KEVIN’S HOMECOMING – EPISODE 1
Eddie C Dollgener Jr
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination or used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is coincidental.
Copyright © 2015 by Eddie C Dollgener Jr
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KEVIN’S HOMECOMING – EPISODE 1
Kevin Fletcher sat on the edge of the bunk and waited, his eyebrows furrowed in deep thought. A nervous twisted knot roiled within his gut. The thin mattress, already stripped bare, reeked of old blood, vomit, and urine. He looked up at the bars to his cell, now closed for his protection, instead of imprisoning him within. He was unaware of the approaching footsteps, and instead, dwelled on the feeling of dread that encroached from beyond the prison walls. The jangle of keys stirred him from his thoughts and he looked up as Jordon Brown approached his cell door with two other guards at his side.
The warden ordered the shorter guard holding the keys to open the door. Kevin sucked in his breath and held it for a moment. Brown, a harsh man with nerves of steel and an unflinching eye, stepped into the cell as soon as the door slid open. He did not ask the other two men to enter with him. It was not necessary. Their job was to escort only. He looked upon Kevin for what seemed an eternity.
Brown remembered the first day Kevin entered the prison. The boy seemed barely old enough to take care of himself. He recognized some of the features of a growing athlete in the build of the boy, but that was not going to save him in the prison. In fact, it would prove to make him a bigger target. The warden never questioned judgements passed on the guilty. His job existed to reconcile them with the society they had violated. Yet, Brown felt something different about the brown-haired boy with the dark, frightened eyes. He did not belong in an adult prison.
The child in Kevin Fletcher disappeared, long buried in the violence of the prison gangs inflicted upon him. His eyes were still dark, but no longer frightened. The soft tone of his arms gave way to muscles taut with the condition not only to survive, but to conquer, as well. His brown hair was starting to grow back, shaved off for years to keep hands from using it against him. The round, smooth face of youth was now square-jawed and shadowed, with a three-inch scar to mark him.
Jordon Brown allowed a smile to escape one corner of his mouth. “The board voted in your favor, Fletcher. You’re a free man.” The smile, subdued because of the harshness of his profession, somehow reached his eyes.
Kevin was expressionless. “Then it’s done?”
Jordon Brown’s voice softened just a little. “You’ve come a long way. You will get a bus ticket home and a list of some people to contact who can help you readjust to life outside the prison. The world has changed tremendously in the last ten years. Come on young man. We’ve got some paperwork to fill out.”
With a slight nod of his head, Kevin stood up to follow Jordon Brown out of the cell. He paused for a moment to look over his cell before exiting. He was not reminiscing. Too many nights he spent wishing for solitude to escape the violence. The cell trapped his soul in a way few men could understand. The last two and a half years turned into a nightmare.
Jordon Brown walked with an air of triumph. The prison corridor was stifling. They turned the heaters on the night before for a cold March blast. Even in southeast Texas, nature could play a trick every now and then. Kevin walked alongside the warden at a brisk pace. With a heightened sense of awareness, he fixed his eyes on a distant point. He tried his best to ignore the catcalls and whistles from the other prisoners behind their cell doors as the two of them walked by.
“What are you going to do?” Jordon Brown allowed a hint at compassion to inflect his conversation with the young man.
“I don’t know. I didn’t really expect to make the cut this time.” Kevin said with muted respect.
Jordon Brown eyed Kevin briefly as he nodded to a guard posted at the electronic door. “It might have happened sooner if you had not got caught up in that Perez mess.” He searched for some sign of guilt from the young man and was dismayed.
The door slid open for them to pass through to the outside. When they started walking through the prison recreation area, Pablo Sanchez whistled for Kevin’s attention. The young man’s countenance faltered into pure hatred as he turned to look at the short punk who had made his life miserable for the last ten years. He fought the urge to launch into the creep with fists flying when Pablo blew him a kiss and winked with a malicious grin. Kevin’s eyes filled with treacherous hate as he forced himself to look away.
Jordon Brown noticed the interaction between the two men. The sudden change wrought upon Kevin disturbed him. As they both turned away from Pablo, a crowd of prison gangsters gathered around the young man. A hand cupped over his mouth to silence him. There was a look of terror in his eyes as the crowd swallowed him whole. Kevin forced himself back into his emotionless state, but found no satisfaction in knowing that prison justice avenged years of suffering.
After they entered another one of the prison buildings, this time into the property room, Jordon Brown looked at Kevin with genuine concern. “Was Sanchez one of them?”
Kevin was cold and emotionless when he lied. “No.”
Jordon Brown studied Kevin for a moment as he signaled to a guard to unlock a personal property locker. Kevin waited patiently, still as a stone statue.
“Do yourself a favor.” Jordon Brown’s tone of voice softened. “Get rid of those demons that are hurting you before they put you back in the system.”
Kevin offered no reply as the guard gave him his civilian clothing. He paused for a moment to look at his shirt. Jordon Brown recognized the conflict, but remained silent and watchful. Kevin lifted his old shirt to feel the fabric between his fingers.
There was a brief hint of pain in Kevin’s eyes long enough for Jordon Brown to take notice. “You won’t be able to keep those demons at bay forever,” he said in a commanding tone. “If you don’t find a way to deal with them, they will take over your life.”
Kevin set his clothes on a table and started to undress from his prison uniform. The guard left the room to give him privacy. Jordon Brown stepped toward the door, but stopped when Kevin began to speak.
Kevin tried to be casual, but the nervousness betrayed him. “I can beat them.
Jordon Brown offered a slight nod of his head. “You don’t need to do it alone.” He stepped out.
Kevin finished removing his prison uniform shirt and then approached a dressing mirror. He put on his civilian shirt with slow determination. He buttoned it with care and made sure it fit neatly upon him. He studied a scar on his chin and traced it with a finger. He stared at the reflection in the mirror with an extreme intensity and watched, as the prison-hardened man became a boy of sixteen who was in the process of shaving.
Kevin was always careful when shaving in front of a mirror. He paid very close attention to detail. Normally his hands were steady as he pulled the blade across the peach fuzz beard he had only recently sprouted. Today they shook with a slight tremor, as he appeared to be frightened.
Momma’s face entered into his reflection above the sink. Carla Fletcher watched her son shave. He looked into her soft, brown eyes and hoped to find some kind of reassurance from her. She was always so beautiful, but that morning, her beauty seemed flawless. That reflection would always be the one to haunt his future dreams, when he needed to hang on to his dignity. She seemed equally as frightened as he was.
Carla Fletcher tried to force a nervous smile. “Take this shirt, honey.” She presented the shirt that she wanted him to wear. “You’ll need to make a good impression on the jury. They are good people, son.” She said it as much to ease her own fears as well as his.
Kevin, with barely enough facial hair to shave, trembled on the verge of crying. “I don’t want to go to prison, Momma.”
Carla was already crying as she stroked his hair in a loving manner. “Oh, my precious baby boy, I don’t want them to take you away from me, either.”
Paul Fletcher entered the doorway of the bathroom. A prominent figure in the community, he was the type of man who commanded respect and authority by the manner in which he carried himself. Everyone in town respected him for his leadership and his stand on family values. His love for his family was evident. He stood straight and tall as he looked upon the other two in a disapproving manner.
