Danny Dedd had what he thought was a perfect life: the career of his childhood dreams, the full support of wealthy parents, and married to his college sweetheart with their first child on the way. Then, like a strike of lightning, everything was torn away, propelling him into a dark and dreary world.
Determined to overcome, he charted a voyage of renewal, only to find grave challenges at every turn. His quest took him to shady places with peculiar people. Would he find a light of hope at the end of that long, dark tunnel?
|Publisher:||Aakenbaaken & Kent|
|Product dimensions:||6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.53(d)|
Read an Excerpt
The Dedd House
By Jamey LeVier
Balboa PressCopyright © 2017 Jamey LeVier
All rights reserved.
An obese man sat next to me on the plane. He said they made him buy two tickets, and it was unfair. The arm rest beside me had to remain up because it was digging into his side. He had to use a seat belt extension.
He was excited to be going to Memphis for the first time, to see Graceland and Beale Street.
"You from there?" he asked.
His halitosis was overpowering, and he must not have showered for a few days. I looked out the window. "Yes, I grew up near there."
He was still adjusting himself to get comfy, bumping into me. "Oh, I want to go there too. I hear the casinos pay great."
I took shallow breaths through my mouth. "Yep."
I opened the air nozzle and pointed it toward him, hoping to clear the stench. No luck.
Thank God we departed on time.CHAPTER 2
I tried to sleep, but he wouldn't shut up.
They served pretzels and Coke. His tray table was jammed against his belly. I gave him my pretzels, hoping to get a reprieve from his incessant chattering.
He chewed with his mouth open, and kept talking. A speck of chewed pretzel shot from his mouth and landed in my full cup of Coke.
I was certain he saw it, but he just kept gobbling those pretzels, slurping the Coke and talking.
"That's a cool tattoo on your forearm," he said, tapping it with his index finger. I unwittingly jerked away, but he didn't seem to mind.
He reminded me of the chubby kid from the movie Bad Santa, all grown up, still fixing sandwiches.
"You in the Navy?" he asked.
"Mmm-hmm," I nodded.
"You a Captain or something? My uncle was a Captain. Although you look too young to be a Captain. You look like you're in good shape though. Almost in good a shape as me!" His booming laugh filled the cabin.
I didn't want to encourage him, but I couldn't hold back a chuckle.
"That fat guy stinks!" shouted a little boy in front of us.
"Shush. Don't be rude," said the lady beside him.
I felt embarrassed for my seat mate.
He finished the pretzels and asked if I was going to drink my Coke.
"No, you can have it," I said.
"Tell me friend, what do you do in the Navy?"
I pulled my T-shirt collar over my nose to avoid the halitosis, pretending to wipe off something. "I'm a fighter pilot."
"No way! Thanks for your service, man!"
He chugged my Coke, giving me a chance to catch my breath. But not for long.
"How long you been in the Navy?"
I did the T-shirt thing again. "I just got out of flight school in Pensacola."
"You got an assignment yet?"
"Yes, but if I told you, I'd have to kill you."
His laugh filled the cabin again. A white drop of his spittle landed on my arm.
"Sorry about that," he said.
I wiped it off with a tiny napkin. "No worries."
The flight attendant collected our garbage.
She looked at me. "Would you like something else, sir?" She must have seen him take mine.
I smiled. "No thanks. I'm full."
She winked at me and walked on.
He tapped my leg. "I bet you get a lot of chicks."
He elbowed my ribs, snickering. "Yeah, but that doesn't plug any holes, right?"
I heard a female behind us mumble, "Oh my God."
T-shirt maneuver. "My wife is my soulmate."
"Nice. What's her name?"
"Where'd you meet?"
"You got any kids?"
"One on the way. A little boy."
"Very nice. Pick out any names yet?"
I looked out the window. "No names yet." I lied.
"What's your name?"
His questioning was so rapid I felt like I was in an episode of Dragnet, which my dad made me watch with him in my pre-teen years.
Joe Friday had nothing on this guy.
"That's a cool last name. Like, as in 'you're dead'?" He made a cutthroat sign.
