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    Parker Owens
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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental.

A to Z - 39. Chapter 39 Vacation in Hiding

Vacation in Hiding

No special warnings for this chapter.

Questions and issues raised in this chapter or any other chapter can be discussed at the A to Z story thread here: http://www.gayauthors.org/forums/topic/40860-a-to-z/

December 27

Christmas morning at St. James’ church was odd. As daylight streamed through the windows, the rich, warm color in the church from the night before was gone. The baby Jesus in the cold light of Sunday morning looked practically washed out.

There was church on Christmas Day, but not many people came. I guess that most people came the night before. Compared to the mighty roar of the people on Christmas Eve, the sound of the congregation seemed thinner, more timid.

Still, there were carols – different ones this time – and those who came to church sang away loudly, as before. There just weren’t as many of them. I huddled down in my seat near the heating grate, listening, watching. I worked on being invisible. Once everything was over, the building emptied again. I took care to hide when nobody was looking. It wasn’t hard.

By the time the building was completely quiet, and I felt safe enough to come out, my stomach growled loudly enough to echo in the church. I hadn’t eaten since lunch in the diner with Kaz and Terry and Zander.

Time to explore the building. I found the kitchen first. There was a big box full of canned goods marked “Food Pantry.” I determined not to steal from it. I was just seeking shelter here, that’s all. On the other hand, I figured I could drink all the water I wanted, which I did.

The next thing to do was to find all the exit doors. Were there any I could jam open so I could come and go, like at the school? And were there any meetings like the one I ran into in Marshall? I prowled the half-lit hallways. I found a big calendar posted across from a door marked “church office.” It looked like there was a regular meeting of something called ‘AA’ every night around seven. Even on Christmas Day. I’d have to watch out for that. Otherwise, the week looked pretty quiet here.

I found a library, full of books. Most of them had exciting titles like “Religious Foundations of the Colonial Experience,” and “Theological Reflections on Minor Prophets.” There were a few other books that looked interesting, though. I’d be back. I also found a maintenance room in the basement. It had a door to the outside that led up a set of steps. I jammed that open, and hoped nobody would notice. It was my insurance. I figured that, at worst, I could scoot out of the building when I needed to, and make sure to be back by seven o’clock to get in when the meeting started.

With that settled, it was time to put on my new coat and pack and head out to see if I could find anything to eat.

Nobody much was on the streets on Christmas Day. I was lucky to find the convenience store open – and I was happy not to have to walk all the way out to the grocery store. I parted with my very last pennies – literally - to buy too few expensive road rations. The girl behind the counter wore a droopy elf hat and a lot of heavy makeup, leaning heavily on the green eye shadow. I wished her a Merry Christmas, but I didn’t blame her for being kind of sulky. I wouldn’t have wanted to work Christmas Day, either.

I wandered around town, but it got pretty cold, and it wasn’t as if I had a lot to do. In the end, I slipped back into the church by the maintenance door. Time to find a couple of books and settle in.

Over the past couple of days, I’ve discovered that this place is spooky quiet most of the time. The furnace wheezes and the building creaks. I stay low, down between benches on the floor near the heat. God knows what I’ll do if somebody catches me here. I’ve gone through a bunch of books from the church library. Maybe I’ll have to break down and read the bible or something. I’ll have to get out tomorrow and scrounge for some more food. I’m just plain hungry. I guess I ate too well at Zander’s house, and I got used to it.

One good thing here. No bad dreams. It’s been over a week since I’ve been assaulted by Green Hat or Dad or Uncle Ray in my sleep. Is it God watching over me? Or are dreams just random chance? What makes them come and go? Those are some biggish questions, but I have no way to answer them.

 

January 2

I woke up last Friday to the sound of a vacuum cleaner running somewhere in the bowels of the church complex. I’d been sleeping on the carpet under a bench in the church, near a heating vent, and the machine roared distantly, at least for now.

I was no longer alone in the big old building.

I realized that couldn’t stay where I was. Eventually, I’d be discovered. I gathered up my stuff and jammed it into my pack. The vacuum sounded closer. I pulled my hat onto my head, shouldered into my two coats, and darted through the vestibule and out the main doors of the church.

I stood in the cold, grey daylight, hungry and sleepy. I must have looked pretty ragged. I tried to get myself oriented to the situation. I glanced at my watch. Nine fifteen in the morning. How had I managed to sleep that long?

