Please welcome Phyllis Campbell to my Guest Writer Spot. She has sent in an excerpt from her book. You might like to find out more about her before you read the extract:
Phyllis Staton Campbell, who was born blind, writes about the world she knows best. She calls on her experience as teacher of the blind, peer counselor and youth transition coordinator. She says that she lives the lives of her characters: lives of sorrow and joy; triumph and failure; hope and despair. That she and her characters sometimes see the world in a different way, adds depth to the story. She sees color in the warmth of the sun on her face, the smell of rain, the call of a cardinal, and God, in a rainbow of love and grace.
Although she was born in Amherst County, Virginia, she has lived most of her life in Staunton, Virginia, where she serves as organist at historic Faith Lutheran church, not far from the home she shared with her husband, Chuck, who waits beyond that door called death.
She is a graduate of the Virginia School for the Deaf and Blind (DPT for the Blind). Further education, Lynchburg College, Lynchburg, Virginia; Creative Writing, The Hadley Institute for the Blind; Creative Writing Creative Writing Institute; Novel Writing University of Wisconsin-Madison.
About the book:
When Jim, the pastor of a prestigious city church, is blinded in Iraq, he and his organist wife, Amy, find their faith challenged. Not only must they adjust to Jim’s blindness and a new marriage, but to the loss of his pulpit, when the congregation asks him to step down because of his blindness, in spite of his successful rehab training.
They go to serve a congregation in a rural village, where in addition to the usual duties of a pastor and his wife, they pray for animals, cope with a huge drafty parsonage, befriend a young couple, secretly married, and help bring a baby into the world in the middle of a flood. The characters are like animals and people the reader may meet every day, those people who will invite you in for iced tea and the latest news
The reader will laugh, and cry and find inspiration as Pastor Jim and Amy struggle and find the will of God. This book will appeal to fans of the Mitford series by Jan Karon.
Now for the excerpt from the book:
(note) Jim has come home from the Rehab Center for his first visit, after losing his sight.)
By morning the rain had stopped, and the kitchen was flooded with sun as Amy started to prepare breakfast.
“It’s an absolutely beautiful day,” she told Jim after breakfast.
“The weather phone says cool and dry,” Jim said as he handed her the plates and silverware. “You know what I’d like to do today?”
“I haven’t the foggiest notion,” she said smiling, using one of Grandma’s favorite expressions.
“I’d like to have a picnic. Mother hates picnics, so we never went when I was a kid. Sometimes my friend, George, who lived two streets down from us, would invite me to go with him and his folks. I loved it.”
“There’s so much we don’t know about each other,” she said, starting the dishwasher. “I love picnics. Grandma didn’t have a car when I was growing up, but on nice days like this, we would pack a lunch and walk to the park. During the summer they had a band concert every Saturday afternoon. I loved it. I’ve never heard you mention your friend, George, before. Do you still keep in touch?”
“We did for a long time,” he said, “but you know how it goes. You sort of lose touch. He’s a doctor in practice in a little town in the mountains in Virginia. We exchange Christmas cards, and that’s about it. But what about that picnic, woman?”
“You’re on,” she said. “What about food?”
“What about it?” he said grinning. “Seriously, we could stop somewhere and have them prepare a hamper.”
“You’ve got to be kidding,” she said. “Part of the fun of a picnic is rummaging around for food when you decide on the spur of the moment. Let’s see,” she opened the freezer.
“I sort of hoped you’d say that,” he said, coming to put his arm around her. “On the rare occasions I could persuade Mother to go on a picnic, she called and had a hamper ready for us. The food was great, kosher potato salad, smoked salmon, jellied consommé, you know, that kind of stuff, but it never tasted as good as the hot dogs we managed to burn to a crisp on the end of a sharp stick.”
“Well, I don’t have any hot dogs,” she said, “nor a sharp stick for that matter, but there’s some fried chicken I froze last week, and if you aren’t in a huge hurry, we can make potato salad complete with Grandma’s homemade dressing.”
