The Last Handful of Clover

Book Three: Maps, Acknowledgements, and Summary of Books One and Two

Book Three — The Stone in the Stream

Death may come in many forms, they say, but truly it comes in only one, which is the end of love.—Hayden Carruth

Thank you for reading The Last Handful of Clover! Book Three: The Stone in the Stream will begin on Friday. The following “front matter” will appear in the printed book.

Acknowledgements

First, this book would not have been possible without the love of my family, who were exceptionally tolerant and supportive during the five-year writing process. Hopefully, they will forgive all the little details of our lives together that have made their way into this story! Special thanks go to: Yvon Goguen, Etienne Brossard and Rocco Renda.

I am grateful to la Collection nationale in le Grand Bibliothèque de Montréal, which provided me an unparalleled environment for writing—at least until COVID sent us all home. Still, most of this book was composed in a cubicle of their magnificent reading room, and I hope to return there very soon.

A very special thank you goes to my inspiration, mentor, muse, and angel (although not the kind of “angel” in this book). My wish is that every writer should be lucky enough to have a friend and colleague with such insight, wisdom, skill, love, and heart. Thank you, Cristin O’Keefe Aptowicz!

And last (but certainly not least), thank you to my “Founding Patrons,” who showed awesome faith in me and my work by joining my Patreon page for the initial release of this novel, even before the first chapter was available. I’m so grateful to each one of you!

Al Smith
Bob Holman
Bob koshin Hanson
Brian Gilbar
Cristin O’Keefe Aptowicz
Donald Cotter
Etienne Brossard
Gary Wright
Ivan Goguen
Jaime Martin
Jean-Marc Robichaud
Joel Riemer
Justin Woo
Leticia Viloria
Lisa Kolstad
Marc Thomson
Mark Seward
Mike Yada
Phil Locke
Raymond Huessy
Rocco Renda
Rodney Wilder, Jr.
Tony Brown

“Beautiful Dreamer” is by Stephen Foster, published posthumously in 1864. Additional verses by Mattie Sowersby.

Map 1: The Hereafter

Map 2: Downtown Salt Lake City

Synopsis of Book One: The Hereafter

Three days after he was shot in his own home, Richard Pratt (57) returns to the world of the living. As he struggles to make sense of the strange netherworld in which he finds himself, his much younger partner Keith Woo (32) struggles to cope with the grief that comes from having his partner of ten years die in his arms.

But Keith and Richard are not the only ones dealing with tragedy. In fact, all of Salt Lake City is slowly falling under the grip of a spree of violence whose scope is only starting to penetrate the consciousness of the city residents.

On the same night that Richard returns, airman Bradley Seward (40) brutally attacks a dozen teenagers in a suburban theater. In the aftermath of the killings, we meet two more ghosts: Mattie Sowersby (8) and Billy Travers (15). Mattie is a dark and evil presence who possessed Bradley Seward and used his body to murder the theatergoers, and Billy is her guardian, who has been helplessly following her since they both died in 1857.

Meanwhile, Richard Pratt is struggling to stay sane as he must bear witness to his grieving lover while being unable to communicate or interact with him at all. After a day of this, and suffering from overwhelming grief and panic, he finally flees from the home they had shared.

It is in a park near to their home that Richard encounters Mattie, the first ghost he has seen, and welcome proof that he is not completely alone. But unfortunately, the mad little girl flees from him, leaving him lonelier and more confused than ever. In a desperate rush to return to his husband, a delivery vehicle strikes Richard in the street—his ghostly body shattering like glass. This is how he learns that ghosts can be “reset”—a painful and terrifying process which returns him to the location where he died.

What he does not know is that Billy Travers (who was following Mattie) witnessed his reset. Sensing that there is something unusual and powerful about this new ghost (but not understanding who he is or where he died), Billy sets off on a quest to find him.

