Friday, February 24, 2017

Segment Thirteen - Escape from the Belfry Copyright 2013 Doris Gaines Rapp

Chapter Twenty-Five

Better lock up the pastor’s study, Adam thought as he slowly walked around in the room of books and paintings and art before he left. He breathed in all the sweet smells of a man who knows who he is and why he is. Was Pops ever like this? Adam’s question hung in the air with no answer.
            Adam moved around the room slowly taking everything in. He ran his fingers across the back of the deep maroon leather chair that sat at the desk and drank in the perfume of the hide. He carefully picked up a brass figurine of a small child with his curly head laid in the lap of Christ. The piece was amazing and roused the artist within him. He longed for his home, his family, and he grieved for the loss of his own future, of who he could have become.
            I trust you, Adam, he heard Pastor Silverman say. What would we ever do without you?
            Adam looked around the room again. “I do belong in an office like this.” Alone and defeated or not, there was one thing he always believed in. It was something Pops had said.  “Tomorrow is always better if you live fully in today.”
            Pops also said, “Hard work never hurt anyone, Son. Laziness destroys the body, the mind, the spirit, and the future of anyone.”
            Pops? Why do I remember words of wisdom from him? I haven’t cared what Pops had said for a long time. Why am I thinking about him now all of a sudden? He left us and won’t ever come back.
            “I have loosed your memory, My Son,” Shaddi spoke in his ear. “Remember more.”
            Moms’ words as he left the sanatarium on Christmas rattled around in his head. “Be fair Adam. Your daddy did not leave us. He was drafted. Your father was . . . no . . . he is a quiet man. But, just because he didn’t talk very much, that does not define his character. He loved us both. He would never desert his country or his family.” 
            “Truth is the only present I have for you today,” she had said as she kissed him goodbye at the sanatarium. “But, if you will accept the gift, truth will be the most valuable present you will ever receive. Make your peace with the memory of your father, Adam. Only you will suffer if you don’t.”
            A gift is it? The “truth” she called it. Tears filled his eyes and that made him angry too.  He didn’t want to cry over anything. He was cried out. But, what if Moms is right?
            Adam locked the office door and ran his fingers over the panels in the dark, heavy wood.  Now I have to get busy. If I don’t, this day will drag on and turn into all the others, full of nothing. Fritzy doesn’t believe me anymore. Mr. G. is probably in the hospital because he thinks I’m a thief. But—maybe things can be different. I know some people believe in me.
            He grabbed the sweeper off the floor where he had dropped it and put in the new filter Alfred had nearly died over. Why didn’t I stop him? He cleaned the carpets vigorously, then the mop boards, the window sills, and the furniture. He put a clean cloth over the end of a dust mop and carefully ran the extended dust rag over the surface of all the stained glass windows. With the furniture polish he found in the utility closet, he rubbed the pulpit, lectern, and pews until they shone.
            As he worked, he could feel anger and tension flow from his muscles, mind and heart—out through his hands and arms as he polished and cleaned. He laughed out loud. Pops was right! As impossible as that would have been to admit a few days ago, he was living proof Pops’ wisdom was true. Hard work cleanses the mind, the soul, and the body.
            Then why do I still feel so confused all the time? Why am I always on the washboard road of life? Why are things so rough? Why does every face of joy have to wear a dark mask? Will life always be this way?
Chapter Twenty-Six

