James D. Kellogg, author of E-Force, joins us today. Please help us give him a warm welcome.
The Fourth of July weekend this summer is etched in my memory. It's not because of the cool fireworks display in Glenwood Springs. Though the wondrous western Colorado beauty surrounding our campsite was amazing, it's not the reason either. No, this Independence Day will remain timeless for me because of my preteen daughter, Sedona, and her...friend.
Sedona, the oldest of my four kids, could be described as independent and full of attitude. If you ever saw the movie "Footloose", think back to the early scene where the preacher's daughter stood with one foot on each of two pickup trucks as they sped toward on oncoming semi. That's Sedona.
Since kindergarten, Sedona has usually had "boyfriends". It's interesting because her sister and brothers couldn't care less about such things. Anyway, many months would pass with one little boy as Sedona's beau. Each time a "relationship" ended, somebody new was eager to move to the front of the line. As a dad, I always knew I was in for trouble...someday. Suddenly the days of innocence are fading like the scent of perfume in a summer breeze.
This past July 4th, Sedona was only a few weeks from turning 12, an age compressed between childhood and adolescence. At this point, she still has fun spending time with the family as we camp, mountain bike, ski...whatever. But it's becoming clear that Mom and Dad aren't as cool as they used to be. And I'm sure that in Sedona's eyes her parents are getting dumber too. Of course there's a good chance that in about 10 to 15 years, we'll start getting smarter again. You probably know what I mean.
Back to the story. So there we were in the upper end of the stunning Fryingpan River Valley, about 15 miles northeast of Aspen. The river cascades through aspen glens, spruce forests, and meadows of sage and wildflowers. Giant granite boulders, fugitives from the surrounding mountain crags, are strewn about the valley floor. It's a perfect habitat for elk, deer, bear, and mountain lion. And it's an awesome place for humans to camp.
Despite a "nagging sore throat and cough," Sedona was excited to be in the outdoors with her siblings. Our friends were along on the trip. Their daughter and my girls are inseparable. And my two boys hang around their son, Christian, as if he were an adored older brother. The photo shows Sedona and Christian on one of our camping trips the previous summer. This year they are both heading into the 6th grade.
Our families have often chuckled about Christian's long-harbored attraction to Sedona. While they've been friends, Sedona has always had other "romantic" interests, much to Christian's dismay. More than once, his mom (who happens to be my wife's best friend) has laughingly asserted that Sedona is more than Christian can handle anyway. And that's been that.
As far as this tale goes, the whole weekend was a blast. Our friends had a trailer. We had a couple tents. But on the last night of the trip, all the kids in both families wanted to pile into one tent. The adults all looked at each other and shrugged. It was just a bunch of kids wanting to giggle and tell stories in the dark. And they would be only an arm's length from the tent occupied by my wife and me. What could happen?
The next morning the younger generation slept in late and stumbled out to the campfire one by one. As usual, Sedona was one of the first to emerge. All was right with the world, I thought. By noon, camp was broken down, and we were packed up and on our way home. An evening of fireworks still lay ahead. Summer time and the living is easy, right?
Later in the week, Christian's mom called my wife with eyebrow-raising news. Christian had come down with a "nagging cough and sore throat." My wife and I exchanged knowing glances. We'd been had. The other kids had dared them to kiss!
The days of girls and boys sharing tents, especially those named Sedona and Christian, are over for us. I'm nowhere near ready for my daughter's innocence to begin to give way to hormonal urges. The thought makes me shudder. I'm thinking that Sedona will just have to be segregated from boys for the next 10 years...or maybe forever. Yeah, that's the ticket.
Excerpt from E-Force:
The suspension on the mountain bike reverberated from the relentless descent of the Scout Trail. With teeth rattling, Colt squeezed the brake levers and slid into a sharp switchback turn. At the right instant, he hopped his back tire to the outside, changing direction. A steep path studded with rocks and roots loomed ahead, ready to punish rider and bike alike.
Colt charged forward. With the skill of a trials rider, he negotiated the obstacle course constructed by nature. His movements were instinctive, refined with balance and timing. Reaching a smoother stretch of trail, he cranked hard and the bike shot on down toward the next challenge that stood between him and the town.
Victorious, Colt finally entered Glenwood Springs and ground to a halt. After a refreshing shot of water, he pulled a cell phone from his CamelBack. His temporary escape from the consequences of his poor judgment with EcoFriends was over.
“I haven’t heard from you, Deb. What’s going on?” Colt asked
“I’m getting the hell out of this mess.” Deb's tone was that of a suffering mother, driven to her wits end by a colicky baby.
Colt detected stress in Deb’s voice. “You’re going to go to the FBI?” Colt imagined himself being marched into a courtroom to face a federal judge.
“I’ve already talked to someone named Price. He’s sending some of his people out.”
“Then it’s over for EcoFriends.” Colt was somber. “We all have to face the music.”
“Colt, it’s the only way.” Deb started to break. “The cat’s out of the bag, and I’m scared. I have these terrible premonitions about Cain. In the nightmares, he’s coming for me. I can’t go on like this.”
Colt’s mind flashed back to the parking lot encounter with Zed Cain. Did Cain know about Deb’s revelations to him?
“I understand.” Colt felt helpless. “You’re doing the right thing. And you’ve got to protect yourself.”
“Price said the FBI will keep me safe.” Deb’s voice steadied. “When they get here, I’ll be fine.”
Colt paced next to his bike. “Maybe I should come up there with you.”
“You don’t need to do that,” Deb said in a gentle tone. “You’ve always been there for me, Colt. I’ll make sure the FBI understands you’re on my side in this.”
“Thanks, Deb.” Colt’s confidence was bolstered a little. “Just stay safe.”
When the call ended, Colt walked over and picked up his bike. As he mounted, he wondered if he could escape the morass of quicksand he found himself in before he sank too deep. He was filled with self-loathing and guilt.
Colt muttered a quiet reprimand to himself, “This is all your fault.” He bent over the handlebars and pedaled toward his Land Cruiser, parked several blocks away.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
You can learn more about James and his books at his website.