<DIV>FROM AN AISLE SEAT ON THE LEFT side of the plane, David Williams had an imperfect vision of the campus as they descended toward the South Bend airport. The lady in the window seat pressed her face to the glass, all but obscuring his view. No matter. He sat back with a wry smile, remembering all the times he had come along this .ight path in his own plane, always taking the controls for the landing once he had feasted his eyes on the Notre Dame campus. He felt like a Roman general who had fought one too many campaigns. There would be no triumphal welcome this time. Only a memento mori. <BR>The plane touched down; there was the roar of reversed engines as they decelerated along the runway. He had a glimpse of the tower across from the terminal and of a few private craft anchored to the runway. That was where he had always directed his own plane after landing, off among the elite, not like the rest of men. Another bead on the rosary of his personal sorrowful mysteries. <BR>When the plane reached the terminal and drew to a stop, there was a long delay while the unchecked bags were removed and arrayed so that passengers could grab them as they headed inside. Meanwhile they stood with bowed heads in the aisle for ten minutes, impatiently looking ahead to see when movement would begin. All the aggravation of commercial .ights would be familiar to him from now on, at least until . . . Hope . ared, then died. <BR>Inside the terminal, past seats .lled with people waiting to . y out, he went with the others through the revolving doors and up the graded walkway to the baggage carousel. Expectant faces awaited the arrivals, and soon, all around him, there were reunions, passengers being greeted, the babble of happiness. Fifteen minutes went by before a light .ashed and the belt began to move. He did not join the jostling group gathered to watch for their baggage. Now that he was here, he was in no hurry, no hurry at all. <BR>When he had his bag, having watched it go round twice until it was the only one unclaimed, he rolled it to the rental counter to get a car. The clerk was a woman no longer young on whom incompetence sat like a lifelong curse. Her name tag read GLORIA. She drew her lower lip between her teeth as she sought his name on her computer, her expression doubtful. <BR>“Williams?” <BR>“Williams.” He half expected her to ask him to spell it. <BR>When she found it, she glowed as if she had won the lottery. Meanwhile Dave, looking beyond her, could see the envelope with his name written on it with a felt-tip pen—but of course there were papers to sign. <BR>He handed her a credit card, and she scanned it; her expression once more gave way to doubt. Gloria frowned and chewed on her lip. Her eyes when she looked at him were wide with confusion. <BR>“It doesn’t go through.” “Try this one.” He slid another across the counter, and she traded for it with some reluctance. The second card was accepted, thank God. He had started to feel a sudden kinship with the clerk. While Gloria had trouble printing out the forms, he leaned against the counter and looked down the curved line of the terminal. <BR>Nothing was familiar to him here. When was the last time he had . own into South Bend on a commercial .ight? It was not a question he cared to dwell on since it called up the golden interval since that was no more. <BR>He signed and initialed the forms which, in another lucky win, Gloria had produced.“Thank you,” he said when, at last, he had the envelope with his key in it. <BR>“No problem.” A relieved smile. There were no other customers to disturb the even tenor of her ways. A large paperback with a multicolored cover lay open next to her computer like a downed bird. He made out the author’s name in electric blue. Casey Winthrop! <BR>“How do you like it?” <BR>Gloria pursed her lips and wagged her head. “It’s a living.” <BR>“I meant the book.” <BR>“If I didn’t read I’d go crazy.” <BR>“I know the feeling.” <BR>But any rapport he had established was gone. Gloria had taken the mention of her book as an accusation. Guilt is everywhere. <BR>He found his car, got in, and sat for a moment smelling its newness. When he turned the ignition key he saw there were less than a thousand miles on the odometer. What was the average lifetime of a car as a rental? Ah well, cars, like everything else, are temporary. <BR>The road he drove along after exiting the airport suggested a city in decay; large, once desirable houses had been converted into insurance agencies, doctors’ of.ces, a palm reader. He passed a storefront with a huge sign announcing that checks were cashed there. It seemed to be a pawnshop as well. <BR>The downtown area was a slight improvement. He crossed the St. Joseph River and after several blocks turned north, headed for campus. <BR>The avenue that led to campus was now lined with newly constructed houses, designed to look older than they were, the university’s effort to reclaim the area by building homes for faculty at attractive prices. <BR>He was caught by the stop sign at Angela Boulevard. Already he could see ahead the great mass of the Main Building and the golden dome on which Our Lady looked ever southward. The sight stirred him, as it always did, as it stirred all alumni, as if they had spent four years staring up at the patroness of Notre Dame. <BR>The guard at the gate gave him a wary welcoming smile when he failed to see a sticker on the window. <BR>“Visitor?” <BR>“I have an appointment with the vice president.” He adopted a reassuring smile. “Class of ’89.” <BR>Did the guard think he meant the vice president? The delay was pro forma; Williams was given a pass. <BR>“Put that in your window.” <BR>The bar lifted, and Williams, saluting, moved forward, onto the campus, past Cedar Grove Cemetery on his left with ahead the nine holes of Burke Golf Course that had not yet been claimed for new buildings. Despite the anguish of the past months, despite the reason for his coming, David Williams had the odd sense that he had come home. </DIV><DIV> </DIV><DIV>Excerpted from Sham Rock by Ralph McInerny.<BR>Copyright © 2010 by Ralph McInerny.<BR>Published in April 2010 by St. Martin's Press.<BR>All rights reserved. This work is protected under copyright laws and reproduction<BR>is strictly prohibited. Permission to reproduce the material in any manner or<BR>medium must be secured from the Publisher.</DIV> <BR><BR><i>Continues...</i> <!-- copyright notice --> <br></pre> <blockquote><hr noshade size='1'><font size='-2'> Excerpted from <b>Sham Rock</b> by <b>McInerny, Ralph</b> Copyright © 2010 by McInerny, Ralph. Excerpted by permission.<br> All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.<br>Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.