The story takes places in and around New York City. During a decade past the era of the Vietnam War, a middle-aged man named Nathan has found refuge from the destructive forces that surrounded his combat experience. Having moved onto adulthood from a life as an adopted boy and tournament-fighting martial artist, his surrogate family had put the memories of his horrific young childhood to rest. When the man returns from the war to find yet another traumatic event in his life, he can not contain his sanity and looses all that his adopted family had built into him.
At the pinnacle of his sorrow, a former restaurant-chain owner from Manhattan, Hank, finds him distraught on a park bench in Chinatown. Once again, Nathan is taken into another's arms, and he goes to live on Hank's farm where he finds relative peace for 10 years - but Hank could not bring him out of his solitude.
A Shaolin Master from the Temple in Brooklyn, Wong, sets out to the farm to open up Nathan's mind and bring back the strength of his youth to resolve the trauma once and for all. Nathan then makes a mature decision to go to New York City and find the Door to Sambucca, and pass through it, and what he found on the other side would be the answer God would give him.
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The DOOR to SAMBUCCA
By Jim Robinson
AuthorHouseCopyright © 2012 Jim Robinson
All right reserved.
Chapter OneThe Amber Sky
Just beyond a deep-green horizon of hills stretching out past the suburbs, the sun is rising. There is a man walking. He steps onto the rock that spots the land beyond the parameters of the farm, a powerful muscle pulling a lean stature up the boulders. As he straddles the rock that leads him to the edge of a cliff, he stops and pauses there. The sun ascends in the glory of God, and the sky cries out with a sheen palette of reds, oranges and purples midst the cloud and bluing atmosphere. In all sincerity he kneels there reverently on one knee to talk to God.
He is thankful. Thankful that God put him here, on the farm, away from the city. Thankful for a job that was easy for him and rather pleasant doing farm work at his own pace. Thankful for Hank, the man who brought him here away from a type of hell in the city. It was in front of him now, just beyond the horizon far from the cliff. The steel stretched to heaven like the tower of Babel, each building representing a man's attempt to reach God. And beneath the buildings were the streets and the endless multitudes of people like the waters of the earth. The people were all going somewhere, or so it seemed, but he had been there going nowhere. Now he was here, looking back at them. Someone was among them whom he thought about, or was she? Had she passed away with her child, or was she still there? Was he not thinking about her but the one who could have taken her? All that remained was the bitter reality that her and her daughter were nowhere to be found. And she was his wife.
As these thoughts presented to his mind, he gazed out at the panorama of New York City and drew in a long sigh as it were Adam's breath of life. It was an attempt to soothe the persisting tension that began this morning. It would come and go with memories. Memories he had to sort out. Some could have been just dreams and never really happened. Memories of unfinished things, some bitter and coupled with hatred—not his hatred but the hatred the world had shown him. In all the confusion, the man, after all these years, still cannot justify his history. A tear streams down his cheek, and he swallows, insisting that all things work together for good to them who love God.
Although he tried to calm his thoughts, his mind was a whirlwind about now. He thought it best to return to the farm, so he got up from his knees and turned to go saying, "Lord, maybe you would bring them back to me, but not my will be done, only yours."
The man, Nathan, rises and turns from the cliff then begins to trek the path back to his home. He had walked this route many times in the past 10 years since he had moved to Hank's farm. Hank is an African-American man who succeeded in business in New York, and he had a life-long dream to rise up crops in farmlands just past the suburbs. Hank still had family in the city, with a big extended family, still in Harlem, the Bronx and Brooklyn. He would invite them out betimes to spend weekends on the farm. Hank grew mostly corn and green vegetables along with his cow and chicken. He also had horses, and Nathan rode often. Nathan handled most of the work on the farm unless it was delegated to hands that Hank had brought in from the city when there was a big harvest.
