I am providing here (for review), two excerpts form the book BOSWORTH. I’ll only have time to read one of them and am asking people to vote for which excerpt is better for the brief reading. You can vote by emailing me or on Facebook.
Taken from Chapter 1 (Jim)
. . . .
Don’t forget to brush your teeth before you go to bed. Now come give me a big hug.” She said almost the same thing every night. “I won’t forget.”
The nightly hug was a new thing. Sometimes his mom squeezed so hard Jim had trouble breathing, but he never complained. Not now. After saying good night, he stopped by the front door to let Bo in, being careful not to let it slam this time
. . . . .
Jim walked over to the window without turning on the light. It was easier to see out with the room dark. The moon had risen now, but was behind the house where he couldn’t see. Moonlight touched the tops of the trees, creating a silver cast that spread out across the maples and oaks and ash and chestnuts that filled much of the park. And he wondered about the girl again.
“What do you think?” he asked Bo, leaning heavily on the windowsill.
About what? the dog asked.
Jim had never questioned how Bo could communicate with him—there were lots of things about him Jim didn’t understand, but that had stopped being important a long time ago.
“The girl, of course. Was she real? It was already almost full dark when we saw her. Where do you think she was going?”
I’m not sure, the beagle said. Jim couldn’t decide which question Bo had answered, but could hear the hesitation in his voice. He knew it would be a waste of time to press Bo further.
Bo had come into Jim’s life at a critical time—not long after he started talking. Before Bo, others … strangers … used to visit him in his room at night. Most of the visitors were children, but there were adults and odd-looking creatures, too. The adults always seemed angry. Bo told him that these intruders were unimportant and mostly a part of his imagination—not real. He said Jim should ignore them, and that he should pretend he couldn’t see them. Soon after that, the others stopped coming, but Bo stayed.
At first Jim didn’t realize his mom and dad couldn’t see Bo. But there were so many odd things in the world that this one little discrepancy didn’t seem all that significant—odd things surrounded Jim his whole life. It was hard for a boy his age to know what to pay attention to and what to ignore, but Bo helped him to understand what was important, and he stayed with Jim through the numerous changes in his life—houses and cities and even countries, as his family moved from place to place.
Jim’s father was in the army and for some reason that meant the family had to move a lot. Then one day, about three years ago, Bo simply vanished. His parents told Jim it was because he no longer needed an imaginary friend—that he’d outgrown such things. But Bo had returned last year while Jim was in the hospital, still recovering from the accident.
Sometime in the early morning hours Jim’s mother touched his arm, pulling him from a deep sleep. His pillow and hair were wet with sweat. He couldn’t see his mom’s face. It was hidden in shadow from a lamp in the hallway. He looked toward the window and saw the moon outside. That meant it was close to sunrise.
“Wha …?” he asked, yawning.
“You were yelling again, honey,” she said.
“Sorry.” Jim turned his pillow over to the dry side.
“You want to come sleep in my room?”
“No, thank you. I’m okay.” Bo’s here, he added silently.
It was hard at first to remember what he’d been dreaming about, not that there was any real doubt. He’d been having the same nightmarefor more than a year. It all started back in the hospital, and Jim was still learning to deal with the dream, just as he’d learned to deal with everything else the accident had changed. It always started the same way, although over time little differences had crept in—details he was still remembering about that awful night.
He’d been riding in the back of their old Jeep, drifting in and out of sleep. Every time he opened his eyes he’d see his dad up front, staring out into the darkness ahead of them. It made him feel warm and safe to know he was so alert. Even in sleep Jim could feel the car moving as it followed curves in the road. He’d seen a map of their route before they’d left DC. It sometimes ran over hills, and sometimes followed a river through a long valley
. . . .
The Jeep’s screaming tires jolted Jim awake, but he was only conscious for a few brief moments. A loud thump and a crunching noise filled the night as he was thrown into the back of the front seat. Then something heavy hit him from behind and that was all he could remember for a long time. But after months in the hospital, Jim began to piece together other fragments of his memory from that night. Today he’d remembered something new.
The scent of honeysuckle had been coming through the Jeep’s window just before the accident. His dad had cracked one window open to let in fresh air. Another piece of the puzzle fell into place, probably triggered by the sickly-sweet smell during his walk home. Last fall he’d remembered awakening in fire. It burned his face and the upper part of his arm. His right leg had been numb at the time, as though it were no longer attached to his body. Not long after he regained consciousness, the car tilted and broke free of whatever had delayed its fall, and then it rolled over and over before landing upside down in the river.
