Authors: Bud Macfarlane
Tags: #Christian Books & Bibles, #Catholicism, #Literature & Fiction, #Religion & Spirituality, #Christian Fiction, #Fiction & Literature
by Bud Macfarlane Jr., author of the
Pierced by a Sword.
"This is Bud Macfarlane's
–his 'great work,' and I believe it will be cherished for generations by Christians who have the courage to explore the timeless mysteries."
David Mercer, Writer
"I never thought I'd ever say this, because
Pierced by a Sword
was my all-time favorite book–but
blew me away. Move over,
Guys, if you only read one book in your life, make it this one. Powerful."
Dan Williams, Executive
House of Gold
should be required reading for every adult in America. I am not exaggerating."
Christina Brundage, Nurse
"A gripping, emotional roller coaster ride with a climax so satisfying that I wanted to run back to the first page to ride
it again. It made me laugh. It made me cry. It made me angry. It made me rejoice."
Angela Terry, Computer Professional
"Macfarlane did it to me again–he kept me up into the wee hours of the night. This book was brutal, tender, passionate, profound, and simple all at the same time. You might call it fiction, but for me, it was real. Read this book–now."
Dave Targonski, Father & Sales Manager
"I loved it–it drew me in and took me to incredible places. Don't start this book until you turn off the stove burners–and set aside time for prayer afterwards."
Carolyn Able, Mother & Writer
Soul and body. Water and blood.
Death and life. Evil and goodness.
A story about courage and suffering.
A novel about our times.
A vision for all time.
Consider Giving it Away.
Saint Jude Media, the nonprofit publisher of this novel, invites you to send for copies to distribute to your family, friends, and associates. We are making it available in quantities for a nominal donation. We will even send a free copy to individuals who write to us directly. There is no catch. It's a new concept in book distribution that
makes it easier for everyone to read great books.
See the back pages of this book for more details, or write to us for more information:
Saint Jude Media
PO Box 26120
Fairview Park, OH 44126-0120
Discover a New World.
Change Your Life Forever.
Published by Saint Jude Media
PO Box 26120, Fairview Park, OH 44126-0120
© 1999 by William N. Macfarlane, Jr. All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this book or portions thereof in any form whatsoever without permission.
Library of Congress Catalog Card Number: 99-093919
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents
either are the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
Cover Design by Ron Wiggins
Typesetting by Joe Vantaggi on a Power Macintosh 8500
Printing by Offset Paperback Manufacturers, Dallas, PA
Printed in the United States of America
To my sons Jude, Buddy, and Xavey.
I gave them the whole nine yards.
IERCED BY A
You won't read a more timeless novel than the one you are holding in your hand–even if you are reading it one hundred years after it was first published.
It offers suffering. I know that sounds strange, but you will love the suffering inside these pages. It's honest, authentic, gut-wrenching. It's real suffering. You will understand soon enough.
I am twenty-two years old. I've helped my
father edit three novels and Bud edit two others. I grew up in Canada, in a family that loves books. A family of storytellers. I love all kinds of stories, but this story cannot be categorized, it can only be experienced.
During its harshest and most brutal scenes, my heart was filled with tenderness and hope. I felt that I was
with Buzz, Ellie, Mel, and the Man.
The Man? I can't wait
until you meet the Man.
Like everything in this book, he's real, hard to describe, and the definition of cool. He's still with me. Right now. And I like that.
I believe this is Bud Macfarlane's best work. It is one of a kind, and will never be duplicated, not even by Bud himself.
It offers the cross. Can you take it?
My gratitude to my dedicated editors, especially John O'Brien, Thomas Case, Chris Lyons, and Carol Kean. This is your book, too.
My thanks to Joe Vantaggi, our talented typesetter, and Ron Wiggins, who created the luscious cover. Matt Pinto for planting the seed. Dave Targonski for the galvanizing theme. Ed "Elroy" Mulholland for giving me a title that was also a sure rudder. Dr.
Scott Van Oosten for the chiropractic advice. Ron Curley for running "interference" during the storm.
Critical contributions came from Thomas Breznak, Christina Brundage, Mark Dittman, Father Mike Gurnick, Tedd Imgrund, Judith Johnson, Grace Kneeshaw, Anthony LaPlaca, Jeannine McDevitt, Tim Novecosky, Garth Pereira, Mary Rowe, and Theresa Weber. Fred and Carolyn: you too! Thanks, guys and gals.
I especially want to thank the hundreds of priests, nuns, deacons, and brothers who prayed for me and continue to pray for all those who will read this book. The grace that saves souls never comes cheap.
