Let There Be Light
The Christmas holiday commences.
I must change the official mailing address Georgia Tech has on file. At
the end of each quarter, they send my grade report directly to my
father. I usually average Cs. My parents don’t complain, so I don’t
worry. Today, however, I hope for either the annihilation of the U.S.
Postal Service or a massive earthquake to swallow our house. I’m good
with either scenario.
When my grades arrive, rather than leave the envelope on the kitchen
table for my father to find, I intercept the bad news and hide it in my
wallet. I hope he’ll forget that I’m in school or that I even exist.
I should be so lucky.
When he finally asks about my grades, and watches me reach into my
pocket to retrieve them, Hoover Dam would not hold back his anger. He
lectures long and loud about my poor grades, how irresponsible I am for
opening his mail. A multitude of crow-like sounds flood from his mouth.
I am deaf. His words pour past me as I stand resolute like a lighthouse
on a stormy cape.
Christmas time has always been a happy season in the Hall household. Not
this year. Not for me, at least. I avoid the home front as much as
possible. I only sleep there. I spend most of my time with Randy.
My father condescends to speak to me once during the break. He asks
about my plans for the future, which is so thoughtful and reassuring. He
must be counting the seconds until I will graduate.
I haven’t the foggiest idea how to answer him. I cast about in my
brain, and hook something semi-passable. I tell him that I plan to
transfer into aerospace engineering. I tell him that if I cannot fly in
space capsules, at least I can build them. It muzzles him for the
I dread Christmas Day. The friction between my father and me is muting
the Christmas spirit in our house, affecting everyone.
This is usually a magical time of the year when little clues about this
item or that thing wind up wrapped underneath the Christmas tree. I
cannot bring myself to hint to my father or mother that I want a new
radio for my car. My heart is not in it. I don’t want to owe them
I really want a radio, however, and I am broke. I love to lose myself in
the rhythm guitars, saxophones, drums and vocals as I drive here and
One night, Randy and I are out drinking with his brother. Ron works at a
large electronics retail store. When he hears about my plight, he
suggests that he may be able to find me a poor orphaned radio. And he
Merry Christmas, Ken.
Randy and I spend our vacation days working together at a warehouse and
our nights drinking beer. We often drive into downtown Atlanta to watch
the Atlanta Flames play hockey or the Atlanta Hawks play basketball.
Since his father’s company has season tickets to both teams, Randy and
I get to go whenever his father is not entertaining a customer, which is
oftener during the holidays.
As long as Randy and I have known each other, we have used my house as
our base of operations. The bars that we patronize are in my
neighborhood. One night, however, knowing the dismal state of my
relationship with my father, Randy suggests that we switch to his house.
Ordinarily, I would have jumped at the idea, except for one unenticing
element. With a twinkle in his eye, and a sinister grin on his face, he
informs me that I will get a big kick from meeting his mother.
Evidently, she is some sort of religious freak. He informs me that
she’s a charismatic Christian, whatever that is.
I am not the least bit interested in listening to someone blab about her
religion whenever a stranger enters her home. The thought of listening
to her harp on about something detestable to me is nauseating. I’ve
experienced my share of people like her.
My new roommate is a Christian enthusiast. He gripes about everything
and listens nonstop to crappy Christian music. I was sick of it and him
after one week.
All church-people are alike in my book. Churches are nothing more than
social clubs that follow ancient prescribed rituals. They are glorified
chicken coops peopled with clucks who think they are better than the
rest of the world.
Regardless, Randy’s suggestion also strikes a pleasant chord. I know
that he means well. I want to stay as far away from my dad as possible.
As my best friend, Randy is trying to help me, which is more than I can
say for the rest of the world.
I decide to play along with his little charade. Watching his mother
perform is a small price to pay to get to that first precious beer. Who
knows? Maybe it will have some entertainment value.
Before we enter his house, Randy outlines the plan to “get her
going.” His scheme sounds so queer that it makes me wonder what about
his mother could possibly cause him to behave this way. I’ve never
seen him like this. He’s giddy with excitement.
Now, I am intrigued.
We walk into the house and find the living room empty.
“Good,” he says.
The television blasts its nonsense against the walls and furniture.
Above the sofa, I notice a charcoal drawing of a hauntingly
sweet-looking man with a short-cropped beard.
I feel silly. It is obvious that Randy has meticulously thought this
He places me at one end of the sofa. He says, “This spot is closest to
her chair.” Then, with the cunning grin of a con man, he whispers,
“Are you ready?”
“I don’t think this is a good idea,” I object, rethinking my
decision, but it’s too late.
“Hey, Lola,” he hollers.
I cringe. What kind of son calls his mother by her first name?
He announces, “Ken, here, is into astrology and ESP and stuff like
Under my breath I mutter (but inwardly scream), “Randy.”
Lola is already scurrying in from the kitchen. I turn to Randy, pleading
for help, wondering what he’s gotten me into. He just leans back with
a satisfied expression, locking his hands behind his neck, settling in
for the comic beginning to our evening. He cleverly omitted what he was
going to say to get her going.
Her voice squeaks a little with a Midwestern twang as she says, “You
better get out of that stuff.”
A doorknob turns slowly, almost imperceptibly, somewhere deep inside my
Nobody ever said that to me before, so I ask why.
“It’s Satan’s way of keeping people away from God,” she says.
A second click.
A small, inexplicable, unpretentious light flicks on, deeper still.
She goes on to explain how Satan lives in the spirit world and uses his
power to blind people to the reality of God; how God also lives in the
spirit world and uses his power to break Satan’s hold over people; and
how Jesus Christ is the way into the spirit world to God.
This is different. She is a different type of Christian. I’ve never
heard anyone talk like this about spiritual things. What she says makes
sense. She speaks with authority. She’s not arrogant, dogmatic or
overbearing. She speaks as though she knows from firsthand experience
what she describes.
Like magic, what she says causes a few pieces of the huge puzzle in my
head to snap into place. A few distant stars connect in the sky.
Curiously, I understand her. Her language and imagery fit into
categories previously formed and hammered out in my head.
Randy tugs at my shirt to go. We leave. In his car, he says, “You
really listened to her, didn’t you?”
“What she said made sense,” I say.
“That blows my mind,” he says.
“Mine too,” I say.
Excerpted from "One Man Alone: The Calvary Road Less Traveled" by Ken Hall. Copyright © 2015 by Ken Hall. 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.