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HOME >> Product 0016 >> THE MOTHERSTONE>>

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Joe Bernard

THE MOTHERSTONE, a sequel to Book One of the Harlie Series, completes the 'Expedition' which Homer Skinner and company have undertaken in search for the lost gold mine of Cornelius Wainwright.  When they finally arrive at the site of the doomed excavation, no one is more surprised than Elmo Cotton, the 'Lucky Number', a poor black sharecropper who came along looking for adventure (and perhaps a new bathtub for his wife), to find out that there is much more in store than he ever anticipated.


  As it just so happens, Red-Beard, a.k.a Rusty Horn, stumbles upon what turns out not only to be the cause of the original catastrophe, along with his own death, but the one thing that will eventually lead Elmo to his ultimate destiny, a destiny that will take him to places he could only dream of, and beyond. It is an adventure of metaphysical realities, hidden truths of the past, culture, philosophy, politics and religion, all mixed with a healthy dose of pure Americana as viewed through the unassuming and kaleidoscopic mind of the Harlie… and, of course, the Motherstone.





92276 Words



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Cover Art:

T.L. Davison


Terrie Lynn Balmer


J.F. Bernard

ISBN Number:


Available Formats:

PDF; iPhone PDF; HTML; Microsoft Reader(LIT); MobiPocket (PRC); Palm (PDB); Nook, Iphone, Ipad, Android (EPUB); Older Kindle (MOBI);




HOMER SHOOK THEIR GHOULISH hands, said his final and fond farewells and, in the obligatory manner reserved for such esteemed and venerable old fellows on such an auspicious occasion, wished them all a healthy and hardy good night, and good riddance. The spirits of the night left as they came, some alone and some together, shaking their heads and wagging their beards, arm in arm, in some cases, as brothers sometimes travel. They demanded a good yarn and they one, even though they'd heard them all before. Each one was just a little different, but they all ended the same way: In doom. But that's why the way they liked it. That's why they were called the spirits of the night. And that's why they came.

When he thought he was alone once more, Homer looked up beyond the shadowy green treetops to the distant peaks of the Silver Mountains. Hallowed in moonlight and crowned with a thousand stars, stood the lone peak that formed the mighty summit of Mount Wainwright, and beyond that -- the gold.

Catastrophically formed in the fiery bowels of the ever-evolving earth, Mount Wainwright stood alone and aloft, distinct among all other natural formations in the region. Crowned with a crater head of volcanic origin, which many assumed still active and volatile, it could easily be mistaken for two separate hills joined together by a single parabolic curve dipping in the center and rising on either side of the perimeter like the span of great suspension bridge. It was a portentous sight to behold, especially in the jagged shadows of the night while sleeping under the full light of the moon. It was as if he were gazing upon two great pillars supporting the floodgates of Heaven, with the whole universe beckoning beyond in all its limitless dark glory. And there at the doorstep stood Homer Skinner, knocking, once again, like he did forty years ago with an aching tooth and a hungry heart. It was Monday night, and he could still hear the Parson's sermon ringing in his ears from the night before.

'And in my vision, when he broke the sixth seal, there was a violent earthquake and the sun went black as course as sackcloth; the moon turned red as blood all over, and the stars fell to the earth like figs dropping from a fig tree when a high wind shakes it; the sky disappeared like a scroll rolling up and all the mountains and islands were shaken from their places. Then all the earthly rulers, the governors and the commanders, the rich people and the men of influence, the whole population, slaves and citizens, took to the mountains to hide in caves and among the rocks. They said to the mountains and the rocks, "Fall on us and hide us away from the One who sits on the throne and from the anger of the Lamb. For the Great Day of His anger has come, and who can survive it?'

"Fall mountain...just don't fall on me," sighed Homer Skinner in the shadow of the mountain as the fire slowly began to burn itself out. He was feeling old, as old and tread upon as battle scarred hills of Jerusalem. "Ouch," he said, as the tooth began to ache.

