I’m excited to announce that my first book in four years is now available for pre-order on Amazon Kindle!
The book is titled “Christmas in Pineville” and is my first Christmas themed novel and the longest book I’ve written to date.
I’ve been working on this all year and I’m so excited to share it with everyone. So excited, that I’m posting the first chapter below for you to read right now!
And so it begins…
CHAPTER ONE: THE TURKEY
“Don’t forget to check on the turkey!” James shouted. His words echoed from the depths of his basement-turned-bedroom. His cracking voice made its way up the stairs all the way to his father, Nick Bishop, as the boy remained nestled comfortably under a thick set of winter blankets on Thanksgiving morning. He looked over at a mirror hanging from his bathroom door, flicked the shaggy blonde hair out of his sky blue eyes, and thought he might look a bit fresher with some meat in his system. “I don’t want to eat charred turkey again this year.”
James was a growing twelve-year-old boy, his five-foot six-inch frame was sneaking up on his father’s height by the day, and food was often at the forefront of his mind as his body could hardly put on weight fast enough to keep up. Few things could disappoint him more than ruined meat.
“I’m not going to forget about the turkey!” Nick shouted back from around the corner to his shiftless son, before he suddenly dropped three large moving boxes at his feet. The stacked weight had become more than he could bare. The boxes shifted to the left for a moment, nearly spilling their contents, but with a quick stop and a gentle nudge, Nick adeptly brought them back into a comfortable balance.
Nick, who had been working on the house all morning, quickly began to shuffle his way back to the kitchen. His lungs were short on breath, but his legs still had just enough energy left in them to continue working. He was thin and fit despite his appetite nearly matching that of his son, though he wasn’t a kid anymore.
“That was four years ago, you know!” Nick reminded his son, unsure how James managed to hold on to that one tiny mistake after all this time, especially since it was mostly Nick’s mother who was to blame for the incident in the first place. After all, she would always burn anything she handled in the kitchen, and she’s the one who taught Nick how to cook in the first place.
Nick’s memory was just as selective. He failed to admit to his son that he had indeed forgotten to check on the turkey’s progress until the moment James had mentioned it to him.
“No matter,” Nick told himself. “Mom’s burnt turkey always tasted much better than it looked anyway.”
“I’m sure the turkey is safely cooking in the oven,” Nick tried to assure himself. He was mostly sure everything was fine, or at least he was almost mostly sure, and that was almost certainly good enough for him, until the nagging feeling began to overtake his senses.
Nick took a deep breath in through his nostrils, but couldn’t smell the slightest hint of smoke in the air as he determined to make his way to the kitchen while it was on his mind. “I’ll double check to make sure it’s alright,” he reluctantly muttered to himself as he twisted, weaved, and wound through the living room before pausing momentarily. He had realized that it would have been much quicker to take a left at a certain end table with a yellow lamp sitting on it, rather than a right, in order to get to the kitchen.
Nick slapped himself on the forehead, telling himself to focus, which led him to notice that he was beginning to break out in a sweat. He ran his hands through his spiked blonde hair and took a deep breath.
“I better take it down a notch,” Nick told himself before pressing on to his ultimate goal, after deciding it was too late to save time by going back the way that would have originally been the faster route to the kitchen.
Roaming the house in a confused fashion had become all too common much too quickly for both father and son.
“Maybe I should have gotten a smaller home,” Nick said to himself as he nudged a protruding, misshapen box out of the way with his right foot.
Nick surely could have found any kind of home his heart desired. The cottage down the street was nice, he recalled. That was the yellow house he had viewed right before his agent showed him the one he was now navigating. It would have been an absolute steal for him, especially considering how the booming economy was overwhelming the local real estate market, but he opted against it.
“No, no, it’s better to have something for us to grow into,” Nick reminded himself. He rambled on as he would often do, as it helped him gather his thoughts from one tangled knot into a more cohesive unit. “I can’t forget that I need an upstairs office now more than ever and a boy James’s age needs a real space to call his own.”
This of course was all fruitless babble, as it was now far too late to change his mind. Contracts had long been signed. The bank wouldn’t be pleased if he were to turn around and sell this place right away, and the thought of going through the process to buy another house was more than he really had time to replicate.
Most days, Nick was confident that he had made the right decision, though doubt always tried to creep back into his overloaded mind. The one thing that he was sure about was that his son finally had a bedroom that fit him. It was a truly significant upgrade that he could make his own.
Father and son had come to a set of agreements on the day Nick had informed James of his intentions to move them away from the big city.
The most important detail to James was that he would finally get his own room. The basement, though it needed some minor upgrades in insulation and electrical work, was still quite an improvement from the bedroom James had grown up in, which was little more than a walk-in closet. He was quickly growing accustomed to the freedom the new room provided him as he neared his teenage years.
James was most excited when he discovered that he could hide away comfortably. His new digs were far away from Nick’s home office and bedroom, both of which were on the second story of their new home. It was the existence and separation of their rooms that had been the clincher when Nick acted on buying this particular house. It was a newer home in a small neighborhood, set on a rolling hill. It overlooked the small town of Pineville, a town nestled in the green valleys of the Pacific Northwest.
“Did you burn it or not?” James bellowed.
Barking instructions at his father had quickly become one of James’s favorite pastimes, though few commands seemed to be answered with positive affirmation, if there was any acknowledgment at all. Nick would soon enough learn to ignore such shouts from the basement altogether.
