HEAVEN'S BLUE won the EPPIE Award in 2005 for Best Inspirational Fiction. It is the story of Samantha Lyons who works as a research scientist in Clam Creek, a sleepy little town on the marsh in New Jersey. She needs an assistant to complete her mosquito research if she wants to continue living at Field Station Number 37, the first real home she has ever had. When David Halpern drives into town, she is sure he is the answer to her prayers. David is out of options when he and his son find sustenance in the basement of Holy Redeemer and a job offer from Samantha. David assumes he'll be safe from discovery in the backwater town and accepts the position.
In this scene, David has made up his mind to leave the field station and move on. Samantha knows she won't be able to finish her research without him. When they pull up to the field station, Fish, Samantha's neighbor is waiting with a bucket of crabs.
James climbed out of the back of the car and stared down into the bucket with an air of resignation, an odd emotion in one so young. Samantha's heart ached.
“Do they bite?” he asked in a dull tone.
“Oh, they snap at your fingers something terrible with those claws.” Fish pulled out a can opener from his overalls and dangled it in front of the crabs. One crab lurched at it and hung on, even as Fish lifted the creature out of the bucket. “Make a grown man cry if one of those held on to his finger.”
James’ eyes widened in interest for a moment. Then David came around from the other side of the car and the youngster's shoulders sagged. Samantha wanted to hug James and never let go.
“Um, this is David Halpern, Fish.” Her heart felt wooden as she twisted a stray lock of hair around her finger. “James’father.”
Fish dropped the can opener with the crab still attached. He stuck out his hand to David. “Pleased to meet you.”
A few seconds passed by before David reached out to grasp Fish's hand. The reluctance on David's part seemed awkward and obvious to Samantha, like a social snub, but apparently it didn't bother Fish.
“You got a nice boy there,” Fish noted, grinning at James.
David cleared his throat. “Thanks.”
“Neptune stopped swimming in the can,” James stated quietly.
“That can happen,” Fish rumbled sympathetically. “But I found you some new friends. A whole bunch of ‘em. They're as lively as any of God's marvelous creations.”
James lifted his face, and Samantha saw the light of hope spark ever so faintly.
Fish lumbered back to his truck.
“We aren't taking any souvenirs with us,” David warned in a low voice.
“Miss Samantha will keep them for me,” James responded with confidence.
“Yes, I will,” Samantha said firmly. “Forever.”
They followed Fish to the truck. He slid another big bucket out of the back, and then lowered it below the level of James’chest.
“Hermit crabs,” Fish said. “Crazy little things. They don't have a home of their own. They go creeping around looking for empty shells that some other animal left behind. Then they crawl inside and make it their own.”
“Squatters,” David commented, giving a sardonic twist to his mouth.
“Nah.” Fish shook his head. “They're just using shells that are already empty. Doing what the good Lord wants ‘em to do. Nothing goes to waste in His creation.” He stuck one hand down deep into the bucket and picked up one of the small creatures.
“Here ya go, son. They don't bite. Open up your hand and let this little guy tickle you.”
Samantha saw eagerness shining in James’ eyes as he reached out for the hermit crab.
“What's his name?” James asked as the animal sat in the middle of his palm with all of its spindly legs drawn up inside the shell.
“Why, that one there you can name yourself, son,” Fish decreed.
James’ smile spread slowly. “He's gonna be Kyle, like my friend.”
“Any man with a true friend is a king,” Fish said.
Samantha saw the old man's eyes water a bit, and found a lump welling in her own throat. Fish had the tender heart of a poet, and Samantha wished she knew what had hurt him so badly that the pain still plagued him. Undoubtedly, any probing questions would upset him further and she would never do that.
The little animal in James’ hand gingerly stretched its tiny legs out from under the shell and started to scurry across James’ palm.
James giggled. “He's tickling me.”
“Now don't let him fall down.” Samantha cupped her hands beneath the young child's.
“Hey, Kyle,” James laughed. “You're so funny.”
Fish pulled a red bandanna out from his pocket and blew his nose. “Well, I better get moving,” the old man said in a gravelly rumble. “I was up at three this morning.”
“Why don't you join us for supper?” Samantha offered.
“No, thank you. But it's mighty kind of you to ask.”
“Oh, Fish,” Samantha sighed. “You've given me so much, it would be nice if you would help me eat some of it once in a while.”
Fish gave her a shy smile. “Those are from God's bounty. You best be thanking Him and not me.”
“Miss Samantha always thanks God,” James piped up.
“She's a good woman.” Fish nodded. “A special gift for some lucky man.”
Slowly, Fish's gaze turned to David. He stared long and hard, without saying a word for several moments. Samantha watched as David shifted uneasily from one foot to the other.
Then Fish, obviously finished with his assessment, scratched the beard on his chin and turned to push up the tailgate on his pickup.
Samantha stole a quick glance at David. His eyes had a stony resignation in them that chilled her. Tension crackled in the air as she watched David's jaw stiffen.
The old fisherman shuffled around to the front of the vehicle and pulled himself up into the driver's seat. “Won't be any rain now for a good long time. Gonna dry up the marsh, keep an eye out for smoke.”
You can read the beginning of the book at Amazon!