Can’t Abandon Love is a title I thought up quickly when I posted Chapter 1 a couple weeks ago. I never had a title for the novel the whole time I was working on it, and now, a year later, I still don’t have a title I’m comfortable with. As much reading as I do about all things writing, I don’t think I’ve come across a blog, guide, or any advice what so ever on naming a novel. I’ve read that the name plays a big role in how the novel is perceived, and if one is looking to publish, it plays a crucial role, but I haven’t seen anything on actually naming the book.
If someone knows of an article, blog post, or otherwise, on the subject of naming a book, I would appreciate an email, tweet, or phone call. I have another 70,000 words that I refer to as, “The First One.” that needs a good name.
Again, I appreciate the comments and welcome critizism.
Lincoln Street was a quiet suburban street with small, well-kept houses mixed in with a few that needed work. Most of our neighbors worked at the plant with my dad building transmissions. One could always tell when the plant was busy because you would only see moms and kids on the front porches and in the yards while all the dads were either sleeping or working. When the plant was on one of its furloughs, which happened more than mom hoped, the men of the street would gather on the sidewalks and talk about the plant and their co-workers. I often heard my father complain about my mom and how much she talked on the phone, but when he and a few of his coworkers got together, they talked about the same things I overheard my mom saying on the phone. This person was getting married, that person is lazy, and it was always the same things. The one thing my father talked about the mom never did on the phone was sports. He talked sports more than any man I knew and it always revolved around numbers. The conversation always started with whom as playing who, who was injured, then they would talk about the point spread. I never knew much about point spreads, other than if the point spread was three between the Lions and Bears, then the Lions should best the Bears by three points. Then, on Sunday afternoon, if the Lions won by only one point, my father would complain, “They won but they didn’t cover.”
“Yeah but, didn’t you say they should win this game?” I would ask him. Usually we were sitting in our living room, him on the chair and me on the couch.
“They were supposed to win by three Dominic. Three points or more.” It was all confusing to me but I knew better than to ask for an explanation. My dad didn’t like questions, and when I asked more that two in a row, the second one would almost always be answered, “Go ask your mother.”
So the guys talked sports and about the union. I didn’t really know what the union was either but it sounded like a club that the employees started just to torment the boss. They had a building on Third Street where my dad went for meetings. In the summer there was a big picnic where all the men would drink beer while the kids played a huge baseball game while the women stayed inside the building getting the food ready.
Joey and I watched through side window of his living room as they loaded my mother’s body into the ambulance. I had seen enough television to know that when the sheet is pulled over someone’s head, they are dead. “Who’s going to cook and do your laundry Dom?” Joey said.
“I guess I’ll have to do my own laundry. I already do my own football stuff.” I said.
“Does your dad know how to cook?”
“Sometimes he cooks stuff on the grill, chicken and steaks. He might know how to make pasta but we got plenty of sugu in the basement to.” I said. We watched as more and more police officers arrived on Lincoln Street. We had a clear view of the my front yard because Mr. Peterson, the old man who lived between us and the Taylor’s, kept his bushes trimmed to precision. There must have been a dozen patrol cars in the middle of the street and when Suzanna got home from her boyfriend’s house, she had to park on Hoover, the next street
over. Suzanna was only three years older than Joey and I and but in my eyes, she was a young woman. She was pretty, popular, and Joey often complained because she had so many girlfriends over all the time. I tried to hang around Joey’s a little more when I knew there was a friend or two visiting or staying the night.
“What’s going on over there?” Suzanna asked before seeing me.
“Come on in here Suzanna.” Joey’s mom said from the kitchen.
“Just a second mom, I have to go pee real bad.” Suzanna said. She rushed to kick off her shoes and get out of her coat. I turned and watched her after hearing this. I wondered what it would be like to have a sister.
“Wonder what those cops are asking your dad?” Joey said. I turned back around and saw two men in long trench coats talking to my dad on the front lawn. My dad was gesturing with his hands then he dropped his head and kicked at the leaves.
“Yeah, I wonder too. Do you think those guys are cops?” I asked.
“Yeah, those guys are investigators, I’m sure of it.” Joey said. When it came to police issues, I trusted Joey. His dad had been on the Cary police department for eleven years and Joey loved his dad’s job.
“Do they investigate every time someone dies?”
“I don’t think so, just when things look suspicious.”
It was approaching 7 pm when Mrs. Taylor called us away from that window for dinner. She asked me what I wanted to eat earlier and without hesitation I said, “Pasta, Thursday is pasta day.” The pasta was great but the sauce Mrs. Taylor made came from the grocery store. In our house, Mom’s good homemade pasta sauce was called sugu and the stuff from the grocery store was simply called sauce. I could eat a lot more than Joey, but not that night. I barely touched the chicken and mixed vegetables but I did eat the pasta.
Once I finished, I went back to the window and noticed the two investigators were no longer talking to my dad, but now, two police officers in uniform were talking to him. It had turned dark outside but the lights from the patrol cars lit what the street lights left out. Dad motioned toward the house a few times and then put his chin down on his chest. One of the police officers put his hand under dad’s arm and led him to a patrol car. He put his hand on the top of my dad’s head as he lower himself into the back seat, just like I’d seen on TV.
