The sequel to my novel IN THE NICK OF TIME is finished. Currently titled THE TIME OF HIS LIFE, I thought I would share the first chapter. Without revealing the ending to IN THE NICK OF TIME, this new novel involves Andy, Miranda and Roger again and of course the sage-like influence of Grandma Geri. More time travel and those impetuous incense sticks. For the fans: here is Chapter One of THE TIME OF HIS LIFE:
Jake Hollis has been dead for eighty-five years. He was fifteen years old when he died, and he was solemnly buried in the now deserted and forgotten Quaker cemetery in Prospect Park, Brooklyn. His funeral, on August 27, 1925, was a relieved cool morning after a five day heat wave. His father and mother, ashen faced, shocked, mute, stood at his grave. His mother held the hand of Jake’s eight-year-old sister while his brother, thirteen, stood alone willing himself to be strong. When Jake’s coffin was lowered into the soil, his brother broke down. A forgiving breeze stirred the trees but would not dry their tears. Jake’s only aunt would stay with the family another two months to help manage the household.
In a box full of photographs and crinkly memorabilia of a long defunct boys’ camp called Camp Forest Hills, there is a picture or two of Jake Hollis. This box is one of a collection of five boxes located in a modest mansion in Concord, New Hampshire. How the photographs ended up there, no one seems to know, but in Mrs. Abigail Bishop’s spacious and organized attic the photos of Jake have rested for thirty-seven years. When she died, her family donated the five boxes, as well as two trunks and a sled, to the New Hampshire Historical Society.
After looking through the contents, David Flanders, the curator at the Society, decided to mount an exhibit. The boxes contained a wealth of fascinating information on the history of the boys’ camps that flourished in the state from 1900 to the present. Not just Camp Forest Hills, but wild sounding camp names like Camp Pasquaney, Camp Asquam, and Camp Mowglis. The boxes were filled with old letters from camp children, menus, daily schedules of the camps, tax receipts and even old yearbooks. There were sixty-four sepia colored and black and white photographs: boys playing sports, boys swimming, hiking, sitting in their tents. Boys staring into the camera, engaged in rifle practice or working on projects in the woodshop, posed for eternity.
Mr. Flanders thought it was the perfect exhibit for the summer and even into the fall, as the Society was overrun with tourist visitors during that time of year. Jake, the boy who died, was in two of the sixty-four pictures. The first was a group photograph of the campers at Camp Forest Hills of 1925. Jake is in the second row, the last boy on the right: bent down on his right knee, arms crossed, as were all the others and he stares at the camera intently. While the boys are wedged together, shoulder to shoulder, he is slightly, just slightly, apart. His dark hair falls across his forehead. He’s not heavy or stocky; 1925 was a different time when there were no Doritos, no McDonalds, no quick and easy greasy chicken. The boys look healthy, well fed, but muscular. Jake weighs 135 pounds; he is 5 feet 8 inches tall. Had he lived he would have grown taller. He would have gained more weight. There is no smile on his face: but there are no smiles on anyone’s face. The boys were told to do that: showing the seriousness of these summer camps, these camps that taught young kids how to survive, how to be mature men for the future. But Jake didn’t survive. He died. During that summer, his first time at the camp, he died.
The second picture of Jake is the camp’s baseball team. He is standing, again a little away from the other campers, on the left. He’s gripping a baseball bat, but the bat is touching the ground, as if Jake is about to raise it for a swing. He’s leaning against a cabin and his left arm is looped over the railing. He grins. Perhaps he and the team are about to start a game. He’s wearing a baseball uniform. The other guys don’t have uniforms; they’re dressed in shorts and old shirts. Jake’s uniform was a gift from his dad, something for the camp adventure he was about to embark on.
For thirty-seven years, through summers and winters, these two simple, quiet pictures of Jake Hollis stayed in that box in Mrs. Bishop’s attic. Today, carefully, respectfully, Mr. Flanders removes all the photos, separates the materials and creates the Historical Society’s new exhibit. The two photos of Jake will go up on the wall. The exhibit is on the second floor of the New Hampshire Historical Society. The building, which opened in 1906, is found across the street from the State House in Concord. It will take a visit by a very special, sensitive boy named Andy Mackpeace to look at these photos, and Jake will finally, finally, after eighty-five years of being silent, speak to the living.