“Hard-boiled eggs!” he said. “We have to have hard-boiled eggs, and celery. Do we have any celery?”
“Do you mean deviled eggs?” she asked, closing the freezer door and opening the refrigerator.
“Well, they’re nice, but I’d settle for just plain old eggs.”
“There’s celery,” she reported, closing the crisper drawer.
“Got any peanut butter?” he asked.
“Any what?” she asked.
“Peanut butter, woman. I like celery stuffed with peanut butter. It’s great. That was one of George’s mother’s specialties. Try it, you’ll like it!”
“If you say so,” she said, starting to peel potatoes.
“I’ll do the eggs,” he said, opening the refrigerator and taking out the egg keeper. “Glad you haven’t moved the eggs. Are the pans still where they were when I lived here?”
“Yes,” she said, stifling the impulse to lead him to the cabinet, or worse still, tell him to be careful of the gas stove.
“Yes, here’s the one I want,” he said. “I haven’t had much training in kitchen skills,” he added as he set the pan on the stove and carefully adjusted the flame, “but Anne says I’ll get a lot at the Rehab Center. I can make coffee, do eggs, and use the microwave.”
“Showoff,” she said, fighting the lump in her throat. Then her love and pride won out. “I’m so proud of you. Maybe I shouldn’t say it, but I can’t help it.”
“Oh, keep saying it,” he said, touching the hands of his Braille watch as the eggs started to boil.
“Here,” she said, handing him the package of chicken. “Put this in the microwave, and keep an eye on it as it thaws.”
Then, with horror, she realized what she’d said.
“Oh, Jim,” she wailed. “I’m so sorry.”
“Sorry about what?” he asked, taking the microwave-safe package.
“About what I said.”
“What did you say? Oh, you mean keep an eye on it. Honey, that’s a normal way to speak. You could hardly say keep a finger on it. Remember, Anne told us that we’ll have to use normal expressions. You didn’t do anything wrong. Now, will you kindly set this thing? We need to get some dots on it.”
“Where on earth does one get dots?” she asked as she set the dial to defrost.
“I think there are some in my briefcase,” he said, starting toward the hall. “I just grabbed it the way it was when I left yesterday, and I think there are some in there. You just peel off the back and stick them on.”
“Jim,” she said without really meaning to, “you seem so different.”
“In what way?” he asked as he handed her the package of dots.
“When I visited you at the Center, you, I don’t exactly know, you were different. Now you’re like the old Jim, confident. Maybe that’s the wrong word, but whatever it is I like it.”
“Maybe confident is exactly the right word,” he said. “I’m not sure I can explain it, but I think I needed to know I can still function as myself, and the trip yesterday proved that I can. Amy, I know I still have a long way to go, but for the first time since my blindness, I really believe I can do all the things Anne and Emily have been telling me I can.”
“It is going to be all right,” she said.
“Last night,” he hesitated, “thank you for last night, Amy, it was wonderful.”
And just then the intercom chimed.
“Who on earth can that be?” Amyalmost shrieked., lowering the flame under the potatoes which had just started to boil.
“Probably somebody selling something,” he said, going to the refrigerator. “Why don’t I clean and cut the celery while you see who it is?”
“Good thinking,” she agreed just as the doorbell rang.
“Must be somebody Joe knows,” he said, “or they wouldn’t have gotten past him.”
A look through the peephole filled Amy with near horror and a feeling of dread. There, smiling as though she knew she was being observed by an audience, stood Sarah.
“Jim, it’s your mother!”
“Well, let her in,” he said.
“But Jim, I’m wearing my bathrobe.”
“I expect she’s seen one before,” he said, starting to cut the celery into neat pieces.
“It isn’t that,” she said in panic as the bell rang again. “It’s my old one. To tell the truth, I bought it at The Dollar Store.”
“Oh, never mind,” she said, opening the door to reveal a beautifully groomed Sarah accompanied by another woman. Amy felt she should know the woman, but for the life of her, she didn’t know where she’d seen her before.
