I like to post these free excerpts from books like Fangsters: Clan of the Jersey Boys on holiday weekends because I know a lot of people like me who don’t always go away. Tony and I usually go away during the off season, plus we live in New Hope, which is a tourist town with a lot of things happening and it seems pointless to miss everything that’s going on in our own proverbial backyard.
So here’s an excerpt that hasn’t been published before. You can read more about the book here, with a full product description.
This is actually from the raw, unedited manuscript I submitted before edits. But it’s almost identical to the actual book, and it shows how crude and mean Digger can be. In this particular scene Anton and Leo are trying to explain to Digger he can’t use one word in particular to refer to transgender people. Digger means no harm, but they try to explain he could be into trouble for it.
On the way to the nightclub in Livingston, Digger seemed to have come out of the slump he’d been in when Anton had picked him up earlier. He shoved a Lady Gaga CD into the Escalade’s sound system and repeated the song Bad Romance all the way to the nightclub while he talked about his plans for the future. “This is fucking unreal, dude. We’re finally going to get a chance to do something fucking worthwhile.” He made a fist and punched his other hand. “We’ll teach that fucking von Sutton who’s the boss.”
Unlike Digger and the rest of his clan, Anton had never acquired the crude northern New Jersey accent with which they all spoke. Once in a while people who didn’t know him well could still detect a hint of the New England accent he’d once had. But for the most part he didn’t have any accent at all. He’d concentrated on the way he spoke so he would lose all traces of his past life as a mortal. And in the same respect, he had no ambitions of aspiring to the crude colloquial accents of those he knew in New Jersey. He did this by listening to everything and waiting a few seconds before he actually spoke. Reading classic novels like The Great Gatsby and Moby Dick had also played a huge part in this constant need to improve himself. In fact, he’d read the first page of The Great Gatsbyso many times he could repeat it verbatim. And he’d learned to do this all alone, because there weren’t any people in his clan that could appreciate things of this nature. Dino read sports magazines; his mom read The National Enquirer. He would have been surprised if Angelo had read street signs. He knew for a fact that Digger had never even read a book from cover to cover.
Anton lowered the volume and spoke over Lady Gaga. “Hold on, buddy. We’re not going to show anyone who the boss is. We’re just going to have a nice chat with von Sutton and make this right. The last thing we need is another war between the clans.”
“Fuck that,” Digger said. “I think that little queen you’ve been tagging is making you a pussy. She’s got you whipped, man.”
Anton didn’t take offense. He knew Digger had referred to Leo in that derogatory way because Digger couldn’t figure out their deal. In the same respect, he couldn’t resist torturing Digger a little either. “Don’t talk about my boyfriend that way. He’snot a queen and don’t change the pronouns.”
Digger sat up and jerked his neck in a defensive way. He squared his shoulders and pointed his thumb to his chest. “And don’t fucking tell me what to do, because you’re not the boss of me.”
“If you’d just give Leo I chance I’m sure you’d like him,” Anton said. He knew this would irritate Digger even more. “He’s the sweetest, smartest, kindest little soul I’ve ever known. And I’ve never met anyone better in bed. You should try to be more like him.”
Digger slammed his fist into the door. “Spare me the fucking details. And fuck you.”
“You should really try harder to get to know him better,” Anton said. “If you did, I think you’d really like him.”
Digger flung him a stare. “Why don’t you just hit me over the head with a fucking hammer and be done with it.”
Anton laughed. He slowed down so he could turn into the parking lot that would lead him to the nightclub. “Calm down, buddy. I’m only joking around on purpose to piss you off.”
“You’re an epic dick.”
Anton pulled into the parking space next to the front door of the club and said, “Just promise me you’ll try to get to know him. I’ve never felt this way before about anyone and I would like it if my best buddy approved of it. I’m only asking you to try, for my sake.”
“What about me?” Digger asked. “I’m supposed to step aside and let this fucking human have you without a fight.”
Anton knew this is where is could get complicated; he had to be delicate. He wanted to make it right partly because he did have feelings for Digger, and partly because he didn’t trust Digger completely. He didn’t want Digger causing any harm to Leo and he figured it would be better to have Digger on his side than against him. So he reached for Digger’s hand, knowing deep down Digger would never refuse him anything, and said, “We’ve always known how things are. We’ve always known there’s no way we could ever be together in a literal sense because they consider us cousins in the clan. I still feel the same way about you I always did, but I met Leo and I can’t help the way I feel about him. And besides, you’ve screwed everything thing that walks and I’ve never once gotten mad at you for it.”
“That’s different,” Digger said. “It’s just sex. I didn’t care about any of them.”
Anton didn’t want to get into a long discussion in the car. Digger had always been able to separate sex from love and it had never been that simple for Anton. They were already late and he wanted to get inside. “All I’m asking is that you try to get to know him better. You might even find you have a few things in common besides me.” He squeezed his hand harder. “Promise me you’ll at least try.”
Digger made a face and said, “Okay. I will try. But I can’t promise I’ll actually like him.”
Anton shrugged and said, “That’s all I’m asking. I think things will work out better than you think they will.”
“I don’t see how,” said Digger.
