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I wanted to take a moment to thank everyone that downloaded my novel, Whispers of the Wakinyan earlier this month. I am always satisfied at the thought that my stories are finding their ways to readers and are (hopefully) being enjoyed.

Like any author, I try to write stories that are different, compelling, and entertaining, while interlacing some creepy and bizarre tidbits of things that I’ve actually experienced to keep them authentic.

For those of you that know me personally, you know that many of the things that occur in Whispers of the Wakinyan  are things that were re-imagined from my own life. I’m not saying that I was tormented by a Native- American spirit monster by any means, but in reality, some the things that I remember from some of my early childhood years isn’t explained much easier.

I waited to post this for a couple weeks for a reason and many of you may have already guessed why that is.

If you have read and enjoyed Whispers of the Wakinyan, please leave me a review on Amazon.

The Amazon search algorithm is pretty sophisticated, but one thing that is sure to bring my work up in more searches is more interaction from readers and positive reviews!

getting amazon reviews

Your interest and readership means the world to me and I honestly hope that you enjoyed the story as much as I did when I was writing it. My new novel, The Artist and the Carpenter will be dropping soon and I am hoping to have some good momentum in order to launch it at a higher level in the Amazon search algorithms.

Also keep in mind that Joey Gordon is returning soon and his summer vacation this year is going to put him and his family face to face with something darker, stronger, and more resilient than even the Wakinyan!

THANK YOU AGAIN AND TAKE CARE– Jim

Here is the link for anyone who has yet to leave a review for Whispers of the Wakinyan :

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As I found myself typing some of the final chapters of my latest novel, I noticed something that I never had before. I was experiencing a unique type of what Steven Pressfield would classify as “resistance”.

Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t think that there is a writer out there who hasn’t experienced “resistance” in one way, shape, or form; the most common forms being procrastination, self-sabotage, and the dreaded (somewhat generic and all-encompassing) writer’s block. We all have been guilty of checking emails, or browsing social media when we could actually be throwing down some words on the page and occasionally, we may find ourselves wanting to write only to find that our creative wells are in need of filling.

The type of resistance that I found myself contending with was simply NOT WANTING TO FINISH THE BOOK! Now, I had heard of some writers having a bit of post-project depression when they are trying to decide what their next project is going to be, but this was something new for me altogether.

If, anything I have more projects than I do time, so when one is completed and I still have words to type to meet my daily goals (currently 1500-2000 words a day depending on work and family commitments) it’s on to the next story I go.

I think the best way to describe the feeling that I was having while nearing the end of the project was like coming to the end of a binge-worthy Netflix series, I wanted to finish it, but just didn’t want it to be over. The only reason that I could think of this project being any different from any of my past ones is that save for maybe one, (my novelette, Not Only the Dead) it is the most personal.

It was because of these feelings of personal attachment that toward the end of the novel, I found myself consulting my mental checklist almost as much as I was writing. This feeling was one that I was more familiar with, because regardless of the level of attachment I feel to a project I try to check all of the open story arcs in the earlier sections of the book/story/screenplay and make sure that they are either effectively resolved or that every bit of them are removed from the manuscript so as not to leave any loose ends.

Some people use whiteboards or computer programs for stuff like this, but I prefer to keep them all jumbled and quasi-organized in my head, so that I have an excuse to act brain-dead for the last two weeks of any project.

Is there a better way?

Sure, but I still manage to get the job done.

So with all that being said…

I have a confession, faithful readers   —

I still have one chapter and a prologue to write before I can wrap up The Artist and the Carpenter.

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See how this particularly annoying form of resistance works? I ended up writing a blog instead of wrapping the project! Either way I hope that you enjoyed my little “creative detour”.

 

Until next time, faithful readers!

Free ebook promotion!

Posted: April 7, 2018 in Uncategorized

Hey everyone,

Excuse the brevity of this post. I am out and about and am writing this on my cell phone, but I wanted to remind you all that Whispers of the Wakinyan is free on ebook this weekend.

I’ve also dsicounted the print copies for all of you old school book lovers like me.

Enjoy!

https://www.amazon.com/Jim-T.-Gammill/e/B06XDRCSYV

Hello faithful readers,

I have an exciting announcement for those of you that have been enjoying the free chapters of my novel, Whispers of the Wakinyan, this week.

For this weekend only I am going to be running a FREE E-BOOK PROMOTION on amazon!

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Instead of offering another chapter for free here on the site, I thought it might be better to share a little bit about what went into the book.

Most people have had experiences in their life that they can not quite explain. Some may have seen a light in the night sky that shot into the black void of space just as quickly as it appeared. Others, a feeling of unease in a certain location or even a primal aversion to rooms or places that just felt “wrong.”

Another sub-group has seen something more, whether these experiences are “real” or imagined is of no consequence, because in the experiencer’s mind there is no doubt. Those that have seen ghosts, aliens, angels, or even demons remain changed as they go through life, knowing that at any moment their perception of normalcy and the physical world can be turned on its head.

For the rest of the world that lives in quite skepticism about the presence of these things, I have one question:

Have you ever seen something from the corner of your eye that appears for only an instant?

Bolting and disappearing like a shadow into the unseen?

 

Whispers of the Wakinyan is about those shadows, the unseen, and the dark hand prints they leave on the souls of those that look to close.

 

Here is a link to the book, PROMOTION STARTS TOMORROW!

 

Hey everyone,

Let’s keep this party moving! Please enjoy chapter three of my novel, Whispers of the Wakinyan. Keep in mind that the full book is available at https://www.amazon.com/Jim-T.-Gammill/e/B06XDRCSYV and as always REVIEWS ARE APPRECIATED!

