Aroura’s Storm

©Katy Curry

 

Jesus sat quietly at the simple table in the cottage as a storm raged outside.  He was waiting for a soul he had watched for some time.  The wind began to howl, the branches lashed and the cottage windows with a threatening fury.  The sky turned an angry grey and vicious lighting struck the road that lead to the cottage, at the cottage itself.  One particularly vicious band of lighting struck the house with a deafening crack.  Sparks flew and the smell of singed shingles permeated the air.  The lightning seemed to be warning whoever was in the house to stay there.  That warning seemed to be coming from the wind and rain that targeted the house.  Jesus looked out the window and the fury and raised his hand,

“Away.” He commanded.

With a final whip of ferociousness, the storm moved away from the cottage and began to target a figure struggling down the road. Jesus turned his attention to the pitiful lone figure that stumbled down the road.  It was a young woman.  She was in her early thirties.  Her hair had once been a thick, shining halo of chestnut curls.  Now it was matted, pasted to her face and head with rain and a stinking viscous mud that clung like globs of ugly glue.   The wind whipped at her clothing, her thin frame bent into the storm.   She was pushed by the force of the wind from one side of the road to the other, looking something like a drunk who stumbled from one side of the road to the other.

The road was studded                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  with stinking pits  mud and the relentless whipping wind drove her into each vile, stinking pit.   She would fight th relentless wind and cry out in anguish and disgust each time she slipped and fell into yet another of those stinking pits.  Each time. The sticky mud would pull at her as she would struggle to climb out.  The mud clung to her, in spite of the driving rain, its stench making her gag.   If she did not get help soon, the storm and the mud would claim her.

Jesus walked into the storm.  It parted in front of him as he walked.  When he reached her, he held out his and helped her out of the stinking mud.  She sank to the ground too weak to move.  Jesus removed his cloak and wrapped it around her drenched and trembling body.  As she gained strength, he helped her up and led her to the cottage.  He sat her near the warmth of the fire and brewed a weak broth to give her some strength. He knew she was an “almost”.

The “almosts”  were those who heard the message of salvation and experienced an emotional rush they believed to be salvation.  They followed for a time, then the lure of the world drew them away, their faith and prayers withered as dried out husks.  These were the ones like the seeds from Jesus’s parable that fell on the rocky ground.  They would hear the message with joy, but because they had no root, they would wither, the cares and glitter of the world would pull them away.  Jesus knew this “almost” was different.

In life, Aroura was married. the mother of four children, held down a full-time job as a teacher and volunteered for every good cause that came her way.  She was frustrated, guilty, and filled with self-doubt.  She resented her situation, resented her husband for his patience, and tended to she distracted and short tempered with her children.  This was the result of her guilt and self-loathing.  All the good deeds she tried to do to atone for past and present sins never seemed to make improved her self-image or her feeling of failure.  Instead, her over-commitments to family, job, activities had taken over her life, leaving her distracted and ineffective; filling her with more frustration and guilt.

That day, Aroura’s storm began she  returned from work burdened with tests to be graded and recorded.  Her children followed, continuing the bickering that had started in the SUV and clamoring at once for her attention.  Each needed to tell her about the day at school, show off “A” papers or new artistic masterpieces.  She answered them distractedly which increased their frustration and bickering.

Her husband, Tim walked in a few minutes behind her announcing that tonight was the big company dinner and he hoped she had a pretty dress ready.  As Tim’s words registered; she shook her head and leaned against the counter, overwhelmed.  He began to pick up each of the children, attach the papers they proudly waved in his face to the refrigerator, give each a kiss and send them outside to play, happy that they had been seen and recognized.  He turned to talk to Aroura to speak and the phone began to ring.  With a frustrated sigh, Aroura answered, what else could go wrong?

“Hello Caroline….. What, tonight?  Oh, I couldn’t possibly; I have tests to grade, Tim just came home and said the company dinner is tonight!  I don’t have a dress to wear; where am I going to find a babysitter? ……. You will?  ….  Are you sure?   …  I can’t tell you how much I appreciate…..Yes, yes, your daughter will be here in thirty minutes. I will order pizza …  Thank you, thank you so much.”  As she hung the phone up, Tim tried to get her attention.

“Aroura, you’re trying to take on too much, look, you forgot about the office dinner party tonight, forgot about the Women’s Bible Study, our kids are unhappy, fighting.  I don’t even know where we stand.”

Aroura answered him distractedly; “Uh-huh.”  She resented his attitude even though she knew he was right.  She was frustrated that he seemed to handle the kids so easily, that they seemed to go to him more, but again, she knew it was because he showed the patience and made the time.  He made it look so easy.  She resented him all the more for it.

Tim shook his head and turned toward the coat closet.  He did not see the soccer equipment on the floor, stumbled, lost his balance, and fell head first into the closet door, gashing his head open, losing consciousness.  She screamed and ran to him.  Her oldest. Eleven year old Tim Jr. came in at that moment and in a panic told him to dial 9-1-1.  As she held her husband, sobbing and calling his name a neighbor came in to help.  She felt herself loosing consciousness and began to experience the storm that was of her own making.

As she sank in that disgusting mud a man appeared, not at all bothered by the storm.  When he took her hand and helped her out of that pit she immediately felt safer than she had ever felt.  She felt a peace, even a love that she had dreamed of, longed for, but never thought was real.  She did not know who he was, but she automatically trusted him.  He covered her with his cloak, so odd, who wore a cloak nowadays? But it sheltered her from the storm and seemed to give her strength.  Once inside the cottage. The chair and the fire seemed normal.  She was safe and gratefully sipped the broth he gave her.  Slowly her shivering gave way to warmth and comfort.

Jesus urged her, “Tell me, child.”

Words tumbled out as she confessed her abortion as a teenager, the unplanned pregnancy a year later, her unwanted marriage, and resentment of her husband.  She confessed her feelings of inadequacy as a wife, a mother, a teacher.  She emptied herself of her shortcoming, her guilt, her perceived inadequacies.  Each time, this kind man asked if she repented and each time she responded with a heartfelt “Yes.”

Jesus asked his final question, “Aroura, do you accept me into your heart as your personal savior?   Do you renounce sin and Satan?”

Aroura’s eyes were opened.  She recognized Jesus. “My Lord and my Savior, please forgive me. I am yours.”

The deep circles around Aroura’s eyes disappeared, her hair returned to its glorious halo of chestnut ringlets, the vile. Stinking mud was gone.  Her heart began to warm with a love she had never known and peace wrapped itself around her body and soul.  She was filled with her Lord’s peace and filled with his perfect love.

Jesus smiled and draped a white veil of delicate gossamer lace over her head.  It looked so delicate she was afraid if she touched it. It would be ruined, Her print dress was replaced with an impossibly white gown, studded with pearls and diamonds.  She felt treasured, beautiful, and special.  Such was Jesus’s love for her.   Jesus helped her to stand.

“You are a beautiful bride. Aroura,”  he said, then he handed her a brass oil lamp.  “Keep this lamp trimmed and ready, for one day soon I will come.” Jesus said.  The storm that had been so threatening and viscous subsided, giving rise to a magnificent sunset.

Aroura found herself back in her house.  Tim Jr. held a cool compress to her head.

“Mom, are you alright?”  Tim Jr. asked with fear and concern.

“Thank you, Timmy,” she smiled at him.  “I am much better.”

During the next few weeks, Aroura made some major changes to her life.  All the out-lying groups were dropped. She brought order into her home in cleanliness, organization, and social structuring, and established a new routine for herself that brought God    first.  She revamped her work schedule so she had more time for her students.  She was in church Sunday (to give praise, adoration, thanksgiving) Monday (Ladies Bible Study)  Wednesday (Mid-Week Service).  Her Christian friend and support base grew.  Her husband and children watch, amazed at this new woman who was their mother and wife.  The children came over and each accepted Jesus Christ first.  She was so proud of each of them.  Some months later, Tim literally took the plunge and was an enthusiastic new Christian.  By her obedience, Aroura had brought blessings for her entire family.

