Spotlight: Celebrate The Sinner by Steven M. Scott


 

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Celebrate The Sinner
by
Steven Merle Scott

About The Author:Cropped headshot

S.M. Scott was raised and educated in Oregon, Alaska, France and Africa. Born in the Willamette Valley, his father, grandfather and great grandfather were Oregon lumbermen. When he was eight, his parents packed up the family and their portable sawmill and moved to Anchorage, Alaska where they began cutting homesteader timber in the summers and teaching school each winter.

He later returned to Oregon to pursue undergraduate studies at Linfield College. Along the way, he has studied economics, biology, French and medicine. He attended medical school in Colorado, undertook surgical training at the University of Utah and completed his cancer training at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota. He and his family now live in Salt Lake City in the warm company of Saints and sinners. He is a practicing orthopedist and cancer surgeon.

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Genre: Historical Fiction

Publisher : Blue Amber Press

Release Date: January 30, 2013

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Book Description:>

Unsettled conditions anywhere give rise to fear,” Old Ted remarks. “Fear finds scapegoats and easy solutions.”

In 1924, Marie walks through the Waverly Baby Home and chooses Teddy because he looks like the child she deserves…but the boy has hidden defects. Five years later, against a backdrop of financial ruin, KKK resurgence, hangings and arson, Marie’s husband, Merle, struggles to succeed, Marie loses her way, and troubled seven year-old Teddy begins to see what he and his family are missing.

CELEBRATE THE SINNER unfolds with the onset of The Great Depression after Teddy’s father buys a bankrupt sawmill and moves his small family to an isolated Oregon mill town. Merle feeds his hunger with logs and production, while his young wife feels like rough-cut lumber, unworthy of paint and without a future. When a conspiracy threatens the mill, Merle adds the powerful KKK to his business network. Untended, Teddy strays as he searches for a connection outside himself. He loves the machines that take the trees, but he also worships his new, young teacher. He discovers the Bucket of Blood Roadhouse and begins spending his Saturday nights peering through its windows, gaining an unlikely mentor: Wattie Blue, an ancient, Black musician from Missouri, by way of Chicago, plays the lip harp and calls out square dances. When Wattie faces the Klan and his past, Teddy and his family are confronted with equally difficult choices.

Framed by solitary, narcissistic, ninety-year-old Ted, this story of desperate people contains humor, grit, mystery and an ending that surprises, even stuns. “Spines and bellies soften and round off with the years,” Old Ted muses. “Thoughts, too, lose their edge, but secrets scream for revelation. Perfect people, after all, don’t hold a monopoly on the right to tell their stories.

Goodreads link to Steven Merle Scott
Excerpt

OLD TED LOOKING BACK ON HIS FATHER: 320 WORDS (When Old Ted is speaking of the present, italics is used)

Images stay with me, more so than words and facts. I use images to make sense of the world, which might be due to my basic wiring or simply because I spent so much of my life watching. I store them and bring them out when I need them. On the empty big screen in front of me—my personal electronic storyboard—I move images and massage them. I flip and rotate them. The Big Screen has become my last, best window. I’ve been watching Dad, thinking about how he came to buy the Culp Creek mill, wondering how he so easily got caught up in Wulf Gehring’s clutches. The deal he made to buy the mill turned out to be one Dad’s favorite stories; in varying forms, he must have told it a million times. The basic facts are clear enough, but the shadowy spaces lying in between remain open to interpretation. Dad would say different, but I’m convinced that he gave away too much from the beginning. Dad despised filbert trees. This might seem unrelated to him buying the mill, but it had everything to do with it. Steadfast like the pioneers who had planted them, these filbert trees lined our valley roads like domestic servants. In truth, I don’t think he hated the filberts so much as what they stood for: order, patience, and what he called, “an unfounded optimism.” When Dad sped past, with row after uniform row of planted trees flickering by, all he saw were men and women, weary generations of them, picking and pruning in the shadows and then disappearing—silent actors moving across another silent screen. Dad never saw the value of planting trees and expending the effort it took to raise them, especially when compared to a stand of wild Douglas fir left by God for him to take. Dad wasn’t a silent actor; he saw himself as a hunter.

