Fortunate Son by Thomas Tibor released in February in the Historical Fiction genre.
A powerful, evocative novel that transports the reader to a tense period in America, Fortunate Son is set on a southern college campus during the turbulent spring of 1970. Reed Lawson, an ROTC cadet, struggles with the absence of his father, a Navy pilot who has been Missing in Action in Vietnam for three years.
While volunteering at a drug crisis center, Reed sets out to win the heart of a feminist co-worker who is grappling with a painful past, and to rescue a troubled teenage girl from self-destruction. In the process, he is forced to confront trauma’s tragic consequences and the fragile, tangled web of human connections.
One aspect of this story dramatizes instances of self-harm and makes references to suicide.
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Note: This excerpt has scattered profanity
“Sorry I’m late,” Reed said as Annabel jumped into the Mustang. “How was your weekend?”
“Forget my weekend. Why’d you have to blab about me? Now they think I’m a wacko!”
“I’m sure they don’t. You’re dealing with heavy stuff right now and need some help, that’s all.”
“Forget that shit. Mom dragged me to a doctor last year. He laid some crap on me about having an anxiety disorder. Gave me a bunch of Librium, which just made me sick.”
Flipping down the sun visor, she inspected the dark circles beneath her eyes. “Dammit, forgot the concealer—I’ll look like a corpse all day.”
Reed tried to change the subject. “By the way, have you written any poetry lately?”
“Fuck no. Gonna burn all my notebooks.”
“What! You can’t do that.”
“Who says? Not like anyone’s gonna read that garbage anyway.”
“Wait a minute. You can’t just get rid of creative stuff like that. Besides, it’s really good.”
“Says only you.”
“I don’t get it. I thought you wanted to go to college and become a writer.”
“Another stupid pipe dream.”
Clearly, nothing else he could say was going to make a difference.
That same day—Monday, May 4—Ohio National Guard troops were summoned to restore order at Kent State University. In the confrontation with protesters that ensued, Guardsmen opened fire, killing two students and two bystanders. Nine others were wounded. News of the Kent State killings quickly spread nationwide.
In the crowded TV room, Reed and Adam fixated on the evening broadcast—Guardsmen firing, students screaming. And a photo of a young woman pleading for help, kneeling next to a guy lying on the pavement, his head in a puddle of blood.
Adam raised his voice above the angry clamor. “I guess American citizens are now no safer than the Vietnamese we’re killing.”
The next morning after drill, Reed stood in the ROTC parking lot and spread the newspaper across the Mustang’s hood. According to the front-page article, the Guardsmen had lobbed tear gas at protesters in attempts to break up the rally. Some protesters threw the smoking canisters—along with stones—back at the Guardsmen, who retreated, except for twenty-eight, who suddenly turned and fired into the unarmed crowd. Over sixty rounds in thirteen seconds.
As he finished the article, students slowed and leaned out of passing cars to jeer.
“Fuck you, ROTC!”
Reed stiffened but didn’t bother to respond, then walked into class.
Captain Harwood joined the class that day to discuss the killings. He began by reading excerpts from articles: “According to the Ohio National Guard, the Guardsmen had been forced to shoot after a sniper opened fire against the troops from a nearby rooftop. Others claimed there was no sniper fire . . . the brigadier general commanding the troops admitted students had not been warned that soldiers might fire live rounds . . . a Guardsman always has the option to fire if his life is in danger.”
The captain scanned the room. “So, what do you all think?”
“Seems to me, sir,” a cadet responded, “it was self-defense.”
Reed raised his hand. “Sir, why couldn’t they have just fired warning shots?”
Harwood was about to speak when he was interrupted by shouting from protesters outside: “Down with ROTC!” “ROTC off campus!” “Burn it down!”
He pressed on. “Once weapons are loaded, Guardsmen have a license to fire. These guys were inexperienced, afraid, and poorly trained.”
As another cadet raised his hand, bricks crashed against the classroom windows, cracking a few panes.
Reed dove to the floor and crouched under his desk. Son of a bitch!
More bricks, glass breaking, and chanting continued until Harwood was able to shepherd the cadets into the hallway amid pounding on the front door.
Sirens wailed in the distance. Campus police soon arrived to clear the front lawn and sidewalk, cordon off the area, and direct the cadets outside.
Reed escaped to his Mustang. It was all too freaking crazy. He drove across the lot, but protesters blocked the exit. Gunning his engine, he envisioned knocking the assholes down like bowling pins. Moments later, the police cleared his path and motioned him through.
Back at the dorm, he ripped off his uniform and rummaged for a clean pair of Levi’s. Adam sat at his desk, furiously scribbling notes.
“Don’t you have class?”
“Walked out,” Adam said.
“Because of what my fascist teacher wrote on the blackboard: Lesson for the Week—He who stands in front of soldiers with rifles should not throw stones.”
“Screw it. I’m not going back.”
“Wait a minute. What about finals next week?”
Adam shoved his notebook aside and stepped toward the door. “Who gives a shit? It’s like that saying, To sin by silence when they should protest makes cowards of men. At some point in life, you gotta take a stand.”
A veteran writer and video producer, Thomas Tibor has helped develop training courses focusing on mental health topics. In an earlier life, he worked as a counselor in the psychiatric ward of two big-city hospitals. He grew up in Florida and now lives in Northern Virginia. Fortunate Son is his first novel.
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Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/Thomas-Tibor/e/B09TM27L46
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All the best,
The Coffee Pot Book Club
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