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       The Walk, p.1

           Richard Paul Evans
 
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The Walk


  Also by Richard Paul Evans

  The Christmas List

  Grace

  The Gift

  Finding Noel

  The Sunflower

  A Perfect Day

  The Last Promise

  The Christmas Box Miracle

  The Carousel

  The Looking Glass

  The Locket

  The Letter

  Timepiece

  The Christmas Box

  For Children

  The Dance

  The Christmas Candle

  The Spyglass

  The Tower

  The Light of Christmas

  Richard Paul Evans

  The Walk

  Simon & Schuster

  1230 Avenue of the Americas

  New York, NY 10020

  www.SimonandSchuster.com

  This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and

  incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or

  are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events

  or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

  Copyright © 2010 by Richard Paul Evans

  All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this book or

  portions thereof in any form whatsoever. For information address

  Simon & Schuster Subsidiary Rights Department,

  1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020

  First Simon & Schuster hardcover edition April 2010

  SIMON & SCHUSTER and colophon are registered trademarks

  of Simon & Schuster, Inc.

  For information about special discounts for bulk purchases,

  please contact Simon & Schuster Special Sales at

  1-866-506-1949 or [email protected]

  The Simon & Schuster Speakers Bureau can bring authors

  to your live event. For more information or to book an event,

  contact the Simon & Schuster Speakers Bureau at

  1-866-248-3049 or visit our website at www.simonspeakers.com.

  Designed by Davina Mock-Maniscalco

  Manufactured in the United States of America

  1 3 5 7 9 10 8 6 4 2

  Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

  Evans, Richard Paul.

  The walk / Richard Paul Evans.

  p. cm.

  1. Voyages and travels—Fiction. 2. Identity (Psychology)—Fiction.

  3. Diary fiction. I. Title.

  PS3555.V259W35 2010

  813'.54—dc22 2009052981

  ISBN 978-1-4391-8731-9

  eISBN-13: 978-1-4391-9990-9

  Acknowledgments

  Foremost, I wish to thank my friend, Leo Thomas (Tom) Gandley, who lived more of this book than anyone would choose to. I know that it was oftentimes difficult to share the loss of your own “McKale,” and I am grateful for your contribution to this book.

  Also, Karen Christoffersen and her beloved Al. May his name live on around the world through these books.

  I also wish to thank the usual suspects, with a few changes to the line-up. First of all my friend and former editor, Sydny Miner. It has been a pleasure working with you for more than a decade. I wish you well. Amanda, I look forward to walking on with you. Thanks for your help.

  David Rosenthal and Carolyn Reidy for believing in the idea for this series.

  Gypsy da Silva for enduring my impossible schedules with a smile. Liss, for being my advocate and friend. I

  love you.

  Dr. Brent Mabey and Caitlin James for research assistance. The wonderful staff at the Redmond, Washington, Marriott, who set us on the right path.

  Lisa Johnson, Barry Evans, Miche Barbosa, Diane Glad, Heather McVey, Judy Schiffman, Fran Platt, Lisa McDonald, Sherri Engar, Doug Smith, and Barbara Thompson.

  My family: Keri, Jenna and David Welch, Allyson-Danica, Abigail, McKenna, and Michael. Jenna, thanks again for your help, love, and insight. Now get your own book done!

  And, of course, my dear readers. Welcome to my walk.

  —Richard

  To my father, David O. Evans

  The Walk

  PROLOGUE

  Dear Alan,

  As you write the story of your walk, I offer you some writing advice from one of your favorite authors, Lewis Carroll:

  “Begin at the beginning and go on till you come to the end; then stop.”

  Alan Christoffersen’s diary

  My name is Alan Christoffersen. You don’t know me. “Just another book in the library,” my father would say. “Unopened and unread.” You have no idea how far I’ve come or what I’ve lost. More important, you have no idea what I’ve found.

  I’m no one important or famous. No matter. It is better to be loved by one person who knows your soul than millions who don’t even know your phone number. I have loved and been loved as deeply as a man can hope for, which makes me a lucky man. It also means that I have suffered. Life has taught me that to fly, you must first accept the possibility of falling.

  I don’t know if anyone will ever read what I’m writing. But if you are holding this book, then you have found my story. You are now my fellow sojourner. If you find something in my journey that will help with yours, keep it.

  Some might call this a love story. Those without love will call it a travelogue. To me, it is one man’s journey to find hope. There are things that happened to me that you might not believe. There were lessons learned that you might not be ready for. No matter. Accept or dismiss what you will. But let me warn you in advance—which is more than I got—that what you read won’t be easy. But it’s a story worth telling. It’s the story of my walk.

  CHAPTER

  One

  “Above all, do not lose your desire to walk. I know of no thought so burdensome that one cannot walk away from it.”

