A Socially-Anxious, Coming-of-Age Novella Free Chapter
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This amusing coming-of-age novella examines, "What leads a young adult to estrange himself from his peers, and are we allowed to laugh at him?

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Summary: AUDIO, VIDEO, DISCO is a socially-anxious, coming-of-age novella that asks, "What leads a young adult to alienate himself from his peers, and are we allowed to laugh at him?" 

Life for twenty-something Ernest Scarliffe has not been all that hot. After a terrible breakup and a breakdown of his nuclear family, he wakes up one morning in a mental hospital. 

Now that he's out, he'll have to kick his drinking habit, change his ways to get the girl, and prove he's a new person to his lost friend.

Sample Chapter

I can not sleep.

I’m sitting at the desk next to the window in my hospital room, looking outside at the world I’ve not seen in a week. It’s the dead of night. No one’s walking around the campus across the street. The streetlight changes from Green to Yellow to Red, once every ten minutes. There’s a car every maybe-thirty.

I blame the alcohol withdrawals for keeping me awake my first three nights here. Before this week, every day I had off would end with me downing, at the bare minimum, a six-pack. The shakes were unbearable, and if I did drift away, whether in my bed or in my seat in the rec room, the short nightmares were vivid and disgusting. It could have been worse, they told me. Drinking always gets worse, they told me.

Once those passed and I could get at least an hour or two of rest, memories of my mom, dad, and brother flooded my mind. They were like hateful fantasies of me doing awful things to them, but those subsided following yesterday’s group session. Blame, the nurse said, is not therapy.

Now, it’s anxiety keeping me awake. I’m going home tomorrow. That means I’ll have to call Jonathan. Shit. How am I supposed to handle that? We spoke my second day here – Tuesday, was it? And for thirty minutes every expletive was hurled through the receiver.

I wonder what the forty-year-old obese heroin junkie, sprawled out like a baby on the bed opposite of mine, is dreaming of. Does he have a friend on the outside waiting for a call? He’s out cold and snoring in a way that’s taunting me. I want to shake him, pour toilet water over his head, anything I can to draw him into my suffering. Hard to believe his snores are what helped me crash the fourth night. Once, and only once, was I able to focus on his nasal chokes. I focused with my eyes closed until I drifted away. It has not worked since.

Maybe it’s not just the anxiety? Maybe it’s because I also really need to shit, and it has been too long since I’ve taken one in complete privacy. It’s humiliating doing the doo in this place. There are narrow openings on the bathroom doors. Every sound ricochets off the walls, through the cracks, and into your roommate’s ears. I found this out the hard way on morning three, when I used the toilet as a retreat for masturbating. After whacking at it for a good fifteen minutes, I couldn’t finish. The fantasies of Michelle in my head were too weak in clarity to combat the sound of my hand smacking against my private flesh.

I try to force my mind to other non-shit related topics, like reading. I sit back at the desk and read a book I checked out of the ward library – 100 Ways to Make EVERYBODY!! Like YOU!!

There's this trick in it called “sailor eyes:”

Imagine you're a manly captain stranded on an island, using the entrails of a native to braid your beard.

You step out into the waters to wash off the blood and something catches your eyes … a boat!

Look at that boat! Narrow your eyes to block out the sun and when they adjust crack a victorious smile.

The face you made is known by us, the Professional Social Life Experts, as “sailor eyes!”

Next time you hit up the bar, shoot it at the lonely lady across from you. With your eyes, tell her:

“I just survived five months on salt water and the guts of inferior races – I deserve to be inside of you.”

 

I get back up and practice my “sailor eyes” in the reflection of the window. And then the sun rises over the Olentangy, obscuring my reflection and giving it color.

 

***

 

It’s now six and time for breakfast in the rec room.

The eggs are decent, but not over-easy and runny like I take them. The pancakes are undercooked and still frozen together, nothing syrup and butter can't fix. And according to Richard, who's been here for two months, the orange juice is calling me a “Nigger Hitler.”

I finish my meal and my first cup of coffee, but when I go to discard my empty tray and snag another cup, I feel a hand grip my left shoulder. I turn around to face the newest addition to the crazy club. He's a young guy, late teens, with dark skin, basketball shorts, and a white tank top. He has his right hand extended between us, open and awaiting a shake.

“Tevon,” he says.

I grip his hand.

“Ernest,” I respond.

