Terence Greene is admired for his perfect life in an affluent New Jersey suburb, and for his marriage to a minister’s beautiful and wealthy daughter. He’s also envied for his successful career as director of an arts foundation. But all of that changes when Terence is summoned to jury duty in Trenton. Ava-Rose Renfrew, the alleged victim in an assault case, is a sexy, irresistibly raw, and low-rent woman who lives on the shadowy banks of the Delaware River with a strange clan she calls family. And she’s very eager to show Terence her appreciation for his loyalty in the jury box.
Before long, their quick and dirty affair becomes an obsession, and getting hooked on a drug as potent and violent as Ava-Rose soon turns Terence’s respectable life to dust. He’s willing to do anything for her: lie, embezzle, steal—and worse. For Terence, losing control is half the fun. But trying to get it back is terrifying.
The recipient of honors ranging from the National Book Award to the Bram Stoker Award, Joyce Carol Oates has explored obsession and sexual terrors in such acclaimed novels as Zombie, Daddy Love, and Jack of Spades. In Double Delight, writing as Rosamond Smith, she proves herself an abandoned and fearless talent in psychological suspense.
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About the Author
Joyce Carol Oates is the author of over seventy books encompassing novels, poetry, criticism, story collections, plays, and essays. Her novel Them won the National Book Award in Fiction in 1970. Oates has been a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters for more than three decades and currently holds the Roger S. Berlind Distinguished Professorship at Princeton University.
Hometown:Princeton, New Jersey
Date of Birth:June 16, 1938
Place of Birth:Lockport, New York
Education:B.A., Syracuse University, 1960; M.A., University of Wisconsin, 1961
Read an Excerpt
By Joyce Carol Oates, Rosamond Smith
OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIACopyright © 1997 The Ontario Review
All rights reserved.
Strange that it would come to me by such commonplace means not by special delivery, or registered mail, but with the regular mail delivery. A few first-class letters, the usual bills, printed matter, advertising flyers. In a grimly official-looking manila envelope with a translucent oval window through which
GREENE TERENCE C 7 Juniper Way Queenston NJ 08540
glared up at him like an accusation.
The return address was SHERIFF'S OFFICE, COUNTY OF MERCER, TRENTON, N.J. 08650.
It was a Saturday in late March. Overcast, smelling of wet, rotted leaves, with a faint undertaste of spring. A day of no significance except (but this could only be coincidence) it was the day before Terence Greene's forty-fourth birthday.
An event which, but for the arrival of the summons, Terence Greene would not have recalled.
"Daddy, something for you! — looks like trouble."
Eleven-year-old Cindy, the Greenes' youngest child, was the one to bring Terence the summons. She called down into the basement, her voice thrilled. But where was Daddy? Why wasn't he interested? Annoyed, she called again, "Dad dy. Mail."
Below, in semi-darkness, because one of the overhead lightbulbs had burnt out, Terence was absorbed in repairing a loose rubber tread on the basement stairs. His wife Phyllis had complained she'd almost tripped, might have broken her neck, so Terence was making the repair, or about to. The problem was, when he'd switched on the light over the steps there was a dazzling flash, and darkness. So he'd gone to look for a flashlight in the utility room, which required some minutes of searching since the flashlight wasn't in its designated place, and when he found it, he discovered that the battery was dead; so he'd gone off to search for a new battery, for he was sure he'd purchased more than one at the hardware store; this search led him, whistling thinly through his teeth, upstairs into the kitchen, to search the closet, and at last into the garage, to his work bench which was cluttered with tools, where he located a battery for the flashlight but was distracted by the realization, as he glanced about the garage, that he had much to do here. My house, my home. My responsibility. And I am equal to it.
He was husband, father, homeowner. What pleasure he took in a morning of simple, manual, household chores.
He had a wife, Phyllis. A nineteen-year-old son Aaron, now at Dartmouth. A fifteen-year-old daughter Kim. And eleven-year-old Cindy, once the baby of the family, whom Daddy loved beyond his love for the older children. Because she is closest yet to babyhood, innocence.
Only Cindy and Terence were home, in the Greenes' large colonial house at 7 Juniper Way. And Terence was preoccupied, frowning and smiling to himself, whistling, now back downstairs in the basement, shining the flashlight about into the shadows, where, to his dismay, he discovered the rolled-up carpet remnant he'd intended to haul upstairs and out to the curb for the Saturday morning trash pickup. "Damn!"— this was the third time he'd forgotten. That week, his wife had said, "Terry, you won't forget the carpet again, will you?" and Terence had laughed and said, "Certainly not."
