There are well over a hundred-and-a-score of characters, flora and fauna alike, real and imagined, swimming in and about the almost 3,000 pages of story line between the first and last end-page in this 8-volume series, and all of them are important in their own way, shape and form. And each of them will be first to shout that it is so. That being said, and that being veritable, it is also true that in any tale worth telling, there always has to be a small cadre of primary players, the actor(s), either singular or in small tribes, who form the backbone of any great story. In this instance, this clan consists of five characters, which we have designated as the primary players. They are:
As you travel their circuitous path, you will come to know them well, as family, friend and foe. And now it’s time to meet the Primary Players.
Cord ‘Ay’ Brin (likely alias)
43 years old
January 13, 1963
- 5′ 9″ tall; 210 (+/-) pounds at arrival into Town.
- Stocky build; fireplug; former wrestler/power-lifter; frequently mistaken for Marine or Police Officer.
- Shaved head and face — which degrades to once a week over time; hazel eyes — dead at times.
- Hundreds of new and old scars scattered all over body, large and small, origin(s) unknown — including four linear, vertical, circular scars running through his chest.
- Checkered past, revealed in glimpses over time.
- No wallet, no watch, no phone…no nothing.
- Failed relationships…too many to count.
- Parents dead; siblings…maybe…no contact, if there are.
- Vegetarian; empathy for all animals…except humans.
- Anal-retentive — everything neat/orderly — to the point of being debilitating.
- Intense and mercurial at times, otherwise stoic, isolated, detached and indifferent. Frequent mood swings; a restless, troubled mind.
- A leftie; cracks knuckles frequently, mostly to annoy.
- Smokes cigars and drinks bourbon, whisky, Scotch and a variety of other alcohol — the boisson du jour morphs over time — but regardless, it’s usually consumed to an extreme.
- His memento mori: a single herring gull feather.
- Has his own Room 101, and it’s not what you think.
- Carries two boxes with him; one says “Open When You Are Ready” — why?
- Deranged puppet, crickets and flies live in his head — since he was 12 years old; they watch him — always.
- Watched Kimba as a kid…he was Kimba.
- Does not dream, except of Jenny, beginning in 1995…no end in sight…and that’s not good.
- Behold a pale horse, and his name, that sat on him, was Death…and Hell followed with him.
- Earl is his kindred spirit — Cord realizes that the first day they met…like no one he has ever met before.
- Arrived in Belvidere April 20, 2006, on a bus, from a place where things ended badly for those around him, as was typically the case — forever a mess is left behind.
- Why Belvidere? He doesn’t know; he never does, in the beginning. He’ll find out, eventually. And it’s not good.
- Much more is revealed…in snippets…along the journey.
39 years old
October 7, 1966
Belvidere, New Jersey
Belvidere High School graduate
Single; never married
- 6′ 8″ tall; 365 pounds, give or take.
- Less than 10% body fat; chiseled features; a physical specimen — a monster of a man. Immense strength, but doesn’t truly realize it.
- Flat-top buzz-cut, clean-shaven face; no tattoos, no piercings, no blemishes — surprisingly little body hair.
- Mulatto; light brown soft eyes; toothy grin – shine of a smile – adorable.
- On the spectrum; a bit regressed socially/emotionally/intellectually for his age — has the innocence of a child.
- Repeats things when he gets excited, twiddles thumbs, rubs hands together and licks lips fast.
- Quiet to a fault — extremely shy and never speaks to or around people he does not know.
- Never played sports — too shy and afraid to talk — coaches begged him — Lilly always said no.
- A fantastic singer (a cappella) and dancer, but doesn’t do either except in front of Lilly.
- No smoking; no drinking; drinks Verner’s soda and eats Animal Crackers — giraffes, elephants and lions are his favorites.
- Always hungry!
- A memory like a steel trap; never forgets anything and can memorize things upon seeing them just once. Always listening, even when you think he is not.
- Mom died 25 years ago, when he was 14 years old; does not know who his dad is.
- Talks to his mother often; they simply hold hands and communicate — at the boat ramp and on their favorite bench in the center of the Park in front of the Courthouse.
- Protective of his sister — calls her Bibby at times — the only one allowed to do that; adores her, even though she picks on him, which is often.
- Friends with Louie the Lobster at the A&P — in the lobster tank — named him Louie because Lilly was going to be named Louis if a boy. Lilly threatens to eat Louie all the time.
- Obsessed with 1980’s music videos…and Joan Jett.
- A virgin at 39 years old; never had a girlfriend — but has a cherished copy of the Kama Sutra, which he has memorized — with notes, in secret code, written in margins.
- In love with Carol Crowe, from the first day he set eyes upon her.
- Loves Chicken Little; she sleeps on his shoulders.
- Hates Button Pierce, because he is mean to Lilly, but Earl is afraid of him, even though he could crush Button.
- Favorite book — the Ken Holt and Sandy Allen series — boy detectives — first book in the series and only one he has read — The Secret of Skeleton Island.
- Favorite movies: Neighbors, Ford Fairlane and Clerks. Loves Godzilla and The Blob — wants to go to Blobfest in Phoenixville, Pennsylvania, but Lilly will never go with him.
- Has had a recurring scary dream since he was a kid of a Tyrannosaurus Rex chasing him around, trying to eat him!
- Sees Aloysius every year at the Belvidere Boat Ramp — double breasted cormorant — waits anxiously to see him on his migrations past Belvidere.
- Has always wanted to ride on a police cruiser-type Harley Davidson Knucklehead.
- Has no license, never drove — has never left Belvidere except for the Gill Farm, just outside of Town — the end of Earl’s world.
- Loves the smell of cow manure!
- No steady job — works odds and ends at Sam’s Market, with Marty’s dad out at the farm, at the feed mill, with Lilly at the studio or in the DSM machine shop, where he gets to wear a hard hat and safety goggles — makes him feel smart.
