Cover image for Rainy days and Sundays
Title:
Rainy days and Sundays
Author:
Robertson, Brewster Milton, 1929-
Publication Information:
Augusta, Ga. : Harbor House, [2000]

©2000
Physical Description:
399 pages ; 24 cm
Language:
English
ISBN:
9781891799129
Format :
Book

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Summary

Summary

Presidential politics and the pro-life movement collide in this steamy thriller set in the Carolina low country.


Reviews 1

Publisher's Weekly Review

A premise as volatile as tomorrow's headlines sparks the opening of this timely suspense novel, set in the year 2002, when Jerry Falwell is a Nobel nominee, a cure for AIDS is found and terrorist attacks cause the right-wing U.S. president to shut down abortion clinics nationwide. Debut novelist Robertson sets his ambitious near-future dystopia primarily on the Carolinas coast, and imagines the paradoxes of a sexually free, post-AIDS climate coinciding with a return to the pre-Roe v. Wade days of dangerous back-alley abortions. Against this backdrop evolve the dramatic trials of hapless Buchanan Forbes, a pharmaceutical marketing rep whose life is falling apart. When his company's illegal trade in a Viagra-like pill is discovered by the feds, Buck is forced to resign, whereupon his cold, unhappy wife leaves him, taking their four sons with her. Buck is determined to be reunited with his boys, but the IRS is hot on his trail, and he also feels the need to sow some wild oats. One of his female companions winds up the latest victim in a rash of fatal botched abortions, plunging Buck into yet another kind of trouble. He's a millennial Renaissance man, however, who paints, plays guitar, is irresistible to women and bounces back from the career-wrecking scandal almost immediately to nab a high-profile writing job. The women in this story have no such luck: most suffer bloody deaths, or contract a disease, like Buck's wife, Alma, diagnosed with cancer. Somewhere in these 400 pages, the intense political meanings and timely social message get lost in Buck's strangely chaotic and increasingly untethered tale. What starts out so promisingly with such a sizzling, camera-ready premise--abortions are out and sex is back in-- is sidetracked by an earnest, clueless protagonist who obstructs rather than propels the plot. Film rights optioned by Alan Brown. (May) FYI: Robertson was the recipient of the publisher's inaugural Golden Eye Literary Prize, honoring Carson McCullers. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved


Excerpts

Excerpts

Chapter One Lean and athletic in faded jeans and a frayed GO TARHEELS sweatshirt, Buchanan Forbes looked more like a well-scrubbed captain of the America's Cup sailing yacht than the serious-minded devoted father and undisputed skateboard champ of his highly respectable Northmoor neighborhood. Now, squatting on the sidewalk, he dipped a paper napkin in a cup of water and did his best to scrub the thick smudges of chocolate ice cream from four-year-old Garrett's face.     Across the way an electronic bank sign scrolled: 10:56 A.M.... SAT ... FEB ... 23 ... 2002....     Finally, Buchanan gave up and tucked a fresh napkin under his youngest son's chin. Under the table, a fat mongrel puppy licked drippings from his four sons' ice cream cones. Contemplating the seriousness of fatherhood, Buchanan struggled to hide his amusement.     "Can we take him home, Dad?" little Garrett begged.     "Don't start that. You know we can't, Garrett." He stood erect and wiped his hands.     "Is Mom ever gonna let us get a dog, Dad?" Garrett's saucer eyes pleaded up at him.     "Well, your mother has her hands full taking care of you guys, son, and I'm gone a lot." Resolutely, he always stood up for Alma, but sometimes his heart wasn't in it. "Now, you guys just sit here and finish your ice cream. I've got to use the phone before the movie starts ... OK?"     They all nodded solemnly as--not so innocently--Garrett dripped more ice cream for the pup.     Still scrubbing his own hands, he took three deep breaths and looked casually around the large Cameron Village Shopping Center, trying to calm the vague uneasiness in his stomach. Slightly apart from the department stores, arty boutiques, ethnic restaurants and supermarkets, across the street, a scraggly line of kids--a few with parents--was beginning to form in front of the movie house. The marquee advertised the regular Saturday kid's double feature: SPACE DOGS ON MARS and GODZILLA, a 1998 rerun.     Buchanan's smile slowly faded as he walked across to the empty phone booth. All morning, he had felt like a spy in some spooky old Hitchcock film. Driving away from home with a car full of giggling little boys, he'd struggled sheepishly to reconcile this unsettling, overly-melodramatic sense of secrecy with the smug seclusion of his upscale Northmoor neighborhood.     Now, extracting the wrinkled envelope from his pants pocket, he anxiously reread the note, reconfirming the time Hanks specified. Carefully folding the sheet of stationery so he could read the phone number, he saw the ominous wording of the final sentence. It gave him just the beginning of a stomach cramp. ... This is os[important]os very serious. Findlay Hanks     It was precisely 10:58 when Buchanan reluctantly moved into the old-fashioned booth. The faint stink of last week's vomit wrinkled his nostrils and he frowned disgustedly at a dried yellowing condom stuck on the floor of the badly littered cubicle before he brushed an accumulation of dirt and dead insects off the seat and wrestled the squeaky folding door closed. Methodically, he took out the thirty-minute phone card. As an extra precaution, he nervously stacked a handful of quarters, dimes and nickels into neat rows on the metal shelf beneath the phone.     Holding the note so he could read the number, he mustered a heroic effort to control his shaky fingers as he punched in the numbers and followed the recorded instruction to insert the card.     "Buck?" Hanks answered on the first ring.     "Findlay? What the hell's going on?"     "A small problem, man ... FDA raided my main outlet in Richmond. Would you believe they estimate fifty or sixty million?"     Buchanan gasped. For a number of years Hanks had lived high on the hog bootlegging competitors' drug samples he picked up for pennies on the dollar from doctors' sample closets.     "Shit, Findlay! Did any of it come back to you?" Buchanan's heart sank. He really liked Findlay. The old pirate had had more than a few close calls in the past.     "Oh, shit, all right!" Findlay's laugh had a hollow ring. "You might know. The bastards nailed me walking right in the front door. My dick's really in the ringer now."     "What if Vitamerica finds out? Think they'll make a stink?" Findlay had been a top rep for the reputable old line Philadelphia Vitamerica pharmaceutical company for over fifteen years.     "Be serious. I'm history, man. Fucking Food and Drug made damn sure of that. My so-called asshole buddies at Vita-A flew down from Philly with the FDA and graciously accepted my resignation."     "Jeez ... I'm really sorry, Findlay. So? What can I do?" He hoped Hanks wasn't looking to ask for money. With a PC wife and four young sons, he was always short on cash.     "Oh, this call isn't about me, Buck. I just wanted to warn you. You best cover your ass."     "Me? You're kidding, right?" Buchanan felt a sudden tightening in his gut as his thoughts flashed back. Four years ago, in a moment of weakness, he had given Findlay some Lhamda-Alpine samples to convert into quick cash. "Aw, come on, Findlay! Christ, that's ancient history."     "Ancient history or not, Buck, Feds found a Lhamda-A carton with your shipping label ... "     "Bullshit! You know that carton didn't come from me." Buchanan caught his breath, fighting back his panic. "What did you tell 'em, man?"     "Hold on, now. Don't go blaming me. I swear, Buck, I didn't breathe a word. But Food and Drug squeezed me pretty good. Worse than that ... frigging IRS got my bank records ... came across that old check for thirty-five grand made out to you, April, 1998. But don't sweat it, man. I stuck to our little story about when you were promoted to Raleigh, Louise wanted to buy your house here in Roanoke but our loan fell through. Swear to God, Buck, they got nothing on you there." Findlay sounded sincere enough.     IRS? Buchanan swallowed hard. Those three little initials had a chilling ring.     "Judas, Findlay, you didn't mention the IRS. Are we talking litigation ... a ... l-legal problem?" He couldn't bring himself to say the word "criminal."     "I don't think so. Not really. All Food and Drug wanted was to close my operation down."     "Yeah, but what about Internal Revenue?" Buchanan held his breath, afraid to hear the answer.     "I doubt it. I gave IRS over a hundred names of very upstanding docs and druggists. One former vice-president of the AMA, not to mention a prominent member of the state board of pharmacy. When they saw that, they backed off. It's too political."     Made sense.     Maybe. You could never really trust the goddamn Infernal Revenue. Even with all the congressional heat the IRS took back in 1998, it was always a mistake to trust any branch of the frigging Feds.     "I still don't understand about that carton with my label. Something stinks ... "     "Oh, something stinks, all right. Of all people, we both know that carton didn't come from you. When I handled that stuff of yours back in ninety-eight, your paranoia almost drove me nuts. Remember how you went to the supermarket for all those Great Northern toilet paper and Kotex shipping cartons to repack your stuff? Hurt my feelings. You knew damn well I always checked everything twice. Never once left anything incriminating."     "OK, OK." Cringing at the word `incriminating,' Buchanan struggled to make sense out of what Findlay was saying. "So, you think the FDA will take this to Lhamda-A?"     "That's what I'm trying to tell you, man. The Feds already had me talk to your corporate people Monday. Your buddies really pumped me hard, but that shipping label and my check is all they got. If you stand up for yourself, good chance you might keep your job."     "Yeah, right. You don't know Lhamda-A. My ass is probably dead meat already."     "Well, maybe not. Look on the bright side; it's been a week."     "Judas priest, Findlay, how can I tell Alma? I'll never hear the end of this ... " Looking at his sons playing with the pup, Buchanan's knees went weak as the chilling consequences hit him.     "Alma? What do you mean? She's got no bitch coming. The entire deal was her idea in the first place. Remember the Medical Society Valentine's Day dance at Hotel Roanoke?"     Remember?     How could he forget?     Watching his kids, his heart sank as he listened numbly while Findlay's voice droned on, pulling up the memory of that awful evening.     At the Medical Society dance, they had been celebrating his promotion and transfer to Raleigh. He and Alma had just gotten back from house hunting in Raleigh and Chapel Hill.     "I've found the greatest house. Perfect for the boys ... still under construction ... the contractor can add Buck an office ... "Alma kept drinking Merlot like it was cherry Kool-Aid and chattering on about choosing kitchen and bathroom fixtures and wallpaper ... and how the house was only walking distance from shopping and the snobby St. Timothy's Episcopal School.     Finding that house had been Alma's first real show of enthusiasm for leaving Virginia.     The main problem had been that Joe Acton had reneged on his promise that Lhamda-A would buy out the equity on their house in Roanoke, which would have given them the necessary cash for a down payment. A question had been raised by some jerk at Corporate in New Jersey that Buchanan's new duties as research liaison didn't officially qualify him as management. Secretly, Buchanan knew Acton could have stood up for him if he had really wanted to. The SOB was too invested in kissing Harvey Kearn's ass to care that Lhamda-A had left him with the house in Roanoke to sell and no cash to bind the $200,000 contract on a new one in Raleigh.     At the dance, Findlay's wife, Louise, had had a few too many herself and told Alma, "Don't sweat it honey ... forget Joe Acton. More ways than one to skin a cat. Buck can just slip Findlay a few sample canons of that new high-priced instant hard-on pill he peddles ... Findlay will get you the hard cash in a New York minute."     Buchanan tried to ignore it all but Alma was obnoxious. She kept getting louder and louder about how the doctors all sold or traded their samples. Finally she'd almost screamed, "Even Joe Acton does it. For a Mensa candidate, Buck Forbes, you're such a simple shit."     So, he'd given in. The miraculous new Virecta 25 mg. was $20 a pill--$1000 for a bottle of fifty wholesale. At fifty cents on the dollar on the black market, a mere seventy bottles had netted him $35,000 cash.     "Alma really got on your case that night, remember?" Findlay's voice brought him back to the moment.     He remembered right enough.     Those memories were popping inside his skull like a string of firecrackers.     