Nathan often took the walk to the cliff on Sunday morning. He was a very solitude man, and he rarely was able to keep his duty to church services choosing rather to spend the time alone with God. He had limited discourse with others, though he took well to Hank. Church had been a big part of his life, especially during his upbringing in a low income neighborhood of Brooklyn. As a single adopted child, Nathan was reared to fear God in a home guided by a working-class man whose wife was unable to bear children. Yet, his childhood and adolescence had been a success. It was the events of the years to follow that rendered him a recluse. His attempt to start a family was met with the Vietnam War. Falling among the lot, he had to go as a young man and leave behind his wife and daughter. And the war pressed on with a grievous tour, and he returned with shrapnel scars. But some things were missing at home, and he did not understand.
Nathan loved the countryside, however. The clean air, the agreement with God as it was Adam in the Garden of Eden. For these past 10 years he had made this country his home and with it a regular schedule that yielded farm work and rest. He did his best here to order his thoughts, but he never gave opportunity for more events to compound his history. Nathan was comfortable on Hank's farm in solitude.
He headed down the hill of the cliff and followed along the road until it took him to the town bus depot. He waited there for the rural bus, and there was a lady with a child nearby. Nathan couldn't help but to think about Abigail and Candice, and he smiled at the little girl and spoke to the mother saying, "Beautiful child. How old is she?"
Nathan pulled out his wallet and retrieved a 20-dollar bill. He handed it to the mother. "Here's if she needs anything."
"Oh, that's ok, my husband always takes care of our needs."
"Quite alright. You must be a Vietnam Vet. My uncle has the same vest. He's a vet."
"Yes, I am."
"What a horrible war."
"Yes, it was."
"God bless you for fighting for my country."
"Well, it's still a free nation."
At about that time the bus turned the corner and pulled up to the depot. Nathan, the mother and daughter boarded the bus, and Nathan took a solitary seat toward the back. On the way home, he thought about the work for next week on the farm so as to leave off the more dramatic brooding. Then the bus pulled up to the stop near the farm and he got off. Nathan walked the rest of the distance back to his house that he had built with Hank about 10 years ago. Still, even with all the help that Hank could give him, he could not get beyond his memories.
Nathan was sound asleep in his house when there was a great banging on the door that immediately woke him up. By nature he went for the shot gun that he had on the wall by his bed until Hank's voice was heard muffled from behind the door.
"You in there, kid? You're late!"
Nathan sighed in relief and replied "Yea, I'm here Hank." He looked at his alarm clock. It had shut off, broken.
"Get movin, we've got a lot of work to do today," yelled Hank.
Nathan started the day with a quiet time with God, reading the Bible and praying. Then he gathered himself and headed out for the fields to meet with Hank.
"I've got some hands today, Nathan," said Hank. "We've got to empty the barns for the coming harvest after the sowing. Show them what to do."
"No problem, Hank."
Hank was a heavy man, a very hospitable man, and a very easy person to get along with. Nothing could match his love for Nathan, in all due respect to a war veteran. Hank had helped Nathan build his small house on the farm land, and he furnished all of it. Nathan sometimes came to dinner at Hank's house with his wife and grandchildren that often stayed the week. It was the least Hank could do for Nathan as a Vietnam War vet. And it wasn't just the war; it was what he failed to come home to after the tour. His missing wife and firstborn left him very sorrowful. Nathan had traveled the city doing construction work as he learned it from working with his adopted father as a teenager. But he refused his family and friends. The memories and losses plagued him extensively, and he had trouble working. Eventually he trailed off of his job and started roaming the city and living off of his savings account. But when his resources were depleted he became homeless, sleeping in subways and parks and eating at the missions. That's when Hank found him on a bench at Columbus Park in Chinatown. And Hank went arm in arm with him to the hospital to get well enough to go to the farm where he could live and work. And it has been that way for ten years. Nathan found something he could live with and he was able to maintain himself, yet he never rose above his memories and losses.
Nathan became familiar with Hank's family. He also did well with the young men that Hank hired as hands on the farm on occasion from the city. Nathan taught them the farm work he so enjoyed. Two hired hands worked with Nathan that day cleaning out and consolidating things in the barn for a future harvest. There was also cleaning and brushing the horses and tending to the chicken eggs.