Meanwhile, the Harlie stirred restlessly under blanket next to the old man. He was cold and lonely but, still, very much awake. He reached out for his wife who was just not there. He could hear Homer talking to himself, softly, as he would do when something, or someone, was troubling him. It worried Elmo. He'd heard this kind of talk before; once, when he'd fallen asleep on the Skinner's couch, only to be awoken late at night by Homer pacing the floor above him. He remembered going upstairs to see what was the matter. But the old man was asleep by then. At least, that's what it looked like. But was he really asleep? Elmo wondered then, as he did now. Maybe he was only dreaming. Maybe he was just getting old.

"No," thought the Harlie out loud, "it's just that nasty old tooth of his, again."

Old age did not sit well with Homer Skinner. Everything seemed to hurt, not only the tooth. His muscles ached and his joints cracked; at times, he felt as though he was no more than one arthritic nerve withering on the vine of life and dying by the minute. His memory faded and the days went by much too quickly, just like everyone said they would. Lately he'd thought of death as taking a long trip, something he should already be preparing for, like it could happen to him any day. And, in a strange and 'Gee, I'm glad that's over with' sort of way, he was almost looking forward to it -- Almost, but not quite. He knew he still had some living to do. Death would just have to wait, for a little while, at least. Life was a burden, but one worth bearing, even with a toothache that never went away. It was actually more of an annoyance than anything else, an inconvenience he'd learned to live with over the years, like a woman, he reckoned, maybe even his own wife. Pain can be like that sometimes, unpleasant sensations being better than no sensation at all; and, in its own beneficial and benevolent way, it can also be quite therapeutic. Just like…a woman.

But there were times, like these, when the tooth hurt like hell. And it was at just such times when Homer thought he would surely take the tooth to his grave; and there, in fiery furnace of hell, it would ache for all eternity, tormenting him in ways that would only make Lucifer jealous with envy. He'd yank it out himself if he could, if he had the nerve, but he knew that would surely kill him and, like I said, he wasn't quite ready to die just yet. Besides, it would take more than a doctor to perform the surgery needed to remove the source of his suffering. Maybe what he really needed was some spiritual healing, a miracle, perhaps; or better yet, a miracle man! But by then even the spirits of the night were gone. They had gone back to the mountain to sleep for another fifty, or a hundred, years. All he could do was pray. And so he did.

Homer Skinner never considered himself a religious man, if going to church on a regular basis is what qualified one as being religious, but still he prayed almost every night. Despite what others have told him over the years, admonishing Homer whenever they by chance noticed him in dropping to a knee, as he was want to do at times and for no apparent reason, he could never accept the fact that prayer, generally or specifically speaking, might all be in. vain, even in his old age, when a lifetime of doubt sometimes makes it seem that way.

He knew of some folks, good and decent citizens all, who simply couldn't, or wouldn't, believe in God. And not only had he always been suspicious of these self righteous individuals, who'd always seemed just little bit too confident, but he pitied them as well. Some called themselves atheists and they always looked like they were mad at someone, or everyone, and for no good reason. They were also the kind of folks that just couldn't be happy, he often observed, unless, of course, they're making everyone else around them, in their own dull and godless world, just as gloom and doom and unhappy as they were. Misery enjoys company, I suppose. And in a land where the 'the pursuit of happiness' is one of the primary goals granted by to us by the God and man (Think about it: a right to be happy. Imagine that!) …what the hell does that have to say about people bent on being so miserable? Is it their patriotism, or their salvation, they are so afraid of? They surely must be wicked and evil people to live the life the do, Homer sadly concluded. He was just glad he wasn't one of them.