For four years the goddamn guilt haunted him every time he drove home through that yuppie neighborhood and walked into Alma's dream house.     But, truth was, not Alma ... nor anyone else, had held a knife to his throat.     "So, what did you tell the Feds about the check?" Buchanan tried to clear his head.     "Told 'em when our deal to buy your house fell through, you gave us back our 35K with a check on a bank in Raleigh. Look, we've been through this. You still got that check?"     "Oh, yeah." Buchanan silently thanked his middle-class-Baptist father for saddling him with a terminal case of pack-rat paranoia, giving him the wisdom to keep a safety deposit box.     "Good. So, just dummy up ... let 'em take their best shot. If the Feds do try to come at you, stick to our little story about the check and deny everything. My guess is that now the FDA is out of it, you may never hear from the Feds. Still, watch out. You can bet somebody in Washington's got their eye on you."     "Findlay, there's just no frigging way they could've gotten a carton with my label. I hope they do come at me. I'm clean. I think they faked the whole thing." He couldn't let his anger go.     "Buck, don't you get it?"     "Huh? Get what?"     "You're making this tough for me, pal. Jeezus, man, you can't let on any of this came from me. If IRS knew I was telling you this, they'd audit my ass for the next hundred years."     "C'mon, Findlay, what's going on? Tell me plain. I'd never give you away."     Across the sidewalk, Garrett was letting the pup lick his cone. Buchanan picked up a quarter and rapped sharply on the phone booth glass to get his attention.     "Do I have to draw you a fucking picture? Alma was dead right about Acton. Joe's been dumping truckloads of Lhamda-Alpine samples in Richmond for years--probably other outlets, too. I told you that a long time ago. Acton set you up to take the heat off him."     "What?" It was all coming too fast. As research coordinator for the medical schools at Duke, Chapel Hill, and Winston-Salem, Buchanan received huge quantities of samples for large clinical studies. Generally, he was supplied with regular trade packages of fifty or one hundred tablets or capsules. Most of the follow-up phases of formal clinical trials in the large outpatient clinics were in the hands of residents and interns. It was really just a thinly disguised method of getting all these soon-to-be doctors used to prescribing his company's drugs. Compared to the volumes of samples he got, the regular field reps, with their stingy little promotional packages of two or four pills, didn't handle a lot of samples at all--and they were strictly accountable. His own accountability factor was a joke. Joe Acton was forever begging extra samples from him to "... help out the other reps ..." Several years back, Joe's wife Greta had had too much wine and confided to Alma that Joe routinely used samples to run a regular charge account at their local supermarket pharmacy.     But, then, what the hell? So did half the reps he knew.     But that was nickel-and-dime stuff, not wholesale lots ...     He knocked louder on the window and shook his head "no" at Garrett.     "I know you told me." Buchanan conceded grudgingly. "It's still unbelievable."     "Listen to me. Not just believable, Buck ... it's a goddamn fact."     "You think Joe planted that carton with my label on purpose?"     The pup had Garrett's cone in his mouth. Garrett shrugged, grinning an impish grin.     "Figure it out. Stanley Herbert, the FDA guy, was Joe's classmate at Maryland School of Pharmacy."     "That bastard! Do you have any idea how much I have on Joe Acton, him and his boozy girlfriends? I'll hang him good. I'll hand his ass to Harvey Kearns at Corporate in Teaneck."     "Won't work, Buck. Kearns was with Acton and Herbert at College Park. Herbert pitched in and helped his frat buddies throw you to the Feds to keep themselves clear with Lhamda-Alpine."     "Is this some kind of a sick joke?" Buchanan's heart sank. Now that he thought about it, he did remember that Acton and Kearns had been classmates at Maryland.     "Acton and Kearns have already been officially deposed by their sticky-fingered old FDA school chum. By the way, Kearns' wife drives a Mercedes and they take vacations at Herbert's condo on Hilton Head. That's no goddamn joke ... "     "Well, screw 'em. I'll call Acton and have it out. That rectal orifice's not going to get away with it. I got my sons to think about. I'll fix the Baptist preacher's boy's ass. I'll have his job. When I tell Greta, she'll have the fat bastard's balls ... "     "Cool it, man. You can't win. Just sit tight. Trust me, Buck, Food and Drug's really got nothing concrete. Certainly not from me. Why go begging for trouble? Play dumb, man. Feds'll probably let the whole thing drop. Lhamda-A may just decide to look the other way."     Buchanan fell silent. His head was fuzzy and his heart was coming right out of his throat.     "OK, thanks for the warning, Findlay. I'll stay in touch."     "No, absolutely no calls, Buck. Lay low. Watch your step. I'll get back to you in a few days to find out what happens. And for God's sake don't tell anybody about this conversation. No-fucking-body . Least of all Alma. Remember, no calls. I'm serious. I'll be in touch." The line went dead.     