"What's he doin', Mike?"
He waved his hand at me as he peered through the binoculars. "Sh!"
"I wanna see!" I tugged his sleeve. "Mike, let me see!"
"Will you hush?" He pulled away and glared at me. "How'm I supposed to tell you what's goin' on if I can't concentrate on what I'm lookin' at?"
Mike rarely yelled at me. I sat down on the ground and hugged my knees to myself. "Sorry."
He sighed and looked at me again. "Here. It's your turn." He handed me the binoculars. "Maybe you'll see somethin' I don't."
"Thanks." I peered through the lenses. Everything jumped closer to me and joggled as I tried to find the barn. I could see the grain of the wood, weathered from years of exposure. Splinters stuck out just waiting for an unsuspecting boy to run his hands into them. I rolled the knob to zoom out and individual planks blended into the barn's wall. Light shone through the open door and I could see the shadowy movement of the man inside. Every so often, a dog poked its nose out the door to sniff the air.
I propped my elbows on a log. Something rustled behind me as I examined the barn. Startled, I turned. "Mike?" He didn't answer. "Come on, Mike. This isn't funny."
I grumbled as I looked through the lenses again. A flash of red caught my and I leaned over to look at it. Mike! What was he doing? He skirted the pasture, edging closer to the barn. The dog came out and nosed around and Mike dropped to the ground, hiding in the grass. I looked at the dog. It raised it's head. Did it hear Mike? The man's voice sounded from the barn, but the dog ignored it. I focused on Mike and watched him peer over the grass, then duck back down. The dog looked in his direction.
I wanted to yell at Mike to move, but I knew the dog would find him then. Maybe the dog was nice, but I didn't trust it. Old Man Jackson's dog looked as sweet as candy, but was a vicious ankle-biter. Finally, the dog moved back into the barn, still looking in Mike's direction. The man spoke again, and the dog stepped through the door.
Dusk came quickly, and I couldn't see much. Mike's red shirt was barely visible and I used that to track his progress. The light in the barn sharpened the man's shadows as he moved.
Suddenly, the dog started to bark. The man yelled. There was a crash and the light disappeared. I heard Mike shout, "Andy, help me!"
He's gonna kill Mike. He's gonna kill 'im and let the dog eat 'im. I dropped the binoculars and ran toward the barn. "Mike!"
I skidded to a stop. The barn was dark and quiet. He's waiting for me. I imagined the man standing in the dark, ready to strike. What do I do? I fell to my knees. What was I going to tell Mama? How could I live without my only brother? God…
I hardly ever thought about God, but for the first time in my life, I prayed with the fervency Mama had always desired of me. God, please save my brother! I'll do whatever You want me to if You let him live!
"What are you doin', ya goof?" I looked up at Mike. While I prayed, the man had re-lit his lantern. He now stood in the doorway holding it up.
I sniffled a bit. "Nothin'."
"C'mon, you gotta see this." He held out his hand. I looked at it a moment. He had bitten his nails to the quick again. "Come on. It's worth it."
He helped me stand up and out his arm around me to guide me into the barn. "Andy, this is Buck. He's a carpenter. He rents the barn from Old Man Jackson."
Buck set the lamp down. "Sorry about all that ruckus. My dog is almost deaf, and your brother startled her."
I nodded. "It's okay."
Mike nudged me and pointed. "Look at that."
On the bench stood the most beautiful cross I had ever seen. I walked over for a closer look. Carvings moved all over the surface. Men walked, women danced, and children laughed. In the center, a Man cried. Funny. I gazed at Him. He's…happy..
Awed, I placed my hand over my heart. Thank You. For everything.
It was worth it.
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