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Authors: Noah James Adams

My Name Is River Blue

BOOK: My Name Is River Blue
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My
Name Is

 

River
Blue

 

 

Noah
James Adams

 

 

 

 

My
Name Is River Blue

 

Noah
James Adams

 

Cover
Design by

Derek
Chiodo, eCover Makers

 

 

 

 

My Name Is River Blue. Copyright
© 2013 Noah James Adams. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used
or reproduced by any means, graphic, electronic, or mechanical, including
photocopying, recording, and taping or by any information storage retrieval
system without written permission of the author except in the case of brief
quotations embodied in critical reviews and articles.

 

My Name Is River Blue is a work
of fiction. All of the characters, events, organizations, and actions of same
portrayed in the novel either are products of the author’s imagination or are
used fictitiously. Any resemblance to real people, living or dead, or to real
incidents, events, and organizations is purely coincidental.

 

 

For
the real Papa

 

PROLOGUE

 

On
the third Saturday in June of 2007, Howie Spearman visited me in the Bergeron
County Jail where I awaited my trial on a charge of first-degree murder. During
the three months since my arrest, Howie's routine had been to visit me every Wednesday
afternoon, so he surprised me when he made the two-hour drive for the second
time that week. At first, I thought his Saturday visit was just a convenient
stop on his way to cover a sporting event in the upstate, but the sole purpose
for his extra trip was to convince me to write this book with him.

Officer Kirby Wallace
led me by the arm to the crowded visitation room, which buzzed and droned with
the hushed conversations of prisoners and their guests. Most of the visitors stopped
talking and stared at me as Kirby and I worked our way to the far side of the
room where Howie sat alone at a small table. Kirby turned his back to us,
folded his arms, and stood guard. He never allowed anyone to get close to me.

I laughed at the
slim, forty-year old sports columnist who chewed his nails and fidgeted in his
seat like an anxious little kid. Although he is twenty years older than I am, Howie
has always lacked my expertise at presenting a cool exterior even when my
stomach is threatening to hurl acid stew.

When I settled
into my seat across from him, Howie immediately asked that I reconsider his
offer to help me write the story of my life. He reminded me of the promise I had
made to him five years ago in my hospital room when I was a freshman in high
school. I
did
say that he had dibs on helping me
if
I ever chose
to write a book, but I had never taken his idea seriously.

"Sorry,
Howie. My personal life has been on display enough, and I know what you're
thinking, but I don't give a damn about public opinion, or how liars and bigots
define
me."

"I see. What
do you plan to do with your time after the trial?"

I sniggered. He
was so diplomatic. "It's okay to talk about it. I'm a big boy now."

Howie glanced
upwards as if asking for divine help. His words were clipped, precise, and
sharp with sarcasm. "Okay, River. How will you spend your time in
prison?"

"When I'm
not working some crappy inmate job like cleaning floors or making mailboxes, I
plan to read and sleep. Write letters. Stay celibate and alive. That sort of
thing."

Howie ignored my
answer. "Why not make the time count? Have something positive to show for
the experience."

My mood sobered.
I was only eleven years old when Gabby told me to make my time in Stockwell
count for something. I am still thankful for the difference he made in my life.
"Howie, I see what you're saying, but why write about things that I want
to forget?"

"If you put
your honest words to paper, you'll be startled by the bare truth that stares
back at you. You'll see who and what influenced your life and made you the
River you are today, and you might just discover the course you want your life
to take in the future."

"You really
think it's worth doing?"

"Yeah, I
really do."

"I don't
know, Howie. The only privacy I have left is what I keep in my head."

"We can
help disadvantaged kids with any profits. State kids like you were. Maybe
create a college scholarship in Mr. Long's name. It would be a great way to
honor him."

"For Papa,
I'll give it a try. I think he would like the scholarship idea."

Howie smiled. He
had played his ace and won.

I met his smile
and raised him a finger.

 

CHAPTER
ONE

 

I was three days
old when my mother abandoned me on December 22, 1986, and I was almost fifteen
years old when Nurse Marcia Medlock told me the story of the night she found
me. I listened intently to every word she said, hoping that she could offer clues
to help me find my parents.

From Marcia's
point of view, I wrote the following brief account of that night.

***

Marcia's feet
screamed. She shoved Christmas garland out of the way, and propped with both
hands against the nurses' station counter. She first lifted her left foot and then
her right foot, to relieve the pressure that had worsened by the hour since the
end of her scheduled shift. Again, one of the young nurses had called in sick,
and Marcia was the only one who would pull a double. Since she had no family,
she had already agreed to work an extra shift on Christmas, but with two days
to go, she wondered if she would have to work from a wheelchair.