“You cannot run from this, son.” He hid his pain well as he seemed almost bitter to his son. “None of us can. You are almost a grown man. It’s time to step up and take responsibility for your actions.”
Carla pulled Kevin into a protective embrace. “Let him be, Paul. Can you not see that he is already suffering enough?”
Paul gave his wife a severe, almost scolding look. “This is something that I can’t help him out of, this time. Kevin made a serious mistake and took a life. The whole town will turn against us.”
Kevin, though torn apart by his emotions, struggled to hold off the storm brewing between his parents. “Dad…Please don’t do this.” He turned to Carla with a tremulous voice. “Momma, he’s right. I do not want this anymore than you do…but Robby is dead because of me. I have to pay for what I did to him.”
Paul placed his hand upon the boy’s shoulder, the most affection that he could muster in the face of the circumstances. “Be strong, Kevin. Hold your head up and take it like a man. I am sure the judge will take your age into account with the sentencing. You might get two years in a minimum security facility and probation.”
Kevin watched with trepidation as his parents exited the restroom. He felt frightened as he turned back to the mirror to wash the remainder of the shaving cream from his face. He then reached for the shirt and put it on. As he was putting it on, he watched his reflection in the mirror. He finished by straightening out his sleeves and making sure they were fastened right.
Back in the present in the prison, Kevin adjusted his shirtsleeves and looked around the bleak room one last time. “I’m ready now.”
Jordon Brown entered the room. “Privacy will be something you can get used to again.”
It was cold, gray, and misty March day. Kevin and Jordon Brown walked through the gardens and landscaped areas. That greenery tried to dispense with the dark aura of what went on behind the gray walls. Both men seemed withdrawn and huddled themselves within their coats against the chill in the air.
Jordon Brown could now be a caring individual. He began to speak as if admonishing possible future actions. “I don’t want to see you here again, Fletcher.”
“I’m not coming back.” Kevin offered with cold finality.
They walked to a prison transport van. Jordon Brown stopped the young man just before he entered into the van and offered a handshake. Kevin, reluctant to shake it at first, reached out with caution.
Jordon Brown added an air of warmth to his demeanor. “Few young men have passed through these gates and made something of their lives. You are young enough to rebuild your life. The odds are going to be stacked against you for a long time. I sincerely hope that you do okay. If you need someone to talk to…”
Kevin looked the van over as he was getting in. “Is this the same van?”
Jordon Brown smiled. “You can blame a tightening budget and increased pay for the guards.” He shrugged his shoulders. “Hey, it was only two years old when you first arrived.”
Kevin nodded to the warden. “You know you cannot help all of us.”
Jordon Brown paused as he was closing the door. “If I helped just one man onto the right path…then maybe I did something right.”
Jordon Brown closed the door and stood at the drive as the van started to pull away. He watched until the van pulled out of sight and then turned to go back inside the prison.
The Greyhound bus was loud inside and the ride was rough. There was a bratty kid on one row yelling at her father for not giving in and buying her candy at the previous stop. It did not matter how many times he told her that there was no more money, she still harangued him for the missed purchase.
Kevin sat next to a window with an elderly woman in the seat beside him. She smelled of old cigarette smoke and a hint of wine that was quite displeasing. He was staring at the passing scenery when she took up an interest in him.
“Is something bothering you, young man?” The elderly woman looked at Kevin with curious concern.
Kevin politely tried to discourage any conversation. “No ma’am.”
The elderly woman reached out to touch his arm. “I can tell…”
Kevin reacted quick, pulling away from her touch. “Don’t touch me!”
“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to.” The elderly woman said with dismay.
Kevin felt a little remorse as he turned back to the window. “I don’t let anyone touch me anymore.”
The elderly woman thought she could see a hidden apology. “That’s a shame. Why is that?”
Kevin scratched at the glass in irritation. “I’m an ex-con. I just got out of prison.”
With a brief pause, the elderly woman realized she had misjudged Kevin. She became troubled and after a moment, prepared to talk again with a more cautious approach.
“You remind me of my grandson. He went to Afghanistan two years ago to fight in that awful war. We lost him a month before he was to come home to one of those fools who blow themselves up in their cars.”
Kevin turned back to her with a brief display of empathy. “Was he a good kid?”
The elderly woman beamed with pride. “Clay was a nurse. He helped other soldiers who were wounded. I really miss him.”
Kevin tried to suppress his inner pain. “I’m sorry for your loss.”
The elderly woman looked upon Kevin with compassion. “Why did you…uh…?”
“I killed someone.” Kevin turned back to the window as his bravado softened. “It was a car wreck. I was driving under the influence of alcohol.”
The elderly woman felt uneasy. “I had no idea.”
Kevin felt some guilt as he turned back to her. “I didn’t mean to scare you. It’s a survival need when you’re in prison.”
The elderly woman put her fears aside. “You’re so young.”
Kevin spoke with regret and contempt. “I spent my seventeenth birthday behind bars.”
The elderly woman’s heart was touched. “How old are you now, dear?”
The cold returned to Kevin’s voice as he turned to look out the window once more. “I will be twenty-seven in three months.”
The elderly woman seemed about to cry. “That was too long for such a young boy.”
Kevin turned further away from the old woman and studied the passing scenery. He was desperate to force all emotion from his mind, but it slowly took over him.
Kevin sat handcuffed to a rail inside the transport van. Pablo Sanchez, a thin, dark-skinned Latino, sat next to him. The road they travelled on was quite rough, and it did not escape Pablo’s shifty eyes that the younger teenage boy was frightened out of his wits.
Kevin watched the countryside through his window, his eyes still red from crying. He listened to the smirks of the other prisoners, taking it personally because he was still just a boy. The criminal justice system had not yet hardened him.
A shifty predator by character, Pablo saw Kevin as an easy victim and decided to act on it. “Hey kid…it’s not such a good idea to let them see you crying.” He gestured over his shoulder with his head. “They will think you’re soft.”
Kevin could not hide his terror. “Do you know where we are going?”
Pablo feigned camaraderie to lure his victim in. “Huntsville is not such a bad place if you know the system.”
Kevin risked a short look back at some of the other prisoners. He quickly looked away when a short, wiry man sneered back at him. “Have you been there before?”
“This is my second time around.” Pablo answered with a mixture of pride.
Kevin, naïve and trusting, was falling for Pablo’s trap. “Momma told me it was a terrible place to go.”
Pablo realized he had a gullible victim that he could not wait to get his claws into. “Stick with me, man. You got to learn to be tough to survive, but I’ll help get you through.”
Kevin thought he had found a friend and someone to trust in Pablo. He felt somewhat relieved and looked down at his handcuffs, turning them worriedly.
Kevin rubbed his hands as if the handcuffs were still there. He noticed that the bus was slowing down and looked up to see in what town they were. The bus had pulled into a gas station to pick up new passengers. The doors opened and passengers began to disembark. He remained sitting as the elderly woman stood up and gathered her belongings. She paused before leaving and looked upon Kevin with compassion.
“This is my stop…I don’t know anything about you, but I really don’t think that you’re such a bad person…I hope you find that young man you could have been,” the elderly woman said in a kind and forgiving way.
