Wednesday, November 14, 2012


This is an excerpt of the sequel to Anticipation of the Penitent, Michtam's Hubris. I've still got a long way to go, but I am making progress. This is the beginning chapter. I have decided on a new name for the book, but will not change it here yet.
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“I’m not running away. I am not running away,” Gent repeated to himself while he scurried around his room gathering last minute items that he thought he would need. His edgy nerves caused sweat to bead on his forehead, making his thin, dark hair paste to it in the pattern of wavering sunbeams. A glance at his mirror confirmed that he looked as pasty and pale as he felt.
Gent was not so worried that his parents would wake up, nor was he insecure about his decision or how he was carrying it out. He knew this, yet he could not help feeling like a thief and coward. Two small suitcases stood at his bedroom door, waiting patiently, like they knew he had to spend time running around like a small boy who got separated from his parents.
After tucking a pair of gloves and a scarf into the outer pocket of his backpack, Gent loaded on the backpack, gathered his other two pieces of luggage and quietly made his way out of his room and the house. It was still dark, but the sun would make its way above the tips of the trees soon enough. He hoped no one would see him because he could not imagine coming up with an excuse for why he was leaving while it was still dark. Again, he said to himself, “I’m not running away. And I’m not doing anything wrong.”

He did feel somewhat like a coward for not having the courage to speak with his parents about why he needed to leave. Michtam knew everything, but he would not tell them unless he felt Gent was in danger. It was hard enough telling Michtam, whom Gent believed would always be in his life no matter what happened.  

When Gent talked to Michtam the previous night, he expected Michtam to be concerned and provide a million reasons why Gent should not leave. Instead, Michtam peered into the trees of the small park area behind the pool where they sat to talk. He had a distant look in his dark brown eyes that Gent could not read, and no arguments. The dimming light of the evening gave Michtam’s skin a darker tint than his usual caramel color.
Michtam said, “I’ll cover you at work if you need me to.”
He still did not look at him, and Gent questioned even more what Michtam was thinking. “No. I called the café to say I couldn’t make it for the rest of the week. They’ve already covered that, and Harry’s been looking for extra work, so he’ll kick in after that.” Michtam was paying attention, but barely. “The library’s slow enough right now that I didn’t have too many hours anyway. I won’t be missed.”
A small smile crossed Michtam’s face, and he said, “You will always be missed, Gent.”
Wanting to pinpoint where Michtam’s standoffishness was coming from, Gent asked, “You understand why I have to leave, don’t you?”
Finally Michtam looked at him and said slowly, “I understand enough.” Then looking more normal, and with a big smile, Michtam chuckled, “Gent, you know I really don’t understand anything about you. Prayer surely hasn’t helped there either.” He paused, then added, “If you wanted understanding, you should have gone to Pastor David a long time ago.”
Gent went along with their usual line of teasing and said, “Mick, you know you couldn’t understand a rock rolling down a hill, a child crying when you kicked his sandcastle down or why you got fired after making out with Chuck the dry cleaner’s daughter, giving her mono.”
They both laughed and for a moment they felt to be in middle school again, chiding each other about being duffuses or committing acts deviants might, far beyond anything they ever contemplated.
Gent followed Michtam after he stood up. They stared at each other, not saying anything more. Then Michtam walked over to Gent and they hugged, not knowing when they would see each other again. Neither of them cried that night, but Gent was sure that Michtam would, just as he knew he would after the reality hit him that he was leaving their home. Their identity.
The real reason why he had to leave was that Gent could not have his full identity in Gabriel. Since he began to understand his difference, he knew while he remained here, he would not be complete. Gent could not live his life in Gabriel, like he truly yearned to do, with a partial identity.
Still without tears and loaded up with the only possessions he could afford to take with him, Gent made his way down the main road and down the mountain to the small town below. From there, he would take a Greyhound bus to God knew where.

