“She sits on the Big Gray Rocks”
big gray rooks
Mississippi River at the Moonwalk, French Quarter, New Orleans, March 2019 02, by Infrogmation
Big Gray Rocks
Anil looked up from his workstation in Ops.
“Does anyone know where Mike is? I’ve texted him twice, no reply.”
“Marconi and the Lakefront?” Lyn asked.
“No, I had Kate check there,” Anil replied.
“Ask Mary Margaret. She’s best at predicting his moods,” Lyn said.
Anil nodded and texted Meg.
I’m not surprised he’s gone off the grid for a bit. You heard the news, right?
“Yeah, Jimmy Buffett passed away last night.”
“That’s a shame, but it’s not something I’d put high on the ‘news’ list.”
“You’re not a Parrotthead, Anil. I’ve got this, I’ll have him call when I find him.”
Meg got up from the table in the courtyard at Celtic Bayou Gifts and Metaphysical Supplies and stuck her head in the shop. Tara looked up from behind the counter, where she was reading.
“Oui, Madame?” Tara asked.
“I’m stepping out for a minute,” Meg said.
“No problem!” Tara said.
Meg stepped out of the shop’s carriageway a few minutes later, after ditching her flip flops for a pair of Doc Martens. She stepped out onto Chartres Street and walked towards St. Louis Cathedral.
“Past the boutique — I guess Fleurty Girl counts as a Boutique?”
She paused in Pirates Alley
“Down the alley, to the river…he got the places out of order, but the spirit is there. Sorta like Williams did with the streetcar directions,” Meg thought.
And there he was, sitting on the big gray rocks.
“I’m not taking off my boots and socks down here, you know. Nasty funk in that water!” Meg said, as she made herself comfortable next to Mike O’Donnell.
“Hey. You figured my location out?” He asked.
“Yup. When I remembered you said you were saying Saturday morning Mass at the Cathedral, it wasn’t hard to suss out. Anil thought you’d be out at the Lakefront,” Meg replied.
“Legit, legit. But ‘In the Shelter’ is such a good song, and one of the men at Mass was humming it as he walked out of Church today,” Mike explained.
“How about you check in with Anil, make sure he’s not losing his mind, and we’ll go for a cheeseburger?” Meg suggested.
Hidden Talents online continues today with Chapter 2.
Hidden Talents makes awesome coffee shop reading!
The second chapter of Edward Branley’s first novel is available here on Eloquent Profanity! The story of Ren Alciatore’s challenges to radio preacher Jay Hadley.
If you become a Patron of Eloquent Profanity at the $1 level, you’ll receive access to the chapters as they become available here. Additionally, we’re publishing short stories and snippets from various works each month. So, come check us out. The prologue and Chapter 1 of Hidden Talents are available for everyone to read. If you like, become a patron.
Of course, if you read the first chapter and want the whole thing now, go to one of the usual suspects and buy the novel. It’s available in paperback and e-book. Even if you buy the book, we urge you to consider supporting the work by becoming a patron. We’ll offer content to keep you busy.
This month, we’ll publish a story that’s in the Talents universe but not in one of the two novels, Hidden and Trusted. Who knows, it may make its way into a future long project, but in the meantime, if you like the characters and universe, we’ll do our best to keep you there.
While we’re starting the focus on Talents, there’s also lots of content from the Dragons stories we’ll drop here. Edward’s first romance story, “Trivial Tacos” is in final production, so look for stories and snippets exploring romance writing. It’s fun and a real challenge for a SF-F nerd writer. Stick with us and help us build the following here. We know it will pay off in terms of entertainment as we grow. While independent forum/discussion sites aren’t as popular as they used to be, the implosion of the artist formerly known as Twitter may speed this up a bit. We’ll encourage folks to join in chats here.
Prologue to the novel, Hidden Talents by Edward Branley.
