Fifteen-year-old Caleb Mackenzie doesn't put up a fight when his father announces the family is moving to Stapeton, Nova Scotia. In fact, Caleb looks forward to a fresh start in the scenic little area. Their new home, Wakefield House, sports large rooms, a big barn where Caleb can work on cars, and acres of forested land for privacy. But it also has a troubling past. In 1943, a boy who lived in the home vanished.
Caleb hears the stories about what may have occurred so many years ago, but he passes them off as folklore until one day he's alone in the woods and hears the faintest whisper. Did someone in the distance just call his name? And what about his discovery in the hayloft? Could there be something to those old stories after all?
The initial need to dismiss everything as coincidence becomes a soul-searching journey into the past where Caleb is determined to uncover the truth about what really happened to the missing boy. And in the process, he learns even more about himself and what's really important.
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ONE BOY'S SHADOW
By Ross A. McCoubrey
iUniverse, Inc.Copyright © 2012 Ross A. McCoubrey
All right reserved.
Chapter OneTwo days after my fifteenth birthday (April 3, 2010, in case you were wondering, which makes me an Aries, if you're interested in my Zodiac sign), my parents sat me down at the kitchen table, along with my older brother, Blake, for a family meeting. Rain splashed against the panes of the small window above the sink on that dark Monday night. The old harvest-gold General Electric refrigerator made an annoying whirring sound as it attempted to keep the vanilla ice cream in the freezer hard. My dad wrapped his large-knuckled hands around his favourite blue pottery mug, with the slightest chip out of the handle. The steam from his cup of Red Rose was making ringlets in the air until they dissipated. My mother fussed with a shell-shaped plate she had put out with various kinds of store-bought cookies on it. Everyone was silent for what seemed an eternity. Dad took a sip of his tea and then, without taking his eyes from the table, said, "Boys, we're moving."
A lengthy conversation ensued. There were no dramatic screaming fits or cries of "I'm not going!" No one stormed from the table in an angry refusal to have any part of the move. There were no complaints from any of us. Everything was very clear. My father, Frey (in his early forties but looking older from years of hard, physical work and long hours), had taken a transfer from his job at the shipping warehouse. Instead of working on the floor of a warehouse, he'd be in an office. His pay would be a bit better but his hours likely longer. The major incentive was that it kept him from having to be on his feet all day. Dad had hurt his left knee about five years back when he put our old brown Taurus in the ditch on an icy road (having been called in to work the late shift because some newly hired guy didn't show up for work). There were nights when his knee caused him so much pain, all he could do was sit up in the living room for the entire night and attempt to soothe it with ice packs or heat. The doctors had told him they could do different surgeries on the knee, but there were no guarantees that any of them would be successful and he would be laid up for six months while he healed. The idea of not working for six months was not an option to my father. Dad was the kind of guy who always liked to be busy. So, weighing his options, he got up every morning and went to work. Most days he found the pain bearable, but even if it wasn't a particularly good day, he never complained. Knowing what he did every day to provide for us and still come home with a smile on his face, how could any of us even think to argue about his new job and our having to move? Blake and I congratulated Dad on the news, and we all remained seated at the table for some time, discussing what was going to happen.
Dad was to start his new job on the following Monday, which only gave us a week to figure out a plethora of details. We would have to put our modest storey-and-a-half house on the market and find a new home in or near the place where Dad would be working, a small town called Stapeton. It was about a two-hour drive from where we were living on the outskirts of Halifax, Nova Scotia, and didn't have much to offer in the way of excitement, according to my father. Stapeton did, he pointed out, offer us all a fresh start in a scenic little area where it was still actually dark enough at night to see the stars. It sounded good to me. I felt ready for a change.
When everyone had gone to bed, I walked down the hallway to my brother's room and tapped on the door. I heard him mumble that I could come in. I opened the door and strolled over to sit on the end of his bed.
"So, pretty big news, huh?"
"Whattaya think? Really?"
He sat up in his bed and leaned on his right arm. Even late at night, with bed head and dark stubble, anyone could see how attractive my brother was. He was nearly six feet tall, with dark hair and broad shoulders. He was active in volleyball and soccer, and he swam a lot too, all of which were good things because he could cook up a storm and eat like a horse. He weighed about one-eighty and was well-toned. He was into sports like I was into cars—or anything with an engine for that matter—so he got six-pack abs and I got grease-stained hands.
