Authors: Cherie Noel
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Attention Readers: This book uses Ameriglish. English speakers from other countries should consider themselves warned… there will be donuts rather than doughnuts. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED: This literary work may not be
reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, including electronic or photographic reproduction, in whole or in part, without express written permission of the publisher. All characters and events in this book are fictitious. Any resemblance to actual persons living or dead is strictly coincidental. The Licensed Art Material is being used for illustrative purposes only; any person depicted in the Licensed Art Material is a model.
The author acknowledges the trademarked status and trademark owners of the following wordmarks mentioned in this work of fiction:
Chevy Nova/Chrysler Corporation
Better Homes and Gardens Magazine GMC Jimmy
The Fantastic Four/Marvel Comics
Special Thanks are owed, for many and various reasons to: Raevyn
Jambrea Jo Jones
Tracy Tucker Faul
Taylor V. Donovan
Crouse Hospital Nursing Program
Schine Student Union Dining Hall
Quinetta, Matt, and all the other peeps I worked with at the Schine, half a lifetime ago…
And of course, the incomparable Kidlet who flings Glitter and Flat Puppies (aka Plot Bunnies) around my house on the regular.
You were all necessary to this work.
Always and always, every story is for Patric, my Balthazar. This one is also for every soldier who fights arduous battles
to come home only to arrive there carrying invisible and still bleeding wounds…
May you find an Adrien somewhere near to hand in your world; that one person whose heart is big enough to forgive the hurts you pass along when no one sees the wounds you still bleed from, and whose will is strong enough to forge a path to healing your weary feet can follow.
Raymond Dieterman stroked his long fingers along the fine grain of the picture frame’s wooden edge. The tall, dark haired, dark eyed man laughing out at him from a narrow wood and glass prison urged him to hurry, hurry, hurry. Turning up the volume on his music player, one, two, three times, he smiled. Rosanne Cash understood. Yes. The soul took blows to be cleansed. She understood perfectly.
Scrutinizing the photograph closely, Raymond searched for the thing which had first brought clarity to him on this issue. Ah, where… there… just at the lower left corner of the picture. A narrow brown boot, just inside the frame of the shot held all the significance if one knew what one looked for. Yes, yes, yes. There. Three gouges along the edge of the sole. They were put there by shrapnel from a land mine. The boot was a size fourteen narrow. Raymond should know. They were his boots, and he’d been saved from death by the laughing god in the frame. The laughing god belonged to Raymond, and Raymond alone.
Yes, yes, yes.
“Raymond, dear, are you coming to dinner?” His mother’s voice quavered a little. She stood on the other side of his bedroom door, surrounded by shockingly bright lights and the sickly smell of overcooked foods. Raymond should know. He’d opened the door twice since he’d been sent home from the war. Both times the harsh florescent lights of the hallway stabbed into his eyes. The first time mama had been baking fish. The heavy scent lingered, and in the end, Raymond had been forced to bleach the entire kitchen so that he could sleep. He swallowed down the hot sourness in this throat just thinking of the lingering fish smell brought on. He rocked forward in his seat, then back, one, two, three.