It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old…or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!
You never know when I might play a wild card on you!
Author and practicing eye surgeon, Dr. Bekendam is happily married and the proud father of two boys. Proceeds from his writing go to help fund his activities in developing countries as he works to bring cataract surgery to the needlessly blind. Prime of Life is his debut novel.
Visit the author’s website.
List Price: $14.99
Publisher: Worthy Publishing
Have you ever wanted to run away from your life? Ben did just that. It only lasted a few years before life caught up with him, but it was good while it lasted.
Ben just wanted to leave stress behind him. How much stress can there be as a janitor at a retirement home? He learned that leaving stress behind is not so easy, especially when you’re an obsessive compulsive guy.
It turns out that life at Heritage Gardens is a comic soap opera. It has been good for Ben – until someone from his past shows up. Ben isn’t sure how to deal with that. Will running again help? Watch how his life unfolds and keep smiling.
This was a fun book. I’m looking forward to another novel by Dr. P.D. Bekendam. This was a good read, but even better is the fact that proceeds from his writing go to help fund his activities in developing countries as he works to bring cataract surgery to the needlessly blind.
***A special thank you to Leanna Case for providing a review copy.***
And now for the first chapter
I clean rooms in a retirement home. Four years of college, four of medical school, four more in residency, and another four training in cardiothoracic surgery, and now I spend
my days scrubbing toilets and mopping floors. My shift starts at eight, when the residents are supposed to be at breakfast.
“Ben,” Frank hollers as I push my cleaning cart down the long hallway of the skilled nursing facility. “Start in my room today.”
Frank is a cantankerous octogenarian. I have yet to discover his pleasant side.
“Sure, Frank.” I wheel my cart into his dingy room. The blinds are drawn. A crumpled potato chip bag lies open on the floor. I step over a few greasy remnants that are ground into the carpet as I make my way between the bed and the television stand, taking care not to bump the rickety plastic contraption supporting the heavy 1970s-era TV.
“Just the bathroom,” Frank says as he shuffles toward his chair. He takes an unexpected detour toward his rolltop desk and rum- mages through a drawer. “I just remembered. I’m gonna need your help with a little project later on.”
This triggers a warning bell in my mind. “Not if it has anything to do with Marvin. You know my position on that.”
Frank and Marvin have been feuding for half a century. Probably longer.
“Did you hear what he did to my denture cream?” Frank’s voice raises an octave and his bushy white eyebrows perform a frustrat- ed dance.
“Yeah. Cayenne pepper and Tabasco sauce.” I suppress a grin. “Don’t you want to hear my plan for revenge?”?“Absolutely not.” I make my way into the bathroom . . . and
shake my head in disgust. I gave it a thorough cleaning only two days ago. “Why aren’t you at breakfast?”
“Nasty scrambled eggs. Hey, I found ’em!”
Curious, I poke my head out to see Frank sitting at the foot of his bed, a pair of toenail clippers in hand. His knee pops as he la- boriously raises his foot and yanks off his sock. He reaches into his shirt pocket and produces a plastic bag full of wet soil. Using the cuticle cleaner attached to the clippers, he scoops up some mud and crams it under his large toenail.
“What are you doing?” I can’t help but ask.?“Dr. Kentucky is coming tomorrow.” He grins.?Dr. Kentucky missed her calling to become a supermodel and
instead became a podiatrist.?“You’re pathetic, Frank.”?“Can you blame me?”?I can’t. Dr. Kentucky is nothing short of intoxicating, which is
why I do my best to avoid her. If she even knows I exist I’d hate to imagine what she would make of me, a thirty-eight-year-old toi- let scrubber.
“Hey,” Frank says, “why don’t you ask her out?”?“Give it up, Frank.”?“Seriously. You’re not that ugly and you two are probably about
the same age. What’s holding you back?” “Drop it.”
“I’ll put in a good word for you.”?“Do you want to scrub your toilet yourself?”
“There’s no need to get all riled up. I’m only trying to help.” He crams more mud under his toenail. “In my lifetime I’ve dated more women than you’ve dreamed about.”
I return my attention to the bathroom and remind myself that I’m here by choice. I’ve been doing this for three years now. I make ten dollars an hour, my job is low stress, I mostly manage myself, and nobody bothers me as long as I keep things clean. There are other perks too. I have plenty of friends. Granted, they’re all forty years older than I am, but they’re wonderful people—present com- pany excluded. I’ll probably stay here until I retire. I won’t even have to move. In the meantime, I can enjoy all-you-can-eat Jell-O in the cafeteria whenever I want.
I make quick work of rectifying the disaster in Frank’s commode and then smile with satisfaction. This is what I want. A simple life. Eager to make my escape from Frank’s company, I arrange my
assorted cleaning supplies in their proper configuration on my cart: bottles organized by category and sub-organized alphabeti- cally with labels facing outward, brushes in their holsters, mop and broom securely fastened. My cart exemplifies humankind’s ability to overcome chaos and defeat the second law of thermodynamics. The universe may be a mess, but my cart is in perfect order.