“Sarah, what a surprise!” she couldn’t bring herself to call it a pleasant surprise.
“Caroline was driving down to see Vernon and Sharon, and I decided that, since Jim was home, I’d come along and surprise you.”
“Well, you did just that.”
Good Heavens! had she really said that!
“Sarah, perhaps we’ve come at an inconvenient time,” the still almost nameless woman said in a deep contralto which spoke of the Deep South. She was tall and wore her snow-white hair in a soft cloud around her face. Her eyes were an incredible violet, and Amy wondered if they were colored with contacts. The soft green pantsuit she wore spoke of simplicity, but Amy would have bet it cost more than she spent for clothes in two months. Vernon and Sharon? Then the penny dropped. Vernon and Sharon. The Breckenridges. Vernon was the president of the church council. Oh, mercy, this was getting worse by the second.
“Oh, no, no,” she stammered, realizing that, not only hadn’t she invited them in, but was standing blocking the door. “Come in. I’m so glad to see both of you. Sit down. Can I get you anything?”
She was sounding like a fool, she knew it, but she couldn’t help herself. The house was a mess, she was a mess, and Jim wouldn’t come out of the kitchen.
“Where’s my boy?” Sarah asked, looking around the room as though she expected him to pop up from behind the couch.
“Darling!” she called. “Surprise! it’s your mother and Mrs. Breckenridge come to call.”
Thank goodness she had remembered the woman’s name.
“I’m doing the celery,” he called through the swinging door. “Be right there.”
“He’s doing what?” Sarah said, pushing through the door with Mrs. Breckenridge behind her. Feeling something like the way a caboose must feel, Amy followed.
It couldn’t have been timed more perfectly for disaster if it had been orchestrated. Later she accused Jim of doing just that. As they all went through the door, Jim turned from the stove with the pan of eggs. Mrs. Breckenridge gasped, apparently at the sight of a blind man carrying a pan emitting puffs of steam, Sarah screamed, and Jim, forgetting the knife on the counter, set down the pan of eggs in what he thought was an empty spot. He might have gotten by with it if it had been a knife with a small, flat handle, but it was one of a set with large wooden handles. The pan teetered, seemed to stop for a minute, and landed on the floor, water, eggs, and all.
Then, as Jim irreverently put it later, everything went south. Sarah rushed to clasp Jim in her arms, only she slipped in her high heels, Amy thought it was on part of an egg, and landed with a solid thump on the wet tiles. Mrs. Breckenridge rushed to help her and landed with an equally loud thump beside her. At that moment, the smoke alarm went off with a deafening screech, and the room was filled with the smell of burning.
“Amy, I was going to tell you that I don’t think you put enough water in the potatoes,” Jim said calmly, and for one horrible minute Amy thought he was going to laugh. To tell the truth, she felt more than a little hysterical herself.
“I’ll get it,” he said, and moved toward the smoke alarm, only to fall flat over Sarah and Mrs. Breckenridge.
“Oh, my boy!” Sarah was screaming in her high soprano, just as Mrs. Breckenridge’s alto shouted, “Move off my head, young man!”
“Mrs. Miller, is everything all right up here?” Harry the security man stood in the doorway staring with the strangest expression on his face that Amy had ever seen.
Later, she couldn’t believe she had said, “What do you think?” in answer to his question.
“No, ma’am,” he said, in a reasonable voice,“ I don’t believe it is.”
He walked to the stove and shut off the burner, moving the pan with the blackened potatoes to the center of the stove. Then he shut off the smoke alarm and turned to the tangle on the floor.
Amy moved toward them, feeling that she must be dreaming.
“No, Mrs. Miller,” Harry said, “if I was you, I’d just stand still. There’s enough people on the floor. Now, Pastor, if you just give me your hand, and mind, don’t step on the lady’s dress, we’ll get everybody sorted out. Is anybody hurt?”
If you would like to contact Phyllis email her at: Pcampbell16@verizon.net
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