When a dream to someday hold a book of my own in my hands starts to come true with a wild story idea in June 2016,
then becomes a solid outline in October 2016,
transforms into a rough NaNoWriMo draft in November 2016,
presents itself as a many month editing trial,
the first paperback copy gets lost in the mail for a while,
the dream is realized, I have to thank God. Without His provision, His blessing me with a brain, His opening of doors, and His gift of family and friends, this novel wouldn’t even have tried to happen.
And one small facet of the dream was especially realized. It’s an inch thick! It’s kinda goofy, but that means a lot to an author and it weighs a whole pound! Oh, and matte finish is the best. 🙂
As promised, here’s chapter 2 of Crossroads. You can read chapter 2 on this post.
Chapter 2: Home
Jack threw back his hood as he surveyed his home. It looked quaint and broken in the early light of dawn. The power line that stretched from the street to the panel on the side of the house sagged low. One window was boarded up in place of missing glass. A tarp was fastened on one end of the peak. He recalled the storm that had taken the shingles from that spot. He couldn’t forget it; not with the wind, the flooded streets, the overturned cars, and the off the charts radiation levels.
A sudden warmth flooded his chest when his gaze fell upon the door. A chipped flower pot holding a struggling hydrangea stood next to it. Its radiant beauty lit up the entryway like a beacon marking arrival; his mother’s work.
The cold bit at his neck and nose, and it dawned on him to enter. He raised his fist to knock on the door, but he dropped it again. His break in at the construction shack had been less than perfect. Why not practice?
The pins clicked in record time, and he entered the house. The heat from the gas furnace enveloped him immediately. He took off his jacket and the skin on his arms tingled as the blood rose to the surface.
A professional sounding voice wafted toward him. “I’m sorry. Let me do what I can to help. What’s your name?” Melanie was talking to herself again.
He peaked into the kitchen. His sister was at her desk in the corner, moving her fingers rapidly on its touch sensitive surface. She sensed his arrival and turned to look at him. Her right eyebrow rose in unspoken greeting.
She gestured to mute her headset. “Mom’s still in bed.”
“Thanks.” He left her to her work. It took nearly all her time and didn’t pay much, but at least it brought in a steady income. His alone would have kept them fed but homeless.
He stowed his backpack in the farthest recesses of a closet and went to his room to rest. He laid back on his bed and closed his eyes, but he couldn’t sleep when he thought about the cremation facility; he shivered. He tossed and turned. Every time he glanced at the digital display on the wall, only a minute had gone by.
Jack was lying where he had tripped and fallen. Angry men closed in around his father. He seemed brave, or at least he didn’t falter as he spoke to them. Then they began to fight. The leader of the gang swung first, and his father knocked him backward in return.
A numb feeling commanded that he stay and try to help, but he moved mechanically. He clawed at the ground, trying to get away. When he was far enough away, he looked back and a cry tore his throat as he saw them beat his father to the ground. A man turned at the sound and ran toward him. He wanted to flee and hide, but his knees locked and he fell forward. He wanted to wake up, he wanted to know that this was all a dream and his father would be all right.
Jack sat up hard. He blinked and shook his head. His body was drenched in sweat and his head throbbed. He looked at his clock. It was 3 minutes till his alarm would go off.
He stumbled into the kitchen for a glass of water.
“Dreaming again?” His mother was standing at the stove, stirring a steaming pan of vegetables.
He nodded and stretched casually. He had told her he didn’t remember any of it, so even now he wouldn’t tell her everything about his dreams. He would spare her knowing.
“How was work?”
“It was good. It’s definitely not as hard as last week. My muscles have hardened a bit. No opportunities today.” He filled a tumbler from a filtered dispenser. “Chris picked me up early and took me on a little escapade.”
“Oh?” She looked quizzically at him, but the corner of her mouth tipped up in an amused half grin. “What’s my son been up to?”
“A little recon.” He winked.
“Well, you just stay out of trouble, you hear?”
“I trust you won’t be undermining our security for anything trivial,” she said as she stirred the pan.
“And you’d best come home earlier tomorrow. You’re gonna hurt yourself -burning your candle at both ends.”
“Thanks, but I’ll be all right, Mama. Besides, I have indoctrination classes I can sleep through.” He kissed her forehead. “Anything I can do to help?”
She tilted her head toward the cabinet. Jack caught the meaning and retrieved three plates. He set them out on the table in short order. The fourth side of the table, across from his mother’s seat, was empty and always would be, as far as he could imagine.
His sister came out of the kitchen, eating and doing some task on her watch. She looked up as she passed him and wordlessly smoothed his brown cowlick before going back to her previous occupation. She took her place on her mother’s right. Jack asked the blessing, and they began eating.
“Did you hear about the Williams family?” Melanie asked Jack gravely.
Jack looked at his mother. “No.”
“The meeting at their house was ratted out last night. Everyone else evacuated in time, but they tried to save face and play it cool when the police showed up.”
Jack stopped eating. “How did you find this out?”
“Lila dropped by this morning and told me about it. Her twin brother-Ernest -was the one who first told about the arrest. He went back after he helped his family get in the van and was just in time to see the Williams family being loaded up in the police vehicles.”
Jack poked at his food with his fork. “I guess this means we need to lay low for a couple weeks. It’s likely that the police got some leads and will be watching the other meeting locations.”
“I’m not sure there will be another meeting. The twins’ father is moving their family, and Lila says a lot of their friends are being uncommunicative.”
“I’ll call on the preacher when it’s all clear and see what his perspective is.”
“Do you know how to find him?” his mother asked.
“He’s told me in the past which streets he frequents, and the names he uses with the other homeless people. I can give it my best shot.”
“Oh, look at the time!”
Jack glanced at the digital clock that his mother had indicated and stood up.
“I’ve got to go. See you, Melanie. Take care of mom.”
His car was waiting for him at the curb. He slid in and the automatic door closed silently.
“Jackson Bloyd,” he said.
The car replied in a soothing voice, “Authorized. Hello, Jackson―where would you like to go?”
It read out the address for confirmation.
“Correct,” he affirmed. The car rolled into motion.
A gust of wind slapped him in the face when he stepped out of the car in front of the college. He zipped his jacket up to his chin. The car beeped to remind him of his backpack. He retrieved it, and the vehicle pulled away on another mission.
“Hey! Jack, wait up!”
Jack turned to see a skinny youth getting out of a car identical to the one he had just used.
“Hey, Cerberus, you finally listened to me and switched transportation services.”
“Well, it’s out of desperation. The last one froze my account, and I didn’t know it till I stepped outside to go to the Sunday game and the car didn’t show up. How’s your night job going?”
Jack fell in step beside him as they made their way to the heart of the campus. “It’s all right. Better than nothing, I just to need hurry up and finish school so I’m not stretched both ways.”
Cerberus grunted agreement.
“Did you get mail today?”
Jack nodded. “I just haven’t read the messages yet. Why?”
“I got notified today that I had been drafted. I know you registered for school about the same time I did and apparently the system is behind, so I thought maybe you had got the same letter.”
“Probably. I’ll just get in contact to notify them of my exempt status.”
“What about your little sister?” Cerberus asked.
“She’s working for an organization that’s paramilitary and has filed her exemption. That was one of the stipulations of her job search.”
“That’s cool. Who wants to go to war anyway? It’s a big waste of time that leaves you messed up,” Cerberus laughed.
Jack didn’t answer.
“Well, see you at lunch. Enjoy learning about innards,” Cerberus walked away.
Copyright © 2017 by Paul Willis
Stay tuned for a few more chapters!