Murderous rage, bigotry and rape; topics not commonly discussed around the supper table of Pastor Sam and Martha Belle Jobe, with their brood of five, in the segregated, Deep South of Louisiana of the 1960’s. However, events centered around their middle child, 12-year-old, Rance, will cascade all those issues and then some, upon their family.
Over the course of 4 turbulent years, Rance will meet tragedy, treachery, trials and true-love, head-on, as he seeks to discover truths about himself, his family, the enemies they share, and the God they worship. Ultimately, the question becomes, will there be enough miracles, love and redemption for Rance to survive his rite of passage.
Targeted Age Group:: 14 and up
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
The miracles I've witnessed in my own life, especially the merciful redemption provided by the sacrifice of Christ. His Grace is greater than all our sin, and then some.
How Did You Come up With Your Characters?
Having grown up amongst the denizens of Southwestern Louisiana during the era of the story, creating the characters for WINGS OF THE WIND was perhaps the easiest part of the process. Whether God-fearing, or Godless, I'm quite familiar with the ways, words, wisdom and wit of those folks, who collectively left an indelible mark on my own personality. For better or worse.
As wind-driven rain began pouring, thunder rumbled, enjoined overhead by jagged bolts of lightning. Two red-winged black birds buzzed past Rance, seeking refuge from the elements. With a shrug of resignation, he decided to do the same, heading for the cover of the shower-house.
“Sorry Ed,” he moaned as he rounded the corner of the building, assuming their mother wouldn’t be happy Ed had allowed him to lag behind.
At that moment, he drew up short as his foot struck something. Retrieving the object, he asked aloud, “Who’d be out here with this?” Hesitantly sniffing at the empty whiskey bottle, he read the label. “Old Crow.”
Shaking his head, he tossed the bottle into a nearby trash drum. Wheeling about to enter the building, he drew up short yet again. “What the… why didn’t I look here first?” he asked, with a sigh of relief. There, just inside the entrance to the boys room was his bike, leaning against the wall.
“Can’t believe…” he was saying as he stepped into the room which was lit by shreds of murky light, leaking in between the eaves and cinder-block walls. The statement died on his lips.
With malicious intent, a large hand, awash in the aroma of hard liquor, engulfed Rance’s face, effectively snuffing off his air supply. As shock quickly gave rise to dread and headed for hysteria, he reflexively became limp, catching his assailant off-guard.
Temporarily losing his grip, the attacker cursed in a growling, other-worldly voice. Rance attempted to roll away on the cold, dank floor, but the man fell across him, crushing the wind from his lungs. In mass panic, as the menace once again clamped a hand across his face, Rance kicked his sneakered feet against the other’s legs, drawing groans of pain. Still, his foe stayed locked in place, now wrapping an arm around his throat.
As fog enveloped his cognizance, Rance’s mind raced intermittently between short prayers, and his indefatigable will to fight on. While visions of his loved ones flashed through his mind, the last glimpse of his mother, standing in the midst of her flower garden with wind-blown hair curling around her oval face, took center-stage. Will I see her again?
Suddenly, as consciousness faded, his attacker’s grip surprisingly lessened, allowing precious air to fill heaving lungs. Incapacitated to the point of helplessness, the bewildered boy struggled to speak but only a pitiful, screeching sound came forth. The room was still spinning when Rance was roughly turned flat on his face with the other’s knee in the small of his back. In a tone virtually dripping with invectiveness, the perpetrator spewed a series of expletives about the boy’s father, his church and finally, about what he had in store for Rance.
Trepidation reached the boiling point within Rance, forcing a plaintive wail, cut short when a fist slammed brutally into the back of his head. As his forehead bounced off of the concrete floor, a flickering array of light exploded behind his eyes. Moaning, indistinguishable sounds emanated from the dazed youngster, who was only vaguely aware of pawing hands, ripping at his clothing. Almost mercifully, another blow to the head rendered the lad unconscious, even as a silent scream resounded in his mind.
He didn’t know how long he lay there all but inert, wondering in a trancelike state about familiar sounds echoing inside his head. Finally, as the veil of disorientation slowly withdrew, came the realization for Rance that he was indeed fully awake and the resonating noises within his pulsating skull, were very real.
One was the steady splattering of rain on a tin roof. Tin roof? Suddenly, the recollection of where he was as well as the horror he had survived, came flooding back; revealing that the aches and pains he’d thought produced by some morbid dream were all too genuine.
A wincing ache in his left side forced each breath to be drawn in measured gasps. However, that discomfort was not the worst. With trembling hands, he investigated his throbbing forehead where he discovered that a large knot, above a swollen, left eye, was the source of excruciating misery. Withdrawing his hand, he realized too, that the sticky substance on his fingers was blood; his blood.
