My guest today is Chad A. Cain. Hello, Chad! Welcome to Writing in the Modern Age! It’s great to meet you. :)
Can you tell us a little bit about your latest book? When did it come out? Where can
we get it?
One Night In October is my debut novel from Solstice Publishing. The basic story involves a man who hasn't seen or spoken to his alcoholic father in fifteen years. Near the end of the father's life, the two will reunite for one last evening of watching Cardinals baseball (their one shared passion) and rehashing their troubled past. It was released on April 14th, 2015 and is currently available on Amazon, BN.com, and the Solstice Publishing website.
Fifteen years. That’s how long Paul Gibson stayed away from his father, Johnny Ray, after he tried to wreck his son’s wedding in an alcoholic stupor. But on this crisp late October night, Paul is coming back to his childhood home. He’s got one final chance to reconcile with a dying father who devoted his life to whiskey and horse betting instead of his family.
Paul has chosen the night of game six of the 2011 World Series to face the man he has never understood or connected with. Their one chance at reuniting as a family is linked to their only shared memory: a love of St. Louis Cardinals baseball.
As they watch the Cardinals attempt to save their season against the Texas Rangers, Paul and Johnny Ray will rip open the wounds of the past and struggle to find a way beyond them. The grudges and fears of their past will resurface, but so will the forgotten need to accept and forgive.
One Night In October is a touching story of a father and son spending one final evening searching for a way to bridge a chasm built on years of anger and bitterness. The outcome for both their beloved Cardinals and their relationship will hang by a thread until the very end.
I thought it was gone. When I saw the baseball fly off David Freese’s bat in the bottom of the ninth of game six against the Rangers, my first thought was that it was going to leave the park. I wanted to believe it was possible, though hits like this when your team is down to their last strike in the World Series just don’t happen in real life. He had just swung through the same pitch (a fastball on the outer half of the plate) on 1-1, but now I watched the ball heading toward deep right field. I had seen Freese do this a lot during the 2011 season. Hitting to the opposite field for power had become his trademark…but how could it possibly happen in this moment of desperation?
I leapt from the chair next to my father’s bed. When the TV camera angle switched to Nelson Cruz in right field, my heart sank for a moment. He was going to catch it. You could tell from his reaction…he knew he was going to snag it. But then he kept drifting backward, and drifting more still. He was near the wall and jumping, but the ball caromed off the wall and rolled away. I began instinctively jumping and shouting for Lance Berkman and Albert Pujols to haul ass toward home. I nearly separated my shoulder doing the windmill along with third base coach Jose Oquendo.
Seeing the ball rolling away from Cruz, I thought perhaps there was a chance that Freese could have an inside-the-park home run. He didn’t make it home, but easily slid into third and looked dazed and triumphant as he peered into the Cardinals’ dugout. He had just delivered a game-tying and season-saving clutch hit for the ages. And that wasn’t even his most memorable at-bat of the night!
My dad would have gladly joined me in my gleeful hysterics if this had been a typical night of baseball watching. Johnny Ray Gibson’s roaring voice at one time was enough to drown out crowds at bars and raucous softball games. He had once been a physical specimen with a real gift for playing baseball and softball. He had once been the most intimidating man I had ever known. Now he lay old and withered in the house that I grew up in. He watched this game through a fog of medication and emotion. He was perfectly capable of following the action and talking about it, but he could no longer afford to expend energy on things like cheering for a game-saving hit.
He was dying, and watching the last game of his life.
I went to my father’s house that night for the first time in nearly fifteen years. I went there because I knew if there was any chance of reconciliation, it would have to happen as part of watching a Cardinals game together. When they made that improbable run to the World Series in October of 2011, I took it as a sign that it was time for my return. When they came back home from Texas down three games to two, I knew I could no longer put it off. The St. Louis Cardinals were the only thing that my dad and I ever really connected on. When all else failed, we could always talk about the Cards.
That night I had a lifetime of things to say to the man, but without the Cardinals as a backdrop I would have had no idea how to begin. Most Cardinal fans will remember game six as the “Freese game” or even “the greatest World Series game ever played.” I’ll remember it for being the last night I ever saw my dad. I’ll remember David Freese for giving us a couple of extra innings together and for giving my dad one last winner.
* * * *
Southern Indiana, and in particular the city of Evansville, is mainly Cardinal country. I was born into the Gibson family in 1975, but I was also born into the Cardinals family. Johnny Ray was a lifelong devoted fan thanks to his dad. Had I said to him at any point that I wanted to root for the Cubs, I believe dad would have seriously considered kicking me out of his house. Thankfully I grew to love the Cards, and that was convenient because it gave me something that I could always talk to dad about without fear of an argument or, even worse, an awkward silence.
My name is Paul, which surprises me because dad probably wanted to name me Lou, Stan, or certainly Bob since Bob Gibson was his favorite player. Mom must have vetoed those in favor of a Biblical name because I can think of no famous Cardinals named Paul. My mother, Doris, was the only person who had the power to get her way when dealing with dad. He was six foot four and close to two hundred and fifty pounds of mostly muscle. Doris was about five-two and around a hundred and ten, but she never once seemed scared or intimidated by him.
Their marriage, which was still intact on the day he died, was in one sense very healthy because it was based on love. However, it could also be described as a textbook co-dependent relationship. Johnny Ray was a drinker, and as years passed he allowed it to overwhelm everything else. I found it difficult as a child to relate to the man, and nearly impossible to do so in my later years. Until the night of David Freese’s heroics, I had spent the last fifteen years avoiding him entirely.
I never understood how mom could stay with him through so much turmoil. Love is, of course, necessary in a marriage, but there has to be more than that. One part of me admires her for “sticking it out” all these years, but there’s also a large part that blames her for the manipulation and pain that dad so frequently doled out.
I suppose she was scared of raising two children, me and my sister Megan, who is six years younger, on her own. Or maybe she just got used to the version of “normal” in our lives and accepted it as good enough. I found it easier to get out when I had the chance, and I have lived with the fallout from that decision ever since.
One day in the spring of 2011, I got the usual weekly call from mom with an update on things in Evansville. I had left there to attend Southern Illinois University on a basketball scholarship in 1993 and never came back. My wife, Karen, whom I met at SIU, and I settled in a small town called O’Fallon, Illinois after college. It is a short commute to downtown St. Louis, where I work for an ad agency (of course half the reason I wanted to work there was because it was convenient for seeing lots of Cardinal games). My contact with mom consisted of weekly calls on the phone and three or four in-person visits a year, which normally involved us meeting at a restaurant or mall. I hadn’t set foot in my parents’ house since I left for college.
I could tell this call was different from the beginning. She called me Paul, which was a tell-tale sign because mom almost always liked to call me “Pauly.” She was the only one who called me that and I secretly relished every time she said it. Her voice, which usually reflected her calm and soothing demeanor, was shaky and frightened.
“Paul. It’s your mother. I…I don’t know what else to say so I’ll just say it. Your father has liver cancer and he’s dying. We just found out today. Paul, did you hear me?”
I didn’t speak for a few seconds. I had always assumed that dad would pay for his heavy drinking someday with cirrhosis or something, but it still stunned me. The man was only sixty-five.