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Blog Tour: The Trouble with Toads by Danyelle Leafty


 

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trouble with toadsThe Trouble with Toads

Once upon a time a young girl wanted revenge. But first, she wanted to be beautiful.

Twelve-year-old Bettony has read enough stories that begin with ‘Once upon a time’ to know what happens to the ugly stepsisters at the end, and she’s determined to escape that fate by any means necessary—even by magic.

Unfortunately, when it comes to magic, there is no place for regret, refunds, or exchanges. Even if you accidentally turn your older sister into a toad.

If Bettony wants her Happily Ever After to end well, she’s going to have to find a way to turn her sister back into a person before their mother finds out she’s been dabbling with magic and grounds her for life.

Tracking down the family magic turns out to be surprisingly easy. Now, if only it came with directions . . .

THE TROUBLE WITH TOADS (45,000 words) is the first book in a new upper MG series The Secret Stepsister Society. The second book will be released Summer 2013.

Excerpt

Her grandmother shrugged, the lines of sympathy gone from her face. She picked up the first bottle and added a pinch of the dust to the bowl. “Suit yourself, missy. But remember that is a choice you made for yourself this very day. I’ll not countenance you running back to me with complaints. You want beauty, and you shall have it—and all that comes with it. Are we clear?”

Fear and wonder and enchantment had stolen her voice away, so Bettony nodded. Anticipation rumbled in her center, a bright flame that made her feel heavy and light all at the same time.

“And if this spell gets you into mischief, you can’t come running to me to fix it. You make the mess, you clean up after yourself. Are we clear?” Her grandmother pulled out the lead stopper on the second bottle. Her hand quivered with age, but she was very careful only to allow a single drop to gloop down into the bowl.

Bettony nodded again, almost giddy. Magic wasn’t going to cause her problems. It was going to solve them. Once she was beautiful, she’d be able to do whatever she wanted.

Her grandmother hesitated before she picked up the final bottle. “No refunds, exchanges, or regrets. What magic does is done. Do you understand?”

Bettony gave a decisive nod. Of course she understood. She wasn’t a child.

Her grandmother snorted as though she’d heard Bettony’s thought. “I don’t think you do, but that’s good enough for the binding. You don’t have to actually understand, you just have to believe you do. Now, add that frog of yours, and we’re nearly finished.”

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danyelleAuthor Danyelle Leafty

Danyelle Leafty writes upper MG and YA fantasy, and is the author of THE FAIRY GODMOTHER DILEMMA series. Danyelle has always loved fairy tales, and prefers stories where someone gets eaten, or at the very least, transmogrified. Much of her inspiration has come from fairy tales, because as G.K. Chesterton so aptly states, “Fairy tales are more than true: not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.”

In her spare time, she collects dragons, talking frogs, and fairy godmothers. She also collects books, and one day hopes to make a house out of them. She enjoys learning languages, fiddling with her harp, and perfecting the fine art of mothering. (It’s a lot like trying to herd chickens during a lightning storm while a goat stampede is going on.)

One of her heroes is Albert Einstein, particularly for the following quote: “Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow. The most important thing is not to stop questioning.”

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Blog Tour Giveaway

$25 Amazon Gift Card or Paypal Cash

Ends 6/28/13

 a Rafflecopter giveaway

Open only to those who can legally enter, receive and use an Amazon.com Gift Code or Paypal Cash. Winning Entry will be verified prior to prize being awarded. No purchase necessary. You must be 18 or older to enter or have your parent enter for you. The winner will be chosen by rafflecopter and announced here as well as emailed and will have 48 hours to respond or a new winner will be chosen. This giveaway is in no way associated with Facebook, Twitter, Rafflecopter or any other entity unless otherwise specified. The number of eligible entries received determines the odds of winning. Giveaway was organized by Kathy from I Am A Reader, Not A Writer http://iamareader.com and sponsored by the author. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW. Prize value $25 US.

