Deceptive Storms (excerpt 3)

Just when it seemed like he couldn’t hold onto sanity for another minute, right after dinner there was knock on the door.  When his father answered, the first voice he heard was Reverend Anderson and his heart sank.  He sat in the living room, where he had been watching television, thinking, “Might as well stick a fork in me and call me done.”  His father led Reverend Anderson and Pastor Cal into the living room and invited them to sit down.  They did and Vernon’s heart thumped so loudly, he just knew everyone could hear it.

“Reverend Jenkins, thank you for agreeing to see us.  We have a rather grave matter to discuss involving Vernon.  But before we get started, has Vernon told you anything about what happened three days ago?” Pastor Cal asked.

“No,” Reverend Jenkins replied stiffly.  “I know something has been going on, but when I asked, he refused to tell me.”

“Vernon,” Reverend Anderson spoke calmly, “Would you like to tell your dad why we’re here?”

“No!  Y’all here you might as well do what you do,” was Vernon’s rebellious response.

Paul sighed, before he turned to Vernon’s father and began to tell him what happened. Until Paul actually pulled the plastic baggy out of the manila envelope that Pastor Cal had been holding, Reverend Jenkins sat in unbelief.  When he saw the bag, he started to get up from his chair, but Pastor Cal motioned for him to sit.

“Vernon, tell your father what this is and where it came from!” Reverend Anderson said.

“How am I supposed know? You brought that in here.  You tell him,” adamantly denying everything.

“Okay, I’ll tell him.” Turning to Vernon’s father, he pulled out his cell phone and showed him the picture taken on the day Paul had seen him with the seedy-looking guy.  Vernon’s father visibly blanched at what he saw.  The veins in his forehead started to pulse and anger was written all over his face.  Before anyone could have anticipated the next move, he was out of his chair and had grabbed Vernon and threw him down on the floor and started punching him.  It took Paul and Cal to get him off Vernon and even then, his fists were still flailing, almost hitting Paul in the face. He was livid!

“Torrance!” Pastor Cal cautioned him.  “This is not the way.  Beating him to a pulp is not going to help.”

“Oh yes, it will,” Torrance responded, breathing heavily.  “It will help me to teach this boy some respect!  I will not tolerate drug use in my house.  If he can’t abide by my rules, then he can get the hell out!”

Paul was still holding onto him, while Cal attended Vernon, who was curled up in a fetal position on the floor.  His hands were protecting what was left of the exposed part of his face, but where his father’s punches had landed, skin was rising in protest of the beating along one whole side of his face.

After carefully checking Vernon over, Cal determined there was no skin broken or broken bones and he helped him to sit back in the chair from which his father had pulled him.

“Torrance, profanity won’t help the matter here.  Please, get yourself in check. We need to talk.  Beating Vernon is not the answer.  At this rate, the only thing we’ll accomplish here is to get him angry enough to leave and then we won’t have any control over what he does.  Calm down!”

“How can you tell me to calm down?  What would you do if this was your son?  I don’t mean the one that’s grown?  But with a baby on the way, you better know how to deal with this nonsense because it’s not going to get better.”

Cal ignored Reverend Jenkins for a moment.  He was not there to discuss his future child; he was there to find a way to keep Vernon out of trouble.

“Vernon, look at me.  I want you to think about what’s going on here and the fact that you have to stop using and selling drugs.  If you keep going in this direction, it will only be a matter of time before you’re arrested.  Look, I know some of the pushers have kids believing they cannot be prosecuted, but the laws are changing. You can and will be prosecuted and there is nothing your father or anyone else will be able to do about it.  Is going to jail what you really want?”

 

Deceptive Storms (excerpt 2)

deceptive storm“I just got a call from the high school and it appears that more and more kids are involved in drug use.  They’re trying to pinpoint the distribution, but you know how difficult that can be.  This is especially true since they do not control the flow of traffic in and out of the building.  I suggested they put up security cameras in lieu of having someone man the doors.  At any rate, they said they would take my suggestion to the next board meeting.  I’d hate the thought that some of our kids are involved, but one never knows what kids will do when they are out of sight of authority.”