With nothing else to say, the elderly woman left with a look of regret. Kevin watched as she exited the bus, contemplating all that she said. She looked at him one last time as family members outside met her. She smiled at him as the bus door closed. When the bus slowly pulled forward, Kevin turned his thoughts inward, leaned back, and closed his eyes.
Pine Springs seemed eerily quiet compared to the hustle of prison life the day Kevin returned to his hometown. A city worker stood on a ladder next to a light pole installing Easter decorations. The passenger bus came into view at the far end of Main Street, which ran through the center of town. The worker waved to the bus as it approached, and the driver honked as he passed by. The bus continued onward toward the other end of Main Street where the Texaco gas station sat.
Two old timers, who spent most of each day sitting on a bench in front of the station, sat talking together as the bus slowed down on approach. Pops Thompson was showing his age, with a large belly from too many soda pops and chicken-fried steaks. Frank Wilson appeared even older, but gaunt as well, surviving two rounds of cancer from years of pipe smoking and oil changes.
Frank Wilson, hardly aware of the bus, spoke with laughter in his voice “…so that old mare reared back and kicked old Buck in the mouth! Hee hee hee.”
Pops Thompson watched the bus roll to a stop. There was a gleam of mischief in his eyes. “Do you want to see if there are any pretty young women on that bus?”
Frank Wilson gave a hopeful glance to the bus, and added with a hint of sarcasm. “We should be so lucky! The last time I ever saw a pretty woman get off that bus nearly gave me a heart attack! It was back in ’83. Had five little house apes trailing behind her. I sure don’t need any more of those snot-nosed leg clingers hanging around my place. It’s bad enough when DeeDee comes out for the summer!”
Pops Thompson snorted disapproval. “Kids aren’t so bad if you get your bluff in on them early.” He stopped short when he noticed Kevin stepping off the bus. “I will be damned!”
“Where is she?” Frank Wilson searched for the woman with curiosity.
Pops Thompson strained his eyes to be sure. “It’s not a ‘she’…Do you remember that trial about ten or eleven years ago…The Fletcher boy?”
Frank Wilson frowned at a lost memory. “Which one was that?”
“It was the one involving the death of that Emmerson boy!” Pops Thompson answered with irritable impatience.
“Oh hell! Who could forget that one?” Frank Wilson added with pained exasperation. “But the kid’s name was Murchison…not Emmerson.”
Pops Thompson dismissed his own mistake. “That’s what I said! Anyway, there is the murderer stepping off the bus right now!”
Frank Wilson offered a disgruntled spit into the dirt. “Damned!”
Kevin walked up to the two men, unsure of their acceptance. Of all things he expected to remain the same, he knew that the old pair of gray-haired mechanics would be sitting on the very bench he had first met them sixteen or seventeen years before. As he walked up to the station, and the two old men, he started to smile as if meeting two old friends from a bygone era.
It was late summer of Kevin’s tenth year. He enjoyed the work of many American boys, delivering newspapers through town from his bicycle. Frank Wilson and Pops Thompson were sitting on the bench in front of the gas station when he approached the intersection. He was an energetic child, full of happiness and life. He looked at a barking dog as he neared the station and did not see the car fast approaching an intersection with Main Street.
The driver did not even make an effort to slow to a stop before entering Kevin’s lane. The boy heard the car’s motor just a second before it was too late. He screamed in terror just as the car swerved to avoid hitting him and lost control of his bicycle. He took a nasty spill in front of the station.
The driver honked his horn in anger and stopped just long enough to be sure he did not kill the boy. “Stupid brat! Why don’t you watch where you’re going?” He shook his fist at Kevin, and then drove away before someone could see who he was.
Frank Wilson and Pops Thompson rushed over to help the boy stand up. Kevin tried not to cry, but his knees were scraped and bleeding and he was sobbing.
Pops Thompson made an angry gesture at the fleeing car. “Why don’t you slow down?”
Frank Wilson began to look after Kevin much like a grandfather would. “Are you hurt bad, young man?”
Kevin quickly tried to hide his escaping tears as he gasped out, “I-I didn’t mean to ride in front of him.”
Pops Thompson spoke with compassion toward Kevin, “It wasn’t your fault, Kevin,” then directed his anger at the driver, “That bastard is going to kill somebody one of these days.”
“Oh, no!” Kevin’s despair amplified when he surveyed the mess of newspapers scattered all over the sidewalk. “Mr. Walters is going to be mad at me!”
Pops Thompson gently eased the boy up to his feet. “I will give him a call and explain what happened. Come sit on the bench and let us have a look at those knees.”
Frank Wilson placed a comforting arm around Kevin’s shoulders. “Are you sure you didn’t break anything?”
Kevin relished the attention. “I don’t think so. My knees hurt,” he faltered at sight of his own blood and started to cry, “and so does my elbow.”
When they reached the bench, Frank Wilson helped Kevin sit up on it. “There, there young man. We will have you fixed up in no time.”
Frank Wilson left the boy and entered the gas station to retrieve something from the first aid kit. Kevin watched Pops Thompson gather up the newspapers and then pick up the bicycle, looking it over for any sign of damage.
“Good sturdy bike you have here.” Pops Thompson said with admiration as he dropped the kickstand.
Kevin wiped his eyes. “I bought it last year with my allowance that I saved for eight whole months.”
Pops Thompson whistled through his teeth. “I bet that was hard for you to do.”
“Yes, sir.” Kevin sniffled.
“There isn’t a scratch on her.” Pops Thompson admired.
Frank Wilson exited the store with a handful of items. “Here we go. I have some washcloths and iodine. This is going to sting a little, but we have to make sure there is no dirt inside those scrapes.”
Pops Thompson fished for change in his pocket. “I’ll be right back.”
Frank Wilson knelt in front of the boy and started tending to the wounds. Pops Thompson went inside the store. Kevin grimaced in pain as the old mechanic lifted up his elbow to clean it. His initial fear began to subside into curiosity about the bottle of iodine.
“What is that stuff?” Kevin asked.
Frank Wilson lifted the bottle up and spoke with an air of mystery. “This, my fine young man, is a magic elixir guaranteed to speed healing and keep away those mean old nasty germs.”
Kevin’s curiosity helped him to forget his troubles. “What is in it?”
“Monkey blood.” Frank Wilson replied as a matter-of-fact.
“No way!” Kevin almost believed the old man. “For real?”
Pops Thompson walked out with an orange soda in hand. “Believe what he is telling you, son. My Momma used monkey blood on my scrapes and cuts all the time when I was growing up. I never got an infection.”
“Will it sting?” Kevin asked with increasing trepidation.
Frank Wilson opened the medicine bottle. “Just a little…but I will be real easy.”
Pops Thompson offered some helpful advice. “If you blow on it, it will help the sting go away.”
Kevin braced for the worst and grimaced as Frank Wilson applied the medicine. He then began to relax when the pain was not so bad. He started blowing on his elbow and then his knees. Pops Thompson opened the bottle of soda and gave it to the boy.
“Here you go, young man.” Pops Thompson offered a kind smile.
