First Look Friday is a new feature we are introducing. In it, we will share with you the first 500 words of our next release. The first book we are featuring is David Marlett’s debut, Fortunate Son, which will be published on February 25.
Every man has three names:
One his father and mother give him, One others call him,
And one he acquires himself.
— Anonymous, 17th Century
Sunday, November 16, 1727
Lord Arthur Annesley, the Sixth Earl of Anglesea, was slopped. He had been sitting alone at his oak table in the dark back corner of the Brazen Head Tavern since half-past ten that morning. Now, nearly five in the evening, he could hear fresh rain blowing across Dublin’s Merchant’s Quay, tapping the tavern’s windows, dripping heavy in pools along Bridge Street. He was floating, his white wig askew, his fat fingers tracing the blood groove of his gold-hilted rapier lying on the table. “He’s mine, he is,” he muttered to no one. “B’god, James is mine! So he is. She’ll never take him to England.” He glanced up with his one eye, the other having been long ago shot out by his wife’s cuckolding suitor. “My son’s mine,” he boomed. “Damn you all!” A violent cough overtook him until finally he lowered his chin, rivulets of per- spiration trickling down his brow.
“‘Tis well known, me lord, James is yer son,” the tavern keeper offered. “Would ye like another?”
“Ney!” Arthur shook his head, muttering, “No more boys.”
“Ach nay, me lord—would ye like another pint?”
“Ha! Ney, Keane. Best be on m’way.” He stood shakily, steadying himself on the dark wall, sheathing his rapier.
“Well den, g’night sire,” the keeper said, gesturing with his bar towel.
Arthur tapped the wrinkles from his blue Italian cocked hat. “Keane?”
“What be the cure….” He stumbled sideways, trying to buckle his sword sash. “What be the cure for a hangover? I’ll wager you don’t know.”
“Sleep, most likely,” Keane answered, moving across the small room, delivering a dram to a large man sitting alone. “What do ye think, sir?” he asked the man.
“I have no reckon,” the man muttered, his Scottish brogue rumbling low. “Leave me be.”
“I suppose a pinch o’ snuff might do ye, Lord Anglesea,” Keane guessed, wiping his hands on his apron.
“Ney, goddamn you, Keane!” His words a lather of grumbled mush, his arm a terrier in a fox hole, fumbling through the twisted coat sleeve. He spun, shoving his hand through. “I knew you didn’t know, you damn thievin’ Irish- man. ‘Tis t’ drink again!” He staggered backward to the door. “That be the cure, b’god!”
“Aye, me lord,” said Keane. “So I’ve heard.” Now the Scotsman was standing too.
“T’ drink again!” Arthur bellowed, throwing his arms up. “T’ drink again, ‘tis all you need!” Turning, he careened through the doorway, along the rickety boardwalks, lurching into the muck of Bridge Street. “‘Tis all I need!”
A large hackney coach pulled by six horses was crossing the Father Matthew Bridge, gaining speed in the pelting rain. The horses snorted against the driver’s whip as he yelled from the box, his cloak flailing in the wet wind. “Up with ye curs! Now! Up! Up!” Again and again he cracked the long leather across their backs. The loud roar and stirring commotion of the coach and six easily cleared traffic from the bridge, opening a wide swath up Bridge Street beyond, like a plow cleaving mud.