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A Room in the House of the Ancestors Books One and Two

A Room in the House of the Ancestors Books One and Two

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A Room in the House of the Ancestors Books One and Two

Länge:
359 Seiten
4 Stunden
Herausgeber:
Freigegeben:
Jan 5, 2015
ISBN:
9781311146830
Format:
Buch

Beschreibung

Computer whizkid Edward’s adopted father taught him that his biological family rejected him at birth. After Edward’s own brother Andrew reaches out to befriend him, the two men forge a friendship based on a shared dream – a sentient computer system that promises to greatly improve the world. When Edward arrives at the ancestral home of the family he believes abandoned him, he soon discovers that reality is very different from his adopted father’s paranoid delusion. And his family learns that Edward is far more damaged than they could ever have known.

Herausgeber:
Freigegeben:
Jan 5, 2015
ISBN:
9781311146830
Format:
Buch

Über den Autor

I've been a professional writer since my first paid publication at the age of 18. I've published numerous novels, non-fiction titles, and articles.


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A Room in the House of the Ancestors Books One and Two - Melody Clark

A Room in the House of the Ancestors

Books One and Two

By Melody Clark

 Copyright 2015 by Melody Clark Books, a subsidiary of the M Press melodyclarkbooks.com

All characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means without the prior written permission of the publisher.

About A Room in the House of the Ancestors

An allegorical tale of our times that subtly depicts America and Europe in the modern era, while masquerading as a touching and funny tale of one haunted man and his family. Max’s Ebook Email Espresso

Computer whizkid Edward’s adopted father taught him that his biological family rejected him at birth. After Edward’s own brother Andrew reaches out to befriend him, the two men forge a friendship based on a shared dream – a sentient computer system that promises to greatly improve the world. When Edward arrives at the ancestral home of the family he believes abandoned him, he soon discovers that reality is very different from his adopted father’s paranoid delusion. And his family learns that Edward is far more damaged than they could ever have known.

Acknowledgments

To my many generations of ancestors, from Joseph and Ruth (Solesbee) Dillard of South Gate, California, US to Richard and Agnes (Barret) New of Bristol, Somerset, England, and all those before, beside and beyond, who taught me, step by step, that we are all the children of history.

Thanks, as always, to my copy editor, Lyn Townsend, who always puts forth a heroic effort to prevent me from looking like an idiot. Thanks to my content beta, Nancy Daniel, who actually reads my work because she likes it – still trying to work out having her cloned. And many appreciations to my old friend, Molly, my personal Britpicker.

A Room in the House of the Ancestors

*Book One*

By Melody Clark

"Nearly everything I have is in it,

And still the box isn’t full."

(John Steinbeck, Paraphrased from the dedication to East of Eden)

Chapter One

These people don’t like you, Edward, his father’s voice reached out to him, through the wall he had long ago erected around his mind. They revile you. You weren’t good enough for them, but now you have outwitted them. They want to bring you down with extreme prejudice. They are your ultimate opponent. You must fight them with all you are.

Edward fought to focus on the voice – the voice was all he was supposed to hear. His palms opened, as if by their own choice, and the batons dropped from his hands.

I don’t want to fight anyone, Edward remembered whispering, hugging himself with his arms.

You must fight or they’ll win.

Let them win, Dad. I don’t care if they win.

The Bakunin name is at stake! Wendell’s voice thundered back at him. Your livelihood and legacy are at stake! What is the opening salvo?

What do you mean? he remembered asking.

The roaring torrent is deep and wide! he would always reply, from the Longfellow poem, And loud that clarion voice replied. What was the answer?

There was never an answer. There would never be an answer.

Many years later, Edward could still recall the scent of sweat in that room. The leathery smell of his grandfather’s tack room, the dangers that waited inside it. When the wind changed, he could hear the crop raking against the wall where it hung when not in use. Even now, that sound made him nauseous, even sounds that reminded him of it, like the sound of his father’s balled-up waste paper misses hitting the wall.

Edward had been about to compile his file when he heard the sound of the chair squeaking in his adopted father’s office. He heard the measured pace of precision footsteps headed around the door into his room. They always tread the same narrow pattern in the same place.

You realize who you’ll be seeing today? Wendell asked from behind him.

Dear God, not this again, Edward thought, his head listing forward to tap the top of his laptop. He inhaled and spoke the name inwardly. It gave him a moment to look at the time. He would soon be late.

Thomas Croftdon’s son, Andrew, Edward said, shutting his laptop and standing up for his jacket.

Your biological brother, Andrew, Wendell said pointedly, looking over his glasses.

