Free in Kindle Store January 4th and 5th
Here is a short excerpt from my recently released, 5 star reviewed novel “Deep Water.”
She parked her car and strolled across the parking lot, fully aware that Tim Mays was watching her through the peephole in room 15. Julie knocked on the door and waited.The sheriff cracked the door and she quickly slipped inside.
Without a word Mays held Julie’s face with both hands and kissed her hard on the mouth. She responded eagerly. There was nothing Julie loved more than being manhandled by her clients.
“I got something for you,” the sheriff said as he sat on the bed watching Julie undress.
She joined Mays on the bed a moment later and watched while he retrieved a clear plastic bag containing white powder from under the bed.
“That looks like sugar, Tim,” Julie remarked. “Do you want me to bake you a cake?”
The sheriff laughed.
It’s cocaine, baby,” Mays replied. “I stole it from the evidence room.”
“That is so thoughtful,” Julie replied sincerely. “I have something for you, too.”
For more “Deep Water” click the link.
I just received a 5 star review for my recently released novel, “Deep Water.” You can read it here:
I’m a story teller and I use strong words. No, not profanities; there’s not much of that in my writing, mainly because I find it uninteresting. I’m also not talking about writing a novel or short story that is overflowing with adjectives or, even worse, adverbs. I’m talking about writing in an active voice without qualifiers. I want the scenes I write to be strong and muscular, not passive and weak. How else will I evoke a reaction from the reader?
My characters drive my stories and they have to be strong enough to push the narrative forward. I want the reader to experience a range of emotions along the way: anger, outrage, sadness, joy, laughter, exhilaration, fear. I want their pulse to race; I want to knock them off their feet, figuratively speaking; I want my writing to find a place on their bookshelves.
I’m currently working on my next novel. The story will be good and the words will be strong. I promise.
“Deep Water” is now available in print and e-book formats!
For Immediate Release
The Poignant Story of One Man’s Struggle to Reclaim His Life
Ronald Paxton’s second novel, “Deep Water,” introduces the reader to Salem Matthews IV, a retired United States Army Special Forces combat veteran who has returned to his home in Shenandoah County, Virginia after a twenty year absence. The engrossing narrative details the challenges and struggles of the main character as he fights to overcome the debilitating effects of post traumatic stress disorder and adapt to the world around him.
The author has drawn heavily from his experiences growing up in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia to create a powerful and inspirational story for his readers.
“Deep Water” combines suspense and mystery with a compelling narrative that explores themes of isolation, fear, friendship, and love. It all leads to an unexpected ending that is sure to evoke a strong emotional reaction from the reader.
. “Deep Water” can be purchased in both print (ISBN 9781629890340) and e-book (ISBN 9781629890357) formats.
In addition to his novels Mr. Paxton has published over forty short stories and received nominations for the 2011 Pushcart Prize and the 2012 Best of the Net award. His third novel, “Haven,” will be published in 2014 by World Castle Publishing. Please visit or contact the author at www.facebook.com/ronald.paxton.3, www.ronaldpaxton.wordpress.com, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
# # #
Five year old Tanner Evans, Jr. looked up from the dreadful spinach that occupied his supper plate and asked, “Do you know what a hero is, dad? That’s what we’re studying in school.”
Tanner Evans smiled at his son and said, “Sure, Tanner. A hero is someone you look up to and admire because of the kind of person they are and the things they do.”
“Miss Austin says you don’t have to be famous or even grown-up to be a hero,” young Tanner said.
“She’s right,” Erin Evans replied. “You don’t have to be an adult or famous to have character and perform good deeds.”
Tanner was silent as he finished his supper, ignoring the spinach with some difficulty.
“May I be excused, mom?” he asked.
“Yes, if you’re finished,” Erin Evans answered, eying the abandoned vegetable on her son’s plate.
“I wonder if I’ll ever be a hero, “Tanner said, rising from the table.
“You’ll be my hero if you sit back down and eat that spinach,” his father replied.
Young Tanner looked at his father and then down at his plate as he considered the awful task before him. At last he sat down, picked up his fork, drew a deep breath, and gulped down the foul dish that his mother had prepared.
“That’s my boy,” Tanner Evans said.
