It’s October 21st, time for the Teen FIRST blog tour!
Paul McCusker and his book
Ripple Effect(Time Thriller Trilogy, Book 1) Zondervan (October 1, 2008)
About the Author:
Paul McCusker is the author of The Mill House, Epiphany, The Faded Flower and several Adventures in Odyssey programs. Winner of the Peabody Award for his radio drama on the life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer for Focus on the Family, he lives in Colorado Springs with his wife and two children. (ISBN#9780310714361, 224pp, $9.99)
Jeff looked up at her. Heâ€™d been absentmindedly swirling his straw in his malted milkshake while she complained about her parents, which she had been doing for the past half hour. â€œYouâ€™re what?â€
â€œYou werenâ€™t listening, were you?â€
â€œI was too.â€
â€œThen what did I say?â€ Elizabeth tucked a loose strand of her long brown hair behind her ear so it wouldnâ€™t fall into the puddle of ketchup next to her fries.
â€œYou were complaining about how your mom and dad drive you crazy because your dad embarrassed you last night while you and Melissa Morgan were doing your history homework. And your dad lectured you for twenty minutes about .â€‰.â€‰. about .â€‰.â€‰.â€ He was stumped.
â€œChris-tian symbolism in the King Arthur legends,â€ Elizabeth said.
â€œYeah, except that you and Melissa were supposed to be studying the .â€‰.â€‰. umâ€‰â€”â€‰â€
â€œRight, and Melissa finally made up an excuse to go home, and you were embarrassed and mad at your dadâ€‰â€”â€‰â€
â€œAs usual,â€ she said and savaged another french fry.
Jeff gave a sigh of relief. Elizabethâ€™s pop quizzes were a lot tougher than anything they gave him at school. But it was hard for him to listen when she griped about her parents. Not having any parents of his own, Jeff didnâ€™t connect when Elizabeth went on and on about hers.
â€œThen what did I say?â€ she asked.
He was mid-suck on his straw and nearly blew the contents back into the glass. â€œHuh?â€
â€œWhat did I say after that?â€
â€œYou said .â€‰.â€‰. uh .â€‰.â€‰.â€ He coughed, then glanced around the Fawlt Line Diner, hoping for inspiration or a way to change the subject. His eye was dazzled by the endless chrome, beveled mirrors, worn red upholstery, and checkered floor tiles. And it boasted Alice Dempsey, the worldâ€™s oldest living waitress, dressed in her paper cap and red-striped uniform with white apron.
She had seen Jeff look up and now hustled over to their booth. She arrived smelling like burnt hamburgers and chewed her gum loudly. â€œYou kids want anything else?â€
Rescued, Jeff thought. â€œNo, thank you,â€ he said.
She cracked an internal bubble on her gum and dropped the check on the edge of the table. â€œSee you tomorrow,â€ Alice said.
â€œNo, you wonâ€™t,â€ Elizabeth said under her breath. â€œI wonâ€™t be here.â€
As she walked off, Alice shot a curious look back at Elizabeth. She was old, but she wasnâ€™t deaf.
â€œTake it easy,â€ Jeff said to Elizabeth.
â€œIâ€™m going to run away,â€ she said, heavy rebuke in her tone. â€œIf youâ€™d been listeningâ€‰â€”â€‰â€
â€œAw, câ€™mon, Bitsâ€‰â€”â€‰â€ Jeff began. Heâ€™d called her â€œBitsâ€ for as long as either of them could remember, all the way back to first grade. â€œItâ€™s not that bad.â€
â€œYou try living with my mom and dad, and tell me itâ€™s not that bad.â€
â€œI know your folks,â€ Jeff said. â€œTheyâ€™re a little quirky, thatâ€™s all.â€
â€œQuirky! Theyâ€™re just plain weird. Theyâ€™re clueless about life in the real world. Did you know that my dad went to church last Sunday with his shirt on inside out?â€
â€œAnd wearing his bedroom slippers?â€
Jeff smiled. Yeah, thatâ€™s Alan Forde, all right, he thought.
â€œDonâ€™t you dare smile,â€ Elizabeth threatened, pointing a french fry at him. â€œItâ€™s not funny. His slippers are grass stained. Do you know why?â€
â€œBecause he does his gardening in his bedroom slippers.â€
Elizabeth threw up her hands. â€œThatâ€™s right! He doesnâ€™t care. He doesnâ€™t care how he looks, what -people think of him, or anything! And my mom doesnâ€™t even have the decency to be embarrassed for him. She thinks heâ€™s adorable! Theyâ€™re weird.â€
â€œTheyâ€™re just .â€‰.â€‰. themselves. Theyâ€™reâ€‰â€”â€‰â€
Elizabeth threw herself against the back of the red vinyl bench and groaned. â€œYou donâ€™t understand.â€
â€œSure I do!â€ Jeff said. â€œYour parents are no worse than Malcolm.â€ Malcolm Dubbs was Jeffâ€™s fatherâ€™s cousin, on the English side of the family, and had been Jeffâ€™s guardian since his parents had died five years ago in a plane crash. As the last adult of the Dubbs family line, he came from England to take over the family fortune and estate. â€œHeâ€™s quirky.â€
â€œBut thatâ€™s different. Malcolm is nice and sensitive and has that wonderful English accent,â€ Elizabeth said, nearly swooning. Jeffâ€™s cousin was a heartthrob among some of the girls.
â€œDonâ€™t get yourself all worked up,â€ Jeff said.