Edward donned his scarf, wrapping it around twice with the upcoming promise of a Boston chill. Must we play this game, Dad? I know who he is. I know who they all are. You’ve made certain of that. If they’re all so awful, I don’t see why you won’t just let me forget them.

Wendell stopped beside him, giving him his bespectacled commando stare. You must see my position. You are my son, my heir, my principle computer adept –

What do you think the chances are I’ve forgotten that in the last few minutes, Dad?

My point is –

Your point is that you are as insecure as ever, not believing in anyone who has proved to you time and again their loyalty. I love you, Father. I have no other allegiance. My future is here, if you’ll let it be.

Some might say that blood is thicker than water, Eddie, Wendell said.

Those people have never been adopted, Edward replied, shutting his eyes for a moment of inner quiet. He had said all this so many times before. He felt certain he would have to say it again. What bonds us is shared experience and time. I barely know those people.

Wendell looked at him cautiously. You and Andrew have exchanged frequent email in the last several years. Sometimes once a day. And not just about computer matters. I’ve read them. Yes, it’s an invasion of privacy, one I regret, but it’s necessary to protect you.

Protect me from what? Funny comics and news stories?

It is clear you have a natural affinity for Andrew, Wendell said, whereas there has been some distance between the two of us lately.

Yes, I like Andrew, Edward admitted. I find him engaging and funny. We commiserate. We work in the same field. We have similar interests. Is that a crime?

He is now the primary programmer for our most major competitor. I have to be sure you’re not sharing secrets beyond the reach of your shared project.

Edward slammed his hand against the wall, nearly dropping his laptop as he did so. He lifted it up into a safer place against his chest. He’s someone I communicate with once or twice a day. I’m not sharing anything with him beyond an occasional Facebook post. And if there is a divide between you and me, Father, it’s driven by your paranoia and suspiciousness and lack of trust in me.

Wendell stood up like a challenge, moving around the edge of his desk. His graying hair had grown thin in equal measure all over his head. He wasn’t balding, his hair just looked sparse, like that of a man who worked more hours in a day than a day contained, which is who he was. Most of his workday, Eddie believed, was spent worrying about what he was doing.

I don’t mean to drive a wedge, son. It’s just, since your mother’s death, you’re my principle ally. You are going to meet with the son of my chief competitor –

Who is the son of your father’s friend and business associate.

Yes, he was. But he changed allegiances, didn’t he? As I’m afraid you will one day. You also carry Croftdon blood in your veins. Wendell took Edward firmly by the shoulders, staring deeply into his eyes. Always remember, Thomas and Faith Croftdon cast you away. They abandoned you, a newborn infant, in your time of greatest need. Whatever you were was not enough for them. They have since raised two sons and even adopted one of his brother’s sons. And yet you – you – they chose to forsake.

Edward cringed again at the onslaught of what he had suffered so many times before. I know that, Father. But Faith Croftdon is dead. And why would I have any loyalty to Thomas Croftdon if he had none to me? He checked his watch. I have to meet with Andrew. May I go now?

They will play on your sympathies. They will try to engage your affections. You must understand how that might cause me concern –

I might understand it if I’d ever given you reason to doubt me, Edward said. I’ve been a good and faithful son to you. Haven’t I delivered to you with maximum effort the very best work I can on an ongoing basis? It’s the quality and output of my work that has built your entire business. And yet you repeatedly and consistently require that I pass some bizarre test of loyalty.

Wendell removed his glasses to stare Edward straight in the eye. Your service has not been without challenges. You have been openly condemnatory of the security measures around the Brice project. You have been very suspicious of our aims and objectives. This gives me cause to wonder.

What had Edward wanted to say? So much and yet too little. Father, I’m aware that I fall short of your limitless expectations. You have kept a running tab of my faults since my earliest memory. I am aware of where I have failed, I have always been aware, and I will remain aware of my many failures.

Instead Eddie just shook his head and sighed. May I go?

So I’m assured there is no sense of loyalty whatsoever to Croftdon’s boy? To your brother?

Edward shut his eyes as the words connected with him, right where they had been expected to impact. As always, his father’s aim was true. I have no brothers. I am an only child. Your only child. May I go?

Oh, don’t let me keep you, Wendell said, turning around to leave.

Edward had always known he was adopted. The fine details of it had been hazy, but the headline had been written in bold letters. The Croftdon name was whispered around him, like some vaguely arcane bit of wisdom he was expected to know too well and yet completely ignore. That family had become a repeating but unspoken theme in his life, like some nameless genetic malady from which he suffered that might not be spoken of in polite company.

The first time he saw a real, live Croftdon had been on his 11th birthday. By that great age, Edward had already deeply involved himself in programming. Having written his first computer game at eight, he had tackled bigger and better projects. He had already been recognized as a wunderkind in multiple computer languages. That afternoon, however, he had been tucked away in a corner perusing his hidden wealth of comic books.