- Loves to wear his Gregson glasses as he reads the junk mail — important stuff!
- Cord is his best friend and kindred spirit, even though he just met him on April 21, 2006.
- Much more is revealed…in snippets…along the journey.
41 years old
December 25, 1964
Belvidere, New Jersey
Belvidere High School graduate
Single; never married
- 5’ 4” tall; 96 pounds; lithe, muscular, runner’s body.
- Blonde hair – three inches past shoulders, intense piercing blue eyes; dark eyebrows – distinct.
- Small breasts, high cheekbones; wicked smile — the saying beauty is power; a smile is its sword is all Lilly.
- Absolutely gorgeous; most attractive woman in Belvidere, by far — no contest — and she knows it.
- Intensely ticklish.
- Has never left Belvidere, except for cross-country meets in high school; has a driver’s license, but never used it.
- Ran cross-country for two years in high school — never lost — multiple full scholarships to top schools across country — tossed them all in the trash.
- Last three years has lived in apartment above Nonpareil/The Palace of Sweets with her brother.
- Broken by her mother’s death/suicide 25 years ago; the two were like twins, looked like twins…and were best friends.
- Carries her mom’s unopened note to her the day she died — for the last 25 years — will never open it.
- Still angry at her mother — 25 years later — angry, sad, lonely, hurt, abandoned — all rolled up in one. Never talks about her mom and won’t let Earl either, around her. Does not believe Earl can talk to their mom, but wants to believe.
- A great cook, like her mom was.
- Doesn’t know who her father is; suspects it might be Sam.
- Has always been in love with Button Pierce, since she was a little girl; he has been gone three years — no one knows where. Has always been attracted to bad boys. Doesn’t like that Button hurts animals, or her, so just doesn’t talk or think about it, to make it go away.
- “You Might Think” by The Cars is her and Button’s song, according to Lilly — Button has no such recollection.
- Has had both heterosexual and lesbian encounters in the past; spontaneous and voracious sexual appetite; has masturbated since she was a little girl, as far back as she can remember — in her earliest memories — for both satisfaction and stress release. Has read Earl’s Kama Sutra and tried to decode his secret notes…no luck. Rarely orgasms with guys, if at all, commonly does with girls…always does solo.
- Keeps Marty Brewer on Speed Dial No. 13.
- Mercurial temper — gets angry in an instant, but then changes like a switch. She always has to be the center of attention — thinks every man in the room wants her — and is usually right.
- Fiercely protective of her younger brother — mistreats him at times, but very loving other times.
- Bibby is her nickname via Earl — no one can call her that but her brother.
- Eats like a bird, but loves her pasta!
- Voracious reader, and also trolls internet porn like a religion.
- Teaches kick-boxing and karate at Margery’s Studio in Belvidere. A fantastic dancer; dances with Earl now, and Earl and her mom (when mom was alive). Also a fantastic singer, better than her mom, who was amazing in her own right.
- Much more is revealed…in snippets…along the journey.
45 years old
July 31, 1961
Grew up in rural Missouri; lives in the Upper East Side, Manhattan (Carnegie Hill); has a pied-a-terre – L’antre du Lion (the Lion’s Den) on the Courthouse Green in Belvidere, New Jersey, which she visits on most weekends as of late (in recent past, once a month, or less)
BS in Business/Finance; Masters in Finance — University of Missouri — Columbia (Mizzou)
Single; never married
- 5’ 4” tall; 104 pounds; green/hazel eyes, long, straight black (raven) hair; long thick eyelashes; jaw and cheek lines pronounced — classic European look; tiny cleft in chin; small sexy space between front teeth, all of which are straight and super-white.
- Thin, in shape, but not overly athletic.
- Very attractive, dignified look — exudes class and sophistication; soft delicate hands.
- Extremely smart and uber-wealthy — just shy of a billionaire; 0.1% class; in the hedge fund circuit/social circle in Manhattan.
- Father was a cool, reserved man who showed little emotion; German — distant and quietly jealous of her success.
- Owns the Palace of Sweets building, so she is Earl and Lilly’s landlord, to Lilly’s rage and Earl’s delight.
- Started and owns her own hedge fund — Actaeon Capital Investments in Manhattan — specialists in currency derivatives, but is looking to move into real estate, specifically, the redevelopment/adaptive reuse of brownfield (contaminated) properties. Starting a Brownfields Fund, and looking for $250 million in seed capital. Has a staff of 10 and generates about $25 million in annual revenue.
- Usually considers herself the smartest person in the room; and she’s usually right.
- Found Belvidere as a fluke when looking for a pied-a-terre 14 years ago; stumbled upon Town on August 14, 1992 — named house L’antre du Lion (the Lion’s Den). Travels to Belvidere about once per month, maybe less, for the 14 years she has owned her weekend home; the frequency changed drastically in 2006 and now comes just about every weekend. Spends a large amount of time on the front porch reading the newspaper, smoking cigarillos or drinking wine, overlooking Belvidere’s central Courthouse Green, in the middle of the historic, Victorian section of Town.
- Has few friends in Belvidere, mostly because the locals have turned against her due to false rumors and gossip started by Lilly over the past 14 years; because of this, spends all her time milling around the Courthouse Park, rarely venturing anywhere else in Town.
- Owns a variety of investment properties in Town above and beyond the historic Palace of Sweets building, mostly just to annoy Lilly and let her know that Carol will never be leaving Town, which is what Lilly really wants.
- Lilly is her mortal enemy, but develops a close, genuine bond/friendship with Cord and Earl, to Lilly’s ever consternation.
- Ji-Sue is her Korean maid in Belvidere; also takes care of her eight cats, which are all rescues from shelters or found around Town.
