I tapped out chapter 3 yesterday and today, and I’m happier with this first draft than I was with chapter 2’s. My first glance impressions are that the narrative needs more of Wad’s personality – right now its just tell-style experiences that need some ‘show’ fleshing out.
The scene where he comes out to his dad may need more impact, but in all honesty – it feels fine the way it is since this is a sex-comedy.
Heads up – If you’re born ‘Anatol’ then you likely got called Tolek by your fam; except for dads–they tend to keep it real. Also, only his friends and other rugby players called him ‘Wad’.
Full chapter under the cut (first draft – needs work)
3 – KING OF CLUBS
Tolek closed his bedroom door and covered the heat register with a towel.
October at the Zawadzki’s meant beef stew once a week, and his mother’s version involved a crock pot that saturated the house with smells that lasted well after dinner.
“Cut the bread, Anatol,” his father said.
Tolek pulled the hard warm loaf from its crispy paper sleeve.
The serrated knife cut noisily through its thick outer crust, revealing an inside that looked soft, white, and airy.
When his mother had attempted to bake bread, the yeasty scent blunted anything she simmered in that crockpot. Her attempts often failed, and that meant bread from Pilarcik’s. The bakery was twenty minutes across town, but his mother made a weekly trip and bought ten loaves, keeping two for when she cooked a stew or spaghetti.
The rest went to his grandmom next door; born in Slovakia, his babka served soup with every meal.
His family ate every night at six since his father had inherited the HVAC business; as the boss, he closed shop at five-thirty on the nose. His wife, Lyra, spent most of their marriage pursuing a master’s in art history; her studies moving at a snail’s pace around her children’s lives.
Tolek had played one sport or another since grade school, while sister Raquel went from Brownies to Girl Scouts to cheerleading. He attended his mother’s degree ceremony as a high school Sophomore, and the whole family showed, except for his grandpop, her father.
Wealthy attorney Basil Lazaridis wanted a law career for his only daughter, the youngest of five children, who became lawyers in one capacity or another.
After meeting Nikola Zawadzki at an ice rink, she chose a different path, getting pregnant after a six-month romance. Basil was furious, but his wife was ecstatic; weddings were her wheelhouse. Unfortunately, grandmom’s plans for the biggest event in Point Breeze’s history fell apart when his mom eloped with Niko, signing marriage papers in Harrisburg before taking a very pregnant honeymoon in the Poconos.
Relations stayed strained until Tolek’s birth.
Basil’s sons had girls, making Tolek his only grandson—unfortunately, he was also Nik Zawadzki’s.
When the wealthy man insisted on buying his daughter a house, as he had for his sons, Niko refused, moving them into a three-story bricker next to his aging mother on the edge of Brighton Heights.
Tolek once idolized his grandfather until he grew up and witnessed the stubborn man’s faults. His father had yet to disappoint him, making Tolek’s guilt all the more unpalatable.
His father grabbed an end chub while Tolek sliced, his broad shoulders shaking in amusement as his squarish jaw made short work of the bread.
Though his mother had marked him with a dark Greek complexion, Tolek possessed his father’s bearish physique, dimpled chin, and rugged jawline. Like all Zawadzki men, he straddled the line between muscular and stout, with consistent weight training during his rugby years keeping him the former.
“Rocky,” mother scolded as his sister sat down. “No jackets at the table,”
Raquel came three years after Tolek, and like him, she owned her mother’s Mediterranean color and thick black hair, but her sudden physical development forced him from bringing friends to the house.
Last summer, she went from a chubby shithead obsessed with boy bands to a curvy woman whose large breasts caught his teammate’s attention far too much for his liking. The shapely girl pulled off her current victim’s football jacket and tossed it on the floor, where their black cat Jinx settled into it for warmth.
Tolek sat after his mother placed the last bowl on the table for herself.
“Kriste Bože,” his father said. “Bless this food, vždy a naveky, Amen,”
His mother and sister said their amen as Tolek began eating.
He’d heard that prayer all his life but never heard it spoken entirely in Slovak until visiting the Tatras with his father four years ago. Larger than the mountains around their family’s hunting cabin in Deer Valley, snowboarding the High Tatras had been the highlight of his life.
“When are the sign-ups for that trip?” his father asked.
Tolek used his spoon to cut the golden potatoes to bite-size.
“Which weekend is it?” his mother asked.
Tolek dipped a piece of bread into the steaming brown broth.
“Fourteenth through the Eighteenth.”
“That’s more than a weekend,” she said, eyes large.
“You can’t count the travel days, Lyra,” said his father.
“I can if he’s not going to be here,” she said.
“Why do you get a trip?” Rocky spat. “Your team lost,”
Tolek said, “I know we lost. I was there.”
“Where are the sign-ups?” his father asked.
“Rec center on Carson,”
“Southside or the Flats?”
“Somewhere in the middle.”
“You can take the car,” his father said.
Tolek ate steadily since the stew cooled.
“No joyriding downtown,” his mother added.
“He can drive on his own now?” Rocky tapped his leg with her boot. “Take me to the mall this Saturday.”
