“What are you doing?”
I pulled my backpack from the pile on the bench at the end of the tier of bunks, emptying the shelf of my few belonging, and strapping my bedroll into the base.
“What? Are you crazy? We’re only halfway through the camp.”
“So? I’m outta here.”
I picked up my Bible and pushed it down among the socks. Jack bit his lip, watching me. We were close. We’d grown up together, inseparable through school, sports clubs and church youth group. Now? Well, he could stay. I was leaving.
“Where’re you going?”
“Home, I guess. Where else?”
“But how will you get there? We’re a long way from train or bus station, and it’s a bit late.”
I was irritated by his questions, impatient to be off. “Yeah, right. I’ve got feet, haven’t I?” I tried to make it a joke, “These boots are made for walking …”
Jack didn’t smile. “What’s your problem, Brett? Who has upset you? I know some of these guys are laying it on a bit thick, but remember what Pastor Viv used to say – you eat the good stuff and discard the rest. What’s got to you?”
He had followed me out and along the path to the entrance. I sighed and put my pack down on a stone beside the path. Why couldn’t he just leave me to get on with it? Still, I supposed I owed him some sort of explanation.
“Jack, I’ve had it with the blame game. Is the Bible some sort of law book? I don’t mean the ten commandments, I mean these iffy little things about what I wear, how long my hair is, the way I sing, what I eat for breakfast, and when I say my prayers. I don’t find their rules in my Bible. I don’t need that kind of guilt trip. Do you know what Joe said to me this morning? He wanted to know why I laughed when Steve was testifying about how God was helping him overcome his temper. But he didn’t know that Steve nearly killed young Dawson for not cleaning his boots properly. And when I told him he said I was judging unfairly and needed to spend more time in the Word until I repented; that Dickie had just split his lip playing around. No, sir! That was the last straw. Now, please Jack, I’ve got to keep moving.”
Jack didn’t answer. He just looked worried. I hefted my pack and left him to it. The guys were gathering in the big mess tent for the afternoon sing along and prayer before the barbecue, so there was no one else to see me go. Stepping briskly along the side of the road leading to the campsite I felt the tension beginning to ease. I knew there was a fair way to go before I hit the outskirts of town and I could ask about the train station, but that was of little concern. I was fit and well able to take care of myself.
The sun was dipping to the horizon when I heard a quick pad of footsteps behind me and Jack drew alongside. He too was carrying his backpack. He gave me a lopsided smile and fell into step.
“What’re you doing?” I asked.
“Checkin’ out.” He replied. “I left a note for Old Hugo so they won’t panic at roll call, and asked him to phone my Dad to expect us tomorrow or Friday.”
He passed me a bottle of water and a bread roll. “Bet you forgot to make provision for the inner man,” and he laughed at my expression. I started to protest but he closed me down.
“Look, Brett, we’ve been pals for ever. We’ve done everything together. You can’t just go hiving off on your own, leaving me at the mercy of all that lot. I checked in with the Father while I packed and here I am. Like it or lump it.” He laughed.
I grinned somewhat sheepishly. This was my pal Jack, and like he said, we’d come a long way together. “Thanks,” was all I could think to reply. “Thanks.”
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