So, if you have not yet read THE REASONS…I’d like to share a portion of Chapter One with you here today. Let me know what you think. It’s available now most places ebooks are sold.
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The Reasons at my publisher’s website
The Reasons sells for $3.99 (or thereabouts).
You will notice that Chapter One is sub-titled Tobias Reason. This is because The Reasons is first person POV…and the POV changes with each chapter. Tobias, the son, and Maggie, the mother, alternate chapters. Enjoy this excerpt!
In the midst of absence, death, and insanity, Tobias longs to make his family whole again.
With a mostly absent father, a deceased older sister, a younger sister on the verge of invisibility, and a certifiably insane mother, Tobias Reason is forced to grow up quickly. Though he tries to be a surrogate parent to his sister, their broken mother, Maggie, takes up a lot of his time. Annabel falls to the wayside and becomes a ghost in their chaotic existence.
When Maggie flippantly hands her mother’s house over to Tobias, he sees an opportunity to learn how and why his family became so shattered. Be careful what you wish for. When his world begins to collapse from the weight of unburied secrets, he focuses on a stranger from his parents’ past. Only by eliminating the past, he believes, can he make his family whole again.
My mother was always losing things. She once lost my dead sister. She spent years looking for her, but by the time she had lost Deja she was far too gone to realize there’s no finding the dead. When you lose sight of them, they are gone forever.
I was ten years old when Deja died. She was the oldest Reason child—gifted, bright, and headstrong. She had just finished high school and was contemplating her next steps in life, pondering her choices.
Deja and her boyfriend, Mark, headed out west right after graduation, to discover the Rockies. She was obsessed with mountains. Deja did everything big. Her journey of discovery should have lasted the entire summer. I saw this journey as her way of putting space between herself and our overbearing mother, though the Himalayas are a hell of a lot bigger and a lot farther away. Had I been able to stow away in her Volkswagen Beetle, I would have. The thought of sharing a house with my mother and my younger sister, Annabel, for a whole summer scared me beyond words.
* * * *
There is something unmistakable about the knock on the door by an OPP constable delivering bad news. I didn’t know what it was, of course, until after I answered it. Having answered it, I will never forget it.
“Is your mother home?” the constable asked me. He was impossibly large. I craned my neck to look up at him. He stood like a statue, with a thick clipboard in one hand and his hat in the other. He’d used the clipboard to knock on the door. I knew a hand had not made that sound.
I hadn’t ever seen a police uniform up close. As I looked at him, with his walkie-talkie on his shoulder and his gun holstered at his side, I wrapped my arms around myself. I shivered, entranced by his thereness. Eventually, I pulled myself away from his stern look and raced to the living room to get my mother.
Our parents had always insisted we call them by name. I shook her arm to wake her from a reverie. She sat in front of the television, pretending to be glued to the soap opera playing out on the screen. She stared beyond the screen, though, lost inside her cosmic Maggie thoughts.
“What is it, Tobias?”
“There’s a policeman at the door, Maggie.”
Her eyebrows crinkled. She didn’t want to be bothered. The details of the real world constantly intruded upon her inner universe. She had no time for reality once she slipped into her imaginary world.
“Why would a police officer be at our door?”
“He’s here,” I insisted, amazed she would not run to see what he wanted. “Waiting for you.”
She stubbed her cigarette into the ashtray beside her and rose from her chair. I ran ahead of her, eager to find out why the police had shown up. I couldn’t think of any reason they would come other than to arrest someone.
“How can I help you, Officer?” she asked. Her fists were tight balls at her sides and she was lurching forward, ready to pounce.
She nodded and folded her arms.
“Ms. Margaret Reason?”
“Yes. Maggie. This is my house. I don’t know who else you would be expecting to find here.”
“Could I please have a word with you, Ms. Reason?”
“You are, sir. You are having many of them with me,” she said, unable to disguise the scowl of impatience on her face.
I worried she might get herself into trouble. Can you be arrested for being rude to the police?
The officer nodded his head in my direction and I knew immediately what he meant. I’d have to leave so they could have a conversation in private.
“Alone, ma’am, if you will.”
“Tobias is fine, Officer,” she said. “I’m not really in the mood for games. If you will let me know what you’re here for, I can—”
“I’m terribly sorry, ma’am, but I’m afraid I have some deeply unsettling news for you. Can we sit down? Somewhere private?” He looked at me again and seemed annoyed that I would not take the hint and leave them alone. But I wasn’t budging.
“What is your name?” she asked, not inviting him in any farther.
“I’m Constable Ryan Murphy, ma’am.” He held out his badge.
She inspected it longer than was necessary before looking back up into his face. “Constable Murphy, please let me know the nature of your visit. I’m not one to fiddle-faddle. And Tobias is not leaving my side. I would like the gist of your—”
“There’s been a vehicular incident, Ms. Reason. Your daughter,” he began, and looked down at his clipboard before continuing, “Miss Deja Reason. She was involved in the accident. Her Volkswagen Beetle was involved. The collision took place on King’s Highway 11, between Braintree and Richer, Manitoba.”
