Authors: K.T. Hastings
Fame and Glory
By K.T. Hastings
Copyright © 2013 Regale Publishing
All rights reserved. This book or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the publisher except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.
All characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead is purely coincidental.
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Table of Contents
Dedication of This Work
To Dee who encouraged like no one else could
To James who encouraged when no one else would
To John who encouraged where no one else tried
To Jimmy my son even after I've died
Jake Evans smiled a little as he looked out the window at the rain-splashed highway ahead. It was no great surprise that the rain was falling steadily from the gray clouds this March morning. Jake and his wife Brandee had just left their hometown of Fortuna, California, and the rain had no chance against the euphoria that Jake was feeling.
Jake was happy to be on the road. Jake was happy to be driving the brand new Dodge Sprinter that they had modified for their purposes. Moreover though, Jake was happy to be in love.
He and Brandee had only been married for 6 months. They say that the first year of marriage is the hardest, but so far Jake thought "they" might be nuts. He glanced sideways at his lady seated in the shotgun seat and simply couldn't get over his sense of good fortune.
He had just turned 34 years old. Jake was a nice enough looking guy. He was 5'8" and weighed 170 pounds, with light brown hair that he kept cut short. Some said that his best feature was his blue eyes, but what Jake's friends mentioned most often was his laugh. It was no small chuckle. It was a big booming laugh that contradicted his barely average stature. People had said that if Jake Evans found it funny you were going to laugh too, whether you shared his opinion or not. It was an infectious thing and Jake loved nothing more than to kick back for a long, loud, laugh.
Jake had always had a lot of friends, both male and female. He had an instinctive empathy about him and was often asked for advice on everything from matters of the heart to his pick in the Kentucky Derby. A good listener, he always tried to find some time for someone hurting, lonely, or just down on his luck. In a town the size of Fortuna (pop. 9765), Jake Evans wore the mantle "one of the nicest guys in town" easily and well.
It was somewhat surprising that Jake had never had much luck in the matters of his own heart. He had been in love, by his count, one and a half times. Shortly out of high school, he had married his senior year sweetheart. It didn't end well. He and Fiona had been too young. They had married because that's what you did after high school in rural Northern California. Neither of them knew quite what was supposed to happen after the wedding gifts had been opened. After a little more than a year and a half, they were mutually ready to admit their mistake and go their separate ways. That was Jake's half love.
Six months later, Jake Evans fell hard. He met Sandra Marseille at Fortuna's finest dining establishment. It was called Porfirio's and she was a hostess there. She had shiny dark brown hair with golden highlights and brown eyes that danced and glimmered in the candlelight. She was 5'3" to his 5'8" and he couldn't believe his good fortune when she agreed to go out with him. The dimple in her right cheek that appeared and disappeared with her smile was the last image Jake saw when he went to sleep and the first image that came to his mind when he awakened. Jake wasn't smitten. Jake was smote.
He and Sandra were together for the better part of a year. He bought her what she wanted. He learned the finer points of shopping for jewelry, roses, and the finest perfumes. He took her where she wanted to go. If there was a concert in San Francisco that she wanted to attend, she had only to ask and Jake was all over Stub Hub getting front row seats. Never much of a dancer, Jake nevertheless took her dancing time after time. It was enough for him to hear her say,
"Thank you, baby. That was fun."
When she left, he was heartbroken. Worse, he never exactly knew why. Perhaps it was as simple as the fact that she hadn't fallen as hard as he had. Jake knew that she had chance after chance to be with someone else just by walking down the street, as well as opportunity after opportunity from her hostess stand at the restaurant. In fact, it was a patron there who was seen squiring her about town shortly after she dropped Jake.
Truth be told, it was something more. Jake knew as well as anyone that for a relationship to work out, both parties needed to feel lucky to be with the other. He believed himself to be the luckiest man in the world when Sandra was on his arm. Sandra, though she cared very much for Jake, never fell to her knees in gratitude that Jake Evans loved her and was hers unconditionally. In the 14 months (8 days and 9 hours, Jake had it counted out) that they were together he out "I love you'd” her 20 to 1 and out gifted her by a margin almost as large. He loved her to the moon and back. She loved him too, but only as far as Detroit.
