- Title: The Ancestor
- Author: Lee Matthew Goldberg
- Publisher: All Due Respect Books
- Genre: Thriller
- Pages: 348
- Format: Kindle Edition
Synopsis of The Ancestor
A man wakes up in present-day Alaskan wilderness with no idea who he is, nothing on him save an empty journal with the date 1898 and a mirror. He sees another man hunting nearby, astounded that they look exactly alike except for his own beard. After following this other man home, he witnesses a wife and child that brings forth a rush of memories of his own wife and child, except he’s certain they do not exist in modern times—but from his life in the late 1800s.
After recalling his name is Wyatt, he worms his way into his doppelganger Travis Barlow’s life. Memories become unearthed the more time he spends, making him believe that he’d been frozen after coming to Alaska during the Gold Rush and that Travis is his great-great grandson. Wyatt is certain gold still exists in the area and finding it with Travis will ingratiate himself to the family, especially with Travis’s wife Callie, once Wyatt falls in love.
This turns into a dangerous obsession affecting the Barlows and everyone in their small town, since Wyatt can’t be tamed until he also discovers the meaning of why he was able to be preserved on ice for over a century.
A meditation on love lost and unfulfilled dreams, The Ancestor is a thrilling page-turner in present day Alaska and a historical adventure about the perilous Gold Rush expeditions where prospectors left behind their lives for the promise of hope and a better future.
The question remains whether it was all worth the sacrifice…Quoted from All Due Respect Books
Excerpt of The Ancestor
Miss Evelyn’s craftsman home has a heavy-columned front porch, front-facing gables, and overhanging eaves, a nod to the early twentieth century. To Callie, it always appears cozy, another reason she approves of Eli spending half the week here ever since Travis started working again. For the other two days, she drops him off at the Huskie Day Center where he gets to socialize with a dozen other toddlers. But Callie likes Miss Evelyn better since she watches him free of charge.
Miss Evelyn’s been widowed as long as Callie has lived in Laner, her husband having a debilitating stroke he never quite recovered from before passing. Her twin children go to the university in Anchorage but only visit on breaks. She lives off Harry’s pension, the mortgage on the home already paid, a lifestyle far from lavish. If Callie ever felt Eli becoming an imposition, she’d insist on paying. But Miss Evelyn appears overjoyed to babysit so she assumes it a fair trade.
“There’s my little monster,” Miss Evelyn says, as Eli marches inside like he owns the place.
“Grrrr,” Eli says, turning his hands into paws.
Callie finds Miss Evelyn has a gracious aura. Cheeks like a gopher, permanent stretched smile, hair sometimes in pigtails like a small girl. When she chuckles, her whole body seems to roll. And she chuckles a lot.
“I made a boo drawing!” Eli says, whipping out a piece of paper that looks like dark smears instead of an animal.
“Caribou,” Callie tells her. “We’ve been eating it all week. Travis hunted one.” “Oh my!” Miss Evelyn chuckles. “What a boo! Was it yummy?”
Eli rubs his stomach while humming.
“I have a new book to read to you that came in the mail yesterday, Eli. It doesn’t have a caribou in it, but it does star a wolf!”
“I like wolves too. Chinook is a wolf.”
“Oh, precious,” Miss Evelyn says, tousling his hair.
“Thanks as always, Miss Evelyn.”
“Nonsense. Can I make ya a coffee for the road? Seem tired this morning.” Callie nods at Eli who’s already running around the area rug pretending he’s a wolf. “Every morning.”
“Ah, he’ll be as tall as you before you know it. Then gone.”
“I know, I know. Thanks for the coffee but gotta run.”
“Bye, Mommy!” Eli howls. “I’m a wolf!”
“Bye, my wolf,” she says, blowing a kiss.
Pizza Joint does a barebones breakfast but has its regulars. Callie likes the early shift, home by no later than six. The tips might not be as good as the dinner rush but it’s easier on her feet. They do an egg sandwich, or a bowl of oatmeal, sometimes pancakes if the cook is feeling generous. Mostly catering to fisherman in after their first haul for a hot coffee, or some of the elderly townsfolk eager for conversation.
Lorinda’s owned the Joint for a decade, long before Callie arrived in Laner, Lorinda’s family going back three generations here. Everyone in Laner seems to have a story of their Alaskan heritage except for Callie. In some ways this causes people to be drawn to her, but it also keeps her at a distance. Always seen as a Cheechako. She’ll never quite be one of them.
“Girl, we need to talk,” Lorinda says, grabbing Callie’s arm and whisking her away from the cook at the counter. Roy’s old and mostly mute, keeps his head down and his eggs and pizza dough fluffy.
“What is it, Lor?”
She finds herself enraptured by Lorinda’s jet-black hair, so silky smooth, straight out of a shampoo commercial. Lorinda always ready for the runway, as Callie would say. “This requires a cig,” Lorinda says, squeezing her eyes closed. “Roy, we’re taking five.” Roy waves them away without looking up from the eggs on the grill.
Outside the wind whips, Callie chilly in her fleece since she left her coat inside. Lorinda in a tank, impervious to the cold. Alaskan blood, Callie thinks.
“Grayson was texting me all night!” Lorinda cries, frustrated from being unable to light her cig.
“I got you.” Callie cups her hands around the lighter as the flame finally sticks. The cherry glows and Lorinda inhales hard.
“Stalker much?” Lorinda laughs, and Callie knows that Lorinda enjoys complaining about something. Lorinda holds up the phone as evidence, bubbles of never-ending texts one after the other. She flips through them. “I love you, I want you, I need you. You’re making a huge mistake. Blah, blah, blah. Like this is my fault.”
