“A Moments Wrest”, Chapter 12: Mothers Of The Disappeared
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12 Mothers Of The Disappeared
Rev. Wesley Bryan leaned back in his chair with his arms stretched behind him and let out a big yawn. It was his primary study day, except he normally spent it in his home office. He preferred that arrangement because his home was more quiet, and avoided the unexpected and inevitable drop-in visits at the church. But today he happened to be in his office at Crossway Community Church. It was a rare scheduling anomaly where the ladies auxiliary planned an excursion to a favourite outlet mall out of town. It was a highlight of the year. So, it provided him a rare opportunity to read in a much nicer chair.
Wesley pushed himself to his feet and made his way through the office door and down the hall towards the church kitchen. He flicked on the Keurig coffee maker and pulled a mug from the wall cupboard. Once he dressed his cupful of Colombian with a package of raw sugar and some cream, he headed back to his office. He decided to take the long path through the sanctuary. Wake up brain. You can do it!
As he pulled the lobby doors open to the back of the sanctuary, he noticed the back of a head sitting in the front pew. He walked slowly, but clumsy enough to garner a little noise. He didn’t want to startle the person if they were focused in prayer. As he got closer, he recognized the woman sitting there. Lora Barrat looked up.
“I’m sorry Pastor, I did not mean to intrude.”
“Not at all Lora, you are always welcome. And again, please, considering how long we’ve known one another, I think just ‘Wesley’ is appropriate.”
“Again”, she replied, “That’s not how it’s done, Pastor.”
Wesley gave up. He would never break her southern protocol. “How are you all doing?”
There was no need to ask why she wasn’t on the ladies trip. He had tried to get in touch with Gregg several times over the last week without success. Wesley happened to be attending a conference in another state when the accident happened. He left a message on their machine as quickly as he could.
“Well, I should be doing much better than I am”, Lora managed only a slight smile. Worry clearly consumed her. “I’m afraid I’m not much of a good Christian these days”.
Wesley noted that statement, but parked it for later. He wanted an update on Oren first. He looked down at his mug quickly and offered her something to drink. Lora declined politely.
“How is Oren doing? Has there been any improvements?”, he asked.
“Well”, she paused, “He is still in a coma, but they consider him stable now. His life is no longer at risk fortunately, but they cannot tell us what kind of life he will have. At least they transferred him to the ICU now early in the week.”
“That sounds positive”, Wesley added.
There was silence for a few moments. “I suppose so”, Lora managed. A few more minutes crawled by.
“Is there something you would like me to pray with you about?”, he finally asked. He learned it was better to let the silence crawl than to fill it up with pastor-speak. However, Lora was not the kind of person to ask for help. “How can I best pray for Oren?”
“I’m… not here for Oren, primarily”, Lora clarified.
“Oh?”, Wesley could hardly restrain his surprise.
“No”, she said. “I’m here for my husband”
Oren finished his second helping. He had never tasted fish like this. These fillets were dense and meaty, but tender. There was not a single bone to pick out, even though he carefully chewed each piece just to make sure. The fried breaded crust set it over the top. It almost had a lemony edge to it, although he never saw Jesse squeeze any into the pan as he was cooking.
He looked at Jesse. He was just finishing the last of his breakfast. Oren noticed he had taken his time, savouring every bite. It reminded him of those cooking shows on television. He was always amused by the end of the episode where the cook would drool and awe over their own creations. Even though they knew each ingredient, and slaved over it’s preparation, they always seemed surprised by how wonderful it tasted.
Oren envied that kind of talent. To be able to pour so much of yourself into something, and then receive so much joy at its completion. As if the sum of the whole were infinitely more valuable than the individual ingredients. Hmmm. He remembered feeling that way once, but precisely when had escaped his memory.
His plate was pulled from his hand.
“All done?”, Jesse asked.
“Yes, thank you”, Oren said, embarrassed that he was caught daydreaming. “Sorry, I was just… it was amazing.”
“Glad you liked it”
Jesse took the plates and the pan and placed them on the ground. From his pack, he pulled out a burlap sack and poured its contents over the three metal pans. In each he made three little piles of what looked like coarse sand. One by one he took his hand and rubbed the sand all over the inside of each pan until they were completely clean.
Then he dumped the grease soaked sand from each of the pans into the fire. A plume of bluish smoke billowed up. Oren right away noticed the familiar fragrance of the seasoned fish as it wafted into his face. It almost made him hungry again.
The smoke thickened in the air around the campsite, partially obscuring his view of Jesse, who continued to pack up his things, unbothered by the smoke. The smell intensified as it became even more dense, stinging his eyes.
“Whoa”, Oren squinted tight. “What did you put in that stuff?”
Jesse did not answer.
Oren now felt lightheaded and disorientated. He pushed up onto his feet and shuffled to get away from the smoke but it was everywhere. He managed to open his eyes only to see the blue tinted haze all around him. His eyes stung again and were forced shut. He stepped back and tumbled over the stump he was sitting on.
Oren fell straight on his back and the wind was knocked out of him. He wheezed, trying to get his air back, only to breathe in the seasoned smoke from the fire. It burned his lungs, and made him even more dizzy.
What is happening? He cried out. “Jesse?!”
There was a slight shuffle from somewhere, although by now the world seemed to spin all around him. Tear soaked, Oren managed to force his eyes open. The last thing he saw before things went dark was the faint outline of a man standing over him.
…to be continued
Chair Photo Credit: Phil Roeder via Compfight cc Street Photo Credit: Matt Newfield via Compfight cc Original Cover Photo Credit unknown