Copyright © 2015, 2016 Edward Branley
Cover art by Wendy Warrelmann
Second Paperback Edition
To the reader:
As much as the author would like to believe Magic and the Talents are real, this is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.
Five minutes to air is always hectic at Jay Hadley Ministries. Cecilia McIntyre, producer of the radio show, Talk Now! With Jay Hadley, settled into her chair adjacent to the studio. Cecilia’s engineer and right-hand-woman, Annie, was already in position, manipulating the dials and switches on the control board. Cecilia hooked up the telephone headset and double-checked her computer. While her boss was on the air, she would screen the calls, Tweets, and Facebook comments, while pulling up sound files of past shows needed today. All hooked in now, Cecilia turned and smiled at Annie, who gave her a thumbs-up and continued her pre-show checklist.
Two minutes to air. The star of the show hurries from his office at one end of the suite to the studio at the other, all but ignoring the beautiful view of Lake Pontchartrain his suburban New Orleans location offered. The rent had to be paid, and that didn’t happen if Hadley didn’t get on the radio and ask for it. With a quick wave for the women preparing in the control room, Hadley took his place in the studio behind the microphone. Even though Hadley had a strong, radio-preacher’s voice, he did not cut an imposing figure in person. At 5’7” and 160 pounds, he might still be able to run five miles a day at the age of 47, but he’d never be mistaken for the corporate CEO he was. This bothered Hadley during the few times he spent in quiet reflection, but not now. He was in his domain, in control, and ready for the world.
One minute to air. Hadley reviewed the various bullet points Cecilia left on his desk. These outlines covered the topics he should use when doing the many off-the-cuff requests for donations he would make during the two-hour show. Chuckling at one particular line of attack listed, he looked up and waved at his producer and chief-of-staff, who beamed.
3:00pm CST. The satellite links are all on-line and the red “On Air” light above the door in Hadley’s studio goes on. As the theme music and voice-over finish, the star begins his opening monologue.
“Good afternoon and welcome to ‘Talk Now!’ I’m Jay Hadley, and I’ll be here for the next two hours to say what I have to say and listen to what you have to say. My topic for today is ‘Sharpshooting Sub-teens.’ What’s going on in our schools? We’ve got kids as young as eleven years old bringing guns to class and shooting down other students. The breakdown of the moral fiber of this nation is happening at an accelerated rate in these last days. I’ve got a lot to say about this, and I’m sure you do as well…”
As Hadley dug into the topic du jour, things got more active in the control room. Annie busied herself with level adjustments and verifying the links to the outside world. Cecilia’s phone lines were already ringing off the hook, with both supporters and detractors alike trying to get through to Hadley. She received regular activity updates from the telemarketing center down the hall, letting her know phone activity and the dollar amount of pledges to the Ministry. She then passed this information to her boss’ computer in the studio when she felt it appropriate. Grabbing a quick sip of her Diet Pepsi, she flipped the switch for an outside line.
“Talk Now! With Jay Hadley.”
“Yeah, I want to talk to the holy man!” The voice was male, late teens, and trying to growl like his favorite heavy-metal lead singer.
Cecilia sighed. She knew this one well. “Hi, Lonny. I thought I told you I wasn’t going to let you on more than once every couple of weeks. You’re calling back waayyy too early.”
“Lonny is no longer. Only Destructor exists.”
“Oh, sorry, that’s right. I forgot that you only use your stage name these days. Still, “Destructor”, I’m not ready for you today.”
“I want to talk to the holy man today! Kids who kill is perfect for Deeee-struc-tttttor!!!” The young man’s attempts to sound demonic were truly amusing Cecilia.
“OK, Lonny, stay on the line and I’ll see what I can do.” She hit the hold button on the console and looked up into the studio. The kid was entertaining and usually generated good donor response. A quick review of her “regular callers” file indicated that Lonny/Destructor not only generated response, but the response was of the immediate impact kind—credit card donations. Smiling inwardly, she turned up Hadley in her earphones to see where to work in the caller.
