‘Big Mike’ Davis motioned Pete Harris aside, and then exploded. "The finish date for this project was a week ago. What’s the story?”
Color rose in Pete’s face. “Yesterday I left three messages on John’s cell. I have yet to hear from him.”
“So what of it?” Mike folded his arms across a belly worthy of his nickname.
“Emilio is steamed. He says John never gave him a signed contract on the tile work and they haven’t had a draw in a month. Until that happens, he and his helpers won’t be back.”
“All I gotta’ say is the company don’t get paid, nobody gets paid.”
“Get me some help then. I’m not a tile setter.”
“No and you ain’t no superintendent, either." Mike stomped off but turned and fired over his shoulder. “Better get ‘er done, friend. Or you might be looking for a job.”
Pete felt like punching somebody, but instead sent up a prayer for patience. He had a family to feed.
Stop and go, go and stop: even for a Friday the traffic was atrocious. Inside his cherry red pickup sweat plastered Pete’s back to the seat and trickled along his ribs. Even the air system gasped. Attended by blasting horns, cars in adjoining lanes whipped past him and sometimes he saw the flash of a face, contorted in rage.
Forty-five minutes later he pulled into his own driveway. Sweet Fran, Pete’s wife and mother to his babies, stood at the gate fanning herself with a dish towel. Her voice drifted easily to Pete.
“Did you bring the ice?”
Pete saluted Fran with his cap and restarted the engine.
Six year old Tommy popped out the front door. “Can I go, Dad?”
“Don’t weev me, don’t weev me.” Little Molly came tearing around the corner of the house.
On the way to the store Pete glanced at Molly in the back, "You feeling all right, honey?"
“I not sick, Daddy. I just fever.” Molly’s face was beet red.
Later at St. David’s Pete and Fran spelled each another in the Emergency Room. While one watched over Molly, the other kept Tommy company in the waiting area.
A choppy grin relieved lines of fatigue that etched Dr. Dubois’ face. “Miss Molly’s got herself a doozie of an ear infection. She’s going to be okay, though. I’ll leave some samples at the front desk along with dosage and instructions. For this young ‘un the best place is her own bed.”
Miles away, an eerie crimson hue stained the sky where sun had set hours earlier.
Fran, Molly and Tommy were asleep in the back seat when Pete pulled up to the curb. At their house, several doors down, flames shot from windows and smoke puffed out every opening. Emergency vehicles and camera crews crowded the front lawn; and onlookers, the street.
“Home already?” Fran’s voice was thick with sleep. “What’s all the racket?”
It was nearly dawn before the men were able to get the fire under control and finish writing their reports. Not much remained of the Harris residence.
Tears streamed down Pete’s cheeks as he held Fran and soothed Molly and Tommy back to sleep at the Anderson’s. When Fran’s sobbing finally ceased and her breath came evenly, Pete exited the house. He stepped to the edge of the wood deck and looked out over shadowy hillocks to the dark woods beyond. He had never felt so empty.
“Oh God, oh God, how am I going to take care of my family?” He slumped into a plastic deck chair, broken and exhausted.
But the devil’s hot breath was about to meet its master: words from scripture spilled over the weary father like a freshet on burning sand. First, something like beauty for ashes trickled in, and after that, “…my soul shall be joyful in my God…" and, “…shall build the old waste places…” Then almost audibly a voice spoke with authority to his heart: “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose.”
Pete slipped quietly into the king-size bed beside Fran, Molly and Tommy. He reached across his wife to touch Molly’s forehead and found it smooth and cool.
The next afternoon Pete answered the door to see John and Mike standing on the Anderson’s front stoop. John made as if to shake hands and then drew Pete into a solid bear hug. Tough guy Mike was weeping.
Scripture references from the King James: Isaiah 61:3 & 58:12; Mal 3:11; and Romans 8:28, in order cited.
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