Click on image to enlarge.
by Marshall Masters
Category: Historical Fiction/Romance
Description: Handsome, young Danny McCallum is caught in the jaws of a life-changing dilemma. As he begins his last semester of college, his hopes of graduating and starting a new cruise ship job will vanish unless he completes a dark and twisted assignment. Envious of his popularity with women, Danny's American Literature professor blackmails him into proving that renowned American author Mark Twain was a closet pedophile. As much as Danny wants to graduate and follow his dream of becoming a novelist, he is deeply torn. Can he rise above the disgust that he feels for his Machiavellian professor and commit his name to a document that will forever haunt him? His first impulse is to do it quietly and alone, but as the crisis escalates, his geeky girlfriend intercedes and becomes the genesis of an irregular and secretive group that includes a washed up war vet, and three high-priced call girls. All are Danny's friends, and in the process of helping him, they open a Pandora's box of small town scandals.
eBook Publisher: Yowbooks.com/Your Own World Books, 2006 2006-02-15
eBookwise Release Date: February 2006
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [128 KB]
Reading time: 82-115 min.
Run to the Roar
The TV makeup artist rocked her head back and forth as she gave Danny a final look. Satisfied with her work, she whirled him around in the chair. "That gets it, Mr. McCallum," she chirped. "Before you go on with Larry, I'll give you a quick touch up. That way, your wickedly delicious book will be the only thing that shines." She winked at the handsome 26-year old author and coyly admired his dark-brown bedroom eyes as she removed his bib.
She wasn't Danny's type, but her fascination with his eyes did not go unnoticed. She'd also lavished far too much attention to his thick crop of black curly hair and the coffee-colored tan he'd acquired from two years at sea. He could read her willingness like a book, but then he'd already been doing that for many years. Naturally tall and sturdy with a manly chest and firm jaw, nature had intended him to be a durable farm boy, capable of working harvests from can to can't. Off the farm, his natural build offered the allure of beef cake to city girls, and for him, this had always been a mixed blessing.
This is because Danny preferred women who were more intellectual and a bit less superficial and self-focused. Most any healthy woman could love, he reasoned, but the ones who could blend their love with intellect were far more to his liking. Being careful to avoid any sign of personal interest, he stepped out of the chair and politely thanked the makeup artist.
Without pause, he approached the production intern who'd been assigned to shepherd him past the various production waypoints to his nationwide cable TV appearance. He smiled at the young man and noticed how his tied clashed with the color of his shirt, which likewise clashed with his curly red hair. Nearly his height, Danny decided shirt and tie had to be a gift. A hasty mismatch like this smacked of something a rushed mother would find on the bargain rack at some posh New York department store during a lunch hour break. Once they were in the hallway, he asked in a hushed voice. "Did your Mom pick out your tie?"
The young man's shoulders slumped. "It's that obvious?"
Danny put an arm around his shoulder and squeezed him close. "I never really got to know my own parents, and while I've never been one to envy others, I do envy you for that funny little mismatched tie you're wearing."
A happy expression melted away the embarrassment on the young intern's face. "I'll be sure to tell mom you said that. She's reading your book, too." He held up a tattered copy of Danny's new bestseller, Three Easy Minutes a Day.
The dust cover was torn at the edges, and Danny noticed a forest of post-it notes jutting out between the book's hardboard covers. This pleased him for more than one reason. Danny knew to the penny just how much of that sale would go into his own pocket. Life had taught him to think that way. "Always remember," his grandfather Joe once told him. "Before you spend, just remember. It comes in one penny at a time and goes out one dollar at a time."
Grandfather Joe McCallum came from a poor working class immigrant family, and his great-grandfather had been a stone cutter back in the old country. After immigrating to America, he worked various odd jobs and traveled until he found a good life for his family in a small Western university town. His work adorned some of the oldest buildings on campus, as well as the various cemeteries. Statuary had been his first love, but in the end, it was headstones that always paid the rent and fed his family. Yet, his first love was always his family and it was this love, a sturdy cottage made with enough timber to frame at least two modern homes, and a work shop filled with tools that he'd eventually bequeath his heirs.
When he was just four years old, Danny's parents died in a car crash, and his family tree had been tragically pruned back to Danny and his grandfather, but Danny never felt shortchanged. What his grandfather lacked in wealth, he made up for with love. Danny did the rest, and he was proud that he'd made enough to finance his own way through college, plus supplement his grandfather's social security pension.
After cashing his first royalty advance on his bestseller, he set aside a small portion for a fitting celebration and used the rest to renovate his great grandfather's cottage to its original condition. Fond of technology, the renovation included the addition of all the most modern conveniences and it was now the oldest intelligent cottage in town as well. All that had been accomplished many royalty checks ago.
Still a bit self-conscious, the intern checked the knot on his tie and then asked, "Mr. McCallum, if you want to chill out, I can take you back to your dressing room." The Intern gestured towards the hallway that connected the production studio with adjoining rows of dressing and makeup rooms. "I can come and get you when it's time."
"Ahhhh ... a little me-time sounds just right," Danny smiled. Eager to please, the intern nodded confidently and steered him past zigzagging production staffers, each no doubt on some urgent mission of vital importance. Danny felt a twitch of curiosity. He wondered which pages the Intern had marked. Call it natural curiosity or author's ego; the lure of the reclusive post-it notes tasked Danny. "If you've got a pen, I'd be happy to autograph your book."
The intern lit up. Danny had guessed right. Serious about his fledgling position, the intern felt awkward about asking. Someone a little more seasoned would have asked in a New York minute. The young man drew a slightly chewed office pen from his shirt pocket and handed it to him with the book.
Danny clicked the pen a few times to buy a little time and, stopping short of his dressing room door, let the intern walked ahead to open it. Standing just behind him, he quickly thumbed the pages. Just as he suspected, the first post-it was pasted to page 19. He chuckled as he autographed the title page of the book with a warm, personal message of thanks.
A lusciously comfortable couch beckoned to Danny from the corner of the dressing room, and he made for it straight away. With a self-satisfied plop in the soft cushions, he kicked off his shoes and propped his feet up on the edge of the coffee table, opposite the one plied with tempting drinks and eats.
"Don't worry about the time," the intern assured him. "I'll come back to get you." He nodded his understanding and gave him the thumbs up sign. The intern smiled and held up the book. "Thanks again, Mr. McCallum."
Danny waved him off with an informal salute and stretched with a satisfied growl as the door latched shut. Tempted to scratch his head, he knew better. It would muss his thick mat of neatly coiffured, curly brown hair, so he folded his arms over his chest and took his mind off the urge.
"Page 19," he muttered with a chuckle. "I owe you that, Mindy." He closed his eyes; he cleared his mind with deep, controlled breaths, and then drifted back four years in time to the close of his senior year in college and to a very special day. On that eventful day, a frustrated assistant college professor unintentionally pierced the haze of an aspiring writer and unintentionally launched him on a path to fame.