Every year,
during Christmas week, a few young nurses found it too stressful to handle all
their Christmas shopping, family obligations, and work. Naturally, they
prioritized and faked illnesses to avoid working shifts that conflicted with
their holiday plans. Marcia hated the girls' laziness, and she despised working
a double that included third shift. She should have been soaking her feet and
drinking cheap wine in the tiny one bedroom apartment she rented after she was
forced to sell her house.

More than
anything else, she hated the fact that she needed the extra shift money to pay
debts Robert created. She was forty-five years old and had been single for almost
eight months, ever since her drunken husband drove home from his favorite country
bar and lost control of his Mazda on Angels' Curve. It was the most dangerous
section of Highway 8, a two-lane road that twisted and snaked across rural
Bergeron County.

Robert's car
broke through the guardrail where the highway cut sharply around Henry's Hill,
which overlooked the Thomas farm. His car violently tumbled more than 300 feet
before coming to rest at the hill's rocky bottom where a cop straightened the
car's license plate to help identify the vehicle and its owner. In the past thirty
years, Robert was the twelfth driver who had apparently ignored the huge signs
with flashing amber lights that warned drivers to reduce their speed to 25 MPH.
Of all the drivers and their passengers who took the plunge off Angels' Curve,
there were only two survivors, and Robert was not one of them.

Marcia had
planned to give her husband an ultimatum that very night about wasting their
money on his excessive drinking and his addiction to sports gambling. She
believed that he drank more than usual because he knew that he had to face his
angry wife who would not be satisfied with another broken promise to attend
meetings and work with his counselor.

The night that
the EMTs brought Robert to the hospital was the last night that Marcia worked
in the emergency room, but her request to transfer to pediatrics was not due solely
to the fact that her husband died in the ER. When the ambulance arrived with
Robert, Marcia was part of a trauma team trying desperately to revive a
twenty-year-old man, named Gabriel Flores, who was an accidental gunshot victim.
As a former Harper Springs High football star, Gabe had been a popular athlete
in Bergeron County, but Marcia knew him and his family on a more personal
level.

When Gabe was a
little boy, he broke his arm, and his mother took him to the ER where Marcia was
on duty that afternoon. Maria, Gabe's mother, was impressed with Marcia's care
of her son, and the two women became friends who often visited each other, shopped
together, and shared cooking recipes.

Marcia had
always tried to keep some emotional distance from patients, but it was
impossible the night that she accompanied the doctor to the waiting room to
tell Maria, her husband, and her oldest son that their precious Gabe was gone. The
tragedy ate at both women, and Maria avoided anything that reminded her of her
son's death, including the hospital and Marcia. In less than a year, Maria and
her husband moved to Mexico, and the two women didn't speak again until years
later.

Marcia suspected
that most people wouldn't understand if she told them that Gabe's death
affected her more than the passing of her own husband. The fact was that she
had already grieved for Robert because the young man she married died years
before his demons officially ended his misery on Angels' Curve. By contrast,
Gabe was a fine young man living a good life, and he should have had many years
to share it with all the people who loved him.

After taking a
thirty-day leave of absence, Marcia returned to work in her new job with the
pediatrics department where she teamed with Doctor Rabin to handle the intake
of children admitted during her shift. On slow nights, she assisted the other
nurses with the care of their young patients on the ward. Although most of her
work was routine, there was always plenty to do when caring for children. When
she was in the midst of an additional shift, she took as many short breaks as
she could without compromising the quality of patient care.

From where
Marcia leaned on the counter, she eyed the empty chair next to Linda, who was
answering a phone call. She debated between checking on another patient and
sitting down for a few minutes. She decided on the chair, but before she could
move, Linda asked her to check the patient waiting room in case the call she had
just received was legitimate.

"What kind
of call?" Marcia's tone warned that the call had better be important for
her to limp around the corner to the waiting room.

"It was a
young woman using a pay phone. No name. She said that she left her three-day-old
baby boy in the waiting room. He's in a carrier, and he's wrapped in a blue
knit blanket with a nametag on it. She said that the boy is in perfect health,
and she asked us to find a good home for him. I tried to find out more, but she
disconnected."

"You've got
to be kidding me." Marcia groaned as Linda shook her head.

"Will you
look, Marcia?"

"Sure, but
the way my feet hurt, the kid may be grown by the time I get there."

