Hello all you Bloggers out there! After posting my dream casts of my book I figured it was high time I gave you a bit of what it is that I am talking about all the time. Here is an excerpt from my first novel, "A Ghost of You." Please enjoy and let me know what you think!
Mid-October – New York City, NY – 1994
It was the third time in a two week stretch that Max had brought his little girl to the ER for an unexplainable rash and inner ear infections. Normally Max would have let the medicine do its job before panicking but nothing seemed to be helping Ithaca. He was worried about an underlying problem. He had noticed that she wasn’t as active or attentive as other three-year-olds. The pediatrician Max had taken her to said it could be attributed to the cocaine and heroin she was exposed to during her development. They said Ithaca would be smaller in stature and would have learning issues with math and science.
The first two ER doctors that Max and Ithaca had seen had been gruff and not kid friendly. This round, however the pediatric resident was on duty. Dr. Tyson McKensie did not look like a pediatrician. He looked like he belonged on the defensive tackle line of the New York Giants. Six foot four, two hundred and eighty pounds of all muscle and as dark as bittersweet chocolate, he could be very scary entering the small exam room. Until you got a good look at his wardrobe; neon green scrub top, electric pink pants, a tie-dyed lab coat and a red foam clown nose. Kids laughed at him before they were ever scared of him.
“What’s been picking on you, Miss Ithaca?” Dr. McKensie asked.
“My ears hurted,” Ithaca explained.
“Well, I guess I’m going to have to scold those mean old ears. Let’s take a look inside and see what’s going on,” Dr. McKensie soothed. “Anything else going on?”
“She’s got a rash on her back that won’t go away,” Max said. “My roommates and I have changed all our laundry soap, dryer sheets and fabric softener. Joe makes all of her clothes out of organic fabrics and her grandmothers buy her all hundred percent cotton.”
“It’s definitely an ear infection,” Dr. McKensie said, handing Ithaca a Tootsie-Roll pop. “Here’s what we’ll do. I’ll give you a stronger antibiotic for the infection and a cream for the rash.”
“No offense doc, but that’s the same thing the other two yahoos gave us. Now I know I’m just a musician but I think I know my child enough to know there’s more going on.”
“I understand your concerns Mr. Porter. However based on the information presented to me, there’s nothing more I can do. So…help me out.”
“Ithaca was born addicted to cocaine. To put it plainly, her mother was a crack whore,” Max said, the shame of Stacey’s choices evident in his voice.
“Now we’re getting somewhere. Her symptoms don’t fit with exposure to cocaine. Do you know if her mother could have been exposed to HIV?”
Max froze. Of all the possible diseases running through his head, HIV was the very last on his list. He truly didn’t know the answer to that question. Max answered Dr. McKensie honestly.
“Ithaca’s mother and I aren’t on the best of terms right now,” Max said. “Is there a way to test Ithaca?”
“Right now I am eighty-five percent sure that your daughter is going to test positive for HIV. She has many of the early symptoms that lead to the discovery of the disease. For the time being I am going to refer you Dr. William Bryant at Brooklyn Medical Center’s PATH Center. They are more equipped to handle delicate cases like your daughter’s. They will be able to provide a treatment plan that will be beneficial for your daughter.”
“Thank you,” Max said, cradling Ithaca in his arms. “In the meantime keep her on the antibiotics for the ear infection?”
“That would be the safest course of action,” Dr. McKensie replied. “If Ithaca doesn’t improve with the antibiotics by the end of the week bring her back and I’ll do more tests to hopefully find anything but HIV.”
Max nodded and began to bundle his three year old daughter into her heavy coat. He and Ithaca walked back home to the warmth and shelter of their friends and family. As they were walking to the subway Ithaca saw someone she hadn’t seen in a few weeks.
“Daddy look!” Ithaca called, pointing off to the right of the subway entrance. “There’s Stacey!”
She started to run to her but Max stopped her before she could get too far. Stacey had done well for a few months after she got out of jail. She kept her weekly appointments to see Ithaca and stayed off drugs. One afternoon when Ithaca was two, Lisa showed up instead of Stacey. Lisa had also recently got out of jail on drug charges and came looking for Stacey. Stacey had left the halfway house and no one had seen her in almost a week. Max and Lisa were both worried that Stacey would go back to the Venue and fall back into the same pattern she had been in. Lisa sincerely believed that if Stacey accepted the responsibility of taking care of little Ithaca she might just grow up.
