TITLE: Honor thy Father and thy Mother
By Terry Atchison
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Honor thy Father and thy Mother
"Jeff! Time to get up for school! Breakfast is on! Come and eat!" Mom's same call everyday.
All the aromas of a country kitchen perfumed the air in the house.
Josh was drinking his coffee, planning his workday. There was so much more for him to do now that Jake, his older son, had joined the Marines. If only Jeff would take an interest in being a farmer...
"JEFF! WAKE UP AND GET YOUR HIND END TO THE TABLE NOW!"
"OK Dad. Ya don't have to yell! I'm not a prisoner or slave!" He clomped down the stairs and plopped down at the table, almost defiantly, as many an eighteen year old do. "Hey, where's my eggs and toast? Mom, I have to leave, can't you go faster?"
Josh put down his coffee and looked his son in the eyes. It was the kind of look that meant danger.
"What? I need to eat, don't I?" Jeff's look was one of innocence.
"Here ya are, sugar. Would you like some pancakes too?" She always smiled.
"Of course I would! But it's too late now. I have to go to school. Thanks for nothing" "Jeff! Excuse yourself to your mother."
"NO! I'm the one leaving for school on a half empty stomach." He leaves the table, hurrying.
"Try to be on time after school. I need you to help me plow the field north of the old pond."
"No way! I have a date with Susan after school" Angry look on his face, he stares at Josh.
"If you don't help me Jeff, you won't have anymore money for any dates, or anything else. "
"Your blackmail doesn't scare me, old man." And he walked out, shaking his head.
'Old man'...he called me 'old man'. Jake was never like that. Hard worker; never scared to get his hands dirty. Never missed at church. The day he told me he was gonna join the Marines was secretly one of the proudest days of my life. But these past few months have been hard without his helping hands. Jeff only thought about money, like most kids nowadays. He certainly didn't have any use for church. Josh and Cindy had given up a long time ago trying to get him to attend with them. Their son said that it was a waste of time... 'only stories anyway'. Jeff saw himself already in Los Angeles, wealthy, and living the 'good life'. Well, he is an A student. Pretty smart boy. Boy... Guess that's the problem. He is just a boy.
"Hey Jeff. We going to eat together at noon?" Susan was smiling one of those thin lipped smiles that made Jeff melt, right there on the school steps.
"Oh yeah. I'll invite you today, beautiful!"
"Really? 'Whad-cha-do', rob a bank or something?"
"Something..." Mom wouldn't miss the twenty he had taken from the tin box. Must be hundreds in that thing. She never noticed...even since he was a kid.
"What did you ask your parents for graduation, Jeff? Mom and Daddy are gettin' me that
convertible I've been askin' for." .
'She was so much more beautiful when she kept her mouth shut! She knows xxxx well
that mom and dad don't have any money or anything else for that matter. What did I do
to deserve them?' Jeff was hurt.
"Well, I asked mine for a new tractor. "
Susan broke out in laughter.
"You are just too much Jeffi.....guess that's why I'm so crazy about you. "
Cindy finished cleaning up the house, showered and changed. She called Josh on the walkie talkie and told him she was leaving for town now to do the shopping, and did he need or want anything special for this evening? 'Just you' was his answer... always the same one...after all these years. It broke her heart to see Josh suffering because of Jeff, but what to do ? You can lead a horse to water. She gathered up her purse and dug out the tin box from it's hiding place. It was always hidden in the same place, even though she knew that Jeff, and his father sometimes, would both take a bill or two. She was amused by them thinking that she didn't know. Her husband always 'honed up', but Jeff, never. And she would never say anything, hoping that eventually he would confess to all that he has 'borrowed' over the years.