Winter came and went, the blessings continued as did Tim and Aroura’s growth.  As spring came, so did “spring cleaning day.”  With a brave sigh, Aroura took on the task and began in her and Tim’s room, The closet was a mess. Unorganized. Over stuffed, it had to be dealt with.  It took quite some time, but she was proud of the result.  She was about done and she spied something in the back that she had not seen before.  It was not easy to get to, but eventually she pulled it out.  She unwrapped it and stood in awe.  The storm had not been a dream;  Jesus  had been with her on that dark day months ago.  He had been the one to bring her to salvation and had been pouring his blessings over her family ever since.  She held the veil Jesus had placed on her head, buried her face in the diaphanous material.  A tear crept down her face.  “I will keep my lamp trimmed, Lord.”

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Lydia’s Stand

southern belle

By Katy Curry©

 

She appeared as delicate as a porcelain doll that warm spring afternoon; dressed in a soft pink day dress with fresh roses at her bodice.  She sat somewhat precariously on the veranda swing and lifted her head to catch the small breeze that blew unexpectedly onto the terrace.  As the breeze faded, she reached for where she remembered her fan to be and leaned forward reaching with her other hand for the lemonade sitting  on the table.  In her off balance state, she took a tumble and was left looking about quizzically from the veranda floor.

She smoothed her skirt, picked up her Battenburg lace fan and looked up at her man-servant as if the floor was where she had planned to be all along.

“Look, Mathias, I have found my fan.  However, I could use some fresh lemonade.”

Mathias shook his white-haired head, a smile lighting his walnut toned skin.  “Now Miss Lydia, we can’t have you sitting on that floor.  Let me help you up..”

Lydia gratefully held up her arms so Mathias could help her to her feet.  He placed her back on the swing so gently one would think she might break.   He smiled at Lydia with the tenderness of a father.  Her gaze returned that affection and trust.

“It’s time for you to come in, have some tea and scones; Martha made some fresh today, and practice your music.” He gently reminded her.

“Jack left to fight for the South almost ten years ago, Mathias; I don’t know if he is even alive.    The others came back years ago.  Do you think he will return?  I know his name was never on the death lists, but if he wound up in Andersonville, well, we may never know.”

“That’s true, Ms. Lydia, but that’s just the point, we don’t know.  Besides, we need to keep yo’ fingers in shape, You would not want to disappoint Parson Kendall, he needs you to play those church tunes.”

Lydia sighed; “You are right, as always, Mathias.  I just miss Jack so much.  We were to be married seven years ago.  I should be enjoying children right now and here I am, a spinster, in love with a ghost.”

“Now you stop that right now, Ms. Lydia.  None of those other yokels out there has turned your head, and they gots nothing to offer you.  You be patient, wait for God’s good time and you will have those children soon enough.” Mathias reminded her.

Martha, Mathias’s wife, walked in carrying a large silver tray with tea, cream, and a plate of scones.  Lydia could smell the fresh scones, and her mouth began to water.  She espied the coddled cream and clapped her hands in excitement.  The three sat around a smallish table to enjoy afternoon tea together.

All eyes turned to Martha for none dared to eat until she gave thanksgiving for the bounty they enjoyed.  It wasn’t that long ago that all of them had gone to bed hungry more times than not.

Martha bowed her head, hummed to herself for a few moments and began:  “Jesus, we give you thanks for how you have taken care of us.  You have looked after us and protected us.  You have blessed Mathias and me with this precious child.  Help us to continue to raise and guide her in Your ways, so she stays in your will.  Thank you for this home and for teaching us the value of your blessings.  Keep us safe, for I fear more trouble is coming.  ”

Everyone responded with “Amen.”

“Martha,” Mathias began, “what was that you said about more trouble?  What have you heard or seen?”

Once the war had ended, the plantation had been devastated.  Fields were in ruins, cattle, horses, goats, cows; even the chickens were all gone.  The taxes were triple what they had been.  Most plantation owners lost everything.  Lydia was frantic.  She had been in her father’s corner office on the first floor and in frustration, had beat her fists on the bookcase.  Something felt different, and as Lydia stared in amazement as a section of the cabinet opened to reveal a small room.  She screamed for Mathias, who came running with loaded gun thinking she was being attacked by local vagabonds looking for food, money, shelter, and were not too particular from whom they stole.   They found the equivalent of a pirate’s treasure of gold and silver coins, pearls, rings and all manner of loose stones.

Mathias had not been surprised about the new found wealth and seemed more relieved.  There was no keeping the secret anymore and he had sat Harry Swan’s daughter down and told her the story of her swashbuckling father and the fortune he had laid aside for his beloved daughter, Lydia Morgan Swan.

He had been known as Pirate Harry and had been commissioned by the English government to raid the shipping lanes.  He had turned over just enough treasure and captured sailors to keep Parliament happy but had held back a portion of each bounty claimed to take care of his soon to be born son.  That son made a surprise entrance as a girl.    Harry’s wife, Delores, had succumbed to fever shortly giving birth to Lydia.  That put an end to Harry’s privateering.  He had sold his ships, taken his daughter and trusted first mate, Mathias, and moved to Virginia as a gentleman plantation owner.  Harry had the right temperament to play the role of a plantation owner.  He was educated, slender, but well muscled, was able to entertain with captivating stories of his exploits, had a sharp business mind and knew how to appeal to the ladies.  In truth, Harry had no interest in running the plantation, called Swan Acres.    Mathias had the knowledge and knew who to coax or purchase to get the best value and workers.  He had successfully run the estate from the beginning.  Harry was devoted to his daughter, Lydia, but grieved deeply for his wife and his seafaring days.  Finally, when he could ignore the call of the sea no longer, He left his daughter in Mathias and Martha’s  charge and traveled to Boston looking for an opportunity on a whaling ship.  He had never been heard from again.

Mathias and Martha had not disappointed Harry’s memory or trust in either the success of Swan Acres or the raising of Lydia.  He diversified the crops based on the not only the topography and soil of the land but on the changing demands of the market.  His decisions significantly affected the profitability as plant numbers could be increased or decreased depending on weather, market demands, futures prices, etc.  Lydia had been raised to appreciate the work and planning it took to run a plantation, had been employed next to field hands to appreciate the work it took.  Martha had undertaken to hire the best tutors in comportment, music, Latin, philosophy, mathematics, writing, literature and more.

Lydia was, indeed, Harry’s daughter.  She relished a day of work, decidedly unladylike riding her favorite gelding, bargaining and bartering over crops, land, just about anything; yet when she put on her gowns and fixed her hair, all one could see was a very delicate young lady who needed protecting.

Although now eighteen, Lydia remembered what life had been like before discovering the treasure.  Carpetbaggers and others had taken all there was to take, the carpets, dishes, even Lydia’s crib had been claimed to pay the new taxes levied since the end of the Civil War.   A  damaged wall had led to the discovery of Harry’s treasure.  Mathias had taken the discovery in stride, almost as expected.  With creative banking to hide the new wealth, taxes, and needed repairs happened.

Together they had decided to improve the living conditions of the workers by providing better housing and more food.  Lydia insisted on setting up a school for the children through the eighth grade.  Mathias had worried it would slow down harvests, but the parents more than made up for what the children would bring in.  Lydia had also insisted on proper medical care.  She was the first plantation in America to make such arrangements for field hands.

As they were enjoying their afternoon tea, there was a sharp rap on the door, then, a few seconds later another one.  The impatient guest raps fully three times before Mathias got to the door.  He opened the door and stared at the two men in their elegant suits and top hats.

“Boy; took you long enough to answer the door.  If you were my house boy, I’d whip you for keeping Ms. Swan’s guests waiting.  Now take Mr. Blankenship and myself to her and none of your chatter about not bothering here.  We have a most important matter to discuss with your mistress! “

His eyes were snapping with anger; Mathias strode formally into the front room where Lydia and Martha were finishing afternoon tea.

“Mistress, May I present Mr. Blankenship and Mr.???”

“Mr.  Arthur Gordon, Mistress.”  interrupted a righteously indignant junior attorney.