Book Blast: Evertaster – The Buttersmith’s Gold


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The Buttersmiths’ Gold
BATTLES. BLUEBERRIES. BOVINES.
TORBJORN AND STORFJELL’S HISTORY UNFOLDS IN AN EPIC EVERTASTER NOVELLA.
Everyone knows the most coveted treasure of the Viking Age was blueberry muffins. Blueberry muffins so succulent that if you sniffed just a whiff, you’d want a whole bite. If you bit a bite, you’d want a batch; if you snatched a batch, you’d stop at nothing short of going to war just to claim them all.
Young Torbjorn Trofastsonn comes from the clan that makes them. He’s a Viking through and through – he’s thirteen winters old, larger than most respectable rocks, and most of all, a Buttersmith. That’s what he thinks anyway, until a charismatic merchant makes Torbjorn question his place among the muffin-makers. When Torbjorn lets the secret of his clan’s muffin recipe slip, he calls doom and destruction down upon his peaceful village and forces his brother Storfjell and his clansmen to do the one thing they are ill-prepared to do: battle for their lives.

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About The Buttersmiths’Gold
The Buttersmiths’ Gold is a spin off novella in the Evertaster series that tells the story of two Viking brothers and their adventurous past. The Evertaster series (Book #1 released June 14, 2012) is about Guster Johnsonville, who goes searching for a legendary taste rumored to be the most delicious in all of history. Along the way he meets a slew of mysterious characters, including two Viking brothers Torbjorn and Storfjell. The Buttersmiths’ Gold is their story. 124 pages. By Adam Glendon Sidwell. Published by Future House Publishing.

Evertaster, Book #1:
A legendary taste. Sought after for centuries. Shrouded in secrecy.
When eleven-year-old Guster Johnsonville rejects his mother’s casserole for the umpteenth time, she takes him into the city of New Orleans to find him something to eat. There, in a dark, abandoned corner of the city they meet a dying pastry maker. In his last breath he entrusts them with a secret: an ancient recipe that makes the most delicious taste the world will ever know — a taste that will change the fate of humanity forever.

Forced to flee by a cult of murderous chefs, the Johnsonvilles embark on a perilous journey to ancient ruins, faraway jungles and forgotten caves. Along the way they discover the truth: Guster is an Evertaster — a kid so picky that nothing but the legendary taste itself will save him from starvation. With the sinister chefs hot on Guster’s heels and the chefs’ reign of terror spreading, Guster and his family must find the legendary taste before it’s too late.

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Author Adam Sidwell

In between books, Adam Glendon Sidwell uses the power of computers to make monsters, robots and zombies come to life for blockbuster movies such as Pirates of the Caribbean, King Kong, Transformers and Tron. After spending countless hours in front of a keyboard meticulously adjusting tentacles, calibrating hydraulics, and brushing monkey fur, he is delighted at the prospect of modifying his creations with the flick of a few deftly placed adjectives. He’s been eating food since age 7, so feels very qualified to write this book. He once showed a famous movie star where the bathroom was. Adam currently lives in Los Angeles, where he can’t wait to fall into the sea.

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Evertaster Tour

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BookBlast Giveaway
$50 Amazon Gift Card or Paypal Cash
Ends 6/30/13

Open only to those who can legally enter, receive and use an Amazon.com Gift Code or Paypal Cash. Winning Entry will be verified prior to prize being awarded. No purchase necessary. You must be 18 or older to enter or have your parent enter for you. The winner will be chosen by rafflecopter and announced here as well as emailed and will have 48 hours to respond or a new winner will be chosen. This giveaway is in no way associated with Facebook, Twitter, Rafflecopter or any other entity unless otherwise specified. The number of eligible entries received determines the odds of winning. Giveaway was organized by Kathy from I Am A Reader, Not A Writer http://iamareader.com and sponsored by the participating author. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW. Prize value $50 US.

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Another wonderful 5 star review for Mungai and the Goa Constrictor


Huge thanks to ‘diebus’ for this fantastic review.

