The Original Opening

 

This was the opening of the book. It gives a little more background and you get to see some family interactions but it lacks tension. 

CHAPTER 1

 

Thursday, June 12

                Bobbi Molinsky pulled a pan of hot rolls from the oven and set them on the hot pad on the counter.  Everything was going to finish right on time.  Now if only Brad were here on time.  Her oldest son had turned thirty-five last week, and she had finally pinned him down, got him to commit to a birthday dinner tonight.  She had spent the day in the kitchen, making everything from scratch, including rolls, and peach pie.  The chicken was fried, the potatoes mashed, the corn buttered.  All that was lacking was her perpetually late son.

                It was a rare thing to pull Brad away from work.  Most days he put in sixteen hours at Gateway Mission.  As soon as he had finished seminary, he returned home and opened the mission to reach out to the people in downtown St. Louis that he believed were being overlooked by the mainstream churches.  He had taken thousands of dollars of his own money, money she and Chuck had put aside for Brad’s law school tuition, to get the mission started and it was his life now.  Admittedly, Bobbi worried about the hours he worked, and the fact that he seemed content to be alone, but she couldn’t deny the passion he had for his ministry and the genuine love and concern he carried for his neighborhood.

                Bobbi stepped into the doorway of the family room.  Shannon, you want to set the table?” 

                “Is Brad here?” Shannon asked.

                “Late as usual,” Bobbi replied. 

                “Oh, I need you and Dad to pick a day when we can go to Mizzou,” Shannon said, picking silverware from the drawer.

                “Whenever your dad wants to go.  I’m free all summer.  After this year, I’ll be free forever.”  Bobbi had taught school for twenty-one years, and had decided that the upcoming year would be her last.  She would turn sixty next spring, and in her mind that was a good enough reason to retire.  Sixty was plenty young enough to enjoy retirement, and with Chuck already grooming Chad Mitchell to take over the law firm, they were both looking forward to next year.

                This fall, Shannon would join her brother Jack at the University of Missouri, and Bobbi and Chuck would finally be empty-nesters.  The thirty-eight years they had been married had passed in the blink of an eye, it seemed.  There were a few times in those thirty-eight years, when she seriously doubted if they would make it.  Years ago, twenty years ago this July, Bobbi had discovered Chuck was having an affair with a coworker.  Because of Chuck’s willingness to repent and make changes, they had pulled their marriage back together after a six month separation.  Shannon had been born the year after they reconciled, and in Chuck’s mind, she was confirmation that he had been completely forgiven by God and by his wife.

                Six years later, their marriage was tested again when the woman with whom Chuck had had the affair, Tracy Ravenna, resurfaced.  Only now, she had a son, Jack.  They soon learned that Jack was Chuck’s son, and Tracy had returned to hide Jack with Chuck.  Tracy’s father was paroled after serving twenty-eight years for second-degree murder in the beating death of his wife.  He had threatened Tracy, and she had lived in mortal terror of him her entire life.  The day after his parole, Tracy wrecked her car and died from the injuries. 

                Soon afterward, Bobbi had Chuck file formal adoption papers for Jack, and they changed his last name to Molinsky.  Bobbi never wanted the Jack to wonder if he was on equal footing with Brad, Joel and Shannon.  Jack had been in awe of Brad since the first day he met him.  At first it was because Brad had played football, but then a deep bond was forged between them the night Brad led Jack to Christ.  Since then, Jack had patterned his life after Brad’s, playing baseball and football just like his brother.  Jack was crushed to find out that since he was shorter and stockier, like Joel, he wasn’t built to be a wide receiver like Brad had been.  Brad assured him that defensive end was a great position, and Jack went on to set a school record for sacks by a defensive end.  Jack also depended on Brad’s advice.  He helped at the mission as much as he could between work and school and planned to follow his brother to seminary after he got his degree.

                “Mom!” Brad called from the entry hall.  “I’m here!  And I’m only ten minutes late!” 

                Bobbi smiled and went to meet him.  She hugged him, and Brad leaned over so she could kiss his cheek.  “It’s so good to see you!  Happy birthday!”

                “Thanks.  Everything smells great.  Joel’s not coming, is he?”