The late afternoon sun burnished the Blue Ridge Mountains in flaming indigo as Tanner Evans closed the barn door and walked up the hill to his car. He had been working at Wild Pony Ranch for almost a year and he loved it. Having grown up on a small farm, Tanner knew his way around a horse barn. He was thankful beyond words that John “Cowboy” Howard had offered him a job after the paper mill shut down.
Tanner had worked at the mill for twelve years when it closed. He had hated the work but the money was good. Tanner’s unemployment benefits had run out and they were behind on the mortgage when John Howard threw him a lifeline. The pay was less than what he had earned at the paper mill but Tanner knew he would never consider going back in the unlikely event that the mill reopened.
As he did every afternoon Tanner took a moment to watch the sun bathe the mountains in a final luminous glow before sliding out of sight. Tanner Evans had never visited Florida but he knew that he would take a Blue Ridge Mountain sunset over the more famous Key West version any day.
“Dad!” Tanner Evans, Jr. hollered as his father walked in the front door, “Guess what?”
“Calm down, Tanner,” Erin Evans called from the kitchen.
Tanner looked from his mother to his father, unsure what to do next.
“Come sit down and tell your mom and me what’s got you so excited,” Tanner’s father said.
“Remember, I told you we were learning about heroes in school?” Tanner asked his father.
Tanner Evans smiled at his son and nodded.
“Miss Austin said our class is going to have a dinner at school for our heroes. Here’s the note I brought home.”
Tanner and his wife studied the note. The Shenandoah County Elementary School kindergarten class was hosting a “hero’s banquet” next month in the school cafeteria. Each child was permitted to invite their hero and one guest. Formal invitations would be mailed out by the school. This was clearly a big deal.
“Wow, Tanner!” Erin enthused, “this is really exciting.”
Tanner nodded and then looked shyly up at his father.
“Dad, can I ask you something?”
“Yes,” his father softly replied.
“Will you be my guest at the dinner?”
Erin Evans watched the light in her husband’s eyes die and the deep hurt flash across his face. She stared at her son, unable to comprehend what she had just heard.
Tanner Evans smiled painfully and said, “That sounds great, Tanner; thanks for asking me.”
When his son made no reply Tanner asked, “So, who is your hero?” The question sounded loud and forced to Tanner, the words pounding in his head as if they had been screamed into a deep canyon and were echoing off the walls.
Erin watched helplessly, unable to think of a thing to say or do.
“I want to invite Travis Cooper, dad,” young Tanner replied, “but I don’t know how. Can you help me?”
Tanner Evans felt like an inflatable doll that had lost all its air. He was suddenly weary beyond description. “I’ll see what I can do,” he heard himself say.
Tanner continued to sit motionless on the sofa, staring intently at nothing. He was dimly aware that his son had returned to his room and his wife was in the kitchen preparing supper. The blood roared in his ears. He felt sluggish and stupid, unable to think.
Congratulations, Tanner. Your son is five years old and the male figure that he most admires is someone he’s never met. Well, what did you expect? You’ve never rescued a child from a burning building or hit a home run in the World Series. You clean horse stalls for a living. He’s probably ashamed of you. Travis Cooper – Jesus, how am I going to contact him? I’m sure he doesn’t live around here anymore. It must be four years now since he got drafted by the Braves and now he’s their starting left fielder. It’s the off season; maybe he’ll be in town for a visit. Yeah, right.
Tanner Evans looked up and found his wife watching him with a worried look on her face.
Tanner rose clumsily to his feet and said, “Y’all go ahead. I’ll heat something up later.”
“Are you okay?” Erin asked.
“Fine,” Tanner replied with a weak smile. “I’m going on the Internet to see if I can find a phone number or e-mail address for Mr. Cooper.”
Several hours later Tanner logged off the computer and walked down the hall to his bedroom.
Erin looked up from the book she was reading when her husband entered the room. “Any luck?” she asked.
Tanner shook his head.
“Did you eat?” she asked.
Her husband shook his head again. Erin knew better than to ask Tanner if he wanted to talk about it. She knew that most men hated talking about sensitive and emotional subjects. When it was forced on them it rarely resolved anything and usually made them feel worse. At least that’s the way it was with Tanner.
Erin leaned over and kissed her husband goodnight before turning out the light.