Another day dawned in the belfry on Cranberry Street. I cannot drag myself out of bed. I don’t want to face anything. Adam rolled over and stared at the empty room. The hummingbird was still gone and he was still alone. I have to see Mr. G., not because I must, because I want to want to.
            Adam was surprised. He was not stiff or sore as he thought he would be after the previous day’s hard work. He smiled to himself when he thought about all he had accomplished. Amazing how a good day’s work makes you feel great.
            The wind had blown hard and cold during the night. Icy air howled through the old rafters and made the room seem even more cold than the temperature would have revealed. He heard limbs crack from tall tree trunks and wondered when one would come through the roof.
            Adam certainly didn’t look forward to the hike across town, especially with such a heavy heart, in such a heavy snow fall. How could he look Mr. Gunderman in the eye when Mr. G. thought he was a thief? He had never even seen the carving of the Christ Child and he would never have taken the carving that was so precious to everyone. The strange fact that both he and the thieves needed twenty-five dollars was just a coincidence.
            “I don’t know why those guys need the money,” Adam mumbled to the cold, empty tower room. “My cause is noble, well sort of. I needed twenty-five dollars to buy some coal for the farm and to take Frederica to the New Years Eve Party, but now she thinks I’m a liar.” He stumbled around as he looked for his left clodhopper. “I did not lie. I just didn’t tell her about my life. Why would I? She wouldn’t have wanted to be around me if she knew.” The more he thought about the whole situation, the madder he got.
            “Wait ‘til she finds out Pops might be a deserter, even if he used to be a good man.” His feelings about his father were a thrill ride, at the top Pops was a great guy, at the bottom a reprobate. That made him even more angry. Why couldn’t he settle his feelings on the man? Why was Pops okay one day and totally unacceptable the next?
            He shoved his foot into the shoe that was half buried under his bedding. As he bent over to tie the laces, he spied the little saucer in the corner of the tower and thought of the hummer.
            “Just another deserter.” He felt his heart harden with the cement of bitterness. He had plunged once again into the icy, acidic waters of despair. “At least a stone-cold heart will be harder to break.”
            I can’t procrastinate any longer. If I’m going to visit Mr. G. I had better get started. He put on his coat, hat and gloves and started out on foot. His first stop was at Pastor Silverman’s home.
            “Good morning, Adam,” Mrs. Silverman greeted when she opened the door.
            “I need to return Pastor’s keys, Ma’am.”
            “Hi Adam,” Pastor Silverman chimed in.
            “Yes Sir, Good morning. I’m returning your keys.” Adam handed over the ring with the
fob in the shape of a cross.
            “Thank you, Adam,” Pastor said with enthusiasm. “We are so lucky to have someone like you covering for all of us when things happen. We can depend on you.”
            “Thank you, Sir.” There’s that flattery again. Does he mean what he says or is he just being happy, happy, happy like a lot of other church people?
            “Can we get you some coffee or hot chocolate, Adam?” Mrs. Silverman offered.
            “No thank you. I have to be on my way.” He didn’t tell them where he was going. They’d probably want to drive me over. I can’t be beholding to everyone in town, he thought as he started out. He had never minded walking. He was used to being on foot. That was simply how he got to places he wanted or needed to go.
            An hour later, covered with icy snow, both on the inside and the out, he stumbled into the main entrance of Middletown Community Hospital. “I would like to see Alfred Gunderman,” Adam whispered and gasped for air as he tried to regain warmth to the breath within him.
            “Are you all right?” The receptionist at the Information Desk asked when she saw the tall young boy stagger in. “You don’t have enough spek on your bones to keep you warm.”
            “Yes, Ma’am.” Adam blew on his hands but his lungs were so full of cold air, little warmth breathed forth. “I would like to see Alfred Gunderman, please,” he repeated. “What room is he in?”
            “Are you family?”
            “Sort of like family.” Shaddi what do I say? Then he remembered what Alfred had said. “I live with him.”
            While the receptionist looked up the room number, Adam turned his back to the desk. He
blew again on his frozen fingers, this time with the warm breath heated by the presence of Shaddi.
            “That’s fine, Young Man.” The reception said as she looked down at her notebook. “Let’s see, he is in room 204, at least for a while. He’ll go home this afternoon.”
            “Great!” Adam started down the hall toward the elevator.
            “Two-hundred . . .” he marked off the numbers from the end of the hall. “Two-hundred two, two-hundred four,” he ticked them off and stopped. Adam took a deep breath, squared his shoulders, and walked in.
            “Adam,” Mrs. Gunderman hurried over and gave the boy a big grandma-hug. “Tell me you didn’t walk.”
            “I can’t, ‘cause I did.”
            “Well, I will run you back to town when you’re ready to go. I have to pick up some pills at the pharmacy for Al. Then, I’ll come back here this afternoon and take him home.”
            “How are your doing?” Adam approached the bedside cautiously. Mr. Gunderman looked weak to him and Adam was worried.
            “Adam, what a surprise. You didn’t have to walk all the way over here. I’m fine. Some
little pills the doc ordered are going to fix me up real good.” Mr. Gunderman reached out his hand and took Adam’s in his.
            “I thought your heart attack was my fault―”
            “Your fault? No, no, no. My ticker just complains a little sometimes. Doc said I was really lucky this time. He said something caused it to start up again after it stopped. That’s why I need you at the church to help me. To take a little of the load off.”
            Adam heard what Alfred had said and a sense of knowing came over him, but that wasn’t what he worried about right then. “Mr. Gunderman, I did not take that Christ Child carving.” Adam was emphatic.
            “My goodness, Boy, I know that.” He was not ready to let go of Adam’s hand. “I didn’t get to finish what I was saying yesterday. I have worried about that for the past few hours.”
            “Don’t worry because of me, Mr. G.”
            “And why not?”
            “I have lived a lie—for months now. I didn’t expect you to believe the truth.”
            “We shook hands on the truth, Adam.” He smiled with a caring smile. “Now you let me finish. I just meant that it was interesting that both you and the thief said you need the same amount of money, twenty-five dollars. I figured, he must be a young person, like you.” He looked at Adam thoughtfully. “Now, what is all this talk about lies?”
            “I just make up things that make me look better than I am. I like nice stories, make believe, rather than the real stuff that’s so hard. Like hummingbirds flying south on the wings of Northern geese. Nice tale, but not true, just made up to make things sound miraculous.” Adam hung his head, his voice was a whisper.
            “But the hummingbird story is a miracle, Adam. No, they don’t piggyback on larger birds. But, those tiny hummers, who have to eat nectar all of the time, manage to fly all the way across our southern states to Mexico or Central America with only God as their strength. Some fly through the eastern two thirds of Texas and others through Florida and Cuba. Some little birds fly right across the Gulf of Mexico. If you don’t think that’s a miracle, you don’t recognize the miracles that are all around you.”
            Adam smiled and thought about what Mr. Gunderman was saying, but said nothing.
            “You shouldn’t live a lie, Son. If a tiny bird can fly hundreds of miles Adam, you can endure what you are dealt. I know you have the strength.”
            “I’m afraid, Mr. G. If people knew me, they wouldn’t like me. I don’t like me.” He was silent a minute while fear boiled inside him.
            The corners of the hospital room grew dark. Maybe a cloud passed in front of the sun, but Adam didn’t think so. He felt the presence of the shadow people but he did not see them or smell their repulsive odor. He chose to disavow them. In his mind, they were not there.
            “Does anyone still think I stole the statue,” Adam asked cautiously. He wanted to know, but he didn’t want to hear the answer. “Like the Bremans—or maybe Fritzy?” Adam could not stand the thought that his name may have been ruined.
            “I don’t know, Son. I’ve been in here.”
            I do. She was mad.
            “I’m glad you’re still here Adam,” Mrs. Gunderman said as she breezed back into the room. “Could I get you to do me a favor?”
            “Now a boy can always use a good cheese sandwich and a bowl of tomato soup,” Gunderman suggested.
            “All right then, for a sandwich and a bowl of soup, would you please help me take down the Christmas tree at our house and move the living room furniture around so Alfred can see out the window this afternoon when he gets home? While he rests, he would enjoy watching the comings and goings up and down the street.”
            “Arletta, I can move that furniture.” Alfred insisted as he rose up on his elbow.
            “No!” Arletta and Adam responded in unison.

