Related collections and offers
|Product dimensions:||5.30(w) x 7.90(h) x 1.10(d)|
About the Author
For more information, see scottspotson.com.
Also, check out his wizard middle-grade series, "My Wizard Buddy." The three titles are "My Wizard Buddy," "Wizard Planet," and "Target Earth."
Scott Spotson is also pleased to offer editing services to other authors, and has completed numerous ghost-writing contracts. See "Editing Services" on scottspotson.com.
Read an Excerpt
October 23, 2013 at 11:47 a.m.
Max Thorning, an investment salesman always in search of hefty commission fees stripped from the trust fund of that greying doctor who drove a Porsche on Sundays, was a man in a hurry. He exited the towering steel and glass skyscraper, in search of that tiny parkette that afforded a soothing oasis from the grimy concrete metropolis of Vancouver.
Garfield Yates, Max's skinny chrome-domed writer buddy, waved to him alongside their favorite park bench. It was a beautiful, sunny day, so Max and Garfield agreed to meet up for lunch. Garfield pulled a thick ham and egg sandwich out of a brown paper bag and offered a bite to Max.
Scrunching his mouth, Max declined, instead retrieving a greasy corned beef sandwich from the cardboard take-out box he'd brought. "How's the job hunt going?" Max asked in between bites of the bulging sandwich, a treat he savored once a week.
Garfield grimaced. "Not well. This morning, I just lay in bed, chowing down potato chips and listening to some old tunes. Remember the Bee Gees?"
"Oh man," Max laughed. "You still have them?"
"Yeah," Garfield chuckled. "I still have that old record player, too. It was actually in a box in my parents' house. They'd never bothered to throw it out."
Max shook his head, snapping to attention as Garfield squatted lower to pluck dropped crackers off the lawn. Groaning, Max shielded his eyes with one hand to block out an unwelcome "sneak peak" of the upper part of his friend's scrawny buttocks. Garfield, sadly, was living with his parents again. It was "temporary," he'd insisted, until he could get back on his feet.
As the lanky buddy plopped into his seat next to Max, he stuffed broken-up crackers into his mouth, and with the other hand tossed a folded newsletter into Max's lap.
"Look at this," he mumbled, barely comprehensible above the munching noises.
After Max snapped the crisp newsprint open, his eyes bugged. Right on the front page of their alumni newsletter, UBC Chat, blared a professional color photo of someone who seemed familiar. That square-shaped, rugged face, still boyish even in middle age. That blond curly hair. The stare of the man captivated him, conveying I'm important. Don't you forget it.
He was a star athlete back in my high school, wasn't he?
The headline answered his question.
Dr. Nathan Symes, August 28, 1971 — September 30, 2013.
Max read the article, which started off with, "Nathan Symes M.D. '98 Head of Cardiology at Vancouver General, and dedicated UBC fundraiser, passed away ..."
Wow. One of the guys from Confederation High — his old high school — had bitten the dust. So soon. Forty-two, just like Max, and he was already at one with his Maker. Same birth year. Same span of life.
Max's heart skipped a beat as he read the article further.
Suicide? What could possibly drive a guy to suicide? A successful doctor, too. With pieces of his frayed memories now drifting into place, Max remembered — Nathan had been voted "most likely to succeed."
Without warning, a sharp pain stabbed his gut as the Repressed Memory flashed in his mind; unwelcome, banished, and consigned to purgatory. The haunting image of a limp, lifeless body he knew to be Darlene Labrosse, who seconds prior was very much alive and screaming as he, an out-of-control drunk driver, swerved off the road.
He closed his eyes at the painful memory. When his eyes flickered open, they only showed a brooding, sullen mask that eclipsed his steely features.
"You okay, bud?"
Max shook his head no.
"It's that car crash again, right?"
Slowly, Max nodded once.
"Let it go," Garfield said, clasping Max's shoulder. Max tossed his half-eaten sandwich back into the take-out container and stared dead ahead at a statue of Captain George Vancouver, from behind, unthinking as he noted the copper-plated tricorn hat and waistcoat.
"I'm just not hungry," he muttered, and the two friends stared off into the distance, both unspeaking, yet communicating volumes.
October 23, 2013 at 12:22 p.m.
Garfield watched the receding outline of Max Thorning as his longtime best friend returned to work, the shoulders on the retreating figure slumping.
Garfield snapped back to his line of sight targeting Max once more, just to be sure his friend wouldn't catch him passing judgment, however innocuous it might be. Satisfied, he slouched on the park bench, the best possible position to trigger constant, excruciating backache. Fortunately, no matter how many times his mother admonished him to "stand straight" — yes, the last time was just yesterday, when he'd chatted on the phone in the kitchen — his back miraculously resisted the abuse lavished upon his lumbar region.
He's haunted still by the horrific car crash, from '87.
Those eyes. Oh man. When he snaps into his funk, I might as well use a crowbar to spring him out. He shuts down. He mopes. I get it. He had too much to drink, and he was reckless the moment he seated himself in that '82 Mustang — but geez! It's been more than twenty years, and he still can't let go.
