What people are saying about Through Roscoe’s Eyes:
“Kory Steed’s new book, Through Roscoe’s Eyes, is a tear-jerker with a very happy ending. If you love your pets, you’ll love this novel, because I think the animals stole the show in it.”
“You don’t want to miss this bestseller.”
“Check out this great title from this gifted author!”
When Reggie sets out to continue his mother’s mission to feed the homeless, he never anticipated how much a chance encounter with an injured man, his small, gaunt dog, Roscoe, and sick, young cat, Cinders, would change the course of his life. With a winter storm approaching, Reggie makes a snap decision and brings the wary trio to his estate home to be cared for and nursed back to health.
Reggie learns the man’s name is Calvin, he was a quartermaster in the army, and he was dishonorably discharged prior to the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”. Taking pity on the man and in need of someone to help him run his mother’s foundation, Reggie offers Calvin a job. With few prospects in sight to find shelter for his small family during the peak of winter, Calvin reluctantly accepts Reggie’s offer on a trial basis, but it is only one of many trials both men will face.
Eventually, yearnings Reggie and Calvin had buried deep inside begin to fan the nearly extinguished embers of passion in both men. With Calvin drawing emotional support from Roscoe and Cinders, and Reggie discovering an ally in his beloved housekeeper, both men explore their newfound attraction, edging them toward the precipice of an ecstasy neither could have imagined.
Will the discovery of a past connection between the two men’s families be enough to bring them together? Or will sinister, outside forces and an unexpected loss of life shatter the bonds between both families and both men for good?
Barnes & Noble
Clad in a leather coat and denim jeans, Reggie sat quietly in his jet-black SUV, parked along the curb, while he drummed his fingers lightly on the steering wheel. From his vantage point, some thirty yards away, he peered through the windshield as he focused his binoculars on the huddled form on the sidewalk as it came in and out of view between the people hurrying by. He waited for a sign, a sign that would determine when his mission would end, but he grew impatient.
The smell of hot sandwiches and fries emanating from the last bag resting on the back seat seemed well out of place in his Platinum Escalade, but it brought back fond memories from his childhood. Old Dudley, the family chauffeur, took pity on him to occasionally make a quick detour for the forbidden fast-food on their way home during his days at the private academy where he went to school. Dudley even took the blame for the smell that coated the interior of the limousine, claiming it was him who had succumbed to the lure of French fries and burger grease when his parents complained about the odor on those occasions when he didn’t have time to air it out. Reggie wondered whether the recipient of the meal would relish its contents as much as he once did.
He’d already distributed twelve of the baker’s-dozen, large paper bags that afternoon. With only the one left to go, he needed to make up his mind. Was the figure, sighted through other end of his binoculars, worth the risk? Regardless of his good intentions, charitable work had its hazards, particularly when on your own, and he’d already had run-ins with two anonymous recipients today. He didn’t want a repeat of being accused of thievery, and this potential recipient looked to be closer to the risky end of the charitable acts’ spectrum.
The work he’d begun years before had started with a promise, but as the years passed, he’d thought more and more of it as a mission. He set down the binoculars and sighed. If she could see me now, he thought. Though I’m no missionary.
Lost to his memories, Reggie had no idea how much time had passed when his eyes came back into focus. He recognized the sun would be setting soon, and he needed to be on his way. That’s when he noticed movement coming from the direction of his target. Something shuddered in the breeze. He lifted his binoculars just in time to read the words, I ask not for me, but for them.
Reggie put on his turn signal and pulled out into traffic, then pulled right back up to the curb after closing the distance to investigate the words that caught his attention.
Hurrying passersby glanced briefly at the words scribbled in rough, bolded-black letters, written with crayon in a child’s hand on a crumpled, jagged-edged piece of cardboard. A dented, faded coffee can sat on the sidewalk in front of the propped-up sign. Drawn above the words were two artistic renditions of smiling figures with pointed ears, but the passersby kept passing by.
The sign was nearly as filthy as its author, also propped against a boarded-up door in the alcove of an abandoned deli, nestled between boarded up windows over blackened glass. There was evidence a fire had taken place there sometime in the past.
Cretin shrugged the once-colorful child’s sleeping bag further up his neck as he repositioned himself against the door. He was the only one who knew a family of pink and purple unicorns still lived beneath the street-worn filth that now covered the quilted fabric. A cold north wind began to blow in, an omen that warned it was going to be another empty-stomach night for the three of them.
As the last rays of the early January sun began to slip behind the roof of the laundromat across the street, Cretin huddled against the advancing cold and tucked his head beneath the unicorns. “I’m sorry, babies, I did my best.”
Reggie cleared his throat. “Who is them?”
Cretin continued to whisper into the sleeping bag. “Maybe tomorrow I’ll find a better place to beg.”
“Hey, buddy, I said, ‘Who is them?’”
