Sample # 4
From: Called to Arms Again
By J.L. Salter
Grit doesn’t fade away ... it just becomes crusty. With harrowing elements right out of today’s headlines, this story reaches back into the sturdy heartbeat of people raised during the Depression and tested during World War II. Though the old uniforms haven’t fit in many decades, their resilient spirits still have that same intensity which helped save democracy.
Welcome back to Saturday Samples, where I’m revealing the fourth sample of my newest novel, Called To Arms Again, released on May 30 by Astraea Press. The heroine is reporter Kelly Randall, writing a 12-page special section for Veterans Day. This excerpt, From the beginning of Chapter 6, is the first appearance of Kelly’s good friend (and occasional neighbor) Wade Lawrence, who later plays a significant role in the goings-on at the after-funeral luncheon in the formerly quiet retirement neighbor-hood where all the action later occurs.
* * * * *
As Kelly sipped her second cup of coffee on the porch, she heard a distinctive whirring noise from the woods behind her cabin. It was a familiar sound but she rose to inves-tigate anyway. She’d barely left the porch steps when a large man zoomed down her driveway in a souped-up customized golf cart.
“Wade!” She waved enthusiastically, spilling some coffee in the process. She flung away the remaining liquid and walked quickly toward the powered-up buggy, as it crunched
gravel and lurched to a stop. “No trailer this time, I see.”
“Streamlined fer speed.” The chassis and cab were top-of-the-line premium brand, but the engine and transmission were secrets known only to Lawrence Wade Lawrence. The
barrel-chested man jumped out of the cart and launched his bear hug before Kelly could put down her empty cup, which clattered to the gravel. “Sorry. Just happy to see you.” He looked down. “Is it broke?”
Kelly bent down and grabbed the cup. “Just bruised a bit. Come on in.” As they made their way up the plank steps, she said, “Let’s get some coffee. Somebody made me spill
He grinned as he burst through the door and barreled into the kitchen. Wade was not unusually tall — just under six feet — but he was massively built, with thick neck, arms, and legs. He was one of those men who did not manifest any particular musculature but possessed astonishing strength. He could heave a hundred-and-fifty pound stump into a
bonfire, but he usually shook hands passively. Wade’s movements were never slow and seldom quiet.
While extracting his personal mug from Kelly’s kitchen cabinet, he managed to clink into at least four other dishes. The spoon clanked in his mug and smacked loudly onto the counter.
“Wade, I declare. You are a bundle.”
“Bundle of what?” When he grinned, his entire face was involved. At present his face showed several days of stubble.
“You growing your beard again for deer season?” She pointed.
“Naw, this is the new movie star look — always look like you fergot to shave yesterday and just might wait ‘til tomorrow.”
Kelly couldn’t tell if he was serious, but Wade had probably already left that subject so she shifted. “That pet hatch you installed has been real helpful, especially to keep little Perra from following my vehicle.”
Wade looked slightly embarrassed at being praised, though his expression lasted only a few seconds.
“So, what are you doing in town? I thought you usually visit about every other week-end.”
“Got three acres to mow and lots of branches to clean up. Must’ve been some big wind around here.”
“So you come down here more than I thought you did.” She eyed him narrowly. “In case you’ve been here on other weekends, I wonder if you’ve heard some noise on Pop’s ninety-nine acres.”
“What kind of noise?”
Kelly put her cup on the small end table so she could use her hands when she talked. “I’ve been hearing loud booms and other muffled sounds that seem like they’re coming from those woods or the meadow beyond. I’ve also caught another hunter, but I know this isn’t hunters, unless they’re carrying cannons.” She had looked away to check on a
movement from Perra and then she caught Wade’s eyes again. “Why are you grinning?”
“You sure are. A big pie-eating grin.” She frowned. “What do you know about all those sounds, Lawrence?”
“Shucks, you’re making me spill my big surprise.”
Kelly extended her hand and motioned with her fingers. Come on.
“Well, at first it was just a few leftover cherry bombs and M-80s.”
“I’ve heard of cherry bombs but those booms I heard were more like atom bombs.” She squinted at him. “Wait. I thought those high-powered gizmos had been outlawed.”
Wade grinned. “Well, they’re only against the law if you’re caught with ‘em. If you’ve already blowed ‘em up, nobody can tell a cherry bomb from a farrcracker.”
“One of these days, you’re going to find yourself in some trouble, Wade. You must’ve had a charmed life so far. But luck sometimes runs out.”
Needing only a fresh angle to write her Veteran’s Day special, Kelly discovers first-hand that the Greatest Generation still has enough grit to fight back. While all the authorities are occupied during a massive Homeland Security drill, an urban gang of thieves targets an isolated retirement subdivision ... figuring the crippled geriatrics would offer no resistance.
Though Kelly’s widowed boyfriend came along only for a post-funeral luncheon, Mitch soon finds himself leading a mis-matched flanking team. Kelly’s good friend Wade has his own assignment, with a home-made mortar and lots of illegal gunpowder.
Maybe it’s difficult to remember everyday things like taking pills, but these octo-genarians have never forgotten it was up to them to defend family, home, community, and country. The outcome of their courageous stand depends on the resolve and resourcefulness of an unlikely ensemble of eccentric elderly neighbors, several American Legion members, and others spanning four generations.
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