There was fresh snow on the steps of the church. Maybe a couple of inches? That meant I’d better hustle over to Mrs. Marjorie’s to do her walks and then I could maybe think about breakfast after I’d been paid. At least the moving about would keep me warm.

She greeted me cheerfully when I knocked.

“Good morning, Andrew! Did you have a merry Christmas?”

I nodded.

“Here to shovel the walks?”

“Yes, ma’am.”

“The shovel is on the back porch by the door. Thanks for being so quick this morning!”

We never got a huge amount of snow in Carlsberg, but I wasn’t any stranger to shoveling. It was something Dad made sure I did plenty of times, so I had a method figured out for it.

First, I cleared away the bulk of the snow, scooping it off to the side of the porch steps, the walks and driveway. Luckily, both the front and back porches were covered. Then, it was time to scrape the stubborn spots off – places where foot traffic or a cold spot had caused the snow to freeze. I had to get everything down to bare pavement.

Some of this was tough going because Zander and his dad had only done a rough job the week before. Not that I’m complaining – they had bailed me out, and they must have moved a lot more snow than I did.

The third step was to grab the old broom off the porch so that everything would be swept clean of any stray deposits. I remembered Dad beating me until I bled for skipping that step one snowy evening. At the end, all that remained was to trim the banks so that they were neat and square.

Mrs. Marjorie looked at my work and hassled me for all the time I took in doing it, but she would probably pay me just the same. I don’t think she was really unhappy.

“My husband had a snow blower that did that job in about ten minutes,” she fussed.

“You had a snow blower?”

I’ve seen those machines, but never used one.

“I still do, but the darn thing doesn’t work anymore. Besides, it’s too heavy and noisy for me to use.”

Now I was interested.

“Where is it?”

“In the garage, at the back.”

“Maybe I could get it going again. Could I look at it?”

She looked at me uncertainly.

“Very well, young man, let me back the car out and you can have your look.”

A few minutes later, I was squatting down in front of a monster of a snow blower. All through the fall, it had sat there under a big black tarp near the lawnmower. I’d never guessed it was there.

I could have been in the tractor shed at Eustace Whitley's farm. I checked the obvious things first. I looked for loose wires, evidence of missing parts, that kind of thing. The machine looked in decent shape, though in need of a good cleaning. The sparkplugs looked worn, but in decent shape. The air filter looked all right. I wondered if I would get a chance to test it.

“Does the machine start, or does it start, but not run?” I asked.

“Andrew, I really don’t remember. This thing was my husband’s, and I didn’t interfere. It made a racket, that's all I know.”

“Would it be all right if I tried to start it?”

Mrs. M. looked at me hard. I guess she wondered if I was going to blow up her garage or something. Finally, she nodded. Then she reached into her pocket and handed me her keys.

“OK, Andrew, go ahead. When you’re done, I want you to pull the car into the garage and bring me back my keys. I’ll expect you back inside in twenty minutes, no longer.”

My throat went dry. The woman was trusting me with her car. With her keys. I nodded.

“Yes, ma’am.”

She departed, walking slowly back to the house.

The battery was probably dead, but I found a secondary pull cord. I could use that. I searched around the machine for the oil cap and checked to see if there was any oil in it. There was. I added some lawnmower gas to the tank. I made sure everything was properly set to start. I pulled hard on the starter cord. Nothing. Adjusted the choke. Another pull. Nothing. I tried several more times, listening carefully. The motor never caught or sputtered. No life at all.

I wasn’t discouraged. The motor was turning, at least. There weren’t any bad noises coming from anyplace else in the machinery. It might just be something bad in the starter.

I went back to examining the machine, carefully, every place I could see. Everything looked intact, as far as I could tell. I feared I would have to take it apart to see how everything fit together, and then to see what might be the problem. I looked around, scanning the dimly lit space for tools. I sighed. No, this wasn’t Eustace Whitley’s workshop. I didn’t see much that I could use if I had to break the whole thing down.

Still, it was an interesting puzzle. I inspected the starter again, getting a good look at every part. I memorized the make and model number. Then I carefully wrestled the old machine back into its place at the back of the garage and draped the tarp back over it.

Now I approached the car. I was anxious. What would happen if I did something really bad to Mrs. Marjorie’s car? I visualized my big foot hitting the gas too hard and putting the car right through the back of the barn. Just the kind of clumsy mistake I would make.

This wouldn’t be anything like the little grey Ford tractor I learned to drive this summer, let alone the big Allis. Just pulling it in, I reminded myself. With my heart in my throat, I got in, adjusted the seat, held down the brake, and started the car. No problem. Touch the gas. Nothing. No movement. Puzzled and freaked out, I looked around to see the problem.

