Thursday, September 28, 2006

CFBA Tour-Violet Dawn by Brandilyn Collins

This week the Christian Fiction Blog Alliance tour is featuring Brandilyn Collins' Violet Dawn. It was released in August by Zondervan and is part of her new Kanner Lake series. There are two other books to come...Coral Moon, releasing in March of '07, and Crimson Eve, releasing in September of '07. Brandilyn is the self proclaimed author of seatbelt suspence. This book is no exception. After reading this book, I am leary of getting in a hottub. You will understand when you read this book.

Stop in and visit the Scenes and Beans site to learn more about the characters. It is an innovative marketing tool where various writers are doing daily blogs from the fictional characters in the series.

In addition to her writing, Brandilyn somehow finds the time to blog at her site-Forensics and Faith. One of the subjects she has addressed recently is the value of reviews. Are they merely marketing tools? Or are they an in-depth analysis of the real themes of the work? I found it very interesting.

Most of my reviews have been shorter pieces that give you a quick feel for the book. Would you rather have fewer reviews that are more in depth? Or a mixture of both? Maybe a "sister" blog that could feature longers critical essays on books? I want to hear from you.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Brandt Dodson Interview

Many thanks to Brandt Dodson for taking the time to answer my questions. My review of Brandt's Seventy Times Se7en appeared yesterday. Today we will talk about some of his favorite books and movies.

The Bedford Review(TBR): Who is your favorite character in a Dashiell Hammett book? After reading Seventy Times Seven, I would quess Sam Spade.

Brandt Dodson(BD): You guessed correctly. Sam Spade has come to typify the PI, and that is in no small measure to Hammett’s skill. Although there were actually very few Spade stories published, he has carved out his niche in American literature.

TBR: What is your favorite Hammett book?

BD: The Maltese Falcon – no question. It was the first of Hammett’s work that I’ve read. However, I actually like Hammett’s Continental OP, too, although if I must have to choose, it will be the Maltese Falcon every time.

TBR: Favorite Raymond Chandler character?

BD: Probably no surprise here, either. Phillip Marlowe. Although I don’t think he has the edginess that Spade has, he has also come to typify the PI.

TBR: Favorite Chandler book?

BD: The Big Sleep. This was made into a move, twice. Once with Bogart in the role of Marlowe, and once with Robert Mitchum in the role. No offense to the late Robert Mitchum, but Bogart nailed the character. Of course, that’s my opinion --- and the opinion of many others.

TBR: Have you read any of the Hard Case Crime novels? If you have, do any of the books stand out as better than the rest?

BD: The Hard Case line, from Dorchester publishing, is opening a whole new world for today’s readers. I like the reprints from “days gone by”. No offense to Stephen King, but The Colorado Kid, just doesn’t have that noir feel that the earlier writers were able to conjure up.

TBR: I recently started reading Lawrence Block's Burglar series. Have you read them?

BD: Yes, I have. Some of them. Block is an excellent writer. I’m reading Hit List right now.

TBR: Are you a fan of Humphrey Bogart movies? I started as a fan of his movies and that led me to trying different mystery writers.

BD: You and I have a great deal in common. I am also a big fan of Bogart’s and I reference him in my first novel, “Original Sin”, as a way to pay homage to the man. Like you, his roles led me to begin reading the novels from which his movies were made.

TBR: How much of Brandt Dodson is reflected in Colton Parker's character?

BD: A fair amount. But then, there’s some of me in all my characters. Like Colton, I did work for the Indianapolis office of the FBI, but unlike Colton I was not fired. Like Colton, I am a father. But unlike him, I am still married and have two boys who are well adjusted. But in the sense that Colton is headstrong, and needs to feel in control of his life, I am very much like
him. At least, I was before I came to Christ.

TBR: Can you tell us a little about how you became a Christian?

BD: I was raised in a home where my mother, and both grandmothers were Christians. But like my character, I tended to go my own way. I was pretty headstrong and wanted to cut my own path toward what I thought was success. And in fact, I did just that. But it left me feeling empty.
One night, I read a book “The Late Great Planet Earth” by Hal Lindsey which got me to thinking along lines of eternity. And then I read Born Again, by Chuck Colson. He mentions that he had clawed his way to the top of the world, and it had all come crashing down. He says that he never accomplished in the White House, what he had been able to accomplish in Christian ministry – changing people’s lives. I began to realize that he was right and that only what we did for Christ would last into eternity. I heeded the call of God.