The following story has the same characters as my second novel,
Conceived Without Sin.
You should have no trouble following along even if you haven't read
If you want to read the first book, please write in for a free copy from my publisher.
The backdrop of this novel is a catastrophic computer problem. Even pessimistic experts concede that the electric grid probably can't go
down in one day. The optimistic experts don't think it can go down at all. As with the deadly virus in King's classic novel,
please feel free to consider this story's computer bug a literary device. Please take me at my word: my goal was not to convince you anything about computers one way or the other.
My purpose was something else.
Parents beware. I wrote this story for adults. Read
it before you give it to your young-adult children.
Blackstone, Brixton, and Bagpipe are creations of my imagination. In the real world, the Magalloway region of New Hampshire is pure, undeveloped–and inaccessible–wilderness. The statue, Our Lady of the Rockies, is real.
You can tell yourself that it's only fiction. Something to kill time. Yeah, that's what you can tell yourself. As for me, I
saw what follows with my own eyes, then I wrote it down.
EAST OF THE
"They shall be mine," says the Lord of Hosts, "my treasured possession on the day when I act, and I will spare them, just as in compassion a man spares his son who serves him. Then once more, you shall see the distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between those who serve God and those who do not."
All the stories have been told, of kings and days of
old–but there's no England now.
Living on a Thin Line
The only security is courage.
François La Rochefoucauld
I can't explain it, the things you're sayin' to me– it's goin' ya ya ya ya ya ya ya. Because I'm a twenty-first century digital boy; I don't know how to live but I've got a lot of toys.
21st Century Digital Boy
Where did you leave your baby? Bleeding in her bed,
her ghost has come to stay, Oh you can try, you can chase her away.
Which Way to the Top
Getting Out of Dodge
Nine years after Buzz Woodward failed to commit suicide on a dark and stormy night on a beach in New Jersey, he was having a hard time trying to convince his wife Melanie that they had to put their cozy little house in a suburb of Ohio on the market.
He was failing again. After all, this was the house Mel's mother had given them as a wedding gift. How many guys
had no mortgage payments these days? Only rich guys like Buzz's best friend, Sam Fisk. And Mel's mother was no big fan of Gwynne "Buzz" Woodward. If the ReMax sign went on the front lawn, Melanie's folks would get out their sharp knives, for sure.
His job as a massotherapist–a massage therapist–did not bring in much money, and it always seemed like there was never quite enough milk in the fridge
for Markie. And then there was the cost of the night classes in chiropractic. No way was Buzz
going to Mel's folks for that. Sam was helping out with a little loan. The kind with no terms or interest rates or payments due, God love Sam–and Ellie, his stunning wife.
planning to be a massotherapist forever. And how many guys had trouble with their mother-in-law these days?
much the same as throughout history,
He stood there on the pink rug with years of stains on it, leaning back on his heels, spouting facts and figures and theories gleaned from Sam Fisk and the Internet. His son Markie, four, was crying at his feet; Packy, only fourteen months, was sleeping soundly in Mel's hard, freckled arms as she sat on the cruddy old couch Buzz had salvaged from
the garbage in Birdtown. He was still finding treasure in other people's trash–proud of it, despite the superior looks from Mel's folks.
The marriage, his second, had been a good one. Like his first marriage, now annulled for almost a decade, there had always been a lot of shouting over the years.
He and Mel, however, had grown comfortable within each other's temper. Now–it was now–with Melanie
shouting, that Buzz got that same feeling he had gotten on the jetty in New Jersey.
That no matter how this whole thing turned out–sell the damned house and move, not sell the house and die like a dog–he was taking
a long walk
on this baby.
But first he had to convince Mel to take the long walk with him. He stopped shouting. He paused as she looked up from the baby.
Oh, that thick, defiant
red hair making a jailbreak from her freckled brow. No modern goo could incarcerate it. No electric curling iron could rehabilitate it. The big, burly man, now a full eighth-grade-boy's-worth overweight, suddenly wanted only to sink his hands into that rebellious hair, and to kiss her, and make another boy like Markie or Packy, and give this unknown third a nickname no other kid in Lakewood had.
Never marry a redhead, Markie,
he thought, amused, reaching down to rub the boy's crewcut.
Mel saw the amused look in his eyes. The shouting-man was gone. She loved the way he switched moods so unpredictably. One minute a raving preacher on how a computer glitch could wipe out half of mankind, the next, the guy who saw a man's face portrayed in the holes of the electric socket on the wall.
really going on with this computer thing, Buzzy? What's the truth?" she asked calmly.
