As Jayne struggles with his own physical changes, he discovers his heart has also changed. He not only wants a home for himself, but for the others like him who are no longer considered human in the twenty-first century. Their biggest desire is the freedom to live and thrive within a world that refuses to accept them with their gills and tails.
Since Hope can no longer walk, her love for Jayne is clouded by her jealousy; Jayne has the gills but lacks the tails. Those that struggle with bigotry could bring about the Human Electric Cave Catfish's destruction, but all Hope can think about is awakening from her coma with Jayne's lips pressing against hers. Despite the humans' ban against Human Electric Cave Catfish relationships, do they dare fall in love?
|Product dimensions:||5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.94(d)|
Read an Excerpt
The "Tail" Begins
Tales From School Book 1
By Jae Byrd Wells, Ann Warren
iUniverse LLCCopyright © 2014 Jae Byrd Well
All rights reserved.
Gasp! Jayne's naturally tan hand covered his mouth. It was possible the security camera might show how his cheeks burned from the inside out. Slowly his fingers traced the corners of his chin. He secretly hoped that it would look natural and intelligent.
Since the afternoon had crawled by with minimal customers, he had been flipping channels. A missing persons program caught his eye since, there, plastered across the screen was a face he saw on a daily basis. Ashen-faced, he turned the knob on the small TV on the counter to minimize the volume. The slender man's shaking fingers would not cooperate. First, the volume bounced too low, too high and then tolerably low. Jayne's throat swallowed the lump again.
Aches and pains ran up and down his body that would only stop if he bolted out the door. Oh, if only he could! Bright sun rays from the giant front windows teasingly beckoned to him. The glass begged to be broken out of the shop in the converted small marine mammal park. The entire oceanarium outside of Bodega Bay, California was once open to the public; now only 1/10th of the main commercial building was being used to house Snake's Rock: Exotic Pet Shop.
It conveniently sat on a corner near several abandoned buildings and large vacant parking lots, almost perfect isolation to hide the torment inside.
Goosebumps rippled from head to toe and stung like fire ants. Jayne knew that the boss monitored the security camera focused on him. He sighed. 'Big Brother' lurked in the same building. The compounded noises from parrots, parakeets, and exotic monkeys flooded the room, confounding the hidden microphones, but brightening Jayne's soul. The combined hum of the fresh and salt- water fish tanks was overwhelming, so the reclusive boss normally muted the volume.
As he watched. Jayne could not believe his eyes or ears. The name or story did not hit home. Yet, the radiant face of the young woman he called 'Hope' was drawn in a black and white sketch, age progressed to what she might look like today if found. Marian Harrison's younger profile sported tom-boyishly blunt curly hair, staring at the old picture sent chills down his spine since he loved seeing her long, curly, chestnut brown hair dance.
Leaning onto the counter with his elbows, his throat tightened and his nostrils flared as the deep voice of the male host rang in his ears.
"... Marian had a high I.Q., but she had the usual problems for someone so smart. She did not fit in well at school, being the youngest of her class having skipped a grade. She had no desire for travel and preferred routine. When she was younger, her parents thought she was possibly autistic, but she just greatly needed a regular schedule. She also had an intense fear of water,"
Blood drained from Jayne's face as he thought to himself. I had always suspected she had been kidnapped, but to see her parents beg for her safe return. He snorted. Tears longed to well up, but stopped in their tracks. This show desperately needed to remain hidden from his boss. The back of his short black hair stood on end. Every noise in the store heightened his awareness of his surroundings. To regain emotional control, Jayne massaged his clean-shaven chin. Nerves in his brain processed every word and picture that the TV displayed.
The TV show continued with a male swimming competitor. Anthony Rodriguez grew up in Galveston, Texas. Few people from his past searched for him. The secluded surfer never dated in his pursuit of fame and fortune. The Mexican descendant bummed off his swimming coach by living in his garage. A brief home video showed Anthony bragging about a sure win at the next competition. Several people from the swimming community expressed their loss when he never showed up to the swim meet. Anthony's manager voiced his hope for his star pupil's safe return. With no leads, the police continue to be puzzled with this mysterious disappearance.