TBR: Following the theme of favorite books, do you have a favorite book of the Bible?

BD: Several, but I tend to turn toward the psalms more and more. David wrote a book that speaks across time. There is no one who hasn’t felt David’s anguish, or his joys. Every prayer he prayed, every praise he offered, fits with life today. That just tends to support the notion in Ecclesiastes that there is nothing new under the son. If I could write a book like that, one that would fit across all generations, and be relevant for all time, my life would be fulfilled.

TBR: Favorite Bible verses?

BD: I have many that I rely on, and it seems to change as circumstances change. But at the moment, it is Psalm 37:4. “Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart.”
It is tempting to begin writing for “success”, but it will only come when the work is done for the Lord. That’s why I love writing for the CBA. It helps to keep me focused.

TBR: Anything you would like to tell our readers about plans for the Colton Parker series?

BD: Colton will return in “The Root of All Evil” to be released in mid-January, and I am writing another Colton Parker novel to be released, tentatively, in early July. Colton is going to experience some significant trials, but he will also undergo a change in is way of thinking. (Trials seem to do that, don’t they?)
As for Colton’s relationship with Mary, stay tuned.

I will try to keep readers updated on Brandt's work. For additional information, you can find his website here.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Seventy Times Se7en by Brandt Dodson

Some memories stay with you forever. One of those memories for me is the first time I saw a Humphrey Bogart movie. My first one was Casablanca. Once I saw it, I was a Bogie fan for life. Bogie played a tough guy with a heart of gold. He always played a character that had a problem. Rick in Casablanca tried to forget his broken heart by drinking his life away. But when his friends(including the girl who broke his heart) were in trouble, he would step up and do the right thing.
Watching Bogie movies led me to reading the works of various hardboiled crime writers. Authors like Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett, and Lawrence Block. None of these wrote Christian fiction. What they did write about that appealed to me was people. Most of them are not perfect but they did the right thing when it mattered. They overcame their faults, rose above their problems, and helped the people who needed them. I don't have a problem with alcoholism. I never shot a person. But we have all fallen short of the glory of God and needed redemption. Everyday I ask God to forgive me for the sins I have committed. I believe that is why this type of story(whether it is a Bogie movie or a crime novel) touches my heart.
I have been looking for an author who writes hard boiled crime fiction from a Christian point of view. Brandt Dodson is that kind of writer.
Seventy Times Se7en is the second Colton Parker novel. Colton is a P.I. who used to work for the F.B.I. He was fired from his job and had a fight with his wife. She left and died in a car wreck. His teenage daughter blames him for her mother's death. Colton does not understand why his wife was a Christian. In this book, Colton is hired to find the wife of Lester Cheek. Lester's wife left without an explanation. In the process, Parker has to take on an international hit man and stop a murder for hire. At the same time he is trying to reconnect with his daughter. A daughter who wants nothing to do with him.
Brandt has managed to craft a Christian hard boiled novel. This book gives me the mix of Christian fiction and crime story I have been waiting for. Highly recommended.
Brandt Dodson will be featured in an interview that I will be posting tomorrow.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance Tour-Something That Lasts by James David Jordan

This review is from the Christian Fiction Blog Alliance site. I will be posting my review at a later date but have not had a chance to read this book.

It is the first novel written by James David Jordan.To quote James, "I was tired of Hollywood and the popular press treating adultry like a harmless frolic, while Something That Lasts is a positive, hopeful book, it also paints a realistic picture of the devastating impact that adultery has on families and children."

The main character of the novel is David Parst, a gifted preacher with a knack for marketing. His innovations propelled his little church to regional prominence. At the age of 42, he had been named one of the fifty most influential leaders in the area.

Everybody had something to say about this man, including Ted Balik, who rose during a Sunday evening service and pointed a finger. "The Bible says, 'Those who sin are to be rebuked publicly...That's why I'm here tonight to rebuke the biggest sinner of all: our own preacher!"
And with a temptation in a moment of weakness, that single bad choice, David Parst leaves a trail of ruined lives, a scandalized community, and his wife, Sarah, and son, Jack, destroyed.
Shattered and separated, the Parsts embark on a quest to regain their faith, their hope and their family.

Jordan uses a very interesting tool in this book. The background of baseball and its rules serve as a metaphor for the fundamental principles of faith. The family's enjoyment of the game...and their pursuit of something that lasts...leads them to discover that faith is all they ultimately need.

