Chapter 15

Chapter 15

February 3rd, 2009

“Hold on, hold on, dammit!” Ralph Jones grumbled as he stumbled to the phone. “If that’s a telemarketer callin’ me at 6 AM, I’ma gonna find that sunuvabitch, and shoot him!”

Taking a deep breath, Ralph picked up the handset. “Yeah!” he  barked into the receiver, irritated.

“Ah, is this the Jones residence?” Rev. Daniels asked, unsure.

“Yeah.” Ralph growled, ready to give whoever was on the other end of the line a piece of his mind. “Whattaya want?”

“Yes. Hello.” Rev. Daniels said, quickly gathering himself. “I’m Rev. Alan Daniels, Dakotah Lennon’s pastor.”

“Dakotah’s?” Ralph said, caught flatfooted.

“First of all, I want to assure you that Dakotah’s okay.” Rev. Daniels said, confidently.

“What’s wrong?” Ralph exclaimed, alarmed. “Something happen to him?”

“Yes.” Rev. Daniels replied, calmly. “The house he was staying in burned down last night.”

“Dammit!” Ralph shouted. “So he’s okay?”

“Yes, Mr. Jones. You-“

“Just call me Ralph, reverend.” Ralph interrupted.

“Ah, okay, Ralph it is.” Rev. Daniels said, pleasantly. “You probably know that he’s been staying at his grandmother’s house with his father.”

“Yeah, Louise is all tore up about it.” Ralph muttered. “What did that worthless pile of crap daddy of his do, blow up the house making meth?”

“No, nothing like that.” Rev. Daniels said, coolly. Their utilities were cut yesterday, and they were making do with a kerosene heater when there was an accident, and the house caught on fire.”

“Dak didn’t get burnt, did he?” Ralph said, becoming worried. “What were they thinking? That ain’t nuthin’ but stupid, right there!”

“Dakotah was checked in the hospital for smoke inhalation and carbon monoxide poisoning.” Rev. Daniels said, simply. “Doctors say he’ll be fine, and should be released later today.”

“Well, I’m glad it ain’t too bad.” Ralph said, exhaling. “I reckon the old hippie made it, too?”

“He has burns on him, but he’ll be okay.” Rev. Daniels replied. Dak saved his life, if you ask me.”

“God won’t take the worthless ones.” Ralph grumbled. “Where’s Dak going to stay now? At ya’lls place?”

“He’s going to stay with us, for the time being.” Rev. Daniels said, matter-of-factly. “Honestly, though, I wish he would take his aunt’s offer, and move down there.”

“Yeah, she’s been pretty upset about that.” Ralph agreed. “It’s not the easiest job, but she says it’s not that bad. Don’t he work for you part time, or something?”

“Yes. He’s sort of a part-time secretary,” Rev. Daniels said, pausing to take a sip of coffee. “but I’m having second thoughts. I thought that giving him a job would help him out a bit, and it’s true that his being there would help me get more accomplished outside of church. However, I now feel that keeping him here is holding him back from his true potential.”

“You say anything to him yet?” Ralph asked, curious.

“I threw a little hint at him the other day, and I could tell he didn’t want to hear that.” Rev. Daniels said, shaking his head. “He wants to stay here more than anything, mainly to be near my daughter, I’m afraid.”

“Dak’s not that type of kid, Reverend!” Ralph shouted, completely misunderstanding the dynamics of Dakotah and Ely’s relationship. “He’s green when it comes to girls, and he’s backward, too! I’d put money on your little girl being perfectly safe!”

“It’s not that I don’t trust Dak, but you probably know she’s seeing someone else, and she’s moving away to college in the fall.” Rev. Daniels said, reassuringly. “I’m afraid he’s going to be really hurt when all this goes down.”

“So what you’re saying is that it’s better for him to cut bait now than getting his heart stomped on later.” Ralph said, thinking.

“Yeah, something like that, I guess.” Rev. Daniels said, trying to decipher Ralph’s words.

“Reckon I can talk to him.” Ralph offered. “A little man-to-man might work.”

“Couldn’t hurt, I guess.” Rev. Daniels replied, wondering if Ralph didn’t classify him as a man. “He’s asleep at the moment, though. Maybe later?”

“That’d be a good idea.” Ralph agreed. “Ain’t promisin’ nothin’ though. Louise is a much better talker than I am.”

“You never can tell.” Rev. Daniels encouraged. “From the few conversations we’ve had about you, I could tell he respects you a lot.”

“Oh, yeah?” Ralph said, surprised. “That’s pretty cool, I reckon.”

“Do you have caller ID?” Rev. Daniels asked. “Just call my cell phone.”

“Yeah. I could do that.” Ralph replied, thinking. “In a few hours, you say?”

“He ought to be up by nine or ten, I’m guessing.” Rev. Daniels replied. “They probably won’t release him until this afternoon.”

“Around ten be pretty good, then?” Ralph asked.

“Yeah. Talk to you then.”

“Okay.” Ralph nodded. “Later.”

Rev. Daniels hung up, walked down the hall, and entered an elevator, pushing a four as he boarded. A moment later, he exited the elevator, and walked to the nurse’s station.

“Good morning.” Rev. Daniels said pleasantly to the first nurse that made eye contact. “How is Darren Lennon doing?”

“Let me see.” The nurse replied, looking at a chart. “He’s stable and sedated at the moment. Are you related?”

“No, I’m his son’s pastor.” Rev. Daniels answered. “He’s been admitted in room 227. I’m guessing you’ve heard about the fire last night?”

“Bits of it.” The nurse replied. “His son was a quick thinker, piling snow on him like that. Mr. Lennon was more than likely saved from multiple skin grafts, maybe even death.”

“That’s good to know.” Rev. Daniels said, smiling. “I’ll tell Dakotah  when he awakens. Thank you.”

Retracing his route, Rev. Daniels made his way back to room 227. He opened the door to see Dakotah sleeping peacefully. Curled in a chair next to the bed, dozing, was Ely. Rev. Daniels smiled, and covered her with a blanket.

“I think I’ll get myself another cup of coffee.” Rev. Daniels thought to himself, as he quietly slipped out of the room.

*****

Dakotah slowly awoke from a deep sleep. His eyes still closed, the first thing he realized was his headache was finally gone. The second thing was there was familiar female chatter around him. Slowly opening his eyes and focusing, he verified that Vanessa was standing in front of him, and Ely was seated to his right. Vanessa noticed him awake, and smiled.

“There he is.” Vanessa said brightly. How do you feel?

“I-I think I’m okay.” Dakotah stuttered groggily.

“You scared me half to death!” Ely exclaimed, trying to keep her voice down. “I thought you were dead!”

“S-sorry.” Dakotah said, taken aback. “I didn’t mean to scare you.”

“I knew I should’ve made you come home with me!” Ely continued, upset.

“I didn’t know my father would set the house and himself on fire.” Dakotah retorted, gathering himself. “How is he, by the way?”

“He’s okay.” Vanessa answered, professionally. “He has 1st degree burns over 15% of his body, and 2nd degree over a softball sized area on his abdomen. He’ll be in the hospital at least a couple of weeks, they say. They also say your quick thinking using snow to put out the flames and ice down the burn area probably saved his life.”

“Everything got burned up, didn’t it?” Dakotah lamented, already instinctively knowing the answer.

“Yeah, there’s nothing left.” Ely nodded.

Dakotah thought for a moment. “I guess all the clothes I have left are the ones I wore when I got here.”

“Don’t worry about that.” Ely said, calmly. “Dad’s on it.”

“Lost the Bible Grandma got me.” Dakotah said sadly. “Picture of me and Andre is gone, too.”

“Those can be replaced, too.” Ely said, reassuringly. “A preacher’s house is full of Bibles, and I can get a copy of you and Andre printed anytime.”

“I guess I’ll be staying with you now, huh?” Dakotah said, matter-of-factly.

“Looks like it.” Ely said, smiling slightly. “It’s going to be weird, though.”

“Hey, you two can get all snuggly, now that you’re in the same house!” Vanessa said, grinning.

Dakotah’s face turned beet red, but he knew better than to say anything.

“Oh, no, we’re not, either!” Ely protested. “My girlfriend is in Ann Arbor!”

“Please, that troll?” Vanessa snarked. “Honestly, I don’t know what you see in her. You and Dakotah act like an old married couple already, and you know he worships the ground you walk on. You love him, don’t you?”

“I do, but only as a friend.” Ely replied, irritated. I would do anything for him, but I’m committed to Hannah. And where you get this troll stuff anyway? It’s not like you know her, or anything!”

Dakotah remained silent, embarrassed by Vanessa’s words, and stung by Ely’s. He began to feel sorry for Ely.

“I won’t badger you on it anymore,” Vanessa said, softening her stance. “but I wish you’d wake up someday before he’s gone to Kentucky or somewhere, and it’s too late.”

“I’m not going to Kentucky.” Dakotah interjected. “I’m staying here, and I’m going to help make New Hope a church anyone would want to go to!”

“That’s good to hear, I guess.” Vanessa said, simply. “Glad you’re feeling better, Dakotah. I have to go back to work now. See you later.”

Dakotah and Ely watch Vanessa leave without responding.

“I’m sorry.” Dakotah said.

“Why are you sorry?” Ely asked, confused.

“That Van talked to you like that.” Dakotah said, shaking his head. “She’s changed.”

“It’s okay.” Ely replied, pensively. “I’ve plenty of practice defining our relationship with you, Dad, and Hannah.”

“How long have you been here?” Dakotah asked, wanting to change the subject.

“Since three, I think?” Ely replied, unsure. “Seriously, I don’t think I’ve ever been so scared in my life!”

“Sorry.” Dakotah said, full of regret.

“Don’t be.” Ely countered. “It wasn’t your fault. Hey, you saved your dad, right? That makes you a hero, to me.”

“I don’t feel like a hero.” Dakotah said, shaking his head. “I feel exhausted.”

“Well, duh.” Ely said, smiling. “Look what you’ve been through in the past week. I’m exhausted, and all I did was watch you.”

“What time is it?” Dakotah asked, curious.

“The clock over your head says 8:30.” Ely replied. “Why?”

“Shouldn’t you be in school?” Dakotah smiled, shaking his head. “They’re going to think you’re truant, or something.”

“I’m good.” Ely said, laughing. “Probably just some Government homework I can catch up on later.”

Dakotah smiled warmly. “Thanks.”

“For what?”

“For being here.”

“Baka, that’s what friends are for, remember?” Ely said, smiling, as she hugged him.

*****

“Feeling better?” the doctor asked, while perusing Dakotah’s charts.

“I did before eating what passes for breakfast around here.” Dakotah grumbled. “I think it was bacon and eggs.”

The doctor laughed. “Well the hospital food can’t be classified as fine cuisine, can it?”

Dakotah shook his head, chuckling.

“It looks like you had a mild case of carbon monoxide poisoning.” The doctor said, reading the chart. “I think you’re out of the woods now. Let’s see if I can get you out of here this afternoon.”

“Sounds good.” Dakotah said, relieved.

“Have a good day, and stay out of burning buildings, okay?” the doctor said, smiling. He leaned over and shook Dakotah’s hand before leaving.

Alone in the room, Dakotah rose, and checking his gown for gaps, searched the drawers for his clothes, but was unsuccessful. Suddenly, the door started to open, and Dakotah, panicking, jumped in bed, pulling the sheet over him.

“Scared that someone’s going to see your butt?” Rev. Daniels said, laughing. Ely followed her father inside, a step behind.

“Uh, yeah.” Dakotah muttered, embarrassed. “Where are the clothes I wore here?”

“The shirt was thrown out, because it was singed.” Rev. Daniels said, still smiling. “Mama has your pants, washing them, along with your new clothes.”

“New clothes? Dakotah asked, curious.

“Mama and I called around, looking for any clothes people wanted to donate, and we acquired a dozen shirts and a coat, plus money for pants, socks, and underwear.” Rev. Daniels replied.

“You’ll have a whole new wardrobe!” Ely said excitedly.

“Mama will be here later with going home clothes.” Rev. Daniels said, smiling. “ We’ve got a spot reserved for the rest in the spare bedroom.”

“Wow. Thank you!” Dakotah said, overwhelmed. “I don’t know what I’d do without you!”

“It’s not just us, Dak.” Rev. Daniels said, holding his hand up. “We had about 20 people donate clothes or money.”

“I’ll have to thank everyone Sunday.” Dakotah said, happily.

“Has your mom been by yet?” Ely asked.

“No. Did someone call her?” Dakotah said, puzzled.

“Dad did about seven.” Ely replied.

“I told her you were okay.” Rev. Daniels said. “She thanked me and hung up. No disrespect, but she is a strange woman.”

“No joke.” Dakotah said, shaking his head. “Anyone call my aunt yet?”

“I spoke to your uncle earlier.” Rev. Daniels said.

“You spoke to Unk?” Dakotah exclaimed, surprised. “What did he say?”

“He said he was going to call my cell after you awoke.” Rev. Daniels said. “I told him to try around ten o’clock.”

Dakotah turned around to see the time showing on the clock.  “It’s almost ten now!” he said, excitedly.

“Yes, he should be calling at any time now.” Rev. Daniels agreed. Suddenly, his cell phone began to ring. “Ah, speak of the devil!” he said, looking at the screen. “Hello? Yes, he’s right here.” He handed the phone to Dakotah.