- Has had a series of failed short-term relationships with like-minded A-Type intellectuals in her industry and artistic types who feed off her and her peer’s commissions — sucking her like a leech. Both have ended miserably multiple times.
- Drives a candy-apple-red Ferrari F430 Spider; prior was a forest green Aston Martin Virage Volante 2+2.
- Much more is revealed…in snippets…along the journey.
46 years old
November 15, 1960
White Township, New Jersey (just outside Belvidere — walk to Town)
Belvidere High School graduate; Marine MOS 0311 — Rifleman Classification
Single; never married
None to his knowledge
- 5’ 10” tall; 175 pounds
- Lithe, muscular, like a stallion, washboard abdomen
- Intricate tattoo covering his chest; carp, vines, flowers, Carol across his chest and Lillian off his shoulder
- Deep blue eyes, long eyelashes
- Arrowhead birthmark on his cock
- Most handsome guy in Warren County
- Avid ruthless hunter, with no empathy for his prey…his pre-kill favorite saying: “It’s a bitch not being at the top of the food chain.” Tortures animals for fun, control; considers himself a sportsman, a conservationist, but he is really neither.
- Born on a dairy farm in White Township; has a younger butt-ugly sister and a dad who used to beat the snot out of him as a kid. Went hunting with his dad.
- Alpha male in Belvidere and Warren County — everyone afraid of him; no one dares to look at Lilly because of him. Unstable, unpredictable, wild…dangerous.
- Wanted to be part of Lily’s family, not his own, since he was a kid — they listened to him, his own family didn’t. Loves Carol, Lilly’s mom, has since he was a kid, but hates Earl, wishes him dead — should do it himself he believes, and likely will. Carol loves her son Earl more than Button, which has always been a problem for Button. Has dated Lilly since they were kids; feels as if he ‘owns’ her — she is his, but he is not hers.
- Can usually get any woman to do his bidding simply because of his good looks and player status — sweet talk and a bat of the eyes.
- A racist, bigot; hates blacks; member of the Oxford, New Jersey Klavern of the KKK.
- Has carried a small black notebook since he was a small kid; called his Kill List, listing every animal kill since his first, at 6 years old, a barn kitten. Kills all his hunting dogs the day they stop hunting.
- Lilly’s mom gave him a Gurkha knife from Nepal as a gift years ago; his most cherished possession.
- A highly skilled Marine rifleman; applied to Sniper School.
- Left Belvidere suddenly three years ago. No one has heard from since, nor do they know if he’ll ever return.
- Button is evil incarnate; a despicable soul.
- Much more is revealed…in snippets…along the journey.
The Not-So-Secondary Characters:
Oh, so close!
They aren’t front and center; that stage is only so big, but these are hardly also-rans. Each is integral to the plot, some more than others, human and fauna alike. Some flash large and disappear; others bob in and out along the way, rising and retiring as is fit. To that end, at various points throughout this long and winding tome, one or more of the members of this crew could be, would be, considered primary players, afforded the same fanfare, fortune, and fame.
But alas, to be tattooed Primary, you need to clear that high bar from front page to end page, and therein lies the rub. Although if you ask these characters, more than one would certainly say they do clear that bar, with room to spare…and ‘robbed’ is the operative term on their mind.
We tried to present this cast in a loose order of importance, but that queue is certainly squishy, and subject to debate, especially from the characters themselves. Such is the risk in ranking the cast and crew, especially when you have as many self-involved (dare say narcissistic) characters as we have roaming the pages of this serial oeuvre. Take a read and see if you agree with our assessment of the Secondary team (hey, they should be thankful we didn’t relegate them to the Tertiary Team — oh, the horrors!).
In the end, you will likely line them in your own order, as you see fit, which is really the only queue that matters. If the cast and crew have done their job, you will, like family, be frustrated and angry with them, at times, but in the end, mostly love them, and accept them for what they are, faults aside.
May we present the Not-So-Secondary Characters.
Mae Edna Bastet
Office Martin ‘Marty’ Brewer
Elwood & Elmer
An ever-so-cute, skinny, knobby-kneed blonde, assigned to the school bus seat next to Cord Brin, who wasn’t Cord Brin, in the Fall of 1974. His first love, and first heartbreak — dumped for a 12-year old. She moved away and he never saw her again, but she has traveled with him, in him, for the past 32 years…reminding him of a simpler time, before he met the puppet, the crickets, and the flies. He meets her every time on his familiar jaunt, soon after Jenny comes to visit; she is always his last thought before he does his thing, the one in which he always fails. A budding Lilly nemesis, in absentia. At some point, to you — the reader — this narrative will hopefully make sense.
Lillian and Earl’s mother, who died, how and the reasons for which are unknown to you — for now, on April 7, 1981, twenty-five years ago, at the too-young age of 36, when Earl was a fourteen-year-old boy, and Lilly was sweet-sixteen. Not a good year. Carol was a bonny free spirit, never married, with a secret past, who arrived as a young adult in Belvidere from parts unknown with her brother and stayed at the convent on the outskirts of Town, Brothers of the Sacred Heart. A spitting image of Lillian, or more appropriately Lillian of her, the mother-daughter duo shared clothes, shared likes and were the best of friends. An amazingly beautiful blonde, whom every man fantasized about, but few would ever have, and none for long. Sexually discrete…exceedingly so.
Lived on Fourth Street with her kids, a block from the Courthouse Green; took in and treated Button like a son. An amazing singer and dancer; she taught her children well. Dead for decades, but to this day still talks to Earl — holds his hand or rubs his back while lounging waterside at the Boat Ramp — feeding the ducks, or sitting on their favorite bench in the middle of the Green, like they did when she was alive. Secrets? Many more than a few.