■  ■  ■

“Now you come right in here, Adam. We’ll tend to lunch first.” Once they were back at the house, Mrs. Gunderman led the way to the kitchen. “I haven’t had anything to eat since yesterday noon either. I stayed at the hospital with Al last evening.”
            “You must be hungry too, Mrs. G.”
            “I hadn’t thought about food but—oh my. Adam, look at this!” Arletta stood at the kitchen sink and looked out over the back yard.
            “I heard the wind blowing last night, but I never thought―”
            Outside the Gunderman’s kitchen window the view was a jumble of twisted, broken branches and icy tree limbs. The entire half of Gunderman’s large maple tree that faced the house lay on the ground and the small top branches draped over the back porch rail.
            “A few more inches and that tree would be laying in the kitchen, Mrs. G.”
            “Well, now,” Mrs. Gunderman rolled up her sleeves and got out a soup pan, “I believe I  have several jobs for you, if you want them.”
            “Okay,” he didn’t know yet what she had in mind but he didn’t want to go back to the cold, windy bell tower—not yet.
            “I’ll show you where I want you to put the chair and you can move the furniture while I fix lunch. Then, if you want to make some money after lunch, you can get the ax out of the shed,” she paused and looked at Adam carefully. “Have you ever used an ax?”
            “Now don’t tell me a story, Adam. Don’t stretch the truth. Holding an ax is not the same as using one. Do you know how to swing an ax and not chop your foot off? I can’t send you home to your ma with only half a foot.” 
            “Yes, Ma’am, I mean, no Ma’am.” He stammered a little but he was telling the truth. He had helped his grandfather chop wood many times, even as a ten-year-old. “You want me to clear that tree away from the house for you?”
            “Well, yes, I do. I want you to chop the whole thing up for firewood. If you can get all that done, I’ll give you the four dollars I have in my purse and you can keep all the wood you chop. How is that for a creative barter?”
            “That would be great!” Of course! he nearly shouted inside. He hadn’t thought that they could heat the farmhouse with wood in the fireplaces. “I think that is how the farmhouse had been heated when the home was first built. That would be great.”
            After lunch, the weather was still bitter cold but Adam jumped right into the job, thankful for the hard work, for being able to help Mr. G., for the money, and especially for the wood. Besides, the hard work kept him warm in spite of the unrelenting winter. With every swing of the ax, he thought of Moms.
            When Moms gets home, we’ll have a family again. His mind raced through the empty rooms of the farmhouse and turned on every light. But, with the new illumination came the bold truth that Pops wasn’t part of the picture, not now, maybe not ever.
            Shaddi, give me super strength. Adam swung the ax high, the full stretch of his arms, and brought the blade down swift and hard onto the downed trunk. The work went fast, strike upon strike, blow upon blow. He envisioned the rapid, jerky movements of an old time movie, with Charlie Chaplin toddling down the road in record time.
            When Adam finished all the chopping, he used a maul and wedges to wrestle the largest  logs into firewood size pieces. Mrs. G. had told him to pile up the split wood by the shed until he was able to have the logs transported out to the farm. He stood back and looked at the stack of firewood with pride.
            Mrs. G. opened the storm door and called to the boy. “It looks great Adam.”
            “It’s a fourth of a cord. I’m sure of it,” he puffed with pride. “I know that a cord of wood measures four feet wide by four feet high and eight feet long when the logs are lined up in tightly stacked rows of the same size pieces.” He stood back and eyed the work he had just done.  “Leaning against the shed, I know that stack is a fourth of a cord.”
            “Wonderful!” she called out as she started to close the door against the genuine winter day. “You’ve done a fine job.”
            As Adam stood admiring his hard, muscle-building work, he realized a truth. With all of the talk about honesty, he still preferred the lie. He knew that wood needs a whole year to cure until he can burn the logs in the fireplace, but he could not face that fact, that truth. All he could see in his homey, imagined scene, was his mother and him sitting in front of a nice warm fire in their own home.
            “Adam, come in here please,” Mrs. G. called from the house.
            He put away all of the tools he had used and went back into the warmth of the kitchen.
            “I have been thinking,” Arletta began and patted the kitchen chair beside her. “Would you like a cup of cocoa? I’ll make you a cup.”
            “Yes, Ma’am, that would be great. It is cold out there.” He rubbed his hands together to generate some heat and blew on them with Shaddi’s help.
            Mrs. G. passed him the cup and he warmed his hands some more as he wrapped them around the mug. He even thought of putting his fingers in the hot drink. Then he thought of a better idea and blew across the surface of the warm chocolate so the steam could rise and warm his face.
            “I have been thinking,” Mrs. G. began. “We still haven’t gotten to the guest area yet, but that’s okay for today. The tree interrupted us.”
            “Yes, Ma’am.”
            “That little guest space has a bedroom, a small sitting room and a bathroom. The apartment is very comfortable. There’s even a little kitchenette. I wonder—now please, don’t take this the wrong way. I know you have a home and family but—I understand from Alfred that your mother has been in the TB Sanitarium and is ready to be released as soon as your home is ready for her. Is that right?”
            “Yes,” Adam spoke slowly and wondered what she was getting at. Did everybody in town know that he was homeless, that Moms was sick, and that Pops was a deserter?
            “I wonder if you and your mother would be willing to move into the guest house for a few months while your house is readied for your mother’s return. When school starts again, after this Christmas break, I’ll have to go back to work. I’m a cook in the elementary school cafeteria. I know Alfred will not stop working at the church but Pastor will be around every day to remind him to slow down. And, you will be there after school to help him lighten his workload. I sure would feel more at peace if your mother was around here at my home, so she could check on him on Al’s days off. Not do anything, mind ya. I know she’s been sick. I wouldn’t expect her to do a lick of work, but if she sees him laying on the ground in the back yard, I would feel better if someone was here to call for help.”
            “Well―” Adam didn’t know what to say.
            “Al said the place where you are now living is too small for both you and your mother.”
            “Small, yes, too small—among other things.” He tried to make sense of all that had happened. Thoughts and doubts ricocheted around in his head. Why would anyone do anything that big for me? She doesn’t know I’ve been homeless?
            “How much would the rent be?” Adam asked. Nothing’s ever free. What else will happen? With every blessing comes a curse.
            “Oh, there would be no rent, Adam. You would be doing me a favor. I couldn’t pay you and your mother very much, maybe $5.00 a week?”
            “Pay us?”
            “Yes, Dear, of course—for keeping your eye out after Alfred and you could keep the sidewalk shoveled. School will be over in May and then I’ll be home all day through the summer. I can keep my eye on that scamp myself. What do you think?”
            “I haven’t seen the space, but if you think the apartment will work, then I guess the place  will be okay.” Adam’s head was in a spin. Having a place for Moms to come home was a good thing, he knew that. But, he still didn’t want to accept help from others.
            “Don’t be takin’ handouts from anyone,” Grandpa had always warned.