“Hello?” Dakotah said eagerly into the phone.

“How you doing, boy?” Ralph said, somberly.

“Doing okay.” Dakotah replied, matching his uncle’s tone.

“I tell you what, when I told your aunt what happened, she ‘bout crapped herself!” Ralph boomed.

“I didn’t mean to-“ Dakotah said, trying to apologize.

“Don’t worry, Dak, she always gets over it.” Ralph interrupted. Of course, I don’t tell her about the really bad stuff I see out on the road. If’n I did, she’d never let me out of house. I’ll reckon she’ll call you later and try to get you to come down here.”

“I know.” Dakotah said, shaking his head.

“Well, I wouldn’t worry about it.” Ralph said, calmly. “It ain’t like I’m gonna come up there and point my .45 at your head, and make you get your scrawny little butt in my truck, you know?”

“Uh, yeah.” Dakotah said, confused.

“You know, a man has a right to do what he thinks is best, don’t matter what some silly woman thinks, right?” Ralph said, derisively.

Ralph’s words made Dakotah think for a moment. “You know, you’re right.” he said, looking at Ely and smiling. Ely returned a puzzled look.

“I know I’m right.” Ralph said, forcefully. A man’s got a right to turn damn good money just to be near the girl he loves, even if’n she got someone else, and is going to leave town to be with that person, right?”

“W-Wait, what?”  Dakotah stuttered, dumbstruck.

“Hey, it ain’t no sweat off my ass.” Ralph said, nonchalantly. Remember, boy, this is America, where a man is free and has a fundamental right to be stupid!”

“Hey!” Dakotah snapped forcefully. “I’m not stupid!”

“How do you reckon you ain’t?” Ralph drawled.

“Uh, I don’t know.” Dakotah replied, struggling for an answer. “I know I’m doing the right thing, though.”

“What makes you think that?” Ralph pressed.

“Because I’m helping Rev. Daniels ministry.” Dakotah said, finally finding some footing.

“How does that help you get where you want to go in life?” Ralph asked. “What is it that you want to do? I can’t remember.”

“I want to be a meteorologist, I guess.” Dakotah said weakly.

“More than working at a church for your career?”

“Yeah.”

“Well, you ain’t gonna be no meter whatever workin’ at that church!” Ralph said pointedly.

“Well, I’m not going to be one working at a factory, either!” Dakotah shot back.

“The hell you say.” Ralph growled. “I tell you what, boy. You come down here to live, rent free, and I’ll buy you a car, all you have to do is buy your gas and insurance. Hell, I’ll even get you a cell phone so you can talk to your sweetie whenever the hell you want. Save up your money for two or three years and you can damn near pay your own way at UK, because by then you’ll be a Kentucky resident. I went through all this with Dylan, but he wouldn’t get off his little worthless little ass. I figured you had more gumption than that. I reckon I was wrong.”

“I am a hard worker!” Dakotah cried. “I’ll show you! I’ll show everybody!”

“Dak boy, I apologize.” Ralph said, softening his tone. “I didn’t mean to make you think I’m calling you lazy. I know you’re not lazy, but I know you can do a lot more than you are, too. If you’re wanting to do God’s work, the old woman goes to a good church, and I’m sure they’ll be happy to let you pitch in.”

“I’m sorry.” Dakotah said, sadly. “My home is here.”

“That’s fine, I reckon.” Ralph said, sorrowful. “I won’t bother you no more. If’n you happen to change your mind, I’ve been deliverin’ pipe to North Dakota twice a week lately. All you have to do is say the word, and I’ll just make a little detour, and come and get you. Deal?”

“Okay. Thanks for thinking of me.” Dakotah said, regretfully. “I don’t mean to make you and Aunt Lou mad.”

“Aw, you ain’t makin’ me mad.” Ralph said, smiling to himself. “Maybe a little frustrated, but I ain’t mad. I only met you once, but I think the world of you. Just want what’s best for you.”

“Thanks.” Dakotah said, relieved. “Tell Aunt Lou I’ll call her after I get out of here, okay?”

“Got it.” Ralph replied. “Take care, Dak boy. I’ll see you around, sometime.”

“See you, Unk.” Dakotah said, before he hung up the phone.

“You okay?” Rev. Daniels asked, concerned.

“Yeah, I guess.” Dakotah said, exhaling. “Unk was trying to sell me on Kentucky, too.”

“Can’t blame him.” Rev. Daniels said. “He loves you too, you know.”

“I know.” Dakotah said, shaking his head. “I didn’t know he would come on so strong, though.”

“He’s a guy that’s not afraid to say what he thinks, and makes sure everyone knows it.” Rev. Daniels said, making direct eye contact with Dakotah. “I could hear his conversation from here. Can’t say I disagree with his proposal. Almost free everything is a pretty good deal, don’t you think?”

“You’re not serious, are you?” Dakotah said, shocked.

“If I was in his shoes, I would say the same thing.” Rev. Daniels said, thinking. “Not the same words, mind you, but definitely the same sentiment.”

“So you want me to go, too?” Dakotah said, bitterly.

“From a purely selfish standpoint, no.” Rev. Daniels said, solemnly. “But, as a friend, who wants the best for you, yes.”

Dakotah became numb, unable to speak.

“All I’m asking is for you to think about it.” Rev. Daniels said, sympathetically. “I have to go now. I promised Mrs. Bivins I’d go visit her today. I’ll be back in a couple of hours. Hopefully, you can go home then. Catch you later.” He turned to Ely. “Need anything while I’m gone?”

“I think I’ll be okay.” Ely replied quietly.

“Well, seeya.” Rev. Daniels said, waving slightly, as he left the room.

Dakotah stared at Ely, silently.

“It hurt him a lot to say that, but it’s the truth.” Ely said, uncomfortably.

“I know.” Dakotah mumbled.

“Can I get you something out of a vending machine?” she asked.

“No, thank you.” Dakotah replied flatly. He turned on the television, the channel showing an infomercial about the latest hair styling product. Ignoring Ely, he turned up the volume, and closed his eyes. Silently, Ely exited the room.

*****

A shallow rap on the door woke Dakotah from a light sleep. “Come in.” he said, turning down the volume on the television.

Sylvia slowly walked in, and took a seat next to Dakotah. She looked haggard, with tousled hair, and bags under her eyes. “How are you doing, Dakotah?” she said, wearily.

“Maybe I need to ask you the same thing, mom.” Dakotah asked, concerned.

“I’m okay.” Sylvia said, smiling weakly. “Frank and I had it out again last night. I’m tired of being his maid. Disability or not, he should pick up after himself, and not be a slob.”

“Been there, done that.” Dakotah said, shaking his head.

“Sometimes I wonder why I stay married to him.” Sylvia pondered.

“Everyone else does, too.” Dakotah laughed.

“You seem to be no worse for wear.” Sylvia said, simply.

“I breathed in some smoke and stuff during the fire, but I’m much better now.” Dakotah said, nonchalant. “I should get out of the hospital this afternoon.”

“That’s good.” Sylvia said, not focusing fully on Dakotah’s words. “Know anything about your father?”

“Not much.” Dakotah replied, shaking his head. “I know he’s going to make it, though.”

“As much as I hate that man, I wouldn’t want him to be burned to death.” Sylvia said, serious. “You did good, son.”

“Thanks.” Dakotah said simply, wondering if his mother was sincere.

“I’m hopeful the new administration will get the auto industry going again, and I can get back to work.” Sylvia said, wistfully.

“Me, too.” Dakotah said, sympathetically. “At least you won’t be around Frank that much.”

“I’m not around him much as it is.” Sylvia said, frowning. “Mostly he stays in his den. He claims he’s a level 55 warlock now.”

“Oooooooooohhhhh.” Dakotah drawled out sarcastically.

“I guess you’re going to stay at the preacher’s now?” Sylvia asked.

“Well, home isn’t an option, is it?” Dakotah replied bitterly.

“No.” Sylvia replied, painfully. “Not now, anyway. I do miss having you around.”

“You didn’t have to pick up after Frank when I lived there.” Dakotah said, flashing an impish grin.

“That hurt.” Sylvia said, cringing.

“I love you anyway, mom.” Dakotah said, smiling warmly.

“I love you too, son.” Sylvia said, her features softening. “I guess I’d better be going. Have to pick up some barbecue for Jabba the Warlock. Call me sometime?”

Dakotah laughed. “Just come by the church between nine and one, Monday through Friday. We’re between Benny’s Used Cars and the Zippy Mart, on Madison Street.”

“I may do that.” Sylvia said, thoughtfully. “See you.” she said, walking toward the door.

Dakotah waved as his mother exited. ”It would be cool if she booted Jabba, er Frank, out of the house.” he thought.

*****

After a short nap, Dakotah awoke to an empty room. The clock over his head read 11:50AM, and the TV was showing an infomercial about how to get rid of belly fat. Shaking his head, he turned the TV off.

Feeling his stomach rumble, Dakotah realized he was rapidly becoming famished. He did not eat much breakfast, and lunch, whatever it was going to be, did not hold much promise, either.

A sharp rap interrupted his reverie, causing Dakotah to jerk. Striding in, carrying a couple of bags, and holding a twenty ounce soft drink, was Mama.

“How’s the hero doin’?” Mama grinned.

Dakotah instantly beamed. “I’m doing pretty good. Ready to get out of here!”

“Hon, the hospital’s good at keepin’ you so they can figure out something to charge you!” Mama said, matter-of-factly.

Dakotah froze. “How am I going to pay for this?” he moaned.

“Oh, don’t worry about it.” Mama said, waving her hand dismissively. “If you ain’t got no money, they can’t take it! You just got the clothes on your back! Oh, by the way, here’s some clothes.” she said, holding up the larger bag. “I hope they fit.”

“I’m sure they’ll be fine.” Dakotah said, smiling. “ I can’t believe people would donate clothes and money for me!”

“People here at New Hope think the world of you, sweetie.” Mama said, happily. “I think of you as one of my own kids.”

Dakotah felt warm inside.

“Oh, I brought you some sandwiches, chips, and a pop.” Mama said, taking food out of the second bag. “I was thinkin’ maybe you’d be hungry.”

“Oh, that’s awesome!” Dakotah exclaimed, ecstatic. “I wasn’t looking forward to eating lunch, especially after that awful breakfast. Didn’t have any flavor to it.”

“Well, I know the lady that’s head of the food here, and she’s a better cook than I am.” Mama said, shaking her head. “It’s just that she has to cook the way the hospital wants her to cook. I shoulda asked her to cook something custom for you. It would knock your socks off!”

“I can’t imagine anyone being a better cook than you.” Dakotah said, taking another bite of his sandwich. “This is so good!”

“Now, you gonna make Mama blush now.” she said, chuckling. “You stop that!”

“This is why I don’t want to move to Kentucky.” Dakotah declared. “I have a home here, at least sort of. People care about me here!”

“Kentucky?” Mama said, slightly confused. “What’s there again? I think maybe Brother Alan mentioned it.”

“My aunt and uncle live there.” Dakotah replied. “They say there’s a good job waiting for me if I move.”

“How much does it pay?” Mama asked, curious.

“Aunt Lou says I could make 700 a week to start.” Dakotah said simply.

Mama gave Dakotah a puzzled look. “And tell me why you ain’t going down there?” she said accusingly.

“Because this is my home.” Dakotah replied, confused. Suddenly, he realized the meaning behind her words. “Wait, not you too!” he protested.

“Of course not, honey.” Mama said, softly. “I don’t ever want any of my babies to leave. Let me ask you something.”

“Okay…..” Dakotah replied, unsure.

“Where you gonna live down there?”

“At my aunt and uncle’s.” Dakotah answered. “They had a new doublewide put up a year ago.”

“Hmm.” Mama nodded. “How are you getting’ to work? You’ll have to buy a car, right?”

“No, Unk said he was going to buy me a car.” Dakotah said, almost defensively. “I would just have to buy gas and insurance.”

“So, you move down there, with kinfolk that love you enough to give you a place to live, a car, and a good job, and you’d rather stay up here?” Mama asked, raising an eyebrow.

“Yeah.” Dakotah answered meekly.

“You ever talk to Dre about the future?” Mama asked quietly.

“H-Huh?” Dakotah stuttered, confused.

“He used to pick you up and take you to school, didn’t he?” Mama quizzed.

“Y-yeah.” Dakotah replied, clueless.

“You used to eat lunch with him, didn’t you?”

“Yeah.”

“And you two never talked about what you wanted to do after you graduated high school?” Mama asked, probingly.

“I don’t remember.” Dakotah said, thinking. “We mostly just goofed around, and acted silly.”

“Dre wanted more than anything to be a preacher.” Mama said, passionately. “He never said anything to you?”

“He only asked me once if I believed in Jesus, and I told him I was saved, and went to 1st Baptist.” Dakotah said, shaking his head. “He never said anything after that. I wish I could’ve seen him here!”

“He was a young man that had the Spirit.” Mama said, wistfully. “Did you know he was accepted to go to a seminary in Georgia?”

“Georgia?” Dakotah asked, surprised.

“Mmm-hmm.” Mama nodded. He was washing cars for his uncle so he could have spending money while he lived down there. The seminary had a program where he could work while studying, so he could pay his own way.”

