Excerpt from Heliopolis by James Scudamore, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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By James Scudamore

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  • Paperback: Oct 2010,
    304 pages.

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Book Reviewed by:
Elena Spagnolie

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Print Excerpt

Orange Juice

It’s early, not yet seven a.m., and once again I’m waking up beside my adoptive sister.

This has got to stop. She’s a married woman.

The air-conditioning is on high, and my head feels like it’s immersed in freezing water, even though Melissa’s body is cleaving to mine wherever it can, making me hot and clammy beneath the covers. I sit up, and reach for the remote control that operates the blinds. They track smoothly upwards and the city, bile yellow, pours in from every direction.

Melissa’s penthouse is at the head of a long avenue that bisects the Garden District straight through to the smogcloaked towers of downtown. From up here you look down on the treetops and the green parakeets that flit between them. At night gridlocked traffic lights up the avenue in glittering ribbons of red and white. During big football matches, when a goal is scored, the fireworks burst silently beneath you.

I stretch and lie back to think of more ways in which I could mark Ernesto’s territory, to see if he’d latch on to the fact that I’m sleeping with his wife. You’d think he’d have noticed something by now: whenever these stopovers take place I find myself brushing his body hairs from the bed before I get in it, so I must be leaving a few of my own, and I make a habit of draining every half-glass of water he leaves on the bedside table. But he hasn’t. So I’m taking bigger risks. I sit in his dressing gown reading his diary on the computer when Melissa’s in the shower, and altering it here and there if I feel I’ve been unfairly represented. I drink his wine. I eat his leftovers. I use his toothbrush. I’ve even written him messages on the bathroom mirror with my finger in the hope that they might shimmer into view next time he has a shave. But so far, he hasn’t a clue. He’s too busy out saving the rest of the world to notice that he’s losing his wife.

I’m thinking these ignoble thoughts about Ernesto, touching the back of his wife’s neck and trying to make her move so her nipple will brush against my chest, when the sound of a helicopter directly overhead deals a defibrillator jolt to my heart.

Melissa’s father, Zé Fischer Carnicelli, hasn’t been down to street level in the city for over fifteen years. He lives in a gated community of 30,000 inhabitants, way out of town, and is flown from there to his downtown office every morning in a helicopter that has the word Predator painted graffiti-style over its nose, along with gnashing teeth and a pair of evil yellow eyes. He’s approaching retirement, but he still keeps regular office hours. A chauffeur drives him between his house and the heliport, then back again in the evening. During the day, he might hop to another high-rise to meet someone for lunch, or to attend an afternoon meeting, but he never touches the pavement. It’s not just a question of safety: if he went by car he could get snared in a traffic jam lasting hours. Nobody who’s anybody gets driven to work in the city these days.

On his way, he’s delighted to pick up Melissa and deposit her at her office. He doesn’t see as much of his daughter as he’d like now that she is married, and this way he gets to spend the first few minutes of his day with her as they speed over the boiling, stationary traffic. Because Melissa’s penthouse is directly under the helipad, he doesn’t even need to phone ahead: she sees the helicopter coming and hears it rumbling on the roof, which gives her just enough time to take a slurp of coffee, grab her keys, and rush upstairs to kiss her Papai good morning.

Being found in bed with Melissa by her father is a far more terrifying prospect than getting caught by her husband. If Zé walked in now, my life would end – it’s that simple. ‘Relax. It’s not him.’ Melissa stirs, and detaches her lips from the hollow beneath my jaw. ‘It’s too early, you know that.’ She squirms gorgeously on my leg, naked and hot.

Excerpted from Heliopolis by James Scudamore. Copyright © 2010 by James Scudamore. Excerpted by permission of Europa Editions. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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