            Adam felt poorer than poor. He had no money, no warm home, no running water, no electricity, and no father to make things right. When would the hard luck end? Was this the beginning of the end? Was he now the man in the family? Had Shaddi provided the space or Mr. O’Shaughnessy? And, what would be the cost if the benefactor was the little one?

The sequel, Escape from the Shadows, is available on Amazon and B& For a discount, go to 

Friday, February 17, 2017

Segment Twelve - Escape from the Belfry Copyright 2013 Doris Gaines Rapp

Chapter Twenty-Three

That’s okay. I don’t need her. I don’t need anybody. Fritzy had turned her back and walked on.
            Once back inside the church, Adam yanked the sweeper across the church’s hall floor. The heavy vacuum cleaner banged into the wall and he winced. Great, that’s all I need. Scuff marks on the walls.
            As he pulled and pushed his way around the church, the smell of the carpet reminded him to be thankful for the hard work that morning. It felt good to scrub and dust and sweep Mr. G’s house. Maybe he could let go of his confused feelings about Fritzy. After spending the night in jail, maybe he was scouring some of the dirt of the clink off him. With every elbow bending rub of the cloth on pews and tables, Adam was getting out more anger and frustration.   
            “I’m going downstairs and get you another sweeper bag. Looks like you’ll need one.” Alfred’s speech was slow and labored.
            “I’ll go down,” Adam offered. “Just tell me where they are. You don’t look like you’re feeling too good Mr. G.”
            “”No, I’m fine. Just feeling tired today.”
            “Please, I’ll get the bag,” Adam dropped the sweeper and started after the old gentleman.
            “I need for you to fold up all those extra tables and chairs. Just stack them neatly in the storeroom. They’re too heavy for me today.”
            “Now, never you mind, Adam,” Alfred waved him off as he started down the stairs.
            Adam waited until he heard Mr. G. get to the bottom. There were fourteen steps and he listened, thirteen . . . fourteen.
            Why didn’t I stop him? He shouldn’t have walked down those stairs. What will happen when he tries to come back up? I didn’t stop Mr. G. any more than I stopped those boys. What’s wrong with me?
            Adam hurried into the Honeywell Lounge and grabbed the first table. There were only  four extra tables on that floor. They had been put up for those who couldn’t get down stairs after the Christmas Eve service. No one would want to miss Holiday cookies and punch. A dozen or so extra chairs dotted the room. Adam had them down and folded in no time and hurried back into the foyer.
            “You okay Mr. G?” Adam hollered down the stairs.
            “Of course. Did ya think I would explode from too many Christmas sweets?”
            “No Sir. Just thought I could help.” Adam started down the stairs.
            “Now Adam, quit your fussin'. I need you to put up that large candle stand, with the big green candle on top, to the right of the altar. Pastor says green represents new plant life and we have a whole new year ahead of us. Says the symbolism is his thing, but I like it.”
“Sure, Mr. G. Where are the stand and candle?”
            “In that tall narrow closet next to the crank for the roll-up door.”
            Adam hated to leave the stairwell. He was afraid Mr. Gunderman would need him and he might not hear him from the Lounge. But, Mr. G. was his boss and he would follow through as told. He quickly took the candle and stand from the closet and placed them exactly where he was told. He stepped back and looked at the arrangement.
            “Sure would look better placed a little farther forward than this,” Adam mumbled out loud. “But, I do as I am told.” He took another glance. “I still think―” He stopped when he heard the door open to the narthex.
            “Morning Adam. Where’s Alfred? He’ll want to hear this.” Pastor Silverman came in excited, waving a scrap of paper.
            “Hi Pastor.” Adam tried to be friendly but he didn’t feel very amiable.
            “That Smeltzer family makes a mess don’t they,” he noticed the paper and crumbs Adam was sweeping up.
            “I guess they’re a big family. If you have a hundred cousins and kinfolks, all unwrapping presents, you’re going to leave some paper around.”
            “Well, I’m not complaining. We’re always pleased when the church is in use. What better place to celebrate family at Christmas time, than in the church?” Silverman turned as footsteps approached on the hard wood floor. “There you are Alfred.”
            “Pastor,” Gunderman acknowledged. “Here’s the sweeper bag, Adam.” Alfred’s hand shook as he handed the bag to Adam.
            “Mr. G?” Adam was worried about the man. Gunderman was out of breath, his hands shook, and he looked pale.
            Pastor Silverman was too excited to notice. “We have good news and bad news about the carving of the Christ Child.”
            “What?” Alfred was excited before he even heard the reading of the note. He had caught Pastor’s enthusiasm and leaned one hand on Adam’s shoulder as if including him in the good news.
            Adam could feel a different message from the man. He could feel Mr. G’s hand shake through his flannel shirt.
            Pastor Silverman unfolded the piece of paper with excited hands. “This note was put between the door and the storm door over at the parsonage. The door bell rang and we heard the sound of boots as they ran off the porch. We were in the kitchen but heard the bell and the steps.” He smoothed the paper with his fingers.
“Dear Pastor Silverman, I know the church likes the statue of Jesus. I will return the  carving if $25.00 is placed in an envelope and left at the foot of the slide in Jefferson Park. No one had better be around when I pick up the ransom. If the money’s there and no one’s around, I’ll put the statue in a brown paper bag and leave the sack on the front steps of the church.”
            “A ransom note?” Adam was shocked. “Who would do such a thing?” Yet, he already knew. He just could not believe those boys would try to ransom the carving and plan to sell it too.
            “Wait a minute. Did you say twenty-five dollars?” Alfred turned to Adam. “That’s the amount you said you needed.” His face grew white and drained. Suddenly, Mr. Gunderman grabbed his chest and fell over onto Adam.
            “No, Mr. G. No! It wasn’t me—I didn’t—” But Gunderman couldn’t hear him. He had collapsed on the floor at Adam’s feet.
            Shaddi, save him. Touch his heart and make him well, Adam begged. But all he heard was the sound of labored breathing.
            Adam bent down and tried to gather the old man in his arms. How could he make him hear?
            “Touch him my Son. I will send him back.” Shaddi whispered in his ear.
            I can’t save him, Shaddi, Adam cried.
            “I didn’t say you would heal him, Son. I said, touch him and I will send him back.”
            Adam knew no one else heard his Shaddi’s words but he knew he had to obeyed. The boy frantically touched Alfred’s chest and immediately felt the static shock he had felt when he touched Buddy. What could touch possibly do?          
Chapter Twenty-Four

