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Saturday, May 8, 2021

Review: The Locust Years by Kelly Hanwright


 I purchased a copy of The Locust Years to review. Opinions are my own.


The Locust Years

by Kelly Hanwright


https://kellyhanwright.com/



The Locust Years - link to buy



Kelly on Facebook 



Kelly on Instagram


MY REVIEW:

Kelly says that in her childhood she "created the thickest possible fog in order to protect me from an unlivable reality." This auto-biographical book, and it really is a book more than a collection of poems. It is a life story, told through well written poetry and organized for the reader to walk alongside Kelly. As someone who has worked with mental health patients, this work brought me to both tears and smiles as I saw the life of a household through the eyes of a child. The lines of poetry evoke deep emotion and do what great poetry always can - place you in the moment portrayed in a small turn of phrase.

"I didn't think shadows made noise until Mama and Daddy started shouting in the dark."

"Mama, I want to go to school. I am not asking for the world, just a little part for myself."

"The art of your grand design was stealing while pretending to give, all the time making us feel the weight of your great sacrifice."

The poems are not isolated instances, but walk the reader through a journey of Kelly's childhood and her journey in adulthood to cope and recover. There are scenes where school counselors are teaching her hygiene and she hopes they will ask whether her mother prevents her from cleaning. There are moments where her father sneaks out to attend church, even though her mother claims he is an agent of Satan. What arises is a tapestry where the household becomes a living thing in the mind of the reader. The poetry allows the reader to join Kelly in a way straight prose might not allow.

I read the book in two sittings. Each page led me to the next. I expected to find the book a request for pitty or a declaration of shallow restoration. What I found was so much greater. I won't ruin it for you. Instead, I will point to the opening Bible quote, "And I will restore unto you the years that the locust devoured. (Joel 2:25).


Stay Tuned!  We have an interview 

with Kelly coming up in June!!




Friday, May 7, 2021

Story-A-Day: The Ear




Here is my story for 5/5/21. The prompt was to write about something you lost. It recalled for me one of my favorite stories by Nikolai Gogol. He wrote The Nose somewhere near the year 1835 about an official in St. Petersberg whose nose leaves his face to join society by itself. You can buy it HERE

I hope I did him justice in my satire. This is one I may polish and put somewhere else someday. Mine is titled: 


THE EAR by Jerry Harwood

 

Joe Smith did not realize until he got out of the shower that his ear was gone. He looked around the room, only to find no trace of his left ear. Nor was there blood or any sign of wrongdoing. It was as if his ear had just decided it had enough of living in a cramped, third floor apartment and went for a walk.

 

On a lark, Joe lifted the blinds and looked at the street below. To his surprise, his ear was there, buying a bagel from the corner market. Joe reached on the counter for his wallet and saw it was missing. The ear had apparently asconded with his ID and money as well.

 

Joe dressed quickly and placed a toboggan on his head to avoid inquiry. Then he descended the steps. The elevator had been broken since he moved in and the government appointed landlord showed little signs of help. Exiting the building, he approached the corner market and spke with the cashier.

 

“Sir, did you see an – um – ear come thorugh here?”

 

“Why, yes indeed, I did. A few minutes ago. Bought a bagel and two packs of Marlboro Reds. Asked for a beer, but I’m not allowed to sell it before noon on a Sunday, you know. Peculiar fellow. Was humming a tune. Didn’t recognize it at first. Then realized I had seen it on a commercial. One of them politician commercials where they show their family and such.”

 

“Thank you, sir. That is very helpful as that is actually the last thing my ear and I watched yesterday before going to bed.”

 

“Yes sir, big rally today in town center. I saw it on the news as well.”

 

Joe thanked the cashier but declined to buyt anything since he had no money. It was a brisk day and threatening to rain. Joe considered going back to his apartment and collect a heavier jacket and gloves. However, he decided his light rainjacket would have to do. He made his way toward the city center.

