First Chapters

Carraway Bay Press presents a FREE read of the first chapter of several of its titles.
Pull up a cup of coffee. Enjoy!

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All characters and events in this work are a work of fiction. Any resemblance to any person or persons, alive or dead, is purely coincidental. While actual geographical names are used, all incidents related to businesses, people or events in those locations are purely fictitious.
Cover photograph by Dana Rothstein,
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“Humankind has not woven the web of life.
We are but one thread within it.
 What we do to the web, we do to ourselves.
All things are bound together.
All things connect.”

---Chief Seattle,  1855


Part One: December 31, 9 a.m. until noon
Chapter One – Mallory----Raleigh, North Carolina
Chapter Two—Dr. David Yates – Durham, North Carolina
Chapter Three—Stephen – New York, New York
Chapter Four – River – suburb of Durham, North Carolina
Chapter Five – Wendy Jeremiah – Durham, North Carolina
Chapter Six – Tad --- New York, New York
Chapter Seven – Kelso – New York, New York
Chapter Eight – Liam – New York, New York

Part Two: December 31, noon to 6 p.m.
Chapter Nine – Mallory----New York, New York
Chapter Ten—Dr. David Yates – Durham, North Carolina
Chapter Eleven—Stephen –Somewhere on I-40 West, North Carolina
Chapter Twelve – River –Somewhere on I-40 West, North Carolina
Chapter Thirteen – Wendy Jeremiah – Charlotte, North Carolina
Chapter Fourteen – Tad --- Hell’s Kitchen, New York, New York
Chapter Fifteen – Kelso – Hell’s Kitchen, New York, New York
Chapter Sixteen – Liam – Hell’s Kitchen, New York, New York

Part Three: December 31, 6 p.m. to 11:59 p.m.
Chapter Seventeen – Mallory----New York, New York
Chapter Eighteen—Dr. David Yates –Somewhere between North Carolina and New York
Chapter Nineteen—Stephen –Bliss, North Carolina
Chapter Twenty – River –Green Narrows, North Carolina
Chapter Twenty-One – Wendy Jeremiah – Atlanta, Georgia
Chapter Twenty-Two– Tad --- New York, New York
Chapter Twenty-Three – Kelso –New York, New York
Chapter Twenty-Four– Liam – New York, New York
Part Four: Midnight
Everyone, everywhere.

