Kindle: 229 Pages
Published: April 19, 2014
Series: Chasing Prophecy
1. Chasing Prophecy
Mo is a teen boy just trying to survive high school in the mountain town of Boulder Creek, Washington. Boulder Creek is an isolated and mysterious place, proud of its reputation as the "Bigfoot Sighting Capital of the World." Mo falls in love with a girl named Prophecy who lives with a group that some call a commune and others call a cult. When she disappears, Mo must find the courage to face the monster that her family has become. This heartwarming coming of age story chronicles the adolescence of one boy who must transform himself to save the girl of his dreams.
Author Spotlight: Chasing Prophecy
I have always wanted to build a story around someone or something like Boo Radley, my all-time favorite literary character. I love how he dominates that book while remaining largely off-stage. I looked around the Seattle area and the closest thing I could think of was our local legend of Bigfoot. Once I had my own version of Nathan Arthur Radley in place, I started thinking a lot about monsters, especially monsters we make bigger in our imagination. I also thought about Boo living in society without being a part of it, which made me think of different separatist groups turned into cults. My young characters are based on bits and pieces of hundreds of former students.
The setting of Boulder Creek, Washington, like everything else in the book, is based on bits and pieces of lots of things. There is no town called that. Boulder Creek is where my wife and I hiked for our first date, in the foothills of the north Cascade Mountains. The mountains in my book look like the ones around Darrington, in Snohomish County. The main street is like Arlington (where I had my first teaching job). The log bridge is something I remember from a family trip to Yellowstone National Park, 1,000 miles away. People who have read Twilight will think Boulder Creek feels like Forks, which it does, because that’s what every small town in Washington feels like. The Bethlehem compound is the Boy Scout camp I attended in northern Idaho, complete with the same wood carvings on the fireplace.
Author Interview: Q & A
Q: How long have you been writing?
A: All my life, really. I’ve always kept a journal, written short stories, that kind of thing. Growing up, my mom drove us around in a lime green Pontiac station wagon with a broken radio. On long car trips, mom or my siblings would ask me to make up stories, to replace the radio. I’d look at the scenery and just start talking: “The dead body was found in the K-Mart parking lot.” And “The vampire looked for fresh blood in the Denny’s bathroom.” I wrote my first story in about 2nd grade. It was called “The Vampire that Lives in that Room with the Furnace In It.” I’d revise it, week to week, depending on which sibling was annoying me most. One week it might be called “Boy is Kathy Going to be Sorry She Told on Me Once the Vampire that Lives in that Room with the Furnace In It Gets Ahold of Her.”
Q: How did you come up with this story?
A: I always wanted to build a story around someone or something like Boo Radley, my all-time fave character. I love how he dominates that book while remaining largely off-stage. I looked around the Seattle area and the closest thing I could think of was our local legend of Bigfoot. Once I had my own version of Nathan Arthur Radley in place, I started thinking a lot about monsters, especially monsters we make bigger in our imagination. I also thought about Boo living in society without being a part of it, which made me think of different separatist groups turned into cults. My young characters are based on bits and pieces of many former students of mine. The Bigfoot stuff is based on an encounter a couple of them swear they had in Oso (which by the way is the site of the horrific mud-slide that has been in the news). That part of the Mount Baker National Forest has the most Bigfoot sightings in the world.
Q: Where is Boulder Creek, Washington?
A: Like everything else in the book, it’s based on bits and pieces of lots of things. There is no town called that. Boulder Creek is where my wife and I hiked for our first date, in the foothills of the north Cascade Mountains. The mountains in my book look like the ones around Darrington & Oso, in Snohomish County. The main street is like Arlington. The log bridge is something I remember from a family trip to Yellowstone National Park, 1,000 miles away. Twilight readers keep telling me that Boulder Creek feels like Forks, and they’re right, because that’s what every small town in Washington feels like. The Bethlehem compound is the Boy Scout camp I attended in northern Idaho, complete with the same wood carvings on the fireplace.
Q: If you had to explain your book in one sentence, what would that sentence be?
A: Real monsters don’t always hide in the woods. Sometimes they turn out to be people we’ve known all our lives. OK that was two sentences, but not bad, right???
A: Reading and writing, of course. Hanging with my eight year old son, Zachary, and my lovely wife, Laura. Learning to ski. Thinking hard about getting on the treadmill, followed by not getting on the treadmill, followed by seeing what’s new on Netflix.
Q: What have you been reading, lately?
