Steve Cameron is 16 and looking to fit in. After he witnesses the suicide of his abusive grandfather his deeply religious mother whisks them across country to start a new life. He is forced to attend the local Baptist Church where he joins the youth group, a rag tag group of misfits. There he makes life long friendships, questions his religious beliefs, and becomes involved in a power struggle with the controlling youth group leader. Steve’s desire to become popular outside of the church leads to his experimentation with drugs and alcohol. As his double life threatens to spiral out of control he will be faced with his ultimate challenge.
Lawrence R. Deering is a healthcare CEO with more than thirty years of business experience. He has always had a passion for writing and enjoys creating stories based on his life experiences.
Lawrence is an avid audiophile with an extensive vinyl record collection. His stories often include references to the musicians and music he loves. He also was brought up in the Southern Bapist Church. He often writes about the impact of organized religion on people’s lives.
Lawrence lives with his wife in Winter Park, Florida. They spend as much time as they can in paradise at their home in St. Croix, Virgin Islands.
|Publisher:||Dog Ear Publishing|
|Product dimensions:||6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.64(d)|
Read an Excerpt
By Lawrence R. Deering
AuthorHouseCopyright © 2012 Lawrence R. Deering
All right reserved.
Chapter OneMy bedroom was next to his. There was no escaping my duty. I would lie in bed each morning and listen for the lump of phlegm to get lodged in his throat. My mother had already left for work. She reminded me the night before that my grandfather had a doctor's appointment in the morning. I looked around the room at my stereo and my beloved record collection. The LPs were lovingly placed in individual plastic sleeves, organized alphabetically, and housed in several egg crates. I wished I could put on Led Zeppelin II, have a smoke and ditch school. Most of all I wanted to avoid going into the room next door.
I pulled the covers over my head and waited for the last possible moment to get up. I rolled out of bed, dropped my pajama bottoms on the floor, and made my way into the shower. I let the cool water rush over my shoulder length hair that my mother was always trying to get me to cut. It wasn't like it made me feel cool, because it didn't, but it was the one thing that I had control over. I lathered my hair into funny shapes and hummed the guitar parts to Living Loving Maid. After taking care of my hygiene issues I scoured the room for acceptable school attire. I found my favorite faded jeans draped over a chair and selected one of several black, Led Zeppelin T-shirts from the drawer. I glanced up at the poster of Robert Plant screaming into a microphone while Jimmy Page let his fingers fly up and down the neck of his 1959 Les Paul Sunburst guitar. I wished I was Jimmy Page.
I was summoning the courage to knock on the hallway door when I heard a loud pop. It was such an odd noise. It was definitely a sound you didn't hear every day. It had come from my grandfather's room. He often fell out of bed but this wasn't the usual thud, but more of a cracking noise.
I grabbed the door knob, hesitated for a moment and swung the door open. The usual urine smell hit me in the face. I looked for him on the floor but he was still on top of the bed. His chest was covered with blood and he was holding the antiquated pistol that he kept under his pillow "for protection". Smoke wafted from the end of the rusted barrel. Time stopped for a moment and I could see the events unfold in slow motion. I knew something was terribly wrong but I didn't link the smoking gun with the blood that was enveloping the sheets and covers.
He looked up at me as he grimaced in pain.
"There you go you son of a bitches."
It was at that point it finally registered what he had done. Adrenalin filled my stomach and I felt nauseous. I closed the door. My first thought was that the police were going to think I did it. I didn't go very far into the room; did I? I ran to the phone on the wall just outside of the kitchen and dialed 911. I told the operator that my grandfather had just shot himself. She asked me if he was still alive. I told her I thought he was.
"Stay calm. Help is on the way," she said.
I didn't think anyone was going to be of much help. I called my sister Patricia. She had moved out of the house on her eighteenth birthday. When she told my mother that she was going to get married my mother disowned her. They hadn't spoken since.
My sister picked up on the second ring and I told her what happened. She said she would call her husband Brian who worked nearby and have him come over. I sat down in the green upholstered recliner in the TV room and prayed. I don't remember what I prayed for but it brought me some comfort. A few minutes later the phone rang and my sister's pastor was on the telephone. He asked if he could pray with me on the phone. I could hear sirens in the distance and I knew they were coming to my house.
I opened the front door and was met by two paramedics that were holding what look liked small suitcases filled with life saving instruments. I was pretty sure they wouldn't need them. They asked where they should go. I pointed in the direction of his room. I heard more sirens and when I went to look out the open front door there were two policemen coming up the walk. They sat me down in the living room.
"What's your name son?"
"Steven Cameron," I replied.
"How old are you Steven?"
"Who lives here with you?"
"My mother Margaret and my grandfather Harold."