“…nothing but dope-smoking death-dealing Democrats poisoning the minds of our youth and leading us to situations like we saw on CNN yesterday. We’re taking back the country, brothers and sisters, but it’s not happening fast enough! I need your help, friends, to keep this Ministry on the air, fighting the fight for our youth!” Jay was on a roll today, Cecilia thought. She watched as he flipped the switch to run the theme music for the bottom half of the first hour, then keyed her intercom.
“Boss, do you want Lonny today?”
Hadley looked up from his notes. “Wasn’t he just on day before yesterday?”
Cecilia frowned a bit through the glass. “Yeah, but he’s got the right shtick for this topic, and he’s hot to trot on line six.”
“Hold him for just about the end of the show. If he’s still there around 4:45, we’ll do it. That’ll be a great follow-through to the daily offer summary. If he hangs up, he loses his chance at fame. This show is a path to better things, even for the wannabe devil-worshipers who harass us.” He smiled.
“OK, then, 4:45 it is.” She killed the intercom and went back to the phone. “Lonny, sit tight for a while and we’ll work you in.”
“Very well. Destructor will consent to wait for the holy man…”
“Sure thing.” She put him back on hold, gave Hadley a thumbs-up and went to the phones again. The callers were the usual mix of true believers, kids who objected to Hadley’s opposition to heavy-metal music, non-Christians who felt the Ministry preached intolerance, and just plain crazies. The calls usually worked themselves out—put on an “anti” call, fire up the phone lines, then a few true believer calls to get Hadley psyched up for the next crazy on the line.
The cycle ran true through the first hour, and into the second. There was no guest today, either in-studio or on the phone. Hadley continued on-message, and the phones were lighting up.
4:30 PM CST: Hadley clicks the intercom switch.
“Is Lonny still on hold?”
“Yup, he’s on line six.”
“OK, let’s shift the live solicitation up, then I’ll take him right after that.”
“OK, boss.” Cecilia popped the phone button, double-checked on Lonny, and then went back to the other phone lines. She needed to get some solid true believers on right after Lonny to keep the faithful pulling out their wallets. After she got a third caller on hold, she took a deep breath and listened as Hadley wound up the donation pitch.
“Brothers and Sisters, I must have your help for this Ministry to survive. I need you to give that $20 a month, or better yet, be that $1000 soldier for Christ we need to underwrite today’s broadcast. If that’s just something you can’t do, then let’s have two of you giving $500. I need to know you’re backing me. These kids need to know you are there. We have to get the message of the Lord out before we have more children killing children!
“OK, speaking of out of control teenagers, we’ve got Destructor on the phone. Hello, Destructor, are you still there?”
“Hooollllyyyy Maaannnn.” Lonny was pretty good at the evil voice bit. Hadley wasn’t all that impressed, though.
“I’m not a ‘holy man,’ just a man doing Jesus’ work on the radio.”
“Hooollllyyyy Maaannnn, you do not know us. We will defeat your so-called ‘God’ and crush your religion!”
“Not a chance, Destructor. The only thing that’s going to ‘destruct’ is your belief that you will succeed. I have the authority of the blood of Jesus Christ, and that gives me and all who believe in Him the power to bind you and yours and condemn your masters to the eternal pit!” Hadley’s finger was poised right next to the ‘panic button,’ the switch that shuts off the signal in case a caller gets obscene. Lonny’s file indicated that he never used improper radio language, but you never know with kids.
“Hooollllyyyy Maaaaannnnn, your God is worthless. Your life is worthless. You will be crushed like the sheep that you are. My master will be victorious. My master will come for you and destroy all you love and hold precious. My master will put bullets in the brains of your followers. My master…”
Hadley cut off the litany: “Destructor, I bind your threats and wash them away with the Blood of Jesus Christ. You and your master have no power here. The Risen Lord is forever!”
