SKYSCRAPER: An Excerpt By Author Scott Alexander Hess
On the train to see Professor Graves, riding across a raised trestle track, I witnessed a stretch of flat clayfield bordered by dark squat buildings, ugly clumps of boxy shingled things. I sighed, saddened by the waste of design, lack of ingenuity and the immense number of soulless structures thrown together every year. It rattled me in an unexpected way and, staring out at winter clouds hanging low over the desolate landscape, I choked up with a deep sense of loss. I was relieved as darkness came and the train pulled into my station. The evening had turned frigid. There was an old Plymouth, rust-spotted and without a back bumper, hovering in the parking lot. A dark wiry man hopped out and waved to me.
“Taxi?” he said loudly. He smiled as I approached. He had no front teeth, no coat despite the cold. The street bordering the lot was empty. He swung open the back door, smiling still, and I stepped in. The seat fabric was torn, and one window had a long crack down its center, like a finger pointing to hell. There was no meter. He got in and took off before I could speak. Music blared, a wild jangle of drums and chanting in a foreign tongue. I thought of Tangiers. “Where now, mister?” he yelled.
I gave him the address. He drove quickly, singing with the music, one hand on the wheel, the other rapping the steering wheel in time. His window was wide open to the bitter wind. The car jostled chaotically, the road uneven at spots. I stared out the window at drifting clouds. In the sky’s shapes, I saw towers rising. They were those wonderful shape-shifting clouds, moving quickly in the cold night wind, growing tall, then squat, the type of clouds a child might be fascinated by for hours while lying on a summer’s lawn. At the end of a slightly haunted suburban street, Professor Graves’ home was Victorian and grand. The place was decayed with exterior paint peeling and bleak tangled vines slithering up its brick walls. A chubby dark-haired maid showed me in, took my coat and left me in the living room which was lit by a huge, deeply-recessed fire place. There was sherry in a carved crystal glass decanter on a table along with two snifters.
The wild licks of flame and wide shadows emerging from the fire turned the liquor a golden red, the heat pressing at me, then into me. I imagined the flames were heating up my guts. The room was finely decorated with elaborate antiques, oil paintings and clocks. I recalled the sound of clocks chiming during my phone call that morning. I was intrigued by an odd chair near the front window. It was large, nearly like a throne, made entirely of wood. I saw it from the back, its claw legs, its dome-shaped top half-lit with shadow from the fire. I fell into a trance, imagining the chair’s back as a turret. I thought of Tad, of the Wolfe project, then got up and went to the chair to see the front. It was magnificent.
The thick wooden arms, which sloped up to connect to the back, had two carved figures at the hand-rest. The entire chair was intricately carved with vines, flowers and cherubs. Two anguished faces jutted out from the top of the chair’s back, as if they were struggling to release themselves. “It’s a jester’s chair from an old English monastery.
My lover collected antiques. Of course that was a long time ago.” Professor Graves hovered in the doorway. He had on a tweed suit with a colorful lavender-striped pattern and a vest. His pocket square was teal. His gray hair was slick and neatly combed. I imagined he was in his early 60s. He went to the fire and poured each of us a drink. I followed and sat in a chair near the fire. “You were such a favorite of mine,” he said, sitting in an identical chair, facing me. He wore wooly slippers, which seemed an odd contrast to the suit. There were tiny deer leaping across the front of the slippers. He handed me the glass of sherry. “Was I?” I said, remembering that solitary kiss.
You can purchase Scott Alexander Hess' SKYSCRAPER a Lambda Literary Award Finalist at: scottalexanderhess.com
"A tantalizing piece of literary erotica. Well-crafted and beautifully written, Skyscraper evokes a world that is elegant and gritty, while illustrating the compelling links between desire, sex, and creativity." — Joe Okonkwo, author of Jazz Moon
"Skyscraper," is every much the page turner as his previous works, but with more of an everyman protagonist whose drastic changes in behavior and attitude surprise no one more than himself...compelling." Christopher Verleger, Edge Media Network.
"Skyscrapers is a sleek and haunting fantasy held aloft by vivid detail and passion of architecture. The protagonist's masterpiece, as described by Hess, could be of his own work, as well: "All edges and shards incorrectly bold and divinely erratic, obscene and subversive." - Yin Q. BDSM educator/writer