 

3

The late summer get together was a huge success. Joey, Les, and Frank had assembled prior to the delivery of the jump house so they could tell the delivery guys exactly where to put it. The two Latinos carrying the colorful folds of vinyl didn’t seem to care where they left it after they had received a small fan of neatly folded bills from Hank.

“Thanks guys. I really appreciate it, “Hank said as the two men squeezed through the narrow side gate of the yard.

The two dark men looked at Hank with wide eyes and empty expressions as he continued to try and spark up some polite banter, “Would you gentlemen like something to drink?”

The two men continued to smile and nod as they navigated the well kempt stone lined path on the side of the Gordon’s house. A look of realization lit Hank’s face, “Cervezas?”

The language of beer was one that all men understood. As the two workers rounded the corner, Joey tapped one of the men on the shoulder and pointed to the back corner of the yard. Les and Frank worked tirelessly with wide plastic rakes making sure that the grass was free of any obscured sharp objects.

“Bueno,” the lead man said. The two carried the folded jumper to the center of the area where Joey’s friends had been working and dropped it to the ground with a loud and leathery thud.

The three boys watched the workers leave through the side gate to get more equipment. As soon as the men had disappeared around the corner of the house, Les and Frank slapped each other a high five.

“I can’t believe that shit worked,” Frank said through a wide smile. He lifted his Mighty Ducks cap and tucked his long dirty blonde hair under the sweatband. He was the tallest of the three and he had the lean build of a high school athlete although he was just in middle school like the other boys.

Joey could no longer hear the scrape of Hank’s grill brush on the smoking wire rack, and when he looked over his shoulder toward the barbeque area he saw that his father had stepped inside. He breathed a sigh of relief, “Watch it, Frank. If my dad hears you cussing he’ll make you go home for sure.”

“Take it easy, man. I knew he was gone,” Frank fired back without missing a breath.

“Gentlemen, please don’t lose sight of what is really important here,” Les said in his best adult voice. He pointed a chubby finger up to the tall eucalyptus that loomed above. A fat braided rope hung from a thick horizontal branch and extended up the back yard slope. The boys had tucked the thing behind the rung of a wooden ladder that they had nailed directly into the trunk of the tree earlier.

Les’ freckled cheeks flexed as he smiled and the three friends laughed aloud.

Joey looked over his shoulder at the barbeque island once again and saw that Hank still hadn’t returned, “This is going to be pretty badass.”

Frank smirked and punched Joey in the arm, “damn straight.”

Addie sat on the white built-in bench beneath her bedroom window. She smiled when she saw her brother and his friends positioning the thick braided rope behind the tree at the top of the hill. She couldn’t wait to see which of the boys would attempt the daring swing first, she thought it might be Joey, but Frank had a way about always being the center of attention.

“Addie, honey aren’t you going to come downstairs? I talked to Sarah’s mom and they should be here any minute,” Theresa said from Addie’s pink-stenciled doorway.

The little girl brightened at the mention of her friend’s name, but she seemed to deflate as she jumped down from the bench and thudded across her lushly carpeted floor. Addie paused before she reached the doorway and looked back to the bench below the window. In the corner beneath the sill, she saw the glass eyes of her old favorite toy staring back at her.

“Do you think Sarah would think I was a baby if I brought Suzie down to play with us?” Addie asked in a voice that was even smaller than normal.

“You seem to be clinging to Suzie an awful lot since we’ve been home. Is everything okay, honey?”

“Yeah, she just makes me feel safe.”

Theresa looked at her daughter solemnly. The terror in the desert had left its mark on each member of the Gordon Family, but she knew that it must be even harder on the children. Worse yet, she had caught Addie sucking her thumb when she was looking out the window. The lightning fast movement of Addie’s arm when she had announced her presence in the room also suggested that Addie was aware of her regression. “I think that it would be great for you to bring Suzie down,” Theresa grabbed her daughter’s tiny hand and grimaced when she felt the cold wetness on Addie’s right thumb, “sometimes even adults need the comfort of an old friend like Suzie.”

Addie smiled, squeezed her mother’s hand, and snatched Suzie up in her arms. The doorbell chimed from below and Addie was off in a flash. Theresa moved to the side to allow her daughter past, and was instantly relieved when she saw the brightness and genuine excitement in Addie’s face. For the first time since they had returned from the trip she was a kid again, free of the weight and darkness that had befallen them.

Theresa trailed Addie down the stairs, but couldn’t keep up with Addie’s rapid descent. Addie threw the front door open and was delighted to see her friend Sarah and her mother, Cassidy, waiting for her.

“Hey, hun, are we in time for the party?” Cassidy asked with a fake southern accent and an animated look on her face.

Theresa approached a half-instant later, put an arm around Addie, and welcomed their newly arrived guests, “Just in time.”

Theresa was ecstatic that Cassidy could bring Sarah today and was hoping that her feeling of elation was not embarrassingly obvious to the other woman. She liked Cassidy. Not just because she was the mother of Addie’s best friend, but also because she felt like they had a good connection. Ever since college, Theresa Gordon was not the type to socialize and devoting her life to family did not offer her many opportunities to make new friends.

“Is the jumper here?” Sarah asked excitedly. “Come on!” Addie grabbed her friend’s hand and pushed past her mother. The two girls scampered toward the sliding glass door at the rear of the house.

Theresa guided Cassidy in, taking the woman’s sheer half-sleeve sweater from her and hanging it on the coat rack next to the door.

“You have anything in the kitchen for us big kids, Tessy?” Cassidy grinned.

“Wine?”

Cassidy laughed sweetly. “That’ll work.”

 

***

Theresa poured another glass of wine for herself and then reached over for Cassidy’s glass. She filled each almost to the brim and when she sat the bottle down on the counter it made the high and hollow sound that a mostly empty bottle makes upon contact with a countertop. When Theresa leaned back and placed her elbows on the countertop on the opposite side of the kitchen, the mood was darker. Heavier.

