Thursday, January 27, 2011

Chapter 35 - Last Chapter

I can't believe we're here already. This one short poem is the entire last chapter. Don't worry. I'm writing a nice juicy Epilogue that you will all love. Look for it on Monday and Tuesday. It will be in two parts--Leesie and Michael will both get a chance to speak.

Have a great weekend! Remember, if you're in the Phoenix area, I'll be at Changing Hands on Saturday with a host of fantastic YA authors for a YAllapalooza! It starts at 4 PM. Find out more at

Okay, here it is. The last chapter I'll ever write about Michael and Leesie. An Epilogue just isn't the same as a chapter. But this isn't the end. And I'll be posting revisions if you want to follow that.

POEM #??,

Michael drops to his knees
beside me. “Thank God!
You’re all right.”
My head throbs but I
manage mustering a weak
smile. “Just dizzy.”
I turn to Alex.  “He always
makes me feel like that.”
Alex decides she’s thirsty
and tactfully disappears.
I turn back to Michael,
stare at his knees
afraid of what his face
will tell me. “Are we
all right?”

He pulls me onto his lap
and kisses me until
I can’t breathe.
“So you’ll still have me?”
I murmur when he lets
me up for air.
He kisses my forehead
and whispers, “Are you sure?”
I press my mouth on his—
relief, love, gratitude
pouring out of me
and all over him.

He wipes tears
from my face and his.
“Don’t cry, babe. I’ll
deal with this. If you don’t
blame me, your parents don’t—
I guess I can learn not to
blame myself.” He examines
the knot on my forehead.
“There’s only one thing
I can’t deal with.” His voice
throbs with emotion.
He clutches me close.
“I know,” I whisper. “Don’t
scare me like that again.”
He will, for sure. I can’t
guarantee I won’t scare him.
That’ll be our life, our test.
With enough love, enough faith,
enough understanding it won’t
destroy us.

He traces the scar
that snakes through
two inches of wispy hair
coating my head.
“Let’s get to that temple
of yours. I want you forever.”
I kiss him until he
can’t breathe as Cecilia
screams outside.

She isn’t the first storm
we’ve faced.
She won’t be
the last. I pray
we can weather them all
clutched in each other’s arms.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Chapter 34, part two--Michael!!!

This completes Chapter 34. I'm not going to blether on because I know you're dying to get to it.

Dive Buddy: Leesie           
Date:  08/06
Dive #:
Location: Grand Cayman
Dive Site:
Weather Condition:
Water Condition:
Water Temp: 
Bottom Time:  