“Why Georgia?” Dakotah wondered. “Couldn’t he do this closer to home?”

“There weren’t any quality institutions where he could do work study.” Mama said, matter-of-factly. “Brother Alan recommended it as one of the best seminaries in the nation. We went down there during spring break last year, and checked the place out. It was everything we had hoped for. He was so excited!”

“I wish he hadn’t died.” Dakotah lamented.

“What’s done is done, sugar.” Mama said with a shrug. “He’s in a better place now.”

“Don’t you miss him?” Dakotah asked, confused.

“I miss all my babies.” Mama said, pointedly.

“Where are they?” Dakotah cried, shocked. “They aren’t dead, are they?”

“Oh, no, they’re all fine.” Mama said, laughing. “Laquita lives in Milwaukee. She’s a social psychiatrist. George is an engineer, living outside DC. Monica is an assistant district attorney in Houston.”

“Wow, they’re everywhere!” Dakotah exclaimed, impressed. “Do you ever see them?”

“Once during the summer, and again at Christmas.” Mama replied, longingly. If I weren’t so busy cooking last year, I would’ve introduced them to you. Dre was the baby, ten years younger than Monica. They thought I spoiled him too much!” she said, laughing. “But you know what? I made him work as hard as any of my other kids!”

“You were pretty tough with them?” Dakotah said, surprised. “I can’t imagine!”

“Had to be.” Mama, said, matter-of-factly. “I could see there wasn’t much of a future for the kids if they stayed here. I made them understand that if they were going to receive the full fruit of God’s blessings, they had to go out and take it.”

“I wish Andre was here.” Dakotah said, sadly.

“Child, he is here, watching!” Mama said, emphatically. “So is your grandma. I talk to Dre every day, along with my sweet Eugene.”

“Eugene?” Dakotah wondered aloud.

“My dear husband.” Mama said, longingly. “Thirty years married, and snap! Heart attack. He was a good, good man. I fed him too good, I think. You would’ve liked him. He was always laughing.”

“I’m sorry.” Dakotah said, apologetically. “I didn’t know.”

“His passion was for his kids to live their dream, unlike his life, toiling away in a factory.” Mama said, emphatically. “He got to see Laquita and George get their degrees. He was so proud!”

“I wish I could’ve met him.” Dakotah said, thinking.

“You know what he’d say if he did meet you?” Mama asked, pointing her finger at him. “He’d ask you what do you want to do with your life? What’s your dream?” Mama posed for a moment. “What is your dream?” she said, gazing intently into his eyes.

“To marry Ely.” Dakotah replied, stone-faced.

Mama began to laugh loudly. “Boy, you got it so bad, it hurts to watch you sometimes, bless your heart!” she cackled. “Don’t she have a dream?”

“Yeah.” Dakotah sighed. “She wants to live in Japan.”

“That’s about far away as it gets, ain’t it?” Mama said, sympathetically.

“Yeah.” Dakotah mumbled.

“The way God works, is if you two are meant to be, it’ll happen, you know?” Mama said, encouragingly. “Ever think that you two weren’t meant to be?”

“No. Not really.” Dakotah said, shaking his head.

You know, both of you are way too young to be worrying about love and such stuff.” Mama said pointedly. “So, while she’s in Japan, living her dream, what are you going to do?”

“I don’t know.” Dakotah replied, shrugging. “Help out at the church. Maybe get a part time job in the evening.”

“That doesn’t sound like a dream to me, Dakotah.” Mama said, frowning. “What do you want to do?”

“I did want to be a meteorologist,” Dakotah muttered, looking down, “but I don’t see that happening.”

“Why?” Mama asked. “Isn’t that a dream?”

“Yeah, I guess, but it’s as impossible as marrying Ely.” Dakotah whined.

“Now you’re just feeling sorry for yourself!” Mama barked, losing patience. “Young man, I ain’t a puttin’ up with that!” You’re better than that! A lot better!”

“Yeah, you say that, but you’re biased!” Dakotah snapped.

“Really? You say I’m biased?” Mama countered, indignant. “What if I told you I think you’re every bit as smart and work just as hard as any of my kids? Is that biased? Do I love you more than my babies?”

“No.” Dakotah mumbled.

“I wouldn’t lie to you, would I?” Mama pressed.

Dakotah shook his head.

“You better say no.” Mama said, emphatically. “Mama tells it like it is. Now let me ask you again. If my babies can go to school and get degrees and start good careers, what makes you think you can’t?”

“I can!” Dakotah cried. “I’m just scared!”

“Of what?” Mama asked softly.

“Of losing Ely.” Dakotah said, tearing up.

“Can’t lose something you ain’t never had.” Mama said, putting her hand on his shoulder.

“More than that.” Dakotah said, almost inaudibly. “I’m just a big screwup.”

“Now you stop that right now!” Mama shouted, shaking Dakotah. “You think if you’re a big screwup, Brother Alan would give you that job? He depends on you because you’re a quality person! Me and Brother Alan, we talk about you almost every day. And let me tell you, he thinks the world of you!”

“But he wants me to leave, too!” Dakotah wailed.

Mama sighed. “Sweetie, do you realize he loves you as his own son? That it hurts him to let you go? But he knows from the bottom of his heart that this is the best path for you to take.”

“What about the church?” Dakotah sobbed. “It’s going to suffer without my help!”

Mama took Dakotah’s hands into her own. He noticed that they were as strong as they were soft. “The Lord will provide. He always does.” she said quietly, with conviction. “As He provides for you. Consider your situation as Jesus knocking at your door. He is knocking at your door with an opportunity, and I feel that it’s your responsibility to answer it, and to give this opportunity everything you got. Otherwise, you are doing God, and everyone- me, Brother Alan, Ely, your mom, your aunt and uncle, even your grandma and Andre, a disservice. Not only that, you’d be proving that mean old man who threw you out was right. So, who’s right? Everyone that loves you, or some old goat?”

Dakotah was stunned speechless.

“Dakotah, you are more than capable of doing many great things. You go down there, work hard, save your money, go to school, get your degree, and then come back here as a high dollar weatherman, so you can help out the church with your time and your money.” Mama said, smiling. Maybe by then Ely will have moved back here. Maybe you wind up goin’ to Japan, and be a weatherman over there.”

Dakotah remained quiet for a moment. “What if I get over there, and she’s married, or seeing someone?” he said, worriedly.

Mama shook her head, and smiled. “Honey, the thing about life is where you plan to be is never where you wind up. You never can tell, you might find some nice girl in Kentucky. You never know what’s going to happen tomorrow.”

“I doubt that.” Dakotah said, shaking his head. “Not that anyone would want me. I’m certainly not looking for anyone else.”

“Child, you ought to hear yourself talk.” Mama said, kindly. “You had the prettiest girl in town eating out of your hand, and you pushed her away. You got this real bad habit of putting yourself down. Stop. Truth is truth! You are a special young man!”

Dakotah looked down, and began to weep.

“It’s okay, baby, it’s okay.” Mama said, comforting Dakotah. “You’re just like George. He was a homebody, too. But you know, after a couple of months, he didn’t want to come back. All you need is courage and faith. Lord ain’t gonna give you more than you can handle. You have to have the faith to believe in yourself, and the courage to deal with whatever life throws at you. I know you can do it, Dakotah.”

Mama looked at the clock, and rose. “Well, I guess I’d better get goin’.” she said, smiling. “Anything else I can get for you?”

Dakotah shook his head, wiping away tears.

“Well, hurry on up out of here.” Mama said, putting on her coat. “I’ll see you around sometime soon. You be good!”

“Mama?” Dakotah blurted out.

“Yeah, hon.”

“Thanks.” he said, smiling weakly.

“You need someone to talk to, you come see me, you hear?” Mama said, grinning.

“Yes, ma’am.” Dakotah replied, quietly.

Mama smiled and waved as she walked out of the room.

Dakotah looks down, and begins to pray. “Lord, I need your strength, and your wisdom.”

Mama took a few steps down the hallway, and saw Rev. Daniels and Ely exiting the elevator.

“Did you talk to him?” Rev. Daniels asked.

“Yes, I did.” Mama replied, smiling.

“How did it go?” Ely asked, concerned.

“I told him what needed to be told.” Mama said, simply. “The rest is up to him. I’d let him think for a bit, though.”

Rev Daniels nodded. “Let’s go get something to eat.” he said, motioning to Ely.

“We just ate!” Ely said, confused.

“Let’s get some ice cream, then.” Rev. Daniels said, smiling.

*****

Dakotah looked out the window. Light snow could be seen falling out of the steel gray sky.

“Everyone wants me to move down there.” Dakotah said to himself aloud. Even Brother Alan and Mama.” He looked up at the ceiling. “Andre, what would you say? I know what you’d say. You’d say go for it. What would Grandma say? She’d tell me to quit crying, and go to work. Mom is the only one who would want me to stay, but only because she wants a housekeeper.”

Dakotah took a deep breath, and exhaled. “Alan just wants what’s the best for me. So does Mama. Ely wants me to go because it simplifies her life, I think. I’ll never be convinced that she truly loves Hannah. When she kissed me, I knew something’s there. I just know it! If I leave, she’ll be all alone with Hannah.” He shook his head. “Ugh! I don’t want to go!”

Dakotah blankly gazed out the window. “If you two are meant to be, it’ll happen, Mama said. She said if I have faith and courage, it would all work out. I want to believe her. I guess that’s where faith comes in? I know the Bible says something about faith without works is dead, so I guess I have to do something? I’m so confused!”

“I wish Dre was here.” he lamented. “He’d say something silly, and I always felt better.” Dakotah paused for a minute, thinking. “I guess I really depended on him at school. Heck, I guess I depended on everyone. Ely, Brother Alan, Grandma, Mama, even Aunt Lou and Unk. If I stay up here, I guess I’ll keep depending on people, for a long time.” he sighed. “I know I’ll depend on Lou and Unk down there, but it wouldn’t be forever. Would Ely respect me if I stayed up here? This sucks!”

“I depended on Mom and Frank before they threw me out, too.” Dakotah continued, walking aimlessly around the room.  “I don’t want to ever feel like that again. But I still kinda feel like that, though, to everyone else. I’m tired of feeling like a worthless piece of crap. Mama is right. If Ely and I are meant to be together, it’ll happen. The best chance for that to happen is for me to make the best me I can. If Ely and I never make it, I’ll still be a lot better off than if I stay here.”

Dakotah shook his head, and exhaled. “I wish I didn’t have the dread feeling of going to my doom.” He gritted his teeth. “Yoshi! Ikuzo!”

Dakotah got on his knees at the side of the bed, and began to pray. “Lord, I’m sorry if I’m making the wrong decision, but I have to trust in the wisdom of those who love me, and believe that their wisdom is coming from you. I pray you to give me the strength, the courage, and wisdom to please you in your sight. In Jesus’ name, Amen.” Burying his head in the sheets, Dakotah began to cry.

A few minutes later, there was a light rap on the door, snapping Dakotah’s head out of the sheets. Quickly gathering himself, Dakotah took a tissue and blew his nose.

“Come in!” Dakotah said nervously, wiping his eyes. Rev. Daniels and Ely stepped inside.

“I just spoke with the doctor.” Rev. Daniels said cheerfully. They’re finalizing the paperwork so you can get out of here.”

“Cool.” Dakotah said, with a touch of melancholy.

“How are you feeling?” Rev. Daniels said, sensing something amiss. “You okay?”

“Yeah.” Dakotah said, sadly. “Can I talk to Ely? Alone?”

“Are you going to propose to her?” Rev. Daniels replied, smiling.

“Daddy!” Ely shouted, indignant.

“That would be awesome, but no.” Dakotah said, smiling a trace. “I just want to talk to her.”

“Okay, sure.” Rev. Daniels replied, coolly. “I can always get into trouble here at the hospital! I’ll be back in a little bit.” Quickly, he slipped out of the room.

“Okay, what?” Ely asked, unsure.

Dakotah cleared his throat, and took a deep breath. “I think I’m going to move to Kentucky.”

Ely’s jaw dropped. “For real? Why?”

“Because your dad, Mama, Unk, and Aunt Lou all say it’s the best thing for me.” Dakotah replied, steeling himself. “I can earn a lot of money for college really fast.”

“That’s true.” Ely said, becoming numb.

“I just want to know one thing.” Dakotah said, nervously.

“Okaaaaayyyyyy, what?” Ely said, hesitant.

“Ely, I love you. You mean everything to me.” Dakotah said, staring intently at Ely.

“Oh, God, this is going to be a proposal, isn’t it?” Ely asked, filled with dread.

“No, it’s not. Listen.” Dakotah said firmly. “If there’s even the slightest chance the two of us will ever be together, I want you to confirm it now.”

“No.” Ely blurted hastily.

“There’s absolutely nothing.” Dakotah said skeptically.

“Not a trace.” Ely countered.

“What about the kiss?” Dakotah queried.

“What kiss?” Ely asked, dismissively.

“Christmas Eve.”

“You tricked me, that doesn’t count!” Ely exclaimed.

“Not my kiss, your kiss.” Dakotah retorted, frustrated. “You kissed me back, remember?”

“That never happened, and besides, I told you never to speak of it again!” Ely shouted, flustered.