 

As he topped the hill to the city, a group of angry protesters waved handwritten posters. As he passed they yelled at him, calling him names such as “killer” and “murderer.” Joe was confused, because he could not remember killing anyone. One gentleman in the crowd was an ear. Excited Joe approached him. “Sir, I do believe you are my ear,” he said.

 

“Your ear? Why never! That is racist to think I would ever be your ear? Indeed!”

Joe saw the ear’s tone was a darker shade and apologized. “I am deeply sorry my good sir. Honest mistake, I promise. However, have you seen any other ears walk by this day?”

 

“Why yes, a group of ears just descended the hill not twenty minutes ago. Headed to the rally, I suppose. Listen to that wicked man spout his venom.”

 

Joe started to ask what man and what he said that was so horrible, but the ear seemed to have no further interest in discussing the issue. Instead he again began chanting that Joe was a murderer. Without any reason to consider, Joe decided his best bet was to continue downward.

 

At the bottom of the hill a huge crowd had gathered. Joe bumped into another rman.

 

“Excuse me, sir. I didn’t hear you coming up beside me,” Joe said.

 

“Oh, perhaps it is my fault, young sir,” said the elderly man. “You see, most peculiar. This morning I awoke and my ear was gone. Had a terrible time getting around. Followed it here.”

 

“I as well,” Joe stated, glad to have someone in the same predicament.

 

As he looked around he noticed all the men and women standing on the outskirts of the event were either missing an ear or were, like Joe, wearing some form of head covering over their ears. Joe pressed through the crowd to the center. As he did, he realized he was surrounded less and less by people and more and more by ears.

 

Most were smoking ciggarrettes and many were raising hip flasks in joy. Joe finally found his own ear.

 

“Where did you go?”

 

“Oh, hello Joe. Why here, of course. To hear the man speak.”

 

“Yes, yes. I know here, but why? Why would you leave me?”

 

“You just seemed so sound asleep and I hated to wake you. And the melody of his voice was so very soothing. Listen, every word is just pure nectar.”

 

Joe lifted the tobagan so his remaining ear could better hear. The man on the podium screamed and ranted. He talked of taxes. They were too high for those in front of him and too low for others. There were too many guns and cops but not enough of either. There were people who were hungry and could not get help  but also people who needed to get jobs and take care of their own problems. There needed to be more spending but also less. There needed to be a return to the good old days but also an announcement that those days were racist and evil. He declared that the environment must be saved and that it was already beyond saving. He declared that all lived in the best country of the world even though it was a disgrace and horrible place to be.

 

Joe’s head began to hurt, but his ear simply waved and cheered. It was as if it was hypnotized to the ranting, guttural screaming of the podium man. Joe tried to persuade his ear with logic, “You know that ears are to be on one’s head, not out running about?”

 

“Why no, I now have my own voting card. Human oppression has ended. We now are the voting block that decides the future!”

 

“Well then, could we go elsewhere? Perhaps even hear another speaker? One who has different views, like about ears being independent?”

 

“Oh no! I have turned my ear deaf to all but this man. He alone is the truth and all others are false media. I must stay true!”

 

Finally, Joe tried to pull his ear away physically. Two other ears came and declared he was being an oppressive dictator. One screamed, “His ear, his choice! Stop telling him what to do!”

 

Joe sighed, “But he is MY ear!”

 

His ear did not respond. Rather it moved up closer to the front where it could cheer for the next occupant of the podium.

 

Sad, Joe made his way back home, aware that the world would be a bit quieter for him. He met up with the elderly man who had a similar experience. Together they altered course to a small cafĂ© where the drank coffee and watched as ears of others made their way to the man on the podium and his victorious message of triumph. 





  I did Story-A-Day for the first time last year during the pandemic. It was a great distraction while working from home and trying not to go stir crazy. It also, as it turns out, was an excellent tool for learning to write better. I learned how to make writing a part of my everyday life. I learned the value of friends and writing groups (particularly Jim and Calvin who participated with me from my local writing group). And I learned the value of prompts. I came up with a handful of decent stories, but I walked away with great material for my WIP's side characters, plot twists, and insights how to craft a better yarn.

