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Chapter 11

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Finger of God – Excerpt

25 August 1814, Arlington House, Virginia

Bobby first noticed the dark cloud, far to the east, when he’d sat in his favorite grassy spot, just after lunch, to observe the stinking red-coated filth strut about his city. He didn’t want to play, or talk, or read. He wanted to kill them for what they’d done. All of them! No mercy! He wanted to lead an army to England, burn London and hang everyone responsible, then sink their cursed island into the sea.

While Sukey entertained the children the cloud drew closer, until the entire eastern horizon was black. Black clouds and black-hearted British, nothing else mattered.

Then Aunt Dolley sat beside him and ruined his black mood. He couldn’t stay angry when the wisest and most beautiful person in the whole world, next to Mother, tried to cheer him up.

Discovering that Aunt Dolley was the legendary Blue Lightning shook the foundations of his universe. Even now he had a hard time reconciling sweet-natured Aunt Dolley and giggling Sukey with the mayhem he observed yesterday. According to her, most of the tales he’d heard were false. They obviously weren’t a six-foot-four-inch broad-shouldered Ranger, and they didn’t proclaim We find you! Guilty! before lopping off the head of a Loyalist traitor with the single stroke of a tomahawk. She’d never even heard of The True Tales Of Blue Lightning, weekly articles published in the Annapolis Gentlemen’s Reader. The three he’d read were gruesome, then Mother threw out his stash of Readers and forbade him to buy more.

Aunt Dolley’s stories of Ranger training filled him with wonder and delight, sweeping him into the world of his fondest dreams where he was a Soldier, the best Soldier that ever was, using his skills to destroy the invading enemy as Father had done. Father had told similar stories, but yesterday he’d watched Aunt Dolley and Sukey make part of their story, and he’d cheered them on without even knowing who they were.

He sat enchanted, staring at the most beautiful woman in the world (after Mother, of course), trying to memorize her every subtle expression as she answered each of his questions.

A gentle puff of cool air wafted across his face, breaking his concentration. Cool air on a sweltering August afternoon? He looked past her, toward Washington. The dark cloud he’d seen earlier had grown enormously and was sweeping over the city, leading a phalanx of black thunderheads. He’d seen many thunderstorms roll up the Potomac Valley, but nothing like this monstrosity!

He stood, and Aunt Dolley stood beside him, holding his hand. The clouds soon blotted out the sun, plunging the August afternoon into an eerie twilight. A cool breeze blew from the east, bringing with it the clean, sweet fragrance of ozone. The breeze faded and then gusted much harder, rustling treetops, the air cold and brisk, refreshing but ominous.

He squeezed her hand. “What’s happening?”

She shivered, and he suspected it wasn’t entirely due to the drop in temperature.

“A storm is coming. Bad storm. Let me warn your mother.” She held out her Bible, thumb marking a passage. “Read this. I’ll be right back.”

The wind tore at the pages as Bobby read the passage.

Lightning flashed across the sky and thunder boomed so loud he could feel it, the sound continuing to roll and rumble, on and on, until interrupted by yet another flash and its glorious, rolling booom!

He read the passage again, and shivered.

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