Mungai and the Goa Constrictor - Book CoverEducational and entertaining by diebus

“Mungai and the Goa Constrictor” by Amelia E. Curzon is as lovely a story as it is serious. Written for children and adults alike it should provide a good base for adult – child discussions on the ethics of animal welfare and nature preservation.
With a hint of Animal Farm and The Jungle Book this is a wonderful moral tale about two animals, one a boa constrictor, the other unspecified, and their ploy to use other animals and nature reserves to have an easy and wealthy life. Told from an animal perspective
There are beautiful scenes where animals use their natural abilities to create a mill and constructions and only gradually does it dawn on them what they do to their own habitat and environment.
The characters in the story are well-developed and make the story richer than just a moral tale, which I found quite a relief after reading the blurb. This is unique and intelligently written, exposing the idea behind the manipulating two, the naivety of the animals and the book distinguishes between the good and the bad ‘two-legs’.
Pleasantly sophisticated it may be too much for the very young readers, but could well be transcribed into a picture book with the right illustrator. It is a story and a book worth exploring.

eBook: amazon.com

eBook: amazon.co.uk

Paperback on Createspace

Book Tour: Untimed by Andy Gavin


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Untimed by Andy Gavin - Promotional Poster
 
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Genre: YA Time Travel Adventure/RomanceUntimed Book Cover

Publisher: Mascherato Publishing

Release Date: December 18, 2012

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Book Description:

Untimed is an action-packed time travel novel by Andy Gavin, author of The Darkening Dream and creator of Crash Bandicoot and Jak & Daxter.

Charlie’s the kind of boy that no one notices. Hell, his own mother can’t remember his name. So when a mysterious clockwork man tries to kill him in modern day Philadelphia, and they tumble through a hole into 1725 London, Charlie realizes even the laws of time don’t take him seriously. Still, this isn’t all bad. Who needs school when you can learn about history first hand, like from Ben Franklin himself. And there’s this girl… Yvaine… another time traveler. All good. Except for the rules: boys only travel into the past and girls only into the future. And the baggage: Yvaine’s got a baby boy and more than her share of ex-boyfriends. Still, even if they screw up history — like accidentally let the founding father be killed — they can just time travel and fix it, right? But the future they return to is nothing like Charlie remembers. To set things right, he and his scrappy new girlfriend will have to race across the centuries, battling murderous machines from the future, jealous lovers, reluctant parents, and time itself.

Excerpt: Chapter One “Untamed”

UNTIMEDby Andy Gavin

Illustrations by Dave Phillips

Advance Review First Chapter
Cover Art Not Final
Formatting Not Final
Illustration Formatting Not Final

© 2011-2012, Andy Gavin. All rights reserved.
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either products of the author’s imagination or used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

MASCHERATO PUBLISHING
PO Box 1550
Pacific Palisades, Ca, 90272
publishing@mascherato.com
http://andy-gavin-author.com

Copyright © Andy Gavin 2012
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means without the prior written permission of the publisher, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews and certain other noncommercial uses permitted by copyright law.

MS version: 3.20a
75,300 words, November 19, 2012, 1:19:29 PM PST

Cover Photo-Illustration copyright © Cliff Nielsen 2012
Interior Illustrations copyright © Dave Phillips 2012

E-book ISBN 978-1-937945-05-3
Hardcover ISBN 978-1-937945-03-9
Trade Paperback ISBN 978-1-937945-04-6

Chapter One:
Ignored
Philadelphia, Autumn, 2010 and Winter, 2011

My mother loves me and all, it’s just that she can’t remember my name.
“Call him Charlie,” is written on yellow Post-its all over our house.
“Just a family joke,” Mom tells the rare friend who drops by and bothers to inquire.
But it isn’t funny. And those house guests are more likely to notice the neon paper squares than they are me.
“He’s getting so tall. What was his name again?”
I always remind them. Not that it helps.
Only Dad remembers, and Aunt Sophie, but they’re gone more often than not — months at a stretch.
This time, when my dad returns he brings a ginormous stack of history books.
“Read these.” The muted bulbs in the living room sharpen the shadows on his pale face, making him stand out like a cartoon in a live-action film. “You have to keep your facts straight.”
I peruse the titles: Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Asprey’s The Rise of Napoleon Bonaparte, Ben Franklin’s Autobiography. Just three among many.
“Listen to him, Charlie,” Aunt Sophie says. “You’ll be glad you did.” She brushes out her shining tresses. Dad’s sister always has a glow about her.
“Where’d you go this time?” I say.
Dad’s supposed to be this hotshot political historian. He reads and writes a lot, but I’ve never seen his name in print.
“The Middle East.” Aunt Sophie’s more specific than usual.
Dad frowns. “We dropped in on someone important.”
When he says dropped in, I imagine Sophie dressed like Lara Croft, parachuting into Baghdad.
“Is that where you got the new scar?” A pink welt snakes from the bridge of her nose to the corner of her mouth. She looks older than I remember — they both do.
“An argument with a rival… researcher.” My aunt winds the old mantel clock, the one that belonged to her mom, my grandmother. Then tosses the key to my dad, who fumbles and drops it.
“You need to tell him soon,” she says.
Tell me what? I hate this.
Dad looks away. “We’ll come back for his birthday.”