            Leesie’s face, eery in the cave’s flickering light, blanches white. She hides it against my shoulder.
            I bend my head and speak into her ear. “That fight you had with Phil. You never told me what it was about.”
            She wraps her arms around me—too tight. I feel something damp soak through my T-shirt. Her reaction makes me want to take back the question.
            I run her back and stroke her head. I don’t want to know what she’s so carefully hidden—don’t want to stain the perfect picture we’ve painted—her dad baptizing me next week, a year engaged in Provo, a wedding next August at her temple in Spokane. I don’t know if I can survive what I do know she’s going to say.
            Everything’s fallen into perfect place. I want this joyful haze we’ve been walking around in to last forever. But as we sat here waiting out the storm, with hours to reflect, the tiny flaw in her story cracked open. Now I feel like I’m dangling on the edge of a deep crevice hanging on by my fingertips.
            She turns her head to speak, but keeps her cheek pressed against me. “My mom said I should tell you.”
            “They know?” How can I ever face them again? Every time they see me they’ll see the guy who caused their son’s death. “And they still—”
            “It doesn’t change anything.”
            “Freak, Leesie, it changes everything.”
            She grabs a handful of my shirt. “Don’t go down that road Michael.” She sniffs and wipes her face. “You saw what it did to me.”
            I can’t reply. I’m cold—inside and out. Turmoil tosses my heart against a wall, and it shatters into a million pieces.
            Leesie tries to kiss me, but I pull back.
            She retreats into my T-shirt. “It doesn’t change how much I love you.”  Her arms tighten around me.
            I can’t breathe. I try to break her grip, get up, get away. She won’t let me. I unhale and hold my breath, stop struggling.
            She kisses my neck, squeezes her eyes tight a moment, then opens them up starts to speak through her tears. “I love my brother”—she swallows hard—“but it’s not your fault he’s dead. It’s not my fault, either. I didn’t undo his seatbelt. I didn’t put ice on the road. I didn’t say vile things about you.”
            “You’re blaming him now?” The wind starts to blow again outside. Cecilia’s back.
            “I let him get to me.”
I bend my ear towards her mouth so I can hear better.
Leesie raises her voice. “He slept while I drove up through the forest and into the mountains. I tried to figure out how I felt about Jaron, and all I could thing was you.” She touches my face. “Surrounded by all that beauty and stillness, the Spirit finally got through to me. I saw I’d misjudged you cruelly. Every mile closer to home brought me back to you. I was so happy.” She squeezes me again. “It was sacred. I should have kept it to myself. But I didn’t.” A sob stops her. She gets control and continues. “Phil drug all my sublime feelings into the gutter. I blew up. Lost control. You know the rest.”
             I turn my face to the wall—trying to escape her voice.
            She yells so I can hear over the roaring storm. “It’s Phil’s fault. It’s my fault. It’s ice on the road.”
            I’m shaking my head, starting struggling again.
            She still won’t let me go. “You had nothing to do with it.”
            I look down at her. Freak, I stole her entire life—even her brother. “If you’d left me alone—”
            “Suffering like that? How could I?
            “Phil would be packing his bags for BYU and making out with Krystal.” The weight of that reality smacks me hard. It unlocks the dark place where the guilt I struggled with when I failed to save my mother when Isadore had us both in her clutches and stirs it up into a rampage.
            I break free of Leesie’s hold, struggle to my feet. She bows her head to the ground and sobs. Part of me longs to kneel down beside her, hold her, comfort her. But the other part needs to breath. I’m suffocating in this cave.
            I trip over bodies and step on fingers as I race to the entrance and stare over the sand bag wall I helped build earlier. A Cecilia fueled wave breaks against it. The spray that hits my face beckons me.
            I climb over the wall and into pure wildness. Rain and waves drench me. Powerful winds drive me back. I fight them with each step forward I take. There used to be a road betweent he path that leads up to the caves and the exposed broken coral that creates the shoreline. Now all I can see is water swirling white around my ankles as the wave recedes. The wind is full of sharp shards of shell and glass, tiny sand pellets, and bits of slime that used to be palm fronds. A piece of corrugated tin torn from a roof flies by me.
            Inhale. Hold it. Exhale. Repeat. Inhale. Fill my gut, my chest, my throat, my head. Hold it. Hold it. Hold it. Isadore didn’t get me. Maybe Cecilia’s interested. I struggle three steps forward. Cecilia blows me back.
            I close my eyes. I can’t Mom. I’m sorry. I tried. But I can’t do this without you guys. I hurt everybody I love.
            “Michael! Michael! Where are you?” My mom’s voice melds with Leesie. “Michael. Come back. Don’t leave me alone.”
            The voice advances on me. I glance over my shoulder. She’s followed me. “Michael!” She screams frantic. She sees me, rushes forward. “Michael! Michael!”
            Cecilia flings a mangled chunk of metal at Leesie.
            “No, babe!” I scream as she goes down.
            I let the storm blow me to her, grab her limp body from the swirling ebb before waves suck her out with them. A wave crashes just behind us. I scramble to the cave’s mouth and over the wall before a monster attacks and drags us out with it.
            I kneel by the wall, panting and praying. “Please, Heavenly Father, let her be all right.”
            Her eyes don’t open.
            She doesn’t touch my face and whisper, “I love you.”
            I bury my face against her wet head. She’s breathing. I press my hand over her heart. It beats.
            Strangers discover us—try to take her from me.
            “She just hit her head.” I won’t let anyone touch her. “She’ll be all right.” I try to remember what the doctors said about her last concussion. Something about further injury. “Please, save her. Please,” I whisper.
            No one asks what the hell we were doing out there. They seem afraid of me. Do I look that freaked?
            I hold her close and cry. “Come on, babe. Please.” I rock her until I fall asleep.
            When I wake my arms are empty.
            I leap up. Cast my eyes around the cave. Where did they put her?
            And there she is.
            A few feet away from me.
            Talking to Alex.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Chapter 34 - first half from Leesie