“Huh?” Cretin pulled his head out and blinked against the last rays of the setting sun until the shadow of a figure blocked them. Before him stood a pair of legs, covered by crisp, blue denim jeans, their rolled-up cuffs revealed a lining of blue and green, plaid-flannel. The jeans were propped up by a pair of expensive-looking brown, leather Boondockers.
“What’d you say? You talkin’ t’ me, Denim Legs?” Cretin followed the legs up to a wide, two-tone, brown leather belt with a matte, silver-metal buckle, just beneath a black and red, plaid-flannel shirt that was tucked into the jeans. Over the shirt was an expensive, brown, thigh-length, patchwork-suede, lambswool coat with the bottom two, large leather buttons undone, and there were gloves to match. The long end of a red and blue plaid-woolen scarf, wrapped around a neck, hung down the jacket’s front.
“Yes, sorry, sir. I asked, ‘Who is them?’”
Cretin followed the voice upward to a pair of broad, full lips, spread into a smile, and studded with white, shiny teeth that filled it from one side to the other. Above them, a noble, slightly crooked nose and a pair of blue-green eyes that crinkled at their corners finished the face. It was deeply tanned and surrounded by short brown hair with the ears cut out. There was a scattering of gray at the temples. Cretin couldn’t tell whether the guy was rich, tanned-white or Hispanic, or some other combination thereof, but it didn’t matter. He was talking out loud and to him, and he wanted to know who them was. Maybe there’d be food tonight after all.
“Sir? You callin’ me sir?” Defying the greasy, matted-brown hair, tied in a ponytail, and the filth covering the bearded, Caucasian face, Cretin’s amber-brown eyes with flecks of gold peered up at Denim Legs. “Sorry, but I ain’t no sir, not no more, just Cretin. What you want?”
“I was inquiring as to who them is, or more properly, who they are. Your sign, with the beautifully drawn figures of a dog and cat, are they yours?”
“Yup, them’s my family. Well really, only one is. Roscoe’s mine, but Cinders is Roscoe’s. Guess that kinda makes him family, too.”
“Roscoe and Cinders? Who’s who?”
Cretin flipped the sleeping bag open, and then looked back up at Denim Legs. “Them’s Roscoe ’n Cinders.”
Lifting its smooth, short-furred black and white head was what looked like a small terrier mix. Its ears pointed up while the tips drooped down, and its markings were like that of a killer whale, but in reverse—large, white regions with smaller, rounded and oval, black markings.
Denim Legs’s face softened.
A two-toned, striped, ash-gray, juvenile cat, just out of kittenhood, was curled between the dog’s front legs. The edges of its ears were scabbed, the ears themselves were red, and swollen, and oozing and there were crusts in the corners of its eyes. Crusted yellow wounds lay where bald spots covered its body, and both of its front and left rear paws were swollen, blistered, and hairless as well. Not taking its eyes off Denim Legs, the dog lowered its head and covered its ward with its paws.
Then the odor hit him. Denim Legs recoiled.
“Oh, for the love of God!” The stench that stirred into the air made him stagger backwards. “That smell!”
Cretin cowered and smiled weakly behind his several week-old beard, embarrassment evident on his face.
“Oh, I’m sorry,” Denim Legs said. “I’m so sorry. You can’t help it.”
“No, I’m sorry, Mister. We been on the street off ’n on some past two years—but we been without means to bathe ’n shave fer only a couple weeks, ever since we got throwed outta that shelter. One animal’s alls I’s allowed, ’n they didn’t even like that, but they had t’ let us stay ‘coz some rich folks done made a donation t’ that effect. Once they found out Roscoe done adopted Cinders, they said to git. I begged and begged ’em, but they said no ways.
“I took one look at Roscoe, ’n her face done told me what I had t’ do. After she pulled Cinders outta the rubble of that burnin’ factory when he was a baby—well he been hers ever since. Can’t break up her family so we packed right up ’n left.”
“Roscoe is a girl?”
“Yup, I know. I know it’s a boy’s name, but I took one look at ’er when I found ’er nosin’ by the tracks ’afore I knew ’n said, ‘You looks like a Roscoe t’ me.’ She started waggin’ ‘er tail right off—been Roscoe ever since.”
“Baby boy, but he ain’t gonna be a baby much longer. I’m savin’ up some money so as t’ git him fixed. I already tried once, but them animal shelter folks tol’ me he was too young ’n weak at the time on account of his burns. I’m trying to build him up so as he can go through it. Only right with so many strays about. Maybe come spring I’ll have enough saved up.”
“I see,” said Denim Legs.
“Not a lot of cans on the street right now seein’ as folks don’t drink as much soda pop since it got cold. I keep havin’ to dip int’ it t’ pay fer their food. All used up three days ago, but I can start savin’ again once the weather turns back. I been able t’ scrounge up enough chow that be still half good right now out back o’ them restaurants a couple blocks over, over on 47th, t’ keep us going.”
“Sir, it’s going to be cold tonight. There’s a big storm coming. A couple feet of snow is in the forecast for the city. You’re going to have to find a place to take shelter.”