“Holy shit, Tessy,” Cassidy gasped. Her large blue eyes were open and alert; her respiration began to quicken, “he just died?”

Theresa’s eyes were wide also and she knew it wasn’t just from the wine. She found that telling the story of the Grand Canyon did feel good, but also got her emotions stirring. She looked outside the window to the back yard and could see the kids having a great time in the jump house at the rear of the yard. On the back patio just a dozen or so feet from the kitchen window, Hank stood in front of the grill, meticulously seasoning steak and chicken between swigs of his beer. She was surprised to notice the six or seven empties he had lined up neatly on the edge of the barbeque and sighed. In a way it made her feel better that she wasn’t the only one that needed to let some of this out. She was just glad to talk about what happened. She stole another glance at the line of empty bottles before answering, she would have to talk to Hank later to see how he was doing, he usually didn’t drink this much.

Theresa nodded, “the donkey too, that wasn’t the worst part though. I could hear them from around the corner. The canyon wall was in my way and all I could see was Hank trying to get back to the kids. When I saw that it wasn’t Joey or Addie that had gone over the side,” she interrupted herself with a long drink from her now half empty wine glass and then shook her head shamefully, “I was happy.”

Cassidy reached out and covered her friends hand with her own, “I can only imagine, hun,” Cassidy smiled a wide and warm smile lined with perfect teeth. She flipped her frosted hair to one side, walked around the counter, and pulled Theresa in for a hug.

“I was glad that he was dead,” Theresa said, tears rolling over her wine flushed cheeks. She had been keeping those words inside since that day in Arizona. Never in her life did she think that she would feel thankful that a person was dead, but now she was. Of course, if the disaster could have been averted completely that would have been preferable, but seeing the man’s body in place of that of her sweet Addie’s was a relief that she was ashamed of.  She glanced out the window and saw that the kids were still having fun and that Hank was still seasoning the food. She took a deep breath, turned to Cassidy, and began to sob.

***

            Joey, Frank, and Les sat in the back of the jump house watching the exchange between the women in the kitchen window. Addie and Sarah bounced and ran around the multi-colored inflatable, when the girls got too close to the back one of the boys would give them a shove back into the center. The whole dynamic resembled some type of back alley pit fight where the on-lookers would throw the contenders back into the fray if they got too close to the edge of the circle.

“What’s wrong with your mom, man?” Les asked.

Addie stopped jumping for a second waiting to hear her big brother’s response.

“Nothing. It was just a long trip I guess,” Joey lied.

Addie began jumping again, her light and pleasant face only temporarily darkened by the increasingly familiar shadow of worry.

“Are you sure man? I think she’s crying on that hot mom’s shoulder,” Frank said pointing at the kitchen window.

“That’s my mommy,” Sarah laughed, “her name is Cassidy.”

“Franky and Cassidy sitting in a tr—“Les started only to be cut off by a swift punch in the arm.

“What are you, five, bro?” Frank laughed.

Everyone laughed for a second. Joey was thankful for Sarah’s lighthearted interjection. He knew that he would tell the guys everything, but not now, and not in front of Addie. He thought that his little sister might be young enough to forget the whole thing if she was lucky. He wished that he could have that same luxury, but knew better. Just as Joey prepared himself to deliver another false response, his father’s voice interrupted the conversation.

“Time to eat, kids!” Hank called. He removed the meat from the grill, placed it on a large platter, and sat it on the side of the grill. He reached under the grill and turned off the propane tank before he went inside, “finish up and come on in”. Addie and Sarah grabbed each other’s hands and plopped down on the jumper, flat on their backs like a couple of kids about to make snow angels. The two girls slid across the vinyl and out of the slit in the netting.

Joey and his friends still lounged in the back of the jumper. They looked at each other with wide maniacal grins. This was the moment they had all been waiting for. Frank stood up and pulled up the netted mesh wall. Thread after nylon thread slid smoothly out of the tiny metal eyelets that lined the outer perimeter of the jumper. Frank was glad to see that Joey’s plan had worked, so glad in fact, that his frustration against Joey’s insistence that the threads were not to be cut or permanently damaged was starting to subside. The nylon threads would have been no match for his Swiss Army knife.

“It worked!” Les exclaimed.

Joey smiled, “Alright, we all have time to get one jump in before my parents come out yelling. By that time we’ll have the fact that we’re all still alive to argue that this is all perfectly safe.”

“Sounds good to me,” Frank yelled from half way up the hill. In the few seconds of conversation between Les and Joey, the tall boy had slid down from the jumper and covered some serious ground. Les jumped down to follow while Joey tucked the few remaining threads up onto the roof of the vinyl apparatus. Joey started up the hill, but took a moment to look back at the boys’ handy work. The entire back portion of the jumper that faced the slope was now wide open, and by the looks of it, could more than accommodate the extreme and heroic entrances of him and his friends.

“Hurry up Joey, before I go all Tarzan on you!” Frank laughed.

Just as Joey got to the top of the hill Frank sprinted a short ways and sprung off the side of the slope, clutching the rope tightly. Les and Joey looked on, mouths agape, Joey swore that he could hear the hiss of the rope through the still summer sky. Frank looked like a pirate or some swashbuckling avenger as his long hair whipped and whooshed from beneath his baseball cap.

“Incoming!” Frank bellowed as he let go of the rope and came rocketing into the waiting open mouth of the inflated landing zone. He landed with a loud leathery slap and the sound of his light boyish laughter reverberated up the slope. If Les and Joey had not been excited enough by the mere idea of the kickass rope descent, the idealistic and expert descent Frank had just made put them over the top.