As the two men beheld the scene in front of them; a black woman having afternoon tea sitting as if she was an equal to Miss Lydia, they were dumbstruck.  Finally, Gordon Blankenship found his voice.

“We have some essential items to discuss with you; there is no need for the servants to remain.”  Gordon frowned at Martha and swung his gaze around, so there was no mistaking his intent.”

“Ms. Lydia, I will leave Sir Boniface with you while to talk with these …gentlemen,”  Mathias said to Lydia.   She clapped her hands at the news.

“Yes! Yes!  Please bring him; I haven’t seen Sir Boniface all day!” Lydia exclaimed.

“Madam, this discussion does not require the presence of, your barrister!”  The door opened, and Mathias led it a massive black dog who stared and growled at the two men.  Lydia held her fan up to her face to hide her amusement at the men’s reactions.   Sir Boniface settled heavily at her feet, “talking” to her as pit bulls do.   His appearance, noises, and huge teeth kept the very self-impressed men far from their intended prey.

“Miss Morgan,” began Mr. Blankenship, “are you aware that that darkie in there has been transacting the business of your plantation in your name?  He was seen with large sums for cash hiring men, selling harvested crops. Why he was even observed signing a contract in your stead! Mr. Blankenship finished drawing in some badly needed air.

“Now, we can understand your shock at such news, Miss Swann,” Arthur Gordon continued.  We are here to help you take your plantation back from these impudent sla-  excuse me, darkies, and put it solidly back in your hands.  Further, we are in a position to help advise you about crops and potential profits.  We can help you take care of this terrible situation, teach those darkies how to work  and all for a mere forty-five percent of the profit after expenses.”

Lydia was amused as well as insulted by their assertions.  She wanted them gone but could not let them go without a lesson they would not soon forget.

She clapped her hands together in mock horror.  “Mercy me, I had no idea!  Gentlemen whatever shall I do?”

Mr. Gordon warmed to his argument and continued on his tirade without noticing the gleam in Ms. Swan’s eye or the sardonic way her mouth had begun to twist.

“If you will but leave that in our capable hands, Miss Swann, we will turn the main crop back to cotton instead of all these more work intensive smaller crops.  We will shut down that ridiculous school, imagine, a school for darkies!  The children can help work the fields and bring in the crops. ”

Again, Mr. Gordon failed to notice the body language of an angrier and angrier Ms. Swann.

“We will take that overbearing houseboy, Mathias, I believe you called him, and a good whipping will teach him some manners.   Thus, we will free you from his and that woman’s control and leave you free to make decisions with our sage advice.  There are profits to be made here, Ms. Swann, and  we can guide you in the best way to use your farm and employ your field hands!”

“Well, Misters Gordon and Blankenship, I do believe we need to handle this situation once and for all immediately!” Lydia stated, and rather imperiously, picked up her bell and rang it stridently until Mathias presented himself.

“Mathias! ”  Lydia said, “It has come to my attention that you have been handling the money of the plantation and making arrangements to sell crops among other dealings on the farm.  Is this right?”

Mathias nodded his head, “You know I am, Ms. Lyd…” but was stopped short by her upraised hand.

Well, sir, I believe you are going to have to have a lesson in being fruitful and uppityness! These two fine gentlemen have a plan to move us to a one crop farm and putting those lazy children to work!  They will also do all of this for a mere  forty-five percent of the net profits.”

Lydia gave Mathias a conspiratory smile.  “Can you, Sir, explain what you have done and answer for it?”

“Yes,  Ma’am.  We doubled our profits by diversifying our crops and meeting the needs of a variety of markets, switching out the crops helps the soil so it can grow more.  Our workers are turning out half again as much work because they are happier workers and want to give us a fair days’ work.  We can afford to be picky about who we hire. ” Mathias answered,

Lydia turned to Mr. Blankenship.  “Sir, what kind of net profit do you believe we can expect using your methods?”

Taken aback by the direct financial question, Mr. Blankenship swallowed and did some quick calculations in his head.  “I do believe you could easily count on ten thousand dollars before our cut.”

Without missing a beat, Lydia turned to Mathias; “Did you hear that?   I could make five thousand five hundred dollars a year!  What do you have to say to that?”

Mathias kept his eyes on the floor as looking at these fools would have made him burst out in guffaws.  “Ma’am, I don’t know if we could meet that number.”  He stopped for a moment.

Gordon and Blankenship exchanged triumphant looks for about ten seconds.

Mathias continued, still looking at the floor.  This last season, after expenses, the plantation made seventeen thousand four hundred eighty-six dollars. ”

“Mathias, how can you explain this?”  Miss Lydia persisted.

“Well Ma’am, I think we can blame those numbers on smart use of land, happy workers, and good negotiating practices to sell the crops by this ‘uppity darkie.'”

Lydia turned back to Gordon and Blankenship.  Gentlemen, I fail to understand why I should give up over double what you believe you could produce for me?  Why I do think you are fast talking jackanapes!       You have tried to hoodwink me!  Sir Boniface, get these thieves out of my house!”  Lydia ordered.

Sir Boniface beamed at the order and ran toward the two carpetbaggers.  They ran, he kept them rounded up and headed for the door.   In their haste, they tumbled down the four steps outside the front door and again down the six steps to the ground.  They cut a funny picture as they beat the dirt from their suits while running down the road.

Lydia leaned out the window and called to them.

“If you come back, Sir Boniface will beat you to the door and welcome you himself!  We have no time or interest in thieves such as you!” Lydia called to them.

She would not realize for another couple of months what enemies she had made.

CHAPTER 2

Sir Boniface 4

Sir Boniface

 

It was the height of the growing season, the middle of July and Lydia saddled her favorite
horse, an appaloosa gelding she called Pirate to survey the crops.  She rode through them at least once a week to check on potential problems such as blight, weevils, grasshoppers, etc.  She instinctively understood that something that seemed harmless at first glance would render a crop useless in a matter of days.

While she rode and checked her crops she sat proudly atop Pirate.  She knew what she needed to do and how to do it. Lydia hoped to be done by noon as the afternoon heat would make things most uncomfortable.  She was immersed in her tasks and did not notice two men at the edge of the woods across from her.

The two scam artists, Blankenship, and Gordon, sat in the woods across from the plantation watching Lydia.

“We need to bring that girl into line.  Swan Acres is the key to this entire plan.  We have to stop her from taking care of these darkies so well, a school for the kids?  Who ever heard of the like?  Those brats are going to have a better education than all the white kids around here.”  Blankenship said.

“We need to talk to her one more time, let her know what she is going up against; how badly this could end for her and her darkies,” Gordon responded.  There was a grin on his face that promised this would not be a good meeting for Lydia.

“She’s alone in that tobacco field, now is a good time.  Let’s see how well she handles things when she doesn’t have that ugly mutt and that old man to run interference.” Blankenship urged.

outlawsThey both sank their spurs cruelly into their horse’s sides and took off for an unsuspecting  Lydia.  She heard them when they were a far ways off and shaded her eyes from the glare of the sun to see who was coming.  She let out a high pitched whistle that sounded more like a bird call.  The drop in the tone told Sir Boniface to come up to her quietly and not to expose himself.  They had taught him to do this during the Civil War to keep him safe from soldiers.

Lydia double checked the small five shot she had in a holster in the pocket of her riding outfit.    She looked around and wished some field hands were working, but the fields had been tended last week.  Lydia led her horse, Pirate, to the supply building, tied some tobacco leaves in his reins, and found some oil and matches.  She whispered in Pirate’s ear and slapped his haunches, sending the Appaloosa gelding back to the plantation.  Once Pirate came home without her they would know Lydia was in trouble and help would come.  The tobacco leaves she had tied to the reins would tell them where.  She just had to keep the two men at bay until help arrived.  No small task with only a small five shot and no extra ammunition.  She grabbed a canister of oil and started to pour it around the backfield of tobacco.   If a fire started, the backfield would cause the least amount of damage.  She had done all she could to prepare.

