by Annemarie Hartnett, guest blogger and author of The Company of Fools
I have zero musical talent. I never played piano. I only ever mastered Madonna’s “True Blue” on the keyboard. When I was a kid I took ukulele lessons at school and dropped out before the big Christmas concert. I was in the choir but stopped going at thirteen because, well, I was thirteen and it was a choice between singing the score from Oliver over and over or watching Buffy The Vampire Slayer with my best friend. Rodgers and Hammerstein didn’t stand a chance against Luke Perry on a motorbike.
Regardless, like most people, wherever I go there’s music. When reading a book that I’m really enjoying I get so wrapped up in it I start associating it with music. For example, late last year I read Paul Burke’s fantastic romantic comedy, Father Frank, and when Frank & Sarah finally shared a kiss I thought of David Gray’s “Be Mine.” I think this happens because you don’t so much read a book as experience it. Hours of your life is spent inside this imaginary world, and by reading you’re making a memory and in order for that memory to be whole your mind takes in everything it can – the scent of the candles you were burning while you were reading, the toasty-warm feel of the blanket you had wrapped around you, and a song that started playing in your head that says everything that the characters can’t – or won’t – say to one another.
My first release from Loose Id is called The Company of Fools and follows bar-owner Mike MacNab and waitress Kate Doucette as their relationship goes from friends to lovers. Mike’s foot-in-mouth disease coupled with Kate’s knack for going off the deep end when she’s not happy makes the road a bumpy one. Set in a bar? You bet I had a soundtrack going on in my head for this. Even the title leapt out at me as I was driving a long stretch of road outside of the city with my music pumped up.
Kate Doucette’s trying to get her life together. She’s working full time at Mike MacNab’s bar, going to school, and she just kicked out her Do-Nothing boyfriend. Things are looking up but with the construction going on in the bar, her money trouble’s looming over her, and her personal life in the toilet, Kate’s on a ledge and Mike is there to talk her down. One night she wants more than a pep talk; Kate asks her charming and handsome boss to spend a weekend in bed with her.
What could be a bigger stress-reliever than two days of bedroom Olympics with a guy who’s as hot for her as she is for him? The only problem is that he wants more than a weekend and it seems like he wants to fix her life for her. She adores Mike, but the last thing she needs is another headache in the form of Mr. Fixit.
She loved working for him. It was only because she liked him that she was putting in so much extra these past few months while he was preoccupied with getting his latest project off the ground: the soon-to-be Wit Cracker, a pub with live music and dancing.
She shrugged. “When I’m driving your nice car around town, you’ll see what a great bullshitter I am. I’ll be sure to wave to you while you’re waiting for the bus.”
He scrunched up his face. “Do you make happy sounds while you’re gnawing on a man’s balls?”
“I would never gnaw on your balls, Mike. I prefer to squish them like cherry tomatoes.”
“Yeesh.” He winced and then winced again as the buzz saw started up. “Ah Christ! I was hoping they’d give it a rest so I could have an hour to myself before the supper crowd comes in and I have to get behind the bar. It’s bad enough this place is dead all afternoon.”
Kate rubbed her temples. “When all this is over, you owe your entire staff a big bonus for having to listen to this all day. I personally deserve something special for sitting down there for four hours with my finger jammed in my ear.”
“It’ll be worth it. The place is going to look great, and you’re going to get rich on tips.”
“Uh-huh.” She placed a polished fingernail at the corner of her eye. “This is the eyeball that has been twitching for three weeks. Behind this eyeball is a tumour that gets a little bigger every day. When it finally pushes my eyeball out of my head, I hope you’re there and you get my brain juice all over you.”
“That hurts, Katie.”
She poured fresh coffee into a tall MacNab’s mug and added a splash of cream before filling two paper cups for the workmen. She slid the mug towards Mike. “Trust me. When I finally snap, I’m taking you with me.”
She left him chuckling and marched over to the workmen. She stood with a cup in each hand and stared them down until they stood up. “Remember what I said. The coffee is free if you stay out of the bar.”
“Fair enough, love.”
“And don’t call me love, you old fart.”
“Fair enough, Miss.”
She eyed the twin butt-prints of dust left behind. “I hate those guys.”
Mike appeared at her side and held out a wet rag. “On days like this, I feel sorry for Joe. It must keep him up all hours of the night knowing that at any moment you could wake up and snap his neck.”
She gritted her teeth at the mention of her boyfriend and slapped the rag down on the tabletop. “I’m starting to talk to myself, Mike. All day I’m cleaning up after men, and this voice starts in my head. That voice sounds just like my mother right after my father started to go deaf in one ear and she would walk around muttering to herself. I’m twenty-five years old, and I’m turning into my mother.”
She leaned down and began wiping the chairs. A prickle started at the back of her neck and zipped between her toes. She peeked over her shoulder and found him ogling her backside.
She gave a little wiggle.
He grinned, tucked his phone into its holster, grabbed his coffee, and headed for the double doors leading to the basement. “Thanks. That’ll get me through the next hour without killing myself.”
“It’s a shame you can’t see my ass-floss in these shorts.”
“No offense, Katie, but when you call it ass-floss, it becomes the last thing I want to see.”