About half an hour later, my moms nudged my shoulder and woke me up. I was hoping maybe we had passed through the country and were back in the city, but we were just farther away from anything and anyone.
Right outside our window was a wooden sign that read “Office” in big yellow letters.
“An office? What’s he need an office for?”
“I have no idea, Sam. Maybe for his work.”
“What’s he do?”
“I don’t know, honey. Last I remember he was a farmer of something or other.”
“Geez, this place is huge. Does he have a bunch of kids or what?”
“He does, but I believe they’re all grown up. Remember, honey—”
“I know, Moms. Be on my best behavior. Geez. I know.”
I hopped out of the car for a stretch and a better look around. Something was burning somewhere, but I couldn’t spot the source of the smell. A big red building stood at the opposite end of the concrete road we were parked on, a baby blue tractor parked under its tin roof. Other than that, the three other buildings were stained clapboard, just like the office. It was a quiet little compound.
A small garden enclosed with timbers sat off to the right of our car. Beyond the tall husks of corn, I spotted a big grey backboard and a red rim.
“Yes! He has a hoop.”
My moms was still sitting in the car, her hands on the wheel.
“Moms, you okay?”
“Are you crying?”
She got out of the car and wiped a tear from under her glasses, then straightened her dress. “Oh, you know me. I cry at everything.”
I didn’t really know her to cry at all, actually. I’d seen her angry, but sad? Never. Not that she never got sad, I’d just never seen it before. Even when her husband just up and split, right after they adopted me, I never saw her cry. Just like I’d never seen her wear a dress.
“Should I grab our luggage?” I asked.
“Why don’t we go say hi first?”
She came over and put her arm around me, rubbing circles on my lower back. “I love you, Sam, okay? I just want you to know that.”
There was something familiar in the way she said it, almost like a goodbye or something, and I got this sense that things weren’t what they seemed.
As we walked around the car toward the stone pathway leading to the front office, I noticed two boys out on a porch along the side of the building. They were standing on a deck locked in by a high razor-wire fence, shucking corn and watching us. Why the razor wire?
The bigger boy, wearing a pair of overalls, stuck his hand in the air and waved.
In the back of my mouth, I could taste the lie. She was making good on her promise to send me away, and that’s why, out of six kids, I was the only one she brought. My knees buckled and my feet stopped moving.
“I’m not here to see my godfather, am I?”
She tried to explain something to me with her eyes, then she shook her head. “Honey, this is your new school.”
Christians always lie like that, like God gives them permission to say anything they want to further the cause. Like they’re Moses or something.
I threw her hand off my back. “You’re really doing this?”
“Honey, I love you—”
“Don’t lie to me. That’s bullshit.”
“Honey, I understand why you’re upset, but I don’t know what else to do. I love you too much to let you keep going down the road you’re on.”
“What about basketball?”
“What about it? They have basketball here.”
“Yeah, but I’m not gonna make it anywhere playing there.” I pointed to the hoop.
“Honey, it’s only a year. You’ll have plenty of chances to play when you get back home. You’re only a freshman.”
The porch door swung open, and a little old man with long sideburns stepped out and hopped across the porch, his blue boots clicking against the wooden floorboards. A boy, a good head taller than him with bright orange hair, followed him down the steps toward us.
“Ye’all found us,” the old man said.
“Yep. And on time, too.”
He shook my moms’ hand, then looked at me. “Sam, my name is Charles Ward. But everyone here calls me Papa.”
He put out his hand, but I didn’t shake it. He wasn’t intimidated in the slightest, but he could tell I was upset, and he didn’t push it.
“I reckon you understand this where you’ll be going to school this year?”
“How bout we go on inside and get settled in a bit?”
I wasn’t sure what to do, but I felt like if I took one step closer, I’d never be able to take it back. I just stood there, looking around the property, swallowing fire in the back of my throat.
The old man put his hand on my arm. “This here is Graham,” he said. “You and him gonna walk right through that door and sit down and get acquainted while your mama and I discuss a few things.”
I didn’t shake Graham’s hand either.
“We can do this the easy way, or the hard way,” the old man said, squeezing a little tighter on my arm and raising his bushy white eyebrows.
I yanked my arm from his grasp, and Graham lunged forward, all clenched up.
“Sam. I’ma give you one more chance. It’s up to you. Easy way, or hard way? We ain’t going through it a third time.”
I wanted to take the hard way, but Graham looked like a pit bull, just waiting for the command, and I didn’t have the guts.
“You don’t need to put your hands on me. I can walk.”
Praise for God*s Will
“This is a gripping novel, thoughtful and dramatically harrowing. An artfully disturbing story, as captivating as it is heart-wrenching.”
“A gut-wrenching novel about the perils of faith bereft of love, God*s Will testifies to resilience in adversity, and is a harrowing condemnation of all who choose to close their eyes to suffering.”
“[Echan] is gifted in using amusing analogies and hilarious descriptions … [He] does a masterful job of tying up the loose ends while injecting some unexpected twists and turns to help keep the reader engaged.”
—San Francisco Book Review
“A compelling story of survival, faith, and religion used for both good and evil … Highly recommended for its thought-provoking considerations of morals, ethics, and faith.”
—Midwest Book Review
“A fantastic and in-depth look at a particular section of teen culture which is often overlooked in the pages of glossy, popular coming-of-age tales.”
About the Author
Matthew John Echan is a board-certified behavior analyst and education consultant for emotionally disturbed children and individuals with developmental disabilities. He currently resides in Southern California with his wife, three children, and their small dog. Matthew considers himself a method writer, and says when he is not writing, he’s writing.