She whispered in Pirate’s ear and slapped his haunches, sending the Appaloosa gelding loping back to the plantation house.  Once Pirate came home without her they would know Lydia was in trouble and help would come.  The tobacco leaves she had tied to the reins would tell them where.  She just had to keep the two men at bay until help arrived.  No small task with only a small five shot and no extra ammunition.  She grabbed a canister of oil and started to pour it around the backfield of tobacco.   If a fire started, the backfield would cause the least amount of damage.  She had done all she could to prepare.

With Sir Boniface hidden nearby, his menacing growl barely audible, she stuck a match and lit her tar covered torch. and waited for Blankenship and Gordon to approach.

“Well, well. look what we have here, Gordon!” drawled Blankenship.

“I do believe it’s that uppity slut from Swan Acres.”  said Gordon.  “I bet you’re  going to be more likely to listen to reason out here all by yourself.  May as well put that torch down, we don’t scare that easy, Miss Lydia.”  He leered at her in a way that made her feel cold and dirty from head to toe.  Lydia hoped help would come soon, she could not hold out long against these men.  She was sure they had much worse in mind than ravaging her.

“Gentlemen, a ruined plantation would do you no good at all.  I am prepared to do just that before I sign papers to hand it over to you carpetbaggers.  I have refused your offer, I have not changed my mind. so you should go. ”  Lydia had lifted her chin to show she was serious and lowered the torch toward the tobacco crop.

Gordon laughed, an evil laugh that told her he put no stock in her words. “You just go ahead and burn the place to the ground, little lady.  We will replant, you will still have what we choose to give you.  We have the agreement here and we have some time.  So let’s all go into the shed, we will pleasure you and you can sign the agreement.  Why you might make an extra twenty dollars on the deal.  That is IF we are pleased with the pleasuring.”

Blankenship had worked his way up behind her while his cohort kept Lydia distracted.  He tried to wrestle the lit torch from Lydia’s hand. but had not expected the strong woman he found, rather than the weak, passive southern belle he anticipated.  Lydia had worked every part of the plantation alongside the field hands, sometimes as the only field hand.  She was strong and capable.

The torch went flying, but into the tobacco.  It began to burn with a heavy smoke that would bring others quickly to put out the fire.

Gordon cursed and slapped Lydia viciously across the face.  “Think you are so smart, missy?  When we are done with you, you won’t even be able to work the local whore house!”  He ripped the sleeve of her shirt exposing her arm and her camisole.   He was about to rip again when a great growl came from behind him.  Sir Boniface, seeing his mistress being attacked, leapt and landed on Gordon’s back.  He sunk his teeth into the man’s shoulder and shook his head back and forth violently.  Gordon gave a great howl of pain, immediately letting go of Lydia, trying desperately to reach behind him and get the dog off his back.

Blankenship jumped to help his partner but found himself facing the muzzle of a small, but powerful five shot.  “Now, now, Missy, no need for that now.  We

“Now, now, Missy, no need for that now.  We was just having some fun.  No harm was done.  You just put that peashooter away.  Call your dog off and we’;; leave you in peace.  All’s well that end’s well.”  coaxed Blankenship.  He kept his eyes on the gun, looking for an opportunity to overpower this slip of a girl that seemed to be more capable than many men he had known, swindled, and killed.

Lydia whistled a strange set of notes and called, “Bonnie, come here.”  Gordon was screaming behind her and when she backed up enough she could see that his shoulder was in shreds and probably dislocated.  “Good boy, Bonnie.” she said to the hulking pit bull.

“Now you two get on out of here.  I will keep those horses you so sorely misused as payment for the damages you have caused.  Get off my land or I will set him and the rest of the hounds on you!”  Her voice was cool. clear, and there was no  mistaking her intent.  She meant every word and seemed to know how to handle the two men.

“Your dog nearly killed me!” screamed Gordon. “You need to pay for my medical attention and that dog should be shot!”

“You go to Doc Thornbury in town and he’ll fix you up, tell him to send the bill to Swan Acres.  Don’t have time to shoot the dog, he’s due at the orphanage to play with the children.  They always look forward to playing with old Bonnie, he is so calm, let’s them pull his ears, just about everything you can think of, such a pushover.”

The thunder of hooves could be heard as men who had seen the smoke came to save what they could.  Mathias and half a dozen field hands arrived and were shocked to see Lydia with half her blouse torn, pointing a five shot at two men who were starting to leave on foot.  They took in the sight and the field hands let out a roar of fury and lit out after the two men.  Mathias immediately went to see to Lydia’s needs.

“Call them back, Mathias,” said Lydia tiredly.  “No point making more trouble for ourselves than we already have.”

Mathias called the workers back and sent two to carry both men to town where they were dumped unceremoniously onto the road in front of Doc Thornbury’s office.

CHAPTER 3

The carpetbaggers stumbled into Doc Thornbury’s waiting room calling out loudly that they had an emergency and needed medical help immediately.

“What’s all this ruckus?”  came a gruff voice.

A tall, thin man with salt and pepper hair, a white mustache and goatee ambled out from the back room.  He had impossibly long arms and legs and had often been mistaken for long gone Abraham Lincoln.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Mourn America

Some months back I wrote the first part of “Sorrow” but then lost it.  Today, while looking for something else, I suddenly had access to where that and several other stories are.   Thank you, Jesus! 

You have read “Sorrow” now read this one.  If you are willing to slog through them both, please let me know which one you like better!

Katy Curry©

Her smile was grim as she remembered how she waved in tatters over a continental army striving for freedom from British tyranny.  She took pride in those leaders; Adams, Jefferson, Washington, Franklin.  She remembered the words penned in the Declaration of Independence:

                           “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness;”

She thought of what it had meant to the men who had rebelled against England, what it cost them, their families.  She considered how her country had been founded, in the hearts and minds of pilgrims searching for religious freedom,  from the blood and sacrifice of patriots who fought for freedom.

It had taken an uncommon amount of commitment, bravery, blind faith, and heroism to withstand the deprivations of cold, lack of food, lack of supplies, clothes or even shoes; but they stood, they stood tall and brave.   She flung the tear off her cheek, raised herself straight and proud and encouraged the eagle to scream in pride and glory.  There was more of that document, more that reminded her of the responsibility the founders and all the citizens had assumed.

“WE, THEREFORE, the REPRESENTATIVES of the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, in General Congress assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the name and by the authority of the good people of these colonies solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, FREE AND INDEPENDENT STATES;… And for the support of this declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.”

She saw the oath to God for the honor of what they were to do and saw how God had looked after and blessed those early Americans.  A song came softly on a drift of breeze…softly at first

“God Bless America!  Land that I love!

Stand Beside her, and guide her …..”

The words slipped away.  She tried to reach for them .

“From the mountains…to….the…”

They were gone!

A stealthy foreboding shadow had crept over her; its clouds had blocked the sun.  The angry black clouds boiled up in a fury that rumbled ominously with thunder and struck out angry slivers of lightning.  In those dark and menacing clouds and angry slivers of lightning she saw an evil try to rise, it was trying to strike down what those brave men had stood freedom, for her land, and won.

This darkness, this evil came in the shapes evil usually does; pride, greed, love of self.  There had been small skirmishes here and there with this evil that would destroy the land, they grew and grew until men and women were bought and sold like so much cattle.  It grew as states would raid and kill as a way to force new states to accept a title of slave or free state.  Then came that grave day, the day the tall man was elected.  South Carolina was the first to leave, others soon followed.  The result was the most destructive 5five years of battle, of death, of pain that a land could stand.  Brother fought against brother, father against son.  The tall man had tried to bring peace but died before he saw success.  The truth of his words rang out:

“Four scores and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

,, that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”  (Abraham Lincoln)

This man of honor and faith reminded the land and reminded Old Glory that this country, this land, this United States of America was a “new nation, conceived in liberty.” and dedicated to the equality of ALL men.  She thought of that last sentence, he honored the dead and their devotion on both sides; urged the country to resolve that these men, Confederate and Union, would not have died in vain.  That THIS country, THIS United Stated of America, UNDER GOD, should have an NEW BIRTH of Freedom and that the government OF THE PEOPLE, BY THE PEOPLE, FOR THE PEOPLE should not perish from this earth.