Jayne's brown eyes widened. He pretended to sneeze so that his hands could completely cover his flushed cheeks and his gaping jaw. Oh, my God! His silent words rang out to the heavens. Oh, my God! That's Jonathon! He's burly now ... but that face ... I know even better than Hope. Quivering hands moved from his cheeks to his eyes before stroking his hair. His head throbbed. When he started to shake his head, the journey stopped before it could complete its return. Anthony's voice on the TV mimicked last night's memory of his friend, Jonathon. The accent, including a surfer's tongue with the rolled r's, was undeniably identical between the two men. Even though the old Anthony proudly sported a pencil mustache and short hair, Jonathon's facial features matched, including the chiseled jaw. Many times over the last few years, Jayne had cut Jonathon's bangs to eye-length and trimmed his facial hair. Pain gripped the pet shop employee's stomach and tightened its grasp, causing it to try and rotate. Acid crept up his throat like spiders crawling.
The door chimed from speakers around the 3500 square feet of retail space. Breath escaped Jayne's gut as though an invisible force had punched him. Swiftly, Jayne flipped the TV off and inwardly cursed. Dang! A customer! The boss will turn up the speakers and listen. Aw, man! I wonder how many more people I know on tonight's program. I wish I could finish. From the inside corner of the L shaped wooden counter, Jayne briefly stood on his tiptoes to look in the general direction of the door, getting a peek over the shelves at who was walking in. After the seventy-year old customer entered, she side stepped the vertical piles of pet food along the eastern wall. Jayne watched her pick her way through the aisles toward him. Although his body faced the counter, his head turned toward her with a forced polite smile. His mind raced. It's gentle Dee. She won't take long. I'll be back in front of the TV before the next case.
Dee's expressionless amber eyes used to look radiant and bright. Today, trouble traced lines across her face as if she'd aged ten years in the span of a month. Those soft hands unusually shook against her sturdy body. There was something different about her stylish snow-white bun, for it seemed to drag her down; her petite legs wavered, shortening her once aristocratic pace into a protective gait.
Jayne glanced back to the counter with silent calculations from his memory. Let's see, she needs birdseed for her bird and wild seed for the neighborhood birds. His fingers immediately tapped keys on the register, Jayne guessed aloud, "... and cat food for the neighborhood cats."
Click click tap tap bring click went the register as he finished ringing up her purchase.
After she handed over her cash, she uttered, "Jayne, could you please be a dear and help me out to the car today? My knees are not what they used to be."
The register opened and Jayne placed the money into the correct slots. He would normally look at her directly, but his mind raced in other paths diverting his gaze. Jayne didn't dare complain out loud. Ah, man. I oughta help her though, her limp is getting worse. Arthritis must have finally reared its ugly head.
"Yes", Jayne responded with a crack and a hiss in his voice. Putting his fist to his mouth, he cleared his throat. "I may have found our missing frog. Let me see if I can cough it up. You know what I mean?" Half-heartedly, he forced a giggle at his lame joke, but Dee's forced happy expression remained. He snorted and shook his head at the floor. After he handed her the change, he closed the cash drawer. In a hurry, he proceeded to pick up the bags throughout the store and place them one at a time on a flat-bed cart. Two strides at a time, Jayne pushed it over to the register where Dee stood admiring the trinkets on sale. Oh please hurry, he thought to himself before sighing aloud.
She picked one up, turning it over and over before repeating the process with the next small keepsake.
Clearing his throat, Jayne impatiently voiced his progress, "Mrs. Graham, I'm ready." With that, she responded by smiling and heading for the door. Little conversation occurred as he pushed the squeaking cart to her vehicle. Jayne thought to himself, I can't believe she parked the car all the way out in the middle of the lot! There's a good handicap spot closer. Why'd she park so far away with her waning health?
"You are Andie Flynn's son?" Dee broke the silence in a hushed tone. "Are you not, dear?" They reached her tan Jeep Wagoneer,
Dee's sweet voice soothed his nerves. With one last squeak, he brought the cart to a halt. Looking directly into her experienced eyes, Jayne noticed her face now appeared less troubled. He shifted his weight. "Yes, Ma'am."
