, a teenaged boy from ancient Greece. Zeus, the king of gods himself, snatches Ganymede up to Mount Olympus, where he is pulled into a web of intrigue and adventure that threatens the very gods.

As his life under Lucian’s thumb worsens, Danny escapes deeper into Ganymede’s fictional life. Except the more Danny writes about Ganymede, the more it becomes clear he’s writing about himself. And over time, Ganymede’s life crosses Danny’s in strange and impossible ways. Danny needs to use Ganymede’s strength to fight back and create a better life for himself and for Eric. But can a teenager use the power of a god?

Excerpt:

DANNY

by Steven Harper

BOOK EIGHT

PART I

 

I dropped my seventh journal in the lake yesterday.  I sealed it in three zip-lock bags and tossed it off the dock that sticks out behind our house.  The dock is a fall-apart piece of crap, but I like it because it flips the sky the finger 24/7.

Anyway, I always throw my journals into the lake when they get full.  I figure three bags'll keep them pretty safe.  Maybe some archaeologist will find them someday, or maybe not.  This is journal number:

 

EIGHT

8

23

 

 

READ MORE

An octopus and a spider both have eight legs.  You buy an eighth of pot.  There are eight notes in an octave.  You can write H8 for hate, but H is the eighth letter of the alphabet, so you're really writing 88 or 88.  88 is 134217728.  Add those digits together and you get 35.  Add those digits together and you get 8.  "Section 8" means "crazy."

I'm writing this at eight a.m. on the eighth day of the eighth month.

I always say the same thing at the beginning of my journals, so here we go again.  My name is Daniel Marina, but I go by Danny.  I'm sixteen years old--eight times two.  I have black hair and brown eyes and my nose is too long.  I outgrew my mom two journals ago.  She says I'm handsome, but moms have to say that, and I don't believe her.  I get zits on my forehead when I'm stressed out, which is most of the time, and I make sure my hair is long enough to cover them.  It probably makes the zits worse, but if no one can see them, what does it matter?

My mom's name is Callirhoe (rhymes with Zoe) Marina.  She goes by "Callie."  We live in Lake Trichonida, which is in northern Michigan.  Everyone calls it Lake Trick, and the school sports teams are the Tricksters.  Trichonida is both the town and the lake, and it's where I tossed all my other journals.  Me and mom live in a cottage right on the lake.  Lake Trick is a resort town, and our house used to be a vacation cottage my grandpa rented out to summer people.  He left it to Mom when he died.  Now we live there year round.  It's too small, but it's right on the lake, which makes up for it.  I spend more time in Lake Trick than in the house.  The water holds me up and surrounds me like air and silk.  I dive down to the bottom and feel rocks like cold bones in the darkness, then blast up to the surface and drink in air thin and sweet as tree sap.  I'm reborn a dozen times a day.

I don't know my dad's name, and it's a good bet my mom doesn't, either.  I do have a sort-of dad, though.  I call him Uncle Zack, even though he isn't my uncle.  He's an old friend of Mom's.  I think they used to be lovers (the thought always creeps me out), but neither of them will tell me for sure.  Uncle Zack ruffles my hair hard like he's trying to erase the question and says, "That's not anything you need to worry about, buddy."

Uncle Zack'll talk about sex, though.  He's better than the Internet--he answers questions.  Just try googling anything with the word "sex" in it and see what kind of stuff you get.  I mean, I like porn and stuff, but porn doesn't tell you what you really want to know.  Like why lambskin

 

condoms don't stop disease or why those new polyurethane condoms supposedly feel better than latex ones or how to give a woman head and shit like that.  Thanks to Uncle Zack, I'm probably the best-educated virgin in America.

We don't just talk about sex, though.  Uncle Zack and I go camping two or three times a year.  He taught me how to set up a tent, start a fire without matches or lighter fluid, and clean a fish.  Tell the truth, I hate fishing and can't stand pulling out fish guts--it's like sticking your hand in a bucket of snail snot--but I pretend I like it because Uncle Zack loves fishing and I don't want to hurt his feelings.