“You’re awfully rattled for something that never happened.” Dakotah said, derisively.

“It was out of curiosity, there was nothing to it.” Ely said, shaking her head.

“Didn’t feel like it to me.” Dakotah said, staring intently at Ely.

“No, you felt what you wanted to feel.” Ely snapped. “Don’t get me mixed up in your fantasies!”

Dakotah paused. “So, if I left, you wouldn’t regret it?”

“I’d miss you, of course, but there would be no regrets.” Ely replied intently.

“Fine, then.” Dakotah said, solemnly. “I’ve made up my mind. I’m moving.”

Ely stared hard at Dakotah, silent.

“What?” Dakotah said, expecting a response.

“Congratulations.” Ely replied, coldly. “I’m sure you’ll do fine down there!” She strode for the door.

“Where are you going?” Dakotah cried.

“To find my father!” Ely exclaimed as she reached for the door. “I’m sure he’d want to know!”

Dakotah sighed. ”That didn’t go well.” he thought to himself.

Ely strode down the hallway, toward the elevator. As she arrived, Rev. Daniels stepped out of the elevator. Tearfully, she ran into his arms.

“He’s leaving!” she sobbed. “He’s actually leaving!”

Rev. Daniels held her at arms’ length, wiping her hair away from her face. “Why are you crying?” he asked empathetically. Aren’t you happy for him? I think he made a grown-up decision, don’t you think?”

“Yeah.” Ely sniffled. “Doesn’t mean I like it, though.”

“I don’t like it either, but it is the best choice for him.” Rev. Daniels said, kindly. “He’ll be working hard for a good future for himself. I think it’s something to rejoice about. Besides, that should make things better for you and Hannah, right? You’ll be busy in college in a few months, so it’s all good, right? Win-win-win?”

“Yeah.” Ely muttered dejectedly.

“Come on! Let’s go congratulate him!” Rev. Daniels said brightly.

“No thanks. I’m going to get something to drink.” Ely said in a monotone. “I’ll be back later.”

Ely pushed the down button on the elevator, while Rev. Daniels made his way to Dakotah’s room.

“Hey Dak, I just the news!” Rev. Daniels said enthusiastically. “Congratulations! I think that was a mature decision.”

“Thanks.” Dakotah said, flatly. “Where’s Ely?”

“She went after something to drink.“ Rev. Daniels replied, matter-of-factly.

“She really seemed upset when I told her.” Dakotah said, shaking his head. “I thought she would be happy.”

“Well, you are her best friend.” Rev. Daniels said, thoughtfully. “She knows this is your best course of action, but it still hurts.”

“Hurts me, too.” Dakotah said, sadly.

“And me.” Rev Daniels interjected. “And Mama too, I’m sure.

“Yeah, she said as much earlier.” Dakotah said, thinking. “Did you put her up to talking to me?”

“Nope, she did it on her own.” Rev. Daniels said, shaking his head. “There’s a reason she’s my most trusted advisor. ‘Those who trust in themselves are fools, but those who walk in wisdom are kept safe.’ Let me tell you this. She knows a looooooot more than she puts on.”

“I believe it.” Dakotah said, beginning to smile. “She came on real strong earlier.”

“The advice she gave you isn’t any different than what she would’ve given Andre.” Rev. Daniels said, thoughtfully. “She cares about you that much.”

“I know.” Dakotah said, nodding. “She called me one of her ‘babies’.”

“Coming from her, there’s no higher praise.“ Rev. Daniels asserted.

Dakotah smiled.

There was a sharp rap on the door. A doctor holding a folder slipped in quickly.

“Ready to go home?” the doctor asked.

“Yes, I am!” Dakotah answered enthusiastically.

“Almost everyone says that, for some reason.” The doctor laughed. “Just sign here, and we’ll get a wheelchair to take you to the door.”

“I’d like to see my father before I leave.” Dakotah said kindly, signing the paperwork.

“Not a problem.” The doctor replied. “The nurse will be here in a few minutes with the wheelchair. Have a good day!” he said, as he walked out of the room.

“I guess I’d better get dressed.” Dakotah said, smiling. “I’m so ready to get out of here!”

“If you’ll excuse me, I’ll be outside.” Rev. Daniels said as he exited the room.

Dakotah perused the bag of clothes Mama left. He pulled out his old pair of jeans and a red flannel shirt. “Ugh.” he muttered, as he dressed. “I can see why this was donated. “Beggars can’t be choosers, though.”

“Are you ready?” Rev. Daniels said, while knocking and opening the door a crack.

“Yeah, come in.”

A nurse pushing a wheelchair, Rev. Daniels, and Ely entered the room. It was immediately apparent to Dakotah that she had been crying.

“You okay?” Dakotah asked Ely.

“Yeah.” Ely mumbled, barely audible.

“Can I go see my father?” Dakotah asked while he sat in the wheelchair. “He’s in room 422.”

“Sure!” The nurse answered pleasantly.

The trip to the fourth floor was mostly silent. Fortunately for Dakotah, there was no wait at the elevator, so the trip only took a couple of minutes.

Walking ahead, Rev. Daniels knocked on the door to room 422, and stuck his head inside. “Hey, you up for some company?”

Darren Lennon waved, half-heartedly. Dakotah, being pushed by the nurse, and Rev. Daniels entered; Ely remained outside.

“There’s my son, the hero.” Darren mumbled, coughing.

“They say you’re going to be back to normal in a few weeks.” Dakotah said, smiling.

“That’s cool, as long as they’re pumping me full of the good stuff.” Darren said, managing a weak smile. “There’s no substitute for good opiates, son. Remember that.”

Dakotah shook his head, smiling. “Where are you going to stay when you get out?”

“I’ve got plenty of places to go, don’t worry about me.” Darren replied, simply. “Might get a little money from the house insurance, if Aunty Gotrocks don’t get ahold of it first.”

“That’s good, I guess.” Dakotah said, shrugging his shoulders. “Well, I mean if you get it!”

“You’re going to be snuggled up tight at the Rev’s, eh?” Darren said, giving Dakotah a sly look. He turned to Rev. Daniels. “Better keep an eye out on them!” Darren tried to laugh, but coughed painfully instead.

“Actually, I’m moving to Kentucky.” Dakotah said, noting how odd his words sounded. “Aunt Lou and Uncle Ralph is supposed to fix me up with a job, and everything.”

“Oh, yeah?” Darren said, a little surprised. “Gotta warn ya, son, those two are crazier than hell.”

“You think so?” Dakotah said, confused. “Why?”

“Just don’t get them mad, especially Ralph.” Darren said, squinting. “You oughta be alright, though. They like you a lot more than they ever did me.”

“Okaaaayyyy……” Dakotah said wondering if Ralph did something to his father in the past.

“What’s your sweetie say about that?” Darren asked, curious.

“She doesn’t like it very much,” Dakotah replied, not wanting to tell him too much. “but she knows it’s for the best.”

“Don’t blame her.” Darren shrugged slightly. “Lotta pretty girls down there.”

“Ah, okay, I’ll keep that in mind.” Dakotah said sheepishly. He looked at Rev. Daniels, who shrugged his shoulders, and smiled.

“Dudes, I hate to bail, but the latest chemical enhancements are starting to kick in.” Darren said, beginning to slur his words. “When you leavin’, son?”

“Don’t know yet.” Dakotah said, shrugging. “Probably less than a week.”

“If I don’t see you before you leave, I want to tell you thanks for saving my life.” Darren said, fighting consciousness.

“I just did what I had to do.” Dakotah shrugged. “You don’t have to thank me.”

Darren held out a heavily wrapped hand, and tried to make a fist. “Take care, son. See ya around sometime.”

“You too, Dad.” Dakotah said, and gingerly fist bumped his father.

Darren leaned back and closed his eyes; a slight smile could be seen across his lips. Rev. Daniels, with Dakotah and the nurse following, exited the room.

“I’d like to think you’ve made an impression on him.” Rev. Daniels said, encouragingly.

“Maybe. Who knows?” Dakotah said, shaking his head. “Time will tell. Wonder where Ely went to?” he said, looking about.

“Couldn’t have gone far.” Rev. Daniels replied, showing an impish grin. “I drove her here.”

The three took the elevator to the lobby. Exiting the elevator, they found Ely sitting in a chair, waiting.

“There you are.” Rev. Daniels said. “I’ll go get the car.”

Ely nodded silently.

“I’m sorry.” Dakotah said awkwardly.

“You have nothing to worry about.” Ely replied, coldly. “You made the right choice.”

“I’m sorry I made you upset.” Dakotah said, trying to clarify his thoughts.

“I’ll get over it.” Ely stated, keeping her aloofness. “It’s not like you died, or anything.”

“I’ll miss you too.” Dakotah chuckled nervously.

<”You’ll get over me. You have no choice.”> Ely said in Japanese.

“Ohhhhhh…..” Dakotah said, processing her words. <”Someday, I’m going to get my met degree, go to Japan, and sweep you off your feet!”> he responded.

“What did you say?” Ely asked, not expecting Dakotah’s reply.

“You’re not the only one who can speak Japanese.” Dakotah replied, smugly, staring deep into her eyes. Ely simply shook her head, and looked away.

Rev. Daniels parked the car outside the entrance and walked inside. “Ready?” he asked.

“You bet.” Dakotah replied enthusiastically, as they walked out in the light snow.

*****

The trip home was mostly silent; first was to the church, where Dakotah inspected the donations of clothing. He sighed lightly when he saw everything was corduroys and buttoned shirts, but he didn’t complain openly. With Ely walking home, Rev. Daniels and Dakotah went to the discount megastore, where Dakotah bought underwear, socks, a couple of sweatshirts, and a couple of pairs of jeans. Soon, they were back at Rev. Daniels’ home.

“Are the clothes satisfactory, Dak?” Rev. Daniels asked.

Not exactly my style, but they’ll have to do.” Dakotah smiled, sheepishly.

“I think I wore something like those cords back in the ‘70s when I was a kid.” Rev. Daniels chuckled.

“I’ll have to thank everyone Sunday.” Dakotah said, looking at the clock. “I guess I’ll call Aunt Lou now.” He picked up the phone and dialed.

“Hello?” Louise answered, unsure.

“Hi. It’s me.” Dakotah said brightly. “I’m out of the hospital now.”

“Lord, you scared me half to death!” Louise exclaimed. “You okay now?”

“I’m okay.” Dakotah said, in a comforting voice. “I inhaled in a little smoke and carbon monoxide, but it’s all gone now.”

“How’s your daddy?” Louise asked.

“He’ll be okay, but he’s going to be in the hospital a couple more weeks recovering from his burns.” Dakotah replied.

“That oughta give him a preview of what’ll happen to him after he dies!” Louise said snarkily.

“He may get saved someday.” Dakotah countered. “I hope he does.”

“I ain’t holdin’ my breath.” Louise said, dismissively.

“Aunt Lou, can I ask you something?” Dakotah asked, with fake innocence.

“What is it, honey?” Louise replied, unsure.

“Is your offer for me to come down there to live still good?” Dakotah asked, grinning.

“What did you say?” Louise asked, trying to process his words.

“I’d like to take your offer, and come down there to Kentucky.” Dakotah said slowly.

“Really? Hot damn!” Louise shouted excitedly. “Hey, Ralph! You ain’t gonna believe this! Dak’s wantin’ to move down here!”

“Hell, yeah!” Ralph shouted in the background. “Let me check the schedule and the maps!”

“What made me change your mind?” Louise asked, curious.

“Everyone convinced me that what’s best for me is to move down there, work, and go to school.” Dakotah replied, still trying to convince himself.

“Well, I’m glad you’ve come to your senses.” Louise said, relieved. There’s still a few jobs left. Had a couple of kids quit this week.”

“Why did they quit?” Dakotah asked, astonished.
“’Cause they couldn’t handle it.” Louise said, bitterly. “More than likely they didn’t want to handle it. Kids today are so babied anymore; they can’t handle the real world when they get grown.”

Dakotah shook his head, not understanding how someone, given the opportunity, could quit. “So you think I could get a job there?”

“No problem.” Louise said, confidently. “I’ve been telling the brass about you. I’m sure they’ll hire you on the spot.”

“Closest place I can easily get to is Auburn Hills.” Ralph said to Louise. “I’ll be there Thursday night around 9PM.”

“Did he say Thursday night?” Dakotah cried, beginning to panic. “That’s only a couple of days away!”

“Got a problem with that?” Louise asked, impatiently.

“No.” Dakotah sighed. “It’s just really sudden. I was hoping I could at least say goodbye to everyone at church Sunday.”

“There’s tomorrow night.” Rev. Daniels interjected.

“Not many people show up on Wednesdays.” Dakotah countered.

“You never know.” Rev. Daniels said, slyly.

“So, what is it, Thursday night?” Louise pressed.

“I guess so.” Dakotah said, becoming panic stricken, looking at Rev. Daniels and Ely. “Tell Unk I’ll see him Thursday?”

“Ralph will be there in a blue conventional Kenworth tractor pulling a black flatbed with pipe on it.” Louise said, carefully. “Think you can find it?”

“Maybe.” Dakotah said, unsure.

“He’ll call the preacher’s cell phone when he gets close.” Louise said, assuredly. “Shouldn’t be a problem.”

