Britbear’s Book Reviews welcomes fellow Black Rose writer Mark Pople, with an excerpt from his novel, Rogers Park.
About Rogers Park:
A shortcut led to the longest six weeks of Brian Casey’s life.
A high school English teacher and self-proclaimed Alfred Hitchcock junkie from a broken home, Brian has spent his entire life in Rogers Park, the bowels of North Chicago. He longs for a Hitchcockian revenge on the father who deserted him as a child.
Turning into the Farwell-Pratt alley on a bitter February afternoon, little does Brian know that the decision to take this particular shortcut will set into motion a chain of life-altering events. The first link in the chain is a trash bag thrown from a fire escape. The final link is a choice: forgive his father or watch him die. The links between – kinked and tangled, as happens when chains are kept in closets with skeletons – include addiction, F. Scott Fitzgerald, plagiarism, blackmail, and murder.
Rogers Park is a novel about the long road to forgiveness and the harrowing journey one man must endure to reach this destination.
Buy Rogers Park on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Black Rose Writing.
Excerpt from Rogers Park by Mark Pople:
Consequences be damned. The son-of-a-bitch must die.
Wait, let me try again.
I’m going to kill Daddy and I don’t care if Mommy gets mad.
Yeah, that’s probably how I said it. But I can’t be sure. My six-year-old-child voice eludes me twenty-four years later.
I didn’t say those terrible words out loud, but that didn’t matter. I thought them, like a grownup. Damn, I was proud. I understood that Big Bird and Elmo deserved credit for teaching me sharing and warning me about stranger-danger. But the theory that murder could be a viable solution to problems? I came up with that one all by myself.
He’s so advanced for his age. That’s what the neighbors always said.
The resolution-by-murder epiphany came to me the afternoon my brother Jonathon knelt beside me in our Rogers Park condo. I’d never seen his eyes so misty, his usual smile so unusual. Something was wrong. The Guns N’ Roses backpack our mother gave him for his eighteenth birthday was slung over his shoulder. The zipper strained to contain the bulky contents.
He tousled my hair. “Don’t worry, Brian. I’ll see you again little buddy. Be good. And take care of Mommy.” Then the part I remember most clearly: “But when you can get out, get out.”
He pivoted on a knee and flipped his middle finger at our father who sat with his back to us swirling watered-down scotch and ice slivers in his highball glass. Jonathan stood a moment and looked at the back of the balding head.
Our mother stood by the front door, a feather of a final blockade. Jonathon wiped the back of his hand across his mouth and moved toward her. He whispered something in her ear, brushed a tear from her cheek before kissing it.
He was gone.
* * *
Three years later my father left. He didn’t bother with the kiss.
My mother never remarried. “Why would I do that?” she asked me recently. “Men are a bunch of shits. All they do is leave.” A pause followed this remark, allowing 900 miles of interstate separating us to pave with guilt.
Once again I’d been reminded. I hadn’t yet killed my father.
I still live in Rogers Park, the bowels of North Chicago. Unlike some city neighborhoods boasting park as part of their names, this urban enclave actually has a so-called park, although in February it’s a lonely place. The brown grass is crisp and brittle, frosted white. Bare trees silhouette a faint horizon where Lake Michigan, dressed in grey, mingles with grey sky. At the eastern edge of this winter wasteland is evidence that humans once roamed these parts. A cement wall, graffitied by the city’s best, drops to a crumbling sidewalk running parallel to the Lake Michigan shoreline. This is the point where the park — and I use the term loosely — becomes a beach — and I use the term loosely.
From this wall, take a stroll fifty yards east and you’ll find yourself in Lake Michigan, not where you want to be in February. Stroll half a mile west and you’ll find me, Brian Casey, emerging from the elevated Morse Avenue train station. You can’t miss me. I’m the guy squinting into the wind, the idiot without a hat. I have a satchel-style briefcase slung over one shoulder, a gym bag full of sweaty basketball clothes over the other, and an unwritten novel in my head. Yeah, I’m a true renaissance man.
About the Author:
Mark Pople is the winner of the Houston Writers House 2014 novel contest.
Born in Cambridge, England and raised in Pittsburgh, Mark’s literary sensibilities were most inspired by his brief stay in Rogers Park, a northern enclave of Chicago. He now resides in Houston.
Like his novel’s protagonist, Brian Casey, Mark is no stranger to the English classroom. His years spent teaching high school English in Houston, while thankfully not as eventful as those of Brian, served to whet his appetite for written words, occasionally even those of his students.
Mark is currently working on his second novel, South of the Calvary Curve. He is a member of HWH and is active on Facebook. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Here’s where you can read more about Mark Pople and his writing:
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