The marching order had been determined as the boys had worked tirelessly throughout the afternoon, punishing their fingertips on the thin threads and the angular metal eyelets: Frank had already gone because it was his idea, Les was next up because he had untied most of the threads, and Joey was last because he had not let Frank chop the threads with his pocket knife. This last point was voted on unanimously by all three boys.

Les did not miss a beat, he was down the hill and received the rope on its second backswing which apexed at about half way down the slope.  He ran back to the top. Without speaking a word to Joey, Les took a couple of strides across the top of the slope and bounded off with the rope pulled tight to his chest. Frank hooted chuckles of approval from down below as Les swung down the hill in a wide arch. He had chosen to do a more rounded approach rather than the straight-in style that Frank had taken. Very cool.

Joey heard himself laughing, he knew he was having a great time, but he had not realized that he was laughing so hard that tears had started to slide down his cheeks. He also noticed something else, his mom and dad were looking out of the kitchen window. They were desperately scanning the side of the slope. It looked like his mom was trying to yell something, but no sound made it through the double glass panes of the window. Joey didn’t know for sure if they could see him since the setting sun was directly at his back, but he was sure that they could see the guys in the jumper and it was most likely the impact noise of one their jumps that originally drew them to the window.

He heard the sliding glass door skid along the tracks.

“Joey!” Theresa’s voice boomed over the hum of the jump house’s air pump. “Stop!”

Frank pretended not to hear or get caught up in Theresa’s fury. All he could think of was that all three of them had to complete the jump. He slid out the back of the jumper, grabbed the rope and sprinted up the hillside.

He passed the thick hairy braid to Joey and patted him on the back so hard that it may have crossed the line from pat to shove, “go man!”

Joey did. He clinched the rope tight to his chest opting for the more secure and level headed technique Les had employed than the extended arm wild man style that Frank had used. When Joey was half way down the slope, the wind pushing at his squinting face. He could still hear his mother yelling, but when he saw the terror that awaited him below he realized she wasn’t yelling “stop” anymore. The reality of her words sunk in just an instant before he made impact.

“Joey, it’s deflating!”

And it was.

Hey faithful readers,

Here is chapter 2 of Whispers of the Wakinyan, offered at the low-low price of free for your reading enjoyment. Stay tuned for a couple more chapters leading up to an epic amazon promotion on the full book.

 

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2

            The car ride back to California was awkward and mostly silent. Hank or Theresa would occasionally try to say something funny or start some light-hearted banter, but the solemnity in the car always made the efforts fall flat. This, in addition to the unsure glances the two shared every few minutes confirmed to Joey that his parents had no idea what to say to them about the unspeakable tragedy that they had all witnessed. The truth was, Hank and Theresa Gordon could barely keep the images from their own minds.

“Maybe we can throw a little party when we get home. You two can invite all of your friends, get a jump house, maybe even a clown,” Theresa smiled so wide that the kids could see all of her teeth when she turned to them in the back seat.

Joey didn’t like this smile, not one bit. He was sure it was because her mouth was smiling, but her eyes were still sad. There were no tears, sure, but the sadness was there all the same. A type of hollowness that he was beginning recognize in his sister’s eyes too. He looked over at Addie who wore a similar smile while making her favorite doll jump at the mention of a jump house. The doll’s oversized head and sassy hair bounced as Addie made little swoosh sounds every time she made her jump.

“A clown?” Joey asked, “Do kids even like clowns anymore? They’re creepy.”

Theresa took a deep breath and nodded her head. Her ponytail bounced almost like the jumping doll’s hair, “okay no clowns. You can’t tell me you don’t like jump houses though,” Theresa turned again to the back seat. The newly formed tears in her eyes made them look like they were made of fine glass, again making Joey think of one of his sister’s dolls.

“A jump house sounds great,” Joey said. He realized now that he was smiling too, “Can I invite Les and Frank?” He was really looking forward to seeing his friends, but he knew the smile he was wearing was not for them. It was for his mom. He wondered if she could notice that his eyes weren’t smiling like he could on her.

“You know, Joey, there is still enough summer left that you three could make a tree house in the back yard,” Hank chimed in, “maybe we can make a lumber run when we get back.”

Joey did brighten at this, “I’ll have to talk design with the guys first.”

Hank laughed and put a hand on Theresa’s thigh. When she turned back to look at them this time, Joey was happy to see that her smile was actually real.

“Well Addie, I guess that means we are going to have to think of something fun for us girls to do,” Theresa reached a hand back behind her seat and tickled Addie’s leg.

Addie laughed like she had never been tickled before. Joey hoped inside that this is what it was going to be like from now on; laughing, building forts, and making good memories to erase the bad ones.

Joey thought that everything seemed normal enough when the family arrived home. They even pulled through their favorite local drive-thru a few blocks away from the house to celebrate their homecoming. This trip had a little bit more car time than they all were used to, so the thought of getting home and unwrapping pre-made food that had almost certainly spent most of the day under a heat lamp was bittersweet. Joey had always thought that his parents made this stop as some kind of homecoming ritual, but looking at his mother’s face he decided it was more likely that she just did not want to think about cooking for at least another day or two. This thought would be confirmed if they had cold cereal for breakfast the next day.

Addie’s face seemed to brighten as she looked at familiar treetops and street signs from her perch atop her booster seat. Joey wondered how much longer his poor little sister would have to be strapped into the tattered monstrosity, he remembered how uncomfortable it was from when it was his years ago, and even then it had a plastic pokey thing on the back. He remembered how the plastic would occasionally prick him through his clothes and how his parents just thought he was trying to talk his way out of having to sit in it. With the new California car seat laws, poor Addie might have to be in the damned thing until her freshman year of high school.

“There’s my school,” Addie exclaimed as a steep pitched red roof trailed outside the windows of the mini-van.