“You never told me why he—”
Tuck and Jesse appear as if invoked out of thin air.
“Didn’t mean to startle,” Jesse says, hands shoved in his pockets, never able to meet Callie’s gaze.
“Well, go inside, fellas,” Lorinda snaps. “We’re talking girl things.”
She kicks Tuck in the butt as the two men scooch inside the Joint.
“That Jesse has eyes for you,” Lorinda says.
“Travis would murder him.”
“I don’t doubt it.” Suck, blow, ash, repeat. “So, I caught Grayson at that…house of ill repute. The one all the police boys go to.”
“Was he just there or did you catch him…in the act?”
“Girl, I don’t give a hard rat damn. I’m older than you by almost a decade and I got about six years on Grayson. Things are starting to go south.”
“Lorinda, you’re a knockout.”
“Every girl at that place is in their early twenties. Asses you can bounce dimes off of. Even if he only entertained…”
“You don’t think the two of you can work it out? You guys have had ups and downs before.”
“Exactly,” Lorinda says, poking the cigarette at the breeze. “Too many hills and valleys with that prick. And just so you know, his prick ain’t all that. He’s all bark.” “Travis says he’s distraught.”
“I’m surprised Gray even knows the definition of that word. Point is, that ain’t the only time he was at that house. I was talking to one of the girls. Aylen. Pretty little thing. Native American.”
“She lives with that sketchy cousin of hers on the mini reservation on the outskirts, right?”
“Whole family is a bunch of sketch. Anyway, for twenty bucks, she spilled. He comes in for hand jobs. I’m like, you moron. Who the hell even wants a hand job? I never even attempted them since I didn’t think we were in eighth grade. He could’ve just told me that’s what tickled his fancy.”
“It’s the thrill of the secret,” Callie says. “That’s what tickles him.”
“Well, it ain’t no secret that his clothes are in a snow heap on my porch. And he can keep his dumb cat too. That bitch is always giving me the side-eye.”
“Give me one of those,” Callie says, snatching a cigarette and relishing in a drag. Lorinda’s still cackling away but Callie has tuned her out. The snow coating the trees beginning to melt and Callie can finally see green. What she misses the most about California, if she’s honest. Alaska encased in white for too much of the year, the sensation of being trapped—like she’s been on ice too. The longer she stays, the more claustrophobic she feels.
“Girl, where has your mind gone?” Lorinda snaps, knocking knuckles against Callie’s skull.
“Travis went back to work.”
“At the oil refinery? I thought there were no openings.”
“Smitty’s boat. Cleaning fish.”
“Well,” is all Lorinda has to say about that.
“It’s a job,” Callie says. “I admire him for putting his ego aside.”
“He still moody as fuck?”
“Lorinda! No, he…he’s actually been better this week.”
“I’m teasing. I’d kill for a man like Travis. At least he’s home with you and not out chasing all kinds of poontang.”
Lorinda ashes the cig against the door, then swings it open and stomps inside. Callie stays, enjoying her solitary moment, one of the few she ever gets. When she was younger as an only child, she sought company every chance she had. Now she finds herself longing for stillness, of a day without anyone to talk to, nestled up in her own head with the delight of letting her thoughts roam. They float to the land of what ifs, since she can travel anywhere. Maybe she never left L.A., still went to castings, still tried to make it. She was talented. She knew it, but so was every girl in their twenties. She’d played Emily in her high school production of Our Town and her acting teacher said she had potential. She scored a line in an indie movie after graduating, skipped college, but never landed an agent or another role. Did some modeling and always felt like she was slumming. Rejections became nuisances. That’s what the Cali sun started to represent, a spotlight of failure. So she drifts back to the here and now, blinking to a cascade of flurries. Docked in her white world. Oceans away from who she used to be.
She inhales one final drag. Inside she tends to Tuck and Jesse’s table. Tuck does all the talking. Egg sandwiches with ham and American cheese for both, monster coffees heavy on the caffeine. She smiles and jokes and flips her hair, keeping Jesse in her gaze. He’s younger, barely more than a teen, lean muscles and shy eyes. In a flash, she’s mounted him, no idea where that mindfuck came from. She and Travis haven’t made love in a while. He was acting too glum when bedtime rolled around, too wiped from work this week. Tonight, she’ll seduce him, even if his fingernails still smell of fish guts.
“Orders coming up, boys,” she says, giving them a show as she bounces over to the kitchen. A little spice sprinkled in an otherwise bland Thursday. No harm, no foul.
“Owoooo,” she howls at a low hum, picturing Eli prancing around Miss Evelyn’s as a wolf.
She can be one too.
About the Author
Lee Matthew Goldberg is the author of the novels THE DESIRE CARD, THE MENTOR, and SLOW
DOWN. He has been published in multiple languages and nominated for the 2018 Prix du Polar. His Alaskan Gold Rush novel THE ANCESTOR is forthcoming in 2020. He is the editor-in-chief and co-founder of Fringe, dedicated to publishing fiction that’s outside-of-the-box. His pilots and screenplays have been finalists in Script Pipeline, Book Pipeline, Stage 32, We Screenplay, the New York Screenplay, Screencraft, and the Hollywood Screenplay contests. After graduating with an MFA from the New School, his writing has also appeared in the anthology DIRTY BOULEVARD, The Millions, Cagibi, The Montreal Review, The Adirondack Review, The New Plains Review, Underwood Press, Monologging and others. He is the co-curator of The Guerrilla Lit Reading Series and lives in New York City. Follow him at leematthewgoldberg.com.