Exclusive Excerpt from Ted of the d’Urbervilles
by Rob Rosen
I crawled through the busted-out window of the deserted house, catching my foot on the jagged sill. In I tumbled, landing with a dull thud and a loud oomph on the junk-ridden floor. Sighing as I righted myself, I managed a “Ta da,” if only for the benefit of the scampering roaches and other assorted vermin I shared my home with—home of course being such a subjective word. Hovel was more appropriate. Dump, yes; dump definitely would’ve worked, too. Hey, let’s also throw in some nifty adjectives here, just to better paint the picture: ramshackle, bleak, moldy, and, um, demolishable. Not that the last one was a word, but this wasn’t a home either, at least not mine, at least not legally, so we’ll go with it.
All that is to say…“My name is Ted d’Urbervilles and I am a squatter.” A mosquito admired my candor as he also admired my jugular. I swatted it away as I hopped up and dusted myself off. I would’ve taken a shower, but the shack—yeah, shack would’ve worked, too—didn’t have running water. Running mice, sure, but water, not so much. Dripping water, but only when it rained. As for electricity, well, at least I could plug my iPad into the wall at the nearby gas station. FYI, I found said device. FYI, I found it sitting on a table at Starbucks. Finders keepers, losers can go buy another fucking iPad. Last FYI, for now, I also showered at the gas station. Or at least sinkered. Which was also not a word so much as a way of life, what with my life being quite, uh, sunk.
By some sort of miracle akin to Moses’s parting the waters—had the hovel/dump/shack had any water, when it didn’t rain, that is—the place did have an Internet connection. Sort of. That is to say, somewhere within some sort of radius of me and my vermin friends there was a person with an Internet connection and a password that was indeed password. Ergo, I had Internet because the nearby he or she was a moron.
So, there I stood, iPad on the counter, the only light that of the screen, illuminating my face as I perused. Porn. Because when you’re dead broke and sucking on a McDonald’s ketchup packet as a midday snack, porn is pretty much the only thing that gets a guy through the day. And night. And, uh, morning. Porn and ketchup. That’s what my life had become. Me and the mice. I wondered if mice liked gay porn. I’d have to ask them. They tended to come out at night, just after I’d come at night and had then huddled myself in a corner.
God, I wished for a fucking break. Or some bread to spread the ketchup on. Or for a blanket, as the corner was rather drafty. Or for a roof that didn’t leak. Hey, even the Internet was spotty, but wasn’t that par for my fucking course? Par and birdie and eagle. Heck, it was a hole in one, and holes I had plenty of: in the roof, in the walls, in the floor, in my ramshackle, demolishable life. Yeah, that last one especially.
I craned my neck up from the drafty, dusty corner. “Ding?” I again hopped up. My ears went left to right and back again. Where had the ding come from? As my ears came to a standstill, my eyes landed on my still glowing iPad. It had been on when I found it. I’d quickly changed the settings so it wouldn’t turn off. So long as it had power, I didn’t need the password.
I walked to the glowing device, my nightlight, my connection to a world I no longer seemed to inhabit. Poverty, as it turns out, tends to relegate you to the seedy recesses of the world. I glanced at my surroundings. “Seedy,” I lamented. I then glanced at the iPad. I’d checked my Gmail earlier. There had been nothing but spam. Numerous people offered me ways to break my timesharing lease. Seemed to me, I was already on borrowed time, which was far more sad than ironic. In any case, I now had a real email, my first in longer than I could remember.
I had no family. My friends had vanished just as my money had. That was also more sad than ironic. Still, I checked my Gmail when I could, if only for consistency’s sake. And now I had an email from one Maximillian Ditmore, Esquire. Maximillian didn’t write for the magazine, namely said Esquire, but he did practice law. Turned out, my cousin Mortimore had died. Turned out, I had a cousin Mortimore. I didn’t know what to be more astonished by, that I had a cousin or that someone could name a child Mortimore. I read further. Didn’t take me long. There was to be a reading of the will, and that was about all Maximillian had to say.