Tanner Evans lay motionless on his back, staring at the ceiling, waiting for the pain to go away.
“Hi, Mr. Evans,” a voice called out.
Tanner Evans stood and stretched his back. He had just finished grooming Little Powell and was busy cleaning out the stallion’s stall.
“Hey, Emma,” Tanner replied. “How was school today?”
“Okay,” Emma said. “Did Tanner tell you about the hero’s dinner?”
Tanner looked up as John Howard entered the barn.
“Hey, Tanner,” John said, “I’m going to take Jubal out for a workout.”
“Daddy, I was telling Mr. Evans about the hero’s dinner,” Emma said.
“Isn’t that something?” John said to Tanner.
“Daddy’s my hero and mama’s my guest,” Emma excitedly explained.
Tanner offered a weak smile but could think of nothing to say.
“Did Tanner tell you about it?” John asked.
Tanner Evans nodded. “Yes, he did. I’ll be there. He invited me as a guest. I guess I’m not hero material,” he said, trying for a light-hearted chuckle that stuck in his throat.
Tanner winced at the look of surprise and concern that appeared on his employer’s face.
John turned to his daughter and said, “Why don’t you run up to the house, sweetie. I think your mama picked up some oatmeal cookies at the store today.”
“Who’s the hero?” John asked quietly as soon as his daughter had gone.
Before he knew it Tanner had poured out the whole story.
“He’s only five years old, Tanner. It’ll take time but he’ll figure out that it’s who a person is, not what he does for a living that matters.”
“It looks like Emma has already figured that
out,” Tanner observed.
“I’m not so sure about that,” John replied. “Her whole world is horses. She knows that I run this ranch and she’s seen the trophies I’ve won on the rodeo circuit. It won’t be long before she discovers I’m not nearly as famous as she thinks I am.”
Tanner remained quiet.
“I can help you get in touch with Travis Cooper, Tanner,” John continued. “I know a couple of rodeo promoters who know people who know people.”
Tanner swallowed hard and said, “Thanks, Cowboy.”
John caught up with Tanner just as he was leaving for the day.
“Here you go,” he said, handing Tanner a slip of paper. “That’s the name and direct number of Cooper’s agent. Everything goes through him.”
Before Tanner could reply, John put a hand on his shoulder and said, “Hang in there, Tanner. Things will work out.”
Tanner’s son was waiting for him when he got home.
“Did you talk to Travis Cooper, dad?” young Tanner asked anxiously.
Tanner Evans produced a sad smile for his son. “I’ve got a number to call right here,” he said, producing the note that John had given him.
Young Tanner continued to watch his father.
Tanner Evans sighed and said, “I’ll go make the call.”
An hour later Tanner entered the kitchen. Erin had cleared the table and was loading the dishwasher.
“You missed supper,” she said. “I fixed a plate for you; it’s in the microwave.”
Erin sat with her husband while he ate. “So, what did he say?” she asked.
“He’ll do it,” Tanner mumbled between bites.
“Well, that’s good, I guess,” Erin replied.
“You haven’t heard the rest,” Tanner said. The agent had happily confirmed that Travis was available to attend the hero’s dinner. He would be in town visiting his parents that week so the timing was perfect. Tanner and the agent worked out the details over the phone.
Erin waited expectantly.
“It’s a thousand dollars,” her husband said.
Erin looked at Tanner in disbelief. “He’s charging you money to be your son’s hero?”
Tanner said nothing.
“What about a home town discount?” she asked.
“That is the home town discount,” Tanner replied.
“Well then, the answer is no. We don’t have an extra thousand dollars to rent a hero for the evening. We might as well tell Tanner,” Erin said.
“The answer is yes, Erin,” Tanner replied calmly. “I have a plan.”
“We’ve got that much in our emergency fund,” Tanner said, holding up his hand when Erin started to protest. “I talked to Jack. One of his workers is going out on maternity leave. He can use me in the evenings for the next couple of months. That will be more than enough to cover Mr. Cooper’s fee.”
Erin’s heart sank. Jack Evans, Tanner’s brother, owned a commercial cleaning company. For the next two months her husband planned to go straight from cleaning horse stalls to cleaning office buildings five nights a week.
“I think our son needs a hard dose of reality,” Erin protested.