Markie had found a working power screwdriver under the TV table, and had settled down, too. She knew her husband hated it when she called him Buzzy.
"If there's even a one-in-a-hundred shot that Sam is right, we gotta sell the house. Hey, on a completely different subject, I was just thinking, maybe we could
have an appointment, tonight."
He smiled his most rakish smile. They both looked quickly at the little boy to confirm that he had not understood the code.
Then she frowned. Her libido had gone to Mexico after Packy was born, just as it had done after Markie. It was that bedamned breastfeeding that Ellie had taught her. Sure, the kids were calmer, got sick less often, were born farther apart, and
she loved it, she really did, but nobody had mentioned beforehand that her sex drive would go into park and remain there for almost two years.
He read the frown. "No harm in asking, is there?"
"I guess not, but not tonight. Unless you insist. I can't help it if my hormones are on vacation."
He sat down next to her.
"I don't insist."
She looked at him closely. He was really serious about selling
the house–he had resorted to the Puppy Dog Look.
Mel did not know the first thing about computers and embedded chips or programmer shortages. But she knew that Sam Fisk was always right about these things, and that Buzz, despite the low-rent crewcut, and scratching by on three or four massotherapy fees a day, was about the smartest man she had ever known.
He had a degree from Notre Dame, after
all, and had put himself through college by picking food from dumpsters while working two jobs. Just the same way, he was going to be a chiropractor on a shoestring. No trust funds and preppy clothes for her Buzz.
His mother had left him as a child, and his alcoholic-father, long since passed away, had been no help either. Her Buzz, big strong Buzz, with twice the brains and three times the energy
of the lazy boys coming out of John Carroll down–the road, was remaking himself into a chiropractor.
She had no doubt.
With God's grace, he had beaten alcoholism–twice–and somehow ended up a whole human being, standing on his own sturdy feet. She knew he would meet any challenge when it came to her and the boys. Some of the girls who had gone to Magnificat High with her had already been dumped
by their money-and-status-obsessed former husbands.
Those Mags chicks had married suits; she had married
Like most satisfied wives, she knew that her man was like no other man. Unique. Just for her. The kind of man you follow to hell on earth, if that's what God wanted–which He sometimes did.
His one-man shouting match was over as quickly as it started. Melanie didn't mind the shouting;
only a person with hot blood could understand enough to marry another. This passion would drive them to do whatever–whatever, mind you–was required to...to survive the coming calamity. In the pit of her stomach, where the bile flows, she knew he was a rock on this.
The house you grew up in!
the red-haired part of Melanie protested.
Better Homes & Gardens
was not coming by for that photoshoot anytime
soon, Mel told herself. The block was turning over fast, and property values were dropping on this side of town. They wouldn't get much for the house.
At their weddings, her sisters had all been given enough money to buy a house. Mel, the last to get married, had been given the Lakewood house because her parents, long since migrated to the tony suburb of Bay Village, were tired of maintaining
and renting it. She sometimes wondered if her parents had given the house to her for unspoken reasons relating to their disappointment that she had married Buzz.
He kissed her cheek, a brotherly prelude to nothing.
"I'll call the agent tomorrow afternoon, after I get to the clinic," he said finally. "But only after I talk to Sam one more time. This house represents all the money we have in the
world. The sooner we turn it into money, the sooner we can turn that money into something that will be worth a damn after the stupid computer bug hits."
"I'll never understand," she mused, shaking her head, "how a Catholic as devout as you can say 'damn' so much."
He looked at her with an impish smile, but said nothing. He got down on the floor with Markie, who smiled brightly, and showed him
how to insert the business end of the screwdriver into the back of the television set. They hadn't used the blasted thing in years–except to watch Buzz's beloved videos.
Packy reattached himself to his mother's little breast. She was a sprite of a woman. Two years younger than her husband, gravity's relentless effort to pull her bones and skin into the earth was taking its effect. Sam, even his
drop-dead beautiful Ellie, the Johnsons, the Man, the Pennys, the Lawrences, Bill White and Brian Thredda–everybody in their circle was starting to show their age. When Buzz and the guys played their annual "Buzz Bowl" backyard football game on Thanksgiving, it took them almost a week to recover. It was called
"People are going to think we've lost it, you know, Mel. Get ready for
that. Even our friends."
"There's no way to get ready for that," she told him a bit sharply, still looking down at Packy.
The name had been Buzz's idea. Only Buzz had the nerve to christen a child Blaise Pascal Woodward and then nickname him Packy.
Her tone gave him something to ponder.