He heard his name embedded in a tangle of raised voices. His father’s voice had been one of them. Two others had been the vocalizations of strangers.

He hovered inside the doorway, catching sight of a man he had never seen before and yet somehow immediately recognized. He was nearly his father’s age. He knew him and yet he didn’t. Beside him stood a boy a few years younger than he was, maybe 8 or 9. The younger boy’s eyes locked on his. They just stared at each other for a long time.

Edward! the grown man he didn’t know called out to him, stretching out an arm toward him.

Edward’s father grasped the door and slammed it closed in the boy’s face, sealing Edward out of sight.

That had been the year his mother, Jennifer, had succumbed to skin cancer. Not just any skin cancer, but the sun god Ra’s evocation of the Demon Melanoma. This event muddled the year emotionally and mentally to the point that the Croftdon encounter details became lost in the clutter of recall.

Mother drove him everywhere, bought him things, even as the cancer metastasized to her brain and claimed increasing amounts of her mind. Sometimes, she would tie the string to a helium balloon around his wrist. Once he had fallen asleep with that balloon still attached as it silently worked its way toward the ground. When she drew near death, he never took off the strings, as if untying them might release his mother to the ages.

He forgot the encounter with the two strangers until after his mother’s death. She had gathered items for him, that she wanted him to have. One included a photograph of a man, a woman, and three young men. There were letters too, as if responses to letters written with pictures already sent to them.

He put them away, like his memories of his mother, to a second place in his mind so they wouldn’t haunt the working rooms of his memory. And so the memories remained, like a tied string detached from its balloon.

Andrew Croftdon walked toward him. Edward envied the open warmth in the younger man’s eyes – the obvious affection for him. Andrew, the man he now knew to be his brother. The brother he had seen very briefly in that long-ago room.

Andrew stuck out a hand. Eddie, it’s so goddamned wonderful to see you again. How are you?

I’m fine, thanks. And you? Edward asked, smiling warmly to protocol while shaking the offered hand.

Andrew grasped Edward’s hand between both of his. I’m well. Everyone sends their – best.

Thank you. Edward withdrew his hand to gesture to the restaurant. Shall we go in?

Forgive me for staring at you, Andrew said, as they were seated at a quiet table. The restaurant was only lightly trafficked this time of day. They sat largely alone. I can never get over how much you resemble our father.

Thomas Croftdon? Edward asked, studying the menu he had been handed. I’ve never noticed.

You do. Very much. You have our mother’s eyes, though. And we both have her light coloring

Edward paused a moment in his menu consideration. I regret that I never met her, he said, thinking momentarily of the sadness of two such losses. Well, I did meet her, of course, when I was born, but not that I can remember.

You’ll get to know all of us better and we’ll help you know her through us. I’m very excited about our joint venture next month.

I’m excited about it, too, Edward allowed himself to confess. It will certainly be a challenge.

Andrew smiled with a kind of awkward grace, leaning forward as if to impart a great confidence. I must admit that my principle reason for being excited about it is, well, that I will really get to know my oldest brother for the first time. I’m just very sorry it has taken so damned long to bring this about. Is Wendell still concerned about your participation?

Edward grinned in reply, feeling a warmth that made him feel happy and yet guilty at the same moment. He decided to put up an emotional wall to protect his reaction. My father grew up in very unfortunate circumstances.

For some reason, I had the notion that Wendell grew-up in fairly affluent circumstances.

Oh, he did. But wealth doesn’t always bring with it privileges. In my father’s case, it didn’t at all. Admittedly, he does tend toward paranoia at times. He doesn’t trust easily – or ever, really. He has accepted that it’s something I want, however, and I think he sees that it will benefit his company as well.

Andrew nodded. So when do you arrive?

Next Monday.

Splendid. I’m told you’ll be staying at an executive hotel, but I wanted you to know you do have a room set aside for you in our home for your use.

Thank you. That’s very kind. I doubt it will be necessary, but it may come in handy for some of my longer work binges.

Andrew laughed lightly. I’m very anxious to work with you, side by side. I guess I don’t have to tell you that you’re a rock star in our industry. Our skills I think are roughly comparable, however, you’ve accomplished so many brilliant things in such a short period of time that I find it unfathomable.

Edward smiled a little. My father is very demanding. One of his favorite sayings is we don’t have laurels in our family, we have results. And they are reevaluated daily. Nobody rests on yesterday’s accolades or achievements.

He sets the bar high, hm?

Edward nodded. He always has. But that’s the way he has built what he’s built. You can’t argue with success. At least not with my father.