When I pull my hand back, it's kind of slimy. There's a hint of body odor floating about, and it’s not coming from Richard’s direction like usual.

“What brings you here, Ern?”

His voice is soft but passionate.

“According to the doctors, I’m clinically depressed and a drunk,” I reply.

He nods and lowers his head. His eyes are closed, and after a few seconds of awkward silence he speaks.

“I knew it, He was right!”

He does that criss-crossy thing the religious do.

“I'm here for you, Ernest. God sent me.”

With his hand still on my shoulder, he guides me back to the table. I want to go back to my room and finish that book, but I also don't want this guy to wig out and kill me because I wouldn't pray with him (mental ward urban myth the nurses were sharing).

“Can I tell you something, Ernest?”

“Sure,” I answer, kind of wishing he had asked me this first.

“Last night – before what got me in here got me in here – God spoke to me,” he says. Then he closes his eyes and lowers his head again.

“He said, 'Tevon, you have been selected for a journey. Look under the loveseat in the living room.' And I did. He told me exactly where my dad hid his car keys from me.”

He stops for dramatic effect.

“It was only me, the road, and God.”

I turn away to look at Richard, who begins to shout at the orange juice, sweat dripping down his forehead, eyes popping out, “Keep running your mouth and smoking meth, slut.”

“Took me a while to get there …” Tevon continues. I turn back to face him when Richard cools it. “Got lost an hour into the trip – the Garmin God told me to take from the neighbor’s car was loaded with out-of-date maps.”

He clears his throat.

“But just as I was about to give up, this long, white candle on a stick made of gold materialized, floating and swaying in the headlights. He struck it with His fire and used it to lead me to His treasure.”

“What was the treasure?” I ask. I hope this question ends the conversation, but I know it won’t.

“Hah! ‘What was the treasure,’ he asks,” Tevon says. This is going to take a while.

“There was none! As I walked into the barn, God said, ‘Talk to the cow.’ And in this barn there was the cow He spoke of. So I spoke to it, and the cow said, ‘This, Tevon, was simply a test of devotion – and you, with your faith and the love that you hold in Me, God, have been selected by Me to serve and protect My children. So go – tell people of Me, God, and tell them I told you to find them.”

He leans onto the table and returns his hand to my shoulder. His grip is tight and painful, but I know better than to remove it. He draws my body closer to him and stares into my eyes. He could be one hell of a golf caddie with this much focus.

“Ernest,” he says, his passion making me think he’s about to tongue me to death. “Let me do God's will. Let me protect you.”

As I consider his offer, Richard lets out a grueling scream. The words, “Stop smoking crack, you’re the Nigger Hitler,” vibrate through the ward halls. He’s lost the war-of-the-intellects with the pulp-free offender and, before I realize it, he’s thrown the little bastard towards me and Tevon. Professor Piety, thanks to his religious clairvoyance, dodges the cup. I don’t, however, and now I’m covered in racist orange juice.

 

***

 

After changing into a dirtier pair of underwear and pants, which Richard drenched in milk three days ago, I head to the group therapy session, where four days prior, Richard drenched me in Hi-C. There are six of us, and a lone nurse, seated around a circular desk in the ward library. I've had three cups of decaf since the orange juice incident and I really need to pee. Too bad we're not allowed to exit the room until the nurse permits us.

On a whiteboard, in a multitude of dry erase colors, she scribbles various “Sleeping Tips” such as:

Workout two hours before bed

Stretch while lying down

Drink chamomile tea

She asks the girl sitting opposite of me why sleep is important. The girl says:

“Happy people get sleep.”

She stops her presentation when she notices Larry reading a book. He’s lost in the text, ignoring her lessons, absorbed in another world.

“Larry, could you please stop reading? I think this information may be relevant to you.”

He ignores her.

“Larry.”

He turns the page.

“Larry, if you're not going to listen to what I have to say, then I think you should leave.”

This triggers a pretty negative reaction from the freak; he slams his copy of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, horse-kicks the empty chair behind him and leans over the table. Face-to-face with the nurse, he begins to scream and spit.

“I'm a father of three. I lost everything in the divorce. I work sixty hours a week at a Lee's Famous Recipe Chicken, and you're telling me that the secret to not hating yourself, to being happy – the answer to everything – is to drink chamomile tea before bed?!”

The nurse nods and her cheeks flush red.

