Sunday, February 2, 2014

Henry's Re-entry by Welcome Cole: Character Interview



Interview between Welcome Cole and Henry Smith

I was visiting Riverside on assignment for the metro rag I worked for in LA back in those days. I was there to interview a cop about an incident involving his sidearm, a dog, and a poorly thought out gunshot. Seemed dog shootings had suddenly come in vogue for middling-sized cities in the west, and our readers had developed a morbid passion for reading about them

It was Friday afternoon. I was waiting to interview a cop about an incident involving his sidearm, a dog, and a poorly thought out gunshot. I was in a dump called the The Slammed Dunk. It was your usual old mid-grade sports bar, replete with assorted undersize flat screen TVs boasting the wrong resolution, ancient urinals with ice shoveled in the bottom because the flushing mechanism had long since given up hope, and the choking reek of smoldering coffee that no one ever ordered.

Come five o’clock, the cop was three hours overdue. I was about to hit it when this guy in an expensive black suit and starched white shirt pours into the bar. He had his tie off before he even found the stool. He was youngish, mid-thirties, with dark hair tousled just enough to not look intentional. I normally wouldn’t have looked twice, but as he parked it next to me, I caught a chill. This guy had some kind of dark aura, dark in a dirty hands kind of way, dark in a nothing left to lose kind of way. He had a look in his eyes that would send a priest crossing the street, and his smile was more of a warning shot than a greeting.

Still not sure why I turned the recorder on when any sane person would have been sliding down a couple stools. Habit, maybe. Perverse curiosity, more likely. Here’s what I caught of the conversation, post introductions:

ME: You from here? Riverside, I mean?

HENRY: Brother, no one is born in Riverside. People get sentenced to live here.

ME: I don’t know, seems nicer than LA. Where are you from, then?

HENRY: Midwest. Michigan, to be precise. (Finishes his drink)

ME: You’re a long way out. You still have family there? Friends?

HENRY: (Laughs) Friends. Hilarious.

ME: You must have friends.

HENRY: Pal, I collect friends the way a lumberjack collects trees. (Pounds the bar and calls out for a refill)

ME: You’re really hitting it hard this afternoon. Big plans this evening?

HENRY: Plans. (Laughs again) You’re a regular comedian.

ME: You’ve put down three scotches in less than an hour. You in a hurry? It’s not even six yet.

HENRY: What are you, my girlfriend?

ME: No, just making an observ--

HENRY: I’m prepping myself.

ME: Prepping yourself? For what?

HENRY: Sadly, I’m here for a party.

ME: Special occasion or just good times?

HENRY: Good times. (Snorts at that) Damn, you’re good. No, it’s a Good Riddance Party.

ME: Good riddance? You mean like a Goodbye Party?

HENRY: Trust me, there’ll be nothing good about it. Can’t stand these people.

ME: Okay. So…who exactly are you bidding good riddance to?


(Long moment of silence as I try to make sense of it)

ME: You?

HENRY: (Takes a long drink, says nothing)

ME: Where are you going?

HENRY: (Laughs) Don’t know, don’t care.

ME: You’re leaving, but have no idea where you’re leaving to? That doesn’t make sense.

HENRY: Makes perfect sense. Maybe I’ll have an adventure, hit some exotic locales, meet the exciting natives, have some fun, do some damage. Maybe I’ll run into some persons of interest, maybe meet a woman.

ME: Sounds gutsy.

HENRY: Yeah, not so sure guts have anything to do with it. Just the opposite, I expect.

(Several  moments of heavy silence)

HENRY: Then again, maybe I’ll just park it right here on this stool and stay the course. (Sends me a look that I can feel more than see) See, it doesn’t much matter where I go or where I stay. Her ghost will find me. Her ghost’ll find me whether I stay, run, or jump off a building. I’m a murderer, and she’ll never let me forget it. (Pounds down the last of his drink, then reaches over and turns off my recorder) Sorry, pal, conversation’s over. 

Had I known I’d run into Henry again, had I known our conversation would mark the last few minutes before he threw himself off the train, I’d have turned it on sooner. Months later, when I called on him again, when I learned the freakishly bizarre story of the three life-changing days following our conversation, I knew I had to write the book.
Henry’s Re-entry Status check, Saturday morning 11:45:
Skull crushing headache? Check.
Black eye? Check.
No cell phone? Check.
No wallet? Check.
One shoe? Check.
No socks, tie, or belt? Check, check, and check.
No memory of previous night? Double check!
Touchdown complete! Henry has landed!

When Henry wakes up on the floor of a dirty gas station bathroom, covered in vomit and hugging a greasy toilet, and with absolutely no idea where he is or how he ended up there, he knows this is going to be the best outing ever. This outing is going to be Epic!

Henry is a man on the run. The beast chasing him wears the face of his murdered wife. Fueled by guilt, the beast has him running the gauntlet of an ever-hopeful, but chronically unsuccessful suicide marathon.

He’s spent the last four years running away from his life. During the workweek, he merely exists, performing the inevitable and necessary functions of life, moving through his world like an automaton. But when that assembly line of existence ultimately reaches its end on Friday afternoon, Henry launches into orbit on a liquor propelled rocket. His flight begins when he straps himself into his favorite barstool late Friday and ends with his splashdown sometime late Sunday night, and the time spent in between is a fog of chaotic memories.

During this latest flight, however, he experiences some unexpected turbulence. This time he crash-lands seven hundred miles from home, unencumbered by a car or wallet. Hungover, angry, and broke, he’s forced to hitchhike his way back, trolling for rides along the hot, dusty backland highways of New Mexico.

But the real story begins with the procession of characters he encounters along the way: The cowboy bartender, the lovesick preacher, the militant social worker, the escaped convict, the psychic. Each of these curious people find their way past his barricades. Each one manages to make contact with him and help him find another piece of himself. Each one helps him find the strength necessary to finally bury his dead and re-enter his life. But most importantly, it’s the woman with the paint-store hair and the kryptonite eyes who renders his shields useless and finally guides him back to his life.

Equal parts hilarious, passionate, and emotionally intense, this is the story of a man’s unexpected rescue at the hands of an assortment of eccentric, compelling people, people he’d normally have crossed the street to avoid.


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Welcome Cole is a writer of fantasy, contemporary novels, and urban fiction. He spends his time in the lakes and forests of Traverse City, Michigan and in the desert and mountains of Castle Rock, Colorado. He has degrees in Nursing and Business Administration, and writes at every opportunity. His book, The Pleasure of Memory, will be followed up shortly with his contemporary fiction novel, Henry’s Re-entry. The second volume of the Blood Caeyl Memories, The Shadows of Memory, will be released in early 2014.

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