Out in the middle of the field, Josh was plowing along with the air-conditioning on high. Really was a warm spring! Country music filled the tractor's cabin and he started to sing. Couldn't sing at the house 'cause Jeff would complain that he couldn't concentrate on his studies. Yeah, right! He watched their car drive off and waved 'bye' to Cindy. What a woman the Lord had sent him! He loved her so much. Couldn't ask for a better wife. He knew she was a 'worry wort' about Jake, but like always, she just smiled. That woman had so much faith and love for the Lord!
"C'mon Jeff, chug it down!" Seven teenagers were standing in the middle of the rest area, urging one of 'theirs' to down six beers in one minute.
"Go! Go! Go! Go!" This was more fun than being in school this afternoon. Anyway, it's almost graduation time.
"YES! I-am-the-best! Who's gonna beat that? Come here you!" Jeff is very 'happy' and pulls Susan into his arms and they lock their mouths together.
The 'party' doesn't seem to mind that cars are passing on the road just a stone throw from them.
"Let's empty the cooler, then go skinny dippin'!"
Susan sobered up very quickly. "No way! I'm the only girl here. If you want to get naked, you just go on by yourselves."
The boys started weaving towards their cars. "Jeff! Hide. That's your parents car." "Who cares? Look, it's only Mom. What's she gonna do, spank me?" Jeff knew that she saw him and stuck out his tongue. His friends all did the same, then they all fell down on the grass, laughing like they would never stop.
Cindy was listening to the Christian rock music. This was one of her favorite songs. What a shame that we didn't have this when I was younger, she was thinking. Then she saw them, on her right. What was wrong with them all? She saw the littered cans and brought down her hand that she had started to wave with. Looking straight ahead, she kept on driving. Whew! I thought that I would never get them out of my sight! That felt like slow-motion. He's gettin' out of control. Cindy prayed that her son would learn respect for life and people and become more mature before he gets hurt. Her eyes were watering, not from hurt, but thinking that she had failed her son somehow. She loved both of them so much. The music came back to her ears and she started to sing like before.
"Hey Jeff, it's raining. Get up. Hey everybody, it's raining." The little group slowly got to their feet. Sunshine and warmth had given way to sprinkles and dark clouds low in the sky. Birds were flying up under the branches of the trees all around them.
"I'm cold, Jeff Put your arms around me to the car." Susan and her 'hero' made it to the vehicle just before the lighting and heavy rain started. The three cars of the 'group' made their way out of the rest area, each one going slower than usual. Beer cans littered the parking and grass.
"Take me to the school parking lot, Jeff What time is it anyway? Do you want some gum? My breath must smell like beer! Are we gon..."
"SHUT UP! Just shut up! My head is hurting. " This was the first time he had talked harshly to her and she was actually afraid. The twenty minutes to the school parking was silent except for the banging-swooshing of the windshield wipers. Jeff pulled up next to Susan's car. Susan bent towards him to give him a kiss.
"Not now. Just get out. See you tomorrow." She switched from one car to the other without getting too wet. She turned to wave goodbye, but he was long gone. A big sigh, then home she went.
"What a dumb girl. Only mom is dumber. That's one thing they both have in common. No ambition. What did my mother think she was accomplishing by marrying that farmer I have to call dad?"
Jeff was talking to himself, almost yelling at times. I will be so happy to get outta here! At least someone in this family will... "
"Woah!" The wind was picking up and almost blew his car off of the road.
"Jake did this, and Jake did that. Now what's he doing? He left them too."
Jeff didn't know that Jake had been sending home most of his money to help out his parents.
"In just a couple of weeks, I will be gone. And it's a good thing too because I can't stand living here, or with them anymore. Sometimes I wish that they were dead!"
Foolish, childish words spoken by an immature young man...spoken without weighing the consequences.
"Let's get this done before 3 pm ladies!" Jake's sergeant was urging them on with his usual kind words. The beach was hot and cleaning the beach of litter was their duty today. He didn't actually feel that he was protecting his country, but it sure beat feeding the pigs on the farm! Guam had been his home since he joined the Marines and he loved it!