Kitty Cow Go Moo! No More Silly Games; Now I’m Going to Get You! A deranged little manikin, horrible and evil, who took up permanent residence between the ears of Cord Brin when the twelve-year-old C found himself pierced and dying on an iron fence, like a stuck pig. The puppet keeps an ever-eye on Cord, to ensure the rules are followed and the game is played, with the added pleasure of dispensing the dire consequences if not. A malevolent, corrupt and malignant soul, who relishes his demented role, hiding in the folds of C’s brain.
A tiny Persian Blue, a cute little girl, that C rescued in a rainstorm, under the Boreas’ porch, beside L’antre du Lion. Her big green eyes were gunked shut, abandoned by her mother because she couldn’t see. C adopted her, and then she swiftly adopted Earl and spends much of her time sleeping on his shoulders, to C’s consternation. For such a little feline, she plays an outsized role in our rambling Belvidere tale.
Mae Edna Bastet
An amazingly well preserved (no plastic surgery and proud of it), attractive and fit 66-year old retired lobbyist/former politician — a Bergen County transplant, who finds herself living alone on Derby Lane, in a sprawling retirement community named Brookfield, just beyond the Belvidere town line. A highly competitive woman, with a history of success in whatever she puts her mind to. Pampered and doted on by men all her life, getting them to bend to her whims. Divorced from a successful, but sexless, boring engineer. She and her coterie of retirees, all financially comfortable, frequent Belvidere to shop at Sam’s Market — which has the best meats — where she meets, standing in the deli line, an attractive younger man by the name of Cord Brin and falls in love. Such is her mistake.
Office Martin ‘Marty’ Brewer
A 38-year old life-long resident of Belvidere, a proud police officer on the Belvidere squad from the day he graduated the Academy, bucking to be Chief someday. Born on Tax Day, April 15th, 1968; stands six-feet tall, short flat-top haircut, broad shoulders, but a bit soft around the mid-section, with a jowl growing under his chin. A socially awkward bachelor with an oversized cock that he, unfortunately, doesn’t get much opportunity to share with anyone, except his left hand. Has been stone-in-love with Lillian Liddell since he was 5-years old; she has never returned the favor, but counts Marty as a friend, and a go-to if/when things go south. Button Pierce always picked on Marty — as a kid and an adult — Button has been his nemesis for life. No one gets to call him Marty except his dad, Lilly, Earl, Sam, and, sans permission, Button. Marty is a genuinely good guy — who plays by all the rules — which isn’t too hard in a Mayberry like Belvidere.
A vocal double-breasted cormorant that visits the Belvidere Boat Ramp during his annual Spring and Fall migrations. He first arrived in April 1981 and has been stopping there every year since. He is about 26-years old, seemingly too old for a cormorant in the wild. Earl anxiously awaits his arrival each Spring and Fall, and watches him fish the river, diving for, catching, and downing fish. He can watch him all day long and never tires of the spectacle. Earl loves Aloysius and is devastated every time he leaves, afraid he won’t come back…but he always does, year after year.
The 47-year old owner of the dance/yoga/exercise studio in Town where Lilly works — Lilly’s boss. China-white skin –sans a single blemish — a ballerina’s body. Has long black hair, small breasts, thin eyelashes, light wispy eyebrows, with long legs, fingers, and neck. Her fiancé is a muscle-head who lifts for free in her studio gym…Walt. Smart, low-key and balanced — a truly nice person, who gets a bit mixed up with Mae and Cord, with a spotty outcome.
Tiny, thin, shy and attractive, soft-spoken Korean housekeeper for Carol — at L’antre du Lion in Belvidere. Speaks English well, but a bit broken at times. In addition to cooking, cleaning, and shopping, she takes care of Carol’s eight rescue-cats and loves them all. Develops a friendship with Earl and Cord over time, as they do with Carol. Develops another friendship along the way…but that one seems to come from left field, and we’ll let you stumble upon that when it happens — a pleasant surprise with an unforeseen conclusion.
Nicknamed ‘Sambo’, he is the proud and gregarious proprietor of Sam’s Market, the only in-town grocery store that’s situated at the busy corner of Market and Water Streets in Historic Downtown Belvidere — at the only traffic light in Town. Adjacent to the famous Nonpareil/historic Palace of Sweets. A 65-year old, six foot-three-inch barrel-chested monster of a man, retired Navy veteran and butcher, with a huge belly, big arms and bad knees. Hired Cord to be his grocery clerk the day C arrived in Belvidere — C was answering a handwritten ‘Help Wanted’ sign, taped to the front door of Sam’s. He was happily married to Elmire for 24 years, till she died of cancer in 1990. Sam has been like an uncle/father to Lilly and Earl all their lives, and treats them like they were his own kids, of which he had none. Sam married Elmire but was always in love with Carol Liddell — Lilly and Earl’s mom. Sam has employed Frank Liddell, Lilly’s real uncle and an anti-social, functioning drunk, as his deli butcher since Carol Liddell died in 1981, as a favor to the family. Sam developed a fast friendship with Carol Crowe when she moved into Town in 1992; he tried to befriend Lilly to Carol…not a good idea, Sam.
One of Carol’s eight strays, the ‘other’ Earl, who is cared for under the watchful eye of Ji-Sue. A large, strong, but exceedingly shy, mostly black domestic shorthair male, with a strong head butt and an engine-loud purr if he likes you. A favorite of Earl’s; the two form a special bond as the tale progresses. Life is rarely fair…such a statement is certainly apropos in this instance, sad as that is. You’ll see.
Also goes by ‘Billy’; a tall, lanky 18-year old high school delinquent in Town, who betters himself over time, and befriends Cord. Has a long dragon tattoo wrapped around his neck and shoulders, extending onto his back, along with Chinese characters tattooed on his deltoid, which trail down his tricep. Two thick silver rings pierce his left eyebrow. He used to play with Earl when he was a child; Earl loved to play with ‘Billy’, even though Earl was an adult and Billy was just a kid. Lilly used to babysit, and terrorized Buck; to this day he is still deathly afraid of Lilly. Smart boy.
