Book Excerpt: Nowhere To Turn

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nwttlarge “This war is a joke,” Joey said angrily.  He had lived up North all his life and still he couldn’t understand why so many of his friends had gone off to fight for Lincoln.  “It all started because Lincoln wouldn’t let the Southerners do what they wanted and then you idiots run off and join up just cause he asks us to.”

“We joined to defend our country!”  Thomas yelled back.  He was beginning to get  angry.  It was one thing to criticize the way the war was fought but it was a completely different story to make fun of he and his family and friends who had risked their lives to join up.

“What country?”  Joey replied.  “The United States of America?  We ain’t United any more.  We are the conquering states of America.  We march down South and tell them people that they have to be part of our coutry when they don’t want to.”

“They can’t just leave,” Thomas argued.

“Why not,” Joey shot back.  “They joined on their own.  Why can’t they leave on their own?”

“Because they can’t,” Thomas answered quickly.  He could think of nothing else to say.  It had always seemed so obvious to him. It was in the constitution.  It was the law of the land. How could a state just quit the United States of America once it had joined?  It couldn’t.  The country would just fall apart.

“Oh good answer,” Peter interrupted.  “You learn that one in that school you went to?”

“Shut-up Peter,” Thomas said boldly.  His face had turned beat red and his arms had begun to shake.  He had had enough of this argument and these boys.  For years now they had been making fun of him and teasing him and picking on him.  He had never been able to fight back because there was always more of them and they were all bigger.  But now, things had changed.  Thomas was not only almost as tall as them, but he also had experienced war.  He had felt what it was like to have people trying to kill him.  Compared to that, Bobby, Peter and Joey didn’t look so threatening anymore.  They just made him angry.

Make me,? Peter challenged.

Thomas swung his fist as hard and as fast as he could.  The sudden move caught Peter off guard allowing Thomas to hit him squarely in the nose.  Blood started to pour down Peter?s cheeks.

“You little…”  Peter cussed as he lunged at Thomas.

“Get him Pete!” Joey and Bobby yelled.

Thomas dodged out of the way and Peter went stumbling into the dirt.

“I learned a few things in the army,” Thomas grinned.  Peter got up and rushed again.

“Raarrr!”  Peter cried.

Thomas dodged again but this time Peter was able to catch his foot and knock Thomas off-balance.  Then he jumped on top of Thomas and began punching him in the stomach.  Each blow knocked the breath out of Thomas just like when he had almost drowned.

The two boys continued to roll on the dirt together, trading blows and yelling at each other.  Joey and Peter stood by and watched.

“Get him Peter, get him!”  They chanted.

Thomas managed to wriggle free and stood up panting.

“Had enough?”  He challenged Peter.  It felt really good to finally be able to hold his own against these guys.  At least the army had been good for something, Thomas thought.

“No way,” Peter answered.  He held his fists in front of his face but his legs were shaky and he stumbled a bit.

Thomas swung hard: a left and a right and another left.  Peter’s face fell back with each blow and then he fell to the ground bruised and bleeding.  Thomas stood over him smiling.  His arms were at his side and he felt great.

“Hey,” Joey said suddenly, pointing to the torn arm brace that Thomas had been wearing.  “Your arm is fine!”

“He ain?t wounded!”  Bobby shouted.

Thomas looked down at his arm.  It was perfectly healthy.  The only thing left of his brace was a few rags hanging from his elbow.  His stomach sank as he realized his secret was out.

“You lied!”  Peter said, wiping the blood off his face and starting to sit up. “You ain?t never been wounded.”

Thomas started to back up, shaking his head back and forth, unable to say a word.

“You liar!”  Bobby yelled.

“Liar!”  Peter and Joey joined in.

Thomas turned and ran.  The secret was out.  Everybody would know and nothing would ever be the same again.

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