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Fool's Errand
     

Fool's Errand

4.8 5
by Louis Bayard
 
An Excerpt

Funny that it began with a nap. Naps usually filled him with a nameless dread. Every time he put his head on a pillow, he would remember something he needed to dosomething to clean (though he wasn't really that clean) or a book he'd been meaning to read. Or he'd develop a sudden fear of embarrassing himself: mumbling an old boyfriend's name,

Overview

An Excerpt

Funny that it began with a nap. Naps usually filled him with a nameless dread. Every time he put his head on a pillow, he would remember something he needed to dosomething to clean (though he wasn't really that clean) or a book he'd been meaning to read. Or he'd develop a sudden fear of embarrassing himself: mumbling an old boyfriend's name, say, or drooling or some other act still undreamed of, outside civilization's parameters. But nothing, finally, explained how unacceptable it was to be lying therein daylightlying there while the rest of the world was awake. How did people do it?

On the day in question, though, a Sunday in March, Patrick had been trailing clouds of sleep deprivation. All week long he'd been sleeping poorly, and the night before, three teenage boys had broken into his car, which was parked behind his Victorian row house on Capitol Hill. Patrick might have slept till morning unawares except a neighbor on the other side of the back alley saw the crime in progress and yelled at the boys until they ran away. Then he knocked on Patrick's door to explain what had happened, and just as Patrick was about to thank him and go back to bed, the neighbor mentioned that the police had been called and were on their way. Patrick called twice over the next hour, asking the police not to come. Two hours later a patrolman knocked on the door. He and Patrick waited another half hour for the fingerprint specialist. Still wearing his bathrobe, Patrick led them through the backyard to the car. The first thing he noticed was the Oldsmobile's steering column, which had been peeled open like a can. The second thing was the glass from the rear left passengerwindow, which had resolved itself into smooth, glittering candy pebbles on the gravel.

He fell asleep around 5. Around 6, his downstairs tenant, Deanna, woke him up to tell him about his car: She'd seen it during her morning jog. This left him only a few minutes of sleep before he had to get up for his violin lesson. His teachera radiant freckled woman named Sonya, with a river of auburn hairlived only three blocks away, but 7:30 on Sunday morning was the only time of the week they could get together. Patrick was not improving.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Bayard's accomplished debut novel, a witty romantic comedy, is set in Washington, D.C.'s gay community, a group, says one character, that is smaller than Mayberry. Despite very few degrees of separation, 32-year-old Patrick Beaton is having trouble locating his ideal man, a figure of perfection he met (or dreamed he met) briefly at a Sunday brunch. Patrick is aided in his search for the man he calls "Scottie" by Seth, a persistent, perspiring sidekick who has his own reasons for wanting Patrick to get over this obsession. Numerous subplots, including side romances, rat infestations and a visit from Patrick's non-Irish but brogue-spouting father, revolve around and involve Patrick's quest for Scottie, but Bayard, like Armistead Maupin in his Tales of the City series, is a master of tightly woven, oddly believable coincidence-driven plotting. Like Maupin, and Stephen McCauley, Bayard's snappy dialogue manages to be more funny than people really are, and utterly convincing at the same time. He excels at gently skewering aspects of urban gay culture: a young man in a tank top with "his car keys [dangling] from his nipple ring"; a group of dancers in a western theme bar, "cantering in a circle like high-bred fillies." Readers are never sure what twists or turns are coming, but Bayard makes Patrick's poignant, fumbling attempts to achieve domestic bliss a journey gay (and gay-friendly) readers will be eager to embark upon, and travel along to the satisfying end. (June) Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781555834944
Publisher:
Alyson Publications
Publication date:
06/28/1999
Pages:
486
Product dimensions:
5.24(w) x 7.95(h) x 1.13(d)

Read an Excerpt



Chapter One


PART ONE


    Funny that it began with a nap. Naps usually filled him with a nameless dread. Every time he put his head on a pillow, he would remember something he needed to do—something to clean (though he wasn't really that clean) or a book he'd been meaning to read. Or he'd develop a sudden fear of embarrassing himself: mumbling an old boyfriend's name, say, or drooling or some other act still undreamed of, outside civilization's parameters. But nothing, finally, explained how unacceptable it was to be lying there—in daylight—lying there while the rest of the world was awake. How did people do it?