Gent walked the pavement with no destination in mind, and his mind wandered. The last thing Michtam told him when they spoke near the pool was for Gent to call him for anything. That was something he did not need to be told. It seemed Michtam had no idea what else to say.
What Gent needed to hear from Michtam did not come. Even without that verbal confirmation he had to hope that Michtam would be that tether for Gent to return to Gabriel should he stray too far and not be able to find his way back. Although their relationship was not exactly the same after Gent’s coming out to him years ago, Gent knew he could always count on Michtam should he need help.
Everyone was close in Gabriel, but having been raised as brothers, born only months apart and their mothers being best friends, Michtam’s and Gent’s relationship was much stronger than best friends. After Michtam learned about his father, it did not bother Gent that it took Michtam nearly a month before he spoke to him about him.
Gent could not imagine how finding out that your father was a killer of little girls would affect anyone. After being fed only good stories about his father, when Michtam learned the truth, he was nearly shattered with confusion. It was only months afterward that Gent informed Michtam about his own dilemma. Although Michtam asked a few questions of Gent’s conviction, his queries into Gent’s life after that became less in depth and personal. Their bond, however, never changed.
Gent knew in his heart he was not leaving God. Rather he felt that he left Gabriel in order to know how to become more truthful to himself. Then he could give his full to God and not feel like a hypocrite.
He was sure he could not be the only person ever in Gabriel to be like him. It was more likely that he was the first one who wanted to remain in Gabriel, to make his career there and, against all hope, find his mate, marry and be completely accepted for who he was. Gent did not think this was a total impossibility. As things were now, it pretty much was, however. God’s intent, as he had always heard in sermons, was for there to be a husband and a wife.
To not stir up his anger, Gent focused on his moving feet, which were getting distracting because of their pain. He had to think of what he was going to do. His only thought, after making his trek down the mountain to the bus station, was to get to as big a city and as far away as he could with his eighty-dollar traveling budget. He was pleased that he spent only fifty-eight dollars to go just under five hundred miles, and treated himself to his first chain store pizza at one of the stops on the way.
When he arrived, he stayed overnight in the station, hoping he would not to be accosted or even questioned by anyone. He woke up at 5:30 a.m., right before dawn, gathered his belongings and walked. Two and a half hours later, he was still considering what his next move would be.
He could start by trying to find a job. Just about anything would do. At home, he worked in the café that opened up a year ago, and in the library. He had also bagged part-time at the grocery. He liked staying busy and, although he had no experience outside of Gabriel, he was confident in himself enough that he believed finding a job would not be too difficult. The first thing he needed to consider was finding where he would sleep tonight and then to find more long-term living arrangements.
Yet, he had no idea where to go or how long his eight hundred and fifty dollars that he had remaining after the bus ride and pizza would last. Even so, he could not go looking for a job while lugging around all of his property, and he knew he must look ragged and dirty.
Looking up from his shoes, Gent saw a Visitor’s Information office that would open in an hour and a half. It was two doors from a café that was opened. He shifted his two pieces of luggage and backpack, and entered the café. He would wait there until the office opened and hopefully learn if there was a youth hostel or other inexpensive lodging nearby.
Choosing a table close to the barista, Gent stacked his belongings against the wall next to his table. There was a line of people and Gent thought to wait until it was empty before ordering. The line continued to flow between three and seven people. He eventually decided to join in behind a fourth person, while keeping an eye on his baggage. Not knowing what he was getting, he ordered a small chai tea latte. After a shock that the price of tea could be over three dollars, he waited in a pocket of the café that was close to his table for his order to be ready. After a couple of minutes, his name was called. He took it with a sleeve and returned to his table.
Cautiously, he drank through the oblong sipping hole of the lid and was pleasantly surprised by the sweetness and spice. He let himself disregard the expense, but would remind himself to always check prices before he made any purchases, and promised himself no more indulgences while his situation was so precarious.
Gent slowly sipped his tea and tried not to stare at anyone in particular. He had never experienced a commute hour as such. At home, there were busy times in the morning and evening when people would go from their chores, classes and jobs, but nothing like this. Everyone here appeared rushed and distant. No one looked at anyone else much, maybe a quick glance or, even more rare, an even quicker smile or nod. Not surprising to him, Gent was feeling foreign and out of place.
While looking out toward the street and the growing number of people walking along the sidewalk, Gent noticed that someone was watching him. It was not the quick glance that everyone else seemed to give. He looked back toward the gaze that grabbed his attention and saw a Black man in a business suit looking at him curiously. He appeared to be in his late twenties and was sitting by himself in between one chatty group that looked to be college students and another two-party group of apparent coworkers who were reading newspapers.
When the man stood up, still looking toward him, Gent began to get nervous. He had no idea why a stranger would seek him out. He stayed put, watching the man, who was average in build and height, with short natural hair, and wearing an average dark gray suit and tie. Gent quickly looked around him to see if there was someone else who the man might be walking toward. There was no one.
By the time he turned back to the man, he was at Gent’s table, his hand reaching out to shake Gent’s. “Hi. My name is James. Please, don’t be concerned. It seems to me that you look a bit scared and new here.” He paused and seemed to think of how to continue. “I just dropped my wife off at work. A lot of times I come in here when I’m early for my job. I wanted to make sure you’re okay. Is everything fine with you?”
Gent stayed silent, not knowing whether he should respond. The man seemed honestly concerned. Despite that Gent had limited personal experience in the world outside of Gabriel, he was not completely ignorant about the deviancy of people. Being alone in this city, Gent was automatically cautious, but he also did not want to ignore the man as if he had not heard him and did not see him standing right in front of him.
Gent finally reached out his hand to James who quickly shook it. “I’m fine.”
“You seem to have just arrived here. Do you have people meeting you? You have somewhere to stay?”
Baffled by James’ show of worry, Gent still did not know whether to trust him. He was in a public place, however, and felt that answering his initial questions should pose no problem. “I will look for a place to stay in a little while.” He stopped there, not sure he should give any more information.
“You have work here or are you going to school?”
“I’m looking for work.”
James sat down at the table without asking whether he could and with heightened concern in his eyes, he said, “I don’t want to be too prying, but I want to make sure you are okay. You look quite young and I want to make sure you get safely to where you want to be. Look, my wife and I live about a mile down from here, and I work about a half an hour away during normal traffic conditions. I’m a legal assistant at a small law firm. How do you plan to find somewhere to stay? In this city, there are predators who look for newly arrived young guys like you to take advantage of in one way or another. Do you need any help, or have you got everything under control?”
Apprehension wanted to take control of Gent that maybe this James was someone who wanted to take advantage of him. Gent felt, however, that he could trust his man, at least a little. After a moment, Gent said, “I’m waiting for the Visitor’s Information office to open to ask them where there’s a youth hostel.”
“Okay, good.” James relaxed back in the seat, looking relieved, and Gent was glad that James seemed to think his plan was satisfactory. “When does the office open?”
“It should be open in another twenty minutes.”
“Fine. Let me give you my card. I do need to get to work now, but please call me if you need some help. What’s your name?”
After taking James’ business card and looking it over, Gent told him his name.
“Where are you from?”
“A small town called Gabriel. It took almost a full day to get here by bus.”
“Alright Gent. I do need to go. Call me if you need to. I’d hate to hear of another young man that got caught up with the wrong people and ended up either in jail, strung up on drugs, or in the morgue. I don’t mean to scare you, but it does happen, too often. Be careful who you get involved with. And get only legitimate jobs.”
They shook hands again, and afterward James said, “Good luck, Gent. Don’t be too shy or fear you’re bothering me if you need to call me. If I can help you out or get you to someone who can, I will.”
Gent looked again to James, scanning his features. He had a gentle presence about him that put him at ease. He realized that when he first arrived to the café, he felt like a small rat trying to hide in the open, while anything he could encounter might be a trap or otherwise try and exterminate him. After meeting James, he felt more at peace. It was good for him to go to the information office, and now he had a contact with someone who could possibly help him in this unknown place. Gent never realized how stressed he had been because of his insecurity at being on his own and in a large city for the first time.


  1. Thank you Julie. I am excited about this book and the different themes developing.


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