the paperwork to serve a two year mission for the Mormon Church.
When a young lady graduates, she finds herself a return missionary to
marry. These are Utah Expectations.
Samuel and Daniel have always followed the Utah norm. Their devout
mother, Grace, taught them early that nothing is more important than
following God’s plan. Samuel is currently 18 months into his two year mission,
while his younger brother is set to receive his call any day. The problem is
both brothers feel something isn’t quite right at the core of their religion.
Samuel’s intellectual curiosity, compounded by a ‘Dear John’ letter he receives
from his high school girlfriend, compels him to cut short his mission and return
home early. Daniel would like to forego the missionary experience, but Grace
has convinced him that if he doesn’t serve, God will punish him. The brothers
find the strength to question whether God really wants them to be Mormon, but
the real test comes when they question the proverbial Utah lifestyle.
Utah Expectations is the story of two brothers living in a predominantly Mormon
community, and their struggle to accept the possibility that everything they’ve been
taught could be false. The story takes a compelling look at the hypocrisy surrounding religion and the people who fall victim to it.
Click on the book cover to order your copy!
Cameron Underwood is in a coma. An angel informs him that he now must decide whether he wants to go back to earth and resume his mortal life, or die and have his judgment. Camerons life is in shambles; but now that he is at the proverbial crossroad of his life where he needs to take a moment for personal introspection, is Cameron strong enough to look past other peoples imperfections to recognize his own?
Click on the book to order your own copy of Cameron's Road.
Redemption in a Cheap Motel Room
The old man enters the darkened motel room and closes the door behind him. In his right hand is a brown grocery sack, its contents tearing into the corners of the paper. He limps along the wall and turns on a lamp mounted above a cracked mirror next to the television. With the room lit, he takes an overview of his environment and feels that the motel clerk’s rate of thirty-five dollars a night is a little steep. The room reeks of cheap perfume and urine, causing an incendiary stench in the old man’s nostrils. The corners of the carpet are infested with mold and it has started to work its way up the walls. The bed looks up to par, but the old man makes a conscience decision that whatever transpires tonight will do so on top of the bed spread.
The old man takes a bottle of scotch out of his coat pocket and places it on a nearby table. He can’t believe he allowed it to age so long only to be used for this occasion.
He checks his watch.
He retrieves a small blue pill from his coat pocket, puts it in his mouth, and swallows it with the scotch. The directions say not to use with alcohol, but he doesn’t care. Directions are for people who have something to live for.
He walks to the nightstand beside the bed and sits down. He takes the framed photograph of his wife out of the grocery sack and meticulously places it on the nightstand facing the bed. She smiles at him from the behind the glass. Her high cheek bones compliment her radiant smile nicely. Those deep, blue penetrating eyes he had grown accustomed to over the years stare back at him from the photograph. It was taken on their tenth wedding anniversary. They would have forty more.
Even after he found out about it, all the rage and pain and sorrow could not deny the fact that, god, she truly was beautiful. Too beautiful for a man like him. Perhaps she knew this. Perhaps that’s why she did the things she did.
The old man takes his eyes from the photograph and surveys the room. His stage is set. He limps back to the lamp and turns it off.
He doesn’t enjoy the darkness, but it is more conducive for his current situation. For the first time in his life he welcomes the darkness, embraces it, as if it is something tangible, something alive. Lies are made in the dark, he thinks. She spent most of her life in the dark. And now he wants to live in her world, if only for a moment. God knows he earned it.
When the prostitute enters the room the old man is sleeping in a chair in the corner. He snores with a mechanical rhythm, choking on each breath as if it might be his last. The prostitute takes on overview of the room and the client with indifferent eyes. Another day another dollar. The prostitute sits down on the bed and lights a cigarette.
“You call for someone?” the prostitute asks, loud enough to wake the old man.
The old man sits up, looks over, and clears his throat. “Sorry, I must have dozed off,” he says.
“It’s three hundred,” the prostitute says, while taking a drag on the cigarette. The prostitute looks in the man’s direction to make certain he heard. Their eyes met for a brief second and they take in each others’ appearance. The old man’s face has a rustic overtone to it. His cheeks look like a pair of wrinkled jeans that have faded over the years from sitting in the closet too long. His eyes still retain their youthful exuberance, but the corners are continually wet with the tears that accommodate old age. This will easily be the oldest man the prostitute has ever been with, but it doesn’t matter. Young or old, they all pay the same.
