Cooper Moon: The Calling

This is the story of Cooper Moon, a handsome womanizer who has found God under some unusual circumstances. Cooper is the last person one might expect to experience such a conversion, and no one is more skeptical of this sudden turn of events than Cooper’s wife, Sally. Cooper has not only found God, he has also decided to build a church. He faces a few obstacles. He has never read the Bible, he has no money, and he has a well-deserved reputation as a slacker. Throw in a couple of scheming women who aren’t ready to give up sleeping with Cooper, a jealous husband with a grudge, and things begin to get complicated.

Filled with a cast of characters you are sure to love (and hate!), Cooper Moon: The Calling is a story of love, faith, determination, dreams, sin, lust, hope, revenge, and despair – just like real life.

The novel is the first of the four-book Cooper Moon series.

Excerpt

Chapter 1

April

An odd thing happened to Cooper Moon during his fortieth year. He stumbled upon God—in a single, drunken, life-altering moment. No one was more skeptical about this abrupt conversion than his long-suffering and often cheated-upon wife, Sally. Perhaps Sally would have been more inclined to believe Cooper during that seminal moment if he had not reeked of urine and beer. It is difficult to give much credence to someone’s sudden declaration of faith when they have clearly pissed their pants.

It was late April, but the Michigan winter refused to release its icy grip. Outside, the ground was unforgiving and the trees surrounding Cooper and Sally’s mobile home were full of baby buds that kept their heads ducked and pulled in tight against the chill. Inside, heat radiated from the dusty woodstove in the living room into the kitchen. Sally had just stirred the embers from last night, opened the damper a little, and loaded it with fresh wood. It was part of her morning routine. As the wood caught fire, it sizzled and cracked, a familiar sound that Sally had come to love. Soon, their small home would be so warm she might have to open a window.

Cooper stumbled through the front door, bringing with him a gasp of crisp air.

“Where the hell were you last night?” Sally demanded.

“I believe in God now!”

Turning her attention back to the woodstove, Sally closed the door and secured the handle. Ignoring Cooper, she walked into the kitchen and started to gather the greasy food-covered dishes scattered about the room.

Cooper followed, his snowy work boots clomping against the scratched linoleum floor. Once golden-yellow, the floor was closer to tan now, and in need of cleaning. Cooper waited for Sally to deposit the dirty dishes in the sink and then spun her around to face him. Clutching both of Sally’s elbows to anchor her to him, he tried to hold her gaze. “Sally.” His breath smelled of stale beer and was warm against her face. She looked away from him as he spoke. “Did you hear what I said?” he asked.

“You still weren’t home at four. I heard a noise and got up to check.”

“Did you look in the driveway?”

“No. I looked in the garage.”

“I might have been in the driveway,” Cooper said.

“You don’t know if you were in the driveway or not?” Sally looked back into his eyes, a dangerous move.

“I woke up in the driveway. So I was there at some point.”

“When you say in the driveway, does that mean that you were in the car in the driveway, or that you were just lying out there in the middle of the driveway?”

“In the car, Sally. In the car, in the driveway. Did you even hear what I said?”

“You said you were in the driveway.” Snow began to melt from his boots, wetting the toes of her socks.

“No! Before that!”

“You said you believe in God now.”

“Yes! I believe in God now!” Cooper’s dark blue eyes brimmed with tears and his words were urgent.

Sally turned from Cooper and looked out the window above the sink. A white five-gallon bucket had blown into their yard. She concentrated on the bucket as a determined wind rocked it against the frosted grass, the handle preventing the bucket from rolling over. “Yeah. That’s what you said. Where the hell were you last night? Before the driveway.”

“Bass Turds.” The oddly named establishment sported a huge fiberglass fish over the entrance. The fish was actually a replica of a salmon, not a bass, but no patron had ever complained about the discrepancy, for the beer was ice cold and the wings were hot. “Cecil Braden was there. We were talking about heaven and hell, and he started telling me about his cousin Dan who went to this church six months ago.”

Sally pulled from Cooper’s grip, moved the short distance to the kitchen table, and continued gathering up the dirty dishes that had been collecting there for the past three days. The white vinyl-covered paneling on the wall behind her was decorated with pale-brown images of fruit. The French word for each was positioned below every image. Citron. Cerise. Poire. Pomme. A homemade dark-brown macramé owl hung on the wall, clutching a gnarled piece of wood Sally had found in the woods. It watched her with plastic bead eyes as she moved about the small room.

