The Edge of Over There

The Edge of Over There

by Shawn Smucker

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Shawn Smucker is the author of The Day the Angels Fell, as well as the memoir Once We Were Strangers. He lives with his wife and six children in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781493413997
Publisher: Baker Publishing Group
Publication date: 07/03/2018
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 384
Sales rank: 142,903
File size: 28 MB
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About the Author

Shawn Smucker is the author of The Day the Angels Fell and The Edge of Over There. He lives with his wife and six children in the city of Lancaster, Pennsylvania. You can find him online at, where you can also sign up for his newsletter in order to find out when and where the Tree of Life will turn up next.

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A man follows me down the sidewalk. He is bald and his eyes are circled with wrinkles, and the wrinkles are like ripples moving outward from the place where two stones fell into dark water. His cheeks are dragged down by time and heavy memories. Skin dangles under his chin. But among the wrinkles are tattoos of small, five-pointed stars that scatter up in a mist toward his temples. His stretched, see-through earlobes gape with large gauges. Piercings dot his eyebrows and lips. More piercings than I've seen before, more than I thought possible on one face.

It's not his wrinkles or the tattoos or the piercings that make me the most nervous. It's his eyes, eyes that have the look of the ocean my mother crossed in my dreams. They have a never-ending feel to them that's hard to describe, something I would not have recognized had I not crossed paths with Mr. Tennin and Mr. Jinn so long ago. This man following me is one of them.

I can tell you that much. I can tell by his eyes.

* * *

Can you kill someone like Mr. Jinn and go unpunished?

Probably not.

I've spent the last few months looking through Abra's journal, thinking back over the day the angels fell, and I have to wonder if we have truly gotten away with it. Did Abra and I eliminate Mr. Jinn without any consequences? I seem to remember being scared when I was a kid, frightened that we would pay for what we had done. But as the years went by, the feeling faded. I stopped being afraid. I started to wonder if it had all actually happened, or if the memory I had of two angels fighting over a Tree was only part of a dream, or a dream within a dream. Children are so good at pretending. Maybe Abra and I had made it all up.

But things changed. Abra is gone, dead, leaving me her journal and the sword. Why did she leave it to me, when I still can't even hold it? Did she want me to hide it? Use it? More than anyone on the planet, I'm aware of its significance, but what am I supposed to do with it? Having it in the house feels like hiding a state secret.

All of this is flying through my mind at lightning speed because this bald man with the star tattoos is following me through Deen, toward Mr. Pelle's Antiques.

Back to where it all started.

* * *

I glance down the alley that is still there between Pelle's and the pizza place. I stare at the baseball field off in the distance. It's not used for baseball anymore. Baseball has been abandoned, at least here in Deen, and the field drowns in brown weeds and overgrown, leafless trees. Saplings are entwined in the chain-link fence that used to be a backstop. When a strong wind blows, the winter branches clatter and scrape against the metal.

I'm not sure which is worse: land that's been swallowed up by "progress," or land that's been forgotten. We want things to stay the same, but the roads between "now" and "back then" are always changing, and by the time you manage to return home, if you can ever find your winding way, you realize it was never actually yours, not forever. These homes of ours, these fields, the things that make up the landscape of our childhood, they are only ever ours for such a short time, and they owe us nothing.

I look down the sidewalk. The man is still there, pacing, stopping, looking up at me occasionally. The piercings around his eyes glitter in the cold light. I take a deep breath, and when he turns away for a moment, I limp and sort of stumble into the narrow alley. My cane catches on the gravel and slips on the frozen dirt. I panic. I move quickly, or as quickly as I can. I look over my shoulder, expecting him to be right there, running toward me. I get to the side door of Pelle's Antiques, the same one I ran through so many years ago while trying to get out of the rain.

Trying to escape the lightning.

I'm sure it's locked, but I pull on the handle anyway.

It opens.

I've only just said that nothing stays the same, but when I walk through the doorway into the warehouse area of Pelle's Antiques, I realize I'm wrong. This place has not changed, not one bit. It even smells the same. There are old mirrors and dressers and bed frames without mattresses. There are lamps without bulbs and wardrobes begging to be hid in. And through it all, through the furniture and the shadows and the shapes, there is a narrow path, the same narrow path. I'm sure there are doors to all kinds of places right there in the warehouse area of Pelle's Antiques. I'm sure you could find a door to anywhere in the universe, if you knew which hutch to look behind, which empty window to open and crawl through.

I go down that path between all things, through the shadows and gaping holes and dust. I feel like I'm walking on a tightrope between worlds and that the slightest misstep could send me plummeting into somewhere else.

"Mr. Chambers," a voice says quietly, and even though my eyes are still adjusting to the dark, I know it's the man. The man with the stars around his eyes and the invisible mission on his shoulders. The shadows seem to creep away from us, back into the corners of the room, and I'm left staring at his unique face. I become lost in it, the way a child becomes lost staring up into the night sky.

"Samuel Chambers," he says, and I nod, even though he's not asking a question. He knows who I am. That much I can tell.

"Can we talk?" he asks.

I don't know what else to say, so I nod again, waiting for fire to fall from above and eliminate me as retribution for the long-ago death of Mr. Jinn. I wait for him to snuff me out. But he does not. Instead, he sighs, moves to put his hand on my shoulder, and then seems to think better of it.

"Good," he says. "I didn't want to scare you off."

He moves toward the door that leads outside, the door I just came through. I walk slowly behind him, and as we get out onto the sidewalk, I lean more heavily on my cane than I have for some time.

"Where can we go?" he asks.

I look up and down the street. There is no good place to talk privately in this town, no quiet spot, and if I take him to the diner or the coffee shop or the pizza parlor, if I go into those places with this man who looks the way he looks, the entire town will be wagging their collective tongues about it. Jerry, the man who takes care of my farm, will come looking for me, wondering if everything is okay. He'll ask if I need money — that's the first thing he asks when something out of the ordinary happens, as if money is the answer to every unasked question, every strange occurrence.

"I live ten minutes away," I say in a tired voice. "We could go there."

"Yes, but I'll need a ride, if that's okay. I don't have a car."

"Of course you don't," I say. "How'd you get here?" He looks at me and raises his pierced eyebrows, smiling.

"Of course you did," I mutter. "You didn't tell me your name."

"Call me Mr. Henry," he says.

"When people tell me to call them something," I say in a low voice, clearing my throat, "it makes me wonder if it's their real name."

He smiles again. The collection of wrinkles and tattoos and piercings makes it difficult for me to tell if it's a friendly smile or a leering one. The air feels suddenly icy, the way it feels before the snow falls.

We walk back to my cold car and get in. We drive north, leaving Deen behind us. I can see the car's exhaust clouding up, and everything is silent under the gray sky.

There is beauty in a barren winter day, the way the sky drifts lower and the cut cornstalks stand in their dry rows like beard stubble on a very old, very kind face. The mountains, covered in their leafless trees, are somewhere between brown, gray, and deep violet, or maybe all of those at once, and there are streaks of ice lining the shadowy places like diamond veins.

The wind kicks up and batters the car. There is the smell of new snow in the air.


Excerpted from "The Edge of Over There"
by .
Copyright © 2018 Shawn Smucker.
Excerpted by permission of Baker Publishing Group.
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.

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