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  • Paul Cumbo

Wilderness Therapy: Chapter 1

I've been working on Wilderness Therapy, my second novel, for about the past five years. It's been through a lot, and it's often been pushed to the back burner. Just a few things have been going on since I started it: moving, raising three little kids, building my freelance business, finishing a master's degree, starting a new business, teaching, taking on a new administrative role…and writing another book about the history of Canisius High School.

I've also been trying to land a literary agent for the past two years, so far to no avail. I've gotten lots of positive feedback, but just about everybody tells me they're not sure where my book fits into the market. That it doesn't fit neatly into a genre.

I think that might be a good thing. So I'm thinking about posting some excerpts here as I decide whether or not I want to self-publish this thing like I did with my last two books. I'm getting tired of waiting on the publishing industry. Mike and the rest of these kids deserve to have their story told.

Let me know what you think of it.

Wilderness Therapy

Chapter 1

Mike Whittaker’s father died on the shortest day of the year. His heart stopped in the frozen, half-lit stillness of a bitter Adirondack winter.

Mike stood at the wake, narrow shoulders hunched, sweating and pale in a cheap, itchy suit next to his mom and little brother. People told him in strained whispers that everything happens for a reason. His voice, in the throes of early adolescence, cracked as he thanked them. He stole glances at the casket. There was a piece of lint or something on his dad’s shoe. A couple times, he’d almost reached in to brush it off. He couldn’t quite do it. It would get buried, too.

He wondered where they’d put his father’s defective heart when they did the body. Did they take it out? Toss it somewhere? Incinerate it? Or was it still in there, seized up like a damaged engine, pumped full of embalming fluid?

That it had stopped working “for a reason” didn’t much matter.

All that mattered was his dad was gone. And while his father’s heart had malfunctioned, it was Mike’s that was left broken. Mom’s and Andrew’s, too, of course.

But as the earth tilted, light grew steadily into the spring of his fourteenth year. Melting snow cascaded, plummeting in flumes and spray over ancient granite, and the primeval forest surrounding their small town yawned, stretched, and hummed with new life. Soon the mill where his father had labored with other tough, northern men rumbled busily, and the air once again carried the clean, honest scent of cut timber. It had lingered always in his father’s rugged flannel and his sap-stained boots. As the shock subsided and he began to accept his father’s death, Mike embraced all that stuff about things happening for a reason. About life going on.

It was true. He drew strength from it. Life went on.

Until, five years later, such wisdom would abruptly cease to mean anything to Mike, and those who’d peddled such nonsense—himself among them—became so many fools.

#WildernessTherapy #newnovel #preview


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