I would encourage you to join us if you are a writer or an aspiring writer. I hope this year to post a story or two on my blog for your perusal. Throw a comment on it if you like where it s going. Remember, the challenge is to crank out a first draft in one day, so sometimes they need a good bit of spit and polish!

Thursday, May 6, 2021

Story-A-Day in May

 



Here is my story for 5/3/21. The prompt was to write a story where the opening scene sets up a situation and then flash forward to a later time. The prompt was very specific but I took some liberties once I caught the idea of a nocturnal otter being terrified of the daylight instead of the nighttime. Need to come back and revisit. Could make a fun children's book. It needs some editing for sure (it was written in one sitting and all of these are drafts) as well as correct the page count for children books. However, there is I think a good story here. Someone want to help with illustrations? Email me with "Oscar" in the title at jerryharwoodbooks. My email is of the google variety for its ending.


Oscar the Otter is Afraid of the Light

By Jerry Harwood

Page one:



Jimmy, a seven year old child comes into the aquarium, he sees the fish and butterflies. He points and loves the otters. However, it is dark in the room where the otters are.

 

Page two:

“Dad, why don’t they turn the light on so we can see the otters better?”

“Otters sleep all day and come out to play at night,” his dad says.

 

Page Three:

Original

Child buys a stuffed otter at the gift shop

 

Page Four:

Jimmy goes to bed. Holding Oscar.

“Goodnight, Jimmy” his dad says.

“Dad, say good night to Oscar too.”

“Goodnight Oscar,” his dad says before turning on the light.

 

Page Five:

The room is dark. Jimmy says, “Dad, I’m scared!”

 

Page six:

Dad reenters the room and turns on the night light. “There you go, a little light makes the whole room safe.”

 

Page Seven -Nine

Jimmy sleeps, but Oscar comes alive.

“Oscar loves the night. He plays with Jimmy’s toys, explores under the bed, and even checks the closet for fun things to do! Oscar loves the dark.”

Page Ten:

Original Source

Jimmy wakes up and Oscar is a stuffed animal again.

“After a long night, Oscar is all wore out.”

 

Page Eleven:

Daylight. Sun is shining through the window casting a shadow on the floor. We can see outside the window a boy playing in the yard. Oscar is under the sheet on the bed poking his eyes out.

“During the day, Jimmy plays outside. But Oscar hides in the room”

 

Page Twelve – Fourteen:

A page of the mom cleaning the bed and Oscar being uncovered, one of a TV turned on while Jimmy watches it, and then one of a shadow moving on the wall looking scary“

“Daytime is scary for Oscar.Moms uncover beds, Loud noises come from boxes, and  shadows move all about.”

 

Page Fifteen:

Original source

“Oscar the Otter is scared of the Daytime.”

Picture of Oscar frightened in room – two page spread?

 

Page Sixteen:

“What’s wrong, Oscar?” Jimmy asks hugging his stuffed animal.

“Are you scared?”

 

Page Seventeen:

“I’m afraid of the dark, but you like the dark. You are afraid of the day.”

 

Page Eighteen:

“My dad says, ‘A little light makes the whole room safe.’  I wonder if a little dark, also makes the whole room safe for Oscars?”

 

Page Nineteen: Oscar and Jimmy build a fort out of cardboard and blankets – These items in earlier drawings?

 

Page twenty: Picture of Oscar during the day, happy in his dark fort.

 

 

Monday, May 3, 2021

Review: Red Blood by Kaitlyn Legaspi



 



Red Blood follows Neela, a young girl who lives with her brother, Jacen. Jacen is bound (no magic) and Neela is unbound (magic). The characters offer more and more depth as you read, but what I really enjoyed about the book was the world building. I liked the characters, especially Amil and Brochan, but the reason I would pick up book two would be to see how the world build continues. The card holders is both unique and engaging as well as makes use of familiar elements of other works.  The idea of a world where some have power and some do not and there are really strong prejudices was reminiscent of Marvel stories such as the X-Men. Her journey has overtones of Hunger Games or even the first book in the Maze Runner series. I'd mention Highlander here as well, though that reference probably dates me a bit. But Red Blood is so much more than just a rehash of other yarns. It is something cool and very unique.