In spite of his suffering, Rance somehow willed himself to stir, enough to cautiously turn in the direction of the second sound. Through eyes blurred by swelling and concussive blows, he strained to focus through the murkiness of the room.
There! Slumped in the far corner, between the shower stall and urinal, was the source of the second sound. A motionless figure, cloaked in shadow, lay snoring like a buzz-saw. At that moment, a flash of lightning interrupted the opaque stillness. The room was momentarily illuminated enough for Rance to make out a man, wearing what looked like coveralls and heavy work boots, with his face mostly hidden by a slouchy hat.
Struggling to gain control of his erratic breathing, Rance shook his head, as if to relieve himself of clinging dizziness. Momentarily, he arose on quaking legs, one agonizing inch at a time; first to his knees and, after a lengthy pause, finally to a standing position. The effort initiated a swimming within his throbbing skull where intermittent flashes of light continued to mar his cloudy vision. Aching from head to heel, he lost his balance, thrusting a hand against the wall to steady himself.
Taking further inventory of his condition, Rance realized the back of his shirt had been ripped open and his cut-offs pulled halfway off. On top of that, he had wet himself at some point of the horrifying event.
Through mental fogginess, Rance’s innocence ebbed away as he at least partially realized the depraved foulness to which the snoring creature had sunk. As a wave of nausea rose within him, he gagged, prompting both hands to instinctively cover his mouth.
Closing his eyes, Rance remained frozen until the nausea subsided. He then hurriedly tugged the shorts up, as clammy fingers of shame gripped his soul. Fending off another bout of dizziness, he rested against the wall, temporarily lightening the burden on quivering legs. All the while, he kept his eyes peeled on the malevolent figure, still motionless, save for his rhythmic breathing.
Struggling to steady his nerves, the beleaguered youngster drew a deep, painful, breath, allowing him to detect odors which overpowered the typical restroom smells. Redolent traces of gasoline, oil, and grime wafted his way, mingling with what he had just learned that day to be the unmistakable scent of liquor.
Wrinkling his nose at the vaguely familiar, malodorous combination, it occurred to him then, 'He’s ain’t just sleepin’. He’s passed out cold!'
Rance’s eyes widened, as somehow, within the tangled web of his thoughts, a vague notion of the man’s possible identity took root. In spite of pain, confusion and fear, his faith helped him breath a quick prayer of deliverance.
Futilely attempting to ignore the heartbeat pounding in his ears, he ended his prayer, while working a hand into his pocket, to retrieve the inhaler. He took a puff, hoping the slight sound would not arouse the menacing hulk on the floor. Discerning no movement, he chanced a second puff before returning the device to his pocket. His hand glanced against something else…'my jack-knife!'
The thought crossed his tortured mind to draw his knife and cut the sleeping man’s throat. Instead, he spotted his cap on the floor and scooped it up. Outside, the intensity of the storm increased. Howling wind breached the eaves as he pulled the knife from his pocket, opening the primary blade.
'Go Rance! Go!' the wind seemed to moan as it swirled into the room.
Directing his gaze to his bike, a growing sense of urgency propelled his decision to escape. He tugged the cap onto his aching head, all the while, keeping his eyes on the unconscious man. He then side-stepped slowly until he reached his goal. Even before clearing the doorway, driving rain pelted him.
Finally, he breached the exit and hurriedly straddled the bike, before turning for one last glance. 'No!' The man had disappeared.
With panic swelling in his chest, he leaped into action, but too late. The bushwhacker sprang from around the doorway, grabbing Rance by the back of his tee shirt and britches.
The boy began to fall over but caught himself, halfway down. Wrapping Rance in a bear hug, the man interspersed foul words with inhuman grunts, attempting to pry his victim from the bike. Suddenly, Rance realized the knife remained clutched in his right hand.
With all his strength, he flicked his right wrist, stabbing the blade through the heavy coverall, above the right knee of his assailant. An animalistic shriek of pain escaped the maniac’s lips as he stumbled backward, with Rance’s knife buried in his flesh.
It was all the break the boy needed. With a rush of adrenalin, he stood up on the pedals, tearing across the soggy parking lot, headed for the homeward trail.
“Don’t look back,” he whispered. But he did look back, turning away in horror when his blurry eyes did not see his adversary through the sheets of rain.
Suddenly inspired by a stirring down deep in his soul, he said earnestly, “Greater is He that is in you… than he that is in the world!” Even in the midst of desperate straits, Rance found comfort in the scripture and began repeating it over and again in his mind, as all of his breath was now needed for the task at hand.