“He’s five years old, Erin. Reality will knock him upside the head soon enough. In the meantime I’m going to make this happen for him. And don’t you tell him what I’m doing,” her husband warned.
Tanner explained to his son that he would be working nights for the next couple of months and wouldn’t be around much during the week.
“I’ll have to miss your hero’s dinner, Tanner, but I’m sure your mom would love to go as your guest. And Travis Cooper will be there. I’m sorry I can’t come.”
“That’s okay, dad; we’ll still have fun,” his son replied.
Tanner’s life quickly fell into a routine of eating, sleeping, and working. He stumbled through his days in a haze of exhaustion. Erin packed him a cooler each morning to take to work. Tanner ate his lunch in the barn and then gulped down his supper while he drove from Wild Pony Ranch to the office building he was cleaning. He tried to spend time with his family on the weekends but often found himself falling asleep on the sofa.
Erin was downstairs doing laundry one evening when the phone rang. She called out to her son to answer it.
When she came upstairs Erin found her son waiting for her.
“Who was on the phone, Tanner?” she asked.
“It was a man,” her son answered. “He said to remind dad that he needed to send the check for the hero’s dinner by Friday.”
Erin looked at her son, unsure what to do.
“Mom, I don’t understand,” Tanner said, on the verge of tears. “Is something wrong?”
Erin Evans put down the laundry and took a deep breath. “I hope I’m doing the right thing, Tanner.”She sat down beside her son and told him everything.
“Stop fidgeting,” Erin Evans admonished her husband. “I’m trying to straighten your tie.”
“I’m surprised Jack gave me the night off,” Tanner said. “I didn’t even ask. Erin, are you sure it’s okay for me to come. I mean, the paper Tanner brought home said only one guest could attend, not two.”
“It’s okay,” his wife replied. “I talked to the school. Come on, we don’t want to be late.”
The parking lot was filling up by the time they arrived. Tanner quickly found a spot and escorted his family into the school.
Young Tanner joined his teacher and classmates and proceeded to the cafeteria.
“Any idea what the program is for tonight?” Tanner asked as they found a table and were seated.
“No idea,” his wife replied. “Tanner, why do you keep looking around? Are you expecting someone?”
“Travis Cooper,” her husband replied. “He’ll be sorry if he doesn’t show up for this dinner and ruins my son’s evening.”
Erin wisely remained silent.
The dinner was excellent. The meal was followed by brief remarks from Tanner’s teacher, Miss Austin, about what her class had learned about heroes. The school principal spoke next and continued the theme of the importance of heroes.
After the principal finished speaking Miss Austin returned to the podium and said, “I hope you’ve all enjoyed this evening. The last thing we have planned is a roll call of the heroes that are here tonight. Each child will announce the name of his hero. Please come to the front when your name is called.”
“Where is he?” Tanner Evans hissed.
“He’s not coming, Tanner,” Erin said. “I didn’t send the money.”
Tanner Evans gaped at his wife.
“I’ll explain later,” she whispered.
Tanner watched miserably as each child called out the name of their hero. He felt a stab of envy when John Howard walked to the front of the room. Young Tanner was next. Tanner wondered if his son would ever live down the humiliation of having nobody walk to the front when he called his hero’s name.
Young Tanner stepped forward and said, “My hero is my dad, Tanner Evans.”
Tanner Evans was frozen to his chair. He was certain that he had not heard correctly.
Tanner turned when his wife poked him in the ribs. She seemed to be smiling and crying at the same time. He walked to the front of the room in a daze.
Tanner stood with the rest of the heroes and looked out at the room, at the people who were all standing and applauding, at his son who was wearing a proud smile.
John Howard leaned over and whispered, “How does it feel to be your son’s hero, Tanner?”
“I don’t….” Tanner replied, and could say no more.
“I’m just….” he tried again as the emotion threatened to strangle him.
“Me, too,” John Howard replied. “Me, too.”
Sarah Jane Howard stepped outside and took a hard slap in the face from Mother Nature.
A sullen gray sky looked down on Wild Pony Ranch. The absolute stillness was broken only by a keen wind driving the chill factor toward zero. A storm was coming; a big one.
Sarah Jane hurried to her car and breathed a sigh of relief when the engine roared to life. Two days before Christmas and she still had a few last minute items to buy.
