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Authors: Jeremy P. Bushnell

The Insides

BOOK: The Insides
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Praise for
The Weirdness

“Wonderfully weird and entertaining.”


Esquire

“An utterly charming, silly, and heartily entertaining coming-of-age story about a man-boy who learns to believe in himself by reckoning with evil … a welcome antidote to heavy-handed millennial fiction. Instead of trying to find profundity in party conversation or making his readers shudder in melancholy recognition of their thwarted lives,
The Weirdness
finds virtue in absurdity. Thank goodness—or darkness—for that.”


The Boston Globe

“Arriving as a practitioner of such supernatural humor, loaded with brio, wit, and sophisticated jollity, like the literary godchild of Max Barry, Christopher Moore, and Will Self, comes Jeremy Bushnell … An engaging reading experience.”

—Paul Di Filippo,
Barnes & Noble Review

“In many ways, this is an illuminating parable for these times … you’ll just wish you had more of this delightful novel still left to read.”


San Francisco Bay Guardian

“A whimsical approach … an aspiring author in New York who wakes one day to find that Satan has just brewed him a cup of fair-trade coffee—and has a little deal to discuss.”


Tampa Bay Times

“[
The Weirdness
] is immensely entertaining, and more than being merely diverting, is truly funny.”


Harvard Crimson

“The novel is truly a ‘weird’ read, though unforgettable … An open-minded, modern reader will fully appreciate this bizarre and unusual work of fiction, the author’s first novel.”


Fairfield Mirror

“Absolutely, positively one of the most original takes on the nearing middle age, suffering male writer bit … Bushnell manages to turn this story on its head in what should be the most ridiculous novel you’ve ever read.”


The Picky Girl

“A comedic literary thriller situated between the world of Harry Potter and the Brooklyn of Jonathan Ames, Bushnell’s debut effectively mines well-trodden terrain to unearth some dark gems.”

—Publishers Weekly


The Weirdness
manages to soar beyond the potentially familiar tropes of urban fantasy with a strong sense of style and character … Bushnell’s debut novel is a clever, darkly satiric tale of the devil, literary Brooklyn and the human penchant for underachievement.”

—Shelf Awareness

“This book is wild. And smart. And hilarious. And weird … in all kinds of good ways. Prepare to be weirded out. And to enjoy it.”

—Charles Yu, author of
How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe

“Jeremy Bushnell has written an irreverent, chaotic, comically inventive novel that makes New York City look like the insane asylum some suspect it is. It steadfastly refuses to bore you, and by the end has something important to say about the way we dream.”

—William Giraldi, author of
Busy Monsters

ALSO BY JEREMY P. BUSHNELL

The Weirdness

THE INSIDES

Copyright © 2016 by Jeremy P. Bushnell

First Melville House Printing: June 2016

Melville House Publishing

46 John Street

Brooklyn, NY 11201

and

8 Blackstock Mews

Islington

London N4 2BT

mhpbooks.​com
     
facebook.​com/​mhpbooks
     
@melvillehouse

Ebook ISBN: 9781612195476

Design by Marina Drukman

v3.1

TO MY FAMILIES

There is a time in life when you expect the world to be always full of new things. And then comes a day when you realize that is not how it will be at all. You see that life will become a thing made of holes.

—HELEN MACDONALD
,
H Is for Hawk

You want to know what it’s like in there? The fact is, you spend all those years trying to make something of it. Then guess what, it starts making something of you.


Μ. JOHN HARRISON
,
Nova Swing

PROLOGUE

When Ollie was eighteen she was given a decision to make. And she never would have made the decision to follow the warlock if it hadn’t been for his dog, which was about the friendliest-looking dog she’d ever seen. She’d been sitting on the wide concrete rim of a fountain in Tompkins Square Park and the mutt came trotting up to her, his enormous brown ears alert. He put his massive paws up onto her knees, locked eyes with her, and plopped his muzzle into her waiting hand.

“Oh, hello,” she said. She turned the dog’s head this way and that, admiring the messy mix of gold and brown and cream in his face. He had a red bandanna tied around his neck, so she guessed he had an owner nearby. She looked up, in search of the owner, and then she found him. The warlock.

She never would have made the decision to follow him if he hadn’t been young, like her. He might have been a little older: she guessed nineteen. When you’re an eighteen-year-old
girl spending most of your days wandering around the city, you come across a fair number of people, mostly men, who try to get you to follow them somewhere. Lots of them are older, sometimes way older, and Ollie had learned that the guys who are older almost always meant bad news in one way or another. Not that younger guys were ever totally safe: they weren’t; she’d learned that, too. And so Ollie gave this guy the quick assessing look that by this point in her life she’d pretty much mastered. In quick succession she noted his grubby black T-shirt, his gray utility pants, his tattooed hands, his scruffy beard, his unkempt hair. None of it gave Ollie much confidence that he might be trustworthy, that he might be anything other than a threat in a city full of them (except maybe his hair, which mirrored her own in its kinky wildness). But having the friendliest dog ever half up in her lap had lowered her defenses just enough for her to give the warlock a second look, and this time she looked at his eyes, at his lips, and she noticed an openness there, a kindness. It’s not that he wasn’t looking at her with attention, with interest—he was—but he was also looking at her without cruelty. With intention, yes, but without calculation. She wasn’t used to experiencing one without the other. She almost didn’t know what to do with that. It knocked something loose in her sense of what was possible, in a way that was, frankly, a little bit scary.

