After a brief respite, I returned to my editing cave, and I have been dutifully working through my editors edits.
But I have decided to share the opening to the novel, 5th&Hope.
Over the years I have learned to follow my instinctual sense as to where to follow for a story. I don’t start writing until I know the ending – I think the ending to 5th&Hope might be a surprise.
The underlying themes delve into faith, abortion and race relations.
The book title comes from the exact spot my missionary grandparents met in downtown Los Angeles, California, in 1926. After they graduated from BIOLA, they drove a Model A Ford back across the original Route 66 in 1930. Part of the story is about retracing that journey … that’s them in the shared photo. Can you imagine driving across the United States in 1930? Where would you get gas, food or a place to sleep?
They have been gone a long time, and I miss them every day.
Feel free to share your comments – bad or good… they are equal in my eyes.
My mother was dead. The news had come that rapturous sun splashed morning during a smartphone call from my sister. The call instantly caused the back of my throat to burn like the devil had poked me with a scolding hot pitchfork. I shut my eyes as I flipped the ubiquitous device onto a repurposed cast iron table. I heard the touchscreen shatter, it sounded like ice cracking as if I walked alone as an innocent boy across a frozen pond. I knew what being alone meant. I looked down at it. It was now helpless like my childhood, a useless memory.
I wanted to cry. I thought it was what I was supposed to do. My grandfather would not have cried, but a red tailed hawk shrieked down at me. The predator bird would not allow it. It was judgmentally perched high above me in a mature live oak in its nest intertwined with dry vegetation, as its newborn chicks chirped for breakfast. As our routine, this was our favorite spot at the cliff’s edge to watch the daily human and animal goings-on. It offered beautiful Carmel Bay views with cooling ocean currents. And at that moment I felt quite cold. I gripped the warm coffee mug. The black coffee tasted bitter, as if it had been brewed from bourbon barrel char, but I liked it. My mother was dead. I nodded back at a God I didn’t believe existed. But it was a fact, she was gone. My sister was not the type to play horrible practical jokes. I leaned back against the table. I sucked in the salty air as I looked up at the predator bird’s dark eyes. I wondered if it sensed something permanent had happened.
For several minutes I watched along the pastoral white frothy beach line as a blonde haired boy menaced a golden retriever with a driftwood stick. I wondered what it would have been like to have been a parent. I had no idea what that meant, to love a human being you helped create, to love them beyond reason.
The thunderous sounds from the ocean reassured me like a mother’s hug. But my mother had never been the hugging type. And I had always wondered if she even wanted me. I was neither sad nor happy as I strolled back across the stone walkway and back inside our kitchen. I told my wife Rebecca the news with a simple sentence, as I blankly stared down at our yellow butcher block counter top. She hugged me as the house staff disappeared from my view.
With her encouragement, we journeyed back to Kentucky one last time to pay our respects. Respect was an odd sentiment for the funeral. I twisted the SUV’s steering wheel a bit to the right as I gazed up through the panoramic windshield. It was a resplendent fall afternoon. The oak, sycamore, and maple leaves were dying from thirst as they prepared for winter. But the tree family shared one last stunning color palette of yellows, reds and oranges that blanketed the dense Appalachian forest.
We drove past the tiny town of Jackson, beneath the natural canopy along the twisting two lane road toward my grandfather’s white chapel. The moist roads were rutted with the concave imprint from the heavy wheeled coal truck traffic that splattered coal dust across our rental. It sounded like the truck drivers had thrown wedding rice at us. But we drove toward the past, and not toward an abundant future. I glanced over at Rebecca.