An aggressive and massive 260-pound alpha male black English Mastiff, abused, starved and repeatedly beaten by white-trash owners on Depue Street in Town. Earl is the only one who understands, and feels for, Loki, reluctantly bringing him back home when he escapes, even though he doesn’t ever want to return him to the hell-hole where he is forced to live. As the novel unravels, Loki’s story and his grip will grow and morph, mostly in unexpected ways. Stay tuned.
Arriving a bit late to the party…but what an entrance. For Cord, to wish for the puppet instead of the hag certainly explains the horror and dread this apparition brings. Living like the manikin in the folds of C’s brain, this succubus, at a pay grade far above that of the puppet, has a purpose and intent that is largely unknown, yet feared…she is best left sleeping. Alas, along the way, she is awakened; once awake, she must be dealt with. Not a good situation, for when she arrives, there certainly will be trouble.
A 54-year old miserable, social misfit, bachelor and functioning drunk — drinks from the moment he wakes till the moment he passes out at the end of the day. The antithetical brother of Carol Liddell; the only uncle to Lilly and Earl — he adopted them at the age of 29-years old when his sister died, although Lillian really ended up taking care of Frank, and still does, to this day. Short, with a beer paunch for a belly, and dark, thin greasy hair, with a receding hairline and a smooth dome; his face is pocked and blotchy, as a drunkard’s usually is. Works as the deli butcher at Sam’s, where he has a preternatural skill as a meat-cutter, but is forever nasty and rude to the customers. Doesn’t get along with Cord — hates him with a passion; has always admired and worshiped Button. Frank is that miserable fixture each family seems to have among its ranks.
Goes by ‘Mac’; a forty-something, six-foot three-inch, three-hundred plus pound biker, with a grizzled menace — a member of Rolling Thunder, with a large stomach, a wide stance and a short temper. Owns and rides a rare, police-type Harley Davidson Knucklehead, all black with a distinctive red leather seat. His most cherished possession and a favorite of Earl’s. A less-than-ideal initial meeting with Earl at a Rolling Thunder event at the Park near the Warren County Courthouse War Memorial marks the start of a friendship between the two, which morphs as the story unfolds. Cord and Lilly join in, along with Mac’s beautiful and plus-sized girlfriend, the gregarious Dominican with the infectious smile, Lucien.
A spry, five-foot four-inch, one-hundred-fourteen pound, 72-year old widowed Jew, with thin, wrinkly skin, a little paunch for a belly and a thick mane of white hair, living a door away from his absolute dreamboat, Mae Edna Bastet, at the end of Derby Lane. Joe had a wicked crush on Mae. Tool-Box Joe was the name he inherited from Mae — he carried around a little red one to handle housekeeping chores for his squeeze, Mae, if and whenever she asked — Mae was quick to abuse his kindness whenever it suited her needs, rewarding him with stale orange Circus Peanuts as she summarily whisked him out the kitchen door. Forever peeking through his living room curtains, keeping an eagle eye out for Mae, Joe was full of zest, with an oversized libido. He considered Cord the ‘competition’ and did his best to try and oust the interloper from Mae’s orbit. A law-abiding citizen his whole life, he ultimately finds himself in a bit of hot water with the State Troopers patrolling Brookfield — there at his behest. Let’s see what he has in store for them…the outcome is not pretty.
Elwood & Elmer
Elwood, also known as Woody, or W is a Belvidere realtor, who, with his dad (Elmer or Moe), have a corner on the local real estate market. W and Moe know all the gossip/on-goings in Belvidere, and have a finger on the social pulse in Town. Father and son spend every Friday night eating vanilla sundaes at the historic Palace of Sweets; a family tradition. Carol Crowe stumbled upon the duo her first day in Belvidere — seeing their realty sign stuck in the lawn. They promptly sold her the Italianate Victorian that would become her L’antre du Lion, as well as many other properties she owns about Town, including the old Palace of Sweets. W is one of the few people Carol can call a friend in the local circuit. Woody is always fishing for a way to make a buck; to that end, W must walk that fine line of doing business with Carol and still try to stay in Lilly’s good graces and not get stabbed in the chest with a fork by her; not an easy waltz. W also found C his third-floor walk-up, above both Nonpareil and Lilly/Earl’s apartment; Lillian not-too-happy with Woody about that little transaction. But Woody always seems to survive.
God a tertiary figure? Yep, afraid so, for now. Forever? Well, that remains to be seen, a tale at present untold. Such blasphemy alone will stop some from reading….that would be a shame, since God does seem to thread this whole novel, and some will read more or less of him, or her, between the pages than others, because the question of faith, and what it really means, will be…well…questioned. For C, as a young boy, it simply meant a small miracle unfulfilled – a tiny cup of clear water never turned blue, which lost him forever…C wrote Him off for life.
The briefest of mentions for the most important character ever…that statement cannot be emphasized enough. It is neither benevolent, nor malevolent, for they are simply human constraints that It does not understand, acknowledge or abide by. It is the glue that binds all, for no other reason than to ensure the game is played – and the game exists for reasons we will never understand, nor are meant to. The game exists simply to be played; It ensures same. And It scares the living shit out of Cord…rightfully so.
Crickets & Flies
The undercard for the puppet…a forever-stain living in C’s brain with no way out.
No, not the artist, although her words, bastardized over many years due to a faulty memory, fuel the tune the mysterious woman in C’s head whispers soft whenever it is time, and when it is ready, for the box to be opened once again…and the game plays on.
A Bloodied Young Boy At The Boat Ramp
A brief encounter with C at a critical time that answers key questions and begets many more. If you don’t get the significance of this young man, then simply put the novel down and walk away.
