How Long A Shadow is out now! Learn how to get your copy below.
How Long A Shadow is out now! Learn how to get your copy below.
I'm a retired educator, a Chicago native, and an author living in Door County, Wisconsin. My family roots in Chicago reach back to the mid-1800s and serve as the background for my debut novel, How Long A Shadow (Outskirts Press, Fall 2020). You'll find a summary and excerpt below. I hope you'll give it a read and spread the word.
I'm working on a second novel and will occasionally post short drafts on my Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/danpowerswrites/
In 1918, as Chicago copes with an influenza pandemic, a World War, and the Cubs loss in the World Series, ten-year-old Jimmy Cullerton is surprisingly sent with his oldest brother to the South Side to collect support money from their estranged father. Slighted by his dad, Jimmy vows never to be like him and learns from his brother the need to bury the past.
A century later, Jimmy's retired son Kevin embarks on a quest to discover his grandfather and his own father's past. Along the way he discovers an entire Chicago Irish family about whom he has never heard a word spoken. When a secret from Kevin's own past draws him into a relationship with a woman he hasn't seen since she was an infant, he is forced to reexamine his own life and relationships. As memories and shadows from his personal and family past grow and merge, Kevin must reconcile their meaning and decide who and what he wants to be.
Author Shout is a resource for self-published authors, and I'm honored How Long A Shadow was selected as a 2021 Reader Ready Awards "Recommended Read."
The July, 1959 chapter (as a short story under another name) was awarded 2nd Place. Fiction judge David Haynes wrote, "...so much is packed into a small space, with each gesture and image offering something important and useful to the fiction. A small beautiful gem."
I encourage you to support your local independent bookstore.
How Long A Shadow can be ordered through most bookstores.
Novel Bay Booksellers in Sturgeon Bay has copies
in-store and online. You can also purchase online through the links below.
“Shake a leg there, Jimmy,” his brother prompted as he started
briskly up Albany Street to catch the Elevated Ravenswood line to
the Loop. Jimmy hurried and caught up. His excitement pushed him
along, what with it being his tenth birthday and all, plus this would
be the first time he’d be taking the trip. His mother didn’t ever let his
two older sisters go, even when they volunteered. Usually Richard,
who at thirteen was the second eldest boy, accompanied Ed. But
Richard had picked up some work sweeping and stocking at the corner
grocery, and money was too tight to turn any offer down. When
Ma told him to go, it had taken him by surprise, and although he
would never admit it, he felt more than a little apprehension. After
all, he couldn’t remember the last time he’d seen the man.
Jimmy had ridden the streetcars before, but never the Elevated
train and certainly not all the way downtown and beyond. There
was just no need and often no money. According to Ma, everything
he required was right there in the parish, safely in the confines of
Our Lady of Mercy. Church, school, groceries – and that was his
ma’s priority order – all were within walking or biking distance.
While walking was the family’s default mode of transportation, the
Cullerton kids did share two bicycles they had managed to obtain.
Jimmy, though just in the middle of the pack age-wise, proved to
have a talent with his hands and figuring things out and had become
the family mechanic: fixing flats and broken chains, raising and lowering
the seats and handlebars. He took pride in his skills, though at
times, being on the skinny side, he needed help from Ed or Richard
to loosen a rusted or over-tightened nut.
At the corner Jimmy paused to give a quick hello and pet to
Dobbins, the local milk-horse, who patiently waited in harness for
Mr. Stone to return with the empties and click-click him on to their
next stop. A small American flag was tucked into his harness. They
were everywhere, hung on doors, in windows, stuck in the ground.
Each was an individual celebration of the eleventh hour of the eleventh
day of the eleventh month that had just ended the war. At
Montrose, Ed waited out several automobiles and a streetcar before
jaywalking across in the middle of the block. Jimmy scampered
to keep up, adjusting his gait to avoid stepping on a memento left
by one of Dobbin’s dwindling brethren that still hauled commercial
wagons on Chicago’s streets. They headed east, deftly moving
around slower pedestrian traffic, slacking only briefly to take in the
warm aromas as they passed the bakery. Along the sidewalk, on the
storefronts and light poles, more flags draped and hung, creating a
flapping corridor of red, white, and blue.
