In the Echo of this Ghost Town
Publication date: October 12th 2021
Genres: Contemporary, Young Adult
When everything in your life unravels and the future you imagined disintegrates into dust—how do you decide which way is forward?
Griffin Nichols has lost everyone close to him. Unhealthy choices rooted in unmet expectations have him feeling like he’s failing at being a man. Everything he thought he knew about being a good son, brother, and friend has him feeling as substantive as an echo.
Then Maxwell Wallace walks into his life and teaches him that sometimes in the weakness of the echo is where he can claim his strength.
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I look up at the sound of a voice, grateful to be jerked from the train of my thoughts.
The girl. She’s standing on the other side of the table in her dark t-shirt and cutoff shorts, her back to the gas pumps and road. The light from the store illuminates her, and I think she’s cute, but obviously not all there if she’s talking to a stranger.
She sits down with a Slurpee, and I look at it longingly but also wish I had some vodka to spike it with. I conjure Danny’s words from the night before. I’d told him I’m always drunk. What had he said back? “Yeah. Maybe that’s the fucking problem. It’s time to grow up, Griff.” What if I do have a problem? Then I’m annoyed by the stupid thought—of course, I don’t. What the fuck? Can’t this weird girl tell I’m busy sulking?
My face must screw up because she says, “I’m not carrying any diseases.”
I take a sip of my water, not sure what to do about this stranger who’s sat with me at a table outside of Custer’s. I glance to check if someone is playing a joke on me, but all my friends have abandoned me. So yeah, there’s that. I look at her. She’s got a round face, but it’s smooth and pleasant looking. Brownish hair, I think, because it’s pulled back in a bun or something off her face. Black eyeliner. Black T-shirt with the words Def Leppard inside a Union Jack.
She pinches the straw and moves it around the slushy. It squeaks. “Decide I’m not a serial killer?” She smirks, and my eyes are drawn to her blunt black nails at the end of her long fingers holding the red straw.
“Jury’s out.” I look away and take a sip of my water, annoyed but kind of curious.
I shrug. “What if I’m the serial killer?” I can’t look at her, though I’m not sure why. It isn’t like I’m nervous, even if she’s a little unnerving. Why have I said that? The idea of being compared to a killer takes me backward. Griff Nichols, son of a murderer, when I’d been alone, but I’d shed that persona with my crew. I shove the reminder aside.
“It’s a distinct possibility.”
My eyes connect with hers, the curiosity revving up a notch. “Why’s that?”
“Guy sitting outside of a convenience store on a Monday night looking all moody. Definitely sending shady vibes. You spike that unassuming water bottle? Use the innocence of water to lure in your victims but in reality, you’re just setting the trap?” She smiles, and I see that she’s joking around even though I don’t know her; it’s the squint of her eyes.
“I get that a lot.” She pauses and leans forward to take a sip of her drink and looks over at me. Her eyes sparkle with mirth, but it’s hard to tell what color they are even in the light. Lightish. “So, what do you do in this town for fun?”
“Get drunk. You new?”
“Yes. Why aren’t you doing that?”
“So, a drunk six days a week? You have standards, I see. So that must be real water.” She pauses and raises a single eyebrow—which bugs me for some reason. “You don’t look much like the type with standards.”
I’m not, but I don’t say it. “Neither do you.”
“Touché, serial killer. So, you don’t drink on Monday for other reasons, then?”
“I didn’t say I don’t drink on Monday. I just said it was Monday. You made the assumption.”
She laughs, but it’s mostly air. “Fair enough.”
This conversation could die. I could stand and walk away. I don’t. I blame it on my lack of being alone, which I’m going to have to reestablish. “So, you’re new here?”
“Yep. Just moved. Only here for the summer.”
“Why what?” She takes another sip of her slushy.
I watch her swallow it. Then I look back at my water bottle to resume plucking the plastic label. “Only for the summer?”
“The band I play with is going on tour.”
She laughs. “No.”
“So you’ve said.” She stands. “Well. Thanks for sharing the table.”
“There were two other ones you could have chosen.”
She glances at the other two and then leans forward. “But then I wouldn’t have gotten to talk to a serial killer.” She smiles, offers me a nod, and with her hand wrapped around her cup, she walks away. She’s wearing jean cutoffs, tight, and the strings of the cut denim hang against her long and shapely legs.
I scoff, looking away because I don’t want to notice her. A serial killer. Stupid.
As I watch her—the nameless, weird girl—walk away, I realize I forgot what I was sulking about.
As a kid, my world revolved around two things: stories and make believe. I have built a real life around those two things as well: I am a teacher of stories and a writer of make believe.
While I went to high school in a small town in Oregon and college in a smaller town in Oregon – both gifted me with treasures to fill my creative reservoir and most importantly, my husband. We got married, I followed him from Oregon to Hawaii (it was that or forgo the marriage).
We have two children, and several furry kids.
I read and write everyday.
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What an interesting book! Great excerpt. I’d love to read more.