New Novel Navigates a Grim Personal Journey and Unraveling World

Eric Michael Bovim

 

In Eric Michael Bovim’s debut work of fiction, Around the Sun (Epigraph Publishing, June 2020), Mark White appears to have it all as the head of a prestigious PR firm in Washington, DC. But in the aftermath of his wife’s sudden death, he is struggling to raise his eight-year-old son, Colin. When he takes on a controversial new technology startup mid-scandal and weeks before its IPO, Mark’s world rapidly begins to unravel. Adrift, he is soon forced to make life-altering choices that will affect his bond with Colin, the legacy of his deceased wife’s unsold paintings, and, most importantly, his relationship with himself.

 

My panic attacks began the morning of her funeral and a month later, full depression set in. Dr. Weller put me on a trial regimen. Stick to a routine. Hire a nanny. Take a leave of absence. Take flowers to the cemetery, but don’t take Colin yet. Take him to the cemetery more often. Consider selling the house. So, I hired a live-in nanny, a Filipina with grown children who bleach-washed the bathrooms mid-week, neatened his trophies, tucked paired socks into the drawers—kept Colin’s room as immaculate as Monica had, always tight hospital corners on the bed.

 

My goal was to try not to think. When I was away, I was a good enough father through texts. I would wait to hit send once the wheels left the tarmac. I don’t know why I would procrastinate until a single column of cell signal remained. By the end of the year, though, I was taking seven pills a day just to freeze the frame of my decline. Grief can bleed you into white nothing. Colin soon became symptomatic: tying and untying his shoes three times before school, looking for dirt in the house, insisting on new toothbrushes every night, drinking from the same sippy cup.

 

I simultaneously heeded everyone’s advice—returned to work too soon, took Colin to the amusement park, brought him out for pizza twice a week, sang to him, administered his pills, watched him fall asleep.

 

 

When he was six, I told him the partial truth.

 

She won’t come home. She was so very sick. She is in a better place. I never mentioned the police.

 

I would wake up remembering little details, like that she quit law when she sold her first piece, oil on canvas, a long-range buffalo herd gnawing the Colorado plains, or what she thought such a sight might have looked like before they were all cold-blood slaughtered. Her exact words.

 

By then, White & Partners was more or less a success. I was half Mexican and so my complete re-enfranchisement became her cause clèbre. I had found this amusing. She was a realist without the saccharine Norman Rockwell patina, her landscapes imbued with some bitter-end prehistoric gloom. Her father disapproved—of me and the painting, precisely which was most offensive to him I was never sure. He had an ulcer and a membership at Augusta, owed his wealth to sugar beets, and once sucker-punched the bartender at the Savoy for smiling at his paramour, caught him with a martini shaker to the head. The poor Serb never stood a chance, he’d say. He told that story within the first ten minutes of meeting someone, up until his second heart attack. After that, he was an invalid. He and Monica were not on speaking terms since she had become a working artist.

 

Monica had a vendetta against big commercial institutions. She purged the Virginia house of anything prefab, even flavored dental floss. She brought me to upstart salad chains with mission statements. She resented Starbucks—all the condescending flavor permutations—honey maples and winter mint mochas and spiced chai pumpkin, and so on.

 

 

The year she died, for my thirty-seventh birthday, she bought a Breville burr grinder, eager that I dedicate myself to outperforming Big Coffee. I bought Rwandan beans online from a co-op. They came in vacuum-sealed silvery bags, hallmark sweetness and cocoa notes, none of the pitch-black aftertaste. Grind size twelve and 17.8 seconds to produce a double-shot. It took four months of trial and error to get the tamp down right—anywhere between twenty to thirty pounds of pressure, all in the wrist—any more and it’s over-extracted and tarry, any less it’s under-extracted and watery. Nothing less than 195 degrees for a good pull. The provenance of the beans, the digitally calibrated grind, human compression—there was no improvisation. Bad coffee agitated me. It was the product of human error, and it bothered me in the same way they filled the wine glass too full in bad restaurants. All avocational endeavors should be undertaken with the aim of mastery.

 

She had died shortly after I finally got it down, and since then every morning, I used a butter knife to pry out the basket and break up the grinds and sprinkle the grounds on random perennials, depositing the export from an impoverished nation into my yard, low-wage labor enriching the rose beds. She would have approved.

 

Author Bio:

Eric Michael Bovim is an American entrepreneur and writer. He began his career in journalism in 1999 as a correspondent for Dow Jones Newswires and Reuters, based in Madrid. While in Spain, he covered the Basque separatist group, ETA, as well as tech and telecom companies that rose and fell during the dotcom collapse. He has been published in the Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Fast Company, and Salon. Around the Sun is his debut novel. He currently resides in Virginia. 

 

Highbrow Magazine

 

Image Sources:

--Courtesy of Epigraph Publishing

--Wikimedia.org (Creative Commons)

 

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