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Welcome to Day 4 of the SIX DAYS OF ILLUSION, the debut event for my new book the illusion exotic. Its nice to be hammering out this blog closer to noon than midnight!
The Boy in the Hole is the fourth story in the illusion exotic.
"THE BOY IN THE HOLE" SYNOPSIS
After a long day, second grade teacher Margaret Nichols only wants to go home, run a warm bath, and open her wrists. Fate has other plans, however, in the form of a bloodstained Bible and The Boy in the Hole.
The Boy in the Hole was a project born from wanting to write about the cost of war. So much is made of the effects of war on veterans, but so little is discussed about the impact on those left behind. I wanted to write about the families struggling with loss.
Instead of using the current conflicts, I reached back to the Vietnam era. I think that era appealed to me more. It was a time when the old was being torn down and replaced by the new. It was a time of transition between eras.
How does a person cope when everyone and everything they love has been taken, and yet the world around keeps moving and expects them to keep moving, too? The Boy In The Hole tells such a story.
"THE BOY IN THE HOLE" SAMPLE
She couldn’t reconcile with the image of the ramrod straight soldier on her front porch with the stench of whiskey filtering through the screen door. He arrived on time, exactly as his letter stated he would. His black, shiny name tag announced to the world he was “Cole” though she had no idea what all the chevrons on his sleeve meant.
Beyond the soldier the stiff, brown centipede lawn suffered under the July sun. The oaks and pecans sagged in the withering haze, the cool April rains long forgotten. Summer brought drought and death to her doorstep.
“Mrs. Nichols?” he said with a kindred accent.
Why is this man, this drunkard, on my front porch and not my son?
“Yes. You must be William. Please, come in.”
They sat in the den, the soldier with restless hands and dress green uniform, Margaret in her black dress and white gloves. Neither spoke. Neither touched the sweet tea soaking the lace doilies with beads of cold condensation.
William’s glass sat next to her son’s official Army photo. Jonathan stood proud and in full color before the American flag with a lonely ribbon upon his chest. Jonathan didn’t smile, but Margret recognized the twinkle of pride in his beautiful eyes.
Ribbons and decorations of all sorts crowded this man’s chest, a coded testimony to faraway deeds and places she couldn’t fathom. His face said he’s wasn’t a day over twenty one, but this stranger’s eyes were ancient, hard, and gaunt.
He doesn’t act drunk.
Under no condition did Margaret permit alcohol in her house. They were good Baptist and Robert didn’t drink a day in his life. When Jonathan was sixteen, he came home one night with alcohol on his breath. She never asked Robert what he said to their son, but it never happened again.
The soldier stared at the floor. The clock ticked. Children’s screams and laughter wafted through the screen door from somewhere outside. In the corner, a box fan pushed the warm air from one end of the room to another. She knew the look on his face; she’d seen it many times before on the little boys she’d taught. He wanted to say something, but he didn’t have the courage.
The silence became stifling and her words fell over each other trying to get out of her mouth. “You must be hungry after such a long bus ride. I can make you a sandwich if you like.”
“No, ma’am. Thank you.”
I guess it’s up to me to pull it out of him, she thought.
“Jonathan wrote often about you. He said you were his best friend.”
That statement brought life to William’s face, but he still lacked the courage to lift his gaze from his lap.
“Yes’m. We’d been together since arriving in-country. We met at the processing center in Cam Rahn, that’s where the new meat gets their assignments before shipping into the bush. I’d been there a few hours, bored...talkin’ football. You know how it is.”
No, I don’t know ‘how it is.’
“Someone in the crowd mentioned Alabama, then I mentioned Auburn and then we set ‘bout arguing and cussin’. I said something about coming halfway across the world to get away from those cussed Alabama fans and here I was in ‘Nam staring at one. He made some impolite remarks about Shug Jordan and I made some colorful comments about Bear Bryant and then, well ma’am, it got ugly.”
A smile touched the corner of her mouth and then vanished.
William finally looked up at the Alabama football memorabilia scattered around the living room amongst family photos. A picture of Bear Bryant sat next to a picture of Jesus.
They exchanged tight, knowing smiles and he continued.
“The sergeant, a damn Yankee, a Notre Dame man if there’d ever been one...he thought it’d be great fun to assign us both to second platoon. Well, Miss Nichols, I figure two boys from Alabama, even if one’s a Tide fan and the other is an Auburn fan...maybe its just natural they’ll get along eventually.”
His eyes softened around the corners and, for that fleeting moment, he was far way with her son. This boy had a whole year with her son, a year God denied her.
Is this how Jonathan would return to me if he were still alive? He would no longer be my tender, sweet child, but a stone-faced witness to God-awful events like Walter Cronkite shows on the television every night.
If you liked what you read, you can click here to pre-order the illusion exotic for only .99 cents.
For those who have already pre-ordered, THANK YOU! The book is already creeping up the Amazon charts. Remember, after 22 April the price goes up, so buy early and buy often.
Please tell your friends by a like, share and tweet! It would be really appreciated.
Check back to tomorrow for debut of the illusion exotic, and Day 5 of SIX DAYS OF ILLUSION, where I bring you another story from the illusion exotic.
Oh yeah, one more thing. The next three people who send me a screen shot/email of their receipt for the pre-order/order of the illusion exotic to brian_l_braden (at) yahoo dot com will receive a gift digital copy of BLACK SEA GODS. Offer expires 18 April 16 at midnight CST.