Leaving behind his friends and family in the close-knit community of Iron Mountain, Gil sets off for New York in pursuit of his dream to become a Broadway dancer. Unused to "big city" ways, Gil enlists the help of a priest to find lodgings and then secures employment with a local florist. He settles into a comfortable routine, pleased that he is one step closer to realizing his dream.
A chance encounter in a neighborhood bar disrupts that dream and leads to a lifelong friendship. While defending a lady's honor against a couple of thugs, Gil attracts the attention of Louie, a slick boxing promoter, and his partner, Huey, an ex-fighter. The two friends witness Gil's superior fighting skills, and a reluctant Gil suddenly finds himself thrust into the unlikely, often times shady, world of boxing.
Louie and Huey have big plans for Gil-they see his potential as a future champion and make him an offer he can't refuse. Gil goes along with their plans, if only to help pay for his expensive dancing lessons, and agrees to adopt the fighting name of Mercy.
Under Louie and Huey's expert tutelage, Mercy wins fight after fight, rising to the top of the boxing profession and eventually earning the coveted title of light heavyweight champion of the world. His Broadway dream forgotten, Mercy is now firmly in the clutches of the boxing world, loved by his fans and hated by his enemies.
Along the way, he meets Victoria, the love of his life, only to lose her in a tragic car accident. After Victoria's death, Mercy hits the depths of depression and tries to find solace in the bottle. Losing his title, his self-respect, and almost his life, Mercy is rescued by Jane, a savvy sports reporter, who brings him back from the brink of destruction. Mercy finds love again and regains his title, but he never forgets Victoria. This is a feel-good story of strength and determination, of good overpowering bad, but most of all, it's a story of the strong bond of friendship and the power of love.
|Product dimensions:||8.25(w) x 11.00(h) x 0.78(d)|
Read an Excerpt
By Gene Hale
Trafford PublishingCopyright © 2012 Gene Hale
All right reserved.
Chapter OneIt was a cool, sunny morning in the forest located in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Shafts of sunlight pierced the tall, sturdy trees, casting dark shadows on the ground. A soft warming breeze would soon turn the chill air into a beautiful, summer day.
A timber wolf rambled out of the woods, looked around and continued on his way. The birds chirped in the quiet, cool air. A raccoon sat in the dewy grass, washing his glossy fur with his front paws. Suddenly, the timber wolf stopped in his tracks, the birds stopped chirping and the raccoon ceased his ablutions and lifted his head. They had heard the noise of a Jeep coming up a small path entering the forest.
Inside the Jeep sat three sturdy looking men wearing red, white and blue sweatbands around their foreheads. It was Gil Aller and his two uncles, Dan and Eric, three lumberjacks on their way to work.
"Hi, Ho, Hi, Ho," sang Uncle Dan, tapping the steering wheel.
Gil and his Uncle Eric joined in with, "Hi, Ho, Hi, Ho. Off to work we go." They were letting the animals know that soon the forest would be bristling with the sound of saws and shouts of "Timber," as the big trees were felled and cut into different sizes.
The Aller men, experienced lumberjacks like their fathers and grandfathers before them, were the first to arrive on the job. Old Harry Clemens pulled up five minutes later, clutching his trusty harmonica. The four men sat around drinking coffee and talking about the latest sports results. Their favorite baseball team, the Detroit Tigers, had lost again.
Old Harry pulled out his harmonica and started playing a lively, peppy song. The Aller men loved to dance. Uncle Dan started hopping and jumping to the beat of the music; soon he was joined by Gil and Eric. Forming a line, they kicked their legs high like the Radio City Music Hall Rockettes. Then they broke away from each other, leaping on tree stumps and fallen trees, dancing in step to the music. A wooden table stood nearby. Jumping on top of it, Gil and Uncle Dan grabbed each other by the arms and danced in a circle.
"There's nothing like a good kicking time to get your body moving in the morning," shouted Uncle Dan.
"Yes, sirree," yelled Gil, moving his body in rhythm to the music.
