In his third novel, Redemption?, Bud Fussell reveals the stark contrast between good and evil in one enormously powerful family. Two brothers, one questionable and ruthless, the other wise and spiritual, vie for control of a multinational corporation. Echoes of biblical themes run throughout the complex, engaging narrative.
The newlyweds held hands as the big 707 roared down the runway, and in a minute they were airborne. The climb was so steep; it felt as if they were going straight up. The lights below were so beautiful, it was hard to imagine that somewhere down there was where they lived, as did their family and friends.
Pretty soon after the wheels were up, Chuck, the pilot, announced on the speaker, “Well, folks, we’re on our way. We’re climbing to an altitude of thirty-three thousand feet, and according to the weather people, we should have a very smooth flight. Just relax, and in a few hours, we’ll be landing in Paradise. It’s such a clear evening, if you’ll look to your left, the lights coming into view are the lights of Nashville. Beautiful, aren’t they?”
As soon as they leveled off some and the seatbelt light went off, Monty asked Joan if she would like a glass of champagne. She asked, “Are you going to have one?”
“Yeah, let’s drink a toast to our new life together. I really don’t know much about champagne and those kinds of things, but it looks like Don went all out because this is French champagne, and I think that’s supposed to be good.”
He poured the bubbly in two glasses, then bent over and kissed Joan before they clinked their glasses together. “Here’s to us. May our marriage be perfect, and may our love only grow stronger.”
Neither one particularly liked the taste of the champagne, but since they felt as if it were what they were supposed to do, they finished the bottle. Since neither one of them were drinkers, the alcohol went to their heads. They were both feeling really amorous, but since neither of them had ever been with anyone sexually before, both of them were afraid to bring up the subject of going to bed.
Monty asked, “Would you like to see a movie?”
“You mean on the plane?”
“Yes, I’d like that. How do you do that on the plane?”
“The plane is equipped with a gizmo that plays movies as well as music, and there is a pretty good movie library on board. Some of them are old, but they’re good. Look these over and pick one out.”
Joan looked through the selection and said, “Let’s watch The Graduate. I know it’s old, but I never did get to see it.”
“The Graduate it is.” Monty put the cartridge in the machine, pressed a couple of buttons, and the movie started. “Let’s sit on the sofa, want to?”
Joan got up and moved to one of the plush sofas, and Monty sat down beside here. He put his arm around her shoulder and between kisses, they enjoyed watching Anne Bancroft seduce Dustin Hoffman.
About midway through the movie, Chuck came back from the flight deck. “I thought you guys would be in bed by now. What are you watching?”
“The Graduate,” Monty said.
“I saw that. It’s a good movie. That Mrs. Robinson is something, isn’t she?”
Joan said, “She sure is.”
“Monty, I forgot to tell you before we took off that your Dad wants us to land at LAX and re-fuel. Fuel is so much more expensive in Hawaii than it is on the mainland, it will save quite a bit of money if we fill up at LAX. That way, we will have plenty of fuel to get us to Honolulu International and back to LAX, where we can re-fuel on the way home.”
“What time will we get to Los Angeles?”
“Approximately two a.m., Chattanooga time. That’s eleven p.m., Los Angeles time.”
“What time will we get to Honolulu?”
“We should be on the ground in L.A. for about an hour; then, it’s about four hours from L.A., so that means we should arrive in Honolulu around four a.m., Hawaii time.”
Monty said, “Man, I guess I didn’t realize we were going to get there at such an inconvenient time. Our flight to Lanai isn’t until ten o’clock, and I hate to check into a hotel for just two or three hours. I guess this is a good example of poor planning.”
Chuck suggested, “Monty, you’ve got a perfectly good bedroom here on the plane. Why don’t you guys go to bed en route and sleep until seven-thirty or eight o’clock. Your bedroom is totally private and soundproof, and you could get several hours rest before you have to board the commuter plane. Bob and Pat and I are going to crash on one of the bunks until time to go check into our hotel, and we could get you up in time to catch your flight. We’ll even make a pot of coffee for you to wake up to.”
“That’s a good idea. What do you think, Sweetie?”
“Let’s do that. If we don’t, we’ll be dead tired for the whole day, and I want to enjoy every minute of our stay in Paradise.”
Monty asked, “Are we about two hours from LAX now?”
“Something like that.”
“Okay. Sounds like a plan. Thanks for the suggestion, Chuck. This way we can get a full night’s rest without sacrificing any fun time after we get to Lanai. We’ll watch the rest of the movie and then turn in. Is that okay with you, Sweetie?”
“That’s okay with me.”