Part one
December 31
9 a.m. to noon

Raleigh, North Carolina
Target Parking Lot

His passport is cool and smooth in my hands, and I send my fingers dancing along the traces of his chin, his cheek, the base of his ear. I rub my thumb along the serpentine swirls of his black hair, drawing back nothing but a calm emptiness without the resistance from his coarse curls. In the photo, I can barely see the small scar on the right side of his lip where, as a child, he was on the wrong end of a grouchy neighborhood cat; it is faint and there is no way it could be seen without knowing it is there beforehand.  From there, my thumb moves to my favorite part of the passport, the multicolored letters that dance and swoon in the morning light, intensified by the sunbeams which stream through my windshield. I like the way his name looks. I always have. I told him this the first time we met, but he laughed at me.
“Synesthetes think everything is beautiful,” he told me and scribbled something in his notebook.  “The one before you loved eggs just because the way the purple g and the bright yellow e melded together.”
But for me, g is not purple, and my e is more of a soft lilac, so gentle and flowery I can almost smell it. When I told David, he wrote furiously in his notebook. I don’t know why the department doesn’t get him a laptop or one of those iPads. He likes that my e and g are different from the last person he interviewed. At least, he likes it because it lends variety to his research project.
Even his passport number is beautiful. Zero is the only number that is black. Always. Nothingness. Oblivion. My 1 is always red, and David has three of them in his passport number. Blood red. It stands out like a blinking spotlight or fire truck, providing perfect contrast to the zero.   2 is yellow, a beaming, warm, lemon yellow, so powerful and crisp I can actually taste its sour and bitter brightness on my lips. If his passport number could be improved at all, I would say it needs a few more 3s, which are the same shade of blue as the British Union Jack.  My 4 is green, 5 is brown and 6 is purple….but 7, my 7 is interesting.
My 7 is what got David to notice me. My 7 changes colors depending upon what I’m feeling, like my own neurological mood ring. It ranges from the zero black to burgundy to chartreuse to this strange, sickly shade of gray that is the same color as a bruise when it is trying to heal. My 8 is just a softer version of the 7—the same hue but kind of fuzzy around the edges and about a half shade lighter. The 7 got me on the radar of the university. On the schedule of Dr. David Yates. He’s even going to try to get them to up my mileage reimbursement because of all the stuff going on in the world that’s screwing with the oil prices. But I don’t mind the drive. Twenty minutes is just the right amount of time to let me gear down from a day of chasing down spreadsheets for Williams and Williams, CPA.
I’m keeping his passport safe for him. He left it on his kitchen counter a couple of mornings ago, right beside the stove. I saw it through the corner of my eye.  I wanted to surprise him with breakfast--- eggs over easy, free-range farmer’s market eggs from happy chickens which I swear taste better than anything I buy at the “regular” grocery store. The passport was beside the back right burner on his stove. Who leaves a passport right out in the kitchen like that? It could get overheated and melt and burn up. He’s supposed to keep it in a safe or something, I mean, really--- and David may be brilliant and all, but he’s a disorganized mess and the passport would disappear beneath the junk mail Mount Everest on his coffee table if he allowed it, so it only made sense for me to slide it into my purse until I could help him find a safer place to keep it.
I was going to bring it to our next session--- the week of Christmas--but he wasn’t in his office.
“You should have known he wouldn’t be in the week of Christmas,” Rochelle told me. “No one’s in the office the week of Christmas.”
“He’s Jewish.”
“Well, the Jews go to Christmas parties, too,” she said. “Some of the hardest partying people I know are Jews.”
Rochelle doesn’t like him. She says Dr. Yates will just write a textbook about my unusual 7 that will be used in universities across the country and he’ll be nominated for one of those genius grants and fame and fortune without me getting a dollar of it.
  Sometimes I’m drawn to the way a name looks the same way some people are drawn to a voice or hairstyle or eye color, which of course, is the whole point of David’s study.
Y= A rich cross between burgundy and russet.
A=  A deep purple, the same shade I imagine the biblical Lydia using for the robes and capes she sold to the Romans.
T =  A maize yellow—like the crayon that used to come in the Crayola 64 pack.
E =  Lilac. My favorite flower.
S  =  Goldenrod.
