Sarah Black has finished writing her sequel, The General and the Elephant Clock. And while we are waiting for its release date, here is another excerpt for those of us who need more of John, Gabriel, Kim and all the rest from The General and the Horse-Lord (posted with permission from Sarah Black):
Living Large in the Beautiful World: Kim and The General Discuss Decorating
At the end of The General and the Horse-Lord, Kim and Billy have gone wild with the General’s credit card, ready to redecorate the house. The new book, The General and the Elephant Clock of Al-Jazari, picks up with John and Kim having a friendly little chat about the new couch.
John pushed open the kitchen door. The jury was still out on the new decorating. He had thought he was sending Kim and Billy out for an extra desk and bed, but that had somehow turned into a re-do of the entire house. He had to admit the kitchen was cheerful. Kim and Billy had painted the kitchen walls bright cream enamel, then painted trim in tangerine and aqua. The curtains were tangerine with cream polka-dots, and there were little cars zooming all over the walls, hand-painted by a bunch of Kim and Billy’s artist friends. The new dining room table was Formica, with stainless silver legs, and the chairs were padded in aqua vinyl. Kim and Billy were very pleased with the kitchen. Gabriel liked it, as well, though he might have been just trying to get along. John was okay with the changes. The kitchen, he thought, was fine. It just didn’t look like his kitchen. It looked like the kitchen of a person who was considerably cooler than he was. The same could be said about the living room.
Kim was waiting for him to come in from his run, and he swooped down on John and wrapped his arms around his waist for a quick hug. “How’s my favorite uncle?”
John studied his face. “I’m fine. What’s happening with you?”
“Not too much.” Kim was head down into the fridge, looking for something to snack on that had not had a face or a mother. He’d explained to John this was his new criteria for healthy eating. “Can we talk about the couch?”
John crossed his arms over his chest. “So talk.”
Kim stood up and leaned back against the counter. “Okay, you have every right to be pissed off. You told me not to get a new couch and I did anyway. I know I spent more money on the redecorating than you had planned. What I want to know is if you hate the couch for itself, or if you’re just mad at me for disregarding what you told me to do?”
John sighed. “The new couch is fine. I admit it’s not really what I would have picked out.” He walked over and stared gloomily into the room. The new couch which Kim had been forbidden to purchase was cream colored Italian leather, a semi-circle with a round ottoman that looked like a giant leather polka dot. It was very sleek and modern. He’d purchased some round maple tables in a pale golden finish to go with it, and the rugs on the floor were also round, in various sizes and shades of cream and pale gold. The whole thing looked very…Danish.
“The thing is, four men can easily sit on the couch at the same time, say to watch a movie together. Two men can lay down on this couch at the same time, like if you and the Horse-Lord wanted to lay down together and read books. It’s extremely comfortable, Uncle John. I just wish you would give it a chance.”
“Okay, I’m willing to give it a chance. And I admit it is very comfortable. With the new rug and the new tables it looks like winter, 1968, has come to Albuquerque. Peter Max in psychedelic white, not really my style, but I’m okay with it.”
“Peter Max? Winter?” Now Kim had his arms folded. “Holy shit! It’s not white. It’s cream! Big difference in tone and temperature. Okay, so tell me what you think would be the perfect couch. Maybe we can figure out how to meet in the middle.”
John thought a moment. “I suppose I’d like a couch that’s a little…browner. Maybe plaid would be good.”
“Okay, no plaid. I’m sorry, but no. A person would have to be deranged to buy a plaid couch. I will see what I can do about brown.” Kim looked around. “We could add some caramel accents, maybe a throw. I want you to like it.” He sounded young all of the sudden. “It’s really important to me that you like it. If you want, I can split the cost of the new couch with you.” He tried to hand John some cash. “I’ve got $275.00 as a down payment on my half.”
“I don’t want your money.” John stared at him. Kim was Korean, with eyes that always gave away what he was thinking. He was totally unable to keep a secret. John couldn’t help but notice the light in his face, like he was about to start laughing. “Wait a minute. Is this the money you made writing term papers for the students in my Political History seminar?” Kim was grinning now, and he shoved the cash back in his pocket. “Are you under the impression you’re too old to spank? Twenty-three isn’t too old.”
Kim was laughing now. “You don’t believe in spanking. Okay, let me and Billy see what we can come up with. Something browner.” He turned back to the garage. “What’s brown, anyway? Dirt? Gravy? Shit?”
“Wood, you knucklehead. Wood and chocolate bars and Gabriel’s hair, all brown.”