“Yes, I do know.  I’ve actually been a little concerned about Vernon Jenkins, lately.  He seems to be more resistant to the teachings at the church.  I’m not sure if it is just teen-age angst or if there is another problem.  I’ve tried to talk to him, but he always leaves as soon as church is over and I think he only attends the youth meetings because his dad makes him.”

“Both he and his dad are having a bad time.  I’ve offered to counsel him, but his father insists he can handle it.  I’m just not sure if he’s trying to handle things as his dad or as a minister.  Sometimes those lines can be blurred.  I hope that’s not the case here.”

“Pastor Cal…I …uh.  I was trying not to say anything until I could prove my suspicions but I think Vernon is using.  He’s distant and his eyes are always glassy-looking.  I know the symptoms.  The pulling away from people who know you well, trying to fit in with all the wrong folks.  I hope he’s not, but all the signs are there.”

“Before you draw any conclusions, see if you can get him to open up and talk to you.  I’m sure if we can get him to talk, we’ll be able to help him, but if he’s not willing, the only thing we can do is to alert his dad.  You want me to do it?”

“No sir.  At least, not yet.  Let me try talking to him.  His dad has quite a temper and I would not want to be responsible for anything that happens to Vernon because of his dad’s uncontrolled anger.  I’ll make it my business to talk to him tonight and let you know what happened.  Was there anything else?”

“No, not at all.  I’m sure you have things to prepare for your meeting.  Call me tomorrow when you get a chance.  And…by the way, Pastor Dee and I are expecting a new baby…”

“Congratulations!” Reverend Anderson interrupted, surprised by the news.

“Thanks, but we want to keep this quiet for a while.  Because this pregnancy puts her at risk, she’s not going to be around the church much and I’m going to need every minister on board to fill in the gap.  Can I count on you?”

“Absolutely.  And please let Pastor Dee I’m praying for her and the baby.”

“I’m sure she’ll appreciate your prayers.  I’ll talk to you later.”

After Reverend Anderson hung up the phone, he smiled to himself.  He knew that Pastor Dee and Pastor Cal were relatively newlyweds, but he didn’t think that a baby would ever be part of the equation.  “How about that?” he thought.  “They still got it going on.” He pulled out his bible and began writing some notes for the youth meeting.  Before long, stumped as to how to approach the subjects he wanted to discuss, he got on the Internet to see if there any websites with good suggestions. As he searched, he remembered.  He remembered his own involvement with drugs and how it could have cost him his life.

Paul Anderson, the greatest athlete known at Community High School, had many offers from various colleges and had been awarded all sorts of scholarships.  It was the spring just before he graduated high school that things fell apart.  He and some of his buddies had been out celebrating their impending graduation and all of their accomplishments in high school.  When someone had pulled out a joint, at first Paul refused—thinking about all he had ahead of him—he didn’t want to ruin his chances to be successful.  After a while, someone dared him to take a drag.  Never one to resist a dare, he accepted the joint and inhaled deeply, sputtering like crazy as he coughed violently.  The other guys laughed at him, but since his eyes were smarting and his lungs burning, he didn’t see anything funny.  The longer he sat, watching them pass the joint, the calmer he became until he finally took another hit.  This time, he didn’t sputter or cough; he just sat back and grinned stupidly.  By the time he got ready to go home, he couldn’t focus.  The world seemed to be moving faster than he was and he was trying to catch up.  He heard laughter faintly as though it was far away, but he couldn’t see who was laughing.  His buddies all appeared to be far away. Finally, he heard someone say, “we gotta take him home.  He can’t drive like that.”

Unfortunately, they didn’t move fast enough. By the time someone thought about getting his car keys from him, Paul had walked out the door, keys in-hand.  He struggled trying to open the door when he couldn’t get the keys to slide into the lock and then almost fell getting into the car, but he finally got the keys into the ignition and started the car to head home.  That was the last thing he remembered of that fateful night.

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Deceptive Storms (excerpt 1)

She sat with a glass of wine in her hands, swirling the burgundy liquid slowly, reflecting, contemplating her life.  Taking a luxurious sip, she sighed and wished for more than what she had.  More money, more house, more of a man, more happiness—just more of everything.  Leaning back on the black leather chaise in her living room, she closed her eyes, glass still in hand.  Her thoughts vacillated between what was and how she was going to fast forward.

