A Train Called Forgiveness: Excerpt Six

Here’s another excerpt from my first book, A Train Called Forgiveness, available at Amazon.

This excerpt begins Andy Burden’s journey by train across the country. On his journey he meets several characters that help him to learn the power of non judgment and forgiveness. This is only the beginning of his journey by train and his journey to forgive his greatest enemies:

* * *

Let’s start over.  It’s October, 1991.

I’m a burden to you.

Why? My story will make you think. You’ll question long-held beliefs. You’ll question power structures and religion. The story will disturb you. Or at least, it should. If it doesn’t, I question your humanity, your ability to feel.

My name is Benjamin Andrew Burden. I go by Andy, sometimes just A.  A. Burden. I’m 28 years old. I live in a 20-foot trailer in the middle of an apple orchard in Jocelyn, Washington.

A. Burden. It’s ironic, isn’t it? I guess God has a sense of humor.

I used to drink. I used to smoke weed. I’ve been clean for several months now. Sometimes I hear voices. Since I’ve stopped drinking and smoking pot, they’ve faded.

I worked all summer for a stone mason, saved my money, bought a ticket for the train. The stone mason told me there’s a place for each stone. In the midst of my story, I’m looking for my place.

Tonight, I’m riding a train, The Empire Builder. Sometimes, in order to tell a story, you have to leave the story, separate yourself from the story.

My story is painful. It’s about child abuse, the loss of innocence. It’s about fear, isolation, and paranoia. I need to get away from it, escape, yet it still haunts me, every day. My story’s a burden, but it needs to be told. Somebody out there needs to hear it, perhaps many.

The train is heading east, toward Spokane. It ends in Chicago. My past returns with the mere thought of Chicago.

Peter used to tell us he had connections in Chicago, said he knew people in the mafia. He claimed he could take someone out with a phone call. He told us, “If you know what’s good for you, you’ll never cross me.” I was young, yet not easily intimidated. Part of me knew: Peter was full of shit. But I was still afraid of him.

After Chicago, I’m not sure where I’m going, maybe Nashville. I brought my guitar and a few of my best songs. Maybe, I’ll make some connections.

A stranger came into The Crossroads a few months back, before I quit drinking. He told me that God had a message for me. He said, “You’ve got a special talent, Andy. God wants you to use it. Go to Nashville. Go.” He was probably a crackpot, but here I am, on the train.

I find comfort in trains, in train travel. I love the clattering bell at the crossings. I love the long, twisted whine of the whistle in motion. I love the powerful pull of the engine and the clacking off the wheels on the track. Most of all, I love the slow, gentle sway, back and forth, back and forth, back and forth. It soothes my restless spirit.

Tonight, I’m wrapped in my Grandmother’s quilt. It keeps me warm as I stare out the window into passing darkness.

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Great Speech Introductions: The Power Of Start

Great speech introductions are essential for grabbing your audience. It’s true what they say about first impressions. We don’t get a second chance.  It’s especially true when you’re giving a speech.

You get one chance to start your speech out in a way that makes your audience members go “WOW!” There’s power in great speech introductions.

medium_100452760 A pen and the word start: great speech introductions

Last week we covered using strong support in the post and audio blog: You Need Strong Support. This week I’d like to offer a few pointers about creating a solid speech introduction. Great speech introductions should accomplish four things:

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Tweaking Twitter: Follow Less, Be More Genuine

How many people do you follow on Twitter? I just got done tweaking Twitter. I cut the amount I’m following by 90%. Did I just shoot myself in the social-media foot?

medium_9295748051 Tweaking a soundboard like tweaking Twitter

I only joined Twitter a couple of years ago. I followed others to get others to follow me. That’s what I thought I needed to do. But now I’m not so sure.  

I’ve read dozens of articles about Twitter. I’ve gleaned a little useful information. But everybody has a different opinion. I wind up confused. I feel like a lost boy in a forest of giants. So I decided to make my own rules and now I’m tweaking Twitter.

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A Train Called Forgiveness: Excerpt Five

This excerpt from, A Train Called Forgiveness, comes from the chapter titled “Of Love and Loyalty.” I was only a teenager when this took place in reality, but I was able to recreate the gist of what happened. The leader of the group created his own sort of communion. In this scene the fictional leader, Peter Smith asks for his followers devout loyalty.

* * * 

In the summer of 1977, Peter held a special meeting. He came with his Bible, a bottle of wine, and a silver chalice.

He preached about Jesus’ disciples. He spoke tenderly, with a soft, kind voice. He spoke of the disciples’ love and loyalty for Jesus, their teacher.