Neela, as it turns out, ends the book with a twist that leaves you with both answers and questions. Overall, it was a fun journey. At one point she offers the line: "I'm just the paragon of the phrase, 'don't judge a book by its cover,' aren't I?"

Well, the cover is really great but the read is even better. I would highly recommend.

I was given a copy of Red Blood to review. The thoughts and opinions are my own.


“Do you people think we’re just animals to be thrown into a ring to fight for your entertainment?

 

If you do, you’re twisted, because not only is this a tournament to decide your next leader, but the people forced into this ring are human. We unbound are all human and we feel emotions that bound people feel, too."


What follows is my interview with Kaitlyn:


Today, we have an opportunity to talk to Kaitlyn Legaspi.  Kaitlyn has written the book, Red Blood.  

 

First, let me thank you for joining me.  I appreciate you giving me your links and I want to share those with our readers.

 

Author name: Kaitlyn Legaspi


Blog link: Kibble Corner Writings – Welcome to indie author Kaitlyn B. Legaspi's official site! (home.blog)


Link for all buy links: https://books2read.com/u/3n8G5P


Instagram: YA Indie Author (@kaitlyn_b_legaspi) • Instagram photos and videos


Title of book we’re promoting: Red Blood

 

That is great.  Can you tell us a little about yourself and what led you to start writing?

 

I am the self-published author of the Dark Irregular Trilogy, a young adult fantasy trilogy I wrote in middle school, and the first book to my new Card Holders series, Red Blood. 


I saw that in your initial bio. Publishing a trilogy in Middle School is incredible! I teach middle school and can attest that doing so really puts you head and shoulders above your peers. Where are you in school now?


Currently, I am a third-year business undergraduate student at the University of Florida. In addition to writing, I love singing, studying in the nearby boba tea shop, and reading whatever has caught my interest. 

 

I am the self-published author of the Dark Irregular Trilogy, a young adult fantasy trilogy I wrote in middle school.


What led you to write and want to become a writer?


I didn’t get into writing until I was in middle school. Up until this point, I’d always been an avid reader, and I was happy just reading the stories I’d pick off the shelves of my school’s library. When I was in middle school, I started getting into watching shows on Nickelodeon, and I started visiting its website. There, I found the Message Boards, and one of the categories on them was writing. I scrolled through all the fanfiction and original stories people my age were posting on the boards, and they inspired me to start writing my own. I started off writing fanfiction. In fact, Power Rangers: Samurai was my first. My first original story, Dark Irregular, came soon after, and I’ve been writing ever since. 

 

Where do you get your inspiration, information, and ideas for books?

I actually get a lot of my inspiration and ideas for my books from the shows I watch. I’m a huge fan of anime, and a good number of them are fantastic examples of shows that have excellent, in-depth world-building. A few minor aspects of some of these worlds have made it into my books—usually after the fact—and I owe a lot of my creativity to them in terms of the worlds I build. As for the stories themselves, no doubt they’re influenced by the anime I watch, the books I’ve read, and the experiences I’ve personally gone through in life. They’re really an amalgamation of everything.

 

What are your hobbies and do they ever play into your writing?

Outside of reading and writing, I absolutely love music. I used to play the clarinet and the piano, and I’ve always loved singing. In fact, I’m part of one of the a cappella groups of my university, and whenever I’m able, I try to schedule the Women’s Chorale class to my schedule. This has definitely made its way into my books. My main character of the Dark Irregular Trilogy, Kanna, has a power that based on singing, and both main characters of my completed YA romance WIPs are musically inclined. One is good at singing and playing the guitar while the other is a talented pianist. 

 

What is the best advice you have ever been given as a writer?