Meanwhile, in the Salt Lake Detention Center, we meet Howard Gunderson (22): the young man who shot Richard Pratt through the front window of his home. It is a crime that he doesn’t remember, and he fears for his own sanity. Carla Grayson (47), the detective that is overseeing the investigation, is fascinated and moved by the vulnerability of the boy, and his desperate confusion about what is happening to him. After Carla’s departure from his cell, we learn that, like Bradley Seward, Howard committed his crime because he was possessed by a ghost. This one is named Justin Kimball (18), and he returns to possess Howard again, in a brutal act of domination and humiliation.

Justin is obsessed with Richard Pratt, after having been used and betrayed by him in life, decades earlier. But his possession of Howard only started out as a need to use the boy as a random tool to enact his revenge. Now, he has become obsessed with the young man. And in possessing him more than once, he is defying a strange and powerful presence that calls itself God, and whom Justin has sworn to serve.
Now back in his house, Richard struggles between a desire to stay with Keith, and the pain that comes with watching his partner grieve his death.

Helping his husband through his mourning are Keith’s two best friends: Michelle (33) and Pil Kilani (38). Michelle grew up with Keith, and Pil is a huge Maori man from Hawaii that Michelle met on her LDS mission. The bond among these three friends has always been strangely powerful and has only grown through the tragedy of Richard’s death less than a week before.

Richard accompanies the three friends to a funeral home, where Keith must make some of the final arrangements. Richard is disturbed to learn that his corpse is in the mortuary’s basement, and he accompanies Pil and Keith down into the meditation room, where Keith wants some alone time with his late husband. There, Richard has the surreal experience of gazing at his own coffin.

There is an old woman in the room with them, who Richard believes is an attendant. But she is another ghost named Tuilla (82), who is an old Goshute woman that was murdered by the Mormons in 1847. She watches Richard silently, but with great interest.

A few days later, Richard accompanies Keith and his friends to a hearing for the man who is accused of his murder. This is his first chance to see Howard Gunderson, who he has by now heard much about. But during the hearing a strange thing happens: Howard suddenly convulses, throws the table he’s sitting at across the room, and violently lunges down the aisle of the hearing room. Richard only has time to register that the young man is rushing directly toward Keith with murder in his eyes. Luckily, Pil smashes the attacker with a well-placed blow to the chest, and Richard is shocked that the boy appears to split into two as he hits the floor. Howard Gunderson is lying on the floor of the hearing room, and next to him is Justin Kimball: the boy Richard loved and wronged decades earlier, and who he believes committed suicide. Justin clearly sees and recognizes his old lover, and Richard simultaneously realizes that the young man is a ghost. Justin snarls at him with hatred and darts from the hearing room, with Richard in pursuit.

Outside, before Richard can approach Justin, a hand darts out and grabs his wrist. It is the first time Richard has been touched since his death, and it shocks him into silence. He turns to see an equally shocked teenage boy standing at his side.

It is Billy Travers, who has finally tracked down Richard after his reset. Both are amazed that they can touch each other, and Billy quickly drops Richard’s wrist. Billy refuses to explain who he is, but he asks Richard to come with him. And although Richard is torn between wanting to approach Justin, and wanting to be with Keith, he finally decides that only Billy has the answers he seeks.

He follows the boy from the courthouse grounds.

Synopsis of Book Two: Gifts Both Light and Dark

Billy leads Richard to the Valley Fair Mall theaters, where the massacre had occurred on the night Richard returned from the Void. There, Billy explains they are waiting for someone, and while they wait, he can answer some of Richard’s questions. But the boy is more like a wise sage than a fifteen-year-old, and many of his answers to Richard’s questions are confusing.

They are interrupted in their conversation by a scream from the theater. It is Bradley Seward returning to the scene of the massacre. Like Richard, he returns in a state of confusion and terror, but he is soon soothed by the presence of Mattie, the little girl who possessed him and used him to go on the killing spree. She leads him from the theater, singing childhood songs.

