Mockingbird

Mockingbird

by Chuck Wendig

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781481448673
Publisher: Saga Press
Publication date: 10/20/2015
Series: Miriam Black Series , #2
Pages: 368
Sales rank: 262,876
Product dimensions: 8.20(w) x 5.50(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

Chuck Wendig is a novelist, screenwriter and game designer. He's the author of many published novels, including but not limited to: Blackbirds, The Blue Blazes, and the YA Heartland series. He is co-writer of the short film Pandemic and the Emmy-nominated digital narrative Collapsus. Wendig has contributed over two million words to the game industry. He is also well known for his profane-yet-practical advice to writers, which he dispenses at his blog, terribleminds.com, and through several popular e-books, including The Kick-Ass Writer, published by Writers Digest. He currently lives in the forests of Pennsyltucky with wife, tiny human, and red dog.

Read an Excerpt

Mockingbird



  • ONE

    SHIP BOTTOM

    Boop.

    Suntan lotion.

    Boop.

    Pecan sandies.

    Boop.

    Tampons, beach towel, postcards, and, mysteriously, a can of green beans.

    Miriam grabs each item with a black-gloved hand. Runs the item over the scanner. Sometimes, she looks down and stares into the winking red laser. She’s not supposed to do that. But she does it anyway, a meager act of rebellion in her brand-new life. Maybe, she thinks, the ruby beam will burn away that part of her brain that makes her who she is. Turn her into a mule-kicked window-licker, happy in oblivion, pressed up against the walls of her Plexiglas enclosure.

    “Miss?”

    The word drags her out of the mind’s eye theater and back to checkout.

    “Jesus, what?” she asks.

    “Well, are you going to scan that?”

    Miriam looks down. Sees she’s still holding the can of green beans. Del Monte. She idly considers braining the woman standing there in her beachy muumuu, the worn pattern of hibiscus flowers barely covering a sludgy bosom that’s half lobster red and half wood-grub white. Two halves marked by the Rubicon of a terrible tan line.

    Instead, Miriam swipes the can across the scanner with a too-sweet smile.

    Boop.

    “Is something wrong with your hands?” the woman asks. She sounds concerned.

    Miriam waggles one finger— a jumping inchworm dance. The black leather creaks and squeaks.

    “Oh, these? I have to wear these. You know how women at restaurants have to wear hairnets? For public health safety? I gotta wear these gloves if I’m going to work here. Rules and regulations. Last thing I want to do is cause a hepatitis outbreak, am I right? I got hep A, B, C, and the really bad one, X.”

    Then, just to sell it, Miriam holds up her hand for a high five.

    The woman does not seize the high-five opportunity.

    Rather, the blood drains from her face, her sunburned skin gone swiftly pale.

    Miriam wonders what would happen if she told the truth: Oh, it’s no big deal, but when I touch people, this little psychic movie plays in my head and I witness how and when they’re going to die. So I’ve been wearing these gloves so I don’t have to see that kind of crazy shit anymore.

    Or the deeper truth behind even that: I wear them because Louis wants me to wear them.

    Not that the gloves provide perfect protection against the visions. Nobody but Louis is touching her anywhere else, though. She keeps covered up. Even in the heat.

    Behind the woman is a line seven, eight people deep. They all hear what Miriam says. She’s not quiet. Two of the customers— a doughy gentleman in a parrot-laden shirt and a young girl with an ill-contained rack of softball-sized fake tits— shimmy out of the queue and leave their goods on the empty checkout two rows down.

    Still, the woman hangs tough. With a sour face, she pulls a credit card out of nowhere—Miriam imagines she withdraws it from her sand-encrusted vagina— and flips it onto the counter like it’s a hot potato.

    Miriam’s about to grab it and scan it when a hand falls on her shoulder.

    She already knows to whom the hand belongs.

    She wheels on Peggy, manager here at Ship Bottom Sundries in Long Beach Island, New Jersey. Peggy, whose nose must possess powerful gravity given the way it looks like the rest of her face is being dragged toward it. Peggy, whose giant sunglasses call to mind the eyes of a praying mantis. Peggy with her gray hair dyed orange and left in a curly, clumsy tangle.

    Fucking Peggy.

    “You mind telling me what you’re doing?” The way Peggy begins every conversation, it seems. All in that Joisey accent. Ya mind tellin’ me what y’doin’? The lost Rs, the dropped Gs, wooter instead of water, caw-fee instead of coffee.