“If I could just shake the past and move on, I’d be alright,” she thought.  “I just need to shake the past.”

Her past was a multicolored debacle.  One misstep after the other.  She tried hard to think about the last time she had actually done anything right.  She couldn’t remember.  Brain cells only seemed to recall the squirmy situations she had created or fallen into.  Fallen into—with deliberation.  She shook her head at her own recriminations.  Deciding to traipse down memory lane, she focused on the first real love of her life—the love that had left her dangling for years and finally cut off her emotions to the quick.  She had loved the wrong man as so many before her had done, but she just knew—Brian was the only man worthy of her love.  The real tragedy was that Brian was from Loser Street—and just didn’t know how to get off of it.  Appearances can certainly be deceiving.  Hefty and handsome as any movie star, Brian strolled into Charleston Café with his friends, easily the center of attention.

She had seated them at the best table in the house—near a window so they could keep an eye on the object of their discussion—the latest fast car purchased by the racing car company that was based in town.  Sleek, low to the ground, shiny black with yellow pinstripes and the company sponsor listed on the side, it was something to behold.  Apparently, the three men discussing the car thought so, too.  She heard someone say something about the most “horsepower that was legal” and that was as much as she needed to hear.  She really wanted to meet the man behind the smile and the talk.

Standing at their table waiting to take their order, her eyes shifted from one to another.  The other two men were slightly older than the man talking and she could quickly detect that the younger man was trying to convince the other two to do something.  After taking their order, she deliberately brushed against the younger man, knowing he would have to pay attention, but he didn’t.  He moved slightly and kept talking.  After she had placed their drinks on the table, he glanced at her briefly and nodded.  She perceived the nod as recognition and invitation to something later.

When they had finished their meal, the younger man eagerly picked up the check while the older men smiled, shaking each other’s hands, ready to go their separate ways.

“Brian,” she heard one of the men say, “you’ve got yourself a deal.  Come into the office tomorrow and we’ll sign the paperwork.  It’s nice doing business with you.”  They left Brian in the Café.  She had asked if he’d like for her to take the payment to the cashier, but he said no and ordered a cup of coffee.  He leaned back in the chair and openly appraised the woman in front of him.  Heat began to crawl from her toes to her face under his scrutiny, but she smiled as he apparently decided he liked what he saw.

He rose from the table and left her a tip with a note.  A telephone number.  A number that would eventually lead to more heartache than she could have ever imagined.

She had called him after her shift ended and they made plans for dinner and a movie.  The dinner and the movie were good, but his conversation was mesmerizing.  She couldn’t stop listening to him and encouraged him to keep talking.

He was one of eight children, his mother was not very healthy and his dad was a truck driver, always on the road.  When he finished school, he decided that he did not like his life and was determined to recreate himself.  He left the hollow that he had grown up in and went to Texas.  There he attended college, but became more involved with racing than books.  When he discovered that he had a knack for driving fast cars, he quickly adapted by attending the races and eventually got a chance to show what he could do.

He left ten experienced drivers in the dust during his first race.  No one watching understood how he had managed it, but he had easily won the race and a few hundred dollars.  The race itself was addictive, but the money was the jolt that kept him going.  He thought he had finally found his niche in life.  Not only was he good at racing the cars, he was an expert at finding investors to sponsor him in races.  He loved the feel and the smell of the cars, but he loved the stench of the jumpsuits after a race.   More importantly, he loved the attention he got wherever he went.

“Oh yeah,” she remembered, he loved the attention.  In the three years they dated, she could barely keep him focused on their relationship because of all the attention he received by racing.  Every where they went, people wanted to talk to them.  Alone time was seldom, but he seemed to enjoy her company and she was totally lost to him.   Lost—that’s a word she would remember for a long time.

She thought they were on their way to a march down the aisles when she discovered that he was on his way—to another woman.  She didn’t see it coming.  Never had a clue.  The connecting line had been cut and she fell with a clump, thump, and a bump—heartbroken and hell-bent on revenge.