Stupid. I forgot to put the car in gear. Very cautiously, I shifted it into low gear and eased forward. I inched into the garage, not wanting to risk anything happening. With the car all the way in, I creaked the Volvo to a halt, shut off the car, and got out. That was painless. Why had I been so nervous?

I’d imagined the worst, and it had gotten me in a panic.

Slowly, I locked up the barn and walked back to the house.

“Well, Andrew, what did you see?” Mrs. M. inquired when I knocked to return her keys.

“I think there’s something wrong with the starter. I can’t tell for sure unless I take the whole thing apart, and I don’t have the tools for that.”

She shook her head.

“Well I don’t know. Whatever tools I have used to belong to my husband. They’re in the basement.”

I nodded. I’d seen the basement, briefly, last fall. It was a dark, dusty place, used mainly for storage. The furnace and water heater were down there. I didn’t recall seeing any tools. But I didn’t want to give up so easily.

“Could I have a pen and paper please?”

Mrs. M. looked a little exasperated with me, but stepped across the kitchen. When she fetched the notepad, I quickly wrote down the information I’d memorized out in the barn.

“I can go down to the hardware store to see if they have the parts. I’ll also need to see what tools you may have.”

“So you really think you can fix that machine?”

I shrugged. “I’d like to try.”

She fixed me with a sharp stare. “You like fixing things?”

“Sometimes.”

“You like machines and mechanics?”

I thought about that. I’d liked that part of working on the farm last summer, but I’d liked other things, too. Being outside, working with the animals, watching things grow, getting ready for harvest.

I shrugged. “Kind of. I worked on a farm last summer. I liked that.”

Mrs. M. looked at me, considering. “Wait here,” she said abruptly, turning to go.

I stood there, warming up on the door mat.

When she bustled back in, she handed me some money. She was all business.

“Here. The twenty is what I owe you for shoveling. The fifty is for you to go down to the hardware store on Main Street. If it covers the cost of the part you think you need, fine. If it doesn’t, then I’ll want to think about it. Whatever happens, either bring me back the fifty, or bring me back the part and the change.”

“Yes, ma’am,” I grinned. I was going to get a chance to try, anyhow. I realized that I’d been pretty bored cooped up in the church most of the week.

I made my way down to the hardware store. I’d passed it a number of times, but never had a reason to go in.

A display of brand new snow blowers greeted me as I entered. Ironic, isn’t it? Behind them were tall shelves, stacked with goods. It was hardly worth strolling up and down every aisle, so I walked farther to the back, where there appeared to be a place for people to ask questions. Behind the counter, an older man chatted with another customer on the phone. I waited as patiently as I could. Eventually, he finished.

“Can I help you, young man?”

“I wondered if you had this part for an old Simplicity snow blower,” I replied, handing him the bit of paper I’d written down the part number on.

He scratched his head. “You didn’t buy that machine here, did you?”

I shook my head. “No, but Mrs. Marjorie McDowell might have.”

“Oh, you work for Marge, do you?” the man asked, brightening.

Geez. Did she know absolutely everyone in town? I nodded.

“Right. I’m gonna have to look in the back and see about this.”

With that, the man exited through a pair of swinging doors located behind the counter. I was left on my own again. I took some time to look around. To the left, a sign advertised a particular brand of dog food. Animal and pet supplies continued down that aisle. Behind me, I saw a display of heavy winter boots.

I considered moving over to examine them more closely, when I heard a friendly voice at my elbow.

“Well, if it isn’t my long-lost son, Andy. Merry Christmas.” It was Zander’s father, who had appeared as if by magic.

“Hello, Mr. Stevenson,” I replied, quietly.

“What brings you here on a cold December day?”

“Just trying to get a part for Mrs. McDowell’s snow blower.”

“Is it broken?”

“It won’t start. I think I know what the problem is, but they might not have what I need.”

“So, you tinker with engines and stuff like that?”

I shrugged. I wasn’t exactly sure what he meant by ‘tinker.’ “I like to take motors apart and try to make them work again.”

“Maybe I’ll let you come work on my tractor, some day.”

“I’d like that,” I smiled. Anything to go back to that house. To have a reason to be near Zander again. “Anyways, Mrs. Marjorie says thank you for shoveling her out. We’re both grateful.”

He smiled.

“I understand I have you to thank for my new night reading light.”

