During his contemplation about God as Purpose, and the nature of human sacrifice as the sine qua non of Christian salvation, Alexander Birch tells a story about a young boy named Michael Hobbs who's father disappears the day after he was born. As the story unfolds, we hear that Michael's boyhood is spent fending for himself while his desperate mother receives solace in boyfriends and drugs. Michael eventually finds unexpected help and love from a man named Angel Morales and his niece Theresa.
Theresa Morales eventually becomes Michael's wife and introduces him to the community of her Christian church. His life blossoms and for the first time in his life he experiences the elation of hope. He devotes himself to Christianity, and as he becomes more involved in the community and the church, his status and respect for himself and from others grows. His life flourishes until the devastating day that his wife is raped and murdered. His faith is destroyed and along with the shredded fabric of his hope. He resorts to the survival techniques of his childhood, rejecting companionship, trust, and any expectation of accomplishment. He turns to drugs and alcohol and becomes homeless.
One morning he wakes up in a pile on a sidewalk where he passed out the night before. He has used a newspaper to cover himself and out of boredom reads a random article in the paper about a recent prison escape attempt. He also reads an accompanying personal interest story about one of the escapees. As he reads he begins to recognize agonizing details about the man that match stories he was told about his father. It soon becomes horrifyingly apparent that the man is his father. Even more shattering, as Alexander tells us, is the reason the man was sent to prison. Fifteen years ago he raped and murdered a random young woman named Theresa Morales.
"The sun was now warming his clothes and the urine had dried under him. However the nausea had not gone away. The hangover was unlike any he had ever had. It was dreamlike in its pain. He could not bear to read the story again, but could not stop himself; enduring the agony of the words one more time."
Incensed, Michael vows revenge. He makes a plan to go to the prison and confront his father in person. During the confrontation, Michael asks his father if he knows who he is. His father says yes and tells Michael he knows why he has come. But his father disavows him. He says he has no remorse for the killing and whats more says he never wanted a child in the first place. During the confrontation Michael sees an optical illusion in the glass between he and his father. When he positions himself just right he can see his own reflection super imposed over his father's face and the similarity in their faces terrorizes him. In a panic and utterly devastated, he rushes out of the prison. On his long walk home and in a frame of mind, equal in rage and despair, he hears a commotion in an alley he just passed. Going back to investigate, he sees a young boy being attacked by a group of older boys. Still incensed from the meeting with his father, he attacks the group. The oldest, largest boy comes forward to defend them. Without thinking and in a blind rage, he grabs a heavy pipe and with one blow kills the attacker. The rest of the muggers quickly run away leaving Michael alone with the young victim. The two leave together and return to the streets where Michael lives.
The two become friends and live together for many years, with the death of the mugger becoming and unspoken and understood secret between them. Having someone depending on him helps Michael recover some of his dignity, and for the first time is his life he gets an authentic glimpse of the future. And it is a future which completely surprises him.