“Okay then, I guess I’ll see you in a few days?” Dakotah said, trying to rally himself.

“Can’t wait!” Louise said, excitedly. “You’ve made my day! You won’t regret it!

“See ya in a couple of days, Dak boy!” Ralph was heard bellowing in the background.

“Tell Unk I’ll be looking forward to it!” Dakotah said, upbeat.

“I will.” Louise said. “He said he’ll keep you updated on his progress. See you then!”

“That’s good.” Dakotah said. “See you!”

“I think you made a couple people very happy.” Rev. Daniels said, smiling.

“I know.” Dakotah said, shaking his head. “I hope I don’t let them down.”

“You’ll be fine.” Rev. Daniels assured.

“I hate leaving so soon.” Dakotah lamented. “I won’t be able to say goodbye to the people at church Sunday.”

“Don’t worry about that.” Rev. Daniels assured. “I’m sure there’ll be plenty of folks there tomorrow. All I have to do is tell Mama.”

Dakotah looked sadly at Ely. “Only two more days…….”

“It won’t be too bad.” Ely encouraged. “You’re getting a cell phone, right? We can talk almost every day, right?”

“Yeah.” Dakotah sighed. “Maybe it won’t be too bad.”

“C’mon you two, no need to be moping around.” Rev. Daniels said brightly. “We have to celebrate! How does pizza sound?”

“Better than hospital food!” Dakotah said enthusiastically, putting his coat on.

“I’m not hungry, but I’ll go.” Ely said, quietly.

February 4th, 2009

Dakotah exhaled as he picked up the phone to call his mother. He didn’t know how she would react, as he felt his moving away would leave her all alone.

Dakotah dialed and let the phone ring, but there was no answer. Thinking that perhaps he had dialed the wrong number, he tried again.

“This better be no damned bill collector!” an all too familiar voice bellowed.

Dakotah froze in shock. “Crap, it’s Frank!” he thought, in horror. Quickly, he composed himself. “Hi, Frank. Is mom home?”

“Waddaya want, you little piece of crap?” Frank growled. “Hope you ain’t lookin’ for some place to live. Your old man dead yet?”

“No.” Dakotah muttered.

“Damn shame.” Frank said pithily.

“If mom’s not here, I’ll just call back later.” Dakotah said, gritting his teeth.

“She ain’t here.” Frank said, full of contempt. “You ain’t movin’ back here.”

“No worries.” Dakotah replied, coolly. “With a little luck, I’ll never see you again.” Dakotah hung up without waiting for a response. Exhaling loudly, he realized his heart was pounding.

Suddenly, the phone rang, causing Dakotah to jump. “Hello?” he answered, thinking it was his mother.

“Hi, Dak.” Rev. Daniels said. “How’s it going? You sound stressed.”

“I tried to call Mom,” Dakotah said, beginning to calm down. “but I got Frank instead.”

“Ooooo, lucky you.” Rev. Daniels said, lightheartedly. “You okay?”

“Yeah.” Dakotah shuddered. “Not a pleasant way to start the day. I figured that at this time of day he’d still be asleep. I’ll try again after I’m done with work. See you soon?”

Ah, no.” Rev. Daniels replied. “That’s why I called. I want you to take the day off.”

“Why?” Dakotah asked, confused. “I’m pretty much packed already.”

“Well, I’m going to be here all day anyway, so just stay there, and make yourself at home.” Rev. Daniels said, pointedly. “Besides, your mom might call back.”

“I don’t mind coming over to help.” Dakotah said, uneasily. “Does Mama need any help?”

“Mama’s fine.” Rev. Daniels said, becoming impatient. “Just stay home today, okay?”

“Is something wrong?” Dakotah asked, worried. “Did I do something wrong?”

“No, no.” Rev. Daniels reassured. “Nothing like that. I figured maybe it would be best, since Friday I’ll have to do this anyway, if you had the day alone to think.”

“Oh, okay.” Dakotah said, thoroughly confused. “I guess I’ll see you this afternoon?”

“Yep!” Rev. Daniels said, brightly. “Just make yourself at home! Later!” Abruptly, he hung up, leaving Dakotah stunned.

“That’s not like him at all.” Dakotah said, nervously. “I hope it’s not because I did a bad job Monday.”

Not knowing what else to do, Dakotah turned on the television, and began to flip through the channels. He watched a couple of old Westerns, a nature show about penguins, and a cooking show featuring lasagna. Looking at the clock, he saw it was noon, and realized he was becoming hungry. If he were at the church, he thought, Mama may be bringing him something to eat. Since he was told not to come to church, he had no other choice but to find something to eat there.

Dakotah felt weird looking through Rev. Daniels’ refrigerator, but he was sure it was okay. Besides, he was told to make himself at home. Finding some sandwich ham, sliced American cheese, and some white bread, he fashioned a simple sandwich.

His hunger abated, he decided to try to call his mother again. Taking a deep breath, he said a brief prayer, and dialed.

“Hello?” Sylvia said over the phone.

Dakotah exhaled a sigh of relief. “Hi, mom. I’m glad I caught you this time.”

“You called earlier?” Sylvia said, surprised. “Frank didn’t say anything.”

“Yeah.” Dakotah said, not surprised. “That wasn’t fun.”

“Are you at the church now?” Sylvia asked, ignoring Dakotah’s comments.

“No, I’m at Rev. Daniels’.” Dakotah replied. “Mom, I have something to tell you.”

“What is it?” Sylvia said, unsure.

“I’m leaving for Kentucky. Tomorrow night.” Dakotah said, gingerly.

“Oh, really?” Sylvia exclaimed.

“Aunt Lou says she can get me a job down there.” Dakotah said, trying to stay upbeat.

“What about meteorology?” Sylvia asked, curious.

“I’ll save my money, and when I have enough, I’ll go to school.” Dakotah said.

“Sounds like a good deal. “Sylvia said, brightly.

“It is.” Dakotah replied, wanting to believe that it was. “Unk’s buying me a car, and I can live with them rent-free.”

“That’s nice, son.” Sylvia said, cheerfully. “I’m really happy for you.”

“Are you going to be okay?” Dakotah said, his worries coming to the surface. “Outside of Grandma, there’s no one left here.”

Sylvia paused for a moment. “I’ll be fine. Just call me every once in a while, okay?” she said, her words in a comforting tone. “Or write me a letter.”

“Unk promised me a cell phone, so calling you shouldn’t be a problem.” Dakotah said. “Unless Frank answers, of course.” he added, bitterly.

“Hopefully, that won’t happen.” Sylvia said, shaking her head. “I’m surprised he answered the phone today.”

“I’ll be here at Rev. Daniels’ house. It’s next to the church, which is next to Benny’s Used Cars, on Madison St. near the Zippy Mart.” Dakotah said, slowly. “I hope I can see you before you leave?”

“Sure.” Sylvia said, simply. “Any time in particular?”

“Any time is fine.” Dakotah replied. “If I’m not here, I’ll be at church. Unk isn’t supposed to be here until tomorrow night.”

“Okay, then, I’ll call first.” Sylvia said, casually. “See you later.”

“Okay, bye.” Dakotah said, unsure of her mother’s tone. He turned on the television once again: “Let’s see…” he mumbled, changing the channels. “Soap operas, shopping channels, Congress, home improvement? Sure, why not? I might need to wire a house someday.” He began to chuckle to himself.

*****

Dakotah was napping on the couch when Ely walked in. “I see you’ve made yourself quite cozy here!” she shouted. “I’m sure they won’t treat you this well in Kentucky!”

Dakotah quickly sat up, startled. “I can always stay here.” he said, getting his wits about him. “All you have to do is say the word.”

“That’s quite all right.” Ely said, smugly. “You need to move down there and get hitched to some barefoot toothless hillbilly girl by gunpoint!”

“If I didn’t know any better, you sound jealous!” Rev. Daniels said, laughing as he walked in the room. “You better convince him to stay while he’s here!”

“I don’t think so!” Ely exclaimed, indignant. “It’ll be nice and peaceful after he’s gone!”

Dakotah ignored Ely, and turned to Rev. Daniels. “How long have you been here?” he asked.

“About an hour.” Rev. Daniels said, smiling. “You were resting so peacefully, I didn’t want to disturb you.”

“I take it everything’s okay at the church?” Dakotah asked.

“Everything’s fine.” Rev. Daniels said, confidently. “Mrs. Bivins asked about you.”

“Really?” Dakotah asked, very curious. “What did she say?”

“She said even though she talked to you for a few minutes, she could tell you were a fine young man.” Rev. Daniels said, happily. “She was disappointed that you were leaving.”

“Tell her that I’ll miss her, too.” Dakotah said, sadly.

“By the way, Mama said we don’t have to be at the church until six.” Rev. Daniels announced.

“Why so late?” Dakotah asked, confused. Supper, Service, and Study on Wednesday nights always started at 5PM.

“She said she had issues with the stove. “Rev. Daniels said. “The casseroles won’t be ready until then.”

“Anything I can do to help?” Dakotah asked, eagerly.

“I already asked Mama, and she said no.” Rev. Daniels said, shaking his head.

“I have some Government homework to do.” Ely stated sharply, walking toward the hall. “If you’ll excuse me.”

“Is it just me, or does she have issues?” Dakotah asked, bewildered.

“As I said before, she’s losing her best friend.” Rev. Daniels said, pointedly. “For the second time in a year.”

“Hey, I am, too, remember?” Dakotah protested. “Plus, I’m the one that’s moving away to a place I’ve never been before.”

“Sometimes,” Rev. Daniels stated patiently, “it’s harder on the ones left behind.”

Dakotah pondered Rev. Daniels’ words; he thought about his Grandmother, and Andre.

“Yeah.” Dakotah nodded. “You’re right.”

*****

At five minutes before six, Rev. Daniels and Dakotah head toward the door.

“Hold on, I’m coming with you!” Ely announced suddenly.

“Oh? You’re gracing us with your presence tonight?” Rev. Daniels mocked lightly.

“Government homework’s done.” Ely said, irritated. “Not much else to do, school wise, and I’m not working tonight, so why not?”

“That’d be great!” Rev. Daniels said, enthusiastically. “Well, come on, let’s see if Mama was able to overcome the oven difficulties!”

As the three walked to the church, Dakotah instantly noticed the parking lot was full.

“Wow, I’ve never seen this many cars on a Wednesday night!” Dakotah exclaimed. “Looks more like a Sunday!”

“It does, doesn’t it?” Rev. Daniels said, smiling.

Dakotah’s jaw dropped when he saw the entire church was full. As they walked down the aisle, more parishioners acknowledged Dakotah than they did Rev. Daniels or Ely. Dakotah gave Rev. Daniels a puzzled look; Rev. Daniels only smiled back.

Next to the altar on one side were a couple of empty chairs; on the other side was an elderly woman in a wheelchair. Dakotah did not recognize her, and wondered who she was.

“Dakotah, I’d like you to meet someone special to me, and this church.” Rev. Daniels said, warmly. “This is Mrs. Bivins.”

“Pleasure to meet you!” Dakotah gushed. “I’m so happy you could make it tonight!”

“Well, thank you, ah…..” Mrs. Bivins said, trying to remember Dakotah’s name.

“Dakotah” Dakotah said, smiling.

“Dakotah, yes.” Mrs. Bivins said, nodding. “I thank you for your patience the other day in dealing with a daft old lady.”

“I don’t think you’re one bit daft!” Dakotah countered forcefully.

Mrs. Bivins laughed. “Keep talking like that, young man, and you’ll go places!”

Rev. Daniels pointed at the chairs next to the altar. “Dak, you sit next to me.”

“Me?” Dakotah asked, nervously. “Why?”

“You’ll see.” Rev. Daniels grinned.

Rev. Daniels greeted everyone in the church and said a prayer. Dakotah suddenly felt conspicuous.

“Brothers and sisters in Christ, thank you all for coming on short notice.” Rev. Daniels said, smiling. “As for the regulars on 3S night, hang on, we have a special banquet after this sermon. Well, it’s not really a sermon, but I digress. Once in a while, you meet someone that you can see the Light of Christ clearly working inside. Even though our first meeting was on a sad occasion, this young man (Rev. Daniels pointed at Dakotah when he said this) made quite the impression on me.”

Dakotah’s jaw dropped, dumbstruck.

“I was delighted in the following weeks when he started attending our church, first every other week, then every week, almost taking over his Sunday School class with his thorough knowledge of the Bible.” Rev. Daniels continued. “Soon, he made the leap, and joined our church, and began to help us on Wednesday nights, immediately making an impact. Taking some young ones under his wing, he simply showed them patience and love, and soon, they considered him a big brother. Dakotah also became a big help around the kitchen, the grounds, and in the church, becoming Mama’s right hand man, as it were.”

Rev. Daniels then focused on Ely. “On a personal note, he tutored Ely several nights a week in Japanese. By first learning the language himself from scratch, and then teaching her what he learned, she impressed the folks at UM enough that she earned a full scholarship!” The congregation applauded, which embarrassed both Ely and Dakotah.

“He was told by his high school that he would never amount to much.” Rev. Daniels said, changing his tone darker. “His stepfather, unjustly in my opinion, kicked him out of the house. Not one business in this area would give him a chance with a job. But he never. Gave. Up.” he said, pausing a second between the last words.