Yates. The name reminds me of the poet. David’s name looks like a lilac-- flowery, fragrant, and dense like the hundreds of scattered wildflowers blooming deep in a valley.  That’s what prompted me to answer the ad in the paper---not the promise of compensation for furthering the advances of science—but the beautiful, flowing colors of his name that seemed to spill off the page and into my lap.
So every Tuesday and Thursday for the last three months, I worked through my lunch hour so I could get off an hour early and beat the rush hour traffic to the obscure office beside the East Campus of Duke University. It’s been interesting. I’ve completed forms, watched black-and-white silent films (I see the subtitles in color, even though the movie is black and white), and basically done the whole rat in the maze thing. Push the lever for cheese. Dodge traffic on the beltline outside of Raleigh to get there on time. Every Tuesday and Thursday… slouching toward Bethlehem to be born.
He thinks I’m the most fascinating person in the world. Especially since I don’t see orange. I mean, I see orange- --I know the color, I understand what it looks like, but it doesn’t have an association with a name or a letter or number. That surprised Dr. Yates. But everything about me surprises him. He’s surprised that some letters give off a faint taste in my mouth—not a strong one, mind you---just a little hint of flavor, like the remnants of a Tic Tac.
I was surprised when I first learned most people don’t see numbers and letters in color, that the newspaper is just a binary code of black, white and maybe some gray. (Which I guess is why I never got the old joke, what’s black and white and “red” all over?) My newspapers are colorful. Not just photos and graphs and headlines, but every letter meshed together to give the story its own personality and song.  I can tell the tone of the story just by looking at the colors. 
“I wish I could see what you see,” Dr. Yates told me after our last session. “So dynamic. Such a gift.”  
When he gets excited about something he runs his fingers through his mop of curly black hair, causing part of it frizz and stand up in back. It makes him look like a younger and better-looking version of Einstein. Dr. Yates has just gotten his PhD and he’s coming out of the academic starting gate full force like a Kentucky thoroughbred, optimistic and on fire for changing the world. He doesn’t weave in shark-like circles around the psychology department like some of those cynical university research fossils who just want to publish, publish, and publish so they can get tenure. David –--he lets me call him David, though I don’t think it looks as pretty as Yates---wants to break new ground, learn about the mysteries of the world around him. Every time I speak with him, his deep brown eyes light up with a wondrous spark, as if he were a kid at Disneyworld. The jaded world of academia hasn’t reached his psyche yet.
I flip through the passport to once again see all the places he’s been—once to the Bahamas, once to Canada and five stamps for London. Its 10 a.m. and Rochelle was supposed to meet me here an hour ago. I wish I had brought a book to read. She said for me to meet her in the Target parking lot for my birthday present. I was born December 29, so whenever someone makes the extra effort to get me a little something extra after all the frenzied Christmas shopping, it’s kind of special. That’s why I put up with her. I put up with a lot from her. She even meets me in the parking lot instead of inside.  I have a hard time with retail stores. Too colorful for me.
 When I first told Rochelle Target was too colorful for me, she thought I was being metaphorical. Artsy. She said I’d been spending too much time in the community college poetry classes. I had to actually explain that it was literally too colorful, a complete smorgasbord of sensory overload, and that I’m not able to go into any big box store without having at least two panic attacks.
There isn’t enough Xanax in the world to get me through the Super Wal-Mart.
I do a lot of my shopping online. That way, the colors are confined to my 15-inch screen; they aren’t jumping and diving and leaping at my face with promises of discounts, buy one get one free and last-chance clearance.
Rochelle doesn’t understand. Most people don’t. They don’t realize that I can’t partition my senses like office cubicles—senses are supposed to flow over and around and through a human being, like the yellow-lime that hovers about 60 centimeters from my right shoulder whenever I hear the letter ‘s.’ 
That’s my life with synesthesia. From the Greek: syn = together. Aesthesia = sensation.  The senses cannot be compartmentalized. They should flow around and above and between, like waves of water, like the mist of rain drizzling on a car windshield, like the syrupy sweet sent of honeysuckle that is smelled long before flowers actually come into view.  