Billy tells Richard how Mattie died in 1857, when a pair of cowhands from a passing wagon train murdered her entire family in their cabin. Billy believes this has left Mattie mad. But none of this answers Richard’s questions, and Billy’s insistence that Richard is special, and has been brought back to the Hereafter to save the city, makes no sense. Finally, in frustration and disgust, Richard leaves the theater and rushes back to be with Keith, promising he won’t abandon him the way he abandoned Justin.

At the mention of Justin, memories flood Richard. We learn that Justin Kimball was a boy that Richard seduced over twenty years ago, when he was a new professor at the university. When the inevitable end of the relationship came, Richard treated Justin very badly, resulting in Justin’s apparent suicide. Richard spent many years overwhelmed by guilt for what he had done, and he blames himself for Justin’s death.

Far away, a powerful mind is probing the Salt Lake Valley. It is the one that Justin calls God, but is better known as the Wanderer. His mind is troubled, and he is searching for a ghost that he calls the Disruptor. We learn the Wanderer is the soul of a mountain man named George Drouillard (78), who was adopted by the Goshute tribe. There he lived happily with his wife Tuilla until the whole band was murdered by the Mormons in 1847.

Now, instead of finding the Disruptor, the Wanderer finds Justin Kimball, broken and terrified after his encounter with Richard Pratt in the hearing room. In a fit of remorse, Justin tells the Wanderer about Richard Pratt. Drouillard finds Richard some days later and confronts him in a dark and terrifying vision conjured from Richard’s memories. The encounter leaves Richard shaken.

The next day, Keith delivers the eulogy at Richard’s funeral in the Salt Lake Cemetery, and Richard watches it all with a mixture of detachment and trepidation. Suddenly Billy is there, and Richard is relieved to see him again. Richard once again tries to get some of his questions answered, but their conversation turns toward the philosophical. As Richard learns more about Billy’s past, and the old woman he calls Tuilla, we see Justin Kimball, lurking at the edge of the cemetery, and watching them intently. And when Richard agrees to go with Billy once again, Justin follows.

Over the next day, Billy teaches Richard much about what being a ghost in the Salt Lake Valley means. He witnesses the suffering and madness of the dead all over the city. At dawn the next morning, Billy and Richard find themselves at Billy’s death site at the mouth of Emigration Canyon. Here Richard learns about the borders of the Hereafter, and how crossing that border results in a reset. He also learns about the “Gifts”—the skills that come slowly, if at all, to the ghosts. These include the three “Luminous Gifts” (the ability to hear, see, and touch other ghosts), the “Dark Gifts” (Possession, and Mediumship) and the final rumored gift: Passage out of the Hereafter.

But then he learns that a great terror is threatening both the world of the dead and the world of the living. The Wanderer is threatening to destroy everything, and only Richard—the Disruptor—can stop him. Despite his misgivings, Richard agrees to help. They leave to find Howard Gunderson, hoping that will lead them to Justin, and then to the Wanderer himself. But Justin is still following them, and reports all this immediately to his God.

Richard and Billy find Gunderson in his holding cell at the Courthouse, but what they don’t realize is that Justin’s repeated possessions have turned him into a medium. With great self-control, Howard hides his terror and his visitors are unaware that he can see them. But as the two wait and watch over Gunderson, the Wanderer finds Richard once again, and in this vision he threatens Keith directly. Richard panics and tells Billy he is going back to Keith, with or without him. Billy reluctantly agrees to go with him.

Alone in his cell, Howard is attacked again by Justin, and his assault is even more brutal. Afterwards, Mattie appears, now leading the ghost of Bradley Seward. We learn that Justin is one of “her angels” and has been under her care for years. Now she helps Justin, in Howard Gunderson’s body, to kill one of the guards and escape his cell. Mattie goes off on her own, and Justin is now focused on what he must do: He must find Richard Pratt’s boyfriend and kill him, in order to drive Richard mad. He comes very near to succeeding in this task, but Howard Gunderson, in a supreme effort of will, rips himself free of Justin’s control. Using a tire iron that Justin had stolen on their way to the Avenues, Howard resets Justin with a single blow to the head.

Now alone, and fully aware of what is happening to him, Howard Gunderson flees.

