As part of each full novel in the Girl With Broken Wings series, I always include characters relaying certain stories or scenes from their point of view. In Falling, both Gabe and Tarren gave Maya wildly differing accounts on how they rescued her from Grand. In Landing, Maya and Tarren give Gabe dubious accounts of what happened when he and Maya rescued Tarren. I also originally had a section in Landing where Gabe tells a story of his own. It takes place in Chapter 10 when the Fox family starts out on a new mission. Often to amuse Maya, Gabe makes up crazy stories, and this entire scene is just basically him bullshitting around. I loved writing this scene, and I think it really demonstrates Gabe’s humor and his role as the glue that holds his fragile family together. Unfortunately, sticking a random story in the middle of the book didn’t help move the plot forward, so I decided to cut it. It was one of the toughest cuts I’ve had to make, and I still wonder if I did the right thing.
The start of a mission is always anti-climactic. It usually involves Gabe stashing a grocery bag full of protein bars, water bottles, and Red Bull in the backseat while Tarren checks the tire pressure and oil on the Murano.
When we take off, it’s always with care and caution. Tarren rides the speed limit like it’s an un-mutable law of the universe. He uses his blinkers. All the time. Actually stops in front of yellow lights and treats the white crosswalk lines as if they were protected by force fields.
Of course, I understand the old maid driving now. It’s all part of Diana’s code — the ironclad list of rules that her sons continue to honor even six years after her death.
A new unspoken routine governs these family road trips. I sit up front more often now, and usually the driver will shed pearls of angel-killing wisdom upon me. These PBS-like moments of teaching take on vastly different forms and vary drastically in levels of sarcasm depending on the driver.
Tarren elucidates Diana’s rules of survival in the soft tones of an acolyte uttering sacred dogma. Gabe’s advice is always couched in wild anecdotes of dubious verity.
Gabe’s Teaching Moments:
“So we sneak onto this cruise. Total fancy, smancy shit. Course, Tarren immediately gets sea sick, so I’m on my own…You were down for the count man…Shut up, this is my story.
I drag Tarren to a utility closet so he can cry to himself softly…My story…weeping like a baby, really, now that I think about it. Begging me, b-e-g-g-i-n-g me to save the day.
I take out one of the waiters and switch into his clothing. It fits perfectly of course, and no one is the wiser…Well, it was one of those huge ships. The staff didn’t all know each other…Shut up Maya. How many cruises have you been on, and the Disney Princess Cruise doesn’t count. OW! Dammit. Fine. It was going to be a really good story though. Really, really, really fucktastically awesome…Was that a pretty please? Come on, let me hear it….Okay.
I’m wandering around this ship, handing out these little shrimp hor d’ourves thingys, looking for my angel. Everyone is in beautiful dresses and suits, and this violin band is playing. All very elegant and la-de-dah. I see my angel, but he’s sitting down at a poker table. How am I going to pop this guy in front of all these people?
Then I have a great idea…Hey, I saw that smirk…Your foolish doubts notwithstanding, I have a brilliant idea. I go to the men’s bathroom and knock out another guy and steal his clothes. Before you even ask, his suit fits perfectly. I comb my hair back, and I look like a million bucks…Of course. I clean up real nice.
I come over and invite myself into the poker game. It’s high stakes. These guys are all millionaires or whatever. They’re suspicious of me at first, but I disarm them with my sparkling personality and incredibly high brow humor. You see, I can slip between all different social straits. I’m just incredibly gifted like that. Practically a chameleon – Hey! No chuckles from Mr. Vomit Bucket in the back… Alright.
We play poker for hours. Did I mention that this was high stakes? I’m talking hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of chips going back and forth across the table. These guys are all masters of the game, and we’re bluffing the shit out of each other, trying to figure out tells and, of course, keeping up a conversation of witty rejoinders filled with subtle threats. A huge crowd forms around us. Lots of beautiful women in low cut dresses…Just trying to give you a feel for the situation.
One by one the others drop out, until it’s just me and the angel….Tarren? Still weeping hopelessly in the closet with his vomit bucket as his only companion in the world. Back to me. The tension Maya, the tension. The crowd is getting bigger and bigger. Some of the women are fainting of course, because I am really revving the charm on all cylinders. Dropping like flies, those women.
Me? Totally cool. Just sipping at my martini…Good guess. Yep, shaken not stirred. Only way I’ll drink ‘em.
Finally, the game comes down to a single hand….Are you not listening to the story? Of course this was all part of my brilliant plan. Absolutely necessary, all of it.
We get down the last hand, and the angel has this tell, so I know he’s got something big. My hand is looking a little weak, until the flop brings me some gifts. I got the makings of a royal flush, but I’m depending on the draw. I know the angel already got his hand on the river, because he’s piling on the chips until we’re both all in.
There’s only one card left to turn.
There’s a huge stack of chips in the center of the table. The crowd is holding its breath. I’m nervous as hell, but I don’t let it show.
Dealer whips down the last card, and it’s the jack I’m looking for. The angel lays down his hand, straight flush, and starts raking in the chips.
“Good hand,” I concede, “almost as good as mine.” I lay down my royal flush and the crowd gasps in unison and then breaks into wild cheers. I grin smugly and pull in my chips…I’m getting to that part, calm down. I tip the dealer, buy everyone drinks. Shake so many hands I lose count. The women, wow, they were all over me. Can’t say I blame them, really…Yeah, yeah, you mock out of jealousy…
The plan, it worked. Angel is so pissed at losing that he goes to bed early. I sneak into his room and get a clean round off right in the back of his head. See, because he went to bed early, I had enough time to plug him, clean everything up, throw the body overboard with some nice heavy candlesticks tied to his feet and then entertain some of my new lady friends.
That could have never happened if I hadn’t won the game. See? Brilliant plan. B-r-i-l-l-i-a-n-t. I show two gorgeous ladies that my hands can do a lot more than shuffle a deck of cards. If you know what I mean. Double trouble. Two in the hand. Menage a trois….Just making sure. Not everyone has the same amount of, ahem, experience as me.
Speaking of Tarren, I collect the poor bastard from the utility closet. He’s a mess, but I give him a hug anyway and tell him that he did just fine. The kid loves hugs. Don’t know if I ever told you that before. Then we put on our scuba gear – which of course we’d brought with us – dive overboard and swim to shore…
Isn’t it obvious? The lesson is that when knocking someone out in order to steal their clothing, always make sure to find someone who’s your size………..
I’m going to take your silence as acknowledgement of my genius. Alright, alright, here’s the exit. Tarren, you’re up at the wheel.