Very Narrow Bridge — First Chapter’s Excerpt

My novel, VERY NARROW BRIDGE, is available now at the Amazon Kindle Store. Please go directly to http://www.amazon.com/dp/B005L652QU, check it out and read the favorable reviews. I hope you will consider purchasing the book for $4.99.

On the right sidebar, under Blogroll, there are links to my Amazon Novel Page, and my Author Page. Above, click on the “Very Narrow Bridge” page for a book description, and on the “Videos” page for the book trailer videos. Below, you can read an excerpt from the book’s First Chapter.

                                                    First Chapter’s Excerpt

A reunion, in fact. A probability, which made him deliberate long and hard whether to help accelerate by calling that woman, Susan Plummer, and let her know of the mistake she had made. A missing daughter, after all, was a serious matter. And a good enough reason to lift the receiver of his old rotary telephone (he was a sucker for anything old, junk as well) and dial her number. Which he finally did.

But then he put the receiver down quickly, before it even rang at the other end, and remained motionless. Surrounded by pictures and documents that reflected his achievements – and partly his life – since he had left the kibbutz seventeen years ago, at the age of twenty-three. He looked at the picture of London under a layer of fog: a still that closed the first film he had ever made, at the London Film School. He felt surrounded by fog himself; a melancholy fog. He loved London, and the small, old school near Covent Garden Market in West End. But those were hard days for him as well. He was always short on money then (as he was now, too, so nothing much had changed), working at nights as a security guard in the Israeli Embassy, and going to film school in the mornings straight from there. He remembered, also, his first wife. With agony he remembered her – though he tried to forget her. And he thought about his first son, Nimrod, who still lived with her in Tel-Aviv.

He felt guilty: him being here and his son, a teenager, growing up there. Without a father. He figured that a search for a missing teenage daughter, at this point in time, would be almost like a search for his own son. So he picked up the receiver and dialed the number. But it rang only once before he put it down again. He was still a Kibbutznik at heart, Gideon Gold. He still believed – despite all the evidences to the contrary, and his experiences in the big cities of the world showing otherwise – that two plus two equals four. Pure and simple. As he had been taught to believe. Even if later, step by step, he had learned his lesson.

Learned that two plus two equals five. Or six or seven, depend on the circumstances. Rarely four, though. But his education and therefore transformation, from an idealistic youth raised on sublime universal principles of goodness and integrity and honesty and morality; to a savvy, cynical, amoral Machiavellian citizen of the world – was never completed. He was dying to be a hard-boiled, been there done that private detective. Like the one he was writing about in his current screenplay: an erotic-thriller, dealing with sex, crime and the pursuit of happiness. American style.

 He was a Captain in the Israeli Army, after all, in an elite unit of the paratroops. He was an Air Marshal, too, on El-Al Israeli airplanes, in the heyday of hijacking and all that terror. And, to top it all – a memory he dared not remember too often – a brief stint as a secret agent of the Mossad, the Israeli secret service. He did his training, therefore, he couldn’t let an opportunity such as this one slip by him, the way he did so many times in the past. He must dial the number.

And so he did. But this time he had failed to hang up in time. As a woman’s voice, exceedingly worried, answered the phone immediately. Forcing him to introduce himself as Gideon Gold, a private investigator, telling her of her mistake, reaching him instead of the “Gold Investigations Inc.”

      “Pure Gold,” he named his business off the top of his head. “At your service.”

      “Sounds good to me,” she responded. “As long as you can do the job, Mr. Gold.”

 He assured her that he could, sensing from her voice that she was a woman past her prime, and that this conversation was very hard – painful, even – on her to conduct.

      “What’s the job?” he asked.

So she told him that her only daughter, Joy Plummer, had run away from home more than a year ago, in the summer of 1986. She was seventeen then, and didn’t even finish high school. Maybe he could look for her out there, she suggested. She was willing to pay him, of course.

Whatever it takes, a sign flashed in front of Gideon’s eyes. So he asked her (he still spoke with some accent in his voice, which worried him mostly when he spoke on the phone), why did she think her daughter was here in L.A.?

      “Her good friend, June, thinks so.”     

      “That’s all?”        

      “There always was a bit of an actress in her, sir.”

      “I see.”

      “That’s why I thought, you know… they all run there to Hollywood, don’t they?”