“You wouldn’t know his personal life was a shambles on Wednesday nights as he taught bible lessons to the kids.” Rev. Daniels said, his timbre changing as if he was preaching a sermon. “He happily helped Mama scrub pots and clean bathrooms, all the while having to rely on others for transportation, at least at first. I’ve seen firsthand the meticulousness of his work, and the fruits of his labor.”

“About a week ago, after much prayer, and consulting with colleagues and friends, I decided to grow the ministry by doing more work outside of the church. To help make this a reality, I decided to ask Dakotah to be my personal assistant part time while I was out. Just from the one day he was able to work for me, I knew he had a lot of promise.”

“Unfortunately, tragedy struck twice in the past week. First, Dakotah’s grandmother passed away suddenly. She had long been a champion for his cause, and losing her was serious blow to him. As a result, his estranged father showed up out of the blue, and took possession of her house, where Dak happened to be living.”

“I can safely say that his father is not the easiest person to get along with.” Rev. Daniels continued, shaking his head. “However, Dakotah made the decision to stick it out there, and perhaps influence his father to live a more godlike existence. Alas, that was not meant to be, as their house burned down Monday night. Dakotah heroically dragged his father, who, by the way, was in flames, and put out the fire on him. The doctors at the hospital say that Dakotah saved his father’s life.” The congregation applauded loudly, while Dakotah looked down and fidgeted.

“I had arranged for Dak to stay with us at our house; unfortunately, for us at the church at least, he has accepted an offer to start a new life in Kentucky. There, while working at an automotive plastics plant, he hopes to save his money, so he can pursue his real dream, which is to be a meteorologist. Since he’s leaving tomorrow night, he said one of his regrets was not being here Sunday to say goodbye to everyone. Well, I couldn’t let him leave like that, so I, with a little help, made some phone calls, and here you all are!” Rev. Daniels beamed, as Dakotah managed a weak smile.

Rev. Daniels turned to Dakotah, smiling warmly. “Dak, I just want you to know you are an integral part of our church family, and you will be missed greatly. Surprised?”

Dakotah nodded, speechless.

“Care to say a few words?” Rev. Daniels offered.

A look of horror flashed in Dakotah’s eyes. Slowly, he turned to Ely, who was standing off to the side. She silently mouthed “Go on.” while motioning with her hands.

“You can do it, Dakotah!!” Vanessa yelled from the congregation.

Vanessa’s words snapped Dakotah out of his panic. Standing up, he caught his breath, and cleared his throat.

“Hey, Van, surprised to see you here!” Dakotah said, rushed.

Vanessa shrugged and smiled, but kept silent.

Dakotah took a deep breath, and exhaled. “First of all, I want to say I’m sorry to Russell, Hector, and Zeke, for leaving. Sometimes I guess you have to make sacrifices in order to make your dreams come true. It’s not going to be easy, but I know it’s for the best, and I’m going to miss you guys a lot. All I can tell you is don’t be afraid to follow your dreams, and don’t listen to anyone that tells you that you can’t do it.”

“Before I knew about this place, I didn’t live an easy life. I did have Andre and Grandma, but they’re both in Heaven now. Not sure if without your love, I would’ve made it. You know, New Hope is a pretty good name, because it helped give me a new hope in life. All you all did was to show me love, and I’ll never forget it for the rest of my life!” He began to tear up a little. “Thank you. Thank you all for everything!” Dakotah sat down, embarrassed and tearful.

Rev. Daniels stood up as everyone applauded. “Speaking for everyone here, thank you, Dakotah. Thank you for your service, your kindness, and your love.” Out of the corner of his eye, he spotted Mama exiting the kitchen. “Hey, Mama, supper ready yet?”

“Yes, sir!” Mama replied loudly, grinning.

“Sorry, Dak, but this is the real reason everyone’s here.” Rev. Daniels said, laughing. The congregation followed suit; Dakotah smiled, and shook his head.

*****

Mama’s casserole was possibly her finest work that Dakotah could remember; there were no leftovers. He offered to help clean up, as per custom, but Mama refused.

“It’s your night, sugar.” Mama said, sweetly but firmly.

Dakotah frowned. “I feel like I need to be doing something!”

“It’s alright.” Mama said, smiling. “You’ll be busy soon enough!”

Vanessa walked up, smiling sweetly, and hugged Dakotah tightly.

“I’ll miss you, Dakotah.” Vanessa said, with a trace of melancholy in her voice. “We had some good times together.”

“We did, didn’t we?” Dakotah said, smiling. “I’ll miss you, too.”

“Hey, Dak, could you come over here for a second?” Rev. Daniels shouted from across the sanctuary.

“Oh, okay!” Dakotah yelled back. “Van, I guess I’ll see you around sometime, when I get back up here for a visit? Don’t work too hard, okay?”

“I’ll try not to.” Vanessa said, smiling warmly. Dakotah hurried away as Ely walked up to Vanessa.

“Where’s your boyfriend?” Ely said, snarkily. “Did he dump you already?”

“He’s working tonight.” Vanessa replied, ignoring Ely’s attitude. “I suppose Hannah is rejoicing?”

“Relieved, I think.” Ely said pointedly.

“No wonder.” Vanessa said, slyly. “A guy that worships the ground you walk on is sleeping across the hallway.”

Ely shrugged. “Not my fault he’s dumber than a rock, and didn’t choose you.”

“You know, before Dakotah came along, you were pretty dowdy.” Vanessa said, accusingly. Look at you now; you’re wearing contacts, you let your hair grow out, and it’s styled nicely. You’re even wearing makeup! Tell me that’s for Hannah’s sake!”

“Have you ever thought that I might like the way I look?” Ely said, irritated.

“And if it drives Dakotah crazy, it’s a win-win?” Vanessa said, continuing to press.

“It’s just a coincidence, that’s all.” Ely said, dismissively.

“Hmmmm…..” Vanessa said, gathering her thoughts. “If you were honest with your feelings, Dakotah would be staying here.”

Ely began to grit her teeth and fume, frustrated.

Hector walked up to Vanessa, and hugged her. “Are you coming back?” he asked, hopeful.

“I’m sorry, Hector.” Vanessa replied, sadly. “I go to another church now.”

“Who’s going to be here on Wednesday nights, now that Dakotah is leaving?” Russell asked, worried.

“I hope it’s not her!” Zeke chimed in, pointing at Ely.

“Yeah, she’s scary.” Russell agreed.

Dakotah returned, and hearing the boys’ conversation, laughed. “Easy, guys. She can be a little like Android 18 sometimes, but she’s really nice.”

“Whatever.” Ely muttered, as she began to walk away. “I’m going to see if Mama needs any help.”

“Why do you have to go, Dakotah?” Hector asked, sadly.

“Because there’s a really good job waiting on me down there.” Dakotah replied, kindly. “I’m going to save my money, and go to college.”

“What are you going to be again?” Zeke asked. “A m-m-me.”

“Meteorologist.” Dakotah said, smiling. “Like a weatherman.” It’s going to take a lot of work and time, but it’ll be worth it, I hope.”

“Will you ever come back?” Russell asked, sadly.

“I hope so.” Dakotah replied. “It’s going to be a few years, though. By the time I get back, you guys will probably be in high school!”

“Ugh.” Russell groaned, shaking his head.

“I know. I don’t like it either.” Dakotah said, full of empathy. “I‘ll tell you all one thing, though. Listen.” Dakotah made sure he made eye contact with each of the boys. “Don’t ever be afraid to dream. What do you want to do with the rest of your life? What sounds really cool?”

“I don’t know.” Zeke said, shrugging his shoulders.

“Me either.” Hector echoed.

“I wanna make video games!” Russell blurted.

“You’re too dumb!” Hector chided. “You ain’t no geek!”

“Whoa, whoa!” Dakotah interjected, holding his hands up. “Who says he’s too dumb? Hector, you’re wrong! If I can be a meteorologist, then he can make video games! I’m not smart, but I can work hard, and make my dream come true! So can any of you! I always had someone tell me I was too stupid or worthless to make anything of myself. If you can dream it, you can do it! All it takes is faith in yourself, hard work, and courage. Mama told me that herself. There’s always people out there trying to pull you down, saying you aren’t worth anything, or can’t do anything, but I’m proof that’s not so! When I get back here, I want you all to be getting straight As!”

The three boys all groan. “I don’t think I’ve ever got an A.” Zeke lamented.

“I mean it! Straight As!” Dakotah said forcefully. “You get straight As, you can get grants and scholarships to go to college.”

“I think I want to be a mechanic.” Hector said simply.

“That doesn’t change anything.” Dakotah said, remaining serious. “I figure good mechanics have to go to school, right? Cars today have a lot of computers in them, I think. It all starts with a good work ethic, and a belief in yourself, and the courage to see it through. All I can say is go for it!”

“I don’t know what I want to do!” Zeke moaned.

“That’s okay, you’re still a kid.” Dakotah said, soothingly. I was eighteen before I figured out what I wanted to do.”

“I’m going to miss you!” Russell cried.

“I’m going to miss you too, Russell. All of you. A lot.” Dakotah said, becoming misty eyed. “I don’t know who’s going to take my place, but I want you to keep coming here, and for you all to be nice to them. Even if it’s Ely.” he laughed.

“Oooohhhh, creepy girl.” Hector said, shuddering.

“She can be, that’s for sure!” Dakotah laughed. “But you know what? She worked real hard, got good grades, and in the fall, she’ll be going to college, and in a couple of years, to Japan!”

“Like Godzilla?” Zeke quipped. Everyone laughed really hard, as only boys can.

“The point I’m trying to make is even Elyzilla can achieve her dreams of stomping Tokyo by working hard, and believing in herself.” Dakotah said, smiling. You can, too!”

“I’ll be King Ghidorah!” Russell shouted, happily.

“Goku!” echoed Hector.

“Vegeta!” cried Zeke.

“Vegeta’s lame, dude.” Hector chided.

“Krillin?” asked Zeke, unsure.

“Yeah, Krillin!” Russell shouted. “He’s good!”

“Cool!” Zeke replied, enthusiastically.

“That’s the spirit!” Dakotah exclaimed, holding out his fist. He began to chant “Go!” repeatedly; within seconds, the three boys followed suit, flinging their fists skyward with the last “Go!”

“I’m going to miss you guys so much!” Dakotah said, emphatically. “Mama’s going to keep me updated on how you are doing, so don’t let me down, okay?”

All the boys nod, silently.

“Guys, I’m afraid it’s already time to go.” Dakotah sighed.

“Awww.” The three boys said in unison.

“Russell, Zeke, Hector, I love you guys.” Dakotah said sadly, hugging each one. “I’ll see you when I get back, you hear?”

Zeke, Russell, and Hector left, waving weakly, and wiping away tears. Dakotah waved back, also wiping away tears.

Vanessa walked up to Dakotah. “I’ve been watching you the whole time, and I think you could easily train to be a full time counselor.” she said, smiling. “Do you know how amazing you are? When those boys first arrived here, it was all we could do to keep them in line!”

“I’m not doing anything special.” Dakotah said, embarrassed. “Just treating people the way I want to be treated, or how I wished I was treated when I was their age.”

Vanessa looked at her watch. “Look, I have to work tomorrow night, so I guess this is goodbye for now.”

“I’m going to miss you, Van.” Dakotah said, sadly. “You’ve been a big help to me here.”

“We had some good times, right?” Vanessa asked, trying to stay upbeat.

“Yes, we did.” Dakotah affirmed, smiling.

Vanessa hugged Dakotah tightly; he reciprocated equally.

“I hope you and Ely become a couple someday.” Vanessa said, looking into Dakotah’s eyes. “I mean that.”

“Me, too.” Dakotah agreed, sheepishly.

“Don’t freak out, okay?” Vanessa whispered, a sly smile forming on her lips. “I’m just going to get Ely’s blood boiling a little bit.”

“What?” Dakotah said, confused. “What do you-“

Vanessa kissed Dakotah firmly on the lips, turned toward Ely, noted her shocked look, gave Dakotah a thumbs up, and left.

“I can’t believe she did that!” Ely seethed, shocked and angry. “And she has a boyfriend, too! Who does she think she is Becky?”

Dakotah remained silent, but couldn’t help but smile.

“Well, it’s too late to enjoy that, mister!” Ely fussed, pointing at Dakotah. “You’re leaving tomorrow!”

Mischievously, Dakotah leaned near Ely’s ear. “She’s not bad.” he whispered. “She’s almost as good as you.”

Ely gasped, and furious, hit Dakotah with both hands clenched. “Jerk!” she snapped, as she stomped out of the building.

Rev. Daniels and Mama enter the room, just in time to see Ely’s assault and exit though the other door. ”Well, that’s no way to treat our guest of honor.” Rev. Daniels muttered.

“Wonder what brought that on?” Mama said, concerned.

“Dare I ask what brought that on?” Rev. Daniels asked Dakotah.

“Ah, no.” Dakotah replied, shaking his head. “Let’s just say she had the wrong buttons pushed.”

“That can certainly happen with her.” Rev. Daniels said, nodding his head. “She’s just like her mother, God bless her.”

“I think you’ve said that before.” Dakotah said, thinking. “You’ve must’ve had your hands full!”