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Deceptive Storms Excerpt 4

Paul Anderson, the greatest athlete known in the community high school, had been awarded all sorts of scholarships to college and had many offers from various colleges.  It was the spring just before he graduated that things fell apart.  He and some of his buddies had been out celebrating their impending graduation and all of their accomplishments in high school.  When someone pulled out a joint, at first Paul refused—thinking about all he had ahead of him.  After a while, someone dared him to take a drag.  Never one to resist a dare, he accepted the joint and inhaled deeply, sputtering as he coughed.  The other guys laughed at him, but his eyes were smarting and his lungs burning.  He didn’t see anything funny.  The longer he sat, watching them pass the joint, the calmer he became until he finally took another hit.  This time, he didn’t sputter or cough, he just sat back and grinned stupidly.  By the time he got ready to go home, he couldn’t focus.  The world seemed to be moving faster than he was and he was trying to catch up.  He heard laughter faintly, but he couldn’t see who was laughing.  They all appeared to be far away. Finally, he heard someone say, “we gotta take him home.  He can’t drive like that.”  Unfortunately, they didn’t move fast enough. Paul had walked out the door, keys in-hand.  He struggled to get into the car and to get the door open, but he finally got the car started and headed home.  That’s all he remembered of that fateful night.

When he woke up two months later, he discovered that he had totaled his car and had been in a coma for the last two months.  Doctors confirmed the drugs in his system and he was ticketed for that and his license was suspended since he had a probationary license.    Once he woke up from the coma, he was in rehab for another month, learning to walk all over again.  While there, he experienced first-hand what drugs and alcohol could do to a person and to their families.  There were a number of addicted teens in the rehab, struggling to overcome—their addictions and their family’s disappointments.  While he could sympathize with their plights, he had to deal with his own.  His family wasn’t rich and they incurred an enormous hospital bill for his care and their car insurance rates when through the roof.  He was able to graduate with his classmates, but college had to wait because of the publicized accident and the drugs in his system, scholarships were revoked as were offers from the colleges.

He spent a few months in a wheelchair and suffered the agony of watching his parents, deal with his situation.  They didn’t say anything-nothing, and that made it all worse.  He would have understood if they had yelled or screamed at him or even beat him, but they said nothing.  They just looked at him and shook their heads, sadly.  Of course they were glad he was alive, but the thought that their son was on drugs devastated them.  It took him a long time to earn their trust.  But he did.  He never forgot that night and how easily a person could slip into dark behavior.  Fortunately, his disability was not permanent.  With constant therapy and a determination to overcome, he did.  He worked to put himself through college and never again, took life for granted, grateful for the second chance he’d been given; especially after he saw the damage to his car.  Only a miracle kept him from being killed.

Working to pay for college was a blessing and one he took to heart.  He ended up working for the rehab center where he had been a patient.  He understood the struggles, the temptations, and the desire to get out from under.  His preference was to work specifically with teenagers who were addicted to drugs. He thought that he could better relate to them and when he made a change—to live for Jesus—nothing could convince him otherwise.  Most of the young people were able to relate to him, but then there were a few who thought he was just too straight-laced to understand them.  No matter what he did, he couldn’t get through to these few, but thankfully, there were more he reached than not.

It was his work with teens at the rehab center that first got the attention of Pastor Cal.  He had been attending church when Pastor Dee and Pastor Cal arrived in London.  After a few months, he had been approached by Pastor Cal to work with the youth at the church.  Paul had never thought about a call of ministry on his life, but he prayed before giving Pastor Cal an answer and was then shown in the Word and in his spirit, God’s will for his life.  He had completed a course in ministry and had been ordained, ready to do the work.

Deceptive Storms Excerpt 3

When Cal entered his house, he was grateful that there were no lights on upstairs.  That usually meant that D’Cerner had fallen asleep.  He had just hung up his coat and hat when the phone rang.  He grabbed it, but too late.  D’Cerner had picked up the extension in the bedroom.  He hurried up the stairs to intervene in the conversation, but when he walked into the bedroom, he could tell by the look on her face and the tears streaming that she knew.

“Dee, I need to you to listen to me.  I don’t know what someone just told you, but it’s not what you think.”  He sat down beside her and tried to pull her to him, but she resisted and stared at him.

