My fellow book blogger at Bibliophile By the Sea hosts “First Chapter/First Paragraph Tuesday Intros” where she shares the first paragraph sometimes two from a book she is reading or thinking about reading soon. I’ve decided to join in with this opening excerpt from a book that the author sent me. Tell me what you think… would you read on, or not?
A Love & Beyond by Dan Sofer
Amazon Digital Services, Inc./Dan Sofer, March 5, 2015
On Tuesday, Dave Schwarz hit thirty and his best friend narrowly escaped a violent death.
The two events were probably unrelated, but both jolted Dave the way a sudden air pocket reminds nervous passengers that they’re soaring above the clouds in a pressurized metal tube.
Realization number one: Welcome to the Middle East. Strangely, Dave never thought of his new home as the Middle East. Brutal attacks like the heavy blow to the back of the head that had nearly claimed his friend should not have surprised him.
Realization number two: I’m thirty years old and still single. In short, my life is over.
Dave shook the morbid thought from his head. This was no time for navel gazing. He perched on the edge of a bed in room 419C of the Shaare Zedek Medical Center. A plastic curtain divided the room into quarters and reeked of disinfectant and tragedy. Drops of indolent Jerusalem rain slid down the dark windowpane.
Ben’s bulky form lay in the hospital bed, his eyes closed, a white bandage over his otherwise bald head, like an injured rugby fullback; the mind of an academic in the body of an East End bouncer.
According to the ward nurse, the ICU doctors had transferred Ben early Wednesday morning. He was in no mortal danger, but had his mind survived the trauma?
Dave cleared his throat. He whispered Ben’s name for the tenth time in two minutes. Behind the curtain, a ventilator wheezed. A telephone rang down the hall and the nurse with the squeaky shoe continued her rounds.
Dave reached into the plastic bag from Steimatzky and placed a book on the nightstand. The Jewish War by Josephus. He had purchased the Penguin paperback at the hospital gift store on the ground floor. Ben’s existing copy, a hefty side-by-side English translation of the original Greek, was thick with dog ears and split at the seams.
A bouquet of gerberas sat on the windowsill. Ben’s wife had sent the flowers but it wasn’t her flowing cursive that graced the message inside the card. The uneven block letters looked to Dave like a cryptic text copied by a blind scribe.
Yvette had called Dave at work half an hour ago. Would he stop by, make sure Ben was in one piece?
Dave plucked a yellow flower from the bouquet and dismembered it slowly.
If Dave lay in hospital, who would send him flowers? If he died, what would his lonely life have achieved?
“Looks bad. Doesn’t it?” said Ben, his eyes still shut.
Dave almost swallowed his tongue. “No, not at all.” He tossed the naked flower stem into the waste bin to join its petals. “I was thinking about myself.”
“Oh,” Ben said, as though that explained everything.
How long had Ben been conscious?
Dave searched the poky room for a cheerful thought.
“No shortage of Jewish doctors here.” His laugh was lame even to his own ears.
“Muhammad,” Ben said.
The hairs on the back of Dave’s neck stiffened. He had heard anecdotes of near-death experiences but he had not expected the bright light at the end of the tunnel to be the founder of Islam.