Mom & Dad
Quietly conserved in a cold, distant and lonely mausoleum, fancy caskets set atop a ball-bearing cushion – easy to move – but never will…slowly rotting away, formaldehyde-infused in their best-dressed, visited seldom, soon to be never, in one, at best two, generations hence. Then forgotten forever, like those who passed before them, an endless line of silent sentries. Sad, necessary and the fate that ultimately awaits us all. What’s the fucking point?
A tragic death on a dreary New Years Day, on a dead end at the water’s edge – Edgartown, Martha’s Vineyard. A single magical feather…C’s memento mori, to be passed along to one, and then another…quite a story for a little ice skater who meets the man of her dreams.
A very special Panamanian pickled lizard – courtesy of an unattended Champagne bottle, who has a profound impact on Earl, and future trips beyond the limits of the Gill Farm. Interesting name, the origin that is. Maybe you’ll figure it out along the way.
Fred The Pig
It doesn’t get much sadder than this; poor Fred…poor Earl – and sorry that such things have to happen in this world. Best to get through this section and forget it ever occurred – not easy to do for most. But some will simply shrug their shoulders and say: who gives a shit about a fucking pig? Which is why this happens.
Sam’s loving, and long-dead, wife. Growing up, she was a shy, Harmony Township farm-girl and tomboy; she loved animals and basketball, in that order. Died in 1990, after a long battle with myeloma.
“The Hammer”…and childhood best friend of Button Pierce, his ever-present sidekick. A forever-crush on Lilly all his short life, which he dared never act on, and a frequent rider, with Button, on Shades of Death Road. More of his story must be read to be revealed.
Butt-ugly dead sister of Button; how? Don’t know. Followed Button with a shovel; you’ll understand what this means later.
Vincent Van Gogh
The man himself….in this novel? Yes, and not in a good way. Lilly doesn’t remember him, but rather one his minor sketches…Sorrow. It is what they will forever share.
Beauty is power; a smile is its sword; Lillian Liddell personified, thanks to Mr. Ray.
A long-dead Dutch artist; Dignified Couples Courting – a riddle from C to Carol, the live one.
A Belvidere Cemetery resident, and a fake – a red herring of sorts, but an important clue nonetheless to help C find Carol. And it worked…all Marcella had to do was hide in the grass to reveal the secret
Giant Land Tortoise
A memory C would like to forever forget.
Ken & Sandy
The Holt and Allen boys, teenage crime-solving wizards who tool around Skeleton Island, searching for secrets and dodging the bad guys, to the utter amazement of their number one fan….Earl Liddell, who is convinced there is a strange face in the clous and he himself is peeking out of the tiny cabin window on the end-pages. Sound strange? It certainly is.
Winston & Julia
Doomed denizens of the year 1984; an infamous couple that were forever-travelers by C’s side. We are the dead applies to them all, as Cord tries to save Julia from a horrible fate, always in vain, the outcome forever ordained. There is no other door to choose.
A Very Special Unicorn
Yeah, we know Pegasus is not a unicorn, but to a little girl, and the grown woman she becomes, he is, and always will be, waiting patiently for her above that special clock, leaping out of that gorgeous ever-lit night sky.
Indescribable! Indestructible! Nothing Can Stop It! The Blobfest in Phoenixville, Pennsylvania has been on Earl’s calendar for years – and 2006 is the year it get crossed off! Unless someone, or something, upsets those plans. Now what will it be?
Atlas & Prometheus
Two silent friends, met along the way, beside the path, during a very special birthday conte.
Earl feels bad every time- the ending never changes; why couldn’t they just leave him alone.
Little Apple Creek
Meandering there and about in the middle of nowhere, beside Route 55. It means something to Carol, but she’s just not sure what, and definitely means a lot more to Cord, but he’s not talking. This doesn’t get resolved, just to tip our hand.
There is only one Couch Rock in the whole wide world, and only Earl knows where it is! No girls allowed!
The Big Crack
Only Earl knows where it is…but his mother whispers to him that someone else needs to see it too, for later.
The Big Hill
Where that sneaky T-Rex always seems to peek from, watching Earl, who is gonna be dinner!
The Boat Ramp
It doesn’t get much more important than this place, nondescript in appearance, but far from same on so many levels. You will be visiting here often, both good and bad, whether you want to, or not.
The Courthouse Park
Carol’s safe little island in a sea called Belvidere.
The Foul Rift
Sounds strange; you will learn of this reach of river – even if it is best left alone.
The Zombie Cave
Not a cave, and not a one, but actually two…where the zombies live, of course, according to more than just Earl.
Bad things happen here…bad and sad, all rolled into one.
Nonpareil/The Palace Of Sweets
The center of the universe downtown for our cast of characters…much happens in, above and about this place. You will come to know it well.
Adjacent to Nonpareil, and the second nucleus for our cast of characters. In a way, it is where it all begins, at least for C.
Belvidereans – New & Old
An obnoxious flamer and proud of it. A kick-boxing phenom who frequents Lilly’s class, to everyone’s disdain, raising the workout bar to heights few can match. No one can out-kick Lilly…except Harvey, which drives Lillian wild. C decides to try his first kick-box class and who is standing in the front row? So bad for C…but much worse for Harvey.
Vinny & Tommy
Two delinquent teenagers, instigators, friends of Bucks, who have a rather unfortunate encounter with C early on. Tommy, the oaf fades away, but Vinny, ever the little-shit, can’t seem to learn the lessen…little shits rarely do.
A recurring figure, haunting C, or not. You decide.
A squirrely penguin-walking gossiper, who always seems to be doing nothing, but walking about Town with his hands ever in his pockets. Talks to people who would rather run away; crosses paths with C more than once, and never in a good way.