“I’ll treasure those days always, good and bad, just as I treasure these.” Rev. Daniels said, wistfully.

“Well, this mess ain’t gonna clean itself.” Mama said, surveying the scene.

“Can I help?” Dakotah asked.

“Dak, why don’t you go see what Ely’s up to?” Rev. Daniels suggested. “We’ve got this.”

“I don’t think she wants to see me right now.” Dakotah said, sadly.

“She probably doesn’t, but she’ll regret it Friday.” Rev. Daniels said, pointedly. “Not sure how much alone time you’ll have with her in the next twenty-four hours.”

Dakotah sighed. “Okay. I’ll go.” “See you tomorrow, Mama?”

“You better believe it, sweetie.” Mama replied, smiling.

Smiling ever so slightly, Dakotah put his coat on, and left through the same exit Ely did earlier.

“Still trying to play last minute matchmaker?” Mama asked, curious.

“Not really.” Rev. Daniels said, exhaling. “Dakotah’s leaving is extremely hard on both of them. I just want them to work out their angst together, before it’s too late.”

Dakotah walked around the perimeter of the church, searching for Ely in vain. Becoming concerned, he strode to the house, where he immediately noticed that her car was gone.

“Crap.” Dakotah cursed, kicking himself. “Where could she have gone at this hour? Ann Arbor? Should I tell Alan? No, she’s probably okay. She’s eighteen, after all.”

Dakotah walked into the house, showered, and afterward peeked outside to see if Ely returned; however, her car was nowhere to be seen. Frustrated, he plopped on the couch.

Rev. Daniels walked in a moment later with a confused look on his face. “Where did she go?” he asked, a trace of worry in his voice.

“I don’t know.” Dakotah replied, downtrodden. “She was already gone when I got here.

Rev. Daniels hummed to himself as he called Ely’s cell, to no avail. “Did you see a note, or anything?” he asked Dakotah.

Dakotah silently shook his head.

Rev. Daniels made a face as he began to write a text on his phone. “You’re technically an adult now, but I would still appreciate it if you give me a heads up as to your location.” he wrote.

“I guess I made her really mad.” Dakotah mumbled.

“Dak, it’s none of my business what happened, but I hope you two work it out by tomorrow.” Rev. Daniels said, solemnly.

“Yeah. Me, too.” Dakotah said, shaking his head. “I think I’m going to bed. I haven’t done anything today, but I feel exhausted, for some reason.”

“Imagine that. Stress will do that to a person, sometimes.” Rev. Daniels said, empathetically. “I’m going to watch a little TV, until she shows up. It’s not like I’ll be able to sleep, anyway. Never had to deal with something like this before.”

“I’m sorry.” Dakotah said, dejected.

“It’s okay.” Rev, Daniels said, forcing a weak smile. “I’ve seen this coming for a few months now. Just part of being a parent, I guess. Besides, having faith in God is pretty pointless, if there’s nothing in life that happens that requires for one to pray for His help, don’t you think?”

Dakotah tried to process Rev. Daniels words, but could not. Shaking his head, he began to walk to the bedroom, but stopped.

“Thanks for everything tonight.” Dakotah said, softly. “It was amazing.”

“My pleasure.” Rev. Daniels said, warmly. “You deserved it.”

“I hope you’re right.” Dakotah said, looking down. “Goodnight.”

“Goodnight.” Rev. Daniels said, looking down at his phone.

Dakotah got into bed, and stared at the ceiling. “Lord, please bring Ely home safe.” he prayed aloud in a whisper. “In Jesus’ name, Amen.”

“So this is my last night in Michigan.” he thought to himself. “I hope she’s okay.”

*****

Dakotah spent the next few hours tossing and turning in bed, only sleeping for a few minutes here and there. Finally, overcome with fatigue, he fell in a deep sleep.

Almost instantly, Dakotah awoke to arguing in the living room. He couldn’t understand what was said, only that there was a lot of emotion between Ely and Rev. Daniels. He was tempted to go see what was being said, but he thought better of it. Finally, after a few minutes, he could hear Ely stomping into her room, and slamming the door.

Dakotah exhaled. “Well, at least she’s okay.” he thought. He rolled over to check the time; the digital clock radio on the nightstand read 2:35 AM. “Whoa.” he muttered. Relieved, Dakotah began to drift off again.

Once again, Dakotah’s slumber was interrupted, this time by someone shaking him aggressively.

“Wake up!” Ely whispered forcefully.

Dakotah sat up, trying to clear the cobwebs out of his head. Ely sat down on the bed beside him. Dakotah tried to reach for the light, but Ely grabbed his hand, stopping him. “I don’t want you to see me.”

“I’m so sorry for earlier!” Dakotah exclaimed, keeping his voice at a whisper. “I shouldn’t have said that!”

“You think?” Ely snarled, becoming furious again. “That was a total jerk thing to say! I can’t believe you said that!”

“Sorry.” Dakotah said, meekly.

“You know what ticks me off about all this?” Ely continued to rage. “It’s like you, Dad, and Vanessa never can get it! Like it or not, I’m in a relationship with Hannah! But you guys keep trying to ship us! Seriously!”

“I’m sorry.” Dakotah said, full of melancholy. “I regretted it as soon as I said it.”

“And what was Van’s deal?” Ely wailed. “There was a time she’d completely freeze up if she ever thought about kissing a guy. She really has changed.”

“She kissed me to get your blood boiling.” Dakotah said, simply. “Her words.”

“It worked.” Ely muttered, bitterly. “I drove by her house to give her a piece of my mind, but she wasn’t home.”

“I’m guessing she went to the hospital.” Dakotah said, matter-of-factly. “What’s-his-name is there tonight.”

“She’d better tell him what she did before someone else does.” Ely said, shaking her head.

“I’m sure she did.” Dakotah said, confidently. “You wouldn’t have ratted her out, would you?”

“No.” Ely replied, irritated.

“Where did you go after that?” Dakotah asked, curious.

“Detroit, to the diner.” Ely said simply.

“No way!” Dakotah exclaimed, surprised. “Did you tell your dad?”

“Yes.” Ely said, unapologetically. “He was really upset. I’d never seen him that mad before. I told him he’d better get used to it, because I’ll be in Ann Arbor in seven months.”

“That was kinda harsh.” Dakotah said, becoming perturbed. “He was worried about you. So was I!”

“I know.” Ely acquiesced.  “I’ll apologize first thing in the morning.”

“Why to the diner?” Dakotah asked.

“I had to get away from everyone, and think.” Ely said, shaking her head. “I was so angry, and I didn’t know why.”

“Did you figure it out?” Dakotah asked, curious.

“Because you’re leaving.” Ely replied, softly. “I know it doesn’t make any sense. After all, I’m going away to college in the fall, and hopefully to Japan in a couple of years.”

“I’m not happy about it, either.” Dakotah agreed. “This is my best option, just as going to Ann Arbor is yours.”

“I know.” Ely nodded.

“Would you rather both of us give up our dreams, stay here, and get married?” Dakotah said, impishly.

“Baka!” Ely said, laughing.

“I think Vanessa was trying to make you jealous, you know.” Dakotah said, grinning.

“I know.” Ely replied, shaking her head.

“Did it?” Dakotah asked, curious.

“No.” Ely replied, derisively. “I know where your heart’s at.”

“Do you know where yours is?” Dakotah asked, mindlessly.

“Idiot, how many times do I have to tell you?” Ely said, irritated. “My heart’s with Hannah!”

“No matter how many times you tell me that, it still hurts.” Dakotah said, sadly.

“Gomen. But it’s the truth.” Ely said, pointedly. I’ll tell you one thing, though.”

“What’s that?” Dakotah asked.

Ely took Dakotah’s hands into hers. “You have been my best friend these past eight months. I don’t know what I’d do if you weren’t in my life.”

“Me, too.” Dakotah said, his voice becoming soft.

“And, you have been the source of most of my trials and tribulations!” Ely said, warmly.

“Back at you!” Dakotah laughed.

Suddenly, Ely’s countenance changed, and she began to cry. “And I’m going to miss you so much!” she cried, burying her head into his chest, sobbing.

Dakotah held her tightly, and began to cry, too. Not knowing what else to do, he began to stroke her hair. Although he found this pleasurable, his heart began to fill with melancholy. After a few minutes, Dakotah realized Ely was asleep.

“Hey.” Dakotah whispered, jostling Ely gently.

Ely groaned, and slowly gaining her bearings, sat up.

“As much as I would like nothing else than have you sleep here in my arms, maybe you’d better go back to your own bed.” Dakotah said, quietly.

Silently, Ely nodded, and left.

Dakotah laid down, closed his eyes, and sighed.

February 5th, 2009

Dakotah slowly awoke, rolled over, and stretched, gazing groggily at the clock.

“Nine o’clock? Seriously?” he gasped. Unk will be here in twelve hours! Alan’s already at the church, too!”

Dakotah busied himself, making the bed, eating a bowl of cereal, and quickly getting dressed.

Putting on his coat, Dakotah walked to the church. There had been a dusting of snow earlier, but the skies were beginning to break up a bit. However, what little sun that tried to shine through had no effect, as the wind chill was still below zero.

“You’re late!” Rev. Daniels barked as Dakotah entered the office. “I’m going to have to dock you an hour pay!”

“Oh, I didn’t know I was supposed to work today!” Dakotah exclaimed, suddenly embarrassed. “You told me to stay home yesterday!”

“That was yesterday, when we had to prepare for your surprise shindig.” Rev. Daniels countered.

“Well, your daughter was waking me up at 3AM, so forgive me for sleeping in.” Dakotah replied, with fake indignation.

“Oh? A little last minute romance?” Rev. Daniels said, smirking.

Dakotah laughed. “No. We were just airing out our feelings, and had a good cry, then she fell asleep. I had to wake her up, so she could go to her own bed.”

“Your chivalry is probably unmatched by anyone in your generation.” Rev. Daniels said, shaking his head.

“Like I would try anything in your house, even if I wanted to!” Dakotah retorted, smiling.

“Like you would tell me any different!” Rev. Daniels accused, smiling back.

“Are you saying I’m not telling the truth?” Dakotah asked, becoming slightly irritated.

“No, no, no!” Rev. Daniels replied, laughing, putting his hand on Dakotah’s shoulder. “I’m just teasing you. Do you think I’d let you live in my house if I didn’t completely trust you?”

“No.” Dakotah chuckled.

“However, my daughter is a different story.” Rev. Daniels sighed. “She’s very headstrong, and thinks she knows best. You probably heard our little tiff last night.”

“Yeah.” Dakotah said, looking down. “I’ve never heard you angry before.”

“I understand the importance of getting away to clear one’s head, but an eighteen year old girl in inner city Detroit at midnight is potentially bad thing.” Rev. Daniels said, somberly. “All it would take would be a vehicle breakdown, and she could’ve been in trouble. It’s that attitude that will give me gray hair in the fall.”

“I guess she’s paying for it this morning.” Dakotah said, shaking his head. “I’m surprised she made it to school today.”

“She has her first big test in Government today.” Rev. Daniels said. “She couldn’t miss it, since this is the last compulsory class she needs to graduate.”

“I guess I’ll miss out on her graduation.” Dakotah sighed.

“I’ll send pics.” Rev. Daniels said, empathetically. Your uncle said that he’d get you a phone, right?”

“That’s what he said, though I’d rather pay the bill for it.” Dakotah said, frowning. “They’re doing enough for me as it is.”

“They seem to be good people.” Rev. Daniels said, remaining upbeat. Type A personalities, to be sure.”

“If they didn’t love each other so much, they’d have killed each other by now.” Dakotah said, shaking his head.

Rev. Daniels looked down at his watch. “Hey, you mind watching the store for a bit?” he asked, smiling. “I promised some folks I would visit today.”

“Sure!” Dakotah replied happily. “I’d be honored! I can’t think of a better way to spend my last day!”

“Great!” Rev. Daniels said, enthusiastically. “Mama ought to be here about noon today. She had to clean a house this morning.”

“She cleans houses?” Dakotah said, surprised. “She never told me that!”

“Oh, yes!” Rev. Daniels said, nodding. “She has at least a dozen houses she cleans.”

“I don’t know how she does all that, and so much around here, too!” Dakotah exclaimed, impressed.

“She’s a worker, that’s all there is to it.” Rev. Daniels said with a shrug. “I’ll be back in a few hours. Tell Mrs. Bivins I said hi!”

“Got it.” Dakotah said, saluting Rev. Daniels as he walked out the door. “Have fun!”

Now alone, Dakotah walked amongst the pews, past the altar, the Sunday school rooms, and into the fellowship hall. He noted where the mistletoe once hung, where he and Ely had kissed. Finally, he walked into the kitchen, where he had helped Mama clean up many times.

I’ll miss this church most of all.”  he thought to himself, sadly.

*****

“You mean he left you all alone again?” Mama asked, bemused. “If’n I didn’t know no better, he was seein’ a lady somewhere!”

“I don’t think so.” Dakotah said, shaking his head. “I think he’s still hung up on Ely’s mother. The lady that owns the diner in Detroit wants him badly, but he totally ignored her.”

“He worries me sometimes.” Mama said, frowning. “It’s been almost fifteen years since he lost her, and I don’t think he’s let it go yet. He needs to find somebody to keep him company before Ely’s gone for good, It’s going to be awful quiet in that house.”

