Sample Sunday – The Chosen

For Sample Sunday I decided to turn the clock back to my first novel, on sale right now for only $2.99. If you haven’t checked out The Chosen, here’s why you should –

“It’s deeply funny, very well written, both in terms of pacing and voice, and fast paced.” – Asa C. Page

“The Chosen by John Hartness is an example of all that is good and joyful in fiction. I love this book. It’s fast paced, very well voiced, and genuinely funny. ” – Keryl Raist

“What I will tell you is that this is a well written work that transcends genre. Its a great book that will keep you entertained on a flight with even a crying kid or two. Don’t grab it when you can’t sleep though. It will keep you going til the sunrise.” – Ken Prevo

See, told you. But if you don’t believe me, here’s a sample!

Chapter 1

I sensed him before I saw him. I always did. I was just sitting there, minding my own business, playing a little blackjack, when I felt his presence over my right shoulder.
I spoke without bothering to turn around. “Hi, Lucky.”
“Big A.”
I hated that. He always had to go there right away. And he was supposed to be subtle. Ass.
“Been here long?” he asked.
“A while. Playing a little cards. You?”
“Well, you know me. I’ve got a place here. I love this town. Everything about it just calls to me.”
“Yeah, I think I heard that somewhere.”
I finally glanced over and gave him the satisfaction of a look. A new image for him this time around—red riding leathers, no helmet of course, black boots, black hair tied back in a ponytail and sunglasses. The sunglasses were kind of a given, I suppose.
“Nice outfit. You look like one of the cavemen in that insurance commercial.”
“Thanks. You, as always, look well put-together.”
I’d never been sure how to take his compliments, and I wasn’t in Las Vegas to think, so I just went for face value. I was wearing a worn t-shirt I’d picked up at a roadside store somewhere in Montana sometime in the past, and a thrift store work shirt with “arry” over the left breast pocket. I didn’t know if it used to say “Larry” or “Harry.” Neither was my name; I just gave Goodwill $2.99 for the shirt.
“Thanks.”
For once, he didn’t press the issue. He sat beside me and slid the dealer a hundred. We played blackjack together for a while, me playing green chips, him moving quickly from green to black to purple, all the way up to the yellow thousand-dollar chips in a couple of short hours. He lost just enough hands to keep from getting thrown out, but not quite enough to keep the eye in the sky from getting suspicious.
“A, looks like we’ve got company.”
“You got a mouse in your pocket? I’m not the one who’s been sitting here counting cards for three hours.”
“Yeah, but I’m not the one who took twenty grand in chips out of my safe deposit box this morning. Chips, I might add, that came from a casino that was demolished a couple decades ago.”
I hated that he always had more information than he rightfully should. To give him his due, he probably had people literally everywhere in town. But it was still annoying. I could admit that visiting a box that hadn’t been touched in years might raise an eyebrow or two, but I still blamed the attention of the lummox in the off-the-rack suit on my unwanted companion’s unabashed card-counting. Either way, the brutes in suits might have had a few questions for me that I wasn’t fully prepared to answer at exactly that moment, so I looked at my old pal Lucky.
“Keys?”
“Might I suggest California? I hear San Francisco’s nice this time of year, and you know how much you love seafood. Why not check out Fisherman’s Wharf? Visit Alcatraz, you know, see the sights a little. My bike’s out front. You’ll know which one. You owe me.”
“We’d have to be even for me to owe you. And we’re not even. This doesn’t even come close. Nowhere near close.”
“You really know how to wound a guy, Big A.”
“Bite me.” I grabbed Lucky’s keys from the table, tossed a green chip to the dealer, and headed for the cage. I spotted another security goon between me and the cashier, so I decided on discretion as the better part of valor, tossed a couple grand in chips into the air, and used the resulting pandemonium to make my less-than-subtle way to the exit. As I glanced back toward the table where I had left Lucky, I noticed that he and the two guards were having a beer and yukking it up like long-lost frat brothers, which for all I knew, they might have been.
He was right; I picked out his bike right away. It was a big, loud ostentatious black thing with flames painted on the gas tank. Subtle. I could have sworn the thing looked hungry. I put the key in the ignition—an apple key chain? Really?—and pointed the machine south down the Strip, putting California firmly behind me as Lucky had suggested.
Okay, so looking back on it, maybe opening a twenty-five-year-old lockbox wasn’t exactly the most under-the-radar move I could have made. I knew that people took out safe deposit boxes in this town all the time. But not all of them paid the rent on those boxes with automatic debits from numbered accounts. I’d just had the bad luck to run into the same security guard that rented me the box the first time, on his first day on the job twenty-five years ago. Little bugger had a good memory, that was for sure. I guess I hadn’t changed much since then. Okay, make that not at all. But I was still blaming Lucky. After all, he’d been taking the blame for things for millennia now, so what was one more little incident?
Maybe I should back up a little. This is as good a time as any for introductions. My name is Adam. No, I don’t have a last name. Yes, that Adam. No, really, you can feel for the rib if you like. But it’s better if you don’t. I’m ticklish.