I shrugged but couldn’t help smiling a little, too.

“It was very thoughtful of you.”

I shook my head.

At that moment, the double doors swung open. The man put a dusty cardboard box on the counter. The part number was handwritten in pen on the side.

“That should do it, I think. If it doesn’t, just pack it all up again and bring it back.”

I nodded. “All right. Hope it works. How much will it be?”

He squinted at the side of the box. “Forty one twenty, plus tax.”

I sighed with relief. It was quite a lot for such a small item.

He added up the total, and I handed him the fifty dollar bill I’d been given. I’d get a little bit over five dollars in change.

“I’ll see you later, sir,” I offered, gathering up my box and stuffing it into my pocket.

“Zander’s in the parking lot out back.” Mr. Stevenson pointed to a door on the back wall. “He drove me to town, for practice. I’ll bet he’s bored – go and say hi, if you like.”

I didn’t have to be told twice.

There, staring out the driver’s side window of a small SUV, sat Zander. He wore a vacant and bored expression on his beautiful face. He practically jumped out of his skin when I knocked on the passenger side window. A big smile appeared, and he waved, gesturing for me to get in.

“Hi,” I said, shutting the door. Suddenly, I felt embarrassed. I hadn’t washed or eaten or anything all day. I must have smelled. And here I was, sitting in a car with the best looking boy on the planet.

“Andy, the mystery man,” he practically sang, “where have you been hanging since Christmas?”

I shrugged. “Cooped up,” I offered. No need to elaborate.

“Nice coat,” he grinned. “Looks good on you. Hey, I’ve been looking for you, whenever I go for a practice drive. I know you don’t have a phone, but maybe it would be easier if you gave me an address, so I can track you down.”

Shit. What was I going to tell him, come look for me sleeping in the church?

I shook my head. “No. Don’t…I can’t…it’s…” I stammered.

“No big deal, I get it. I wouldn’t want to hang with your dad, either,” he offered in commiseration.

I shook my head, grateful that he’d let that slide.

“How was Christmas with your family?” I asked, trying to change the topic.

“Great. They’re gone now, but it was good to see my brother Frank and Carol – that’s my sister – and her husband, Jeremy. And I’ve got big news – I’m going to be an uncle!”

“Congratulations.” I smiled back at him. “You’ll get to be cool uncle Zander.”

“Yup. I can be the hip, irresponsible uncle. My brother Frank can play the role of the uptight godfather.”

He grinned from ear to ear.

“Hey, and another thing. How’d you get that twin painting for me under the tree? I know you don’t fit down the chimney.”

I shrugged again, face red, but smiling anyhow.

“Seriously, Andy, that was something else. I knew it was from you when I unwrapped it. It’s like those two paintings belong together.”

I nodded, but I couldn’t say anything. My tongue was frozen to the roof of my mouth.

“I'm sorry I didn't get you anything. I feel guilty about that." Zander said quietly.

Shit. I hadn't meant to make him feel bad. "That's okay."

"So when are you coming out to see where I hung your painting up?” he asked, brightening.

I shrugged. “Don’t know.”

“Being all mysterious again, huh? Well, I’ll have you know I hung it in the barn, where you can see it the next time you stay over.”

I had to laugh at that. “I bet the llamas love it."

Oh. The next time I stay over? When would that be?

Zander was saying something.“So, Saturday, are you going to the party at Kaz’s house?”

I looked at him, puzzled. “I didn’t get an invite.”

“Of course you didn’t. It’s an open house. Kaz’s parents just open up their house for a big New Year’s Eve party every year. It’s huge. Anybody can come. Even your dad could go. People dress up and just walk in off the street.”

“Oh.”

“Besides, without a phone, how could I tell you, unless you happen to find me in random parking lots…” he laughed. “Seriously, just put on your best party clothes and show up at Kaz’s house around five o’clock on Saturday. That’s tomorrow night. We’re all going to be there, so you should come, too.”

I felt torn. It was going to be a big, crowded party. Lots of strangers, looking at me funny. And who would want me there, anyway? I wasn’t sure I could get cleaned up, and I didn’t own any clothes that I could wear to something fancy like this. I didn’t want them to think I was staying away. On the other hand, Zander was looking at me with those big, brown, pleading eyes of his. And it would be really good to see Zander and Kaz and Terry all together again. To be included again. Maybe this time it would be OK.

“I don’t know…maybe. I mean…I don’t want to get in the way….Where is it?”

