Read the Community Novel: Chapter 5 by Matthew Edge

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Whatever got Evelyn fired, it only begins to scratch the surface. At the office, Kate inherits Evelyn’s computer. She discovers that Evelyn was writing a racist fantasy novel on her work computer. Kevin is the thinly-veiled hero of the novel. The novel’s hero, a strapping lad named Kevin Adolfson is a student in a multi-cultural academy of wizardry called Yggdrasil College. He has to save the school from the evil plots hatched up by his foe, an albino giant named Hammerskins and his scheming sidekick, a beautiful djinn named Lilith. As a subplot, he’s trying to win the affection of Freya, his beautiful classmate (who may look a lot like a younger version of Evelyn) in the face of competition from a smooth-talking biracial party animal nicknamed Genghis Ron. Only the first few chapters of the novel are in the file on Evelyn’s old computer.

Kate uses the file to get the upper hand over Kevin. Evelyn has a to do list of “other tasks as assigned” that includes helping her with a multimedia package to pitch her novel at a book fair in Los Angeles the same week as the conference where Kevin is supposed to unveil “Topeka Is Awesome.” Kevin denies that he even knew about Evelyn’s side project, much less ever helped her with it. Kate tells him that Human Resources is likely to view his story with skepticism. “New rules, boss. You might be the head of this project, but I’m the neck that turns the head. If you lose your neck, you lose your head.”

Kevin nodded. He felt weightless. Everything he though he knew about his job was just a trap door that had suddenly fell away beneath his feet.

Kate face suddenly brightened, like the wet grass glistening in an immaculate lawn outside Disney World when a sudden summer storm cloud lifts. “Excellent, then you’re coming over for a brainstorming session at my new place .” That evening, he finds himself sitting on one end of a futon on the sleeping porch of a bungalow in a neighborhood Kate describes as “Notwin.” “It’s all those places that the realtors describes as Potwin, but aren’t really in Potwin. Kevin finds himself amazed by how quickly Kate can make friends and figure out the logic of a new place.

In the course of the all-night brainstorming session, Kate offers Kevin marijuana to smoke. Wanting to impress Kate, but against his better judgment, he accepts. He feels wonderful, but starts to worry that they’ll get in trouble with the law. Kate tells him to relax. They decide on the slogan for their campaign: “What Happens in Topeka Better Stay in Topeka.”

Kevin has this inspiration: to bring over a bunch of Euro trash hipsters to see the real, decadent America, a place where real people live and work without any concern for what other people think about them. “That’s the real spirit of Topeka!” Kevin declares. Kate looks straight into Kevin’s eyes. Kevin has the feeling she sees his soul naked. He feels a flash of embarrassment, but realizes she doesn’t want to embarrass him. He meets her gaze. “I know just the right guy for that!” Kate declares. She picks up her phone and dials Serge. Kevin only hears half the conversation. He wonders about Kate’s relationship with Serge. Kevin can figure out that they have a history, but he wonders how much the old flame is just embers. She works out some agreement with Serge, then ends the call. Kate explains that Serge knows all kinds of Euro trash hipsters back in France. She’s convinced him to put together a tour of Topeka and northeast Kansas for his Euro trash hipster friends.

Kate and Kevin talk into the small hours of the morning. Kevin has this burning desire to know more about Serge, especially how he affects Kevin’s chances with Kate. But Kevin knows asking would be rude. Eventually, they fall asleep on Kate’s futon. Kevin wakes up a few hours later. He finds himself gazing at Kate’s neck, illuminated by the soft morning light filtering in through the open windows of the sleeping porch. He hears the distant sounds of the neighborhood waking to a Saturday. There’s the faint sound of a lawnmower and the smell of cut grass. Kevin feels more upset and yet happier than ever in his life. He catches himself whispering “I don’t need to feel ashamed to look at what’s beautiful.” Kate mumbles, “I think we’ve made a breakthrough” as though in her sleep.

Kevin hears thumping and squeaking on the stairs up to the sleeping porch. The door flies open and in charge two police officers, guns drawn. They order Kevin and Kate to lie flat on the futon. While the police officers hold them at gun point, another man comes up the stairs. He’s wearing a suit and sunglasses. He sees the paraphernalia Kevin and Kate were using to smoke pot the night before.

“Officer …” the man pauses to read the nametag of one of the officers, ” Hendrix, don’t worry about this,” the man says while waving his hand at the contraband on the coffee table. “It’s not worth the paperwork.”

The man leaned in toward the officer, “I can tell you this in confidence, this is a matter of national security.” The man waives the officers away. They holster their guns and retreat down the stairs.

The man holds his hands on his hips and looks over Kevin and Kate. “I’m Agent Fisk, FBI.” He pulls the coffee table away from the futon, brushes aside the pipe and the lighter, the baggie and the ashtray. “Don’t worry about that, my partner Agent Wingright will make it go away when he gets here. They’ll be no trouble, not on that count anyway.” He sits down on the coffee table, crosses his left leg over his right, leans in toward Kevin and Kate, who now give him the full measure of their attention, like a mouse gives the snake as it loops its coils. “What I would like you to tell me is, ‘Where is the rest of Evelyn Blackmon’s manuscript?”

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Keep reading! Chapter 6 by Shari Schawo

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