Everyman Joe Bass is the very picture of middle-class respectability, with a wife and two kids and a good job in town. His only escape from his remarkably mundane and ordinary life is his favorite pastime—fishing. One day while fishing in the Nolin River, Joe meets a rascally old moonshine man, Edgar J. Johnson, who invites him to fish in his private lake. It’s a dream come true for Joe—the old man’s lake is chockfull of fish—and a genuine friendship develops. That friendship is tested when Joe learns of dark secrets lurking in the old man’s past; virtually every aspect of Johnson’s life had been ruined by alcoholism. Their friendship is tested further when the old man becomes gravely ill, and Joe is the only person who can help. Shine offers the story of an enduring friendship that overcomes all boundaries and obstacles.
ISBN:978-1-60489-036-5 Trade Paper $16.95 Sale $8.50
ISBN: 978-1-60489-035-8 Library Binding $27 Sale $13.50
Mark Heinz was born in Louisville, Kentucky, in 1954. He grew up in nearby Jeffersonville, Indiana, where he co-founded Coyte-Heinz Construction. From 1981 to 1987 he served as a journalist in the U.S. Army. His stories and articles were published in numerous military periodicals, including ARMY TIMES, The Stars and Stripes—European edition, as well as SOLDIER and EurArmy magazines. In 1986 he served in the Office of the Chief of Public Affairs, the Pentagon, where he received the Army Award for Excellence for his journalism. His work has appeared in MidWest Outdoors, Back Home in Kentucky, and Kentucky AFIELD magazines. Mr. Heinz has lived and worked in such diverse places as the Florida Keys, northern Wisconsin, and the San Francisco Bay Area. He currently resides near Nolin River Lake, Kentucky, with his wife and two teenage children. This is his first published novel.
From the Book:
Chance Encounter 1
The old man leant against the railing at the Nolin River Dam and gazed downward at the car-sized roils of water spewing from the spillway. Madly they dashed down the narrow stretch of river, surging and jostling like unruly thoroughbreds fresh out of the starting gate. Occasional sprays of cold water were tossed pell-mell from the maelstrom. The sound of the rampaging water was sufficiently loud to drown out normal speech. Virtually everyone who visited the dam felt compelled to lean against the railing and stare at the raging water below, yet the vast majority lingered but a moment or two. The cold spray and the persistently loud noise made longer viewings unpleasant, and the mere sight of the tumultuous water typically precipitated a sense of vertigo which quickly proceeded to the verge of nausea. Yet the little old man against the railing gazed down at the water for at least several minutes, apparently unbothered by the spray and the sound, and unaffected by the dizzying and mildly nauseating sight of the fast-moving water.
He was quite small, this little old man, just a few inches taller than five feet, and no more than one hundred and thirty pounds. His clothing was abominable, too shabby even for a homeless person, who most probably could and would receive more decent attire at any homeless shelter in the country. His boots were scuffed and worn to a point which prohibited their easy identification; they were in fact of a military type which hadn’t been issued since the Vietnam War. Oversized jeans, cuffed at least six inches above his boots and lapped a similar length about his waist, were hopelessly bespattered with mud and motor oil and innumerable unnamable substances, presenting something like an artist’s palette of filth and grime. Incredibly, his leather winter jacket was even more heavily soiled and stained; its extreme filthiness gave it the appearance of weightiness, as if its original mass had been doubled or trebled by countless layers of grease and grime and dirt. Atop his head, a bright red cap, embroidered in white with the single word, MARLBORO, was the sole article of clothing that didn’t beg for multiple washings or incineration. It was, in fact, apparently new and immaculately clean. Longish wisps of snow-white hair—in sharp contrast with the bright red cap, and a perfect match for the white embroidery—reached an inch or two below the darkly stained collar of his jacket. A snow-white beard wrapped his jaw-line from his ears to his chin, where it culminated in a slightly twisted point that imparted an elfish or gnomish look to his face. His basic black military-style glasses, like his boots, were relics from a bygone era.
Again, he was too shabby and dirty even for a homeless person. Further, he evinced a marked casualness and familiarity which almost certainly identified him as a member of the local citizenry. He exuded nothing that smacked of shame or self-consciousness. On the contrary, he seemed not only comfortable with himself, but rather at ease and self-confident, if not downright proud.