Almost as if it was rehearsed, Destructor began coughing when Hadley cut him off and began his counter-claims. Lonny regained his composure and snarled into the phone. “I would like to ask a question of the Holy Man.”
The question came, not in the “Destructor” voice, but Lonny’s post-adolescent whine. “Why is it that you like to take vacations with married women who work for you???”
Hadley slammed his hand down on the “panic button” that controlled the seven-second-delay system. The public did not hear anything Lonny said past the word “vacations.” Red-faced with rage, he turned and glared at Cecilia.
Cecilia was stunned. Lonny’s profile had no record of being a Challenger to the Ministry. He never would have made it on the air in that case. No, something went terribly wrong just now. She was set up, and Hadley was furious. Ministry statistics showed that contributions regularly drop 20%-30% for half an hour after someone questions the Rev. Hadley’s personal lifestyle or the way he handles Ministry money. Sure, some of the callers get through, but that’s why Cecilia developed the caller profile database. The more “safe” calls she let flow through, the less the chances of something uncontrolled happening. Something like Lonny’s question, generated ten seconds of dead air, and that was something that could not happen regularly.
Hadley recovered quickly, and began damage control. “Destructor, you are history. You just can’t use language like that on the radio. This is a family program with a family audience, and we just can’t have that here.” He glanced over at the computer monitor and hit a button.
“Joanne is on the line from Dallas. Go ahead, Joanne!”
A positive call from a true believer would pick things up, but Cecilia still saw the smoldering anger in Hadley’s eyes. It was going to be a tough twenty minutes, but she had to keep the callers moving. She could figure out what went wrong later.
Starting tomorrow, we’re publishing Hidden Talents here, serially.
Hidden Talents for Patrons
Beginning tomorrow, 5-August, we’ll serialize Hidden Talents, Edward Branley’s first novel! Here’s the back-cover blurb:
New Orleans is hot, humid, spiritual…and magical!
Anita Delatorre is a junior executive for a publishing company specializing in Christian books and homeschooling materials. One of her “responsibilities” is to be her company’s liaison with a New Orleans-based radio preacher, whose books her company publishes. A group seeking to discredit her client is all too successful, and Anita must take steps to stop them, using any means at her disposal. And Anita’s means are formidible: She is a sorceress, whose psychic Talents extend well beyond those of most mortals.
Renard Alciatore is a thirty-four-year old photographer who enjoys using his computer skills to mock Anita’s client, the Reverend Jay Hadley. As Ren begins to receive information of financial and sexual improprieties from inside Jay Hadley Ministries, his life is threatened, and, in the process his own Talents are revealed. He is placed under the Protection of a shadowy organization known as The Assembly as he learns to use his Talents, to improve his photography, help others when he can, and defend his own life, when Challenged.
What were once Hidden Talents emerge in the hot New Orleans summer. Only one will walk away when the Duel is joined!
Hidden Talents is the first full-length novel from New Orleans Historian Edward Branley, whose knowledge of the city comes to life as Anita pursues Ren, to protect her business interests.
Originally released in 2016, Hidden Talents is available from all of the usual suspects. We’re re-setting Elysian Fields Press for direct sales of signed copies.
This is Eloquent Profanity’s first full-on Patreon content. While my Personal Log entries and other short thoughts are here, August marks the beginning of this site as formally patron-supported.
How it works
We’ll drop chapters of Hidden Talents on the 5th and 20th of each month. In between, we’ll feature snippets and stories from all of Edward’s writing. That part of this will be fairly random, a combination of quick stuff and unpublished quick scenes. The goal is three solid items per month, along with personal logs and whatnot. That’s what you’ll get at the $1 a month patron level.
We anticipate adding a $5 level in the Fall. That will likely coincide with the release of the new novel, Trivial Tacos. Edward’s first romance novel is fun story we know you’ll enjoy. It’s twelve chapters, so we’ll follow the same pattern, but at the higher level.