This is the first chapter of a book draft. I am pleased to share it with you on this platform in hopes I will receive interesting comments and feedback about the story. I am writing it with the hope it appeals to a youthful audience, both chronologically and spiritually speaking. I plant to share a chapter at least weekly.
Here comes Chapter 1 — -
The three of them had just checked into the motel room after an exhausting drive and a somewhat disturbing encounter earlier in the day. They knew they just needed to disappear for a little while and not attract any unwanted attention. The motel seemed secluded enough and they hoped no one observed them pulling in and checking into their room. They were thankful that their room was on the back side of the building so their old truck would not be visible from the road passing by.
“I wish we had some idea where he actually came from, and how old he really is,” he said.
“This is so incredibly strange! From his appearance, he looks like he could be four or five years old, but who could ever believe that any four or five-year-old could do the things he can do!” she responded.
“And another thing, we need to invent a story and rehearse and memorize it so we are on the same page about why we have him and how we got him. We can’t use anything that can be investigated or traced,” he continued.
“He certainly has been a life saver for us; that’s for sure! At our last stop, people tossed almost eight dollars into the bucket! That will take care of us for several days!” she allowed.
It was certainly true, that since ’32, people were feeling the stress of these depressed times more every day, with no end in sight. For strangers to part with their nickels, dimes and quarters so willingly when that money would by bread, milk, and even a bit of meat was a true testament to just how strangely affected people were in his presence. But just where did he come from, and why did he talk the way he did?
He didn’t really talk, in fact. He seemed to know the words he needed to express what he needed to communicate, or to leave the impression he wanted to with his audience. But he didn’t speak in normal sentences or syntax, especially in the manner that one would expect for what appeared to be his probable age. How did he come to learn what he was able to say? That was truly a mystery!
“That carny scared me back in Wilson’s Junction. I couldn’t figure out just how aggressive he was going to be. But he sure wanted to get his hands on the kid. Do you think he was able to figure out that he really isn’t ours?” she asked.
“Well, carnival people are used to seeing and knowing about strange things, I would guess. So, I don’t know if he actually knows or cares whether the kid belongs to us. He just recognized something he can make money off of and that’s all he is likely to care about, and that makes him a bit dangerous, to my way of thinking,” he replied.
“Do you think he might follow us or make trouble?” she openly worried.
“I’m guessing the carnival is traveling in this area somewhere. Let’s keep an eye open for their banners and posters advertising what town they are in or going to be in, and let’s make sure to avoid going near there. I don’t think he’s probably going to follow us, but he’s likely to assume that we will want to go where there will be crowds that are looking for entertainment since we are obviously busking about to make money. That would be a logical assumption and we need to make sure we avoid that because if we were close to where the carnival is he could probably marshal the manpower to make real trouble for us. Don’t you agree?”
She replied, “Of course I agree! You are so smart about stuff like that. We need to find out where he is going to be headed and make sure we go in the opposite direction.”
“Mr. Carny probably has contacts and people he can alert to keep a watch out for the kid and keep him informed about where we are going. If that is the case, we might want to skip a few towns for a couple of days and get out of the area.
“I really didn’t like the look in his eyes. He didn’t even look straight at us; he just kept his eyes fixed on the kid. And the nerve of offering to buy him from us! Is that scary? I don’t think he would try to kidnap the kid, but I could see him trying to blackmail us somehow if he has a strong sense that we are not an ordinary family.
“This is starting to change everything and I am not sure how to feel or think about all this. Do you have any thoughts about how we could maybe find out more about who the kid really is and where he came from? I am thankful for the benefits we have gotten so far, but we may be headed for some trouble we don’t want!”
“You might be right, Honey. I am starting to feel really queasy about the whole thing. Maybe we should backtrack to try to find out what we have really gotten ourselves into.”
Just then, there was a loud rap on the motel room door. Then another. They were in such deep conversation that it startled both of them and broke the focus they shared about the situation at hand. Who could that possibly be? Who would know them or know they were there? Their questions were about to be answered!
