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Authors: Charles Martin

(2005) Wrapped in Rain

BOOK: (2005) Wrapped in Rain
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 NOVEL OF COMING HOME
Charles Martin
PRAISE FOR CHARLES MARTIN'S NOVELS

"Charles Martin is changing the face of inspirational fiction one book at a time. Wrapped In Rain is a sentimental tale that is not to be missed."

-MICHAEL MORRIS, author of Live Like You Were Dying and A Place Called Wiregrass

"A tender tale of heartbreak and redemption, Wrapped in Rain will speak to every child who has suffered a broken heart and every mother who has prayed for a child. Not to be missed."

-ANGELA HUNT, author of Unspoken and The Debt

"Wrapped in Rain is achingly lovely. It compels us to fear and pain; challenge and discovery; love and more love; imperfect forgiveness and everlasting redemption. Its ambience is southern, its promise universal. Charles Martin has quickly become an elite writer in this genre, and a special writer in my heart."

-KATHRYN MACKEL, author of The Surrogate and The Departed

"Rain before seven, sun by eleven ... In more than one sense this remarkable and seemingly magical transition-from dreary mistiness to sunny brilliance, dampness to warmth, despair to happiness, damnation to redemption-is the story Charles Martin tells compellingly in his new and lifeenhancing novel ... Read this book and watch the sun come out."

-JOHN DYSON

"[The Dead Don't Dance is] an absorbing read for fans of faith-based fiction ... [with] delightfully quirky characters ... [who] are ingeniously imaginative creations."

-Publishers Weekly

"[The Dead Don't Dance is] a strong and insightful first novel, written by a great new Christian voice in fiction. Brilliant."

-DAVIS BUNN, author of Elixir and The Lazarus Trap

"The Dead Don't Dance combines writing that is full of emotion with a storyline that charts a haunting story of love and loss-and finding one's way back. Charles Martin quickly plunges readers into the story and takes them to a dark place. Then he draws them, like his protagonist Dylan, back to the surface, infusing them with renewed strength. Martin's writing is strong, honest, and memorable. He's an author to discover now-and then keep your eye on."

-CAROL FITZGERALD, co-founder/president, Bookreporter.coni

"The Dead Don't Dance is the best book you will read this year! Bravo, Mr. Martin!"

-PATRICIA HICKMAN, award-winning author of Fallen Angels and Nazareth's Song

"This is the story of a real person's real struggle with the uncertainties of faith, unadorned with miracles of the dens ex machina sort, but full of the sort of miracles that attend everyday life if you bother to notice. Charles Martin notices, and for that I commend him. He's unafraid of tackling the crucial questions-life, death, love, sacrifice."

-DUNCAN MURRELL, editor and writer

FOR MY MOM

Even now ... a lady on her knees.

 
Prologue

WHEN THE ACHE WOKE ME, I POKED THE TIP OF MY NOSE out from under the covers and pulled my knees hard into my chest where my heart hung pounding like a war drum. The room was deep with shadows, the moon hung high, and I knew Rex would never let me out of bed at this hour. I inched my head out from under the covers, my hair sticking up from the static, and looked down from my second-story perch, but my breath had fogged the window and wrapped a hazy halo around the moon. Car-size hay bales wrapped in white plastic lined the far fence and framed the backdrop against which three or four horses-their backs covered with blankets-and one or two deer fed silently in the ankle-high winter rye. Bluemoon glow lit the back porch and barn, and the pasture floated beneath a wave of slow-moving fog. Even then, if I could've saddled that fog and ridden out over those golden fields, I'd have sunk in my spurs, pulled the reins skyward, steered for the sun, and never looked back.

I slept like this wrapped up like a cannonballbecause he noticed me less. When he did, my backside got the brunt of it. About a year later, when Ave found out I had a brother, I thought maybe I'd start getting half-whippings because now he had twice as many targets, but I was wrong. He just gave twice as many.

I wiped my nose with my flannel pajama sleeve, uncoiled, and then slid off the top bunk where the moon spilled around me and cast my shadow on the floor. Me and Peter Pan. Miss Ella knew I needed room to grow, so she had bought my one-piece pajama suit a few sizes too big. The built-in feet made a scratchy, sliding sound as I tiptoed across the floor to the chair where my twoholster belt hung. Holding my breath, I strapped the belt around my waist, checked my six-shooters to make sure the caps were in place, pulled my cowboy hat down tight, and poked my head around the door.

An arm's reach away, leaning in the corner, stood my baseball bat-a twenty-six-inch Louisville Slugger. Hitting chert rocks had dinged and cut the barrel, leaving it splintery and rough, but Moses had sanded the handle smooth, thin enough to fit my little hands. I grabbed it, lined up my knuckles, and rested it on my shoulder. I had to walk past Rex's door and I needed all the help I could get. I never knew if he was home or not, but I wasn't taking any chances. If he was here and he so much as moved, I'd crack his shins, blast him with both cylinders, and then run like a bat out of the basement while he screamed the "third commandment word."

In the last few weeks, I had been wrestling with a few things that didn't make any sense: like why I didn't have a mama; why my dad never came around; why he was always yelling, screaming, and drinking when he did; and what this hurting was in my stomach. Stuff like that.

Rex's room was dark and quiet, but that didn't fool me. So were storm clouds just before they thundered. I got on all fours and belly-crawled, one elbow in front of the other like a soldier under fire, to Rex's cavernous door, and then quickly past, never pausing to look inside. My flannel pajamas slid almost silently on the polished wood floors. Most of the time, when Rex had spent the last several hours, or even days, looking through the bottom of a crystal glass, he didn't always get the light turned on. I didn't know much, but I did know that a dark room didn't necessarily mean no Rex. I began crawling again. The thought of him in there, sitting in his chair, watching me, rising now to come for me ... was almost paralyzing. My breathing picked up and sweat beaded my forehead, but above the deafening sound of my own heart beating, I heard no snoring and no shouting.

Clearing the door frame, I wiped the sweat from my forehead and pulled my heels away from danger. When I didn't hear footsteps, didn't feel a hand on my back, didn't feel myself yanked off the floor, I hauled myself to the banister of the stairway, kicked one leg over, and slid all the way to the marble landing on the first floor.

I glanced over my shoulder, saw no sign of Rex, and started running. If he was home, he'd have to catch me. I ran through the library; the smoking room; the den; the room with the fireplace big enough to sleep in; through the kitchen, which smelled like baked chicken and biscuits and gravy; off the back porch, which smelled like mop water; through the pasture, which smelled like fresh horse manure; and toward Miss Ella's cottage-which smelled like a hug.

The way Miss Ella told it, my father, Rex, put an ad in the local paper for "house help" the week I was born. There were two reasons for this: he was too proud to advertise his need for a "nanny," and he had sent my mother-his late-night office clerk-to file elsewhere. A couple dozen people responded to the ad, but Rex was picky ... which made little sense given his affinity for random clerks. Just after breakfast, Miss Ella Rain-a forty-five-year-old, childless widow and the only daughter of the son of an Alabama slave-rang the doorbell. The chime rang for almost a minute, and after an appropriate wait-so as not to appear either hurried or in need-Rex answered the door and gave her a long look over the top of his reading glasses. He could read just fine, but like most things in his life, he wore them for effect, not function.

BOOK: (2005) Wrapped in Rain
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