"Well, I'm glad Dad won't be doing the manual labour anymore, so any complaints I might have about moving are pretty petty in comparison to his health. I mean, it kinda sucks that I won't get to graduate with all my friends next year, but that's about all that I'll miss about this place. How about you? You doing okay?"
I took a moment to respond to Blake's question. "Yeah, I'm doing all right. Guess I'm actually kinda lookin' forward to moving. Be cool to have a new house—maybe make some friends. But I'm a little nervous, too. I mean, it's not like I love it here or anything, but it's familiar."
"True." Blake paused for a moment, contemplating. "Change is always a little nerve-racking at first, but you'll be fine. We're both gonna make new friends, and besides, even if we don't, I was on the computer earlier and I looked up Stapeton—turns out there's a lake really close by, so no matter what, you and I can go fishing and canoeing and stuff. Sound good?" Blake tried to show enthusiasm as he spoke.
"Yeah, that'd rock." I loved doing outdoor things with Blake. When he got his driver's licence, he borrowed Dad's half-ton (an Oxford white, 1995 Ford F-150 XLT) and picked me up from school, taking me for a surprise fishing trip. Dad had wanted to go too, but couldn't, due to work. And, selfishly, I was glad it was just Blake and me. Don't get me wrong—my father and I get along pretty well and everything, but it was easier with Blake. I could talk to Blake about anything, and I never felt stupid or embarrassed. There were lots of times growing up I'd wake my brother at night or find a chance to talk to him privately when I'd ask him all the pressing questions on my mind. Everything from: "Blake, is Santa Claus real?" to: "Blake, how come my dick is hard every morning?"
"Anything else on your mind, Caleb?"
"Hmm?" I had to snap back to reality, having let my mind wander.
"Anything else you wanna talk about?"
"Oh ... umm ... nah, I guess not. Not tonight anyway. I'm pretty tired, to tell you the truth. I just wanted to find out what you were thinking about everything."
"We're gonna be fine. Count on it."
"Yeah. I'm sure you're right." I got up from the bed and smiled.
"Night, bud. Get a good sleep."
I closed the door behind me and headed to the washroom before going back to my own room and to bed.
I looked over the walls of my small room. I'd be taking down my posters soon, carefully rolling up Sidney Crosby, the black Mustang GT, and Bullitt (the best car-chase scene ever filmed is in that movie, in case you haven't seen it), and packing them in cardboard tubes so they wouldn't get crushed on the way to the new house. I began to wonder what the new house would look like and where it was going to be. I got all keyed up thinking about it, and I couldn't wait for the weekend to arrive.
Mom had told us that we were going to look through the real estate papers on the weekend and work on finding a place. Everything felt so sudden and rushed, but that was what made it exciting. Our family normally plotted everything out so carefully. My parents were methodical and meticulous when it came to any significant event or purchase; for them to do something so hurriedly and unexpectedly was a surprise. I think we were all feeling a positive rush of adrenaline. I noticed my parents' light was still on when I went downstairs to the kitchen for something to drink at two o'clock. I could hear the mumbled sound of voices from beyond their door. I pulled out a chair at the round kitchen table and sat down with my glass of Graves apple juice. The sodium-vapour streetlamp spilled some luminance into the room and showed me the water still gently tapping against the window as the rain continued to fall. I finished my juice and went back upstairs to bed. It took me awhile, but eventually I fell asleep that night.
On Sunday afternoon, my father left for Stapeton. He had to start work the next morning and wanted to be sure to get a decent rest beforehand. He'd call when he arrived at his motel to let us know how the town looked and if he had seen anything of interest along the way. After he had gone, I sat down in the living room with my mother and went through some real estate papers with her. My mother, Karen (who stood five feet four inches in height and weighed about the same as me, though, naturally, she carried it differently), kept running a hand through her shoulder-length dirty-blonde hair, which had just a bit of natural curl to it. She'd sigh every time she put aside another paper or saw the price of a house she liked that was out of our league. Whenever we'd find something we liked, whether feasible or not, we'd read aloud the description. Unfortunately, most were well out of our price range, but it was fun to imagine all the same: like winning the lottery or being the last person on earth—the things you could do. The places we could afford never sounded very appealing, so we needed some fun intermixed with our reality. We were still going through the pages when Blake came home from a friend's house.