In the house (and unaware of what has transpired), Billy finally convinces Richard that they need to return to the courthouse. But when they get there, in the early morning rain, they see Carla Grayson being interviewed by a reporter, Morgan Jensen (38). And they learn Howard is now wanted for another murder. Richard is now frantic to do whatever he can to protect Keith and he begs Billy to teach him how to possess. Billy replies he doesn’t know how, and wouldn’t teach him, even if he did.

But then, Tuilla steps from the shadows, and says, “I can teach you.”

Meanwhile, Howard has fled to the Salt Lake City Cemetery, where he finds shelter in an abandoned tomb. And Keith is waking up with a strange feeling of loss and isolation, now that Richard is no longer watching over him.

Richard agrees to submit to Tuilla’s tutelage, as long as Billy will watch over Keith. Billy leaves, and Tuilla shows Richard the meditative techniques he will have to master to possess. She is clear that her motivation is not to give him the tools to protect Keith, but to give him the ability to fight the Wanderer, who is in the body of a living man. Richard confronts her with the fact that she is asking him to kill her husband, and sadly, she agrees that this is true.

Howard wakes up after having slept for some time in the tomb. And his conscience drives him to take a risk. He decides that, at the very least, he owes it to Richard Pratt to warn his lover that he is in danger. He makes his way back to the house, and there he has a strange and mystical encounter with Keith, Michelle and Pil. Howard delivers his message and tells Keith that Richard has been watching over him. Despite their shock, they respond by providing Howard with clothes and food. He rushes back out into the rain, unaware that Billy has been watching this encounter from the shadows.

Meanwhile, Mattie has learned what Justin has done, and she is outraged. She tells Justin that they must find and kill Howard Gunderson before God discovers his betrayal.

Carla Grayson arrives at Keith’s home, to tell the trio about Howard Gunderson’s escape. But despite their agreement to stay silent, Michelle breaks down and tells Grayson that Howard had visited them just minutes before. The detective rushes off to look for the wanted man, but only after posting a guard at their door.

But now, the Wanderer’s plan is being set into motion. Using his mental connection with the ghosts under his sway, he calls them all to gather at midnight in the plaza next to the Salt Lake Temple. Richard is deep in his meditations as this occurs, and he is amazed that he can sense the ghosts moving, like red stars across a sea of yellow.

Billy rushes back and tells Richard that Howard Gunderson has visited Keith. Tuilla is shocked that there is now a medium in play, and wonders what that may mean. But they have no time to ponder it. The Wanderer’s Angels are on the move. Richard and Tuilla follow them, as Billy goes back to keep watch over Keith.

In the courtyard next to the temple, Richard and Tuilla witness the gathering of almost a thousand of the angels. They see an old man arrive, and they realize it must be the human body now inhabited by George Drouillard. But before Richard can act, Drouillard has delivered his message and fled. The ghosts now fan out on some strange mission that Richard and Tuilla do not understand. They know their time is limited, and disaster is on the horizon.

Tuilla continues to instruct Richard in possession, now in the nearby Tabernacle. But the Wanderer returns to Richard’s mind, this time in the guise of a little boy. The image of evil and violation that this little boy projects is overwhelming to Richard, but the vision is short-lived. Despite their trepidations, they return to Richard’s instruction.
As morning breaks, we finally meet the Wanderer, in his new flesh. We learn he is in the body of a man named Sutton Deary (66), who he possessed over sixty years ago, when he was a young boy. He is now an old man, and head of security for the West Desert Test Center in the Utah Desert, near Dugway. Now, from the location of that massacre, he is ready to unleash his fury on the Salt Lake Valley. He sends forth his will, calling his ghosts to begin the great work.

At exactly noon, it begins.

Slowly, at first, chaos breaks out over the city, as Drouillard’s Angels possess the living. They begin to murder at random, using whatever weapons they can find. And slowly the city sinks toward madness. Still sequestered in his house, Keith and his friends see the violence begin, first on television, and then even outside their boarded-up window.