    “Helping this fine citizen check out of our fine establishment.” Miriam thinks but does not say, Ship Bottom Sundries, where you can buy a pack of hot dogs, a pack of generic-brand tampons, or a handful of squirming hermit crabs for your screaming shitbird children.

    “Sounds like you’re giving her trouble.”

    Miriam offers a strained smile. “Was I? Not my intention.”

    Totally her intention.

    “You know, I hired you as a favor.”

    “I do know that. Because you remind me frequently.”

    “Well, it’s true.”

    “Yes. We just established that.”

    Peggy’s puckered eyes tighten to fleshy slits. “You got a smart mouth.”

    “Some might argue my mouth is actually quite foolish.”

    By now, the line is building up. The woman in the floral muumuu is holding the green beans to her chest, as though the can will protect her from the awkwardness that has been thrust upon her day. The other customers watch with wide eyes and uncomfortable scowls.

    “You think you’re funny,” Peggy says.

    Miriam doesn’t hesitate. “I really do.”

    “Well, I don’t.”

    “Agree to disagree?”

    Peggy’s face twists up like a rag about to be wrung out. It takes a moment for Miriam to realize that this is Peggy’s happy face.

    “You’re fired,” Peggy says. Mouth twisted up at the corners in some crass facsimile of a human smile.

    “Oh, fuck you,” Miriam says. “You’re not going to fire me.” It occurs to her too late that saying fuck you is not the best way to retain one’s job, but frankly, the horse is already out of the stable on that one.

    “Fuck me?” Peggy asks. “Fuck you. You bring me nothing but grief. Come in here day after day, moping about like someone pissed in your Wheaties—”

    “Do people even eat Wheaties anymore? I mean, seriously.”

    “— and I don’t need a grumpy little slut like you working in my store. Season’s over after this weekend anyway, and you’re done. Kaput. Pack up your crap and get out. I’ll send you your last paycheck.”

    This is real, Miriam thinks.

    She just got let go.

    Pink-slipped.

    Shit-canned.

    She should be happy.

    Her heart should be a cage of doves newly opened, the free birds flying high, fleeing far and away. This should be a real the-hills-are-alive-with-the-sound-of-music moment, all twirling skirts and wind in her hair. But all she feels is the battery-acid burn of rage and bile and incredulity mingling at the back of her throat. A rising tide of snake venom.

    Louis always tells her to keep it together.

    She is tired of keeping it together.

    Miriam yanks her nametag off her chest— a nametag that says “Maryann” because they fucked it up and didn’t want to reprint it— and chucks it over her shoulder. The muumuu lady dodges it.

    She goes with an old standby—her middle finger thrust up in Peggy’s juiced lemon of a face— and then storms outside.

    She stops. Stands in the parking lot. Hands shaking.

    An ocean breeze kicks up. The air brings with it the smell of brine and fish and a lingering hint of coconut oil. Serpents of sand whisper across the cracked parking lot.

    A dozen gulls fight over bread scraps. Ducking and diving. Squawking and squalling. Drunk on bread crust and victory.

    It’s hot. The breeze does little for that.

    People everywhere. The fwip-fwip-fwip of flip-flop sandals. The miserable sob of somebody’s child. The murmur and cackle of endless vacationers smelling a season drawing to a close. A thudding bass line booms from a car sliding down the slow traffic of Long Beach Boulevard, and she can’t help but think how the beat sounds like douche-douche-douche-douche and how it echoes her hammer-fist heartbeat dully punching against the inside of her breastbone. And Walt the “cart boy,” who’s not really a boy but in fact a developmentally handicapped fifty-year-old man, gives her a wave and she waves back and thinks, He’s the only one here who was ever nice to me. And probably the only one she was ever nice to, too.

    She thinks, Fuck it.

    She peels off one of her gloves.

    Then comes the other.

    Miriam pitches both over her shoulder—her hands are freakishly pale, paler than the rest of her body, the fingertips wrinkled as though she’s been in a long bath.

    If Louis wanted her to keep it together, he’d be here. And he’s not.

    Miriam goes back inside the store, cracking her knuckles.