The absolute best advice I’ve ever been given as a writer is that not everyone is going to like my writing. Going into self-publishing, already knew this, but I didn’t truly understand it until I got my first one-star review on the first book of my trilogy, Dark Irregular. 


It really hit me that there are people who didn’t like my stories, and I fell into this sad little hole for a bit before pulling myself out of it. This piece of advice prepared me for the worst and taught me to take the constructive criticism of the bad reviews—if there was any—and use the feedback to improve my writing in the future.

 

Do you write full-time or around another job? How do you schedule your time to write?


As much as I would love to write full-time, I don’t. I’m a full-time college student participating in extra-curricular activities, and once in a while I do have an internship, so I’ve got a very full schedule outside of all the things I do to write and promote my books. Truthfully, I don’t schedule my time to write. I write when I can because of my busy schedule, and that’s okay with me because outside of my published trilogy and first book of my new series, I have seven completed first-drafts that I’ll be able to work on in the future. I’m in no rush to complete another manuscript anytime soon, but that doesn’t mean I’m not going to try when I do have the free time.  

 

Please tell us about your current release.


My current release is titled Red Blood, and it’s the first book of my new young adult urban fantasy series called Card Holders. It features a tournament, a complex magic system utilizing the standard deck of playing cards, and a character-driven story told in the first-person perspective of seventeen-year-old Neela Blydes. 

 

Can you read / provide us with a small exert? 


This excerpt is from Chapter 8 of Red Blood!

“Do you think that just because I’m unbound I can’t experience human feelings?  That I have this proud, superior mentality? I’m sure you’d all say no... Well, you know what? I’d say you're all liars!”

I bit my bottom lip, urging it to stop trembling. “You came to see me beat the life out of a child, and you didn’t get what you wanted. Otherwise, you wouldn’t have been booing at my ‘compassionate’ performance.

“Do you people think we’re just animals to be thrown into a ring to fight for your entertainment? If you do, you’re twisted, because not only is this a tournament to decide your next leader, but the people forced into this ring are human. We unbound are all human and we feel emotions that bound people feel, too. We have morals, and we have virtues. I should know. Hurting an innocent kid like Ken is one of the very last things I’d want to do.

“So, don’t you dare say this ‘fight’ was too compassionate! I am human first and unbound second, not the other way around. Don’t you dare forget that!”

 

Thanks for sharing. I remember that part of the story well. What exciting story are you working on next?

Currently, I am working on two projects. The first is a new young adult romance WIP called Faded Words, and I’m happy to say I’m almost 30,000 words into the first draft! The second is that the second book of Card Holders is in its first editing stage, and I’m aiming to release it spring 2022! 

 


 

One more time, where can someone go to purchase your book?


Blog link: Kibble Corner Writings – Welcome to indie author Kaitlyn B. Legaspi's official site! (home.blog)


Link for all buy links: https://books2read.com/u/3n8G5P


Instagram: YA Indie Author (@kaitlyn_b_legaspi) • Instagram photos and videos

 


Saturday, May 1, 2021

STORY-A-DAY begins today!

 I did Story-A-Day for the first time last year during the pandemic. It was a great distraction while working from home and trying not to go stir crazy. It also, as it turns out, was an excellent tool for learning to write better. I learned how to make writing a part of my everyday life. I learned the value of friends and writing groups (particularly Jim and Calvin who participated with me from my local writing group). And I learned the value of prompts. I came up with a handful of decent stories, but I walked away with great material for my WIP's side characters, plot twists, and insights how to craft a better yarn.

I would encourage you to join us if you are a writer or an aspiring writer. I hope this year to post a story or two on my blog for your perusal. Throw a comment on it if you like where it s going. Remember, the challenge is to crank out a first draft in one day, so sometimes they need a good bit of spit and polish!



Here is one I did last year that the host, Julie, was kind enough to highlight and post on her website. It is your typical retelling of "Ring around the rosies" from the perspective of a vampire bummed that the plague has reduced his meal ticket.