Something That Lasts is available through Amazon.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

CSFF September Blog Tour-Edenstar Books and Games Part 2

What led to my interest in science fiction and fantasy?

The first SFF book I can remember reading was The Runaway Robot by Lester Del Rey. That led me to the old Winston series with young adult books by various authors. The only other books that look similar that was in the library was the Tom Swift, Jr. series. One of my best friends and I devoured them. A new series started appearing at the local newstand. It featured covers by Gray Morrow that jumped out and grabbed you. The series was translated from the original German-Perry Rhodan. With 3 new books each month, this kept us busy. After that we "graduated" to the SFF section at the area department stores. Among those that were our favorites were...

Isaac Asimov-the Foundation series, Robot series(which were linked together in a later book)
Frank Herbert-Dune series.
Poul Anderson-Dominic Flandry, Van Rijn, et. al.
Gordon Dickson-Dorsai series.
Roger Zelazny-Amber series, Doorways in the Sand, etc.
Michael Moorcock-Elric

In the last 10 years, I drifted away from SFF and into Christian fiction and non-fiction. Part of the reason that I quit reading SFF was because I could not find any in the Christian fiction section. Edenstar Books and Games is one of the newer sites that help solve that problem. We need to lift them up in prayer so that they can continue their ministry.

What authors/books have led you to this blog tour?

Please visit the following blog tour(blog tourists?) sites learn more.

Jackie Castle; Valerie Comer; Bryan Davis; Beth Goddard; Leathel Grody; Elliot Hanowski; Katie Hart; Sherrie Hibbs; Sharon Hinck; Jason Joyner; Tina Kulesa; Kevin Lucia; Rachel Marks; Shannon McNear; Rebecca LuElla Miller; Cheryl Russel; Mirtika Schultz ; Stuart Stockton; Steve Trower; Speculative Faith;Joleen Howell

National Talk Like a Pirate Day

Ahoy, today is National Talk Like a Pirate Day, gar!
Aye, join in on the fun by checkin' out the followin' sites.

[Click Har] t' learn your Pirate name through a scientific quiz.

[Click Har] for a great site about Pirates.

[Click Har]t'check out the pirate series by M. L. Tyndall

Monday, September 18, 2006

CSFF September Blog Tour-Edenstar Books and Games Part 1

Edenstar Books and Games was started in 2003 by Bill and Cheryl Bader to help Christians find science fiction and fantasy books that they could read. Their catalog is now over 600 items long.
In addition to listing books and games, they have also included some reviews and interviews with various authors. It is a very user-friendly site.
Please take the time to read the interviews, etc that the other members of the tour have posted. Then join me back here tomorrow for my thoughts on Christian science fiction and fantasy. What falls into this catagory? Let me know your thoughts.

Friday, September 15, 2006

CFBA Tour-Taylor Field Interview(Part 2)

Welcome back for the second part of the Taylor Field interview. Taylor is the author of the excellent Squat.
SPOILER ALERT WARNING!!!!!! The following questions contain spoilers for the novel Squat.
The Bedford Review(TBR): Bonehead was doing the work of God(whether or not he realized it). Was he an angel?
Taylor Field(TF): I would go back to Unc's favorite Bible verse, which Squid mentions in his last conversation with Rachel.
TBR: I thought that it was a good decision not to reveal if Squid accepted Jesus. This rings true to life. Have you had many comments on this?
TF: Just a few. My hope was that people would reflect on the very question you have raised. Thanks for your thoughts.
TBR: Do you read fiction(Christian or secular)? If so, who are your favorite authors? Favorite books?
TF: Anna Karinina by Tolstoy and Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain.
TBR: And the big question that everyone wants to know...can we expect more fiction novels from Taylor Fields?
TF: I have the rough draft of a far-out novel about the future, kind of a Brave New World from a faith perspective. I wrote it on the Isle of Patmos during my study leave. It seemed a good time and place for me to look ahead instead of looking backward. My book agent said that after Squat, this new novel might give the reader whip-lash. I have in my head a second novel about Squid and Unc, twenty years after the day in the first novel, but I haven't written it down yet.
Thank you to Taylor Field for taking the time to answer my questions. I know that I will be eagerly looking forward to your next book.
Coming next week is a review of the Christian noir book Seventy Times Seven by Brandt Dodson.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

CFBA Tour - Taylor Field Interview(Part 1)

Day 2 of the Christian Fiction Blog Alliance tour for Taylor Field's Squat brings us to the first half of my interview with the author. Many thanks to Taylor for taking the time to answer my questions and to David Woodard, of Broadman&Holman Publishing, for his help.