She just doesn’t get me. I’m still not convinced she believes my rainbow vocabulary is real, like she thinks I’m making it up to get attention. She hardly has room to point fingers: Rochelle with her ratty black tank tops and abused leather jackets. There are some styles that you should never try once you pass the blue-brown hue of 35, but that’s never stopped Rochelle, and I hate that she looks good with spiky, mussed hair that’s been dyed too black, that jet, ultra dark, Revlon triple X or whatever they call it. It’s too black for her complexion. It’s the kind of shade that only looks good on Asians, blacks or white girls who have perfect, porcelain skin, and Rochelle doesn’t have perfect, porcelain skin. Last time I tried to wear my hair like that, I looked like a Poodle with a bad case of the mange.
 I met her at church, believe it or not, during a blessing of the animals ceremony. Rochelle isn’t particularly religious, she just volunteers with the Humane Society and she thought it would be nice to have some of these forgotten shelter dogs blessed. She actually showed up in the parking lot of Holy Trinity Episcopal Church with 15 dogs--- all on a leashes, of course-- but the leashes are so long and unwieldy that the dogs might as well have been roaming free. Then these dogs saw the other dogs that have been brought to be blessed…along with all the other cats and birds, and hamsters and critters and varmints gathered in the front yard of the parish for a blessing delivered via the rector from our Holy Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Everything erupted in one big wave of barking, pawing, jumping, butt-sniffing glory. I was there taking pictures for the parish newsletter. I like animals, but I don’t have pets. My apartment complex asks an additional $50 pet rent a month in addition to the $200 pet deposit.
I have no idea what Rochelle has gotten me for my birthday or why she has to give it to me in the Target parking lot. I just hope to God she hasn’t picked up one of those huge rescue greyhounds to cram into my one-bedroom apartment. She’s really gotten into this animal rehabilitation since she had the hots for some K-9 cop wannabe from up North. Now she’s obsessed with saving animals that were injured or psychologically forced into early retirement and pairing them with rescue workers who were also injured or psychologically forced into retirement. I guess she likes to fancy herself as a Saint Francis in a leather jacket.
It’s a mild December, but the wind is cold and I’m not getting out of the car until I see her. Finally, I glimpse her gazelle-like form dashing through the automatic doors, puffing on a cigarette, trying to work in as much nicotine as she can before New Year’s resolutions kick in tomorrow. She sucks in the smoke as if life depends upon it. Her breasts heave out slightly as if they’re looking around the corner to see who may be around, and then, finding no one of any consequence, slowly, assertively, return to their original position. I get out of the car and wave her over to me.
      We hug a brief greeting and she shoves a Target bag into my arms.
      “Happy Birthday. Sorry it’s late.”
      It’s a 36-pack of Dramamine.
      “It’s not the Dramamine, you dork. It’s a trip. We’ve got a flight to catch. We’re ringing in the New Year right. Times Square. Flight leaves at noon. We got to get hoppin’, and I didn’t want you upchucking all the way to Manhattan.”
      “Wait—I can’t go to New York tonight.”
      “Why not? What have you got on that glorious social calendar of yours?”
      “Dr. Yates wanted---“
      “And here we go.”
Roach--she likes for me to call her Roach, so I do it sometimes, even though I think it sounds ridiculous—Roach sticks another cigarette into the corner of her mouth and flicks her lighter three times before she gets the flame. Zzst, zzst, pop, spark. Zzst, zzst, pop, spark. I know she can get it on the first try, but I think she does it three times just to annoy me. Her calloused thumb with chipping black nail polish laughs at me as it rolls over the flint. Zzst, zzst, pop, flame. Let there be light. And there is light. Roach scratches the left side of her nose, which used to be where she had a small diamond stud, until it got infected and I had to drive her to urgent care to get it removed. She had waited until it was all nasty and swollen, and I was afraid they were going to have to amputate her nose or whatever they do when your nose turns gangrene.  Now it’s just a small red spot, still something to scratch at, but just a small, red reminder of the day she went to a seedy piercing parlor to impress her stupid wannabe cop crush.
“You and Dr. Strangelove.” Roach blows a steady stream of smoke up her cheek. The right side of her lips turns slightly upward, and the smoke makes her look like a snarling dragon. The ash on her cigarette needs to be dumped, but it remains there, clinging to something warm and burning. It’s going to fall off and set fire to something. I know it. She’s going to get it too close to someone’s gas tank and we’re both just going to crack, burn and fizz.
