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A Cure for Gravity
     

A Cure for Gravity

4.6 3
by Arthur Rosenfeld
 

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Traveling the same route unknowingly, Gant and Umberto cross paths while "flying without wings" in the middle of a tornado. Becoming partners, the two sojourners continue together down their road learning about each other, but more importantly, about themselves and the relationships with those they love, have loved, or will come to love.

Overview

Traveling the same route unknowingly, Gant and Umberto cross paths while "flying without wings" in the middle of a tornado. Becoming partners, the two sojourners continue together down their road learning about each other, but more importantly, about themselves and the relationships with those they love, have loved, or will come to love.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In this messy but charming tale of one teenage boy's lucky bank robbery, Arthur Rosenfeld takes us not only cross-country, from South Florida to Port Townsend, Wash., but also across a few spiritual dimensions, such as the one separating life and death. The boy, Umberto Santana, robs a bank in Boca Raton on the day when the bills are unmarked. The bank has brought in this money for Suzanne Emerson, an heiress with a taste for expensive antique automobiles, who wants cash on hand so that she can drive a hard bargain at an upcoming auction. Umberto's dumb luck holds as he gets out of town on his Honda. His cross-country trip is lonely, however, until he meets up with Mercury Gant, who is also fleeing Florida, on his 20-year-old motorcycle. Gant is trying to shake his memories of his ex-lover, Caroline, who was lovely, smart and gruesomely widowed; her husband apparently shot himself and their boy, Xavier. Or did he? That story unfurls in Gant's mind as he makes his way to the last bit of his recent past--his daughter, living with Caroline's mother in Port Townsend. Meanwhile, in Florida, Umberto's robbery has caused some excitement: a U.S. senator in the bank at the time died of an asthma attack brought on by stress, and her husband is out for the perpetrator's blood. Eagle Cooper, the FBI agent investigating the case, quickly falls in love with beautiful Suzanne. When Umberto's father uses cash to buy a Jaguar from Suzanne, Eagle closes in, and a sadder, wiser Umberto performs a charitable act. Rosenfeld throws too many subplots into his zany mix, and the dialogue is often corny, but there's a bravura innocence at the heart of this offbeat novel that eventually wins the reader's affection. (Sept.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.|
From the Publisher
"A Cure for Gravity is the kind of stunning surprise that comes along once a year, if we're lucky."—Sun-Sentinel, Ft. Lauderdale, Florida

"A novel of surprising imagination and stylistic daring....A Cure for Gravity rises to near greatness as a piece of home-grown Magical Realism. Touching, scary, hilarious."—Knight Ridder News Service

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780312874551
Publisher:
Doherty, Tom Associates, LLC
Publication date:
10/06/2000
Edition description:
First Edition
Pages:
304
Product dimensions:
6.38(w) x 9.58(h) x 0.95(d)

Read an Excerpt

A Cure for Gravity


By Arthur Rosenfeld

Tom Doherty Associates

Copyright © 2000 Arthur Rosenfeld
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-7653-8567-3


CHAPTER 1

Early that first morning, before the birds shook the dew off their backs, before the street sweepers emerged, before even one footprint appeared on the deck of a sailing boat or one short-order cook took stock of his eggs, even before God thrust his great clammy hands down through the mist and grabbed South Florida in his hot, pulsing grip, Mercury Gant stepped out into the dawn and prepared to abandon his life.

He was a man approaching middle years, and he had seen some things. In particular, he had seen the rhythmic contractions of the chambered nautilus, a spiral-shaped cephalopod which swims by gathering water into its shell in a long inhale and then suddenly expelling it, with great force, so as to shoot like a star through the water. He figured out that life worked more or less the same way the nautilus did, with long periods of energy-gathering quietude followed by periods of massive change. He felt certain that his long inhale was over, and wondered, as he bent to secure the saddlebags on his touring motorcycle, what kind of new life this machine — which held all his remaining material goods, and which supported his very existence on two narrow patches of rubber — would bring him.

He looked the motorcycle over carefully, because he knew how a great number of miles — the harmonics of tiresong on the tarmac, the repetitive compression and rebound of springs and shock absorbers, his weight shifting in the seat, the toeclicks of the changing gears — could slowly tear a bike apart, loosening things, displacing adjustments, creating a whole constellation of problems which, if not corrected early, might mean nighttime trouble on some lonely shoulder of the road.