* * *
While Dad and Sophie unpack, Mom helps me carry the dusty books to my room.
“Time isn’t right for either of you yet,” she says. Whatever that means.
I snag the thinnest volume and hop onto my bed to read. Not much else to do since I don’t have friends and school makes me feel even more the ghost.

* * *

Mrs. Pinkle, my ninth-grade homeroom teacher, pauses on my name during roll call. Like she does every morning.
“Charlie Horologe,” she says, squinting at the laminated chart, then at me, as if seeing both for the first time.
“Here.”
On the bright side, I always get B’s no matter what I write on the paper.
In Earth Science, the teacher describes a primitive battery built from a glass of salt water covered in tin foil. She calls it a Leyden jar. I already know about them from Ben Franklin’s autobiography — he used one to kill and cook a turkey, which I doubt would fly with the school board.
The teacher beats the topic to death, so I practice note-taking in the cipher Dad taught me over the weekend. He shows me all sorts of cool things — when he’s around. The system’s simple, just twenty-six made-up letters to replace the regular ones. Nobody else knows them. I write in highlighter and outline in red, which makes the page look like some punk wizard’s spell book. My science notes devolve into a story about how the blonde in the front row invites me to help her with her homework. At her house. In her bedroom. With her parents out of town.
Good thing it’s in cipher.
After school is practice, and that’s better. With my slight build and long legs, I’m good at track and field — not that the rest of the team notices. A more observant coach might call me a well-rounded athlete.
The pole vault is my favorite, and only one other kid can even do it right. Last month at the Pennsylvania state regionals, I cleared 16’ 4”, which for my age is like world class. Davy — that’s the other guy — managed just 14’ 8”.
And won. As if I never ran that track, planted the pole in the box, and threw myself over the bar. The judges were looking somewhere else? Or maybe their score sheets blew away in the wind.
I’m used to it.

* * *
Dad is nothing if not scheduled. He and Sophie visit twice a year, two weeks in October, and two weeks in January for my birthday. But after my aunt’s little aside, I don’t know if I can wait three months for the big reveal, whatever it is. So I catch them in his study.
“Dad, why don’t you just tell me?”
He looks up from his cheesesteak and the book he’s reading — small, with only a few shiny metallic pages. I haven’t seen it before, which is strange, since I comb through all his worldly possessions whenever he’s away.
“I’m old enough to handle it.” I sound brave, but even Mom never looks him in the eye. And he’s never home — it’s not like I have practice at this. My stomach twists. I might not like what he has to say.
“Man is not God.”
One of his favorite expressions, but what the hell is it supposed to mean?
“Fink.” For some reason Aunt Sophie always calls him that. “Show him the pages.”
He sighs and gathers up the weird metallic book.
“This is between the three of us. No need to stress your mother.”
What about stressing me? He stares at some imaginary point on the ceiling, like he always does when he lectures.
“Our family has—”
The front doorbell rings. His gaze snaps down, his mouth snaps shut. Out in the hall, I hear my mom answer, then men’s voices.
“Charlie,” Dad says, “go see who it is.”
“But—”
“Close the door behind you.”