Kevin looked from one man to the other with genuine appreciation. “Thank you Mr. Thompson and Mr. Wilson.” He took two gulps of the soda. “I have to get back to work, now.”
Kevin got up and walked to his bike. Frank Wilson rose up to stand by the other old mechanic, who had picked up the newspaper bag. Pops Thompson helped the boy shoulder the bag while Frank Wilson held the bicycle steady in order for the boy to get back on safely.
“I already called Mr. Walters and explained to him what happened.” Frank Wilson said. “He was worried that you might have been hurt.”
Kevin smiled at the two old men, as he was getting ready to ride away. “Thank you, again.”
“Keep up the good, hard work, son,” Pops Thompson complimented with a bit of encouraging, “and you’ll turn out to be a fine young man one day.”
“I’ll see you, tomorrow.” Kevin smiled in appreciation as he waved to the two men. They both wave to him and smile in admiration.
Pops Thompson and Frank Wilson’s smiles of admiration melted away into frowns of disgust as they looked upon Kevin. The young man’s apprehensive smile quickly disappeared when he realized that he was no longer welcome in their presence. Frank Wilson only glared at Kevin as he spat at the ground.
“How long are you going to be in town?” Pops Thompson asked with unsympathetic scorn.
Kevin felt discouraged by their reception. “Not long.”
Pops Thompson concluded their reunion with a hateful, gruff, “Good!”
Frank Wilson’s eyes narrowed as he spat again and motioned for Pops Thompson to leave with him. Kevin watched them for a moment as one of his last happy memories of childhood fell away into oblivion. The bus was leaving and he let out a wistful, mournful sigh as he turned to walk away from the station.
Kevin started up Main Street going toward the square. He walked a slow pace through town, passing in front of a row of shops. He followed the sidewalk with grim determination, nodding to some people as he walked. He was careful to avoid any close contact and give anyone time to recognize him.
Kevin would have continued to walk to the cemetery if he had not seen the 1968 Ford Mustang. The car belonged to someone who lived somewhere out of town on an old dirt road. Dried red mud and a fine coating of red dust coated the bottom half of the car. One of the back quarter windows were missing, and the front windshield, hazed over from a pipe smoker, had a large spider web fracture on the passenger side. The young man’s attention focused intently on the Mustang as he approached closer to the car. Within his mind, he heard the revving of a fine-tuned engine.
Robbie, excited as any fifteen-year-old boy would be the first time he sat in a muscle car, exclaimed, “Man, oh man! Your car sounds awesome, Kevin! I bet she could kick Brian Thompson’s Camaro easy!”
Kevin heard the engine revving louder and tires burning rubber as one car raced against another. He reached out to touch the hood of the car in admiration. Just as he made contact, the sound of a horrendous wreck caught him by surprise. Robbie cried out in agony and then suddenly silenced. Kevin recoiled from the car in shock. Admiration transformed into guilt and horror.
A woman, who had just dropped an envelope inside a mailbox, noticed that Kevin appeared to be in trouble. “Young man, is there something wrong? Are you okay?” She asked with concern.
A storeowner also noticed the commotion outside of his shop. He started wiping his glasses as he approached the doorway. He came out of the store squinting from one person to the other. He put his glasses on before he recognized Kevin.
“Oh, my God! It is Kevin Fletcher. I thought we’d never see you in this town again.”
Kevin was in such shock-guilt-grief that he could not reply to either person. He only shook his head and backed away in haste, walking away as quickly as he could. He needed to get to the cemetery. After that, then he could leave Pine Springs unhindered.
At the cemetery, Kevin stood over the grave of Carla Fletcher. He knelt down to put his hand on the gravestone in a manner to convey his love. He began to cry as the loss started to overwhelm him. He struggled to maintain control, but suddenly had little strength. He traced her name with his fingers as he laid a single, stolen rose over her grave.
“Momma…I miss you.”
Carla Fletcher waited with anxiety on the front porch swing, watching as children of various ages walked home from school. The children passed by the gate at the end of her front lawn. Robbie and Kevin came into her view from around the large rose bush at the far corner of her yard. The flowers scented the air with their delicate aroma. The two little boys played tag as they walked home from school. Robbie lived on another block but spent many of his afternoons at the Fletcher’s home. It was quite apparent that the boys were close friends. When Kevin caught sight of Carla waiting for him, he stopped playing with Robbie and ran happily through the gate.
“Momma! Momma! Guess what we did in class today!” Kevin asked with full excitement.
Robbie was very polite when he entered the yard. “Hello, Mrs. Fletcher.”
Carla stood up to welcome her son. “Hello, Robbie. How is your mother doing?” she called out.
“Fine.” Robbie had an apparent crush on Mrs. Fletcher, as he turned red in the face when she addressed him.
Kevin turned to wave goodbye to Robbie and tripped backward over his own feet. His books flew everywhere, and he fell on his rump. Carla swallowed a mother’s laugh at a whimsical thing her child had done, then realized that he was about to cry. She knew that it was not an emergency, but she still hurried to reach him before he started crying. Robbie ran into the yard to help Kevin pick up all of his books. Kevin stood up to his feet, aided by Carla, and clung to her for emotional support as he started whining.
Robbie showed genuine concern for Kevin. “I will carry the books up to the porch for you.”
“That is kind of you, Robbie.” Carla smiled.
The three of them walked up on the porch. Robbie trailed behind like an obedient puppy. Carla and Kevin sat in the swing together.
Robbie set the books down. “Is he okay?”
Carla continued to comfort Kevin. “I think it scared him more than anything else. He will be fine.”
Robbie turned to Kevin. “I have to go now, Kevin. I will see you at the cub scouts meeting tonight.”
Kevin was already calming down. “Bye.”
After Robbie turned to leave, Kevin snuggled up as he continued to lap up the attention Carla garnished upon him. She hugged him protectively. Robbie exited through the gate.
Carla looked for something to divert Kevin’s attention away from his slight injuries. “What did you do today?”
“We got to play with frogs in Miss Phillips’ class.” Kevin brightened somewhat.
Carla feigned surprise. “Frogs!”
Kevin sat up straight with renewed enthusiasm. “If I find one in our yard, can I keep him?”
Carla rolled her eyes. “I don’t know…”
Kevin tried to plead his case. “They are not slimy or anything.”
Carla downplayed her distaste. “I know that!”
“Miss Phillips says they catches and eats flies…lots of them!” Kevin said with playful, fiendish glee.
Carla patted him on the head. “If you find one, you can keep it in the old fish tank. I don’t want it running loose in the house.”
Kevin spoke as serious as any seven year old could be. “They don’t run, Momma…They hop!”
Carla knew that she was going to regret giving him permission to have a frog. “Run…hop…whatever they do. You can have one if you keep it put up.”
Little Kevin was over-joyed. “Thanks, Momma! You’re the best Momma in the whole wide world!”
Kevin kissed Carla with a flourish and then got up to run off and hunt in the yard for a frog. She turned in the swing so that she could watch him. As she watched her little boy play, she was happy, but it did not last forever.