They asked me what happened and I told them what I saw. They asked me in which hand had my grandfather held the gun. I played back the scene in my mind and said the right one. As the policeman finished their questioning I saw the paramedics come from the hallway pushing a gurney. My grandfather was lying on top with a sheet covering his entire body. I heard one of the paramedics tell the officer that they were going to go ahead and transport the body. The policemen stayed with me until Brian arrived. Brian asked where they were taking my grandfather. He said St. Mary's.
We drove over to the hospital and went to the emergency room. Brian asked the nurse at the station about Harold Cameron's condition. When she was satisfied that she was talking to a family member she told him that Mr. Cameron had expired. Brian called my sister and told her that her grandfather has passed away. She said that she was going to call one of my mother's friends to bring her home. Brian and I waited around to fill out some papers.
Through this entire ordeal I never once considered calling my mother. I knew she would fall apart. So, I did what I always did. I tried to handle the situation the best I could. When we arrived back at the house she was waiting for us. No one had told her what had transpired. She searched my face for some clue. They told her at work that her father had been rushed to the hospital. Brian told her that Harold had shot himself and was dead. She began sobbing and said that the police would think that I had done it. I thought that was very odd. That was the first thing that had entered her mind. I wondered if she thought I actually did it.
My sister arrived several minutes later and it was the first time that I had seen my mother and sister together in years. My sister just held her while she let all her emotions out. Most of what happened over the next week was a blur. My mother was incapable of making the funeral arrangements so Patricia and I made them all. We picked out the casket, the funeral home, the flowers – everything.
Mom insisted on a closed casket. There was no viewing the night before. There were no more than a dozen people at the memorial service. I'm glad the pastor did all of the talking because I couldn't think of one good thing to say about my grandfather. He had moved in with us a little over two years ago when my grandmother died. I think my mom and grandfather thought they deserved one another. They had mistreated each other their entire lives. My grandfather used what was left of his inheritance to buy us a modest house in a good neighborhood. I went to a good high school for two years and made friends. Even though my grandfather made my life difficult I had a reasonably stable home life.
One day he was watching the news and decided that the rising interest rate environment would result in a crash in the Ohio real estate market. He put our house on the market. He neglected one small detail; he didn't tell us. I remember coming home from school and seeing a "For Sale" sign in front of our house. I called my mother at work to ask her what was going on. She cried.
To make matters worse, about a month later I was walking home from school on a Friday afternoon. I was looking forward to the weekend. As I approached the house I saw the "Sold" sign. I walked in the door and my grandfather didn't say a word. He was about five foot nine, had wispy white hair and his hands shook with early Parkinson's. The shake was more pronounced when he was angry or nervous. His teeth were what disturbed me the most. They were false teeth and had a slightly yellow tint. I thought that was stupid. If you were going to pay good money for false teeth why not get the whitest pair you could find? He often told me that I was lazy, and that I would never amount to anything. All I would see were those yellow teeth.
I found him in the den watching wrestling. I said hello but he just grunted. His hands were shaking more than usual. My mom came home around six o'clock from work and immediately confronted him. He was apologetic. He admitted that he was scared of losing all his money and that he panicked. He had sold the house under market value, and we had to be out in thirty days. My mom went into her room and collapsed on the bed. I gently opened the door and lay down beside her. I told her that we didn't need my grandfather. We could find an apartment and start a new life by ourselves.
The next day she was out with a realtor looking for a place to live. She couldn't bring herself to leave my grandfather alone. I think she was still seeking his approval. She found a very nice house under construction that was almost complete. It was the only thing she could find that would allow us to move in within thirty days. The house was more money than our previous house which made the whole situation so ironic. The new place was only three miles from the old one. Because of the way the school districts were drawn I would have to change schools.
After the move my grandfather became more verbally abusive, mainly to me. I came home from school to make sure that he had something to eat. We spent our time together with him telling me that I was a bum and worthless. I drew the line when he said something bad about my mother. I would just leave the room. Even if I was in the kitchen cooking him something to eat, I would turn off the stove and go to my bedroom. He got the message, and only said bad things about her when he didn't care if I stayed or not.
His Parkinson's was getting worse and he had trouble getting around the house. I went into his room every morning to change his urinal. He would use his walker to go the bathroom during the day. I made sure that he was dressed before I went to school. I knew he was miserable. My theory was that he thought long and hard about coming up with the most elegant end to his sorry life. He was tired of being dependent on others. His prognosis was not good. He could end his unhappy life and destroy ours at the same time. It was a win-win.
I was a pallbearer. Although I was sixteen and fairly muscular I strained under the weight of the casket. Up to that point I never shed one tear. I certainly wasn't sorry my grandfather was dead. I was angry more than anything else. Just when I thought he couldn't hurt us anymore he devised a new way to punish us. I hated him for that.
After the memorial service we got into the car to head to the cemetery. I started to cry uncontrollably. I didn't know why I was crying but I couldn't hold back the tears. My mother told me to stop crying. She said I had to be strong. She was right. I was the head of the family. I wiped my tears on my suit jacket sleeve and stared out the window.
