First Chapter – Don't Mess Up My Block

Here’s the first chapter of my new novel, Don’t Mess Up My Block. This fictional work is a satire of self-help books and is a funny, fast read. Check it out!

A Street Corner Epiphany

All business success rests on something labeled a sale, which at least momentarily weds company and customer.
– Tom Peters

Late one night, I got lost. It is on these unexpected journeys that you sometimes encounter the greatest discoveries. I certainly did.

Was it the 97 Pinch Mountain cabernet? Or perhaps the postprandial mojitos we imbibed at Marquez? It had been a client dinner that had gone long, after a day of business process reinvention. My client (an elderly CEO I cannot name) was garrulous, as many of them are, and wanted to talk and theorize after spending the day planning the next great reorganization of his Fortune 500 company.

I didn’t mind. Despite my hard-won business education and two decades of experience in strategic consulting, my role is often that of handholder, gently guiding decision-makers down the right path.

Besides, I could bill for it. My hourly rate had steadily increased over the past few years, as I moved from one successful client engagement to the next (many of which are described in these modest pages). While I had not quite reached the rarified air of my mentor, Esalen McGillicudy, I was on a slow, but steady, trajectory upwards. As my stomach digested more than a thousand dollars worth of Kobe beef, little did I suspect that the events following the dinner would lead me to my predestined success.

Don't Mess Up My Block book coverClose to midnight, we broke up, the taste of rum and mint still fresh in my mouth. A black limo glided up and ferried my client away. I declined his offer of a ride; the night was warm and I wanted to walk off some of the alcohol.

One downside of my chosen profession is the necessity of travel to cities around the country and around the world. After so much time in hired cars and five-star hotels, you start to confuse hotels, restaurants, spas. That great Thai fusion place – was that New York or Paris? Is the Four Seasons Scottsdale the one with the waterfall in the lobby? Did I sleep with the Hyatt concierge in LA or Sao Paolo?

I had driven here, I remembered. This was Washington, DC. I had parked my Miata on K Street. Find my vehicle and I could cross the river to my luxury condo in Virginia.

I set off south, I believed. The car parkers outside Marquez watched me with idle, Salvadoran curiosity.

Washington has lettered streets – F, G, H – and numbered ones – 17th, 18th, 19th. It is how the Washingtonians orient themselves and a pattern I had learned. Yet, after a couple of blocks, I found myself on curious, little angle of an avenue called Vermont.

Seemingly off the grid, the block was lined with glass-fronted office buildings, all of which were dark. Cars idled by in a curious pattern, stopping and starting despite the absence of traffic.

I paused. Which way was K Street?

A voice called out, husky and deep. Her tone was low, sexy and I didn’t catch the words the first time. She repeated the offer for me.

“Need some company?”

She was beautiful, standing nearly six-feet tall in pink heels. Tight silk shorts gripped her narrow hips. A tube top held in her bounty.

“I said, do you need some company? You look like you need some.”

The accent was on the “some” as she stepped forward, a friendly hand reaching out for my arm. She smelled like perfume and vodka.

In my position, one frequently has to finesse unexpected offers of female companionship. The director of a Swedish multinational once begged me to head up his marketing department, offering me an Ikea-furnished home and the blonde staffer of my choosing. I politely declined, citing the needs of an imaginary family.

“Mister, you know you want it.” Her lips glistened in the darkness, like overripe apples.

I am far from averse to the pleasures of female flesh but, let’s just say, I prefer something more appropriate for a man of my status.

“Sorry,” I said, the model of politeness. “I must decline.”

“For real?”

“Yes. But if you could point me in the direction of K Street.”

She turned her back on me and what a fine back it was.

I stood in place, unsure which direction I should go in. A car idled past the curb, its occupant lost in shadow. After a moment, it pulled away.

What an incongruent scene this must be, I thought. The stunning hooker and me, the business consultant, in a Burberry jacket and Italian loafers.

“What the fuck?” the hooker asked, watching the Prius accelerate into the distance. “You still here?”

“If you could give me directions.”

“I ain’t giving you directions. Get lost.”

“That’s the problem.”

A minivan with suburban plates pulled up. Seeing me, it drove off.

The hooker turned on me. Fiercely, she shouted in frustration, “You’re messing up my block!”

I staggered back, metaphorically. I was fucking up her block. Of course! My presence was costing her money. I was scaring away customers and denying her income. I was negatively impacting her business, without being aware of it until she brusquely told me.

A flash of insight illuminated me, like Paul on the road to Damascus. I strode off in a direction that turned out to be K Street. Yet, I hardly slept at all, possessed by the power of a simple idea:


In business, and in life, we all struggle to achieve success. Yet, we all must deal with obstacles to empowerment – these are the people or situations that are messing up your block.

What’s fucking up your block? This book will teach you how to identify the things that are messing up your block and keeping you from your true potential.

And what do you do when you identify these things? Like the hooker of Vermont Avenue, you must banish the people, patterns and situations that are messing up your block. This little book will teach you how.


This is just the beginning of the story. Buy it today:

Author: Joe Flood

Joe Flood is a writer, photographer and web person from Washington, DC. The author of several novels, Joe won the City Paper Fiction Competition in 2020. In his free time, he enjoys wandering about the city taking photos.

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