The Town with No Roads

The Town with No Roads

by Joe Siple

Paperback(First Printing ed.)

$18.95
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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781684331703
Publisher: Black Rose Writing
Publication date: 02/14/2019
Edition description: First Printing ed.
Pages: 238
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.54(d)

About the Author

Joe Siple is a television sportscaster turned novelist and speaker. His debut novel, The Five Wishes of Mr. Murray McBride, was named 2018 "Book of the Year" by the Maxy Awards and "Award Finalist" by the American Fiction Awards. Learn more about him by visiting www.joesiple.com.

Read an Excerpt

CHAPTER 1

Day One

Jamison

Everyone has a story to tell.

That truth has bound humanity together for ages. From the caveman who discovered fire to the toddler who fell off the Monkey Bars, every person who has lived could say those magical words: "Guess what happened?"

And that was where Jamison Hightower fit in. He told people's stories.

Some people said his stories didn't matter. Actually, most people said his stories didn't matter. They thought the important part of the news was at the top of the show. The latest cheaters on Wall Street or the murder on the corner of 7th and Fairfax. Or even the weather — as if the chance of rain was somehow more important than stories of humanity.

They mocked his assignments. Called them "fluff" and "kickers." Half the time Chance Browner intentionally went over his allotted four minutes just so he could point out yet again that people care more about the Twins-Yankees game than about Mrs. Hutchinson's fund raiser over at St. Francis Elementary.

"People thank me every day for cutting into your time," Browner had said last week. "No one cares what you have to say."

And it was probably true. But it didn't change the fact that someone needed to say it. At least that's the way Jamison Hightower saw things.

Which was why he stood in three inches of mud in front of Farmer Holliday's 80-acres of corn and soybeans, trying to ignore the raindrop that dripped from his NBC baseball hat and wove its way down his neck, tickling like crazy. Because Farmer Holliday — which was exactly how he had introduced himself, Jamison had no idea of his first name — looked like he had just won the lottery. Eyes smiling between weathered cheeks and furry eyebrows. Burly chest stuck out proudly.

And the truth was, Jamison loved him for it. If hosting a small-market television reporter in his corn field for a piece of "fluff" was going to be the story he told his grandchildren on his deathbed, well, God bless him. Tell away, Farmer Holliday.

"We're live in one minute."

It was J.D.'s voice from behind the camera. A routine, although unnecessary, warning. Jamison had Master Control piped into his earpiece and J.D. obviously knew when they'd be on camera. But J.D. liked to see the reaction from the little crowds that gathered every time they did a live-shot. Not that Jamison could blame him. Based on the murmur of excitement that rippled through the gathering, they could have been watching Tom Brokaw.

Jamison knew this much — he was no Tom Brokaw.

"Twenty seconds," J.D. said.

"I think I'm going to faint." Farmer Holliday put one of his giant paws against his granite stomach and groaned.

Jamison rested his hand on Farmer Holliday's shoulder. It was thick and rippled beneath his sweaty tee-shirt. The shoulder of a man who tossed bales of hay like most people toss the newspaper onto the breakfast table. "Don't worry," Jamison said. "I'll take care of everything, I promise."

"Nope," Farmer Holliday said. "Ain't going to faint. About to puke."

Normally, that would be on the short list of things Jamison would address. But just then J.D. pointed to him and the red light on the camera started flashing. There wasn't much Jamison could do but hope the man next to him had a stomach as strong as his deltoid.

"I'm Jamison Hightower, live in rural Olmsted County, where the farmland behind me may look ordinary, but inside grows a kernel of wonder. Actually, make that 157 kernels. Because one ear of corn in Farmer Holliday's 80 acres has grown with bright — some might even say neon — orange kernels."

Jamison pictured Chance Browner in the sports office, incredulous. This is why he couldn't have an extra two minutes for his sportscast? Well, yes. Jamison never said everyone's story would be worthy of the Silver Screen, just that they deserved to be told.

Jamison put his hand on Farmer Holliday's back and pulled him close, then gave him a quick wink, as if the farmer's nerves were a little secret between the two of them. "Farmer Holliday joins me now, and sir, when did you discover this unprecedented ear of corn?"