The old man is taken aback by the prostitute’s childlike appearance. The square jaw doesn’t really compliment the prostitute’s rather feminine cheek structure. It is an odd face that lacks any traits worth mentioning save for the symmetry of it. No scars or blemishes. In fact, the old man doesn’t notice any markings on the childlike body, except the tiny needle hole right above a blue vein on the left arm.
This wasn’t what the old man had expected, but once he thought about it more he didn’t really know what he expected. This was all new to him. He couldn’t formulate a concrete image of who his guest was supposed to resemble. His only experience with this profession was what he read in books or saw in movies. Surely though, he imagined somebody older. He was here for restitution, and although he knew he was flouting some laws, he didn’t want statutory rape to be one of them.
“How old are you?”
“No, you’re not.”
The prostitute looks at the old man with indignant eyes. The old man returns the stare, and for a brief moment believes that maybe this person isn’t lying. Strange, he thinks, how anger can make a person age.
“I’m twenty-one, and it’s three hundred. You’re on the clock.”
The old man reaches into his pant pocket and fishes out three, one-hundred dollar bills. He clumsily hands them over, grateful to get the transaction over with.
“I hope cash is okay.”
“Cash is fine.”
“How long do I have?”
The prostitute takes the money and puts it in a purse, and in doing so, notices the picture of the woman on the bedside table.
“Who’s the girl?”
The old man sits still for a moment before answering. “She was my wife.”
“She passed away last year.”
The prostitute picks up the picture and touches the glass, studying the immortalized face. There is something in the woman’s smile that makes the prostitute feel uneasy. The smile seems almost . . . diabolical. The prostitute sits the picture back down facing away from the bed, grateful to focus the attention some place else.
“Please put it back facing the bed,” the old man says, sternly.
“Creepy,” the prostitute replies, as the picture is returned to its original position.
“Oh nothing. I just think it’s kind of creepy to bring a picture of your wife here. But hey, it’s your money, you can do what you’d like.”
A cockroach scuttles across the floor. The old man notices it without really looking at it; he’s too lost in his thoughts to keep his mind focused on anything in particular. The cockroach appears to be the only living thing in the room that seems to have a purpose in life.
The prostitute puts the cigarette out in a nearby ashtray and lights another one. The clicking of the lighter returns the old man from his reverie.
“Those will kill you.”
“I don’t care. I like the fog.”
The old man stands and retrieves the scotch from the table and takes a long drink from the bottle. It stings going down, but he doesn’t care. He’s pleased to know that he can still feel the burning. He feels it’s a sign of life.
He holds the bottle out toward the prostitute, knowing that if someone was to walk in right now, they could arrest him for distributing to a minor. The prostitute accepts the bottle and takes a pull with such casualness that the old man can tell he’s in the company of an experienced drinker.
“That scotch is older than you.”
“Thought you’d use it for a special occasion, huh?”
“Do you feel flattered?”
“Sure,” the prostitute answers, then nodding toward the picture of the old man’s wife, “she isn’t going to mind though, is she?”
“I hope so,” the old man says with a hint of indignation.
“Yeah? Why’s that?”
The old man takes another drink from the bottle and he feels himself becoming inebriated. This is good. If he is really going to follow through with this, he wants to be robbed of his wits. Was she, he wonders, sober with her infidelity? He can’t imagine that she, nor anyone, could do this with a lucid mind. But then again, he never would’ve thought she had the capacity to do the things that she had done. And she did do them. She admitted to it. She admitted to it, and then she died, taking with her fifty years of a wasted marriage.
“I’m not really familiar with the etiquette that comes with this,” said the old man.
“Are you ready?” asks the prostitute.
“I think so.”
The old man stands and approaches the prostitute. The prostitute looks up at him and can sense his trepidation. The old man shudders and closes his eyes. “Is she watching?” he wonders to himself. “Can she see what she has brought me to? I hope so. I hope she sees this and it breaks her heart.”
The old man waits for the prostitute to proceed but nothing happens. He opens his eyes and looks down. Through a layer of crusty makeup, the prostitute stares back at him.
“Is something wrong?” the old man asks.
“I was about to ask you.”
The prostitute studies the old man’s face. He isn’t the average client. He is in the sense that he wants to carry out some hidden agenda, but he’s more vulnerable than the others. More human. He has a conscience that followed him into this damp, little motel room and it’s playing tricks on him now. The prostitute has already been here for ten minutes. Ten minutes is a lifetime in this profession. Ten minutes is about how long it takes. Yes, ten minutes is long enough to bring a person that much closer to hell.
