I walked into work 1 morning and the boss asked could he see me in his office. Tapped on the shoulder, but in the boss’s protracted-practiced corporate mumbo-jumbo, I was being downsized, outsourced, reallocated and I was like, excuse me, this is a person sitting across the desk from you, not a resource. Fire me, but spare me your bloated euphemisms.
20 minutes later, I was driving home, jobless.
So there I was, retired abruptly and after all those years and I had, along with a great sense of relief, and on the short ride home, an epiphany – write!
Only thing was, I didn’t have a clue what to write. Did I have anything I wanted to say? Not really. Did I have a particular area of expertise to interest people? No. Any adventures to relate? None. And what did I know about writing? Uh, not much, except I had been reading, uh, voraciously, since forever. What I had was a sharpened pencil and a stack of blank paper and time, oh, did I have time! And what I did with those things, and god knows why, maybe because I didn’t know any better, I wrote 2 books simultaneously and all in the space of about a year and a half and all the while re-familiarizing myself with the rules of grammar and language.
1 book was a sword and sorcery thing, the other was a paranormal ghost-story that looks and feels like YA but isn’t. Sometimes I think it is but it isn’t, not really. It’s boomer fiction.
Welcome to Bobby Slater’s World.
It’s the summer of 64, our beloved president has been dead for nearly a year, the Beatles have arrived and there is an edge − change was coming, faster to some places than to others.
For us small town kids, it was no longer the 50s and not yet the 60s.
Our world was a world without play dates, theme camps or travel teams; a world where sports were mostly sandlot and each sport, and there were only 3, had its season. Bikes were for getting places and the kids rode without helmets and we rode in the backs of pickup trucks too and with our dogs back there and the dogs weren’t surrogate children or fierce guardians. They were a part of the gang.
BSW takes a timeless theme – handsome rich boy falls for beautiful pauper girl, tosses in a ghost-boy and sets it all in a gritty industrial town close by to a lake where the rich people spend their summers. It’s Bobby’s first ever romance and it’s bliss except Bobby’s girl is fickle. Sometimes she’s sweet and funny, sometimes not and it’s because of the curse that has haunted her family for 150 years. The curse is fickle too, it might skip a generation or 2 or 3, then strike as many in a row. It took the girl’s mom when Marlene was 3 years old and witnessing her mom’s death (not gruesome, nothing’s ever gruesome in Bobby Slater’s World,) imbued the little girl with an adult clarity − she’d be next and soon and she’s OK with it, see, she’s an Indian girl living in a white town and she’s pretty much alone and picked-on and miserable. Going to her ghost-boy (he’s an Indian too,) is kind of like going home, until Bobby comes along and complicates her life. Now Bobby has shown her somebody can care about her, she’s not so sure she wants to die.
But it may not matter what she wants. I mean, how do you fight a paranormal ghost-boy? Bobby will fight with the only weapons he has – sincerity and respect and courage and will it be enough to dissuade the ghost-boy from taking what he considers to be his? And can Bobby bring the snooty summer folks together with those eccentric townies – a grumpy Indian chief, the local gypsy fortune teller and the weird guy who everyone knows isn’t right in the head and who spends his days walking the woods around the lake, looking for something very important, some- thing lost for 150 years?
WJ Smith, aka Hugh Centerville, is the author of The Denouement. He lives in New York’s Hudson Valley.