Himself included, he had to admit. And said yes, they sure do. And of course he could look for her here. Where else but here? He wasn’t going anywhere, anyway, he had a son here to take care of. He didn’t even hesitate when he agreed to do the job. His education therefore completed: two plus two equals five.

She asked him to name his price. A request he was glad to fulfill: Ten thousand dollars, he said, his voice steady and business-like, half of it to launch the investigation, the second half when – no “if” about it – he found her daughter.

To his surprise, astonishment even, she agreed. So he asked her to send him a letter, as soon as she could, containing as many details as possible about her daughter. Including a close-up picture and a full-body shot as well. And a personal letter from mother to daughter, if possible. And the check, of course.

      “Of course, Mr. Gold.”

 He gave her his address, before they hung up. And that was that. Or so he thought, at first. His hand was still clutching the receiver, yet he was smiling like a kid who pulled off a trick.  But by the second he took his hand off the telephone, he already felt bad about the whole thing.  He hated telephones, all his life, and blamed the impersonal instrument for his brewing guilt trip.  He grew up without telephones and was sixteen, he remembered, when he first used one. He called his mother, who had left the kibbutz and moved to the city by then. She was a city-type person, while his father was a simple farmer. And Gideon himself was half and half: not here not there.  He was a product of the Holocaust. Which his parents, somehow, survived.  And of course, never forgot.

He remembered too much, Gideon. It made him feel lousy. So he considered smoking his pipe, to reflect on it all; or play his harmonica, to forget it all.  But he did neither. Instead, he read “Youth,” a poem by Czelaw Milosz, enlarged and framed on his wall.  It always made him feel a little bit better about himself. As if he were not alone in this chaotic world. Especially one short stanza, which he kept reading again and again:

Your wishes will be fulfilled, you will gape then

At the essence of time, woven of smoke and mist, 

With that in mind he left his room. And with that in mind he entered Daniel’s room, and quietly watched his son asleep. He and his old teddy bear; both lending Gideon some tranquility. Making it possible for him to leave the room, put on his swim-trunks and step outside and down the stairs. Where he stopped on the edge of the pink swimming pool. Alone.

Gloria with her glorious body, nature-made in mahogany brown but gym-sculptured, was not around. The Armenian family, on the other hand, was around. Members and ever-present guests alike, with their constant commotion: people coming and going, singing and eating. Always eating. And the maddening noise of the backgammon pieces, day and night, hitting the board.

      “It’s a free country, man,” they had told him some weeks ago, when he had reproached them about it.

No doubt, he reflected now, staring at his own distorted reflection in the dimly lit pool. And then, after taking a deep breath, he jumped into the colder than he expected water and swam underneath the surface to the other side. Seeing – as always, whenever he jumped like that into a pool – a single lucid image establishing itself in his mind: the crystal clear water of his childhood stream. His fountain of youth. Where he and his friends, on hot summer days, had experienced the time of their lives. Under the watchful eyes of Mount Gilboa, where King Saul and his son Jonathan fought the Philistines. And where they died.

A place where, in those hot days, there were no parents. No teachers either. Just kids and nature, in an endless wild summer dance. So liberating a dance it was, that he remembered it all in a flash. A flash and then a vision, which made him yearn to go back home. Made him sad, too. Because when he finally emerged from under the water, dying for a breath of fresh air, it all evaporated. Vanished like a sudden wind.  And left him empty. Left him with the knowledge, plain and cruel, that his small childhood stream – like his childhood – no longer existed. Diverted into a bigger canal for agricultural purposes. A rock quarry, digging and eating at the biblical mountain, was operating beside it. In the name of a new god: Profit. Spoiling the lucidity of the water with dust.

It made him shiver. As he remembered not only what Thomas Wolfe wrote, but what his father had written as well, about his disillusions with the place he had helped built.

      “The place you left behind, son, is no longer the place you left behind,” his father had remarked in his last letter. Maybe he had read it somewhere, and maybe not. It didn’t matter.

What mattered was, that sitting on the edge of the pool with one foot still in the water, illuminated by a brilliant Southern California moon, and surrounded by birds-of-paradise and palm trees, made Gideon Gold feel a little bit better about himself. And about things as a whole. He was reassured in his belief that he could not go back home. And that, as the saying goes here in America, home is where the heart is. Right here in beautiful Burbank, where the future still held a lot of promise for him.  Whether as a screenwriter or as a private investigator he could not yet tell.

 

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