Uncle Zack also taught me how to ride a bike, how to use a skateboard, and how to swim.  He has two ex-wives and four kids.  His ex-wives hate him.  I don't know why that is.  All his kids live out of state and he never gets to see them.  I don't know why that is, either.  Almost all his money goes toward alimony and child support.

 

UNCLE ZACK

A REALLY STUPID POEM

 

you're my dad

but not

i'm your son

but not

i don't have a dad

you don't have a son

the solution should be easy

but not

i've never been able to say

i love you

you know, though

but not?

 

 

Mom works as a waitress at the Moose Place.  It's a bar that pretends to be a restaurant. The kitchen is just a deep fryer stuck in the back corner.  A lot of summer people hang out there.

When it comes to me, Mom runs hot and cold, like an arctic volcano.  I never know if she's going to ignore me or smother me.

In the ignore phase, she treats me like a roommate.  She gets home really late and doesn't check to see if I go to school or ask if I eat breakfast.  Sunday mornings she stays in her room until two in the afternoon, then drifts into the kitchen looking like a ghost with the mumps.  I make a pot of coffee and leave it on the kitchen counter, dutiful as a priest leaving an offering to the gods.  Then I bolt for the safety of Lake Trichonida.

After a few weeks of this, a sudden change always hits her.  Her bedroom door bangs open and she storms into the kitchen wearing clean blue jeans and a t-shirt.  It's like watching an angry butterfly pop out of a cocoon.  Her hair is pulled back into a bun so tight it clears the wrinkles from her face.  I swallow a mouthful of soggy Frosted Flakes--the only thing I ever eat for breakfast--and try to look small.  Mom has morphed into Supermom.

"Things are going to change around here," she announces.  "I've been ignoring you, I know, but that's going to stop right now!"

First she cleans the house from top to bottom.  That never takes long because the place is so small.  We don't even have a bathtub--just a shower stall and a tiny sink a Barbie doll couldn't get clean in.  There's her room, my room, the kitchen, and a living room the size of a doghouse.  The floors are cold gray tile.  The only nice thing in the house is the fireplace.  It's made of fieldstone and burns real logs instead of natural gas.  Mom cleans that, too, and tells me a single Cinderella comment will get me grounded until I'm thirty.  Then she laughs.

Once the house is clean, she bugs my teachers for progress reports.  She grills me about where I go and what I do.  She calls three or four times from work to make sure I'm home.  She checks my homework every afternoon.

The Supermom phase lasts between a week and ten days.  Eventually, she meets some summer guy at the bar, brings him home when her shift ends, and lets him pound away at her in her room.  She thinks I'm sleeping or that I can't hear them, but I can.  It sounds like an elephant fighting a freight train, even when I put a pillow over my head.  After the guy takes off, she morphs back into ignor-o-mom and I can get on with my life.

 

 

 

 

MOM

She says, "I love you, baby," and strokes my forehead.

But

I hear her mewling cry from the dark bedroom off the kitchen

(Where supper is a dead pizza box on the stove)

She says, "I love you, baby.  I loveyou loveyouloveyou."

That's what she says to strangers.

 

 

 

Mom's in her ignore phase again, and today I biked around the lake to Uncle Zack's.  He makes his living from a little cluster of cottages he owns on Lake Trick.  In the summer he rents them out to vacationers.  In the fall he rents them out to hunters.  He also cleans fish and game for people who don't want to do it themselves.  At the height of hunting season, the cleaning shed turns into a war zone.  Silver fish scales float on top of a slick layer of scarlet blood.  It's almost Christmassy, in weird kind of way.

I came down the driveway to the cottages, lined up in their rubber duck row on the shore.  Summer vacation is still ongoing, so they were all rented.  Vacationers sat on the tiny beach or splashed in the water.  Some of the canoes Uncle Zack lets the renters use were gone, and I spotted them out on the water, gliding along like mercury crocodiles.

