I cut fifty-thousand words (I KNOW!) of an early draft of Bad Reputation. Much of it like this bit of John taking Shane to open his first bank account. The final book ended up being very different than the draft this scene came from but I always liked the idea of John sort of helping Shane to grow up. I was sad to lose this scene because it contains appearances from people Steven meets in This Charming Man, Finney, and one of John’s friends from the birthday scene.
“So where are you from anyway?” Shane asked as they walked up Prospect Street to turn left on to the 15th avenue.
“It took you two weeks to ask about my accent? I know it isn’t shyness because you’re always blunt about what you’re thinking.”
Shane shrugged. “I noticed the first day, but I thought it was maybe some way rich people talked that I’d never heard before but that doesn’t seem right.”
John laughed. “Why do you think I’m rich?”
“Oh come on, now you’re avoiding the question.”
“I’ll answer, but I am curious what made you peg me as rich.”
For days Shane had been considering it, his answer was easy. “No one I know has a house like yours. I’d never even been in a house like that before. And even if I knew someone with a fancy house they probably wouldn’t have the money to just fix it up without even having a job or anything.”
“Fair enough. Okay, well, I was born in Belgium. I went to school in Belgium, France and Switzerland, then moved to America when I was still in high school. So my accent might be Belgian, but I’m sure people there would tell you I had some kind of accent too.” John remained casual, as if growing up in all those places was the most natural thing in the world.
“I’ve definitely never met anyone from Belgium before. Man, all the weird countries are coming out in the people I’ve met since I moved here.”
“Who else have you met?”
“A guy from Ruh— from the USSR.”
John’s eyebrows went up. “That’s interesting. Not many folks around from those states these days.”
“Yeah, he had this crazy story about how his father born here and went back there after the war to be a hero or something and then they had to escape like spies.”
John’s curious flipped to surprise. “And how do you know this person? Did you meet him at the hotel you live in?”
“No, I met him at a punk show. He goes to UW and lives here now.”
“Is that what you do when you aren’t working for me?”
Shane shrugged. “Sometimes.”
“Mysterious,” but John was smiling and didn’t ask more as he opened the bank door for Shane. “Okay I have some business to do here as well, so just go up front and tell them you want to open an account. It shouldn’t be too hard.”
“Better than keeping your money in your sock,” John answered as he headed to one of the little offices along the bank wall.
Shane wanted to point out that that wasn’t exactly what he’d been doing but what he’d been doing wasn’t so different. He worried about how much cash he was carrying around, and the first pay day from John just added to that. When John saw the wad Shane was adding his pay too in his pocket, he suggested a bank account. Something Shane had always presumed was for other people, like married with kids or whatever. But John assured him it would only cost him a little money and John was happy to cover that as a bonus for how quickly Shane had helped him get the garage workshop together.
John had suggested his own bank, Seattle Trust, right here on 15th and Thomas Street. They’d come up on their way to lunch. And getting the account set up hadn’t been hard. Shane was a little uncomfortable after he’d handed all his money over, minus fifty dollars for food and other stuff he might need before he found an apartment. Noticing his discomfort, the lady gave him a little book and explained how to write down what he took out and explained he could come back any time the bank was open and get more of his money if he needed. It didn’t sound great, but better than it getting stolen at the Irving while he was asleep or accidentally losing it somewhere. He felt the tension of that lift off as they left the bank.
“My Johnny-boy, look at you. And hmm, what have you got?”
On the side walk in front of the bank was a woman about John’s age maybe. She had ashy dark hair in a crewcut. She was wearing a Carhartt jacket–like Shane’s grandfather used to wear–and jeans and work boots. Bright silver flashed at her wrist when she reached out to shake John’s hand, before pulling him into a tight hug.
When he stepped back John said, “Finney, this is Shane, he’s doing some work for me.”
She stuck out her hand to Shane, “Phineas Valentine, but any friend of John’s can just call me Finney. Or Daddy if you’re into that kind of thing.” Something about her manner, smooth and kind as it seemed, was intimidating.
“Shane Fontaine. And I don’t think I am. Into that kind of thing.” Whatever she meant, Shane was pretty sure he didn’t want to know.
Finney’s laughter crackled. “Oh he’s a firecracker! I think you finally found a good one, Johnny-boy.”
John shook his head as if exasperated, though he smiled. “No, he’s really just doing some work on the house with me. What are you doing out and about?”
“I was heading up to get lunch at Bloch’s and then over to City People’s to find the right screws for this job. And sadly, not making who wants to screw jokes, because I don’t think the fine ladies over there much appreciate my overtures of romance.” Finney looked like she was very pleased with this idea. “What are you two up too?”
“Lunch as well,” John answered. “Matzoh Momma’s, I think.”
“Even better,” Finney said. “I’ll come with you!”
John glanced at Shane his expression asking if this was okay. Shane shrugged. He couldn’t think of why not, even if Finney was incomprehensible and certain not like any other lady he’d ever met.