He took a deep breath, rubbed his eyes, and performed a couple of toe touches, feeling the sinews stretch back there behind his legs. He twisted his back sharply to get that old, satisfying crack from his spine, and then, ready to continue the job at hand, he walked around the machine, surveying every nut and bolt, testing the tires, the tension, the alignment, the curves. He checked with his finger for wetness around seals, palpated hoses for turgidity, tugged on electrical connections to make sure nothing was loose. He patted the perfect, original paint on the twenty-year-old gas tank — no dings, scratches, or dents — and looked with satisfaction at the aluminum cylinders sticking out of the side.

Feeling the true professional — he had been riding for years — he ran his hands down over his long Australian cattle drover's coat, a garment of dark brown oiled cotton, checking the myriad pockets for the items he'd need handy: the tire gauge, the map, the multitool replete with screwdrivers and pliers, hex wrenches and blades, quarters for tollbooths, wallet, cash, extra key. He examined himself in the bike's side mirror, smiling in an attempt to make his metallic silver eyes sparkle the way they once had. They had been like flying saucers embarrassed by a full sun back when, but these days he couldn't get even a glint out of them. His face was still high-boned and handsome, though, with gray only at the temples and a strong jaw and good teeth, leaving him looking like the army poster boy he had been long ago. He saw a spot on his cheek he'd missed shaving, and rubbed it with his hand. Leave it be, he told himself. One can die chasing perfection.

He donned his earplugs, and his helmet and his gloves, and took one last look at the rented Deerfield Beach walk-up he had occupied for the last six years. He had mopped and swept it, painted and pasted and recarpeted it, not so much to recover the security deposit — he had more than enough money saved up — but to achieve a proper closure, to make a clean break. He had, however, left a cardboard box full of trash sitting in the driveway, the cord from a busted Venetian blind dangling over the edge. The cord bothered him, and he nudged it back in with the tip of his boot, noticing in the process a photograph sticking to the bottom of an empty can of varnish. He peeled the picture off, looked at it with a jump in his throat, and jammed it into his coat.

Wishing he could do the same with his heart, he reset the bike's trip odometer to zero.


* * *

Click, clack go Umberto Santana's feet on the sidewalk, but sloppily, due to the lifts in his shoes. As sure of what he is about to do as he has ever been of anything, the boy strides resolutely into the Boca Raton Savings Bank and waits quietly in line. When his turn comes, he puts the pistol down on the counter right along with the bag, and beckons.

Ho, says the teller as his face drains of blood. There is training — to keep the thief talking, to press the panic button down low — but the authority of the Beretta, professional sidearm of choice all over the world, scrambles his finger and tongue to deli meats. The teller's a mess. He turns white and whiter awaiting the word.

Money, Umberto commands at last, his finger tight on the trigger. Unlike the teller, he's sticking to the plan. Beat down the Latin accent, talk less than a mouse, hide under the blond wig, trim the line that connects your bleached eyebrows, shave close the light mosaic of stubble on your chin. Fool those bank cameras with the big looping gestures you've been practicing, none of which are really your own, none of which are even characteristically Latin. Speak in deep tones that make you seem older. Have a nose like a Rottweiler and smell fear in advance. Smell impending action too. And behind-the-scenes decisions being made.

Sniff for panic.

Be ready for anything.

Be a hypersensitive creature of crime.

Hundreds, Umberto says in his best false voice, but nothing marked and nothing bound.

The teller makes no move. Umberto racks the slide over the empty magazine, driving a bullet made of air into the waiting chamber.

Be quick or die, he says.

The teller reconnects his brain and fingers and begins filling the bag. Despite his terror, he manages to be amazed by the way the material expands. It's like a gym suit for a damned grizzly bear. How did the thief know they'd be flush with unmarked bills today? The bank's air conditioner roars. Shivering, the teller wishes he'd stayed home.

At the next window, a woman has just seen the gun, and she begins wheezing, a bronchospasmic attack. Her young son presses his head against her chest and hears her wheezing like a chain saw.

Asthma, he nods grimly.

I'm all out of money, the teller informs Umberto.

So get more. You think I got all day here?

The teller moves to the next window, whispers something terse and low to his coworker, and dips into another drawer for hundreds. He comes back with another stack of bills, and then another. As his haul grows, Umberto allows himself a brief, mental exultation. He's doing it! He's changing everything. And it's so easy! He doesn't even sound like himself! Certain that someone has pushed the silent alarm button by now, he urges the teller to get more money from the vault.

Get back here in ninety seconds or I start shooting, he says.

The teller dashes off and returns with an armful, disgorging it into the sack.

One more load, says Umberto, checking his watch, knowing he is cutting it close.