“Oh, right. You don’t know where Kaz lives, do you? His family has this huge old house on Chestnut Street on the other side of the bridge, on the west side of town. Just take Main Street across the bridge and turn right on Chestnut. You won’t be able to miss it.”

Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Mr. Stevenson coming out of the store with a heavy bag on his shoulder.

“Looks like your dad is here. I’d better go.” I opened the door and hopped out.

“Let me know if you need a ride, OK?” he called out.

I waved and headed over to Mr. Stevenson. I reached for the big feed bag.

“Here, sir, let me take that thing for you so that you can get the car door.”

He looked surprised for a moment, but then let the bag down onto my shoulder. It was hefty, but I’d carried heavier stuff for Eustace last summer. I set it down in back, and Mr. Stevenson slammed the hatch door closed.

“Thanks again, Andy. Keep that up and poor Zander’s going to think you’re trying to make him look bad.”

“I doubt that’s possible,” I said without thinking. Damn. Me and my big mouth.

Mr. Stevenson looked at me, smiling faintly, wondering if there was an inside joke somewhere.

“Well, I’ll see you later, Andy,” he said climbing in. I waved again and walked off in the direction of Mrs. Marjorie’s house.

I spent the early afternoon on the snow blower. Mrs. M. was happy to get her change back, and to let me have a look at the old tools in the cellar. She let me back the car out again, which I did, most carefully. I got everything taken apart, cleaned up and put back together, eventually. I realized as I tightened the last screw that I had been ignoring my fiercely growling stomach. I was so intent on the project that I’d neglected to eat anything at all.

Still, I wasn’t going to put off the big moment of truth just to scrounge a snack from my pack.

I set the machine to start, put it in neutral and gave the starter a pull. The motor turned stiffly, slowly. I tried again, yanking harder. The motor turned again, offering to sputter a couple of times. This was a good sign.

I adjusted the choke and tried again, hauling on the pull cord. This time the motor caught, coughing and popping, but running more smoothly after a few seconds. Mrs. Marjorie was right. It was really loud, but the sound of that old engine was music to my ears. I’d done something right, something good, and I had real proof of it. I shut the machine down again, picked up the tools and put the car away. I glanced at my watch. I had another idea.

Mrs. Marjorie met me at the back door when I knocked.

“So, did you get it working?” she asked.

“Yes ma’am. It runs now.”

She looked surprised. Isn’t that what she had expected?

“Well. I wasn’t sure you’d be able to do it. My late husband couldn’t, you know.”

I felt all confused. Was she mad at me for succeeding?

“Oh. I’m sorry. I…”

“Stop that,” she cut me off. “You don’t need to be sorry about anything. Now I’m glad you got that thing going, but if it snows, you’re to use the shovel, all right? I don’t want to disturb the neighbors with the sound of it.”

I nodded. “Yes, ma’am.”

So that was it. I wondered if the machine had been a source of friction between her and her husband.

I turned to go. My stomach was growling up a storm, but I had another stop to make.

The thrift store back on Main Street was still open. I had twenty dollars. I hoped to find some clothes I could wear to the party at Kaz’s house. Zander made all my doubts seem so small.

It must have been my lucky day. There were things there that I could wear. Not exactly my size, but good enough. I found a nice solid blue collared shirt that fit reasonably well. There was a pair of grey pants – nicer than anything I’ve ever owned – that pretty much fit, if I rolled the cuff up a little. I couldn’t wear my boots to the party, so I looked for some good shoes. I found a pair of brown shoes that felt really tight, but I figured I could wear them for a day if I had to. When I went to look for a tie, I suddenly realized I had no idea how to knot it around my throat. But good fortune held, because there was a dark red tie that had been pre-tied and all I had to do was clip it onto my collar. What a great idea.

The bad news was that my new clothes pretty much demolished the twenty dollars Mrs. M. had given me. Despite the rumble in my stomach, I was determined that I’d just have to eat very little and stretch out the tiny amount of food in my bag.

There was still some daylight left and a couple of hours to kill before I could safely head back to St. James’ church to warm up and find a corner to sleep in. I headed over to the Abbotts’ to clear away their snow.

With that done, and a few more dollars more in my pocket, I walked all the way up to the grocery store for more supplies. I really needed to make my pennies stretch as far as I could. I also needed to stretch out the time. Grocery stores aren’t exactly warm places, but this one was definitely warmer than it was outside. I spent a lot of time walking up and down the aisles, looking at stuff, comparing prices. Things were definitely cheaper at the Price SavR. I got as much of my usual road rations as my dollars would allow – not that much, really – and walked away with a few cents in change.