“Dee, say something.”

With a deadly calm, she responded.  “What do you want me to say?  How was the kiss? Was it worth it?  What exactly do you want me to say?”

By the time her last question was asked, her tone had risen several decibels.  She was flushed and breathing hard and Cal was scared.

“Dee, you’re getting upset and you know that could be dangerous for you and the baby.”

“Really? You think I’m getting upset!  I am upset!  How could you?  I thought we had worked this out.  I thought you said you could wait eight months.  ‘I’ve waited over fourteen years, I can wait eight months.’  That’s what you said, but you couldn’t,  you couldn’t!” By now she was crying uncontrollably; her shoulders were trembling and cries were heart-wrenching.  He couldn’t stand it.

He pulled her into his arms and held her even she tried to resist and would not let go until she stopped crying.  When she was totally spent of tears, she got up and went to the bathroom.  When she came out, she had one final blow.

“Get out!  You can either sleep in the den or at Chassida’s.  I really don’t care, but you are not going to sleep in here tonight.”

“Dee, are you serious?  Over a kiss?  It’s not like I slept with the woman?”

She looked at him for a moment and said, “You might as well have.  Trust has been broken and I don’t know if it can be repaired.  Now, get out!”

She laid back down and turned her back on him.  He stepped out of bedroom totally distraught because he had never thought about not sleeping with his wife. As he crept down the stairs, he stopped at the linen closet to retrieve a sheet and blanket.  He thought about going back into the bedroom to get a pillow and then decided not to risk it.  He had seen D’Cerner angry before, but this was more than anger; this was hurt –he saw in her eyes and heard it in her voice.

He put the sheet on the couch and the blanket and covered himself without getting undressed, but he felt naked—his shortcoming revealed for all to see and he didn’t know how he would proceed from this point.  He tossed and turned and turned and tossed, until eventually, just as the light of dawn was rising, he fell asleep.

 

Excerpt from Deceptive Storms

“Minister Anderson, come quick!  We need help.  Someone spotted Pastor Cal stuck between some trees on the river bank!” Vernon came in screaming.

D’Cerner panicked.  Her heart pounded so loud she could barely hear what others were saying.  All the men headed for the door with ropes.  For a moment, she thought she was going to faint, but somehow, she reached deep down inside, took a deep breath and got up.  She felt like she was outside of herself, looking at what was going on, but had no control over it.  She got her raincoat and hat and went out the door before anyone could stop her.  She started walking, battling the wind and the rain, barely able to see directly in front of her.  She prayed—for guidance, wisdom, and strength to find Cal.  The closer she got to the river bank, the slower she was able to move because of the rising water.  By the time, she reached the farthest point she could go, she had to stop.  She called him.

“Cal,” she yelled, trying to be louder than the wind.  “Cal, where are you?”

She waited, hoping to hear a response, but getting none, she plodded through the water a few feet north of where she was standing.  She called again and again, no answer.  She kept this up for almost an hour and then just as she was about to give up, she heard him.

“Cal, where are you?”

“Dee, I’m over here hanging onto a branch.  I can’t hold on much longer.”

“Cal, hold on!  I’m coming.  Keep talking to me so I can find you!”  She sloshed through water already above her waist.  She listened to him, talking to her, but his voice was fading.

“Cal, keep talking, I’m getting closer.  Don’t you give up on me!”

“Dee, go back!  The water is too deep!  Go back!”

“I am not going back without you.  Just hold on!”

“I am holding on, but I’m getting tired.  Can’t hold on much..”

“Hold on, you hear me!  Hold on!”

“Dee, I love you! I’ll always love you!”

“I love you, too, now hold on! I’m coming to get you!”

By the time she reached a clearing where she could see him, she heard the snap of a branch and then saw him floating by holding onto the branch, but his head was sinking under the water.  That was the last she saw of him.  She heard herself screaming and then she knew nothing.

She collapsed in the water and would have been swept away by the fast-moving current, but the men who were looking for Cal to save him were right behind her and two grabbed her, while the others waded out further, tied to each other in order to hopefully reach Cal before he was carried further out into the river.  They watched him bobbing in and out of the water for about fifty feet when suddenly he stopped moving.