“That wasn’t your school, Addie that was a Weinerschnitzel,” Joey said with a smirk, “they make wieners there.”

“No, Joey that was my school. I know it!”

Theresa turned her head around so fast that her pony-tail almost cracked like a whip. Joey knew what was coming even before his mother had opened her mouth. She was going to try to keep the grin off of her face as she scolded him. This made Joey hold back a grin of his own. He loved the Weinerschnitzel joke; it never got old.

“Joey! Stop teasing your sister.” She ordered, softened, and then turned to Addie, “and you’re right Addie that was your school. Joey is just jealous because he didn’t have the head start you do with Little Academy, huh Joey?” Theresa said this in such a way that answering was not an option.

“Yeah, Addie. I wish I could have gone to Little Academy,” Joey said.

Addie smiled a Cheshire grin and nodded. Her mind moving right back to getting home and planning their little party. She gathered her doll with the bouncy hair and a handful of other toys and games. Joey thought he should probably do the same, because when they pulled into the driveway he knew he wouldn’t want to spend another second inside of the van. Apparently neither did any of the rest of the family, because as soon as Hank set the parking break and pulled the key from the ignition, all four members of the Gordon family were out of their seats and on their way into the house.

Joey looked up at the house that they had all shared for as long as he could remember and experienced such a feeling of relief. The two story white stucco house with red tile sat in brilliant contrast against a cloudless blue sky. The Santa Ana winds were in full force causing the tall eucalyptus tree next to the house to bow and sway. People visiting from elsewhere may ask how Riverside, California’s dusty, allergy inducing gales could even be tolerable. The truth was you get used to them; that’s what Hank and Theresa Gordon had done years ago and Joey and Addie had never known any different.

“We can get the luggage later, let’s get inside, take a load off, and eat,” Hank said as he crossed the yard and opened the front door.

As the family crossed the threshold, all of them had nearly forgotten the terror that had happened in the Arizona desert. Getting home, sitting down, and eating their favorite takeout certainly had a way of pulling them away from the horror, at least for the moment. A dark spark of recollection still glowed in all of their hearts. It probably always would, but for now at least they could accept the reprieve and enjoy the light-heartedness, as short-lived as it may be.

The almost supernatural force of travel fatigue overcame them all as they consumed their greasy burgers and over-salted fries. Joey and Addie sucked happily at their thick, hand-spun milk shakes, which both children knew to be an added bit of comfort provided by their parents because of what had happened. Joey thought that he would be okay with that, at least for a little while. Inside, he and Addie thought that it helped, if only just a bit.

Hank yawned deeply, covering the half chewed food in his mouth with the back of his hand to rescue the rest of the Gordons from a real ‘see food special’.

“I want you two to get your stuff out of the van right after you finish your food,” Hank said shaking his last french fry at them from across the elevated pub style table, “after that I think we could all use some rest. Tomorrow we’ll go pick up Benjamin and then get that jumper we talked about ordered for this weekend. Is that going to be enough notice for your buddies, Joe?”

“Joey, Dad.”

Hank nodded and patted his son on the shoulder, “sure, pal.”

“Should be enough time. Would it be okay if they stayed the night?” Joey asked before a final gurgling slurp from his milkshake.

Theresa gave Hank a shrug and a subtle nod, “If it’s okay with their parents it’s fine with us,” Hank said.

“Awesome!” Joey jumped down from his pub chair and started for the door. He grabbed the van keys off the counter as he passed, “I’ll get your bags too, Addie, but you will have to take them to your room.”

“Thanks, Joey,” Addie replied through a chocolaty smile.

Theresa, Hank, and Addie all looked at Joey as he exited the kitchen and headed to the front door. He had changed somehow. Theresa thought that maybe some of her little boy’s innocence had been lost in the Grand Canyon, Hank thought that his boy was turning into a fine man, and Addie was just glad to have him as a big brother.

Joey closed the front door behind him abruptly. He was so used to his cat, Benjamin Diez, trying to make a break for it every time the door was left open. Even a crack and Ben Diez would be off. Joey couldn’t recall how many afternoons he had spent trying to wrangle the cat back into the house, he would always joke that he should have named him after Gary the snail from SpongeBob instead of the dynamic morphing superhero of his old favorite show, Ben 10.  Maybe then he would have a better chance at catching him.

The lush grass of the front yard left little drops of dew on Joey’s Converse as he ran out to the driveway. He knew that as soon as they had settled down and before the party this weekend that he would be out here mowing the yard at his father’s request. He didn’t mind though, if his dad mowed the yard the house would be filled with the echoes of cataclysmic sneezes for at least a couple of days. Joey had gotten many of his genetic traits from his father, but he was thankful that a resistance to seasonal allergies had apparently come from his mother’s side.

The van chirped when Joey hit one of the three buttons on the rounded black key fob. As Joey approached the vehicle, a large shadow loomed from overhead. At first Joey had written the anomaly off as some stray cloud being tossed and carried by the wind, but then he saw the shape of the thing. It was a bird with a giant wing span; the sprawling and terrible shadow engulfed the van as it circled overhead. Joey’s mind was eerily clear for an instant and then terrible images of circling scavengers and the canals of spilled blood in the dry cracks of Arizona earth clawed their way in.

He saw the image of the mounted hunter and his blood spear, but this time he saw another image: a gargantuan bird with talons like samurai swords coming down from the sky and piercing his little body. He could almost hear the thunderous whoosh of air beating against his semi-conscious mind as the bird carried him higher and higher into the air only to let him go. Then came the fall. A seemingly infinite and continuous freefall, he looked down on his neighborhood like one of those maps in school. Faster and faster he fell until his house loomed large below him, as ominous as a semi-truck on a collision course. Then the house passed over his right shoulder and he was still falling, he forced himself to look at the point where he was going to splat like a bug on the windshield. He expected to see concrete or dirt or grass, but it was worse than that. It was an image of his own body leaning against the van. He closed his eyes a split second before he collided with his displaced doppelganger and hoped that this would not be the last image he would see in this world.