"She was really ill before her death." Dee's pleasant voice calmly continued. "Without insurance, she did not go to the doctor unless she had to. I delivered groceries to her. Perhaps you do not remember me. Today, I ran across a picture of you and your mother and made the connection. It always bothered me why you looked so familiar these last few years."
Although she paused to let Jayne comment, he only gave her nods of his head and crossed his arms. As a mixture of unpleasant and fond memories flooded back, his arms slowly unfolded. At last, hesitantly, Jayne spoke. Choppy words choked him as he stood as rigid as a mannequin. "I worked hard instead of playing. I worked every small job I could in order to pay bills. I did home-schooling work at her bedside to help her fall asleep. She was in so much pain. I told her I had a girlfriend. My pretend adventures gave her a life to dream about. I never did have a girl. I just told her that. I worked here before I was legally old enough. I passed my G.E.D. after she died. I was finally old enough to work here full-time when I turned sixteen. I've paid off the bills. I'm 21 now. I'm still here ... I've been here for eight years." Shrugging, Jayne stopped talking and sucked in his breath.
Leery-eyed, Jayne peered partially over his shoulder at the storefront while he waited for her to open the cargo door hatch. Jayne set the bags inside. His body ached as though he felt feverish. Trembling, he took an opportunity to think, Dee could take me away from here. Glancing vacantly back at the door, his fingers scratched the corners of his mouth. As he turned around, he stared at the deserted strip mall across the street, avoiding Dee's face. Tears flowed down his cheeks. Only the spirits heard his angry cry. His eyes widened in fear as he thought, But then, what about Hope, and Jonathon?
Jayne used one hand to wipe his face while the other one slammed the door harder than he intended. He felt Dee's presence as she followed him around to the driver's door.
"Where do you live now? Do you have an apartment somewhere nearby? Do you have a car yet? It's too far away for a bicycle. I have never seen you outside of this place."
Jayne cringed. His lips felt numb while a dirty feeling nagged at his soul. He didn't utter a word.
After Jayne carefully opened her door, Dee paused and fretted, "Jayne, dear?" She made direct eye contact. "Are you in any trouble, Jayne Flynn?"
Those loving words pinned darts at the very center of Jayne's heart. His drained, troubled face was neither acted nor forced. But grimly smiling, he enunciated politely, "No, Ma'am. And you just don't need to go troubling yourself." His words sounded as weak as he felt. "Okay?"
She answered with a tender expression and handed him two books from her purse. She forced the words out as if practiced, "Your Pa said you might like these."
"Thank you." Smiling, Jayne gently accepted the books with open hands. "Um. These are ... um. These are from ..." Hardened emotions stopped Jayne in midsentence. He let the question linger in the air, but she didn't correct herself.
"Be careful, Jayne." She nodded. Her maternal instincts kicked into high gear, "You come from good upbringing. I like you and don't want to see anything happen to you." Dee observed sternly, but kindly before she shut the door. She started the engine and drove off hurriedly.
Jayne's throat tightened. "My so-called father." Jayne's breathy words returned to his thoughts, ... died of an alcoholic overdose years before mom got sick. I never saw him read. As Jayne stared after the leaving vehicle, his face changed expressions a half dozen times: quizzical, perplexed, peace, and then fear, gripped him. A fresh breeze of air whipped his eye length bangs. Mimicking the soldiers on the TV, he did an about face. Tired legs trudged to the cart that he had left at the rear of her car. Pushing it awkwardly with the books in his left hand caused him to zig when he should have zagged. As he reached the storefront, he paused and took a step back.
The door opened and out came a taller, bulkier man. He forcefully stole the books out of Jayne's hands and challenged Jayne with frightening blue eyes.
"Gimme my books back! She ... she ... she let me borrow them. I have to give 'em back" Jayne hollered at him. "I got to keep them nice!" His caring palms and fingers reached out as he watched the thug not so carefully flip through the pages and drop the books on the thin worn carpet. The books thumped like faith crumbling to pieces.