The Bedford Review(TBR): Is Jason's character based on you and your experiences when you first went to the city?

Taylor Field(TF): My experience was different than Jason's, but I have struggled with some of the same issues he is struggling with.

TBR: Unc states many different theories to help make Jason think. From your experience, do you believe that the church has contributed to this culture?

TF: I believe that many actions have unintended consequences. Many of our deeds as individuals and as churches produce results we did not expect. These issues can be especially intense when addiction is involved, and I wanted this novel to come at some of those problems from a different perspective. I remember hearing a song by the songwriter David Wilcox entitled "Guilty Either Way." The songwriter felt guilty if he helped his alcoholic friend, and he felt guilty if he didn't help him. I wanted to show Jason struggling with some of the problems many of us struggle with in terms of the help we provide and the motives behind our help.On another level, a case could be made, for example, that in the 1930's cheap food and cheap housing in the Bowery contributed to attracting a particular group of people to its neighborhood. Did free food from churches and free housing in squats attract a certain kind of person to the Lower East Side in the 1980's? I was interested in the fact that few Christian providers in the area wanted to talk about such a possibility in this neighborhood at the time. However, my hope was that the novel could convey heartache of some of these problems from some other angles besides the sociological.

TBR: What impact has Graffiti Ministries had on the homeless situation?

TF: I don't think we can really evaluate the long-term effects. In some way or other, the ministry reaches out to over ten thousand people a year. However, at this point in my life, I see the truth in the scripture which says "people cannot see the scope of God's work from beginning to the end" (Ecclesiastes 3:11). I do believe that Jesus has instructed us on how to give a party (Luke 14:13). I hope we at Graffiti continue to say, "Yes, Lord, we follow your instructions." It is certainly true, in my opinion, that the bigger the city, the more personal we need to become.

TBR: What do your sons think of the mission field you are involved in?

TF: This mission was and still is their family. I find it fascinating that they both left the city to go to school and they are both business majors. I've never taken a business course in my life.

The second part of this interview will be posted tomorrow. Make sure you join us because Taylor will let us in on his future writing projects.

To learn more about the author and this book, follow this link.
Please take the time to visit the other blogs that are participating in the tour.
Alison at A Little Creative LicenseAmber at Amber MillerBonnie at Bonnie WritesBrandilyn at Forensics and FaithCaleb at Reviews Plus+Camy at Camy TangCheryl at Unseen WorldsChris at Chris Wells: Learning CurveChris at So Much Stuff I Can't RecallChristy at Christy's Book BlogDaniel at Daniel I. WeaverDave at Curmudgeon's RantDave at Stupid Human TricksDebbie at On Considering InconveniencesDebra at Soul ReflectionsDee at Christian FictionDineen at Kittens Come From EggsErnie at Writing: My Adventures In WordsGeorgiana at Georgiana DGina at Refreshment In RefugeJim T. at The Well-Dressed BranchJaime at Just a Little Something To Read Before BillsJason at Spoiled For The OrdinaryJennifer at UnwrittenJerome at Christian Political FictionJoe at Words on a PageJoleen at faithfictionKathleen at Reading, Writing and What Else is There?Katie at Christian NovelsKelly at A Disciple's StepsKelly at Scrambled DregsKevin H. at Collected MiscellanyKevin L. at The Bookshelf ReviewLaShaunda at See Ya On The NetLauren at Wren ReviewsLinda at Musings From The WindowsillLisa at Author IntrusionMarcia at Writer-leeMarilynn at Rhythms of GraceMimi at Mimi's Pixie CornerMichael at gritty and brightMichelle at Just A MinuteNessie at Illuminating FictionRebecca at A Christian Worldview of FictionRuth at Booktalk & more...Sean at Sean SlagleShanna at Intertextual MeSue at Never Ceese - A Spiritual FantasySusan at Susan May WarrenTina at Scraps of MeTony at TLHinesTricia at It's Real LifeTy at Cookie MixValerie at In My Little WorldVicki at The Savvy Christian WriterVirginia at Crazy about Coffee