A few moments later, Mike Carter, the foreman, drove up and jumped out of his truck, clapping his hands. "I want you to save some of that strength for the job," he said with a chuckle. Mike walked over to Gil and put his arm around his shoulder. "So today's your last day with us," he said. "We're sure gonna miss you, but if things don't work out in New York, you'll always have a job here." Gil smiled. "Your mother was telling me that you're hoping to get a job dancing in a Broadway show," continued Mike. "I'm not much into dancing myself, but you Aller boys can sure move and dance. I hear there's gonna be a big going-away party for you back by the pond on Sunday."
Gil and his family lived on a 300-acre farm, where they grew wheat and corn. A long, circular dirt path led to a pond on the back of the property. Gil enjoyed spending time at the pond on hot summer days, where he could cool off and enjoy the tranquil environment.
"That's right," Gil replied, "and you better show up with your wife and kids. It's going to be a pig roast and everyone's invited. Some of my uncle's friends are camping out back by the pond already getting the area cleaned up. There'll be plenty to eat and drink, so make sure you come."
Mike nodded. "We'll be there," he said as they all piled into the back of a big, blue pickup truck, belonging to their employers, Dennis & Dale Co., and headed back into the forest. They would be working "Section Fourteen," today. Small, wooden signs marked the trees to be cut down. For each tree felled, one would be planted. The company knew how important trees were to the environment; so they donated money to an organization called Save the Environment.
The day had now turned hot and humid, with little breeze. Stripping to the waist, the Allers grabbed the chainsaws and set about felling the towering trees, one after the other. Sweat glistened on their strong, muscular frames all three were powerfully built men. Gil stood six feet tall, with broad shoulders and slim hips, and rock hard arms like steel rods. A shock of short, blond hair framed his finely chiseled face and his piercing blue eyes crinkled when he smiled, revealing perfect white teeth.
The day finally came to an end and Gil walked up to the rest of the workers; he shook hands with all twenty, and wished them the best. Some of the men had tears in their eyes; Gil was popular among his co-workers, and a good friend they would miss him.
"Take care of yourself in the Big Apple," they cautioned, "it's a far cry from the good old Iron Mountain region. Just watch your back." They had heard some bad things about New York, and hoped Gil wasn't making a big mistake in going there. "See you at the pig roast on Sunday."
On Saturday, Gil and his family started preparing for the party. They set up tables, chairs, horseshoes and a volleyball net. Guests could go swimming or fishing in the pond. Or, if they wanted to sun themselves, they could lie on a float, out in the middle of the pond. For shade, they could sit under the three tall maple and oak trees. A wide variety of foods would be served, including pasta, sauerbraten, chili, hamburgers, hot dogs and homemade pies and cakes. And for liquid refreshment, the Alters had secured four kegs of beer on tap, along with a selection of wine, soda, iced tea and refreshing lemonade.
Early Sunday morning, after a hearty breakfast of bacon and eggs and home fries, the Alters set off for church. Father Wenz would be saying Mass this morning. Gil liked the priest for his devotion to the church, and for his keen sense of humor. He could still hear Father Wenz's first Mass; "I have an easy name to remember. W for west, E for east, N for north and Z for 'zouth.' "
At 5'7", with a medium build and thin graying hair, Father Wenz exuded warmth and compassion. Just looking at his soft brown eyes, the parishioners knew that they could trust him, that he cared about them. His sunny smile and outgoing personality made him a favorite of all, especially Gil. "We'll see you at the pig roast, Father," said Gil, shaking Father Wenz's hand as he left the church after the service.
"I'll be there, Gil," replied the priest, his brown eyes twinkling.
After Mass, Gil and his family stood outside the church and talked to their friends. At nineteen, Gil was the youngest of five. He had one brother, Ray, who was thirty years old, and three sisters: Violet, twenty-eight, Florence, twenty-six and Elaine, twenty-two. Elaine was away at college and wouldn't be coming to the party. Gil made sure that everyone had been invited to the pig roast. If they couldn't make it, then Gil shook their hand and told them, "I will see you when I come home." The Aller family was well liked in the community.
On returning home, Gil and Ray strolled down to the pond and put the beer kegs and soda on ice. Although still early, the temperature had already soared into the seventies.