Garfield smiled as he pictured fifteen-year-old Max reclining back in his chair in geography class, cracking jokes with the befuddled teacher, Mr. Stadnicki. How he'd grab some friends, both guys and gals, and head off to Wreck Beach to do some skinny-dipping at midnight.
Plus, that expulsion from college. Since then, Max hasn't been the same jovial, black-slapping guy I'd known in high school.
I admire Max, I really do. But he has to believe in himself again.
How ironic, then, that the guy who professes to be the most shining example of Dale Carnegie's How to Win Friends and Influence People — would be holding a match to that revered book with a wicked grin on his face.
October 23, 2013 at 4:35 p.m.
Max entered Raymond's Used Bookstore, still in a funk over two untimely preoccupations; one, the lunchtime brutal reminder of the horrific car crash decades ago, and two, Dr. Hartley Mortimer's secretary calling to say he would not be signing on to be Max's client, but instead would keep his investments "safe" with his bank.
After more than two months since his last visit, he sought refuge within this anachronism, a musty old secondhand bookshop that still persisted amidst all those ephemeral electronic enterprises that promised you the moon with a click on the keypad, but offered you no engaging, warm sanctuary where you could browse to your heart's content while the owners forked over every penny of their meager profits to pay for the lease of those bricks and mortars.
Shit, Max thought, unable to keep his mind off the defeat. Dr. Mortimer has over $1.2 million in net assets and earns $325,000 a year from his family practice. After more than twenty years in the sales business, Max could calculate the commission within a thousand dollars right away. Lost $15,000 in commission, plus a chance to keep earning trailer fees so long as that physician lives and breathes and rakes in money. Numbers, it was all about the numbers. The figures that danced in his head, those that he scanned on a client's rumpled papers during a visit, and those that magically appeared in his commission account. He craved the human contact that came from just sitting down and chatting with a husband and wife about their lifestyle, but couldn't stop feeling that all these ones and zeroes were imaginary, a figment of an illusory world that could vanish any moment.
A sudden spell of vertigo seized him, and he stumbled to one side, resting his hand on a stack of dusty old books. The motion sickness passed, and he glanced at the object that'd steadied his wobble. It was one of those pale blue, cloth-covered hardback tomes of a bygone era, when milkmen completed their rounds and when Prince Albert Crimp Cut Tobacco sold in a tin can.
Intrigued, Max picked up the book, feeling the woven-cloth texture of the cover and glanced at the cover. Account of Time Travel on Earth Using Wave Theory, by Medicus Tempus.
Whoa. Weird title.
Inserting his thumbnail, he opened to the front page:
General Elliptical Principles of Time, Simplified
Time is a puzzle, and this book is intended for those who are creative thinkers, longing for a solution.
Time has been described in many different ways. Some say Time is flexible, and can be commoditized, as you would measure furlongs and pecks. They are incorrect. Time marches to its own drummer. It cannot be varied, cannot be manipulated by any agent, and cannot be violated. It can only be studied and respected – indeed, Time is our Master.
Time, hence, is rarely tranquil, yielding several emerging viewpoints – even now. Many individuals necessarily originate numerous assumptions, subject to rigorous evaluation each time.
In his works on Time, the astrophysicist J. Rosenfeld described Time by the formula....
Unreal. This guy sounds like time travel is long-settled scientific fact.
He flipped to the halfway point in the weighty tome.
Underneath a heading titled "Exhibit A" the photo, crystal clear in vivid color, seized his full attention and triggered fear.
It was a photo of him as a kid.
What? How did that get in there?
Eyes bugging out, he gasped again, redoubling his focus.
The photo showed him on his knees on — yes, he instantly recognized the orange-and-red patterned area rug of his childhood home and the teal-splashed wall framing his outline. That baseboard, with the flat slab, then the two-step grooves atop. His Brio train set, his favorite as a young boy.
Who's the sicko that put this in the book?
His white-knuckled fingers grasping the book hard, he glanced at the caption underneath the photo:
Max Thorning, July 17, 1977, 16:34:1904
I was six years old then!
My parents have never showed me this photo before! They've showed me hundreds of childhood photos, all lovingly preserved in worn-out albums, but this is a new one! Did they lose this one back when I was a kid? If so, how did this creep get his hands on it?
Dread twisted his stomach as he jumped to the next logical thought: How did this psychopath know I would pick up this book? How long had he been waiting for me?
Another chill enveloped him; ice coursed throughout his veins as he thought of another perverted notion:
Did this creep actually come into my living room when I was a child, hide out, and snap this photo without me knowing? And wait thirty-five years to shock the shit out of me?
He closed the book, his finger still firmly wedged on the page of that damning photo. Answers, I need answers, right now! I know the clerk wouldn't have a clue, but he's worked here ever since it opened.
