Broken Pieces

Jack Canon's American Destiny

Jack Templar Monster Hunter: The Templar Chronicles: Book One by Jeff Gunhus (Excerpt)

Friday, September 20, 2013

“Yep, that sounds perfect to me,” I said. “Can I invite someone over?”

“I’d like it to be just the two of us tonight, is that OK?” Aunt Sophie said.

There was that sadness again. I stopped eating. “Are you sure you’re OK?” I asked.

She nodded, but tears welled up in her eyes. She grabbed a dish and took it into the kitchen. Sometimes, when she looked like that, I wondered if she was thinking about my dad. I always had to remind myself that when I lost my father, she also lost her little brother.

My dad had been a soldier, some kind of special branch of the Army or something. One day, according to Aunt Sophie, because I was too young to remember, some of his buddies knocked on our door with the news that my dad had been killed. It was some big Army secret how he had died. Aunt Sophie said she didn’t know. But in the back of my mind, I wondered if she really did know and she was just keeping it from me.

I obsessed over my dad while I was growing up, always thinking of new ways that I could solve the mystery of his death. No matter how often Aunt Sophie asked me to leave it alone, I swore that when I got older, I would do everything I could to uncover the truth.

Don’t get me wrong; I missed having a mom too. She died when I was born and all I have left of her is one photo taken from a distance. But I think having Aunt Sophie basically as my mother made it a lot easier. And she’s awesome. She’s into fishing, rough-housing, playing baseball. She even comes to all the father/son events at school where we beat the other teams at sports, showing up all the jock dads.

Still, even with Aunt Sophie, I grew up feeling the loneliness that only an orphan can feel. That aching sense that something that is supposed to be there, just isn’t. And worse, that it will never be. Into that empty hole, I put all my anger and my frustrations and I used it to focus me on the one thing I wanted more than anything else in life:  to find out what really happened to my dad. It may not be true, in fact it’s probably not, but part of me wants to believe that when I figure it out, the hole will go away and the loneliness will be gone forever.  I can only hope.

OK. Enough of that. I don’t want to make you think this story’s going to be all mopey. Let’s get on with it. I’ve got to tell you about the first monster I saw that day.

After gulping down enough food for three kids, I grabbed my book bag and ran out the door.  The town of Sunnyvale was pretty rural. Our house was set back several hundred yards off the road and backed up to an old-growth forest. Trees lined our gravel driveway and our nearest neighbor was far enough away that you couldn’t see another house until you got out to the main road.

Once at the end of the driveway, it was less than a quarter mile to school, so I could easily walk to class. Most days, I ended up running because I was late. I glanced at my watch. There was no way I was going to make it on time. I tightened my book bag straps and sprinted up the gravel driveway.

Just like when I was lifting the weights, something felt different. My legs were like springs, pounding out long strides as I ran. I was easily going twice as fast as normal. I pushed a little harder and found that I had one more gear left and could go even faster.

I stopped when I reached the road, panting, but not tired. I looked behind me. A trail of dust hung in the air the length of the driveway, just like in a comic book when someone has gone super fast. I grinned. It was pretty cool.

I walked over to the first house on the street. It was empty and the lawn was overgrown with weeds, but it had a basketball hoop set up in the driveway. I slid my book bag off my shoulders and grabbed a ball half-covered in the tall grass.

I sized up the hoop. With a quick look around to make sure that no-one was watching, I bounced the ball a few times, then ran up to the hoop, jumped…and slam dunked it.

I’m not talking about barely getting over the rim and having the ball dribble in, either. I two-handed that bad boy into the hoop like I was an NBA all-star.  The day before, I had only been able to get a handful of net with my best jump.

That was the first time I felt a little bit scared. Whatever was happening to me was happening in a big way. And it clearly wasn’t normal. But, honestly, I didn’t feel that scared. Mostly, I just felt totally awesome about it.

Even from a block away, I heard the first bell ring at my school.  I grabbed my backpack and ran up the street, unaware that I was about to meet my first monster.

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Genre – Middle Grade / YA Fantasy

Rating – PG

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