Cold water rushed in through cracks in the body and through the open window. Jim remembered struggling to get free from whatever was pinning him in place at the time. He tried to keep his head above water, to gasp in the small amount of air still trapped near the floorboard. He recalled how his side and abdomen felt ‘funny’ and that his leg had begun to ache. Jim knew he couldn’t hold on for long. The water level kept rising until just his mouth was able to reach that one last tiny pocket of air—and then he lost consciousness again. The water had put out the fire, but now he was drowning. The next time Jim woke up he was in the hospital. …
Excerpt segments taken from BOSWORTH
Copyright Michael Selden 2017
Taken from Chapter 11 (Missing)
The teacher had started a new unit on the period just after the Revolutionary War, but Jim was having a hard time concentrating—the room had begun to breathe. The walls expanded and contracted every few seconds, bending in the middle. Jim looked around to see if anyone else had noticed it happening. Of course not.
The teacher kept glancing back his way to see if he was paying attention so he was reluctant to close his eyes—then suddenly Jim noticed a young boy standing in the corner up front, between the teacher’s desk and the window. He must have just appeared because Jim hadn’t noticed him there before. The boy was much too young to be in middle school, and he was wearing a long-sleeved white shirt and a black tie, like an old-style school uniform.
The boy’s eyes focused on him, staring for maybe fifteen seconds without expression, and then his face and body started to blur. It was as if he was melting then stretching, growing taller, and then the boy was gone and a girl was standing in his place, also staring at him. The girl looked a little angry at first—and then afraid. The face and body and clothing all melted again, and now a boy his own age was there. The figures kept changing every five to ten seconds—a boy, then a girl, older, then younger. The figure finally settled on that of an older girl with long blonde hair. She was glaring at him, a blazing fury radiated from her eyes—they almost seemed to glow. She was older—old enough to be in high school. She raised one arm, her finger pointing at him, and her mouth started moving. She was saying something, her mouth formed into a snarl as she yelled, but he couldn’t hear her words.
A cold chill passed through him and he closed his eyes, as much to escape the terror he felt as to try and make the vision go away. This was something completely new. He’d never seen anything like this before—so many faces and so much fury on that one face. Jim hoped he was dreaming, or that this was in his imagination. When he opened his eyes again he was the one standing. Jim was beside his desk with his arm raised, pointing at the corner. The girl was no longer there, and the room was back to normal, no longer breathing.
Everyone in class was staring at him, even the teacher. Their eyes and mouths were wide open, afraid. The people sitting closest to him had moved their desks away from him, sliding them across the floor.
“Are you okay?” the teacher asked. Even the teacher’s voice was shaking and Jim saw him reach out to steady himself against the wall.
“You were saying some pretty, well … strange things just now. I didn’t hear everything, and some of it didn’t even sound like English. But I definitely heard the words ‘murder’ and ‘bastard’.” One of the boys who’d been nearby raised a hand. “Yes, Charlie,” the teacher said.
“He said ‘rape’, too, and something else … a lot of bad words, including the one that starts with an ‘F’.”
“I don’t remember that,” Jim said, letting his arm fall back to his side. His legs had started shaking. He tried to sit down but they gave out and he missed the chair, landing on the hard floor. Jim’s face and neck turned hot with embarrassment. He expected to hear the other kids laugh, but the room was quiet. When he looked up into the eyes of one girl, her body stiffened and she tried to move her desk even farther away.
The teacher was still staring at him, and seemed to be having trouble talking. When he did speak, he asked Jim if he was okay, again.
“Yeah. I’m … fine.”
The teacher sat down at his desk and wrote something on a notepad. He tore off the sheet of paper, put it into one of the large brown envelopes that sat on the corner of all teachers’ desks, and sealed it.
“I want you to go to the nurse’s office, right away. Take this to her. You can have your phone back now—forget about the principal’s office.”
Jim got up from the floor, his legs still shaking, and grabbed his backpack before walking to the front of the class. He stumbled once along the way. The desks ahead of him parted to make room as he approached. He took the envelope and phone from the table, noting that the teacher didn’t want to touch him. Once out in the hallway, he heard all the voices erupt in the class, even through the door. Everyone was talking, but after a few seconds the teacher yelled for quiet.
Despite his wobbly legs, Jim managed a more or less straight line down the hallway to the nurse’s office. He handed her the envelope with the note and explained why he’d been sent.
The nurse opened it and glanced at the message just as he collapsed into one of the chairs. She took his temperature, looked into his eyes, listened to his heart, and then asked him to follow one of her fingers as she moved it back and forth across his face.
“I don’t see anything obviously wrong with you, but the note says you don’t remember what happened.”
“I may have dozed off,” he said, but even he didn’t think he sounded convincing.
“Wait here,” she said, heading out the door toward the main office. “I’m sending you home. The secretary will call your mother to come get you.”
“I can walk—it’s not that far.”
“Maybe so, but you’re not walking today.”
Excerpt segments taken from BOSWORTH
Copyright Michael Selden 2017
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