Pastor Silverman ran into his office, grabbed the phone and quickly dialed the hospital. “Yes, good,” Adam could hear Pastor’s side of the conversation. “You have an ambulance at Russell Franklin’s home? How would you have room? Oh, okay. The church on Cranberry Street.”
            “Sounds like they’re close,” Adam tried to reassure Mr. G. although the old man had not regained consciousness.
            “They’re close, yes Adam. Russell Franklin fell and his wife called the hospital. When the ambulance got there, just minutes ago, Russell refused to ride in the thing. He said, ‘I am not going anywhere laying down. An ambulance is too much like the last ride I’ll take in a hearse. If I decide to go to the hospital, and mind you, I have not decided that, my Louise can take me. She can drive ya know.’”
            Adam smiled faintly as he held Alfred’s head in his lap. Not the curse again—with every blessing comes a curse.
            “Snow’s coming down,” Pastor spoke mechanically as he watched out the front door windows for the ambulance to come. Then he walked over and knelt down beside the two, the stricken in body and the stricken in heart.
            Adam looked up and watched the snow float down in giant clumps. Like a shimmering white curtain, the icy snow shrouded the reality that he feared and became the backdrop for a nicer scene. In his mind he stepped out into the deepening snow but it felt warm. Everywhere he walked, the snow melted and green blades pushed up from the damp ground. Clover leaves opened all around him, but not just any three-leaf variety. Everyone of them had four-leaves on the stems and he smiled. He didn’t speak the name, but he knew—the magic was from Mr. O’Shaughnessy.
            “Alfred, I am going to assume you can hear me. I know God can.” Pastor prayed for Alfred’s health, his strength, and his peace. He prayed that God would work his wonders in Alfred’s life as he went to the hospital to heal.
            Adam’s hand rested on Mr. G’s chest. The boy could feel a warmth increase beneath his hand. Adam’s fingers floated just a hair’s width above the gruff spoken, dear old man.
             The ambulance slid to a stop out front. The driver and his attendant rushed in with a stretcher, lifted Alfred onto the canvas and carried him away. The whole scene was like a dream to Adam.
            “Adam, here are my keys.” Silverman tossed him a large key ring loaded with keys of various shapes and metals. “Please go back to my office and call Mrs. Gunderman. Tell her what happened. Then call my wife and let her know that I’m going to ride with Alfred in the ambulance. Ask her to please bring the car to the hospital to pick me up. Then, just lock up when you’re done.” Pastor Silverman barked orders as he ran after the stretcher that carried his friend.
            “Okay,” Adam answered mechanically. His mind was rattled and the impact hit him hard.  He looked down at the keys, then his eyes followed the rescuers all the way out the door.
            “I didn’t take that carving Pastor,” he called after them as they neared the door. Adam was deeply worried for Mr. Gunderman and afraid for himself. Then he felt guilt for his self pity.
            “Of course not,” Pastor Silverman turned back to Adam and smiled broadly. “You think I would give you the keys to my office if I thought you had stolen the carving?”
            Again Adam stared at the ring of keys in his hand. One looked like the key to the pastor’s car. One was probably the key to the front door of the parsonage. The brass key he recognized as the one that unlocked the church door. That left the skeleton key. That has to be the one to the study.
            Adam walked around the corner, unlocked the door, and stepped into a world of books and leather and spiritual touches that aroused a strange feeling within him. The room was warm and elegant at the same time. He felt strangely at home. Will I ever belong in an office like this?
            He took the receiver from the phone’s cradle and hesitated. Then he put the receiver to his ear and listened.
            “Well, I don’t know Maud,” he heard through the receiver. “You were there when I reminded Harold that I wanted a blue housecoat for Christmas. He deliberately bought me a new coffee pot so he could enjoy my gift too.” Party-line patron number one complained to someone named Maud about her husband’s choice of Christmas present.
            “Oh Shirley, you don’t think he―”
            “Ladies,” Adam butted in, “I hate to interrupt you but―”
            “Well then don’t, young man,” Shirley ordered. “Hang up and go away. Say, who are you? You aren’t on our party-line”
            What should he do? He couldn’t convince anyone of anything. Shaddi, give me the gift of persuasion. Let me be a convincer.
            “Please . . . Shirley . . . Ma’am, I have to use the phone for an emergency,” Adam stammered.
            “Mrs. Bartoni to you.” Then her tone lightened to interest. “What emergency?”
            “Yes, Mrs. Bartoni. I’m sorry. I have to place a phone call.”
            “Well of course, if you have to make an emergency call, it would be a phone call.”
            “Mrs. Bartoni, you sound like a very nice lady.” Adam lied again. She had actually been very snippy with him. Adam began to think he would die from choking on a lie some day. “I have to call Mrs. Gunderman to tell her that her husband was just taken to the hospital.”
            “Alfred?” The Shirley-line-mate questioned.
            “Yes, Ma’am.”
            “Get off the phone Maud so this boy can make an important call. I’ll talk to you later.”
            “Thank you ladies.” When he heard the two lines click and the dial tone hummed in his ear, he made the hardest call of his life.
            “Mrs. Gunderman, this is Adam.”
            “Well hello, Dear.”
            “Mrs. Gunderman, Mr. G. collapsed here at the church a few minutes ago and was taken to the hospital.”
            “What? The hospital? Is he alright?”
            “I don’t know how he is Ma’am. They just took him away and the sign on the side of the ambulance said Middletown Community Hospital. Pastor Silverman was here and rode along  
with him in the ambulance.” 
            “Oh thank the Lord. And, thank you, Adam. I will go right over. You’ll say a prayer for Al, won’t you?”
            “Of course,” was his answer but inside his thoughts were different. As he dialed the Silverman home, he thought, Prayer? I don’t know how to pray. God, just help Mr. G. please. Amen.
            “Young man, you said you were just calling Arletta Gunderman,” Shirley Bartoni scolded as Adam dialed again.
            “Mrs. Bartoni? Where you listening in?”
            “Indeed I was not? I just picked up the phone and heard you dial again.”
            “How did you know that wasn’t my first call?”
            “Never mind that,” she protested.
            “Hello?” Mrs. Silverman answered.
            “This is Adam Shoemaker . . . and Mrs. Bartoni is just hanging up,” Adam announced more boldly.
            “Well, I never!” Shirley Bartoni announced with disgust and embarrassment.  
            I doubt you never. Adam was wise enough to think it but not say it out loud. “Pastor Silverman asked me to call you. Mr. Gunderman collapsed and was taken to the hospital by ambulance. Pastor went along to stay with him until his wife gets there. Pastor would like for you to pick him up there at the Middletown Hospital.”
            “Yes, Adam, of course. Thank you so much. What would we do without you?”
            What would you do without me? I haven’t heard that kind of talk in a long time. “I still
have Pastor’s keys. Do you want me to bring them over before you leave?”
            “No, that’s all right. He can get them tomorrow. I know they are safe with you,” Mrs. Silverman answered, then hung up.

