Wednesday, November 2, 2011


The book is arriving soon. Really soon. Before you know it, I'll be asking you to fork over some of your hard earned cash to read it. 

Until then, here's some free stuff.


   The heat was sweltering. The summer had been particularly rough and dry, and altogether uncomfortable. This was an angry heat, tailor-made for the suffering of those forced to live through it. In the backyard of the Jarvis family, tucked safely beneath the shade of a thick-trunked Oak Tree, sat the house of the family dog, Mr. Button. Built when Button was a pup, the years were noticeably rough on the modest dwelling. The rain had warped its walls and rusted the nails holding them perilously in place. Once a crisp, almost blinding shade of white, the paint had been peeling away for quite some time, exposing the worn and damaged wood beneath in softball sized clumps of pure ugly. The roof was little more than ragged jumble of partially rotted materials, and the likelihood of the structure's collapse grew substantially with every passing day. So pathetic was this shell of a once proud doghouse that Mr. Button had taken to lying outside rather than in. Even he was capable of understanding it was a disaster waiting to happen. 

   Despite the heat and the ever-present fear of being buried beneath a heap of rotted wood, jagged sheet metal and copper colored nail chips, eight year old Tommy Jarvis had been sitting cross-legged inside the funky-smelling piece of construction for hours. His hair was soaked with perspiration, his clothes drenched so thoroughly they could literally be ringed out. The dirt beneath him transformed into a moist, muddy-wet stew of yellow-tinted sweat and soil that smelled as bad as it looked. His throat was dry and his lips cracked to the point that that act of running his tongue across their surface no longer accomplished anything at all. 

   Despite his aching bones, and the fact that his vision had begun to blur, young Tommy had no intentions of leaving. 

   He was determined to remain exactly where he was. He wanted to sit there, and stay there, and keep himself angry, because anger was what he was feeling, and because it was all he wanted to feel. Would it have been possible, Tommy might have sat in that exact spot forever, until his skin peeled away, caught the breeze and fluttered off, until his bones turned to dust and became indiscernible from the ground beneath. 

   That would teach them: his mom and his dad, that annoying jerk Donald Rondage. That would teach them all. 

   From just outside the doorway, on the wobbly roof of the modest doghouse, came a series of knocks that gently rattled the warped timber of the surrounding walls. Tommy didn’t look up. Instead, he pulled his knees close to his chest, folded his arms around his shins, and buried his head against the dusty-moist denim of his pants. 

   “Tommy? Come on out, bud.” 

   It was his father’s voice. His father was the last person he wanted to talk to. His father would try to calm him down, try to make him forget how angry he was. He wanted his father to go away. 

   “Come on Tommy. You can’t stay in there all day. I know you think you can, and I bet you want to, but you can’t.” 

   “Yes I can.” Tommy mumbled into his drawn legs defiantly. And he believed it. 

   He would have stayed there all day, and all of the next day and the day after that. He would have done anything to prove his father wrong. 

   Then they’d see. Then they’d all understand. 

Outside the doghouse that Mr. Button previously resided and was now home to his son, Chris Jarvis wiped a puddle of sweat from his forehead and glanced briefly into the sky. The heat was unbearable, and he was overdressed. He wanted a cool drink. He wanted to go inside, to sit just below the vent on the ceiling in the living room and let the air conditioning chill his troubles away. As hot as it was outside, he imagined it was doubly bad for his son. Though the doghouse was in the shade, it was small, and the metallic roof was undoubtedly absorbing the heat and locking it within, essentially transforming it into a stinky, dog-smelling hot-box. According to his wife, Tommy had been sulking inside Mr. Button’s humble abode for hours, ever since he got home from school. Chris needed to get his son out. His day at work had been extra-long and more frustrating than normal, but his son was his priority. Rest could come later. 

   “Well, if you won’t come out, I’m just going to have to come in.” 

   Dropping to his knees, Chris managed to wedge the top half of his body through the tiny doorway before realizing it was as far as he could go. The heat inside was absolutely blistering. Less than a second after jamming himself in the doorway, he began to feel lightheaded. A moment after that, breathing became noticeably more difficult. A few feet away with his back to the rear wall and his knees pulled tightly to his chest, Chris spotted his eldest son. Though the boy’s face was buried in the folds of his light blue jeans, Chris could tell Tommy had been crying. This information didn’t make things any simpler: quite the opposite, in fact. 

   “So you want to tell me what happened, bud?” Chris asked calmly while digging his elbows into the dirt and propping himself up. 

   Tommy chose to remain mum. 

   With the top of the doorway slicing into his back and resulting in considerable discomfort, Chris took a moment to reposition himself before continuing. “Come on. I can’t help you if you won’t let me.” 

