Tuesday, November 1, 2022

Read an #Excerpt from Sign Here by Claudia Lux


About the Book

Sign Here
by Claudia Lux
Hardcover, 416 pages
Published October 25th 2022 by Berkley
A darkly humorous, surprisingly poignant, and utterly gripping debut novel about a guy who works in Hell (literally) and is on the cusp of a big promotion if only he can get one more member of the wealthy Harrison family to sell their soul.

Peyote Trip has a pretty good gig in the deals department on the fifth floor of Hell. Sure, none of the pens work, the coffee machine has been out of order for a century, and the only drink on offer is Jägermeister, but Pey has a plan—and all he needs is one last member of the Harrison family to sell their soul.

When the Harrisons retreat to the family lake house for the summer, with their daughter Mickey’s precocious new friend, Ruth, in tow, the opportunity Pey has waited a millennium for might finally be in his grasp. And with the help of his charismatic coworker Calamity, he sets a plan in motion.

But things aren’t always as they seem, on Earth or in Hell. And as old secrets and new dangers scrape away at the Harrisons’ shiny surface, revealing the darkness beneath, everyone must face the consequences of their choices.



You already have a lot of ideas about Hell. It’s amazing what Dante and thousands of years of folklore can do to a place’s reputation. I mean, I’m not going to lie to you: it is Hell. It’s not fantastic. But let’s see if this is relatable: You’re late to your aunt’s boyfriend’s birthday brunch because your alarm was on mute even though you know you turned it up the night before. You barrel onto the subway, managing to squeeze yourself between the woman blasting a Techno for the Lonely playlist and the man who farts every time he sneezes, and, just when the lights of the station are out of view, the train lurches to a stop with a death rattle and goes dark. The woman elbows you in the gut as she hits Replay, and the man’s snot tickles as it sprays your cheek, and you think about how you don’t even like your aunt’s boyfriend or even your aunt and you hate brunch, and what do you say? I’ll tell you; I’ve heard it a million times. You say, “This is Hell.”

Well, you’re right. That’s Hell. At least the top floors of it. Your priests and grandmas have good intentions—¬the ones who don’t wind up here—¬but their job is to keep you decent above ground, and if they said Hell was a never-¬ending brunch, you would be out there stealing and raping constantly.

Up here it’s not the fire-¬and-¬brimstone thing you think it might be. It’s music that’s too loud, food that’s too rubbery, and kissing with too much tongue. Doesn’t sound that bad, right? But don’t forget: it’s forever. I mean for-¬all-¬time forever. Not a lifetime. That’s a pebble compared to what I’m talking about. Hell is agitation for eternity. You can’t possibly fathom eternity; your little mortal brain would explode. A century feels like an hour, less with each millennium. With endless time and no peace, everyone breaks eventually.

I was about to break too. But then I got a promotion.

Part I

“Pey, team meeting in five,” KQ said, rapping on my desk. I jerked up from my screen. It was already ten o’clock.

“Right, I’ll be there. Thanks!” I replied, but she was knocking halfway down the row, her knuckles a muffled echo. I grabbed my notebook and my pen case, freed a mangled Cup O’ Noodles from the back of my drawer, and went to the kitchen.

“Heya, Pey, how’s it hanging?” Trey asked as he stood in front of the microwave, watching his frozen meal dissolve and recongeal.

“Just fine, thanks,” I said, peeling back the top to my lunch.

“The hot water is out.”

I looked at the coffee machine: Out of Order. I rolled my eyes. I filled the Cup O’ Noodles with the hottest water the sink allowed and got in line behind Trey.

“Who do you have nowadays? Anyone interesting?” he asked, opening the microwave door before it beeped. The steam from his lunch hit my face. It smelled like warm broccoli.

“Nothing too good,” I answered. But for the first time in ages, I wasn’t worried. I did have something. Something big. I just wasn’t going to tell Trey.

He stayed in front of the microwave as he stirred his food, his smile almost as thick.

“Too bad, buddy, too bad. Did you hear I landed Spence Norwood? Wrapped that set up like a present.”

“Yeah, Trey, I heard. That’s great,” I said as I edged past him. I punched the thirty-seconds button and fished a plastic spoon from a drawer.