A: The last couple years have been all about Sherman Alexie’s True Diary and the complete works of John Green. Jay Asher’s 13 Reasons + Future of Us. I’m a male writer with a male voice writing teen dude narrators, so those have been my go-to guys for this particular project. I think True Diary is the most important thing to happen in YA for a looooong time.
Q: So I have to ask: Do you believe in Bigfoot?
A: Dunno. I’m not a wishy-washy guy but I just do not know. I guess for me the point is that I kind of like not knowing. I like the debates & I love how passionate people are about it one way or the other. It’s a different form of Faith, really, which is whatever you want it to be. Put it this way: I’ll be crushed if he’s ever proven or disproven. I like the uncertainty & what’s the point of living when there are no more monsters to chase?
Q: New projects?
A: Yeah, I’m outlining and researching a teen series set in Seattle with the local legend of Sasquatch as the key paranormal thread. People seem really interested in him + I live in this setting, where we happen to have the most sightings in the world + no one else is doing it, so it seems like a natural fit. I’m handing off drafts to editors and cover designers in December, 2014 and the first release will be in March, 2015.
Q: What’s been most exciting about the book, so far?
A: Just having an audience is so fun. I’ve been getting random fan e-mails from the UK, Australia, one from China, the other day. Chatting about what I’m up to, and learning what readers like & dislike has just been so thrilling!
Confrontation between main characters and their rivals on a bridge high over the Boulder River.
Richard said, “Why are you even talking, Maureen, I mean Maurice? Go sit in your highchair and let the grownups work this out, OK, little guy?”
Even with my new growth spurt, he never missed a chance to let me know I lived every second of my life ten seconds from a surfing lesson.
Max said coldly, “Don’t you clowns talk to him that way.”
Kazzy said, “—or we will kick your cracker asses.”
I looked up at her and realized I’d been looking up to her my whole life. She was calm and still when she was standing up for herself. She didn’t have to stand on her tiptoes or raise her voice. When I tried to stand up for myself, I knew people saw the question marks in my eyes.
Kazzy’s eyes were full of answers, and I loved her. Deep inside me I felt something break, heal, and get stronger all at once.
Richard watched another carful of mourners pass us by. “Your little cult funeral all done?” he said.
Kazzy said, “Why do you say ‘Cult’? Do you see a fence keeping anyone in or out? Do you see us trying to blow anything up? There’s not a weapon on our whole ranch. You crackers have more guns than I’ve seen in my whole life.”
I pulled out my pocketknife, found a smooth spot in the pine railing, and pushed the blade into the sun-bleached log. I worked the blade up and down, back and forth, deeper and deeper.
Kazzy said, “So let me get this straight. One of us jumps, and you don’t say ‘cult’ for two years? You don’t say a word to any of us all the way til graduation night?”
“That’s the deal.”
I pushed the tip of the blade across the wood. I made a rectangle and rounded off the corners.
I pulled off my Seattle Mariners baseball cap and dropped in my keys and phone. I found a safe corner to stash my stuff near a gigantic steel bracket joining two logs. I walked to the other side of the bridge, across from the others.
Richard said, “We’re waiting, Kazzy, I mean Prophecy.”
“Hey, Richard!” I said.
He looked at me. They all looked at me.
“Catch!” I yelled, tossing him my knife. I said, “It’s August twentieth. If you can’t spell ‘August,’ just write eight-dash-twenty.”
They all stared at me. I held up three fingers. “Redneck Honor,” I said. I pulled off my shirt, dropped it to the ground, and ran right at Richard and Boo. They stepped back. Their eyes were full of questions.
For the first time in my life, my eyes were full of answers.
“He’ll never . . .” Richard started to say.
“Mo, DON’T!” Kazzy yelled.
Max screamed, “Oh, YEAH!!!”
My left foot landed on the orange Bigfoot “X”.
My right foot landed on the low rail. I pushed off.
I closed my eyes. I opened my eyes. I saw sky and mist kicked up by white water crashing into rocks.
I closed my eyes. I opened my eyes. I looked down. I was either going to just clear the boulder closest to the bridge or I was getting an ambulance ride, or I was about to die.
I screamed, “AAAAAAAAAAAAHH!”
The bottoms of my feet smacked the water hard, then all of me was underneath, then my feet hit the bottom. Knees and elbows on rock. I looked up through ten feet of clear, freezing water. Through the bumpy surface I could see the shapes of my friends, the colors of their clothes. I pushed off the bottom and shot through the surface.
