There is a small chapter in Another Sunset, near the beginning of the story, that I especially like (and I’ve included it below as an excerpt).
It deals with the residents just getting to know David, the story’s main protagonist, who has begun to engage with locals. While they are getting to know him and he is getting to know them, he begins to hear a little bit about the history of their hometown of Westville.
David walked across the street with Mel Porter, toward Jim Davenport’s General Store.
“Jim’s place is the last of the General Stores.” Mel pointed east up Route 385, the town’s main artery. “Time was, when the mines were open and the cattle ranches were at full tilt, fifteen years back and over the prior fifty, this whole street was packed each night with local people coming and going. I suppose not as much as you’ve seen back where we all assume you’re from …”
“New York,” David said with an easy smile.
“Well, it’s been said back East, but I’ve heard a couple of people call you Mr. New York,” Mel said as he smiled, and the wrinkles in his face became a bit deeper with the expression.
“As I said to Maria earlier, Mr. Boston is a little more accurate in a particular context.”
Mel’s expression got a little more enthusiastic. “Ah … well, back twenty years ago, this town was nearly six thousand in population. We actually were one of the few areas out here able to maintain a town government and not have to fall under county rule. Seems like a lifetime ago now …”
The two men entered Davenport’s General Store. Mel looked up and smiled over at Jim. “Hi Jim,” he said and stuck his hand out to shake it.
Jim was in his early sixties, taller than David at a little over six feet, and wore his mostly white hair combed backwards, which didn’t quite cover the slight thinning on the top.
David took a quick scan about the store from where he stood. With the exception of food items, which could be found over at Charlotte’s Place, Davenport’s General Store had many of those every-day items that you might need right next door rather than traveling to a bigger town to pick them up: Linens, towels, kitchen items, small hand tools, yard items, and so forth.
Mel turned to David and introduced him.
“Jim Davenport, I’d like you to meet—”
“Mr. New York,” Jim said with a smile.
“Boy, that nickname sure does travel fast,” David said with a grin as he gave Jim’s hand a firm shake. Jim’s grip was tighter than David expected, and it actually took him a little by surprise.
Jim smiled some more. “Small town. Friendly town.”
“Yes. And I’ve seen a few of them along my way while traveling. Were I judging a contest, I’m thinking that Westville would have already captured that credit and I’m not even here one full day.”
“Thank you. We take a lot pride in our town. That’s kind to hear from a stranger.” Jim beamed.
“I mean it. I don’t normally toss around a lot of praise.” David pulled out his cellphone to check the time. He moved it around a little and then put it back in his pocket.
“If you’re not getting a signal for a call …” Mel pointed over toward the pay phone near the courtesy desk.
“No, no. I just wanted to see what time it was so I knew how long I had. You close up in about thirty minutes?”
“If you need a little more time, it’s fine. I’m only closing up and heading over to McNally’s for something to eat, anyway.”
“I’ll try not to hold you up. I did notice the cell service is spotty here, and forget the data network. Are there better locations for reception?” David asked and grabbed a small cart to hold his purchases.
“The closer you get to the Kurtvow property, the better the signals get. Brian Kurtvow paid out of his own pocket to restore that part of the infrastructure.”
“I’m not sure I follow.” David sharpened his attention, as he had some familiarity with the topic.
Mel edged his way into the conversation. “Five years ago, just as they were wrapping up a major infrastructure project to expand the cable television, cellular, and Internet fiber networks in this rural area off a federal grant, a storm rolled through with a large series of tornados. We were spared, as were many towns, simply because we are so spread out. Problem was, the damage caused from the storms took out many of the overhead lines, and some of the substation platforms that housed the systems, and their main junction points. Other than the area around the Kurtvow property and the satellite connections he personally maintains, unless you have the money for the personal satellite dishes, there’s really not much more out here but landlines and dial up service to this day.”
David scratched his head. “Okay, I guess I can understand the setback of a storm, but five years later, nothing?”
“We’re too small a town.” Jim turned and looked about the store. “The next town is San Pecos, twenty miles up 385, and they’re even smaller than us. Fort Alpine is the town east of here. They’re smaller than us, too. The closest larger town is East Sanderson, with fourteen thousand residents, and they’re nearly fifty miles away. The lack of population density doesn’t allow for the service companies to recover their installation or operational costs for decades, even if everyone took the service, which more than half the folks can’t afford. The only reason they were going to sign us up, those that wanted it and could afford it, was because the federal government was paying the installation costs. Once the storm took out that infrastructure …” Jim’s voice trailed off. David understood the rest.