"It's gonna be a scorcher," said Ray, squinting up at the sun, blazing down from a cloudless sky. "Everyone's gonna be dry and thirsty."
Gil nodded his head in agreement. "Yep, and most of our friends are coming straight from church, so we better make sure everything is ready," said Gil. He peered down the driveway and saw three cars heading toward the pond. "In fact, some of them are here now! Let's party!"
An hour later the pond area was packed with guests. Kids were swimming in the pond under the watchful eye of two adults. Some people were playing horseshoes, others, volleyball; a few went fishing. Later in the afternoon there would be a softball game.
The shade trees provided welcome cover from the hot sun. The beer was going fast, so fast, in fact, that Ray had to go into town and buy another keg. Fortunately, there was plenty of soda and wine back at the house. Gil was carving the pig. "Can't you go any faster?" his friends joked. We're starving!"
Gil laughed, a twinkle in his blue eyes. "Hey, there's plenty of cake and pie over there," he said, pointing to a picnic table set up by the pond.
Despite the festivities, nobody knew how sad Gil was feeling. As he looked at his mother and his siblings, an aching emptiness filled his heart. He thought about his father who had died in a car accident when Gil was one. Except for some faded photos that his mother kept in a music box, Gil never really knew his father. But he often found himself wondering about him.
How can I leave them? he thought to himself. I'll tell them I've changed my mind about going to New York. But deep down, Gil knew that he had to go; he had to try to make it as a dancer, even if it meant failing. He knew that if he didn't go now, he never would. Shaking his head sadly, he looked around at all his friends, at his beloved family, and realized that he might never see them again.
Eleven o'clock. The party was slowly starting to break up. As Gil bid farewell to his final guests, a part of him silently wished that the party could go on forever. "I will carry this night in my heart always," he murmured softly.
Chapter TwoMonday was cleaning up day. The party had been a huge success - everyone had had a marvelous time. Ray took a few days off from work to help clean up and to spend some time with Gil, before he left for New York. Down by the pond, Ray found a couple of bottles of wine, and the two brothers settled down to enjoy the afternoon and polish off the wine. They brought their three dogs with them: Ginger, a collie, Adam, a German shepherd, and McGiver, a golden Labrador retriever. The dogs frolicked in the pond, while Gil and Ray relaxed nearby, in two chairs.
They talked about Gil's imminent departure for New York. Gil would be leaving early on Tuesday morning. He planned on taking his time and spending the first night at a motel, before heading into New York. Ray and his family were worried about Gil's going off to a strange city, where he didn't know anybody, and especially about the crime. They had heard horror stories about muggings, robberies and shootings, and they didn't want Gil to become another statistic. "Take care of yourself, little brother," said Ray. "New York is a big city and you don't know a soul. Are you sure you won't change your mind about going? We're sure gonna miss you."
Gil patted his brother on the shoulder. "Don't worry about me, Ray," he said reassuringly. "Til be fine. This is something I have to do, otherwise I'll be wondering all my life, 'if only ... if only ...'"
Ray nodded. He understood. Ever since they were small boys, his brother had always had a wandering spirit.
Tuesday morning came quickly and Gil had everything packed and ready to go. His closest friends and family members gathered around his car, a Ford Galaxy. Gil shook hands with all the men and hugged and kissed all the women as they wished him good luck and Godspeed. Gil's mother was worried about her beloved son, but she knew he had to go so he could pursue his dream.
"May God watch over you and keep you safe, until we meet again," she said, her eyes filling with tears. She handed him two red, white and blue sweatbands. "Wear them for luck."
Gil threw his arms around her and held her close, brushing the tears from her eyes. "Don't worry, Mother, I'll be fine," he whispered. "I'll call as soon as I'm settled, and I'll be back to visit before you know it."
Gil's grandmother walked out of the house and handed him two cherry pies, his favorite. They were fresh out of the oven, and still warm.
"You'll have to come back home to get more," she said. "And watch out for the pits," she chuckled as Gil placed the pies in the back of his car.
