C. Joseph Greaves is an honors graduate of both the University of Southern California and Boston College Law School who spent 25 years as an L.A. trial lawyer before becoming a writer. He has been a finalist for most of the major awards in crime fiction including the Shamus, Macavity, Lefty, and Audie, as well as the New Mexico-Arizona, Oklahoma, and Colorado Book Awards, the Harper Lee Prize for Legal Fiction, and the CAL Award for Fiction. He is the author of six novels, most recently “Church of the Graveyard Saints,” which was the Four Corners/One Book community reading selection for 2019-2020. You can visit him at www.chuckgreaves.com.
The following is an excerpt from “Church of the Graveyard Saints.”
Each week, The Colorado Sun and Colorado Humanities & Center For The Book feature an excerpt from a Colorado book and an interview with the author. Explore the SunLit archives at coloradosun.com/sunlit.
2020 Colorado Authors League finalist for Mainstream Fiction
He pulled to a stop on the flattened grass and let the engine idle for a ten-count before turning and extracting the key. He waved to Mrs. Nantz whom he knew would be watching him as she watched everyone, guest and resident alike, through the screen door of her trailer. Hearing the telltale squeak of that door, he paused as she stepped into the evening sunlight drying her hands on her apron.
“I sprung another leak,” she told him, as though reporting some personal ailment.
“Under the sink?”
She shook her head. “Toilet. Where that hose thingy runs into the tank.”
“How bad is it?”
“Just a drip. Not like any emergency or nothing.”
“Okay,” he said. “Just give me a minute.”
He tossed his keys onto the coffee table and ducked into his bedroom where he sat on the bed and untied his heavy boots. Standing again, he removed his wallet and set it on the nightstand and shed his coveralls like a dirty blue skin. He found some semi-clean jeans in the laundry pile and stepped into those and was sitting again to retie his boots when he remembered or else felt the crinkle of the folded page in his pocket.
One Man’s Quest to Save the American West.
“You couldn’t save a seat in church,” Colt said to nobody, crumpling the page and banking it into the trashcan as he passed through the kitchen and grabbed his tool box off the floor and headed back outside.
“Like I said, it wasn’t no emergency or nothing.”
Mrs. Nantz was leaning in the doorway of her bathroom where Colt lay sprawled on his back with his head beside a toilet that wasn’t presently leaking and probably never had, Mrs. Nantz being widowed and lonely and generally ignored by the other residents of the trailer park who thought her a busybody, or overly needy, or just bat-shit crazy.
She had a son in New Mexico who sold spas, Mrs. Nantz did, spas being another name for hot tubs. Or so she claimed. Colt had neither met the man nor seen him around. But then she also claimed to have known Colt’s mother from bingo at the Ute Mountain Casino, except that Colt knew for a fact his mother didn’t play bingo and had never set foot in the Ute Mountain Casino.
“I see the problem,” he told her. “I’ll have her fixed in a jiffy.”
“Can I offer you some coffee? Or a glass of water?”
“No, ma’am.” He held pliers aloft. “But could you hand me the ones that looks like these only with the blue handles?”
He closed his eyes and waited as she rummaged his toolbox.
“I heard that Decker girl is back in town. Didn’t you two used to see each other?”
“Yes we did.” Colt’s eyes were open now. “How did you know that?”
“I saw Paulette Hawkins at the Cowbelles. She’d been to Vivian Olsen’s funeral. Said she looked like a young Elizabeth Taylor. The Decker girl that is. Not Vivian. Vivian looked like a wax dummy. Are these the ones you wanted?”
Back in his own trailer, Colt reclined on the sofa with his feet on the coffee table and a cold Bud warming between his thighs. Monday Night Football, Lions and Dolphins tied at three in the third quarter in possibly the worst game of the season, neither team with a quarterback but both with a stout defense. Bunch of commercials for beer and pickups and pills to give you a hard-on, Colt doubly depressed both from watching them and in recognizing himself as their target demographic.
When his mother died senior year it had fallen to Colt to deal with all she’d left behind. Clothes and shoes, pans and dishes, photo albums and cheap bric-a-brac. A lifetime of accumulated crap that in any normal family he imagined the kids might’ve argued over but that Colt had either hauled to Goodwill or else tossed in the dumpster behind Walmart. Now as he looked around his own trailer, bathed in the bluish glow of the television, he wondered at what he might leave behind. More to the point, he wondered who’d give a shit.
That was the thing about bachelorhood. It wasn’t the here and now of it – the happy hour beers or the frozen pizzas or the nightly SportsCenter highlights – so much as the way it colored a man’s long-term thinking.
Take those photo albums for instance. Dozens of pictures of Colt in swim trunks, on horseback, in pads. Not a single shot of his father, the yellowed pages brighter white where photos once had been. He’d imagined its counterpart, an identical album in Reno or Vegas or in the trunk of a car somewhere from which all evidence of his mother had been removed. As though memories were so easily erased. As though the scars left by those missing photos would ever fully heal.
And yet Addie had a father, a flesh-and-blood parent on whom she’d willfully turned her back. Granted, a lot of folks around town thought Logan Decker a real hard case, but Colt wasn’t one of them. They hadn’t seen what he’d seen, which was a man who’d lost his wife young and had maybe overcompensated some by focusing so much attention on his daughter that he’d damn near burned her up. Fried her to a crisp like when you were a kid if you weren’t careful you might burn out a beehive or an anthill or whatever it was you were studying through a glass you held in the sun. And if that was a crime on Logan’s part, well, there were worse crimes to be sure. But to Colt’s way of thinking, there were few worse punishments.
Colt, of course, had his own set of photos – dozens of images on his cell phone, some dating back to high school. A bunch were of him and Addie, his favorite being the one Calvin had taken at Purgatory, both of them laughing like maniacs after Colt had done a header getting off the chairlift and had tackled Addie who’d somehow ended up in his lap. Photos that meant the world to him today but someday after he’d died would be tossed or deleted by someone, probably some stranger, who with a click or a swipe of the finger would make his entire life disappear.
Such were his views on bachelorhood.
“Cry me a river,” he said aloud, flipping through channels in search of a movie. “National Velvet” maybe, or “A Place in the Sun.” But all he found were ads. Ads for pizza, and for insurance, and for rental cars. Ads for Xarelto and Humira, Lyrica and Zoloft.
Side effects might include headaches, dizziness, rashes, nausea, constipation, diarrhea, vomiting, bleeding, infection, depression, heart failure, death.
Call your doctor if you experience an erection lasting more than four years.