Jake believed that he would never get over Sandra. Though his friends assured him that wasn't the case, it was several years before he showed interest in anyone else. When he did, it was more a matter of two friends going out for dinner or a movie. He believed, as those in their twenties often do, that his ship had sailed briefly when he was very young, never to return to port.
From a career standpoint, this trip was the beginning of something brand new for Jake. A so-so student in his undergraduate days, Jake had drifted through his twenties. He had taken classes at the local junior college in a more or less haphazard fashion. He found sociology to his liking, as well as psychology and political science, but none of them grabbed him and pushed him beyond the "Introduction To" and 100 Level depths. Finally, 8 credits short of the Associates degree that he knew wasn't going to take him anywhere, he dropped out of school and went to work for his friend Tyler's construction business.
He discovered that he had a talent for roofing and drywall installation. The money was good, at least in season, and there was plenty of time off out of season. In better physical condition than any other time in his life Jake believed that he had finally found his niche. An employee of Tyler Henderson Construction for seven years now, Jake had the deep tan and ripped body of someone who clambered up and down roofs and hoisted heavy slabs of drywall for a living. He was, he supposed, happy enough.
Jake had always found comfort in his spiritual side. His father had been a lifelong preacher within the Presbyterian denomination, serving churches all over the West. Jake and his sister Rebecca had gone to church all of their lives. It was never a question in their home of whether they were going to church on Sunday morning any more than it was a question during the week of whether or not they were going to school. It was what the family did and that was that. Not just because it was what Dad did for a living, but also because the Evanses valued their children's relationship with God above all else. Jake's parents, Peter and Mary Evans, raised their children to believe that Jesus loved them with a personal and profound love. They taught their offspring that one would never be truly lonely as long as their walk with Jesus Christ was true and constant. What Jake took from all of this was that his future in the Heavenly Kingdom was secure, and he felt good during his daily time of prayer.
When times turned bad for Peter and Mary Evans, they handled it with grace and stoicism. Never particularly effusive as parents, the Evanses hung on to their faith, quietly but fervently praying that the storm would pass.
Eventually, every time, it did pass.
If Peter wasn't content over a long period of time in his pastorate, another one came along. Mary's health was dicey at times. She suffered from circulatory issues that gave her nearly constant pain in her legs and extremities. Still she soldiered on, a beacon of faith to her children. Peter and Mary Evans were that beacon, though they were now living in a retirement community in Naples, FL.
The children themselves responded somewhat differently to their upbringing. Jake's sister Rebecca became extremely devout and even considered entering the field of pastoral ministry herself. She graduated summa cum laude from the College of the Ozarks in Hollister, Missouri and was preparing to enter Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary when she met Tad Flurringer, who would later become her husband.
Already an established pastor in western Washington state, he and Rebecca were married in Fortuna and settled in Tacoma. Rebecca worked tirelessly in the church and used her own education as an elementary school teacher in schools throughout the Puget Sound. She and Tad had two boys. Jimmy was 6 and Jason was 3. The Flurringers were, by all accounts, a happy, well-adjusted family.
Jake and his sister had grown up having a very close sibling relationship. Rebecca ("Becks" to Jake) was 2 years younger than her brother. Mary and Peter Evans drilled into Jake that he was supposed to take care of his sister during their school years. When he was ten, Jake had gotten into a fight with a kid who, it seemed to Jake, was teasing his sister a little too much. Bloodied, but unbowed, Jake came home from school as his sister's triumphant champion. Though their parents started trying to instill ways that their kids could handle such conflicts verbally rather than physically, secretly Jake and Rebecca remembered that day as a highlight of their childhood. To this day, Rebecca signed birthday and holiday cards to Jake with the acronym TFKKPA, which meant
"Thanks For Kicking Karl Painter's Ass".
