Friday, March 2, 2012
Fiction Friday, ONE MORE TIME, Chapter 40B
“Ah, that I could,” Mehida said. “My heart is too old. But I give you a parting gift. In the goat shed, under the straw and the wooden floor. Trap door. Your Abba’s savings. Yours now. I won’t need it. I go to be—with my God, my husband, my children.”
“No, Ima, no. Not yet, don’t go. Please don’t go.” Emma put her cheek next to Mehida’s, and their tears flowed together onto the bed.
“My heart—is old—and tired. Need to rest.”
“Come away.” Joel whispered softly to Emma. “Let her rest awhile, and you may yet talk to her again. If you don’t let her rest, you might not talk to her again until you join her in Heaven.”
Emma nodded. “Rest, then, Ima. I’ll be here when you wake.” She wasn’t sure whether Mehida heard her or not; Mehida’s eyes were closed. However, her chest still rose and fell under the blanket covering her thin body. Reluctantly, Emma let go of her mother’s hand and came away from the bed. They walked outside the house, leaving the door open so they could hear Mehida if she called for them.
The group sat down, silent, on logs they dragged from the nearby woods.
Quietly, Joel said, “Mehida will want to know you found her ‘treasure.’ Perhaps you should find it so you can let her know.”
“I’ll do it,” Ebenezer said, standing.
“Shall I help, Abba?” Abner asked.
Ebenezer smiled at his son. “Come,” he said.
“Me, too, Abba?” asked Tabitha.
Aaron nestled on his mother’s shoulder and closed his eyes as Joel guided the small one’s father and siblings behind the house to the goat shed. The shed was more of a lean-to with three sides and a floor. The wooden base was covered with straw.
“Let’s clear away the straw, son. Be careful of splinters.”
When they had moved the straw outside the shed, Ebenezer stood and scratched his head. “I don’t see a trap door, but this is the only shed. Let’s try pulling on those iron rings.” He pointed at the rings set alone the floor to tie the goats for milking.
If Mehida hadn’t told them it was there, Joel would have suggested they look somewhere else. He lifted on the last ring in the back wall and a panel came up from the floor. The leather hinge was barely visible, and they would have missed it.
“All I see is goat skins, Abba. See?” Abner lifted the hides out one at a time.
Ebenezer felt around the edge of the rock-lined cavity. One side had a piece of shale that seemed loose. “Hah! There’s another flap.” He lifted the thin but heavy rock.
“I hope you don’t find a snake instead of a treasure,” Joel said.
Ebeneezer reached his hand into the dark cavity with caution. “There’s a bag in here.” He pulled a leather bag out of the hole and handed it to Abner. He reached back into the hole and found three more. They took the bags back and dropped them in front of Emma.
“They’re so heavy,” she said. She untied the leather thong that held a bag closed, pulled it open, and peered inside. Her eyes widened in astonishment, and she gasped. There were hundreds of silver shekels in the bag. One of the bags held a small handmade bronze cup, a child’s tunic, and a toy made of goatskin. Emma covered her eyes and cried again.
“These were my cup, my tunic, my toy dog I called Yappy. So these were parts of her treasure. So many years we wasted when we could have been together.”
“It was my fault, Emma,” Ebenezer said. “It was I who kept you apart. And it was I who delayed this coming to see her. Will you forgive me?”
“It was no more your fault than mine. I was stubborn and proud, thinking she should come to me rather than I to her. I couldn’t see my own fault in this; I could only see that it was her fault.”
“You can’t undo the past, and self-accusations won’t change anything,” Joel said gently. “None of you—Emma, Ebenezer, or Mehida—were guiltless, but you’re here with her now when she needs you. Make her last hours as pleasant as you can, and she will ease into the arms of her Lord with peace in her heart.”
“Is she really going to die, physician? Can we not take her home with us?” Emma’s eyes pled with him, but he shook his head.
“I’m afraid so, my friends. She may not die until tonight or tomorrow, but she is too weak to last more than a few more precious hours.”
Emma rocked back and forth, kneeling next to Mehida’s treasure, weeping silently. Aaron came up to his mother and tugged on the sleeve of her tunic. Emma raised her gaze to the baby.
“Gamma,” he said, pointing into the house. “Gamma wake.”