“Well, that’s too bad. It must be hard on the school kids not having the connectivity to help out with their studies.” David took a couple of steps with his carriage, and then stopped and turned back to the two men at the front of the store.
“Say, Doc. What about the library? I saw a little poster on Charlotte’s bulletin board that said Our Library. I recall something on that flyer about bringing a steady Internet connection to the library. That’s the building easterly on 385 on the same side as Charlotte’s Place, right?”
Both Jim and Mel smiled. “Yep. Right near the old Town Hall and the other municipal buildings in that small plaza.” Jim responded first. “That’s our little spitfire Caroline, and her dream for the library. She has the Internet access at the county school in East Sanderson with the rest of the students from there and the surrounding area. Of course, like most of the other kids, when she comes home, it’s either dial up or nothing, because most folks, as I mentioned, don’t have the dish data connections or even dial up, generally due to the expense of it.”
Mel continued. “Caroline has this dream to find a way to get the connection back to the library. I believe the building is all set up for it from the wiring side. We had a grant for computer systems, too, but once the storm took out the external infrastructure and the remainder of the project got cancelled, the grants for the computers got pulled as well.”
David looked at both men for a moment. “Do you think her project has any merit?”
Neither man responded right away. They both looked at David as if to quantify the question. Jim finally said, “Well, it’s not without its merits, but most of us don’t have the money to donate to a project like that. A few folks have the wiring know how, but you still need to purchase the computer hardware. And even if that could be done, you have to have the money to service and maintain it monthly.”
“Money helps.” David nodded. “But it isn’t everything. You can have all the money for something, but without the will to do it, it will fail. When people feel like they have skin in the game and some ownership, it’s more powerful than any other currency. There was money for the project before the storm. The storm was a setback. More money could have been lobbied for, and I bet there was some level of insurance coverage. Whoever sponsored the bill for the original money lost their will. Either that or something else happened.”
Mel leaned back against the checkout counter as he offered his reply. “Senator Foreman. He wasn’t reelected. He actually didn’t run again. He retired. Said his bit for the people was done. He sponsored the original bill and got the original funding. After he left, no one picked up the ball.”
“You said this was all about five years ago?” David asked.
“Well, the bill passed about ten years since. Then there was setup and so forth. I guess the major work began seven or eight years ago. They were just about done five years back, like I mentioned, when the storm took everything out.”
David prodded some more, “So this is Caroline’s idea?”
Mel smiled and replied with a little skip in his voice, “Who else but a child could dream that big?”
David smiled back. “Children aren’t held back by the obstacles of adults. They’re too young to see them.”
David grinned and then departed down the aisle to pick up his items, while the two men stood in silence over his comments.
About Another Sunset
David Stephenson is a kind drifter who comes to settle in the small Texas town of Westville. His sense, empathy, and awareness are well received by the residents of the failing town as they welcome and befriend him. During his stay he helps a small local girl try to realize her dream and while doing so excites and energizes the whole town to help out. Lives change as fate takes a critical turn. The local would-be reporter, tasked by David’s longtime friend, takes off on a mission to unravel the mystery of his travels, where he came from, and discovers why he is on his journey.
“The author has a nice way of weaving together a touching story that definitely tugged at those heartstrings”
“Endearing characters, well-paced dialogue, and valuable lessons…all the components of fantastic book”
“Instead of the fast pace of stories that tell too much, too soon, Another Sunset moved its pace along with detail that helped really form its characters. It gave plenty of time to delve into the story and not be able to fully discern where the story was going (which I like – I don’t like to be able to script out what’s going to happen! Surprise me!)”
Books and links
As Life Goes: The End of the Innocence – (expected November 2015)
As Life Goes: The Reunion – (expected April 2016)
As Life Goes: The Wedding (expected July 2016)
As Life Goes: The Funeral (expected October 2016)
I Hero: Untitled Book 3 (Expected first half 2016)
I Hero: Untitled Book 4 (Expected second half 2016)
I Hero: Untitled Book 5 (Expected first half 2017)
Social Media Links
The GUNDERSTONE Review
ABOUT JASON ZANDRI
Jason has been working in the information technology field in one form or the other since 1996. He is currently employed full time at Bloomberg LP as a Systems Engineer in the R&D group. Jason lives in Wallingford Connecticut, with his wife Renata. He is the father to four children, three boys and 1 girl – 11 years (Andrew), 9 years (Angela), 7 years (Adam) and 6 years old (Alex).