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Meatworks

Meatworks

Meatworks by Jordan Castillo Price

Series: Standalone
Release date: July 3, 2014
Length: Novel - 83,000 words - 295 page PDF
Cover artist: Jordan Castillo Price - see larger cover
ISBN: 978-1-935540-67-0

$6.99
Find Meatworks at the following places:

Amazon - Smashwords (many file types) - iTunes

Summary

Desmond Poole is damaged in more ways than one. If he was an underachiever before, he’s entirely useless now that he’s lost his right hand. He spends his time drowning his sorrows in vodka while he deliberately blows off the training that would help him master his new prosthetic. Social Services seems determined to try and stop him from wallowing in his own filth, so he’s forced to attend an amputee support group. He expects nothing more than stale cookies, tepid decaf and a bunch of self-pitying sob stories, so he’s blindsided when a fellow amputee catches his eye.

Corey Steiner is a hot young rudeboy who works his robotic limb like an extension of his own body, and he’s smitten by Desmond’s crusty punk rock charm from the get-go. Unfortunately, Desmond hasn’t quite severed ties with his ex-boyfriend, and Corey isn’t known for his maturity or patience.

Meatworks is set in a bleak near-future where cell phone and personal computer technologies never developed. In their place, robotics flourished. Now robots run everything from cars to coffee pots. Taking the guesswork out of menial tasks was intended to create leisure time, but instead robots have made society dependent and passive.

Desmond loathes robots and goes out of his way to avoid them. But can he survive without the robotic arm strapped to the end of his stump?

 

Excerpt

“You’re here for the meeting? It’s supposed to start at seven. And you are?”

“Me? I’m Desmond Poole.”

“Hi, Desmond. I’m Pam Steiner. Come in, make sure you close the door behind you.”

Nah, I figured I’d just let it rain in. I forced a smile. Baring my teeth probably wouldn’t fool anyone, but I couldn’t afford to make a new enemy.

My hostess Pam, a thirtyish chick with sandy, blunt-cut hair and a painfully earnest face, smiled in return. Her smile looked as forced as mine felt.

“I can take your coat. Shoes go there.” She took my wet jacket and pointed to a pile of shoes beside the door. Most of the shoes were in pairs. But a few of them were single.

Gah. I knew the support group was a shitty idea. “I’m gonna leave my shoes on.”

“Oh, is it an issue with your prosthetic? I thought it was your arm, not your leg.”

How she could say the P-word without gagging on it was beyond me. My arm felt like it was full of lead weights. Even though the thing stuck to the end of it supposedly weighed less than my original arm had.

“No, it’s an issue with my…socks.”

“I’m sorry. I just had the hardwood floors waxed last week, is all.”

Pam stood, blocking the doorway from me and effectively trapping me in the front hall until I relinquished my shoes, which would mean being stuck in my socks—and that meant no quick getaway. I considered grabbing my jacket away from her and sprinting out the door. But this was my last chance to prove I’d done the mandatory “sharing” that would help me “heal.”

Like I’d ever heal.

Unfortunately, my social worker said if I kept cutting class, Social Services would stop cutting checks.

Pam clutched my jacket harder. I could wrestle her for it, but half a foot shorter, thirty pounds lighter or not, it was a good possibility that she had a robo-arm too. I didn’t know that for a fact, since one of her hands was currently hidden, with my leather jacket draped over it. But come on, why else was Gimp Group being held at her house? If she did have a robo-arm, it’d be just as strong as mine. Plus, she’d probably have a lot better control over hers than I did, given that for the past three months, I’d been doing my best to pretend the hunk of junk on the end of my stump didn’t exist. Meanwhile, she’d been hanging balloons off her porch light, dusting off the folding chairs, and laying out a spread of stale cookies and decaf.

I bent, untied my combat boots with my real hand, and slipped them off. Pam was smiling harder when I straightened up. “Okay, then. You’re the last one on the list. Shake hands with the housebot and we can get started.”

“I’ll take a pass.”

Pam looked at me like I was nuts. If I didn’t “shake” with the housebot, how would it be able to add my temperature preferences to those of the group and adjust the HVAC system accordingly? And the lighting system? And the music mix? While my own preference for old school punk usually resulted in some bizarre selections when I mingled with a group of more conservative folk, and the housebot averaged our musical taste into something that all of us could snigger at…I’d been less than enthused lately about baring my soul to just any old piece of machinery. “If you don’t scan in,” Pam said, “your social worker won’t know you made it to the meeting.” She gave a little nervous chuckle. “Besides, if you don’t scan in, you could be anybody, and I wouldn’t know the difference.”

Did I even know anyone who’d be willing to pretend to be me? Maybe someone from the gin mill who wouldn’t mind an easy twenty bucks. Too bad none of ’em were gimps. “I’ll show you my I.D.”

“Theoretically, I mean. I don’t actually think you’re lying about who you—”

“Couldn’t you just call him or something?”

“Call your social worker? On the telephone? I don’t think I even have his number.” I did, but I was busy convincing myself I’d forgotten it. Pam hugged my jacket to her chest as if by doing so, she could vicariously comfort me. She lowered her voice so that she sounded very confidential and concerned, and said, “Is it some sort of phobia?”

“Something like that.”

A muscle twitched in my neck, and my robo-arm flung its fingers wide, like it was so happy to meet Pam it wanted to slip her an exuberant wave whether or not my shoulder chose to get into the act. I ignored it.

“Don’t worry,” she said, “it’s totally safe. There are no moving parts in the scanner. Not one. And I just upgraded a few months ago. It’s very fast. You’ll have your hand back before you know it.”