We've got 53K words behind us. Just two to three thousand more to go. I don't want to finish. This journey, especially this final volume with all of you here, has been an amazing experience for me. I could revise forever and ever, but I know you want the finished book in your hands, and I need to move on with other projects. I would really love to write all my books like this! But I don't know if a publisher would go for that.

I will continue posting as I revise, so you can experience that process, and I want to have a complete polished draft available here, so if anyone can't purchase the ebook or paperback version, they can read the whole thing with all the little niceties, like chapter titles, poem titles, and filled out dive log headings, right here.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. This isn't the final chapter. But it's close.


POEM #??, The Brac

A tiny plane,
a bumpy landing,
a crescent shaped skiff
of sand with nothing but
bat-filled caves, half-dozen
dives operations, one dirt road
that stretches from end to end,
diving my first wreck,
MV Capt. Keith Tibbits,
a Russian relic renamed
for us tourists,
snuggling on the beach
with Michael while he,
Gabriel and Alex toss pros and cons,
ups and downs, hows and how nots
into the inky sky dotted with pinpricks           

morphs overnight into

rain, winds, warnings,
boats called in, airport shut down,
hotel evacuation to the island’s
built-in shelter—deep caves
that won’t wash away in the onslaught
that’s only hours away.
The bats lining the ceiling don’t seem
to mind sharing their subterranean palace
with fifty human bodies wrapped in hotel
blankets and foil-lined emergency heat sheets
that crinkle when we move
and make me sweat.

I huddle with Michael in the mass
and sip bottled water.
“Are you scared?” He shakes
his arm that’s gone to sleep
holding me.
“No. You’re here.” I try to imagine
the last hurricane he faced. “Are you?”
He smiles at me. “Terrified.”
“Did you hear this one’s name?”
“Cecilia.” His eyebrows draw
close together.
I touch his face. “Will she
haunt us like your Isadore?”
He wraps his arms back around me.
“We’re safe here. Don’t worry.”
I cuddle in close and hand him my water.
The sound of the wind shifts to a new key.
“Here it comes.”

I brace myself for storm surge waves,
sheets of rain, vicious winds
to swamp our dry hide-out,
peel back the roots and dirt
and smash the coral skeleton
that encases us in it’s embrace.
Nothing happens.
The sound mounts, echoes, screams,
but we are safe—barely even soggy.
Crampled, tired, trapped,
but safe.  Michael prods
me to my feet and stretches.
We wander with refugees, careful
not to step on sleepers, meet up
with Gabriel and Alex, who’ve
decided not to spend his trust fund here.

“Did you hear if it’s hitting the big island?”
I’m worried about Jaz and Junior.
Alex shakes her head. “I don’t know.”
We hang out with them, laughing
and talking like this is just another night
after a long day diving.
Hours roll by. A lady from the resort
comes by with a big basket of cereal bars.
Michael turns his nose up, but takes a handful
“Guess we won’t starve.” He offers them to us.
When the wind dies, I’m not sure if it’s day or night.
Michael and Gabriel venture to the cave’s mouth,
return to report. “Definitely the eye, mi cielo.”
Gabriel’s arm circles Alex. “You should
sleep in the stillness.” They slip away.