Darting past the haphazard shelves of musty, dusty, old books, Max made his way to the cashier. An old-fashioned cash register with brass keys sat on a glass counter that was nearly covered with stacks of books. The thin, wiry old man with feathery wisps of white hair was engrossed in an ancient tome of his own.
"What's the meaning of this?" Max demanded using a volume between forceful denunciation and a shout, holding the front cover of the book upright in front of the clerk's wrinkled face.
Eyebrows rising, the clerk yanked up his chin. As Max waited a few seconds, heart beating fast, the elderly man peered over his wire-rimmed spectacles, studying what Max held.
"I'm not sure what you're referring to, sir."
"This," Max growled, opening the book at his finger bookmark. Peering sideways, he awaited the splash of vivid color that marked the photo. His heart sank as he realized it had disappeared.
"Is there something offensive in there?" the man grumbled, shaking his head. "If you want me to read it, you'll have to bring it closer. Keep in mind, though —"
"No!" a horrified Max exclaimed. "There was a photo in there!" Turning the book around to himself, he thumbed through the pages like a madman, searching for the damning photo. "Just a minute, just a minute ..."
Huffing, the clerk returned to the book he'd been reading.
Max's synapses lit on fire. Did I imagine the whole thing? How could I possibly "see" something I'd never seen before?
After a minute of examining the entire mysterious book, he sighed and his shoulder drooped. "Sorry. I don't know what I was thinking."
The old man didn't bat an eye, not looking up. "Don't worry about it."
"Can I buy this book, though?"
This time, the clerk snapped, "All books on display are for sale."
"Right," Max said, hesitating. He glanced to the back, and saw the handwritten sticker price, the tiny paper no bigger than half an inch. $15.75.
He handed the clerk his credit card and waited as the man pulled out an old-fashioned credit card reader from under the counter. The guy placed the card in the metal tray and ran the arm across it, making an imprint on the carbon paper slip below.
"I didn't know you can still use those things for credit cards," Max offered, more surprised than critical.
"Time changes many things, but it doesn't mean it's always for the better."
He slid the credit card form to Max, and placed a ballpoint pen on top. Max signed it, the clerk tore off a copy, handing it to Max and then placing the book in a brown paper bag.
Max shrugged off the dismissal, the mystery over his apparent hallucination now crowding out the despondent setbacks he'd had today.
July 17, 1977, it said.
October 23, 2013 at 5:16 p.m.
The moment he entered his suburban two-storey house, he sidestepped the baseball gloves and tossed-aside jackets lying on the stairs and dashed upstairs, a man on a mission. He thought of heading straight to his bedroom, but relented as he spotted his twelve-year-old daughter, Angela, at her dresser, gesturing in front of a propped-up tablet computer. She didn't seem surprised to see her father walk into her room and signed to him, "Wait a sec, I'm talking to Courtney."
Max stepped into the room to see Angela's friend on the screen. He waved and Courtney wiggled her fingers back at him.
Angela was born deaf at a very good time, if there ever was one.
He marveled at the ease in which Angela signed conversations with Courtney, a hearing classmate. Angela had taught her friend sign language.
Had she been born during my time, she would have had no Internet ... no amazing devices to help her, like the captions on the TV ...
After two minutes, Angela finished. She shut off the videoconference, and stood to hug her father. Proficient in sign language, Max conversed easily with Angela and her deaf friends.
"Guess what, Daddy?" Angela said, her hands a blur, "I qualified for the track and field team today!"
A wide grin spread across Max's face as he signed, "Congratulations! Way to go!"
After they'd signed for several minutes, Brandon came in, holding up Abby's smartphone.
"Daddy," he said, "can you take me now?"
Max knew right away from the digital map on the screen that Brandon wanted a ride to find a geocache too far to reach by bike. Geocaching was the digital age equivalent of orienteering, and Brandon devoted nearly all his spare time to his new hobby, eager to find the treasure in every box. It wasn't the value of the treasure — usually a few marbles, an ornamental key chain, or a Lego figurine — that enthralled the boy, rather it was the thrill of the hunt.
"Just a minute, Brandon," Max said, "there's something I have to do first." Eager to re-explore childhood, he badly wanted to take his son out, but that unnerving hallucination with the photo still drove him to seek answers. Passing Brandon's bedroom, Max strode down the hallway to his closet, opened the doors, and found the large box he'd been looking for.
Ah. Good timing. His mother'd just given him a boxful of photo albums, 8mm reels, and tiny frames of yellowed photos from his childhood. "It's time," she had told him. "I safeguarded these for you for years, but something could happen to me. They're yours now."
"Oh Mom," he had said back, holding warm gratitude in his heart. "Nothing will ever happen to you. But thank you. I'll take good care of them." They hugged, sealing the deal.
July 17, 1977 ... which one is it?
Am I imagining things? Maybe I should go out with Brandon. No. I saw the photo. I couldn't possibly imagine something I've never seen before so clearly.
Excerpted from "Life II"
Copyright © 2018 Scott Spotson.
Excerpted by permission of Scott Spotson.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.