The weather, the ocean, the beaches and the jungle. It was so different from Illinois! He thanked God everyday for showing him another part of His 'jewel'.
"Break time!" Most of the group sat under the shade of the big truck. They wore only shorts and boots. Jake was feeling unusually tired today. He had been vomiting last night. As he laid his head on the sand and shut his eyes, he would never have guessed that upon opening them, he would be before his Savior. Brain hemorrhage. It was almost instantaneous. His friends hardly noticed the little jerk his body made when his soul had left for a better place.
"Whew, just made it." Josh had finished plowing the 'middle field', as he called it. Guess it doesn't make any difference that Jeff didn't come to plow the other field. Raining too hard now anyway. He left the tractor outside so that the rain would wash it off Josh knew that thunderstorms were predicted for this afternoon and from the looks of those black clouds coming across the way, they were in for a doozy.
Cindy honked as she drove up the lane to the house. She was smiling as usual when she pulled up next to Josh under the carport. When she got out of the car he took her in his harms and gave her a big kiss.
"Hey, we're getting rained on." The wind was starting to blow the rain horizontally. Laughing like kids, they started unloading the groceries.
"Did you get me some of that cookie dough ice cream that I like?"
"Wasn't any honey. Sorry." Josh's face stopped smiling and he actually looked disappointed. This was a game she played with him. He was looking intently into her eyes and she couldn't help but break out laughing.
"Here, guess this is what you're looking for?" They were such a loving couple. Both thanked the Lord each day for their profound love for each other.
"Wonder where Jeff is? Was hopin' he would be home by now. He surely knows that he won't have to plow the other field now that's it's raining. Hope he gets here soon, 'cause on the radio they said we might get a twister." Josh had stopped with the groceries and was looking towards the sinister black, dark green clouds which now covered the sky over their house. The wind had stopped.
"Well, I hope Jake is having better weather than us right now." Cindy smiled as she took in the last of the sacks. She would never know the pain of losing her son.
"I hate this place! I hate this weather! I hate this town! My parents really make me feel ashamed. Farmers! What did I do to deserve them?" Seemed as though the turmoil inside of Jeff was growing with the force of the storm. He was bending over the steering wheel now. He could hardly see the end of the hood. Hail the size of golf balls were clattering down. Gusts of very strong wind rocked the car. Fear was building up inside him, but he didn't want to admit it. Here was the turn. Just a half mile to go. What was that noise? It sounded like a train rumbling by. It seemed more like night than day. The car actually lifted up a little! Now he was scared!
"MOM! DAD!" He couldn't believe he said that. Suddenly, the wind and rain almost stopped. Just like that. Jeff could now see that he was almost to the lane that leads up to the house. But something wasn't right. Everything looked 'funny'. He was almost up to the house, but the house wasn't there. He could see the barn. It was standing there like always. The sheds too. But where was the house?
They were putting the groceries into the refrigerator and freezer when it hit. No warning really. Just a big gust of wind and a noise like hundreds of trains rumbling by. The house trembled and the walls were wrenched from the foundations. Josh and Cindy could only fall onto the floor. Josh tried to cover Cindy with his body. They were surely yelling to each other that they loved one another, but with the overpowering noise, the words were deafened and lost. However they did manage to look into each others eyes and kiss. They were staring at each other and smiling as everything went black. Their deaths were so quick that they felt no pain.
Jeff parked the car where the carport had been, and got out. He was trembling and crying. Only the foundations remained of the house. A path of broken trees through the woods behind where the house had stood, was cluttered with all that had been inside their home. "Mom! Dad! Are you there? Are you OK? Where are you?" Now he was crying! He found their bodies a quarter of a mile into the woods. They were both wedged up in the same tree. Jeff had never felt such a feeling of hopelessness, emptiness and shame! He fell onto his knees.
"I'm sorry! I love you. Please come back. Mom! Dad! I love you. Please forgive me!"
Terry L. Atchison
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