As many of you know my friend and author Joe Clifford has a new book out. LAMENTATION is making its rounds. There are even talks of a movie deal. No. This is not one of those boring promotional posts, so keep reading.
To get you as excited about this book as I am I’m going to give you a little taste instead.
First, let me back up here. Joe is an extremely talented writer. He possesses that star quality we all strive for, that it factor. Let me tell you, no one deserves success more than Joe. He has an incredible work ethic and gives back to the writing community in so many ways– helping other writers, teaching classes, coaching, editing, I could go on and on. And he’s one hell of a nice guy beneath his tattoos.
Don’t take my word for it, that LAMENTATION is so good I wish I wrote it. See for yourself… Drum roll, please…
Without further ado, here is the first chapter of LAMENTATION. Enjoy!
I ducked inside the pantry to see what else we could sell when I tripped over a cord of wood and snared the back of my work coat on an old, rusty nail. The sharp point tore through the thick padding and ripped a hole in my long johns, all the way through my undershirt. I hurried to the sink and peeled off the layers. Just a surface cut. Thankfully, unlike the heat and power, the water was still on. I began dabbing the wound. Last thing I needed was lockjaw. I hadn’t had a tetanus shot in twelve years. The estate clearing business was big in Ashton, and my boss Tom Gable a good guy, but it’s not like the gig comes with health insurance.
All afternoon I’d been up at Ben Saunders’s place, a two-hundred-year-old farmhouse in the foothills, cherry picking through the dead man’s belongings, loading the U-Haul for trips to flea markets and swap shops in Southern New England. Saunders had lived alone and was a packrat. The cancer finally got him around Thanksgiving. Most of his stuff was junk. A dumpster sat in the snow-covered driveway overflowing with waterlogged pads of fiberglass, chunks of splintered wood, jagged shards of glass, trash bags jam-packed with leftovers that didn’t quite translate to dollars and cents. I was almost done, and I’d be glad for the day to end. If I wrapped up soon enough, I’d have time to shoot across town to catch Jenny before she put our son to bed. I hadn’t seen him all week.
Out the kitchen window, thick, black storm clouds roiled over Lamentation Mountain, churning like the gears to a violent machine, steamrolling the summit and sucking all light from the landscape, vast pastures and encasing stonewalls shrouded in dense fields of leaden smoke. Cold winds rustled through broken windows. The flapping insulation sounded like a plastic bag held out a speeding car on the highway.
The big, empty farmhouse smelled of abandon. Night was settling, and the snow began to fall heavier. It had been one of the worst winters on record. Certainly the worst since the accident.
Twenty years had passed but my parents’ crash felt closer to last week. I stared in the direction of Lamentation Bridge, even though I couldn’t see much through the evening gloam, freezing my ass off, making no effort to get redressed. I knew that somewhere in the dark lie the exact spot where their brakes failed, and they plunged into the frigid grey water of Echo Lake; the night everything changed for my older brother Chris and me. I could feel death’s presence lurking the entire week I’d been working there, a pall hanging over the place. It was the monkey on my back. The elephant in the room. The crazy little bird chirping in my ear….
The headlights from Tom’s truck fanned up the tortuous gravel drive, slicing through snowy pines and shining into my eyes.
I pulled my ripped shirt over my head and bundled back up, then headed outside to greet him.
Tom climbed down from the cab and lumbered up the drive, broad shoulders curled, hands jammed in pockets, head ducked into the furred collar of his coat. I could hear my untied work boots crunching frozen dirt and snow as harsh winds raced through the valley.
“Just about done,” I shouted above the din of engine and storm, nodding back at the old farmhouse. “Maybe one and a half, two hours left.”
Tom gestured for me to follow him back to his idling Ford F-350, which rumbled like a washing machine stuck with an uneven load. We hoisted ourselves into the warm cab, feeling the hot air blasting through the vents.
I pulled the Marlboros from my coat and cupped my hands to light one. The radio softly hummed. The Allman Brothers, “Sweet Melissa.” That song had been playing the first time I kissed Jenny in Steve Ryba’s basement back in high school. It always hit me hard. Tom offered me the other half of a ham and cheese from the Gas ’n’ Go, but I shook him off. Last time I made the mistake of eating a gas station sandwich I spent half the night with my face stuck in the toilet.
Tom reached in his coat and passed along an envelope.
By its heft I could tell that there had to be at least a grand in there.
Tom was a good boss and treated me well. But the nature of estate clearing meant nothing was permanent, and the brutal winters often made it difficult to transport merchandise. Which frequently spelled downtime for me—downtime I didn’t want. A thousand bucks said we were looking at another one of those times.
“That should hold you over a few,” he said.
“If it doesn’t,” I said, tucking the envelope into my coat, “that’s not your problem.”
“Yeah, it is. You’re the best guy I got, Jay. I hate doing this to you, but everything slows down this time of year, you know that.”
“Might have another place up in Berlin. But that won’t be for at least three weeks. Finding somewhere to sell the shit, that’s another matter.” He forced a laugh. “Helluva place to run antiques.” His frost-burned cheeks winced a grin through the bushy beard that covered two-thirds of his face.
I gazed out the window. Distant lights flickered on the range like fireflies in a jar in the summer, as families retreated safely inside to batten down hatches and weather the latest storm.
I made for the handle. “Still a few things inside I have to pack. I’ve got a pair of floodlights in my truck I can use. I want to wrap this for you today.”
“Don’t worry about it,” Tom said. “I’ll take care of it.”
I didn’t like the way he looked when he said that. Because I knew what was coming next. I’d been getting that look since my mom and dad died, ever since my brother had turned into what he’d become. It spelled a long night of aggravation.
“Turley’s looking for you,” he said.
He didn’t need to add the next part, but he did anyway. “They got Chris down at the station.”
What did I tell you? Wait until you dig deeper through the pages. I can sum it up in one word: Incredible. And with a twist you’ll never see coming.
Now comes the part where I ask you help make Joe’s dreams come true. Heck, it’s every writer’s dream to hit The New York Times’ Bestsellers List. If we support one another we can ALL achieve our goals. I truly believe that. But it takes a village, so why not take a minute, share this post on your favorite social media site and buy Lamentation here. I promise, you will not be sorry.
Thank you, and God bless.