He compared us, his followers, to the disciples. He compared himself to Jesus.

Suddenly, Peter raised his voice. He became angry, enraged. He shouted loudly concerning Judas, the betrayer. He clenched his fists, shook his hands. Peter shouted, “In the end the betrayer dies.” He warned us never to betray him.

Peter claimed to be a messenger, sent by God. He swore his never-ending love to all who’d follow. He threatened painful death to those who’d betray.

He raised his arms above his head, palms toward the sky. He claimed he was Michael the Archangel. He promised paradise to those with patience. He claimed he was the light in the darkness.

Everyone clung to his words. Eyes filled with tears. Their savior had come.

I sensed something wrong, something dubious. I silently questioned Peter’s claims.  Something didn’t feel true. I was the son of a minister. I went to Sunday school. I knew the Bible stories. This wasn’t one of them. Yes, I was only a kid, but I knew right from wrong. This was definitely not right.

The ceremony continued.

Or was it a performance?

Peter took the silver cup and filled it with wine.

He started with those closest to him, those in power, Jared, Milt, Russell. Each pledged absolute loyalty to Peter. Each took an oath to uphold the goals of Paradise Farms. Each drank from the cup.

Peter moved from row to row, member to member. He made each member repeat after him: “My loyalty to you will follow me unto death.” Each member drank from the cup, and Peter said, “Child, you are mine.” He made the women kiss him on each cheek.

Every member over 16 years old pledged absolute loyalty to Peter Smith that night. I thanked God I was only 14.

In closing, Peter said, “You’ve shared the cup. You’ve shared my blood. We’re eternally bound. Remember this oath. Go in silence.”

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A Train Called Forgiveness: Excerpt Four

The following is another short excerpt from my first book, A Train Called Forgiveness.

The entire book was originally written online.  To make the book easy to follow in an online format, I wrote it in a “broken-prose style,” and gave each chapter several sub-chapters. This is a scene from chapter 4 where Andy Burden is traveling by bus to visit his parents years after they’ve left the cult.

Check out the most recent review of my books by Floyd @ There Go I.

If you’d like to buy a copy of A Train Called Forgiveness it’s available at Amazon.     

* * *

I’m riding on a Greyhound bus.

I needed time away from the Easy Mart, from the voices, the dreams. I bought a ticket to Stillholm to visit mom, dad, my brother.

The bus winds through Coldwater Canyon. Rocks and trees are frosted with a light snow. The Jocelyn River twists and turns and tumbles white. It’s one of the most beautiful places I know.

It’s been a year since I’ve been back to Stillholm. The bus has to go through Bonneveldt to get there. I hate that town. Some of Peter’s people still run the farm. I ran into Russell a couple years back. I didn’t like his vibe.

Mom and dad are in the final stages of divorce. Mom’s getting everything. Dad doesn’t care.

It’s due to religion.

They can’t reconcile their differences. Mom went right, fundamental, charismatic. Dad went left, liberal theology, new age.

It’s funny how bad things emerge from something good. Or is it good? What is religion? Is it God? Or is it an institution? And if it’s an institution, that’s a form of human power. And if it’s power, doesn’t power corrupt?

The feel of the bus on the highway comforts me. I find solace in travel.

In 1988 and ’89 I rode trains. I went to Denver, Boston, Memphis, New Orleans, L.A. I met a girl in Denver. We passed time together. We parted ways in Boston. I got drunk in Portland, Maine. I smoked some weed on the Capitol Building lawn in Washington D.C. I listened to the blues in Memphis. I went to a strip club in New Orleans.

I love the feel of steel on steel. I love the slow and steady sway. It eases my mind. I love to see America through the big glass windows. Someday, I’ll ride again.

The bus is different, but it has a similar effect. The gentle hum pacifies. The vibration lulls me to sleep. I linger in and out of a semi-dream state. I go back in time.

Before the cult, I was an athletic kid. I loved sports. I played little-league baseball and football. I dreamed of being an all-star. I heard the roaring of the crowd as I made another touchdown, hit another grand slam. Yes, I remember. Before the cult I had high energy. I used to ride my bike everywhere. In the summer in Maine, I’d ride three miles to the ocean every day. I used to body surf and snorkel. I loved the ocean, the waves, the pull.

The roar of my dreaming ocean turns into the hum of the bus engine. I wake as the bus slows down, coming into Stillholm.

Dad picks me up at the depot.

The old house in Stillholm is empty, except dad’s old chair, a folding table, and a couple of cots. Mom sold the furniture. Dad’s living in the empty house until it sells. His health is bad. He lost his job. He’s got no place to go.

It’s a broken dream.

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