Putting the remainder of his depleted stamina into the effort, Rance pedaled his bike with renewed vigor. His cap sailed from his head, prompting him to grit his teeth against the elements. Despite sloshing through widening puddles, faster and faster he rode, tearing through a cross wind, which brought him perilously close to the edge of the drop-off. Exacerbating the danger was a steady barrage of broken limbs and pine cones flying across his path. Predictably, with that stabbing pain hampering his already labored breathing, his lungs felt as if they would burst at any moment.
“Got to…stop. Got to…” Fighting off the feeling of utter helplessness, he paused, yanking the inhaler from his pocket, only to find that it was completely empty. “No!” he moaned as he threw the useless thing aside, applying feet to pedals once more.
Nearing the bend where he would actually be able to see his home, Rance strained through pain and weariness, splashing through puddles of muddy, red water. Calling on all of his reserves to finish the ride, he declared, “I’m gonna make it!”
At that instant, he was acutely aware of a crashing through the brush on his right. Initially, he thought the blustery might of the storm had blown over a tree but in a split second the madman in the slouched hat bowled him over, growling like a wounded bear. Dislodged from his bike, Rance somersaulted across the trail, thudding to rest, flat on his back.
As the menace reached for him, Rance managed to land a looping punch to his chin. In his weakened state, it did little damage, however the startled reaction of his assailant was such that Rance finally caught more than a partial glimpse of the face below the soggy, hat brim. With the light of recognition now shining in his cloudy eyes, the boy desperately flailed away with all four limbs.
The rain-drenched attacker, fully cognizant that the boy could possibly identify him, ferociously lunged once more, seizing Rance by the shoulders. The momentum of the conflict turned at that moment, when the lad at last landed a fortuitous blow, driving a knee between the legs of his foe. This produced a grunt of pain and the release of the devil’s groping hands. Seizing upon the opportunity, Rance rolled away, and with a supreme effort, staggered to his feet.
With his assailant now between he and his bike, the battered youth opted to make a run for it. However, as he headed up the trail for home, the gooey, red mud, betrayed him when he became stuck from its suction. Stumbling, he landed on all fours, splashing down into a widening quagmire.
Peripherally, Rance saw his combatant moving toward him. Instinctively, he thrust himself away from the onslaught, leaving one sneaker behind in the muck. The act proved to be effective, but in the process, it brought him to the brink of disaster on the softening peak of the slope.
Struggling mightily just to breathe, he gained his feet just as the menace, himself now appearing winded, lurched toward him yet again. Rance side-stepped, but had the misfortune to land in a washout, burgeoning due to the second deluge of the day. His feet began to slip and slide apart. For one agonizing, second, he struggled to regain his balance on the precipice of disaster, as the blowing gale raged against him.
Unfortunately, in his debilitated state, Rance’s effort proved fruitless. First one leg and then the other were swept off of the soggy ground, and in the blink of an eye, he pitched over backward, hurtling down the rocky face of the slope.
The hapless youth had little time to gauge his mishap. Upon first contact with the embankment, Rance’s world abruptly went black with his skull striking a chunk of limestone. Subsequently, his limp body bounced once, twice, three times during the descent, finally coming to rest at the edge of the rapidly rising, gully.
Oblivious now, to all he had endured in a span of twenty, hellacious minutes, Rance lay, all but lifeless. Meanwhile, the rising water began to tint from a spreading, crimson stain.
Above, as shouts of those, searching for his victim carried through the din of the howling storm, the villain grabbed Rance’s sneaker and hurled it into the rushing gully. Displaying a limp now, due to the bleeding wound inflicted by Rance’s knife, the perpetrator took hold of the Schwinn. Emitting a grunt, he heaved it down the slope. With twisted frame and spinning spokes, it came to rest just a few feet from the dying boy.
Confident that his victim would not survive to tell tales, the madness in the man’s eyes abated. In the next instant, the author of Rance’s nightmare was swallowed up by the gale-thrashed, foliage. Overhead, the tempest and torrents intensified, as if the heavens themselves, wept, at the pitiful plight of Rance Jobe.
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I’m a late arrival to the literary gang, after several decades in the work-place; happily married to my college sweetheart, raising two beautiful kids, who’ve now made us grandparents, multiple times.
In truth, I’m now living a dream; one which began in my late teens, and hung with me through all the decades of living in our great Republic. In my thirties and forties I replaced other hobbies with creative writing; just for fun, though I did shop around a couple of manuscripts. Got the obligatory, “atta boy’s” but not quite what we need, rejections. (Don’t even get those anymore).
At that point, switched gears in careers and left the writing, tabled, for a dozen years.
Finally retired from the rat-race at sixty, and voila, WINGS OF THE WIND came to be. Actually, it’s the second manuscript since my retirement; still shopping the first around. Looking forward to living the rest of this dream. To God be the Glory!