Hanover -- jeff@jjrlore.com

The adults in the towns of Johnson Valley, Oregon, are not who they believe they are.  Teenagers Gary and Adrianna make a discovery that causes them to question their identity.  They must decide whether to continue to trust their parents and the other older residents after learning the truth.

Available on Amazon in 2021

Chapter 1

It was dusk when Gary looked up at the dark cliffs that enshrouded both sides of the Johnson Valley along its course to the Pacific Ocean.  The five-hundred-foot-high vertical walls were said by the valley’s residents to be unscalable.

 

      After his shift at Curt’s Groceries, Gary sat at a table in front of McHenry’s sandwich shop, his favorite place to eat in Hanover.  It was there where he would sit with his older sister, Cora, and invent unflattering names and stories for quiet townsfolk walking by.  That was before she moved away to college.

 

      He readied himself for a pair of loaded chilidogs and french fries he had set before him.  Beside him was a letter from Cora delivered that very day, which he opened before his hands got too messy.  He looked forward to seeing her again in two months after he turned eighteen and would leave the valley.  Her letter described her complex life in her big city on the other side of the country.  She listed the long, strange names of her college courses, such as secured transactions, tort reform, nolo contendere, and civil procedures, which words he had to read slowly.

 

      A girl, perhaps his age, walked from around the corner at Southern Street, her dark hair swaying behind her.  She moved gracefully past him, as if she were in a ballet, her black purse hanging by thin straps over her leather jacket.  She looked at him from under dark eyelashes.

 

      “Hey,” he said to her.

 

      The girl only whistled two ascending notes as she walked on her way.

 

      He gripped a napkin in his fist, ashamed of staring, and turned his attention to a crooked old man across the street standing in front of a sporting goods store pointing a wagging finger at his poodle.  Gary looked back in time to catch the girl glance back at him and blink twice before disappearing around the corner at Brentlass Street.

 

      There was something appealing about her and her strange behavior.  But she was gone.  The old man across the street made his way off somewhere, his poodle leading the way.

 

      Gary thought he might have known someone who used to blink and whistle like that, but he could not remember who it was.  He started on his chilidogs, which by then had turned cold.

 

      Gary regretted telling his parents that night about the girl because they told him about crushes—which he already knew all about—and reminded him that he should keep his attention on preparing for college.  But he couldn’t stop wondering about her even while thinking he should be less interested in anyone he was leaving behind.

 

      At least working at Curt’s Groceries took up most of his spare time and helped him save for college.

 

      A customer had picked through the apples, leaving them in disarray.  Gary grumbled under his breath and began rearranging them.  Mrs. Young, his old seventh-grade English teacher and one of the regulars at the store, said good morning to him.  He returned her greeting, and she went on her way to the checkout counter.

 

      That’s when Gary saw through the storefront window a bronze-colored sedan parked along the curb.  Leaning against the hood was the girl with the black leather purse.  She had her arms folded and her head swayed left and right with her eyes closed, as if she was hearing music coming from her car.

 

      Not wanting a scolding from Curt, he resumed his work on the apples but couldn’t manage to keep his eyes down for more than a few seconds before catching her watching him, holding her right palm against her chest.

 

      She couldn’t be here for me; but she’s looking at me.  He waved a hand slowly at the girl.

 

      Instead of waving back, she looked terribly sad and turned away, moving quickly to the driver’s side of the car.  Gary headed to the front door, but by the time he got to the sidewalk, the girl and her car were gone.

 

      Customers of all ages frequented the store, but none had the effect on him that she did.  It must have been because of the way she walked or because of her coat and black purse.  He didn’t remember seeing her at school.  Gary returned to the apple aisle before Curt noticed his absence.

 

      Hanover provided few places for youth to hang out, which was good when trying to find someone on a Friday night.  After searching for the girl in every store in Granger Mall twice, he drove home disappointed.

 

      Companies moved into the valley every year, sometimes bringing edgy and impulsive folk who got into fights until the slower pace of the Johnson Valley relaxed them.  Her family must have been new to the valley.

 

      With the personal service between grocery deliveries, doctors’ house calls, and gas station attendants, the residents believed they were more generous of their time than other folk in the country.  Curt had told Gary that real estate was inexpensive in the eight agricultural and farming communities in the valley because of the depressed wages.  Gary had no complaint about the valley except for the schools, which emphasized responsibility and achievement and taught practically all there was to know about any subject.

 

            One by one, Gary’s friends had turned eighteen and moved away just like his sister Cora had.  That was what young people did who grew up in the valley.  He wished he had a younger sister or brother with whom to share his time, but it didn’t matter because he too would be eighteen soon and be off to college.