â€œMy parents just go on and on about things I donâ€™t care about,â€ she continued. â€œAnd if I hear the life-canâ€™t-be-taken-too-seriously-because-itâ€™s-just-a-small-part-of-a-bigger-picture lecture one more time, Iâ€™ll go out of my mind.â€
Again Jeff restrained his smile. He knew that lecture well. Except his cousin Malcolm summarized the same idea in the phrase â€œthe eternal perspective.â€ All it meant was that there was a lot more to life than what we can see or experience with our senses. This world is a temporary stop on a journey to a truer, more real reality, heâ€™d sayâ€‰â€”â€‰an eternal reality. â€œLook, your parents see things differently from most -people. Thatâ€™s all,â€ Jeff said, determined not to turn this gripe session into an Olympic event.
â€œTheyâ€™re from another planet,â€ Elizabeth said. â€œSometimes I think this whole town is. Havenâ€™t you figured it out yet?â€
â€œI like Fawlt Line,â€ Jeff said softly, afraid Elizabethâ€™s complaints might offend some of the other regulars at the diner.
â€œEverybodyâ€™s so .â€‰.â€‰. so oblivious! Nobody even seems to notice how strange this place is.â€
Jeff shrugged. â€œItâ€™s just a town, Bits. Every town has its quirks.â€
â€œIs that your word of the day?â€ Elizabeth snapped. â€œThese arenâ€™t just quirks, Jeffrey.â€
Jeff rolled his eyes. When she resorted to calling him Jeffrey, there was no reasoning with her. He rubbed the side of his face and absentmindedly pushed his fingers through his wavy black hair.
â€œWhat about Helen?â€ Elizabeth challenged him.
â€œWhich Helen? You mean the volunteer at the information booth in the mall? That Helen?â€
â€œI mean Helen the volunteer at the information booth in the mall who thinks sheâ€™s psychic. Thatâ€™s who I mean.â€ Elizabeth leaned over the Formica tabletop. Jeff moved her plate of fries and ketchup to one side. â€œShe wonâ€™t let you speak until she guesses what youâ€™re going to ask. And sheâ€™s never right!â€
â€œOur only life insurance agent has been dead for six years.â€
â€œAnd thereâ€™s Walter Keenan. Heâ€™s a professional proofreader for park bench ads! He wanders around, making -people move out of the way so he can do his job.â€ Her voice was a shrill whisper.
â€œBen Hearn only pays him to do that because he feels sorry for him. You know old Walter hasnâ€™t been the same since that shaving accident.â€
â€œBut I heard he just got a job doing the same thing at a tattoo parlor!â€
â€œIâ€™m sure tattooists want to make sure their spelling is correct.â€
Elizabeth groaned and shook her head. â€œItâ€™s like Mayberry trapped in the Twilight Zone. I thought youâ€™d understand. I thought you knew how nuts this town is.â€ Elizabeth locked her gaze onto Jeffâ€™s.
He gazed back at her and, suddenly, the image of her large brown eyes, the faint freckles on her upturned nose, her full lips, made him want to kiss her. He wasnâ€™t sure whyâ€‰â€”â€‰theyâ€™d been friends for so long that sheâ€™d probably laugh at him if he ever actually did itâ€‰â€”â€‰but the urge was still there.
â€œItâ€™s not such a bad place,â€ he managed to say.
â€œIâ€™ve had enough of this town,â€ she said. â€œOf my parents. Of all the weirdness. Iâ€™m fifteen years old and I wanna be a normal kid with normal problems. Are you coming with me or not?â€
Jeff cocked an eyebrow. â€œTo where?â€
â€œTo wherever I run away to,â€ she replied. â€œIâ€™m serious about this, Jeff. Iâ€™m getting all my money together and going somewhere normal. We can take your Volkswagen andâ€‰â€”â€‰â€
â€œListen, Bits,â€ Jeff interrupted, â€œI know how you feel. But we canâ€™t just run away. Where would we go? What would we do?â€
â€œAnd who are you all of a sudden: Mr. Responsibility? You never know where youâ€™re going or what youâ€™re doing. Youâ€™re our very own Huck Finn.â€
â€œNot according to Mr. Vidler.â€
â€œMr. Vidler said that?â€ Jeff asked defensively, wondering why their English teacher would be talking about him to Elizabeth.
â€œHe says itâ€™s because you donâ€™t have parents, and Malcolm doesnâ€™t care what you do.â€
Jeff grunted. He didnâ€™t like the idea of Mr. Vidler discussing him like that. And Malcolm certainly cared a great deal about what he did.
Elizabeth continued. â€œSo why should you care where we go or what we do? Letâ€™s just get out of here.â€
â€œBut, Bits, itâ€™s stupid andâ€‰â€”â€‰â€
â€œNo! Iâ€™m not listening to you,â€ Elizabeth shouted and hit the tabletop with the palms of her hands. Silence washed over the diner like a wave as everyone turned to look.
â€œKeep it down, will you?â€ Jeff whispered fiercely.
â€œEither you go with me, or stay here and rot in this town. Itâ€™s up to you.â€
Jeff looked away. It was unusual for them to argue. And when they did, it was usually Jeff who gave in. Like now. â€œI donâ€™t know,â€ he said quietly.
Elizabeth also softened her tone. â€œIf youâ€™re going, then meet me at the Old Saw Mill by the edge of the river tonight at ten.â€ She paused, then added, â€œIâ€™m going whether you come with me or not.â€
My review coming soon. Check out the author’s site by clicking on his picture, visit other Teen FIRST Bloggers’ sites and don’t forget all the info on the bookseller page the bookcover will land you there.