The day arrived at last. It would be over soon. Thank God. I looked up at the clear, blue sky as I counted the passing seconds. I couldn’t stop this even if I wanted to.
I knelt down and said a prayer, knowing what was coming. The roar of the blast deafened me, and the bright flash almost blinded me. I stood up and looked about. There had been an explosion, but not what I had expected. What have we done? Did we succeed, or have we doomed those whom we love the most?
My name is Andrew Benson, and my story begins in my tiny hometown of Campbell Crossing, Alabama, where I grew up. Life is still uncomplicated there, and I never dreamed that a visit from my black sheep uncle would change my life forever.
Our family was self-sufficient, but there was no way that they could afford to send me to college. Eventually, I came to terms with the fact that I’d probably have to learn a trade unless I received a miracle.
I did apply for scholarships at several schools, but I suspected that I was wasting stamps.
I was right.
Dad helped me get a job as an apprentice with the local auto mechanic, but that couldn’t last. The owner needed expensive new equipment to work on the newer model cars that had computerized everything. He couldn’t afford the expense so he would be forced to close his business.
My boss was right. Computers rule almost everything. We are slaves to them and can’t even think of getting along without our smartphones, PCs and the myriad of other devices controlled by microprocessors. I wanted to be a part of that world…maybe in Silicon Valley at some dot-com giant.
My friends didn’t seem to have a care in the world. They didn’t think about the future other than the next beer they could buy with their fake IDs. They chased girls, raced cars, and smoked an occasional marijuana cigarette.
The summer of my junior year was no different than any other except that I was working in the garage. The place was miserably hot and smelled of old grease.
Late one afternoon, a summer storm struck. The rain brought a temporary relief from the heat, but a nearby lightning strike left us without electricity. Mr. Edwards, the mechanic, just threw up his hands in frustration and said that he was closing the shop early. I didn’t complain.
That summer thunderstorm must have been an omen of some sort. I got home, and there it was, sitting on the hall table in stony silence. I knew what that white envelope with the return address of Auburn University would contain. My first letter of rejection.
I picked it up, leaving greasy fingerprints on its pristine, white surface. My hands shook as I tore it open, but I couldn’t force my eyes to read the contents for a few seconds.
The letter was polite but to the point. I didn’t qualify for a scholarship.
I hated the invisible bureaucrat who had signed that form letter. How could someone doom a person to a life of obscurity with the mere flourish of a pen?
Additional letters trickled in. All the same. No scholarship. The last, lingering rays of hope withered and died. I would never leave Sand Mountain.
I would join the ranks of all those Bensons before me who now reposed in the cemetery of the Methodist Church. I could almost see their ghosts gliding about through the ancient tombstones, moaning and lamenting their lost dreams…their lost hopes. The wind, whispering through the trees, would not comfort them for they knew that their children would never break the bonds holding them to that small town.
Then, Uncle Herbert came for a visit. That visit changed everything.
The following is my story and I swear that it’s true. At least, I think that it’s true.
Or, do I?
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