Fatboy Chapter One

I know, I know, it’s been over a month now but I’m still talking about Fatboy. What can I say, I’m proud of it, same way I’m proud of everything else I’ve written. Anyway, what I figured I’d do this post was share a little more of the story, beyond reviews (though you’ll find a few of them at the very bottom) and blurbs and descriptions of the writing process. So, scroll down a little more, past the Amazon link, and you’ll find Fatboy’s first chapter! And if you enjoy that, and wanna see what happens next, what becomes of Joey Hidalgo and his estranged family, then scroll back up here and click the link below. It’s available in print and e-book – options, man, options.

Chapter One

Joey Hidalgo had been drinking for three days. He’d
hopped from bar to bar and when they closed he went to
the twenty-four hour liquor store, bought some bottles or
a six-pack or whatever they had, and took them home.
The bar he found himself in was as miserable as all the
others he’d visited since the start of his bender. Grimy, too.
He sat at the counter and tried to avoid his reflection in
the mirror opposite. He looked down, picked at the scabs
on his knuckles. The evidence of the beers he’d drunk
stood before him. He wouldn’t let the bartender take them
away. Seven dead soldiers, like he was keeping a tally. He
was working on the eighth.
He thought about Billie. About Charlie. It had been a
week since they’d left. It was like a knife to his guts. The
bars helped. Their noise made him feel better. The jukebox
in the corner played old rock ’n’ roll, and the groups
chattering around him were a low hum that dulled his
thoughts.
And the beer. The beer helped most of all, until it didn’t.
Until it summoned up all the morose shit he was trying
to swallow down and keep to himself. His throat would
tighten. His eyes would burn. So he’d drink another beer,
and another, and he’d keep drinking until sleep came, deep
and dreamless, and he’d wake like he hadn’t lost everything,
and if he was fast enough he could start the whole
numbing process again before realization had a chance to
sink in.
Joey squeezed the bottle. His arm shook. He clenched
his jaw until his teeth hurt. The bartender watched him.
Joey stared him down, then checked his reflection. He
wasn’t blinking. It wasn’t just his arm that shook. He
looked intense, like he was about to blow, start throwing
shit around. He let go of the bottle and took a deep breath,
relaxed his shoulders, waited until the bartender was close
enough to hear him speak.
“You get busy in here?”
The bartender looked up, surprised. “Weekends, mostly.
Weeknights are steady.”
“I do this. Bartending. That’s my job.”
“Yeah? Where at?”
“You heard of O’Donoghue’s?”
“Yeah. Yeah, I think so. Irish bar, right?”
“Not officially, but yeah, the guy owns it is Irish.”
“Where all the hookers go.”
“That’s the one.”
“The hookers and the mechanics.”
“You sound like you’ve been.”
“Nah, but I’ve heard stories.”
“Some of em are probably true.”
“The orgies on the pool table?”
Joey raised an eyebrow. “I ain’t gonna say it’s never happened,
but least not when I’ve been there.”
The bartender smirked. He was a young guy, had his hair
slicked back and his shirt sleeves rolled up to show off all
his black and white forearm tattoos.
“You look out of place in a joint like this,” Joey said. “You
look like you oughta be mixing up cocktails in one of them
big cities, like New York or LA or somewhere.”
“I’ll take that as a compliment, but I got bigger things in
mind than serving drinks all my damn life.”
“That so? You a college boy?”
“That boat passed me by. I’m taking night classes.”
“Good for you.”
“Uh-huh. What about you? You planning on tending
bar for the foreseeable?”
“Well, life’s dealt me a shitty hand lately. Some real setbacks
been sent my way. Truth be told, I just don’t know
what my plan is anymore.”
“What did the plan used to be?”
“To get out the fuckin trailer park.”
“And how’s that goin?”
“It ain’t. And I don’t think it ever will. You wanna know
somethin else?”
“Sure.”
“I ain’t been at work in a week. Supposed ta be. Could be
I don’t even have the bar anymore.”
“You askin for a job here, that it?”
Joey shook his head. “No. No. Leaving one bar for another,
that ain’t even a step back, is it? Just a step sideways.
I don’t, I don’t know what I want.” He let go of the bottle,
held up his hands, let them fall flat on the counter while
he blew air through his lips. “Don’t know what I want anymore.
I don’t know. This ain’t making sense.”
“Not a whole lot.”
“You know what?” Joey finished his drink. “I’m gonna
leave. I know this whole routine. I hate it when it happens
to me, and no doubt you’re hating it right now. The sob
story bullshit. I ain’t gonna burden you with that.” Joey
pulled out his wallet, dropped notes on the counter. “Good
luck with your classes.”
The bartender gathered up the cash. “Good luck with
your life.”
Joey left. His truck was parked in the lot, but he took a
walk around the block first. The night air was cold on his
face and in his lungs. He breathed deep. He looked at the
moon, the stars, wished he’d brought his phone, that he
could call Billie, see if she’d answer, or if she’d ignore his
call the way he’d ignored hers.
He spotted a pay phone up ahead. A swastika spray
painted on the side of it, and a couple of ejaculating cocks.
Loose change in his pocket. He knew her number.
He decided against it. It was nostalgia talking. Calling
her would be a bad idea. They’d argue and he’d lose his
temper. Screaming down a pay phone in the middle of the
street at he didn’t even know what hour of the night wasn’t
going to resolve anything. When he got closer he saw it
was a moot point. The phone’s cord had been cut.
Footsteps behind him. They came up fast. “Hey. Hey,
man.”
Joey turned slowly, hands in his jacket pockets. Two
skinny white boys dressed like they were black came up
on him. The shorter of the two wore a big smile like he
and Joey were old friends. The taller kept his hands in his
pockets and the peak of his baseball cap pulled low so
most of his face was covered. The tall kid looked along the
road, checked for cars. None besides the ones parked. The
only vehicles in transit sounded distant.
“Where you goin, man?” The shorter one spoke. Joey had
a feeling the tall kid was the strong, silent type.
Joey ran his tongue around the inside of his mouth.
“Home.”
The speaker nodded. “Cool, cool. You live around here,
chico?”
Joey’s eyes narrowed. “Near enough.”
“My friend here and me, we don’t live so close. It ain’t
walkin distance, anyways. We a little short on cash, too—
you could help us out with some taxi fare?”
“I’m tapped.”
The speaker raised his chin. “You sure?”
“Yeah. I’m sure.”
The taller one drew a knife. A switchblade. He waved it
through the air in front of Joey. The speaker grinned. “Give
us your wallet, motherfucker.”
Joey stood his ground. He looked at the knife cutting
figure eights. He took his hands out his pockets. His fists
were balled. He smiled. “Take it.”
The two hesitated. They glanced at each other. The
speaker recovered himself. “Don’t be a tough guy, man. Just
give us the damn wallet. You ain’t gotta get yourself hurt.”
Joey waited. They weren’t going to make a move. They
wanted to intimidate him. They wanted him to hand over
his wallet without any fuss.
“This your first time?” Joey said.
“What?”
Joey moved fast.
He kicked out at the knife-wielder first, hard on the
outside of his leg, blew his knee out. The tall kid dropped
the knife and went down screaming. It was the first sound
he’d made. The leg was bent a way it wasn’t supposed to go.
The speaker looked at his fallen friend, face slack. Joey
smashed his forearm into his jaw. The speaker went down,
spat teeth. Joey loomed over him. The speaker begged off,
words issued through bloodied lips. Joey didn’t listen. He’d
heard enough. He grabbed the speaker by the front of his
shirt, used one hand to hold him and the other to hit him.
The scabs on his knuckles tore and his blood mixed with
the kid’s and painted his swelling face.
Joey stopped hitting, let him go. The kid was unconscious.
Joey didn’t know how long he’d punched him. He’d
lost himself in the moment.
The tall kid was crawling away. He’d covered a lot of
ground, slithering on his belly. He held his leg and dragged
himself along on one arm. Sounded like he was crying.
When he realized Joey was looking at him he whimpered
and tried to crawl faster. Joey picked up the fallen knife,
then went to him. The kid covered his head. Joey held up
the knife. “I’m keeping this,” he said.
The tall kid peered at him with one eye, nodded.
Joey smiled, winked. He felt better.