On occasion Nathan rehearsed his Shaolin katas and combinations. He had grown up in the Shaolin temple in Brooklyn, learning the art as it was taught by the Chinese. But he still retained the Sicilian discipline of it, that which his dad had taught him when he was a boy. And after he was taken from his biological family, his step dad brought him up in a working class neighborhood with the standards of a sound Christian family. And to this day Nathan never blamed God for his losses and failures, God forbid. And no sooner was little Candice learning how to walk when Nathan went off to Vietnam. And Nathan had had a passionate romance with his wife. He made Italian dinners for himself in memory of her. She always had had fresh food cooked for him when he came home.
Vietnam was a political war. They said it was in the name of democracy, unlike the world war where the soldier saved his nation from an overthrow by Japan and Germany. Did the soldier know the little Vietnamese boy had a bomb? If he did know, what would he do? An eighteen-year-old kid from Brooklyn had to grow up quick and make life-saving decisions he never trained for. And where was Nixon the night Nathan's foxhole comrade was blown to pieces—making another political decision followed by Romano Sambuca? And somehow there was always a tight-eye of pity and empathy when the bayonet sliced through the short Vietnamese soldier's shirt and belly. Hate. It was difficult for Nathan to hate. He never did. He only did as he was commanded so he could serve his country.
So Nathan followed a schedule working on the farm, usually up at 4:30 in the morning. He maintained his health and life, and he had a good friend in Hank with a hospitable family. So were the peripherals of his life peaceful for 10 years, but his mind was always at war.
Chapter TwoA Wandering Spirit
At about 10 am on Monday morning Nathan was in the field with a rotor-tiller turning the dirt for the next sowing. Hank came out to the field and Nathan stopped the rotor-tiller for a moment to hear what he had to say.
"We got someone who wants to come to the farm and learn how to ride horses. You think you can handle teachin' em if I raise your wage?" Hank asked.
Nathan paused a moment then said, "Yes, I think I can do that."
"Good. Give 'em the Thoroughbred."
"Ok. When are they coming?"
"Sometime this week."
"Ok, I'll have him ready."
"Saddle and all ..."
"Saddle and all!"
Hank headed out back to the house and Nathan turned on the motor. Nathan started to move the machinery across the field. He leaned over the seat to check the alignment of the blades and then leaned back, making uniform lines in the dirt. As he lifted up his eyes and gazed out along the parameter of the field, he thought he saw a short figure slightly crouched walking toward him. He appeared to have a hooded cloak and a cane, and he must be an old man walking across the dirt of the crop field, the dust of his steps being picked up by the summer breeze.
Nathan stopped the rotor-tiller and shut off the engine. Out of respect for the old man, he hopped off of the equipment and walked towards him, perhaps to save the old man the greater walk. Nathan wondered why a stranger was wandering over the land for he was coming from the opposite direction of Hank's house. Did Hank know him? Hank always introduced new people to the farm property to Nathan ahead of time.
As Nathan approached the old man he had trouble seeing the old man's face because he looked down to the earth. It wasn't until Nathan was within about 10 feet of him that he even took notice of Nathan and finally looked up. The old man was Chinese with a mass of wrinkles.
Nathan, feeling no threat, smiled and said, "Hello sir."
There was no reply outside of a similar smile.
Nathan said, "Can I help you?"
The old man, still smiling, lifted his cane to the direction of a well on Hank's property not far away. And then he said, "Go ... to well?"
And Nathan, much eager to oblige, said, "Certainly. We can go to the well."
The old man said, "Aha!" and he started walking to the well with his face down. Nathan followed him. When they approached the well, the old man sat on the stone wall of the well sighing in relief as he rested his legs from walking. And Nathan, out of respect, sat down on a big rock next to the well.
Nathan pronounced his words slowly and carefully saying, "Is there anything I can do for you?"
"Name?" asked the old man.
"My name? My name is Nathan. What is your name?"
The old man retained his smile and said, "Wong."
"Well hello, Mister Wong. Are you lost out here?"
The old man ignored the question and asked, "Foo?"
Nathan didn't quite understand. "Pardon me?" he said.
"Foo? Foo a was?"
"I'm not sure I know what you mean, sir."
The old man rubbed his belly and gestured toward the water in the well. Still smiling he said, "Foo a was?"