Almost nine years later Carla’s expression filled with utter grief. She watched Kevin, just sixteen years old, as he stood before Judge Patterson terrified and in tears. Paul was emotionless beside her, hiding his own pain. The courtroom crowded to standing room only. The overworked air conditioner did little to lower the atmosphere to a comfortable level and everyone, including the boy, sweated profusely. Carla wanted to run and comfort her youngest child to shelter him from the coming storm. She ventured to look back and felt all of the hostile stares from the town people in return. She turned back as the jury filed in.
Judge Patterson held nothing but emotionless scorn toward Kevin. “I have spent much time these last few days deliberating upon a form of punishment suitable to the crime of which you have been convicted.”
Judge Patterson paused to gauge Kevin’s reaction. The boy trembled as he awaited his sentencing, already determined guilty of manslaughter by the jury. Carla fought a losing battle to control her emotions. Paul steeled himself for the sentencing phase.
Judge Patterson offered a slight hint of reluctance in his otherwise tough stance. “In the past ten years on this bench, I have seen many offenders, old as well as young, pass through with nothing more than a slap on the wrist. Often I have seen them go on to commit even greater offenses, sometimes even taking the life of another human being. I have taken into consideration your age and the fact that this is your first offense. However, I also must acknowledge the serious nature of that offense…taking the life of Robbie Murchison while driving under the influence of alcohol.” He paused to look around the courtroom, and then back to Kevin. “Kevin Andrew Fletcher…You have been deemed competent by the State of Texas to stand trial as an adult…You have been convicted of involuntary manslaughter in the death of Robbie Murchison.”
Kevin started crying at the mention of Robbie’s name. Carla, no longer able to hold her emotions in, fell against his older brother Mark, who had to put an arm around her to help her. Paul drew in a conservative breath. Kevin could not help looking at Robert and Judy Murchison, Robbie’s parents, who sat stone silent with grief. He wanted so desperately to tell them how sorry he was, but the judge was stern, and allowed no kind of disruption in his court.
Judge Patterson took an emotionless tone in admonishing Kevin. “What you did has cut this town to its heart. Robbie Murchison’s life ended the night you killed him in a car wreck. I still do not think you fully realize what you have done. Not only have you taken the life of a child away from his mother, you’ve forced me to take away another child from his mother.”
Kevin looked at Carla with painful longing. He hated himself for the pain he caused her. Both of them broke down into an emotional chasm. He looked to the Murchisons who collapsed under their own grief. Paul forced himself to look away from everyone. He had to keep control over his own emotions and offered nothing with which to console Kevin. Mark tried to hug Carla and draw her attention away from Kevin, but she did not allow herself to be pulled away.
Judge Patterson seemed hesitant as he continued. “Although I have taken into account your age and what I hope is genuine remorse for taking the life of your best friend…I’m also mindful of the growing problem of teenage drinking and driving. By handing down this sentence I hope to dissuade at least one other young man from making the same grievous mistake that you have made…I therefore sentence you to no less than ten years in a federal penitentiary…to commence immediately following these proceedings. This court is adjourned.”
At the sound of the gavel, Carla finally lost control and tried to make her way to Kevin, who the bailiff handcuffed. A great cheer erupted from the courtroom and some people hurled disgruntled shouts at the boy. Paul tried to remain oblivious while their attorney, Bill Hartson, offered condolences to the family.
Carla shrugged forcibly away from Mark and rushed toward Kevin to hug him one last time. The bailiff only allowed a moment before he had to take the boy away. Kevin kept his attention on Carla until Judy Murchison approached to support her when she could no longer stand up under her grief.
Paul stopped the truck near the cemetery and watched Kevin for several minutes. His hair had grayed considerably as it had also thinned over the last few years. He had tried to reach the Texaco in time for the arrival of the Greyhound, but the old Dodge refused to wake up so early. Deep lines of tortured worry scarred his once proud eyes. He knew that the cemetery would be the first place his youngest son would have visited. Gathering courage against the unknown, he stepped out of the truck.
Kevin cried as he touched the headstone. He had not been able to get out of prison for his mother’s funeral. He felt cheated out of the last years of her life and desperately wanted to see her face one last time. He was aware of the man standing behind him even before Paul made his presence known.
Paul walked up beside Kevin, “Hello, son.” His face appeared haggard and forlorn.
“Why are you here?” Kevin remained kneeling at his mother’s grave, but his tears of grief slowly turned to resentful anger.
It was clear that Paul wanted to reconcile with his son. “I knew you would come to see her first.”
Kevin’s hand fondly touched Carla’s name. “I didn’t get a chance to say goodbye.”
Paul’s voice softened. “I miss her, too.”
“Why are you here?” Kevin asked again with deepening anger.
Paul was afraid to show any weakness. “I could not wait to see you.”
“What?” Appalled, Kevin turned in anger upon his father. “How can you say that?”
Paul struggled with his emotions. He felt like he deserved Kevin’s anger. “I…I don’t know…There have been a lot of mistakes…bad choices…”
Kevin stood up with his fists clenched to keep his anger in check. “You helped them send me to prison!”
Paul backed up a step. “I have had a lot of thinking to…”
“What did you have to think about?” Kevin struggled to keep his anger from rising out of control, but he also needed to vent. “I was just a kid when I went through those prison gates ten years ago!”
Paul was near his breaking point. “Look son. I did what I…”
Kevin was on the verge of tears. “I’m not your son! You turned your back on me just like everyone else did in this town! You don’t dare call me son!”
Paul realized then that he had to back away. He appeared genuinely hurt over Kevin’s words as he took a seat on a nearby bench. He drew in a deep sigh, and then looked upon his son with a vague understanding of the anger the young man threw at him. Kevin had been saving up for that day when he would have the power to say goodbye to his former life on his own, and punish his father emotionally for deserting him long before.
Paul sat defensive. “At the time it seemed like the right thing to do. I had no idea that the judge would be so harsh, or what was going to happen to your mother. Carla was never the same after they took you away.”
“You never even came to see me, except when Momma made you come,” Kevin accused with hot, angry words. “Then you just stood off and never said a word to me.”
With desperate anxiety, Paul wanted to put the past behind them. “Kevin…I was hoping that we could have a man to man talk. I know you’re bitter.”
“I have every right to be bitter!” Kevin spoke harsh and relentless. “You and Mark went on to live your lives with Momma and left me behind to rot in that prison.”
Paul raised his hands in desperation. “It screwed up our lives just as terrible as it did yours.”
“You could have acknowledged me during the trial.” Kevin said with cold contempt. “You didn’t even say goodbye.”
Paul’s spirit was broken. “I could not…”
Kevin eased his attack as he turned back to the headstone. “Momma was all that kept me going. She was all I had left.”
“I miss her, too.” Paul said with remorse. “Your mother had hoped that we would be able to forgive each other and work out the past.”
Kevin spoke with quiet finality. “That will not happen.”
Paul stood up and wanted to say something else, but both men were at a loss for words now. Paul watched as a last chance at redemption passed away. Kevin suppressed his hurt and replaced it with the stronger emotion of anger.
After a brief pause, Kevin spoke again to his father with emotionless words. “You will not have to worry about me hanging around for long.”
Paul was at a loss as to how to salvage their relationship. “What are you going to do now?”
Kevin felt his anger ebbing and was somewhat relieved. “A friend of mine who got out six months ago has an apartment up in Oklahoma City. He said he will put me up for a couple of months until I can get on my feet.”