His words reminded her of the Declaration of Independence, was it there?  What had it said?  Oh, yes.  That all men were created equal and that all were endowed by their Creator with inalienable rights, such as the right to life, to liberty, and to the pursuit of happiness.

She had watched while the stars on her field of blue had grown, taken joy and pride as she watched the people grow into the wonderful words they had struck.  For the words of the Declaration, the words of the tall man — those were words a country HAD to grow into.  The full import of those words, the full responsibility of those words would continue to be learned and understood and implemented for years and years, or would they?????

She watched with pride as her land came to stand for right and might.  How her people would come to assist others around the world to fight against evil and injustice.  She stood so much straighter as people streamed to her borders from other lands in search of that freedom offered to any who would come and work hard and become Americans.

The wars came and went, she saw the horror of mustard gas, of the boxcars and ovens, the torture of men, women, even children.  She saw how evil tried over and over to raise its ugly head, to destroy her land.  She again stood proudly as that evil was defeated.  Her men and women came home.  Years went by, but something happened; people started to forget.  Evil had learned, it was stealthier in its attack.  No more broadsides, not for a while.

A chill went through Glory as she felt it sink, into the lives of Americans.  It had been a time of plenty, a time of economic growth, job growth, a time of comfort.  Her people, lulled into a false sense of security., relaxed their watchfulness.  Evil assured them, “No more can hurt you, just be happy, you have won and you did it, you can relax.  You have fought hard and are tired; so rest….sleep, sleep,…”  Well, the people did sleep.  They let their sense of entitlement take over; they forgot their Creator; they forgot what it takes to keep a land safe.They became selfish and greedy.  She tried so hard to wake them up but the evil, the darkness just smiled and continued being patient, advancing, retreating, then advancing again.  It gave up ground on some fronts, gained on others then went back and took back the ground it had lost.  It chortled once in the words of a man from another land “I once said, “We will bury you,” and I got into trouble with it. Of course, we will not bury you with a shovel. Your working class will bury you.” (Nikita Khrushchev).  Still, the people took no note.

Glory waved, worked to inspire, but the people could not be awakened from their malaise.  Little by little, supposed rights” took away the very words of the constitution.  First, God was denied, then a word was coined that took away the humanity of a baby, fetus.  Then came the “right ”  of a woman to her body.  Evil deluded the people.  Evil said, “Sex is good, why should you not enjoy?  Why should only those who are married have so much fun?”  Thus the crushing war on a woman’s sexuality began.  Birth Control, sex ed classes, legal abortion.  No longer is there a right to life, liberty or the pursuit of happiness,” Old Glory moaned.  “Now we extinguish life before it can enjoy life or liberty.  We take away the liberty of young women through the ideas of sexual freedom, they are forced to think they must.  Evil has taken away every protection.”  Evil’s grimace of a smile became wider, the blood of innocents stained its sharp teeth and dripped from the side of its awful ugly terrifying grin.

As the dank slumber deepened evil became more bold.  People looked not to the words of one who came to warn, the words that said: “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country!”  (John F. Kennedy) Evil killed him, He had so little time to make his words a part of the land, their meaning, their great import was lost.

Other attacks came, a weak government, too weak and frightened to rescue hostages, somehow, for a while a hero would arise to beat that evil back and Glory remembered the pride of Reagan, the simple greatness of Bush.  She remembered when evil attacked again, with a boldness she would never have believed.  Over three thousand lives were lost that day, that September 11th.  The people seemed to wake up, but they had been in their drugged state for too long.  They were not used to a true fight, they did not have the stamina, they were weak.  They heard evil’s words and again closed their eyes.  They slapped at the responsibility, and the cry of the trampled people.  The clouds that adorned evils head grew thicker and blacker.  Evil continued to whisper lies to the people, Lies they wanted to hear, begged to hear.

Glory looked around.  The horror overtook her, the stench from the drug of the malaise reached her, she reared back in disgust and lifted her hand to her mouth, “Scream Eagle, Scream!  Scream at what they have done!  Scream to wake them up! Scream to call them back.”

Eagle screamed.  He screamed through the mouths of the stalwart few who had not succumbed to evil’s lies.  He screamed through song and prayer and praise, he screamed until he could scream no more.  “Glory, it is up to them.  I can do no more, I am used up.”

Glory understood.  She herself was tattered and torn.  She and Eagle looked over the broken land, the broken people, and tears of grief rolled down their cheeks.  She looked upward to the heavens, through the ones who were not asleep, she inspired prayer.  Prayer poured forth from the lips of those still awake.  Pray for our leaders, pray for our people, pray for an awakening.”

Glory waved high and proud in my yard this morning.  proclaiming what was once and what could be again, if only the people in her land would awaken.

 

Shaadi’s Change

It was a glorious morning  and Shaadi was on her knees offering the Salaat.

“Allah is Greatest.  Praise my Lord the Great.   Praise my Lord the Most High.  I bear witness that there is no God other than God.  Praise be to God who has never begotten a son, nor does He have a partner in His kingship, nor does He need an ally out of weakness Praise be to God, Lord of the Worlds.”

Her prayer finished, she rose to her feet, walked to the window, and pondered the heaviness in her heart.  Morning Salaat should bring joy to her heart but instead she felt a heaviness and anything but a joyous spirit.  She turned and pulled a Bible out of her nightstand and opened to a favorite part: Psalm 16

“Keep me safe, my God, for in you I take refuge.

I say to the Lord, “You are my Lord;  apart from you I have no good thing…”

“Shaadi!”  Her ten year old sister, Nayyer burst in.

“Nayyer!  “Haven’t I asked you not to burst into my room like that?” scolded Shaadi.

“You’re reading it again, aren’t you!  Read some to me!”  Nayyer begged.

Shaadi closed the bedroom door quickly.  “I will if you promise to keep it a secret.  Papa must never know!

Nayyer nodded her promise.  The idea of a forbidden book was too exciting for words.

“This is my favorite part, it makes my heart soar, Shaadi told her sister; her voice barely above a whisper and finished reading Psalm 16.  When she finished her eyes were shining with joy, the heaviness she had felt after her Salaat was long forgotten.

“Nayyer, you see why I love these words……..” Shaadi’s eyes grew wide with shock and not a little fear when she saw her father standing in the doorway.

In a soft voice that hid the fury raging inside him he commanded.  “Shaadi, give me that book of lies.”  His hand was held out and his eyes were steel.  A sob caught in Shaadi’s throat as she walked toward her father with downcast eyes and placed her greatest treasure in her father’s hand.

“Nayyer, you will leave this room.  Shaadi, you will remain.  I suggest you offer prayers of confession to Allah and hope you can be forgiven for this sin.”

The door shut and Shaadi heard the lock turn.  She was locked in her room!  A prisoner in her own home!  She did pray, as her father suggested, but not to his god, Allah.  She prayed to the God of the Bible.   She prayed for mercy, safety, rescue.

“Why would He listen to me?” she thought.  “I am not even a Christian and a female at that.”  She had forgotten one of the biggest lessons her friend, Moriah had taught her.  Jesus loved her just as much, as anyone else, she would be a bridesmaid to Jesus once she came to a saving knowledge of and belief in Him.

Sometime later her door opened.  Her mother and father were both standing there.  Her mother’s eyes were downcast. Tear tracks streaked her face. She carried a tray of water, dates, grapes, bread and cheese and carefully placed the food on Shaadi’s desk.  Her father, Farookh, addressed her formally.

Shaadi Yasmin Tavannah, you have sinned against Allah and your family.  After much prayer and conference with Imam Yosef it has been determined that you will marry.  Your sin has been forgiven as we believe you have been left to your own devices for too long.  With a husband to care for, you will not have time to be curious about forbidden things.  Your husband has been chosen for you and you will be introduced to him tonight.  You will be wed in two weeks.  Your future husband’s name is Sargon Zamani.    After your wedding it is Sargon’s wish the two of you return to Iran.   You will lack for nothing as he is most successful.  You will live like a princess and should consider yourself very fortunate; Allah has looked upon you with great mercy.”