“What about me and Dr.Yates?”
“You’re obsessed with him. You know, you two can’t be an item. Research ethics and all that,” she says.
“There is no item.”
“Isn’t he shacked up with some British chick now?”
      “They’re not shacked up.” My cheek burns. I’m surprised it makes me angry that he has a girlfriend.
      “Wasn’t she supposed to go back across the pond after she finished teaching last semester as a part of that exchange or whatever?”
      “Look, I can’t go to New York. I don’t even have a bag packed.”
      “Taken care of.” She shoves another Target bag in my hand. “Undies, toothbrush, everything you need.”
      “Why didn’t you give me a chance to pack my own things?”
      “Because you’d never do it. Just like you’d never read your poetry on open mike night, just like you’d never take guitar lessons, just like you’d never bite the bullet and just buy a house instead of renting… just like you’d never make a move on your man, Dr. Strangelove.”
      But I did make a move on my man. I can’t tell her, because she’d laugh. “Dr. Strangelove is not my man.”
      “I know. That’ s the problem.”
      “And stop calling him Dr. Strangelove.” I look at the Dramamine package. The words seem to have a different hue than the kind I usually take. More green? “I can’t take this.”
      “What do you mean you can’t take this? You take it all the time.”
      “I need the non-drowsy formula. I can’t take this. I’ll sleep for four days.”
      “Geez…” Rochelle snatches it out of my hand and starts fumbling through her pocketbook, looking for the receipt, I’m assuming.  “How can anyone have motion sickness? I mean, how can you be sick of moving? Everything’s moving. Hell, the earth moves at gazillion miles a minute or something like that.” She finds the receipt and pulls me by the elbow. “If I’m going back in, you’re going back with me.”
      “But I’m—“
      “I know, I know, the colors, so many colors…” She makes air quotes over the word ‘colors.’ She still doesn’t believe me. What does she think I go to Duke for twice a week?  She takes my arm and pulls me up to the front door like a reluctant prom date.
      Inside, it’s like the Wizard of Oz dropped Technicolor acid with one of Elton John’s 1970 concert costumes. Everywhere, the colors dance and jump and mumble to the point that it almost makes an audible noise, singing to me, a low hum urging me forward to Dollar Days---
– lots of dark lime and violet in that one.  I recognize words not just by the letter, but by the color. The same color they’ve had since I was three, the same at twenty-three… and Dr. Yates says, the same when I’m eighty-three, if I live that long. Eighty-three: the softer version of my seven and blue. Or sometimes, the numbers are so close together that the two different colors look like one.
      No one understands how the world could hold that much endless variety, and yet, it does.
David Yates says he thinks he can condition me to where I can go into large discount stores again. To where the barrage of colors doesn’t cause my brain to spark into a dosage of sensory overload and cause a migraine. Throughout college, it wasn’t too bad; the headache of going to places crammed with products was similar to the eyestrain I got from reading too much or staring at the computer screen all day. Gradually it got worse. I had a panic attack once in a Sam’s club and blacked out. That’s when Rochelle started helping me run errands.
That was the second time I met her. She was at the Sam’s Club getting dog food in bulk to feed her rescued canine multitudes, and she came upon me passed out on the floor, all sprawled out. It was the first time I had actually fainted somewhere. I don’t know what it was that triggered it, maybe, like high tide, it just gradually built up and built up until I didn’t realize I was over my head.  Next thing I knew, I was staring up at the ceiling, with Rochelle leaning over me shouting, “Give her room! Give her room! “ and everyone thought she was a nurse because her voice sounded so authoritative, like she knew what she was doing.  I had been carrying a bottle of Merlot up to the counter and when I fell, and it shattered around me.  I felt something  wet on my arm and looked down and there was this huge red stain running across the sleeve of my blouse. Of course, I thought it was blood, and Rochelle evidently did too; she started grabbing at my arm to see the source of the injury---with no thought to putting on rubber gloves or anything to protect herself from any blood borne pathogens. 
“Hey, you’re the chick from the animal blessing,” she said as she helped me up and took me to the emergency room, where she calmed the triage nurse by declaring “It’s only Merlot.” She stayed with me until after I had an MRI and checked out okay.
