By Craig A. Hart and S.J. Varengo
From Chapter One: Meet Perry Hall
Perry’s alarm had been going off for ten minutes, but it was the quiet whine of Fleming, his English bulldog, that woke him. As happened every morning, he reached out to touch the dog’s head. “Okay, buddy,” he mumbled. “Okay.”
For several minutes that was the extent of his movement, so the dog whimpered again, this time nudging his ear with its cold nose. That got Perry’s attention, both because it was a very cold nose and because Fleming was too fat to climb onto the bed with him. If the dog could nuzzle his ear, then Perry must be…he tentatively opened one eye. He was on the floor.
“Well, shit,” he said.
He opened his other eye, hoping to kick start his depth perception, but that useful feature seemed loath to function. As his vision came into focus he saw three things, all seemingly in the same place: a bottle of vodka lying on its side, exceedingly empty; Fleming’s dog dish, equally empty; and a piece of paper, apparently blank. After a few more seconds he realized these things looked like they were all together because they were. He brushed the dead Russian soldier away from Fleming’s bowl, against which the paper leaned, and sat up.
Fleming made a noise that was somewhere between a pleading growl and a sigh of disappointment.
Perry nodded his head. “I know, I know. Don’t preach.”
For several minutes, he remained where he was, unable to decide on his next move and unsure he could pull off a next move even if he came up one. A full-on bark from Fleming helped him decide.
“That was loud… and just mean,” he told the dog. As he slowly rose to his feet, Fleming’s stubby tail began wagging as the dog realized his human might not die after all.
Perry took a minute to steady himself. All the parts of the vodka he appreciated were done with him now, leaving the parts that led him to suspect the Cold War had never ended. He reached out for one of the smoothly-carved marble columns that marked the separation of the dining area and the kitchen in his well-appointed Upper East Side penthouse apartment. After a moment, he made his way into the kitchen and pushed a button on his coffee maker. Three years of periodic (frequent) heavy drinking had trained him that setting up the coffee pot the night before was a necessary and a holy thing. He then moved to a blue plastic storage bin and pulled off the top. As he did, Fleming’s non-tail spun even more rapidly, the delicious odor of kibble reaching his flat nose. Perry reached in and used the empty cottage cheese container that sat amongst the dog food to scoop out a healthy serving. As he walked to Fleming’s empty dish, he shook the container, causing the food to rattle.
“Just as you like it, pal,” he said. “Shaken, not stirred.”
-Reprinted with permission of the publisher.
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