“Serves me right,” Sarah Jane muttered to herself. “I won’t let this happen next year.”
Car headlights danced across the road even though it was only two o’clock in the afternoon. Darkening clouds heavy with moisture and portent raced across the horizon. The Weather Channel was predicting snow flurries with little accumulation for Shenandoah County. The local forecast said to prepare for two to four inches. The surrounding Blue Ridge Mountains were expected to form a protective shield and absorb the bulk of the storm.
Sarah Jane glanced up as she drove, and shivered. She had to hurry; the forecasts were wrong.
The storm slammed into the Blue Ridge Mountains around supper time and descended on Shenandoah County with rapacious glee. The salt and sand trucks rolled out an hour later.
“Idiots,” Sarah Jane proclaimed as she watched the latest revised weather forecast.
John Howard chuckled. “It seems that two to four inches has grown to a foot. Makes you wonder how they do the calculations for their updates.”
“They probably send an intern outside to stick a ruler in the snow,” Sarah Jane laughed.
“Do you think we’ll have a white Christmas, daddy?” five year old Emma Howard asked.
“Yes, I do, sweetie,” John Howard replied. “Are you excited? Did you tell Santa what you want for Christmas?”
Emma nodded and said, “I told him last week. I didn’t want to rush him.”
“That’s very thoughtful,” her father replied.
“Miss Austin told us that this is the season for good will. We’re supposed to be extra nice and help people if we can,” Emma said.
“Your kindergarten teacher is very wise, honey,” Sarah Jane said.
“Bedtime, sweetie,” John Howard said. “I’ll be up in a minute to tuck you in and tell you a story.”
“Can we build a snowman tomorrow, daddy?” Emma asked. “I want Santa to see him when he comes on Christmas Eve.”
“That’s a wonderful idea, Emma,” her father replied.
The snow was still falling when John and Sarah Jane went upstairs to bed.
“I think we’re in for another revised weather forecast,” Sarah Jane said.
The power went out at three o’clock the next morning. John Howard struggled into his clothes, checked on his daughter, and got the generator started.
Sarah Jane came into the kitchen.
“You up?” she yawned.
Her husband nodded. “I need to clear a path to the barn and feed the horses. Tell Emma we’ll build that snowman when I’m done.”
Sarah Jane yawned again and nodded.
“God, I’m tired already.” John said.
“Four hours sleep will do that to you,” his wife replied.
John Howard buttoned his coat and headed out the door. The snow continued to fall.
Tanner Evans found another blanket for his wife and son who were huddled together on the sofa.
“Hang on, I’ll have the fire going in a minute,” he said.
“Daddy, why can’t we go to a motel where it’s warm?” Tanner Evans, Jr. asked.
His father sighed and said, “I’ve told you before, Tanner, it’s too expensive. I think we’re snowed in, anyway. There’s probably over a foot of snow on the ground and it’s still coming down.”
Erin Evans shuffled down the hall to check the thermostat.
“Fifty seven degrees,” she announced.
“Just have to be patient,” her husband replied. “I’m sure crews are out working to restore power.”
“Santa will still come, right daddy?” young Tanner asked.
Tanner Evans struggled for an answer. He had been laid off from the paper mill last spring and his unemployment benefits had run out two weeks ago. Erin was a teller for a major bank. It didn’t pay a lot, but they had a good health insurance plan. Tanner had been working a few temp jobs and day labor assignments when they were available.
It was enough to allow them to pay their bills and hold on to the house. Barely. Tanner didn’t expect the mill to begin rehiring until the spring at the earliest, and the loss of his unemployment check placed his family in dire circumstances. Tanner Evans was a proud man, but he had an appointment next week with Shenandoah County Social Services to apply for family assistance.
“We’re going through a tough time right now, Tanner, but next Christmas should be better,” his father said.
They all moved closer to the fireplace as the flames caught and came to life. Erin’s cell phone rang and she answered it. She exchanged a few words with the caller and then held the phone out to her son.
“It’s for you, Tanner,” his mother said. “It’s your friend from school, Emma Howard.”
“Daddy! Daddy!” Emma called desperately.
John Howard was cleaning the stalls in the barn when he heard his daughter calling. He opened the barn door and saw Emma coming down the path he had cleared earlier.