By the time I reached St. James’ again, it was fully dark. I was early for the AA meeting time, but the building was open when I got there, which was a relief.

I darted past the meeting room – only a couple of people were there, and they didn’t notice me. The old furnace was wheezing as I snuck into the dimmed church. I found my place in the back by the heater, and for the first time that day, took off my coat.

I want to point out that living by sneaking around can be very difficult. At school, it’s not so bad because I have a home base in my closet, and I’m almost always able to get in there. I can keep almost normal hours, because people expect to see kids in the school until all the meetings and practices are done, and that’s nearly nine o’clock at night.

The church was a different matter. Though there was a meeting going on, it wasn’t as if it was normal for someone to be having a casual snack in the church pews. It was very hard not to break into my food supply right then and there, but there were people in the building and I didn’t want the sound of opening bags and wrappers to give me away. Instead, I lay down on the carpeted floor and set my watch alarm for the middle of the night.

After midnight, when the building was totally quiet, I could take my food down to the kitchen, and in the very dim light, eat for the first time in twenty four hours. Rationing myself so that there would be enough food to last until school started again took enormous willpower. I distracted myself with the task of cleaning myself up, stripping down in the handicapped bathroom and giving everything – clothes, body, hair, everything – a thorough wash. I’ll admit that I swiped some dish soap from the kitchen for the job, which seemed to work out OK, but drying off with paper towel is not something I recommend. I smelled faintly of lemon scented dish soap afterwards. But I was clean.

Of course, drying off wasn’t the only problem. I was absolutely naked until I wrapped myself in Zander’s coat, and carried all my wet things up to the church. It wasn’t much to be covered with. I felt ridiculous walking into the church with my cock waving all around, covered only from the waist up - but at least it was warmer than nothing. I spread my clothes out over a couple of heating vents and lay down on the carpet again, shivering. I used Zander’s coat and my denim jacket for blankets. I set my watch alarm for five thirty, hoping my stuff would be dry by then.

I didn’t think I would be able to sleep, but I did.

I was startled awake by the sound of a man’s voice. I’d slept through the watch alarm. It was a miracle that I didn’t sit up and smash my head against a wooden pew. My heart raced, adrenalin pumping. Then I realized that I was still hidden. The man wasn’t speaking to me – I hadn’t been found out.

If you want to feel vulnerable and scared, try waking up to the realization that you’re half – hell, mostly – naked, in a church, covered only by a winter jacket, trying to hide from someone else in the room.

The man was at the front of the church – the lights were on, but dimmed. He was praying aloud, softly. I could barely make out the prayers he was reciting:

“Glory to the Father and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit…”

I listened to him, wondering if he could hear my heart beating.

“Alleluia. To us a child is born…”

My senses were fully alert. There was a rustle of pages turning. He must have been reading from a book or something.

“Come, let us sing to the Lord…”

Were any other people in the church? I couldn’t tell for sure, but I didn’t hear any other voices. No other stray coughs or sniffles to indicate additional participants in the prayers.

More pages rustling. More murmuring.

“A reading from the book of Isaiah…”

How long could this go on? I just had to lie still, let it go by.

“…take counsel together, but it will come to nought; speak a word, but it will not stand; for God is with us.”

I whispered my own prayer to God that this man might finish praying and then just go away.

But his prayers went on and on. There was another reading, and then more murmured prayers. And then still more murmurs that I couldn’t quite catch, but which seemed like additional prayers – maybe for someone he knew? I couldn’t tell.

It definitely felt like he was the only one there. I kept hoping he’d decide nobody was coming, and he’d pack it in.

No such luck. At one point, he just stopped reading – or praying, or whatever – and there was just silence. Pure silence. Not even the furnace was running. I could actually hear the man breathing. I kept expecting him to turn around and yell, “Come out, you damn rat!” like Ethan Allen did to the British commander at Ticonderoga. So I actually study in history class. Sue me.

Anyway, nothing like that happened. I kept very, very still, hardly daring to breathe. And the praying man just sat there, breathing. I wondered if he had put himself to sleep. The moments passed with aching slowness.

Eventually, I heard him take a deep breath.

“Let us bless the Lord!” he exclaimed in a loud voice, and I nearly jumped.

And with that, the man rose and walked slowly out of the church. I heard his footsteps recede down the hallway through the side door. I waited for the silence to return. But I couldn’t wait forever.

