I really didn't realize how important music would be in this novel when I set out to write it. I knew I wanted Mark to be into instrumental hip hop, but I wasn't sure how big a role music would end up playing. Once it occurred to me, I knew I had to pick music that was meaningful to me--not trendy songs that disappear with the changing seasons. I needed songs with lasting impact, and my first introduction to DJ Shadow came in college when a dude from my Literature of the Inner Quest class loaned me his CD, Endtroducing... Yeah, you read that right: Literature of the Inner Quest. Freaking weirdo English majors. (We have a lot of feelings, okay?)
Anyway, I was hooked. And I subsequently developed a mad crush on that cutie who loaned me the CD. But, alas. It wasn't meant to be. However, when I started developing Mark's character, the college dude crept back into my head. He said, "Hey Summer, it'd be really awesome if you based this one aspect of Mark's character off me. Remember that mad crush you had on me your sophomore year?" To which I replied, "Umm, hello? Of course I do. What the hell happened to you?" He didn't reply.
And that's the story behind DJ Shadow's omnipresence in my book.
Now grab a glass of red wine and press PLAY. It's mellow and sophisticated. Just like that drink in your hand :)
Excerpt from Chapter 9 - listen
“Where is everyone?” I asked, poking my head in the doorway Tuesday afternoon.
“I’m not tutoring today. I have a doctor’s appointment,” Mr. Connelly replied. “Did you forget?”
“Ohhh, that’s right,” I said. My heart filled with instant excitement. Two hours! All to myself! Dad didn’t need to know the session was cancelled. I practically salivated at the idea of unmonitored time to myself. Where would I go? The mall? A movie, perhaps? Maybe I would just drive around, heading nowhere in particular, just happy to be free, even if it was for a short period of time.
“What are you thinking, Cadence?” Mr. Connelly asked.
I shook my head.
“Nice try,” he said.
My face broke out into the widest grin. “I have two hours,” I breathed, eyes big and glassy. Like I was in a daydream—a too-good-to-be-true wonderful, delirious daydream.
“To do what?” Mr. Connelly asked.
I shook my head. “It doesn’t matter. I don’t care what I do so long as I do something. Two hours!”
“Cadence, I think the smart thing would be to go home,” Mr. Connelly said.
I looked at him like he betrayed me. “No.”
“If your dad finds out there was no tutoring session today and you’re not home, things could go south really fast,” Mr. Connelly said.
I was instantly pissed. “Do you understand that I have no freedom? My parents watch me like a hawk, afraid I’ll fall in with some other bad group and rob another convenience store. This is probably the only time all year that I’ll be able to go somewhere or do something that they’ll know nothing about. And I’m not passing on that chance.” It was a complete lie, but he certainly didn’t need to know my arrangement with Avery. And anyway, I didn’t need him to be my teacher right now. I needed him to be a sympathizer.
Mr. Connelly smiled wearily. “I’d just hate for you to lose your driving privileges.” And then he added more quietly, “I’d hate to not see you after school Thursday.”
I was shocked. I couldn’t believe he said it. Why would he hate to not see me Thursday?
He turned his back and continued packing his bag. He pulled the strap over and across his body, then closed and locked his desk drawers. I hovered in the doorway waiting for him to look at me. He took his time adjusting the bag, looking everywhere except my direction. I grew bold.
“Why?” I asked.
“Why would you hate to not see me at tutoring Thursday?” I couldn’t believe my own courage.
Mr. Connelly looked me square in the face. And then his eyes travelled to a spot just above my head. “Because you’re failing math. And I’d like to see you improve.”
I exhaled. I felt like a tire that had been punctured by a fat, unforgiving nail, deflating fast and hard to nothing.
But his eyes moved, my brain kept telling me. Don’t get discouraged. His eyes moved.
“Where do you plan on going?” Mr. Connelly asked, walking towards me.
“I don’t know,” I replied, trying to hide my disappointment. It didn’t matter what my brain told me. Didn’t matter that Mr. Connelly couldn’t look me in the face when he obviously lied to me. I wanted to hear the truth. “Maybe a movie.”
Mr. Connelly checked his wristwatch. “Not enough time.”
I nodded. “Maybe the mall then.”
He grimaced. “Why would anyone wanna go there?”
“You wouldn’t understand,” I said. “It’s a teenage thing.”
He chuckled. “I was a teenager, too, once.”
“You like that CD I let you borrow?”
“Yeah. I should probably give it back to you, huh?” I chuckled nervously. I’d had his CD for weeks with no plans to return it. I didn’t want to.
“Keep it for as long as you’d like.”
“Yeah. And if you like that, there’s an independent music store on Roswell Road that sells a bunch of it. It’s not more than five minutes from here. You can go and listen to some stuff on records. Completely different experience. You may like it. And it’d be a hell of a lot better than wasting your time at the mall,” he suggested.
“What’s a record?” I asked teasingly.
Mr. Connelly rolled his eyes. “I’m not that much older than you. And what is the world coming to when young people have never heard music on vinyl?”
I giggled. “I seriously never have.”
“Then you need to go. Listen to anything. I don’t even care, so long as it’s an LP.”
I didn’t understand what he was talking about, but I thought if I asked what an LP was, he might have a heart attack.
“What’s the name of the store?” I asked.
“Curb Your Dog Music,” Mr. Connelly replied with a grin.
“Curb Your Dog?” I asked, eyebrows raised.
“Whatever. The point is that it’s a good place. The owner’s a good friend of mine. His name’s Dylan. Just ask him to help you find some stuff,” Mr. Connelly said. “Now don’t waste any more time.”
He placed his hand on my shoulder and gently nudged me aside. His touch was electric, and I tried not to jump. I didn’t want him to know he had that kind of shock value.
“How old are you, Mr. Connelly?” I asked as we walked out of the building together.
“I don’t know if I’m allowed to share that kind of information with you,” he replied, opening the door for me.
“I won’t tell anyone,” I said. “I don’t have any friends anyway.”
“I see you sitting with Avery at lunch,” he said.
He noticed I sat with Avery at lunch? What? Was he checking up on me?
“Um, she’s not really a friend,” I replied.
I cleared my throat. “So how old?”
“Well, as long as it’s our secret,” he said. “I just turned twenty-eight.”
“What does that mean?” he asked.
“I thought you were, like, twenty-two or something,” I said. I could not be in love with a 28-year-old man. Just too old.
“Sorry to disappoint you,” Mr. Connelly said, laughing.
“You just look younger. But I guess that’s a good thing. For adults anyway. To look younger than your age.”
“And teens want the exact opposite, right?” Mr. Connelly asked. “You wanna look older.”
“Enough to buy beer,” I agreed.
He shook his head. “God, I miss high school sometimes.”
I stopped dead in my tracks. “What?”
“Did I say something wrong?” Mr. Connelly asked, turning around.
“I’d say so!” I cried. “Something sacrilegious, at least! You miss high school?”
“It’s not horrible for everyone, Cadence,” Mr. Connelly said, smiling. “I had fun friends. It was a good time.” He thought for a moment. “Now that I think about it, though, I could have given my parents less to worry about. I was a little bad.” He winked at me.
I didn’t want him winking at me. I didn’t want to have this conversation any longer. I felt like a complete loser. It was bad enough I had a ridiculous crush on him. I didn’t need to know how cool he was in high school.
“So you think you’ll check out that record store?” he asked.
I nodded. I didn’t need to know how cool he was in high school, but I was desperate to learn about him now.
copyright S. Walden, 2013