“What Happens Next? A Life’s True Tale” (An excerpt)

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Like a picture that is worth a thousand words, it’s my thinking that an excerpt from an author’s book can reveal enough pro and/or con for a reader to determine whether or not he/she wants to read further. So, here’s an excerpt from my newest book, “What Happens Next? A Life’s True Tale,” a non-fiction sketch of my life. It is a relatively short book which covers my Southern Baptist roots, the state of my faith, and some not so savory confessions of how I have lived my life. The book might very well be deserving of any label one wishes to put on it, but it is disgustingly honest and true.

Here is an excerpt from the Early Adult section of the book…

What Happens Next - A Life's True Tale

The couple resides in a second floor apartment on a lovely tree-lined street in Williamsport. It is Sunday afternoon, and Steven Ray is sleeping in his crib just off the living room. The wife is ironing. The husband is listening to classical music and day dreaming, idly chatting time to time with his wife. It is a soft afternoon somewhere between bliss and boredom.

Somehow, the conversation turns to the first month of their marriage when the wife left Washington, D. C. for Williamsport to await her husband’s Navy discharge. The wife is telling him about an affair she had with an old high school boyfriend during that month she was away. It is an attempt to purge herself of the guilt of that not so long ago tryst. The wife is wrought with the pain of the revelation but she must be done with her guilt.

The man’s world suddenly caves in on him and he is lost in the frenzied twittering quake of his neuronal wiring. The man is immobilized by the wife’s confession, hardly able to move and speak. He is mindful that the time frame of his wife’s unfaithfulness happens to coincide with the birth date of Steven Ray and this fact adds to the anxious frenzy within his mind.

Hardly able to breathe, the distressed man leaves the apartment and his sobbing wife. He wanders to houses of in-laws and leaves abruptly, leaving them to ponder his dazed, pained expressions. He moves mechanically as though willed to robotic, mindless action. He drives aimlessly and finally sits on a bench in a park, trying to get his brain to work, trying to figure out what he must do.

The thoughts tumble down to him: ‘Is he my son? Should there be a blood test? Do I leave? Do I stay? Where do I go? What do I do?’ He finds himself opening his memory pages to the feelings he has when his father beats his mother. It is that same kind of feeling of helplessness and hopelessness.

The man feels lost like that little boy of yesterday.

He returns to the second floor apartment. His wife’s eyes are red and swollen from her crying and she is so very sorry. For whatever reason, baby in the crib, the honesty of her confession, her sobbing wish for forgiveness, or the simple expediency of the moment, the man forgives his wife and stays. He simply finds it easier to capitulate, to be done with it, than to continue with the aberrations of his mind. It seems he is an emotional cripple, unable to handle the traumatic matters that enter his space. It is his wont to place the blame for his inability to handle stress on his mobile and uncertain past. Is it time for the shrink’s sofa? No, he will not give in to that.

Strangely, life is fairly good for the couple until a Sunday afternoon gathering at Lycoming Creek’s edge in Montoursville. It is a peaceful spot where families gather, pull their cars to the water’s edge for washing, allow their children to wade in the shallow waters, have their picnic lunches. It is a wide creek, and the mother-in-law’s cabin sets among the trees some hundred yards across from where the families, cars, and kids are gathered.

A beautiful day is about to get very ugly…

That dreadful ill fated Sunday afternoon begins with all the family oriented activities the man would want. He drinks beer with his men in-laws. The men are gathering, lounging outside on soft comfortable chairs, looking across the creek at the families on the other side of the river. He listens to the men tell of their different job experiences and participates with his occasional anecdote laced with humor.

The sun shines in a near cloudless sky, and the women bring their plates of goodies out and spread them on the picnic table for the men to prepare and eat at their leisure. It is the sort of day the man has always factored into his vision of family purpose and unity. He sits with baby Steven on his lap, alternating his adult talk with baby talk.

The man’s wife sees across the creek a family she knows, takes baby Steven from his lap, and walks through the shallow water to the other side. The man watches as the wife sweetly engages a young couple in conversation there at water’s edge. A peculiar sensation hits him and at once he somehow knows that his wife is talking to the man who could be the father of his son.

The man sits, his mind filling with accusatory, hateful thoughts. He is lost to all conversations around him. He is riveted to the moment and the building storm within him.

The wife and Steven shortly return, and there is a confrontation. He cannot deny his own disturbing thoughts and must know if he is correct in his presumptions. His wife tells him the truth. It is the old boyfriend with whom she had the previous January affair. She does not feel that her husband has a right to question her innocent move to say hello and show off her son. She does not give any priority to the husband’s own perception of yet another betrayal. She feels she has done nothing wrong in saying hello to an old boyfriend and his wife.

The words are cross, sharp, designed to hurt. There is no stifling anxiety now for the man, just red-hot anger. The husband abruptly and with little fanfare leaves the hillside retreat. He motors away from the family gathering. He is not sure where he is going but he knows he must be away. The harsh words between the couple and the quick revving engine of his car driving away are not lost on the in-law family gathering. Except for baby Steven crying, all is quiet on the hillside.

Clad in a white t-shirt, dungarees, and sock-less brown penny loafers, he goes to a military club recently joined. It is a private drinking and eating club for veterans situated in South Williamsport. There the sourly disposed man drinks away the afternoon, gets rowdy, surly, becomes obnoxious with some patrons, and is asked to leave. It is dusk. He is drunk. He is unsteady and sorely without the faculties he needs to drive his car.

After he crosses the bridge into Williamsport and turns onto the street where he lives, he drives into some parked cars along the curb, damaging three. He is less than a block from home. He is still inebriated but stunned back to some semblance of awareness.

He sits at the curb as police come and a crowd gathers. He fights with a policeman when the latter tries to put him in a cruiser and take him to jail. He is clubbed by the cop just above the right eye. Now, his t-shirt and pants are covered with the dirt and blood of the scuffle.

He finds himself for the first time in his life in a jail cell, and as his sobriety slowly returns to him it might just as well be hell. His mind begins with the scenarios. Some are woefully unclear in the focusing. He sits on the hard cot in the small enclosure, his head throbbing with pain and uncertainty. With his head bowed, he relives the hours of the Sunday afternoon, the act by his wife he perceives as betrayal, the military club drinking as plain stupid, and the ramming of the parked cars, the cop fight, as priceless in ‘Keystone Comic’ hilarity. He is not laughing, however. He is in a particular black abyss of his own making.

The man mentally shovels on his guilt, plays the pity games, and self-decrees that his life is over. He stands at the bars of his cell and weakly yells at the jailer on night duty, pleads to be let out of his claustrophobic nightmare. The jailer is kind to the man, tells him that morning will come soon, that everything will eventually work out…

This ends the excerpt from “What Happens Next? A Life’s True Tale.” Should you care to read the entire book, please visit amazon.com (US and UK) and/or my website/blog and scroll down the ‘Home’ page to my books. There you will find the links for purchasing the book — paperback, kindle and/or other e-book formats. Here is the link to my Website/Blog: http://billyraychitwood.weebly.com

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