Excerpt: 'The Traveler's Gift'

ByABC News via GMA logo
April 30, 2003, 6:01 PM

May 1 -- In The Traveler's Gift: Seven Decisions That Determine Personal Success, author Andy Andrews weaves a fictional tale about a man who loses his job and money, but finds his way after he is magically transported into seven key points in history.

Here are excerpts, from Chapters 2 and 3 of the book.

Chapter 2

SEVEN MONTHS LATER, DAVID FELT LIKE A BEATEN man. The health insurance coverage from his former employer had run its course, and the part-time job David took at a hardware store provided little more than minimum wage. Ellen was making more money than he was. She had placed hand-printed advertisements on bulletin boards all over town and was cleaning houses five days a week. Every day for months, David continued to search for a job. The seemingly endless stream of rejections confused him. At least I'm on my way up, he kept telling himself. It can't get any worse. But it did.That morning had dawned cold and hard. It was everything David had always hated about winter. The sky was the color of dirty water, and the below-freezing temperature, carried by a nasty wind, cut David like the thrusts of a thousand knives. Struggling into the used car he had bought with a loan from his father, David cursed at nothing and no one in particular.

The car seemed to David a constant reminder of his failure. He had answered an ad in the newspaper and paid a high school kid nine hundred dollars for what he had hoped would be temporary transportation. It was a two-door Dodge Colt, mostly faded silver except for the right fender, which was black. The brake lights quit about ten minutes after David completed the sale, and the heater had never worked in the first place.

Shivering as he drove to work, David's mind was as numb as his body. Ellen had been up most of the night with Jenny. The child had suffered with a fever and sore throat now for three days, and with the lack of sleep, none of them were feeling well. Jenny, however, was truly sick. It was the fifth or sixth time she had been ill this winter. David had lost count.

When he had gotten out of the shower that morning, he heard Ellen hanging up the phone. "Who was that?" David asked.

"It was Dr. Reed's office, David," she said. "I've got to take her in to see what's wrong. Tylenol isn't handling this."

"What kind of parent am I?" David said aloud, interrupting his reverie as he pulled the Colt into a parking place behind Marshall's Hardware. "What kind of person am I? What has happened to me?"

When Ellen mentioned the doctor, he blew up. Where did she think the money was coming from, he yelled, and of course, she yelled right back that she'd steal it if she had to. This was their daughter, she shouted. Didn't he care about that anymore? As David left the house, he went by Jenny's room to kiss her good-bye. She had big tears rolling down her face. Jenny had heard everything.

About ten that morning, David was loading shingles on a flatbed truck in front of the store. He was grateful for the activity. The shingles were heavy, and they gave him somewhere to focus his anger. "Ponder!" someone yelled. David looked up. It was Mr. Marshall, the owner of the store. A tall, lanky old man with curly white hair and a red nose, he was leaning out the back door, motioning to David. "Phone call," he barked as David strode past him into the warm store. "It's your wife. Make it quick. I've told you about personal calls.""Ellen," David said as he picked up the phone. "Where are you?""I'm at home," she said. "We just got back from the doctor."

"What did he say?"

"David, it's her tonsils."


Ellen paused. "Honey, Dr. Reed said her tonsils have to come out. He said we need to have it done right away."


David looked around. It was Mr. Marshall. "Let's go, son," he said. "I got a driver waiting on you."

"David? Are you there?" he heard Ellen ask through the phone.

"Yes. Yes, I'm here," he said. "Ellen, we have no insurance."

"I've already checked," she answered. "The operation, including the hospital, will only cost eleven hundred dollars."

David was stunned. "We don't have eleven hundred dollars," he said.

"We can put it on a credit card."

"Hey, Ponder. This is the last time I'm going to tell you. Get off the phone," the store owner warned.

David put his hand over his ear, trying to concentrate on the conversation with his wife. "We don't have any room on a credit card, Ellen. Every card is maxed out."

Ellen started to cry. "Then we'll just have to borrow the money, David. Jenny is sick."

"I know Jenny's sick, honey, but we can't borrow anything. We're a month behind on the house, two months on your car. No bank will touch us. My parents don't have any more money to loan, and God knows, yours don't. With your dad's lawn business, they struggle through the winter just to make it themselves."

Ellen could hardly talk through her tears. "Oh, David. What are we going to do?"

"Don't worry," he said. "I'll get the money somehow. Maybe I can work overtime here. Or maybe I can get an advance. I'll get the money." As Ellen continued to cry, David pleaded with her: "Honey, please calm down. I have to go. I'll take care of this, I promise. I love you." He hung up the phone.Turning to move from behind the counter, David met Mr. Marshall face-to-face. "I'm sorry ," he started to say, but the old man cut him off."Your next job, you need to pay attention to the rules," Marshall said.David was confused. "Excuse me?" he asked.

"You can come back on Friday, and your check will be waiting. I'm letting you go."

"I'm I'm fired?" David stammered. "I'm fired because I used the telephone?" Marshall stood there with his arms crossed. "My daughter is sick." The old man didn't say a word. David was incredulous. He pointed at the phone. "That was my wife calling because my daughter is sick." David paused, then said once more, this time in almost a whisper, "My daughter is sick." Raising and lowering his hands in a helpless gesture and shaking his head, David turned and walked slowly out the door.

Reaching the car, David fumbled for the keys and laughed. He had experienced a brief mental flash of the car not starting. "Mr. Marshall," he saw himself saying, "my car won't start. May I use your phone?" Twisting the key in the ignition, David laughed again as the car roared to life.

Obviously, he thought, I am laughing because I am cracking up. As David wheeled out of the hardware store parking lot, he wondered, If I'm sane enough to recognize insanity, does that mean I'm okay after all? He laughed again. This time he actually laughed until he cried.

Out on the interstate, David drove past the exit for home. Traffic was light, and it was only 11:15. No reason to go home and share the big news with Ellen just yet. Ellen doesn't deserve this, David thought. And Jenny certainly did not choose me for a father. A year ago, I was on top of the world, and now, I can't even provide for my family.

David pulled onto the shoulder. Bowing his head, he clasped his hands together. "Oh, God," he said aloud. "Oh, God " He stopped and was silent for almost a minute. "Oh, God ," he began again. After another minute, he put the Colt into gear and moved back onto the highway. I can't even pray, he thought.

On an impulse, David took the Grayton exit. Almost forty miles from home, he was driving to nowhere in particular. Just like my life, he thought, going nowhere in particular, nowhere special. Didn't I used to think I had a purpose? David wondered. Wasn't I accomplishing something?

David looked at the speedometer. It read seventy. There were no other vehicles anywhere in sight. He pressed a little harder on the accelerator. Eighty eighty-five. As he flew over hills and around curves, David became oblivious to the speed. Ninety miles per hour. His thoughts were also racing at a furious pace. Ellen was still young. She was beautiful. If he weren't around, she could find someone else to take better care of her and Jenny. I still have life insurance, he thought. Would they be better off without me? Would everyone be better off without me?