“Yes.”

“Fuck that! I'm leaving,” he says as he picks up his book, kicks his chair across the floor, and stomps out of the room.

There’s complete and total silence for five seconds, and then the nurse bursts into tears. The girl opposite of me, who has been picking her nose since answering the nurse’s question, places a fresh nose goblin under the table.

She stands up, exits, and we follow, leaving the sobbing nurse to herself.

 

***

 

Back in my room, I've got my penis in my hand and a fountain flowing, when I hear a female voice call for me through the door of the john.

“Mr. Scarliffe?”

“Yeah?”

“I've got your stuff, hon. When you're done, can we go through it all and make sure we've got everything?”

The urine valves shut and I groan back, “Yeah, one second.”

I zip up my pants and open the door to this small, mousey-looking girl. She's got on some thick-rimmed glasses like I used to wear, and in her hand is a white plastic bag. We walk around the corner and through the curtain to my sleeping area.

“Could you go through these, make sure everything is here?”

“No problem,” I reply. I take the bag from her hands, spilling its contents onto my bed.

There’s a pair of jeans, with my lifeless cell phone tucked in the left pocket, my ironic “World's Greatest Grandpa” tee, my black shoes, my keys, and a half-empty pack of cigarettes.

“I think that’s everything.”

“Good,” she says, then she hands me a piece of paper. “This is your discharge information. The doctor will be calling for you shortly, and he will conduct one last evaluation before releasing you. If he thinks you're all well and good, he'll sign off on this.”

“Super,” I say.

“Anything I can do for you, Mr. Scarliffe?”

I consider using one of the tips from that 100 Ways book:

 

“Directly ask a nurse for a blowjob if you ever find yourself wanting a blowjob – they'll do it.”

 

Out of fear that my sexual frustration, desperation, and repression would cost me another week in this hell, I say, “No, thank you,” and she says, “Great,” and walks away as I drop my pants.

While changing into my own jeans, a doctorate student – one of Dr. Pickerington's – walks in. He's a tall guy, black hair, young. Maybe late-twenties. His hair is already starting to gray and there are bags under his eyes. I wince at the smell of his breath as it creeps into my nose. It smells of real coffee and sweet, sweet tobacco.

“How are we doing this morning?” Brad or Barry says.

“Good,” I say, zipping my fly.

“Did you receive your discharge papers?”

“Yeah, a little while ago.”

“Good, good. Can we talk to you for a little bit?”

“Sure,” I mumble, knowing I have no choice.

I follow Bill or Ben out of my room and into the doctor's office.

 

***

 

Dr. Pickerington is sitting behind his desk, his massive bubble-shaped stomach in between his keyboard and monitor. There are three more students sitting in chairs behind him, one of them poking the doctor's back with her folded knees. Two are female and they look beat, just like Brad or Barry. They remain mute the entire time I'm in the room, their eyes occasionally looking up from their notes to study me. The attractive one – skinny, dirty blonde – yawns and that amazing, god-awful stench of cigarettes and coffee returns.

“How are you feeling this morning, Ernest?” he asks. Then he pushes a box of Dunkin's toward me. I reach for one.

“Good,” I reply with a glaze-drenched doughnut in my hand.

“Any thoughts of hurting yourself?”

“No.”

“Any thoughts of hurting others?”

I repeat myself with a mouth full of doughnut. A chunk of sugar falls from my mouth and, using my already-licked fingertip, I pick it off the table and drop it back into my mouth.

“Good, well then ...”

He puts his clipboard down and takes a drink from his mug.

“As I said last night, when you had originally requested to be discharged, we couldn't let you go before you had completed what was on our schedules.”

“Right,” I reply.

“And, as we told you last Monday, when you first arrived, we would be holding you for a minimum of a week. Do you remember that conversation, Mr. Scarliffe?”

“Yes,” I say again, and I take the last bite of the glazed doughnut while trying to recall that conversation. He jots something down.

“Did you receive your discharge papers?”

“Yeah.”

I place the stapled packet in front of him, and he reads each individual page with the intensity of a teakettle. To pass this time, I chomp my teeth and make funny faces towards the students, their creepy, deprived and stabbing stares beginning to brand into my noggin.

I bite into a chocolate-covered doughnut. When the doc finishes reading, he signs the last page, then pulls out a small slip of paper. He scribbles on this, puts it inside of the packet, and slides it back to me.

