“Inside my apartment, I have everything I need,” he says. That apartment is in downtown Denver in a familiar neighborhood ...
Agoraphobic Wesley Yorstead — the central character in the debut novel “Wesley Yorstead Goes Outside” by Littleton-area author Stephanie Harper — illustrates graphic novels, which he can readily do on his home computer, drawing on artistic skills and an active imagination ...
His colorist, Rick, a longtime friend, comes by often to pick them up and complete the process for publication in graphic novels.
His neighborhood grocery store, Lafferty’s Neighborhood Market, employs a young man named Angel, who food delivers weekly, responding to a quick phone order.
Wesley’s life is predictable and tidy, with everything in its proper place, so he feels safe and in control of his small world ... (He opened his window once ...)
He is haunted by witnessing a horrible crime scene, which has stayed with him.
“It’s midmorning on a Sunday in mid-September and the persistent knock on the door can only mean one thing: Angel’s arrived with my groceries.” Usually, Angel hands over his bags and he gives the black-haired guy a check. Done and gone.
Wesley has his groceries to organize and shelve.
But instead, on that day, “a pale figure stands in the spot where Angel should be.”
She pushes past and sets groceries on the stainless counter — after first resting them on the dirty floor in the hall. It’s Mr. Lafferty’s slender red-haired daughter, Happy, who explains that Angel’s grandma is ill and he is caring for her ... A quick verification call to Happy’s dad is necessary for comfort.
“Not much for decorating,” she observes after looking around, focusing on the art print of a Wassily Kandinsky painting.
She imagines that he produces comic books like “Batman,” rather than the illustrated classics he actually does. (His current project is actually “To Kill a Mockingbird.”)
To his horror, she plops on the sofa to visit!
By page 20, the reader can imagine where this might go, but Harper’s storytelling style — and the dialogue she creates — keeps one involved and entertained to the end, when things are actually going quite well for our hero.
Happy feels comfortable in the middle of Wesley’s terrain and asks: “Do you think I could borrow one of your books? I’d really like to read the `Hamlet’ one,” which he’d showed her with trepidation. Might she perhaps dogear a corner or smudge a page?
He agrees and she returns it later in fine shape — whew!
In the meantime, her presence and scent linger in his apartment — plus a few red hairs on the sofa ...
He wonders if she ever feels the frantic way he does?? His new drawings reflect Happy. Lovely women who may populate the current book project. His friend Rick, who colors his work — and appreciates pretty women — is intrigued and teases.
Then she appears on a non-grocery evening, with a movie to share with him, plus a bottle of wine.
Wesley fills the reader in with bits about his struggle with mental illness: “I started having night terrors when I was five.” He’d wake up screaming and his mother would come to soothe him — but not his father ... These have translated to adult panic attacks. And full-fledged resistance to any unnecessary risk outside his space.
A sympathetic reader is intrigued and optimistic that perhaps there is a possibility for recovery, as he is able to help Happy deal with a difficult situation out of her past. Upbeat conclusion here.
Harper’s previous creation was a collection of poems: “Sermon Series.” We’ll be interested to see what happens next ...
Look for “Wesley Yorstead Goes Outside” at your library or bookstore!
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