It is time to play a Wild Card! Every now and then, a book that I have chosen to read is going to pop up as a FIRST Wild Card Tour. Get dealt into the game! (Just click the button!) Wild Card Tours feature an author and his/her book's FIRST chapter!
You never know when I might play a wild card on you!
and the book:
Tyndale House Publishers (July 22, 2008)
JERRY B. JENKINS'S writing has appeared in Time, Reader's Digest, and Christianity Today, Guideposts, and dozens of other periodicals. He is an award-winning novelist with more than 70 million books sold, including 20 New York Times bestsellers (seven that debuted number one). Author of Left Behind, he has been featured on the cover of Newsweek magazine.
Jerry owns both the Christian Writers Guild and Jenkins Entertainment - a filmmaking company in Los Angeles.
He serves as chairman of the board of Trustees for the Moody Bible Institute of Chicago, and he and his wife Dianna live in Colorado.
Visit the author's website.
List Price: $24.99
Hardcover: 558 pages
Publisher: Tyndale House Publishers (July 22, 2008)
AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:
With the man’s first step, the others on the Row began a slow tapping on their cell doors.
The tiny procession reached the end of the pod, and the rest of the way through security and all the way to the death chamber was lined on either side with corrections officers shoulder to shoulder, feet spread, hands clasped behind their backs, heads lowered. As the condemned reached them, each raised his head, snapped to attention, arms at his sides, feet together.
What a tribute, he thought. Who would ever have predicted this for one who had, for so much of his life, been such a bad, bad man?
October, seventeen years earlier
Touhy Trailer Park
Brady Wayne Darby clapped his little brother on the rear. “Petey, time to get up, bud. We got no water pressure, so . . .”
“There’s a trickle, so give yourself a sponge bath.”
“Ma already gone?”
“Yeah. Now come on. Don’t be late.”
At sixteen, Brady was twice Peter’s age and hated being the man of the house—or at least of the trailer. But if no one else was going to keep an eye on his little brother, he had to. It was bad enough Brady’s bus came twenty minutes before Peter’s and the kid had to be home alone. Brady poured the boy a bowl of cereal and called through the bathroom door, “No dressing like a hoodlum today, hear?”
“Why’s it all right for you and not for me?” “Whatever.”
“Straight home after school. I got practice, so I’ll see ya for dinner.”
“Ma gonna be here?”
“She doesn’t report to me. Just keep your distance till I get home.”
Brady rummaged for cigarettes, finally finding five usable butts in one of the ashtrays. He quickly smoked two down to their filters, tearing open the remaining three and dumping the tobacco in his shirt pocket. Desperately trying to quit so he could stay on the football team, Brady couldn’t be seen with the other smokers across the road from the school, so he had resorted to sniffing his pocket throughout the day. If he couldn’t cop a smoke from a friend after last class and find a secluded place to light up, he was so jittery at practice he could hardly stand still.
Brady grabbed his books and slung his black leather jacket over his shoulder as he left the trailer, finding the asphalt already steaming in the sun. Others from the trailer park waiting for the bus made him feel as if he were seeing his own reflection. Guys and girls dressed virtually the same, black from head to toe except for white shirts and blouses. Guys had their hair slicked back, sideburns grown retro, high-collared shirts tucked into skintight pants over pointy-toed shoes. Oversize wallets, most likely as empty as Brady’s, protruded from back pockets and were attached to belt loops by imitation silver or gold chains.
So they were decades behind the times, even for rebels. Brady—an obsessive movie watcher—was a James Dean fan and dressed how he wanted, and the rest copied him. One snob called them rebels without a clue.
Brady scowled and narrowed his eyes, nodding a greeting. The fat girl with the bad face, whom Brady had unceremoniously dumped more than a year ago after he had gotten to know her better than he should have in the backseat of a friend’s car, sneered as she cradled her gigantic purse to her chest. “Still trying to play jock?”
Brady looked away. “Leave it alone, Agatha.”
“More like a preppy,” one of the guys said, reaching to flick Brady’s schoolbooks.
“You definitely don’t want to start with me,” Brady said, glaring and calling him the foulest name he could think of. The kid quickly backed off.
Brady knew he looked strange carrying schoolbooks. But the coach kept track.
The trailer park was the last stop on the route, and the yellow barge soon drifted in, crammed with suburbia’s finest: jocks, preppies, and nerds—every last one younger than Brady. No other self-respecting kid with a driver’s license rode the bus.
In a life of endless days of open-fly humiliation, this boarding ritual was the most painful. Brady took it upon himself to lead the group. They could hide behind him and each other, avoiding the squints and stares and held noses as they slowly made their way down the aisle looking, usually in vain, for someone to slide over far enough to allow one cheek on the seat for the ride to school.
“. . . brewery . . .”
“. . . smokehouse . . .”
“. . . B.O. . . .”
Brady neither looked nor waited. His daily goal was to find the most resolute rich kid and make him move. Today he stared down at the short-cropped blond hair of a boy who had been trying to hide a smile while pretending to study. Brady pressed his knee against him and growled, “Move in, frosh.”
“I’m a sophomore,” the kid huffed as he made room.
On the way home, Brady would ride the activities bus. There he would for sure be the only one of his type, but football earned him his place among the jocks, cheerleaders, thespians, and assorted club members. Wide-eyed at first, they seemed to have grudgingly accepted him, though they still clearly saw the trailer park as a novelty. One evening as he trudged from the bus, Brady had been sure everyone was watching. He turned quickly, only to be proven right, and felt face-slapped. At least the trailer park was the first stop at the end of the day. 11 a.m.