“I ain’t got time to cart you around,” he said, eating the last of his stew.
Rocky sucked her tongue. “Mom,”
His mother eyed him. “What time will you be back, Tolek?”
“Not in time to take her anywhere,” he said, belching loudly.
“Christ,” his mom frowned. “Did you get any on you?”
“Why can’t you just drop me off?” Rocky demanded.
“I’m busy,” said Tolek.
“Mom,” she said again, pouting.
His father snatched up the last piece of bread.
“Your mom can take you,”
“I’ll be over at Cherice’s all day,” said his mother.
“Then what’s for dinner tomorrow?” his father asked.
Mother sipped her wine. “Why don’t you eat today’s dinner before worrying about tomorrow’s?”
Tolek took his empty bowl to the kitchen sink and rinsed it and his spoon before placing them in the dishwasher. The thought of doing this every day for the next six years dragged his already sullen mood below sea level.
“You eating a piece of cheesecake?” his mother asked as he skulked past her on the way to his room. Then he heard her mumble, “Niko, find out what ails him,”
Tolek glanced out the window on his way upstairs.
Windswept leaves had replaced the kids playing hockey on the road. No trees lined their side of Bainton, but the giant oak across the street shed enough reds and browns to carpet everyone’s yard.
Since grade school, Tolek lived in the former attic.
Eager for a man cave, his father reinforced the floor joists and routed new air ducts before filling the walls with insulation. After a week of traversing the stairs, his father had become disenchanted with the space, finishing the basement for his mother and her hobbies before taking back his living room.
The vacuum cleaner behind his door kept Jinx’s black hairs to a minimum, but he rarely ran the thing, opting to open the small windows at the polar ends of his room. Sports posters covered the yellow walls, their paint now faded to the same dull gold as the bricks outside.
Tolek didn’t dare hang up his favorite centerfolds from the All Boys mags hidden under his television. He kept a space free on the wall behind the tv for when he needed to tack up a page. His bed divided the long room and had given him a shielded space on the floor to masturbate before his father fitted his door with a lock.
The front X-Box light blinked; he had forgotten to remove the disk. He took hold of a controller and fell onto the floor bean bag, but before he could start a new game, a soft knock ushered in his father.
“Not you,” said his father, leaning against the bureau. “You’re walking around here with your face on the floor.”
Tolek climbed onto his bed and sat cross-legged.
“Are you missing your friends?” his father asked.
“No, I hung out with Ratliff on Monday,” he said.
“You’re walking around here like someone pissed in your cheerios.”
Tolek had graduated from Saint Phillips in June and enrolled in some early pre-law courses at a nearby city campus. Many of his teammates attended the same campus, making college feel like Grade 13.
Instead of telling his father this, he fiddled with the hem of his socks.
His father tugged at the rugby jersey hanging on his closet door, black and white with Saint Phillip stitched on the upper back. “You still sore about losing the state?”
“Nah, I’m over it.” He half meant that.
They’d made it to Reading over the spring and fought to the finals before losing to long-time rivals Bishop Casimir.
“You worried about school being too much?”
“Nah,” he shrugged. “I got my projected course load. It’s not hard.”
“Then what the hell ails you?” his father pressed. “Do you not want to go to law school next year?”
Tolek sighed. “Law school is my dream, but—”
“But what?” His father was a master at getting to the point where there was none. “You’re going to law school free of charge, and there’s a, but?”
Tolek stood. “I’m heading outside.”
“Hey, no, sit down,” his father extended an arm, a silent order that was always a suggestion unless his body came with it.
Tolek returned to the bed, unable to look him in the eye.
“I’m fine,” he lied.
“Since when can’t you talk to me, Anatol?”
Suddenly, Tolek remembered the first man he saw orgasm—his father.
He’d arrived home after an unexpected half-day at school at age twelve and overheard his parents making love. He’d crept past their cracked bedroom door, and nothing about his mother’s naked body registered other than its existence, but his father’s body terrified him, so all he could do was watch his face.
That day, Tolek thought about kissing his father, but a natural revulsion set in that he cherished at the time because it meant he wasn’t a freak. Before educating himself on the internet, Tolek had believed, for a time, that seeing his father come made him gay.
Instead of telling his father that truth, Tolek reached for the last thing that pissed him off, like their recent dinner at his grandparent’s house.
“I don’t like it when grandpop throws money at me,” he said. “He’s only doing it to make you look bad,”
His father grinned. “He’s got eight grandkids, and his only grandson wants to be a lawyer. You’re a dream come true for him, so he’s going all out,”
“He always does it, though,” he said, feigning anger.
“Shit, he’s been outspending me since I met his daughter.” His father folded his arms and shook his head. “You grew up with his shit, Anatol. Now it’s a problem?”
No manner of bullshit worked on this man.
“Can we just forget it?” Tolek begged.
“No, you’re going to talk to me,”
“Fine,” he said. “I didn’t realize him paying for my school meant he chose the school.”
“What ails Duquesne? It’s a damn good school,”
“I know it is,” he said. “That’s why I haven’t complained.”
