08 June 2017

Excerpt Thursday: NONE OF US THE SAME by Jeffrey K. Walker

This week, we're pleased to welcome author JEFFREY K. WALKER with his latest release, NONE OF US THE SAME (Sweet Wine of Youth, Volume 1). One lucky winner will receive a copy of the novel in Kindle format. Join us again on Sunday for an author interview, with more details about the story behind the series. Here's the blurb about the novel.

Fiery Deirdre Brannigan had opinions on everything. She certainly hated the very idea of war in 1914. Childhood pals Jack Oakley and Will Parsons thought it a grand adventure with their friends. But the crushing weight of her guilty conscience pushes Deirdre to leave Ireland and land directly in the fray. Meanwhile the five friends from Newfoundland blithely enlist. After all, the war couldn’t possibly last very long… 

They learn quickly how wrong they are and each is torn apart by the carnage in France.

What began with enthusiastic dreams of parades and dances with handsome young soldiers turned into long days and nights in the hospital wards desperately trying to save lives. And for the good and decent young men in fine new uniforms aching to prove themselves worthy on the field of battle, the horrors of war quickly descended.

But it is also the war which brings them together. Deirdre’s path crosses with Jack and Will when they’re brought to her field hospital the first day of the slaughter on the Somme. Their lives part, their journeys forward fraught with physical and emotional scars tossing them through unexpected and often painful twists and turns. But somehow, a sliver of hope, love and redemption emerges. And their paths cross again in St. John’s.

When the guns finally fall silent, can Deirdre overcome her secret demons through a new life with battered Jack? Can shell-shocked Will confront his despotic father’s expectations to become the man his young family deserves?

**An Excerpt from NONE OF US THE SAME**
Chapter One — Deirdre

The old one in the last bed had riled them again. One of the trainees, impossibly young in a stiff white pinafore, stood pleading and wide-eyed. "I can't bathe Mr. Duffy again, Sister! He…he…touches his…his…nether parts when he sees me comin' with the towel and basin," said the girl, struggling out her careful words in unconcealed mortification. Only the good Lord Himself knew what the Daughters of Charity would make of this poor girl's conundrum. But Deirdre Brannigan was a lay nurse, not that it eased the suffering of the trainee standing before her burning with embarrassment.
"Fetch a friend or two who can hold his arms while you bathe him. 'Tis hard enough keeping everyone and everything clean without your delicate sensibilities aggravating the situation," Deirdre said with mild scolding, calm in the fretting storm.
“I've… I've tried that," the trainee said, two others vouching the truth of her timid protest with vigorous nods. "His… manhood still becomes… quitetall… anyways. And he likewise leers at me in a most distressin' manner." An unsettling murmur rippled across the clustered trainees, tinged with an edge of mutiny. Deirdre knew she must nip this.
"Ladies," she began with deliberate sternness, as if she were not just a few years clear of training herself, "let us be mindful this is a charity hospital with a mission to care for the least fortunate of our Lord's children with kindness and understanding."  She sucked at her cheeks a little, checking a smile that rose from her unintentional imitation of Sister Mary Evangeline. Deirdre soldiered on, channeling the formidable matron. "If our Blessed Mother could bear the pain and sorrow of kneeling by the cross of her precious Son, I would hope and pray you can muster the strength to endure the sight of an addled old man's… nether part. Regardless of its height."  She stared down each trainee, ending with the complainant, who burst into loud sobs.
"Bridget, you're made of sterner stuff. Dry your eyes and blow your nose now." She handed her an immaculate handkerchief, speaking quietly and taking the poor girl aside. "Come along. I’d a few tricks from the sisters when I was a trainee myself. I'll entrust them to you, for use with present and future Mr. Duffys." She turned and gave a backward nod and scowl, signaling the stricken girl should follow and stop her sniffling.
As the two women approached Mr. Duffy's bedside, he was gleaming with lurid anticipation. Running a purple tongue over cracked lips, he reached under the bedclothes and rubbed himself with surprising vigor given his decrepitude. Deirdre, terse and businesslike, pulled his arms over the blanket. "These will remain in plain sight, Mr. Duffy, or I'll have the porters bathe you with lye and the dandy brush from the horses." He fell into an offended silence, shocked by her unexpected bluntness.
After pulling the nightshirt over his head, Deirdre commenced bathing the spent old man, his mind half gone from decades of drink, running a soapy sponge over the yellowed skin of his sunken chest and spindle arms. She handed over the sponge to Bridget for washing his other side. Half done, they pulled the sheet back over his chest, then folded it back from his lower body, leaving him exposed upon the bed. A crooked grin crept across the old man's toothless gob, his withered penis rising from the greasy grey pubic hair. Bridget gave a short gasp and began a turn that Deirdre froze with an icy glance. Drawing a wooden tongue depressor from the pocket of her apron, Deirdre bent it back and thwacked the old man's withered scrotum.
"Aggghhh! Y’are a right demon bitch, y'are! Damn ya to hell, woman!" the old man yelped. He curled on his side, both arms shoved between his legs.
Deirdre turned to Bridget and said, clear and even, "You can finish bathing Mr. Duffy now. He'll be giving no more trouble this day." Not taking her eyes from the old man, she handed the tongue depressor with dignified ceremony to Bridget and said, "I recommend liberal use until such time as he learns to act proper at bath time."
Bridget would share her secret with the others before the hour was out, so Deirdre hoped. She walked back down the double line of beds filled by broken men with a litany of illnesses. Some would soon be back to their poverty and filth. Others would pass to their reward here—perhaps tonight, maybe in a week or a month.
As she reached the day room, the door flew open and trainees flushed out in their identical uniforms, like schoolgirls off to summer holiday. Deirdre halted one by the arm and asked, "What's all the caterwaulin' here? You'll disturb the patients with your silliness."
"'Tis war! Have you not heard, Sister? We're to fight the Germans!" The girl's eyes were wide and wild with anticipation of parades and dances and handsome young soldiers in fine uniforms. She knew the girl had every reason to be thrilled, young as she was. She released her, the girl scampering down the corridor to join with her friends in their jubilation.
In the now deserted room, Deirdre could hear the bells of Dublin—Catholic, Protestant, no matter—commencing to sound. First just the one, probably St. Patrick’s, this side of the Liffey, a few blocks away. Then another, more distant than the first. Likely the Pro Cathedral off Sackville Street, the Catholics joining from the other side. Soon enough, every church in the city added its peal. Above the din, she could make out cheering, a crowd already gathering on St. Stephen's Green. Deirdre stared down from her window, scowling at the burgeoning celebration on the Green below. Speaking to no one, maybe everyone, she muttered into the antiseptic air, under the crescendo of bells.
"Those stupid, stupid old men. What have they gone and done to us now?”

Buy None of Us the Same at: http://amzn.to/2qvJSJm

Learn more about author Jeffrey K. Walker
Website: http://jeffreykwalker.com/ 
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/jeffreykwalker 
Instagram: https://instagram.com/jkwalker.author 
Twitter: @jkwalkerAuthor