Saturday, September 4, 2010

The Way Forward: Chapter 1

Below is a section from my novel The Way Forward.
Buy it now from or

It made an interesting sound, my brain slamming around in my skull. If I had to re-create the sound, I would take a two-by-four, encase it in Jell-O, and bang it against a pipe while dropping a piano down an elevator shaft lined with old mattresses. I'd probably also do something unpleasant to a cat.

My eyes partially focused and I was on the floor, staring up at a group of Chinese girls peeking out at me from behind their doors. The group melted into four girls, then three, then two, then one and a half.

"Hello," I said, offering a weak smile.

The 1.5 Chinese girls looked at me in horror. Her heads darted back behind the door, and I heard the lock turn.

Before running head first into a door jamb, I had been trying to escape Claire's friend, Emma, who had been chasing me through the second floor corridor of Harry Law Residence Hall with a spoonful of Nutella, threatening to smear it on my favorite T-shirt. I heard her voice again and lurched forward onto my shoulder in an attempt to start running, but my legs had yet to re-establish contact with my dancing brain. I flopped back to the floor, rocking from shoulder to shoulder.

"Give me a second," I pleaded.
"Oh God. Ben, you're bleeding. Don't move."

Thirty minutes later, Claire and I were at Queen Alexandria Hospital, Portsmouth, England, pressing to my face a bag of frozen peas wrapped in a blood-soaked beer towel. My favorite T-shirt, spared of Nutella, was caked in drying blood. A large, generally-unhappy-to-be-there African doctor was called in to fix me up: eight stitches over my left eye, two on the bridge of my nose, and two over my right eye.

"This happen in a fight?" he asked before putting in the stitches.
"No, I ran into a door," I said.
"Ran into a door?"
"Because you are drunk?"
"No. I just ran into a door, I was being chased."
"By someone who wanted to fight?"
"No. We were just being stupid."
"I won't put in stitches if you were fighting or drunk. Fighting or drunk, you deserve infection and a big scar."
"I wasn't fighting or drinking."
"OK. Don't move."

He was as gentle as an enormous man can be while running needle and thread through someone's face. His fingers pressed into my eyes. He seemed to want to pull my head off to get a better angle for his work. At one point, he pushed my left eye open and I saw a 20-foot needle being guided toward me. I yelped and pulled back instinctively, but his massive left hand caught the back of my head and pulled me forward.

"I tell you, 'don't move,'" he said, jabbing his thumb into my open wound, "Don't move!"

By the end of it, my left eye was completely swollen shut and my right eye inclined to imitate its counterpart. Claire and I made it home by midnight and she insisted upon sleeping next to me, on the pretext that she had to watch out for signs of concussion. A nurse had given her a pamphlet and she had spent the cab ride home studying it with bookish diligence.

Women are wonderfully attentive and strangely sexually attracted to an injured male. It makes one want to charge recklessly through life in hopes of incurring severe pain and distress for the purposes of being nursed back to health by a motherly sex goddess. Claire brought me tea with some toast and jam, made sure that my bed was as comfortable as possible, and then ran through a series of questions listed in the pamphlet: Was I feeling dizzy or nauseous? Did I have a headache? Was I having trouble concentrating? How many fingers was she holding up? Then she settled down next to me on my student bed. Soft and warm and sweet smelling, she ran her hands across my chest, and kissed me softly -- I'm not sure that bit was in the pamphlet.

"Better not do that," I said, lightly pushing away her lips.


Buy The Way Forward on
Buy The Way Forward on

Learn more about The Way Forward here.


Anonymous said...

I didn't wait to get a Kindle; I downloaded Kindle onto my Mac and bought the book for $4.50. Fabulous bargain! I've read to the 9th chapter. Romantic and funny.

Sarah Stevenson said...

Great first chapter. Any book that starts with a dude running headfirst into a door will definitely have me reading the second chapter. :)

I like the premise, too, of a student living abroad. I lived in London for a summer when I was 19; I imagine I'll relate to some of Ben's adventures. The ones that don't involve grievous bodily harm, anyway.

Chris Cope said...

Glad y'all are liking it.

And if anyone has read it through by now, I'd certainly appreciate your taking the time to offer a quick review on Amazon.

Wierdo said...

Damn you sir, damn you. I like my sleep and yet I find myself reading at 2am.

Good reading so far!