"No, spelled D-E-D-D."
"I bet you have a cool call sign, like 'Killer' or 'Grave Digger."
"No, it's Zombie."
"Awesome. By the way, I'm Chuck. Chuck Timblin."
He wanted to shake my hand, but I had just seen him pick his nose.
I held up my fist instead. "I'm a fist bumper, Chuck. No offense."
"Blow it up, Danny!"
I was reluctant, but I did it anyway.
I told him I was going to take a nap.
"Sure thing. Don't let me keep you up, soldier."
I dreamt about Jennifer. We were in The Grove at Ole Miss, making out.
I woke up an hour later and realized I had a boner. I adjusted and rubbed my eyes.
"Hey, Danny, is that the Mississippi River down there?"
He leaned across me to get a closer look. His ear was full of wax and there were white specks in his greasy hair. I fought off a gag reflex.
"I can't wait to see Graceland. You ever been there?" "Yep."
"What's that?" he said, pointing.
"I can't see anything."
"Right there. Hey, that's downtown, right? What's that big shiny pyramid-looking thing?"
"You'll have to lean back for me to see out the window."
"Sorry, man. Right down there. What's that?"
"That's the Pyramid."
He tapped my leg again. "You're joking, right?"
"I'd like to see that too. What's in it?"
T-shirt maneuver. "Nothing."
I was happy when a man behind us spoke up. "The Grizzlies used to play there, and then they built the FedEx Forum. It's been empty for a long time. Rumor has it, Bass Pro Shops might buy it."
Chuck turned his head as far as he could, "Thank you, sir. You from Memphis?"
"My whole life," said the man.
The pilot made an announcement to prepare the cabin for landing.
Thank you, Jesus.CHAPTER 3
I turned on my cell phone before the plane came to a complete stop. It could not power up fast enough. All I wanted to hear was the sweet sound of Jennifer's voice. It went to voicemail. Shit. I left a message. "Hey, baby, we just landed. Can't wait to see you. Remember, Delta flight 703 from Jacksonville. Love you."
I called my dad's cell phone. Voicemail.
Mom's cell phone. Voicemail.
Chuck struggled to get out of his seat. I gave him a helping nudge. I didn't want to touch him, but at this point I would have eaten a cat turd covered in litter sprinkles to get off this plane faster.
Chuck ungracefully maneuvered himself into the aisle and opened the overhead bin. The plane was already empty in front of him. People behind us were growing restless. He must have sensed it. "Sorry, folks. It's not easy being 500 pounds."
I wasn't sure why, but my eyes welled up a bit. Despite Chuck's annoyance, I suddenly felt an affinity for him.
I followed him down the aisle, wondering what it felt like to be him, having to make special accommodations wherever he went.
Nonetheless, I was anxious to see my loved ones. I darted around him first chance in the jetway, along with several other impatient passengers.
He yelled as I ran past, "Nice talking to you, Danny! Congrats on your little boy!"
I waved blindly and yelled, "Thank you, Chuck!"CHAPTER 4
Memphis International Airport was not crowded. I was able to jog freely to baggage claim with my duffle bag. I called Jennifer and my parents again. All voicemail.
Give me a break!
I stood at the baggage turnstile forever. The buzzer finally sounded and bags started rolling out. Several people from the flight were complaining. I looked around. No Chuck. I wondered how he was managing.
I texted Jennifer. "I'm here! Where are u guys?"
Thankfully both of my suitcases came out together. I rolled them through the exit, hoping to see my dad's car waiting outside.
I stepped into an oven. The dense, hot air packed an unforgiving punch against my body. I had forgotten about the noxious mix of heat and humidity in Memphis. Pensacola was hot, but not like this.
I watched several cars come and go, picking up passengers. I called again. All voicemail. No texts.
My hair was soaked. Sweat was burning my eyes. I felt a droplet roll down my spine and into the crack of my ass. I shuffled and twitched to relieve the itch. Normally, I'd just reach around and take care of it. But not in public. I couldn't wait to ask Jennifer if she'd like some ass gravy.