His monotone voice cut into me as he methodically listed off the details of the accident. As the words left his mouth, they began to weigh Maggie down like bricks. First she hunched her shoulders and then sagged closer to the floor. Her composure crumbled as the officer continued to speak. I missed most of the words, but understood their meanings as they registered on Maggie’s face.
“…I regret to inform you that despite the concerted efforts of the paramedics on scene, they could not resuscitate your daughter.”
For the first time, I noticed how young the officer was. Though his voice remained cold—like steel—he was cracking. He swallowed too frequently and his eyes misted with un-fallen tears.
Maggie slowly collapsed to a cross-legged position on the front hall floor. She bent her head into her hands and her raven hair shrouded her face. She began to rock slowly back and forth in silence.
“Both Deja and the driver,” he continued, now making eye contact with me as he spoke. As if I was adult enough to hear the information. He referenced his clipboard again. “Mark Bennett. Both Deja and Mark Bennett were killed instantly. Their Volkswagen, travelling westbound, was hit head-on by an eastbound vehicle attempting to overtake a transport-trailer.”
He stopped, looked to Maggie and then looked back at me. He scowled as he wiped an errant tear, as though he were angry with himself for not keeping his façade of emotional detachment. Or angry with Maggie for not participating in the way he figured she should. I had begun to cry, but had not yet thought to wipe at the tears. Seeing him swipe at his own tears brought me back to myself. I wiped my face on the sleeve of my shirt.
“Ma’am. It took a while for the emergency vehicles to respond. There’s a long empty stretch of highway there and they were right in the middle of it. But be assured they did the best they could. They made every effort. Every effort. The road conditions were wet, but manageable. The fault of the collision rests on the other driver. Had he not—”
Maggie lifted her head and let out a wild, wailing moan, interrupting the officer mid-sentence. Her shrieks soon filled the cramped hallway and I fell into crying with her, my sides hitching uncontrollably as I tried to stop myself and hold it together.
Deja had been gone for only three days. After a lifelong desire to surround herself with mountains, she got only as far as the barren flatlands of Manitoba. For me, this deepened the sting of her death. She had longed for mountains and died in one of the flattest pieces of land on the globe before ever reaching them. Even at ten, the tragic irony in her death was not lost on me.
“Deja, love!” My mother looked up into the kitchen doorway as though her eyes were called there. She swiped wildly at her tears and smiled. The smile was incongruous below the black trails of mascara cascading down her cheeks. “Please. Tell this kind man that you’re fine. Deja, don’t you ever scare your mother like that. You beast! Tell this man he need not be here harassing us and trying to scare the living hell out of us on such a beautiful day.”
She rose, ran to the doorway, and reached into the empty space. She fell over herself to embrace the invisible apparition.
She ignored me. I tried to control myself, but seeing her reach for something that was not there sent my brain spinning. As hard as I tried to see Deja, she would not appear. I looked to the officer for help.
He took a few quick steps towards her and then stopped in his tracks. Perhaps he realized for the first time that he was in over his head. He was not quite back to his position at the door when Maggie turned on her heels and rushed him with her arms flailing, ready for battle.
She grabbed at the front of his uniform and pushed him out the front door and down the steps, screaming the whole time that her daughter was—“right there, you bastard. Right in front of your goddamned eyes.”
Though he was much bigger than my mother, his face contorted into a grisly mask of terror as she continued to barrel into him. In her fury, she overpowered him. Seeing his fear took my breath away. They tumbled to the ground and my stomach turned as though I were going to vomit. Knowing he was the only sane one of the two threw me into further despair.
In seconds he was on his back on our wet front lawn, shielding his eyes from the sun with one hand so he could protect himself against the flailing blows with the other. His hat and clipboard lay scattered on the steps.
“You bastard,” Maggie screamed. She straddled him and pummelled him wherever her flying fists landed. “My daughter’s alive. She’s alive!”
“Ma’am, please.” He took advantage of the moment Maggie paused and he grabbed her wrists. He swung her around so quickly, I didn’t even see how it happened. He pinned her to the ground. “Please, ma’am. I’m going to let you go so we can both get up. I need you to cooperate. Please.”
“I’ll kill you. Let go. I dare you.” She would not relent. “Tobias. Go call David. Deja. Please show this officer that you’re fine. Show him.”
Constable Murphy held both of Maggie’s wrists with one hand while he wrestled out his handcuffs.
“Ms. Reason. I’m only putting these cuffs on you for my own safety. And yours. I’m terribly sorry to have to do this. I know how badly you must—”
“Shut the hell up. It sounds to me like you’re deviating from the script, Mr. Despite Concerted Efforts. Mr. Vehicular Incident. Acknowledge my daughter, you bastard. She’s as real as the stupid look on your face. And right in front of you.”
