Authors: Ann H. Gabhart
© 2005 by Ann H. Gabhart
Published by Revell
a division of Baker Publishing Group
P.O. Box 6287, Grand Rapids, MI 49516-6287
Ebook edition created 2012
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Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data is on file at the Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.
Scripture is taken from the King James Version of the Bible.
To my mother, who has always believed.
ome days David Brooke didn’t know whether to count his blessings or to hide from them.
He’d come home early from the newspaper office, since June was settling into the summer of 1964 like an old hen spreading out her wings and plopping down in a puddle of dust for a good rest. The Hollyhill schools were out till September, so there weren’t any PTA open houses or 4-H Club award meetings to cover. The biggest story he’d been able to dig up for this week’s issue was Omer Carlton’s Holstein cow having twins, and he’d already been out to take pictures of Omer’s little girl Cindy bottle-feeding the black-and-white calves. He’d told Wes to blow up the picture and put it on the front page. Baby animals and a freckle-faced kid ought to move a few dozen extra papers off the store counters this week.
Sometimes it might be nice, or at least interesting, to have some real news to fill up the pages of the
, but real news often as not meant something bad happening. So dull and peaceful could be a blessing. For one thing, not having to put in a full Saturday at the newspaper gave him extra time to work on his sermon for Sunday. And he needed to have a good one tomorrow for the Mt. Pleasant Church if he had any hope of them voting him in as interim pastor.
After all, preaching was his first calling. The paper was just a sideline to put meat on the table. He didn’t have to worry about
the vegetables this time of the year, when everybody and his brother was anxious to give away beans, zucchini, and cabbage, much to Jocie’s distress.
“Why can’t they have an overabundance of strawberries or raspberries?” she’d asked last night when faced with yet another bowl of stewed cabbage.
“In everything give thanks,” Aunt Love had told Jocie. “Some children don’t have enough to eat.”
David had held his breath waiting for the explosion, but Jocie had just mumbled, “I could be just as thankful for strawberries.”
Jocie was thirteen, barely out of babyhood to David but almost grown to Jocie. Aunt Love was seventy-eight, one foot in the grave to Jocie and of an age to demand respect to David. Jocie and Aunt Love coexisted under a David-negotiated truce most of the time. It didn’t help matters that Aunt Love had been misplacing more and more of her mind lately, but she never had any problem pulling out appropriate Bible verses to attempt to whip Jocie into line.
It hadn’t changed Jocie’s behavior much, but it had improved her Bible study, since she kept trying to prove Aunt Love was making up some of the verses. So far Jocie hadn’t caught Aunt Love in anything worse than “Cleanliness is next to godliness,” and Aunt Love said she’d never claimed that was in the Bible but that plenty of folks might agree it should be.
But now from the shouts—or, dear God, surely that wasn’t howls—beating their way over the sound of the oscillating fan ruffling the papers on the desk in the corner of his bedroom, it sounded as if the truce had ended and active warfare had broken out. David read one more verse from his Bible just in case it might offer a bit of inspirational help before he pushed back from his desk. “Happy is the man that findeth wisdom.” Even King Solomon couldn’t make Jocie and Aunt Love see eye to eye.
By the time David got to the bottom of the stairs, the war
had escalated. Aunt Love was quoting Scripture in a string. Her cat, Sugar, was screeching. Jocie was shouting over the sound of barking. Great, tremendous barks barreled through the screen door and bounced off the wall behind David.
David’s spirits sank lower. They didn’t have a dog. Jocie had been throwing in a “Please, Lord, send me a dog” when she said grace before supper, but David had been hoping the Lord would just hear the “Thank you for our food” and skip over the dog part.
Not because he minded having a dog around the place. He liked dogs, but he could still see Jocie’s face after their last dog had run out in front of a car. Jocie had stopped eating, stopped talking, stopped smiling for way too long. David knew it wasn’t just Stumpy getting killed that had pierced her heart. The dog had died just over a month after Adrienne had taken Tabitha and disappeared into the night.
How long ago was that now? It always amazed him that he had to think about it. Surely he’d know to the day, hour, and minute how long ago his wife had driven away from Hollyhill and him. He shouldn’t have been surprised. She’d warned him plenty of times. But he had been surprised. Worse than surprised. Shocked. Devastated. Lost. Injured. All that and more. Some things couldn’t be described with words. Those kinds of things clunked you right in the heart and sent you reeling.
