Monday, July 30, 2018

Ronald Paxton Presents Tears At Sunrise

A mild breeze, soft as a baby’s kiss, greeted John “Cowboy” Howard as he closed the door behind him and stepped out onto the front porch. He drew a deep, ragged breath, held it, and then slowly let it out. The hollow space between his heart and stomach remained unimpressed by the simple relaxation exercise. The night was clear and soundless. John descended the porch steps on rubbery legs and started down the hill to the barn. His pulse was pounding in his ears and a heavy film of sweat covered both arms and dripped from his fingertips. It’s just a panic attack, that’s all. It can’t be anything else. 
The pills Kenneth prescribed are controlling my cholesterol and blood pressure, and I’ve been walking every day. I just had a check-up. Kenneth said I was doing great. John opened the barn door and sat down on a metal folding chair beside the first horse stall. He closed his eyes and tried to embrace the quiet. After a few minutes, he could feel his heart rate slowing and the perspiration on his hands and arms starting to dry. His legs still felt wobbly and the hole in the pit of his stomach was still there, but it was time to get started. Pale light from the waning moon shone through the windows as John walked the length of the barn to the last stall. 
The big chestnut stallion was awake and waiting for him. He took a moment to stroke the horse’s mane and gaze into the deep eyes that reminded him so much of Jubal. John pulled an apple from his pocket and waited for JB to snatch it from his hand. “You’re up early. We’ve got over an hour to go before daylight. What do you say we take a ride up the mountain?” 
JB flicked his ears and finished eating the apple. He looked at John and waited. John reached into his pocket and produced a second apple. 
While the stallion ate he quickly secured the saddle and bridle and led his horse out of the barn. The remnants of moonlight and a faint glow on the eastern horizon were all horse and rider needed to follow the familiar path to the base of Look Back
Mountain, the northern boundary of Wild Pony Ranch. As he rode, John let his thoughts return to the previous evening. He and Sarah Jane had been eating supper when the phone rang. They rarely received calls on their landline and he had no intention of interrupting his meal to speak with some telemarketer or survey taker. After the fifth ring he had given in, swearing to Sarah Jane that he was going to cancel the line, or at least unplug the phone unless she bought an answering machine to take calls from rude people who insisted on phoning during the supper hour. 
David Kirkwood, or at least someone pretending to be David Kirkwood, had been on the other end of the line. John had been stunned. The man sounded like he was a hundred years old. He and David had first met in kindergarten and formed a tight bond that had endured for sixty years. They had grown up together, riding horses, playing sports, chasing girls, drinking beer, and getting into scrapes that they still talked and laughed about. John had been the best man at his friend’s wedding and David had returned the favor a year later when John married Sarah Jane. Other than his own family, David Kirkwood was the only person that still called him John. He was like a brother. 
“The cancer’s back,” David had said, “And there’s nothing else the doctors can do about it. My time’s running out John, and I need to see you. Can you come?”

Tears at Sunrise:
Danger Lies Beyond the Horizon

By Ronald Paxton

Heading out for his morning ride with JB was important to John and his horse...Spending time out on his ranch brought a certain type of peace... So it was natural for him to lead JB over to the grave of his sire, Jubal... But when he got there, the grave stone had graffiti over the face... What now? John was angry, wondering who would do this since everybody had loved Jubal... But for now, this would have to wait, he needed to go to this best friend immediately...
“He’s an addict,” David said. “Not drugs —
Adam is a compulsive spender and gambler.
A couple of months ago, the bank’s internal
auditors uncovered
 a discrepancy of almost half a million
 dollars in several of its managed accounts.
When they confronted Adam with the problem,
my son confessed to stealing the money from his clients.”


John was shocked that he had been made heir of the majority of David Kirkwood's estate, his life-long friend. Even more surprising was his asking John to ensure that none of the money would get into his son's hands. His son was a gambler and would go through his father's entire estate and David wanted to ensure that didn't happen!

John promised, but didn't realize what trouble it would be bringing his way...

Nor did he realize that, going to get a magazine for his friend, would mean that he was not there when David had died...just the hospital chaplain...
So, here I am. God, I’m glad Emma
 and Sarah Jane aren’t here in
 case nobody buys the book.
 It’s bad enough that I
 have to face Anna.

And just as he was beginning to understand his new reality, he was called by his agent about his book, The Cowboy Way: Life, Love, and Lessons from the Ranch. She wanted to start arranging book signings, proudly announcing that they had made a first printing of 50,000...which promptly sold out, with John suggesting a 500,000 printing the next time...

By the way, I haven't mentioned that our main character, usually called Cowboy was once a rodeo bull rider star with many fans, have I???

Then there was the issue of John's grandson who was mixed race getting hassled...and later kidnapped!

And more damage to Jubal's grave...

Lots of cowboy action and complex situations so that readers are sometimes even having to stop and pause to catch up! Still, until the very last, with a number of options on what was really happening, you just may be on the edge of your seat... Have to admit I loved the part when John's grandson used an Indian language signal to help find him! Great characters, great storyline...Highly recommended!


Ronald Paxton was born in Richmond, Virginia and currently resides in Newport News, Virginia with his high school sweetheart and wife of over 43 years. Mr. Paxton sold his first short story in 2008 and has since published approximately 40 short stories. His work has received Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net nominations. The author's debut novel, "Winter Songs," was published in 2012 by World Castle Publishing and his second novel, "Deep Water," was released in December 2013. "Haven," the sequel to "Winter Songs," was published in 2014. "Soul Man" was published in April 2015, by Moonshine Cove Publishing. 

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