On June 17th, The Heretic launched on all sites. Initial feedback has been excellent. It is the third in the Emmett Casey series, and maybe the final one.
In the diary entries of Mick Casey, where he details the incredibly harrowing details of life as a 19 year-old tail-gunner, he writes about the utter terror and horror that he witnesses. He closes these accounts of missions flown with the comment - 'We go again tomorrow'.
Several people have suggested a next book that might fill in any gaps in the adventures in the first three books. The title? 'We go again Tomorrow' What do you think?
Here is a chapter from The Heretic as a tease for you. It was selected as a featured short story in the Indies United Summer magazine edition. I hope you like it. Please feel free to respond to the suggestion for the next book too?
Baby’s First Book
I was restless, tired of sitting in the old wing chair but without anything else to occupy my energy. I fidgeted trying to find an excuse to keep sitting and at the same time not wanting to sit any longer. Finally, in frustration I rose to my feet and paced a circuit of the room, away from the heat of the fire and back again. My damaged knees protested the first steps as they always did, but gradually gave up the complaint until the next time.
Encouraged I shuffled another circuit, idly brushing my hand along crowded book shelves, full to bursting with tomes of knowledge, and children’s old story books side by side. Any empty spaces that might have been, filled with keepsakes, mementos and outright junk collected over a lifetime of endeavor. All of them reminders, each one harkening back to the memory that fostered its place on a shelf of distinction.
Memory, especially old memories, have a way of fading the color of the picture. Bright hues of summer become the pastel of memory. The happy times, bring equal parts of happiness of times gone by and sadness that they are no more. The hard times and the sad times have their sharp edges smoothed, so the contrast of sorrow becomes more grey than black. Even at a distance the pain of the hard times is unmitigated even at the great distance of time gone by and the greying of memory.
Each piece on these shelves represents a learning experience. A small piece of knowledge that at the time did not instantly transfer to wisdom. It was only over time that the knowledge could ferment, combining with emotions and become wisdom, often too late to serve anything but a rue-worthy moment of reflection.
Near the far end of the shelves, in the darkest corner of the room; one book draws my eyes with each shuffling revolution of the room. I know it by heart, its feel and the undeniable weight of it. Pausing, I glide my index finger down the spine, slowly mouthing the title; Baby’s First Book.
Sliding the leatherette album out I carry it to the chair. With it resting on my lap, I look at the filigreed beadwork cover running my fingers over it’s texture.
I woke the boys before daylight.
“C’mon guys! Mom says it’s time.
In an instant they were both out of bed and pulling on clothes. We had been ready for this, the last two weeks; a seeming eternity. At last, it was time and my excitement was equal to theirs.
Once downstairs shoes and jackets were pulled on near the back door. Only then did my wife appear coming down the stairs. The look on her face did not match the excited anticipation of the three of us. She grimaced as her foot struck the floor, and her eyes were wide with something else.
“Something’s wrong Em.”
“I don’t know, just not right. We need to go.”
The boys were dancing at the door, eager to go. I lifted the small travel bag that we’d packed days ago and I helped Greta out the door and down the back-porch steps. Once situated in the truck we started the thirty-minute drive to town so we could meet our newest family member.
I understood her trepidation. There had been other babies. Other little ones that had not made it to the finish line. Each one, loved from the moment of conception, but ultimately not ready for this world. Each one grieved for once they were no more. For their mother, it was a bottomless feeling of loss and failure that relentlessly ebbed and flowed like the tides with the changing of the moon. For me the father, a struggle to locate the grief and deal with it on a conscious level. Struggling with the inability to console my wife, because nothing can fill the hole that such a loss creates. There had been other little souls.
My hands tightened on the steering wheel, mitigating the concern with the excitement of the potential moment. Encouraging the boys with their suggestions for names of the new arrival.
“Skuzz-bucket” Seth was wide awake and looking for a laugh.
“How ‘bout Cheez-Wiz?” I said. “With a name like that, he’d be sure to be a major NBA Superstar.”
“How ‘bout you shuddup? It’s gonna be a girl.” Grit was playing along between contractions.
“I know, I’m all set. Wilhelmina is my vote.”
“You are such a dipshit. We already decided, it’s gonna be Jennie. Jennifer Lee.
“You decided you mean.”
I had called ahead to the hospital. I had been working in and around the hospital for the last ten years so I wasn’t surprised when no one but my very good friend Paulette Downing met us as we entered through the ER doors.
“I’m so excited for you Doc! Grit how’ya doin’ baby? You’re folks are gonna be so excited. Come on honey, I’ll take you back. Doc take the kids into the chapel I already laid out some snacks, and pillows so they can sack out once they’re done.”
“Thanks Paulie, any word on Doc Southerland?”