"Nobody's immune from peer pressure," Buzz observed. He put his hand on the screwdriver in Markie's hand
to guide it. "Here, Markie, like this."
He turned back to her.
"This thing will catch on sometime next year," he continued. "But this year, no way. Sam is way ahead of the curve again. I remember when he was years ahead on the Internet and people thought I was crazy for having an email address."
They knew he was referring to her parents.
"I ignored the skeptics when I married you," she said.
"I know, darling, I know. Let's pray our Rosary. It's getting late, and I've got to study," he said wearily.
+ + +
For Buzz, there was something really cool about being a nothing-special-nobody–an alcoholic/failed-suicide-attempter/divorced-annulled-remarried/screw-up from New Jersey–with the prerogative to breeze into the corporate offices of a millionaire.
Today he walked right by the smiling
receptionist, waved at all the computer nerds hunkered over their workstations, then strolled directly into Sam Fisk's office like he owned the place.
"I'm not gonna hurtcha, Sam!" he cried out in his best, crazed, sing-songy Jack Nicholson voice after he closed the door. "I'm just gonna break every bone in your body."
Sam didn't even look up from his computer.
"Hi, Buzz. Marcie stocked the fridge
with RC Cola yesterday. Help yourself."
Buzz grunted and walked over to the cleverly-hidden mini-fridge built into the east wall.
Stands for Roman Catholic.
Presently he plopped down on the green leather couch beneath a built-in bookcase filled with leatherbound books. Ellie had a thing about leather.
"I remember when your office was filled with OfficeMax furniture and Wal-Mart
bookcases, Mr. Fisk."
Sam replied with a good-natured smile. For ten years Buzz had been throwing barbs, yet Sam was still completely impervious to teasing.
"Ellie says we need the facade, as she calls it, when the head honchos come into town to visit," he replied seriously.
"Ellie runs your company from her basement office in Bay Village."
"And she does a grand job–and she's not even on the payroll.
I'm just the figurehead. I like it that way. I haven't really done any work here in three years besides learning how to fly the corporate plane," he exaggerated.
He looked up. "We've had this conversation a hundred times. Let's just skip it. I assume you're here about the computer bug again?"
He saved my life once,
He's trying to save it again.
Buzz leaned forward, clasped his hands
together under his chin, his elbows on his knees, and waited for Sam to look him in the eye.
"One more time, Sam. Are you certain you're right?"
"Yes, Buzz, in my own way, I'm perfectly certain. Put your house on the market. I thought we already discussed this. Is Melanie giving you a hard time?"
"The scary part is that she didn't make that big of a stink," Buzz replied with an arched brow. "Oh,
we shouted a little–actually, I did the shouting. She must have heard something in my voice. Fear, maybe? It used to be her mother's house. I'm calling the realtor this afternoon. Any progress with Ellie?"
Sam furrowed his brow and looked back to his computer.
"She's still doing research. She wants to talk to Bucky. He might be retired, but he's still got a lot of contacts in this town. Businessmen.
Sam returned his attention to his email. It had always been this way, and Buzz was not offended. Sam worked at work–even when Buzz dropped in.
Buzz slouched back into the cushy sofa, then turned his head to look down at the Flats, fifteen stories below. Tourists and professionals bustled on the boardwalks along the harbor lined on both sides with nightclubs and bars. They were
doing a decent lunch hour trade. Sam held himself with perfect posture in an extra large swivel chair, all six-foot-six of him splayed out like an octopus missing four legs.
Click, click, clickety-click. The sound of computer keys was so much more pleasant than the old typewriters, Buzz observed.
The office was quite tasteful. Rich burgundy wall-paper; plush green carpeting. Mahogany furniture
that looked as if a crane had been needed to haul it to these heights. The company had originally been called Edwards & Associates, but seven years ago Ellie had convinced her husband to change the name to just-plain-Edwards. She had read in one of her business books that shorter names were more easily recognized for
Before Ellie, the company had been doing fairly well serving
the Midwest, with the majority of key accounts in northeastern Ohio. In that first year after the wedding, the Fisks had a house on the lake in Bay Village and were pulling down over three hundred thousand a year in combined incomes. Both had been driving Hondas to convince themselves they weren't going soft–and that the primary reward of running a company was providing employment for two dozen
associates. They were part of the new entrepreneurial class–the new elite who refused to wear the monkey suit in a corporate zoo.
Buzz secretly believed that Ellie also thought the short version of the company name would look better on the backs of the jerseys of the four peewee baseball teams Sam sponsored in the inner-city leagues.