Excerpt from Love and Other Consolation Prizes by Jamie Ford, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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Love and Other Consolation Prizes

A Novel

by Jamie Ford

Love and Other Consolation Prizes by Jamie Ford X
Love and Other Consolation Prizes by Jamie Ford
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    Sep 2017, 320 pages

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Overture
(1962)
4

Ernest Young stood outside the gates on opening day of the new world's fair, loitering in the shadow of the future. From his lonely vantage point in the VIP parking lot, he could see hundreds of happy people inside, virtually every name in Seattle's Social Blue Book, wearing their Sunday best on a cool Saturday afternoon. The gaily dressed men and women barely filled half of Memorial Stadium's raked seating, but they sat together, a waterfall of wool suits and polyester neckties, cut-­out dresses and ruffled pillbox hats, cascading down toward a bulwark of patriotic bunting. Ernest saw that the infield had been converted to a speedway for motorboats—­an elevated moat, surrounding a dry spot of land where the All-­City High School Band had assembled, along with dozens of reporters who milled about smoking cigarettes like lost sailors, marooned on an island of generators and television cameras. As the wind picked up, Ernest could smell gasoline, drying paint, and a hint of sawdust. He could almost hear carpenters tapping finishing nails as the musicians warmed up.

Saying that Ernest wished he could go inside and partake of the celebration was like saying he wished he could dine alone at Canlis restaurant on Valentine's Day, cross the Atlantic by himself aboard the Queen Mary, or fly first class on an empty Boeing 707. The scenery and the festive occasion were tempting, but the endeavor itself only highlighted the absence of someone with whom to share those moments.

For Ernest, that person was Gracie, his beloved wife of forty-­plus years. They'd known each other since childhood, long before they'd bought a house, joined a church, and raised a family. But now their memories had been scattered like bits of broken glass on wet pavement. Reflections of first kisses, anniversaries, the smiles of toddlers, had become images of a Christmas tree left up past Easter, a package of unlit birthday candles, recollections of doctors and cold hospital waiting rooms.

The truth of the matter was that these days Gracie barely remembered him. Her mind had become a one-­way mirror. Ernest could see her clearly, but to Gracie he'd been lost behind her troubled, distorted reflection.

Ernest chewed his lip as he leaned against the vacant Cadillac De Ville that he'd spent the better part of the morning polishing. He felt a sigh of vertigo as he stared up at the newly built Space Needle–­–­the showpiece of the Century 21 Expo–­–­the talk of the town, if not the country, and perhaps the entire world. He was supposed to deliver foreign dignitaries to the opening of the Spanish Village Fiesta, but the visitors had been held up—­some kind of dispute with the Department of Immigration and Naturalization Services. So he came anyway, to try to remember the happier times.

Ernest smiled as he listened to Danny Kaye take the microphone and read a credo of some kind. The Official World's Fair Band followed the famous actor as they took over the musical duties for the day and began to play a gliding waltz. Ernest counted the time, one-­two-­three, one-­two-­three, as he popped his knuckles and massaged the joints where arthritis reminded him of his age—­sixty-­four, sixty-­five, sixty-­something, no one knew for sure. The birth date listed on his chauffeur's permit had been made up decades earlier, as had the one on his old license with the Gray Top Taxi company. He'd left China as a boy—­during a time of war and famine, not record keeping.

Ernest blinked as the waltz ended and a bank of howitzers blasted a twenty-­one-­gun salute somewhere beyond the main entrance, startling him from his nostalgic debridement. The thundering cannons signaled that President Kennedy had officially opened the world's fair with the closing of a telegraph circuit sent all the way from his desk at the White House. Ernest had read that the signal would be bounced off a distant sun, Cassiopeia, ten thousand light-­years away. He looked up at the blanket of mush that passed for a northwestern sky, and made a wish on an unseen star as people cheered and the orchestra began playing the first brassy strains of "Bow Down to Washington" while balloons were released, rising like champagne bubbles. Some of the nearby drivers honked their horns as the Space Needle's carillon bells began ringing, heralding the space age, a clarion call that was drowned out by the deafening, crackling roar of a squadron of fighter jets that boomed overhead. Ernest felt the vibration in his bones.

Excerpted from Love and Other Consolation Prizes by Jamie Ford. Copyright © 2017 by Jamie Ford. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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