A Record Year for Rainfall, Chapter 1

A Record Year for Rainfall is my second book, originally published in 2011.

Download A Record Year for Rainfall and my other stories in the books section.

Please note that the subject matter in this novel can be pretty graphic.

Bret Fould felt a pull. His face close to the ground, breathing in a resemblance of earth, he shifted his weight slightly and reached back. Laying face-down, his torso beyond the gate, Bret couldn’t quite grasp exactly where the steel mesh grabbed his jacket. He inched backward, hoping it would break free, but the cage held. He crawled back, letting his jacket unfurl over his head. He swore and pulled his arms out through the sleeves. The fence held the jacket now. Bret was bare armed.

He inspected the point where the jacket got caught, and with little effort unlinked them. He patted the jacket down, and felt the chill on his arms. The desert was cold at night. That a city surrounded him didn’t help.

Bret decided to wait a minute before attempting the fence again. He checked his camera for dust. The lens cap was on and sealed. It came off too easily sometimes, but not now. He looked around for guards. He took the piece of paper out from his pocket. His handwriting was messy, and no one else could hope to make it out. He was here, trying to break into a private motel 16 blocks from the strip because of a hunch and a breach of privacy.

It was Bret’s job to get pictures of famous people doing infamous things.

The hunch was the thing. His source was his girlfriend, which made things thorny. His subject was her boss, which made things dangerous. Her boss wasn’t a celebrity, but a politician. The source came from her computer, which she carelessly left open on her coffee table while she went to tip the pizza delivery man. The hunch came from a tiny ruby rounded rectangle with a digital shine on it, peering out as an event on her calendar. It was the calendar she shared with her boss, who she worked for as an administrator. It was a different colour than the other shiny objects on screen. That’s what first caught his eye.

The ruby rounded rectangle had nothing in the name heading. But it did have something in the location. It was the place Bret was halfway through breaking into. It was the place that took a small chunk of fabric out of his jacket.

Bret’s job photographing famous people had given him a very specific list of locations to watch out for, like cues in a pop song with a designated dance. If he saw a name from his job out of context, it bristled the hair on his neck. These were places he’d find acts of lunacy.

The name of this motel stuck out in white Menlo type in a very small size. Bret recognized it, and knew it didn’t belong on a politicians calendar.

Bret put his jacket back on. It felt just warm enough, the thin material keeping the perfect partition from the elements. He’d rather the fence pierce it again than get his back. He didn’t want to be bleeding and running. Of course it would be worse.

Bret was breaking the law, but paparazzi broke the law every day. Bail is included in the fee. Bret worked for a man who replaced his broken cameras, paid for his hospital bills, and once placed Bret’s broken nose in the middle of a golf course. He kept Bret full on booze. He kept his bank account full. He even allowed Bret to set his own hours and pursue his own subjects. It was a sweet gig for the right rebel scum.

Bret had broken the same law in the same place before. It’s how he knew which part of the fence to climb under. It had pierced him before, too, but on the back of his thigh. Doing it over and over just made the law seem trite. He hardly considered breaking and entering an offense at this point.

Album, the absolutely made up name of Bret’s employer, allowed Bret these freedoms and benefits partially based off the quality of the work. As Bret crawled under the gate, inched himself past the flora, and put his back to the faux brick, he felt worth the coin. Album believed employing a single exceptionally driven photographer would net him better results than a dreg of half hearted dream destroyers. So far, the experiment proved fruitful.

There were other reasons Album hired Bret, and they were sinister. But we’ll get there.

You probably know the name Album Yukes. If you don’t, you know someone just like him. He runs a blog you read every day, but pretend not to. He tells you awful things about people, and you feel conflicted joy and guilt. You get off, just a little, on the things Album writes and Bret photographs. If you don’t, if you’re not like that, then you may not have much interest in this story. But Album, Bret, and others like them make a hearty living betting that you do.

The ruby rounded rectangle covered the hours of one to three in the morning. Yes, it seemed odd that there was a calendar event on an employee’s computer about this. Perhaps it was a mistake. Bret could peer into every window of the small motel and find no one of interest. But his hunch suggested otherwise. His hunch suggested that this politician hid a lie in somewhat plain sight. It suggested that the politician trusted this lie with a few close people. His hunch suggested that the event existed on the calendar so he could be reached in an emergency.

Bret began checking windows. He walked the aisle on the first floor that connected all the rooms. It was outside, and Bret couldn’t see anyone. He didn’t count on any security; for all purposes, the fence was the guard, and it was high enough to discourage most. As he walked from unit to unit, he kept close to the walls, trying his best to listen. Brick, painted yellow, faded over time, dug into his back; the coarse material grounding Bret, making him feel heavier and planted. He moved slowly. He crouched past open windows. He thought about the buttons he’d have to press in a video game to do this.

