A compelling and imaginative story, not just about death but about life and emotional growth, a broken woman's journey towards learning to trust again.
Successful yet emotionally stifled artist Kate Flaherty stands at thedeathbed of her estranged father, conflicted by his morphine-induced confession exposing his part in her mother's death. While racing home, Kate's care mishap leads her to a soul-searching discussion with a lone diner employee, prompting Kate to confront the true reasons her marriage hangs in the balance. When her night takes an unexpected turn, however, she flees for her life, a life desperate for faith that can only be found through her ability to forgive.
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CHAPTER ONE: The Journey Begins...
The last grain of sand was about to drop in her father's invisible hourglass and there was nothing Kate Flaherty could do to stop it. The realization launched a shudder up her spine. She'd known this day was inevitable. Yet it still came as a shock when she'd learned only hours ago that his final days had arrived. She should have come back sooner.
No--it was his fault, not hers. She'd had every right to stay away after discovering the truth. So why did she feel remorse encroaching on her anger, his gurgling breaths draining strength from her limbs?
In his curtain-drawn bedroom, she perched on the edge of the mattress, a few inches away from what had become a mere sketch of a man. The lamp's amber glow cast shadows across his features, accentuating how much he'd deteriorated in just under a month.
Surgery, chemo, radiation therapy. For two years, she'd watched his heavyset frame shrink with every trip to the hospital, his sixty-three year old body blast through a time warp. But never ravaged to this extent. She barely recognized the sheeted man beside her. Mussed strands of thin, ghost-white hair, matching jagged mustache, and stubbly chin were all that remained of the father she knew. He was more of a stranger than ever before.
Slowly, he lifted his eyelids and turned his face. When their gazes met, a spark of recognition flickered. "You're here," he rasped as he reached for her hand.
She accepted reluctantly. His palm was cold and clammy, his skin sallow and tissue-thin. She swallowed hard, wanting to pull away, but the child in her resisted, the part of her that had never stopped longing for his affection.
"Where've you been?" He inhaled a labored breath. "I was waiting for ya."
"I..." A lump of guilt formed in her throat, blocking any answer.
"Is the baby ready?"
She stared at him, shocked. His words made no sense. "What, Dad?"
"We gotta go. Don't wanna hit traffic, Iris."
Kate's heart plummeted before she could remind herself of what he'd done. She slipped her hand away and clenched her fists, her nails biting into her palms. She tried to reignite the rage she was entitled to, but he appeared so defenseless, she summoned only the foreboding of imminent loss. She leaned toward him. His gaze fixed on the ceiling. All she had to do was say good-bye, just as she'd done countless times throughout her youth. It would be a relief--for both of them. "Dad, it's me, Katie."
"Mmm. Smells so good."
She sniffed automatically, half-expecting the aroma of her father's favorite rosemary-garlic potatoes roasting in the kitchen down the hall. Instead, she inhaled only the nauseating odor of disinfectant, bodily fluids and medication. Her stomach reeled. "Dad, can you hear me?"
"How long till supper, darlin'?" The question caught her off guard.
"Are you hungry?"
"He can't eat anymore, dear," a woman reported from behind her. Kate turned toward the doorway where Doris Shaffer stood. The portly hospice nurse, her knotted hair as white as her smock, looked on with kind eyes. When Doris's comment sunk in, a wave of horror rolled over Kate.
"What about his protein drinks?"
"He isn't able to keep any food down, I'm afraid."
As though cancer wasn't bad enough. Now he was starving.
"You're welcome to give him some ice chips. I'm sure he'd like that." Doris pointed at the nightstand next to Kate. There, on the corner of the table, his thick-rimmed glasses rested beside the remote control for the small television he'd watched during her last series of visits--visits in which The Price is Right appeared more interesting than any conversation she had to offer. But then, after all these years, why had she expected anything different?
In the center of an aged doily sat a metal soup bowl dotted with condensation and filled with a mound of ice slivers. She glanced at the raw corners of her father's mouth. Compassion guided her hand to retrieve the spoon poking out from the bowl.
"Lamb, corn, potatoes..." As he rambled off the menu, Kate pictured her apron-clad mother peeking into the window of the heated oven. But just as her mom had vanished from their lives, so did the image. "Think I'll need a bigger belt," he said and chuckled, a sound Kate hadn't heard in years.