“What’s your name?” the prostitute asks.
Why is his name relevant in this situation? the old man wonders. He didn’t come here to be known. He came here for vengeance. If anything, he wanted to maintain a sense of secrecy. Maybe the prostitute is a cop. Maybe this is a sting.
“Why do you want to know my name?”
“I’m sorry. You don’t have to tell me. It’s just that you’re not like most of the people I sleep with. I don’t think I’m here because you want to have sex.”
The old man looks down at the prostitute and studies the face that stares back. There’s not a sign of aging anywhere. No wrinkles around the eyes or skin hanging around the chin. Surly this profession, above any other, would cause one to age quickly, yet the face is drenched in youth. In retrospect, even the prostitute’s square jaw structure somehow adds to the youthful appearance. How can someone with so much life to live degrade themselves by helping bitter old men obtain some cheap reprisal? An adolescence shouldn’t be spent this way.
The old man turns away from the prostitute and sits down on the bed. He buries his face in his hands. His head is splitting from the scotch and he can’t formulate a coherent thought. He takes in a deep breath and looks over at his guest.
“I’m here because of her,” the old man says, pointing to the picture of his dead wife.
“She hurt you?”
“Last year she died. Breast cancer. It was at this time she told me about the other men.” A single tear rolls down the cheek of the old man and dries before it reaches his mouth. “I’m seventy-five years old,” he says stoically, “I was married to her for fifty years. I loved her. God, how I loved her. She’s why I’m here. Fifty years of lies is why I’m here.”
Silence engulfs the room. The cockroach crawls out from under the bed. Fearful of the light, it scurries across the floor and goes under the television stand. A police siren wails in the distance and then fades into the night, possibly pursuing two people in the same situation as the two in the motel room. The old man’s rhythmic breathing exits through his nostrils emitting a sound like a broken-down air conditioner. He doesn’t know what caused him to open up to the prostitute. It was something in the eyes. Something about that stare beckoned him.
“Why are you here?” The old man asks, feeling uncomfortable in the silence.
“You paid for me.”
“That’s not what I meant. Why would you choose this life? Surely you have a family, people that care for you that would help you.”
The old man looks in the direction of the prostitute for an answer and notices a tear streaming down the youthful face. Something tells him the tear is associated with something more ingrained than he could ever imagine. Did he overstep a boundary? he wonders. Is there a prostitute/client guideline that he just violated by asking such a simple question? He feels certain he opened a door that the prostitute wished to remain shut, but he doesn’t falter. He gave his reason and now he deserved the same.
“This is the only thing I’m good at,” the prostitute answers with a quivering voice. “At least that’s what he always told me.”
“Who told you that?”
“Your father . . . you mean he . . . molested you?”
The prostitute nods silently.
“How old are you?”
“Sixteen.” The prostitute wipes a tear with a quivering hand, embarrassed for getting caught up in demons that were once exercised. The prostitute takes a deep breath and tries to regain some level of composure.
“Is that from a needle?” the old man asks, indicating the red mark on the prostitute’s arm.
The old man suddenly feels sick, not from the pills or the whisky, but from life. Only in this world could three-hundred dollars pay for this service. Only this world would allow for a perverted father to satisfy his sexual vices with his own child. The old man had seen many sickening things in his life, but nothing of this magnitude. He even rationalized that his wife’s lifelong infidelity wasn’t above this. The old man suddenly became certain that hell was an actual place and this damp room was a part of it.
The old man slowly stands and walks toward the chair where his coat rests. He reaches into a pocket and pulls out the bottle of the blue, triangular prescription pills. With a calm hand he opens the bottle. Two at a time, he takes the pills, swallowing them with the scotch until both bottles are empty.
The old man wipes his mouth and approaches the prostitute. He digs his wallet out of his back pocket and takes out his bankcard and hands it to the prostitute.
“The pin number is 1279. Your hour is up.”
The prostitute takes the offered bankcard as the old man limps back to the chair. The old man sits and closes his eyes and waits for the drugs to take him. The prostitute stands and heads for the door.
“Just out of curiosity, what’s your name?” the old man asks, keeping his eyes closed.
The prostitute opens the door and exits the room. The old man opens his eyes and looks at the picture of his wife. She doesn’t look beautiful anymore to the old man. She looks . . . defeated.
“Sam,” the old man says to the picture of his wife, “must be short for Samuel.”
The old man smiles and closes his eyes for the last time.