  —Kierkegaard

  Alan Christoffersen’s diary

  According to legend, once the sand of Key West is in your shoes, you cannot go back from whence you came. It is true for me. I’m alone on the beach watching the blood-red sun baptized in the Gulf of Mexico. And there is no returning to what I left behind.

  The air is saturated with the smells of salt water and kelp and the sounds of breaking waves and screeching seagulls. Some part of me wonders if this might be a dream and hopes I’ll wake in bed and find that I’m still in Seattle, and McKale is gently running her fingernails up and down my back. She would whisper, “Are you awake, my love?” I would turn to her and say, “You’ll never believe what I just dreamed.”

  But it’s no dream. I’ve walked the entire length of the country. And the woman I love is never coming back.

  The water before me is as blue as windshield wiper fluid. I feel the twilight breeze against my unshaven, sunburned face, and I close my eyes. I’ve come a long way to get here—nearly 3,500 miles. But, in ways, I’ve come much further. Journeys cannot always be measured in physical distance.

  I slide the backpack off my shoulders and sit down on the sand to untie my shoes and pull off my socks. My threadbare, once white, now-gray cotton socks stick to my feet as I peel them off. Then I step forward on the wet, shell-studded sand and wait for the receding water to return and cover my feet. I’ve had hundreds of hours to think about this moment, and I let it all roll over me: the wind, the water, the past and present, the world I left behind, the people and towns along the way. It’s hard to believe I’m finally here.

  After a few minutes, I go back and sit cross-legged in the sand next to my pack and do what I always do at the pivotal moments of my life: I take out a pen, open my diary, and begin to write.

  My writing habit began long ago—long before this diary, long before my walk. The Christmas I was eight years old, my mo
ther gave me my first diary. It was a small, yellow vinyl book debossed with deep flourishes. My favorite feature was its brass key and lock. It made me feel important to have something in my life of such consequence that I needed to lock it up from the world. That Christmas night was the first time in my life that I wrote in a diary. I figured with the lock and all, only I would be reading it, so I wrote the entry to myself, a habit I would continue the rest of my life.

  Dear Alan,

  Today is Christmas. I got a Rock’em Sockem Robots, a set of walky-talkys and red sweetish fish that I already ate. Mom gave me this diary with a lock and key and told me I should write every day. I asked her to write on my first page.

  My Dear Son,

  Thank you for letting me write in your special book. And Merry Christmas! It is a very special Christmas.

  You will someday understand this. Every so often read these words and remember how much I love you and always will.

  —Mom

  Mom says it doesn’t matter what I write and if I wait to write just the importent things then I’ll probly never write anything, because importent things just look like everything else except when you look back on them. The thing is to write what yor thinking and feelling. Mom looked better today. I think she’ll be better soon.

  I’ve touched that writing so often that it’s barely legible. My mother’s entry was one of those events she spoke of, the kind that look like nothing except through time’s rearview mirror. My mother died from breast cancer forty-nine days later—on Valentine’s Day.

  It was early in the morning, before I usually got up for school, that my father led me into the room to see her. On the nightstand next to her bed there was a single yellow rose in a bud vase and my homemade Valentine’s card, with a drawing of a heart with an arrow through it. Her body was there, but she wasn’t. She would have smiled and called to me. She would have praised my drawing. I knew she wasn’t there.

  In my father’s typical stoic manner, we never spoke about her death. We never talked about feelings nor the things that gave rise to them. That morning he made me breakfast, then we sat at the table, listening to the silence. The people from the mortuary came and went, and my father managed everything with the steadiness of a business transaction. I’m not saying he didn’t care. He just didn’t know how to show his feelings. That was my father. I never once kissed him. That’s just the way he was.

  The reason we start things is rarely the reason we continue them.

  Alan Christoffersen’s Road Diary

  I started writing in my diary because my mother told me to. After her death, I continued because to stop would be to break a chain that connected me to her. Then, gradually, even that changed. I didn’t realize it at the time, but the reason I wrote was always changing. As I grew older, I wrote as proof of my existence. I write, there-

  fore I am.

  I am. In each of us, there is something that, for better or worse, wants the world to know we existed. This is my story—my witness of myself and the greatest journey of my life. It began when I least expected it. At a time when I thought nothing could possibly go wrong.

  CHAPTER

  Two

  The garden of Eden is an archetype for all who have lost, which is the whole of humanity. To have is to lose, as to live is to die. Still, I envy Adam. For though he lost Eden, he still had his Eve.

  Alan Christoffersen’s diary

  Before my world collapsed, I was a Seattle advertising executive, though, admittedly, that title rings a bit pretentious for someone who decorated his office with Aquaman figurines and Einstein posters. I was an ad guy. You could ask what got me into this line of business, but I really couldn’t tell you. It’s just something I always wanted to do. Maybe it was because I wanted to be Darrin on Bewitched. (I had a boyhood crush on Elizabeth Montgomery.) In 1998, I graduated from college in graphic design and landed a job before the ink on my diploma dried.

