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Novel Excerpt

By Kale Bova Published 28 days ago Updated 25 days ago 4 min read
Top Story - June 2024
Photo by Artem Sapegin on Unsplash

December 25th, 1943


Clement still needed the cane his doctor prescribed to him once returning home to Canicatti. His favorite part about the walking stick, which he thought only the elderly folks needed to use, was Rosalie’s unwavering persistence in reminding him to use it every time he felt like rebelling. Which was quite often. It was a bit annoying he thought, but it was her pestering determination to keep him healthy during his recovery that continued to breathe life into his shattered body and soul.

Five months had passed since they had somehow prevented a mass extinction event. His gunshot wounds to his upper shoulder and thigh were fully healed, yet the muscle and bone pain were still vibrant. His extended exposure to the immense heat beneath the mountain left a section of his lungs and airway permanently damaged, which developed into acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), causing him to suffer from severe shortness of breath and labored breathing. Luckily, the need for an external oxygen flow was not deemed necessary, by his physician. That is as long as he took the rest of life extremely easy. His doctor’s exact words were, “No more adventures. No walks over thirty minutes. Absolutely no smoking. And diligently monitored time in any temperature greater than eighty-five degrees.”

Clement accepted the diagnosis with humor, “The perfect recipe for a killer retirement.”

The war had finally moved north and the allied forces successfully drove the German army out of Sicily. Europe, as well as the rest of the world however were still caught in the uncertain nets of chaos and destruction. But their slice of heaven was finally at peace, at least for the time being.

As for Mount Etna and her temperamental secrets, Rosalie with help from her father, had successfully begun recruiting fellow guardians to help protect the precious wealth as well as Sicily’s beating heart from the formidable greed of humans. Rosalie vowed to give her life to keep the valley safe, especially considering that this is where she was going to spread Corrado and her mother’s ashes. She was a survivor who had to now go on living with tremendous loss. Yet like her, Sicily was also a survivor who endured an equal amount of crippling loss. Together, they would offer one another the strength needed to ensure and solidify a bright, safe future for Sicily, Italy and the rest of the planet.

“I’m sorry I don’t have anything for you to open, Rosie. The towns are still suffering from the aftershocks. The shop owners, the few that remain, are rebuilding their facilities and are only stocked with everyday essentials. Nothing cool. Nothing exciting.”

Rosalie removed the searing skillet atop the grate with two thick rags, then used a silver fork to pluck the four fried eggs onto two small ceramic plates. She flipped the skillet upside down and gently rested it on a large tree stump. She handed one of the plates sizzling with eggs to her father, then placed a single ceramic mug of black coffee onto the skillet’s bottom to warm it up.

Sitting down on the blanket beside her father, who was vigorously blowing away the steam from his breakfast because he was starving and food this hot went against his doctor’s orders, Rosalie plucked the obsidian cross hiding within her green blouse and squeezed it tightly while mouthing a prayer.

Clement smiled at the gesture, and wished that Garret’s life would have been spared so he could witness his daughter fall and grow into love. When the American military advanced into Southern Italy, they took Garret’s body with them. Their codex forbids them to leave anyone behind and had a duty to Garret’s family in Boston to return him if he should fall. His cross was all Rosalie had left.

With the steam from his plate barely visible, Clement stuck out his tongue and tested the temperature of the eggs. They were perfect. He picked up the fork Rosalie placed on the blanket beside him and he used the side of it to split the eggs in half.

While her father enjoyed his Christmas breakfast, Rosalie removed two rectangular brass urns from her large backpack leaning against a nearby olive tree. Holding them in each hand, she stepped out beyond the tree line, walked over to the ledge and into the warming vibrations of the rising sun. Using her thumbs, she popped loose the latches on each urn, then with a smile and faint chuckle, tossed the ashes high into the air. The wind whooshed in on cue, spreading Corrado and Aida across Mount Etna’s breathtaking southern valley. If her fate was to be the next Mother Goddess guardian, then her brother and mother were going to be her spiritual guardians.

Rosalie returned to her father’s side, who was now holding a spot-free plate and giggled at his attempts to burp. She handed her father the cold mug of black coffee while she picked up the hot one from the skillet. They sipped the caffeinated liquid simultaneously, and wiped away the excess with the bottom part of their thumbs. They were definitely related.

“I think I would like to hear the story about the dog that came from space,” Clement said, with a satisfied belly.

“Again?” Rosalie asked.

“You said it was Miceli’s favorite.”

She smiled, and a couple of tears brimmed in her eyes but did not fall, “It was Corrado’s favorite too.”

The sun continued to rise over Etna’s snow capped peak, transforming the indigo sky into a blazing sea of orange and aquamarine, and Rosalie once again told her father the silly story about the Red golden Retriever, Ellie, who crash landed in Sicily from the deepest reaches of outer space.

It’s my favorite story too. She thought to herself.


About the Creator

Kale Bova

Author | Poet | Dog Dad | Nerd

Find my published poetry, and short story books here!

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Reader insights


Excellent work. Looking forward to reading more!

Top insights

  1. Compelling and original writing

    Creative use of language & vocab

  2. Easy to read and follow

    Well-structured & engaging content

  3. Excellent storytelling

    Original narrative & well developed characters

  1. Heartfelt and relatable

    The story invoked strong personal emotions

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Comments (8)

  • Heather Zieffle 13 days ago

    This is a nice snippet that paints a lovely image! Congrats on TS!

  • Congratulations on having your story featured as a top story on Vocal! This is a remarkable achievement, and it's clear why your work has received such recognition. Your storytelling is truly exceptional. The narrative was not only compelling but also beautifully crafted, holding my attention from start to finish. The way you developed the characters and plot was masterful, making the story both engaging and thought-provoking. Your unique voice and perspective shine through, setting your work apart. It’s evident that you poured a lot of passion and effort into this piece, and it has certainly paid off. I look forward to reading more of your incredible stories in the future. Keep up the fantastic work! Best regards, Dr. Jay

  • shanmuga priya24 days ago

    Congratulations on your stunning achievement 💐💐👏

  • Fly Alone24 days ago

    In this touching scene, Clement, recovering from severe war injuries, finds solace in Rosalie's care and determination. As they share a quiet Christmas morning, Rosalie honors her lost loved ones by spreading their ashes over Mount Etna. This moment of peace and reflection contrasts with the chaos of their past, emphasizing their resilience and the deep bond between father and daughter.

  • Ameer Bibi24 days ago

    Your way of storytelling is truly commendable Congrats on TS

  • Wow your narrative is so rich with emotion and detail! Congrats on top story!

  • Dana Crandell25 days ago

    A very intriguing excerpt. Congratulations!

  • Gabriel Huizenga25 days ago

    Beautifully evoked imagery! This excerpt makes me really curious to learn more about the whole story/world you've created. Congrats on Top Story! :)

Kale Bova Written by Kale Bova

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