“That is not likely Lisa,” Max said, rather harshly. “We gave her every opportunity to get to know Ithaca and she chose not to. I can’t let Stacey be around Ithaca if she’s going to be high all the time. I won’t do that to my daughter.”
“I know that Max,” Lisa said. “You have done a good job raising Ithaca. I know that doesn’t mean much coming from me, the girl who got Stacey first hooked on cocaine. I honestly didn’t know Stacey was pregnant.”
A year went by and neither Max nor Lisa saw Stacey. They assumed that she was gone and they weren’t going to see her again. It was easy to tell three year old Ithaca that all kids had three daddies and no mommies.
The week before Ithaca started getting sick Stacey showed back up. The Stacey Max, Tricky and Joe had known was truly no more. She was a shell of her former self, strung out on something. Max took her to the ER and she detoxed. Because she had nowhere else to go Max allowed her to come back to the loft. He told Stacey she could stay as long as she stayed off the drugs.
Ithaca was confused for a few days trying to adjust to this new person in the loft. She wasn’t like Nanna Vianne or Nanna Ophelia. This lady was strange and she talked funny. Ithaca didn’t like her at all. Whenever she came close to her, she would run to Max or Joe.
“Ithaca, it’s Mommy,” Stacey would say. “Give Mommy a hug.”
Joe had to walk with Ithaca over to Stacey before she would go near her. She was confused because Max, Tricky and Joe had told her that she had no mommy. Stacey would ask her things and Ithaca would only nod, infuriating her.
“Why won’t she talk to me?” Stacey demanded of Joe.
“She doesn’t know who you are Stacey,” Joe stated. “You have never been around her.”
“Whose fault is that?” Stacey argued. “You three wouldn’t let me anywhere near her.”
“Don’t even go there with me Stacey,” Joe snapped. “We gave you every opportunity to see Ithaca and you chose to leave.”
Ithaca never liked it when grown-ups fought so she took the chance to sneak away to her room. Joe and Stacey stared each other down. Joe was fiercely protective of his Princess Ithaca. He would take on anyone who dared to mess with his little girl. He spoiled her immensely. Max and Tricky would make Ithaca walk while Joe carried her. She was Joe’s little princess.
Ithaca played in her room until the grown-ups stopped yelling. Joe and Stacey had come to an agreement that they would co-exist for Ithaca’s sake only. Joe had written Stacey off the day Ithaca was born. He couldn’t understand then and still refused to understand now why Max kept letting her back into their lives.
The straw that broke everything happened a few days later. Stacey was clean and coherent enough to be trusted to stay with Ithaca alone, until Vianne or Ophelia could get to the house to take over. Max, Tricky and Joe all had things to do for their jobs and needed the morning to do them. They trusted Stacey to watch the baby until Vianne could come to their side of the city and take Ithaca to hers.
It wasn’t long after the three fathers left for the morning to go to work; Stacey said that they were going to go to Tompkins Square Park until it was time for Vianne to come over. She helped Ithaca into her coat and they walked the three blocks to the park. Stacey let Ithaca run around the playground saying that she’d be watching from the picnic tables. Ithaca was playing on the low swings, the jungle gym and the slide that she didn’t even notice where Stacey was, until Ithaca called for Stacey to watch her on the slide. Stacey was nowhere to be seen. Joe had always told her that if she ever got separated from him, Max or Tricky that Ithaca was to stay where she was because it was safer. Ithaca sat in the sandbox and waited for Stacey to come back. She was still there in the late morning when two New York City Police detectives found her.
There had been a drive-by shooting a few blocks over and the detectives were looking for the suspects. Detective Albert Arvine and his partner, Detective Arcadia Harris, were canvassing the park when they saw a little girl playing by herself in the sandbox. Detective Harris sat down in the sand next to the little girl and started to build her own sandcastle.
“Hey there little one,” she said, getting Ithaca’s attention. “Where’s your mommy?”
Max, Tricky and Joe also taught her never to talk to anyone she didn’t know. They always pointed out the policemen to Ithaca and told her that they were okay to talk to. Little Ithaca didn’t look at or talk to Detective Harris until she showed Ithaca her badge. “Your mommy must have taught you not to talk to strangers. But I’m not a stranger, see.” She showed the little girl her badge and radio. “I’m a police officer. Can you tell me your name?”