So she wouldn’t have followed him if she hadn’t also been with her friend, Victor, a queer Colombian kid she knew from the group home, her companion all through that summer. He wasn’t her protector or anything—he was only about half her size, so she was pretty sure that in the event
of a real throwdown she’d be the one protecting him—but that wasn’t the point. The point was that there was safety in numbers, always, that people were way less likely to fuck with you when you were with somebody else, anybody else.

So when the warlock—his name, they’d later learn, was Gerry—asked them what they were up to, Ollie said, “Nothing” instead of “Leave us the fuck alone.” And when the warlock asked them if they wanted to see something cool, Ollie said, “Sure.”

And then the warlock took them to the second floor of an abandoned building and showed them something cool.

It was something like an altar, or a workbench, or a shrine. It was a long flat table surrounded by a collection of symbols graffitied onto the walls behind it and by a set of eclectic artifacts arranged on the floor. A bleached cow skull, a cracked Virgin Mary figurine, an outlet strip, a belt buckle with a picture of a sixteen-wheeler on it. The friendliest dog sniffed around, pushed a few items out of place with his nose; Gerry didn’t seem to mind.

“What is all this?” Ollie asked.

“Magic,” Gerry said.

Ollie and Victor didn’t say anything. Ollie didn’t know if she believed in magic or not but she knew that the room was very beautiful and that it held within it a kind of meaning that she didn’t often get the chance to experience. She knew that she wanted to spend more time inside rooms like this, if she could.

“What would you say,” Gerry said, “if I told you that, using nothing more than the items in this room, you could get anything you wanted?”

“I’d say you were a fucking liar,” said Victor.

Gerry smiled. “Fair.”

“You don’t look like someone who has everything he wants,” Victor said.

“Don’t I?” Gerry asked. He was sitting on the floor, cross-legged, scratching his dog behind the ears. Victor didn’t answer.

“Let me ask you,” Gerry said, “just to think about this question. If you didn’t think I was a fucking liar—if you really did think that, after a period of apprenticeship, you could get whatever you wanted—what would you want? Don’t tell me the answer. But think about it.”

Ollie didn’t know whether Victor was thinking about the question, or what his answer might have been. But her own answer came to mind immediately.
A family
, she thought.
I would want to be in a family
.

“You come up with something?” Gerry said, after an interval of time had passed. Ollie nodded, just the tiniest nod. She looked over at Victor and saw him offering his own tiny nod as well.

“OK,” said Gerry. “In a minute, I’m going to ask you to decide if you want to join us, to embark upon doing a kind of work with us. If you do the work, you’ll get what you want. You don’t have to. I’m not twisting your arm. You can just walk out of here and go back to whatever you were doing before I came along. That’s totally OK. But before I ask you to make the decision, I need you to think about one other thing. I need you to think about the Possible Consequences.”

He paused for import, which made Ollie want to roll
her eyes, but then the pause went on, and stopped seeming silly. She listened.

“It’s really important that you think about those, pretty seriously, before we get started,” Gerry said. “Because that’s the thing about magic. At first it seems awesome to be able to get what you want all the time, but getting what you want always has consequences, and you’d better know what those are, because they’re going to bite you square in the ass, every time. If that’s going to make you reconsider wanting what you wanted in the first place, it’s better to know before you get started bending the whole Goddamn universe this way and that.”

Ollie thought about it. But she was only eighteen. She wasn’t very good at thinking about the far-off consequences of things that probably wouldn’t happen anyway.
I just want a family
, she thought.
What’s the worst that could happen?

Fifteen Years Later
1
CARNAGE

The meat begins to arrive. It arrives in refrigerator trucks stenciled with the silhouettes of majestic steer. It arrives in plain white delivery vans driven by mellow Iranians, quiet masters of exsanguination. It arrives in the trunk of Ulysses’s Buick, which has been lined with rubber blankets and packed with ice. He digs out four heirloom chickens beheaded this morning, upstate, and hands them off to Ollie, same as he’s done every Friday this summer. They will later be artfully turned into eight plates and served in the private dining room, at around a 200 percent markup over what Ulysses gets paid for them, which is already a sum that does not fail to impress Ollie anew every time she signs off on an invoice.

BOOK: The Insides
9.33Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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