By Lloyd Johnson
Koehler Books Copyright © 2013 Lloyd Johnson
All right reserved. ISBN: 9781938467578
Robert Bentley, face flushed, stormed out of his father’s dark-paneled home office, with Conrad Bentley close behind.
“Your life has been pretty easy. We’ve given you everything you could want. Half a million dollars in trust funds.” The older man raised his hands palms up, shaking his head. “What more could you want?”
“I’m out of here, Dad. All you think about is money! You really could care less about me! Tell Mom good-bye when she comes home, if she still wants to live with you! Don’t come looking for me. I won’t be back!”
“If you have more noble ideas,” Conrad Bently shouted back, “why have you dabbled in drugs with Mark instead of studying at Cornell?!”
Robert raced across the mansion’s patio and vaulted over the door of his red Corvette, which glimmered with its top down. Gunning the engine, the twenty-one-year old jerked the car into gear. The tires screeched as he roared around the circular driveway slowing only enough for the automatic gate to open. Knuckles white on the steering wheel, he flew down the street, suddenly swerving to miss a child on a bicycle.
He slowed down, glancing in the rearview mirror for any police. The elegant Long Island community had proven generous with traffic tickets.
Robert seethed, gritted his teeth, and shook his head, fingers raking his dark hair. His Dad had no clue! Of medium-height and slender frame, shorter than his father, he scowled and hunched his over the steering wheel, which he gripped until his arms ached.
Robert heaved a deep breath and sighed. He’d have to calm down as he headed toward Mark’s modest house. Maybe he could talk to Mark without getting angry—and explain everything. That might make him feel better.
One hour later, with Mark in the passenger seat and two backpacks full, they sped south down Highway 87 to the Bronx, and then headed west first on 95 and then Interstate 80. Robert’s plan to flee his family’s gilded emptiness was coming together perfectly. Mark always said he loved an adventure. He seemed to enjoy racing down the highway, top down, open to the sky above. Robert gripped the wheel, jaw jutted outward, teeth clenched. “I just told my dad what I think of him. You know, it made me feel good to tell him off.”
“Cool, dude. Sometimes a guy’s got to do it. Okay, now tell me why you want me to go way out west with you.” Mark rolled up the window. It was a sunny day, still warm for October. “I don’t get you. Like…you kept leaving our hangout every afternoon to go to that mosque. A mosque? What’s up with that?”
“I’m not sure you’d understand. I’m sick of the way America works. It’s all about money and superficial stuff, like scrambling up the corporate ladder and stepping on everyone else in the fight to the top. New York is run by financial phonies, man, and controlled by the Jewish businesses and press. My family is into it big time, you know, but it’s not for me.”
Mark stretched with his hands behind his head and gazed at the world flying by. “They say Wall Street runs on fear and greed, and I believe them. Your family has done pretty well though.”
“I don’t care. My dad had me in business training at Cornell, and man, I hated it. I figured maybe we Westerners have it all wrong. Maybe I needed a whole different perspective on things. So I found a mosque and dropped in to hear what they had to say. It changed my life, and gave me some direction and a reason to live. It’s been awesome!”
“You mean, like you had no direction for your life?”
“Yeah,” Robert shook his head and shrugged. “None. But in the mosque they have a plan. They have five pillars in their belief system and they pray to Allah, five times a day.”
“Dude, no way! Five times every day?”
“Yeah, really. They face Mecca in Saudi Arabia and bow clear to the floor, touching their foreheads. Strange, man, at first. There are lots of rules, including stuff you can’t eat or drink. It’s like hard, but it’s challenging.”
“So what does that mean for you? Sounds difficult.”
“Well, for one thing, the word ‘Muslim’ means submission, to Allah. So I’m learning to submit.
“You’re crazy, dude!”
“Well, at first I attended a mosque once in awhile, but then I found the Salaheddin Islamic Center, and now I see the world as it really is. True believers see what is really happening.”
Mark turned toward Robert, grabbing the backrest behind him, frowning. “What do you mean, ‘true believers’ and ‘what’s really happening’”?
“Okay, it’s how the U.S. attacked the poor people in Afghanistan and Iraq, and the Jews cop the land in Palestine. The Zionists and the United States are conspiring to destroy Muslims, Arabs, and Palestinians. So, you know, we’ve gotta help them resist and fight back.”
“How do you do that?” Mark suddenly stiffened in his seat.
“Well, look what we are doing in lots of places in the world, with Taliban and other groups, and of course al-Qaeda. I don’t know much yet about the Salafi-jihadi ideas, but their goal is to establish ruling caliphates with Sharia law in a bunch of countries, not just Saudi Arabia or Afghanistan.”
“I don’t know much about that stuff, but it sounds bad. Like, what are you planning on doing?”
“So you’re learning about jihad?! Did you get all this in New York?”
“Oh no. Now I have a bunch of friends around the world on the Internet who are far ahead of me. Like I’ve found a ton of websites and chat rooms. That’s why I’m going to Seattle. A group there is interested in jihad, and they have invited me to join them.”
Mark frowned. “Hey look, I just came on this outing for a fun road trip. I had no idea that you are considering Islam and jihad. That’s serious, dude.”
“It’s, like, the only thing that makes sense to me now. It’s us or them in the world, and I want to be on the winning side.”
“Well, if you’re on the 9/11 side, I’m outta here.”
“That American conspiracy of our own government, you know, played nicely into the West’s anti-Islam prejudice. Man, don’t you see? It amounted to a clever ploy by the CIA to turn the nations of the West against us, against Muslims.”
“You gotta be kidding! Like you actually believe 9/11 was an American government conspiracy?”
“It’s clear that our government did it!”
“Robert, I don’t think I belong on this trip. Let me off at the next exit, dude. I’ll find a bus or train back to town.”
They coasted to a stop at a strip mall just outside the city. Robert clapped Mark on the back as he reached for his backpack to leave. “You’re going to miss a real adventure, you know.”
“I hope you survive!” Mark replied over his shoulder as he hurried out of the car. Continues...
Excerpted from Living Stones by Lloyd Johnson Copyright © 2013 by Lloyd Johnson. Excerpted by permission.
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