      There’s something humbling about being helped by a stranger; unworthiness and gratefulness mix together. At first, because my initial encounter with Rochelle was at church, I thought she was an overly devout Good Samaritan. But now I realize, she saw me the same way she sees her rescue mutts---a drowning animal, dazed and confused, that needs her help. Once I was her “rescue,” we were bound together. For better or worse.
Fzzt! Fzzt! Rochelle is lighting up again. In the pharmacy section of Target. She sticks the cigarette in the corner of her mouth and fishes into her tattered denim purse. She places the receipt it on the counter. Its numbers and letters flicker primarily of purple, gold and green. Mardi Gras colors. The party before Lent. There’s no clerk at the counter, and Rochelle raps on the counter and cranes her neck to see if someone has stepped behind the shelves of Zoloft, Zantac and Xanax.
“You can’t take the cigarettes on the plane.” I remind her.
      “They don’t ask for ID at these private airports do they? You know I don’t have a license.”
      “You what? But you drove me---“
      “I didn’t say I couldn’t drive. I just said I didn’t have a license.”
“How have you lived without a license?”
       “I manage,” she mutters. “Got to stay off the grid. That’s how they get you. Social Security and license numbers and IRS junk…and yes, I can take the cigarettes on the plane, I just can’t smoke them on the plane,” she says defiantly. “Do you think some nut job security guard is going to give me a strip search?”
      “They don’t do that now. They do it all by computer. It’s all James Bond now.”
“Oh come on…you mean like…” She goes up to one of the remote price check scanners located throughout the store and rubs her bottom against it.
 “Stop that. You’re embarrassing me. Why don’t you act your age?”
 “It’s New Year’s Eve. We’re at Target exchanging Dramamine, and you’re embarrassed?”
“Well, if they don’t scan you, they’ll pat you down. Or something.”
She doesn’t believe me. “Not at a private airport. We’re flying private.”  More flicking with the lighter Zzzzpt. Pop. “If you really want to go in class, you fly private.”
“How did you pull that off?”
“A friend of mine owes me a favor. We see Tad while we’re up there.”
“You still hung up on him.?”
“He’s got a dog I got to pick up. The rehabilitation thing, you know.”
For a moment, I’m not sure if she’s talking about Tad or the dog.
“Hey!” Rochelle barks past the cash register to no one in particular.
“Maybe they haven’t opened yet.”
“Need some service!”
“Actually, I think we’re supposed to exchange it at the customer service desk.”
Rochelle tilts her weight onto her heels and glares at me, one eyebrow slightly raised.  “Oh no. We don’t do customer service desks. They ask you fill out forms with your address, phone number, et cetera. Then you’re on the grid.”
“For the love of God.” I know she means well. I know she sees me as her personal project. I know she thinks I need saving. She’s like a lifeguard who never learned how to swim.  I take the Dramamine, put it back on the shelf and take the non-drowsy formula and stuff it into the bag. “They’re the same price. Let’s just go.” My head is starting to throb. I rub my temples.
“You about to throw a fit? All the colors?”
Again with the air quotes.
“Just---just—let’s go…”
We leave the pharmacy section and head toward the door. At the front, a sales clerk who has just opened her register is casting a suspicious glare in our direction. I can’t tell if she’s annoyed by Rochelle’s secondhand smoke or if she’s been secretly following us on some kind of undercover camera that was activated when Rochelle price-scanned her butt.  I can’t take my eyes off of her. The clerk looks like she’s about 16 and she has these gorgeous long African braids that spiral around her forehead and cascade over her shoulders like some type of royal veil. There’s one strand that is this electric blue and it weaves from behind her left ear to midway down her back. One of her braids falls down the front of her left shoulder just stopping short of her name tag. My name is Wendy. She’s got a purple Blackberry sitting beside her at the cash register, as if we had interrupted her text messaging. Her eyes dart back and forth, as if she were waiting for someone to get back from the bathroom so she could return to her usual post. She doesn’t realize that the color in her braid perfectly complements the colors in her name.
I want to tell her that. But I can’t.
She’d never believe me.


"Welcome to Shangri-La, North Carolina."
A short story collection by award-winning Carolina writer, Dawn DeAnna Wilson.

Entertaining. Unexpected.


Ten Thousand New Year's Eves

Ten Thousand New Year's Eves

Entertaining. Unexpected.

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