I Am the Phoenix

an excerpt



Prologue

Allow me to introduce Minn.

His full name is Dr. Minnow (Minn) Saint James, and as our story begins, he is a fit, youthful-looking, forty-two-year-old.

Since 2008, he has worked successfully as a past life regression therapist, hypnotically regressing patients to past, and sometimes future lives, for the purpose of discovering the origins of their present lives' greatest challenges. Minn's practice is housed in his Hermosa Beach, California, office suite with an eye-popping Pacific Ocean view.

But Minn's career had begun in Beverly Hills, where he worked as a traditional hypnotic regression therapist, returning his patients to the early years of their present lives, in order to reveal the youthful roots of their adult lives' most daunting challenges.

Back then, Minn was an atheist like his parents, Sheila and Russell Saint James, a total pragmatist, believing in only what his five physical senses reported.

These days, he believes in the Divine Mind, more commonly known as God, the metaphysical sciences, and the eternal validity of each individual personality. His transformation from non-believer to metaphysician is fully detailed in Minn's first novel, Going and Coming, and I highly recommend its reading.

Dr. Saint James is also a best-selling nonfiction book author, twice over, and HBO will be airing a weekly, hour-long series, based upon his first best-seller, beginning in June.

Minn is gay and closeted. But, as we meet him now, he has just been rescued from a watery Pacific Ocean grave, and his near-death experience has triggered an epiphany--one that has caused him to vow solemnly to re-create his personal life in an honest, open manner.

That will be easier promised than done. His parents are nouveau riche--they own multiple Southern California Cadillac dealerships--and uber-conservative, Never Trump Republicans. Deep down inside, "She" and Russell Saint James are shallow, far more concerned about appearances than truth.

Minn's Man Friday, the guy who keeps his office running like a well-oiled healing machine, is Randal Pierpont Sherman, the gay and gorgeous, twenty-seven-year-old First Son of Hermosa Beach, heir to the Sherman real estate fortune with its massive land holdings in the Los Angeles South Bay, some of this country's most valuable properties.

Friday, as Minn calls Randal, is Dr. Saint James's secret love, and our hero's feelings are reciprocated by the pistol-hot youth. But the good doctor's steely, "Don't fuck where you work!" policy, has thus far extinguished the possibility of a romance between them.

Nonetheless, it was Friday who has just saved Minn from drowning, during Dr. Saint James's ill-starred attempt to rescue a flailing, panicked, fallen overboard bridesmaid during the seafaring reception for his Auntie Diana's Yacht Wedding.

And so, we begin.



Chapter One

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Late Evening



Randal wasn't buying what Minn was trying to sell, namely his: "Friday, I'm perfectly fine!" routine. He didn't believe it. Not for a nano-second. How could he? Truthfully, Minn's office manager and secret love had thought his boss was dead even before he dove into the bone-chilling Pacific to rescue him, and as it happened, Minn hadn't been far from lifeless when Randal had reached him.

That had been only three hours ago, after Dr. Saint James's failed attempt to rescue a drowning bridesmaid who had fallen overboard on a wedding yacht, ironically named Destiny. Though athletic, fit and young, Randal had found it nearly impossible to untangle the seaweed that had engulfed Minn's legs. For a brief, terrifying moment, he had feared that they might both perish. Finally, he had somehow managed to free Minn from the strong, thick seagrass, and returned his employer's near lifeless form to Destiny's deck.

Randal heaved an incredulous sigh. And to think, I resisted taking that CPR course because I thought I'd never use it in a million years.

Hell! Minn had been spurting water fountain-like right up until the time Randal removed the ridiculous, pink short-pants tuxedo that the bride and groom had forced their Best Man to wear. He had quickly redressed his boss in the dry, warmer poncho and long pants that Minn had secretly stashed in the organ bench.

Now, they were racing back to Newport Beach Harbor in the speedboat that had brought Randal out to the yacht. He fixed his employer with a steely gaze that said, Don't even think about arguing this point. "Minn, I won't hear any more from you about being all good. You almost died. The moment we reach shore, we're driving up the coast to the Emergency Room at Torrance Memorial Hospital. With a little bit of luck, Dr. Dave will be on duty. He'll know what to do."

Dr. Dave was Dr. David Defren, a dedicated Emergency Room physician who Randal had met several years ago, after he'd been rushed to the ER with self-inflicted slashed wrists. A short affair with the hot gay physician had followed Randal's treatment and expedited his recovery from both the wrist injuries and the heartbreak that had led to them.

Despite his rescuer's warning, Minn protested vehemently, "We'll only be wasting his time. I'm fine!"