            I know I can trust you, Adam rehearsed as he tried to bury the thought in his heart where the shadows couldn’t add doubt again. What would we do without you, Adam? I can trust you.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Escape from the Shadows Available today!

My friends, Escape from the Shadows, the sequel to Escape from the Belfry, is available today! Click on the cover to the right, below Escape from the Belfry, and it will take you to where it opened with 5 stars from a great reader.

I was unable to get amazon to allow a discount for you as I had hoped. But, you can take advantage of a discount and free shipping if you go to my website: Hopefully, you have not forgotten how to use the U.S. mail.

Thank you all so much and many blessings to you.


Friday, February 10, 2017

Segment Eleven - Escape from the Belfry Copyright 2013 Doris Gaines Rapp

Chapter Twenty-One

“Well, well, well, the pretty boy finally woke up,” a scruffy man with yellow teeth mocked from the large holding cell down the hall.
            Adam Shoemaker woke up in jail, in a cell just yards away from Big Willy, or whatever the guy’s name was. Actually, Adam hadn’t slept too badly. He had a real bed, even if the room was three walls and bars. He had tossed and turned at first, then finally fell asleep. The problem was, he had slept on the floor for months. The jail bunk felt much too soft when compared to what he was used to, the splintery floorboards of the belfry.
            He woke up hungry and exhausted. All around him was silence, with an occasional interruption by the clank of a jail cell door and a verbal jab from Mr. Sunny Teeth. The detective had put him in a single cell, away from the rabble who had looked for a warm place to sleep off their holiday cheer and chose Club Blue.
            “Did the little prince sleep well?” The decayed tooth felon mocked again.
            “Leave him alone,” scolded a man wearing a pin stripped suit that had seen better days and a dirty white shirt that hung out of his belt. “He’s just a kid.”
            “Hey, Kid, did ya drink too much spiked eggnog on Christmas yesterday?”
            Yesterday? Adam tried to pull together all that had happened in the last few days. He had learned there was yet another obstacle to Moms’ coming home—the need for a bathroom in the farmhouse. There was a solution. The money he would need for that extravagance could come from the sale of a major part of the family farm. The problem was, that would have to include the sale of the farm’s water supply.
            For a few days he had allowed himself to feel hopeful. Maybe they should sell the bottom land and creek.
            Then, he began to create another way. Moms had reminded him of a forgotten bank account. But, what was the account number? Besides, Pops would have to sign the papers to release the money, and—Pops hadn’t come home.
            First, he had absolutely no spending money for anything. Then, the part-time job at the church solved that. But, the same church now accused him of stealing a valuable carving. With every blessing comes a curse, he moaned as he rolled over on the bunk.
            “Shoemaker,” a police officer called out Adam’s name as he entered the hall.
            “Yeah,” a horrible looking bloke with stringy hair piped in from the drunk tank.
            “Not you,” the officer dismissed. “Mr. Adam Shoemaker.”
            Adam got off the bunk and stretched a little as he tried to understand his surroundings. “Yes, that’s me.” He leaned on the cell door and to his surprise, it swung open.
            Shaddi? Shocked, he stood there for a moment then stared at the officer.
            “You are absolutely right, Mr. Shoemaker. The door hadn’t been locked all night. You weren’t arrested you know, not at this time. The problem was, we couldn’t determine where you lived or who your folks are.”
            Adam still said nothing. He was trapped inside a prison of his own lies. He preferred the sweet story of the hummingbird’s flight south with the help of the larger, stronger, Northern geese. In that scenario, he played the part of the hummer and those who cared for him and bolstered him up, were the geese. The actual truth of his life, the story that wasn’t nearly as wonderful as that of the hummingbird, was that he lived in a cold, lightless tower on Cranberry Street—all alone.
            “There’s somebody here to vouch for you,” the officer explained.
            “Who?” Adam’s voice was barely a whisper. Who would ever vouch for me after all of this? Even Fritzy knows I was hauled off to jail. What does she think of me?
            “Come on,” the officer ordered with a measure of sympathy in the tone of his voice.
            Adam walked into the outer office. Like one who had been in the dark for a long time and was now exposed to a bright light, he squinted and shook his head, confused yet curious.
            “My boy,” Alfred Gunderman called out from the other side of the Desk Sargent’s area. “Are you okay? What on earth happened?”
            “Yes Sir, I’m fine. What are you doing here?” Adam couldn’t believe his eyes.
            “I saw Fritzy at the Corner Market this morning,” Alfred explained. “She told me she was with you when you were put in the back of a squad car yesterday. She said she hadn’t seen you around this morning. Since the police were the last people you were seen with, I came here.”
            “Thanks, Merry Christmas,” the boy mumbled with disdain. “Merry indeed. I was entertained by the guy down the hall yelling drunken carols until about midnight. I feel blessed,” he complained with sarcasm.
            “Oh horse feathers, now, we will just see about that. I’m taking you home.”
            “Wait a minute, Mr. Gunderman,” Detective Overton interjected. “This boy is not old enough to live on his own and he won’t tell us where he’s living. We can’t just release him to the streets.”
            “He won’t be on the streets, Detective. His ma’s been sick and he has been staying with me,” Mr. G. announced with a firm set to his jaw.
            “He’s staying with you, Alfred?” Overton turned to the boy and studied him slowly. “Then why in blue blazes didn’t you tell me that last evening? That information would have saved you a night’s sleep in the jail.” 
            “It was warm in here,” Adam smiled sheepishly.
            “You keep the heat pretty low at your house, do you Gunderman?” The officer joked.
            “Somethin’ like that,” Alfred grinned, took the boy by the arm and started to leave. “He okay to leave?” he shouted back over his shoulder as he neared the door.
            “Sure, take him home.”
            On the street, Adam stopped before getting into Mr. Gunderman’s black 1937 Ford pickup. “Mr. Gunderman, I do thank you for picking me up from that place, but . . . I don’t live with you. You lied to the police.”
            “No, now Son, that wasn’t a lie,” Gunderman reasoned. “I work at the church and I’m there every day, aren’t I?”
            “Sure, I guess―”
            “Well, you live in the bell tower of the church, my church, so you live with me, right?”
            Adam stumbled back. “How did you know?”
            “I didn’t, not ‘til this morning. I have looked everywhere for that carved Baby Jesus and I even thought about the bell tower. I put things up there ever once in a while. So, there I am, up on the ladder, when I see Mrs. Simington’s tied and knotted quilt all made up into a comfortable pallet on the floor. You know, she made that quilt from some of Sam’s shirt fabric. I’ve seen him wear the blue striped one many times.”
            “I didn’t steal that quilt, Mr. G. She put the blanket in the rummage box. She gave the quilt away to anyone who could use it.”
            “Oh, I know that Adam. I’m not saying you did. I’m just saying how I knowed where you was livin’.”
            “How did you know Moms was sick?”
            “The Shoemakers, or Schumachers, aren’t spooks in this town, Adam. I knowed your grandfather for many years, God rest his soul. I asked my misses if she knowed your mother and she said she knew that Bridget Schumacher has been sick for a long time, months even.”
            “More than four months now, Mr. Gunderman.” Adam stopped and pulled at the back of his neck. He was confused and felt overwhelmed. He had been alone for so long. No one seemed to notice that he was living by himself until yesterday. “Why are you doing all this for me?”
            “Didn’t you listen to Pastor last Sunday, My Boy. This is the Day of Stephen, the day after Christmas. A day to remember. If Christmas was yesterday, what are you going to do about it today? Remember: ‘Ye who now will bless the poor, shall yourselves find blessings.’”
            The hair on Adam’s neck bristled. “I am not poor. I have a home. It’s just that―”
            “I know, I know. But, you’ll have to admit, when a boy lives in a tower with the pigeons, it’s not his best day.”
            Adam laughed. Mr. Gunderman was right, almost. “It wasn’t pigeons. He was a hummingbird.” Then Adam thought about the bird. He wondered where the little hummer had flown off to. The ice and snow were too cold for the little guy to survive very long out in the weather. “You’re right,” he agreed. Then he thought again about the bird and worried. Shaddi, find a shelter for the hummer. I don’t want to have to ask Mr. O’Shaughnessy.