Bret would have to hold down the right shoulder button and press X. He’d then have to carefully inch the analogue stick in the direction he wanted to go. It was both easier and more difficult to do this in real life. He didn’t have to input commands in real life, so there was no chance of ordering his body to do the wrong thing. But he had to actually move in a stealthy, controlled way. This was never as easy as it seemed. In many ways, the character Bret played in a video game was a much better physical specimen, even if there was no actual physical specimen to compare.

There was lag in Bret. He hated his lag.

It was possible that Bret and Album played too many video games. If it were a more moderate amount, Bret likely wouldn’t have equated his current situation to a level. But it still made him smile, because he thought it was both sad and clever. He climbed the stairs—heavy, loud metal slats full of holes—and headed to the next set of rooms.

There was a light on a few rooms down. As he inched towards it, past three apparently empty rooms, Bret weighed the chances that he was walking into a trap. All at once, everyone in his life became a suspect. Album tricked him into dating Jenny. Jenny tricked him into looking at the computer. The event was there because they both knew Bret couldn’t help himself.

It all fell apart quickly. Album couldn’t stand Jenny, or at least the idea of her. They hadn’t met. Jenny didn’t want much to do with Bret’s job. Her feelings on it leaned negative. And Album couldn’t even be in on the job. Bret hasn’t told him about any of it, just in case it turned out to be nothing. Bret supposed that Jenny could have possibly known something, but if the simplest answer was the right one, she slipped up. She should have closed her laptop, but she didn’t. Simplest answer being the right one, Jenny trusted Bret not to snoop.

But what if Album and Jenny did know one another? What if Album cocked the whole thing up with her? What if he tricked her? Bret inched closer to the light.

Bret didn’t know much about the Governor of Nevada. He knew Jenny worked for him as an administrator or secretary or something like that. He needed to learn to listen better. He was sure she said administrator but it didn’t often come up. He knew the Governor was conservative and white and stuffy. He knew he was in his fourties, wore good suits, and spoke freely about his religious views. In that way he was typical of the sort of politician you would see in that time: tense about progression, eager to please an older voting bloc, and quick with rhetoric and convenient—though technically incorrect—factoids. Bret had only ever seen him on television, except for one time he walked by a photo op outside the Golden Nugget. There, he saw a slew of journalists using older cameras, stock grades purchased by committee on a budget. All he remembered was smirking like a smug fool. Photos taken with consent were never very fun.

A block away lay a sleeping construction site. Las Vegas fattened in every direction with new lucre. It used to be home to the vicious and lascivious, but increasingly was home to people, stock varieties without mutation. Bret peered out on the shaken plain, knowing oversized suburban sprawl when he saw it. This motel was quaint in comparison. It was a relic of a shameful past and present. Bret would be surprised if it lasted another five years.

Las Vegas was being gentrified, and Bret and Album were helping it along. They made it just a little more difficult for things to stay quiet, and their customer was the suburbanite; warm and cozy, ghettoizing guilty pleasure to a touch screen.

The light of the motel room was a beacon. As Bret peered through a break in the curtain, what he saw shocked him in new places. It wasn’t the state of affairs. Gay sex was rote at this point. Even gay sex involving a supposedly straight, conservative politician was a bit cliché. There had been two decades of scandal and hypocrisy to make it hardly surprising that such a staunch defender of traditional marriage would be caught in the arms of a stronger man.

What shocked Bret was that he was actually here, that his hunch proved fruitful, that it led him to a goddamned bed of riches. He came in with no expectations, and look what he found. It wasn’t even close to the first scandal of its kind, but that was almost better. The narrative was already established. Everyone already knew what to expect out of the bold surprise. And while it happened at least twice a year, it still headlined newspapers and dominated talk radio.

The cap of the lens came off with a snap. It ended up tucked in a jacket pocket.

Thoughts of guilt arose in Bret’s consciousness. It didn’t stop him from shooting, but they were there. They always appeared at this moment. The guilt came in the form of voices, usually what he imagined the celebrity sounded like in defeat. He would hear them plea that privacy is a right, that he was ruining their life. He didn’t know the governor’s voice from memory, so he sounded like Hugh Grant, a man Bret had fistfought outside two seperate restaurants. In Bret’s head, the governor held out his hand, trying to stop scandals from existing. But scandals don’t happen because people do bad things. Scandals happen because people believe there is scaffolding, some constructed apparatus that keeps them from being caught. Scandals happen because nobody is in charge.

Bret took a dozen pictures. They were well lit. Better, they were indisputable. The governor, in shape, tan, sweaty, passionate, and in focus.