Joey gasped as he opened his eyes. He was leaning against the van just as he had seen in the terrible vision. He was covered in sweat and even worse, he was pretty sure that he had pissed his pants. Without missing a beat, Joey opened the sliding side door of the van and got in. He opened his right hand and saw that he was still gripping the keys, in fact he was gripping them so damn tight that they had pressed little white creases into his palm. Joey looked at them for a second, slammed the door shut, and then pushed the button that activated the alarm. He saw the shadow pass over the van again and felt his heart stall in his chest; he was pretty sure if the bird thing wanted him that a set alarm would do little to dissuade it, but still, he tried to cling on to the illusion of safety.

“What is happening to me?” He pondered.

Joey steeled himself, looked out the window, and then up to the sky. It was a bird that was circling above, but not nearly of the scale that he had imagined. Joey squinted against the last moments of afternoon sunlight and zeroed in on an ordinary hawk. He was fairly certain it was a red tail if memory of his fourth grade field trip to the nature preserve served him, either way it was not some hulking air beast that could fling him into oblivion. The adrenaline rush was abating and Joey remembered the wetness in his jeans.

“It might have been a regular hawk, but you still peed your pants like a baby,” Joey said to himself with frustration.

He reached over the back seat, opened his bag, and pulled out another pair of pants.

Greetings faithful readers,

I am re-posting this as a refresher and will be following up with chapter two later this week. I hope that you all enjoy! I will be providing you all with at least 3 finished projects this year (two of which have kept me pretty busy lately!) and can’t wait to share them with you all.

Joey Gordon #2 is in the works and MAY be project #4 for 2018!

1

Joey Gordon would always remember the Grand Canyon. It was the first time he saw his parents act like they were truly in love; Henry Gordon, the tight-collared businessman instantly became Hank, the care-free athlete that his mother had fallen in love with. Likewise, Joey’s mother Theresa, whom he had just come to know by her pet name of Tessy, seemed different. Lighter. The weight of her suburban life and domestic obligations seemingly sucked into the open air of the vast Arizona desert.  Joey’s nose crinkled at the fruity pungent odor of his donkey, Paco, as he watched the serpentine twists of the Colorado River unwind beneath him. He glanced back at his sister, Addie, as she tried to re-lock her hands around her mount’s neck. She looked at Joey with sand streaked tears, seemingly etched into her young white cheeks.

“Joey! Joey, can you hear it?” Addie squealed.

The hard looking Mexican guiding Addie’s mule grimaced and pulled her mount back onto the narrow path. A pair of small chrome bells around the mule’s neck chimed as the man tugged at the animal’s tether. A couple of unnervingly large rocks dislodged themselves and tumbled down into the canyon. As if on the same wavelength, Joey and Addie broke eye contact and watched the rocks bounce and tumble down the steep side of the path and into the canyon.

“Did you hear it?” Addie asked again once the rocks had fallen completely out of sight.

“Hear what? All I heard was you crying,” Joey grimaced and patted his donkey’s side, “and maybe Paco farting.”

Addie smiled at this, but it didn’t last long. She craned her head as something seemed to whisper to her from the vastness of the canyon. She turned sharply away; her eyes darting rapidly down toward the river.

“There it is again! You have to hear it,” Addie pleaded.

Joey shook his head.

Heyoka! Heyoka,” She yelled.

The Mexican’s eyes widened. His head whipped to Addie, to make sure he had heard what he thought he had. His eyes fell on her tiny form just as her mule brayed and reeled back on its hind legs.

“Ay! Tranquilo! No te preocupes! Tranquilo!” The guide yelled. The large man wrapped his thick, brown fingers around the thin strap of leather tethered to the mule’s neck. He dug his feet into the soft dirt and pulled at the bucking animal with all of his might.

“Joey! Help,” Addie cried.

“Everything okay back there?” Hank yelled from a short distance up the trail.

The mule continued to buck and bray with such force that the Mexican lost his footing and began to slide into the canyon. Dust and rock began to pour over the edge of the trail like a tiny brown avalanche as the stout man clawed at the earth.

“Addie’s in trouble!”  Joey screamed. Up the trail, he could see his father trying to lower himself from his donkey against the protests of his own guide.

“It is not safe señor! There is no footing,” The vaquero pleaded.

“Daddy!” Addie’s eyes went wide as her guide’s weight pulled one of her mule’s front legs off the trail. The small girl unleashed an otherworldly scream as the bells on the animal’s collar jingled and jangled.

Joey looked up the trail again, desperate to see if his father had succeeded in dismounting his donkey. He had indeed, but now Hank had two strong hands on the shoulders of the animal trying to find the space for him to go under or around the thing. Joey could tell by his father’s face that the possibility of Hank moving around the animal was non-existent, “I can’t make it Joey. You have to get Addie!”

Joey looked at his sister as the rear leg of her mule went over the edge. Her screams seemed to drown out as the situation became eerily clear. His sister was going to die if he could not get to her.

“Hold on Addie!” Joey exclaimed.

Joey dismounted over the rear of his donkey as Hank tried desperately to find a way around his own lumbering animal. Joey took three wide strides and found himself staring into the eyes of the terrified mule as it teetered at a 45-degree angle over the edge of the canyon. The dangling Mexican reached for Joey’s ankle as he passed. Unconsciously, Joey kicked the man’s hand away with his foot and kept moving. He grabbed his sister’s slender leg just as the guide and the mule tottered over the edge completely and into the canyon.

