Some writers on Twitter are offering a sample of their work for #SampleSunday, and I thought I’d offer a snippet of my work The Boys Upstairs. Since it’s coming around to Christmas again, it’s seasonal, so if you got an ereader in the last year, you might want to check it out. This is not the same sample you’ll find on the book’s page over at the publisher.
This is from the beginning of Chapter Three, after Father Jay’s estranged brother has brought three homeless children to the rectory to keep them safe. Jay is a disabled priest, but as it turns out, he wasn’t always all that spiritually-minded. This is the segment that popped into my head when I woke up one morning, and it replayed in my head with such intensity that I began writing the story before breakfast.
It didn’t take Divine Providence to alert Jay when the trio of newcomers tried to escape. The old rectory creaked with as many different tones as a symphony orchestra, and having been an escape artist himself as a teen, Jay knew what to expect.
And so it was that when Louis, Maria and Jamie got to the front door, one stuffed-full pillowcase in Maria’s arms and Jamie in Louis’s, Jay met them there.
“It’s really too cold to leave in the middle of the night.” He gestured toward the parlor as the three children clustered together before him. “I’d never hurt you, and I know I can’t keep you if you’re determined to go. But if you have to leave, you might as well leave in the morning.”
The kids shuffled into the parlor alongside the front entrance, and Jay turned on the lights so they could make their way onto the couch. He sat in a chair across the room.
“Why are you leaving?” They stared at him with three sullen pouts. Jay said, “I’m not a foster home here. The boys who live upstairs moved in because it was a warm place to stay. Most of them ran away from home too, or were thrown out.” He waited. “Where are you from?”
Louis told him, and Jay recognized the neighborhood, a twenty-minute drive from here. He asked if they had any family. They all looked at one another, and then Louis said no, they didn’t.
Ah: so they did have family, but no one to take them in.
He asked if they went to school. Louis said sometimes. He asked if they liked school, and it turned out they did, kind-of.
Through all this, the kids looked at one another before answering, and Jamie never said anything at all. The youngest, he dozed against Louis’s shoulder.
Maria looked right at him, frowning. “We don’t want a new dad.”
Jay raised his hands. “I’m not anyone’s dad. In the Church, priests are called Father, but I’m not anyone’s father.”
There was a moment of quiet before Louis said, “And no new mom, either.”
Maria said, “Why are you doing this, then? Is it for the money?”
Dear God, why did little ones have to get so cynical? He assured them that he received no money for having them in the house, nor did he want any.
“But you’re crippled,” Louis said “So how are you getting money?”
Cynical and no punches pulled; an excellent combination for life on the street. “I’m a priest. The diocese pays me, and I work for them.”
Maria said, “But if we run, you can’t catch us.”
He shook his head.
“How’d you get hurt?” Louis said.
“I used to be a soldier. I was in Iraq, and I got hurt there.”
Louis sat forward. “A real soldier? Like you carried a gun and wore a uniform? Like GI Joe?”
Jay nodded. “Except I didn’t have all that cool gear and neat code names like they do.”
Louis said, “And did the enemy shoot you?”
Ten years ago, a shattered army platoon had returned to base in a wrecked jeep with four of its soldiers barely alive. They’d driven over a land mine. A medical team had begun treatment the moment they’d stopped the vehicle, and shortly the wounded were transported to a combat support hospital. Within the hour the doctors passed the word back to their commanding officer that one had already died and the rest wouldn’t survive the night.
The other three died before sunrise. Only Jay had survived.
“Did it hurt?” Maria said.
Louis shoved her. “Of course it hurt, idiot! He got shot bad enough to cripple him!”
Opting against explaining about ballistics, explosives and the more graphic parts of war, Jay said, “I was unconscious for a week, actually, so it didn’t hurt at first. Later on, yeah.”
He’d been airlifted to Germany, where he stayed in a coma seven days. At every turn, the doctors had said, “We can try this procedure, but he most likely won’t survive it,” and then they’d tried, and every time, somehow, he’d survived.
The Boys Upstairs was awarded the Catholic Writers Guild Seal Of Approval. It’s available for Kindle, Nook, and other ereader formats.