John packed his dinner into a gray steel lunch box while half listening
to the six o’ clock news.
A velvet-smooth female voice droned on about how a gun battle between
rival gangs claimed the lives of two teenage boys and a middle-aged man
who got caught in the crossfire while walking his dog. John shook his
head. Good grief, what a way to leave this world. You can’t even walk
your dog around here anymore without risking your own life. Wait a
minute. Could that news lady be talking about the crime scene I had to
cross the street to avoid last night?
His mind was stuck on the disturbing incident he’d walked past the
evening before, just two blocks away from his apartment building.
A group of uniformed and plain-clothes police officers conferred in
small groups, pointing at the street and broken store windows, taking
down hurried notes in little black notebooks. Two-way radios echoed up
and down the street with shrill beeps and distorted voices chattering in
a complex code of acronyms and numbers. Patrol cars with flashing lights
sat in the middle of the street. Crime scene tape wrapped around utility
poles cordoned off a section of the sidewalk, and yellow plastic tent
cards with black numbers on them marked places where spent cartridge
casings had ejected from a semiautomatic weapon and landed on the
He harrumphed. “Yeah. What a fabulous neighborhood.”
Crimes like those had become a regular occurrence in the Terrence
district, where John lived with his wife, Lisa, and his
eighteen-month-old daughter, Gabrielle, nicknamed Gabby. The neighboring
Morey Park district of Wynfield City boasted the highest crime rate for
several years running. The crime epidemic seemed to be spreading into
Terrence, making it a much more dangerous place to live—and raise a
family—than it was a year earlier.
He’d heard about how some people in other high crime cities leave
their homes with a small pistol, a .38 special, .380 or 9mm, tucked
inside their belts. They had their guns at the ready just in case
someone tried to attack them before they even stepped onto the sidewalk.
He’d considered buying a pistol for protection, but with a young
daughter running around the house, the risk she might find it was just
too high. Becoming a father changed the way he made every decision.
Gabby depended completely upon her daddy to keep her safe—even from
potential dangers within the home.
John grew world-weary of hearing all the bad news spewing from the TV
like raw sewage that threatened to fill the whole apartment and drown
them all—him, his wife, and his daughter. He feared they would all die
in their shabby apartment before he got a chance to build a better life
for them. Working hard to get the family out of Terrence became John’s
number one goal.
He called to Lisa, “Turn it off.”
She shouted back, “What?”
“Turn off the TV. I’m gettin’ ready to leave.” He wanted at
least a few moments’ break from the relentless deluge of bad news
before he went to work.
The TV blipped off, temporarily stopping the flow of reports of murders,
robberies, and three-alarm house fires from flooding the apartment. He
already knew how much of a cesspool he lived in; he didn’t need an
emotionless talking head on a TV screen reminding him over and over
“I’m workin’ my butt off to get us out of the neighborhood,” he
muttered to himself. In a louder tone, he said, “Li? I’m headin’
to work now.”
He headed for the door. Lisa stepped in front of him; she held Gabby on
her hip. She acted like she was trying to stop him from leaving. John
didn’t blame Lisa for wanting to keep him at home. The evening edition
of bad news must have frightened her as much as it did him.
“Caro, do you really have to go to work tonight?”
Muffled shouting voices of a man and a woman followed by deep banging
sounds from the apartment next door drew their attention, causing them
to stop talking. They glared at the wall as if to say, “Can you two
keep it quiet over there?” They looked back at each other and rolled
It would be nice just to get away from that commotion.
Gabby tugged at her ear and whined, then rolled her head around her
mother’s shoulder. John’s heart melted when he saw her do that.
Seeing Gabby agonizing with any kind of pain made John agonize with her.
“Look at our sick little girl, John. Her ear infection came back
again. She needs her daddy.” Lisa stared up at John with puppy dog
eyes and pouty lips. She moved in closer and tried to hand Gabby over to
him. “Please call in sick tonight.”
John took a step back. At that moment, he wanted so badly to hold Gabby
all night and soothe her. And if he did take her out of Lisa’s arms,
he definitely would have called in. But he needed to get to work if they
were ever going to get out of that apartment. He set his lunch box down,
laid his hands on her shoulders, and locked his gaze with hers. “Not
the puppy dog eyes. You know I can’t say no when you look at me like
that. And those pouty little lips of yours are even harder to refuse.”
Lisa’s eyes lit up; she grinned. “So you’ll stay home?”
He sighed. He wanted nothing more than to stay with her and Gabby. He
loved them both with a ferocity that he never dreamed he was capable of.
He loved them with a love that nobody had ever expressed to him—not
even when he was a little boy.
But he had to do everything he could to move them out of the city. That
meant earning as much money as possible.
“You know I can’t do that, Li. Not now. I’ve got to work.”
“C’mon, John. I know better than that. Your maintenance job is
making enough money for us to live pretty well. Why don’t you just
quit your second job?”
John dropped his hands. “Li, we’ve been through this before. My
second job is what’s gonna get us out of here.” He looked around the
living room, paying particular attention to the water-stained ceiling
and the peeling wallpaper. “Out of this apartment. Out of Terrence.
Don’t you want a house with a white picket fence and a backyard where
Gabby can play without us worrying about her catching a stray bullet?”
Lisa gasped. “John Luigi Silva. I can’t believe you just said that.
Don’t even think it.” She pulled Gabby in close.
