Previous Challenge Entry (Level 1 – Beginner)
Topic: Illustrate the meaning of "Make Hay While the Sun Shines" (without using the actual phrase or literal example). (03/06/08)
TITLE: Whisper Creek
By Patrick Whalen
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Joseph Meyers knelt and washed the dust from his face. Refreshed, he folded his hands in prayer, “Father, give me this day to reach these men for your kingdom, Amen.” He stood and turned towards camp. Above the white tents thin lines of blue smoke reached toward heaven.
He quietly guided his steps through a row of tents. “Good morning chaplain.” The muffled call came from a ruddy-haired youth bowed over a fire. “Good morning. I hope to see you at service tonight.” The Private returned a polite nod then attended a strange concoction sizzling in his skillet.
Chaplain Meyers entered his tent, leaving the flap open, hoping that an eager soul might feel more comfortable approaching an open door. The wooden chair creaked as he sat. With eager hands he opened his Bible and began scribbling notes on pristine paper.
Outside, the camp sprung to life. Two men passed by uttering foul sentiment at their suffering from marching in fresh footwear. Joseph considered leaving his work to pursue the soldiers to convict them of their profane tongues. Instead he conceded that there was still much writing to do.
The drummers struck up the familiar call for drill. Soldiers scurried for uniforms, leather gear and weapons. Chaplain Meyers chuckled. These men, boys really, had been at the same routine for months yet it still seemed such a show. Glistening musketry, polished leather and waving flags were indeed inspiring. What such pomp accomplished in preparing the men for eternity was folly in Joseph’s mind. The resignation in his pocket was a reminder of many services that had been cancelled in lieu of drill. Should one more opportunity to preach be precluded by the shouts of heathen officers, he would submit it. What good could he do if he was never given the opportunity?
At the conclusion of drill, weary soldiers returned to their tents; as well as to their cards and profanity. A few of the men draped dusty uniforms over tree limbs and splashed into the cool water of Whisper Creek. Others followed their lead and soon the creek was full of boys at play.
The chaplain donned his black frock once more and meandered throughout the camp. He took note of who was writing, reading, playing cards or otherwise. His presence inspired polite smiles and kind words but his heart was heavy with the sin in his midst. He must get back to his sermon.
Upon his return trip Joseph encountered a recruit sitting quietly under the shade of an ancient Oak. The boy’s face was tired. The dusty blue uniform hung on him like a cheap sack. Chaplain Meyers retrieved a tract from his coat and held it out. “Come to service tonight lad and receive some rest.” The tired soldier didn’t stir. Joseph laid the tract on the ground at the boy’s side then returned to the incomplete sermon in his tent.
The page was half-full when the ink well on his desk began to quiver. Joseph stared at it in confusion. A voice rang out from the woods beyond the meadow, “Rebs!” Instantly the sound of galloping cavalry reverberated throughout camp. Crackling bugles merged with uneven drums as panic gripped the camp.
Men, soaked from head to toe, raced to their uniforms and gear. Cartridge boxes scattered along the ground as officers scurried in vain to form the regiment into line of battle. Sharp cracks of pistol shot mixed with the boom of musketry. Shouts of anger blended with cries of agony as sabers and bayonets found their mark.
Chaplain Meyers had no gun, no sword. He stood with his sermon in hand, and watched the carnage unfold before his eyes, helpless to save a single soul. As quickly as the rebel force arrived, they vanished into the woods.
Wrought with grief, Joseph assisted in collecting the dead. Among them was the ruddy-haired boy, the boys with new boots and the tired recruit from under the tree. With muddied tears streaming down his face, the chaplain returned to the water’s edge and fell to his knees. He threw the sermon and the resignation into the blood-red water of Whisper Creek.
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