I would not have my hand back before I knew it. I would not have my hand back, ever. It was an effort not to say as much. Hell, it was an effort not to scream it at the top of my lungs. But I couldn’t take the chance that Pam might decide to actually figure out how to use her phone and tattle on me to my social worker if I started acting like a prick, so I kept my mouth shut and let the fucking housebot scan my remaining hand.

It wasn’t that I was afraid of the dumb thing—I’d repaired enough of them to know there were no moving parts—it was the principle. Can’t a guy go somewhere without being read? What if I want to sweat for a change—or shiver? What if I’m in the mood for some country and western? What if I want to tell my social worker where I’ve been and have him take my word for it?

“And here’s the group,” Pam chirped, leading me into a living room the size of my entire apartment. She introduced me around. There was a young black soldier who’d had his leg blown off in Afghanistan, an older woman who left a foot behind in a car accident, and a paunchy mathematician named Ken Roman. She didn’t say what happened to Ken’s arm.

“My husband Hugh is on the couch. He won’t be staying for the meeting. He’s got a project in the garage.” Hugh was hovering over a bowl of party mix, the good stuff with only a few pretzels and lots of peanuts, when a slightly younger Hugh lookalike in an English Beat T-shirt and stovepipe jeans came around the corner and plunked down on the couch next to him, knee brushing knee, and jammed a robo-hand into the bowl. “And there’s my brother-in-law, Corey.”

Corey spared a quick glance in my direction, then did a double-take that told me which way he swung. His eyes went to the chain and padlock around my neck, then up to my hair, down to my package, lingered briefly, and finally wended back up to my eyes. “I didn’t catch your name.”

“Desmond.”

“Des-mond,” he repeated, lilting the first syllable. “Well, Desmond, I guess it’s time for show-and-tell.” He pulled his prosthetic out of the bowl. A few crunchy squares of rice and corn cereal fell from between the actuators as he lifted it and rotated it to look at his palm, phalanges curled toward his wrist as if he had fingernails to check.

Some of ’em do, robo-hands. Have fingernails. The kind of pseudo-skin robo-hands that chicks get. And people who want to keep up the pretense of being whole.

Not Corey, though. He had a clear sleeve of grippy silicone that covered the palm and the circuitry. That was all.

“It was three years ago. On the assembly line. You’ve probably heard of the company—hint, second-largest manufacturer of robotics in not only Buffalo, but all of Western New York—but their lawyer tells my lawyer that part of the settlement says I can’t go around telling people—”

“Corey,” Pam said, and her voice was nowhere near as kind, or patient—or nervous—when she was talking to her brother-in-law as it had been when she’d spoken to the other gimps. “Don’t monopolize the group.”

He silently parroted the words “monopolize the group” with an eye-roll and thrust his prosthetic back into the party mix.

“Corey hurt his hand in a work-related accident that he’s not supposed to talk about. Three years ago already? I guess it must have been.”

Three years. Corey had been practically a kid when it happened. Probably fresh out of high school. At least I’d been able to cross the thirty-year mark with two hands to my name.

“Okay then,” Pam said, with her fake brightness firmly in place again. “Come on, Desmond, let’s sit you down.” She pulled up a chair next to the soldier, and I sat in it. The sooner we started, the sooner we’d finish…and the sooner I could go home and have a drink.

The husband Hugh stood, and as he climbed over Corey’s knees, murmured, “You comin’ over for the game Sunday?” and Corey shrugged and said, “I dunno, maybe.” Once Hugh cleared his lap, I saw Corey’s soulful eyes were fixed on the padlock that hung against the base of my throat like he wanted to tongue the keyhole. Hugh said, “Bring some ice, if you come. Always run out.”

Once Hugh escaped, Pam said, “Okay, then. Let’s begin the meeting with a moment of silent prayer.”

Prayer? I didn’t blurt it out loud or anything, but come on. The time for praying was long past. The veteran bowed his head, as did Pam, and the car crash lady. Ken Roman glanced at me briefly, half-smirked, then dutifully lowered his head so his silver-whiskered double chin bulged, and shut his eyes. I glanced at Corey—who’d been watching me. He raised his eyebrows playfully.

I hadn’t know what, exactly, to expect at my social-services-mandated support group. Talking. Exercises. Some psychobabble attempt to screw my head on straight again. Never in a million years would I have thought I’d be cruised by one of the other gimps.

But never, ever, ever would I have expected to be turned on by it.

Reviews

“Meatworks is a dark and gritty story that sucked me right in. Desmond is the perfect anti-hero, masking his vulnerability in a tough façade, ten inches thick. His bent toward self-destruction is, at times, disturbing, but you won’t want to put this book down.” Jesi Lea Ryan - author of Arcadia’s Gift

"Life in Desmond Poole’s world is dark and messy and full of self-destructive choices. He’s not your traditional romantic hero, and Meatworks is certainly not your conventional, feel-good romance. The characters are damaged and their path to love rocky. Yet that in itself is the appeal. Jordan Castillo Price breaks molds and defies formulas. Her work is always a breath of fresh air for its grittiness and realism. Meatworks is no exception. If you’re anything like me, it’ll dig its hooks in you and refuse to let go, even weeks after you reach the final page." Piper Vaughn - author of The Wanting Series

“Meatworks is not your standard romance. No burly saints here—rather two anti-heros stumbling toward love. They’re both deeply damaged, and not just because they’ve each lost a hand. Gritty realism, pathos, hard-edged prose—it’s all there. As Corey might say, I was gobsmacked by this story. Not for the faint of heart, this book isn’t like anything else you’ve ever read. I recommend it as a love story for the adventurous spirit.” Dev Bentham - author of the Tarnished Souls series

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