This is a hard thing to do, isn’t it? My characters struggle. They wonder if God is good. They wonder if people can be good. They often turn away from God (or try to forget about Him completely) like the first garden inhabitants who hid in shame with a new awareness of good and evil.
Even the best humans have dark hearts (some would take issue with the word BEST ). Anne Lamont once wrote how easy it was for her to slip from elevated thoughts of God down to heated arguments with her son over trivial matters.
Despite this I find real and imagined humans lovable. I wonder if I’d love them more without their hang ups and flaws. It’s a silly thought since perfection is impossible in this life. How is love so powerful even when we only do it fair to middling? The tiniest drop of it ignites huge cravings even in the steeliest of people (though some of us tend to seek love out in troubling and destructive ways).
There are a few characters of mine who seem to have fallen completely under dark spells, but in those dark places lie hidden hurts and desperate attempts at numbing those longings that have so often met with abuse and neglect.
I’m not so naive to think the world can change with a song and a Coke. Some people choose a path of darkness and willfully blind themselves to everything else, but most people just struggle. Those people are the ones I like to write about.
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“Buck, sometimes, I believe you’re too like a girl. Streeter doesn’t deserve any sympathy. How many times must I say it? Trust me; you’ll regain your self-respect if you stick with me,” Fred assured him. “Now, just pretend to be friends again with Streeter so we can have some fun with him.”
November came on with biting winds blasting over the Plain and sending the last bits of summer weed and debris across the paths at West Point. Buck found his opportunity to reconcile with Streeter one grey afternoon. Buck liked the winter, but this year the chill gnawed into the slow-to-heal gash at his head. Wearing a hat only aggravated the wound more. Buck shivered feeling hungry and out of sorts, but here came Streeter. They could pass each other without a word as they had done for the past few weeks, but then Buck would have to suffer another day with Fred on his back.
“Mr. Streeter . . .” Buck called over the wind in his deep and strong voice.
Streeter, taken aback, stopped in his tracks, his eyes hungry for reconciliation. “Yes, sir?”
Buck pulled his shoulders up close and tightened his collar before speaking. “Um, Streeter, I . . .”
“Sir, permission to interrupt?”
Buck sighed in annoyance. “What?”
“Sir, I’ve had so much time to consider things—the way I was with you on the first day back in the barracks—you were right. I was a coward. I never should have left you at the stables and I was a complete ass to speak to you the way I did in your room. If a fellow can’t stand on his own then he doesn’t deserve to be a cadet.”
Buck had imagined a different type of encounter. “Streeter, I . . .”
“Sir, I just want to say that if one day I could be half as brave as you, I’d be satisfied. To stand alone for another—well, I guess when push came to shove I failed. When I came to you I was angry that you didn’t forgive me, but you were right not to.”
Buck swallowed hard. He coughed, fighting a cold. “Streeter, I, I suppose I can forgive you.”
“Sir, I sincerely hope you will—though I don’t deserve it.”
“Yes, well, we all make mistakes in judgment,” Buck said.
“Sir, I intend to pay you back—all I owe you,” Streeter replied, “but it will take some time. I’ve sent word to my father to sell off my horses—but they’re not worth $400.”
“Will you pay back the money you took from Fred, Streeter?”
Streeter’s face turned grim. “I don’t know what you mean. I owe him nothing!”
Buck’s features tightened and his violet eyes averted. “No matter. It’s all in the past.”
Streeter gave him an odd look. “Sir, you’re such an inspiration. I’ve never met anyone who so valiantly disregards popular opinion to march to his own beat. One day I think you will be some sort of a hero.”
“No, only an officer in the army. Streeter, I’ve got to go now. I’m chilled to the bone and have the catarrh.” He coughed and walked off.
Streeter called after him, “I don’t know how I’ll make it the winter if it gets any colder than this.”
Buck’s stomach turned.
Back at the barracks, Buck climbed the stairs to his room. The dim light of autumn filtered between the regulation curtains. The friendly smell of coals in the stove comforted him not a bit. Carter dressed and gathered his text books.
“Buck, are you sure you won’t come and practice recitations with the fellows? We miss your wit.”
“Is that so? Well, I feel dull today—so I’ll give it a miss this time,” Buck replied as he leaned back onto his unmade bed.
“Blast it, Buck. I thought by now you would have forgiven us.”
“I have,” Buck lied. “I just don’t want to study. I know the work.”
“Buck, you haven’t studied in weeks and it begins to show. You’ll be written up for sure over the state of your bed and all.”
“I’ll be fine. Don’t you worry.” Buck propped up his pillow with a rough punch and lay back hand behind his head.
Carter came to his bedside. “I didn’t say I was worried. I only feel sorry for you—to watch you turn away from friends and throw away all that’s good in life—it’s sad.”
“I’ve only turned away from what bores me,” Buck said. “Carter, you’re an unremarkable cadet. As a friend though, I thought you had the admirable traits of loyalty and decency. I confess I even tried to model myself after you, but I was naïve.”
“Buck, what do you want from me? I made a mistake. But you were with Streeter quite a lot.”
“Listen, I don’t give a damn anymore what happened this summer. Streeter will be made to pay for what he did, but don’t for a second think I trust you. Fred was right all along. No one is to be trusted but family.”
“Well, I’m glad to see that Streeter will get his, but Fred is just dangerous,” Carter said.
Buck waved him off. “Then I guess it’s good to be on his side.”
Excerpted from WEARY OF RUNNING. Read more about Buck Crenshaw and his misadventures when you buy the book today!
“The second installment in The Tenafly Road Series definitely did not disappoint. With the introduction of new characters and the return of familiar ones, Weary of Running made for an exciting read. The protagonist, Thankful, is the real highlight of the novel. She consistently makes very poor decisions but in the end, you can understand why she has made every last one of them. The story ranges from love and romance to questions of faith and morality. It does all this without being preachy and explores many angles of different aspects of life. This is one of the best books I have read in a long time.” Amazon Review
“Buck Crenshaw is my favorite dysfunctional lovable character.”
PART ONE HERE
PART TWO HERE
PART THREE HERE
PART FOUR HERE
PART FIVE HERE
PART SIX HERE
PART SEVEN HERE
PART EIGHT HERE
PART NINE HERE
PART TEN HERE
PART ELEVEN HERE
PART TWELVE HERE