Chapter Twenty-Two

“You had anything to eat?” Gunderman quizzed the boy after they both left the police station and hopped into Mr. G’s truck.
            “Not since yesterday noon.” Adam ran his fingers over the leather on the seat. “This is a great truck, Mr. Gunderman.”
            “Thanks. I’ve had the little workhorse for a long time.” Alfred smiled pridefully and went back to his question. “Christmas dinner? Adam, was your last meal yesterday’s Christmas dinner?”
            “I guess yesterday was Christmas.” Adam said no more. He just watched the buildings pass. He appreciated what Mr. G. had done for him but his mind was numb. He had grown tired of caring, tired of feeling.
            They drove down a few roads Adam wasn’t usually on. They wandered around through tree lined streets with nice, new brick ranch style homes.
            “They have been putting up these houses as fast as they can get the foundations dug. Lots of former military men need homes since they got home from the war,” Mr. Gunderman scanned both sides of the street as they passed.
            “Lots of families that were left behind are trying to put their lives back together too,” Adam whispered.
            Alfred heard him. “I know, Son. Lots of families have been torn apart. But, now, you will have to admit, these are nice homes for those who are starting again.”
            “Yes Sir,” Adam smiled. Mr. G. was right. “They―” Adam stopped and slunk down in the seat.
            “What’s wrong with you?” Alfred questioned.
            “I see some kids from school.”
            “Not your best friends I take it.”                                                       
            “Not hardly,” Adam found that statement funny. Buddy and Freddy were definitely not friends of his. He had never seen the pair with anyone, except each other. Not at school or anywhere else.
            “Then why’d ya duck?”
            “I don’t want to tangle with either of them, Mr. G.”
            “Adam, by now, they’re two blocks behind us. You’re safe.”
            “I’m not worried about my safety. They are bad guys. I don’t want to be near them when everyone else finds out what kind of people they are.”
            Adam turned and watched the pair through the back window. Dark, ugly shadow people followed the pair of thieves and stalked up behind them so close it was hard to tell where they let off and the boys began. Adam turned and sat silently as they rode through the neighborhood and emerged in a more settled part of town, where mature trees graced the lawns and boasted their  snow covered branches.
            “Well, I hope that made more sense to you than it did to me, ‘cause it made no sense to me at all.”
            “Good, I mean, yes, it does make sense to me,” Adam insisted.                                         
            “Well, come on in then,” Alfred pointed to the house as they pulled up in front of a great craftsman style home. The house was not large, but medium in size by the standards of Middletown.
            “Where are we?”
            “My house, Boy. We are going to find you some breakfast.”
            Outside, twin sets of columns accented the entrance and the roof was dramatically pitched in keeping with the popular style. There was a side-entry to the garage. Inside, the house, the ceilings were high and there was a plaster medallion in the center of each, which created a homey elegance.
            “The French doors are nice. I bet the side porch is great in the summertime.” Adam’s eyes darted to the white built-in bookcases that flanked the fireplace. “You read all those books Mr. G.?”
            “Me and the Mrs.,” Alfred admitted.
            The Gunderman house was a modist but comfortable home. “I’m not sure I like all of these flowery pillows. Mrs. Gunderman calls them throw pillows. She has them thrown around on every piece of furniture in here,” Alfred’s chuckle gave away his true feelings. 
            “You might not like the pillows but I think you like Mrs. G.,” Adam smiled and felt comfort in the presence of those who have loved long.
            “You gotta know that My Boy.”
            In the dining room, there was a lace table cloth on the maple wood and the kitchen was big enough to eat in. The whole place was not very big but the house was large enough.
            “You sit right here, Adam,” Arletta Gunderman patted the back of one of the kitchen chairs. She got out her favorite cast iron skillet and rubbed a piece of the bacon across the bottom. The fat made the surface shine.
            “You have to keep these skillets well cured so they don’t rust.” She laid out six pieces of bacon and turned on the gas. The strips quickly began to sizzle. “Can you eat three eggs with this bacon, Adam?”
            Alfred chuckled as he poured himself a cup of coffee. “Six pieces of bacon, Ma, he can probably eat half a dozen eggs.”
            “Oh no Ma’am, three would be great.”