“Take these discharge papers to the front desk. Give them the other slip as well. And Ernest,” he says. He takes off his glasses and tries to lean over toward me. His fat belly prevents him.

“Normally we keep patients who suffer from alcohol troubles for a month. But considering your age and how well you’ve accepted our schedule for you, we’re letting you loose early with no required follow-up meetings. You’re a young man, Ernest. You do have a life ahead of you. But Ernest, if this ever happens again, we will keep you for an extended period. We found you passed out next to a … Power Rangers pool, for children, yes? I suggest you steer clear from water.”

I nod and think about how well coffee and cigarettes go with doughnuts.

 

***

 

After lunch (hamburgers, decent cheesecake, caffeine-free Faygo), I take my signed discharge papers to the front desk.

I stop three feet away from the nurse and stare. She’s lost to Facebook. She's also the oldest one I've seen, maybe in her mid-forties, with a V-shaped face, piercing eyes, and mid-length brown hair pulled into a bun. If she has a large, swinging pair of saggy mommy tits, she'd be my dream girl.

“Hi.” I greet her with a cracked voice. When I lean forward to put the papers in front of her, I feel a chubby smack against my inner-right leg. She glances at the front page while putting the packet into a manila folder, which she then tucks into a filing cabinet.

“I'll go ahead and call your taxi for you. Just relax here in the lobby. I'll come and get you when he’s here.”

Before I get the chance to respond with a “Thank you,” or a “You're beautiful and I want you,” she turns away from me and hops on the phone. I walk into the middle of the crowded rec room and take a seat in front of the tube.

After forty minutes of watching some Fox News talking head, the older nurse steps around the desk and approaches me. And this is the best thing that has happened to me in an entire week – she has the most beautiful pair of saggy mom tits that I've ever seen. They sway left and right with each step. My head follows them. Their mass fills the entirety of her nurse's top, and you can tell by the way they move that they want to flop out of her shirt, roll across the floor, and throw themselves into my mouth.

She's walking toward me, a small piece of yellow paper in hand, and I continue to watch her beautiful tits sway. I admire her aged face as she gets closer and closer. So beautiful is her rack that I fail to catch her name on her shirt as it swings with her glorious features. I want to rip her top off and suck on her breasts; move my tongue up and down her beautiful neck, nibble on her ears; soak two fingers in her mouth, move them down her stomach, and shove them underneath the thong I know she’s wearing.

... Now I'm shoving my saliva-soaked member inside her, and after twenty-nine hours of sweaty doggy, missionary, and anal, she drains my cock of its little white soldiers. Not a single blob – not even a bead-sized drop – makes it anywhere but the back of her throat ...

She extends her hand out in front of her as she says, “Hey, Ernest.” I say nothing and take the taxi voucher.

“They should be here now. When I let you out, take the elevator opposite this ward. On the first floor, exit out of the door across from the elevator. They usually pull up in front of the building. Sometimes on the sides or in the back. Just keep an eye out.”

Once again, I say nothing: I’m still in awe at the sight of this MILF Queen.

I stick the voucher in my pocket, and we share an awkward silence as I follow her to the only entrance and exit. She punches in some numbers on a touchpad keyboard, signaling a loud beep and the opening of the ward doors, and I ride the elevator down with an old couple and a massive, tent-pitching boner.

What Readers Have to Say!

In the same recent fashion where coming-of-age stories feature a mentally, emotionally, and socially troubled young protagonist, Audio, Video, Disco: A Novella by J. Newerk has introduced a new troubled hero for readers to root for. Fresh out of a mental institution, Ernest Scarliffe is determined to turn his life around, be better, and ultimately win back the girl.

Fans of Salinger will find something familiar in the succinct journey of Ernest towards finding himself again. While the narrative is still loose in places and a little rough around the edges, Audio, Video, and Disco has heart. The character of Jon, Ernest’s best friend, is one of the well-developed characters. His disappointment and frustration with Ernest offers readers a glimpse of what it is like to look at the situation on the flipside. Often, readers are only provided the world through the protagonist’s eyes, but Newerk was able to balance this out through Jon, and gives a voice to those who have loved ones going through or have gone through what Ernest has.

On the whole, Audio, Video, Disco is unrelenting and brazen in its pursuit to tell a touching story that explores sadness, drug addiction, and mental illness. 

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