Converge Magazine makes an effort to publish excerpts from recommended books on our bookshelf. The following is an excerpt from There Will Be Stars. A fresh breath into the Southern Gothic genre from rising Christian fiction writer Billy Coffey.
We hope you enjoy it, and consider checking out the book,
–Erik @ Converge
Mark Stuck a skinny arm through the window and pointed. “Let’s go this-a-way,” he said. “Daddy? Let’s get us a scratcher.”
Bobby opened his mouth to say sure and heard himself say, “Guess we won’t. Can’t be wasting money on fanciful wishes. Ain’t like old Laura Beth Gowdy’s husband is calling up saying he’s gotta build onto the bank ’cause of all the money I got there. We’ll just take our ride.”
Mark’s finger still pointed. “You said that last time.”
Bobby chuckled—he always did when he didn’t understand a word Mark said—and turned left. Farther into the mountains, higher, higher, because up here it was the three of them and no one else, no one to call Bobby “pervert” and “drunk” and “rooned.” Because up here in the dark of road and forest, Bobby Barnes possessed all the world he needed.
He turned left as Mark’s pallid face kept toward the empty stretch of road to Camden and brake lights flashed far ahead. Bobby leaned forward, wondering if those were from a car or from the six-pack he’d drunk since leaving the shop.
“Ain’t nobody should be up here.”
Matthew yawned. “We up here, Daddy.”
The radio popped and hissed and then went clear as the truck crested the ridge. Barren trees let in a view of the valleys below—Mattingly’s few lights on one side, Stanley’s crowded ones to the other.
“I love this song,” Matthew said. “Crank it, Daddy.”
Bobby didn’t. A war had broken out inside him, one part sloshing from the beer and the other bearing up under that heavy feeling once more. Two parts becoming a whole. He fixed his eyes ahead where that flicker of lights had been and wondered who that could be and why he felt like him and the boys were no longer on a ride. He let off the gas and fumbled with the radio dial.
Matthew began to sing, a pale imitation of John Fogerty’s voice, a bad moon a-rising and trouble on the way.
The car ahead. Brake lights disappearing around the sharp S in the road. Matthew singing, his voice high, almost warning that they shouldn’t go around tonight because it’s bound to take their lives, that bad room on the rise. Mark saying something Bobby couldn’t hear.
The truck thundered forward as though pulled by an unseen force toward the curve in the road, and now that feeling again, that French word Bobby couldn’t remember, seizing him. He took the middle part of the S and found empty road on the other side. Matthew strummed a guitar that existed only in his mind. The moon shone down over the broken outline of the trees. Shadows danced through dying leaves. Bobby looked at Mark and smiled. He winked even if he thought Mark couldn’t see, because Mark Barnes might be too smart for his own good but he was Bobby’s boy and so was Matthew and Bobby would be nothing without them.
The truck took the bottom part of the curve. Bobby opened his mouth. “It’s—” was all that came out. The rest became swallowed by the terror on Mark’s face.
Bobby turned to headlights in front of them. He stood up on the brake, mashing it to the floor, but time was all that slowed. The truck continued on. He heard the sharp screech of tires locking and felt the waving motion of the back end loosing. One arm shot out for Matthew’s chest, but Bobby had nothing to hold Mark in place. His youngest (youngest by thirty seconds) doubled in on himself. Mark flew in a soundless gasp: one leg pinwheeling out of the open window, a bit of thick brown hair standing on end, the fingers of a tiny hand. And those headlights, blinding him and blinding Matthew, glimmering off the unbuckled seat belt none of them ever used.
Metal scraped metal, a crunching that folded the truck’s hood like a wave. Matthew floated toward the windshield. Bobby felt himself thrown forward. He lamented that of all the things he needed to say, his last word had been so meaningless. And in his last moment, Bobby understood that he had been in this place times beyond counting and would be here again uncountable times still. He heard glass shatter and felt the steering wheel press into his chest. He heard himself scream and scream again. There was pain and loss and a fear beyond all he had ever known, and as blackness deep and unending took him, a single thought slipped through his life’s final breath:
There will be stars.
About the author:
Billy Coffey was born and raised in western Virginia against the beautiful backdrop of the Blue Ridge Mountains. He is a critically acclaimed author known for combining rural Southern charm with a vision far beyond the ordinary. As a regular contributor to several publications, he frequently writes on issues related to faith and life. Billy lives with his wife and two children. This is his seventh novel.