this letter to Norman Court is a novella consisting of 22 sections (each around 1250 words) I am releasing by way of serializing the piece across blogs, by reader request. A little hub site is set up at www.normancourt.wordpress.com that has a listing of the blogs that have featured or will feature sections—please give it a look, get yourself all caught up if the below piques your interest.
It is my simple hope to use this as a casual, unobtrusive way to release this material to parties interested. As of now the 22 slots have all been requested (cheers to everyone for that) but if you enjoy what you read please do get in touch with me via firstname.lastname@example.org. I welcome any and all comments on the piece (positive, negative, or ambivalent) or general correspondence about matters literary.
this letter to Norman Court
Station I was sat in was more a kind of substation, looked like a carryout restaurant from in front and in back looked about what I expect the offices of such a restaurant’re like, thin hallway, five or six doors down along it. I was sat at a table in the third door down, told a detective’d be in shortly, that it’d be fine I wanted to smoke.
I stood when the detective entered, shook his hand to a brief little nod from him sitting down asking me did I know someone name of Klia Flake.
-I don’t know her, no, no one like that I said, sinking in behind my cigarette. I’d been really hoping things weren’t going to take this tack at all, let alone straight up in front, now just like that, one question in, I’d settled into the version of things I’d have to keep up, no room to get an idea what angle was being presented, bide my time.
-You don’t know her husband, maybe? Herman Flake?
There wasn’t an ashtray, kind of made a face was it alright to ash on the floor, detective slid across a sheet of paper he nabbed up from on top the small filing cabinet behind him, my flick to cigarette dotting a broken bunch of grey across the blank page, still some bits getting on the table.
-What brings you to town?
-Nothing particular, really couldn’t even tell you what is this town. Came in the train, took out a room.
-For the week.
-I nodded, it clearly hadn’t been a question. For the week, yeah.
-Except something came up today you need to leave early?
I ashed, most of it missing the paper, one bit burning a tiny hole, brief flag of smoke vanished before it’d dwindled up two inches.
-Told that to the clerk, yes, but no, nothing came up, just the room is crumby and I’m only wasting some time no reason to it, on the outs with some friends, figured I can do better, no need to take a week out in a dump on impulse.
-Okay, he said, made some note of something in a paper out of his file folder. What about someone named Norman Court?
I tensed, mind churned for anything, but he didn’t even wait for a response, leaned back rubbing his eyes, genuinely looked sleepy.
-I should tell you you’re here because Mister Court alleges that somebody bullied him for some money, gave a description, a picture was done and somehow we got informed by someone that the picture looked a lot like you, like someone named Trevor English—in fact it does look just like you—and got told at the same time that you’re in town here, supposed to be meeting this someone who placed this call to us, instead.
I nodded, my cigarette nearly down to the stub, held it like a dead bug making a face I didn’t know where I should put it out, detective smiling, sighing that the floor’d be fine. I stepped it out, set my pack on the table, offered one the detective and he took it eagerly. I lit his from mine, handed it over the table, said I had no idea about was I meeting someone, I really was just on the outs with pretty much everyone I know, taking a trip around to keep my head clear.
He nodded, took a few drags like he was just enjoying his own little thoughts about something unrelated, then took a drawing looked just like me from his file, asked me could I have a look.
-Looks just like me, sure does.
I moved it back in his direction, he just letting it stay on the table—I wished I’d turned it, thing looked it was giving me the eye, straight on.
-It does look like you. It does. And the drawing at least, it looks exactly like someone stopped by Herman Flake’s office two times, week or so ago, claimed he had an appointment, at least it does according to the receptionist.
I could feel my thoughts getting knotted around each other, part of me trying to figure who else might’ve seen the drawing or where else I’d given my ID they might’ve already checked on, but with no time for these thoughts while at the same time responding, pretending like this was all out in left field as far as I was concerned, I had to concentrate to just keep up a nonchalance didn’t come off as distracted, come out with just flat answers suggested nothing, either way.
-It does look like me, I repeated. Someone looks like me, I guess.
Detective took up the paper, put it away, repeating that it looked like me, but adding almost as though it was something he wanted to emphasize in good humor, that it looked Exactly like me.
-What happened between you and your friends?
I blinked, asked what did he mean.
-You’re on the outs about what?
I made a face it was none of his business and just as I thought maybe I’d vocalize that, as well, there was a knock on the door, the detective excusing himself, coming back in just thirty seconds after. He sat, leaned to stub the cigarette I’d given him out on the floor, tossed the extinguished stub into a small wastebasket—my own was still just mashed in a dark smear of soot by a leg of the desk. He looked at me, really earnest.
-Trevor, I have to tell you it’s thin, what you’re saying is coming across as thin to me. But one thing I know from this life is You never know—could be even though it sounds thin, it all might be fine. But I’ve just got my information and so’m not seeing your version of things as clearly as the picture I’ve got, already. That’s fair, right?
-It seems fair, sure.
-I’m going to ask you—unless you have something else to say to me—to step outside here in front of the station, there’s someone is going to have a look at you. Now, if this person says they know you, I’ll have to put you under arrest and we’ll have to press into all of this a bit more at odds with each other—and remember, this picture it looks a lot like you, so if you have something else you maybe forgot to tell me about anything it might be time to think about telling me what that is.
I knew exactly how guilty I looked, knew the detective had me pegged full on, couldn’t even bring myself to say anything—I was done as far as he was concerned, no matter who was out front to give me a look said this or that about it. There was a disgusting urge to confess, or not even that, urge to blubber and just ask him leave me alone, but I got standing, mumbled could I have a cigarette I went out, or would that slant the looker’s ability to identify me.
-You can have a smoke. You want to take a minute, have a smoke here, then we can step outside?
I was shaking my head even while he indulged himself with his fatuous little question.
We got back down the corridor, out through the front, uniformed officer who’d brought me down standing middle of the lot, his patrol car in a space about twenty paces further on. Detective stopped me, positioned me. I flicked my cigarette out into the lot, upset I’d done so, watching the blue and grey smoke from it tangling in scraggly billows about third way between me and the uniformed officer.
Stood there what seemed a few minutes before the patrol car flashed its lights, flashed them again. Stood there another minute, the detective holding up his hand, keeping it elevated, then the lights flashing once, twice, detective’s arm slowly lowering to his side, hanging there limp like it was an empty sleeve the wind was enough to sway, same wind now rolling my dead cigarette in hobbling little rolls down along the lot.
-What’s that mean? I asked when no one’d said anything or looked at me another minute, nothing else from the parked car.
Detective turned to me, smiled, eyes tight like fists.
-It means it wasn’t a picture of you, turns out.
I kept his eye a moment, switched to a quick squint at the patrol car, hands down in my coat pockets, one gripped around my cigarettes, other flat against the pages of the folded letter.
Pablo D’Stair is a writer of novels, shorts stories, and essays. Founder of Brown Paper Publishing (which is closing its doors in 2012) and co-founder of KUBOA (an independent press launching July 2011) he also conducts the book-length dialogue series Predicate. His four existential noir novellas (Kaspar Traulhaine, approximate; i poisoned you; twelve ELEVEN thirteen; man standing behind) will be re-issued through KUBOA as individual novella and in the collection they say the owl was a baker’s daughter: four existential noirs.