Thursday, July 9, 2015
Please help Roger Rheinheimer pick a cover for "Land of Milk and Honey"!
“Wheeee, danke, danke, danke!,” five year old Sarah Scholtz yelled, her bare feet pattering rapidly around the warm oak flooring of her home. She was young enough that her parents still let her go without a kap on her head, and her long blond pigtails flapped against the back of her little blouse. “When do we go, when do we go?” She was tugging on the corner of her mother Naomi’s apron.
Naomi glanced at her husband Nathan, waiting for him to answer, “I think we will go next week, maybe Friday, maybe Saturday. I will find out who is available to drive us.”
Nathan and Naomi had wed when they were sixteen, and Sarah was born ten months later. There’s was the kind of union the Englische wrote about in those live-ever-after romance novels; dedicated, loving, perfect. So the tension in the household this morning was unheard of. It all started with Nathan’s decision to take Sarah to the “big city.”
“Nathan, I think this is a bad idea,” Naomi had said quietly so as not to be overheard by their ever attentive daughter. “Why didn’t you talk to me about this first? You know I worry about the big city, with the shootings and homeless.” She had begun to cry. “I wish you would have talked to me before you said anything to Sarah. Now she is so looking forward to it.”
Nathan had taken his young wife’s slender strong hand in his own calloused and burly hand, torn between wanting to please the love of his life and his God given duty as head of the household. “Naomi,” he had begun, his deep voice uncharacteristically hesitant. “We are chust going to the shopping mall on this side of Philadelphia. I wish you would not worry. God will take care of us. Has He not blessed our union so far?” The strength of his argument had emboldened him, after all, who could argue that God had indeed blessed his young family. “We will be fine. I want Sarah to see what the Englische world looks like. One day, when she is an adult, she will need to make a choice, and she will not be able to make a choice unless she knows what the alternatives are.”
And so the argument ended. Not an argument, actually, a short discussion that ended with Nathan’s final statement.
And indeed they had been blessed. Nathan had been given ten acres from his father, from the family farm, and in that well-known and wonderful tradition, the community had built them a nice three bedroom, one bath home. His father had made it clear that Nathan was welcome to join the family farming enterprise any time he wanted, and to join in with his two older brothers to run the large crop and milk cow operation. But in the meantime, Nathan was drawn to a job in the village, a well-paying job helping the local cobbler repair the many boots and shoes continuously worn out by the hard working Amish community. Naomi didn’t understand why Nathan preferred to spend time away from his family, and while she would have preferred other smells besides leather, glue and shoe polish, she accepted it because it made him happy.
She had heard the discussions he had with his father.
“I’m hoping, Nathan, that one day you will see it in your heart to stay here on the land with your family. I know you for now feel like it is your calling to work with the leather, but…” and the old man’s voice would trail off. Nathan had taken to not responding as a young boy, saying nothing, and had learned that his father would just let it drop, whatever it was. Nathan had an independent streak in him, but had never been any trouble, unless one would call working with the leather as trouble.
It was hard to tell how old he was, like so many homeless. He was probably about six feet tall, if he had stood up straight, and while not skinny certainly not with any spare deposits for the upcoming winter. He preferred to hang by himself, and kept all of his worldly possessions with him in the shopping cart he found abandoned under the old concrete river bridge. He had lived there for several months, but the droppings from the roosting birds were a problem, even for one not used to a regular personal hygiene regimen.
“I have heard that one can stay warm and be given some food,” she said, speaking slowly and pronouncing every syllable of every word as if they would disappear if she didn’t emphasize them. She had been talking about the huge, sprawling shopping mall on the east side of Philadelphia.
“It will take two days to get there, and what if they won’t let us in?” He spoke casually, with the articulation of an educated man. “I’ve heard those same rumors, but I don’t know anyone personally that has had any success there, do you?”
She paused, making sure she fully understood the question before responding, and then in her slow, fuzzy, enunciated way, said, “No, Jason, I do not know of anyone that has had any success there. But I am for sure not to stay here for the winter because we will most surely freeze to death.”
He started to say something about them not being a we, but decided against it. He almost said something about the shelter, but held that back as well. The director had made it pretty clear that Jason was not welcome back, even though he was very clearly an innocent victim of the incident. It occurred to him that he did not know her name. She had often commented on how handsome he was with his long blond flowing beard and hair, and piercing blue eyes. She actually said piercing on the third try, stumbling on her two first attempts. He didn’t mind snuggling with her, it helped ward off the cold after all, but that was all. After what he had gone through, he wanted a simple, uncomplicated life, at least for a while.
“Listen, I am willing to walk with you to the mall, but after that I need to be by myself, ok?” He avoided looking at her.
“Sure, Jason, I do understand, I do. Thank you for walking with me to the mall, I would like that.” Not a hint of sarcasm. He owed her nothing, she knew that.
They began gathering up the few but precious belongings from their campsite, placing them in the shopping cart like they were valuable jewels. The last item was a torn and stained blanket, thrown over the contents to protect them from prying eyes and quick fingers.
Jason began pushing the now-loaded cart up the sloping concrete walk, the right rear wheel making a thump each time the spot with no rubber hit the concrete, probably why the store threw it away. Jason looked down at his grimy hands and laughed to himself. What a contrast to the life he lived before the economic apocalypse, he thought grimly. And where was that God he was raised to believe in.
While he was still in high school, Roger learned woodworking skills from Elmer Schlabach, his Amish mentor. They built houses in the old-fashioned tradition; hand-mixing the concrete for the foundations to building kitchen cabinets in Elmer's well equipped shop. To this day, Roger enjoys using his wood crafting skills, making acoustic guitars and furniture.
Roger earned an undergraduate degree in Behavioral Psychology from a small private college in the Shenandoah Valley, took a Creative Writing class, loved it, and published a short story called "My Brother." He was a regular contributing writer to the college newspaper.
Drop by Roger's Amazon Author Page:http://www.amazon.com/Roger-Rheinheimer/e/B002X7SW6C/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_2?qid=1436458258&sr=8-2