A fisherman, aiming to try his luck on the other side of the river, trudged up the concrete walkway toward the top of the dam where the old man leant against the railing. He saw at a glance the incredible shabbiness of the little old man, but noticed also his casual and easy demeanor. In no conceivable manner did the old man pose a threat, but the fisherman charted a course wide around him anyway, mainly to respect his privacy, and not disturb the apparent rapture induced by his prolonged gazing at the tempestuous water below. The fisherman passed by the old man at a distance of about eight feet—there was not room at the top of the dam to allow a greater berth—and thought his passage unnoticed, when suddenly and unexpectedly the old man wheeled about to face him.
“Do you think it would kill a man if he fell in there?” the old man asked, indicating the spillway with a slight toss of his head, as he closed the distance between them with a few small quick steps.
The fisherman was taken aback by the abruptness of the question, as well as by the fact that the old man’s black military-style glasses contained only one lens. The old man’s eyes were turquoise blue and rather soft—not at all threatening. But it was like looking at a cross-eyed person and trying to determine which eye should be engaged. The fisherman looked first at the naked eye, then at the one behind the lens, back and forth, unable to decide which should gain his favor. His confusion was complicated by the din of the roiling water; he wasn’t sure if he’d heard correctly the old man’s question.
“What?” asked the fisherman, repeatedly searching one blue eye, and then another.
“Do you think it would kill a man if he fell in there?” the old man repeated, practically shouting to make himself heard.
The fisherman’s scrutiny settled on the old man’s naked eye and found there a simple straightforwardness he felt obliged to reciprocate. He stepped somewhat past the old man and peered over the railing. As always, it made him immediately dizzy and nearly nauseous. But he forced his eyes up and down the churning river, and surveyed the scene with a determined objectivity that bordered on the scientific.
Returning to the old man’s side, he shouted through the wisps of snow-white hair, directly into his ear, “If you survived the first forty or fifty feet, and it washed you downriver where it’s not so rough, I think you could survive it.”
A beautiful, almost womanly smile spread across the old man’s face, as he nodded his head and stated emphatically, “Yeah, that’s right. That’s what I think, too.”
Not only was the old man’s smile infectious, the immediate and wholehearted agreement engendered at once a simpatico and camaraderie between the two. The fisherman returned the old man’s smile. But of course the two men could not stand there on the dam structure above the spillway and smile at each other all day. The fisherman nodded curtly at the old man, as if to say ‘nice to make your acquaintance,’ then started again his journey around the top of the dam structure to the far side of the river.
“What are you trying to catch?” the old man asked loudly before the fisherman had quite turned away.
“Anything that bites,” the fisherman replied. “Crappie mostly, I guess.”
“Are you catching any?” the old man asked.
“No, not today. I haven’t had a bite.”
Indeed, the fisherman had fished for more than an hour on the near side of the river without as much as a nibble. He honestly didn’t expect any better results on the other side of the river. But it was Sunday afternoon, and a fairly fine day for December, and he had felt an irresistible urge to escape from his wife and kids for a few hours, fish or no fish.
“You could probably catch some crappie and maybe a few bass in my lake if you wanted,” the old man declared.
“Really?” the fisherman asked. Optimism engulfed him in a great heartwarming embrace. He knew there were private lakes thereabouts absolutely loaded with fish. Most property owners guarded them fiercely, allowing access only to a few friends and family members. But this seemed a fair and friendly invitation. “Where’s your lake at?”
“Not far—about five miles from here,” the old man said. “I’m fixin’ to leave pretty soon. You can follow me home if you want.”
“Sure, that’d be great—thanks,” the fisherman replied warmly, scarcely able to believe his good fortune. A sudden inclination prompted him to formalize the meeting, mainly to secure and finalize the invitation. “My name is Joe Bass,” the fisherman announced. He stooped a bit to place his tackle box on the walkway, and offered his right hand.
“Joe Bass,” echoed the old man, as he gripped the extended hand in his tough leathery mitt. “That’s a good name for a fisherman, ain’t it?”
“Yeah, that’s what they tell me.”