Chuck said, “I guess I had better get back up front. I want to be sure we’re not heading north instead of west. If I don’t see you before we land at LAX, goodnight and get a good night’s rest.” With that, he gave Monty a wink and a smile and turned around and returned to the flight deck.
“Joanie, I’ve sorta lost interest in this movie.”
“I have, too.”
“Do you want to go back and get ready for bed?”
“I was wondering when you were going to bring that up. I’m ready.”
The bedroom on the plane measured twenty feet by almost eleven and a half feet. There was a bathroom at the end of the room and a sofa next to the wall by the bathroom door.
Monty said, “Honey, you go in first, and do what you have to do; then, when you’re ready, just crack the door, and let me know, and I’ll come do my stuff. I don’t have much to do, except use the bathroom, brush my teeth, and put on my pajamas.”
Monty was getting nervous as he waited, and in a few minutes, Joan cracked the door and told him she was ready, and he could come in. He walked into the bedroom, and sitting on the sofa was the prettiest sight he had ever laid his eyes on. Joan had changed into a pale aqua, knee-length peignoir set with matching scuffs. She didn’t say anything. She didn’t have to. The outfit and the expression on her face said enough.
Monty’s heart was beating ninety miles an hour as he went into the bathroom to change into his pajamas, and when he came out, Joan patted the sofa so Monty would sit down beside her. They embraced and kissed for a long time and finally got up the nerve to get into the bed. Since neither of them had ever been to bed with anyone else, it took some time to figure out some things, but nature took over and soon they were in the lap of ecstasy.
“I can’t believe that was so wonderful, Monty. I’m glad I waited to make love with you. Did you enjoy it?”
“More than anything I’ve ever experienced. I love you, Joanie.”
“I love you, too. Let’s just stay here forever, want to?”
“That’s tempting, but we had better get some sleep, or else we will be too tired to enjoy all the activities we have planned for tomorrow. If we don’t get to sleep, we might have to take a nap tomorrow afternoon.”
“Well, if that means we will have to go back to bed, then I think I’m all for it. This was wonderful.”
Monty picked up his watch off the bedside table, and it read one-fifteen a.m., Chattanooga time. “We’re scheduled to be in Los Angeles in less than an hour. Do you want to try to go to sleep now or wait ’til after we take off from L.A.?”
“You tired me out. I’m ready to go to sleep now.”
“Okay. I’ll turn off the light.”
At seven-thirty, Monty was awakened by a knock on the bedroom door. He got up and cracked the door a few inches and looked into the face of Chuck Jacobs. “Monty, you had better get up if you’re going to have time for coffee before you leave to catch your flight to Lanai.”
“Okay. Thanks, Chuck.”
Monty closed the door and went over to Joan’s side of the bed and woke her up with a kiss on the cheek. “Wake up, Sleepyhead. It’s time to get up and go explore Paradise.”
“I thought we were in Paradise last night. Weren’t we?”
“Yeah, I guess we were, but I’ll tell you what. Today let’s go explore a different kind, then tonight we can go back to the one we experienced last night.”
“That sounds wonderful.”
When Joan got up and went into the bathroom, Monty walked to the galley in his pajamas. The flight crew was sitting there, having coffee. “Good morning, guys.”
“Good morning, Monty. Did you get a good night’s rest?”
“Yeah, boy. Did you guys get any sleep?”
“Yeah, these bunks are pretty good beds.”
As Monty poured two cups of coffee, he asked, “How do we get to the gate where we catch the commuter to Lanai?”
“I’ve ordered a shuttle for you. It’s supposed to be there at nine o’clock, and it’ll take you to the gate where you’ll board,” Chuck said. “You have your tickets, don’t you?”
“Yeah, we have our tickets. We’re only going to be in Lanai three days; then we’re coming back here, so we’ll see you when we get back. We’re scheduled to go home Sunday, right?”
Monty took the coffee back to the bedroom and gave Joan one of the cups. She took it and commented on how good it was. Monty spent so much time in the galley that Joan finished her shower while he was gone. Before he finished all his coffee, he got his shaving kit and went into the bathroom and shaved and showered. He was so happy, and Joan got a kick out of listening to him try to sing as he took his shower.
Promptly at nine-o’clock, the shuttle arrived and took the couple to the gate where they boarded the commuter flight to Lanai. There they checked into one of the three Four Seasons resorts.
They had read about Lanai and were anxious to get there. The brochures talked about the ease that comes from being so remote, making it an ideal destination for couples who eschew crowded beaches and towering resorts. The island’s offerings are concentrated in small areas, either upcountry in the picturesque Lanai City or around the pristine Hulopoe Bay, leaving a couple all the privacy they could wish for—a romantic picnic, a sunset hike or a Jeep ride to a secluded beach. That truly sounded like Paradise to Joan and Monty.
