Your Heart is a Muscle the Size of Your Fist

My in-progress novel has changed titles once and basic premise twice. And so here I am, at about 3.5 years into it and only halfway into the first draft. I trashed about 30K words that no longer worked, and that was painful, but my goal here is to write the best story I’m capable of writing. Like a fighter in training, the goal won’t come without a lot of work and I’m gonna get my ass kicked now and then. I’m getting used to it. Doesn’t mean I like it, but every time I trash something or go for a week without time to write, I remind myself that it will happen in it’s own good time, and that my job is just to stick with it (and pray that I live long enough to see the end of it).

What the Story is About:

When I was a kid in NYC in the bad ol’ days (New York in the early 70’s was an interesting place), the last apartment we had before leaving the city and the U.S.A. was on West 3rd Street, in Greenwich Village. Our building wasn’t exactly a slum, but it came close. We had junkies shooting up in the hall and up on the roof, we had a bum die in the stairwell, sitting in a pool of piss. It was roach infested. We had a broken window covered with cardboard and duct tape that the landlord never fixed, and we had a chunk of plaster fall from the ceiling right near the mattress we slept on–a chunk the size of a coffee table.  In spite of security gates on the windows, our place was broken into a couple times. I was only 7 or so, and my mom says we didn’t live there too long (I think it was a little over a year), but my clearest memories are of that time and place.

Two floors down lived a family. Jerry, the dad, was a junkie. I remember him. Thin, with short, curly hair. His wife, Bev, was a cocktail waitress and worked nights. I may be mistaken, but I seem to remember her with a black eye once. And their kid Gavin was about nine. He was sometimes locked out of his place and would ask for food. My mom would give him something, but was too afraid of Jerry to let Gavin stay. He sometimes slept on the subway where it was at least warm.

I’ve wondered about Gavin over the years, on and off, although I never had much interaction with him. I wondered how his life unfolded, if he ever made it to adulthood. That was the start of my Kevin Sheehan (“Angel” to his friends).

When the story begins, Kevin has just gotten out of prison at age 25. He’s survived addict parents, foster care, molestation and abuse, prison rape and being abandoned by the only safe “family” he’s ever known, his street brother and protector, Paulie Jensen. Kevin meets an older woman, a photographer and journalist, who believes in him and wants to see him do well. He begins to believe in himself a little, too. And the biggest obstacle standing in his way is the return of Paulie, who’s gone from rent boy and small time dealer to bringing drugs and guns into the city. He’s been in love with Kevin from the time he met him, and now that he has Kevin back in his life again, he’s not about to let him go.

I don’t know that I’ll be giving Kevin a happy ending. I do know that I will give him hope.



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