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

CFBA Tour - Squat by Taylor Field

Welcome to the Christian Fiction Blog Alliance Tour for Squat by Taylor Field.
Click here to find my review of Squat.
Next, rush out and buy your own copy. You will want to read this and then pass it on to your friends. Everyone who reads this book will be blessed with the ability to look at everyone as Jesus would look at them. To learn more about the author, book, and ministry follow this link.
My interview with Taylor Field will appear during the next 2 days. Thank you to Taylor for taking the time to answer my questions. I also want to thank David Woodard for being my contact with the author.
Thursday's questions will focus on characters and ministry. Friday will be a look at Taylor's favorite books and his plans for future novels.
Please take the time to visit the other blogs(listed below) in the tour.
Alison at A Little Creative LicenseAmber at Amber MillerBonnie at Bonnie WritesBrandilyn at Forensics and FaithCaleb at Reviews Plus+Camy at Camy TangCheryl at Unseen WorldsChris at Chris Wells: Learning CurveChris at So Much Stuff I Can't RecallChristy at Christy's Book BlogDaniel at Daniel I. WeaverDave at Curmudgeon's RantDave at Stupid Human TricksDebbie at On Considering InconveniencesDebra at Soul ReflectionsDee at Christian FictionDineen at Kittens Come From EggsErnie at Writing: My Adventures In WordsGeorgiana at Georgiana DGina at Refreshment In RefugeJim T. at The Well-Dressed BranchJaime at Just a Little Something To Read Before BillsJason at Spoiled For The OrdinaryJennifer at UnwrittenJerome at Christian Political FictionJim B. at The Bedford ReviewJoe at Words on a PageJoleen at faithfictionKathleen at Reading, Writing and What Else is There?Katie at Christian NovelsKelly at A Disciple's StepsKelly at Scrambled DregsKevin H. at Collected MiscellanyKevin L. at The Bookshelf ReviewLaShaunda at See Ya On The NetLauren at Wren ReviewsLinda at Musings From The WindowsillLisa at Author IntrusionMarcia at Writer-leeMarilynn at Rhythms of GraceMimi at Mimi's Pixie CornerMichael at gritty and brightMichelle at Just A MinuteNessie at Illuminating FictionRebecca at A Christian Worldview of FictionRuth at Booktalk & more...Sean at Sean SlagleShanna at Intertextual MeSue at Never Ceese - A Spiritual FantasySusan at Susan May WarrenTina at Scraps of MeTony at TLHinesTricia at It's Real LifeTy at Cookie MixValerie at In My Little WorldVicki at The Savvy Christian WriterVirginia at Crazy about Coffee

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

The Lazarus Trap by Davis Bunn

From my bookshelf comes this thriller from 2005. It is the first book by Davis Bunn that I have read.

This is a book length parable. Before we accept Jesus, our lives are full of sin. When we become "born again" we get to start over. Our previous life was foolish and filled with the mistakes we made. A new leaf is turned over. We begin the new life that Jesus has for us. Davis Bunn has written a modern parable that reflects this change in life.

Dying may be the chance of a lifetime. A man wakes up in a jail cell, bleeding from his head, and can't remember anything. Not even his name.

Slowly his memory returns. His name is Val Haines. The world thinks he is dead. Framed for murder and embezzlement, he is goes on the run. Val discovers that he was not a very nice guy. His arch rival managed to steel his wife and daughter, his job, and made it look like Val was a crook. With only a few personal belongings and a large amount of cash, Val has a decision to make. Does he try to get his life back or make a new life for himself? The tension mounts as his rival finds out that Val survived the explosion that was meant to kill him. He starts hunting down Val, knowing that he is the only one who can expose the truth.

Davis Bunn crafted an exciting thriller that will keep you on edge until the final scene.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Coming This Week

Wednesday through Friday will see a blog tour focused on Taylor Field's Squat. The author has been gracious enough to allow me to do a short interview with him. If you are a fan of his, you will want to be here Friday to read about his future writing plans. Don't miss it.

