Friday, May 10, 2013

Abraham's Ride by J H Mae

A more modern echo of the biblical Abraham, while out surveying his land, finds a meeting with destiny; by J H Mae.

It was cold this morning, no more than ten above. Abraham worried about his cattle.

Bede was cleaning up breakfast dishes, and their youngest son and daughter were still rubbing sleep from their eyes, when he left with promises to return before dark. He saddled his horse and rode into that cold morning, across the thousand acres of God's land he called his own.

Abraham had last surveyed the fifty acres at the western edge of his property a couple weeks ago. The plot was wooded with ash, maple and birch, and cut through by a narrow tributary of the Grasse River. At a meander in the tributary was a small outcrop where Abraham would sit - his thinking spot, he called it - and listen to the river trickle over the rocks like music.

It was to that spot he led his horse, Peg, her hooves stepping deftly through a thin coating of snow that hid rock and root. The trees were bare, the forest quiet and a very fine snow floated in the air, never falling. Abraham could only hear his breath, and his heart beat, giving him life.

But up ahead, behind a stand of birch, was something unusual. The smoke of a fire.

Abraham tugged on the reins to halt Peg, and then removed his shotgun from its saddle holster. He didn't want any trouble, but he wasn't going to abide trespassers on his land.

"Show yourself!" Abraham's deep baritone shook the air. It was answered with the cracking of twigs and then stillness.

"I mean no harm to you, sir." The voice was very faint, its owner obscured by the trees. Abraham clucked to his horse and she eased forward. He cocked his gun as the figure of a small tent and a slight-looking man appeared.

"What's your business here?" Abraham said as he raised his gun. He was thick with muscle, tall, bearish and so used to men cowering at the sight of his anger.

This stranger, frail under layers of clothing, regarded him with kind curiosity and no fear or shame at being caught trespassing on another man's land.

"Abraham Higbee," he said with a smile, breath leaving his mouth in a fog. He looked into Abraham's eyes like they were old friends and the kindness made Abraham reconsider the gun.

"I am not acquainted with you sir," he said. Peg neighed beneath him. "How is it you come to know my name?"

The man smiled and Abraham felt a strange calm. "Of course I know your name," the stranger said. "I've known you your whole life."

Abraham swept off the horse to meet him on the ground.

"I don't understand your meaning, sir, and I suggest you explain," he raised the shotgun again. "Now."

The man's face was serene and he began to unbutton his overcoat. Abraham repositioned his gun, but knew somewhere in his mind that he should not feel threatened. The stranger dropped the jacket onto the forest floor and began working the buttons on a thick fleece undershirt.

"What are you doing, sir?"

The man just looked at Abraham, silent, and the undershirt fell to the ground as well. The horse shifted her feet and whinnied again.

The stranger stood in the cold protected only by his long johns, but didn't appear chilled. And he wasn't done. He took his arms out of the long johns and pulled them down to his waist, now bare-chested.

Abraham didn't have time to be confused. A white light - brighter than the sun but gentle enough not to hurt his eyes - appeared behind the stranger and something moved. Something solid and growing upward.

"What are you doing?" The stranger was lifting his arms as if to embrace him, and looked at Abraham with an expression of welcome and love. Abraham unconsciously lowered his gun.

"Do you want to see your children again, Abraham?" he asked. "Elijah and Ruth are waiting for you."

"Elijah and Ruth?" Abraham said. "How do you know about them?"

Elijah died in the Battle of the Somme, Ruth in childbirth. Abraham's grief for them clawed at his heart and the stranger stepped closer. In disbelief, Abraham saw wings unfurl behind the stranger's back, outstretched and snow white.

"It is time, Abraham. I will take you to them." He touched Abraham's arm and a feeling of warmth spread through his body, erasing his pain, filling him with a sudden rush of joy. The light was brighter now and swallowed Abraham and the forest around him.

There were no thoughts. No questioning. No fears. Only the stranger's face and the light.

"Take my hand," the angel said.

3 comments:

  1. brilliantly descriptive and moving.

    Michael McCarthy

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  2. The images of nature work very well in this story as does the slightly old-fashioned language of Abraham. I think setting the story in the past rather than the present helps the cohesiveness of this piece.

    Garreth Keating

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  3. Nicely written. Just right in length. The descriptions are great and I loved the slow reveal of the angel. The ending was very moving.

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