I’d need to be quick. I wormed my way under the pew and reached for my clothes on the far heating vent. At least they were warm and dry. I twisted and grabbed the other clothes that rested on the nearer one. Also toasty.

While still lying down, I wriggled into my briefs and jeans. I paused to listen for anyone coming.

Still quiet.

Socks next. Then boots, all done while lying down. Now, sitting up quickly, I shucked Zander’s coat and pulled on my t-shirt and button-down over that. Put on my denim jacket, shrugging back into the big red coat.

Still nobody coming.

Time to gather up my thrift store bag and my backpack. I grabbed my hat and pull it down over my shaggy hair. I really needed to trim my hair again.

I stood. I’d have to find another place in the building to stay tonight. The church itself was just too dangerous. Maybe in the maintenance room? I’d have to check it out later. Just then, I heard the faint noise of footsteps in the hallway.

I zipped out the front door before they knew I had been there.

Craftingmom edited this chapter for me; her commentary and encouragement have been invaluable.

Please leave a review. Your reflections and remarks of any kind are most welcome.

Copyright © 2016 Parker Owens; All Rights Reserved.
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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental.
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Chapter Comments

Another great chapter.
On a technical note, this is one of the few on-line stories in which I can't remember finding a single typo, spelling mistake or misuse of a homonym.

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On 12/16/2015 04:41 AM, Paqman said:

Another great chapter.

On a technical note, this is one of the few on-line stories in which I can't remember finding a single typo, spelling mistake or misuse of a homonym.

Thank you for your review. There have been a few mistakes that I've caught after the fact, but if you missed them, I can relax. Anyway, thanks very much! :)

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So Andy's actually going to a party! That's a big deal. How much longer can he keep his secrets? I feel like there's got to be a break there soon. Also, apart from Roger Green Hat, he's managed to keep his past at bay. I wonder how much longer that will be the case. Keep it coming!

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On 12/16/2015 06:19 AM, xleroc said:

So Andy's actually going to a party! That's a big deal. How much longer can he keep his secrets? I feel like there's got to be a break there soon. Also, apart from Roger Green Hat, he's managed to keep his past at bay. I wonder how much longer that will be the case. Keep it coming!

Yep, Andy made a big decision to go. It means he has to live on what the Abbots paid him, but he's willing to go, and that's the big thing. Also big is that he got to mess about with the big snowblower. Maybe Eustace would have been proud of him, but he at least can feel good that he fixed something. You're right in that his secrets and his past still loom on the horizon like a big black bank of clouds threatening to roll in. Thanks for the review. Look forward to Friday!

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A kind of sad way to spend Christmas, but at least he's inside and reasonably safe and warm. I hope that party turns out better than his last attempt!

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On 12/16/2015 07:55 AM, Puppilull said:

A kind of sad way to spend Christmas, but at least he's inside and reasonably safe and warm. I hope that party turns out better than his last attempt!

Sad, but safe. Andy doesn't say so, but he probably feels justified in having left Zander's house. The news that Zander is going to be an uncle must have been a big deal that Christmas. Ny Ar is on Friday! Thanks for your review and for reading through the holidays.

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Andy had a difficult vacation, but still his ingenuity (and now mechanical skills) showed through. If the kid ever gets a break, he'll land on his feet.

 

The party surprised me. I can't see him there. I guess it shows how much of a magnet Zander is to him.
Another eventful chapter Parker, and it seems the next several will be as much or more so!
OK, hurry up Friday :)

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So Andy's going to a New Year's party with Zander? I wonder what will happen at midnight... :kiss: Hopefully? ;) Another great chapter, Parker. :)

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On 12/16/2015 09:46 AM, skinnydragon said:

Andy had a difficult vacation, but still his ingenuity (and now mechanical skills) showed through. If the kid ever gets a break, he'll land on his feet.

 

The party surprised me. I can't see him there. I guess it shows how much of a magnet Zander is to him.

Another eventful chapter Parker, and it seems the next several will be as much or more so!

OK, hurry up Friday :)

A difficult vacation is putting it mildly. But you're right, he has had good luck landing on his feet. So far, at least in Blackburn. And you're right about Andy and parties. He's just very shy and unused to social gatherings, and he often puts a foot wrong. But being encouraged by Zander is pretty powerful incentive. Thank you for your continued reading and for your reviews, which mean so much.