Gil was ready to leave. Bidding everyone a last farewell, he jumped into his car, started the engine and drove slowly down the driveway. With his left hand on the steering wheel, he waved goodbye with his right hand. A Utile boy ran after the car and Gil stopped so the boy could hand him a red, white and blue sweatband. Then, with a final wave, Gil made a right turn out of the driveway. He was on his way to the Big Apple.
As he stepped on the gas pedal, Gil wondered what New York City would be like. He decided to take Interstate 75, which circled Detroit, in order to avoid all the traffic. Although it was after rush hour, there were still plenty of cars and trucks on the road. From the Interstate, he drove onto Route 80, in Ohio, and headed toward New York City.
Gil spent the night in Pennsylvania Dutch country. It was his first encounter with the Amish, and he found them to be a warm and friendly people. After thanking them for their hospitality, Gil waved goodbye and continued on his journey.
He followed the signs pointing toward New York, finally arriving about noon. Gil's eyes widened in amazement at all the traffic clogging the streets, at the sea of yellow taxis weaving in out, the drivers frantically beeping their horns, and at the crowds of people bustling along the sidewalks. This was a whole new world to Gil. He looked up at the tall buildings and thanked God for cement. There wouldn't be enough trees in the whole United States to build these big boys, he thought to himself.
Gil noticed that most of the streets went one-way. He wasn't used to that, nor was he used to all the traffic lights, and the people and taxicabs swarming around him like bees. In his state of confusion and bewilderment, he almost ran a red light. Taxicab drivers were yelling and cursing at him. And when two taxicabs cut him off, Gil had no choice but to turn down a one-way street. Luckily for him, no cars were approaching. He had driven halfway down the street, when a police officer walked off the sidewalk and put his hand up for Gil to stop.
The police officer, a jolly-looking man, with a round face and a ruddy complexion, walked over to the driver's side of the car and said, "Do you have a problem with one-way streets, because you just happen to be going the wrong way on one?"
"I'm sorry, officer, I didn't realize it was a one-way street until it was too late. I was looking for a driveway so I could turn around."
The policeman asked for Gil's driver license. Then he pointed to the sweatband around Gil's head and said, "What's with the red, white and blue thing on your head?"
"Well, I used to be a lumberjack. My mother and grandmother made it for me, to keep the sweat out of my eyes. And my whole family is very patriotic."
"A lumberjack from Michigan," the officer said as he walked to the back of Gil's car to check the license plate. "How long have you been in New York?"
"About fifteen minutes, officer," replied Gil.
The police officer chuckled and said, "I have to give you a ticket."
I only have so much money with me, Gil thought to himself. He had two hundred dollars in his wallet. "How much is this going to cost me?" he asked.
The officer turned toward Gil and said, "They will probably drop a dime on you."
"A dime? How much is a dime?" asked Gil.
"You don't know how much a dime is?" replied the police officer.
"Never heard of it," said Gil.
The police officer looked dumbfounded. "If you don't know what a dime is, then forget about the ticket."
Gil was incredulous. He walked over to the policeman and thanked him.
"All right," said the cop, "now get this car turned around and enjoy the rest of your stay in New York."
As Gil drove back down the street he thought about his worried family back home in Michigan. "Gee, I've only been in New York half an hour and I already met a nice person."
For the next few hours, Gil drove around the city, looking for a place to stay. He spotted a big Catholic Church, and decided to stop and talk with the monsignor. Parking his car a block away, Gil walked to the church and rang the rectory bell and waited for someone to answer. The door opened and a tiny gray-haired lady asked Gil if she could help him.
"I've just arrived in New York," he said, "would it be possible to see the monsignor for a few minutes?"
"Please come in and sit down," she said with a kindly smile. "I will check to see if the monsignor is available."
Gil took a seat. A few minutes later, the lady returned and beckoned for Gil to follow her to the monsignor's office. Once inside, she pointed to a hard back seat by the window. "Please be seated, the monsignor will be with you shortly." And she left the office, closing the door behind her.
Excerpted from MERCY by Gene Hale Copyright © 2012 by Gene Hale. Excerpted by permission of Trafford Publishing. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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