“It’s too cold for you to be out here,sweetie,” John said as he scooped his daughter into his arms and carried her back to the house.
“You warm up,” her father said. “I’m almost finished in the barn. Then we can start on that snowman.”
“I don’t care about the snowman, daddy,” Emma cried.
Gradually Emma calmed down and was able to tell her father what was wrong.
“I called my friend, Tanner, to tell him that we were going to build a snowman,” she said. “He can’t go outside to play because he can’t get warm. They don’t have any heat. They’re all bundled up in blankets.”
“Can’t they go to a motel or even the mall?” Emma’s father asked.
“They tried,” Emma said. “Mr. Evans can’t get their car out and Tanner said they don’t have money for a motel.”
Emma looked outside at the falling snow and then turned to her father. “Tanner’s my friend,” she said. “I don’t want him to freeze.”
Her father remained silent.
Emma looked hopefully at her father and said, “Miss Austin said we should help people, daddy.”
John Howard glanced at his wife.
Sarah Jane nodded.
“I’ll warm up the truck,” John said as he buttoned his coat. “Call the Evans and let them know I’m on the way.”
John Howard had the heater blasting as he pulled up to the house and helped the Evans family into his truck.
“I can’t tell you how grateful we are for what you’re doing,” Tanner Evans said.
“Glad to help,” John replied.
When they returned to the ranch, Sarah Jane was waiting with coffee, hot cider, and snacks. Young Tanner wolfed down food and cider while Emma sat beside him happily talking nonstop.
“Where are your manners, Tanner?” Erin Evans admonished.
Sarah Jane laughed and said, “he’s fine. I’m used to little boys. I married one.”
John Howard wandered over to the window where Mr. Evans was standing.
“It’s stopped snowing,” Tanner Evans said.
John Howard nodded in agreement.
They watched as Emma and Tanner, Jr. ran outside and started to build a snowman.
“You work at the paper mill, don’t you?” John asked.
Tanner Evans continued watching the children. “I did until I got laid off,” he answered softly.
“Any idea when they’ll start calling people back to work?” John asked.
“I think it’s more a matter of if they call people back,” Tanner replied. “I guess the good news is that I’ll be near the top of the list based on my seniority. I’ve been there twelve years. I grew up on a farm and went to work at the mill straight out of high school.”
John cast an appraising look at Tanner and said, “how would you like to come to work at Wild Pony Ranch?”
Tanner Evans looked startled.
“I just lost a barn worker and I need a replacement immediately,” John Howard continued. “ It only pays eleven dollars an hour to start, but I can give you a raise after sixty days if things are working out. Interested?”
“God, yes,” Tanner replied. He hesitated, and then added, “I’m not looking for charity.”
“Are you kidding?” John said. “You grew up on a farm, you’re a family man with roots in the community, you’ve worked at the same place for twelve years, and your son and my daughter are friends. I can’t imagine a better person for the job.”
“Thank you,” Tanner Evans replied in a voice full of emotion.
“You can start Monday morning,” John said. “My foreman, Jupiter Campbell, will meet you at the barn at eight o’clock and get you started.”
Erin Evans suddenly appeared wearing a stricken expression. “I forgot Tanner’s asthma medicine. I left it on the kitchen counter,” she told her husband.
“I’ll be glad to go pick it up,” John said. “Why don’t y’all stay here and keep warm. I’ll be back shortly.”
The main roads were much improved thanks to the county road crews. John arrived at the house and found the asthma medication on the counter. He started to leave, and then hesitated. Feeling guilty and a little ashamed of himself, John peeked in the Evans refrigerator and pantry. He walked over to the fireplace mantel. No Christmas stockings were hanging. He looked at the Christmas tree in the corner with no presents under it, and thought he might cry. Instead, John pulled out his cell phone and dialed.
A man answered the phone and John Howard said, “I need your help.”
John Howard walked in the door and was met with a grateful hug from Erin Evans.
“Thank you for getting Tanner’s medicine and for giving my husband a job,” she said. “Thank you for everything.”
John excused himself and went into his study. He emerged to enjoy a delicious lunch with his family and guests and then returned to his study. An hour later Sarah Jane knocked on the door.
“What’s going on, John?” she asked. “We have guests.”