“Ain’t no place that’ll take me ’n Roscoe ’n Cinders, ’n I ain’t leavin’ ’em. I can’t. I promised ’em I’d always look after ’em.”
“Hold on, maybe I have something that will help.” Denim Legs turned around and walked to the curb. It was the first time Cretin noticed the big, black SUV with its motor running. Denim Legs returned a moment later carrying a heavy, quilted winter coat, a pair of knitted mittens, and a multi-colored, knitted scarf and hat—but most importantly, he carried a large, fast-food paper bag.
Roscoe lifted her head and sniffed the air. Her body began to tremble, and her tail started to wag, beating in time with the sound of the SUV’s idling engine. Cinders lifted his head and sniffed, too, but he held fast beneath Roscoe’s protective shield.
“Here you go,” Denim Legs said, “These should keep you warm, and there should be enough in the bag to feed the three of you for at least a day.”
A smile of stained teeth spread across Cretin’s face. “Thanks, Mister. Sure ’preciate it. I’ll put Cinders in the hat ’n then Roscoe ’n the hat inside this nice, new, warm coat. ’N zip it up real tight. That’ll keep ’em both nice ’n warm tonight.”
“Sir, the coat is for you.”
“Ain’t no sir, I told ya. I’m Cretin. I got this here sleepin’ bag. It’ll be enough fer me, but thanks again,” he said as he reached into the bag of food and pulled out two foil-wrapped sandwiches, one a burger, the other fish. “Roscoe and Cinders sure do appreciate your generosity.”
Denim Legs stood in silence as he watched Cretin carefully open the sandwiches and begin to pull the meat and fish apart, sucking the mayonnaise off the burger and the breading off the fish. After placing the breading among the remaining cheese, lettuce, tomato, pickle, and onion between the remaining buns, he broke up the meat and fish and fed the pieces to his little family. Once it was gone, he ate the contents of the buns in several bites.
“Sir … sorry, Cretin,” Denim Legs said with reverence. “There’s plenty in there for all of you. You need protein just as much as Roscoe and Cinders do. Please have yourself a burger.”
“Oh, I will, I will. It’s just that I ain’t that hungry right now, ’n they need it more ’n me, seein’ as they only got fur, and there ain’t much of that between the two of ‘em. Again thanks, Mister. Guess I better get a move on afore that snow starts up.”
“But where will you go? You said the shelters won’t take you.”
“Is right. There’s a busted lock on a door ‘round back of here. That’s where we been holdin’ up at night ever since we left the shelter. Too cold for kids and gangs to be botherin’ us after the sun goes down. We hold up just fine in there.
“Good thing you stopped when you did, ‘coz they done got our money out the can ‘bout hour afore you come by. I was ‘bout t’ head out t’ buy Roscoe ’n Cinders their supper. That’s why I’s still here—tryin’ a little longer t’ see if’n some good folks might find it in their hearts to toss us a few coins. Good thing I stayed, ‘coz then I met you. So thanks again, Mister. Really, thanks.”
“Here,” Denim Legs said as he reached into his back pocket and pulled out his wallet. He took out a few bills. “Please use this and find yourself a room for the night. I’m sorry, but it’s all I’m carrying right now.”
“Sixty-five dollars! Sixty-five dollars! Mister, that’ll feed us for a couple weeks!” Cretin exclaimed. “Oh, thank you, thank you so much!”
“No, please get a room or you’ll freeze tonight.”
“Too late for tonight, but don’t you worry none,” Cretin promised, “tomorrow’ll be different. Now we gotta get a move on.”
“But … but,” Denim Legs stammered, but it was no use. Cretin shook his head. He’d made up his mind.
Denim Legs watched Cretin wrap the new scarf around his neck then fold up the sign and quickly pack up his meager belongings and the bag of food into a heavy, black-plastic garbage bag. Then he lifted a shivering Cinders and folded him into the hat under the watchful eye of Roscoe. After opening the new coat, he motioned for Roscoe to lie down in it, then placed Cinders, in the hat, beside her.
Once Roscoe curled up around the kitten, Cretin pulled the coat sleeves into the coat and zipped it up around them, leaving the top six inches open. He looked back over his shoulder at Denim Legs. “That’s so as they can breathe.” Then he pulled two pieces of twine from his pocket and tied the neck and bottom of the coat up tight. “So as they don’t fall out ’til we get inside.”
After opening the sleeping bag, Cretin laid the coat into its center and then drew up the four corners and tied them together to make a satchel. As he lifted the garbage bag over his left shoulder and scooped the satchel into his right arm, he nodded and smiled and then made his way down the sidewalk. Once he reached the end of the long row of connected buildings, he looked back and nodded his head again before disappearing around the corner.
Denim Legs waved and then turned and walked to his vehicle, shaking his head, wishing he could have done more. As he pulled out into traffic, he glanced in the rearview mirror at the pile of winter clothing behind the back seat and remembered why he was there.