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It occurred to me that after seeing the "encyclopedia entries" you folks might get the wrong impression of the writing style of the novel. Those parts are supposed to sound dry and technical. But the rest of the novel is much more relaxed. Here is the (short) opening scene:

“Crap, crap, CRAP!

He clenched his teeth and watched the aftershave roll across the floor.

This was the final straw, the ultimate thread in a richly-woven tapestry of frustration. It was as if the gods of travel had decreed that nothing would go right for Jamie McKie this day. Born of extreme exasperation, a grunt like that of a strangled moose caused other travelers in the terminal to cast puzzled glances his way.

McKie's day had started out well enough, with a pleasant family breakfast. His mom made waffles while Jamie and his dad swapped jokes.

After the final morsel was used to mop up the last swirl of maple syrup, it was time to leave.

“You make sure you keep warm, Jamie. It's awfully cold out there.” Jessica's deep blue eyes peered into her son's hazel ones. She fought back tears.

“Yes, Mom.” McKie made an effort not to roll his eyes as he spoke. “I think I know how to dress myself by now....” His smirk made Jessica smile and sniffle.

“The taxi's on its way, son,” Talmadge said, stepping away from the phone. “In the meantime, I think your friends want to say good-bye.” He nodded in the direction of the front door.

McKie tucked a wayward lock of sandy hair under his stocking cap and yanked on his coat. His duffel bag was already waiting for him by the door.

He turned to his mother and gave her a big bear hug, then he stepped back and shook hands with his father. Jessica dabbed at her eyes with the dishtowel draped over her shoulder.

“We'll miss you, son,” Talmadge said.

Jessica nodded, silently.

“I'll miss you, too -- both of you. But I can't turn down an opportunity like this.”

“We know, Jamie. But almost three years. That's such a long time.”

McKie shrugged. What else could he say? He turned and picked up his bag. As he held open the door to leave, he turned back. “Bye, Mom, bye, Dad. I'll be back as soon as I can. I love you.”

Jessica's eyes overflowed at last. Talmadge spoke for both of them. “We love you, too, son.”

McKie waggled his fingers in a half-wave and slipped through the door, closing it firmly behind him.

Outside by the curb, his friends were awaiting their turn to say good-bye. Mary-Anne Sevinski and Dave Plowright were his oldest friends. The trio had been together since grade school. McKie trudged through the fresh knee-deep snow on the walk until he reached his friends.

“I can't believe you're leaving like this,” Dave said. “We've always been here for each other. Now you're running off and leaving us.”

“Don't be so melodramatic,” Mary-Anne scolded. “He's just taking a job. You'd do the same, given the opportunity.”

“Well, maybe. But I'm not the one who's leaving.”

“That's only because you have a job waiting for you at your dad's company,” McKie said. “We don't all have that luxury.”

Dave shrugged. “Still, I hate that you're going.”

“Me too,” said Mary-Anne. Now her eyes were beginning to mist over.

McKie shrugged. “I'll be home before you know it.”

“Yeah. Sure.” Dave looked like his best friend had just died. It wasn't quite that bad, but for the next few years his best friend would not only be out of town, but millions of kilometers away. That wasn't much better than being dead.

From that point on, the good-byes devolved into a teary affair involving much hugging and back-slapping. Eventually, the taxi arrived to take McKie to the airport.

That's when things started to go wrong.

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When Life Gives You Lemons
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