Digger had no idea Anton had already spoken to Leo about this a few days earlier. Anton hadn’t mentioned anything about them being vampires, but he did tell Leo that he and Digger had been on and off again lovers for a long time. When Leo heard this, he seemed more intrigued than annoyed, especially the part about them being cousins. When Anton said they were adopted and not really related by blood, it didn’t seem to calm Leo’s excitement. Leo even told Anton that he was attracted to Digger, too, but didn’t want to mention it aloud because he didn’t know how Anton would react.
When Digger and Anton entered the club that night, Leo greeted them from the other side of the bar and he spoke to Digger first this time. He exchanged a quick glance with Anton, and then he looked Digger up and down and said, “Those jeans and shoes are so cool. Where did you get them? I’d love to find shoes like that.”
Anton folded his arms across his chest and smiled. The best way for anyone to get to Digger was through compliments about his clothes or how he looked.
Digger seemed apprehensive at first. He looked down at his shoes and shrugged. “I got them at this shop in the East Village a few weeks ago. They’re vintage, from the 1970’s. From what I’m told they were never worn.”
Leo smiled at Anton. “Maybe all three of us could go there together sometime. I’d love to get a pair like that myself. What size are they?”
“Size ten,” Digger said. He lifted his head and looked into Leo’s eyes for the first time since he’d entered. “But they had a few in other sizes, too. Some even had higher heels but I didn’t want to get too carried away. As it is, some old bitch looked at me like I was from fucking Mars earlier tonight.”
“That’s my size,” Leo said. “And you shouldn’t worry about what anyone else thinks. You’re a hot guy and you look good in that outfit.”
This time Digger smiled. “You really think so? People think I dress weird sometimes.”
Leo nodded. “You’re adorable. You and Anton are the best looking guys I’ve ever met in my entire life, so don’t be silly.”
Anton wanted to jump over the bar and kiss Leo for being so smart. Average compliments never worked with Digger. If he’d said, “You and Anton are good looking guys,” that wouldn’t have been enough to satisfy him. But the fact that he’d said they were the best looking guys he’d ever met in his life seemed to cover all the bases, without question or doubt, and Digger stood there beaming at him, wallowing in vanity of the worst kind. And it had nothing to do with Digger’s vanity and all to do with his neediness and his genuine insecurity.
When it was time to leave so they could check out the nightclub and make their rounds so they would look as if they were actually doing something important, Leo and Digger fist-bumped and Digger promised he would take Leo to the shop in the East Village as soon as possible. Anton had no idea their shopping spree in the East Village would happen so soon, because when they returned to Leo’s bar two hours later and started talking about it again, Digger said, “Let’s go now.”
Anton sent him a glance. “Go where?”
“To the East Village,” he said. “I can take Leo to that shop, and then we can drop him off in Brooklyn when we’re done.”
“I’m working,” Leo said. “I’d love to go, but I can’t just leave. I need the money, too.”
“Fuck that,” said Digger. “You’re not just leaving. You’re leaving with the bosses. We’re in charge here, not the fucking manager. You can’t get into trouble for that and I’ll make sure you don’t lose any money.”
Anton had always admired the way Digger embraced being important. “I doubt the shop is open. It’s after midnight.” Anton had always been humble in that respect and he’d never pulled rank with anyone because his dad owned the nightclub. He wanted to be treated like every other employee there. But in trying to do this he only wound up making everyone else feel awkward and they didn’t know how to treat him. In many ways, Digger’s more honest approach made put people at ease.
“All I have to do is make one phone call and she’ll open for me,” Digger said. “I’m her best customer and she knows it.” He turned to Leo. “It’s owned by this really hot tranny and she’s in love with my body.”
Leo laughed. “You’re silly.”
Anton said, “You can’t say that.”
Digger looked confused. “Say what? She is in love with my body. She told me so.”
Leo reached across the bar and patted Digger on the shoulder. “He’s not talking about your Body. You can’t say tranny anymore. It’s considered a slur. It’s gaycism.”
Digger blinked. “Huh?”
Anton smiled; he knew Digger had never heard the word gaycism. He also knew Digger knew nothing about being politically correct. “You have to say transgender person. Or, cross dresser. But not tranny.”
“But everyone says tranny,” Digger said. “Even the trannies say tranny and they don’t take offense to it.”
“You could get into big trouble if you say it to the wrong person,” Leo said.
Digger still seemed confused. “But she calls herself a tranny and she’s not upset about it. What the fuck is up with that? Who’s making these fucking rules anyway?”
“She’s allowed to do that because she is transgender,” Leo said. “It’s like me calling myself a fag in jest. It’s self-deprecating and I’m not really serious about it.”
Digger looked up and rolled his eyes. “Whatever,” he said. “Are we going or not? I have to call the transgender person first.”
Anton and Leo exchanged a glance, and Anton could see that Leo was dying to go but he was waiting for Anton’s approval. So Anton looked around and said, “I guess it’s not too busy here, so it won’t matter if you’re gone. But I don’t want to make a habit of this. And we tell them we’re leaving early to check out a nightclub in the city to see how they do things, like we’re spies and this is work. I don’t want them thinking we going shopping.” That’s all Angelo needed to hear. They’d wind up back in Sicily sleeping in coffins next to donkey carts for sure.