“Sorry,”John replied. “I have to go out for awhile. I’ll be back by dinnertime.”
“And I thought I waited until the last minute,” Sarah Jane complained. “It’ll be a miracle if you find whatever it is you’re looking for this late.”
John returned just as the table was being set for dinner. “I saw a utility repair crew while I was out. They expect the power to be back up by tomorrow morning. I hope y’all don’t mind spending Christmas Eve with us.”
After a wonderful holiday meal with all the fixings everyone settled down in the living room. The two families shared stories of past Christmas’s and agreed that this Christmas would certainly be one to remember. Emma couldn’t wait for Santa to come and her excitement was contagious.
“Bedtime, Emma,” Sarah Jane said. “Santa won’t come until you’re asleep.”
“I’ll be up in a minute to tell you a story, sweetie,” John Howard said.
Later that night when they were in bed Sarah Jane said, “I feel bad for them,John. I’m glad you hired Mr. Evans.”
“He’s a good man,” John murmured as he drifted off to sleep.
The power came on at six o’clock the next morning. Everyone was up early. The sound of Christmas carols and the smell of cinnamon rolls and coffee filled the house. Emma squealed with excitement as she opened her gifts. Tanner sat next to her and was nearly as excited just watching.
After everyone ate John brought the truck around to take the Evans home. Tanner, Jr. was talking a mile a minute about what Santa might have brought while they were gone. John saw the look of despair on the parents’ faces as they listened to their son.
When they reached the Evans house the boy leaped out of the truck and sprinted for the door.
“Merry Christmas,” John said.
“Same to you,” Tanner Evans replied. “Thank you again for everything. I’ll see you Monday morning.”
John Howard watched as the Evans walked slowly up their front walk. He continued to watch as they opened the door and stopped dead in their tracks. By the time they turned around John was halfway down the street, wiping his eyes as he drove.
On Monday morning John and Sarah Jane came out to welcome Tanner Evans when he arrived.
“Ready to get your hand dirty?” John asked.
“I sure am,” Tanner replied. He cleared his throat and added, “I don’t know how you did what you did, but I want you to know you made my son’s Christmas. Mine and Erin’s, too. I’ll never forget it.”
“Well, I don’t know what you mean, but I’m glad you had a good Christmas,” John replied.
Jupiter Campbell walked up and John introduced Tanner to his foreman. Jupiter and Tanner headed for the barn. As he was opening the barn door Jupiter glanced back at John and grinned.
“Erin Evans called me a little while ago,” Sarah Jane said. “She said she walked in her house Christmas morning and thought she had the wrong address.”
“Why is that?” John casually asked.
“Well, their stockings were stuffed, the pantry and refrigerator were stocked, and they had more gifts than they had ever gotten in their life. She called to thank me. She was crying.”
“What did you say?” John asked.
“I told her I was glad they had a nice Christmas, but I didn’t know anything about the gifts.”
“I can only think of one person who might have the kindness of heart, the perseverance, and the connections to make something that special happen,” Sarah Jane continued.
“Santa,” John said.
Sarah Jane remained silent.
“I’ll be over in the east meadow clearing some brush if you need me,” he said.
Sarah Jane leaned over and gave her husband a long kiss. “See you later, Santa,” she whispered.
Like all writers I am a serious reader. I enjoy a wide variety of fiction including mystery, suspense, crime, and several other genres. I’m always reading something.
It may be a personal quirk, but when I’m working on a novel or even a short story I don’t read other fiction. I do continue to read non-fiction, mostly books on southern history and the Civil War.
Why do I have to stop reading fiction when I’m writing? Because I can’t walk and chew gum at the same time. Just kidding; I don’t chew gum. Of course, I don’t have to stop reading other fiction. It’s just part of my work process. All of my focus is on the story I’m writing. Any writer will tell you that even when they aren’t actually writing they have dialogue, plot, narrative, etc, running through their mind. Sometimes it’s like a constant loop that doesn’t necessarily pause for sleep. I also don’t want anything from another novel – an expression, turn of phrase, or something else – to creep into my own work. This is my work, my voice, and my thoughts. I’m not trying to be anyone else. I don’t want to be anyone else.
My new novel, “Deep Water,” is coming out in a couple of weeks. I hope you’ll order a copy. It’s good.