“This is Sheriff Rogers! Could you open the door please? I need to ask you some questions!”
Panic filled both their eyes as they anxiously looked at each other. Now what would they do? Why does the sheriff want to ask them some question?
“Just calm down!” he whispered to her. “We’ll let him in and talk to him just like a normal couple with a small child. It’ll be just fine!” he continued to try to reassure her even though he was actually struggling to reassure himself.
Then he went to the door and opened it.
“Good evening, Sheriff!” Maybe a bit too friendly and over the top. “Come on in! How can we we do for you?”
The sheriff didn’t say anything at first. He just stepped in very gradually with his right hand resting on the butt of his holstered revolver. He slowly scanned the entire room, looking intermittently at all three of them, and then scanning the room again as if he hadn’t done so yet. Finally, he satisfied himself that no one in the room was a threat to his safety, so he relaxed a bit, let his right hand slip off his gun butt, and assumed a more casual and less official looking stance. A bit of a smile spread across his lips as he finally spoke up.
“This is just a routine procedural visit and I’m sure there is no problem. But I got a call from the manager down at the office. He said he got a strange anonymous call that said there was something really suspicious about some people who just checked into the hotel and the description fit you guys. Said the caller didn’t really give any specific details, other than that there was something really weird about the kid in particular, but he looks plenty normal to me. What’s your name little fellow?”
As the sheriff asked the boy’s name and stepped toward him with his hand out, the small lad immediately started screaming and crying and clutching the woman’s leg with desperation and fear in his eyes and voice. He was acting like he was scared out of his wits because of this strange man moving toward him.
“There, there, little fellow, I was just trying to be friendly. Guess I should have realized I am a stranger to you and there is no reason you should trust me. I’m sorry. Well, folks, I would have to say that is a pretty normal reaction to my intrusion for a little guy. I’m sorry to bother you. By the way where you from and where you headed? Can I be of any assistance to you? Need any directions or recommendations for a café to eat supper, or anything like that?”
“Thanks for your kindness! We are just headed west from Missouri, trying to find work to pay our way where ever we can. Things seem really tough around here, though. Every bit as bad as back home, it seems,” he answered, trying to make the conversation seem as normal as possible knowing that if the sheriff asked for any identification to prove his origins he would be in trouble!
“You are certainly right about things being bad economically in these parts! Other than farm hand work or unloading rail cars from time to time there isn’t much of anything around here that migrant workers can find to do. I hear tell there might be some work at the rendering plant out in Garden City, but I don’t know how current that information is, and it is mighty hard and nasty work”, the sheriff offered. “And a very long drive as well,” he said as an afterthought.
“Probably not what we are looking for. I’m a bit of a handyman, myself, and my wife here is a pretty good seamstress. Other than that, we have to just take what comes for a day or so. But thanks for the tip. We’ll probably just keep heading west tomorrow morning.”
“Come to think of it, if you have any interest in doing carnival labor, I just heard the carnival that passed through is stopping next over at Highville. That’s only about twenty or so miles northwest of here”, Sheriff Rogers added.
“Well, thanks, Sheriff. That might be an option. We’ll ponder that this evening”, he replied with an effort to pretend he was interested.
With that final comment, the sheriff excused himself and said good night as he backed out the door.
She positioned herself near the window just right to be able to watch behind the worn, seedy looking drape that covered it. She watched the sheriff back out of the parking space in front of the room’s door. She noticed him seeming to look over their truck a bit too closely for her comfort, and he even appeared to jot down a note on something, most likely the license plate number. But it would take several days for him to track down any information on it so they would be long gone before he had any details. And as far as they knew, there was no reason for anyone to be looking for them other than that darn carny.
He broke the breathless silence by asking, “Why do you suppose that happened and who would have called in a tip about us?”
“That’s really disturbing,” she responded anxiously.