“What’s going on now?” Joey said, when he returned to the window from doing dishes with Suzanna. I heard arguing and bickering coming from the kitchen while they were in there cleaning up. That’s what they did when they were forced to do chores together, argue. Mrs. Taylor usually intervenes when she hears them argue but tonight, she sat in her chair and dabbed a tissue at her eyes. Her and my mom was friends. They talked on the phone and shopped together, but their favorite thing to do was to team up and catch Joey and me in small lies.
“They just had my dad sit in that car right there.” I said while I pointed to one of the eight patrol cars still parked on Lincoln Street.
The two police officers came back to the front lawn and talked with the investigators in the long trench coats. Then they returned to the car, got in, and drove away. Joey and I just watched.
Mr. Taylor emerged from my house and walked down to sidewalk toward home. His head was hanging and he didn’t walk with his usual confidence. His clothes were still covered with sugu from the kitchen floor. Joey and I hurried away from the window knowing he would not be happy if found us watching what was going on. “Some things are not for kids.” or “You will have your fill of real life when you get older, right now, enjoy your innocence.” He said often.
Joey grabbed his book bag from the floor near the door and I followed him to the kitchen table where we pretended to be real interested in social studies. We heard Mr. Taylor come through the front door, “Where is he?” he asked Mrs. Taylor. Joey and I stared at each other.
“They’ve been in the kitchen since dinner.” Mrs. Taylor said.
Mr. Taylor came to the doorway leading to the kitchen, “Dominic, you’re going to sleep here tonight. Your father is busy but he wanted me to tell you he loves you.”
“Ok.” My mother taught me to not question whether adults were telling the truth but I think Mr. Taylor was lying when he told me what my dad said. My dad never told me he loved me. He wasn’t like that. As a matter of fact, I don’t think I ever heard him tell my mother that he loved her either. After hearing Mr. Taylor say that, I felt a lump in my throat. I didn’t want to cry but I realized that the only one who told me she loved me was now dead.
I stared at the kitchen wall and felt heaviness in my chest. My heart really did feel broke. This must be what a heart attack feels like. When Mrs. Peterson, the old woman who lived in the house between Joey and us, had a heart attack and died last year, I asked my mom what a heart attack was. Was an army was doing the attacking? She told me it was just an expression; it meant that a blood clot went into your heart. Right there at Joey’s table I felt like I was having a heart attack my chest hurt so much.
“Let’s go grab a few things Dominic.” Mr. Taylor said. He had on clean clothes and his hair was still wet and combed to the side. As we walked down to my house Mr. Taylor asked what things I would need tomorrow. “Is your homework done?”
“No. But I don’t have very much. Ten math problems, that’s all.”
“Good. What about your football gear?”
“It’s in the washer. Can I dry it at your house?”
“Yeah, we’ll grab it and Mrs. Taylor will take care of it.” Joey didn’t wash was his own football gear, Mrs. Taylor did.
There were still two patrol cars in front of the house and a brown car parked in the driveway. The front and side door were propped open, but we went through the front door and straight up stairs.
“Grab school cloths for tomorrow and play clothes for the weekend. You’re going to stay at our house till Sunday, okay?” Mr. Taylor said. We were climbing the stairs to the second floor where my room was.
“Okay,” I said again. Mr. Taylor sat on my bed and looked around as I fumbled through my drawers trying to find matching socks and the pants my mom always made me wear with the shirt I picked out. Mr. Taylor grabbed my pillow, took the case off and held it open for me.
“Shove it all in here, Dom.” Once the pillow case was full we went back down to the front porch. “Stay here; I’ll grab your football stuff from the basement.”
“Will you grab my book bag too, Mr. Taylor? It’s on the landing.” I asked.
I stood on the porch and watched two policemen as they looked around my house. One was taking pictures in the kitchen and even when he moved to where I couldn’t see him, I could still see the flash fill the room. Another man was in the living room using tweezers to pick up something from the spot where my mom was. He put it in a plastic sandwich bag. He was labeling each bag and had them spread out on the couch.
“Come on Dom!” Mr. Taylor yelled to me from the driveway. I slowly turned away and walked down the steps. My house felt like a different place looking at it now. It was no longer the place where our family lived, no longer a place of comfort and love. It was now cold.
Mrs. Taylor got the top bunk in Joey’s room ready for me while we were in the shower. “Dominic, you were everything to your mother. She loved you more than life itself. She’s in a better place now.” She said without looking at me. I could tell by her words that she was crying. I was afraid to look.
“I know Mrs. Taylor.” I said.
“Me and Mr. Taylor love you very much too. Were going to make sure you’re taken care of.”
“My dad will take care of me, Mrs. Taylor.” I told her trying to sound courageous. Joey came in from the shower and got in his bed.
“Good night mom.” He said as she kissed his cheek.
“Good night Dominic. Give me a kiss.” She told me, then stood up on her toes to reach my face after I rolled to the side and hung my head off the bed. Joey giggled a little.
“Shush Joey. Dominic has had a bad day. He needs a kiss.” Joey still giggled.
“Good night Dominic.” Joey said after his mom left the room. “Sorry about your mom. Maybe you can live here now.”
“My dad is going to take good care of me. Good night.” I told him, and then rolled over.
I hardly slept the whole night. I thought about my mother and the way she moaned at me when I first found her. I should have stayed with her as she died on the floor. Instead I went and got my dad who acted like he didn’t care if she lived or died. He didn’t even say the prayer with me. I thought about our house and how cold and empty it felt when we went to get my clothes. I wondered if my father was home from the police station, or if he went straight to Landry’s.
I didn’t know it then, but I would never sleep another night in the same house with my father.