                “No.  He traded on call weeks so he could be here when Danny was home, and, naturally, he got called.”  Joel Molinsky was in his first year of private practice in pediatrics.  His hours were much more flexible than during his residency, but he couldn’t escape being on call.

                “Yes!  The pie is mine!” Brad said.  Bobbi shook her head and walked back toward the kitchen.  “So has Danny left yet?” Brad asked, following his mother.  “I haven’t talked to him since last week.”

                “Rita said they were supposed to leave San Diego this morning, and he’s not due in Norfolk until July first, so they should have a good visit.”  Lt. Commander Danny Heatley, Rita’s youngest, had chosen the Navy as his career.  A year older than Brad, the two were best friends growing up and they even let Joel tag along most times.

                “Dad’s home, isn’t he?”

                “He’s here somewhere.  Maybe the garage.  He and Jack were going to rotate tires or something.”  Bobbi began transferring the mashed potatoes to a serving bowl.  “You know, he barely gets his forty hours in anymore.”  She smiled broadly.  “How different is that from when you and Joel were growing up?”

                “Dad’s come a long way,” Brad admitted.

Shannon had returned from the dining room for her next assignment.  “Hey Brat!”  She went to her brother and threw her arms around his neck.  “How does it feel to be middle-aged?”

“I hardly think thirty-five is middle-aged.”

“Sure, whatever you say,” Shannon teased.  “Ask your insurance man.  He’ll tell you.”  Shannon and Brad looked the most alike of the four Molinksy children, inheriting their mother’s dark hair and eyes.  With the age spread between them, Shannon could easily pass for Brad’s daughter.  Brad had lived away from home for as long as Shannon could remember, but that gave him an extra “coolness” when she was little.  She was the only kid in her kindergarten class with a brother who had graduated college already and had his own apartment. 

Even so, she felt closer to Joel since he had been around all through her preschool years.  Shannon and Jack had a love-hate relationship that was a natural result of their mere thirteen-month age difference.  Inseparable as children, their teenage years were marked by an uneasy balance of cooperation and competition.  That was destined to continue through college.  Shannon hadn’t declared a major yet, but she was certain it would be as far away from Jack’s religion major as she could stand.

Just then, Chuck and Jack came in from the garage.  “Honey, why didn’t you tell me Brad was here already,” Chuck said as he kissed his wife lightly on the cheek.  “We were just goofing around, killing time.”  Chuck crossed the room and shook his son’s hand.  “Brad, how are things?”

“Great.  You remember the board meeting next week, don’t you?”

“Sure.  I’ll be there.”  Chuck served on the board of directors for Gateway Mission, and not surprisingly, his law firm was one of the mission’s biggest benefactors.

“You going back to work tonight?” Jack asked.

“Yeah, I’ve got some paperwork to do.”

“Can I go with you?”

“Jack, I really don’t feel good about you driving home from there that late,” Bobbi said.  “Sorry Brad, but your mission is a very bad neighborhood.”

“I know, but not too many poor folks live out here,” Brad winked.  “Jack can stay with me tonight and come home in the morning.”

“Fair enough,” Bobbi conceded.  “I think we’re ready to eat.”  The Molinskys settled in the dining room and after Brad asked a quick blessing, they their filled plates and enjoyed nonstop conversation over dinner.  As Bobbi listened to them, she couldn’t help but think, “This is what it’s supposed to be like.  If only Joel’s were here, it would be perfect.”

After dinner and dessert, Brad finally said, “I’ve got to get going or I’ll be up all night.  Mom, that was the best meal I’ve had in a long time.  Thank you.”  He hugged her and kissed her cheek.  “Is everybody gonna be at Rita’s Saturday?”

“As far as I know,” Bobbi answered.  “I’ll get you the particulars as soon as she tells me.”

“Jack?  You ready?”

“Can you bring me back tomorrow?  Or you want me to drive?”

“I’ll drop you at Dad’s office.  That way I don’t have to drive all the way out here.”

Jack picked up the gym bag he had packed, and kissed his mother.  “See you tomorrow, Mom.”

“Be careful,” Bobbi admonished.  “Both of you.”