A Better Lie

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It has taken eight years of work to get my first novel ready for publication and now, I can finally announce that you can pre-order a special early edition of A Better Lie through my IndieGogo campaign. There are only 100 copies. Each is signed and numbered.

A Better Lie is a novel about a handful of employees at a flower shop who start selling alibis to their customers as well as flowers. It’s also about an affair that gets out of hand and a heist connected to the Russian mob. On top of that it’s a bit of a tour of Tacoma.

I’m the sort of person who believes you should get an idea of what you’re buying before you buy it. So in that spirit, I’m sharing a special short about a character from A Better Lie. Let me introduce you to Augie.

– Jack

Augie

by Jack Cameron

“This is a great apartment…”

There was a pause after he said it. Augie was fairly certain the boy could not remember his name. Augie didn’t mind. He wasn’t sure of the boy’s name either. Tony, Troy, something with a ‘T’.

He watched from the bed as the boy walked around his apartment. The boy had his shirt off. Augie was enjoying the view. This boy was probably half Augie’s age with skin so white it looked like milk. He had that farm-boy-in-the-city look to him. Augie wondered how many times the boy had done this sort of thing. The boy picked up a framed photo from the dresser. Augie almost forty years ago standing next to his friend Daniel. Dan the man. It didn’t matter where they were, Dan could score enough reefer for him and all of his friends. The photo was taken in Quang Tin Province, Viet Nam. Two weeks later Daniel was dead. Shot by a sniper.

“Whoa.” The boy said, “Is this your dad?” Augie couldn’t help but smile. He’d be sixty-eight in a month but he didn’t look it at all.

“How about you stop playing with my stuff and start playing with me?” The boy smiled and crawled into bed with him.

Augie woke up around one in the morning. The boy was gone. He got up. He checked the top right drawer of his old oak dresser. His wallet and keys were still there. He glanced around to make sure nothing else of value was missing. He noticed a Post-It on his front door. It just said, “Thnx. Put my # in your phone.”

Augie grabbed his cell phone and checked the contact list. He had well over three hundred contacts in here. He went to the T’s but nothing jumped out. Oh well.

Augie smiled. As finding companions online went, this one was fairly successful. They both seemed to have fun. No one was hurt and all was well with the world. He opened the refrigerator and found that he was wrong. The boy had taken something. His last beer was gone.

Awake and thirsty, Augie threw on some sweatpants and a t-shirt. He grabbed his wallet and keys and walked out the door. It was a nice night. And MSM was only a few blocks away. He decided to walk it. The MSM Deli was known for great sandwiches and one of the best beer selections in the city. It was also open 24 hours and frequented by police officers.

As Augie passed an alleyway he noticed a short, jittery looking guy standing near the entrance of the alley. Down the alleyway about a hundred feet further, there was a large man doing a bad job of hiding. The jittery guy began to approach Augie and then stepped away. These guys were two of the worst muggers Augie had ever seen. If Augie were even ten years younger, he might cause these guys some problems just on general principle. But as it was, he kept on walking.

At MSM, Augie selected a can of Wingman Ace IPA. It was a Tacoma brew and Augie liked to buy local. He paid the cashier, who put the can in a brown paper bag. Augie stepped out of the place, opened the can, but kept it in the bag. He took a long drink as he passed a police officer walking in. If the cop were a hard ass, he could have given Augie a problem, but cops didn’t usually bother the customers of MSM without good reason.

Augie spotted the jittery guy again about half a block away. Still standing in the alleyway. Augie finished the can before he got there and tossed it on the ground. He wanted his hands free if this turned into something. The jittery guy stepped into Augie’s path.

“Y-you…you got a light?” Augie eyed this guy trying to determine if he was already high or shaking due to withdrawal. Whatever the case, this guy was dumb as a post.

“You don’t have a cigarette.” Augie looked back into the alley. “Where’s your friend?” “Wh-what?” “The big guy. I’m supposed to reach in my pocket for a smoke while the big guy approaches me and then demands all my money or something, right?”

“Wh-who are y-you?” The jittery guy took a few steps back.

“You’re not wrong.” Augie heard from behind him. As he turned around, he felt the punch. It hurt like hell, but he pretended not to notice. He stayed standing, though he wanted to fall. He wanted to show these guys he could take a punch.

“Wait.” Augie said. He could taste blood in his mouth. He ignored it. “You should know something first.”

“What’s that?”

“Two things. One, you’re going to have to beat me unconscious or dead because I’m not giving you anything.”

“What’s the other thing, tough guy?”

“You’ll win. I’m too old to stop you, but I promise you, before the fight is over, you’re going to lose an eye. Possibly both. I will make it my final act in this world. Now I’ve got about eighty bucks in my pocket and a couple of maxed out credit cards. You decide if that’s worth wearing a patch the rest of your life.”