“I’ve got to work. Just for a little while longer.”
John brushed Gabby’s cheek. She winced and pulled away in response to
his touch. She continued to whine and wriggle around in Lisa’s arms.
Lisa sighed and shrugged as if to say, okay, you’re right, John.
“Besides, you did call the doctor for the refill on Gabby’s ear
medicine, didn’t you?”
Lisa nodded yes. John swallowed a burn of frustration. He just wished
she could understand why he had to have his second job. “I’d still
have to leave right now and take the bus to the pharmacy to pick up the
medicine. I’d be right next to the Dooley building anyway. I might as
well pick up a few hours while I’m there. You have one more dose of
ear medicine here. You can give to her. And by the time she’s ready
for more, I’ll be home with it
Lisa gave him a look as if to say, nice try on justifying going to work,
buster. John read it loud and clear. He anticipated another objection.
Instead, she nodded; he took that as a good sign.
Maybe she sees things my way now.
“You’re right. But that doesn’t mean I have to like you working
nights. This neighborhood, this whole city, is getting worse and worse.
It’s just not safe to go out at night anymore. Even if you do take the
bus to work.”
“My point exactly. That’s why I need to stick it out for one more
year cleanin’ restrooms so we can get out of all this. Do you think I
enjoy scrubbin’ toilets and urinals for just a few bucks an hour?”
Lisa shook her head. “Probably not. Even though you do a fantastic job
of keeping ours clean.” They shared a laugh.
John sobered and attempted to reassure Lisa. “Just one more year. One
more year, Li. After that, we can leave. We can get that house with the
white picket fence and the huge backyard. A safe neighborhood where we
can go outside any time we please and feel safe for once.”
He pulled her and Gabby in close and squeezed them. “I love you two so
much. I want more than anything else in the whole world to give you all
of those things. I thought they were important to you.”
Lisa broke from his embrace and turned away. “They are, John. You know
they are. Everything on that list.”
He threw out his hands and shrugged. “Okay. So, what’s the problem
then?” How can I get her to understand why I work so many hours, and
how much I hate it?
Gabby’s whining grew louder. She wriggled harder in Lisa’s arms.
“Shhh, cara. Mama give you medicine soon.” Lisa kissed Gabby on the
forehead. Gabby wiped it off and let out a long cry.
Seeing Gabby writhing in distress from anything, especially a painful
ear infection, struck John’s heart. If he could have, he would have
gladly taken away his only daughter’s pain. It hurt him to have to
leave her and Lisa at all.
He wished he could spend every waking moment with them. But then the
bills wouldn’t get paid. And they would have absolutely no chance of
getting out of their rundown apartment. They would spend the rest of
their lives there—all three of them. So he had to work. He had to work
as many hours as he could get. For the next year, that’s just the way
things had to be.
As if she were reading his mind, she answered his question. “I just
wish you could see that you are more important than any of those
things—the house, the backyard, the neighborhood. You, John Luigi
Silva, are more important. We are more important.” She gave Gabby
another kiss on the cheek. Gabby whined in response and tugged on her
John pondered her answer carefully. What a great woman he had. Maybe she
did know he’d rather be here with the two of them, even if one of them
was a sick and cranky little girl. He knew she wanted out of the
neighborhood as much as he did. But she also cared for him. She really
did. He loved her so, so much.
He sidled up to her. “Look, Li. I know you don’t want anything to
happen to me. I appreciate that. I truly do. But some things are worth
She harrumphed, but stayed close to him. “Well, I’ll let you know
one thing. An extra few hundred dollars a month isn’t worth something
bad happening to you. You’re priceless, John. I wish you could see
He held back a sigh. She just didn’t get it.
John wanted to tell Lisa that even though he appreciated the fact that
she thought he was priceless, she simply didn’t understand how
important it was for him to give her and Gabby the whole white picket
fence dream—the car, the house, the tree swing in the backyard. Even a
puppy if they wanted one.
If he couldn’t give them all of that, what was he doing with his life?
He wanted to explain his motives in a way she would understand, but he
just couldn’t seem to get through to her, no matter how hard he tried.
He pulled her and Gabby in toward him again and gave them another long
hug. Gabby wriggled and whined; John squeezed a little tighter.
“Poor girl, she’s really not feelin’ well. I love you both so, so
very much. You know that? So very much, my two girls.”
Lisa struggled to pull away, and with a sharp elbow to his ribs, she
broke free. He yelped and jumped back in response to her jab.
She said, “Okay, okay. Get out of here before I lock you in the
bathroom and turn in your two week notice for you.”
He laughed. “I’d better leave then. You might kill me with that
elbow of yours.”
He opened the front door and walked into the hallway. Right before he
pulled it shut behind him, Lisa said, “John?”
“Please be careful out there. Come home safe. We need you too much.
Promise me, caro.”
He blew her and Gabby a kiss. “I promise.”
He pulled the door shut. Lisa leaned against it. She looked up to the
water-stained ceiling. The roar of revving engines, followed by a
jarring cacophony of shrieking tires and wailing sirens outside the
living room window invaded her ears. She wagged her head and closed her
eyes. “Oh, God. Please watch over John. Keep him safe. Bring him home
to us as soon as his shift ends. Amen.”
Excerpted from "The Dangerous Way Home" by L.R. Farren. Copyright © 2018 by L.R. Farren. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Excerpts are provided solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.