She struggled constantly under his weight, but now that he had regained control of the situation, she wouldn’t get the upper hand again. The handcuffs snapped into position, and the officer jumped up off Maggie in one swift motion.
I stood on the top step of the front porch, unable to move. I knew I had to call David, but her insistence that Deja was in the kitchen had scared me so badly I froze in my tracks. And my mind had gone blank, anyway. I could not remember my own father’s phone number.
“I need backup at 623 Eagle Drive. Officer 4906,” he said into the walkie-talkie on his shoulder. There was a static reply before he continued. “I’m going to need an ambulance.”
Maggie still sat on the front lawn and we were waiting for the ambulance when my father, David Reason, came tearing into the driveway in his pick-up.
The truck barely stopped when David was out of it, making a beeline for Maggie. She was back to her rocking cross-legged position, with her hair covering her face. Her cuffed hands were in her lap. She had stopped yelling and crying, but ten feet away from me the storm of aggression and chaos still swirled about her like a whirling dervish.
“What the hell is happening here?” David asked the officer. “Why in the name of God is my wife in handcuffs? Handcuffs! You better have a damn good reason for doing this at such a time. What the hell is your problem? What’s your badge number?”
He spoke fast and furious as he made his way to Maggie, not waiting for any of his questions to be answered.
“I’m sorry, sir. She became violent. It was the only way I could subdue her. I’m following procedure.”
“Maggie. I’m here.” He fell to his knees on the grass in front of her. Only then did he cry. “I came as soon as I could. They came to my door too, sweetie.”
He embraced Maggie and began to rock with her. I finally found the ability to move. I made my way to join them.
“Tobias. Oh my God, Tobias.” He opened one arm to invite me into their embrace.
I ran and buried my face in his shoulder, felt the warmth of his skin and that reassuring scent of Old Spice and cigarettes.
I cried hard, but knew I was safe for the first time since answering the knock on the door. I held tight and tried to forget about Deja’s death and her ghost in our kitchen.
“Tobias. Your sister is in the car. Could you go get her? Go get Annabel, please.”
I turned toward the car. The neighbours stood on their porches gawking at us. David hated that about our neighbourhood. This wasn’t the first Reasons episode caught by the prying eyes of neighbours on their porches. Nor did I think this would be the last.
I ran to the car to be with Annabel. Her white face was glued to the window. Her pallor was more ghostlike than Deja’s could ever be. I only had time to open the door before the ambulance pulled into the driveway beside us.
* * * *
Even as the ambulance attendants struggled to get Maggie strapped into the gurney for the ride to the hospital, she screamed her defiance.
“My daughter is alive,” she told the attendant. He held her down while the other one tightened the leather strap that secured her to the gurney. “I spoke to her. She’s in the house. In my kitchen. Don’t listen to that man. I don’t know why he’s here or why he’s doing this to me, but you have to believe me. He’s telling lies. I’m not in shock. My daughter is perfectly fine, thank you very much.”
“Ma’am, please,” the young attendant pleaded. “We’ll take you to the hospital and they will medicate—”
“I don’t need medication. I need for somebody to believe—”
“Ma’am. Please,” he said again. They rolled the gurney to the ambulance.
David turned to look at me. “Take your sister inside,” he said. His eyes were cold steel. They left no room for argument, but I couldn’t help myself. I did not want to go into that house. Not without an adult, anyway.
“But, David,” I began, “she said Deja’s in there. In the kitchen. I don’t wanna go—”
“Tobias. Now. Take your sister in the house and wait for me there.”
He was too ruffled to show me mercy. I took Annabel’s hand and we entered the house. As the screen door slammed behind us, my heart rose a little in my throat. I averted my gaze from the kitchen as I escorted Annabel into the living room.
* * * *
Maggie was not afraid to argue with the doctors who medicated her despite—or because of—her stance that Deja was alive and well. She was not in shock, she did not need to dull the pain…her daughter was fine. Perfectly fine, thank you very much.
She still held up a front five days later as we prepared for the funeral. Deja’s body had been flown back to Ontario. Maggie made note that it was Deja’s first ever plane ride. I couldn’t comprehend why this would thrill her. If Maggie believed Deja were in the house, safe from harm and chatting non-stop, how could she also believe her body was on a plane? How could she possibly work the two things into the same delusion? Mental illness is a baffling thing—capable of putting my sister in two places at once without so much as a skipped beat from Maggie.
I wish I could say Maggie only became crazy after Deja’s accident. But I would be lying. Maggie was crazy long before our Deja died. Deja’s death just helped shape the new direction Maggie’s illness would take. With Deja walking around the house whispering into her ear, she was pretty much free to be as crazy as crazy gets. What was once only a mild craziness had instantly skyrocketed into something of Olympic proportions.