Bloody. Dizzy. Alive. Icy water—snow the day before—stretched my skin tight.
I squinted up at the bridge, saw Max and Kazzy jumping up and down, arms over their heads, screaming. I pulled myself up to the flat top of a giant rock. I stood and raised my arms to the sky, the mist throwing little rainbows all around me. I held up the three-fingered redneck honor salute. My friends threw back their heads and laughed. They turned to Richard and Boo, showed them three fingers. The bullies walked slowly to their car. I stood on a rock but felt myself floating.
I thought, So this is what it means to fly.
The first major disaster / forced commitment motivating characters--when Mo & friend are tricked into smuggling drugs.
Max leaned over and whispered, “They don’t have any gear.”
I looked at their packs. He was right. No rolled-up tents, sleeping bags or cookware dangled from any of the straps or hooks. Just bulging backpacks. Their empty sports-drink bottles were the only clue that they’d known they were about to hike straight up a mountain.
I remember thinking how weird it was that they carried so much weight uphill and none of that weight was soap, clean clothes, or sleeping bags.
Max peeked inside one of their packs. He undid the top pull-cord and pulled out a giant freezer-bag of red crystals. I undid the top drawstring of one of the other backpacks. More bags of the same stuff. I held one up. A bright flash startled us, made us step back. After blinking away the spots, I saw Clean with one arm extended, centering us in another picture he was taking on his phone.
“What’s this?” I asked, holding up a bag of what looked like raspberry Sno-Kone.
“Drugs,” Max said softly.
“It is not ‘drugs,’” said Clean. “It is the salvation of our family. It is the sword we will use to fight off Big Brother, to beat him back from our land, to cut off his hand as it reaches for what is ours. Now put those bags of salvation back, please. I’m sending word of our salvation to my father.” He held the Blackberry closer to his face and I knew he was forwarding the picture to Able back at the ranch.
Big buckets of reality crashed down on me head. Huge bags of drugs brought in from Canada. Hiked over the border in the dense woodsy areas where the Mount Baker National Forest drops to the Canadian Border.
These guys are criminals, I thought.
Clean waved at our tents, sleeping bags, and the rest of the food. He said, “You guys should just chill for a day, catch your breath, eat, drink, and sleep. No fires. We’re way off the trail and we’re nowhere near the spot where people hang-glide, base-jump or wall-climb. I put all the dehydrated food pouches in the blue backpack—soups and chili and fruit. A whole bottle of water purifying tablets. It’s not tons but it’ll keep you fueled til you’re back home. Thanks to you, the hard work is done.”
“Thanks, bruh,” said the leader of the other team. The three of them were leaning into the rock and leaning into each other. They must have done that on the way up, at night, to stay warm.
Clean motioned us to the other end of the rock. He said, “We leave in half an hour. Drink all the water you can, then fill up one small water bottle each. Remember to add an iodine tablet. No one can get sick on the way down. And,” he said, pausing to reach into his pack. “We wear these on the way down.” He pulled out green and tan camouflage floppy hats and t-shirts that matched the backpacks our visitors had carried.
“What about . . .” I started to say.
Max took a deep breath, dropped his chin and stared at the ground. He understood before I did that the Vision-Quest was over. We’d come to exactly this spot because this was the mission Able and Clean had planned for us all along.
Clean said, “We’re carrying it back down to the trailhead. We’re taking no food. We ate less than 24 hours ago and will be able to eat again before we go to sleep, after we get home. We have water. It’s downhill for us so we should make the car before dark. I have a small thing of sunscreen. Other than that, all we need is some guts.”
Max’s face was angry. I was just plain numb. There was nothing else to say.
Half an hour later, Clean hugged his three companions goodbye. We stayed on the southern end of the ledge, teetering under the heavy packs, just nodding politely to the other crew. We started down and did not talk. The backpacks carried the same weight but since I’m smaller than Clean and Max, I struggled more. I panted and stumbled a few times. We reached the tree-line in a couple hours.
Max and I kept trading WTF looks.
I thought, What is Kazzy doing right now? Does she have backpack of drugs, too? Did she know about this? Of course she didn’t know. The day before she looked so lost and confused. As lost and confused as anyone in the dining hall. If she had drugs on her back, she was as surprised as we were.
God, I wanted to hold her and I wanted her to hold me back. I’ve never wanted to hold someone so much. I thought of the squeeze she’d given me as she left the school bus.
