Chapter 1 of The Stone of Tantalus is live!

Chapter one of the new novel is up at  Check it out and subscribe.

Here’s the first scene…

If ever there was a day for skipping class, this was it.  The sky was blue without a cloud in sight, a faint chill in the air, and the pretty girls were out in force.  Jason Callahan wasn’t much for skipping, but that didn’t mean he couldn’t enjoy the walk across campus.  April on the campus of the University of Texas meant the women’s shorts were high, the t-shirts tight, and the blond pony tails swayed freely when they walked.  From the first day he arrived, it seemed every girl on campus was a ten, and at the end of his third year he still marveled at the sight.  Jason smiled, shoved his hands in the front pockets of his faded jeans, and began the long walk across campus from Jester East to Moore Hall.  He had at least an hour before his Quantum Three lecture, so he took his time, strolling with his usual lanky gate.

A tall and pretty redhead passed him going the other way, dipped her chin and smiled as she reached up to brush a spray of hair over her ear.  He smiled back, almost turning, when his cell buzzed once in his back pocket.

Kat always knew.  Jason might not stray, but he was an unredeemable flirt.

He stifled a laugh, then pulled the phone from his pocket to check the text message.

Lunch after class?

He poked large fingers at the screen, having to correct several times, Only if I don’t have questions for the prof after, then hit send.

Less than a minute later the phone buzzed again with the message, As if.

This time he did laugh.

Kat knew him better than he knew himself.  She was always a step ahead of him in life, and he was grateful for it.  There were times he grew complacent his first year, but when she joined him on campus after her graduation things shaped right up.  He shaped up.  It was the same throughout middle and high school.  From the day they first met she was his personal drill sergeant, urging him to “get his shit together.”  Nothing she said or did ever felt as if she were nagging, though his friends laughed every time she pulled him into line.

Which was often.

The air was dry this late in the morning, the early fog shooed away by a demanding sun, so he parked under a tree to watch students hurry to their classes.  Urgent and earnest freshmen were easy to spot, and the sophomores convinced they knew everything.  Seniors seldom made their presence known outside of class, grinding to finish what they started.  Juniors, though, were a different breed altogether.  Members of the student body long enough to know the ropes, but still just students rather than soon-to-be-graduates.

Kat was only a sophomore, but she knew the best places to eat (Conan’s), where the best music was on sixth street (a running debate), and when to avoid that area altogether (ROT Rally).  An Army brat, she soon adjusted to every new environment, and was already an Austin native while he still felt like an outsider.  Coming to Austin was, for him, like stepping on a new planet; every social gathering a First Contact situation fraught with diplomatic danger.

Keep Austin Weird!  The shirt, worn by a shambling dreadlocked sophomore, yelled at him in all-caps as the boy passed.  The cannabis is strong with this one, Jason thought with a smile.  He had one of the t-shirts stuffed in a drawer in his dorm, too self-conscious to wear it.  The damn thing felt like a statement on his own personality, rather than the odd-ball parts of the city.

“How long you gonna stand there watchin’ the girls like a creeper?”  Jason’s roommate, Dan, slipped in beside him and leaned against the tree.

“Damn, dude.  Never saw you comin’.”

“Too busy scopin’ trim,” Dan said, smiling.  “If I’d a been a snake, I’d a bit ya.”  He waggled his eyebrows as his mouth snapped.

Jason laughed.  Dan wasn’t as dense as the Central Texas twang led most people to believe.  Jason was sure it was a deliberate act on Dan’s part—like Jason learning Spanish without ever telling anyone.  It made for a major advantage at times.  Although with no one to practice on, he was forced to watch telenovelas on the Spanish language channels when no one was around.

“And I’m not girl watching,” Jason protested.

“Hey, I won’t tell Kat if you don’t.”  Dan grinned again, “I don’t want to have to clean the blood off the floor when she cuts yer nuts off.”

“True that,” Jason said and lifted a fist to bump knuckles with his roommate.

“You comin’ out to play some pool tonight?”

“Nah.  Gotta work in the lab until nine.”  Other than his grants and scholarships, it was his only source of income.  He worked hard to avoid the student loan trap so many of his friends were in, but those programs only went so far.  Work-study was a joke in many departments, but Physics seemed to get it.  They worked him hard, but with enough pay and hours to make ends meet.

“Too bad,” Dan said with mock sympathy.  He raised an eyebrow and grinned, adding, “Guess I’ll have to entertain Kat for ya.”

Jason laughed and said, “Yeah.  You let me know how that works out for you.”

Dan smiled, then checked the time on his cell.  “Shit!  I’m late fer class.  Again.”  He looked around at the bevy of young ladies, then to the sky and said, “Fuck it.  Just Geology anyway.”  Everyone on campus called it Rocks for Jocks, and was well-known as the only lab science you could pass without ever setting foot in a lecture.  Dan set his backpack on the ground, fished around inside, then pulled out a beat up Frisbee.  “Wanna toss it around a while?”

“Damn, Dan, that’s some serious old-school shit, there,” Jason said, shaking his head.  He pulled his cell out of his pocket, checked the time.  “I’ve got exactly twenty minutes.”


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