She placed a spoonful of melting ice on his tongue, and without taking her gaze off his face, she asked Doris in an even tone, "Isn't there anything else you can do for him?"
"At this stage, we're just trying to keep him comfortable."
At this stage. Such finality in those words. Kate fought the tremble in her hand as she transported a second scoop toward his mouth, but a good portion landed on the crumpled sheet. Immediately, she set down the spoon and brushed the ice off the bed in frantic sweeps. She had to get this over with. "Dad, can you hear me?"
"The showerhead needs changing." He'd begun to slur.
"Closet door needs oiling..." He trailed off in a gurgle.
"It's the morphine," Doris explained. "Sends him off on tangents that don't make a whole lot of sense."
Not always the case. Sometimes those tangents made all too much sense.
Professional Reviews Five Stars from Midwest Book Review
"One crushing truth often leads one to more. "Flaherty's Crossing" is the story of Kate Flaherty as she tries to come to terms the truths that surround her life that she has often ignored. With her father revealing facts about her mother, a car accident sending her into soul searching, Kate's first response is to run away from it all, only to find running never changes anything. "Flaherty's Crossing" is a powerful and inspiring read, highly recommended."
• MIDWEST BOOK REVIEW, Oregon, WI USA
"There are plenty of love stories that can whisk us away from the less-than-perfect reality of our lives. "Flaherty's Crossing" not only entertains, enlightens and inspires, but returns us to Earth with a new appreciation for those we love and what we have. I am delighted to have the privilege of adapting Kaylin McFarren's impressive first novel for the screen."
• KATHY SLEVIN, Screenwriter, Los Angeles, California
Chicago Sun-Times Review
"Flaherty's Crossing" by Kaylin McFarren is a beautiful story. The author does an incredible job of presenting the story in vivid detail. We are taken into the minds and hearts of the characters. As you read, you will feel the same anguish that they each felt in dealing with their own issues. In your heart, you will also feel their love and their hope for a better future. Even though it is a fictional story, it made me reflect on my own life, and how I shouldn't wait until it is too late to let people that I love know how I feel, or to apologize if I need to. This is a novel that is written with exceptional quality. Readers will truly enjoy this story"
• PAIGE LOVITT, Chicago Sun-Times/Southtown Star
Reviews for "Flaherty's Crossing"
Reviewed by Linda Bass (Reader)
Kate Flaherty Was angry At The Father Who Withheld His Love When Her Mother Died In A Car Accident, Killed By A Drunk Driver. Colin Flaherty Stayed On The Road Driving A Semi-Truck While Her Aunt Sophie Raised Her. She Had Received A Call From A Hospice Volunteer That His Cancer Had Spread And He Only Had A Short Time To Live. She Was Angry That He Stopped His Treatments Without Choosing To Discuss It With Her And Without Thinking She Forgot To Leave Drew A Note, Not That He Would Care As They Had Argued Before He Left For Chicago From Their Washington State Home. Drew Gave Every Excuse In The World From Joining Her When Her Art Was Exhibited, Always Missing Her Achievements And Their Marriage Was Strained. Once At Her Father's Log Cabin She Was Fully Prepared To Rant At The Old Stubborn Man, But One Look At The Shell Of The Man Who Had Once Been So Robust And Full Of Life Her Heart Clenched And She Could Not Speak The Words She Longed To Say Stuck In Her Throat. From The Time Her Mother Died She Craved Her Dad's Approval That Never Came No Matter How Hard She Tried, And Now As An Adult She Learned To Closet Herself And Not Give Control To Anyone. Her Dad Was Fading And Doris Asked Her To Stay The Night To Spend As Much Time With Her Dad But She Had Not Thought To Bring Clothes And Was Not Sure If She Could Keep A Calming Face To Talk With Her Dad, He Was On Morphine And Thought She Was Her Mom. So She Promised To Return The Next Morning But As She Traveled The Three Hours Home, A Detour Caused Her To Travel On A Less Traveled Road And A Deer Stood Frozen By Her Head Lights And She Lost Control And Went Over A Cliff........................
Drew Coleman Hated To Issue His Wife An Ultimatum But He Knew They Could No Longer Act Like Roommates. Kate Spent So Much Time In Her Studio That He Wondered If She Avoided Him. To Be Honest