Farmer Holliday stood there, wide-eyed and looking like his vomit prediction was about to come true. If something were to come out of his mouth, Jamison was pretty sure it wasn't going to be words. It wasn't uncommon. Jamison had been there before. The time for open-ended questions had passed.

"I mean to say, did you just discover it recently?"

Jamison was relieved for the big farmer when he blinked and mumbled, "Yes."

Jamison had been doing the same job for nine years — since he graduated from J-school — so he knew from experience that he should count his blessings to have gotten that much out of him. Time to wrap it up.

"Amazing," Jamison said, and then turned back to the camera, nonverbally dismissing Farmer Holliday — although the big man continued to stand there, his eyes bulging like aliens were conducting experiments on his brain. Jamison looked back into the camera, hoping J.D. was smart enough to zoom in until he was the only one on-screen.

"Farmer Holliday says he has no plans for the piece of corn, but if the National Academy of Science wants to purchase it for research, or Green Giant wants to buy the rights for advertising, Farmer Holliday says he is 'all ears.'"

Jamison fought a cringe. No one was going to confuse that with Tom Brokaw.

He gave his signature move — the one he had done since his very first live-shot as a twenty-two year-old newbie. A bounce of his left eyebrow, followed by a quick wink. Kind of ridiculous, he realized. But it had become a calling card, of sorts.

"Reporting live, I'm Jamison Hightower, KTRP News."

Behind the camera, J.D. held up his hand for everyone to remain still. "And we're clear," he said a moment later. The small, elderly crowd immediately swarmed Farmer Holliday. They slapped his back and shook his hand. Farmer Holliday basked in his newfound fame. On a job well done.

An old lady with a walker picked her way through the mud. Her slickers were soaked and the wind whipped a few strands of white hair into her eyes. She set the legs of the walker three inches deep into the mud and took his elbow with bony fingers. "You're a powerful man, Jamison Hightower," she said.

Jamison followed her gaze to Farmer Holliday, whose chest was sticking out, rocky shoulders set back, and Jamison realized this was why he did his job.

"When are you coming back, sonny?" the old woman asked. "I got a raspberry patch over yonder that's taking over my pumpkins. Now there's a story for your newspaper station."

"Well ma'am, I'd love to come back," Jamison said. "But I'm not sure my boss will let me."

"Oh? Why not?"

He leaned in conspiratorially and water gushed from the brim of his cap. "Just between you and me, he's a bit of an idiot."

The woman roared a laugh and wondered off, but then Jamison noticed J.D. press his hands against his earphones and lunge toward switches in the live-truck. Jamison thought back on his last words and kicked himself for being so stupid. He knew what was coming before he even heard the words.

"Jamison," J.D. said, stifling a laugh. "You're not going to believe it, man. Your mike was still live."

* * *

To get on a boss' bad side, it turned out all you had to do was this: Gather a group of, say, two hundred-thousand people, from all socioeconomic classes, all professions, several ethnicities. Then, in a strong, clear voice that every one of them can hear, call your boss an idiot.

Then chuckle a little bit, just to really rub it in.

Needless to say, Jamison's boss, Thomas Harris III, wasn't exactly pleased. Then again, he was never pleased with Jamison, which was why he sent him out on the most worthless stories. If Harris ever discovered Jamison didn't consider it punishment, he'd surely stop. Make him cover a high profile murder investigation or something.

But Harris was really upset about the "idiot" fiasco. As soon as Jamison had returned to the station, Harris' temples had begun throbbing and he got warmed up by firing J.D. on the spot. Somehow, Jamison had been able to talk him down from that. After all, Jamison had said, technical problems happen. It wasn't J.D.'s fault Jamison had made a bad decision.

So Harris had turned his fury to Jamison. You're fired! had surely been on the tip of his tongue when he had stopped suddenly. A blank expression had covered his face for a moment, as if remembering something. Then he had banished Jamison to a small town on the fringe of the market, where he'd been trying, unsuccessfully, to sell advertising for months. Some silly story about a girl receiving messages from her comatose father. Typical fluff.