  I thrived in the ad world and relished the life of a young rising star. A wunderkind. I won two ADDY’s my first year and four the next. Then, after three years of making my bosses rich, I followed the preferred path of ad agencies, law firms, and organized religion and split off to form my own company. I was only twenty-eight years old when they pressed the name of my agency in vinyl lettering on my office door.

  MADGIC

  Advertising and Graphic Design

  The company grew from two employees to a dozen in just nine weeks, and I was making more money than a Barbra Streisand ticket scalper. One of my clients proclaimed me a poster boy for the American dream. After two years, I had all the accoutrements of material success: my own business, a Lexus sports coupe, European vacations, and a beautiful, $1.9 million home in Bridle Trails—an exclusive, wooded neighborhood just north of Bellevue with an equestrian park and riding trails instead of sidewalks.

  And, to complete this picture of success, I had a wife I adored—a brunette beauty named McKale. Potential clients would ask me if I could sell their products, and I would show them a picture of McKale and say, “I got her to marry me,” and they would nod in astonishment and give me their business.

  McKale was the love of my life and, literally, the girl next door. I met her when I had just turned nine, about four months after my mother died and my father moved us from Colorado to Arcadia, California.

  It was late summer, and McKale was sitting alone in her front yard at a card table, selling Kool-Aid from a glass pitcher. She wore a short, above-the-knee skirt with pink cowboy boots. I asked her if I could help, and she looked me over for a moment then said, “No.”

  I ran upstairs to my bedroom and drew her a large, poster board–sized sign:

  Kold Kool-Ade

  Just 10¢

  (I thought the K on Kold was a nice touch.) I went back down and presented my creation. She liked my sign enough to let me sit next to her. I suppose that’s really why I got into advertising: to get the girl. We talked and drank Dixie cups of her black cherry elixir, which she still made me pay for. She was beautiful. She had perfect features: long, coffee-brown hair, freckles, and chocolate-syrup brown eyes that even an ad guy couldn’t over hype. We ended up spending a lot of time together that summer. Actually, every summer from then on.

  Like me, McKale had no siblings. And she too had been through tough times. Her parents divorced about two months before we moved in. As she told the story, it wasn’t a usual divorce preceded by a lot of yelling and breaking of things. Her mother just up and left, leaving her alone with her father, Sam. McKale’s mind was always processing what had gone wrong though, at times, she seemed stuck, like when a computer locks up and you sit there watching the hourglass, waiting for something to happen. It’s a shame that humans don’t come with reset buttons.

  Our broken pieces fit together. We shared our deepest secrets, insecurities, fears, and, at times, our hearts. When I was ten, I started calling her Mickey. She liked that. It was the same year we built a tree house in her backyard. We spent a lot of time in it. We played board games, like Mouse Trap and Sorry, and we even had sleepovers. On her eleventh birthday, I found her there sitting in the corner, crying hysterically. When she could speak, she said, “How could she leave me? How could a mother just do that?” She wiped her eyes angrily.

  I couldn’t answer her. I had wondered the same thing.

  “You’re lucky your mother died,” she said.

  I didn’t like that. “I’m lucky my mother died?”

  Between sobs she said, “Your mother would have stayed if she could. My mother chose to leave me. She’s still out there somewhere. I wish she had died instead.”

  I sat down next to her and put my arm around her. “I’ll never leave you.”

  She laid her head on my shoulder. “I know.”

  McKale was my guide to the female world. One time she wanted to kiss just to see what the big deal was. We kissed for about five minutes. I liked it. A lot. I’m not so sure she did because she never asked to do it again, so we didn’t.


  That was the way it was with us. If McKale didn’t like something, we didn’t do it. I could never figure out why she always got to make the rules, but I always followed them. I eventually decided that’s just how things were.

  She was very frank about growing up a girl. Sometimes I’d ask her things, and she’d say, “I don’t know. This is new to me too.”

  When she was thirteen, I asked her why she didn’t have girlfriends.

  She answered as if she’d given it a lot of thought. “I don’t like girls.”

  “Why?”

  “I don’t trust them.” Then she added, “I like horses.”

  McKale went horseback riding just about every week. Every month or so, she invited me to come, but I always told her I was busy. The truth was that I was terrified of horses. Once, when I was seven, Dad, Mom, and I took a summer vacation to a dude ranch in Wyoming called Juanita Hot Springs. On our second day, we went on a horseback ride. My horse was a paint named Cherokee. I had never been on a horse before, so I held onto the leather saddle horn with one hand and the reins with the other, hating every moment of it. During the ride, some of the cowboys decided to race, and my horse decided to join them. When he bolted, I dropped the reins and clung to the horn, screaming for help. Fortunately, one of the cowboys turned back to rescue me, though he couldn’t hide his contempt for my “city boy” ways. All he said was, “I been riding since I was three.” Not surprisingly, I never shared McKale’s love of horses.

 
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