“He says he talks to his wife all the time, and that he doesn’t feel alone.” Dakotah said, matter-of-factly.

“I can hear him saying that, but that’s no substitute for a real woman.” Mama said, sadly.

“If that’s the case, why haven’t you found someone to replace George?” Dakotah asked, innocently.

Mama cackled loudly. “At my age, all there is out there is a bunch of old goats that ain’t worth nothin’! They just slow me down!”

Dakotah laughed. “Brother Alan says you clean a lot of houses. Don’t you think you should start slowing down?”

“Why?” Mama replied, confused by the concept. I like doin’ what I do, I like the people I clean for, and I like the money! I reckon I’ll always be doin’ somethin’ until I can’t.”

“You’re not going to retire?” Dakotah asked, concerned.

“Retiring might be alright for some folk, but I like doin’ what I do, so it ain’t like work.” Mama said, pointedly. “That’s important. I hope you like bein’ a weatherman, cause then it won’t be like work for you, either.”

“I hope so, too!” Dakotah said, smiling.

Suddenly, two long blasts of an air horn tore through the tranquility of the sanctuary.

“What the heck was that?” shouted Mama, as they rushed to a window.

As he peered outside, a chill went up Dakotah’s spine. Parked at the curb was a bright blue semi tractor, pulling a load of pipe on the trailer. The door read RJ Trucking, Pig Lick, Kentucky in silver script.

“Why is my uncle here?” Dakotah cried, aghast. “He’s like nine hours early!”

Dakotah grabbed his coat, and hurriedly strode to the idling truck. As he walked around the front, Ralph began to climb out of the cab.

“Didn’t expect you to get here so early!” Dakotah exclaimed, trying to keep calm.

“Dak boy, I deeply apologize.” Ralph said, shaking his head. “But we gotta go. I need you to get your stuff, and load up.”

“Now?” Dakotah croaked, feeling the blood drain from his face.

“Now.” Ralph said sadly, but firmly. “See, I reckon it was my own screw up. I had a brain fart and miscalculated what time I had to pick you up. My earlier figuring didn’t take in to account that I had to drive an extra 400 miles.”

“What does that have to do with me leaving now?” Dakotah asked, panicking, and totally confused.

“Because I have to be in western North Dakota by five o’clock tomorrow evening.” Ralph stated, patiently. “If they don’t get their pipe on time, they’ll find someone else that will, know what I’m sayin’?

“Yeah.” Dakotah mumbled, thinking. “Can you hang on for a little bit?”

Ralph looked at his watch. “I have thirty minutes, tops. I’m sorry.”

“I have to go call Brother Alan!” Dakotah exclaimed, and began to run toward the church.

Dakotah met Mama as he ran inside. “He’s wanting to leave now!” he exclaimed. “I have to call Brother Alan!”

“Goodness!” Mama said, surprised.

Ralph stepped inside. “I’m sorry ma’am, but it can’t be helped.” he apologized, sadly.

“Well, if it can’t be helped, it can’t be helped.” Mama said, nodding. “While you’re waiting on Dak, would you care for something to eat? Me and Dak was fixin’ to have lunch.”

“No thanky, I got stuff in the truck.” Ralph said, shaking his head. “I don’t want to trouble you none.”

“If you happen to change your mind, I have some hot roast beef sandwiches in here.” Mama said, sweetly. “More than enough for all of us!”

“Did you say hot roast beef sandwiches?” Ralph said, thinking. “Hey, that don’t sound too bad!”

“I guarantee you ain’t gonna find anything better before you get home!” Mama asserted.

“I reckon I’ll take you up on your offer, then!” Ralph said, happily. He followed Mama into the kitchen.

As Dakotah was reaching for the telephone, it began to ring. “Hello, New Hope!” he said, breathlessly.

“Is Brother Alan there?” A familiar voice asked.

“Hello, Mrs. Bivins.” Dakotah said, trying to keep composure. “No, he’s out visiting again.”

“Oh, is this Dakotah?” Mrs. Bivins asked. “I thought you were leaving today?”

“Yes, Ma’am, I guess I’m leaving in a few minutes.” Dakotah replied, staring at the clock.

“That’s odd that Brother Alan isn’t there to see you off.” Mrs. Bivins said, sharply. “I bet he’s over at Mrs. Harris’ house. All that woman does is whine and complain, and Brother Alan is too polite to tell her to get over it, and have a little faith.”

Dakotah took a deep breath. “I’m really sorry, but my uncle just arrived to pick me up, about nine hours early.” he said, straining to stay patient. “I was about to try to call Brother Alan to see where he was, because otherwise, I won’t be able to see him before I leave. Then you called. I’m sorry, but I have to try to find him.”

There was a pause on the phone for a few seconds. “Oh, I see.” Mrs. Bivins said, quietly. “Well, you have a good life, young man.”  she continued, before she abruptly hung up the phone.

Dakotah exhaled, hoping that he did not offend Mrs. Bivins. Quickly, he dialed Rev. Daniels’ phone number. He groaned in anguish, as the phone went directly to voicemail. Steeling himself, he tried Rev. Daniels’ phone again, only to get the same result. A third time failed, also.

“You better get something to eat before you go!” Mama pleaded. Your uncle says he can’t wait much longer!”

“Okay, okay, okay, I’m coming!” Dakotah said, frustrated. “Maybe he’ll show up soon.”

“Dak boy, do you eat like this every day?” Ralph gushed.

“Sometimes.” Dakotah said, simply. “I have been this week. Mama’s been spoiling me.”

“I tell you what,” Ralph exhorted, “if I has here much I’d be fatter than a tick! This is the best stuff I ate in years! Don’t tell your aunt I said that, boy!”

“Now, you don’t be talkin’ like that, you gonna make me blush!” Mama said, embarrassed slightly. “You want another sandwich?”

“Hel-heck, yeah!” Ralph said, ecstatically. The only way this would be better if’n I had some beer to chase it down with! Hurry up’n eat, Dak boy, won’t take me long to chow this down!”

Feeling sad, Dakotah ate as quickly as he could. Fortunately, he was a quick eater, having spent years fending off Frank at the dinner table. In five minutes, his sandwich was but a memory.

“Well, go get your stuff!” Ralph said, rubbing his belly. “We gotta git! Ma’am, thank you for lunch! It was really fine!”

“Wish you could stay here longer.” Mama said, smiling. “I don’t know where Brother Alan went to.”

Dakotah hustled from the church to Rev. Daniels’ house. He double-checked his room and the bathroom for anything he missed. Finding nothing, he walked into Ely’s room. Remembering all the hours they studied together, and watching television together, he began to weep. Seeing an ink pen and some paper, he wrote a quick note.”

I love you. I’ll miss you. I’ll never forget you.

Dak

Wiping away tears, he grabbed his suitcase, and went outside, toward Ralph’s truck.

“Took you long enough!” Ralph chided. “Dang near one o’clock local! I’m getting further behind ever’ minute!”

Ralph snatched the luggage out of Dakotah’s hands, and with one easy motion, chucked it into the storage compartment under the sleepers.

“Alrighty!” Ralph boomed. “Time to git! Nice meetin’ you, ma’am.” he said, nodding toward Mama. In a flash, he climbed in the truck, and revved the engine, causing black smoke to billow from the stacks.

Dakotah hugged Mama tightly, weeping. “I’m going to miss you so much!” he cried.

The ever stoic Mama began to tear up. “You go make Mama proud, y’hear?” she said, smiling weakly.

“I’ll do my best.” Dakotah said, trying to put on a brave face. “Tell Brother Alan and Ely I’m sorry I had to go so soon.”

“I’ll do that.” Mama said, wiping away tears. “Be careful, hon. Let us know when you get there.”

Dakotah nodded, climbed in the truck, and waved as the truck began to pull out into the street. He looked in the side view mirror, and saw Mama standing in front of the church, waving.

“As God as my witness, I’ll be back.” Dakotah thought to himself, while wiping away tears.

*****

Epilogue – Part one

“Hi, Daddy!” Ely said, as she entered the living room. “Got a 100 on the Government test! Where’s Dak?”

“He’s gone.” Rev. Daniels said, sadly.

“What?” Ely cried in disbelief. “No way!”

“Yeah.” Rev. Daniels muttered. “About one o’clock, according to Mama. I missed him, too.”

“I thought his uncle wouldn’t be here until nine!” Ely said, confused.

“I thought so, too, but it seems he was far behind schedule.” Rev. Daniels said, flatly. “Mama said Dak was pretty upset, but he had no choice but to go then.”

Ely exhaled sharply, shook her head, but said nothing.

“Why don’t you get cleaned up and changed, and we’ll go out to eat?” Rev. Daniels offered, trying to change the mood.

Ely nodded, and silently trundled off to her bedroom. She spotted Dakotah’s note, read it, tore it up, and threw it in the trash.

“He’s gone now.” Ely muttered to herself. “Time to move on.”

End Part One

Advertisements

10 responses to “Chapter 15

  • Sandi

    I have enjoyed Chapter 15 very much.
    The love relationship gets even more troubled and confusing….for the them and the reader. Will they, won’t they?

    And is Uncle Ralph just Frank in sheep’ clothing??? I hope not!

    Looking forward to the next phase of Dak’s life. Hopefully he will find more pleasant times ahead.

  • wileybr549

    Glad you enjoyed it, Sandi! To answer your first question, I don’t know! :’ ) To answer the second question, absolutely not! Ralph is a larger-than-life, Type A personality, but he clearly loves Dakotah very, very much, unlike Frank. To preview Chapter 2-1(Which I probably won’t start until next year. Maybe sooner!), those two are spending the next few days in Ralph’s truck together. After reading that chapter, you’ll understand Ralph much better.

    As for more pleasant times for Dak? Well, compared to his last year, I hope so, LOL, but you’ll just have to read it to find out how much!

    • Sandi

      So glad Ralph and Lou love and care for him….he’s not had much from his own parents…both real and ‘step’.

      There is so much more we, the readers, want to know…..I can see how it could become three or four parts 🙂

      • wileybr549

        Well, now we’re going to go into the “Stranger in a strange land” part of the story, in case anyone was wondering. I’ll leave another spoiler, and officially say there will be three parts.

        I guess you can use the plural descriptor “we”, because as far as I know, it’s just you and Briar…… :’ )

  • wileybr549

    My next step, before I start on Part 2, I’ll do a little Part 1 retrospective. In it, there’s some thrown out dialouge from Chapter 10, as well as early concepts, and whatnot.

  • BriarCraft

    The best part of this chapter was the reverend’s little speech on Wednesday night. Up until then, I have been so focused on Dak’s pitifulness that I hadn’t realized he had done anything worthwhile and positive. This was a great way to end Part 1 and pave the way for Part 2.

    And, of course, me being a compulsive editor….

    One of the “out”s should be deleted. see below:
    “I can safely say that his father is not the easiest person to get along with.” Rev. Daniels continued, shaking his head. “However, Dakotah made the decision to stick it out there, and perhaps influence his father to live a more godlike existence. Alas, that was not meant to be, as their house burned down Monday night. Dakotah heroically dragged his father, who, by the way, was in flames, and put _OUT_ the fire _OUT_ on him. The doctors at the hospital say that Dakotah saved his father’s life.” The congregation applauded loudly, while Dakotah looked down and fidgeted.

    Missing a few words here:
    “I hope so.” Dakotah replied. “It’s going to be a few years, though. By _______ I get back, you guys will probably be in high school!”

    And here:
    “She can be, that’s for sure!” Dakotah laughed. “But you know what? She worked real hard, got good grades, and in the fall, she ______ be going to college, and in a couple of years, to Japan!”

    Just a technicality, but I don’t think anyone would be kept in the hospital for 1st degree burns or for a softball sized 2nd degree burn. 1st degree is like having a sunburn though 2nd degree has blisters and can cause scarring. It seems that 3rd degree burns would be needed to justify a 2 week hospital stay. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Burn)

  • wileybr549

    I kinda thought RD’s speech(and the whole Special Night for Dak at the church) was a little over the top, but I’m glad you liked it, Briar! RD(Rev. Daniels, that is: this is how I write his name on paper as I’m doing my rough drafts) has always been Dak’s greatest champion, as much as Elizabeth or Louise, IMO.

    Fixed the errors, but left Darren’s stay at two weeks. He may be a slow healer, especially since he’s getting good meds! :’ )

  • wileybr549

    Reread the entire 15 chapters, and found plenty of cringe-worthy moments. Beginning to doubt whether I should do a “making of” post or not. Thoughts?

    • BriarCraft

      Doing a Part 1 retrospective might be a good idea. A lot of time has passed since you wrote the opening of Chapter 1. I’m not quite sure what you mean by retrospective, but if a synopsis or Cliff Notes version was what you had in mind, that could be helpful to us all going forward. I have read fiction series where the author mis-remembered earlier events and muddled up the continuity of the characters. Whether you publish that retrospective or simply use it for your own reference has to be your decision.

  • wileybr549

    I’ll give it a shot. There’s some basic themes that I wanted to address, plus a basic play by play of what happened and how it was written would be good, too. I have a couple of months before I start Part 2(Though I’ve been working on the basic stucture and flow already), Shouldn’t take too long(i’ve said that before, lol!).

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: