Here is Chapter 1 of my new novel. If it whets your appetite, you can pre-order it at Amazon. Those who pre-order The Upside of Down by November 18, 2010 can be entered into a drawing for a $50.00 gift certificate from Amazon. Details for the contest are here.
During the twenty-minute drive home from Farmington, New Mexico, to rural La Plata, where they lived, the situation replayed itself in Natalie’s mind. How could a father be so heartless? She said a prayer of gratitude that her own husband was a kind and devoted father and that none of her children had been afflicted with Down syndrome, or any other handicap, so they didn’t have to encounter such repulsive behavior from others, especially family.
Mariah interrupted her thoughts. “I don’t like that mean man.”
Natalie nodded. “He wasn’t very nice. That’s not okay, is it?”
“Nope. He wasn’t being like Jesus. He’s a bad man.”
Natalie paused, remembering her own judgment of the young man. “He’s not a bad man, but he was doing something bad. Remember, we’re all Heavenly Father’s children, but sometimes we make bad choices that hurt other people.” She needed to convince herself as much as Mariah.
“You’re a nice mom.”
A tear rolled down Natalie’s cheek. “Thank you.”
After they arrived at their gray, Victorian-style, two-story house, set back from the highway, Natalie talked Mariah and Bradley into watching a Disney movie. Mariah agreed as long as she could have some popcorn. Natalie glanced at the clock on the wall. She had enough time to study her lesson before the school bus dropped off nine-year-old Justin and sixteen-year-old Laura. She mentally tracked Ryan, her eighth grader, who had soccer practice, and Andrea, a senior in high school, who was staying after school for her student council meeting.
She crept up the stairs to her bedroom and found her sanctuary— the master bathroom. It wasn’t always a place of solitude, but she fig¬ured that Mariah and Bradley would keep themselves occupied long enough for her to think about her lesson and have a little quiet time. The situation at the restaurant still disturbed her, especially how the young father called his daughter stupid and retarded. How cruel.
As she perched on the toilet with her manual spread across her lap, the phone rang. “Let the machine get it,” she yelled from the bathroom.
Another ring. “Don’t answer the phone! I’m busy right now.” She listened for the next ring but only heard a thundering silence. “Oh no,” she said aloud.
Before she could do anything, she heard Mariah’s voice. “It’s okay. She’s going potty. I’ll get her because she takes a real long time in there. Nope, she won’t mind. I’m almost there.”
Natalie gulped. It obviously wasn’t Spence on the phone. The door slid open slightly, and Mariah’s petite hand appeared, grasping the handset. Natalie cleared her throat and grabbed the phone.
“Hello?” she eked out, still hoping for a familiar voice on the other end.
“Uh, yes?” Her cheeks flushed.
“This is Brother Lakes. Bishop Franken would like to schedule an interview with you and your husband for this evening, if possible.”
“I’m sure that’d be fine.” She tried not to think of how she’d face Brother Lakes after what Mariah had told him.
“Seven at the church?”
“We’ll be there. Thank you.”
Natalie hung up the phone, determined to give Mariah a stern lec¬ture, again, about what was and was not appropriate information to share with people on the phone. “Going potty” definitely topped the not-to-be-shared list.
As her embarrassment abated, her thoughts turned to the purpose of the phone call. She’d been teaching the CTR 7 class for less than a year, and she loved being in Primary. She loved the kids’ natural curios¬ity and their willingness to learn. They were like sponges, soaking up everything. Their small but sincere testimonies touched her, and she loved their energy, at least most of the time.
Spence had only been serving as the Scoutmaster for a few months. He was so comfortable with the young men and looked forward to an adventure-filled summer of campouts and hikes.
Maybe it wasn’t a new calling for her or Spence after all. Maybe it was about Justin or Mariah acting up in Primary or Bradley’s antics in Sunbeams. Perhaps the bishop wanted to visit about Laura’s pathetic seminary attendance or Andrea’s plans for this summer after graduation. Or maybe he wanted to call Ryan to serve in the teachers quorum presidency.
Natalie’s head hurt trying to figure out why the bishop wanted to see them, so she decided to put it out of her mind and not think about it. She needed to concentrate on teaching her Primary class about the Word of Wisdom.
Be sure to check back tomorrow for the next installment . . .