The cute 18-year old that works behind the candy counter at Nonpareil/the historic Palace of Sweets. A generally happy girl who C tips generously and would love to bend over the table, with her panties around her ankles. Yeah, C is a dog…that becomes a well-established fact.
One of those seniors with a huge belly set atop toothpick legs. One of Mae’s crew from Brookfield – they shop together at Sam’s.
Yep, he’s Marty’s dad. He’s a decent, quiet farmer, but what he does, or rather fails to do, is certainly regrettable, for his son’s sake.
One half of the cod-fish twins; works the register, barely awake, at Sam’s. Pretty at times, with a sexy little belly; the sisters provide a memorable dance, and quite the show, at the Log Cabin.
An old chain-smoking lush, with a beer paunch, flat-assed, with baggy pants – a disheveled mess. Always seemingly tired, he runs Smillie’s Taxi Service; a single car ‘fleet’ – an ’84 Country Squire rust bucket with a big yellow smiley face planted on the simulated wood side door panels. An early food encounter with C…and possibly a much more important one to follow. But will he deliver? Time will tell.
A slightly off-kilter Belvidere cop, with anger issues, who makes a critical kill, very late in the game. Or was it? Not really. Sad is all it was, from all angles. But maybe not, in the end.
Margery’s powerlifting, muscle-head squeeze, dare we say fiance, at least for a short while. Walt wastes what he has, and then wants what he can’t. Typical guy…they never learn.
State Troopers – Brookfield Call For Help
The unlucky duo called for a nasty break-in at Mae’s, and encounter C and Tool Box Joe…the results aren’t easy on the eyes.
We don’t hear much out of him, other than a hunting partner of Button, that beat the snot out of him as a kid.
Now 75, if not dead; a White Township dairy and corn farmer who sold the land to create Brookfield, the senior community of Mae and her peers. At the earlier age of 50 or so had the pleasure of witnessing Lilly’s virginity slip away in one of his hay wagons, in a distant hay field, courtesy of one Button Pierce.
The owners of the family farm that has lots of cow manure and a distant stone row, along the far field, which marks the end of Earl’s world.
Tiny, no-nonsense teacher with a bit part from Lilly’s school days. Don’t ever give pop quizzes to Lilly.
Ryan & Tommy
The Episcopalian priest and his partner, who loop the Park every morning and wave to Carol and her cats….one of the few that Carol can call friends in her little western outpost.
The former tenant in C’s third floor apartment; Earl used to watch his cats and he watched up Lilly’s skirt – according to Lilly, anyway, of course. Earl still has his key, which is now C’s key, which really doesn’t matter because…well, you’ll see.
Sold the house on the Park to Carol Crowe and retired to Marco Island, Florida. Was a veterinarian and ran his business out of the house; many an animal died in that place – their ghosts haunt Carol’s house, according to Earl.
A good-looking State Trooper who lives in Belvidere and knows Lilly…that’s about all she wrote on that one. Pretty boring.
A single mention on a single page as a tribute to a Parkside friend from what seems a former life. What a shame that friendship died on the vine.
Fat Ass Jane
Literally a large-assed quidnunc about Town that makes everyone else’s business her own, and rarely gets the story right. A brief passing here and there, thank God.
Defending rose champion – Class 16 – Perennial Category…Mae kicks her ass, but good!
Anonymous Shopper In Sam’s
Wow, this is one of the briefest of brief mentions in a too-long tome – a single line in a 2,800+ page novel: a scared woman fleeing Sam’s at the first sign of trouble. Nonetheless, it has huge implications – she will be a primary player in a future iteration – but not Book No. 2…she won’t emerge from the pages to tell her story until Book No. 3…if that novel ever comes to pass. The author hopes it does, and you get to hear her conte.
This time around she is truly a tertiary character, but an important one nonetheless. She will, however, become a primary player in a teaser, bonus prequel at the end of Book No. 2. Selena is a light-skinned black, thin and sinewy, with frizzy hair and an ever-tired look; but she has a beautiful smile, when she shows it, which is seldom – but that is to be expected. She’s English, from London – Cord meets her six years earlier, and with whom had quite the conte, a bit unbelievable, but then again, isn’t the whole first tale in Book No. 1 presented herein a bit unbelievable as well? Maybe not, at least from the character perspective. And what exactly is written on that scrap of paper that Lilly saw Selena slip to C on the sidewalk in front of Nonpareil? Ah, that is for you to figure.
Dr. Pool, Black Dog, Mr. Chills, Burr & Bogs
Associates of Button’s from the ‘suburbs’ of Philadelphia, better known as Camden. Button (Billy Bones to the crew of The Drin) and Dr. Pool have history – time served in the Marines…but the others? Well let’s just say there’s a bit of racial friction. Nothing more can be said about same at this time, except…not good. This violence gets mighty ugly.
A monster of a man, in a dark suit, dark shades, dark skin. Few words and bad intent. An employee of Carol, as necessary. And for this night, it is very necessary.
Earl’s infamous second grade teacher, who had a special relationship with her favorite shy student. She is the source of Earl’s god-awful Gregson-glasses – the constant bane of Lilly’s life whenever the daily mail arrives.
The Twins & Their Mother
Okay, the twins are cute six-year-olds that briefly run into Earl and Lilly; how and where you will learn, eventually, but nonetheless, it is a nice little gift. But their mom? Oh, their mom…that is a whole different level of importance. A missed encounter of the utmost import, which would have changed the storyline in unfathomable ways. Again, when the twins and their mom arrive, we trust, we hope, this will all make sense. If not, again, put the book down and walk away.
An impromptu meeting at the most famous skating rink in the world changes this little girl’s life forever. A beautiful, sad tale of promises fulfilled, unfulfilled and the power of little girl dreams, even when they aren’t so little any more. Sad.
