C3 Publications

I Am Ned Pine

Roseburg 1959

A novel by George Byron Wright

Latham, Idaho, March, 17, 2010. Ashley and Ned Pine have spoken perhaps six words over yet another dispirited evening meal when black-booted attackers kick in their kitchen door wielding aluminum bats and no explanations. The blows rain down. When Ned revives in a hospital bed with a throbbing concussion, his father-in-law, Isaac Tucker, is waiting to divulge that Ashley is broken and in a deep coma following her savage beating. The two men now find themselves reluctant confederates vying over Ashley's care while she lies inert.

With this startling beginning, George Byron Wright sets the stage for a captivating story launched by evil intent and driven by traumatic loss. From his suddenly misfired life, Ned struggles to rediscover who he is, has been, and perhaps will be.

When an old hippie uncle offers Ned a bunk above his thrift shop in the blue- collar neighborhood of St. Johns in Portland, Oregon, he balks before taking refuge among objects still of some use.

In St. Johns, people accept him; one may even love him. But the question remains: Who is behind the heinous attack and why were Ashley and he singled out? The answer lies in the convoluted layers of Ned Pineʼs ordinary life. He has written it all down–the worst six months of his life.

Excerpt from first chapter

First, let me tell you how it all began.

They crashed in while Ashley was at the sink rinsing dinner plates and I was gathering empty wine glasses and what had been a bottle of middling Merlot with a short swallow left in it. We had spoken perhaps six words over our dinner of the chicken potpies Iʼd picked up from Ringerʼs Deli; that, along with mixed greens out of a cellophane bag tossed in a too-tangy vinaigrette, was a meal fit for the distracted. It had been close to nine thirty by the time we sat down; Iʼd gotten home late due to it being tax season. The meal felt routine and unsatisfying, tasty enough but not appealing. I doubt that our eyes met once while we ate. It was just one of those dispassionate, uninspiring occasions that happen between couples whoʼve been through most everything together– thrice over. And it had been just the two of us as usual. Both of our offspring were gone by then, had been for some time. Only their time-warp rooms, those once-pulsating accordion boxes of raging hormones, reminded us that they had lived there at one time. Their absence accounted for most of the loss of energy between us. Who knows when it happened? It just did. One day you look across the table and see a stranger sitting where the onetime love of your life used to be. The realization that you and your mate had graduated from the years of marriage into strangers was chilling and corrosive. It left me feeling desperate-about what I wasnʼt sure, just desperate. What could I do about it really?

I doubt that fact was directly on our minds that night; it had become something we managed to chronically ignore, even as it stared us in the face every day. Just then, we were functioning with rote domesticity when the backdoor off the kitchen imploded, splintered on the sole of a black lugged boot.

There were three of them. They were dressed like ninjas: shrouded in black, eyes glaring at us through ski mask eyeholes. I almost laughed out loud at the triteness of their assailants' habits, but I didn't. Ashley dropped a plate that broke into three equal triangles on the floor. I remember thinking: How odd. Then the wine glasses collided at my feet, popping into bits and pieces, and the bottle hit my foot and caromed off, spinning on the floor. It seemed that we were caught in a surrealistic video game scene.

When Ashley shrieked, I made the mistake of yelling, "What the fuck!"

The first man through the door took exception and came at me with a metal baseball bat gripped in skin-tight vinyl gloves; they all had bats. I raised my arms but only managed to delay the inevitable. My left arm broke with the first blow-after that my head exploded. The only sound I remember before I lost consciousness was Ashley screaming something, just screaming, I knew not what. It didn’t matter. Well, maybe it did, but I was forced from the scene.

It was March. March 17, 2010. St. Patrickʼs Day. Everything had just changed. But it took me longer than it should have to get a grip on just how much that one act of violence would reshape things, or more to the point, how it would expose what a small life Iʼd been living under the guise of success, even normality.

From that traumatic moment the road ahead would expose that my pretense of a credible existence was not true, and I would watch all of my self-assurances begin to unravel.

Who attacked us? That was in my head before I lost consciousness.

I didn't know then or later, at least not right away. Anyway, whoever it was, they made a mess of our lives, and this is how it rolled out. By the way, I am Ned Pine, and this is a recounting of the most abominable six months of my life. Here we go: blackout.

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