Shaadi’s mother took a step toward her, arms outstretched but Farookh stopped her.  She ran from the room sobbing.

Farookh continued  “My child, I love you; but your actions cannot be overlooked.  I do this to save you.”

Shaadi fell to her knees, eyes on the ground tears splashing all about.   Farookh closed her door softly.  His heart was heavy but he had done all he could to protect Shaadi.  He walked into his den and in curiosity, he picked up the Bible and turned to the Psalm she had been reading.  He felt his heart soar in his chest.  He turned to the New Testament and began to read the Gospel of Matthew.  He marveled at what he read and his heart told him the words were true.  On the inside of the cover there was a name and phone number.  He dialed the number.  “Hello, Pastor Flynn?  I am Shaadi’s father and I have some questions for you about what is in this Bible.  I found Shaadi reading it earlier today….Yes, yes.  About 9:30 would be excellent.  I will see you then.  …..   okay, yes.  Thank you, Pastor.  Good Bye.”

Shaadi rose and moved to her window praying: “Almighty God, Allah.  I do not wish to sin or give offense, but in my heart and in my mind I am confused.  There can be but one Almighty God.  Allah, you say you love me, your daughter, but say in the next heartbeat I have not the value of a man.  God the Father, You say you love me and sent Your Son, Jesus Christ to die on the cross so that I might spend eternity in heaven.  My heart breaks, I am to be wed to a man I do not know and taken to a country I fear.  What am I to believe?  Give me peace.  Please, show me the way.”  She crumpled to the floor in a flood of tears and eventually fell asleep in that very spot.

Later in the day her cell phone rang.  It was her friend Moriah from the Christian church around the corner.  They had met in school and Shaadi had challenged Moriah’s faith.  Moriah had a gift of sharing God’s Word and had, over time, brought Shaadi to an understanding of the Bible.  Moriah’s pastor had also talked with Shaadi and showed her the truths of Christ’s true identify from her own Q’ran.  Shaadi had devoured the message of the Bible with a hungry heart.  She had kept her move prized possession, her Bible, hidden away for almost six months before her father discovered her reading it.

“Shaadi!  You missed the party!  We thought you were coming, what happened?”

“Moriah!  My life is done, it is over!  My father found me reading my Bible to Nayyer and took it from me!  I have been locked in my room and am to wed a man I have never met a week from Saturday and leave this country for Iran!  I shall surely die!”

“Oh no, Shaadi!  What can I do, how can I help?”

“There is nothing to be done, my friend.  I am confined to my room.  I meet my future husband to be this very night.  I will spend my life in a Berkah with my heart belonging to your Jesus!  My life if over!”  Shaadi broke down, sobbing again.

That night, wearing plain clothes with all but her eyes covered by her niqab veil, Shaadi met her future husband.  Her father loosed her niqab to allow Sargon a view of her face.

“Farookh, you have a very beautiful daughter and I believe she will be a fine wife.” Sargon address Shaadi’s father but ignored her.  She was left to replace her niqab and go to the kitchen.  Sargon was a very conservative Muslim and followed the stricter interpretations of the Q’ran.  Her role at dinner was simple, serve, do not speak, return to the kitchen.  When she served, she stole glances at this man who was to be her husband and had to admit, he was very handsome, but as she listened to his conversation she learned how conservative he was and she knew her life with him would be anything but free and she would be little more than a slave.

He did not acknowledge her for the rest of the meal.  Once dinner was ended and she was able to return to the solitude of her room she took off the extra clothes that had been required as well as the niqab.  She again prayed, but this time her confusion was gone.  “Lord Jesus, I am a sinner and do not deserve your love or forgiveness.  I know I can do no good thing but through you.  I humbly ask if you will forgive my sins, cover them with the blood you shed on the cross.  I ask you to come into my heart and soul and be my savior.  If it is Your will I am wed to this man, Sargon, and live as his wife in Iran, I will follow Your Will.  I beg you to save me from this fated, if you are willing.  I wish to live openly loving You and worshiping you.  Please save me.”

Once her prayer was done she looked up, sensing a presence.  There, once again, her father stood.  This time there were tears in his eyes.  “My child.  May Allah forgive me, but I cannot allow you to be in such misery.  What is it that would draw you away from Allah?  Without fear of punishment, please tell me.”

Shaadi pulled out her Q’ran and turned to the passages Moriah’s pastor had shown her.  Haltingly, in a whisper, she read them with her father and they talked.  She shared the truths she had learned and the way the praises in the Bible made her heart sing with a joy she had never known praying to Allah.  The doorbell rang and Farookh got up quickly.

“Thank you, Shaadi, for sharing with me.  You have given me much to ponder. I must go.  ”  Farookh told his daughter.  He kissed her on the forehead.  “Sleep well, my beautiful Shaadi.  Have no fear of tomorrow.”

His words comforted her and she fell asleep before he had even finished closing the door.

In the morning, as the sun burst through her window she got up and automatically began to offer the Salaat and caught herself.  She dropped to her knees and gave praise to her new God, Jesus Christ.  Just as she was finishing up, Farookh knocked on her door.  “Shaadi, will you please come downstairs with me?”

Speechless, Shaadi followed her father down to the living room not knowing what to expect.  To her utter shock, there sat Moriah’s pastor.  He looked tired and drawn but happy.

“Shaadi, this man, Pastor Flynn, has been discussing and debating with your mother and I throughout the night.  He has talked to us through the Quran.  I became angry several times and threatened…..well, I was wrong.  I hoped you would join your mother and I in praying a new prayer, one to Jesus who our own Quran shows is divine.”

Speechless, Shaadi sank into a chair and then onto her knees.  Pastor Flynn prayed the sinner’s prayer while Shaadi and her parents repeated his words.  A small voice seemed to echo the words of the prayer and when they had finished, Nayyer, crept out.  In a voice barely audible she said, “I have been going to that church on Wednesday and listening in Awana.  I asked Jesus into my heart when you prayed Papa.  Can I be a Christian too?”

Farookh held his arms out to his second daughter and held her tight. “ It seems this family is about to make some changes!  Allah, oh, forgive, God is Good, He is so so Good and I praise Him for His gift to us.”

“Papa,” Shaadi said, “What about the wedding?  What about Sargon?  He will take this as a great insult.”

“I will deal with Sargon, my child.  It is nothing for you to be concerned with.  You will not be married to him, rest assured.”

Shaadi turned back to Pastor Flynn, “ May we please pray and thank our Lord Jesus Christ for He has answered my prayer in ways I never would have guessed.  He has not only given my my life but has returned my family to me!  He is truly the God of Truth!”

Lost Dog

angel lost dogFrom the time she had been little, so little she could not get up the steps without help, she had been with her people.  At first they had taken lots of time with her, always playing and cuddling her, taking her out to teach her about outside.  As she had grown older her people seemed to be angry with her, she often did not know what she had done wrong, but it seemed … she didn’t know, what had she done wrong?  Her tail, once held high sank lower and lower.  She had found a spot in a corner that seemed to work.  No one pushed or shoved her away when she stayed there.  She wished there was something there to make the spot softer, but knowing her people were not upset with her was enough.

She would watch them with her huge lonely brown eyes.  They seemed to get along, laughing, playing, joking around.  Somethings her tail would thump on the floor in hopes that they would notice her.

Often times, now, her tummy would growl with hunger.  The family had such good smells coming from the food area, but her bowl rarely had anything in it.  She would get so thirsty.  One day one of her people caught her drinking from the toilet, she had just been so thirsty.  He had hollered, hit her, she had run with a frightened cry, back to her corner, fearful to come out again.

One day her people loaded her into their car.  She used to love to ride in the car.  But they had stopped taking her places with them.