But there it was. A memento, layered with dust, of the beige wall-to-wall carpeting they'd had installed in the family room a decade ago, or more — Cindy just an infant, Kim in first grade, Aaron a slim sweet-faced child who had adored his father. But several months ago Phyllis had had a new carpet installed in the family room, so what need was there of the old? None, obviously.
Grimacing, Terence tugged and shoved at the remnant, pushing it into the shadows beneath the basement steps. Since the trash pickup wasn't for another week, there was no point in keeping the bulky thing in plain view, and upsetting Phyllis.
Like the garage, the basement needed to be cleaned, cleared. Terence took note of that shelf cluttered with rusted, long-unused gardening tools, from an era when Phyllis had had time for tending rosebushes. Another shelf, weighted with yellowed copies of The Way, The Truth, and The Light, a religious journal of conservative political opinions faithfully passed on, for years, to the Greenes from Phyllis's lately deceased father, a Presbyterian minister of New Bedford, Massachusetts. And cast-off sports equipment of Aaron's, devoutly requested and soon neglected: an absurdly expensive German-manufactured tennis racquet that, in Aaron's judgment, "wasn't worth shit," and twenty-pound dumbbells and other weightlifting equipment that within weeks had bored an impatient teenager. Seeing these things, and numerous others, Terence felt his throat constrict. For here was the shadowland of the household, the graveyard. He'd clear it out another time.
Shame. Hettie's boy, isn't he? But how much does he know?
But look where he lives! He's in charge.
Tuffi appeared suddenly underfoot, wanting affection, wanting to be fed. Terence said, exasperated, "But you were just fed, Tuffi, weren't you?" The terrier was quivering with emotion; since Aaron's departure the house was too large and too lonely; Terence could see the mute animal perplexity in Tuffi's liquidy amber eyes, but had no time for it now. Once a puppy, everybody's darling, Tuffi was now an aging thick-bodied dog with graying whiskers and an occasional odor as of decomposing organic matter. Terence sighed, and rubbed Tuffi's bony head, and accepted the eager silky-damp licking of Tuffi's tongue against his fingers. "Yes, yes, good dog, good Tuffi, of course you're loved, never doubt it!"— so Terence murmured, pouring dog chow into Tuffi's empty bowl. Though it was not a good idea, and how many times he'd instructed the children, to indulge an overweight dog.
Terence went to fetch his hammer, where had he left his hammer? — feeling a touch of panic, that Saturday morning was passing so swiftly. It was a time precious to him, hours of quiet, privacy, household chores. A day when he didn't have to commute to 81 Park Avenue, Manhattan, to the headquarters of the Nelson P. Feinemann Memorial Foundation where he was executive director, as he did five days a week; a day he could take a curious, stubborn pleasure in tending to the house in which he and his family lived. What anonymity in household tasks. For while Terence C. Greene was a name of distinction, authority, power in certain quarters, it was not a name that, murmured aloud, in the basement of his house, would seem to mean much at all.
Overhead, the sound of Cindy's footsteps. On Saturday mornings the child was lonely, restless. In imitation of her mother and her sister she ran and rushed about, breathless, yet with no evident objective, no clear purpose. Somehow she seemed not to have friends, or at any rate friends who lived near Juniper Place. Thinking of Cindy, hoping Cindy didn't know where he was, Terence felt a prick of tenderness, guilt. He wondered if in all families there was one child about whom a parent felt somehow guilty as if I can't protect her enough, shield her from hurt. His older children Aaron and Kim he'd had to surrender, they weren't children any longer, not as they'd been; they hadn't need of Daddy's protection, and certainly didn't want it. But Cindy. Cindy was different. Too intelligent for her childish ways, too childish for her intelligence. The one most like myself, that must be it.
Terence gripped the twelve-inch claw hammer in his right hand, swinging it in a short arc. He wondered how many millenia had passed before the human hand had evolved such a tool. The ordinary household hammer was a model of efficiency and compression: the handle a marvel of simplicity and the head an ingenious combination of power (the power to pound nails in) and its reversal (the power to pull nails out). Since becoming a homeowner, Terence had come to love the feel of a tool in his hand: screwdriver, pliers, saw, hammer. In the local hardware store he admired those tools — power saws, axes — for which he had no use. He stocked up on nails, screws, bolts, washers. There was a pleasure in purchasing such things as if he were demonstrating to the hardware clerk and the other customers that he, Terence Greene, was certainly one of them. His name, his address, there on his credit card, stamped in raised plastic letters, like Braille.
