December 10, 2012 10:06:53 AM
Shannon Bardwell - firstname.lastname@example.org
The cabin was barely finished when the need arose. The preacher man was exhausted and full of sorrows. "Come to the quiet," I offered.
He said he'd stay only the day, but I knew the morning fog would keep him, envelope him, and there would be no leaving until he was rested and able.
"There's a hammock and a fishing pole, and I've left some books, if you like. I'll bring some coffee," I promised.
Back at the house I made the coffee then searched for an extra thermos; there was only the thermos that I used every day to take the last of the morning's coffee. I filled it, grabbed some granola bars and returned to the cabin where I left them, and him.
From the house I called Sam to say I was leaving for work and leaving the preacher man at the cabin. "I gave up my thermos," I said. "First the cabin, and now the thermos."
Sam laughed, "You'll be OK."
"I know. I don't mind sharing, but it feels like sacrifice. Now I have to do without."
The revelation surprised me. It felt good and painful all at the same time, like removing a splinter.
That evening I saw that the preacher man hadn't eaten. He said that he had read a lot and slept some. I could see there had been some grieving -- grieving the losses that he had not grieved because he was always giving out and never taking in. And now he was empty.
"This book on prayer is a really good one," he said, fingering the book's pages.
"Yeah, it is. You see I've marked it a lot."
"Do you know the story of Moses?" I asked. "The time when everything got too much for him? Moses' father-in-law suggested he divide up the people and appoint overseers," I said.
I continued with Elijah, "Remember when Elijah ran away exhausted and slept under the tree. He was fed by the ravens and told to sleep."
"You must rest sometimes, and you must eat. Will you come to the house for dinner?" I asked.
The preacher man sat with Sam, and they talked of fishing and football over a bowl of spaghetti. They laughed and shared life stories.
The preacher man's eyes started to close, and he returned to the cabin by flashlight. I knew he would rest. He stayed the night.
The next morning deer moved in the fog and the crows cawed, but all was still at the cabin.
I left a lunch of jelly, peanut butter and bread and hung it on the cabin door. It would provide sustenance, like Elijah, and the preacher man could rest until the fog cleared. Then he'd be refreshed and ready to refresh others.
When I returned home the cabin was empty, and the preacher man was gone.
Later he texted, "Thank u. I luv u guys."
Shannon Rule Bardwell is a Southern writer living quietly in the Prairie.