When she had been little, she was so cute, so easy to handle, but as she had grown into her now 40 pound self no one had wanted to take the time to teacher her what was expected, They never showed her what they wanted her to do so when they would go out she made mistakes, pulling on her leash, chasing cats, birds, jumping on other people.  They just seemed to have lost interest.  She wanted to tell them to just show her.  She loved them, would die for them, but they never listened.  She wanted to try, wanted to make them happy with her again.  She tried to tell them with her whines, her hopeful tail thumps, but she was the outcast of her people pack.

She enjoyed the drive, her longish white fur waved in the wind and she took such pleasure in feeling the rushing wind on her face.  Little Mandy reached over to give her a hug and gasped.  “Daddy, I can feel Dotty’s bones in her chest.  Is she okay?”

“Tom, have you been feeding the dog?”  Dad asked Mandy’s older brother.

“Well, sort of, I think I put something down for her a few days ago.” Tom replied guiltily.

“I take it she has had no water either, then.”  Dad remarked.

“Uh, yeah, I guess.  Dad, I’m sorry, I forgot, she looks just fine.”  Tom tried to cover his mistake.

“It’s a good thing we are doing this then.  You obviously don’t care about the dog.  Remember when you saw her, how you promised you wouldn’t miss a day playing with her or feeding her?  Now you are letting her starve.”  Dad tongue lashed his son.

“Are we taking Dotty to a farm?”  Mandy asked, wondering if she would get to see cows and ducks and chickens.

“There are farms all around and I am sure she will find herself a good home, Mandy, but we are going to give Dotty her freedom so she can pick which is the best home for her.”

Dad stopped the car and parked it and got Dotty’s leash.  “Come on, girl, out of the van.”

Dotty jumped down, anxious to please, tail wagging.  Finally, a family outing; she could play with everyone and things would be better.  Maybe they would give her some food to stop the craving in her tummy.

Dad walked her into the woods about fifty feet and took off her collar and leash.  He told her to sit and stay and walked away.  This was a strange game and she cocked her head at him, curious, a little confused.

“Stay, Dotty, Stay;  now that’s a good girl.  You stay, girl.”  Dad called, He walked back to the van and got in.  Then she heard it start and drive away.  Still she remained true to her Alpha’s last command; “stay.”

Finally she began to suspect but was sure they would come back, they just forgot.  She would stay near by so that when they returned she would be right there, ready to go home.  Hours went by as she sat by that dirt road, watching and listening for the van.  The sun went down and as evening came a rain storm rolled in with it.  The awful, frightening truth began to occur to her.  Her people, her pack had abandoned her.  The reality of it broke her heart.  She laid down right there but the side of the road, in the pouring rain and would have been happy to die.

The might passed miserably.  When the sun arose she raised up and began to trudge along on shaky legs.  She was wet, half-starved, covered in mud.  Her heart was broken and she had no idea what would happen to her.  Another day and night went by, she had found some food thrown away and ate it ravenously.  It took the edge off, but she found herself throwing it up.  She had gone without for so long that eating it so quickly was something her stomach could not tolerate.  It was getting colder out and her fur, although on the longer side, was not a real source of warmth.

There was another rain storm that night, then temperatures dropped, Dotty found herself leaning alongside a building and just dropped to the ground, too weak to even find shelter from the rain.  The cold of the night sent a chill deep into her bones.  She laid there and waited for her inevitable death.  Still she wondered what had she done?  She would have tried harder if she had only known what to do.  Her eyes closed and she sank into oblivion.

The next morning a young boy was walking past the barn and spied a lump of dirt that had not been there before.  He went over to poke at it and his eyes widened in surprise and concern.

“Uncle Clay!  Come here!  There’s a dead dog by the barn!”

“What’re you carrying on about, boy!”  an older man walked out of an older ramshackle house.

“Come on, Uncle Clay, come see!”  the boy pulled his uncle by the hand.

“Well, I’ll be….” Remarked Uncle Clay as he stared at the form of the dog.  We went to clean the dirt off the dog and both of them heard a whimper.  “RJ, I think this dog may not be dead.”

“Can we keep it then, Uncle Clay, please?  You know how I’ve been wanting a dog since  Max got hit by a car.  Please?  You know I’ll tend it ‘n all.”

“Now boy, I ain’t say’n yes and I ain’t say’n no.  First we have to see how bad off it is, then we have to get Aunt Ruth to give her bless’n.”

Uncle Clay lifted Dotty up, she was light as a feather.  Her whimpers grew a little louder, but she did not fight those hands, she was too weak.

“Ruth!  Ruth!  Got us a situation here!  Need your good word on it.”  Clay called to his wife.  Ruth came out onto the porch wiping her hands on a dish towel.  Her spare body dressed in an old pair of jeans and one of her church T-Shirts.  Her once golden hair had strands of white running through it.   Her eyes were crinkled at the outside corners but gentle and kind.  Ruth was a practical woman, with a heart for the less fortunate.  She was forever giving her time at the local soup kitchen, checking to be sure some of the widows in town had food, transportation.  She would bring baskets to some of the poorer families to help them through rough spots.  She saw the skeletal dog in her husband arms.

“Well, good grief, Clay, what is that poor thing you have there?”

“RJ found it by the barn.  Seems alive, but I don’t know how far gone  this poor thing is.  I’m thinking some family dumped their dog out in the woods.  No tell’n when it last ate.  Spent the night in the mud next to the barn.  More dead than alive I’m a think’n.  But RJ want to try in bring it back.  What are your thoughts?”

“Well bring it on up into the house,  I can’t tell anything until I see it better.”

Clay brought Dotty in and laid her on the kitchen rug.  Ruth ran a warm pot of water and dipped her rag in it and began to wash some of the mud off Dotty.  Once the dirt was gone, Ruth got a cry towel and rubbed her down.  She got some milk and dabbed her fingers in it and rubbed the mild on Dotty’s nose.    Dotty licked half-heartedly, several times, then with warmth back in her body, she fell asleep.

She woke up an hour or so latter and RJ was right there.  He brought her some more warm milk, but this time there was an egg in it as well.  Dotty licked the bowl clean and her tail thumped in gratitude.  She looked at this boy and wondered if this was a dream or not.  He seemed so kind, so patient.  She lowered her head onto his knee and looked up at him hoping not to be pushed away.

“Well look there, Ruth, seems the boy has him a new dog.”  Clay said.

“She’s a good looker, that’s for sure.  Gonna take a ton of time keeping that long coat from getting tangled and matted.  But you are right, husband.  She seems pretty set on him.”

RJ, what are you going to name her?”  Uncle Clay asked.

“I don’t know, Uncle Clay.  Aunt Ruth, do you have any ideas?”

“I was think’n.  She kind of looks like an angel, all that white fur.  Why not angel?”

RJ grinned.  “Perfect. “ He pet her head.  “Hey Angel.  Do you want to live with us?”

Maybe there was something to live for.  Angel thumped her tail and reached up to lick RJ’s face.  She had found a home.angel the lost dogangel lost dog

The Holy Highway

This is a piece I submitted in a writing contest.  I would truly appreciate some critical feedback so I can improve my writing.  Promise, I won’t get mad.  In this setting, I did expand some description in the story, but not much.    Thanks.

highway_to_heaven_wallpaper_by_vuenick-d5193zf

 

Isaiah 35:8-10New International Version (NIV)

And a highway will be there;
    it will be called the Way of Holiness;
    it will be for those who walk on that Way.
The unclean will not journey on it;
    wicked fools will not go about on it.
No lion will be there,
    nor any ravenous beast;
    they will not be found there.
But only the redeemed will walk there,
10     and those the Lord has rescued will return.
They will enter Zion with singing;
    everlasting joy will crown their heads.
Gladness and joy will overtake them,
    and sorrow and sighing will flee away.

The air was thick with fear, the trees and fallen logs made for slow going and he needed to move fast.  He needed to get away.  He vaulted over some fallen logs and ran, ran as hard as he could; his breath coming out in ragged gasps.   The crashes behind him suggested whatever it was in pursuit was huge and fast.

“Bad, Bad, LeRoy Brown, Was the baddest man…..”

