"Go to sleep."
Then Gus said something I'd never heard him say before. He said, "Captain, you're still a son of a bitch. Always will be."
"I know, Gus."
"They're all dead because of you, Captain. Always will be."
Gus was snoring almost immediately. My father turned to where we stood in the middle of the basement. "Go on back to bed," he said. "I'm going to stay and pray for a while."
"The car's full of puke," I said. "Mom'll go berserk."
"I'll take care of it."
My father went up to the sanctuary. Jake and I went out the side door. I still wasn't ready to call it a night. I sat on the front steps of the church and Jake sat there too. He was tired and leaned against me.
"What did Gus mean?" he said. "Dad killed them all. What did he mean?"
I was wondering about that too. I said, "I don't know."
The birds had started to chatter in the trees. Above the hills that rimmed the valley of the Minnesota River I could see a thin line of vermilion in the sky that was the approach of dawn. And I saw something else. On the other side of the street a familiar figure separated itself from the cover of the lilac bushes that edged our yard. I watched my older sister sneak across the lawn and slip into our house through the back door. Oh the secrets of the night. I sat on the steps of my father's church thinking how much I loved the dark. The taste of what it offered sweet on the tongue of my imagination. The delicious burn of trespass on my conscience. I was a sinner. I knew that without a doubt. But I was not alone. And the night was the accomplice of us all.
I said, "Jake?" But he didn't answer. He was asleep.
My father would pray for a long time. It was too late for him to go back to bed and too early to fix breakfast. He was a man with a son who stuttered and another probably on his way to becoming a juvenile delinquent and a daughter with a harelip who sneaked in at night from God knew where and a wife who resented his profession. Yet I knew it was not for himself or for any of us that he was praying. More likely it was for the parents of Bobby Cole. And for Gus. And probably for an asshole named Morris Engdahl. Praying on their behalf. Praying I suppose for the awful grace of God.
Excerpted from Ordinary Grace by William Kent Krueger. Copyright © 2013 by William Kent Krueger. Excerpted by permission of Atria Books. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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No Man's Land
by Simon Tolkien
Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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