And worse, she’d taken Tabitha. Tabitha, who had still been sleeping with a teddy bear by night and begging him to wear lipstick by day. He still didn’t know why Adrienne had taken her. A parting shot perhaps. A way to make sure the wound of her destroying their family had no chance of healing. A man might get over losing a wife but never losing a daughter.
How long? Tabitha had been thirteen, and Jocie was thirteen now. Seven years. Tabitha would be turning twenty on her birthday next month. He wondered if she would have a cake. Tabitha used
to love to blow out the candles and make wishes. She always said why just one wish? Why not as many wishes as candles? He should have gone after her so he could make sure she had cakes.
David shoved the memories aside and stepped out on the porch. “What in the name of Methuselah is going on out here?”
ocie found the dog over in Johnson Woods. The woods had been owned by Jocie’s grandparents before her grandfather died, and Jocie figured that ought to give her walking-on privileges without having to ask anybody’s permission. She just hid her bike behind some yellowwood bushes and disappeared into the trees. She’d walked there so much that she felt as if the woods were hers, something her grandfather had passed down to her, even if he had died before she was born.
It was a great place. Huge maple and oak and hickory trees. Ferns and wildflowers. Tarzan grapevines. Devil’s puffballs. Wild raspberries and blackberries. Birds and squirrels. She kept a journal of the things she found there. But she’d never found a dog until today.
Or she supposed it was more accurate—and her father said it was always good to strive for accuracy in any story—to say the dog found her. He just appeared behind her as she was heading back to the road to get her bike. She’d heard rustling noises among the trees while she’d been walking, but there were always birds in the bushes or rabbits and chipmunks scurrying for cover. And once she’d scared up a deer. The first one she’d ever seen. Her father had said she should have been carrying her camera, that a picture of a real live deer in Holly County would have been front page news. Even without the picture, he’d published an article
about how the wildlife agencies were bringing in deer from out west in an attempt to repopulate the area.
She stopped. The dog stopped. She looked at the dog. The dog sat down and looked at her. He didn’t wag his tail. He pulled his tongue in, closed his mouth, and cocked his head to the side as if he needed to listen closely to what she might have to say.
“You need to go on home, dog.” She didn’t say it real loud, but she did say it. She even shooed him away with her hands. “Now, go on. Get on home.”
The dog stood up and walked right up to her. He was some kind of shepherd beagle mix. Not a particularly good combination. One ear poked up straight and the other drooped over. His nose was too long, and his coat was the gray-purple color of watercolor-paint water with a few darker splotches here and there that could be dirt. She smiled at the way just the tip of his tail clicked back and forth in a cocky little wag. He didn’t care if he was ugly. He was a dog, and a dog needed a person. His brown-black eyes said Jocie was it.
“I told you to go on home,” Jocie said, her voice barely above a whisper.
The dog picked up a paw and held it out toward her. Jocie had been told a thousand times not to pet strange dogs. She had a couple of scars to prove it was good advice, and her Aunt Love was always going on about rabies. But this dog didn’t have any foam around his mouth. He just wanted to shake hands.
The hair on his head was spiky and rough, but his ears were silky soft. The rest of his tail joined in with the tip as it flapped back and forth when she scratched him under the chin. “What’s your name, dog?” Jocie asked.
The dog didn’t have a collar and no sign he’d ever worn a collar. His ribs were poking out on both sides as if it had been a while since his last meal. Maybe he didn’t have a home, and hadn’t she been praying for a dog for about a year now? Aunt Love was
always saying God answered prayers in his own time. Did she dare hope this was God’s time? That he’d plucked her dog prayer out of the great sea of prayers offered up to him every day as the one to answer? That thought made Jocie feel a little guilty, since she knew a lot of those prayers were for sick people getting well or lost people getting saved. Still, she’d never read anything in the Bible that said you couldn’t pray for a dog.
“It was nice meeting you, dog,” Jocie said, determined to make the dog do the deciding about following her home. “But now I’ve got to go home, and you’ve got to go home, okay?”
The dog sat down and swept the grass behind him with his tail. He stared straight at her, pulled his tongue inside his mouth, and bared his teeth in a doggy grin.