Matt sat up with a start reaching blindly for the cell phone.  His heart was pounding; he was covered in a cold sweat, felt it dripping down his back.  He sort of remembered the dream, he remembered the terror that had crept up his spine.

Finally his fingers closed over the phone.   Hullo?”

“Matt.  It’s Frank, from church.  Listen man, we need to talk…”

“Hey Frank.  Listen, I just woke up, I’m late.  I gotta go.  I’ll give you a call later.”  Matt cut Frank off with a promise he did not intend to keep.   Church.  No time for it.  A small bit of guilt pricked at the back of his mind, but he had been explaining it away, the guilt was less and stayed around for a shorter period of time.

“Sure, Matt, but don’t forget.”  Frank’s voice belied the frustration he felt at Matt’s avoidance.

“No problem.  Call you later.”  Matt replied without thought and hung up.    He looked at the time, 10:46 AM.  He could sleep for another hour; and let himself fall back onto the sheets that used to be white but were now grey.  He caught the sour smell of sweat, body odor and knew he needed to put fresh ones on the bed.  Maybe tomorrow, if he thought of it.  He was back asleep in moments.

The dream began again; this time, Pastor Frank was running alongside of him.

“Hey, what’re you doing here?  Shouldn’t you be doing ‘church stuff?’” Matt asked.

“Ain’t no more church, Matt,” Frank panted.  “Some monster out of hell devoured it.  It’s gone, I called you,  remember?”

“I remember, I was tired, haven’t been sleeping, keep having this dream … watch that log” and they both leapt over it.

“Beast from hell?  Sounds like what ‘s behind us,” Matt panted as the roar of an ungodly being rang through the woods.  It was hungry, hungry for souls.   “I can’t run much longer, we need a tree, a big one. “

They saw one in the distance and made for it with all the strength they had.   As they sat on the branch the creature burst into the clearing; it presented the most terrifying sight either man had ever seen.  It was a dull greenish-gray,  like  sick Spanish moss.  Tendrils that ended in sharp pincers dangled from it as did long octopi arms with suckers on the inside and eyes on the outside.  It’s mouth was a circle with rows and rows of sharp dagger-like teeth.  It was six feet tall and almost twice as long.  It was the ugliest most fearsome thing they had ever seen.  “R-R-OU-WGH-R!

 The sound was furious,  so loud it hurt their ears and the evil behind it spit right into their souls.

“What is that thing?”  Matt whispered.

“Do you remember what I talked about when we last met?” Frank asked.

“About the highway?  Yeah, you called it something … the, holiness, that when we got to it we would be safe. You were talking about salvation.”

“Yeah, that’s right, the Highway of Holiness,  from Isaiah.”  I explained that as you drew closer to God, Satan would attack to keep you from that Highway of Holiness.  He had promised it to the Israelites and He promises it to us.  You don’t get it.  You’re so close and Satan is after you.  You must be something special because he has set his beast after you.  You’ve been called, in a very big way.

“Your mother had a hard time.  She dreamed she was in hell; saw the people, heard their screams, felt their despair and hopelessness.  Now it’s your turn.  This is your wakeup call.   WAKE UP!!!!”

Matt sat up with a start.  He looked at the time, 10:53.

He sensed the malevolence; there was a smell, brimstone?  “It’s time to see Frank.” He decided and began toward the shower; caught the flash of movement, a tail?  Then the growl, so familiar….from his dream!  Something told him to get down on his knees yet he continued toward the bathroom.

 “DOWN ON YOUR KNEES!”   The force knocked him backward.  He fell to his knees just as the demonic beast jumped toward and over him, tendrils and octopi arms reaching, eyes staring, mouth agape, teeth grinding.  He prayed to God, rededicated himself.

“Dear God, Jesus!  What is this thing!  Okay!  I have messed up, first it was the job, then when I did have a Sunday off I got lazy, wanted to sleep in.  God, you got my attention years ago and had to let me put myself in a bad spot.  Now Satan is after me.  God, I’m your man.  I promise, no more messing around, no more being lazy.  Please, Jesus, you were then and are still my Savior.  My sins can only be forgiven through your blood sacrifice, I know that, there is nothing I can do to earn heaven, so I accept your gift of salvation and will honor it and you.  With all my heart, Christ, I swear!  Amen and…”

The beast had been facing him sizing him up, preparing it’s final assault .  As it leapt toward Matt, Matt finished his prayer with “Amen!”  The hell-bent creature had started with a great roar but ended in a scream of pain as it seemed to try to protect itself from blows or something causing it pain.  It just disappeared and with it the stink of brimstone and sulfur.

“Oh, Wow!  Talk about spiritual warfare!  Thank you angels!”

Matt stumbled back into the bedroom, picked up the cell phone and dialed.

“Frank?  Yeah, man, I’ll be right there.  We need to talk.”

We Are Resolved

 

It was March of 2017 and a new president had been elected and sworn in.  It was amazing how quickly he got Congress to pass his proposed legislation.  He had literally shredded the Constitution and the citizens were in shock.  Although the House and Senate still met, they now had little power.  With the retirement of Justices Ginsberg and Kennedy, the new appointees guaranteed the new president would rarely face open controversy.

The citizens of Mentone, AL, a small town near Lookout Mountain, stood in a solemn, quiet line in Christ’s Word Church, the largest building in the area.  All were required to register and be assigned to a community worker’s group.  The new president believed in community participation and required each citizen to participate.  Of course, the leader of each community group would be keeping very specific records as to the “voluntary” work and the comings and goings of each family under his “care.”   On preliminary review, the reason seemed logical: research indicated when a family was about to or in the process of facing a crisis and this scrutiny would help the government to put the appropriate agency or assistance in place.

There were soldiers present were menacing with their stoic faces and blue helmets.

The Chief Community Leader stepped up to the microphone at the pulpit. “In the interest of community spirit and cooperation, we ask that every individual cooperate: first, whoever has any, turn in illegal or restricted books, tapes, or other reading material.  This includes Bibles, in writing or on tape, movies or stories using the Bible, or other books, movies, or tapes trying to foist the lie of the Bible over the public.

Second, turn in any weapons and ammunition you may have in your home.  Again, this is for your own safety.

Third, allow us to implant an ID in your wrist it is far safer if your social security number is implanted into you.  President Saunders believes this will cut down on the problem of identity theft and preserve more of your rights.

Finally, select the styles of the state provided outfits you like.  You can always purchase more for a nominal fee.  The colors will identify your place in our community such profession, religious belief, ethnicity, etc.  We promise to get you in and out as quickly as possible.

“If you do not cooperate with these directives, troops will enter your home to recover the contraband and you will be sent to a re-education facility,” reminded Mill Sikes, Mentone’s appointed leader.

Sally, whose parents had owned the local café, leaned over to Mayor Mike Calloway, “Mayor,” we can’t do all this, what are we going to do?”

“Pass the word, quietly, be careful who you tell; ‘Meeting in the cave in two hours.’”

Sally nodded and moved away.

Two hours later, Mayor Calloway was facing about 20 men and women.

“Okay everyone, they expect us to register and follow their rules.  I say no.  You signed a resolution about this place.  Now are you ready to make a resolution to God?  One that means we will be true to him no matter what the cost?

“I resolve!”  was heard from one end of the cave to the other.

“Pastor Roberts, does this mean it has started?” called Ben.

Pastor looking up and gave the answer everyone was dreading.  Yes, Ben, that is why so many people are missing.  This is the beginning of the Tribulation.  There was a collective sigh and without any direction, everyone decided to talk to God.  “Lord God, stumbled Mayor Mike, I ask you to protect these brave men and women.  Even though they erred, their repentance is genuine.  Please protect them and keep them save in your loving arms.    The people turned quietly and left to go get what they needed to prepare for a long stay to hide from the oppressors, the government.

Calloway turned to Paul Roberts, the pastor.  “Well, Paul, I think it is time for that closet you talked about.”  Both men turned and walked deeper into the house Thessalonians 1:11-12English Standard Version (ESV)

11 To this end we always pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling and may fulfill every resolve for good and every work of faith by his power, 12 so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.”