As soon as
Marcia stepped around the corner, the waiting room opened up before her. She
scanned the room and found a man and woman sitting together on the near side. On
the far side, nearest the entrance, she saw the back of the baby carrier
sitting sideways but securely on a chair. She walked across the room to see if
there really was a baby in the carrier, and exactly as the caller described,
she found a handsome, healthy-looking baby boy. He was wrapped in a beautiful,
blue knit blanket that appeared to be hand-made. Her experience told her that
she was not looking at the average abandoned baby left by an addict who chose
her drug habit over motherhood. She suspected that the mother's decision had
most likely been a painful one.

Marcia believed
that the boy and his mother had received good care during and after the
pregnancy. He was probably, as the mother said, about three days old, but she
guessed that he was born on the high end of normal height and weight. He was
awake, but quiet, and seemed happily content to sit in the carrier until
someone decided differently. On the blanket, there was an adhesive, paper nametag
bordered in blue. His mother's handwriting, strong and feminine in blue ink,
filled the white space designed for a name.

Over the years,
the hospital pediatrics ward had handled many abandoned babies who were left in
various spots all over the county, but Marcia had never heard of one who came
with a nametag as if the mother were introducing the baby to the rest of the
world. Marcia decided that she would encourage future caregivers to save the
nametag and blanket for him. If each person passed on the suggestion, the boy would
have a bridge connecting him to his mother and keepsakes that might be of sentimental
value to him when he was older.

Marcia wished that
she could have had a child of her own, but shortly after she married, she
discovered that she would never be able to conceive a child. By the time she considered
adoption, she had determined that Robert would never be a responsible father,
and she didn't desire to be a working mother with no support from her husband. The
good thing about her job was that, in her own way, she could mother children
every day.

Marcia jumped
when Miguel Lopez, the young security guard, spoke to her. She had been staring
at the baby longer than she realized.

"Everything
okay, Marcia?" Miguel asked. "Linda asked me to check on you."

"Yes, I was
just thinking about our new guest here. You should probably get your camera and
snap some pictures of the scene before I take him in for his exam. The couple
on the other side of the room was there when I found the baby. Find out who
they are and what they saw. When I call the police, they'll want names of
witnesses and their contact info."

"Will do,
Marcia. Hey, he looks good for a throwaway. Cute little guy."

"He's adorable.
Beautiful skin. I think he is a mix of white and Latino. Or possibly
Indian."

"My guess
is half Mexican. I know family when I see it." Miguel laughed.

Marcia studied
the boy more closely. With all the seasonal farm workers in the county, she had
to agree with Miguel. "You're probably right. Anyway, he's a beautiful
baby."

Miguel leaned
closer. "Is that a nametag he's wearing?"

Marcia gently
moved the boy's arm out of the way. "It sure is. It's like he's attending
a conference."

Miguel read the
tag aloud. "It says 'My name is River Blue.' Well,
there's
an
unusual name."

"And you
can bet it's not his real name."

"Right. The
mother doesn't want the cops finding her. But why bother with the nametag,
Marcia?"

"I think the
name means something special to his mother, and it might help keep track of
him. She might hope to be part of his life one day. Anyway, it's a beautiful
name, and if they can't identify him, the state will use it. Okay, let's get to
work, Miguel."

"Yes,
ma'am." Miguel straightened his back, saluted, and grinned.

"Mr. Smart
Butt, get your camera and snap a few pictures of him and the immediate area. I
need to take Mr. River Blue for his exam, make a few
calls,
and fill out the
paperwork. He's ready to get on with his life, and he's not paying us to gawk
at how pretty he is."

Miguel cackled
loudly enough to make the baby's eyes flinch. "Hey, little buddy, watch
this crazy woman when she gets you alone in that room. If she goes for your
clothes, yell for help." The baby appeared to smile, and the security
guard wanted to believe that River Blue got the joke.

Marcia's
thoughts shifted from the amusing to the serious. She assumed that the
authorities would not find any relatives to take the boy, and she foresaw a
difficult childhood for a mixed-race foundling growing up in Harper Springs, a small
South Carolina town with more than its fair share of bigots. Marcia knew that in
most cases, the story of a state kid's life could be written on the day he was
born, and she wished much more for River than their conservative community was
likely to offer him.

Until the state
determined a home for River, Marcia Medlock would love him, and he would be
her
little boy if only for a few days. She hoped that when he left her, he
would find the arms of others who would continue to give him the love and
support he needed.

BOOK: My Name Is River Blue
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