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.
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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.