    On the day in question, though, a Sunday in March, Patrick had been trailing clouds of sleep deprivation. All week long he'd been sleeping poorly, and the night before, three teenage boys had broken into his car, which was parked behind his Victorian row house on Capitol Hill. Patrick might have slept till morning unawares except a neighbor on the other side of the back alley saw the crime in progress and yelled at the boys until they ran away. Then he knocked on Patrick's door to explain what had happened, and just as Patrick was about to thank him and go back to bed, the neighbor mentioned that the police had been called and were on their way. Patrick called twice over the next hour, asking the police not to come. Two hours later a patrolman knocked on the door. He and Patrick waited another half hour for the fingerprint specialist. Still wearing his bathrobe, Patrick led them through the backyard to the car. The first thinghe noticed was the Oldsmobile's steering column, which had been peeled open like a can. The second thing was the glass from the rear left passenger window, which had resolved itself into smooth, glittering candy pebbles on the gravel.

    He fell asleep around 5. Around 6, his downstairs tenant, Deanna, woke him up to tell him about his car: She'd seen it during her morning jog. This left him only a few minutes of sleep before he had to get up for his violin lesson. His teacher—a radiant freckled woman named Sonya, with a river of auburn hair—lived only three blocks away, but 7:30 on Sunday morning was the only time of the week they could get together. Patrick was not improving. He was mired about two thirds of the way through Suzuki Volume 2; so to distract him, Sonya discussed her latest fertility exercise, a variation on something in the Kama Sutra. She and her husband had been trying to have a baby for four months.

    At 8 o'clock Patrick called his insurance company, then called AAA because he couldn't turn his ignition and needed a tow. The tow truck driver came at 9:30 and fiddled with the steering column until Patrick was able to drive it himself, four blocks to the local Exxon, which had a wall covered with photographs of members of Congress but never enough mechanics. The car would be ready by tomorrow, they told him—Friday at the latest.

    At 10:30, his boyfriend Alex called to remind him they had brunch with Gary and Robert at Sequoia at 11, followed by a 1 o'clock brunch party at Grant's house. The first brunch actually began at 11:30 because Alex, who lived in Adams Morgan, had to drive all the way down to Capitol Hill to pick up Patrick, then all the way back to Georgetown. Patrick and Alex had a running disagreement about which area had fewer parking opportunities: Alex said Georgetown, and Patrick argued for Adams Morgan. ("That must be why you never come to my apartment," Alex said.) By the time they got to the restaurant, Gary and Robert were freely drinking Bloody Marys. Patrick realized he didn't know which was Gary and which was Robert.

    "Guess what?" Alex said, by way of excusing their lateness. "Someone broke into Patrick's car last night."

    "Did they take anything?" asked Gary/Robert.

    "No," Patrick said. "They looked through my tapes, but they didn't take any."

    "I would think not," said Robert/Gary.

    "Actually, they were trying to hot-wire it."

    "Which gives you a sense of their experience levels," Alex said. "I mean, hot-wiring an '87 Oldsmobile."

    "Oh, no, no, no," said Gary/Robert. "That's just the kind of car they want. It goes straight to the chop shop. Especially the GM cars because all the parts are interchangeable."

    "Then why—?" Patrick began.

    "Why what?"

    "Why can't they fix my fucking car before Friday? If there's this whole universe of interchangeable parts."

    "Patrick's still a little upset," Alex said.

    "I wish they'd taken the damn thing. What would it matter? Five hundred-dollar deductible either way. It wouldn't matter."

    "Oh, no, no, no," Gary/Robert said. "Then you'd have new car payments. Your insurance rates would go up. You wouldn't want that."

    "You wouldn't," Alex said.

    They were only 20 minutes late to the second brunch, but it didn't matter because it was buffet. The house they went to had a Colonial Revival facade but an interior that seemed to belong to an earlier, more cramped era. Half of the vestibule was taken up by an elaborate umbrella stand with ceramic handles, delft blue. The low-ceilinged living room was bisected by a long paisley-upholstered chesterfield running perpendicular to the wall, which made the three men sitting on it look like a gallery of disembodied heads.

    Grant, the host, had been restoring the house for the last three years. He was demonstrating his new pocket doors when suddenly he wheeled on Patrick and asked, "Do you know how long it took me? Just to do that stretch of crown molding in the corner?"

    "No."

    "Three months," he said. "I worked on it every night for three months."

    "Well, it—looks nice. I guess it's worth it."

    "Oh, I do it because I love it. This is sex for me. If it adds to the house's value, all well and good, but—I do it because it's sex, you know?"