“Don’t worry, buddy. It’ll happen for you too. You’ve only been here, what, a minute?”

“Just about.”

The microwave beeped. I pulled the handle to find my cup drooped to one side, soup dribbling out. I pushed the sloppy Styro¬foam back up, but it wouldn’t stick.

“Come on, dipshits!” KQ yelled, her hand on the conference room door.

“Coming!” I responded, trying to rip off a paper towel square and getting only a quarter piece.

“Okay, everyone, let’s get down to business. First things first: we have a couple of new faces here today. We didn’t ask for them and we don’t need them, but here they are anyway. So this means everyone is going to have to work even harder to prove their worth around here, assuming none of you is itching for the days of cleaning out the meat grinders Downstairs.”

The woman next to me slumped down in her chair, as if hoping to melt onto the floor and get out unnoticed. I reached for a bottle of water and offered her one, but she shook her head.

“Second: congratulations are in order!” KQ went on. “Trey, well done with the Norwoods! You’ve been chasing that white whale for a while, slick! Your fifth Complete Set!” KQ put her hand on his shoulder and gave it a rough shake.

Trey beamed. “Thanks, boss.”

Broth spilled out of the sunken lip of my Cup O’ Noodles and pooled on the laminate tabletop.

My lunch looked like a mouth in a nursing home.

“Pey? Where are your numbers?”

I startled and pushed my notebook into the puddle.

“Well, it’s been a bit of a slow—¬” I started, my notebook creating a trail of soup like the foot mucus of a gastropod.

“What is it we say in this office, Peyote?”

Trey shot his hand into the air.

“Which saying are we talking about, exactly?”

“Ooh!” Trey shouted. “I know!”

“Mr. Trip?” KQ prodded.

“No excuses,” I said, my cheeks hot.

“I knew that,” Trey said.

I pulled four pens from my pen case and clicked the back of the fifth.

It wouldn’t write.

“Now that we all know that excuses are not an option, what else do we have to say for ourselves? Our numbers are decreasing. With the Internet, people are turning to different solutions for their problems. Trey? Tell the newbs which pitch you went with to land Norwood,” KQ said as she kicked her heels up on the table. I could see where her stilettos had sunk into the dirt on her walk over. I could see little scraps of grass. They reminded me of the beard hairs I used to find under my fingernails after scraping off faces with sandpaper.

“Well,” Trey said, leaning forward and rubbing his hands together, thinking. He always made a big deal out of thinking. It seemed to require a great amount of concentration. “I’ve been watching this guy for a while, so when his firm’s Tokyo deal fell through, I knew I had him. You know his wife just bought that fifth horse, right? And his daughter was about to get married, in Nantucket.”

Everyone snickered.

“So I went with a standard SnowFlake, with some slight adjustments, of course.”

KQ pulled off one shoe and kneaded her foot.

“Does everyone know what a SnowFlake is? Because you better.”

The woman next to me put her hand up and then pulled it right back down.

“Newbie wants a turn!”

“Oh, no, I just thought—¬”

“What’s your name, little mouse?”

“Oh, I—¬”

“If you don’t have a name yet, I can give you one. How about Churchy? Or Squeaks?”


“Disease-¬Carrying Vermin?”

“I’m Cal,” she said, before clearing her throat and sitting up straight. “Calamity Ganon. Like in the video game? But everyone calls me Cal.”

“Cal? Meh. I think I’ll stick with Squeaks,” KQ said. “So, go ahead, Squeaks. What’s a SnowFlake?”

Cal put her hand on her orientation binder but didn’t open it.

“It’s when the sales associate uses flattery and validation to—¬”

“It’s ego fellatio,” Trey interrupted. “Tell them they are special, that you’ve been waiting for them. That they have some kind of bigger purpose. Humans love that shit.”

Excerpted from Sign Here by Claudia Lux Copyright © 2022 by Claudia Lux. Excerpted by permission of Berkley. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

About the Author

Claudia Lux is a graduate of Sarah Lawrence College, and has a master’s in social work from the University of Texas at Austin. She lives and works in Boston, Massachusetts. Sign Here is her first novel.

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