* * *

I stomp down the hall. Mom is talking to the police. Two cops and a guy in a suit.
“Ma’am,” Uniform with Mustache says, “is your husband home?”
“May I help you?” she asks.
“We have a warrant.” He fumbles in his jacket and hands her an official-looking paper.
“This is for John Doe,” she tells him.
The cop turns to the man in the suit, deep blue, with a matching bowler hat like some guy on PBS. The dude even carries a cane — not the old-lady-with-a-limp type, more stroll-in-the-park. Blue Suit — a detective? — tilts forward to whisper in the cop’s ear. I can’t hear anything but I notice his outfit is crisp. Every seam stands out bright and clear. Everything else about him too.
“We need to speak to your husband,” the uniformed cop says.
I mentally kick myself for not ambushing Dad an hour earlier.
Eventually, the police tire of the runaround and shove past me as if I don’t exist. I tag along to watch them search the house. When they reach the study, Dad and Sophie are gone. The window’s closed and bolted from the inside.
All the other rooms are empty too, but this doesn’t stop them from slitting every sofa cushion and uncovering my box of secret DVDs.

* * *

Mom and I don’t talk about Dad’s hasty departure, but I do hear her call the police and ask about the warrant.
They have no idea who she’s talking about.
Yesterday, I thought Dad was about to deliver the Your mother and I have grown apart speech. Now I’m thinking more along the lines of secret agent or international kingpin.
But the months crawl by, business as usual, until my birthday comes and goes without any answers — or the promised visit from Dad. I try not to let on that it bothers me. He’s never missed my birthday, but then, the cops never came before, either.
Mom and I celebrate with cupcakes. Mine is jammed with sixteen candles, one extra for good luck.
I pry up the wrapping paper from the corner of her present.
“It’s customary to blow out the candles first,” Mom says.
“More a guideline than a rule,” I say. “Call it advanced reconnaissance.” That’s a phrase I picked up from Sophie.
Mom does a dorky eye roll, but I get the present open and find she did well by me, the latest iPhone — even if she skimped on the gigabytes. I use it to take two photos of her and then, holding it out, one of us together.
She smiles and pats my hand.
“This way, when you’re out on a date you can check in.”
I’m thinking more about surfing the web during class.
“Mom, girls never notice me.”
“How about Michelle next door? She’s cute.”
Mom’s right about the cute. We live in a duplex, an old house her family bought like a hundred years ago. Our tenants, the Montags, rent the other half, and we’ve celebrated every Fourth of July together as long as I can remember.
“Girls don’t pay attention to me.” Sometimes paraphrasing helps Mom understand.
“All teenage boys say that — your father certainly did.”
My throat tightens. “There’s a father-son track event this week.” A month ago, I went into orbit when I discovered it fell during Dad’s visit, but now it’s just a major bummer — and a pending embarrassment.
She kisses me on the forehead.
“He’ll be here if he can, honey. And if not, I’ll race. You don’t get your speed from his side of the family.”
True enough. She was a college tennis champ and he’s a flat-foot who likes foie gras. But still.

