Linda Wood Rondeau

Snark & Sensibility

THE LEAST OF THESE
Wednesday, July 10, 2019 by KATHLEEN NEELY

PLEASE WELCOME

KATHLEEN NEELY

TO

DEVOTIONAL WEDNESDAY

 

 

The Least of These is my third novel published, but it is actually the first that I wrote. I think every author would agree that the first story they write holds a very special place in their heart. Let me give you a little background before sharing an excerpt.

I was a wannabe writer for years but didn’t have the time to commit to it. I worked as a teacher, then as a principal, and raised three sons. During those busy years, The Least of These was my guilty pleasure. Stolen minutes at my computer over the course of years generated five chapters.

Two things happened that spurred me to complete it. First, I approached retirement and knew I needed a new direction to fill those hours. Secondly, Mike Yankowski was a keynote speaker at Miracle Hill Ministries in my hometown of Greenville, SC. I then read his book Under the Overpass. His true-life story of intentionally living among the homeless so closely mirrored my unfinished manuscript. My story is fiction but he lived it. I recommend his book if you would like a closer look at the homeless community.

 

EXCERPT FROM THE LEAST OF THESE

Excerpts from The Least of These:

Scott Harrington

Recognition lit the kid’s eyes as I approached his table. I set my plate down across from him. “Hi. I’m Scott. I think we stayed at the same hotel a few nights ago.”

He chuckled. “Yeah. The Bridge Resort. A real one-star facility. I’m Tyler.”

I tested my coffee. Strong, black, and slightly warm. “I can’t say I slept much under the overpass. This is the first night I’ve made it through these doors. Tonight, I made sure I arrived early enough. How about you? Have you been back under the bridge?”

“No. I stayed here last night. Can’t say it’s much better.”

I raised my eyebrows. “How could it not be better than hard concrete and traffic whizzing overhead?”

“Wait ’til tonight. You’ll see. It’s filled with hacking coughs and body odor. I’ve got to get a job and get out of here.” He took a bite of his mac and cheese. “Artificial cheese. Probably powdered. And the ham’s almost too salty to eat. I guess I shouldn’t complain. It’s free.” He picked up his water and drank.

I looked at my coffee and wished I’d opted for the water. “It’s a hard life. Some of these fellas look like they’ve been at it a while.”

He nodded. “Well, I don’t plan to be one of them. I’m trying to get a job.”

“Good for you. It’s tough without an address.”

“I give my e-mail and check it every day at the library. It’s a good place to hang out. I can sit there and read if I have time to kill.”

We were interrupted when a man spoke to the whole group. We ate while he provided a reminder about restrooms, showers, cots, and the time for breakfast. Anyone who remained sleeping past eight thirty would be woken. Breakfast would be served until nine, and everyone had to be out by nine-thirty. 

When he’d finished speaking, I picked up the conversation. “How old are you? How’d you end up here?”

“I’m eighteen. How’d I end up here? I keep asking myself that question. I guess it’s part of a long story.”

I pushed my empty plate away and leaned back. “I like stories.”

Tyler crushed his napkin and placed it on his empty plate. “You want the long or the short?”

I glanced at the clock that read six thirty. “Looks like we have nothing but time.” This would definitely be one of the three biographies. I couldn’t take notes, so I’d have to listen carefully, remembering details until I could commit them to paper.

Clare Bassett

The kids went with my parents, and my brothers had taken my things away, leaving me alone and vulnerable. I picked up a plate that had somehow escaped packing. How is it that this set of stoneware, glazed in a dusty rose pattern, had once been so important? 

The day Andrew and I completed our bridal registry, I saw the set of earthenware dishes. Nothing else would do. Andrew picked up a masculine design of brown stoneware with a tan border. I’d scrunched my face in distaste and he’d laughed. We added the rose pattern to our registry. I found the perfect placemats to match, complete with linen napkins and rose napkin holders. I’d set a flawless table.