It was one of the few instances when Rebecca would use what their mother called "gutter language".
As close as they were, Jake and Rebecca had taken somewhat different spiritual paths into adulthood. Jake still read his Bible a couple of times a week and tried to pray daily, but his view of God was a little more complicated than his sister's. He had taken to heart the stories of the Old Testament, where God went before the Israelis and smacked their enemies around on the way to the Promised Land. Where Jake normally saw himself in the role of the Israelis, he occasionally imagined that maybe he was on the receiving end of God's wrath. When things didn't go well in his life, he figured that he was probably being punished for his misdeeds. This made for a relationship with the Almighty that was a bit bumpy. All in all, though, Jake knew that a better place than here was waiting for him beyond the sunset, and he looked forward to that with great anticipation.
Just before leaving on the great adventure he and Brandee were now on, Jake had talked to Rebecca on the phone. At the conclusion of the adventure he looked forward to connecting with his sister, brother-in-law, and two nephews in Washington. It had been too long since he and Becks had been in the same place at the same time.
Jake looked over at Brandee. She was asleep, but her sleep was restless. Jake was surprised that she could sleep at all given the road conditions. It wasn't just that it was raining. When you grow up behind the Redwood Veil (as Californians called Humboldt County), you get used to frequent and drenching rain. Rather, it was the way that California Highway 36 twisted and turned on its way east that had Brandee's head on a constant swivel while she slept. Jake loved to drive, but he realized that the loaded and top-heavy Sprinter was going to labor until they got to the Sacramento Valley on their way to Chico. Jake negotiated the hairpin turn that took him to and through Bridgeville. The relative solitude gave him a chance to think about how his life had changed in the last 3 years.
Jake was never much of a drinker. It wasn't so much his strict Christian upbringing (though he wondered if there wasn't some of that there); rather, he had just never developed a taste for alcohol. He used to laugh and say that his preference tended more toward "gay fruity drinks" than anything with much kick behind it. He had tried strong drinks a few times in his life but never found it to his liking. He could go out with his friends after work and nurse a 7 and 7 for the entire evening, laughing to himself while watching those whose imbibing got out of control. As often as not, he was the designated driver for a few of the younger guys who wanted to howl a bit at the end of a hard workweek.
It was during one of these times, while he was drinking a Coke at The Bay Saloon in Eureka, when he spotted a vision of beauty at the other end of the bar. She was there with 2 of her girlfriends from The Humboldt Bank and Trust, where (he found out later) she was an account manager. Jake Evans felt a stirring that he hadn't felt for quite some time. His life was never going to be the same. He cut the distance between the two of them in half, never taking his eyes off the angel Brandee.
Jake knew that he wasn't the only guy who was circling the area where the three ladies were. There was a young Latino with a pencil thin mustache moving in from behind. There was an enormous lumberjack on the far side of the room who was headed for the goal line, too. Jake slid between two chairs and made a nifty spin around a passing server, arriving a step ahead of the one he had mentally named "Paul Bunyan" and two and a half steps in front of "Ricky Ricardo". He stepped up next to Brandee and said, "Hi."
Everything else about that evening went by in a blur. Jake didn't have a clue where he was going after "Hi". Never one to have a ready supply of pick-up lines (and having made a fool of himself a couple of times when he had tried to be clever), he hoped like anything that the goddess before him would be a good talker and not just an ethereal face with an outstanding body. Jake was a good conversationalist, but deep down, he was still the shy preacher's kid who got tongue tied the first time he asked a girl to be his girlfriend. (All right, he had been 7 years old then, but still.) He needed a girl who could at least hold her own in a conversation while he got his thoughts together. As the rodeo cowboys that came through Fortuna every July liked to say, Boy Howdy! Had he ever found a girl who could converse in Brandee Alexander! Smart, funny, aware of current events, empathetic, sympathetic, Brandee had it all and in all the right places.