Who was the other man, Bret wondered? What was his place in all this? How would his life play out, outed as it were as a peripheral. Bret hoped he would be the most innocent person of all. The governor would be torched. Bret and Album would be decried as scum. Even the people of Nevada would look inward a little and doubt their ability to trust. But this man? He’s the innocent. He’s just here for a good time. Or is it love? Are they lovers? Is it more than a motel fling? Even better. This man will somehow be a hero. He’s the only one doing nothing wrong. These were things Bret wanted to be true.

Bret capped the camera. A job well done and halfway home. Second star to the right. Or it would have been if his phone hasn’t decided to vibrate. Instinct and Internet addiction made him reach for it. He saw Jenny’s face, smiling, half-drunk and under a retro filter. He’d answer later. He’d call her back when he was way clear. He declined the call, but she rang again. He repeated, and then so did she. This was insistence. He turned the phone off and pocketed it, but thirty seconds of delay was enough to shipwreck the enterprise.

The door of the motel cracked open with lightening and loose wood. The lover was standing in front of Bret stark naked and breathing hard. Bret jumped to his feet, and the innocent pursued, his bare feet smacking the cement balcony. Bret reached the stairs, and he did his best to not turn to face the man, to catch a glimpse of his pursuer. He heard the footsteps, but more readily the screaming, the panicked gasps and gasses and pants of a very in shape and justifiably furious lover. Bret’s feet hit fake earth, but he tripped and lost his five-yard lead. The man caught a piece of his jacket. Bret swatted the hand away, the grip loose for real offense, and too few knuckles in play. Bret regained his footing and sprinted towards his original entrance point. He did this instinctively, and within a few seconds realized his mistake. He wasn’t nearly far enough away from his pursuer to successfully climb or crawl under the danged fence. When the thought finally did hit him, he was only a few feet from it, and he was forced to turn and face the man. As he did, Bret smirked; he couldn’t help himself. He couldn’t believe he was being chased and possibly—if caught—beaten and humiliated by a man with so wild and long a cock. It was admirable from any distance, even in the dark.

Of course, only then did he realize the way out of peril: punch the poor bastard in the dick. It wouldn’t be hard, he thought. He laughed out loud. He charged the man. It was a gamble, and another heel moment in a series. The guilt kept hitting him, gaining traction and specificity. Not the dick, it said. Come on, he reasoned with himself. You’re a scoundrel but you’re not a dick puncher.

Once again, the guilt was loud but ineffective. Bret crouched before coming into contact with all the flesh, his shoulder hitting stomach, his legs firmly below. He could lift him, or drop him. He could tie him up in a bear hug, but what would that accomplish? What was the goal here? He’d ran, and been cornered. Now, he was fighting, but to what end?

The man grabbed not for Bret, but for the strap holding his camera by his waist. Within a second, he had the lens gripped. Bret shifted gears, swallowed his guilt and—out loud—said fine,” and grabbed the still-hard schlong and yanked. He couldn’t bring himself to actually strike it, and in the panic figured this was the next best thing. For a moment, before the wailing, Bret held onto one shaft while the naked man held onto Bret’s lens. The metaphor stuck with Bret for a long time.

Bret let go of the cock and made a fist, about to go big or go home. He didn’t have to punch him, because the man backed off, Bret’s camera in his hand. Bret held nothing. The man hoisted the camera, his lean, cyclist muscles shining in the dark lawn, and he looked like he was seriously considering smashing the device. Instead, he dropped it lightly to the ground, and cupped his hand in a motion any martial arts fan would recognize. He was telling Bret to come back, to re-enter the fracus, to bring whatever it is he was willing to bring.

Bret wasn’t willing to bring much. He turned and ran. He’d felt the naked man’s strength. He would be pulverized. It wouldn’t even be close. But in the fray, they’d switched places, and now Bret was only thirty or so yards from the real motel entrance, and he’d only need to hop a short vehicle barricade and sprint a short distance to true darkness and safety. So that’s what he did. The naked man did not pursue him. Disarming Bret and standing some ground was enough. He had the camera, so his lover’s secrets were safe. These were things he wished were true.

Away from it all, hands sweaty and sticky with earth, dust, and a little cum, Bret composed himself. He hid in an alleyway, between well-lit suburban housing. The imported wood he leaned on felt like it had never been leaned on by anyone before. It was cheap and thin but structurally sound, as if it was built to whether storms the state would never see. He caught his wasted breath. He blinked and coughed and patted down his clothes. He checked his pocket, to make sure the memory card from the camera was safe. Of course it was. He wasn’t going to risk the best payday of the quarter on a ground war. The flimsy plastic took up a knuckle of space in his hand. He cupped it, returned it to his safe pocket, and stood. He began to walk towards the closest populated street, to hail down a cab that would drive him home, to connection and rest and progress.

March 9, 2011