The old man never understood them, or their demagogic diatribes. They spoke condescendingly, the way autocrats sometimes do, as though possessing some privileged information, some secret knowledge denied the rest of us mortals, as if all matters metaphysical or spiritual in nature, could be easily defused and debunked, when, as they would claim when reason and logic finally failed them in the heated argument of debate, science provided them with tools and wherewithal to do so. It was as if, by creating or inventing a telescope large and powerful enough to peer into every nook and cranny of the Universe, they could disprove the existence of God by mere default. But how do you prove a negative? That's like apologizing for…for nothing! As they say in Harley: 'It just don't boil the beans'. And how, exactly, do you defend a non-belief anyway?

Homer didn't like these kinds of know-it-alls, but he did admire their tenacity and was, at times, jealous of the confidence they displayed in defending that which can only be defined as their own 'disbelief'. But moreover, he wondered at their unique and stubborn insistence in making others believe in that as well, while vehemently attacking, and with a viciousness that would make Satan himself blush, anyone who might try to prove them wrong. It flummoxed the old man to no end, just as it would anyone else dwelling on the metaphysical and infinite subject of God. It didn't make much sense. Humanity was against the atheist, and so was History. And they were out-numbered, too. Maybe that's what makes them so angry and bitter, he sadly came to realize over the years, and so miserable, to boot. Real faith takes real effort, he'd always maintained…or, at least it should. And through it all, the tooth ached; but he still believed, which was more than the atheist could say. And perhaps that's what faith is really all about, he finally concluded. It's about believing in something bigger than ourselves, not only because we want to, but because we have to. Anything else or anything less, simply won't do.

A kind of bewildering pity was the only sympathy Homer could ever offer such true 'non-believer'. He called to mind the words of a certain black pastor of Shadytown that night: "It's a sucker's bet...a raw deal!" But still, the secularist and the cleric manage to get along, and survive, somehow, without killing each other, even in the land of E-pluribus Unum, which is built on the unique proposition that all men are created equal, even those who would deny their own Creator and the source of their own dissidence. It's a beautiful thing, I suppose. Paradoxically we were born in a land where both the believer and the non-believer can exist side by side, in relative peace and prosperity. It's a mutually beneficial and bold experiment, one the skeptics, our own founding fathers among them, said would only last about fifty years at best. They were wrong, of course, just like the atheist. And thank God they were…Or don't, for that matter. There is, however, one major difference between the two camps. The religious man can comfortably exist in a secular world and be relatively content, and even happy, in his own Orthodox way; and he will certainly thrive there in his own environment. But the Atheist can merely survive in his, or any other, world. He will surely suffocate in the next. Which would you choose?

At one time in his life Homer Skinner might've considered himself an agnostic, although the word itself would have little meaning to him, then as now. He believed in something. He always did. He just didn't know what, or who. And that's when the tooth seemed to ache. There was a time when he only believed in himself. And if that made him a god, or a demigod, well, so be it. But that kind of thinking only left the old man lonely and bitter, especially when things didn't quite go his way. It's no wonder the gods are always battling with one another and betting against us, he imagined. No matter how self-centered and egotistical he became, Charity had always crept in and reared its altruistic and sometimes ugly head. Selfishness was not in Homer's bones, or any other aspect of his make-up.

Homer was not a greedy man. Neither was he hateful or spiteful, having purged himself from such destructive and feckless emotions many years ago when he first came to see how destructive and feckless they could be, especially on his own being. Sure, there were things he did and said that he was still ashamed of. But he was just curious at the time, or perhaps a little too ambitious, as we all were, whether we care to admit it or not. In the end, Homer had realized that the life he was leading would eventually kill him, and everyone else around him, just like it did Cornelius Wainwright. It was not part of the plan. But the question that still pained him was -- Whose plan? And the mere fact that he could even ask such the question had convinced him, not too long ago, that that there must be someone, or something, higher than himself that wanted him to know that. Otherwise, why would put it in his head to ask it in the first place? He didn't know who or what that was until one night when he found out at a church called the Miracle Temple and Barbecue Pit of Avenue 'D' in a place called Shadytown.




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