First Community Church
Reverend Thomas Carey knew he would not be getting the job when the head of the pastoral search committee—a youngish man with thick, dark hair—dismissed the others and asked Grace Carey if she wouldn’t mind waiting for her husband in the car.
“Oh, not at all,” she said, but Thomas interrupted.
“Anything you say to me, you can say to her.”
The man put a hand on Thomas’s shoulder and spoke softly. “Of course, you’re free to share anything you wish with your spouse, Reverend, but why don’t you decide after you hear me out?”
Grace assured Thomas it was all right and retreated from the sanctuary.
“You tell her everything?” the man said.
“Of course. She’s my—”
“She knows we saw you at your request, not ours, and that we didn’t feel you warranted a visit to hear you preach?”
Thomas Carey pressed his lips together. Then, “I appreciate your meeting with us today.”
The committee chairman pointed to a pew and leaned against another as Thomas sat. “I need to do you a favor and be frank with you, Reverend. I can tell you right now this is not going to go your way. In fact, we’re not going to bother with a vote.”
“That doesn’t sound fair.”
“Please,” Dark Hair said. “I know these people, and if I may be blunt, you rank last on the list of six we’ve already interviewed.”
“Shouldn’t you poll the others on their—?”
“I’m sorry, but you have a three-year Bible college diploma, no real degree, no seminary training. You’re, what, in your midforties?”
“I’m forty-six, yes.”
“Sir, I’ve got to tell you, I’m not surprised that your résumé consists of eight churches in twenty-two years—the largest fewer than 150 members. Have you ever asked yourself why?”
“Why you’ve never been successful, never advanced, never landed a church like ours . . .”
“Surely you don’t equate success with numbers.”
“Reverend Carey, I’m just trying to help. You and your sweet wife come in here, I assume trying to put your best foot forward, yet you look and dress ten years older than you are, and your hair is styled like a 1940s matinee idol.”
Dark Hair extended his hand. “I want to sincerely thank you for your time today. Please pass along my best wishes to your wife. And be assured I meant no disrespect. If it’s of any help, I’m aware of several small churches looking for pastors.”
Thomas stood slowly and buttoned his sport jacket. “I appreciate your frankness; I really do. Any idea how I might qualify for a bigger work? I don’t want to leave the ministry, but our only child is in her second year of law school at Emory, and—”
“When there are many Christian colleges that would give a minister huge discounts?”
“I’m afraid she would be neither interested in nor qualified for a Christian school just now.”
“I see. Well, I’m sorry. But the fact is, you are what you are. None of your references called you a gifted preacher, despite assuring us you’re a wonderful man of God. If you cannot abide your current station, perhaps the secular marketplace is an option.”
Head Football Coach’s Office
Forest View High School
Brady hadn’t even thoroughly dried after his shower. Now he sat in Coach Roberts’s cramped space with his stuff on his lap, waiting for the beefy man. Every player was listed on a poster on the wall, his place on the depth chart and his grade in every class there for all to see. Brady knew what was coming. He should have just skulked out to the bus and, by ignoring the coach’s summons, announced his quitting before being cut.
But he knew the drill. Never give up. Never say die. Keep your head up. Look eager, willing.
Finally Roberts barreled in, dropping heavily into a squeaky chair. “I gotta ask you, Darby: what’re you doing here?”
“You asked me to come see you—”
“I mean what’re you doing trying to play football? You’re a shop kid, ain’t ya? You didn’t come out as a frosh or a soph. I smell smoke all over you.”
“I quit, Coach! I know the rules.”
“We’re barely a month into the year, and you’re makin’ Ds in every class. You’re fourth-string quarterback, and entertaining as it is for everybody else to watch you racing all over the practice field on every play, we both know you’re never gonna see game time. Now, really, what’re you doing?”
“Just trying to learn, to make it.”
Brady couldn’t tell him he was looking for something, anything, to get him out of the trailer park and closer to the kids he had despised for so long. They seemed to have everything handed to them: clothes, cars, girls, college, futures. No, he wasn’t ready to dress differently; he took enough heat from his friends just for carrying books and playing football.
“Listen, your teachers, even the ones outside of industrial arts, tell me you’re not stupid. You’re a good reader, sometimes have something to say. But you don’t test well, rarely do your homework. What’s the deal?”
Brady shrugged. “It’s just my ma and my brother and me.”
“Hey, we’ve all got problems, Darby.”
Do we? Really? “Like I said, I quit smoking, and I’m trying to get my grades up.”
“Look, I want to see you succeed, but frankly you’re a distraction here. I rarely cut anybody willing to practice and ride the bench—”
“Which I am.”
“Yeah, but this isn’t working, and I don’t want to waste any more of your time.”
“Don’t worry about wasting my—”
“Or mine. Or my coaches’. If you’re determined to get involved in some extracurricular stuff, there’s all kinds of other—”
Coach Roberts looked at his watch. “Well, what do you like to do?”
“Don’t we all? But is it a passion for you?”
“You have no idea.”
“You want to be an actor someday? study theater?”
Brady hesitated. “Never thought of that, but yeah, that would be too good to be true.”
“Now see, with that attitude, you’ll never get anywhere. If you want to try that, try it! Talk to Nabertowitz, the theater guy. See if there’s a club or a play or something.”
“There’s rumors about him.”
“Do yourself a favor and keep your mouth shut about that. Those artsy people can be a little flamboyant, but the guy’s got a wife and kids, so don’t be jumping to conclusions, and you’ll stay out of trouble.”
Brady shrugged. “I’d be as new there as I was here.”
“Oh, I expect you’d be a sight among that crowd, though there’s all kinds of behind-the-scenes stuff I’ll bet you could do. But I need to tell you, football is not your thing.”