“He passed the puck Doc, you got none other than Doctor Kearney tonight. He insisted.”
Paulette and Greta headed through the double doors and into the hospital proper just as Jim Kearney was getting ready to step through.
“Hey Emmett! How about this? Another delivery, only this time its yours. I’m thankful that I can be a part of it. Especially after the others.” He narrowed his brows and put a hand on my shoulder.
“Grit says there’s something wrong.”
“What? What do you mean?” He was immediately on the alert.
“She said she doesn’t know. Just not right?”
“Okay, I’m heading back right away. Go scrub up Emmett, I’ll catch you up once you’re down there.”
There is no way to hurry up scrubbing up and getting into scrubs but I shaved the corners a little anyway. Even so, as I turned down the hall leading to the one maternity delivery room, I met Paulette and Jim coming the other way.
“Get Randy on the phone right away, and also Doctor Epstein we need anethesia too. Call in the surgical team and prep the room Paulette.”
Turning to me,
“Sorry Emmett, I can’t let you go down right now. We’ve got some issues and we need to move quickly. Babies in stress, and Grit’s B.P. is off the charts. Two hundred ten over one-seventy. We need to take your baby right away.”
“Eclampsia.” I didn’t have to guess. I had seen first-hand what kind of hell it could cause.
“Exactly. We need to go; I’m going to scrub up. I hope they find Randy in town, I don’t know what his surgical schedule is these days.”
“I’ll check on the boys then. Are you sure I can’t help calm her down Jim?”
“She’s afraid you’ll be more upset than she is. The last time was bad enough
Emmett, she’s afraid and this time she’s right.”
“That’s nuts. Sorry Jim, I’m going to go see her.”
“Okay, we’ll get ready.”
Holding her hand while she tried to control her breathing I met her gaze.
“This is like before Emmett. Oh God, we’re so close. I can’t do that again.”
She was mirroring my own feelings. We had suffered miscarriages in the past, more than a few. Each one had been hard, but none had gotten beyond twelve to fifteen weeks. With this pregnancy everything had gone right. Grit had gotten more beautiful with each passing week, and we had laughed and enjoyed the planning and preparations. Now we were at forty weeks, full term, the finish line.
“It’s okay my love, it’s just a speed bump. I won’t let anything happen to you or to the baby. It’s gonna be alright. We’ve got Paulette and Jim right here, and I wouldn’t be surprised if that dipshit Tom Dunbar doesn’t blow through the doors any minute now too. We’re in good hands.”
“I know, but I’m still scared. I feel terrible.”
Paullette entered briskly and once the door was open wide a surgical gurney followed her into the room pushed by one of the surgical team.
“Doc, sorry but you’ve got to scrub again. We can’t find Epstein. Randy’s already here, so we’re gonna need the extra hand.”
“No Paulette, I can’t. I just can’t do that, c’mon what about Tom.”
“I tried that, I talked to Janet. She says he’s had to take his pain meds twice tonight and he’s finally resting. We can’t use him.”
A shuddering gasp came from behind us. This from Grit.
Everyone in the room was immediately galvanized to the spectacle taking place on the bed. My wife was in full rigorous spasm, her shoulders and lower legs the only thing making contact with the bed itself. Her pelvis and swollen abdomen thrust toward the ceiling. Her eyes rolled back in her head.
“Code Blue!” Paula yelled and pushed a button above the headboard.
Immediately a calm female voice spoke over the hospital intercom, “Code Blue, maternity. Code Blue, maternity, Code Blue, maternity.”
“Let’s go!” This was not her first rodeo, Paulette was in command. “Doc, other side pull the sheet. On the count of three lift, One, Two, Three. We lifted her and heaved her onto the gurney. Almost before she had settled the sides came up and the surgical nurse headed for the door.
“Doc go ahead of us. We’ll see you in there. Epstein’s gonna have some serious hell to pay once I find him.”
Hours later I quietly entered the little hospital chapel. Pausing at the altar in front of me I looked up at the benevolent gaze of the Man on the Cross for a long moment as he looked back at me. Turning to the two small boys asleep on the pews in front of him I sat down between them, and touched Seth on the shoulder. He immediately opened his eyes, rolling them in sleepy awareness.
“Is she here?”
“Yeah, Dad, is it really a girl?” This from his brother Sean.
“It is a girl boys.” I idly stroked Sean’s hair as I smiled down at him.
“Can we go see her now?” There was excitement but sleepy excitement.
“I’m afraid she couldn’t make it all the way out of heaven boys. I’m sorry.”
Sitting back down in the chair near the fire I open the little book. Turning from one empty page to the next, all of them blank. A study in cream colored heavy bond paper. The little Baby’s First Book has no entries, no recounted life events, no landmark dates. The pages, like her experiences still blank after all these years.