“You could stay here.” Paul grasped for anything that would reach out to Kevin. “It’s hard for anyone just out of prison to get a good, decent job.
Kevin tried to ignore a remote feeling of remorse. “I will make do. I can find work.”
Paul made a last desperate plea. “Please stay, Kevin. I promised Carla that I would help make things right for you.”
Kevin’s eyes narrowed with suspicious anger. “So that is what it’s really all about! You want to ease your own guilty conscience!”
Paul shook his head in defense. “That is not it, not entirely.”
“I will call from Oklahoma City when I get settled in. You can send my things there.” Kevin was colder than before. “After that, I don’t care what you do except leave me alone. That seems to be what you’re really good at.” He started walking away in resentment.
Paul reached out to catch his son, but missed. “Kevin!” He stood dumbfounded as he watched the young man walk away.
Kevin was unable to keep his hurt from his father, and his face twisted with emotional pain. Paul held out his arm for a bit longer in hope that his son would turn around. Crushed with a broken spirit, the father turned to Carla’s grave and collapsed to his knees. He rubbed his left arm absently as he began to sob.
After he left his father alone in the cemetery, Kevin walked through town at an even slower pace than before. He approached an intersection that cornered around the grounds of First Baptist Church of Pine Springs. Distant memories haunted his mind as he gazed upon the imposing sanctuary prominently set on the corner. In his mind, he heard a church bell ringing to draw worshippers to service. The steps and walkways extended in both directions as if to welcome all from every walk of life. He walked up to the porch steps leading into the church and looked up at the steeple.
Brother Wayne Brewster approached Kevin from an opposite sidewalk behind him. The young man did not notice the pastor at first, who studied Kevin briefly. The preacher realized that the young man was deeply troubled and searched his instincts for the best approach.
“It’s a wonderful old building.” Brother Wayne announced his presence in a kind and unimposing manner. “God blessed her with strong wood and a stout frame.”
If alarmed by the sudden intrusion into his quiet reminiscing, Kevin did not show it as he smiled at a memory. “It was stout enough to weather a tornado.” He turned to see a short man with a bald halo on top of ruddy brown hair.
Brother Wayne stepped into Kevin’s line of sight in a friendly manner. “That was before I ever came to town. Were you here during that storm?”
Although Kevin was surprised, he was also pleased someone not offended by his presence. “I was eight years old…the last night of vacation bible school a really bad storm came through. Brother Jamie had all of us kids down in the cellar. We actually lost part of the roof. Brother Jamie said that part was already rotting and leaking. God just wanted to help our church along. Did you know Brother Jamie?”
“We went to seminary together.”
Kevin looked for a chance to leave. “I guess everything in town has changed…except for this old church.”
Brother Wayne hoped to keep Kevin a little longer. “You’re Kevin Fletcher, right? James told me that you might come by today.” He offered a handshake. “Wayne Kinman. I’m the pastor now.”
Kevin was wary as he shook the offered hand. “I guess you’ve already heard about me, then.”
Brother Wayne offered no sign of backing away. “James told me everything about you. He is still quite proud of you. You know he left town right after they convicted you?”
Kevin hid his surprise under a mask of rebellion. “So you already know that I murdered my best friend.”
Brother Wayne flinched under Kevin’s hard tone. “James and I both saw it as an accident…nothing more.”
Kevin was unable to hide his suspicion. “The fact that I’m an ex-con does not bother you?”
Brother Wayne offered a genuine smile. “I deal with people from all walks of life…some of them guilty of much greater sins than yours. God has given me the gift…and sometimes the curse…of being able to look past their transgressions into their hearts.”
Kevin felt a deep-seated need to shore up the wall he had put around himself. “Brother Jamie knew me once…but that part of me died with Robbie ten years ago.”
Brother Wayne shook his head wisely. “I hope you’re wrong. Maybe that part of you has gone into hiding and you just need to find him. With God, anything is possible.”
“I don’t think so.” Kevin looked at the church and then started to back away. “God turned His back on me just as this town did.”
Brother Wayne knew he was losing a chance with Kevin. “I know you’ve already heard this before…but God never closes a door without opening a window.”
Kevin backed further away. “Look…I appreciate your concern for me, but you’re wasting your breath. I am not worth it. My life in this town ended ten years ago. All I want to do is get out and forget it ever existed.”
“I hope you don’t mind, then, that I pray for you Kevin?” Brother Wayne conceded kindly.
Kevin felt bewildered by Brother Wayne’s compassion. “Suit yourself…but I’m telling you it does not matter.”
Brother Wayne offered a last bit of kindness toward the young man. “I hope you find what you’re looking for.”
Kevin turned and walked away. Brother Wayne walked up the steps of the church. He stopped just at the door to look after the young man before entering. Kevin hurried across the street and away from the church.
Kevin walked up to the teller window at the gas station and tapped on the glass. As he waited, he looked over to the bench where the two old men had been sitting. It was now empty. The teller approached window from inside the store.
The young teller, maybe just out of high school, tried to be amiable as she spoke to Kevin. “How can I help you?”
Kevin tried to be casual. “When does the bus arrive for Dallas?”
The teller smiled as she took a longing look at Kevin. “That bus will not get here until around three in the afternoon. You got family in Dallas?”
Kevin was aware of her interest in him but did not care to reciprocate. “No…Just going through to Oklahoma City…Three? That’s about an hour and a half from now.”
“Are you in a real hurry to leave Pine Springs?” The teller blinked her eyes in a flirting manner that begged for his attention.
Kevin shook his head as he turned to leave. “There is not much here for me anymore. I guess I will wait it out at the park.”
The teller expressed disappointment as she shrugged her shoulders. “Suit yourself.”
Kevin walked across the street back toward the Town Square. He glanced up to see a decrepit building falling into disrepair. He looked up to see the ‘Murchison’s’ sign fading above the entry with the doors and windows boarded up. Sadness welled within him. As he watched, the sound of a band playing filled his mind as the building transformed into its former glory.
There appeared to be a new façade on the building with ‘Murchison’s’ painted in bold, vivid colors, and the windows sat clean and filled with advertisements for a grand opening. Robert Murchison stood on a stage in front of his store, along with his son Robbie on his shoulders. They waved to people as they came in to his store. Kevin walked hand in hand with Carla along the street leading to the store. There was a festive mood throughout the people gathered at the town square.
Kevin, fascinated by the festivities in the square, asked, “Why is there a celebration, Momma?”
“This is the first grocery store ever in our town.” Carla replied. “Everybody is happy because we don’t have to drive thirty miles to the closest store anymore.”
“Cool.” Kevin said with childish awe.
“Robert has done a good thing for our town.” Carla added.
Kevin pointed toward his friend with excitement. “Look Momma! Robbie is on Mr. Murchison’s shoulders!”
Carla used that as a teaching moment. “Just think. One of these days Mr. Murchison will pass the store down to Robbie and let him run it.
Kevin nearly jumped for joy. “My best friend is going to be rich?”
Carla shrugged. “It sort of looks that way.”
Kevin was envious of Robbie. “I wish I could run a grocery store.”