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On 12/16/2015 11:55 AM, Valkyrie said:

So Andy's going to a New Year's party with Zander? I wonder what will happen at midnight... :kiss: Hopefully? ;) Another great chapter, Parker. :)

Good news. Andy's getting up enough courage to consider going. Good news #2, Zander's encouragement is enough to push Andy to go. Maybe. Of course, it will be crowded open house,most that could be tough on Andy, too. Thanks for reading though Andy's vacation and into your own holidays. Next chapter is Friday. Thank you so much for your review!

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I'll risk repeating everyone when I say, what a sad holiday Andy had. Still though, he managed to give his spirit a little boost by figuring out that snowblower. Now he's invited to a party. I am hoping for a fun time for him. Fingers crossed all goes well. Hopefully Zander stays close the whole time..

 

Thanks for another well done chapter Parker!

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On 12/16/2015 12:54 PM, Defiance19 said:

I'll risk repeating everyone when I say, what a sad holiday Andy had. Still though, he managed to give his spirit a little boost by figuring out that snowblower. Now he's invited to a party. I am hoping for a fun time for him. Fingers crossed all goes well. Hopefully Zander stays close the whole time..

 

Thanks for another well done chapter Parker!

Sad by you and me, but maybe better and safer than back in Carlsberg. And no way would he have felt good about fixing the snow blower back on the other side of the mountains. As for Kaz's party, Zander is a powerfully good reason to overcome his fears, but nothing can overcome his awkwardness. New Years actually comes on Friday this year! Thanks for your review, and for reading!

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Kind of a lousy holiday for Andy, at least he had the church to hang out in. As for the party, I hope it goes better than Labour Day It does seem that things are looking brighter for him.

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On 12/17/2015 12:46 AM, slapshot said:

Kind of a lousy holiday for Andy, at least he had the church to hang out in. As for the party, I hope it goes better than Labour Day It does seem that things are looking brighter for him.

Crappy from our point of view, but maybe better than what he experienced with his brutal father. I never figured out what books he read from the church library - doubt anyone realized they were missing, though. Parties have not been kind to Andy. It's a big deal that he's willing to go with Zander's encouragement; it says a lot about how maybe he's willing to trust Zander. Thanks so much for continuing to read the story and for leaving a review!

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Christmas, I loathed it for 7 long years. Made sure I was high or busy for each one. Worse time of year when you're on your own.

 

Nice chapter Parker

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On 12/21/2015 04:09 AM, Mikiesboy said:

Christmas, I loathed it for 7 long years. Made sure I was high or busy for each one. Worse time of year when you're on your own.

 

Nice chapter Parker

Poor Andy was stuck reading books from the church library for fun, when he wasn't shoveling snow or something. Christmas Eve was good, but the rest of the week, well...at least he got something good done with the snow blower. And he got to run into Zander again, so that wasn't all bad...thanks for reviewing and for reading this far,

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Heya, Parker!

 

I'm halfway through with chapter forty, but I wanted to review because I haven't done so in a while.

 

First off, thank GOD Zander found Andy in his barn! What luck was it that Andy chose that barn to almost freeze to death in? lol

 

And again, of all the people in that town, Zander's dad happens to be the attorney Stevenson whose business card Andy found. What a coincidence! lol I was really laughing when I read that! And Zander's dad is so cool; he just goes along with it, telling people he has another son and his name is Andy! lol

 

Ok, back to reading...

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On 01/11/2016 02:32 PM, Lisa said:

Heya, Parker!

 

I'm halfway through with chapter forty, but I wanted to review because I haven't done so in a while.

 

First off, thank GOD Zander found Andy in his barn! What luck was it that Andy chose that barn to almost freeze to death in? lol

 

And again, of all the people in that town, Zander's dad happens to be the attorney Stevenson whose business card Andy found. What a coincidence! lol I was really laughing when I read that! And Zander's dad is so cool; he just goes along with it, telling people he has another son and his name is Andy! lol

 

Ok, back to reading...

Thank you for sticking with the story to this point. Perhaps it was luck, or maybe not - Andy had been in that barn before, and knew it. More fun was that coincidence you mentioned. Glad Garrett Stevenson has a sense of humor, yes? Thanks so much for your reviews, and for reading Andy's story.

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1 hour ago, chris191070 said:

Great chapter. A sad Christmas and poor vacation for Andy. So he's going toma party with Zander.

Andy is used to being on his own. Succeeding at snowblower repair was a big deal for him; so was getting to see Zander in the parking lot. Thanks very much for your thoughts!

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