The restaurant was another block down, a distance in which Finney seemed to cover all the recent doings of mutual friends of her’s and John’s.
“I’ll hit the hardware store on the way back,” she said as they crossed Republican street, passing the tiny hardware store, City People’s Mercantile. In the two weeks Shane had worked for John, he’d become very familiar with the store, which seemed to be run entirely by women. Shane started to wonder if everyone in this entire neighborhood was gay.
It was late, past lunchtime, almost 1:30. Inside Matzoh Momma’s Deli there were only a few customers. From a table near the entrance a man with short dark hair in a brown corduroy jacket waved to them.
“Oh, this will be better,” John said softly to Shane as they advanced to the table. “James,” John greeted him as the man stood. “You know, Finney, and this is Shane, the young man helping me with the house, that I believe you helped me find. Shane, this is my old friend, James Briscoe.”
Confused Shane shook James’ hand, and then waited while Finney hugged him the same way she had John.
“Come for a late lunch?” James asked. “Join me, I just ordered and there’s plenty of room.
“Only if we’re not any bother,” John said.
“No bother,” James answered. “I had a book to read in case, but this company seems much better than that.
After they were all settled and ordered from the waiter, James turned to Shane. “So we have a mutual friend in Mr. Kamenev?” At the look on Shane’s face he amended, “Sebastian? Didn’t he refer you for the job with John?”
“Oh yes, Bash. Thank you, sir. It was much needed.”
James waved his hand, “I didn’t do anything but bug my favorite student thinking he might have family who needed the work, but you don’t look like family.”
“No, sir. Just friends.”
“Do you go to the UW as well? I know I haven’t had you in any classes.”
“No, sir, just making my way through working.”
John leaned back in his chair. “Shane’s knowledge of carpentry and remodeling puts all of us to shame. He’s been an amazing help in just a couple weeks.”
“Have you considered school, Shane? Those skills often translate well to engineering.” James watched Shane with an intensity that reminded him of Bash.
“No, sir. It hasn’t come up.”
“Please call me James. Most my student don’t even call me ‘sir,’ though your friend, what did you call him—Bash?—he does. Such a good student, I’m amused he has such a rough nickname.”
“It’s like calling fat guys ‘Tiny,’” Shane said, worried he’d give his teacher the wrong impression of Bash.
James nodded, smiling he turned to John and Finney. “Such a great student really, but a stupendous story. Escaped the USSR to France when he was fourteen and took another three years to get from there to here. His father had family here or something. Just really extraordinary.”
“Oh yes, Shane was just telling me about him,” John said.
Shane nodded along with James.
“You don’t see much of that recently,” Finney said. “Although there were few Russian farming families down in Oregon when I was a kid down there.”
The conversation switched back to mutual friends and Shane just sat back listening. How strange that these people should all know each other, they seemed so different. James’ jacket had leather patches at the elbows, like teachers on TV. Finney was certainly a lesbian, though she’d leered at Shane at the bank. She wasn’t like Lisa, but Shane didn’t have many other comparisons. John was dressed casually as he did for work, a long sleeve pullover and a brown leather jacket like aviators wore in old movies. Shane wondered how a woman in work clothes like his, a college professor, and a rich guy like–from Belgium!– John all ended up together. Then he almost laughed out loud. Certainly no different than how he ended up with Lisa and Bash being his friends, and even Mo.
“Sorry did we lose you there?” Finney asked, bringing Shane’s attention back to the table.
“No, I’m sorry, I was just thinking. Wondering, I guess, how you all knew each other.”
“Oh hmm,” John looked thoughtful. “James was my roommate in college, a lucky accident that we were both gay and politically active. We stayed friends and James never left the university. I met Finney— ” John looked at her she met his gaze, smirking, “through a mutual friend, Bob, a while back. Yes, it’s been, well about eight years now I guess.”
“Speaking of Bob,” Finney said, looking mischievous, “Are you coming the Eagle this weekend? You can bring your friend,” she nodded at Shane, “he can even bring his Russian friend if he likes. The more the merrier.”
Shane looked between them, aware of John’s displeasure, Finney’s amusement. James appeared to be ignoring them both while attended to his food. This was the most non-work socializing he’d done with John so going to what Shane had heard was a leather bar seemed unlikely. Almost as unlikely as John going someplace like that. It would be like seeing John at the Baths. Weird.
“You know better,” John scolded, then softened. “Maybe. I haven’t seen anyone on a while.”
“Everyone needs to relax sometimes, and there’s plenty of pretty boys that need breaking that will let you.” Her words seemed to imply something about Shane and that was even more uncomfortable than the idea of John at a leather bar. Not that Shane had even been inside the Eagle, but he’d seen pictures on flyers, heard it talked about at the Baths. It didn’t really seem like his kind of thing. But then he was already learning a lot about the world today. Maybe he should go someplace like that if John invited him. Although he still hadn’t mentioned he was gay to John, so an invitation like that would be pretty weird.