The school bus. Right. They’d chosen a special ed. school bus to bring us in and out because it would hide in plain sight. No cop would pull us over for a small reason.
Max suddenly said, “Shit.” He kicked a tree, nearly fell from being off-balance under the heavy pack, steadied himself, unstrapped, and dropped his pack on the ground. He looked at me, then at Clean. “This is illegal. It’s not what you said we’d be doing.”
Clean moved quickly toward Max. I dropped my pack to the ground and took a long step toward them--to break up the fight before it got started. Clean’s eyes darted to mine. He put his finger to his lips.
Max put up his fists but Clean was already past him.
Clean took two long steps down the path, to the bend in the next switchback. He looked back at us—eyes on fire. He pointed sharply at us and then up into the woods.
We pulled on our packs and labored up the rocky hillside, grabbing at pine trees and brush. Glancing to our right, I saw Clean doing the same. We reached a spot thirty feet off the trail, level and dense with ferns. From the trail we heard a rustling and the unmistakable clip-clopping of horseshoes. We dropped down in the ferns, shimmied out of our backpacks and kneeled down in the dense mossy soil.
A forest ranger on horseback came into view. As he brought the horse to a stop, it sniffed at the air, looked our way and froze. I knew it had smelled us. We turned to Clean. He put one finger to his lips and stared daggers at us.
The ranger wore an olive green, short-sleeved shirt and cargo shorts. He had a walkie talkie clipped to his belt and a satellite phone in his hand. The saddle held a canteen, knapsack, and a long leather sleeve with a shotgun handle sticking out. As he turned around, I saw a handgun holstered at his side. The guy looked straight ahead, spoke into his satellite phone, dismounted, whispered softly to the horse, and stroked its mane.
I looked back at Clean and what I saw told me that the Bethlehem family had changed forever. The fingers of one hand were spread toward us, commanding we remain still and silent. His other hand held a gun. The lines on his face were calm. He was not afraid.
The ranger turned his back to us, lowered his hands, undid his belt buckle, moved his legs apart, looked to the sky, began to whistle. Clean gently clicked off the safety. The horse heard it, darting its eyes in our direction, snuffled, pawed at the ground restlessly. The man turned back to the horse, whispered, went back to whistling.
After the ranger and horse were safely out of earshot, we stepped over to Clean.
Max said, “What are you doing with a GUN???”
I added, “Yeah, and what were you gonna do if he saw us?”
Clean looked calmly at me, snapped the safety back on, and returned the gun to the waist-band against his lower back. He clicked on his walkie talkie, adjusted the volume and channel, and said, “Redemption Team One to Redemption Team Two. Redemption Team One to Redemption Team Two. Anyone out there chillin’? Over.”
A long pause, and then the crackling response, “Chillin’ like Bob Dylan. Thought you guys were gone. Over.”
Clean said, “We just ran into Steve’s Big Brother. You remember Rick, right? Over.”
A longer, crackling pause.
“Copy that. Long time since we’ve seen Rick. He by himself? Over”
And the longest, crackling pause yet.
“How long til Rick arrives for dinner? Over.”
“He’s probably not coming to your house, but if he does go that way, it’ll be at least an hour. No more than two. Over.”
“Copy that. If you seen him again, tell him sorry we missed him and we’ll catch him next time. We’re running late and we’ll be gone in ten minutes. Over.”
“Sounds like a plan. Sorry about the fast turnaround. I know you guys are tired from the trip. From the long drive all the way from California, I mean. Over.”
“Copy that. Catch you guys next time. Over and out.”
“Copy that. Over and out.”
Clean switched off his walkie talkie and clipped it onto his belt.
“Look at me,” he said. “Everyone take a drink of water and pee if you have to. We are not stopping for a few hours, until we get to the parking lot. I will walk on point. That means I’ll be by myself about fifty feet ahead. There will be NO talking, so I can hear what’s ahead. You watch where you’re walking and you watch me. I put my hand up, that means stop. I point, and that means you have five seconds to go wherever I’m pointing.
“We run into someone and can’t hide in time, you just do exactly what I do. We’ll say hello all friendly-like, but you keep your heads down and you do not slow down no matter what. I will go first. I’ll pause, I’ll make some small talk for ten seconds while you pass me, and then I’ll bring up the rear after the two of you are down the trail a bit. I will catch up on my own so don’t look back. We don’t look back and we don’t stop no matter what.”
“Say it so I know you understand,” he said.
“Don’t look back,” Max said.
“Don’t stop, no matter what,” I said.