Numbly, Buchanan removed his phone card and picked up the stacked coins.     The frigging IRS! Christ! He gave the parking lot a furtive look.     Nothing ... at least nothing he could see.     He thought of Alma and the enormity of it all blew over him like an icy wind.     With four young sons and a wife who loved fancy schools and clothes from the Gap and preppy neighborhoods ... his savings in Lhamda-A's credit union were under ten grand.     What would happen if he had to miss a single paycheck? If he lost his job, he was up the well-known creek.     No medical insurance.     No company car.     All he had to show for the thirty-five years of his still-young life was Alma's four-year-old Chevy Tahoe and the pitiful equity he had in that fancy house.     Should he go straight home and tell Alma he was putting the house on the market?     Screw that!     Not yet, anyway.     Findlay was right. Alma certainly couldn't be counted on for loyalty, or anything else.     Certainly not sanity.     Involving her now would be begging for disaster.     Besides, things hadn't been good in the marriage for several years.     After Garrett's birth, her desire for intimacy had lapsed into the motions of ritual duty.     "You expect me to be romantic? You're just like my father. You leave me here all week cleaning up after your little rug rats while you're out wining and dining some stuffy doctor or research fellow in a fancy restaurant. Don't expect candlelight, wine and music from me."     Desperately, he had gone to great lengths to offer her romantic getaways. But no matter how hard he tried, he never seemed to please her.     "Since you got so holy about trading a few lousy samples, we can't afford such foolishness," she'd nagged and pouted.     What was the use? He'd accepted his fate. Still, he could be thankful that she had remained a caring mother for their sons. That made up for damn near everything.     Wistfully, he watched a slender, long-legged young woman about Alma's age, wearing a thin cotton shirtwaist frock as she bounced happily along window-shopping. With this new breakthrough in AIDS control, in his hedonistic world of medical academia, he had almost daily chances to stray. No matter. Glancing fondly at his sons waiting for him to take them to the movies, he took great comfort that he'd never betrayed his boys that way.     With a wayward pang of sadness, his attention wandered across the parking lot to a raggedy-looking black man about his own age with a young boy wearing tattered hand-me-down jeans two sizes too big for him. The father and son were painstakingly sifting through the busy shopping center's overflowing trash receptacles, scavenging for soft drink bottles and cans, which they were loading into a rusted-out old pickup truck.     The poor devil had obviously fallen on hard times. Still reeling with shock over Findlay's call, all at once Buchanan was overcome with a great sense of failure.     Thoughtfully, he watched the man and his son. No father should ever have to feel such pain.     Buchanan looked at his own sons. Could it be that because of Acton and Kearns, his boys would have to suffer that kind of humiliation?     The sudden overwhelming sense of betrayal soured in his gut like the aftermath of a frozen Mexican dinner. With a burst of rage, he kicked at the balky door of the foul-smelling booth as the full consequence of Acton and Kearns' cold-blooded treachery descended over him. This was more than merely his job at stake.     More than likely the arrogant bastards had rendered him totally unemployable!     Those back-stabbing bastards had coldly conspired to destroy his credibility as a man.     Who did those twin blobs of dog shit think they were, to rob his sons of their birthright?     Didn't they know that Buchanan Forbes wasn't about to take this lying down?     On sudden impulse, he strode purposefully across the parking lot until he got within hailing distance of the man and the boy.     "Hey, man, I been looking all over for you. I want to pay you back the loan." Buchanan greeted him warmly and walked over and clasped his shoulder.     "Huh?" The man stood openmouthed as Buchanan put two crisp $20 bills in his palm.     "Son ... " --Buchanan patted the small boy on his frayed Braves baseball cap and stuck a dollar bill in his hand-- " ... you'll never know what a good man your daddy really is."     "Oh, I can't take this, sir. You got me mixed up with ... " The man stood flabbergasted.     "Just take it ... pass it on someday." Buchanan smiled. Without another word, he turned and retraced his steps.     "God bless you, sir." The man's protest of gratitude followed Buchanan across the parking lot.     "C'mon guys, Godzilla's waiting ... " For the moment, there were important things at hand. The biggest kid in the neighborhood, Lieutenant Buchanan Forbes, had promised his troops he would take them to the picture show.     Walking with his sons to the movie house, Buchanan's mind raced ahead.     He had survived a nightmare of bloody hell in the Persian Gulf. Those chicken-shit bastards Joe Acton and Harvey Kearns were about to find out they'd fucked with the wrong man.     Ex-Silver Star hero Lieutenant Buchanan Forbes had the beginnings of a plan. Copyright © 2000 Brewster Milton Robertson. All rights reserved.