Terence C. Greene.
Terence smiled. He'd created an identity for himself, and a personality to inhabit it, affable, reasonable, good-hearted and a good citizen, the way, as a shy but gifted child, he'd modeled clay figures in school.
No one in Queenston knew of his past. Not even that it was a shadowy, mysterious past, only haphazardly known to Terence Greene himself.
"Daddy? — mail's here!"
Cindy had discovered him after all, and was calling down the stairs excitedly.
"Something for you, Daddy — looks like trouble."
So Terence came upstairs, not having nailed down the loose tread, annoyed at the interruption but determined not to seem so. He ran his fingers lightly through Cindy's windblown hair and said, "Yes, sweetie? What's up?" Tuffi, too, nudged at Terence's heels, aroused by Cindy's excitement.
"From the sheriff, it says. Oh, Daddy — I wonder what it is."
Cindy handed Terence the official-looking manila envelope. Her eyes were widened, her voice thrilled.
Terence frowned at the envelope, the computer-printed name and address. He had no reason to fear the police, certainly no reason, yet the printed words SHERIFF'S OFFICE, COUNTY OF MERCER, TRENTON, N.J. 08650 made him flinch.
What do they want with me? They have no right.
Terence supposed the envelope contained nothing crucial, since it had come by first-class mail. Still he felt a moment's unease. Resentment.
He smiled, teasing Cindy. For the child was lonely, in one of her moods, melancholy tinged with grating exuberance. He made a gesture as if to tear the envelope in two, saying, "What do I care about the 'sheriff of Mercer County'? — what can he do to me?" and Cindy gave a startled little cry and stopped his hand. "Daddy, don't! You might be arrested."
Clearly, Cindy was frightened for him. She was excitable, anxious. Terence supposed she must be dieting again, starving herself. She could not have been more than five pounds overweight, with the fair, rosy complexion and softly shaped body of a child in a Renoir painting; to his fatherly eye a beautiful child, if fidgety, and lacking grace; to Cindy herself, pitiless in judgment, fat, ugly. What was that terrible word children used repeatedly, curling their lips as they uttered it — "Gross."
Shrewdly Terrence said, holding the manila envelope at arm's length, "Let's make a deal, honey. I'll open the letter if you eat some breakfast."
Cindy's pale green eyes fluttered. She said evasively, weakly, "Daddy, I had breakfast."
"No, you didn't."
"Oh, how do you know?"
Terence didn't know; but saw by Cindy's expression of guilt and defiance that he was right. He felt a moment's annoyance at Phyllis, who'd gone off in her car on a round of Saturday errands without making sure that their daughter, who'd been eating erratically for weeks, had eaten a proper breakfast that morning. "Daddy, I can't. Don't make me, I can't," Cindy said, her lower lip trembling, and Terence said, smiling, "Just a bowl of cereal, sweetie? Why not? And I'll open my letter," and Cindy said, "If I start eating I'll just get hungry, it always happens that way, I hate it," and Terence said, touching the child's feverish cheek, "You're hungry because you haven't eaten, which is why you should eat. Isn't that reasonable?"
Cindy shrugged. "If you say so, Daddy."
Allowing herself to be led, sullen but unresisting, to the formica-topped breakfast nook where, whistling cheerfully, clowning as he'd always done, as Daddy, in the challenging role of Daddy, when trying to inveigle his children into behaving sensibly, Terence briskly set out breakfast foods: a box of raisin granola, a ripe banana, a quart of vitamin-enriched skim milk. Cindy sighed, and picked up a spoon, and, head bowed, out of daughterly duty it seemed, began to eat. Terence discreetly looked away, not wanting to discomfort her. She was a child of eleven with a hearty appetite, and clearly ravenous.
Terence understood his daughter's predicament. She was the younger sister of a very pretty, popular, self-absorbed teenaged girl. The daughter of an energetic, attractive, and frequently quite critical woman.
"Daddy, open your letter now," Cindy said, her mouth full.