Some of the older books that I will be posting reviews of...
Prophet by Frank Peretti
The Visitation by Frank Peretti
The Lazarus Trap by Davis Bunn
The Revolt by S. Wise Bauer
Wormwood by G. P. Taylor
Blinded by Darkness(this one is a novella) by Tony Burton

New books that will be reviewed include...
The Election by Jerome Teel
Like Dandelion Wind by Karen Kingsbury
Violet Dawn by Brandilyn Collins
Seventy Times Seven by Brandt Dodson
Violette Between by Alison Strobel
Coldwater Revival by Nancy Jo Jenkins
Blind Dates can be Murder by Mindy Starns Clark
Dark Hour by Ginger Garrett
The Last Ten Percent by Michelle Mickinney Hammond
The Cubicle Next Door by Siri L. Mitchell
Something That Lasts by James David Jordan

I thank God for the support I have received from the various contacts I made through the internet. All the authors have been very helpful. Both the Christian Fiction Blog Alliance and FIRST have been great. I look forward to working with them in the future.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Saint(A Graphic Introduction) by Ted Dekker

Ted Dekker has started the Forest Guard. This is a volunteer group to help promote his works. When my son joined up, he received Saint: A Graphic Introduction.
From what I can tell, this is the opening of Ted's new book Saint . If this story is any indication, Saint will be one of his best. This teaser presents an intense introduction that will have you running to your local bookstore to get in line for the novel. Do not miss this one.
I think that the comic is a great way to spread the word. Mike S. Miller(and his friends at Alias Comics) has captured the feel of a Dekker book. This is a top notch package.

