Morning Thanks

Garrison Keillor once said we'd all be better off if we all started the day by giving thanks for just one thing. I'll try.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Broken Chain--a story (vii)

John's parents try to get to the bottom of what happened between their son and their neighbor, Henry DeRegt.

"When the Lord sent the hail--not to the south or north of us," his father said, "not even to DeRegt's fields, was that fair, John?" He reached across the table and grabbed John's arm, held it as if he wasn't supposed to move. "Was that fair of God almighty to wipe us out? Did I say to Him, 'Well, Father in heaven, I'm sorry, but I won't work if you're not fair'?"

John looked away. He hated the man, kept remembering that broken chain.

"When Verburg pays me two dollars for a job that he makes twenty on," his father said, "do I throw down my wrench and go home? Do I quit and zannik about how it's not fair?"

His mother came in from the kitchen, untied her apron, and sat down at the table. She reached out to John too as she spoke. "Things in life are not always fair. The Christian knows that we must learn to live with it, humbly and prayerfully. We live as servants here in this world."

"Not as slaves!" John said. "You're no slave, Pa, and neither am I." He looked into his mother's eyes. "I can get another job. McCrory asked me too, you know. Just last week."

"McCrory is not a church man, John," his mother said.

"But he's a good man, Ma." John pulled himself back from the table, sitting straight in the chair. "I'd rather work for Ben McCrory than Henry De Regt any day. Anybody would."

"You shouldn't talk that way about a brother in Christ," his father said.

There was more to Henry DeRegt than his father had yet seen, much more. He was sure that his father had never seen the cheating in the man's eyes. "Henry De Regt is no brother of mine," he said. "A man who will cheat you openly, then lie on top of it?--that man is my brother?"

His mother was growing angry. "I'm sure he didn't--"

"If he didn't mean it, then why didn't he fix the chain?" John said. "Three times I asked him--three times. He could have gone back to the barn and got another."

His father tried to temper things, spoke with care to John's mother. "I won't answer for Henry," he said. "He will have to answer for himself." Then he turned back. "But 
'Blessed are the meek,' John. You know that? 'They shall inherit .. .' He didn't have to continue. "If everything you say is true--if he lied and cheated as you say, then tell me this--can you forgive him?"

It was a ridiculous question. "He should ask my forgiveness, Pa," he answered, pointing at his own chest. He had never spoken that way to his parents before.

His mother looked across the table. "Maybe John should go back tomorrow morning, don't you think, Pa? Maybe Henry will let him fix that chain himself."

"I won't," he told them. "I will not be treated like that. I will not work for Henry De Regt again."

His father's stubborn silence wasn't thoughtful, not something to be feared. He kept looking at Ma, John thought, but not seeing her either, thinking maybe about DeRegt, about how he could talk to him after what had happened. It would be easiest for him to say that John had to go back tomorrow, make John do the hard work. But if that what's his father would say, he told himself it wouldn't matter because he wouldn't go. He wouldn't. 

"We need the money," his mother said.

'l can get other jobs," he told her. 
''I'll go see Ben Mc­Crory tomorrow--at lunch,'' he said.

Silence returned. His father nodded slowly. "The boy is right," he told his mother. "Tomorrow John can pick our corn again in the morning, then look for another job." He spread both his hands out on the table. "But remember what your mother and I have said--we sometimes have to accept the Lord's will humbly and graciously, even when it is hard. Sometimes you can't just walk away."

John stood, waited for a moment as if to excuse himself, then, in silence, went upstairs. 

Through the heating vent he heard his mother sniffing just enough to make him think there were tears amid the resonant voice of his father. 

He lay awake for a long time, something fearful still shaking in his hands, stuttering his breath. It was like nothing before down there at the dinner. He'd never to them like that, never tried. But he wouldn't go back. He'd not given in, just as he hadn't with DeRegt. He'd been stubborn and strong. He'd told them exactly what he'd thought, but something in him shook with a different kind of fear because there was something new and scary now between him and his ma and pa.

Tomorrow: conclusion.

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