Against my better judgement, I've decided to post the begining of the first Chapter of my book. Please read it, drop me a line, and let me know what you think.
There are no cold winters in the South, only a Southerners longing for summers past. When you live in the sun most of the year she gets in your blood, becomes your kin. When she leaves you, even for those fleeting months, you feel it somewhere deep naggin’ atcha, whisperin’ in your ear beggin’ you to find her and bring her home. Jason Calhoun hadn’t seen her so long, he’d forgot what it felt like when she rubbed against your skin on a clear day. In New York City, it was easy to forget how it was when he was young, the way she looked in the morning peeping through the blinds, begging him to join her. He’d get up do his chores as fast as possible and run out to the woods behind his house where she waited with open arms. Honestly, he didn’t want to remember her. Long ago he’d decided to participate in a form of voluntary amnesia. The Southern Sun had been his father’s lover first and after the death of his mother, Jason had very little to do with anything that related to his father.
Northerners have very different relationship with the sun. They see her between the towers of Babel that make up their sprawling cities, watch her as she moves to her sister, the moon, but never quite celebrate her presence. Jason sometimes would catch her watching him when he was thousands of feet off the ground in a man-made finger stretching to touch God’s face. He could feel her eyes burrowing into his soul calling out with a familiar, if distant voice. Occasionally, when the air conditioning in the building in which he worked became too much, he’d look for her, near the tinted large windows that faced the east, just to get a taste of her warmth. She’d always be there waiting for him at the window, calling his name, but the loud monotone drone of the office drown out her voice. Without looking back he’d return to the fluorescent, unnatural light of his cubical.
Knowing all of this, it was still a surprise, when Jason felt his face getting sunburned in late February at his father’s funeral. The drive home took years longer then he expected, but somehow he always knew this is where he would end up, back in Florida, picking up behind his daddy. Ezra Calhoun’s funeral took place at noon at the Blood of the Redeemer Baptist Church. Jason arrived at the graveyard at nine a.m. to kneel near the tombstone of his mother, and whisper his personal history of the past four years. His words, tears, and salvia where absorbed by the granite marker like a sponge. If the grounds keeper had picked it up and rung it out after Jason left, the young man’s whole life would have fallen on the ground in between the sharp blades of St. Augustine grass, secrets lying naked for the world to see. But Hank Bottlemen had worked at the cemetery for more years then Jason had lived, and knew the trouble with learning other folks business. Gracefully, he turned away when he saw Jason spilling his heart, he only wished the boy would hurry so he could continue preparing the grave for the burial today.
The church was filled with sights, sounds, and smells that defined Jason’s childhood in North East Florida. He wanted to quietly disappear, and make his way into the woods behind the church. He knew pass the pine trees, sticker-bushes, and wild grass he would find the boy of his youth sitting near the edge of Black’s Creek. Like a water moccasin leaving his skin on the riverbank, he could scrape, edge, and peel his way out of the husk that chained him to responsibility, and magically revert back into that child. In his youth he’d never swam in Black’s Creek, the water was too murky. At night he’d dream of monsters awaking, and claw their way out of the depths of the water looking for little boys to devour. The thought of a fish-eyed killer walking the streets of Live Oak was enough to keep him out of the water during the day, and in the safety of his own home at night. At twenty-five years of age Jason had few regrets, baptizing himself in the waters of Black’s Creek was one of them, the four-year estrangement from his father was not.
Jason couldn’t help but feel uncomfortable, when he looked down at his father in the casket. He knew the wool grey of the Confederate Uniform was itchy against the skin; it always seemed to find the sensitive areas of the body to rub up against. His father would have never worn a uniform like this in life. It was too nice, museum-like in it’s perfection. Where his left arm should have been, the uniform sleeve was folded back at his elbow-stump, and pinned by his armpit. Jason wondered in death if his father had received his long departed extremity when he reached his final destination. Ezra never spoke about losing a limb too much, maybe a joke or two about how his right arm was jealous of the attention his missing arm received, but never anything serious. Today his phantom limb would be the jealous one, the gold embroidery on his right sleeve belonged on the cuff of an English king instead of the tattered edges of a Confederate soldier’s sleeve. If Ezra was alive, he’d unstitch every gold thread off the jacket and wear it plain. There was no room for pageantry on the battlefield, uniforms weren’t perfect, you wore what you had handy, as there might not be an official uniform available. So it was for the troops during the Civil War, so it would be for Ezra Calhoun one hundred and forty years later.
In the future, the mental picture of his father, charter member of the Fraternal Order of the Sacred Sons of the South, lying in this casket decked out like a peacock, was a soothing base, when the heartburn of his father’s abandonment began to rise up from his stomach and find it’s way into his throat. Today though, just looking at Ezra made Jason hot. It was the heat born from the friction of his father’s dead skin and the inescapable humidity of the church. In a last effort of mercy, Jason wanted to lift his father from the casket, take off the clothing that symbolized the gulf between them, and carry his body into the St. John’s River. He could picture himself, walking with his naked, dead, father draped over his arms, until the water reached up to his ankles, then his waist, then slowly up to his outstretched arms, enveloping his father’s lifeless husk.
Desperately he wanted to free his father in that river, to simply let go, and pray the body would make it out to the ocean. But even in his daydream Jason knew there was something inescapable in their relationship. He looked down at his father lying in the casket for the last time and envisioned Ezra in his arms under the waters of the St. John. The tide, playing the age-old game of tug-o-war with the undercurrent beneath it, threatening to take them both. But he couldn’t let him go. Jason could see himself holding on, till the waves swallowed father and son, sacrificing himself with a prayer that somehow in heaven they’d work it all out. But in the right-now, there was no working it out for Ezra Calhoun, only goodbyes, tears, and pallbearers dressed in Confederate regalia.