"Hi, sweetie. Have a nice time at Mark's?" Mom asked as Blake hung his brown leather jacket up on the coat hook inside the door.
"Yeah, I guess. It's kinda weird knowing you won't be going back, though. Everyone was kinda awkward once I dropped the news. What have you two been up to?" Blake grabbed a Coke from the fridge and came across the hall into the living room with us. He cracked the can open and sat down on the faux-suede brown recliner.
"We've just been checking out the different places for sale in Stapeton and the surrounding communities. Your dad said that anything within a ten-minute drive to work is best. We don't want to live farther than that if we can avoid it," she explained.
"Want me to go online and see what I can find?" he offered.
"Maybe we can try that later on. Right now we're kinda swamped as it is," Mom explained as she picked up a pile of papers to emphasize her point. "But thanks for the offer."
"Finding anything good?"
Mom and I both sighed. "Well, this is the pile of possibilities," I said, pointing to a thin stack of three sheets to my left. "And this is a pile of the ones we like." I pointed to a much thicker stack on my right.
Blake laughed. "It can't be that bad. Let's see the possibilities pile."
I handed him the sheets, and he quietly looked them over. I watched his facial expressions as he flipped through the pages. He scrunched his nose at the first one, stuck his tongue out at the second, and rubbed his forehead at the third. "Okay, are there any of the other pile I can look at? I'm not too keen on any of these." That was Blake's polite way of saying he hated the short list and wanted desperately to find something better.
"Here I was thinking this was going to be fun." Mom chuckled in her anxious way.
"No worries, Mom. We'll find something great. I bet Dad will call and tell us about something he saw on his drive out today, or maybe we'll still find one in this pile," I suggested hopefully.
"That pile isn't any good to us; it's all places too far from the town," Mom said to Blake as he picked up some papers from the centre of the long, rectangular coffee table.
"Mind if I look at them anyway?" he asked.
"Feel free," Mom replied, getting up from the sofa. "I'm getting a coffee. You boys want one?"
"Nah, I'm good, thanks," Blake answered, holding up his can of Coke.
"No thanks," I said.
Mom went out to the kitchen and returned with her coffee to see Blake scrutinizing one of the data sheets. I could tell he liked what he was reading. Mom sat back down on the sofa, the cushion covered with newspapers separating where she and I sat.
"Find something?" I asked my brother.
"Listen to this: Well-maintained two-storey farmhouse on fifty acres of land. Three bedrooms, two and a half bathrooms, partially finished basement, screened-in porch, and large outbuilding. Situated near a stream at the end of a gravel road."
"That sounds awesome," I said, trying not to get too excited.
"Yeah, and very expensive," Mom added. "How much do they want for it?"
"One forty nine, nine."
"That can't be right. It must be two forty nine, nine," Mom stated. She put down her coffee and looked over at Blake, a faint hope in her eyes.
"See for yourself," he offered, handing her the page.
Mom studied it for a moment before saying, "Must be something wrong with it. There's no picture. I bet it's dilapidated or at least needs a great deal of work." She peered closely at the write-up.
"That doesn't necessarily mean it's bad, Mom," Blake said. "And it sure as hell sounds better than the others we can afford."
"Oh wait, there's the real problem." Mom placed the page on the table in a disappointed grumble. "This place is a good fifteen-minute drive from Stapeton. It's out in the boonies. That'd be one long bus ride to school every day. Not to mention the winter. Think of it—the end of a dirt road, we'd be forever and a day to get plowed out."
"Well, couldn't Dad get a plow attachment for the truck? He could plow us out himself. Or I could do it, and when Caleb gets his licence next year, so could he. This place sounds too good to give up on just because it's a little less convenient."
Sensing Blake's uncommon desire for something (Blake's a pretty laid-back, easygoing guy when he's not playing a sport), Mom picked the paper back up again. "It does sound nice." She paused, imagining the possibilities. "Tell you what: when your father calls, I'll ask him to take a drive out and look at the place. If it looks at all decent, we'll go and have a proper viewing of it. We're not going to rush into anything, though. And besides, even if it is great, it'll be up to your father whether we consider it or not. He's the one who has to drive back and forth to work every day. If he thinks it will be too much extra, then that's that. So don't get your hopes up, okay? I don't want either of you to be disappointed."
