Book I

Chapter I

As he stepped out of the cab and walked toward the front door of the white pillared estate, Will had this sudden feeling that he was a character in someone else's story. He had no control. His solar plexus was a withered peach pit of confusion, loss and emptiness. He had no memory of anything before the cab ride, yet all of this seemed completely natural, part of a continuum. He knew he was supposed to knock on the door.

As was typical for Will, his feelings of emptiness triggered his comic defense mechanisms. Rather than a standard knock, he used the knocker and his other hand to loudly tap out the rhythm to Soul 2 Soul's Back To Life. How ever do you want me? How ever do you need me?

Will immediately rushed in and embraced the man in the tuxedo who had opened the door. For the moment, at least, the peach pit was pushed aside. So glad he was to see his uncle. So long it had been. Well, as it turned out, he was going to have to wait just a bit longer. The embarrassed man pushed Will back, straightened his suit, and introduced himself, quite formally, as his uncle's "butler". This confused Will. Typically butlers did not answer the door. That was a footman's job. What kind of place was this, he thought?

For now Will kept this criticism to himself. After a few more awkward jocularities that were clearly not appreciated, the butler picked up Will's suitcase and led Will to his room. Before he left, the butler informed Will that there would be a dinner party at 8. There was a tuxedo in the closet for him.

Finally alone. What is it they say? In hell you are never alone. Clearly not the case here. The best thing, he thought, was to make the space his own. He would get to work right away. He must acquire a boom box, some new tapes, maybe a poster of Martin Luther King Jr. However, in Will's case, inspiration rarely led to action. Its been a long day, he thought. Lets take a nap.

But sleep eluded Will. Thoughts raced. The cabbie. Smelly but wise and comforting. Loss. But what has been lost? A house and a butler had been found. A new family waiting to be discovered. What's the point? If zealots believed in eternal paradise, why didn't more of them throw themselves in harm's way? Not enough evidence to justify suicide. Must endure the pain and the emptiness because its better than nothingness, for now at least. The people that say they love you get upset when you're happy. Why did he look at me that way? I was just playing...

...a strange burnt land. Philadelphia? So flat. It was never flat before. Nothing left. No friends. No family. I'll have to go. What? Reality destroyed Will's twilight nightmare as the butler roused him from his turmoil. Will mumbled an acknowledgment as his eyes adjusted to the light. He usually didn't like parties. He was always afraid of what kind of monster he'd become. This time it would be different. A fresh start to make good, lasting impressions. His new family would love him and know him as a decent and responsible young man. They would laugh with him and cry with him as the years passed, and one day he would be repaired and worthy of his parents' love again.

Alas. Tonight, at least, those things were not to pass for poor Will. A new and awkward social situation is the crucible in which one too many old fashioned's are muddled. Snickering during grace. Teaching the youngest one about NWA. Insulting his uncle's partner at the law firm by standing on a chair and reciting at him, in full, "A fox may steal your hens, sir" from The Beggar's Opera.

And so the night is ended with the butler refusing to bring Will another old fashioned, a patchily remembered stern talking to from Will's uncle that included words like "shenanigans", "this is the thanks we get" and "being a joker's what's gotten you into trouble", and a feverish half-sleep on a cold tile floor next to a running shower.