Randal had decided this was one battle that the rich, famous, stubborn, and waterlogged Dr. Saint James was going to lose. So, he resorted to blackmail. "You'll do as I say. Period!" he exclaimed. "Or, do you want me to tell Auntie Diana how the Bachelor Party you hosted for her Richard really ended?"

Randal knew that this was the very last thing Minn wanted. That's because the groom's Bachelor Party at the trendy club The Colony in Hollywood had ended with a drunken Randal nude and flaunting his smooth white pucker to the thunderous cheering of more than thirty presumably heterosexual men, including the Guest of Honor.

The threat worked, silencing Minn. "Cased closed!" Randal said definitively.

"Checkmate." Minn shrugged in defeat. "I know when I'm licked."

He could not resist the opening Minn gave him. "Believe me, if I'd licked you, you'd know it."

Minn let it go by and they reached shore without further conversation.

****

Once ashore, Randal broke their silence, inquiring, "How're you doing?"

"I told you before," he replied impatiently. "I'm fine, sore and bone tired, but otherwise fiddle fit. Couldn't we just skip the Emergency Room and get me home to bed?"

Randal gave Minn an icy look that sent shivers up his achy spine. And, once more they fell silent, neither of them speaking a word during the first half of the forty-mile trek northward from Newport to Torrance Memorial Hospital.

Then suddenly, as they were approaching Long Beach, Minn blurted, "Friday, thanks for saving my life." He shook his head, as if to clear something inappropriate from it. "It feels so strange," Minn went on, "Hard to put into words. But when I was stretched out on Destiny's deck, struggling to maintain consciousness, gasping for air--I had this sense…this really strange feeling…that, thanks to you, and the Divine Mind of God, I'd been given a second chance to get things right. A do-over for my life."

A moment later, Minn continued, his voice sounding tired now. "Even as I thanked God for another shot at this life, I felt foolish about how I'd handled things thus far."

Friday interrupted him. "Minn, take it easy. There will be plenty of time for this later, after Dr. Dave has looked you over."

"No!" Minn exclaimed with surprising strength. "I need to get this off my chest, and now."

As Minn fell silent, Randal could virtually see the windmills of his boss's mind turning, as if he was searching for the perfect words. Finally, he resumed. "Tonight, God has given me the chance to make amends for my past personal failures. I've been handed a clean slate on which to re-create myself, personally speaking. It's as if I've been given a second incarnation as Dr. Minnow Saint James. I'm still myself; yet reborn, afresh. It's like everything that happened before tonight was a dress rehearsal for the life that I was meant to live." He laughed, an oddly joyful sound. "Now, the curtain has risen and it's showtime for real, and I must get it right this second time around. Does that sound crazy?"

"Not crazy, but I'm not following you," Randal shot back anxiously. "You're already rich and famous, with two bestselling books; you have the most successful past life regression therapy practice in America, as well as an upcoming HBO series based upon your first book. That all sounds right to me. What else is there?"

Minn shrugged. "Fighting for my life on Destiny's deck, with my life flashing before my eyes, none of that mattered a bit. Not the books, not my practice, and certainly not the TV show. None of it. All I saw, all that mattered was what I had gotten wrong, dead wrong. Namely, my failed personal life; a life lived in the closet, alone, fearful, and loveless." He paused to take in a breath. "Why do you think my romance with Axel crashed and burned?"

Friday shook his head.

Axel Olson, the "out" and handsome bestselling author of children's books had been Minn's boyfriend until the good doctor suddenly ended the affair. "Sheer terror," Minn explained. "And my inability to accept…or to give…love."

Randal nodded his understanding as Minn straightened in his seat and sat forward, his voice growing stronger, and more impassioned. "My career success means nothing without someone I love to share it with. My personal life has been a shamble--lonely, loveless and unfulfilling--one based on the falsity that I'm a heterosexual."

Friday harrumphed uneasily. "I know the feeling. I know it well." And truly, he did. Minn's right-hand man was also closeted; not daring to risk enraging Gertrude Sherman, his Teutonic, ultra-conservative mother. And then in a rush, he added, "But Minn, I'm worried about you! This harsh self-appraisal of your personal value and worth; these sudden epiphanies. It's not like you, not at all. You need to see Dr. Dave, and fast!"

Minn shrugged. "Friday, you're just not getting it. Out there, in the ocean, my life was draining away, but my eyes opened. I awakened; maybe for the first time in my life. I finally saw everything clearly! I must use the do-over that God has given me to become a better man…an honest one--a person who is true to himself, and to everybody else. Someone who can love and be loved in return."

Minn flashed a radiant smile. "Friday, don't you see? At long last, I must become the man I want to be, living the honest and open, loving and beloved, life I desire. Failing that, and no matter how many books I sell, or TV series I spawn, I'll never really be a success."