My Story on Story-A-Day




AND HERE IS DAY ONE: The Prompt was a story on a bridge. Took it to be one of metaphor. This is not the story of anyone in particular, but a composite of several I met over my time as a clinic and program director in a recovery clinic. I still to this day admire the strength of those who chose to be well.


THE BRIDGE:

Cole took a step onto the swinging bridge. Behind him, his girl said, “You’ll be back. Your pansy ass won’t make it halfway.”

 

Cole looked out over the ravine. He could see the bridge sway back and forth as the wind blew. He felt the cool morning air made more chilling by the two hundred foot drop below the bridge to the rocks below. A bitter chill punctuated the point as the breeze hit his bare arms.

 

“Already getting the chills, I see?” came Nance’s snide comment. “hey, when you come back, will you bring me a energy drink?”

 

Cole took a step onto the first slats not attached to the firm cliff foundation. The bridge’s slats were too close to the anchor points to move, but Cole saw the further he walked out, the more any shift in his body weight would trigger the bridge into motion. He took another step. Then another. The other side of the bridge seemed to be just a twenty yards away, a distance he used to run every play as a wide receiver in high school. Those were the days. Before he hurt his back, before he lost his job, before the needle.

 

He looked down at his arm and saw the track marks. Then he looked over his shoulder at Nance. She was laughing with Jeremiah and Chase around the camp fire. It looked warm and inviting. Cole shook his head and then turned back to the bridge resolutely. His heart sunk.

 

The other side was now at least thirty yards away. He turned again to look at Nance, then back to the bridge in front of him. The bridge had expanded another ten yards. He knew the difference between a twenty yard dash and running a half field. Further, he could see the center of the bridge was now swaying wildly back and forth.

 

Health was on the other side. Cole took another step and then another. He wanted to look back, but knew doing so would somehow make this journey harder and longer. His muscles grew tired at fifteen yards. He felt his feet become anchors. Each step to an energy he had not had in years.

 

Cole took another step, and then looked up. There was ice forming on the bridge in the middle. He looked at his bare palms in anticipation of having to hold the iced over metal cables serving as a handrail. Then he noticed a fog rising up from the depths in a few moments it would surround him, cutting off his ability to see anything but the steps in front of him.

The fog rose and his vision narrowed. Another chill ran through him, and he wish he had brought a coat onto the bridge. He had one by the fire. Cole thought he should go back, get the coat, and maybe warm himself by the fire a moment. No one would begrudge him that. It was too cold to be out here. 

He shuddered and then after a pause gave an even deeper shudder. The first cold came from the wind, but the second swept over him from the cold of being so alone. Cole had never felt so alone. It wasn't just that his friends had remained on the other side with the fire, and with the warmth. It was his greatest friend, the one he could trust and all times. The one that never disappointed him was back there near that fire. 

Cole smacked his cheek. He had to stop thinking about it. That drug wasn’t his friend. It was what got him here. It was also the one that had destroyed his life that had caused him to steal from his parents had caused him to leave and not go back to work, that had caused him all the heartache. 

The fog around him grew dense. It became harder to breath and the condensation seemed to weigh every step. Looking forward he could see nothing. He chanced a glance backwards. The fire was there, glowing brightly through the fog, welcoming him. Calling him.

He saw a silhouette form. And there, as the mist separated stood his mom. She gently took his chin and redirec his gaze into the fog, toward the other cliff. She stepped beside him and motioned for him to follow.

The next few steps were easy, even though the bridge swayed back and forth. He held the icy cables as feeling left  his fingers and thumbs. 

The bridge swayed and bounced. He heard one of his friends shout and the bridge gave another lurch upward. He was yelling at Cole, taunting him. 

Cole gripped the cable handrail with resolve. There was no feeling in the gesture. In fact, Cole had no reckoning how his hands would hold him if he fell, since he could no longer feel any sensation but the cold.

His mom motioned again. He took steps, boldly forward.