"Oh," exclaimed Nathan, "Food and wash. Is that what you are saying?"
And the old man lightened up and said, "Yea, yea!"
"Yes, Mister Wong. I have food for you and you can wash with well water."
And the old man threw his hands up in the air chanting, "Foo a was, foo a was!"
Nathan laughed and said, "Wait here and I will return."
Nathan stood and went over the hill to his house as the old man Wong waited on the well. Nathan grabbed 2 big chunks of corn bread and an apple with a knife to cut it in case Wong had trouble with his teeth. He also grabbed a towel, soap and shampoo and put all these items in a canvas carry bag. Then he returned over the land to Wong.
"Here you are Mister Wong. There's some food for you and hygiene items," and he handed Wong the bag.
"Danke," said Wong.
"Oh, thank you, yes, you're welcome."
Nathan sat down on the rock and turned his gaze away to the horizon. He wanted to stay with Wong just in case he needed medical attention. Wong cranked the bucket and dropped it into the well, the reared it up with water. The water was very cold, but he made lather with the soap and washed his hands and face then shampooed his hair. He dried off with the towel. Still being silent, he reached into the bag for the cornbread, said grace then bit off a chunk and chomped it. He finished both pieces of bread without saying a word, and then he put the apple into his carry bag and slowly stood up onto weak legs.
"Go," he said looking at Nathan with the nick of a smile.
"Go? You're going to go now, Mister Wong?"
And Nathan pronounced each word carefully and slowly saying, "Do you know where you are going? Do you need my help?"
But Wong only replied with a bigger smile saying, "No unstan."
So Nathan, considering his efforts futile, said, "Ok, God bless you."
And Wong's face turned a little more solemn and he said, "One thing mo."
"You have compass?
"A compass, yes back at the house. Would you like me to get it for you?"
"Okay, wait here."
Nathan took a second trip back to the house over the field and in about 7 minutes he returned with the compass. "Here you are," he said.
And Wong smiled and said, "Danke."
And the old man turned around and headed back over the field the same way he came, the breeze lifting up the dust from his scuffling feet. As Wong's figure became smaller, Nathan mounted the rotor-tiller again and went back to work glancing occasionally at Wong as he made his way past the field. And then Wong disappeared into the woods.
As the week pressed on, Hank gave Nathan job instructions for the maintenance of the farm. Nathan tended to the fields, preparing each crop's soil for the coming of the sowing. There would be corn in abundance, and pepper and tomato. Hank had ordered the seed and Nathan would go with the truck to pick it up next week.
Towards the middle of the week, the lady came from the city to ride the horse. She pulled up the driveway in her car and Nathan met her there with Hank.
"Nathan, this is Mary. She'll be coming twice a week for the lessons. She doesn't know anything at all about riding horses."
Nathan smiled at her and she smiled back. "Anyone can learn, Mary. As a matter of fact it's a lot of fun."
"I look forward to it" she said.
"Come on. Let me show you the stalls and the horse you'll be training on."
The two of them walked off to the south side of the farm where Hank had stalls for several horses when they were not grazing in his fields. The two spent about 2 hours in the field with the horse. By the time the session was over, Mary had learned how to mount it and give a few commands with the reins. Then she said goodbye and headed out of the parking lot in the car.
The week came to an end and Nathan took a trip on Sunday back to the high point over looking New York. With his mind wandering again, a thousand thoughts came and went, and then he prayed that someday Abigail and Candice would come back to him. He turned from the high point and returned to the farm, waiting out the rest of the day in preparation for the new week of farm work.
After a sound Sunday night's sleep, Nathan was up before sunrise to start his pattern for the day. He read and prayed then went out to meet Hank at his house for the day's special instructions. He would go to pick up the seed in several trips today.
Excerpted from The DOOR to SAMBUCCA by Jim Robinson Copyright © 2012 by Jim Robinson. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
ContentsChapter 1. The Amber Sky....................1
Chapter 2. A Wandering Spirit....................11
Chapter 3. Panther Revived....................31
Chapter 4. To Hunt, To Strike....................69
Chapter 5. The Door to Sambucca....................99
Chapter 6. The Kingdom of God....................109