Here’s a video I made of me reading chapter one of my new book, The Secret Manuscript, which was published in August of 2014. If you haven’t already purchased a copy, it’s available in every major ebook store. For those who want to follow along at home, here is the text for chapter one.
The Secret Manuscript – Chapter One
Ben pulled out a knife from his back pocket and extracted the blade. Piercing the sharp edge into a corrugated box, he slid the razor between the two flaps that were being held together by a strip of tape. He proceeded to slice off the flaps to prepare yet another box for the floor.
For the most part, Ben kept his head down and worked diligently and unsupervised all morning. He fought the temptation to look at the clock as he knew that would only make time seem to go slower. The only joy of working in the stockroom of a grocery store was that there would be several deliveries throughout the day, giving Ben a chance to be outside and enjoy the fresh air and sunshine, even if it was just from the loading docks. The rest of the day, he was stuck in the chilly stockroom under the dim lighting, contemplating his life choices.
A small radio played soft rock while he worked. Over the tunes, Ben heard a voice shout to him.
“Hey, B.O., I need you in aisle six!” his manager, Chad, demanded.
“Somebody dropped a jar of pickles,” Chad said.
“Okay, I’ll get right on it,” Ben replied.
“I’ll be deducting the cost of the pickles from your paycheque.”
“What? You can’t do that.”
“First of all, don’t talk back to me,” Chad said aggressively as he approached Ben in threatening manner. “Second, someone has to pay for those pickles. Pickles aren’t free you know.”
It was the worst logic Ben had ever heard, but he decided to let it go. Unfortunately for him, he needed the job to support his meaningless existence.
“Yes, sir,” he said submissively.
Ben hung his head low and begrudgingly walked to the back to retrieve the usual clean-up supplies. He returned to the sales floor, wheeling a mop and bucket with one hand and carrying a broom and dustpan in the other. The resentful look on his face caught the attention of an attractive girl who was about his age. She must have overheard the discourse between Ben and his manager because she approached him and offered some words of encouragement.
“Don’t worry about him, he’s a jerk,” she said.
“Thanks,” Ben replied. He looked at the woman in awe. In his mind, he quickly made the following deductions — attractive woman in Cold Lake, must be from out of town, must have a boyfriend, probability of getting her… zero. Whatever Ben’s confidence was before he started mopping up pickles in his dorky uniform had now been reduced substantially. The only sensible thing to do was to forget about her and get his work done before he got into any trouble.
As Ben pushed the dirty mop back and forth through the sticky pickle juice, a thousand thoughts ran through his mind. He questioned whether the flack he received from Chad was worth it. Being a stock boy for the local grocery store was not how he envisioned his adult life, but he took solace in the fact he was at least not making minimum wage. For all that the job did not offer, there were a few perks. The main one being the discount he received on all his groceries. Having that reduced his cost of living, making it seem like he was earning more money than he actually was.
It was a task-based job comprised mostly of stocking shelves, handling incoming shipments, and doing the occasional clean up. He could simply come into work, put his head down for a few hours, and not have to deal with people. In fact, he enjoyed the solitude. That way he could get the real work done — creating characters, plotting stories, and developing dialogue. He would store all this information in his head throughout the day, then after his shift, he would go home and write.
However, his one-time dream of being a published author was being crushed with every waking moment. The reality was that he lived in a small town of less than 2,500 people, so being anything other than what he was — a menial worker — was an unlikely prospect.
Upon completing high school in Cold Lake, kids usually did one of three things: move to a bigger city to attend college, move to a bigger city to find work, or stay in town and work some dead-end job. The latter was what Ben had chosen to do — the typical choice of the unaspiring working-class citizen. Nobody really wanted to stay in Cold Lake, Alberta. Those who did slowly withered away leaving behind a hollow legacy of nothingness. Ben did not want that to happen to him. Instead, he wanted to find his purpose, a reason for existing, but from his current standpoint, his future looked bleak.
What made matters worse was the grocery store manager, Chad. He was a few years older than Ben and by this point in his life had worked his way up to a management position. The gross abuse of power was evident in nearly every decision and directive he made. For the unaspiring, having authority over others quickly fostered delusions of grandeur. Those who wielded the minutest of power rationalized their position as having a natural superiority over their subordinates. Chad was no exception. He made everybody’s life there a living hell, especially Ben’s. Ever since Chad was promoted, Ben had been looking for a way out — any way.