My job is to sell books--but today, March 27th through March 31st I am giving my latest book, Beetles in the Boxcar, (Kindle version) away, free, no strings! Is this March madness or what? I do feel a bit feverish.
I have written four other books, so of course I want you to become interested and read all of them. Today I am giving you a section of the first chapter of Beetles in the Boxcar:
After driving all day, I had a hard time keeping my eyes open, but out of habit, I stayed up for the ten o’clock news. It seemed like KPUT TV ran the same old news stories night-after-night, year-after-year. Only the names changed. They were people I didn’t know so I didn’t feel their pain except in a distant sort of way. But when the reporter talked about a man who was found dead on the railroad tracks, I quickly turned my head away. That one made me shudder.
I turned back just as a photo of the man’s face filled the TV screen. According to a reporter the elderly man wasn’t carrying identification. The public was being asked to call the local sheriff’s office if they recognized him.
A heavy sigh came from the loft followed by a loud thud and an angry yowl from Felix. I looked up at the little three-sided bedroom. Clara’s arm dangled in midair between the railing spindles that substituted for a fourth wall.
“Auntie, are you all right?” I shouted as I leaped from the sofa and took the stairs two at a time. All kinds of things ran through my head—heart attack, stroke, spider, fear of heights?
“Josephine … it was like seeing a ghost.” She lifted her head and tried to pull herself up. “Joey’s dead, but there he was on the TV, run over by a train. I can’t believe my eyes,” she gasped.
I helped her to her feet and held her arm as she stepped back a few steps to the bed. She sat down, hugging her shoulders, blinking back tears as she stared at redwood ceiling beams.
Felix watched us cautiously from the other side of the bed.
Finally Aunt Clara turned her head, looked up at me with wet eyes and apologized for the meltdown.
Felix crept closer as her voice softened.
I sat down beside my aunt, causing the bed to creak and the mattress to sag more. I had never known Aunt Clara to be emotional or even close to it. She was just as calm, sound-minded and logical as I. In fact people always remarked about how similar we were and how strangely alike Candy and my mother were. More than once I entertained the idea that Candy and I were mistakenly given to the wrong mothers at birth.
“Can I get you anything, Auntie?”
“I’m OK, dear. I must be mistaken. Joey died a long time ago … and I’m over it. I know, you want to know what Joey was to me.”
“Sure, if you want to tell me.” I wondered why she wanted to unload her story on me but I was willing to listen.
Clara took a deep jerky breath and let the air out noisily. She told me that Joey Gianelli had lived next door to Mom and Clara when they were growing up in Santa Cruz about seventy years ago. The Gianelli sisters were grown up and starting their own families when Joey was born. He was a clever little boy who loved to take apart clocks, radios, and toasters. Sometimes he needed help putting them back together. Clara said she used to help him reassemble appliances before they were missed.
“Were you two the same age?”
“I was six months older.”
“Sounds like you were good friends.”
“Oh yes. In fact, I grew up thinking I would marry him someday.” She said Joey joined the Air Force and she went off to Fresno State but before the first year of college was up she became engaged to Roger Ramsey. They were married about fifty years, until six years ago when Roger passed away. A few months after her husband died, Clara made a visit to Santa Cruz to see Mom and Dad and to see what Joey was up to.
“So you two hadn’t kept in touch over the years?”
“Not really. Joey came back from the Air Force and married Darla, a new girl in town. I never met her.” Clara wiped a tear from her cheek and continued telling me about her visit to Santa Cruz. Mom and her neighbor, Myrtle, told Clara what they had read about Joey’s flight over the bay in his little Piper Cub. Apparently it was something he did quite often, but that last trip didn’t end well.
“I’m so sorry, Auntie.” I put my arm around her shoulder and felt her shiver. “Were his remains found?”
She shook her head. “Apparently the plane went down off the coast … according to the authorities.”
“So you don’t think the face on TV is Joey?” I asked, getting a creepy feeling in my stomach like bugs in the basement.
“It’s been so many years, how would I know what Joey looks like? I don’t know why I reacted like that. It was obviously some bum. I mean, who else walks along the tracks at night … in the winter?”
I shuddered at the thought of sudden death from a terrible accident. I remembered back sixteen years ago when my husband was run over by an eighteen-wheeler. The painful memory faded slightly as the years went by, but it would always hurt and I would always be a widow.