    Besides the chesterfield, there were precisely two chairs in the living room, both cabriolets that didn't seem meant for sitting. This meant that guests had either to cluster around the three people on the chesterfield or form alternative knots around the kitchen island or the dining-room table, which Grant had had custom-distressed by a man he knew in McLean. Patrick, momentarily deserted by Alex, wandered ineffectually among the three rooms, feeling more and more the weight of the low ceilings, the weight of people's conversation. He listened to men his own age discussing things he would never have thought to discuss: simplified employee pensions, the storm proofing of summer houses in Delaware, the antiwrinkle properties of Preparation H.

    More than anything else, he realized, he wanted to lie down.

    "Grant," he said. "I'm going to give myself a tour."

    He climbed the stairs, but the groaning of old nails, the dull mottled texture of the handrails, his own weight on each tread—it only made him more tired. So he came back down the stairs and turned the corner, passed down a short hallway, and came to a small empty room. It was a study or library of sorts, outfitted by the Bombay Company. The wallpaper was forest-green, and the Macintosh computer was almond. Patrick dropped, almost fainted, onto a chintz-covered claw-foot love seat. He leaned his head against an HP LaserJet printer.

    I am not going to sleep. I'm just going to close my eyes. It'll be almost as good as sleep.

    He closed his eyes, but the eyes themselves were vibrating with anxiety. No, no, they were saying. You don't want this; you don't want to fall asleep.

    And then a voice which was not the voice of his eyeballs broke in. "Oh, sorry."

    Patrick opened his eyes. A cranberry Shetland-wool sweater hovered before him, attached itself to a pair of gray denim pants, then slowly reconfigured itself as a man. A tall man with dirty-blond hair and a powerful neck and a lopsided smile and a chin that quietly asserted itself.

    I'm not alone, he suddenly realized. He snapped his head forward. "No, it's—"

    "You look tired," the man said.

    "I'm very—I'd like to sleep."

    "Let go, then."

    "I'm sorry?" Patrick was struggling now. The man's voice was beginning to recede.

    "Cast off," he said.

    And Patrick was going to say something, but now his own voice had receded and a gloaming was upon him, and the man in the Shetland sweater was wrapped in a cumulus cloud.

    Even now, with his eyes definitively shut, Patrick felt that some etiquette was called for. Should I ask him to sit down? Does he want to watch me sleep? Is he still there? There was no way of knowing. Something was slipping out of Patrick's reach ... It was Patrick ...


    He awoke ten minutes later with a great gulp of air. He looked around. No one was there. He hastened back to the living room, wondering if anyone was there, and, of course, everyone was there, except the man he had just talked to. He wandered through the dining room, the kitchen, poked his head into the bathroom, which had two matching white terry-cloth bathrobes hanging from what looked like a meat hook. Before he could head back to the library, he felt Alex's hand in the crook of his arm.

    "Grant knows somebody who knows your boss."

    "Oh."

    They left the house at about 4. It was startling to realize that Alex was the one driving. It must have been startling to Alex too because he talked all the way home.

    "It's a nice house, and I know he's put a lot of work into it. I mean, the tile alone. It's just not the kind I'd choose for myself. It doesn't have that simplicity that draws you to a house sometimes, do you know what I mean? It's that feeling like `Yes. OK. This is a house.' Except, listen, Grant was telling me the molding was original to the house, but I don't see how it could be. It's Home Depot, don't you think? By way of Sherman Williams. And even if it's original, it doesn't go with the low ceilings. Or the exposed beams."

    "Everyone there came in leather jackets," Patrick said.

    "Yes?"

    "I think it's odd, that's all. Leather jackets over ties. Leather jackets over sweaters, angora sweaters."

    "Well, some people look good that way."

    "What I mean is: Why? There must have been a meeting where this was decided, everyone instructed to wear leather jackets. Why wasn't I invited to the meeting?"

    "You're tired."

    "You always say that, and it's—I don't always say things because I'm tired."

    "No, it's just that some things you're more likely to say when you're tired. Which is why you should learn to take naps like the rest of us."

    "Well, you know, now that we're on the subject and everything, I did take a nap. In Grant's library. In fact, somebody walked in on me."

    "Who?"

    "I don't know; I've never seen him before. He was wearing a Shetland sweater."

    "A Shetland sweater?"

    "Yeah, he was about your height. Curlyish hair? Blondish, dirty blondish ..."

    "I never saw him. Did you really take a nap in Grant's house?"

    "Well ... yeah, I was giving myself a tour of the place, and I just kind of sat down. And started nodding off, and then he walked in behind me."

    "Well, didn't he tell you who he was?"

    "No, he left."

    "Grant must know him, then."

    "It's funny; I didn't see him when we came in. He wasn't there when I came back."

    "Grant must know him."