  • Customer Reviews

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    Mockingbird 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 18 reviews.
    fictionhumper More than 1 year ago
    The novel itself was an enjoyable enough read, but the ebook formatting was atrocious. So many grammatical and spelling errors, not to mention one passage which seemingly contained actual editing notes. It seems that the ebook version was lifted from an early proof version on the author's computer. Very disappointing and frustrating. I suggest purchasing the paperback copy.
    AndrewReadsBooks More than 1 year ago
    Mockingbird is the second entry into Chuck Wendig's Miriam Black series, and it does not disappoint. The book is dripping with Wendig's signature frenzied pacing, wry humor, and kinetic descriptions. While continuing to play with ideas of fatalism and morality, this book begins a more earnest exploration of Miriam's relationships with others in her world, and casts her as more dynamic character than the first book. The result is a sort of weird gritty existentialist noir that's remarkably satisfying. This book feels a little more grounded than the first novel, if a book whose central plot involved psychic abilities and personified elements of fate can be said to have any grounding. Miriam feels less superhuman in this book - no longer is she walking off injuries that should permanently cripple a mere mortal. This isn't to say that Wendig has eschewed violence, but that it feels a little more real in it's portrayal. The same can be said about how Wendig presents the world around Miriam - issues like police response and healthcare workers feel more real in this novel. I find that the more I read Wendig's writing, the more I enjoy his overall style. While I've seen others describe it as cinematic (and, have myself said such things), it almost feels more like having an excited friend tell you a story. The wordplay and meta-commentary that are interspersed throughout the book are a great treat. It's disappointing that there isn't going to be a TV series. Perhaps the best new addition in this novel is the addition of new characters. In the first novel, I found that several of the villains and henchmen types were interesting but not engaging; they operated kind of like the quirky sub-villains you often encounter in Tarantino films that are both memorable and not. In this novel, the smaller cast of characters means that they are developed more thoroughly, which draws the reader further in. I'm hopeful we'll see at least some of these characters in future Miriam Black novels. If you're looking for a fun ride that's not to serious, not too silly, and that's both brilliant and crude, you could do worse than to read this book. I'm looking forward to book #3.
    VanillaCatMagnet More than 1 year ago
    If a nasty, foul mouthed antihero is who you're looking for-- that's what you'll find in Miriam. There's no moral to the story, no shiny vampires or love stories, nor filler pages of sickening sweet sucrose description of how the world was made a better place because of something that happened in fiction fiction land-- No-- It's more of a shoved up against the wall with a tongue down your throat after a few drinks on a really bad kind of day kind of book, or a after fight sex workout and eat ice cream in bed feeling... Awesome. Can't get enough. Not always meaningful, but worth it. Delicious...
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    But still an awesome book. Think what I really missed was Miriam out on the road, those were the bulk of my favorite scenes from Blackbirds. Also miss the way the time/flashbacks were done. Solid plot, but a bit too murder mystery for me. Hope there is a third though, with more of Miriam's on the road adventures. Style still kicks ass.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    If you'd like to read a tightly plotted noir thriller, and strong language doesn't curl your hair, allow me to recommend this book. The story grabs you from the first page, and fans of tales with a twist will enjoy the screaming left turn that happens about two thirds of the way through. It's a great read and the time you spend with Miriam Black will stay in your brain after you've closed the book. Highly recommended read.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    I am conflicted about this book. I was deeply involved in the story and that was good. But the characters are outright loathsome. It is really saying something that truly horrible Miriam is just about the best of the bunch.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    I would spend my money on another book, any book. One of my most disliked books I have ever tried to read. Starts with a good basis for a good book but the story deals with such low life scum that it becomes a story that is not real world. The world is better than this story.
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    Scott_Kennedy More than 1 year ago
    It's impossible to stop reading this book. It sinks its talons in and won't let go. Really. I stole every minute I could find to get back to it and finish it. But better than just being thrilling, the book builds upon and deepens the themes of its predecessor, Blackbirds. There's a resonance to this book that's both haunting and beautiful, and at times Miriam Black's thinking slips into lines whose profane beauty could easily fit into a poem by Bukowski or, more appropriately, Crow by Ted Hughes. But Wendig is such a disciplined writer that such moments of wordy goodness never slow the narrative or even pull you out of the book; they simply deepen Miriam's character and make her even more compelling. This is a unique mix of Urban Fantasy meets Pulp Noir built with a superbly crafted plot. Read it. It's a blast.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    Wasn't hooked on it until last 90 pages. Now i am looking forward to the next in this series.
    relaxeau More than 1 year ago
    Horrible would be an over reach for this hatchet job of a "story". I may be under reviewing this so called book because I threw it away after getting half way finished. In 50 years of voracious reading this is the first book I have thrown away in the middle of reading it. (I have thrown a few away after finishing them, even ceremonialy burned a couple that were particularily offensive) But this is a first for me. Shallow, thin, characters in a ridiculous plot. It's a perfect low budget horror movie vehicle that would go straight to streaming. (No one would pay to print DVDs)
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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