Andrew eased into a more relaxed posture, clearly more at home than Edward was. My father – that is, our father – is very laid-back. He allows our grandfather to largely run everything. I sometimes think it would be better if our father was a little more like Wendell.

Edward shook his head, sipping from his drink. As they say, be careful what you wish for.

Well, at least he might be able to standup to Granddad. The old fellow is a stern piece of work, but I gather you’ve heard about him.

A little. John, right?

Yes, John Croftdon, on Father’s side. Our mother’s father passed a number of years ago. Very nice man. Very kind. Stephen. He was a Stuart, if you know about that sort of thing.

Edward nodded. Vaguely.

Well, we’ll have to make up for that.

Perhaps. If there’s time once we’ve launched the project. Edward placed his menu down. I suppose I should ask how Tad, James and Wilse feel about my presence on the joint project. I intuited there was a bit of resentment.

Not toward you personally. Toward Bakunin Corp somewhat, yes.

I am Bakunin, Edward said.

Andrew shrugged a little. Let’s just say, everyone is happy that you’ll be on board. In fact, they’re jealous that I’ve had more of a chance to work with you and get to know you. I’m afraid you’re going to be subject to a certain degree of fraternal initiation.

Everyone is glad, Edward said, smiling in earnest. Even Tad?

Tad is a good man. He’s a doctor, so he’s particular. And, well, he’s a force of nature. You’ll get to know him better in time.

Which is why I think it best we keep this on a business level, Edward said. A professional one. You and I have always been friendly. I’d rather not have too negative an experience while I’m over there. I think an amicable course is the best one.

I promise you I will see to it that it is. I’m just stunned Wendell agreed to this joint project after so many years of resisting the very idea.

Edward leaned forward slowly, considering, all the way to the table’s edge, the gravity of the information he was about to impart. I think it’s only fair that I tell you something my father would rather I not. A large portion of his wealth has been, well, swindled from him. He’s still very, very wealthy, but he’s not the impermeable force he once was.

Yes, I’m sorry. We’d heard something of that.

To be honest, I think that’s the actual reason for this project. Edward leaned forward again, looking around them. He lowered his voice a notch. I also have been asked to do something I’m not going to do. I hope the very fact I’m informing you of the request that was made to me will assure you of my good intent. The last thing I want is to harm your family in any way. But I was asked to survey and report back on any additional changes that have been made to the code you have on hand. I’ve refused, but I wanted you to know that the overture was made to me.

Andrew’s eyes shone back at him. Thank you, Eddie. Yes, we had been told that by our people. I somehow knew you would be forthcoming about it, though. Thank you.

Understand, I love my father, but he does verge on outright megalomania at times. I’m not going to be a tool for either side. I’m going to work with you to create the very best SAGE interface to Brice that we can, for the greater good of what we’re trying to accomplish, as saccharine as that sounds.

I couldn’t agree more. I might have used those very words. Andrew extended his hand. Equal partners.

Edward nodded and shook the hand he was offered. Equal partners.

The flight had been the usual boring grind, which he had frittered away by playing chess on his handheld. He tried some music, watched bits of the movie, and tried to ignore the growing feeling of dread inside him. It almost felt like pressure building up. For how many years had he longed to come here? And how much was he dreading his arrival? Both measurements approached infinity.

How you holding up? Kentucky Sharpe asked, leaning near him.

I am, Edward replied. Thanks for asking. Where is Arvo?

Back in the men’s room. Probably primping. Or planning his global takeover. One of the two.

Edward laughed and stared toward the distant clouds beyond the plane. I know it’s awful to say, but I cannot tolerate him. I wish Dad hadn’t forced him on me this trip.

Well, Wendell’s trying to protect you from Croftdon. That’s the way he sees it anyway.

He should be protecting me first from Arvo, Edward said.

Why do you think I’m here? Ken asked with a chuckle. He again trained his eyes toward the window. Look down there. Here it comes. That’s Ireland.

Edward looked. It indeed was green. Very green. That’s about how I thought it would look, having never flown over it before. Well, not since I was three months old and flying the other direction.

Ken shrugged. Their loss.

More like their conscious forfeiture, Edward said.

I’m sure it was a lot more complicated than that.

Maybe.

The light streamed past him through the hired car windows as he stared dully out at all the directions. He was almost glad for the long drive from Heathrow to their hotel, despite the day cut in half and the hours dwindling. It still felt like late at night to early morning in his mind and yet here it was, 8 PM on another day. The end result would have him at the hotel, though, with sleep an easy transition, except for one detour on the way.

Arvo had already started his spiel. "They will try to undermine your association with Bakunin. They will attempt to sway you

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