Ah, Earl’s go-to girl…at least for ’80’s music videos. I Love Rock N’ Roll and Joan, and Carol, in skin-tight-reds. A party to remember; an ending to forget.
Be Good Brother…wise words, spoken in a whisper ocean-side, from a very special Fort Lauderdale bum – C’s best Christmas present ever, bar none. Was he really Santa, or Earl’s father…or both…or neither. At some point, this will make sense. A Pretty Blonde In A Forest-Green Jaguar: The Boys of Summer lilting on the radio, a beautiful sunny day on Swamp Road, C driving, her asleep beside him…an important squeeze at the time, her name long-since forgotten…one of many before, and many to follow. Such was the drill.
A Brother & Two Blow-Pigs
An older brother and two St. Charles whores; one as hairy as an orangutan, the other with saggy cow bells and a fine gold tooth. All three best forgotten, and none-too-soon. Good God, bleach my eyes.
A Manhattan artist of dubious talent and former boy-toy of Carol Crowe, who has, let’s just say, a memorable introduction to Belvidere…and one Lillian Liddell.
The diminutive European chap, fond of cucumber sandwiches, stationed in the Midwest, who is an important caretaker to a primary character’s prized possession, to be revealed later in the play. That’s all that can be leaked at this juncture – you’ll need to figure out this one on your own.
William ‘Bud’ Wiseman
A well preserved 62-year old Jewish billionaire in New York City; main potential investor in Carol’s newly minted Brownfield Fund – talks with a nasal bleat. He likes Carol, her smarts, and her looks, but is a high maintenance client, with a fat wallet and a short temper.
A good-looking wrestling stud, but dumb as a stump, albeit courteous and polite. Likes to fuck too. Had sex with a secondary character as a kid; into the Navy later in life. Can’t say much more about Loe without giving it away…let’s just say the story is pretty fucked up, and Loe was one lucky dog, for a bit, anyway.
A chance encounter in Grand Central Station with the boys changes her life forever; why can’t it simply last?
Or if you prefer, Marco. What a beautiful body, a beautiful face – a stunner. A Grand Central Market purchase changes his life, and hers, but for how long? That, dear reader, you will have to figure on your own.
Keep the headphones off guy! And don’t believe all the stories you hear, even though they may very well all be true. A little conte in the Biltmore Room.
Viper Two Strike Force
Security Management Consultants for Freedom; Viper One – Juanita and Viper Two – Ricky, a tactical duo and patriots for freedom- protecting America, one parking garage at a time, in ways only they can understand – until they are summarily undone – laid bare by a primary character. This is not what you imagine – trust us on this one.
Girlfriend of C’s brother – four decades ago. C liked her – one of the few he ever did. Not much more to say about that stray snipped from C’s past.
A Catholic priest from C’s childhood, with the baggage that is typically associated with it…enough said.
Dr. Diane Brukardt
The doctor who delivers unwelcome news to our friend…Billy Bones. Not good.
The Delivery Man
An imposing silent figure, clad in black shades; the bearer of a single blank envelope, in which is a typed note and $10,000 in cash, looking for a little boy name Earl, who isn’t so little himself.
A Shoe Tree And A Halloween Sycamore
Two very special trees that beckoned Carol Crowe to a strange little place called Belvidere.
And the ants that climb aboard the yet unopened flowers. Just leave them alone Mae!
The Felines Of L’antre du Lion
An octet of strays that weave in and out of the novel, lounging in luxury at Carol’s L’antre du Lion. If you are a cat-person, you will love them; if you are not a cat-person, become a cat-person…but don’t dare skip those parts – important stuff is certainly mixed in – things you need to know. You’ve been warned.
Louie The Lobster
Earl’s seventh-best-friend, or so, always sliding south in that respect. A poor, oversized lobster forever stuck in the A&P lobster tank…spared the boiling pot because of Earl. But is it such a gift? Louie and two cell-mates play a far more important role than imagined for a lobster…a read deep into the series is necessary to find out why.
The Crew Waiting In Panama
Dozens of lazy Panamanian pelicans, perched in trees downtown – waterside, followed by Bocas Del Toro roosters in the streets, spiny lobster and little blue fish called Earl, circling a conical coral outcrop below an over-the-water hut, all awaiting the arrival of our kindred spirits.
The Belvidere Vulture
There are many about Belvidere, but then there is one that is a bit special…this is that one. Perched atop the Methodist steeple, our friend is a portend of things to come, and welcome, they are probably not.
Button’s faithful hunting dog. What will happen when his hunting days are over; we hope for the best.
The Room 101 of Earl’s childhood, and not-so childhood nightmares…always on a constant prowl and growl. Scary for sure, but morphing into something much different in a remote red barn. To be revealed in a very bad stretch of novel, soon to be good.
Not just any elephants, but the only ones C knew…in the Madikwe Game Reserve, South Africa,in the northwest province, near the Botswana border.
A Single Flying Ant
A female, of course; saved by Cord, but not really. The story of his life.
Great for petting, because they are too busy working to notice! So says Earl. And Carol listens.
Has the misfortune of meeting a 6-year old psychotic named Button and becomes the beginning entry of a little black book. We would suggest skipping this section.
Spiders, Ticks & Skeets, Oh My!
According to Earl, beware of the them along the Blue Trail, not the Orange Trail C, the Blue Trail, they’ll get ya! Along with the sneaky rocks, roots and other sneaky sneaks…run fast!
Boat Ramp Mallard
Not quite quick enough to escape an ugly encounter between Button and Cord; not a good ending, which ends with a question, rather than an answer.
And all the rest, scattered about the globe; Cord’s small attempt at redemption, over and over and over again. Will it ever succeed?
Believe it or not, there are those we failed to mention – this is our sorry tribute to them. You will meet them along your journey, and there is certainly more than one we missed.