Michael and I find a quiet place to whisper.
I doze and wake to find him studying my face—
troubled. About our future together?
The giant stride he’ll take next week
into a brand new world with a soft woosh
of water in a baptismal font in Spokane?
Waiting a whole year to get married?
I kiss his cheek.”You know,
we can get married any weekend
if waiting gets too hard.”
He tries to wipe the trouble
off his face. “I’m not worried
about that. Are you?”
My face heats up, and he kisses me,
sucks ever so gently on the corner
of my lower lip. I let him think
he’s distracted me, enjoy the kiss,
initiate another, then take his face
in my hands and try to fathom his eyes
in the waning glow of two electric lanterns
that struggle to light the cave.
“What does worry you then?”
“Nothing, babe.”
“Don’t lie to me. I see it.
Is it Isadore?”
“No, Leese.” He closes his eyes.
“It’s you,” he whispers.
He bows his head
so our foreheads touch.
“There’s something I need to know.”
I touch my lips to his.
“You are my life—my forever.
You know everything—my best, my worst.”
His eyes open, and I can’t breathe
while I wait for him to speak.
“You have one secret, babe. I
don’t want to get close to,
but I gotta know—
was it me?”

Monday, January 24, 2011

Chapter Thirty-Three

I made it!! I didn't get a chance to write all day today--busy with family business and letting people know about a amazingly cool event I get to participate in this weekend at Changing Hands, the most wonderful bookstore in the Valley of the Sun.

If you're in the area, I'd encourage you to try to come. On Saturday, January 28th, starting at 4 PM and going until the last game is played and the final book signed, Changing Hands is hosting YAllapalooza 2011. They've got a great line-up of authors from Arizona and Utah. It's going to be great. Here's the list from their webiste:

Attending authors include Lisa Mangum, Bree Despain, Karen Hoover, Cameron Stracher, Jessica Day George, Obert Skye, Janette Rallison, James Owen, Angela Morrison, Tom Leveen, Jon Lewis, Adam Rex, Laurie Brooks, Lisa McMann, and Kofi O. Okyere.

Find out more on the website at .

Anyway, I thought about waiting until tomorrow to write this, but I now I would have tossed and turned all night and gotten up cranky, so I sat down and got to work.

I didn't proof this at all, so forgive all the typos! It was a tricky scene to write. Transitions are tough. Do you think this works? I don't think I've got the rhythm of the last few lines right yet. I'll work on them. I promise.


Dive Buddy: Leesie           
Date:  07/26
Dive #:
Location: Grand Cayman
Dive Site:
Weather Condition:
Water Condition:
Water Temp: 
Bottom Time:  