As I push it out of the bathroom, one of the front wheels snags on the carpet and snaps off. My cart tilts sideways, launching a few bottles overboard.
“You should probably fix that before you spill bleach on my floor,” Frank says. “I don’t want any stains.”
“Look who’s talking. You’re getting mud all over the place.”
“Don’t worry about that. I know just the man who can clean this up.”
“Well, I’d be happy to meet him.”?“I meant you, you numskull. I’ll register a complaint if you don’t.” “I’ll tell Dr. Kentucky how the dirt got under your nails.”
“I’ll bring the vacuum by later on. I’ll even plug it in for you. But mark my words, Frank: I’m not cleaning that mess.”
“I’ll see you later.” I rescue my wayward bottles and carefully limp my damaged cart out the door.
Frank sends me a parting grunt.
My next stop is the Professor’s room. His name is Jerry, but my private nickname for him suits him better. From what I can gather, he holds three doctorates: physics, literature, and psychology. Per- haps philosophy too, but I’m not certain. Regardless, I suspect he knows everything.
“It’s open.” His voice nearly fails to penetrate the wood. Nobody seems to be at breakfast this morning. That means Frank was right. Scrambled eggs must be on the menu. I can say with confidence that this place has the worst scrambled eggs in the entire Western Hemisphere. The Professor once described them fairly adequately when he said they taste like they were fished out of the garbage disposal right before they were slopped onto the plate.
“Good morning, Jerry.” I follow my three-wheeled cart into his room.
Despite his brilliance, the Professor demonstrates exceedingly poor choice in attire. Today he’s decked out in orange pants and a cherry-red polo shirt. I wonder where he acquired his bright yellow socks. His entire wardrobe consists of neon garments, giving him the appearance he strayed from a tropical fish tank.
“Good morning, Doc.” He pulls his reading glasses toward the tip of his nose. With grey hair in disarray and a moustache in need of trimming, he resembles the classic Einsteinian image, and what makes it most authentic is that it is completely unintentional.
I falter for an instant and hope I don’t give him the satisfaction of noticing my surprise at his pregnant greeting. I glance his way as he
lounges in his leather recliner, hardback book minus its dust jacket propped in his lap. He smiles as if he’s solved some great mystery.
“Whatcha reading?” I ignore his triumphant grin.
“It’s called The Information.” He pauses. “It’s quite fascinating— this whole subject of information. Listen to this: ‘In the long run, history is the story of information becoming aware of itself.’ Chew on that for a while.” He stares me straight in the eye. “Say, Doc, how long have we known each other?”
“I’m not sure I follow.”
“Sure you do.” He pounds his chest with his fist, mimicking the rhythm of a beating heart.
A sinking feeling settles in as I realize today will mark the end of the relative peace I’ve managed to find at Heritage Gardens.
Heritage Gardens is a cookie-cutter retirement village located near Temecula off the I-15 between San Diego and Riverside. The sun shines 347 days out of the year here. I like the number 347 because the first two digits add up to the third, it is prime, and it rolls off the tongue. Other interesting but irrelevant facts about the number 347: it is the case number assigned to the Supreme Court ruling in Brown vs. Board of Education in 1954—the case that end- ed segregation in public schools; it is the area code for most tele- phone numbers in New York City; some models of the Boeing 747 have 347 seats; and Plato died in 347 BC.
I am annoyed by the name Heritage Gardens, as I am by most clichés. Why is it that nine out of ten retirement communities must have the word Gardens or Village or Springs in the name? I suppose this is better than an honest name like Ticking Clock or Borrowed Time, but when it comes time for me to find a place to enjoy my final days, I don’t want to be patronized. I’d rather stay in a place called Heaven Can Wait a Little Longer While I Golf.
I don’t golf and I’ve abandoned my belief in heaven, but I’d still prefer that name.
There are several levels of retirement at Heritage Gardens. The first is independent living in condos and small homes. After that, the residents graduate (or get demoted, depending on your per- spective) to the nursing facility, which is where Frank and the Pro- fessor live. The last stop is the mortuary, where the residents em- bark on their ultimate retirement.
In all, there are approximately 126 residents here. Well, not ap- proximately. Exactly. I’m hoping we add one more, because that would be prime. The alternative would be that thirteen residents would have to die so that the total could be 113.
I have invested the past three years in this place, learning to love it, becoming part of it, beginning to imagine how I could become a permanent fixture here.
But now the Professor has somehow managed to slap me in the face with my past.
“Did you think I wouldn’t discover you’re a doctor, Ben?” He closes his book with finality, as if to say, Case closed. I solved the mystery. Now what’s your move?
“I’m not a doctor. I’m a janitor.”
“I’m sorry.” He doesn’t sound very sorry. “You know I can’t let this go.”
“Please let it rest, Jerry.” I turn to leave. I’ll clean his room an- other day.