Carla was amused. “You would not want to run Daddy’s shop when he gets ready to retire?”
“Daddy does not sell candy and ice cream.” Kevin replied with innocence.
Carla laughed aloud. “You have a point.”
Carla and Kevin walked on together to join in the festivities.
The new grocery store faded back into the present and the cheering crowd and band faded away into nothing. Kevin looked pained as he looked at the decrepit store and he had to avert his eyes away from the sight. They landed on a black-haired boy of about five or six years of age dressed in white. He looked around for a parent and saw some adults across the street at a park adjacent to the square.
Kevin pushed aside his prison bravado for a moment so not to threaten the little boy. “Don’t you think you should be across the street at the park with your momma or daddy?”
“I’m their angel.” The little boy had compelling eyes. “They will be here soon.”
“I think you should get back over to the park and wait on them.” Kevin felt some familiarity with the child that he could not place.
“Okay.” Angel smiled at him before he ran off in the direction of the park.
For some unknown reason, Kevin felt compelled to follow the little boy, but only to go to the park himself. There were several children playing and Angel disappeared among them. He looked around for the little boy, but the direction he took led to a granite stone in the center of the park.
Kevin gasped when his attention focused on the stone. He approached slowly as if afraid of it. He reached out to touch it with tears pouring from his eyes. It was carved out of red granite and stood about two feet out of the ground and faced the square and Murchison’s store. He backed away from the stone, stumbling over his feet. The stone memorial read:
In loving memory of
Robert “Robbie” Murchison, Jr.
Born August 30, 1993
Died October 21, 2008
This park and facilities were donated by the Murchison Family
to honor the life of Robbie Murchison,
brought to a tragic end the night of October 21, 2008.
Robbie lived fifteen years, one month and twenty-two days.
The hearts of this town will forever remember him.
An intense storm raged that terrible night. Near a sharp curve in the highway, Kevin knelt on the ground and held Robbie’s lifeless body in his arms. A dozen police cars and emergency vehicles staged around the scene of the wreck. The lightning flashes mingled with the pulsing emergency lights. The boy screamed and cried for his best friend to come back to life.
Deputy Joseph Stevens had been the first police officer to arrive on the scene. He looked at the Mustang that folded in half around a tree. He judged that no one else was in the car and quickly assessed the two boys.
Joseph Stevens had to shout above the wailing sirens and peals of thunder. “Let me have a look at your friend!”
Kevin cried in desperation. “I think he’s dying!”
Joseph Stevens looked at Robbie. “What happened?”
Kevin was scared out of his wits. “I don’t know!”
Joseph Stevens was shocked. “Oh, my God! Is that Robbie Murchison?”
“Please help him! He’s my best friend.” Kevin pleaded in desperation.
A state trooper got out of his car and started looking over the single car wreck. Joseph Stevens started trying to pull the boys apart.
“Order a Careflight!” Joseph Stevens said to the trooper.
Although he wanted help for Robbie, Kevin refused to part from him. “Robbie!”
“Let go of him, son!” Joseph Stevens demanded.
Kevin held on in desperation. “No!”
“Can you give me a hand?” Joseph Stevens asked the approaching trooper.
The trooper could not hide his pained disgust as he knelt to help Joseph Stevens. “Who was driving the car?”
Kevin was fearful for Robbie. “I was. I don’t know what happened. One minute we were driving around the curve…then the next thing I knew…Robbie was on the ground in front of the car.”
The trooper gave Joseph Stevens a look that told more than words what caused the wreck was driving under the influence of alcohol. The trooper managed to separate Robbie from Kevin so that Joseph Stevens could begin CPR.
The trooper would not hide his disgust with Kevin. “Are you okay? Can you stand up?”
Another trooper who had been directing traffic on the highway shouted, “The weather is too rough for Careflight! County General is sending an ambulance!”
The trooper forcibly pulled Kevin away from Robbie. “Come with me over here by the car.”
“Take care of him! He is my best friend!” Kevin cried to Joseph Stevens as they escorted him away from Robbie. “My friend…”
Kevin stumbled awkwardly as if drunk toward the trooper. Joseph Stevens gave the trooper a look that said it was too late for Robbie, but tried to start CPR anyway. The trooper then began to act even more rough with Kevin and threw him toward the car.
Kevin saw the beer cans littering the ground around the Mustang and realized what the men were thinking. When he saw that Joseph Stevens was having difficulty reviving Robbie, he tried to shrug away from the trooper.
The trooper called for assistance from a third trooper when he assumed that Kevin was resisting arrest. The two men wrestled Kevin to the ground. As they smashed his face into the mud, Kevin fought to keep his eyes on Joseph Stevens and Robbie. When he saw Joseph Stevens give up, Kevin cried out Robbie’s name in grief.
Joseph Stevens, exhausted from trying to save the boy, looked up to Kevin with eyes full of murderous hate. He started to get up, but the trooper from the highway wisely acted to prevent a further incident from happening. Kevin stopped struggling as the troopers worked to arrest him, closed his eyes, and cried into the mud.
Kevin stood before the monument with his hands clenched and eyes closed. Tears poured down his cheeks as he relived the last moments over and again. Angel walked up slowly, his eyes full of sorrow for the hurt that Kevin was feeling.
“Hey mister,” Angel asked in soft innocence. “Why are you crying?”
The sudden reappearance of the little boy astonished Kevin. “What?”
“Why are you crying?” Angel reiterated.
Kevin felt ashamed of his weakness. “Something bad happened a long time ago to a real good friend of mine.” He again looked around for a parent of the boy.
Angel looked at the stone. “Did he die?”
Kevin could only choke back his tears. “Yes.”
“Oh, I’m sorry.” Angel said in a mournful tone.
“Did your parents ever tell you that it’s dangerous to talk to strangers?” Kevin admonished. “Are you out here by yourself?”
“My Father is here.” Angel answered with deep reverence.
“I don’t think he would want you to hang around with a person like me.” Kevin tried to usher the little boy away. “You should go back to where you belong before you get into trouble.”
Angel spoke even softer. “Do you miss your Momma, too?”
“How do you know about her?” Kevin was puzzled that the child would ask such a question of him. “I miss her just as much as I miss Robbie.” He walked to a bench to sit down. “They were the most important people in my life until I ruined everything.”
Angel sat next to Kevin without reservation. “Do you think she misses you, too?”
Kevin grimly shook his head. “She cannot. She is dead, too. They both died because of me.”
“Was she as beautiful then?” Angel asked.
Kevin did not pick up the hint from the little boy. “When I was little…not much older than you…I used to beg her to come out on the porch. It was springtime…She loved her flower garden…There were all kinds of flowers in her garden. She had some that would bloom during other parts of the year…but spring always brought the most beautiful ones…I would pick one or two to put in her hair…She was so lovely and beautiful when she smiled…I wish I could see her just once more.”
Kevin realized that he sat alone when the memory faded away. The little boy had wandered away. He returned to his brooding state of mind and got up to walk back to the bus stop.
Kevin sat down to wait on the bus. Despair and loneliness started to sink in. He rubbed away the tears from his eyes in frustration. Then he sensed that someone was watching him and he slowly pulled his hands down from his eyes. Angel stood before him, holding a clump of flowers in an offering. There was something grown up in the compassion that showed in the little boy’s eyes as he looked upon Kevin.