            “Then I’ll help fill out the chinks in your belly by dropping down a few pieces of toast for ya. I’ll butter them, then you can add any jelly you might want.” Alfred took a loaf of bread from the bread box, dropped the toaster sides, and placed the bread inside before raising the sides to toast the slices.
            “This looks wonderful!” Adam was amazed. Mrs. Gunderman had put all the food on a meat platter in order to have a large enough plate.
            Adam hadn’t realize how hungry he was until he started eating. Eggs, bacon, toast—it was a real break-of-day feast and he ate every bite.
            “Thanks Mrs. Gunderman,” he smiled as he put down his fork.
            “You are most welcome.” She smiled and added, “Are you sure you’ve had enough food. Looks like you could hold a bit more.”
            “Thank you Ma’am, no. I’m full.” He patted his stomach and smiled. He hadn’t been full in a long time.
            “Al says you’re a good worker, a good boy,” she began and nodded at Alfred. “I wonder
Adam, if you could use another little job.” Arletta Gunderman smoothed her apron and took her handkerchief from the pocket and dabbed at her nose.
            “Sure . . . I guess. School doesn’t start again until January 7.” He looked at Alfred, “What about it Mr. G.? With church responsibilities, do I have the time?”
            “When the Mrs. needs help, we find the time. What did you have in mind, my Dear?”        
            “We had that addition added to the house when your mother came to live with us, Al.” She poured herself and Alfred another cup of coffee. “The apartment hasn’t been cleaned in ages. No one has been in there since Mother Gunderman died. I was looking for a place to stretch out all my sewing materials and not have to put the things away. Then I thought . . . that little  apartment would be perfect.”
            “Sounds good to me,” Alfred agreed. “Sure would be nice to be able to sit down without
runnin’ straight pins in my hands where you’ve used the arm of the chair as a pin cushion.”
            “Now, Al, you always said the pins toughened you up,” Arletta smiled and winked at Adam.
            “We’ll be done cleanin’ the church by lunch time. You can have lunch here with us.” To Arletta he interjected, “That’s okay isn’t it?”
            “Land sakes, yes. I’m just going to fix homemade vegetable beef soup. Is that all right Adam?” Mrs. G. pointed to the pot of beef cubes she had been cooking for the soup stock.
            The plan was settled. Adam had another chance to earn some money and get a good home cooked meal at the same time. Money was coming his way from every direction. Most of the opportunities just landed in his lap. He felt lighter than he had felt in months, like Grandpa’s
mule had been sitting on his chest and decided to stand up. But he had to wonder, when would
Old Blue sit down again?
            He had started walking toward the church while Alfred helped Arletta move some living room furniture back into place after the family Christmas party they hosted the day before. The winter sun peeked out from behind gray clouds as he neared the church and the sky had turned a brilliant blue. If Adam didn’t know better, he might have thought the day could turn out to be great.
            “Adam, wait up,” Fritzy called after him.
            “Hi Fritzy.” Adam felt a little giddy seeing her again. Then he saw her face and the feeling dropped to his toes, like a dead weight that slipped from his hand.
            “Adam . . . I don’t know what to say to you. I’m so upset.”
            “Why Fritzy? Did I do something wrong?”
            “No, you didn’t do anything. It’s what you did not do, Adam, that hurt me.”
            “I don’t know what you mean.” Adam didn’t know what Fritzy was talking about but he  feared the other shoe was about to drop, the flip side of happiness, the curse.
            “Mr. Gunderman said you have been living in the church’s bell tower—for months.” Tears welled up in her eyes as she whispered the words that had to be said.
            “So what? Now I’m not good enough for you?” Adam was hurt and angry. What he tried to hide for so long was coming out into the open despite his efforts. He wasn’t acceptable. Their farm had no bathroom so Moms couldn’t come home unless they sold off valuable land and water. And, the most painful, Pops was a deserter. Adam turned his back and started to walk off. His name was still ruined. 
            Frederica didn’t follow him. She started to walk back home, but hadn’t said her piece. “I did not say that, Adam,” she called after him. “I thought we were friends, special friends, and you
didn’t trust me enough to tell me.”
            Adam called out without turning around. He didn’t want to see her face. “I couldn’t tell you Fritzy. I couldn’t tell anyone.”
            Adam kept on walking. Snow had started to fall again, so he pulled his collar up around his 
neck. What had been a happy moment just minutes before, was another defeat. With every blessing comes a curse. Shaddi, hide me from everyone.