   Again his son remained stoic, his stringy blond hair dripping with perspiration created by the immense heat. 

   “You know, this isn’t how we handle problems in our family, Tommy. We don’t run away from them. We don’t hide away and avoid them, and we don’t pout. Things don’t ever change unless you change them yourself. I know that kind of sucks, but that’s just the way it is.” Reaching forward, Chris gently placed his hand on his son’s sweaty head and massaged the clumps of damp hair. “Tell me what happened and we’ll take care of it together. That’s another thing we don’t do in this family; we don’t handle things alone. Your mom and I are here to help you whenever you need it. Whatever happened, we can fix it. I promise.” 

   Tommy could feel the palm of his father’s hand on his head, feel it mashing against his skull, feel his fingers moving reassuringly across the tender skin of his scalp. Despite his anger and in spite of his frustration, the boy could not deny the fact that the simple gesture almost instantly caused him to feel better. His father always had the ability to fix him when he was broken, and with very little effort. It came so naturally. As much as any young boy of eight possibly could, he trusted his father. His father meant everything to him. 

   Chris smiled subtly as his son lifted his head from between his knees and glanced through watery-red eyes in his direction. The fact that Tommy even bothered to look up meant that he was listening, and if he was listening, maybe, just maybe he was hearing. 

   Stretching himself forward, Chris put his hand on his son’s shoulder and patted gently. “You want to come inside and we’ll talk about it?” 

   Tommy forced himself not to respond. He was still a bit too mad, and he wanted to remain that way. The fact that his father was attempting to coax him into the exact opposite was only making him madder. He was sick of getting picked on at school, sick of Donald Rondage shoving him in the mud and calling him names, sick of being the wall against which the ball was bounced. He wanted to be the ball for once in his life. He wanted to do the bouncing. 

   Though Chris had no idea exactly what happened at school to put his son in such a state, he believed he had a general idea. Tommy had been having problems with a boy named Donald for some time. His wife had talked with his teacher about it, but his teacher could only be expected to do so much, and apparently what she’d done wasn’t nearly enough. As Tommy buried his head into his jeans once again, Chris Jarvis was momentarily bought back to his own youth, to the fourth grade and to a smarmy little jerk of a kid by the name of Ricky Emerson. He hated Ricky. He hated him so much. For years Ricky made a habit of pointing out little Christopher Jarvis’s every mistake. The kid seemed to relish doing it, and the reaction it garnered from the other children. After an unfortunate accident in the second grade, Ricky even gave Chris a nickname: Christopher Pisstopher. The name stuck and followed Chris all the way through middle school before finally fading away. 

   Chris sighed, staring blankly into the distance while remembering Ricky’s greasy little face and those pants with the holes in the knees he was always wearing. Surprisingly, despite the onslaught of awful memories, he smiled. Tommy was a lot like he’d been at that age. He thought too much. Sometimes he felt too much for his own good. 

   There are certainly positives to being blissfully unaware. 

   Wedging his hand beneath Tommy’s chin, Chris lifted the boy’s face so he could look him in the eye. 

   A puddle of sweat had formed on his forehead and was now leaking down the sides of his face like splatters of rainwater against a pain of glass. “You know none of this matters, right, kiddo?” 

   Tommy’s eyes remained downcast, his features slippery with perspiration. 

   “You’ve got a long life ahead, and the years are going to throw an awful lot at you. I guarantee the day will come when all of this…stuff…when none of it means a thing. Believe it or not, it’ll even seem a little silly.” 

   Though young Tommy Jarvis could clearly hear his father’s words, he didn’t believe a single one of them. He couldn’t and he wouldn’t, not yet, anyway. 

   Words are weird that way. They can mean entirely different things at various points in life. While some might claim their meanings are unchanging constants, those some would be wrong. Words adapt and evolve like all things in the universe, even eight-year old boys. 

    “Come on. It’s time to come inside.” Lovingly squeezing his son’s shoulder, Chris began pulling him in toward the door in which he was currently wedged. “Your mom will kill me if I walk into the house without you. I’m not asking you to be happy about it. You can hate me if you want. That’s okay. Right now I need you to crawl out of this toaster and come inside. You’ve been out here long enough. It’ll be dark soon. Come on. Do as your father says.” 

   Though Tommy’s mind wanted to fight for his position and remain exactly where he was, his body relented. It had just about had enough. It was drained and worn, and left to stew in its own juices. It wanted out. After crawling from the beaten shell of Mr. Button’s once proud residence, father and son walked slowly across the yard and into the house through the glass slider in the back. Chris rested his arm on his son’s shoulders the entire way. 

   Tommy was happy to have it there. 

   A part of him wished it could stay forever.


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