Proper communication was just one lesson of many that Nick was realizing he would have to teach his son in their new home. Although James was to turn thirteen near the end of the forthcoming summer, the past year had been one in which he had to mature faster than he or his father had ever imagined.
Nick eventually managed to find his way over to the kitchen, after stumbling around several stacks of moving boxes. The “so-called professional movers,” as he had come to refer to them, had recklessly placed them wherever they could find a spot, acting without any regard to the meticulous instructions he had given them in the final moments before their big move.
“How about you get up here and help me?” Nick yelled down to his son, but to no surprise, he did not receive an immediate reply.
Despite a spell of heavy breathing from all of his hard work, Nick had been able to recover his senses enough to smell an oddly familiar aroma. To his delight, it was a pleasant one. It wasn’t the turkey burning, as he had worried, but rather a wonderful fragrance coming from a freshly baked pumpkin pie, which was delivered from a downtown bakery earlier in the morning.
Nick could hardly wait to dig into the pie. He had considered it to be his favorite part of Thanksgiving dinner since about the time he was his son’s age.
“Maybe I can spare time for a single slice of pie while I wait for the rest of dinner to be finished,” Nick said to himself. He suddenly remembered that the rest of the feast wasn’t going to finish preparing itself. The pie would have to wait until the proper time, much to his dismay.
Nick reluctantly adjusted his gaze toward the glowing oven on the other side of the kitchen and was determined to check on the turkey before it escaped his mind yet again. He hadn’t always lacked the kind of concentration needed to complete such a simple task, but things had been different ever since his wife had passed away.
It had happened long enough ago at this point in time that Nick and James were beginning to get used to dealing with these kinds of firsts. Valentine’s Day, the Fourth of July, and Halloween all had come and gone as the calendar flipped through the year. The seasons were passing and they were glad to be getting over saying things like, “This will be the first Thanksgiving we have without Mom” or “Thanksgiving just won’t be the same this year without Holly.” It won’t end, they both believed, until they get beyond New Year’s Day of next year, which will be the first anniversary of when everything went so wrong.
That day began as any other holiday might have for the Bishop family. James and Nick were enjoying their breakfast. Bacon, eggs, and toast filled their plates to the brim. As was typical, and preferred by all involved, it had been thoughtfully prepared by Holly. She was a culinary school trained baker, and self-taught chef, who was already working on the dinner that was to come, cheerily cutting celery into bite sized sticks when a sudden illness overcame her. Convulsing, she dropped her knife to her side, then froze for a moment that was as silent as outer space, before crumbling to the floor, immediately halting their planned festivities in its tracks before they truly began.
The rest of the day was little more than a blur that still hadn’t fully sorted itself out nearly eleven months later. Before they could mentally process what was happening to Holly Bishop, beloved wife and mother, she was taken from Nick and James, gone from this world without so much as a goodbye kiss. The sun set solemnly that day with the two of them picking up the pieces of their lives, not alone, but set apart from her.
The doctors never could put together an explanation of what had happened to Holly that made any sense to Nick or James. Every time they attempted to clarify the situation, all that came out of their mouths seemed to be nonsensical jargon, their hearts too shattered to focus on the details.
Even if they had the best explanation handed to them, they knew it would have been of little comfort. They had lost Holly. A lantern had gone out. They would have to go on through this wilderness somehow, with their lives left in uncertainty, and an emptiness within them that they weren’t sure could ever be filled.
“So, did you burn the turkey or not?” James squawked as he entered the room, half amusing himself at his father’s expense, half concerned he wouldn’t get his protein fix before his stomach turned against him.
“Not yet!” Nick answered, as the scowl on his face tightened. He looked for and located his oven mitt. He coolly wiped the sweat from his brow with the end of his black and blue flannel sleeve, then slowly bent over to look through the clear glass panel, which was blissfully showcasing the glistening contents of the oven.
Nick wasn’t sure if it was the new logs he had just tossed in the fire, the endless sets of moving boxes he had been shuffling around the house at regular intervals all morning, or the temperature inside the oven, but the heat in the kitchen was beginning to overwhelm him. Whatever the reason, it came as a surprise to him as he listened to the sound of freezing rain beating against the kitchen windows.
Smoke did not escape the oven when he opened the door, but that didn’t give Nick any confidence that the turkey was on track for exceptional tastiness. Past years had displayed hit or miss results from his amateur cooking attempts. It had always been his one and only job on Thanksgiving day, and he was proud of how he had only burnt the turkey that one time, a day when he and Holly had been distracted by their mischievous eight-year-old. Despite his otherwise exceptional track record, he still held his breath every Thanksgiving until he tasted the turkey himself.
With one eyebrow raised up high with expectation, the other slinking down low with skepticism, Nick eagerly inserted the thermometer into the thigh of the turkey and waited for the temperature to clue him in on the progress of this year’s bird.
Nick waited patiently, but his nerves were difficult to control. His blood was still pumping from his earlier attempts at rearranging boxes in between trips to the kitchen. “Does one hundred and eighty degrees sound about right to you?” he asked his son anxiously.
“That’s what the book said!” James replied confidently, lounging cozily at the kitchen table as he flipped through a comic book about a lazy super hero, his favorite character at the time. “Does that mean it’s ready to eat?”
“Close enough!” Nick said, trying to hide his frustration. He had hoped that James would help him out with Thanksgiving dinner this year, perhaps learn a thing or two about cooking, instead of loafing the day away. But this day, he promised himself, was not going to be a day for petty arguments. It was going to be a new beginning.