"Humph," protested the bully with a slight snarl. To himself, he concluded there wasn't anything unusual.
Sadly, Jayne picked up the books and lovingly straightened the slightly creased pages. His slumped shoulders voiced his inward dashed dreams. He thought, Maybe it's stupid to hope there's a hidden message from someone who wants to rescue me. But who would rescue me? Dee is the only one who knows I am stuck here.
Both young men cringed as the sound system squawked, "What kind of an idiot are you, Douglas Baldwin? Don't ever do that in front of the windows! Someone could be watching!"
"Ah, there ain't no one 'round for miles." Doug fixated on the closest security camera, flailed his upper limbs and growled. "All this area. It's deserted!" Turning around and mumbling under his breath, Doug locked the pet shop door with a key on his key chain.
Taking big steps, Jayne sauntered toward the wall covered with fish tanks. Staring at the aisle with the dog toys and collars, he quickened his gait. His hurried pace led him to the opposite side of the store, where snakes, reptiles and exotic creatures sunned under the bright lights above their cages. Two steps inside the outstretched aisle, a big hand roughly grabbed his shirt collar. Jayne choked and gagged as he was wrested away from his path.
When Doug released his grip, Jayne rubbed his throat with his right hand and caressed it. He forced his throat to swallow several times in the attempt to get it to once again feel normal.
"Nice try, dufus," growled Doug as he forced Jayne on to a direct path to the counter, "Why did it have to be snakes?"
Jayne's mischievous grin turned upside down. He pouted a little as Doug inconveniently avoided the snake aisle.
Once they reached the counter, they walked around it and through the office behind the checkout counter.
Grumbling, Doug gave Jayne an extra shove into the organized office. He sneered and spat, "Come on, fancy pants! You got chores to do."
* * *
Across the street from Snake's Rock: Exotic Pet Shop, an old strip mall obscured two stealthy occupants. They were using a high resolution video camera along with a pair of binoculars for their stake- out. They observed and documented the interaction of Jayne and Dee.
"Well, she got him outside," brown eyes vocalized to the green eyes in an Oklahoman drawl. Sweat droplets started to form on his forehead.
"Okay," answered his partner. "She knows the boy, knew him and his mom years ago. She doesn't think he could be involved in a smuggling ring. If she thinks he's innocent, then we should too. Remember ... innocent until proven guilty." He shifted his weight from one foot to even his stance.
"I don't think this is a smuggling ring. At least. Not now."
"Isn't that what I said in the first place?"
"He doesn't seem to suspect that she's wired."
"Something's wrong. He's definitely afraid. We need to find out why. There she goes. Let's go meet her and get the bug." Lowering his binoculars, the slightly balding man furrowed his light brown eyebrows. Pulling the binoculars back up quickly, he gasped as he used both his eyes to witness Jayne's confrontation at the storefront. "Wow! Well, what do we have here?" His voice rose to a new level. "Did you see that?"
"So what are we looking at?"
Excerpted from The "Tail" Begins by Jae Byrd Wells, Ann Warren. Copyright © 2014 Jae Byrd Well. Excerpted by permission of iUniverse LLC.
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.
Table of Contents
ContentsForeword by Anita Siemer, ix,
Dried River Bottom - Out Of Hope, 1,
Time Of The Polliwogs - Learning To Swim, 57,
Fishing For Worms - Could They Get Away With It, 107,
Home Anemone Home - Safe For Whom, 173,
The Birth Of An Octopus - Good News For Whom?, 209,
Just Keep Swimming - To Tred or not to Tred, 261,
Inside The Mouths Of Oysters - Does Beauty Always Require Pain?, 309,
The Sting Of An Eel - Shocking, Ain't It?, 343,
In The Belly Of A Whale - Sitting It Out, 365,
Sharp Family Tree, 446,
List of Contributors, 447,
The Ink of an Octopus (Author's letter), 449,
Bottom Dwellers (Disclaimer), 451,
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
It was a great read. It The main characters Jayne and Hope had a love and hate relationship was great and it kept me wondering what will happen next. Great story, great characters and shocking cliff ending. It made me wonder what will happen in the second book.