Saturday, November 21, 2015

Sample Saturday: The Zion Trail #3

Welcome to Sample Saturday. In this excerpt from my forthcoming novel, The Zion Trail, young Lije Marshall's family is going to attend a church meeting of their new Mormon faith in a distant town.

Our journey was uneventful, if you were to discount my nervous anticipation of meeting other folk who could instruct me concerning the new beliefs I had embraced. Pa's request that I listen well and tell him all I learned sat heavily upon my mind. Would I learn of strange rituals and practices? Encounter guarded people suspicious of my interest? Or would I find regular folk happy to impart of their knowledge?

We made our camp on the outskirts of the town late Saturday afternoon. We had not brought any tenting material. The weather was still pleasant enough that John and I would sleep under the wagon as we had on Friday night. Ma had made a comfortable place in the wagon box, so she and Mary Eliza would again sleep under the canvas top.

Ma asked me to offer our prayer that night, which I did, using as much of Pa’s customary language as I could cram into the moments, including an expression of gratitude that all had gone well during our journey. I remembered to petition God on behalf of Pa’s recovery and his and Sarah’s safety in our absence. The addition felt strange in my mouth, an awkward step outside the bounds prescribed by my father’s example. I took the stumbling step, however. It seemed the better part of caution that I ask for God’s hand of protection for all members of the family, in light of the attack upon Pa.

I spent a nervous night under the wagon, anticipating my meeting with strangers. In truth, my family and I would be the interlopers, but that thought did not calm my anxiety. At last the dawn came, and with it, the Sabbath day. I ate the food Ma gave me, but it sat upon my stomach like a lump of rock: undigested and indigestible.

We left our camp nearly forty-five minutes before the appointed hour for the meeting, in case we got lost. I had worked myself into quite an unsettled condition by the time I pulled the horses to a halt at the appointed street corner.

We had arrived in the center of the town, but I could see no building resembling a church. The street was practically deserted, cloaked in an appropriate stillness for the Lord's Day.

“Are we there, Lije?” Mary Eliza called from the back of the wagon.

I groaned inwardly. She had asked that same question time and time again during our travels. I wondered how Pa stood her infantile questions.

“I'll find out, Pumpkin.”

I looked from one building to the next, wanting to verify that we had come to the correct intersection in the city. Ma, who sat beside me on the wagon seat, looked as puzzled as I felt. She glanced at the paper in her hand, furrowed her brows, and nodded to me.

We were at the right location, but the directions we had been given had brought us to a saloon.

No. As my brain better interpreted what I had seen, I counted off one, two, three, four saloons, each one firmly planted on its own corner.

“This cannot be correct,” I muttered, wrapping the lines around the brake handle. “I'll go ask where the Mormon’s church house is to be found.”

I vaulted to the ground and looked around, hoping to see a friendly face I might approach for guidance. A sandy-haired man dressed in his Sunday best, accompanied by a woman and four children, stopped before the saloon closest to us and pulled a ring of keys from his pocket. Surely he wasn't taking his family into that den of iniquity? Sure enough, he unlocked the door, opened it, and headed inside.

Perplexed by his actions, I looked for another avenue for enlightenment, but none was at hand. Needing information, I sidled toward the man and his family, who were filing after him through the doorway.

“I beg your indulgence,” I said to the man, once I had caught up to him inside the saloon. “Might you give me directions?'

“Certainly, brother,” he said, which I thought was a strange greeting.

“I'm looking for the Mormon edifice.”


Perhaps I hadn't imagined a grand enough structure. I tried again. “Cathedral?”

“Oh, you're looking for their meeting place.”

“Yes, I—”

“You've found it, lad.”

“What? Here?” I looked around the bar room in confusion. A depiction of a wanton woman hanging behind the bar caused me to blush.

The man chuckled as the woman I presumed to be his wife handed him a covered basket. “Yes. We have no building of our own, so we rent the saloon. It being closed on Sundays, you know.”

“You're a Mormon?”

“Indeed, I am.” He stuck out his hand and grasped mine. “Ralph Peters, at your service. I'm the branch president here.”

“Branch president?” I shook his hand, wondering what the words signified.

“I'm the local leader,” he answered me.


Thank you for visiting. The Zion Trail will be published soon as an ebook, and after that, in print. To keep up-to-date on when The Zion Trail will be published, along with other new releases, and to learn of special offers and sales, click here to join my Readers mail list. In your inbox, you will also receive instructions on how to download a free ebook of my last novel, Gone for a Soldier.

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