“Did you want to go somewhere else?”
“Anywhere else,” he uttered.
His father’s brow lifted. “You don’t want to live here anymore,”
“My friends are going away to college, starting their lives,” Tolek said. “Staying here feels like I’m not going anywhere.”
His father relaxed.
“I don’t hate it here,” Tolek clarified. “But it’s you and mom’s house, and I’ve been living here as your boy. I want to be a man with my own life.”
“You’ve been a man for years,” his father said with a smile. “But I get it.”
“Do you?” asked Tolek.
“You’re in college, and the rules will change,” his father said. “You stay out late as you want or come home drunk. Just don’t be driving drunk.”
Tolek desperately wanted to explain his desire to attend a school nowhere near them or his friends, but he couldn’t do it without revealing why.
“Listen,” his father unfolded his arms and stood against the bathroom door. “If you’re worried about bringing girls here, we can talk—”
“-Girls are not my problem,”
“Girls are every man’s problem,”
“Not mine.” Tolek’s stomach jumped, and his heart raced. “Trust me,”
“What are you going to be, a priest?” He scratched Tolek’s head playfully. “You got the right genes for growing one of those long beards,”
Years spent avoiding the girls that asked him out, dodging his mother’s questions about his type of girl, and dealing with his homophobic coach on top of the self-flagellation over boys he wanted to flirt with but never dared.
Worst still, knowing his parents wouldn’t abide, he resigned to a secret love life—until he found out he had another six years under their roof.
“No, dad.” Tolek couldn’t take it anymore. “I’m queer, okay.”
His father’s amiable expression hadn’t changed.
“No girls,” he added, looking him in the eyes. “I’m into guys.”
“You’re gay?” his father asked without a beat. “Are you sure?”
The only three boys Tolek had ever had sex with flashed into his head he broke down sobbing. “Yeah, dad, I’m sure.”
His father quickly moved to the bedroom door and closed it.
“What are the tears for?”
“I’m sorry, dad,” he tried to stop crying as his sinuses plugged.
His father sat bed beside him and hooked an arm around his shoulders.
“I don’t give a shit if you’re gay, Anatol.”
Tolek pressed his face in his father’s flannel, the smell of Tide and aftershave getting through his stuffy nose.
“I’m sorry,” he croaked.
“You got nothing to be sorry for,” his father gave him a shake. “You’re getting a free college education, and your grandpop’s giving you a job when you’re done with it. You should be over the moon,”
“I’m sorry,” he croaked. “For not being like you,”
“What are you talking about? I couldn’t deny you even without a paternity test,” his father pulled back to look at him. “Being gay isn’t a problem for me unless you’re into weird stuff like getting slapped around,”
“I’m not into that, dad,”
“That’s good,” his father placed a gentle hand on his crown. “You might want to keep being gay under wraps around your grandpop,”
Tolek nodded. “I know, dad,”
His father pulled him close again. “It’s not the end of the world, you hear me?”
Tolek pulled up his shirt and dried his eyes.
“Does your mom know?” his father asked.
“Hell no,” he snapped.
“She’s not a bitch, Anatol.” His father looked insulted. “You know there’s nothing you could do to make your mother turn her back on you, even if you wear dresses and shit.”
“I’m not a transvestite, dad,”
“Oh, you don’t want to be a woman or nothing?”
“That kind of trans is about who you are, not who you screw.”
His father stepped into his bathroom. “So, wait, some of those guys who wear women’s clothes are straight?”
“Yeah, dad, some of them are straight.”
His father handed him a roll of toilet paper.
“Here, you still got candles running.”
Tolek peeled some paper off and used it to blow his nose.
“Are you sure,” his father pressed. “RuPaul seems gay to me,”
“Those are drag queens, and some guys that dress like that are gay,” said Tolek. “But not every gay guy likes to dress up like that,”
“Hey, Freddie Mercury was gay sometimes.” His father’s eyebrows rose. “David Bowie, too. Are you gay sometimes?”
“I’m not bisexual, dad. I’m gay.”
“What about guys that think they’re women and get surgery?”
“That’s not gay, dad.” Despite his father’s inane questions about cross-dressing, Tolek felt over the moon. “They’re women that need surgery to be women,”
“So, technically, everyone else can see them as women?”
“I guess,” Tolek said. “I don’t know enough about that stuff.”
His father smiled. “I guess I’m the only one reading the Playboy’s your grandpop subscribed to for you.”
Tolek laughed, feeling better than he had in years.
“So, you got boyfriends?” his father asked.
“I’ve had a couple.” Tolek counted the two he’d fucked more than once, and even one was for only one night.
“That makes sense,” his father sat beside him again. “I was having sex at your age,”
“I know, dad,” he joked. “That’s how I got here.”
“Don’t be a wiseass,” his father elbowed him. “Were these guys good to you?”
“I haven’t had any real relationships, dad,”
“I never did in high school either,” his father said. “With girls, I mean,”
“I know you’re straight, dad,”
His father nudged him. “Yeah, that’s how you got here,”