Terence pretended he'd misplaced the letter, making Cindy laugh by discovering it, with a look of alarm, inside his shirt. He ripped it open ceremoniously and out fluttered a pink printed form — "'Summons for jury service.' Well, at least I haven't been arrested."
"'Jury service'? A trial? Oh Daddy, that's cool."
Terence scanned the document, which was the most perfunctory of forms; not only computer-generated but a poor carbon copy. In a mock-pompous voice he read, "'You are hereby summoned to appear at the Mercer County Courthouse, 209 South Broad Street, Trenton, New Jersey, to serve as a petit juror commencing on the seventeenth day of June, at eight thirty A.M. By order of the court.'" Odd how his hand, holding the summons, was trembling. He hoped Cindy didn't see.
Cindy said, disappointed, "Not until June? That's so far away. I wish the trial was now."
Terence said carefully, "The summons doesn't mean that I'll be chosen for a jury, Cindy. That I'll be judging an actual trial. It just means that I'll be considered."
The past year had been one of highly publicized and lurid trials across the country. Multiple murders, celebrity murders, rape, police brutality and corruption, terrorism. The idea of the public trial was in the air, like festive carnival music. Cindy said, "I hope it's a murder case, Daddy! First-degree! New Jersey has the death penalty and they're going to start it again, soon — 'lethal injection.' We were discussing it in social studies."
"In sixth grade, discussing the death penalty?" Terence was startled.
Cindy laughed. She was always delighted, like the older children, when her father expressed surprise at the most obvious things; it restored her faith in the fallibility of adults. "Oh, Daddy," she said, clicking her teeth against the spoon, "— we discuss all sorts of things in school. Sex crimes, AIDS, capital punishment, politics."
"Do you! Well, I suppose, yes."
Feeling rebuked, Terence quickly folded the summons, and stuffed it into a pocket, and returned to the basement, to continue his morning of tasks.
Phyllis said, concerned, "But, Terry, you can get out of jury duty: I did, everyone does. Don't worry."
Terence protested, "But why would I want to get out of jury duty, Phyllis? I think it might be interesting."
"It would be a terrible waste of time."
"Why not think of it as a privilege, really? I've never once been summoned —"
"Yes, you've been fortunate."
"It is a privilege. In a democracy —"
Phyllis stared at him, as if she believed he must be joking. She said, "Your work at the Foundation is much too important, and you're much too busy, to waste time sitting around that dreary courthouse, in dreary Trenton. Tonight, we can ask Matt Montgomery what the most practical excuse is for someone in your position. A judicious telephone call might get your name off the computer altogether."
"Terry, everyone knows that jury duty is an absolute waste of time. Unless you're a person who doesn't have responsible work, and is expendable; or retired, with nothing better to do. Or you're investigating the system, writing a book — whatever. You wouldn't be chosen for a jury, probably, in any case. You'd simply be kept penned up in the assembly room for five days straight, as I was. You couldn't bear it."
Terence said, stubbornly, "How can you be certain, Phyllis, what I can bear? And why wouldn't I be chosen, as well as anyone?"
"Because prosecuting attorneys in Trenton think that Queenston residents are too 'liberal' — that is, intelligent and fair-minded; and defense attorneys think we're too 'conservative' — that is, too smart to be manipulated by their rhetoric and tricks." Phyllis smiled at Terence, with an air of knowing something about him unknown to Terence himself. "They want average Americans on juries, darling. Or sub-average. Not you."
Terence persisted, "But I am an average American. In my heart."
Phyllis frowned at him, as if his remarks were beginning to offend. "Don't be perverse, of course you're not."
"Tomorrow I'll be forty-four years old —"
"Now what has that got to do with it?" Phyllis was thirteen months older than Terence, and in recent years had become sensitive about remarks related to age.
"— and not once have I been called for jury duty. I happen to think it would be an interesting experience."
Excerpted from Double Delight by Joyce Carol Oates, Rosamond Smith. Copyright © 1997 The Ontario Review. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
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What People are Saying About This
Both running and writing are highly addictive activities; both are, for me, inextricably bound up with consciousness. I can't recall a time when I wasn't running, and I can't recall a time when I wasn't writing....Dreams may be temporary flights into madness that, by some law of neurophysiology unclear to us, keep us from actual madness. So, too, the twin activities of running and writing keep the writer reasonably sane and with the hope, however illusory and temporary, of control.
"Writers on Writing," The New York Times, July 19, 1999