Excerpt ~ No Place To Pray by James Carpenter

placePublisher: Twisted Road Publications (September 1, 2016)
Genre: Fiction
ISBN-10: 1940189144
ISBN-13: 978-1940189147
ASIN: B01J6KUS1A
Buy: Amazon, Kindle, IndieBound, The Book Depository

no-place-to-pray

Two young men, one bi-racial and the other white, meet in an overnight lockup and begin their shared twenty-year downward spiral into alcoholism and homelessness. LeRoy and Harmon work together, drink together, brawl together, and as Harmon suffers from his final illness, they both bed Edna, a wealthy widow who, out of pity, curiosity, and loneliness, takes them into her vacation home by the river. Through episodes rendered from shifting, multiple points of view, a series of flashbacks, and LeRoy's adventure stories this very smart but uneducated man's attempts at fantasy writing we learn of the people and tragedies that shaped their lives and those whose lives unravel along with theirs at the seams of race, class, and religion, and where no one ever quite tells the truth."

post-divider rightjamesJames Carpenter was born and raised in a working class family in rural Mercer County, Pennsylvania, the oldest of four brothers. He made his way through college working variously as a farmhand, stock boy, short order cook, machinist, truck driver, soda jerk, janitor, switchboard operator, telemarketer, dishwasher, babysitter, day laborer, and foundry worker. After college, he taught middle and high school English until he retrained as a technologist and worked various jobs as a technical writer, computer programmer, and manager. Along with two partners he founded, developed, and sold a company that developed and marketed voter registration software, after which he worked for many years as an independent software consultant, specializing in developing software and systems for technology startups.

He developed the Erica T. Carter software system that composed the poetry anthologized in the Issue 1 dustup. Erica’s poetry also found its way into a couple of dozen literary journals. He presented Erica at several conferences, including at the University of Pennsylvania, Brown University, and the e-poetry 2007 conference in Paris. He has collaborated and shown artwork with his daughter, J Carpenter.

He spent fourteen years as a member of the affiliated faculty of The Wharton School where he lectured in computer programming, system design, and entrepreneurship before retiring to write fiction. Since then his writing has appeared in numerous publications including The Chicago Tribune, Fiction International, Fifth Wednesday Journal, North Dakota Quarterly, and Ambit. His novel, No Place to Pray, is forthcoming from Twisted Road Publications in September.

He lives in the New Jersey Pine Barrens with his wife Rosetta.

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post-divider leftExcerpt ~

Witch, he thought. Gypsy maybe. Slant eyes set snake bright in her calla face. Hoop earrings and iridescent skirt. Brass and silver-plated talismans braceleting her wrists, dangling prayers on chains to sundry G-ds. Turquoise and onyx. Witch or gypsy, it don’t matter, I aint fucking with either one, and he shrank back into his dwelling’s thick foul air, wherein he wrapped himself in the refuge of hearth and spat into a can. From within his gray-black shack, its thinning tarpaper siding dried to alligator scales, the old man squinted out his jaundiced window until she was beyond sight along the crumbling brick alleyway and he let himself take a normal breath.

Ruby went upward through grimy streets where the hopeless prowled, slinking around corners like smoke, mucus soaked and ulcerated. A rattle-backed old crone, trembling on her cane, looked up and met her gaze and looked away, whispering a charm of protection. The old woman crossed herself and drew her coat up tighter around her throat. A young mother with a wisp of a child lurking in the folds of her skirt disappeared in a doorway. Ruby went on through the clammy, refuse-cluttered morning.

She went into Jones’s rag store and the bell clinked. Jones looked up. He laid his brittle hand on the pile of faded old clothes he had been sorting, the fingers bent and fragile as dogwood twigs. He said to her what happened, all the uptown stores go belly up? She told him she thought this was an uptown store and maybe she should go someplace more modest, she didn’t want anybody thinking she was putting on airs and he said don’t worry, no chance of that and what was she here for. She told him clothes for Harmon.

He asked her was she taking on charity cases now and she told him Harmon lost everything. He said why didn’t she just get it new, she could afford it, and she told him Harmon wouldn’t take it if it was new. Might not take it at all.

Jones asked her what did she need and she told him pants and shirts and he went to a wooden bin marked clearance and ruffled through the heaps of castoffs thrown there randomly, gangly limbed like limp arms and legs braided together in a mass grave. He asked her did she know what size and she said large and he said there appeared to be some and pick out what she wanted. She chose two pairs of work trousers worn a little in the knees but unpatched and two work shirts. She checked that the buttons were all there and told him she would take these and he asked did she want anything else. She asked did he have underwear and socks and he said did she want new or second hand. She asked him did he wash the second hand and he laughed. She asked him where was the new and he pointed a gnarled finger to a shelf where lay underwear and sweat socks wrapped in plastic bags with masking tape price tags.

A little on the high side she said.

You want the best you got to pay for it.

She said she would pay him twice what he paid for it which was still nothing and he laughed again and said he would give them to her half price. She picked out some and took them to the counter. She asked him did he have something Harmon could use for a suitcase and he went through the doorway to the back, drawing aside a frayed wool blanket draped over a dowel. He came back carrying a scuffed briefcase with a shoulder strap friction-taped to the buckles, its side pockets yawning through broken zippers. He told her because she was such a good customer he would throw it in for free and maybe she would remember that and return the favor if he came over on Saturday. She said she couldn’t cut the girls out and he could have it for cost, same as he gave her on the briefcase. That’s fair he said and put the clothes in the briefcase and added up the price and she paid him and went back out into the pathways of the discarded.

 

 

 

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