A Self-Publishing Experiment: Jake Hill


By Richard Davis

Last week I talked about the lack of equality in the presentation of various art forms to the public. I find it particularly troubling that writers have to jump through so many hoops to just have people read their writing.

So I am trying an experiment using my platform, which reaches only a few hundred people at best. I have been writing because I feel compelled to in order to keep something in my inner spirit alive. I am resigned to the reality that very few people will read my writing.

Below is a condensed version of a story that is part of a short book that has already been rejected by a number of established publishers. If you want to read the complete story I will e-mail it to you. Just ask me. rbdav@comcast.net

Jake Hill

Jake Hill wasn’t the kind of man who was in the habit of talking about tomorrow’s weather. He didn’t worry about the snow or the rain that might come.

The meager income that he lived on forced him to be prepared for bad weather. It was a matter of survival and, over the years, he had allowed natural events to teach him how to know what to do and when to do it.

There was one natural event, however, that Jake was slow to accept, something he couldn’t look at like the weather, as had some of his friends.

They would resign themselves to the decay of their bodies and say that winter had gotten into them. Jake still believed in yearly cycles of renewal and he was sure that he could recapture some of his youth every summer.

The summer after his seventy fifth birthday was the summer that Jake lost his final grip on youth.

It wasn’t the first time that Jake Hill had doubts about surviving and it wasn’t the first time that he was without a truck. What made his current predicament more difficult than usual was the result of passing years.

At 40, 50 and even at 62 he could figure out a way to get what he needed and be back on track in a couple of days. At 75, problems got harder to solve.

Jake had lived by his wits for quite a few years, cutting and delivering cordwood and hauling away junk for people. He never had more than a couple of hundred dollars at a time and he lived the kind of life that made a day-to-day economy practical.

Jake’s roof and walls and not much else sat on a piece of land next to the town dump. His humble, but adequate, estate was acquired about 20 years ago when Freddy, the bachelor farm hand at the Morgan horse farm and former owner of Jake’s home, died.

Twenty years of fixing and patching had turned a landfill-filler into a cozy home for a resourceful man who had no concern for resale value, location, view or any of the real estate anxieties that shorten people’s lives.

Slowly and deliberately rising from his chair, Jake walked stiffly over to the pot of boiling water on his gas stove to pour the water for his morning cup of coffee. His hand grip slipped and the boiling water splashed onto his bare left foot.

Blisters quickly replaced the skin over the instep of his foot. Jake scooped a palmful of Bag Balm out of the green tin that sat on the shelf above the stove and smeared it onto his foot, leaving an eighth inch thick stocking of the cure-all salve from his ankle to his toes. He covered it with a dry sock and hoped for some relief from pain.

“Time to get out the cane,” Jake said aloud to himself. The carved hickory stick was in the corner of the kitchen and it was used at least once a year. Jake believed that a good cane and time would heal his wounds well enough and the years had proven to him that this was a basic truth that he could depend on.

He had never been in a hospital, except to visit, and he didn’t trust doctors enough to ask them to fix things that he knew would heal if influenced properly by common sense and the passage of time.

Two weeks had passed since Jake had seen anyone in town. He wasn’t exactly sure how long he had been tending to his foot but he did know that it was more than a week.

Pete, the landfill attendant, respected Jake’s privacy and he only called on Jake to fill his contractual obligation as assistant when he had a job that needed an extra pair of hands.

Pete was relieved to hear Jake yell, “Come in,” when he knocked on his door. Jake was sitting in his chair with his sock-covered foot up on two boxes.

“I need some help with a job,” Pete said.

“Good thing you didn’t come any sooner. I might’n have been able to help you.”


“Burned my god damn foot. But it’s healin’ up in good fashion.”

Jake was not bound by convention or ritual. If you weren’t hungry you didn’t eat just because it was supper time and you hadn’t eaten all day.

Some days were meant for less eating and some days for more.

The same went for bathing and changing clothes. When it came to matters of hygiene and fashion there were two seasons: summer and winter.

In summer, Jake liked to bathe every couple of days and he had enough tee shirts and work clothes so that it was four or five days before he had to wear the same thing again.

The winter routine was different. Two pairs of heavy socks, two pairs of upper and lower long underwear, a pair of boots, one sweater and two pairs of pants. Once Jake decided that winter had arrived, usually in late September or early October, he would switch his wardrobe and not change his clothes until he took his next shower. That could be two weeks or two months.

Summer was a time for being a little less stiff in the joints than in winter. The fact that Jake never cleared his bed off and always slept in a chair didn’t make his days any more comfortable.

Jake had a prideful sense of accomplishment about the way he had healed his foot and he pulled off his sock to show Pete. As he pulled the sock off, four squirming maggots deep in the wound smashed the pedestal of Jake’s pride.

“Jesus Christ. I’m taking you to the doctor,” Pete said with a finality that would not allow any debate.

Jake followed Pete out of his trailer and into Pete’s truck. Anyone watching them from a distance would have thought that the limping man was being led to the gallows.

The ride to the doctor’s was enveloped in the most uncomfortable silence the two men had ever experienced. Pete, as well as anyone who had lived in town for more than a few years, knew that Jake Hill took a great deal of pride in 75 years of self-healing.

Jake, as well as most people in town, knew that the day that he went to the doctor’s a new chapter in town history would be written.

Country doctors like doc Roberts keep track of the living legends whether they are patients of theirs or not. Sooner or later their paths cross; sometimes by choice, but usually by circumstance.

“Most of the healing is already done,” Doc Roberts told Jake after he peeled off his sock and started to stare at the maggots.

“They look pretty gross but they actually do a lot of good when it comes to infection. Probably ought to leave them in there for a few more days.”

“Get those god damn things out of there!”

Doc Roberts pulled the maggots out with a long pair of tweezers and told Jake that he ought to go into the hospital for a few days to get his foot clean.

“It’s healin’ up good enough to suit me.”

“I hear you need a truck to haul some wood,” Doc Roberts said in a tone of voice that sounded like he was about to make a deal.

“Ya,” Jake said suspiciously. “How’d ya know?”

“I heard… Tell you what. Take these pills, one in the morning and one at night, until they’re all gone and take these keys. Take my pickup from out back and go haul your wood. Bring back the pickup when the pills are gone and I’ll take another look at your foot.”

Jake was silenced by doc Roberts offer. It had been a long time since he could remember being at a loss for words.

“Thanks, I’ll do that,” he said as he hobbled out of doc Roberts’ office.

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