*END OF CHAPTER ONE*

Reviews!

‘FatBoy from Paul Heatley is an unflinching noir story that works so much better than most.

Joey is down on his luck. When we first meet him, he’s been on a drinking bout that’s lasted several days. His girlfriend and mother of his young son has left him. His trailer is a mess. He has abandoned his job as a bartender. And the first chapter ends in brutal violence on Joey’s part. There’s the accusation that he has anger issues. When he is not permitted to see his year and a half old son, and his girlfriend refused to speak to him, Joey gets it in his head that his problems can be solved with money. And he knows just where to get it from – a wealthy, overweight customer of his who has made racist comments toward Joey for years.

A friend of his, a prostitute who works at the bar, goes in with Joey on the heist. Everything that can go wrong goes horribly wrong.

Paul Heatley delivers a brutal, unflinching, noir masterpiece that can be read and enjoyed in one sitting in FatBoy. Don’t miss it!’

 

The big plan. The one that is going to fix everything for Joey. Bring his wife and his boy back, let him quit his mindless job, and get out of the damn trailer. Everything he needs to fix where his life has spun out of control. It seems simple enough, what could possibly go wrong?

I am not going to spoil any of the plot, this story was very clever and I was pleased to see it go somewhere I had not expected. The writing is crisp and the story was very well done, the plot has some turns and thrills that will leave you breathless and waiting for the next page, a very good modern crime novel.

Everyone knows a fatboy. Something like Sheldon’s Personality Theory may suggest they should be fun-loving, sociable, and tolerant, but Heatley’s characterization is quick to show why this ridiculous theory was rejected so long ago. Money and ignorance can highlight the worst in people, regardless of body type.

The descriptions of action and setting were phenomenal, and it was great to see the build to what ended up being a great finish. The comfortable language used in the narrative and dialogue helps pull you into the story and join Joey in his quest to make things right in his life. Right for his family.

Be prepared, though, the simplest plans can sometimes run into problems. Lucky you.’

‘In an odd way, this reminded me of another slim novel, Steinbeck’s “Of Mice and Men.” That’s because what sets the tragic plot in motion is a dream that seems within reach if only enough money can be obtained. It seems simple but goes awfully wrong.

The way things go wrong in “Fatboy” is strikingly real. This is crime as it truly happens: botched. The sardonic dialogue is another big plus.’

‘Desperation. A man at the end of his rope. Life in tatters. A complete descent into the circles of hell. Check. A need for money. Check. A rather poorly planned heist with the oddest crew. Check. A hell of a final battle. Check. It’s all there. All the ingredients for gritty crime fiction. Easy to read. Hard to put down. And a long steady build up to the climax. This novelette will not disappoint.’
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