Friday, August 26, 2011

Excerpt from Patchwork Dreams

Patchwork Dreams
by Laura V. Hilton
Whitaker House, April 2011

Chapter 1

Could he say, ‘I quit?’

Could he say, ‘Stop this ride, I want to get off?’

The white van passed a McDonalds on the right, then pulled off the southbound lane of Highway 60, turned left at the light, and continued down a mostly ice-covered road. The ice-laden trees, while beautiful to behold, nonetheless reflected Jacob Miller’s inner turmoil. He was thankful for the heat coming from the vents. He leaned forward, his black felt hat clutched in his hands, as the vehicle lurched over a bump. Or something. Seymour, Missouri, wasn’t too far from Springfield, referred to by the driver as “the Queen City of the Ozarks.” But the trip dragged by in slow motion. Maybe because he’d been dreading it for so long.

Fearing it.

Having nightmares about it.

Mama’s fourth cousin twice removed lived somewhere in this rural Missouri town. Jake grimaced as the van rumbled past several small businesses and then turned down a narrow dirt road.

“Not too far now. A bit anxious, are you?” The driver glanced at Jake through the rearview mirror, then reached forward and adjusted the heat. “Getting a mite warm in here.”

Jake made a non-committal grunt and looked away. The driver had made a couple of attempts at conversation since picking Jake up at the bus station, but with nausea clogging his throat, he didn’t trust opening his mouth to speak.

How could Daed do this to him? It seemed wrong in so many ways.

Instead of building his farm in Pennsylvania, Jake would be working the rocky red clay in southern Missouri.

Instead of marrying sweet Susie during wedding season, he’d be spending a year helping out an unknown distant cousin.

Well, if Daed thought this would destroy Jake and Susie’s love for each other, he had another think coming.

Bare trees dotted the edges of someone’s property, and in the distance the rolling hills made a rather hazy mountainous background picture. Pretty, though not at all like home.

Would he be able to get past the homesickness—and this streak of bitterness toward Daed—to embrace this as an adventure? A chance to learn about his country, expand his boundaries, and, more importantly, minister to this needy family member.

Too bad his pep-talk wasn’t working. He didn’t like the bad attitude he sported.

All too soon, the van arrived in the gravel driveway of a larger two-story farm house. The trees surrounding the haus would provide plenty of shade during the hot summer months, though now they were decorated with dripping icicles from a recent ice storm. Jacob imagined the wide front porch would be a gut place for shelling peas or shucking corn for the women folk during the harvest. A porch swing hung on one end, possibly a silent testimony to a courtship from days gone by.

A whitewashed barn stood sentry several yards away, and with a casual glance around, Jacob noted cows, horses, chickens, goats and pigs, plus the usual array of dogs and cats.

The driver pulled to a stop in front of the house. Almost immediately, the front door opened, and a woman with honey blond hair pulled back into a bun and tucked under a prayer kapp appeared.

She peered out at the van, then disappeared behind the door, before reappearing with a wrap tossed over her slim shoulders.

Jacob opened the sliding vehicle door, and clambered out as the driver went around to the back to get the baggage.

“Hello, Tony.” The woman stopped in the doorway. She spoke to the driver, but her blue eyes were fixed on Jacob.

“Miz Becky.” The driver bumped his hat, in what Jacob took as a greeting. “Brought your cousin by.”

Becky nodded. “Jah. That I see. Welkum, Jacob.”

She didn’t smile, and her eyes remained somber. Distant. As cold as the wind that howled around the corner of the house. Maybe she wanted him here as much he wanted to be here.

Not so much.

Jake straightened his shoulders. Like it or not, he was here. Might as well turn on the charm and start making the best of a bad situation.


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