As soon as they got to their room and began unpacking, Monty took his Bible out of his suitcase and told Joan, “Honey, this might seem a strange time to do this, but I promised God that I would try to live for Him and would make our family a Christian family, and I asked His blessings on our marriage. Today is the first full day of our marriage, and I would like to begin it with a Scripture. Sweetie, sit down a minute. I want to read this to you. I’m going to read Ephesians 5: 25-31, then we’ll pray, okay?”
“Monty, I’m so proud of you for this.”
Monty began reading verse twenty-five: And you husbands, show the same kind of love to your wives as Christ showed to the church when he died for her, to make her holy and clean, washed by baptism and God’s Word; so that he could give her to himself as a glorious church without a single spot or wrinkle or any other blemish, being holy and without a single fault. That is how husbands should treat their wives, loving them as parts of themselves. For since a man and his wife are now one, a man is really doing himself a favor and loving himself when he loves his wife! No one hates his own body, but lovingly cares for it, just as Christ cares for his body, the church, of which we are parts. That the husband and wife are one body is proved by the Scripture which says, “A man must leave his father and mother when he marries, so that he can be perfectly joined to his wife, and the two shall be one.
Monty closed the Bible and took Joan by the hand. He then bowed his head and thanked God for all his blessings and asked God to please bless their marriage.
When he finished praying, he looked into Joan’s eyes and gave her a big kiss. “I love you, Joanie.”
“I love you, too.”
Monty asked, “How would you like to go on a Hawaiian style picnic? I read that there’s a really pretty, secluded beach about three miles from here. We can get the dining room here to fix the food, and we can rent a Jeep to drive there. How about it? It sounds like a lot of fun to me.”
“Me too. Let’s do it.”
It was already lunchtime when they arrived at the beach, so they spread their food and ate just as soon as they got there. When they finished, they cleaned up their mess and then spread a blanket close to the water. Occasionally they would go in to get wet, then come out and lay on the blanket. The afternoon was totally relaxing, and they both hated to leave, but around five o’clock they decided to go back and lie by the pool before they had to get ready for dinner.
They said they were going back to lie by the pool, but both of them had something else in mind. When they arrived back at the resort, Joan went to the room while Monty turned the Jeep in. He then went to their room, and when he opened the door, Joan was lying in bed under a sheet without any clothes on. He could feel his face turning red, but how could he pass up an opportunity like this? He sat down on the edge of the bed and took off his shirt and shorts, then slipped into bed next to Joan. There were no words to describe the feelings of the love they experienced next.
The next two days were equally as great as the first. They slept late on Monday, then had lunch at the resort, and took a late-afternoon hike before returning in time for dinner. On Tuesday, Monty rented a Jeep again, and this time they drove all over the island, enjoying the views and flowers that seemed to be everywhere. Late in the afternoon, they came back by the beach where they went the first day and waded in the surf before returning to the resort for dinner. Each afternoon they made it a point to get back to their bedroom in time to work up an appetite before they ate.
The resort’s shuttle took the couple to the little airport on Wednesday morning, where they caught their flight back to Honolulu. Upon arriving at Honolulu International, they caught a limo to their hotel and checked in a little before noon. The flight crew was staying at the same hotel, and Monty gave them a call after he and Joan checked in. There was no answer, so he left a message that he and Joan were back and gave them their room number.
They hadn’t projected ahead on what they were going to do, so they decided to have just a lazy day. After lunch, the afternoon consisted of reading brochures, sun-bathing, and napping at one of the pools.
The rest of the week was spent doing what millions of tourists do every year in Hawaii: sight-seeing, swimming, visiting the volcano, and all the other things Paradise offers. Monty was able to get up with Chuck, Pat, and Bob and on Saturday night, they all went to a fantastic luau. It was one of those where they cooked the pig in the ground, had hula dancers, guys dancing with swords, and all the other things they do at a first-class luau. Joan looked gorgeous in her Hawaiian print sundress, and Monty looked as if he had just stepped out of the pages of a hunk magazine.
Saturday night was so much fun, they all hated to see it end, but unfortunately, they had to take off the next morning and return home.
Bud Fussell was born and raised in Chattanooga, Tennessee and moved to Mount Airy, North Carolina in 1967, where he currently lives. He is 76 years old and has been married to his high school sweetheart, Jane Ward, for 57 years. Bud and Jane have 3 sons, 7 grandsons, 2 great-grandsons, and one great-granddaughter. He is retired after spending many years in the apparel and hosiery industries. In addition to his new-found love of writing, Bud loves to hunt and fish.