I laughed out loud. It was a momentary reprieve from my anxiousness.
Where are they?
My phone alerted me of an incoming text.
It's about time!
It was my buddy, asking if I made it home okay. I didn't respond.
I called the house phone. No answer.
I debated taking a taxi.
I wiped the sweat from my forehead and caught a driver's attention.
"Can you take me to Tunica?"
"Sure thing, boss," replied the driver in a thick Indian accent.
The taxi smelled musty, but better than halitosis.
Chuck. Poor fellow. I hope he made it to baggage claim.
The driver loaded my luggage and we headed south on Interstate 55.CHAPTER 5
At the state line there were several police cars and emergency vehicles on the northbound side. Traffic was backed up as far down as I could see.
A big rig was laying on its side. There appeared to be a pickup truck and another car involved. A blue car, but it didn't look like my dad's. Thank God. They must be stuck in all that traffic.
I checked my phone, no bars. This section of the highway was notorious for dead zones, probably why they weren't answering my calls.
I looked for my dad's car. The taxi was speeding. It was hard for my eyes to catch every vehicle.
"Please slow down! I'm looking for someone in that traffic."
"Very sorry, sir."
"It's a dark blue Chevy Cavalier."
"Yes sir. Okay. I'll help you look."
"Thank you, but I'd rather you watch the road."
"Yes, of course, sir."
"Do you mind turning up the air conditioning?"
"Are you too cold?"
"No, I'm too hot."
"Of course, sir."
"There they are!"
"That's my dad's car!"
"Very good, sir!"
The accumulated worry ran from my mind. Peace washed over me like a cool spring waterfall.
I texted Jennifer. "Hey, baby. When u get this, turn around n come home. I couldn't get u guys, so I took a taxi. I just saw u stuck in traffic. Can't wait to see u! Love u!"CHAPTER 6
The taxi pulled into the farm and parked between the main house and guest house below it. My parents let Jennifer live in the guest house while I was at flight school in Pensacola. She had a miserable pregnancy and I wanted her to be close to my family.
The farm had been passed down for three generations, and I supposed it would be mine one day. Dad wasn't interested in being a full-time farmer, so he rented the fields to local farmers. Corn was growing in the front fields, cotton in the rear.
I have great memories of growing up here, like riding my motorcycle all over the thousand acres and having friends over for campouts behind the barn.
I would like to leave all this to my son someday, and hopefully he will have a son to pass it on to.
I settled into the guest house and fixed a sandwich. It made me think of Chuck for a moment.
As I finished eating, I heard a car pull up the driveway.
Yes! They're here!
I ran outside.
I recognized the silver Mercedes. It was Mike Kingston, my dad's best friend and attorney. They graduated from Ole Miss together.
"Hi, Danny. Good to see you."
"You too, Mike."
"Is your dad here?"
"No. He, mom and Jennifer are stuck in traffic."
"When did you get here?"
"About an hour ago."
"Your dad said you'd be home today. You're looking good. How was flight school?"
"Demanding. Tiring. Glad to be home. I'm shipping out to the USS Enterprise in a couple weeks."
"That's great, Danny. Glad to see your childhood dreams have come true."
I heard a car coming up the driveway, but I couldn't see it through the tall corn.
"That must be them," I said.
The car appeared from the edge of the corn field.
What the hell?
It was the Tunica County Sheriff.
He got out and took off his hat. He knew Mike and they shook hands.
He looked at me, "Are you Danny, the one I used to chase on that motorcycle years ago?"
What the Sheriff said next changed my life forever.CHAPTER 7
The Sheriff looked me and frowned. "I'm awfully sorry to tell you this, son, but there was a terrible accident on I-55 today near the state line. A tractor trailer moved over quickly from the left lane and apparently didn't see the pickup truck and car beside him. It struck both vehicles and somehow they all plunged through the guardrails and over the embankment. The truck landed on the car, killing all three passengers. They were identified as Daniel Dedd III, Sofie Dedd and Jennifer Dedd."