I enfolded the loose plate in a remnant of bubble wrap and placed it in a box with mismatched, haphazard pieces, hoping someday to reunite it with the rest of the set. I went upstairs, pulled back the bedspread on one side of my king-sized bed, and sat down. In a few weeks, it would be Isabella’s sixth birthday. How would it be possible for me to celebrate? Bella’s birthday marked a year since my nightmare began. But for her sake, I’d put on my smile, hand her colorful packages with pink ribbons, and pretend I wasn’t falling apart. 

With experienced movements, I reached into the nightstand drawer and pulled out the wedding picture I couldn’t bear to be without. As I did every night, I touched a gentle finger to the cold glass that covered my husband’s face and wished him a good night. I said a prayer for his safety and placed it on the spot where he had once lain beside me. Reaching for the pillow where his scent had long since been laundered away, I held him close to my heart. I couldn’t hate him. Even after all this time. I thought of all of the things he missed—Drew’s first steps, Isabella’s first day of school, Maxwell’s death when he’d curled up in his dog bed and died of a broken heart. If not for the children, I might have done the same. 

I slid from the bed to kneel beside it, holding fast to his pillow, feeling tiny and insignificant.

“My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?” Tears threatened, but I held them at bay. “Forgive me, Lord. I know You’re my strength in weakness, but right now, I can’t feel Your strength. Help me to understand how You’re working in my life. I can’t see it, Lord.”

I gave in to the tears that would saturate this pillow case for the last time before it joined my other belongings in a storage shed. 

ABOUT THE LEAST OF THESE

Journalist SCOTT HARRINGTON sets out to write a documentary on the lives of three homeless men. He hopes to win a prestigious award and his father’s respect. In the process, he uncovers stories of heartbreak, trauma, and rejection, causing him to revisit his own tragic past and the guilty secret that he holds.

CLAIRE BASSETT has been searching for her husband who went missing a year ago. The attentions of another man cause her to question if she should continue to search or move on with her life. As Scott and Claire’s stories overlap, will there be restoration or rejection?

The Least of These won first place for fiction in 2015 in Almost An Author’s Fresh Voices Contest.

You can order your copy at https://pbgrp.link/2MleTP2

 

ABOUT KATHLEEN NEELY

Kathleen Neely is the author of The Street Singer, Beauty for Ashes, and The Least of These.  She is a former elementary teacher. Following her years in the classroom, she moved into administration, serving as an elementary principal. Kathleen is an alumnus of Slippery Rock University in Pennsylvania and Regent University in Virginia. 

Among her writing accomplishments, Kathleen won second place in a short story contest through ACFW-VA for her short story “The Missing Piece” and an honorable mention for her story “The Dance”. Both were published in a Christmas anthology. Her novel, The Least of These, was awarded first place in the 2015 Fresh Voices contest through Almost an Author. She has numerous devotions published through Christian Devotions. She continues to speak to students about writing. Kathleen is a member of Association of Christian Fiction Writers.

She resides in Greenville, SC with her husband, two cats, and one dog. She enjoys time with family, visiting her two grandsons, traveling, and reading.

Website – www.KathleenNeely.com

Facebook – www.facebook.com/kathy.neely.98

Twitter - https://twitter.com/NeelyKneely3628

 

You can order your copy at https://pbgrp.link/2MleTP2

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Comments

Kathleen Neely From Greenville, SC At 7/10/2019 3:02:05 PM

Thank you, Linda for hosting me on your blog, and thanks for the reader comments. It’s been a pleasure to share with you.

Pamela S Thibodeaux From LA At 7/10/2019 11:09:39 AM

Great post Kathleen! Good luck and God's blessings with The Least of These PamT

Suzy Parish From At 7/10/2019 10:37:42 AM

When I read this novel I was impressed with how real to life the descriptions were. I’ve been involved with the homeless and Neely’s portrayals of that life are spot on. She brought the characters to life in an uncontrived manner and wove the story artfully. I highly recommend this book.

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