“You know, it wouldn’t kill you to wash a dish every now and then.” Sally was a beautiful woman, although sometimes she had a hard time remembering that. And most of the time it wasn’t worth the effort required to pull it off. It felt like a talent she had once possessed but lost from lack of use. Life was easier if she wasn’t beautiful, if she didn’t appear to be trying.

“Cecil says his cousin Dan went to this church and the preacher told everyone if they said this prayer God would come right into them. Of course, I didn’t believe that. So I told Braden that he was full of S, H, I, T and he says no he isn’t and that if I don’t believe him I can just talk to his cousin, Dan. He says Dan quit drinking and he’s giving most of his money to this church now. So I ask Cecil, ‘What kind of prayer can change a man like that?’ And he says that it’s almost like a magic prayer. That all you gotta do is say these words in a prayer and God will come right into you.”

Sally moved to the sink, ran hot water over the stack of dishes, and squirted a generous amount of lemon-scented generic dish soap directly under the stream of water. Picking up a sponge from the white Formica counter, she plunged her hands into the fragrant suds and began washing the dishes.

Cooper moved to her side and talked to her profile. “So I tell him no D, A, M, magic prayer is gonna make God come into me, and I dared him to tell me the prayer. So, right there, in the middle of Bass Turds, Cecil said this prayer and I closed my eyes and bowed my head and repeated it right after him—just to show him that there ain’t no such prayer. And you’ll never guess what happened!”

“The magic prayer worked and you believed in God.” Sally flipped the sponge over to the scratchy side and scrubbed at a piece of dried egg yolk. She resisted the urge to tell him he forgot the “n” in damn.

“Yes! It did. I opened my eyes and I felt like a new man. Kind of warm and soft inside. Sorta like if you squished love and joy and peace all up into a ball and swallowed it. And I haven’t even said one curse word since it happened, with the exception of the two that I just spelled out to you, and they don’t count. Sally! Did you hear me? I’m a new man. I believe in God. Because I said that prayer.”

“Was that before or after you pissed yourself?”

Cooper pulled at Sally’s arm until she was facing him and looking into his eyes. They both knew this was when she was the weakest. Even in his current condition, Cooper Moon was not without charm. He could not be described as gorgeous, but perhaps right next door to gorgeous, which made him even more dangerous, because such a man seemed within reach.

Dressed only in an oversized knee-length tee shirt she often wore as pajamas, Sally wished she had pulled on a pair of jeans this morning. She needed more of a barrier between her skin and his. “Sally.” His voice was lowered now, all throaty and whispery and beyond her ability to resist. Sally looked into his eyes and was helpless. The wet sponge in her hand dripped between the two of them, and her knees felt weak. Cooper’s long arms, tanned brown and ropy with muscle, wrapped around her. One of his hands sank into her hair and cradled the back of her head; the other rested on the small of her back. “Baby, I’m telling you. I’m a changed man. My heart is … full. I’ll never cheat on you again. I’m giving up drinking. I’ll be home every night. I’m finally the man you always wanted me to be.”

Sally leaned into him and found his mouth, devouring his words with hungry kisses.

“I’m going to build a church, Sally,” he said between her lips and tongue. But she did not hear him. Soon after, when she cried out, “Oh God,” in the tiny bedroom of their mobile home, Cooper heard it as a prayer.

Reviews

From the very first paragraph I knew I would enjoy Ms. Shireman's writing style. She starts out on a rather sarcastic, humorous note, and before long I was a true fan. Cooper is the most absurd religious convert you could imagine, but as he held his ground, I came to admire his backwards, oft sabotaged attempts at redemption. Ms. Shireman solidly grounds her characters with sincerity and strong personality. There was not a character described that I didn't feel I knew personally by the end of the book.

Literary R&R

Every now and then I come across a book that refuses to be set aside. A book that has me thinking, “I can throw a TV dinner in the microwave for the family.” A book that I read while everyone else in the room is watching one of my favorite television shows. A book that lingers on the edge of my consciousness until I finish the last sentence. Cooper Moon: The Calling by Cheryl Shireman is just such a book.

HollywoodJesus.com

A satisfying, feel-good novel about human shortcomings, perseverance and serendipity. At its core, this is a story about class, karma and ordinary people trying to accomplish difficult goals that require extraordinary strength of body, mind and spirit.

Kirkus Reviews
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