“Mom,” he said, Mom, “ I love you. I'm so so sorry. “


“I know, sweetie. I know. I've come here to help you get across. Come with me.”
She turned and started to walk a little faster than Cole was comfortable with, but he wanted to keep up. She was all he had in this awful place between despair and hope.  Cole focused on each slat as he stepped in it. The slats, too, had ice on them, and he felt his feet sliding out from under him. 

He looked down and saw darkness. Scared he leaned upward and back, causing the bridge to careen left and then right violently. 

His mom reached back to grab him as he stumbled. Cole seized her hand. He must have squeezed too hard for she squealed and then pulled the hand to her chest. 

Stumbling, Cole fell toward her and grabbed her sweater hanging loose around her shoulders.

Falling to his knees, he pulled on the sweater. It fell free from her shoulders and joined Cole in his collapse.  Cole’s hand went off the slat into the abyss below. His numb fingers let go the sweater. 


It fell and tumbled off the bridge. Cole watched the red fabric catch a breeze, threaten to rise back to his hand, and then descend into oblivion. Another item taken from her never to return.

 

He stood and began to apologize.  She took her sleeve and wiped away a tear. “This is exactly what I expected. You haven’t changed. You've just come to steal again. Your dad and I just can’t do that anymore. We can’t live and watch you…” Her words trailed off as she rubbed her eye again with her sleeve. “We love you, son. But we can no longer support your habit.” 

 

And with that she turned. Cole watched her take three or four steps, gliding aimlessly over the icy walkway as if there was no danger there at all. Her figure returned to a silhouette before disappearing completely in the fog. She was gone. 

 

Cole lowered himself onto the bridge. He sat there on his knees for minutes, hours, maybe days. The bridge swayed back and forth as if cradling him. It would let him stay and die there. It did not care about him. Nor did anyone else. And, perhaps he thought, they were right to disregard him, to ignore him, to cast him aside.

 

Cole realized he was hungry. And he realized he no longer wanted to go to the other side, he turned and looked back. He saw Nance by the fire lighting up a smoke. Indeed, somehow the cliff was a mere fifteen feet away. He thought he had gone further, but perhaps that was just an illusion. 

 

Cole rose and walked back. He placed his foot on the last slat before the walkway sitting on the cliff’s surface. His hands tingled with sensation as they returned to normal in anticipation of the fire, of friends, and of his best friend. He saw a kit with a needle just for him on a nearby stump.

 

Nance shouted, “Did you get me that energy drink. No? What the hell… It's okay, sweetie. I still love you. We'll go get some and cigarettes later. Right now, looks like you need a hit. Come on over, Chase just found some.”

 

He looked over his shoulder and realized he could no longer even see the other side of the bridge. What had been a visible objective was now gone. He watched Chase thumped his arm, trying to pull up a vein. As he did, Chase smiled and said, “Yeah man, I got some for you too.”

 

Cole looked straight into the fire and then around the camp. Things blurred and shadow images appeared. He did so again, this time staring into the flames.

 

“Cole, you okay?” Nance asked.

 

He moved his eyes off the fire and again the shadows moved around the camp. His parents were among them, calling worried about him. His sister was crying. His employer was yelling at him to get off the job site. A landlord was placing their broken furniture on the curb. His buddy was knocking on the car Cole and Nance lived in for several weeks. The cop running them off from the underpass. The floor covered in fast food wrappers of the extended stay hotel with no hot water. He saw the ultrasound of Nance's baby, his child Cole would never meet in this life. 

He saw his yearbook in the shadows, opened to the page with his picture on it. But where he had once stood a proud fit young man with a scholarship to college to play was a picture of this strained, pockmarked face. Gaunt, scarcely a person anymore. Blisters and sores, thin and unkept. 

 

“I don't want this,” he said, and slapped the cable. The bridge behind him quivered. “I don't want this.”

 

“Hey sweetie,” Nance yelled. “Chill out. Like, we will go to town tomorrow and, you know, get some work or something. But tonight-”

 

“No,” Cole said. And for the first time in a long time the word had power. He turned. The bridge was still scary. It slithered into the darkness, growing wobblier and more unstable with every few feet. But on the other side was life.

