In the Wake of Our Misdeed
A novel by George Byron Wright
In the wee hours of a November morning in 2007, a truckload of recycled cars forces an SUV into the dark waters of Hood Canal. The passengers, Carson Barrus and his wife Naomi, submerge carrying all of their discontent with them. Carson frees himself from the sinking vehicle and crawls out of the canal knowing his wife is dead. From the shadows, he bears witness to his own death before disappearing into the darkness.
He drifts into Oregon, where he is taken in by an unlikely set of allies in Wasco County at a place called The Dalles. There he assumes a new identity and sets out in search of a child born somewhere in Oklahoma four years earlier: a child he’s never seen, a boy born to his baby sister, Aleta, a child she wasn’t allowed to keep—and with her suicide a child who will never know his mother’s touch.
Carson’s latent obsession over his sister’s child pushes aside all logic. He’s been given an unrestrained moment to do what he should have done back when it mattered. Behind the mask of his supposed death, he proceeds to right a wrong.
In every life there are incidents in the past that one wished could be erased, but of course they cannot be so. They remain in our memory to taunt us. Such is the case in my novel IN THE WAKE OF OUR MISDEED. Carson Barrus has been living for years with a coward’s remorse over the miserable life and suicidal death of his baby sister. In fact the entirety of his family shares in her misery and demise. Only from the anonymity of his own death does he summon the courage to set out to rub away the misdeed that has haunted him.,
In searching for an epigraph to set the tone for this story, I found one that speaks to me about what I am trying to bring out of this story. I hope it resonates with you as well. It is from Jalal ad-Din Rumi the 13th-century Persian poet, jurist, Islamic scholar, theologian, and Sufi mystic.
“Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field. I will meet you there.”
I hope to meet you there as you read IN THE WAKE OF OUR MISDEED.
Excerpt from first chapter
Naomi was at the wheel, Carson merely her passenger. True to her mind-set, she drove aggressively, for the road was there to be mastered, and the rain-pounding darkness provided her the risk she savored. Carson was buckled in, his seat back slightly reclined, his arms folded, his mouth drawn as his wife took on Hood Canal’s slickened roadway. In spite of the weather, the passenger window was most of the way down, an act of defiance in the face of Naomi’s persistent smoking. Rain spat in at him; he ignored it.
Muddling in his brain was the acidic argument they’d been having since leaving the Barrus family vacation house in Sequim off the Dungeness Spit. It had been another thankless Thanksgiving. Their words, caustic and blaming, had been but a replay begun mere moments after waving perfunctory good-byes to his parents, who stood shoulder to shoulder on the wide porch out of the rain, siblings and spouses, uncles and aunts, aligned behind them. Despite the near midnight hour, tradition called for those leaving first to be seen off before those remaining retired. Featureless images, rear-lit by bright wall sconce porch lights, the group had stood as an obedient choir officially witnessing Carson and Naomi’s departure. Carson’s father gave them but an upraised palm while his mother offered her typical galloping fingers. Carson imagined, though could not see, the requisite smiles he knew were painted on all their faces. That cardboard cutout of a traditional family cluster held its position until the car was out of sight.
A sudden curtain of water sent up by a passing car slapped the windshield. They both sucked in a breath, but neither spoke. Rather it seemed the opportune instant to discontinue picking at the running sore of their displeasure, one with the other. No ground would be gained by another bristly exchange of the words that only minutes ago had reduced their estimation of each other even further. Carson knew what he knew, and Naomi cared little that he did.
The headlights stabbed fruitlessly into the wet darkness. Wipers hummed, tossing the pounding rain aside, again and again and again. Naomi prodded the silver Beemer SUV forward. Carson tried to doze—but he couldn’t. He opened one eye and glanced at the dash clock; it read 1:14, bloody 1:14 a.m. They could have stayed on one more night, but she just had to get to Olympia to see her sister—regardless of the dreadful hour. The argument over their late departure had lasted less than the time it took to shell a hardboiled egg, than the time it took him to catch his father smirking from the kitchen doorway.
He turned his head to study the woman at the wheel: This beautiful woman he’d married on a swell of euphoria. This woman who revealed afterward that she intended to bear no children and who all but willed a miscarriage when her body tricked her anyway. This woman who became so easily absorbed with the lavish lifestyle he afforded her. This woman whom he knew to be attracted to others than him. All of it and more had worn away what had for a brief incredible slice of time been luminous between them.
Her profile was highlighted by the orange glow from the dashboard: the high cheekbones she prized, shoulder-length auburn hair, and the elegant nose that held it all together. Smoke was curling out of her nostrils. Carson was considering one more rejoinder to what had been a lacerating embroilment between them when she drove hard into a curve and a look of horror sprang onto her face. A howl erupted from her throat.
Carson’s heart surged. He rose up against the belt across his chest and followed where Naomi’s widened eyes were locked; it was in slow motion, even as the car was at speed. The huge semi sliding sideways on the wet pavement, coming at them out of the dark, was a horrific vision. Its gigantic open trailer racked with an assortment of cars was taking the full width of the road. The tractor was jacked hard in the driver’s attempt to correct his grievous error. There would be no avoiding the moving car lot; in seconds it would reach and overpower them. Naomi’s howl went on. The truck’s tractor was hard up against the guardrail, sparks spraying, metal on metal. Crushed by its huge weight, bolts gave way, posts snapped, and a swath of corrugated railing swung away slowly like a massive gate. Naomi wrenched at the wheel, pulling hard left. The car careened across the highway and crashed through the fortuitous opening as the truck bore down on them. Its massive bumper clipped them from behind, sending the vehicle in a carom shot out into the dark. With Naomi’s foot jammed on the brake pedal and locked on full throttle, the car twisted out over the canal with its engine roaring.
Carson heard the bray of his own voice seemingly from a long way off. Then silence as they took flight, Naomi and he, in a dream state of soaring. All seemed normal in the car: the inside temperature light indicated sixty-eight degrees, the wipers continued to swipe, and the heater still pushed warm air. From the brunt of the truck’s impact, the SUV began to turn, as would a dog rolling onto its back. From the shore, the vehicle’s impact on the water would have sounded like a rifle shot followed by an immediate reverberation. Within, the sound was buffered, but the impact was not. The car met the water on its top; the seat belt dug into Carson’s torso as he hung upside down. His air bag deployed explosively, filling the air with white powder just before water began to find its way in through the open side window.
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