“Heal.” Angel was both compassionate and commanding together as he urged Kevin to take the flowers.
Kevin frowned in confusion as he reached for the flowers. He thought that Angel had mispronounced the word ‘here’. He took the flowers with caution. The little boy’s eyes seemed to sparkle. Kevin looked at the flowers and realized they were marigold blooms, his mother’s favorite. His heart finally broke.
“How did you know?” Kevin swallowed a lump in his throat and started crying as he buried his face into the flowers.
Angel seemed pleased until he heard the bus pulling into town. His smile disappeared into uncertainty. He watched Kevin stand up and put his bag over his shoulder. The young man still looked at the flowers within his hand. Angel ran across the street before the bus arrived and watched with trepidation.
Kevin looked up just as the Dallas bus slowed to stop and saw the forlorn look in Angel’s eyes. He put the flowers into his other hand and reached into his pocket for the ticket. The bus pulled between the two and he could no longer see the little boy before he stepped up onto the bus.
Angel looked down in disappointment when the bus separated him from view. He bit his lip when it appeared that Kevin stepped onto the bus. A few minutes later, when the bus departed, he felt heartbroken when it appeared that the young man had left on the bus. He turned to walk away.
Kevin walked out of the Texaco with a soda in hand and called out to the little boy. “Hey kid!” He wondered if he was making the right decision.
Angel jumped for joy. “You’re staying?”
Kevin still held the flowers as he walked toward Angel. He knelt so that he could look the little boy eye to eye. Angel was still crying, but he seemed to have found some joy in the moment.
Kevin gave Angel the soda and ruffled his hair. “Thank you for letting me see that there is at least one good person still in this town.”
Angel was exuberant. “So you’re staying?”
Kevin stood up and looked off in the direction of home. “For a day or two…I owe it to Momma.”
Angel shouted for joy and then took off running toward the other children in the park. Kevin took in a deep breath and started walking away from the bus stop.
Paul sat in the front porch swing and appeared beat down and broken by life. He looked out over the flower garden that overgrown with weeds. Carla had worked so hard to keep the garden and the yard tidy. He felt some sense of guilt for having let it get away. He stood up to walk back in the house when he heard footsteps approaching on the walk.
Paul stood up near the rail when he noticed Kevin walking toward the house. A surge of hope set his heart beating dangerously fast. His son paused at the gate, still unsure of what decisions he must make. Both men were silent and unmoving for a moment, both uncertain.
At last, Kevin made the first move into the yard. Paul slowly walked down the steps. The young man stopped in the middle of the yard and lowered his bag to the ground. He looked around the yard in a mixture of dismay and melancholy.
“I am sorry that I could not take care of it as well as your mother,” Paul apologized.
Kevin offered a defensive explanation with an awkward feeling. “I thought I might come and make the yard nice again for Momma before I went to Oklahoma.”
Paul was cautious with his hope. “You can do that. It’s kind of late today…we can start on it together in the morning.”
Kevin was ready for a rest. “Okay…but I’m not staying long.”
“That’s okay, Kevin.” Paul picked up Kevin’s bag as he led the way toward the house.
Kevin gave a wistful look at the garden as he followed Paul. “Momma always loved her flowerbeds.”
Paul walked up on the porch and opened the door for Kevin. “It was not the flowerbeds that she loved so much. It was the fact that she found something that she could do with one of her boys joyfully. She loved spending time with you when the two of you would plant something together. That is why she loved her garden so much. Go on in and I will get you something to eat. You look beat.”
Kevin stepped inside the house and Paul closed both doors behind them.
END OF EPISODE ONE
I hope you enjoyed this free episode. To continue reading Kevin’s Homecoming, you can find Episode 2 at the following link. All future episodes will be available in e-book form only at the price of $0.99 from Smashwords.
Here is the link for KEVIN’S HOMECOMING – EPISODE 2:
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
I was born and raised in Texas, so almost all of my settings take place in Texas. I began life in the Dallas area, but have recently moved to the “Arklatex” region of Northeast Texas. I am a Christian and a father to one daughter. Occasionally, I taught a Sunday school class and a weekly program to children about missionaries through a program called Royal Ambassadors. I used to teach regularly at a church in Mesquite, TX, but due to the move, a 2-hour drive became difficult to maintain and it was necessary to cut back. I now teach every Sunday and Wednesday at my new church home in East Texas.
Although my ultimate goal in life was to write full-time and be able to go on medical mission trips or disaster relief teams, the reality is that most writers have to work extra jobs to support their dreams. I am not ashamed to say that I work as a nurse aide (some people used to call us orderlies) at a major hospital system in East Texas. I am grateful that God has allowed me to find this sort of work enjoyable because I get to serve and minister to those who need both physical and spiritual healing.
In July, 2014, I suffered a stroke that threatened to circumvent my desires for a meaningful life. Thanks to a wonderful rehab team out of Tyler, I was able to recover most of my functions for daily living, though I still get exhausted on some days. I only have recently been able to take up the habit of writing again, so expect to see some more works in the near future.
My interest in becoming a writer actually started around my twelfth birthday. My mother gave me a book, “Little Men,” by Louisa May Alcott, that became my first inclination that I would want to live adventures through written words. My first efforts at creative writing were poems created between classes in high school. I actually had a decent collection of about fifty, but sadly, they were lost over time from various moves in my younger years. My first publication was a poem entitled “Throw Away Child,” that was published in a national anthology.
About 1987 was when I first began to write full-length novels. At the time, I was a big Stephen King fan and thought that writing horror novels was the way to get into mainstream publishing. I started a novel that eventually split into two novels. “Circle of the Rose” began life as “A Rose for Tommy,” and now is titled “Unholy Cult of the Blood Rose.” The story was about a boy who suffered from abuse and travelled to a dream world in his sleep to escape his tormentors. After writing it out, which is what I try to do with anything I create, it just sounded too cheesy to work for me. I extracted the “real” life work from the “imaginary” one and found that I actually had two viable novels from one.
“Unholy Cult of the Blood Rose” is a horror novel that I wrote to address the issue of child abuse. In a way, it was a therapeutic work of art helping me to deal with the demons in my past childhood. I do not wish to delve any further at the moment, but if you take the time to read the introduction to that novel, you may have a better understanding of what message I was trying, and may still be trying, to convey.
The second novel that split from the original became “Unbinder.” That work of literature is still in progress. It will actually become three separate books as a series and is a fantasy series set in another world with young lovers, old dragons, battling sorcerers, and an evil overlord. The excerpt I have provided here on the cd is the middle book. “Unbinder” became too big to write as one complete novel and a time gap in the events on Traum exists that I could receive no inspiration to fill. The first book will actually be a prequel that builds up to the second book.
My latest foray into modern literature is a drama written out as serialized fiction. “Kevin’s Homecoming” represents the latest genre that I am working in and has become the most rewarding for me, both in its creation, and in the publishing aspect. Feel free to visit one of my websites and leave a comment if you like. I look forward to hearing from you soon.
May God bless you richly in the coming days,
Eddie C Dollgener Jr
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