A frigid wave blew through me. I felt the hair on my arms stand on end.
My legs could no longer support the weight of my body. I buckled slowly and curled into a fetal position.
I felt everything and nothing.
I began to shiver. My teeth rattled. I closed my eyes and pulled my knees hard into my chest.
I felt a hand on my shoulder. "I'm very sorry for your loss, son. Let me know if there's anything I can do," said the Sheriff.
I felt the earth spinning beneath me and I was falling through space.
I struggled to catch my breath.
A hand gently squeezed my arm. "Danny, are you okay?" Mike asked.
I heard the Sheriff drive away.
Mike squeezed a little harder. "Danny. Talk to me, son."
I tried to speak but nothing came out.
A rogue wave of tears started near my stomach, rippled up my neck and out my eyes and nose. I opened my mouth to scream. Silence.
I didn't want to open my eyes. I saw Jennifer walking toward me, like an angel of light. Her aura filled my darkness. I wanted to taste her sweet kisses, hold her tiny hands and stroke her hair.
I reached for her. She smiled and blew a kiss as she drifted away.
The darkness swallowed her light.
I heard myself shouting, "No! Don't go! Don't go!" I vomited.
I opened my eyes to find Mike offering me a handkerchief. I wiped my mouth and he helped me sit up.
I saw his lips moving but there was no sound.
My soulmate was gone. My little Danny was dead. My parents were gone. This made no sense.
Mike sat down beside me and rested his arm on my shoulders. We sat in silence for an eternity.
"Danny, let's go up to the house, son."
I stood up with Mike's help. He embraced me.
My legs were rubber bands. It was a sluggish walk to the house.
I remembered where dad hid the house key, under a flower pot on the porch. Mike opened the door.
Money greeted us in the kitchen. He slinked around my feet, rubbing his chin on my shoes, purring. I picked him up, the sole remnant of my family. He loved Jennifer. She called him Sylvester, like the cartoon cat. His fur against my skin and the vibrations on my chest were comforting. I bet she held him this morning.
I made sure he had food and water, and then sat at the kitchen table with my forehead resting on my folded arms.
Mike made two cups of hot tea and joined me at the table. We sat for a while. I picked at the table's edge, staring at my cup, into infinity.
Mike broke the silence. "I'll call the Coroner's office and the funeral home. I'll handle all the details and arrangements."
"Thanks. Would you mind calling Robert and Judy?"
"I'll make sure they know."
I guess I knew how they would feel. I just lost a child too.
"Can I get you anything?" Mike offered.
"A pack of Marlboro Lights and a twelve pack of Yuengling would be nice."
Mike furrowed his brow, "You smoke?"
"I do now."
"So would I. I'll be right back."CHAPTER 8
I sat on the porch swing, smoked several cigarettes and drank all the Yuengling. Mom used to scold me for going too high on this thing. Sometimes I would lie here in the evenings while mom and dad sat in those rocking chairs. I'd listen as they told stories and sipped wine.
My dad frequently offered me a drink, much to mom's chagrin. He would promptly remind her that in Germany children were permitted to drink in public when they were twelve years old - holding up his index finger - and they were not permitted to drive until they were twenty-one. He said they needed time to learn how to drink and drive, and then he'd laugh.
I loved his laugh. It started loud and then regressed into a wheezing Muttley snicker.
I caught a nasty buzz from the Yuengling. I wanted to drive my El Camino off a cliff. Maybe I'd wake up from this dream.
I took four Ibuprofen and lie down on my parents' bed. Their scent lingered there. Dad's Old Spice, mom's Gucci Rush 2.
I sprinted down to the guest house.
I snatched a pillow from the bed, buried my face and inhaled Jennifer. I clutched it against my chest. One of her long brown hairs tickled my chin. I gathered several from the sheets, held them to my nostrils, eyes closed, swaying.
I yearned for the remnants of Jennifer's existence. I wanted her residue all over my body.
Excerpted from The Dedd House by Jamey LeVier. Copyright © 2017 Jamey LeVier. Excerpted by permission of Balboa Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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