The teller obliges, wondering desperately why help has not yet arrived. Not realizing what's happening, the customers waiting on line, between the ropes, grow restless. There are more than twenty of them, clad to a one in gray uniforms. They are gardeners and maids from the resort a few blocks down, waiting to cash their checks. Umberto is dressed just like they are, even though he does not now and has not ever worked at the resort. It is a good, clever cover, and one that for a time will serve him well.

It's Friday, it's hot, and grand plans abound. Nobody pays attention to the suffocating woman, at least until she drops to her knees, her hands at her throat, her face a blue ocean foaming jellies of spit. Her little boy presses an inhaler to her lips. It doesn't seem to work, maybe because the boy doesn't know how to squeeze it, maybe because the spasm is beyond release. Mommy's not going to make it.

Inside her glass cubicle, the branch manager is on the phone with a yacht broker who is trying to seduce her. She thanks him for the roses on her desk as she fingers their petals and wonders why he chose yellow, which she was raised to believe is the color of condolence.

She looks out. Something is very wrong. There is a pulsing, nearly frozen tableau where a busy bank should be, with people swaying and shifting but no bank business being done. A well-built resort groundskeeper sashays out the door, a bulging bag slung over his shoulder.

The hell? the manager mutters.

The dying woman finally drops to the floor, where she flops right and left like a tiddlywink. This is what has come of personally bringing her son to the bank to start his own savings account rather than doing her banking by phone, as she usually does. The little boy screams out. The manager slams down the phone and rushes over to help. She makes a strong effort with her weight and her hands, pushing and pulsing and even cracking a couple of ribs, all this without knowing that the victim is a United States senator named Vicky Rule, and that the boy's name is Stefan, and that Vicky will be more famous in death than in life, but Stefan, his face all over the papers, will be more famous still.

Finally, sirens converge and officers of the law pour in, powerful automatic weapons at the ready, because recently the Boca Raton City Council has approved the police chief's request for arms that are a match for those of the drug cartels. Umberto's precise whereabouts are of greater interest than an overweight woman on the ground, so by the time the paramedics arrive, Vicky is looking down on the scene from the loft of a gull, feeling no sadness and no pain at all. With a knowing that transcends deep, she grasps that little Stefan will be okay and that she will dance with him again, the next time around, perhaps as his uncle or as his little dog. As she flutters off for a last look at home and husband, Stefan goes into shock. He bats eyelashes like a desert camel's and won't loosen his death grip on his mom's cooling hand. A newspaperman comes in and snaps pictures.

Stubborn Stefan.

Poor Vicky.

Bullhorns. Reassurance. No shots have been fired.

Outside the bank, Umberto runs to a beat-up old Yamaha motorcycle. It is parked behind a clothing store two doors down — such a ratbike nobody would look at it twice. He pulls off his blond wig and sheds his stolen resort uniform, exchanging it for motorcycling leathers which he pulls from a tailpack, which he then fills with the money. He slings a leg over the old beast and fires her up. He has no idea that he will soon be blamed for Vicky Rule's death. He does not even know she has died. He is thinking only of getting away safely.

Inside the bank, tellers are weeping in each other's arms. The manager is someberly handing out yellow roses. As Vicky Rule's corpse is rolled out on a stretcher, Stefan Rule puts up a terrible fight. He claws at the paramedics, he screams and wails. He tears a piece of his hair out, actually unable to imagine life without his mother. In the end, only the manager can comfort him, because she smells like Godiva chocolates and Vicky always smelled like chocolate too.

Umberto is accustomed to drag-racing two-wheeled machines, to burning tires, to fixating on a speck in the distance and bringing it to him instantly, with the throttle. He's used to winning races in Cutler Ridge, and has even been out on the track down in Homestead a few times, but not more than a few, because track time is costly. But this time, leaving the alley, he does no smokeouts, no burnouts, no wheelies, no spins. This time he motors sedately as a butterfly on a nectar trail, leaning one way, then the other, casually warming up the tires in case there is a chase, but mostly listening to the sirens go past him, as the cops look for a blond in a gray work uniform with a sack over his back.

His confidence has been so galvanized by the heist that he doesn't feel the need to ride quickly. He makes a leisurely run down the interstate and ends up in Coconut Grove. He parks his bike, slings the money bag around his neck, and buys himself a smoothie — a mixture of pineapple and mango, papaya, coconut, melon, and lime — not because he can't decide between flavors but because he wants to burn the taste of the tropics deep into his tongue. He knows he's going to have to travel far away, and he wants the memory to last. He shucks and poses for the summer parade of girls going by — doughy girls bubbling out of their jeans; tall, tan, stringy girls too; redheads and blondes, white-skinned and dark. His fingers stray to his bagful of cash.

