Hooking the reader in your novel
Opening pages of Chasing God's River
Wade Jones stood in the shower and yawned. He had originally planned his day for the garage, stripping the antique nightstand that he and his wife Katie had found at the yard sale in Hillerman Heights the previous weekend.
Instead, what he got was an eight-thirty phone call from Doctor Lieverman’s assistant. The doctor wanted to check his remaining testicle again, grab another blood and urine test for tumor markers, get a serum testosterone level and maybe try to bank some sperm.
"Just a simple lube job," the doctor’s assistant quipped over the phone.
His female doctor was a godsend, an excellent physician with good information. Because of her, he might become a father some day and for that, he was grateful. The cancer could have spread to his abdominal lymph nodes, lungs, bones, liver, maybe even his brain.
Katie was the one who noticed the signs – he was losing weight, eating less and complaining of lower back pain. The back pain he attributed to old sports injuries. But one night, while attempting to make love, Wade complained of pain in his scrotum and when Katie playfully ran her fingers over his nipples he pulled her hand away.
"That hurts," he had apologized.
The next day, his wife ordered him to get a physical. After that, his personal physician sent him to Doctor Lieverman and the race against cancer was on.
He rinsed off the hair conditioner and watched the froth puddle at his feet.
Wade had done a lot of work around the house, even before the cancer was found. Finding a job was the last thing he wanted to pursue. He had a college degree. He was six-feet tall and smart, good-looking for thirty-five. He was also a kayaking hero to a handful of somebodies somewhere. The cancer was just an inconvenience. Wade knew what he had to do to get back in the real world soon. The only nibble at an opportunity was a commission job shaving down fiberglass surfboards and kayaks at a local beach shop, but the owner was taking a "wait and see" approach because of the cancer, promising Wade a space when a clean bill of health was provided.
Wade ran his fingers along his deadened pink scar. He had a bikini line now, a four-inch incision running across the lower abdomen on his left side from the orchiectomy – a surgery to remove one of his beloved testicles using an inguinal incision. They put him under general anesthesia during the surgery. The incision sounded like a simple long snip. After she made the cut, the good doctor pushed the left testicle up through the pelvis and out it came with a ‘pop’. A snip, snip, and tie followed. The whole surgery took forty-five minutes.
Wade was home the same day before the pain medication wore off. That was almost three months ago.
He grabbed a towel and stepped out of the shower stall, thinking of the summer kayaking circuit again. He had made a few secret phone calls in the past few days to old friends, but he was just poking around, making inquiries.
Who am I kidding anyway?
In the past months, he'd been through the chemotherapy regimens used to kill the cancer and so far it seemed to work. Wade had lost twenty pounds since they found the cancer. Twenty pounds of practiced muscle and sinew. Now the chemo was over and everyone was watching the healing clock. His hair was coming back fine. On his last visit, according to Doctor Lieverman, it seemed the chemo had worked and killed all the germ cells and so it stood to reason that he wasn't going to have a whole lot of sperm anytime soon. At least, no sperm with fish swimming upstream. The good doctor said that for fifty percent of men the sperm counts returned to normal in two to three years and for a select few even sooner.
"Depends on the quality of the sperm," she said. "Like karats in a diamond."
The doctor gave Wade a five-minute pep talk about sperm being genetic and since he had five siblings, it was all looking good.
"Good genes," she reassured him.
He banked some sperm before the surgery and the chemo treatments began. A whole vault full. Enough to repopulate an entire city, it seemed. He wondered aloud where they kept all that banked sperm. "Is it a savings account or a checking account? Does it gain interest or lose interest? Do they keep it in a hospital or a mini-storage unit? What happens if the power goes out and the refrigeration is kaput?"
A physician’s assistant had examined a sperm sample under a microscope. "You have good sperm. High quality," she reassured him with a smile.
The tumor attached to his lost testicle turned out to be malignant so the sperm bank turned out to be a great idea after all. Doctor Lieverman explained why the surgery was an absolute necessity. Doing a biopsy in that area of a man's body might cause the cancer to cross-contaminate and spread and then he might lose his other "ball."
He didn't know why men called their testes balls. He thought eggs or walnuts a better name.
Katie sat through the ultrasound as moral support, talking with the doctor about scrotal sacks and lymph nodes and testicular cancer having a tendency to "run north."
That Katie. Gotta love her.
When the pathology report came back from the lab on his removed testicle, everyone was relieved. It appeared Wade had beaten the cancer. So he was down to one remaining testicle. It was all he needed to grow hair, have intercourse, and make babies. Now all he had to do was wait and see if he could get an erection again.
After his morning visit to see the doctor, he'd taken his kayak down to San Diego Bay and worked out for almost two hours. He would have paddled in Mission Bay but didn't want to risk the chance of Katie seeing him out on the open water. He was afraid of hurting his wife. She was the center of his universe.
After he dressed, Wade contemplated going out to the garage to start stripping the nightstand. He decided to take an afternoon nap instead.
It's the water that's missing in our lives. The water.
His rivers had run dry and a mean sea had replaced Katie’s lakes.
Wade Jones, former world champion kayaker, was ready to change their future. All he needed was a few returned phone calls to start the process. All he needed was the ripple of a small pebble into the stale pond that had become their life together.
All he needed was a swift kick in the ass by any old friend to jump-start him again.