The page with the farmhouse was put on the top of the possibilities list, and we continued going through the remaining papers. I don't think our hearts were in it after that, though. We all had our minds on the house by the stream, the peaceful country home with land and trees and lots of privacy. I don't know how I knew we would be getting that house for sure, but I did all the same. I think we all did, almost as if it were calling us to it. It just felt meant to be. I knew we were all thinking the same thing, as no one spoke of the house all through dinner. We didn't talk about anything at all to do with the move until the phone rang as we were clearing the table. Dad had reached Stapeton safely and was telling Mom all about the town. Mom had a smile on her face the entire time. That was a good sign. Blake and I awaited the moment when she told Dad about the house. It took about five minutes before the conversation got to that point. Shortly afterward, Mom hung up the receiver and sat down at the kitchen table with us.
"So, what did he say?" Blake asked immediately.
"Well, he's there safely, and the motel seems half decent. There's a coffee shop just down the street, so he grabbed a sandwich for his supper and he was going to go for a walk to see what else was around. He sounded tired but happy."
"What about the house?" I wanted to know.
"He said he'd go take a look tomorrow after work. He didn't sound very enthused about the distance from the town, so I think we'd better really start to look more seriously at the other houses." Mom's voice was somewhat dejected. She tried her best to force a smile, but we all knew how predictable Dad was. Convenience was much more important to him than any aesthetic quality. He'd go look at the house to humour my mother (well, all of us), but he'd find something about it that he didn't like and that would be enough to cross it off the list. Blake and Mom seemed to abandon hope at that moment. For some reason, I believed that, for once in my father's life, he'd do the impractical thing. I was certainly hoping, anyway.
The next day seemed to drag on forever. Classes were painfully slow, and the hands of the clock didn't appear to move at all. Finally the bell rang signalling the end of the last period, and everybody thundered into the halls, heading for lockers or buses or girlfriends or boyfriends. I simply headed for the door.
I had gotten used to the kilometre-and-a-half walk home after school by myself. It could be lonely at times, but other days it was a welcome relief from the constant noise that I had been subjected to at school. Blake and I walked together most mornings, which had given us many chances to talk over the years, but coming home I was alone because he was involved in so many school activities. I went to all his games and meets, but on that day, it was just a practice for the track team.
Excerpted from ONE BOY'S SHADOW by Ross A. McCoubrey Copyright © 2012 by Ross A. McCoubrey. Excerpted by permission of iUniverse, Inc.. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
What a wonderful book this was. I found that I did not want to put it down, and the further I got into the book the longer I was wanting it to last. Firstly Ross A. McCoubrey knew his subjects which I would classify as Young adult, Gay coming of age, Coming out, Love Eternal and a ghost some 60 years old. Just how all of these come together is far to difficult to explain but they just do and it is Charming, Engaging, Funny and touching. The end of this book really got to me so I suggest having a hankie or tissue handy whilst reading. This book should be a staple for all young adults to read of any sexuality. So much of this book is about learning who you are and accepting and loving yourself. Read it please, then spread the word this author needs to be known. Be wary of a cold breeze and watch for that stray oak leaf, they may mean something!
I loved this story. It starts a little slow, but we needed a proper introduction to the main character and his family. It moves at its own pace without rushing, and without bombarding the reader with any kind of infodump. Caleb, the main character, lives in Canada with his family. His dad comes home one day to announce he's been offered a job in a town a few hours away, and they discuss the situation. It doesn't take much to convince everyone that a move would be good for them, and they go house hunting. Caleb's brother spots what seems to be the perfect house. Except, it's a few miles outside of town, and winter could make it pretty bad if they are not prepared. And then, of course, there are the rumors that the house is haunted. Caleb, his brother, his friend, and his new best friend (and more?) investigate in a sort of Hardy Boys for the new millenium. I haven't been drawn into a story like this since the last Harry Potter book came out. About a hundred pages in, I noticed it was 9 PM. I thought I'd read just another chapter or two before going to bed. Next thing I knew, it was 4 in the morning. Where did the time go? I laughed, I cried, and I thoroughly enjoyed every page of this book. There were parts that made me cheer, and the ending is simply magnificant. I think this will become a Halloween tradition for me, re-reading this book.