* * *

Our history class takes a field trip to Independence Park, where the teacher prattles on in front of the Liberty Bell. I’ve probably read more about it than she has.
Michelle is standing nearby with a girlfriend. The other day I tapped out a script on my phone — using our family cipher — complete with her possible responses to my asking her out. Maybe Mom’s right.
I slide over.
“Hey, Michelle, I’m really looking forward to next Fourth of July.”
“It’s January.” She has a lot of eyeliner on, which would look pretty sexy if she wasn’t glaring at me. “Do I know you from somewhere?”
That wasn’t in my script. I drift away. Being forgettable has advantages.
I tighten the laces on my trainers then flop a leg up on the fence to stretch. Soon as I’m loose enough, I sprint up the park toward the red brick hulk of Independence Hall. The teachers will notice the headcount is one short but of course they’ll have trouble figuring out who’s missing. And while a bunch of cops are lounging about — national historic landmark and all — even if one stops me, he won’t remember my name long enough to write up a ticket.
The sky gleams with that cloudless blue that sometimes graces Philly. The air is crisp and smells of wood smoke. I consider lapping the building.
Then I notice the man exiting the hall.
He glides out the white-painted door behind someone else and seesaws down the steps to the slate courtyard. He wears a deep blue suit and a matching bowler hat. His stride is rapid and he taps his walking stick against the pavement like clockwork.
The police detective.
I shift into a jog and follow him down the block toward the river. I don’t think he sees me, but he has this peculiar way of looking around, pivoting his head side to side as he goes.
It’s hard to explain what makes him different. His motions are stiff but he cuts through space without apparent effort. Despite the dull navy outfit, he looks sharper than the rest of the world, more in focus.
Like Dad and Sophie.
The man turns left at Chestnut and Third, and I follow him into Franklin Court.
He stops inside the skeleton of Ben Franklin’s missing house. Some idiots tore it down two hundred years ago, but for the bicentennial the city erected a steel ‘ghost house’ to replace it.
I tuck myself behind one of the big white girders and watch.
The man unbuttons his suit and winds himself.
Yes, that’s right. He winds himself. Like a clock. There’s no shirt under his jacket — just clockwork guts, spinning gears, and whirling cogs. There’s even a rocking pendulum. He takes a T-shaped key from his pocket, sticks it in his torso, and cranks.
Hardly police standard procedure.
Clueless tourists pass him without so much as a sideways glance. And I always assumed the going unnoticed thing was just me.
He stops winding and scans the courtyard, calibrating his head on first one point then another while his finger spins brass dials on his chest.
I watch, almost afraid to breathe.
CHIME. The man rings, a deep brassy sound — not unlike Grandmom’s old mantel clock.
I must have gasped, because he looks at me, his head ratcheting around 270 degrees until our eyes lock.
Glass eyes. Glass eyes set in a face of carved ivory. His mouth opens and the ivory mask that is his face parts along his jaw line to reveal more cogs.
CHIME. The sound reverberates through the empty bones of Franklin Court.
He takes his cane from under his arm and draws a blade from it as a stage-magician might a handkerchief.
CHIME. He raises the thin line of steel and glides in my direction.
CHIME. Heart beating like a rabbit’s, I scuttle across the cobblestones and fling myself over a low brick wall.
CHIME. His walking-stick-cum-sword strikes against the brick and throws sparks. He’s so close I hear his clockwork innards ticking, a tiny metallic tinkle.
CHIME. I roll away from the wall and spring to my feet. He bounds over in pursuit.
CHIME. I backpedal. I could run faster if I turned around, but a stab in the back isn’t high on my wishlist.
CHIME. He strides toward me, one hand on his hip, the other slices the air with his rapier. An older couple shuffles by and glances his way, but apparently they don’t see what I see.
CHIME. I stumble over a rock, snatch it up, and hurl it at him. Thanks to shot put practice, it strikes him full in the face, stopping him cold.
CHIME. He tilts his head from side to side. I see a thin crack in his ivory mask, but otherwise he seems unharmed.
CHIME. I dance to the side, eying the pavement, find another rock and grab it.
CHIME. We stand our ground, he with his sword and me with my stone.
“Your move, Timex!” I hope I sound braver than I feel.
CHIME. Beneath the clockwork man, a hole opens.
The manhole-sized circle in the cobblestones seethes and boils, spilling pale light up into the world. He stands above it, legs spread, toes on the pavement, heels dipping into nothingness.
The sun dims in the sky. Like an eclipse — still visible, just not as bright. My heart threatens to break through my ribs, but I inch closer.
The mechanical man brings his legs together and drops into the hole. The seething boiling hole.
I step forward and look down….
Into a whirlpool that could eat the Titanic for breakfast. But there’s no water, only a swirling tube made of a million pulverized galaxies. Not that my eyes can really latch onto anything inside, except for the man. His crisp dark form shrinks into faraway brightness.
Is this where Dad goes when he drops in on someone? Is the clockwork dude his rival researcher?
The sun brightens, and as it does, the hole starts to contract. Sharp edges of pavement eat into it, closing fast. I can’t let him get away. Somehow we’re all connected. Me, the mechanical man, Sophie, and Dad.
I take a step forward and let myself fall.

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About The Author:

Andy Gavin is an unstoppable storyteller who studied for his Ph.D. at M.I.T. and founded video game developer Naughty Dog, Inc. at the age of fifteen, serving as co-president for two decades. There he created, produced, and directed over a dozen video games, including the award winning and best selling Crash Bandicoot and Jak & Daxter fD7B38Aranchises, selling over 40 million units worldwide. He sleeps little, reads novels and histories, watches media obsessively, travels, and of course, writes.

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