Jamison couldn't wait.

He was so happy to still have a job it didn't matter that it was a rainy Saturday ... and he had to take his own car ... and he wouldn't have a photographer. He was all over this assignment.

His '86 Chevy Nova didn't roll down the road as much as it hydroplaned if there was the faintest sheen of mist. New tires didn't make a lick of difference. It was as if it had been engineered by the 1980 Miracle on Ice team. Rust dimmed the headlights and there was a dime-sized hole in the floor by the gas pedal — with each puddle he hit, everything below his waist was soaked with Round-Up infused rainwater.

But through streaks on the driver's-side window, the sun shimmered on the horizon, igniting the sky in red, purple and orange. Jamison wondered how someone ten miles away could be enjoying such a dazzling view while he was rained on inside his car.

He skidded by corn fields, each row marked by little signs. Garst. Monsanto. Syngenta. Soon he reached a plunge leading to a valley and suddenly, everything changed. It was like moving from one news story to the next, where the entire scene shifted to a new city, or country, or even a new world, all in the milli-second it took to flash from one screen to another.

There was a little town below. A row of thatched-roof shops faded into neighborhoods of modest cottages. A river meandered through and ended in a waterfall, which splashed into a lake twice the size of the entire town.

But from Jamison's eagle-eye view, one thing is noticeably absent. He couldn't see a single road of any kind in the entire town of Sparkling Pond. As he approached, the highway made an abrupt curve and swung him away from the town, so he pulled his right-side tires onto the grassy shoulder, threw the bobsled-car into park, and went to explore.

In the middle of a footpath at the edge of town stood a statue of a man in a fisherman's hat, carrying a bucket of trout, which spouted water from their mouths into a pool below. An inscription read, Hank Lyons welcomes you to Sparkling Pond.

And then Jamison heard a sound that melted his heart without even knowing exactly what it was or where it originated. Sniffling. Not cold-symptom sniffles, but crying sniffles. He wandered around to the back side of the fountain and there, wiping a tear from her perfectly rounded cheek, was a girl, maybe eight years-old. Jamison couldn't help but wonder what made her story such a sad one.

He tried to approach softly, making just enough noise for her to hear his footsteps, but not so much that he scared her. Still, she startled when he got within a few steps.

Jamison understood perfectly well that he had a complex of sorts, where he thought he could solve everyone's problems if they just poured their soul out to him. If they shared all of their story with him. He knew that wasn't how it worked — spill your secrets to a stranger and your problems were solved. But he didn't feel like a stranger to this girl. He felt like another human being with problems of his own and a free ear for listening. Nothing more, nothing less.

"Want to play hide-and-seek?" the girl asked, swiping at a tear.

It took Jamison a second to get over the surprise of this girl he'd never met speaking to him, but in that second he realized that yes, actually, he did want to play hide-and-seek. In fact, he wanted to play hide-and-seek more than just about any other thing. The kid looked like she could use a little distraction.

"Cover your eyes and count to ten," she said. "Ten Mississippi. Tanner Miller counts to ten-Maine, but that's cheating."

"Ten-Mississippi by twos, got it."

Her eyes bulged like she'd never heard of such treason. "Kidding!" Jamison said. "Ten-Mississippi by ones."

"And no peeking."

Now she had him pegged for a cheater — someone she had to keep a close eye on. Jamison did cover his eyes, he didn't peek, and strangely, the world immediately came to life. Birds he hadn't known were there chirped from nearby trees, singing a duet with the fountain. Rose pollen seemed inches from his nose. Even the rough marble of the bench that circled the statue felt more real. More solid. As if losing his sense of sight made him see the world more clearly.

It reminded him of a story he'd once done on a blind man who'd learned to run marathons with the assistance of his ears and in some cases even his nose, but without the help of a guide. The man had been so touched by the news coverage, he'd asked Jamison to "watch" the story with him. Jamison would never forget the ear-to-ear grin as the man heard things on the video that Jamison surely would never catch.

