All rights reserved to the author (c) 2015
In the northwest corner of Kansas, corn fields amid a sea of prairie grass undulated toward the foothills of the Rockies, dotted here and there with small towns and crisscrossed with highways and roads. In late-August, the fields were in their final burst of growth before the harvest, still green with just a suggestion of amber.
Emmaus Kansas drowsed in the heat, embraced by two ridges that were among the most prominent bits of land for a hundred miles. Sheltering some 5000 souls, Emmaus had been blessed by water and geography. You couldn’t grow corn reliably beyond the western ridge, meaning she was surrounded by farms. A salt mine occupied one end of Mission Ridge and deep in a box canyon, Jericho Springs still produced clear, clean, artesian water. The surrounding typography made the airfield south-west of town attractive for small aircraft. Many of the younger people in the town were telecommuters whose full-time jobs were in Wichita or even Chicago. Emmaus had a good school system, making it worth the once-a-week drive to assure a boss that you weren’t playing video games on his time.
Jacob Delaney pulled into the driveway and eased the truck into neutral. The engine chugged slightly on shutdown. Time to tune ‘er up! Later!
The driveway was deserted except for Jill’s Tahoe. Jacob had waited for that. The house stood near the front of a long narrow Metis lot, with three live oak in the front. Painted red with white shutters and fronted by a broad white pillared porch, it stood two-and-a-half stories tall with a full basement beneath. Except for the two-story addition to one side that held the master bedroom over a study and the additional rear porch off the kitchen, the house had been built in 1887 when the Delaneys had moved from Jericho Springs with half the town. It had sheltered five generations of Delaneys. Jacob hoped it would shelter more.
Today, he had his doubts. The sun seemed to shine less brightly and the air had a static taste to it like just before a tornado. The occasional wink of sunlight off the wind turbine blades from the edge of Shoenfeld’s soybean field usually didn’t bother him, but today the rhythmic flash annoyed. That anticipatory sense of doom had brought him home in the middle of the work day. God felt farther away than He had yesterday and Jacob felt the need to share the burden, to ask another voice to lift it toward heaven with him.
He let himself in the back door into the mud room that had been a back porch. The washer and dryer and the stairs to the basement greeted him. Two steps up, the kitchen with its black-and-white vinyl floors and mellow pine cabinets stood deserted. He stopped at the door to the dining room with its oak antique side board, china cabinet and table suitable for seating a small army. Jill had pulled the drapes open to let in the sun and now sat in a wash of golden sunlight, the freckles on her arms standing out in the field of her summer tan. She looked up from her laptop.
“Am I interrupting?” he asked. He idly thought that he missed the pale blue Vi had painted the dining room 50 years ago. It had been a deep pumpkin orange for more than a decade now. Why do I care today? I miss you!
“No, just doing my morning Bible study.” She pushed the laptop back. “What’s up?”
“What makes you wonder?” he asked. He loved his daughter-in-law. How did Rob make such an amazing choice?
“You left here a half-hour ago saying you had a field to spray, but now you turn up after Rob leaves. That usually means you want to talk to me, not him. What’s up?”
Normally, her insight would have made Jacob grin, but today his heart wasn’t in it. Jacob pulled his cell phone out of the breast pocket of his cambric shirt.
“I still text Shane … every Sunday night.”
Jill’s green eyes rounded. She looked young for her age. Despite the red in her hair, the only lines in her face were from smiling, even though she’d had reasons to cry.
“That’s persistence. How long since you’ve heard from him?”
“More than a year. You?”
“He replied – if you want to call it that – to my invitation to Keri’s wedding. Something about being overseas and not able to make it. It felt like a lie. That was six months ago. He goes through cycles. This one has been a dry one. Before that, I hadn’t heard from him for nearly a year. I gave up the monthly email updates a few years ago.”
Jacob nodded. His sons had done the same to Vi when they were gone to war, but they’d become so used to instant communication since the Internet. Non-reply was hard to take.
“So, he’s always been terse in his texts, but … the last two years … it’s like he’s been replaced with a machine.” Jill nodded slightly in agreement. “Until last night, that is.”
“Last night? Why’d you change your pattern?” It was Wednesday.
“Because I woke up in the middle of the night knowing he was in trouble. God said ‘pray’ and I did and then I texted him.” He fumbled with his phone before handing it to her.
She saw Jacob’s text.
I’m praying for you! GPJ
Shane’s reply had come in this morning.
I think God heard you! Really!!
“What does that mean?”
“I don’t know,” Jacob admitted. “Anytime Shane acknowledges that God exists, I find it hard to ignore.” Jill looked at the third and final text in the train. Jacob had replied Good!
“He didn’t reply,” she noted, handing the cell back to him.
“One message is more than I’ve had for a year and the timing …. I want to pray with you. Something’s up with him. Maybe something that will move him in the direction he should go.”
“Jacob, we’ve all tried to get him to come home ….”
“This is not the home he needs to come to, Jill. You know that!”
Jacob had liked Jill from the moment he’d met her more than four decades ago. She was a strong woman, even back when she’d been a girl. Jill didn’t always agree with Jacob, but she took instruction well. He saw his comment sting her, but she also knew he was right. The home Shane needed to come to was not a physical one.
“I love you, Jacob,” she told him. “Yes, we should pray for Shane together as we have prayed for him separately for so long.”
Her hand brushed the laptop.
“Don’t email him, Jill,” Jacob told her. “Let God do the reaching.”
A single tear spilled down Jill’s cheek. She nodded and then pushed the laptop away and held out a hand to Jacob. It seemed so small and soft in his big calloused one.
They spent over an hour, hunched over the dining room table, praying softly – sometimes lapsing into silence. Once Jill had opened the laptop to find a Bible verse. Jacob preferred the Bible that lived in his head. They both wept for Shane and rejoiced that God knew exactly where he was. When they finally said “Amen”, the sun was well toward noon. Jacob offered his handkerchief for her to fix her mascara.
“No, I’ll take care of it upstairs,” she assured him. “You know, Rob thinks he’s doing something illegal.”
“Could be. I hooked him up with Fess Stephenson’s boy out in California before I knew he was running guns and whatever to Bolivia. But, he didn’t take that job, so …. I think he’s working with one of those mercenary outfits, but that’s more gut feeling than sure thought.”
“Is that any better than doing something illegal?”
“They don’t put you in jail for it … usually.”
Jill heaved a sigh and moved to gather her laptop. The motion brought the screen to life and she opened a new email. “Wow,” she murmured.
“What? Way things are going today, is it Shane asking to come home?”
“No, that would be better, but … Cai’s in Wichita on business. He emailed ‘Mom, have you heard from Shane lately? I just spent an hour on my motel room floor praying for him and I don’t know why.’”
“Wow,” Jacob echoed. He shivered, and then reached for his cell in his breast pocket, read the text there. “Rob,” he reported. “Same thing. Girl, if they’re praying too …. Something’s coming.”
He saw goose-flesh rise on Jill’s upper arms. She shivered.
“What is it?” he asked.
“If it’s something good, why do I feel so scared for him?”
Fear contracted Jacob’s heart as he nodded. Fear for Shane and fear for … something Jacob couldn’t quantify. Whatever’s coming it will be life-changing.