Anticipation helped Jimmy keep up with his brother’s longer
strides. Nearing the Kedzie Street station, the chill in the air no
longer registered. When they entered the dimness, Ed handed him
a dime to pay his own fare. Jimmy tried to imitate his brother’s nonchalance
as he handed the coin up to the man in the booth and
echoed, “Transfer to the South Side line, please,” as if he did this
every day. The boys hurried up the open-back cast-iron steps to the
loop-bound platform. Trying to match Ed’s two-step stride, Jimmy
tripped. He was grateful to Ed for not turning around or teasing
him. They emerged onto the dark-stained decking. The smell of
creosote scented the frost in the air.
The platform felt awfully narrow to Jimmy. He unconsciously
backed away from the painted edge that dropped off to the tracks.
Again imitating his brother, he stuffed his hands in his too large coat
pockets and leaned back against the advertisement boards, which
displayed route maps, service times, ads for war bonds, and a few
color posters touting the many places and experiences around the
city to which the El could carry you. With a slight elbow and side
nod of his head, Ed indicated a vandalized poster left over from the
Cubs – Red Sox World Series played back in early September. The
games had been moved up a month due to the war’s “Work or Fight”
order. The Cullertons, one and all, were serious baseball fans and
none was yet over the four games to two loss to Boston. In fact, Ma
still spoke ill of “that Babe Ruth fellow”, the young Red Sox pitcher,
who had whipped the Cubs twice.
The two boys stood silently in the open air, side by side. Despite
the six-year difference in their ages, any casual observer would take
them to be brothers. Besides thick brown hair, blue eyes and narrow
noses, they shared a natural leanness and a visible sense of being content
and comfortable in each other’s company. Ed kept his stare in
the direction from which the train would come. Jimmy’s eyes moved
constantly, surveying everything. He spied several posters across
the tracks on the opposite platform urging women BECOME a
NURSE - LEARN at HOME. Earn $15-$25 per week. It was another
sad reminder of the Spanish influenza epidemic that was just
starting to ease up around the city. Ma had even kept them home
from school for a week after a classmate, who Jimmy had liked,
died when her flu turned to pneumonia. On the second day of their
absence, a health official had visited the house to make sure they
weren’t sick and contagious.
Jimmy’s sad reverie exploded when his ears were suddenly assaulted
by the scream of steel scraping steel. His spine stiffened and
he turned toward the sound. A flat-faced line of train cars negotiated
the curved track, hurtling toward the platform, growing each second
in size and volume. Since Ed hadn’t, he forced himself not to cover
his ears, but his heartbeat crescendoed with the roar which came to
a sudden halt just feet in front of him.
The doors opened like huge gaping eyes, daring him to step forward.
A few passengers disembarked. Ed placed his hand on his
brother’s capped head and stepped forward, “Come on.” Jimmy
knew he’d have taken his brother’s hand if it had been offered.
They sat facing forward, Jimmy closest to the window. The car
gave a jerk and gathered speed. Sure in the route and familiar with
the sounds and sights, Ed relaxed against the back of the seat and
closed his eyes. Jimmy tried to keep his body still so as not to disturb
his brother, while his head swiveled, not wanting to miss a thing.
The rhythmic clacking of the rails and the regular stops and starts
lulled him at first. Gradually, as buildings began to huddle closer and
closer together and appear to move in closer and closer along side the
rails, he became more and more uneasy. The tracks elevated, living
up to their moniker. He was startled by the whir and blur of the flats
that now seemed keen to take his arm off if he was foolish enough
to stick it out the window. He was being inhaled into the depths of
the city. Stained brick walls and mullioned windows, back staircases
with peeling paint and flat tarred roofs leaned in on the passing
train. Wall, window, window, roof, wall, broken window, child’s face,
stairs, wall, window flew by in such a blur Jimmy needed to turn his
gaze forward to keep from going dizzy. The bright autumnal sky
disappeared, replaced by flashes of light flung at them through the
tight, narrow slits between buildings. Reprieve only came when they
crossed over an arterial street or slowed into the next station.
Jimmy’s slight frame pressed against the window when the train
cars began their counterclockwise swing around the loop like blood
platelets pumped through a heart before coursing back on their return
trip. The wheel on rail screeching became constant and so unbearable
that he finally did cover his ears. Embarrassed, he glanced
to Ed who kept his gaze ahead, apparently gauging their location,
though a half grin mingled with the tension in his jaw. The train
began to slow. “Come on, Jimmy. This is where we transfer.” They
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