"Eight-Mississippi, nine-Mississippi, ten-Mississippi. Ready or not, here I come," Jamison yelled out. He hoped that was what kids yelled when they reached ten-Mississippi. There had been a serious lack of hide-and-seek in his own childhood.

They were in a wide-open area in which the only possible place to be hidden from plain sight was the other side of the fountain. Kind of anticlimactic, actually. By five-Mississippi Jamison had been looking forward to scouring hidden nooks and crannies.

He wandered to the other side of the fountain but she wasn't there. He ran around the fountain because the only thing she could have been doing was sliding along the circular bench, keeping the statue as a curtain between them. But unless that little girl was the fastest third-grader in Minnesota, she wasn't pulling the run-around-in-circles trick.

Jamison was seriously stumped — and actually becoming a bit worried. There was nowhere else she could have gone. An answer came as a gasp for breath and a quick splash. Jamison went to the edge of the fountain and peered down into the shimmering surface.

Sure enough, the girl was gliding in a pool that quadrupled in size beneath the statue. She stretched her arms over her head, cut through the water like a dolphin, and pulled herself forward in a breaststroke. She was like a mermaid under the ripples, drifting easily, her hair flowing behind her in wisps. Then she popped to the surface and shook droplets from her hair.

"Are you sure you didn't peek?" she asked.

"Who do I look like, Tanner Miller?"

She looked at him skeptically for a moment, then hopped out of the fountain. It made Jamison feel good that she seemed to have forgotten whatever was making her cry.

"What's your name?" she asked.

Jamison hesitated, because that was a more difficult question than she realized. She flashed a crooked smile, like he was either crazy or just plain stupid.

"Sorry," she said. "I didn't mean to confuse you." The tone of her sarcasm was a bit off, as if she was still trying to figure out how it worked. But to Jamison, it just made her sound even sweeter.

"I forgive you," he said. "But ease up on the tough questions, okay?" After she hopped out of the fountain, he extended his hand and she took it, pulling her shoulders back as if to look very formal. "I've figured it out. My name is Jamison and it's a pleasure to meet you." And suddenly, unexpectedly, he was having a conversation with an eightyear-old girl. Apparently, there's a first time for everything.

"What are you doing here?" she asked.

"I'm here to do a story for the news."

"Well that's interesting, don't you think?"

"I suppose so. Actually, I'm pretty lucky. I do stories like this all the time."

She snapped her fingers and cringed. "Rats for you. After all, variety is the mac-and-cheese of life."

Jamison tried not to laugh out loud, but the kid seemed to think she was thirty years-old, and yet ... "Mac-and-cheese?"

Her face scrunched up like the fact that he wasn't smart enough to understand was physically painful for her. "Well yeah. I'm a kid. I literally hate spices."

He tried to figure out if it was a joke, and she took his silence as more proof of his ignorance.

"Get this Jamison," she said, trying a different track. "Two fish swim into a concrete wall. Then one turns to the other and says, 'Dam!'" She slapped her knee, doubled over, and belly-laughed. "You thought I swore, didn't you?"

"I have to admit, I was about to go tell your mom." Jamison remembered why he was there and a thought hit him. "Hey, is your name Aspen?"

Without a word, she began skipping through lush, green grass toward town. "Hey, wait!" Jamison said. "Where are you going?"

(Continues…)


Excerpted from "The Town with No Roads"
by .
Copyright © 2018 Joe Siple.
Excerpted by permission of Black Rose Writing.
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

Title Page,
Copyright,
Recommended Reading,
Dedication,
Day One,
Day Two,
Day Three,
Day Four,
Day Five,
Eleven Months Later,
Author's Note,
About the Author,
BRW Info,

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The Town with No Roads 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
lauriesophee 10 days ago
"What good is a miracle if no one believes it?" This is a wonderful uplifting story of true love and forgiveness. Miracles are necessary to help Aspen forgive her father for something that has happened years ago. Was it exactly as she remembers? Will time heal/change this memory? Can miracles possibly be real? There is forgiveness,hope, mystery, friendship, family, and redemption in this novel. Definitely a different type of book that everyone can enjoy if they "believe". #blackrosewriting . #JoeSiple