 

Cole did not step onto the bridge. He ran. He remembered the scene in Forest Gump where little Forrest ran and ran. Cole imagined that needle was the truck full of bullies chasing him. He ran. He ran from them and he ran because running felt alive.

 

As he ran, He did not look at anything other than the wood in front of him. He would step over two slats and land on the third. Then he stretched his legs to land on every fourth slat. He was starting to get a stride. 

 

The fog started depart. There was a warmth from the sunshine. He can almost see the other side. He  had never felt so good as an adult running. It was like he was that teenager again. He thought he could run like this forever.

 

Cole’s foot hit down and went too far. The slat snapped as his leg went down through the bridge’s floor. Cole’s upper body slammed into the slats ahead of him and another shot of pain coursed through his leg along with a loud “snap.” 

 

He cried out for help. No one came. He lifted his gaze off the bridge’s floor. He squinted his eyes. At the end of the bridge he saw his mom and dad. His sister were there too. He cried out again reaching a hand toward her.

 

His sister started to walk out on the bridge. Cole saw his mom place a hand on her shoulder and shake her head. Cole wanted to shout and scream, “Why won’t you let her help me! Don’t you love me? Your own son!”

 

Then he curled his hands into fists as the pain throbbed across his leg and up his spine again.  His mom was right. He needed to do this. People had been telling him what to do his whole life. But if he wanted to be on that cliffside with his family, he needed to do it because it was his decision.

 

The bridge swayed and behind him he heard Nance’s voice.  “Don't worry Cole. The guys are coming to get you. We'll get you all fixed up. We got something for that pain. You gotta be hurting baby. And damn, it's cold as hell out here. What the hell you doing here, anyway. When we got some good stuff over by the fire.”

 

Cole looked back at Nance. She was holding a beer in her hand and extended it to him to take. In her other hand were a couple of pills. Cole spun and looked again at his parents. Somehow, the bridge extended. They who were a mere fifteen yards away were now thirty.  It seemed every time he turned back the journey forward got longer and harder. If he wanted to be where tehre was hope and life he could not keep turning back. Cole resolved he would not turn back again. 

 

The warmth he felt when he ran was gone. It was replaced by a chilling breeze. A few snowflakes landed on Cole’s face. Then a bitter winter chill. He pulled out his leg and saw the blood trickling down. He tried to put weight on it but couldn't so he use the bridge’s cable handrail for support. He took a step and then another and another. 

 

“Cole, where are you going? Don’t you love me? You said I was your forever?”

 

Cole stopped but did not turn. “Come with me.”

 

“You know your parents hate me. Besides, we got all the fun stuff back here.”

 

Cole shivered. The shiver turned into a howl as he accidently placed his weight on the bad leg. The cold at least help dull the pain. His hands were numb and the only way he knew they were on the cable handrails, was from the prints of blood he was leaving with each painful step. “Goodby Nance.”

Cole felt tears form in his eyes as Nance pleaded and then yelled behind him. But he moved forward. It was not fast, but it was a determined, methodical march.  At the end his family pulled him into their arms and the warmth again returned, this time to never leave.

 

POSTLUDE:

 Two years later. There are days when Cole still comes out and looks at the bridge He knows he shouldn't. He knows it's better to stay away from that part of his life. He's never touched the bridge’s now rusting cables or put a foot on the rotting slats. He knows if he does, he'll run across it and catch back up with his friends around that fire. 

 

No, Cole never gets close enough to tempt a trip. But he does go. And he looks at the memory that used to be his life. A life may be a poor term. It was shadows mostly. He can't recall the day to day. Only the journey for the next hit. The next high. Chasing the dragon as they call it. “They,” he thinks. It used to be “we.” Cole smiles thankful he is no longer included.

His son asks him to sing another round of Daddy Shark from the backseat. His wife smiles as she holds his free hand. She is patient on these detours, confident that his life is now and always will be with her.  He returns her smile, giving her assurance that he will never again cross that bridge.