While driving on the freeway, reporter Morgan Jensen witnesses incredible devastation, including a plane crashing into the Wasatch Mountains.

Richard is called out of his meditations by Tuilla’s frantic entreaties and discovers what is happening in the city. The scene outside of the Tabernacle in horrifying, with desperate people trying to gain entrance to the grounds, and dead bodies lying at their feet. In a panic, he rushes from Tuilla, desperate to get to Keith and protect him any way he can.

Back in the tomb, Howard too awakens to the growing chaos, and quickly realizes that something horrific is happening to the city. He makes his way back to Keith’s house. But unfortunately, Justin too is now on his way there, having fled the gathering the night before. Richard arrives and finds Howard talking to Michelle, alone in the backyard. Howard can see Richard, and he tries to explain to him what is going on, as Michelle looks on in shock, trying to decide if Howard is insane, or if he really can see the ghost of Richard Pratt.

At that moment Keith bursts from the house, being pursued by Pil. Justin has possessed the man and is about to strangle Keith. Billy has been helpless to stop him, and now rides the big man like a bucking bronco. As Pil’s huge hands close around Keith’s neck, Richard dives into Pil. He has learned more than he realizes, and in his desperation, he too has learned to possess.

A battle of epic proportions now unfolds in the mind of Pil Kilani. After this titanic struggle, Richard throws Justin out of the big man’s mind. Justin shatters against the wall of the house, reset once again. Richard is now alone in Pil. And as his wits return, he realizes he now has a body. And that the man he loves is lying at his feet.

As Howard tries desperately to explain to Michelle and Keith that this is not Pil, Richard takes two steps toward his lover. Keith recognizes the truth in what Howard is saying and rushes to him. Richard is overwhelmed by the emotional firestorm having his husband back in his arms has unleashed. It feels like redemption and grace, and he can barely hear Howard telling him that Billy is there, and is begging him not to do this. And for a moment, Richard is sure that he will never again leave Pil Kilani’s body. But then he sees Michelle, looking at him in terror, and realizes that this is an injustice he cannot inflict on an innocent. And slowly, he pries Keith out of his arms. With one last kiss, he tells his lover that he has to go.
“I’ll love you forever,” Keith says.

Richard looks at Michelle and Howard, and tells them to get Keith out of the city. And to tell Pil that he is sorry.

There is a pause no longer than two heartbeats, and with a huge sigh, Richard releases Pil. As the big man regains his wits, he hears Howard talking to Michelle.

“Richard is gone,” he says. “And Billy’s gone too. They’re all gone. I think we’re on our own.”

The Last Handful of Clover is a supernatural thriller by Wess Mongo Jolley. Thanks for reading! If you are enjoying this story, please consider supporting the author on Patreon.

For more information (including maps of the story’s world and a contact form) visit the author’s website.

To read previous chapters of this book, go to the Table of Contents page.

If you’re interested in listening to the book, rather than reading it, the audiobook is available at the Patreon link above, and also as a podcast on iTunes, Stitcher, Anchor, and all other podcast platforms. Visit the podcast page for more details.

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Copyright 2021, Wess Mongo Jolley. All rights reserved.

Wess Mongo Jolley

Wess Mongo Jolley is Utah native, who is now an expatriate American novelist, editor, poet and poetry promoter, living in Montreal. He is Founder and Director of the Performance Poetry Preservation Project, and is most well known for hosting the IndieFeed Performance Poetry Channel podcast for more than ten years. His poems and short stories have appeared or journals such as Off The Coast, PANK, The New Verse News, and Danse Macabre, Apparition Literary Journal, Grain, and in collections such as the Write Bloody Press book The Good Things About America. He loves hearing from readers, and can be contacted through his website, at https://wessmongojolley.com. If you are enjoying this story, please drop him a line, and consider supporting his work as a novelist at http://patreon.com/wessmongojolley. All of the trilogy's over 207 chapters are available there for subscribers, and new poems, short stories, and other content is posted there every Friday.

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