“Come on, Jasper, let’s go to the beach.” Mark Carter nuzzled the soft chin of his Golden Retriever as he gripped the dog’s harness and navigated toward the door. He would start with something easy.
A grueling year had passed since Iraq. The blast took his vision. He retreated inward with anger and bitterness, but he found his Savior still there. His faith tested and found strong, it was time to get out on his own again.
…where can I go from Your Spirit?
He knew the cottage and beach at Capper’s Cove like the back of his hand. He determined to take his seeing-eye dog and spend the weekend there – alone. His father masked worry by barking orders.
“Yea, I’ll drop you off, but you keep that cell phone with you at all times.”
Walls and furniture guided him until now. That insurance job in the city meant letting Jasper help him around outside. Mark opened the front door and breathed in the salt air. He counted four steps down. The sand squished between his toes.
His mind’s eye measured the distance from his house to the next cottage, just a short walk down the beach. The dog led patiently as Mark slowly walked away from the house. Just as the next cottage came into view in his mind, he reached out to feel for the gate. Jasper nudged him over until he could touch it. Success!
He heard a baby chattering and banging toys against the floor. The cottage must be rented, so he decided to head back before someone saw him.
He nuked a tv dinner and plopped down in the couch to listen to television with Jasper. Drowsiness gave way to sleep.
He awoke with a start. Was that a baby crying? Yes, definitely the sound of a baby crying. More like screaming. Not a fussy “change me and feed me”, but a full on terror cry. He gripped Jasper’s harness and they went out the door.
Mark stood on the front porch and listened toward the cottage next door. His heightened sense of smell detected smoke. Four steps down, sand, turn left and walk. Quickly.
He flailed his arms out trying to find the gate. Jasper nudged him toward it. Smoke stung his nostrils. He could hear flames…
…the blast, the flash, propelling backwards, sharp pain in the head, blackness…Captain Carter, are you all right? Captain.
…even the darkness will not be dark to You…
Jasper barked, bit into Mark’s pants leg and tried to pull him back. He jerked out of the flashback and dropped to his hands and knees. His hands padded his pants pocket. No cell phone.
He crawled up the steps, reached up and grasped the hot door knob and opened the door. He stretched his arms toward the sound of the screaming baby. His hands found a body prostate on the floor. Baby first. His head bumped against a table, no it was a crib. He reached in and brushed against small toes. Scooping the child into his arms, he dropped to his knees again and crawled toward Jasper’s barks. Once outside, he took hold of Jasper’s harness and led him away from the house a safe distance. He put the baby on the ground and positioned Jasper’s forepaws across the baby’s legs.
“Stay, Jasper.” Mark crawled toward the house again. The body may not be alive, but he couldn’t leave it. A piece of glass in the sand sliced open a knee. He followed the heat.
Coughing, bleeding, and flailing his arms back and forth along the floor, he found the body again. He grasped the ankles and dragged the person out toward the sound of Jasper’s barking. Something crashed. The house must be coming down. The body coughed.
“My baby?” A woman’s voice choked out the desperate question.
“Just fine. I think, anyone else in there?”
“No, just me and the baby.”
Mark collapsed on the beach. The woman embraced her baby. Jasper lay across Mark’s chest. Sirens whined toward the cove.
The flames had caught the attention of the folks at a nearby motel on the highway. Mark couldn’t fault his father for having checked in there for the weekend. He wasn’t surprised that his dad showed up on the beach with the fire truck.
“Sorry I didn’t keep that cell phone with me, Dad.”
“Looks like you did fine, Son, all on your own.”
…Your right hand will hold me fast…You are there…
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