 

Chapter 2

I rode south a few hours. Just outside of Las Cruces, New Mexico, I pulled over to watch the sunset. And to think. It wasn’t out of the ordinary for Lucky, or Lucypher if we wanted to be precise about it, to show up unannounced, but I hadn’t seen him in years. I wondered what he wanted. He always wanted something, and he usually got it. And it usually wasn’t good to be the one who gave it to him or the one between him and his goals. It was better to sit on the sidelines and watch the carnage, hoping not to get too much splatter on your shoes.
That’s what I’ve done for years—watch. I’ve watched the number of people grow from just a couple to billions of huddled masses, yearning for something or another. I’ve watched people kill each other over pennies in the street, and I’ve watched people give their last breath to help a stranger. And through it all, ever since the Garden, Lucky has been a constant. Always around, always goading something into action. I never know why or what he wants, I just watch.
But our last little interaction was different. For the first time in a long time, Lucky had been goading me. He wanted me to do something, and whatever it was, I didn’t want to do it. The last time I did something he wanted, it didn’t turn out so well for me, so I’d tried to steer clear of his maneuvering since then.
I sat for a while and watched the desert turn from a superheated wasteland to a patchwork canvas of light and rolling shadows. I liked sunsets; they carried the memory of the day before and the promise of the one yet to come.
Eve always preferred sunrises. She said they were more anticipatory, like a held breath before the day exploded like a sneeze all over the world.
Yeah, Eve’s real too. It all is, except for the bit about Lucky being a serpent. That was a little bit of poetic license on Moses’ part. He’d always been creeped out by snakes, so I think the whole serpent thing was just an underhanded way of making sure people overall didn’t like snakes any more than he did. Really, Lucky was our friend, and he was in the Garden with us from the very beginning. Several of the Archangels used to come visit; Gabriel, Ariel, Jophiel, and Metatron were there the most, but after we left the Garden, we saw more of Azrael than we really wanted to.
We really did all live there with all the beasts in perfect harmony. Everybody lived forever, nobody died, and it was all sweetness and light. But that couldn’t last, and it didn’t. Then the whole war in Heaven thing happened, and the angels didn’t come around much after that. When Lucky did come back to visit, he had another agenda in mind—one that changed things for us forever.
Lucky tricked Eve into eating the apple, and she shared it with me. We got kicked out of the Garden and headed off to the land of Nod to live all that stuff you’ve read about since you were a tadpole.
We were out on our own, cast out of our Father’s presence and betrayed by one of our best friends. Things were pretty tough for Eve and me for a long time, and eventually we parted ways. After a long time, and more than a few beers, I managed to forgive Lucky, and we reached an understanding of sorts, but Eve never let it go. Leaving the Garden broke something inside her that never healed.
I guess by now you’ve figured out that we’re immortal. Gaining knowledge of good and evil didn’t do anything to change the whole ‘living forever’ thing we started off with, even though we didn’t completely pass that on to our children. Don’t get me wrong; they lived a good long time. I watched more than one century turn with my kids, but eventually they grew old and died. It seemed that with every generation, they died sooner and sooner until eventually, Eve and I were alone. It didn’t matter what my buddy Clive Lewis wrote about all men being “sons of Adam.” That could never change the fact that my direct sons and daughters were gone.
There I sat, on a little hill in New Mexico, watching the sun go down and trying to figure out what Lucky wanted. He had suggested California, so of course, I headed east, but was that what he wanted me to do in the first place? Lucky was the original trickster, so for him to double- or even triple-think me into going exactly where he wanted me to go wasn’t out of the question.
As I pondered, the first star of the night came winking into view in the east, and I felt my answer. East. I had to go east, and I had to find Eve. Things were gonna get ugly.

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