Friday, September 01, 2006

FIRST Day Tour: Squat by Taylor Field

It's September 1st so it is time for another FIRST Day Blog Tour. The first of each month, we post the first chapter of a new book. This month's featured author is Taylor Field.
Taylor Field has worked since 1986 in the inner city of New York where he is pastor of East Seventh Baptist Church/Graffiti Community Ministries. He holds a M.Div. from Princeton and Ph.D. from Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary. Among his previous books is the award-winning Mercy Streets. Field and his family live in New York, New York.
If you want to know more, please visit The SQUAT Website!
To order Squat, click HERE. It goes on sale Sept. 1.
Enjoy this first chapter. Squat is one of my favorite books of the year.
Chapter 1
Calmly, the girl on the sofa reached out and pulled up a flap of skin on the little boy’s thin arm. It could have been a gesture of affection. But then she pinched the skin and twisted it. Hard.
“Ouch!” He whipped his pencil in front of her face once, like a club, and then cracked it on her forehead. He pulled the pencil back, ready to strike her again, crouching against the back of the couch like a cornered weasel.
The little girl wrinkled up her round freckled face but did not cry out. She looked toward her mom, who was talking to the receptionist. The boy’s mom, seated across the room, didn’t look up. She continued to look through the pages of her magazine, snapping each page like a whip.
“You could have put my eye out!” the freckled girl hissed.
The boy rubbed the two blue marks on his arm. He looked her steadily in the eyes and growled.
His mom called him over. “Come sit by me, honey, and stop making so much noise.” She patted his hair down in the back and smiled at him. She wore lots of eyeliner and widened her eyes to make even sitting in a waiting room seem like an adventure. “You’re such a big man, now,” she had said this morning as she combed his hair and helped him put on his best shirt. She was humming “Getting to Know You” even though her voice quivered just a little. She had put a lot of extra perfume and sprays on this morning. She smelled like the women’s aisle in a drugstore.
Once the little girl’s mom finished with the receptionist and returned to the sofa, the little girl started crying with one soft, unending whine.
The boy rolled his eyes and looked for a book to bury his head in.
“What’s wrong, honey?” the mom asked as she swept her little girl up.
“That boy hit me.”
A stuffy silence reigned in the waiting room except for the sound of the bubbles in the aquarium above the magazine table. The girl’s mother glared at the boy and then at his mother. The boy picked up a children’s book with some torn pages and began studying it seriously. His mom hadn’t been listening to the girl. She was still snapping through the magazine’s pages.
Finally, she threw it down with disgust and looked at her watch again. “I’m going outside to smoke a cigarette, honey,” she said, oblivious to the stares of the mother and daughter across the room. She stood up, adjusted her dress with an efficient tug, and stepped outside the office. They gaped at her departure with their mouths open, like two goldfish.
The aquarium continued to gurgle. In the following silence, the little boy became dramatically interested in the book in front of him. It had been pawed over by a lot of children waiting in this doctor’s office, and the first few pages had been torn out. The pages that remained had rounded corners and smudges along the edges. The little boy squinted his eyes in exaggerated concentration. He preferred the smudged pictures to the astonished fish eyes of the adult across the room.
He studied a picture of a man who wore a robe down to his ankles. He had a beard and a sad look in his eyes. In front of him was a young man with no beard, lying on a stone with his hands tied. The man with a beard had a knife in his hand and had his hand raised high up as if he were going to stab the boy. Out of a cloud an angel was reaching out to grab the hand of the man. The angel hadn’t touched the man yet, but his hand was getting close. The man didn’t yet know that the angel was there.
The boy forgot about the girl and her mother. The color of the man’s robe was so deep and blue. The angel’s wings were more gold than his mother’s best bracelet. The boy on the stone had a robe that was silvery-white like clouds. The sun in the background was redder than any sun he had ever seen. It was as red as a hot dog. The little boy felt he was swimming in this world of rich colors and robes, a sleepy world tempered by the sound of the bubbles in the doctor’s aquarium. The boy put his finger above the picture book, to the right of the book, and then to the left of the book. “One, two, three. One, two, three. One, two, three,” he whispered to himself, touching each of the three points three times.
His mom opened the door and came back in. The summer heat from outside reached in to bathe him in warmth. She shut the door with exasperation. She sat down beside him, reeking of cigarette smoke and hair spray. She adjusted his collar and gave him a nervous smile. “You’re such a big man now,” she said and patted his hair again.
The boy pointed to the man in the robe in the picture. “Mom, is that boy that man’s son?”
“I don’t know, honey.” She picked up the same magazine again and started ripping through it at lightning speed.
“What’s he doing with the knife, Mom?”
His mom gave a half smile and looked at the picture absentmindedly. “He’s protecting his boy from someone who might hurt him. Stay still, honey. Why is the doctor making us wait so long? If he doesn’t see us by twelve, we’ll have to leave. He ought to pay us for making us wait.”
The boy studied the picture again.
“That’s Abraham, stupid,” the little girl stage-whispered from across the room.
The boy looked at her and scowled. “Yeah, like you know.”
She stuck her tongue out at him and turned it upside down.
His mom backhanded a few more pages, put the magazine down, and looked him in the eyes. She beamed. “Honey, I have a surprise for you. I’ve been waiting to tell you, and I’ve been looking for the right moment. I guess no moment is really the right moment. At 12:15 today we are going to see Sammy again. He’s come back. He’ll be waiting for us at our place. Isn’t that exciting? Everything will be different. You’ll be nice to him, won’t you? Honey, don’t bite your thumbs, you’ll make them bleed again.”
The boy wouldn’t look at his mom. He stared down at the picture of the man with the knife. Then he looked up at the clock above the receptionist. The little hand was close to the twelve and the big hand was on the eight. He turned the page of the book and another page was torn out. The next page after the torn one had a picture of a man sleeping with his head on a rock. He didn’t have a beard and he looked scared. His robe was a dull gray and looked dirty, but in the background, angels were coming up and down out of the sky on a shimmering stairway.
“I want to camp out on my own like this guy does, away from everybody, away from the house,” he told his mom.
