One crazy road trip full of rejection, redemption, and romance.
When sixteen-year-old Luke's book, Hallelujah, becomes a national best seller, his publisher sends him on a cross-country tour with his unpredictable older brother, Matt, as chauffeur. But when Matt offers to drive Luke's ex-crush, Fran, across the country too, things get a little crazy. Luke thinks he's enlightened, but he really needs to loosen up if he's going to discover what it truly means to have faith, and do what it takes to get the girl he loves.
Saturday, June 14
Lessons 15: 7–12
7. For there were two brothers. And yea, one was shorter than the other, and weaker. 8. And though he bestowed upon his big brother gifts of kindness and thoughtfulness and love, yet did the taller boy mock him, lamenting, "Why art thou so short? Art thou a leprechaun?" 9. And the shorter brother was too much afeared to speak. 10. So the stronger boy laughed, and cried, "What art thou good for? What can thou do that cannot be done far better by a boy of true stature, whose mind and body are strong?" 11. And though he was still afeared, yet the smaller boy recalled the events of the previous evening, and so girded his loins and spake thus: "Remember thee, 'tis easier for a short man to pass through the eye of a cat flap when he misseth curfew, and thereby to avoid parental detection and retribution." 12. And the taller brother knew that it was true, and shutteth up.
Lambert-St. Louis International Airport, St. Louis, Missouri
Letitia is biting the inside of her mouth. Her left eyebrow is arched. I get the feeling she thinks my e-ticket is a fake, but I don't panic. After all, Pastor Mike—legendary host of TV's The Pastor Mike Show—called my journey a "pilgrimage." How can a pilgrimage go wrong before it has even started?
"Your bag's thirty-two pounds over the limit," says Letitia, smacking gum.
"You can be as sorry as you like, honey. Don't change a thing. That'll be an extra seventy-five bucks."
I remove the case from the scale and open it carefully. Inside are dozens of hardback copies of my book—Hallelujah: A Spiritual Chronicle of a Sixteen-year-old St. Louisan. My editor complained that the title lacked "punch," so the cover just says Hallelujah.
I transfer ten copies to my second case, and return the original case to the scale.
"Still twenty-two pounds over," says Letitia.
The man next in line groans. He mutters to the lady beside him, but I don't hear what he says. I won't try to hear either, because eavesdropping is sinful, and I need to be good. Plus, I don't think he's being complimentary.
I move more books to the second case and the scale shows that it's now just under the maximum allowable weight. I smile at Letitia, who rolls her eyes and drums her fingers. I drag the second case onto the scale.
Mental arithmetic tells me I won't be able to avoid going over the limit, so I pull out the credit card that my publicist, Colin, gave me for all book tour expenses.
Letitia studies it along with my ID. "Wait! Not the Luke Dorsey?"
I glance over my shoulder in case there's another sixteen-year-old Luke Dorsey beside me.
"I saw your interview on The Pastor Mike Show," she gushes. "The passage you read about the two brothers, that inspired me. I know you said it was written for kids and all, but my sister's taller than me and she thinks she's the big boss lady, so I said 'Just you wait 'til you need to get through the cat flap, sister.' And you know what, honey? She shutteth up!"
Letitia reaches under her desk and retrieves a copy of my book. The cover is worn, as though she has read it several times. I guess I ought to be impressed, but instead I'm just uncomfortable. "Would you autograph it for me?" she asks, voice shaking.
It's not the first book I've signed, not by a long shot, but I'm still not sure what to write. In the end I settle for: To Letitia, who embraces the light.
She nods like a bobblehead doll, and hands back the credit card without charging a fee. I'm about to accept it too, but stop myself just in time. "I have to pay," I tell her.
"Oh, forget about it."
"I can't. It'd be stealing. And stealing is—"
She gasps. "A sin, yes. It was evil of me to suggest it. Please pray for me." She runs my card through the machine and hands me the slip of paper to sign.
"I, uh, pray for everyone," I say—kind of a lame response, but she seems satisfied.
"Are you done yet, book boy?" asks the impatient guy behind me.
Letitia casts him a withering look. "Hey, mister, you shut your Goddamned mouth. This boy here's Luke Dorsey."
The heckler looks shell-shocked—his mouth flaps open and shut like he has been struck dumb. When he repeats my name, a silence descends upon the mass of travelers. Their lines part like the Red Sea.
As I shuffle between them, people reach out and touch my new blue blazer. I think Pastor Mike mentioned that something like this might happen, but that doesn't make it any less weird.
By the time I reach my parents at the security checkpoint, I've crossed myself ten times and signed three more copies. I'm sweating so badly, I take off my blazer and place it beside my backpack. All around me, people continue to stare, but now they're checking out my parents as well. Mom and Dad are almost sixty, but look even older. They're dressed in their Sunday best, even though it's Saturday. Most people probably figure they're my grandparents. Happens all the time.
Dad clamps a hand on my shoulder. "Are you sure you're all right with this, Luke?"
"Yeah," I say, though my voice betrays me. "I'm on a pilgrimage, right?"
"If you say so, son. But once you get to Los Angeles, it'll just be you and your brother. It's a great responsibility." He bites his lip. I can see he's having second thoughts about this. "I can take off work if you'd like me to come."
"Me too," interjects Mom. "Perhaps that would be best," she adds, nodding at Dad. "After all, not every path is as straight and narrow as it might seem."
To be honest, I wish they would come. Pilgrimage or not, I feel like I'm caught in a whirlwind. Everywhere I go, people stop me. Every time I try to relax, there's something I need to do, to write, to say. How is my brother going to help with that?
Yet, as soon as these thoughts cross my mind, I feel ashamed for my lack of faith. Faith is what inspired me to start writing Hallelujah in the first place. Which means that faith has brought me here. Surely faith will see me through.
"I'll be fine. Honestly," I say. My parents still don't seem convinced. Since I have no idea how else to reassure them, I go with Default Setting Number One: a quotation from Psalms: "'Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil.' Psalm twenty-three, verse four."
Mom frowns. "I wasn't suggesting you're going to get knocked off, sweetie. I just meant—"
I raise my hand to stop her. I know she cares about me, and she's worried, but she's really freaking me out. If I don't go now, I'm afraid I might not go at all.
I kiss each of them once on the cheek, grab my backpack, and stride toward the security checkpoint. I don't look back the whole time I'm in line. Finally, when I'm through security, I give my parents a single courageous nod. They're standing in the same spot, jumping up and down, waving madly. In Dad's right hand is my blazer.
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