    Repeating himself was Alex's way of ending a line of inquiry. That could only work on adults, Patrick thought. Children would never buy into it. It was funny how much he missed driving his own car. He had no sense of time anymore. Before they were halfway across town, they had already reached his house. He blinked a couple of times in disbelief.

    "Do you want me to come in?" Alex asked.

    He stood at the car door, hesitating. "If you want. I mean, I'll probably go to bed early."

    "Whatever."

    "No, come in. That's fine."

    "No, that's OK."

    "Well ... whatever, right? I mean, dinner tomorrow night."

    "Yeah."

    "So ... I promise I'll be better company, OK?" He started to close the car door and then stopped it in mid swing. "I'm kind of pissed about my car."

    "I know."

    "I don't know when they'll be done with it."

    "Well ..."

    "Good night." He leaned into the car, and they kissed.

    "Oh! Next weekend," Alex said. "I think we should clean your front windows, OK?"

    There was always something a little awkward, a little improvised about the way they parted. Alex never said the same thing twice—although what he said usually had to do with cleaning Patrick's house—and Patrick never said the same thing in response. Maybe it was because they didn't live together—they had passion but no rituals. Even the kissing was expository. Sometimes they didn't even kiss: Their lips just stopped about an inch apart, and then they smiled as though they'd really done it.

    He watched Alex's car dawdle to the stoplight at the end of the block, then turn left. He was not at all tired. He was convinced he wouldn't be able to sleep. Why had he taken those ten minutes at Grant's house? He would never make them up. Never, as long as he lived.

    Later that night, lying in bed, he thought about the man in the Shetland sweater.

    Cast off, he'd said.

    Like it was the easiest thing to do in the world. Like it was just a matter of ... Patrick envisioned himself floating in a marina, big and cumbersome, displacing all the water that was meant for the yachts, feeling the moon's pull toward sea. The rope that bound his ankles to the pier was fraying, unraveling ... and now it had broken off ... The current tugged him ... The water cradled him ... The sky painted his face ...

    Cast off.

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Fool's Errand 4.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This was a surprising find! I read 'Endangered Species' first and wasn't that pleased, but when coaxed into reading 'Fool's Errand' I relented and fell in love. Bayard engrossed me with his simple, yet timeless tale of learning to love the unexpected but familiar. Quite honestly, no one ever knows how any story will end, but Bayard's simple twists showed how simply beautiful falling in love can be.
Guest More than 1 year ago
'Fool's Errand' is really a novel of manners, as opposed to a comic novel. That is, the characters worry about doing the right thing instead of trying to get out of impossible situations. The central figure, Patrick, has a brief chance meeting with a man who becomes an obsession for him and he, along with an eccentric new friend, spends most of his free time the following year searching our nation's capital for his obscure object of desire. If you've seen enough movies of the 'screwball comedy' genre, I don't have to tell you where this leads. The Washington, D.C. locale is rendered accurately, Patrick's friends are refreshingly low-key (they're gay, but don't go on and on and on about it), and the plot furnishes enough of a thread for the soap-opera that follows. One minor quibble is that people who write this kind of genial satire always seem to equip their protagonists with upper-middle-class backgrounds. Patrick is an environmentalist yet owns a townhouse and leases the bottom floor of it. C'mon. Nonetheless I hope to see more from the pen of this talented author.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I found this in a bookstore on a shelf with a recommendation attached from one of the employees. Thankfully, I believed their great review of this first-time author's work. This is without a doubt one of the best, most refeshing books I have ever read. The characters are as engaging as the writing is witty. While I was reading it, my partner was being driven crazy by my laughing and carrying on about how great it was. Now he is reading it and chuckling to himself with the glee I had. Do not go another day without finding this book!
Guest More than 1 year ago
For a novel to be a good read it must have great dialogue and an even equally great storyline - Fool's Errand has both. Being a fellow 'broody butt' like Patrick, I found him and all the other characters in the story engaging and real. Louis Bayard's witty and truthful dialogue adds depth and tenderness to each character, often leaving the reader to empathize with them, particularly in Patrick.This book aptly demonstrates the lengths people would and could go for true love, and should be read by anyone - particularly if you are a hopeless romantic like me.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Thoroughly entertaining from beginning to finish. I have never wanted a sequel so much in my life. It is a slice of gay americana told with wit, intelligence and truly heart warming characters. Never have I read a book so amused while being so deeply thought provoked at the same time. As a gay man, it hit home to what is important to me and my life. A++++ to Mr. Bayard. He managed to uplift my soul in a very positive way that will stay with me for a very long time to come. I will be forever grateful for this extraordinary literary experience and will highly recommend it to anyone with a heart.