This story took me a little over a year to finally get done. It is called Kindred. It is about 55,000 words. I have it out to three first readers at this time. I hope to open it up to a group of second readers in the coming weeks. I am yet to work on a query letter for it. I also hope to start on my third work of fiction drama shortly. I have included a small chapter below by way of an excerpt.
Ray sat on the steps of the porch watching Blain Travers assist a neighbor whose home had suffered significant damage from the quake. He didn’t particularly care for the cup of heavily sugared chamomile tea his grandfather had forced into his hands, but he couldn’t deny the calming effect it had on his nerves. He thought about how the bitterness in the strong brew seemed to overtake the sweetness in it as the warm liquid gently swirled up into his palette with each sip.
It reminded him of the events from two days ago, bitter-sweet in so many ways: his impulsive decision to run, against all odds, into the cave, the upbeat mood of the group as it followed his lead, the shock of realizing one of them was left behind, the relief at finding Nabeel alive and well, the frantic pace that he and Nabeel worked at as they moved the fallen rocks in the hopes of finding Cory. All of it played back in his head. He thought back to when Tom Leary and a fireman named Bert, emerged from the side path and joined them in their efforts. He recalled how all four of them worked incessantly until 11 PM at which point Nabeel’s knees buckled and he fell down on to his fours, breaking out into sobs. The next three hours went by quietly as Ray and Nabeel sat back against the cold walls of the cave watching Tom and Bert move like machines. At 2:15 PM, the rescue workers from the other side broke through. With each passing minute, their hopes of finding Cory dwindled, until every rock had been moved off to the side and the floor at the site of the collapse had become even with the rest of the surrounding floor. It was as if Cory had just disappeared.
Ray blinked as the next wave of recollection came upon him, of when he and Nabeel exited the mouth of the cave with Tom ahead of them. It was almost 5 AM. He remembered seeing a couple massive cranes, and rescue workers lining the narrow path that led to the mouth of the cave. He remembered how the floodlights almost blinded him, how pockets of onlookers gathered high above began a cheer that Tom quickly arrested with a slow and deliberate shake of his head preventing its growth into a roar. He remembered how his grandfather took a step forward and covered him up completely in an affectionate bear hug. He remembered how, from the corner of his eye, he, along with everybody else gathered there in the dawn, watched as Nabeel slowly made his way to his friends standing beside the sitting figure of Joshua with an arm around a fast-asleep Drew Fedson. He remembered how Drew opened his eyes with the slightest squeeze from Joshua, and looked up at Nabeel, and how Nabeel looked down at Drew, his face an image of resignation. He remembered how the tears welled up in Drew’s eyes instantly as he sprang up and into the arms of the man who had been closest to his father, as if the act alone would somehow bring him closer to his own father.
And the tears streamed from Ray’s own eyes and down his cheeks into the bitter sweet cup of tea he held close to his lips. So lost was he in thought and so hazy was his vision on account of the tears, that Ray did not see the towering figure of his grandfather standing above him. Blaine Travers placed a comforting hand on Ray’s shoulders that brought him out of his dreamy state. Ray lowered the cup and wiped his face on his sleeve as Blaine sat next to him with a deep sigh, placing his walking cane on the steps next to him.
The older man cleared his throat and spoke as he nodded his head. “It isn’t easy, Ray. But you’ll get over it.”
Ray said nothing. He was glad for his grandfather. He wished his parents were with him too, but took strength in knowing that they would be with him soon. He had talked with them the night before for an entire hour. All roadways into and out of Memphis had been closed the previous night due to the quake. Flight cancellations abounded as almost every airport in a three-hundred mile radius of Evansville had to be shut down. Ray’s father had called at noon to say that the roadways had opened up again, and that they were planning to drive up later that night. Ray took solace in the fact that his parents were both safe and had survived the quake without injury or major losses of any kind. Families in Evansville and surrounding areas weren’t that lucky, with one fatality reported in Evansville. Hospitals were teeming with outpatient cases. And Cory Fedson was still considered missing as his body had not yet been recovered.
The cuckoo clock in the living room behind them chimed 6 PM when they saw two cars pull into their street and park in front of their house. Ray recognized the Grand Prix as Nabeel’s, and assumed the Infiniti next to it to be a rental.
“Now that is a fancy set of wheels.” Blaine said in his raspy voice as he stood up with his cane and began to make his way towards the sidewalk.
Ray watched silently as Nabeel Hassan and Jason Banner exited the Grand Prix. Joshua Sanders got out of the other car. Each shook Blaine’s hand with a courteous nod. They spoke with him for some time before Joshua and Jason broke off from the conversation and made their way towards Ray. Nabeel continued chatting with Blaine and sent a wan smile in Ray’s direction which Ray reciprocated with a nod.
The two others shook Ray’s hand and thanked him profusely, patting him on his back, recalling his handling of the crisis. Ray asked where Drew was and learned that his mother had
rushed down that morning and was with him at this time. They were going to stay in Still Mountain a few more days.
Jason Banner frowned and shook his head . “I still can’t believe Cory’s just disappeared.”
Everyone nodded but they couldn’t think of anything else to say. The rescue workers had dug into all the other parts of cave three where rock had fallen during the shock waves, and they had gone an extra six inches deep, twelve in some places. But there had been no trace of Cory.
Nabeel left Blaine and walked towards the others assembled near the porch. The skinny man made straight for Ray and threw his arms around him in a tight embrace, then motioned with his fingers to the others to join him in a group hug. They obliged closing in on the forms of Ray Pritchard and Nabeel Hassan.
Blaine watched them huddle as the afternoon sun cast a long shadow of the group. He could hear the soft murmur of Nabeel’s voice. The group hug extended into its fourth minute, and when
it finally broke, all four men wiped their faces with their hands. No other words were said. The men got into their respective cars, waved quickly and disappeared down the hill.
Blaine and Ray finished a meal of macaroni and cheese after which Ray helped his grandfather clean up. Blaine made no secret of his fatigue and ambled into his room to call it an early night. Ray, on the other hand, decided he wanted to watch some television. He stretched himself out on the couch and clicked the tuner to an old Seinfeld rerun. Watching a George Costanza meltdown was one of Ray’s favorite television experiences. But this night, even George’s antics couldn’t bring a smile to his face. It only took fifteen minutes for him to fall asleep on the couch. He hadn’t the slightest inkling as to what awaited him.