“That’s sweet, honey,” she said as she finished the magazine again and looked at her watch.
The little boy’s lips moved as he carefully scrutinized the words beneath the picture of the man camping out. His eyes got wider. He traced a word with his finger. He almost forgot where he was. “I want to be like this guy,” he whispered.
A man in a suit breezed in and talked to the receptionist. Immediately his mom sat up straighter. The man finished with the receptionist and turned around and looked for a seat. His mom widened her eyes and smiled at the man. He smiled back.
The next page of the book was also torn out. On the following page was the best picture of all. A youth was wearing a beautiful robe with many different stripes of colors. He seemed so happy and looked as though nothing bad would ever happen to him. A man with a white beard was smiling next to him in the picture. The boy stared at the colors in the book for a long time. If he focused his eyes beyond the page, the colors blurred together like rainbow ice cream. Somehow looking at it kept his stomach from hurting so badly.
“Mom, I want a coat like this one.”
His mom looked at the picture for a moment. Her tone sounded much more patient with him now that the new man was in the waiting room. “Everybody wants a coat like that, honey. You’ll get yours one day.”
The little girl stretched her freckled face up as high as she could so she could see the picture. “That’s Joseph, you toad,” she said hoarsely from across the room. “Don’t you ever go to church?”
Her mother pulled her back close to her lap and said, “Hush.”
The boy looked at the clock. The big hand was on the nine. “Mom, let’s just stay here. It’s nice and cool and our air conditioner doesn’t work at home. I like looking at the books here. I like the fish. Let’s just stay here and not go back home. It’s too hot there.”
His mom looked at her watch again. “Why are your hands so clammy, sweetie? You’re making the book wet. What’s wrong with you? Stop biting your thumb or you’ll make it bleed right before we see the doctor. Do you want to get me into even more trouble?” She smiled at the man as she got up and walked past him to the receptionist. “Could you tell me how much longer it will be until we can see the doctor? I have another urgent appointment.” She conferred with the receptionist for a few minutes in hushed tones.
The boy found an envelope in the back of the book with all the colorful pictures. It had bright green writing on it and a red border. The envelope said you could send off for more books with other stories. The boy looked up at the little girl across the room. She was yanking on her mother’s sleeve and whispering something in her ear. She was probably talking about the boy’s mom. While making sure the girl was still looking at her own mom, he carefully folded the envelope once and put it in his jean pocket.
The girl was staring insolently at him again. He wanted to do something to the book. He wanted to add a character to protect the boy from the father with the knife. He reached in his other pocket and pulled out half a red crayon. He wanted to draw a picture in the book. He wanted to put someone in there to help that angel keep that boy from getting cut, but he knew that the girl on the opposite couch would never let him get away with drawing in the book. He pulled out his stack of baseball cards as she continued to stare. He carried only Yankees. He pulled his prize Reggie Jackson card from the stack and began to place it in the book but decided against it. He pulled out a relief pitcher, Dick Tidrow. He would be a good enough guard to help the angel. Then he put the card carefully in the page where the sad man was dressed in the long robe and holding the knife. He made sure that the edge of the card was exactly parallel to the edge of the book. He knew the girl was watching him. He closed the book very slowly and with great respect. Very quietly, with just one finger, he touched three sides of the book again, three times. “One, two, three. One, two, three. One, two, three,” he said under his breath. He put the book down gently on the table and then put both hands on his stomach and doubled over until his head touched his knees. A groan came out of him before he knew it.
The little girl sneered at him, “You’re nuts!” Her mom held her closer and made a shushing sound.
The boy looked at the clock again as his mom plopped down on the sofa with a snort. The big hand was already past the eleven. “Mom, let’s stay here. We’ve already waited a long time. Let’s stay.”
“Straighten up, sweetie. Why are you bent over? Everything is going to be fine. Soon we will see Sammy and everything will be different. It won’t be like last time. You’ll see. Everything will be fine.” She looked at her watch again then got up to talk to the receptionist. She seemed to be talking faster and faster. Finally she marched back to her son and said firmly, “We’re going now. We’ll have to come back another day. Let’s go, honey. Straighten up and stop frowning.”
She grabbed his hand, but he grabbed the arm of the sofa with his other hand. The arm of the sofa had padding on the top, but a metal support on the side. It was just right for grabbing. She pulled and his knuckles whitened. “Come on, sweetie, don’t be silly.” She smiled at the man and the other mother. She was petite and could not get her son to loosen his grip. He was small for an eleven-year-old, but his grasp was almost as strong as his mother’s. She reached to loosen his grip with her hand, but he simply grabbed the arm of the sofa with his other hand.
She smiled sweetly to the man and said, “Would you mind helping me, please?”
He hesitated, got up awkwardly, and began to loosen the grip of the other hand. The aquarium began to rumble like a volcano, and both the receptionist and the other mother stood up. The boy was stretched out like a cartoon as the mother pulled and the man pried his fingers from the sofa. In the middle of the hubbub, the little girl came up to hold his torso, as if to protect him from falling. Where her mother couldn’t see, she grabbed the sensitive skin next to his ribs and pulled and twisted at the same time as hard as she could.
In the tussle, the book with the men in robes fell to the floor and the little girl slipped on it. The baseball card slid underneath the sofa. The receptionist picked up the phone to call someone. The other mother grabbed for her daughter. The little boy squealed a high squeal; he was a desperate guinea pig grabbed by many hands.
Finally, the man got both hands loose, and his mom dragged him by the torso and opened the door. He clutched at the frame of the door but couldn’t hold on. By that time, some people in white coats came out with the receptionist and shouted as his mom dragged him out to the steaming parking lot. His mother roared back at them with a curse. He cried and whimpered for help as he got one last glimpse of the girl looking out at him from the waiting room window. She stood with her hands on her hips and her tongue sticking out.
Until he ran away from home, a number of years later, the little boy never went back to a doctor.