I recently learned that the preferred spelling of “donuts” is actually “doughnuts.”
I was reviewing copyedits for Catchlight, and because the copyeditor had corrected the spelling to “doughnuts,” I saw that my characters eat doughnuts … a lot.
It’s especially funny because I’m now gluten-free and have been for three years.
I would not change my characters’ doughnut-eating ways. And I thought that now was the perfect time to share an excerpt.
Catchlight is narrated by two characters: Laura, a recently divorced therapist, and her brother James, alcoholic and deadbeat dad. In this scene James is going to pick up his son Jeremiah for his weekend of custody.
I roll up to the Dunkin’ Donuts six minutes late. Ava’s already there. She’s sitting on a bench on the narrow sidewalk, sipping coffee and smoking a cigarette. Jeremiah is in the front seat of her Mercedes, two cars over from me. The only thing Ava’s ever done for me is agree not to smoke in her house or car. And I’m sure she would have done that anyway. She’s a good mom.
I, on the other hand, am not a good father. I know it. Ava knows it. And Jeremiah knows it. I have no idea what we’re supposed to do now that we all agree.
Ava stands and kisses my cheek in greeting. She’s real affectionate now that we’re not together. I inhale the scent of her: Marlboro Ultra-Light Menthols, coffee, and something vanilla that could be her body wash or maybe her perfume. She’s shorter than I am, though her Afro almost makes up for the height difference. Today she’s wearing a pink headband, making the Afro even taller. “I’m going to get my passport photo taken,” she says, apropos of nothing. “Rick is taking me to Jamaica.” She points to her head. “That’s why the headband. You can’t have any hair on your face.” She smiles. God, she’s beautiful.
“Can I bum a cigarette?”
She rolls her eyes but pulls a crumpled pack from her designer purse. She whacks the bottom of it against her palm a couple times, fishes out a cigarette, and hands it to me. She digs around for a lighter and I click it, the sharp crack that sparks the flame as satisfying as the first long pull.
“Did you bring me that photo?” she asks as we smoke.
My mind is totally blank, a chalkboard that’s been erased. The door of the Dunkin’ Donuts opens and closes, breathing in caffeine seekers and exhaling customers clutching waxy paper bags and Styrofoam cups.
Ava sighs, and I remember she asked me a question. “The photo Izzy had taken of the grandkids,” she prompts. “You were supposed to bring me a copy at Christmas.”
I nod. “Right.”
“It’s July,” she says.
“I’m just going to call her myself,” she says.
I haven’t told her Mom is sick. I open my mouth, but no words come out. If she calls Izzy she’ll find out from her and be pissed at me. “I’ll bring it next time. Promise.”
She rolls her eyes again; she’s really perfected that gesture. “I’ll believe it when I see it,” she says. “Come on, ’Miah,” she calls.
My son gets out of the car, slamming the door. He’s taller every time I see him, but one thing stays the same: I always feel like I’m in a movie with the sullen kid. In movies there’s always a teacher or a coach or somebody who straightens him out. But I’m sure as hell not capable of doing that. So I’m stuck with Sullen Kid, forever.
I pull him into a one-armed sideways hug. He shrugs me off. “I need breakfast,” I say. “You want anything, J?”
He shakes his head. His neck is thin and scrawny, his back hunched under the weight of a giant backpack. He kisses his mom. Their skin is the same color.
I’m the darkest one in my family, the Lebanese on Mom’s side coming out, but people who see me with Jeremiah assume he’s adopted. Morons.
He gets in my battered Dodge Ram. I go inside and get a large coffee, a sausage egg and cheese, and two chocolate-frosted doughnuts. Hungry.
Ava kisses me goodbye. God, does she really have to kiss me twice in the space of ten minutes? That’s just rubbing it in. “Have fun,” she says. But I can tell by her troubled eyes that she knows her words are futile.
There you have it: our first Catchlight excerpt. More to come!
May 22, 2020