* * *
My mother Margaret had always been a victim. She was the younger of two children. Her sister Ellen was precocious and her parents doted on her. Ellen was smart and pretty. By the time Margaret accidentally came along there were already strains on the marriage. Her father Harold was a trucker who worked when work was available, but times were tough. He spent most of his hours at a local drinking establishment where he was well known and respected for being a tough man. He was an excellent pool player and hustled the local talent for beer money. Once, when he thought he had been snookered by a professional, he smacked the cue across his opponents face. The more he drank, the hotter his temper became.
When Harold finally made his way home he used the opportunity to belittle his wife Gloria. He complained that the house was filthy. He accused her of having an affair. In the same breath he would say that she was frigid. The only thing that softened his mood was Ellen. He would put her on his lap and watch TV and drink beer. He brushed her curly brown hair with his fingers and told her how pretty she was. When he finally dozed off Gloria would gently remove Ellen from his lap and put her to bed.
Gloria claimed to know the instant she got pregnant with Margaret. Harold was in between trucking runs and was spending more time at home. He cut back on his drinking and even did some chores around the house. Harold decided he would take Gloria out for a night on the town. He put on a suit and a wide brimmed hat. Gloria put on her best dress. They had steak dinners at Carlo's and then went dancing at the Royal Club. Harold could be a real charmer. He was almost six feet tall with wide shoulders and thick black hair. He had an electric smile that he used when it suited him.
When they returned home they whisked the babysitter out of the house and made their way to the bedroom. The next morning she felt different and told Harold she was sure she was pregnant. By morning Harold's mood had soured. He told Gloria that she better be wrong because he didn't "need no more mouths to feed."
Gloria was right. She delivered my mother Margaret nine months later. Harold was on the road and she was glad for it. He had become more and more verbally abusive and she could hardly stand to have him in the house. When he eventually returned home he grunted to Gloria and went straight to bed. When he emerged from the bedroom around noon the next day, Gloria asked him if he wanted to see his new daughter. Instead he went out into the yard where Ellen was playing. That's how it was going to be.
Margaret and Gloria were as thick as thieves. They did everything together. They were brought closer by their mutual hate of Harold. Ellen was able to manipulate both parents to get her way. Ellen dominated her sister. It was clear that Ellen was the favorite and felt she deserved the best of everything. As they entered their teen years Ellen repeated her father's comments.
"Margaret, why don't you fix yourself up? You're stupid. You can't cook. How're you ever going to find a husband?"
Margaret ignored Ellen as much as she could. When it came to her father, she avoided him. When Ellen turned eighteen she ran off with a young Marine and got married. Harold was devastated and started drinking earlier and more often. He never directed his anger at Margaret. She was invisible to him. That was even worse.
Margaret was looking for a way out and ran off and got married as soon as she was of age. Her husband Henry was in the Navy and was away for long stretches of time. They were both running away from disappointing childhoods. She got pregnant soon after they married. She gave birth to a beautiful girl they named Patricia. Although they both loved her they didn't have enough things in common to hold the marriage together. They divorced with in two years. Patricia practically lived at her grandparent's house while Margaret went to secretarial school and landed a steady job. She dated occasionally but was hesitant to repeat the same mistake again. She waited eight long years to remarry. Margaret found another military man named Thomas and after a brief six-month courtship they became man and wife. She loved the attention as he aggressively pursued her. Their happiness was short lived. Margaret struggled with the demands of raising a child and being newly married. When she got pregnant, Thomas was over the moon. She gave him the boy he always wanted. They named him Steven Andrew Cameron.
Thomas didn't have much use for the church and it gave Margaret an excuse to blame him for any perceived indiscretion. She had become deeply religious and expected her husband to be the same. She badgered him about going to church. The more she pushed, the more he resisted. In the fourth year of their marriage, Thomas left for a tour of duty and never returned.
Margaret had no husband, no job, no money, and two kids to support. Thomas left the State and never contributed one dime of child support. She felt she had been abandoned by yet another man in her life. She removed every memory of the man from the house. My grandmother, Gloria had to take over the child rearing responsibility again. Gloria and Harold had entered into a truce over the years. She wouldn't ask where he went or who he had been with and he left her alone.
They lived down the street from us and Patricia and I there lived there during the work week. The middle school and high school years were difficult for Patricia. Mom fought with her about the way she dressed, what friends she was seeing, and anything and everything. I was the baby, so they both doted on me. When my sister turned eighteen she fell in love with Brian. Since my mother didn't approve, Patricia rented a small apartment and moved out. She and Brian married soon thereafter. I was eight years old and devastated. Mom disowned Patricia for leaving and getting married at such an early age. I was prohibited from seeing her. I didn't even get to go to her wedding.
Excerpted from Youth Group by Lawrence R. Deering Copyright © 2012 by Lawrence R. Deering. 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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