East Fifth Bliss

BLISSGotham Novel and Fiction Writing teacher Douglas Light's new novel, East Fifth Bliss, was recently published by Behler Publications.  

Here’s the rough idea of the story: At age thirty-five, Morris Bliss is clamped in the jaws of New York City inertia.  He wants to travel but has no money; he needs a job but has no prospects; he still shares a walk-up apartment with his father. Enter Stefani, an eighteen-year-old girl in a catholic school uniform, and Morris’s once static life quickly unravels.

John McCaffrey of KGB Bar Lit says, “Douglas Light conjures up a mixed-bag of characters—sex-addled teens, love-starved focus group leaders, borderline bounty hunters, and socialite squatters—using them as wrecking balls to pulverize the well-constructed emotional walls that have bound Morris Bliss.”

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If you’re intrigued, check out this passage:

At five-thirty Sunday afternoon, Morris takes the F train up to Thirty-Fourth Street for the focus group Andrea Angel set up, a focus group for a new salsa.

Sunday’s are the worst at Herald Square, the masses pushing from Macy’s to the Gap to the discounted perfume and ties shops to the wholesale gadget stores with their overstock of the Statue of Liberty lighters and World Trade Center bottle openers. Buy, buy, and buy more. Everything’s cheap, fleeting. The stench of stewing hotdogs and caramelized peanuts hovers over the sidewalk like mustard gas; no one escapes a lungful.

Morris finds the address.

Inside the building’s lobby, signs posted everywhere announce that everyone must show ID before entering. Morris pauses at the front desk, pulls out his stitched wallet to show his license to the security guard. The guard waves him on without even looking up; he’s more intent on solving the last entry of his “The Bible and You” crossword puzzle.

The elevator snaps Morris to the twenty-first floor, rising swiftly then slowing. He’s still wearing his suit from this morning, minus the tie. The doors open on the offices of New Day Focus Group.

“What’s your name?” the receptionist asks Morris as he signs in. She has the odor of Aquanet hairspray and a slight hairlip. She lisps.

“Morris,” he answers. “Morris Bliss. I’m here for the salsa session.”

“Sombrero Salsa,” she says. “You’re the first to arrive. Small group. Sundays usually are,” she tells him. “Just you and—" she glances at a print out "—three others, women. This way, please,” she says, and leads him down a hall to a room with corporate brown carpets. One wall is all mirrors, like a police interrogation room.

Morris studies his reflection, corrects his posture, and decides he needs a haircut.

“There’re some snacks,” the receptionist says, pointing to a small spread of warm cans of Guavatini, a milky fruit drink, and a basket of well picked over Doritos. “Help yourself—pack it in, if you like—and then have a seat. The others should be here soon.”

Morris motions to the mirrored wall, asks, “Is that one of those mirrors with someone watching on the other side?”

The receptionist turns to the mirrored wall, like she’s noticing it for the first time. She gasps. “Woooooo!” she says, then, laughing, strides out of the room, closing the door behind her.

Aside from the lingering smell of hairspray, Morris is alone.

The room, sparse, looks like a conference space for a law office that specializes in divorces. Set about a large, round table are six chairs crafted more for design than comfort.

To the side of the table stands an easel. A dark blue cloth covers it, concealing presentation boards. Morris meanders the room twice, then, curiosity taking him, he walks over and slowly lifts the corner of the cloth, wanting to see what is underneath

“Step away from the easel!” a lisping voice commands from the room’s speakers.

Morris steps back, startled, then turns to the mirrored wall.

I see you, Mr. Blister,” the voice states. “I’m watching! Wooooo!”

“It’s Bliss,” Morris says. He’s talking aloud to an empty room. “The name’s Morris Bliss.”

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For more information about East Fifth Bliss, visit: douglaslight.com.  Copyright 2006© Douglas Light.  Reprinted by permission of Behler Publications, LLC.  All rights reserved.

You can meet Doug Light this month at: Behler Book Sale and Reading, Interboro Institute, New York, 12-3pm, November 3; KGB Bar, New York, 7pm, November 4; and Raconteur Books, Metuchen, NJ, 8pm, November 18. For details about Doug's winter term Advanced Novel Writing Workshop, visit novel.