Addie slipped from atop her mount, her left shoe caught in one of the leather stirrups and was ripped free from her foot. Joey looked on in amazement as it fell into the canyon with the animal and its guide. The falling man screamed and the animal brayed deafeningly, but to Joey and his sister, it seemed as if it had only lasted an instant. As the two children looked at the man and the mule fall into the depths of the canyon all sound seemed to disappear save for the ringing of the bells around the animal’s neck.

As the two neared the ground and the inevitable impact, Hank was upon them. He scooped Joey and Addie into his arms. His hold was strong and his heart was racing. Hank breathed heavily with his children held close as the echoes of screams and ringing bells were silenced with a thud.

***

The remainder of the descent into the canyon was long and mostly silent. After the three trail animals failed to catch up to Theresa, she had begun to grow uneasy. When her daughter’s screams echoed from around the canyon walls she had to be contained by her guide, a thin and wrinkled man named Fernando, for her own safety. Now that the family had regrouped, they had decided to make the remainder of the hike on foot.    “Are you kids alright?” Theresa asked not knowing what else to say.

Joey turned from his mother’s soft gaze. Addie clawed her tiny fingers into her father’s back and nodded quietly. Hank had been carrying her since the incident and the toll of the added weight was evident by his gradually slouching posture.

“Almost there,” Fernando yelled from up ahead.

Joey tried his best not to look in the direction of the accident, but couldn’t help noticing the growing cluster of birds over the area, their circles growing smaller and smaller as they closed in on the fresh offering to the desert earth. He wondered how all the birds in the area could be aware of the bodies already; he thought of shark week on the Discovery Channel and concluded that birds must have similar senses. A drop of blood in the water a mile away and the smell of death carried by dry desert wind seemed equally plausible to him.

The path began to grow wider and less steep as it opened into the riverbed at the bottom of the canyon. Hank put a hand on his wife’s shoulder and whispered something to her that the kids couldn’t hear. Theresa gave Hank a solemn look and guided Addie away as soon as the ground leveled.

Joey looked up at his father and was sad to notice that the lightheartedness and confidence of Hank had disappeared. The eyes that stared into his now belonged to the dry and familiar persona of Henry, the accountant. Joey thought that the ‘Hank’ persona would probably be more of a comfort now, but knew that his father’s cold and calculating personality had returned just in time. A man had died today and aside from his grandmother, who had died when he was younger than Addie, the man had been the first person he had ever met that died. At least that he had known of.

“You saved her, Joe,” Hank said between heavy breaths, “you could have been hurt son, killed even. Did you even think about that?”

Joey stared at his father pensively, then shook his head, “no. I mean, Addie would have fallen with them for sure. I didn’t even think of what might happen to me.”

Hank smiled down at Joey, “not very many people could have done what you did, Joe,” he placed a hand on his son’s back and got down on one knee to pull him into a bear hug.

Joey could feel fresh tears on his cheek as his father held him tight. He wasn’t sure if they were from his eyes, which had been burning since the accident, or his father’s, which he had noticed were squinted abnormally tight against the high desert sun. He could see his mother and sister over his father’s shoulder. They seemed to be having a similar talk, but Addie was crying softly into the dusty strap of their mother’s backpack. The long blond hair on her tiny child’s shoulders made the reality of her near-death experience tug at him. Now he was sure that at least some of the tears were his. He pulled away from his father and wiped his leaking eyes with the back of his hand.

“Would you do something for me, Dad?” Joey asked.

“Sure son. What is it?”

“Call me Joey. I don’t think I’m ready for Joe yet.”

“You got it,” Hank smiled, messed Joey’s hair, and guided him with a strong hand back toward the group.

The vaqueros looked at the white family they had led into the canyon with expressions of subdued terror. The guide for Joey’s mount had been a mostly silent man, seemingly solid of mind. The death of one of his partners had begun to sink in and the guide began to mumble almost incoherently, “Ay, Fernando. Heyoka. The little one said she heard Heyoka!”

Fernando looked at his young, strong browed companion. Wrinkles of concern clawed out of the corners of his eyes like deep creases in aged leather, “What are you saying?”

Heyoka. The trickster,” The guide was cut short by Fernando’s darting eyes. The white woman, Theresa, and the little girl were approaching.

Un memento, sera,” Fernando said with a bright and friendly twinkle in his eye. The twinkle disappeared just as quickly as he hunkered down to talk to his companion, “even if she did hear it, the trickster would be their problem. Not ours.”

“Excuse me,” Theresa said mousily as she approached the two men, “what are we going to do now?”

The men looked at her and then at Addie. Her tiny, tear-streaked face wore an expression that was entirely out of place. It shown with a wisdom and knowledge that few ever experienced. The young guide knew when he looked upon Addie that the bells she had heard had been more than the rusty set pulled taught around the pack animal’s neck. Based on Fernando’s grim scowl, he knew too.

A bird squealed from above. Not the normal high pitched exclamation, but a low rhythmic tap like the muffled laughter of a small hyena. Theresa looked up and shielded her eyes against the harsh desert sun. Flares of lights came in and out of view as one of the large scavenging birds cast a thousand shadows on the earth around them. Theresa stared at the animal, which sat suspended in the unseen fingers of the wind. Addie reached out and grabbed Fernando’s hanging and leathery hand. The man looked down at the small girl. She was no longer crying. She was somber now, almost supernaturally so. Joey’s little sister whispered the one word that could make the hard man unravel.

Heyoka.”

 

***

          Hank smiled down at Joey as they took step after step on the cracked earth of the Colorado River bank. The pair wordlessly navigated around the sparse green shrubs that shot out of the dry fissures like rigid serpents. The echo of odd, birdlike laughter resonated around them and offset the otherwise serene desert silence.