“Ithaca Vianne Porter,” she said, taking the badge from her.
“What a pretty name,” Detective Harris said. “My name is Arcadia Harris. Ithaca, where is your mommy?”
“I don’t have a mommy,” she said, using Arcadia’s badge as a shovel. “I have a Stacey.”
“Is Stacey you’re baby-sitter?” Arcadia asked.
“No,” Ithaca replied. “She’s Stacey. Nanna Vianne is supposed to come over today and take me to the zoo.”
“Is Nanna Vianne coming to get you here?” Arcadia was confused. What kind of a person leaves a little girl at Tompkins Square Park?
“No. She’s supposed to pick me up at home. Daddy said that if I’m lost I’m supposed to stay where I am so I can be unlost.”
“Ithaca, how old are you?” Arcadia asked, waving Albert closer to them.
“Three,” Ithaca answered, putting the final pile of sand next to the bigger pile that was supposed to be her sandcastle.
“Dispatch, this is Detective Albert Arvine. We have possible child abandonment at Tompkins Square Park,” Detective Arvine called over his radio.
“Ithaca, do you want to go on a car ride with me?” Arcadia asked.
“In a real police car?” she asked, her eyes lighting up. She had never been in a car other than the cabs Nanna Ophelia took and Nanna Vianne’s town car. So the chance to ride in a real police car was a dream come true for the three year old little girl.
“Yes, in a real police car,” Arcadia answered, offering me her hand. She pulled Ithaca up and they dusted the sand off of each other before walking towards their car.
Albert tried to get a bit more information out of Ithaca as they walked. “Do you know where your Nanna lives, Ithaca?”
“She lives by the big park,” Ithaca said, as she skipped alongside Arcadia. “Bernard has to use a special key in the elevator to get to her house.”
“What’s Nanna’s last name?” Albert prodded. Getting information out of a three year old was harder than he thought it would be.
“Howard,” she said, kicking at a rock. “Nanna Vianne has lots of money.”
At this point, both Albert and Arcadia had an inkling of who Ithaca’s grandparents could. Peter and Vianne Howard were of the old New York money. Tricky’s parents were the cream of the crop, tip of the top. They were major contributors to many politicians in the city. It was a short ride from the park to the 9th precinct. Arcadia and Ithaca walked into the station hand in hand. Arcadia sat Ithaca on her desk.
Having no concept of time, Ithaca had no idea how long she had been alone at the park or how long she had been at the police station. Arcadia bought her a small lunch and they ate together until Ithaca saw her family arrive. She saw Tricky first.
“Daddy Tricky!” Ithaca exclaimed. She slid out of the chair and ran to the big man. He swung her up in his arms and held her tightly.
“Oh thank God, you’re all right,” Tricky said as he held her tight.
From Tricky Ithaca was passed to Joe, Nanna Vianne, Papa Howard, Nanna Ophelia and then finally to Max. She had never been hugged so tightly by any member of her family than she was at that moment in time. Max sat down in Arcadia’s chair and held her on his knee. He kept checking Ithaca over, like there was something missing.
“Ithaca, where’s Stacey?” Max asked.
“I don’t know Daddy,” she answered. “I lost her.”
“No princess,” Joe said his voice cold. “Stacey lost you.”
Max thanked Albert and Arcadia and the family left with Ithaca. The only thing she could remember of what happened after they got home was Joe went to the hardware store and came back with a large bag. She was sent to Max’s room and Ithaca could hear the shouting through the door.
“That was her last chance!” Joe shouted. “Stacey can’t be trusted Max! Why are you so set on protecting that whore?”
“Because deep down, somewhere she is still the Stacey we knew in ‘87,” Max stated. “Somewhere beneath the drugs and alcohol she is that naïve Nebraska farm girl that had a dream of becoming an actress.”
“That’s great to think that and all Max but she can’t be trusted with our little girl!” Tricky argued. “She left Ithaca, who is three years old alone in Tompkins Square Park. I wouldn’t leave me alone in Tompkins Square Park! What does Stacey have to do next? We might get that lucky next time, Max.”
“You’re right, Tricky,” Max said, the defeat noticeable in his voice. “We gave Stacey a chance to do right by us and she let us all down. Never again.”