Type of Story: Short Story
Summary: Despite his drinking, despite his womanizing, Bill Carter’s family sticks with him.
Contents: “Blood Is Thicker Than Grapefruit” (Cover Story, 3559 words).
Plus an extended excerpt from Casper Bogart’s Novelette, “Murder Knows No Color” (1225 words).
Plus an exclusive interview with the author, “Writing Talk: Blood Is Thicker Than Grapefruit” (856 words).
The day William Benkins Carter died began with grapefruit.
On death row they treat you well on your last day of life.
Bill Carter always liked grapefruit in the morning. It was about all he could choke down after an evening of heavy drinking; blackout kind, with vague recollections of vomiting in the back of some cab at four in the morning, strange sounds and smells, perfume, sheets and skin, and then waking up next to a stranger who may or may not have remembered taking him home.
Then it was home to Helen, who would frequently be in tears, sometimes be in a rage, and sometimes have her suitcase packed with the pretense of leaving him. (She was always back in a day or two.)
Then came the cycle of regret, the cycle of promises, the cycle of soul killingly dull evenings at home pretending to be a reformed and faithful husband.
And then, one day he wouldn’t come home again; wouldn’t be on the 6:14 to New Rochelle (Carter-Watson-Steen-Smith. Oh, hello Mrs. Carter… No, he’s in a late — uh— meeting…); wouldn’t be home for the CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite; wouldn’t be home for Johnny Carson’s monologue. Somewhere in the city, William Benkins Carter would be in a bar, drinking away his boredom and his failure. Thus, the cycle began anew.
It hadn’t always been this way. Bill Carter came out of Yale in 1949 with his business degree in hand, like his father before him, and his father before him. He then stepped right into a position at one of the largest investment companies in New York, a firm that had his father as the senior partner.
As the eldest son in the family it was expected that Bill would enter the company. His twin brother, Roger, also fresh from Yale, did his familial duty by becoming a lawyer, and Bill was finally relieved to be apart from him and the suffocating sameness that had always been imposed on them. (Their mother had always dressed them exactly alike. In prep school, of course, they looked alike because the uniform blue blazer and tie was designed to make all boys of their class look the same. But even on holidays at home they had to dress in the same khakis and Brooks Brothers shirts and deck shoes.) Roger became one of New York’s top criminal lawyers, a circumstance that would eventually be very convenient for Bill Carter.
For the next few years, Bill learned the ropes of the firm. True, it was hard to focus on business when you had been known at Yale as the life of the party. It was hard for him to give up back seat bingo with any skirt he could talk into the rear cushions of his brand new Caddy. But, Bill’s father was a tough bird, so before long Bill figured out how to work hard during the week and party even harder on the weekends at the summer home out on Long Island. Bill looked at this balance he had achieved as a sign of his maturity.
In 1955 Bill’s father died, and it was time for him to step into the big chair. His mother, a rather domineering woman with her own money (a trust fund from her daddy, who happened to have made a fortune in the tire business) did not share Bill’s assessment of his maturity. She decreed that it was time for Bill to find a wife, and start producing heirs to the throne.
The fact that Bill had no interest in marrying was not an impediment to his mother’s plans for him. During the summer of 1956 a parade of eligible society types were rolled out in front of him in the Hamptons, and he finally settled on Helen Perkins Livingston, whose father had made a fortune in the cotton business.
The happy couple dutifully settled into a twelve-room apartment on Park Avenue and set about trying to produce a son. Unfortunately, Bill’s drinking was spilling into the weekdays, and in order to produce an heir one has to have enough blood flow to produce an erection. The combination of alcohol, lack of any sort of sexual attraction for his wife, and his frequent, drunken romps with other women made these attempts as rare as the steaks Bill was gorging himself on. (Between the booze and the food, he had gained 25 pounds in the last year alone.)
In short, Bill Carter’s life was a mess. A mess that he somehow managed, with the scotch tape of money and influence and power — to hold together.
It was a miracle Helen put up with him. Although, when one factored in the collapse of her father’s cotton business in 1959, his subsequent suicide and the fact that Helen’s inheritance was suddenly gone in a cloud of her father’s debts — maybe it wasn’t such a miracle that Helen Livingston Carter stayed tethered to her mess of a cash cow.
Then, in 1960, the train that was Bill Carter’s life started into its slow motion derailment…
Available at: Amazon
Author Site: Amazon Author Page