Look at me, he silently cries. Lissen for a minute, will ju? I've got so much in my pants ju can't imagine. Come ride wit me. Jes' for a couple of hours, okay? Do ju like motorcycles? The wind, it's like a big warm kiss in summer. How 'bout it?

The girl behind the counter taps him on the shoulder, carefully, as if whatever is making him move like he's moving might be contagious.

Here's your smoothie.

Umberto takes it, noticing that she looks vaguely like his lover, a musky, dark, intensely pretty girl with a beauty mark on her cheek, a girl who pushes her panties aside for him but never actually takes them off, there, in the parking lot behind McDonald's. Graciela. He feels a stab at the idea of leaving her, and with that pain, somewhere up in heaven, his star, the pinhole projection of energies that is Umberto Santana, moves suddenly outward on an intercept course with another star. Older, deeper, redder, quieter.

But strong.


* * *

On the other side of the country, as far from South Florida as one can get, blind Audrey Bishop brings a Port Townsend oyster to her lips and delicately sips the Northwestern brine.

Yum, she says. It tastes like Bartok.

Her Grandma Ruth smiles at the reference to the classical music she always has playing, but the smile doesn't last long. No smile has since the baby came to her, in swaddling clothes, five years ago. Audrey's little head was covered with blond hair then, as now, but not the baby blond that goes away, that can in fact end up any color at all, but the ash-blond of a mature woman, streaked with a premature gray that matched those crazy silver eyes.

I found a pearl, so I ate it, Audrey announces. Can you imagine how many pearls I have inside me by now?

I can imagine. You're worth a fortune, you know that?

Audrey beams. Some kind of light comes off her face. Ruth wonders whether it's a love beam straight up to the kid's mother, wherever she is, looking down. She also wonders if she has done the right thing, sending those letters, agreeing to bring shocking change to their little world. She shakes the thought away as if it was a cricket on her shoulder. She's getting old. She can't wade for oysters forever. Her feet stiffen in the chilly water and ache for hours afterward. Sometimes a broken shell cuts her toe and a red river of blood runs away in the water. Don't tell the child. Just keep digging and shuffling, probing and wading.

Ruth's not a complainer.

When your grandfather was alive, he would bake these with fresh spinach, she says. Oysters Rockefeller. A tiny taste of cheese on the top. Gorgonzola.

Outside, a thunderhead builds in a blue sky, the kind of violent blue that comes to the Olympic Peninsula, but only in summer. Ruth watches it coalesce. Audrey takes another oyster up and the juice dribbles down her mouth. Ruth wishes the little girl could see the cloud.

It's going to rain soon, says Audrey. Crash, bang. Trees are going to burn.

Ruth marvels.

Can the child smell the smoke already?


* * *

The bank has become a nestcone of termites, a big one, tall and hard and brown, the way they grow in tropical scrub, with layer after layer inside, everything mapped out and working according to plan. The FBI is there, and a forensics team. Statements are being taken, and the skills of a sketch artist employed. The bank videotapes are being reviewed, fibers lifted from the carpet where Umberto stood patiently, prints and the tiniest possible flecks of metal from the counter where the loaded pistol lay.


(Continues...)

Excerpted from A Cure for Gravity by Arthur Rosenfeld. Copyright © 2000 Arthur Rosenfeld. Excerpted by permission of Tom Doherty Associates.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Arthur Rosenfeld is a Multiple Black-belt holder in Chinese Martial Arts. He lives in Boca Raton, Florida.

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Cure for Gravity 4.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed this book. Although sometimes simple, it was always entertaining. The author's love for the subject matter was strongly communicated. His descriptions of motorcycle-riding, the northwest, Florida, and of these charismatic people gave me an enthusiasm for each.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The Cure for Gravity is a modern novel in the best sense. It moves quickly like modern life with a fast stepping story line filled with adventures, quirky characters- all of whom you'll like- And some way out sub-plots. You'll almost feel like you're riding a bike on the California coast on one page and sailing off Florida on the next. There's just enough tension drawn on the situations our heros are in as well as the anticipated resolving of story lines to keep the pages turning. The author does a great job in tying things together after a great ride- and read.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I had the pleasure of reading an advance copy of this book and all I can say is WOW! The writing is wonderfully fresh and the story is captivating. With rich and kooky characters and themes of love and frienship to murder and betrayal, this book is one I could NOT put down. I think I'm in love...a definite two thumbs up!