A commotion rose up from where the others were huddled and then the mock peacefulness that can only be observed in the wake of tragedy was shattered. And when Theresa started to scream, Hank knew that any sliver of peace and inner well-being that had survived within his psyche was about to be just as dead as the man on the bottom of the canyon.

“Put her down!” Theresa screeched, “Hank, he has Addie!”

Hank blinked his eyes in disbelief when he saw Fernando, the senior guide, scoop his daughter up in his sweaty arms and sprint into the desert. It happened so swiftly that Theresa could only scream and claw reflexively at the space that the two had occupied just seconds before. Hank realized that shock had found its way into him as well. For an instant, all that he could do was look upon the pair with disbelief. Primal instincts took hold of him and before he could notice the pulse of adrenaline in his chest, he was in pursuit.

Joey stared on with dumbfounded eyes. His father was running like he had never seen him before, dust exploded from the dry topsoil with each stride. The vaquero moved to block Hank gibbering in Spanish so quickly that no one could possibly understand what he was saying. The vaquero reached out with his thin, but muscular arms and latched onto the now seething Hank Gordon.

“Get the hell off of me!” Hank screamed.

“Señor, it is the only way!” the Vaquero replied, “Fernando knows how to help her.”

This last comment seemed to hit Hank like a slap in the face, “help Addie?” Rage twisted his stoic accountant-like features as Theresa approached the two from behind, “no one is going to be able to help you if you don’t let go of me!”

The vaquero was surprised at Hank’s transformation and the look on Theresa’s face when her husband threw the slender man to the ground would suggest that she was too. Hank ran after Fernando and Addie, who ran in a chaotic zig-zag pattern through the desert, cutting through shrubs and cacti.

Joey’s heart sank when he saw where the man was taking his little sister. The shadows of the carrion birds danced across his young face as the sun began to disappear over the top edge of the canyon. Joey couldn’t feel his legs, but before he knew it, he was pumping them as fast as he could.

He thought of how Addie had squeezed his neck after he had saved her, along with the sweet smell of her sweat and tears as they watched the man and the animal flail to the bottom of the canyon. When he thought of her scream he remembered the first time that he was allowed to hold her as an infant. Sometimes, when she was upset he was the only person that could calm her, sometimes with a goofy face and sometimes with just the love she felt from him. It was this same love that made him run even faster.

Theresa was just beginning to come out of her stupor and stumble after Hank and Fernando as Joey shot by her like a dust fueled rocket, “Joey!”

“We have to get Addie!” Joey huffed, “I know where he’s taking her.”          Fernando slowed when he approached the body of his dead friend. He put Addie down, but she did not run. Her tiny eyes were transfixed on the twisted biomass on the ground before her. She instinctively reached a hand up to Fernando and the old man took it.

Fernando approached with trepidation. Addie followed him without hesitation, although all reasonable parts of her being were gripped in pure terror. Fernando gasped when he saw the earth beneath the bodies. His wrinkled fingers synched around the puffy flesh of Addie’s hand, “Oh Great Spirit, whose voice I hear in the winds, and whose breath gives life to all the world. Hear me.”

Hank, Joey, and Theresa approached the bizarre scene rapidly and grew more and more uncertain as they came closer to Fernando and Addie. Hank felt his fists unclench and could feel the burn of the little crescent wounds that his fingernails had made in the soft flesh of his palms. He wondered how the rage that had overtaken him could abate so quickly. Was it because he had expected to find the man assaulting his daughter? Did he expect Addie to be crying or screaming? He didn’t know for sure, but what he did know was that he did not expect to find his daughter staring at this unnatural tableau of death and holding the hand of a wrinkled old stranger.

“Addie, come here, honey!” Hank commanded.

She let go of Fernando’s hand and the aged mass of gnarled bones and leathery skin thudded dully on the man’s faded denim pants. Hank’s daughter approached him with a cold blank expression and wordlessly clawed her way into his embrace. She wrapped her thin arms around his neck and sat her head on his heaving chest like she had so many times before to be tucked into bed or after having fallen asleep in the back of the family van during a long trip. This time was different somehow, he pulled Addie close to him and planted tiny kisses on her forehead. The air was quiet enough to allow Hank’s accountant mind to begin to rationalize the scene until Theresa began to scream.

***

The family stood stone-faced and transfixed on the broken bodies of the man and the pack mule. Fear, among other emotions, clawed at their unconscious while a more avert feeling of loss pulled at the Gordon family and the remaining tour guides. Theresa opened her mouth to talk, but nothing came out. Addie pushed and buried her head into her father’s chest so hard that Hank would later notice that the area was sore to the touch. Joey could not turn away from the terrible scene that had unfolded upon the cracked earth of the river’s shoulder even though he tried with all of his mental faculties. He knew he should turn away, or at least close his young eyes, but he couldn’t and neither could anyone else except for Addie.

It was not the death itself that unsettled them, but the gory gestalt that had spread across the dry earth. The guide’s head seemed to have popped, his right arm projected straight above his supine body. And the blood. Oh God, the blood. Joey looked at the crimson streamlets and noticed that they had formed a pattern: the guide had ended up mounted on the mule. Blood trimmed horns protruded from the crown of the man’s head. From the corpse’s broken right arm came a long spray of arterial blood, seemingly from the point where the hand meets the wrist.

Joey’s eyes focused on how the blood seemed to explode from the loosely balled fist. It looked like a spear. The man and the mule looked like some terrible demon riding toward an ancient battlefield.

Theresa covered her son’s eyes when she realized that he was taking in the same horrible scene that had rendered her speechless. Of course, the protective gesture came too late, the image had already etched itself into Joey’s mind. He would dream of demons for the rest of his life; the one he had seen depicted by death on the reddish brown Arizona soil, and the twisted horror that would follow his family back to California.

If you have not picked up a copy yet, check it out my kindle and print editions at: