Today I’m hosting something completely different – literary fiction. “Edge of Civilization” is a literary fiction novel by author Jennifer Ott. The book sounds great, and to celebrate the book tour, there’s a giveaway for a $25 amazon gift card. Scroll to the bottom of the post for more info about the giveaway.
The busyness of the people intensified as the train pulled into Nanning, and through the hysteria of the passengers, Earl searched for the train south to Guangzhou. No one spoke a word of English; everyone regarded him as a crazy, misplaced person. He circled around, calling out his destination, hoping someone would come to his aid. “Guangzhou! Guangzhou!”
Fingers pointed in the direction of the train platform to Guangzhou. Finally, a stern teen in a military uniform approached Earl. Earl cringed. This is it. They got me. They really got me. I’ll spend my entire existence in a Chinese prison.
The teen approached Earl. “Ticket and identification,” he said in Chinese. When Earl demonstrated his ticket, he looked over Earl. “Identification.”
Earl shook his head no.
“What’s in the suitcase,” he asked, pointing at Earl’s trunk.
Earl made a mental inventory of the trunk—US pilot coveralls, food, compass, shark repellent… machete. He could have a human body hidden in the trunk, and it would not be any worse. “Books,” he said in French.
The teen stared at Earl and laughed. “French? I thought the French were better dressers,” he said in Chinese.
Earl picked up the teen’s humor and laughed.
The teen directed him toward a train platform. “Guangzhou,” he said and bowed before Earl.
On reflex, Earl returned the bow. “Thank you. Thank you.”
While walking toward the train to Guangzhou, Earl neared a group of people. From a distance, they looked alien, not in the foreign sense, but in the not-of-this-world sense. The woman’s face was much larger than normal and her hands deformed into the shape of claws. The men with her were missing arms and legs. As the people neared, it dawned on Earl. These were not aliens; they were lepers and they were coming straight toward him with their mutilated and crusty hands extended.
Surrounded by the gang of lepers, Earl backed away and into a store where the shopkeepers—grandmother, mother and daughter gossiped, not noticing Earl. The store was crammed with too much product, but Earl was able to find a few things—a large tunic, drawstring pants, sandals, scarf, gloves, straw hat and a cane.
He found a quiet corner concealed from shopkeepers and other patrons. He changed from his ill-fitting clothes into the new attire. Looking around to see if anyone saw him, Earl opened his trunk to get his pocket knife. He cut two slits in the scarf for eyes, and raised the scarf to his face, feeling his nose and mouth. He cut slices in the fabric, finishing the mask.
Wrapping the scarf around his face, Earl slid into the sandals. His crusty, jungle-rot toes were perfect for his disguise. He donned the gloves to cover his hands and straw hat over his head. With the help of the cane, he limped out of the store past the unsuspecting shopkeepers and confused lepers.
As he hobbled toward the train platform to Guangzhou, the other passengers in Nanning avoided Earl as if plagued. Behind his scarf mask, Earl grinned. The perfect disguise—no one in China will approach someone they expect to have leprosy. He only wished he had some spare change to give to the leper beggars. They were, of course, his inspiration and most likely his saving grace to make it out of China alive. How odd diseased people who appear alien of this world would give inspiration to a man alien to this land. So sad, they will never know what they have done. It made Earl realize no person, no matter how small, as Fu-Han or outcast as the beggars, could play such a huge part in someone’s journey.
Earl was smiling under his scarf when he handed the train conductor his ticket to Guangzhou. The conductor paused, stared at Earl and down at blacked, scaly toes. With hesitance, the conductor took Earl’s ticket from his gloved hand and punched the ticket.
Edge of Civilization
Author: Jennifer Ott
Genre: Literary Fiction
Earl Hollsopple lived on the edge of civilization in a deserted shack for nearly forty years. His life was one beautiful night of stargazing after another, until a helicopter flies overhead, and exposed his meager world. It is a sign; it is time for him to return to civilization.
Unknowingly, Earl’s journey parallels another he had deeply repressed, and that is his return from the Vietnam War. The lone survivor of a plane crash, Earl waits for rescue that never comes. He is left to find his way home alone.
On his quests, old Earl and young Earl learn lessons of survival, overcoming isolation and handling conflicts; his travels teach him not just about himself, but humankind. Reaching pivotal points in both journeys, Earl meets fateful loves, leading to destinies that are ultimately intertwined.
Everything in life circles until we are able to answer the riddles that plaque man and humanity. Only until we take the journey, solve the problems of our own existence, do we find our way home.
Inspiration comes from watching way too much Monty Python. The abstract and the absurd way of looking at normal life, not only offers humor, but questions many problems in society in a light-hearted manner. If we can laugh at ourselves, if we can laugh at life, problems do not seem quite so difficult to tackle. In fact, problems are not as complicated as they seem; everything is very simple. If you can laugh at it, write about it and read about it, most likely one would think about it.
Author Jennifer Ott has written several satire fiction, Wild Horses, The Tourist and two non-fiction books Love and Handicapping and Ooh Baby Compound Me! She recently published, Serenidipidus and Edge of Civilization. She also is the host of the SuperJenius Internet Radio show on Artist First radio Network.
Jennifer Ott lives in Long Beach, California, enjoys the sun, the sand, the surf and lots of Mexican food.
Win a $25 amazon gift card during the tour for “Edge of Civilization”.