            “So, Brother Walden, would you like to seta date for your baptism?” Elder Kitchen is from northern Arizona. He was stoked when I told him I’m from Phoenix. “My I don’t know how many great grandparents pioneered in Mesa.” They went south from Salt Lake when Leesie’s dad’s ancestors went north to Idaho. Elder Kitchen punched my arm and said, “Coll. I come all the way to Grand Cayman to teach a bro from Phoenix.” He grew up in Snowflake—tiny place, mostly Mormons, up on the UT/AZ border. They have winter there. Not sure why you’d want to live in Arizona where there’ winter, but Elder Kitchen loves it—misses the place like crazy.
            I look from him to his companion, Elder Quincy from Ohio, to Leesie. She’s holding her breath, turning blue at the edges.
            “Breathe, babe.” I reach for her hand. “You think I’m ready?”
            Elder Quincy, who has only been a member for a couple years—and one of those was spent on his mission, rolls his eyes. “Dude, you’re a lot more ready than I was.” His family cut him off when he got baptized, but his ward (ie. Mormon congregation) back in Ohio is paying for his mission.
            Leesie sets our hands on her knee and places her left hand on top. Her ring catches the sun that streams in behind us. “The question is—do you think you’re ready?”
            After the fourth of July holidayers left, business really slacked off out at East End. It’s not as dead as it will be in August when hurricane season starts to heat up, but I’ve only been working one dive day—sometimes not even that. Gabriel can instruct, too. He’s been taking all the students—training Alex. They want to buy a place, maybe over on Cayman Brac, and go into business together.
            I’m the only guy the elders are teaching. They’d much rather teaching me and eat free fish than pound on doors ortry to talk to people on buses or the streets. Beach missionary work is against the rules.  So we’ve spent hours every day this month, except Mondays when they get a day to do laundry, write emails home, and play basketball and on their community service days, running the fans full blast on Aunty Jaz’s back porch trying not to melt without A/C and talking about Joseph Smith, Jesus Christ, Heavenly Father and what He’s got planned for me.
            I close my eyes and look inside. Am I ready? Can I ever be ready? My eyes drift open. “I’m not done reading the Book of Mormon.”
            Leesie pats my hand. “You’re close.”
            Elder Kitchen leans forward with his hands clasped, his eyes serious. “Have you prayed about it?”
            I nod.
            Elder Quincy mirrors Kitchen’s pose and speaks with a solemn voice. “And you know it’s true.”
            I swallow and look at Leesie. Her eyes are on my face. I whisper, “Yes. I do.” Those three words bring a powerful surge of warmth, a feeling I’ve come to crave.
            A grin grows on both elders’ faces. Elder Kitchen sits up. “Then let’s set a date. When are you leaving?”
            Leesie and I are lost in each other. Elder K’s questions doesn’t register. Happiness makes Leesie glow. Joyful. That’s what she is. I know it sounds corny, but that fills me up, too.
            Elder Quincy clears his throat. “Are we in the way here?”
            Leesie gets pink and turns to them. “We’re leaving the tenth of August.”
            It was going to be sooner, but Gabriel and Alex are going to Cayman Brac t o look at a dive operation that might be up for sale soon and convinced us to go along. Gabriel and I are staying with a friend of his who works on the Brac. The resort is comping Alex and Leesie a room. Leesie made Alex promise Gabriel would not be allowed in that room before she agreed to go.
            Leesie’s parents were disappointed at the delay, but they were cool about it. Her dad has been cool about everything.
            I put my right hand on tops of Leesie’s to complete the stack on her knee. “Do you think Leesie’s dad could baptize me?”
            Leesie leans her head onto my shoulder. “He’d love, too. Call him.”
            Elder Quincy’s face falls. “Oh, man. We wanted to dunk you.”
            Elder Kitchen elbows him. “It’s okay, Elder. We’ll survive.”
            I realize what they’re saying. If I wait until we go home, these guys who I’ve come to love like brothers, can’t be there. “I could fly them all here. Leesie’s family and Gram. I want her to be here—to feel this.” I put my hand on my heart.
            Leesie lifts her head. “It’s getting close to harvest.” Her voice wobbles. “Dad can’t leave the farm.” I can tell she’s thinking that he’ll be doing it alone this year. No Phil to help. She turns to me. “I’d like to drive truck fro him while we’re there.”
            “Whatever you want, babe.”
            Edler Quincy stands up and puts his hands on his hips. “You cal him then and set the date. We’re not leaving until you do.”
            Elder Kitchen stands, too. “We want a wedding invitation, okay?”
            Leesie releases my left hand, pulls her phone out of her pocket, taps “home” on her favorites. “Hey, mom. Is dad around? Michael wants to ask him something important.” She listens to her mom’s reply and hands me the phone.
            I walk over to the far side of the porch, wait for Leesie’s dad to pick up, keep my back to Leesie and the elders. What am I doing? A voice that’s been gnawing at me for about a week now takes over my brain. I’m not religious. Never have been. Like my parents. We believe in diving. That’s it. How do I know these feelings and thoughts I think are from God are real? Maybe it’s all just crazy Mormon voodoo.
            “Hello? Michael?”
            The sounds of his voice brings me back to my purpose. “Hello, Bro. Hunt.”
            “What did you want to ask me?” He doesn’t happy. There’s strain and sadness in his voice. Grief. How long did I sound like that? I think I still do sometimes. Maybe I always will. He probably thinks I’m calling to ask if I can marry Leesie. Does that make him sadder?
            I close my eyes and rest my forehead against the porch post. “Would you baptize me?” My throat is dry. I croak the words.
            “When Leesie and I are back in August—will you baptize me?”
            His reply shuts that gnawing voice up. “Of course, I will, son. Of course, I will.”