I parked my bike and went into the rental office, which is in the front part of Uncle Zack's house.  There's an entry area where renters come in, and a half-door leads to the back part of the office.  A full door behind Uncle Zack's desk goes into the main house.  Uncle Zack is sole proprietor and employee at Lake Trichonida Cottage Rental, which means that during vacation and hunting seasons, he works continuously.  Something almost always needs to be fixed or cleaned or dealt with.  But today I caught him sitting at his desk.  He was staring at a framed picture, and he didn't hear me come in.  I leaned on the half-door.

"Hey," I said.

He looked up at me, a little startled, and I saw that his eyes were shiny, like warm water was about to spill out of them.

"Hey, Danny," he said, and quickly set the picture down.  It showed two of his kids, a blond boy and a brown-haired girl about my age.  Uncle Zack cleared his throat hard.  "How's it going, kiddo?"

I'm not stupid.  I could see he was half-crying about his kids.  The problem was, I had no clue how to handle it.  This is where I sometimes envy girls.  They seem to know what to do or say in these situations.  None of the guys I know do, including me.  So I did the guy thing--I ignored it.

"It's going pretty good," I said.  "I came by to see if you had the money from when I mowed the lawn last week."  Mowing the cottage lawns and raking out the beach's fire pit are my main summer jobs.

Uncle Zack blinked at me.  He's a pretty good-looking guy.  Thick blond hair going gray on the sides, brown eyes, square face and big body.  He could probably wrestle a cow to the ground without breaking a sweat.  He's getting a little soft around the middle, but it still looks okay.  In the fall he wears boots and a lot of flannel.  In the summer he goes for cargo shorts, polo shirts, and sandals.  His face fell when I mentioned money.

"Oh shit.  Danny--"

I entered the office and plopped down onto the extra chair beside his desk.  "I'll guess.  Child support again."

"I can't get caught up," he admitted.  "No matter how hard I try.  It seems like I send every cent I bring in, and it still isn't enough.  Look, I'll make it up to you."

 

 

"No biggie," I said, lying.  I'd been hoping to get some decent jeans and maybe a new shirt with the cash.  I hate shopping for clothes, but Mom won't buy them in her ignore phase, and in the Supermom phase, she buys me what she thinks I should wear instead of what I actually want.  So I try to buy my own stuff whenever I can.

"It is a biggie," Uncle Zack said.  "I don't like owing people money, especially you and my kids."

I liked the way he put me in the same context as his own kids.  "You miss them," I said without thinking.

"Yeah," he said.  "E-mail and pictures aren't the same as being there.  But that's enough shitting around.  Look, let's go out in a canoe for a while.  Just you and me.  Things are quiet around here right now, and we may not get another chance until after Labor Day."

I was up for that.  Uncle Zack put up a sign that gave the renters his cell phone number in case an emergency came up, and we went down to the beach.  I got in front and Uncle Zack, the power paddler, got in back.  The bottom hissed against sand as we shoved away from the beach, and Uncle Zack waved at the renters enjoying warm sun and water.  A red-haired woman in a knockout bikini waved back, and I almost dropped my paddle.   I flushed, glad she was too far away to see my face redden as Uncle Zack and I glided quietly out onto the clear lake.  Together.

I don't really care about the lawn money.  His kids can have it.

 

COLLAPSE

About the Author

Steven Piziks was born with a name no one can reliably spell or pronounce, so he usually writes under the pen name Steven Harper.  He sold his first short story way back in 1990, and his keyboard has been clattering ever since.  So far, he's written fifty-some stories and twenty-some novels, including The Silent Empire series, The Clockwork Empire steampunk series, and The Books of Blood and Iron fantasy series.  He's also written movie novelizations and books based on Star Trek, Battlestar Galactica, and The Blacklist. He's been a finalist for the Gaylactic Spectrum Award for science fiction four times.

Steven also teaches English in southeast Michigan, where he lives with his husband and son.  When not writing, he plays the folk harp, tries to stick to weight-lifting, and spends more time on-line than is probably good for him.  Visit his web page at http://www.stevenpiziks.com


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