Augie got ready to kick this guy in the crotch as hard as he could. Then the guy said, “Taylor, forget this guy. Let’s go.”

Augie spit some blood on the ground and smiled. That was it. The boy’s name was Taylor.

END.

To read more about Augie, pre-order A Better Lie at IndieGogo.com.
(Link not working? Copy this: https://bit.ly/2LSG0MI  )

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F*ck The Police

I worked for the police department for two years in police records. My favorite show when I was a teenager was Homicide: Life on the Street. The best show ever on television in my opinion was The Wire. I’ve gone on ride-alongs with cops. I’ve read books about and by cops. There was a time when I wanted to be a cop.

So it’s safe to say that when it comes to any situation that involves cops, I’m probably going to be on the side of the cops. And for most of my adult life I didn’t understand how anyone who wasn’t a career criminal could hate cops.

It wasn’t until the first and only time that I got arrested that I really understood the hatred. In order to explain, I have to get into the specifics of what happened. Since it’s been many years since it happened, I don’t feel too bad about that.

My ex-girlfriend had come over and started an argument with me. She got loud. And as anyone who knows me can attest, if someone yells at me, I’ll yell back. Not mature, I know, but that’s how I am. And it’s not like I have a quiet voice anyway. Eventually she left my apartment and when she did, I called my friend and told said, “Hey, whatshername just came over and freaked the hell out on me for no reason at all. So glad I’m not with her anymore. I’m ready for a beer. Come pick me up.”

Ten minutes later, my friend pulled up in his 1966 Sparkle Blue Impala. As I got into his car, I saw a patrol car pull up in front of my apartment. I figured someone must have called the police. At the time I had just recently stopped working for the police department and my opinion of cops in general and Tacoma Cops in particular could not have been higher.  This is why I chose to get out my friend’s running car and explain to the officers what happened.

I walked up and introduced myself and told them I lived at the apartment they were going to. As soon as I did this, one of the cops told me to put my hands behind my back. ‘For protection’ they said. One of them then put the handcuffs on me. I nodded to my friend and he drove off since it was clear that I wasn’t getting a beer any time soon.

I gave them my version of events and was told to get into the police car. I asked why they were taking me in and they said, that Washington State law says that they have to arrest someone if they’re responding to a domestic. Technically this is true, but in practice I know that it’s not. I know this both from being on ride-alongs where we responded to a domestic and from two years of writing up police reports.

Once they shut me in the patrol car and put it into gear, it was pretty clear I was going to jail. I’d been in the back of a police car once before, but it was a different situation and I talked my way out of it. These guys, it was fairly clear, wanted to arrest me and so they did. And it was at that moment that I totally understood that whole, “Fuck the police.” thing. I got it. I was angry because they were arresting me just to arrest me.  I knew at this point there was nothing I could say that would get me out of the situation. However, I also knew that there wasn’t a lot I could say that would get me into more trouble than I was already in.

So I asked one of them how long they’d been a cop. He said, “Fourteen years.”

I said, “Fourteen years and you’re still a beat patrolman. How big of a fuck up do you have to be for that to happen?”

The conversation did not go well from there, but I think by the time we got to the jail they were just as pissed at me as I was at them, which was essentially the point. At the jail I was treated very well, but that might have had something to do with knowing half the people that worked there from my recent employment in records.

Three days and a couple thousand dollars to a lawyer later and all the charges were dropped. The whole thing was taken off my record. And things had returned to how they were. Except for the fact that I was still angry. I found in the days following my arrest that I would instinctively flip off any cop I saw.  I lost touch with the handful of cop friends I had. It wasn’t until weeks later that I realized what was happening. It wasn’t until I really looked at the situation that I realized I was blaming all cops for my one bad encounter with two cops. It was amazing to me given all of the positive police experiences I had, that this one event could color my viewpoint so completely.

It wasn’t an immediate thing, but I got over it. And it wasn’t until years later when I was talking with a coworker that I realized something else. He was going off at length about how the cops in his neighborhood when he was growing up would pick up a black teenager for simply walking down the street. And that it was because of that, that he hated cops.

I said, “So because of isolated incidents with a handful of individual cops, you’ve decided you hate all cops, correct?”

He said, “Yes.”

I said and I didn’t really realize it until I said it, “Aren’t you using the same basic logic that your average racist person uses; using a few events with individuals to justify your hatred for a whole group?”

The truth is that prejudice is the same regardless of who or what it’s against. It’s easier to get past once you really think about it. Just because some people are assholes doesn’t mean their people are assholes.

So I don’t flip off cops anymore. Of course if I see those two cops again, I’ve got a middle finger for both of them.

-Jack Cameron