Catnapped and Doggone
Back story. Writer code for the deep, dark secrets we’ll parcel out like nuggets to explain the bad choices, horror-story relationships and moments of pure crazy that make our characters, well, characters at the same time they are real. At least to us. Yes, we hear voices and they tell us all about what never makes it on the page. It would be easy to pick Sara as my big reveal. She’s my protagonist and I’ve been with her through three books (still waiting for a publication date for book 3). Plus, according to many who’ve been on both the right and wrong side of my sarcastic wit (sometimes referred to as my half-wit) Sara and I share a sensibility bordering on a doppelganger relationship. So naturally, being perverse, I’ve decided to share Russ’ backstory. Male, gay, extroverted – he’s everything his creator isn’t and that has forced me to know him in a way I know no other character.
Born in 1970 in an upper middle class suburb St. Charles, Illinois, Russell Stephan Smith III is the youngest of three children. His parents, Russell “Big Russ” Smith and Penelope “Bitsy” Peterson Smith were college sweethearts who were married in the 1952 at the Lutheran Church they had both attended their entire lives. The reception was held at the country club and the bride wore an ironic virginal white. Patricia was born – prematurely – seven months later followed by a son, Russell Stephan Smith Jr. a year later. Big Russ was a big wig with a major accounting firm and wore the requisite plaid pants to golf tournaments where his competitive nature brought home trophies and promotions. Bitsy joined a bridge club and turned a blind eye to her husband’s controlling ways and long list of temporary liaisons with assistants with names like Barbi with an ‘i’ without ever mussing her coiffure or forgetting her pearls.
Unlike Adler’s birth order theory, however, Russ never felt like the little prince. There was no nearly maternal bonding with the sister nearly old enough to be his mother. Patricia, never Patty, was the overachieving bookworm who went on to become an archeologist, lost in foreign countries studying long dead tribes. People, while still breathing, aren’t remotely interesting to Patricia and Russ, with his exuding human emotions and attention grabbing public persona rates less interesting than a slow motion car accident. Since moving out of the house at seventeen, Russ has seen his sister exactly once. He ran into her at the opening for Bodies…the Exhibition when it opened in Seattle and the radio station Russ worked for sent him to the VIP dinner. Patricia had been in town for two weeks. She’d never called. Much like they’d seen their parents do their entire lives, they stuck to polite conversation about the weather and never made eye contact.
Russell Stephan Smith Jr., “Little Russ” is the family athlete. Or was in his high school heyday before he followed his father behind a desk and his spare tire grew to monster truck proportion. He’s lost his hair, three wives and, at age 47, his upper management job following the Enron scandal. He hasn’t worked a straight job since although he’s managed to run through several start-ups, get rich quick business opportunities and his golden parachute. Not that anyone in the family would actually talk about any of that. Not when the center of the scandal is the family star. LR can do no wrong. He can, as always, sit near the old man at the obligatory parental anniversary dinner and snipe at the oh so sensitive little brother who didn’t even get his own name. Once a bully, always a bully.
Which leaves the family Russ chose for himself. Sara. A straight, only child with a dead mother and a deadbeat, white trash father who rabbited early, on paper they have no common frame of reference on which to build a relationship even if they were looking for one or capable of one or had ever seen one that didn’t look like it was headed for the Jerry Springer show. And yet, in a world full of disfunction and genetic relationships that make no sense outside the science, this Mutt and Jeff managed to find each other. Despite the romantic incompatibility, Sara is Russ’ soul mate. She’s the one person in the world Russ knows deep in his heart will never post bail for him. If the Man’s caught Russ rebelling against his past or trying to laugh and love and live big, bigger than the law allows, bigger than anything he knew before he met her, then he knows Sara’s sitting next to him in the big house. Russ wouldn’t have it any other way.
I adore him.