Hello All! Hope you are having a lovely weekend, preparing to worship the Lord with fellow believers tomorrow! Today I am sharing a short story (as requested/promised)! Since there is a side plot involving the Mennonite, I want to go ahead and state that this story is NOT intended to look down on the Mennonite people. It is meant to show the tension between those who believe in pacifism and those who do not. I will go ahead and state that I do not believe in pacifism and I do have scripture to back that up (if you have questions about it, feel free to contact us!), but I respect each persons' choice to believe how they want on this matter ;)
This is a longer story, so I will be releasing it in parts! (Also note, this is a part of a WIP, so it is subject to change.) I wrote this story last year as a part of a writing challenge several of my writing buddies were doing! It was so fun!
So, without further ado, let's hope into the story.
Charlotte tugged at my sleeve and said, her voice trembling, “Christina, please take this customer. It’s…a soldier, and I’m scared.”
It killed me. My uncle's family were Mennonite, and as such, they didn’t understand the Biblical and moral reasons to maintain a military to defend their right to pacifism. But I’m not Mennonite, and I’m not gonna turn my back on a soldier.
I hurried out, my denim skirt swishing as I rounded the counter. “Hello! Welcome to Schnyders! What can I get you, sir?”
At first, He didn’t realize I was talking to him, and I laughed. “Sorry, I forgot you don’t ‘sir’ Specialists.”
A smile split his face, and he said, “I’d like a Ruben, side of sauerkraut and a cup of coffee, black, decaf, please.”
“Coming right up! And,” I held out my hand. “Thank you for your service, sir. My brother was Army. Lost him in Baghdad.”
His eyes clouded, but the look disappeared in a blink. “Thank you for standing by him. And thank you for your support, ma’am. I…I almost lost a brother in Iraq too.”
“He’s all right?”
“Thank God. Let me get your coffee.”
I didn’t even know what had happened to his brother, but I wanted to cry anyway. I wiped my eyes and straightened the bow in my hair, and faced him with a smile. He smiled back and took the coffee, turning his attention to a letter in his hand.
Moments later, I interrupted his reading with his food. “Okay, I have to ask. Do you speak German?”
He looked up at me. “I do. Why?”
“I noticed your accent when you ordered. I grew up speaking it, so I notice it when an ‘outsider’ speaks it around here.”
His eyes laughed. “I was born in Germany. My family moved here when I was eight. Thanks for not getting creeped out by how I talk.”
“Oh, yes, I get that too. Too bad, though. It’s a lovely language.”
I refilled his coffee and turned away.
“Could I ask for your advice?”
“Okay, so I have a younger sister. And I… well, I’m deploying in about a month. I’ve had two, and both times, I’ve had close calls, and I know this is gonna tear her up. How would you suggest I tell her?”
I let out my breath in a rush. More than likely, he was heading to Iraq. It was horrible over there right now. “I…” how would I have wanted Stanley to tell me if we could redo it? No, I wouldn’t change it. “Find a restaurant where you two can talk, with food that she likes. And order dessert.”
He laughed. “So our family isn’t the only one that doesn’t normally do that.”
I smiled. “Then take her somewhere special, and break it to her gently. And tell her…”
I swallowed. “Goodbye isn’t in the Dictionary.”
I expected him to ask what I meant and I wished I hadn’t said it, because I didn’t want to explain. But he didn’t. He got this look in his eyes… and nodded slowly. “And get her one to prove it?”
I nodded. Lucky guess.
I figured I’d never see him again. But I was surprised when three evenings later, he opened the door and entered. He wasn’t in uniform, but he had an Iraq War T-shirt and jeans. His sister was about nineteen, older than I had expected.
I greeted them and took their orders. She talked softly, but loud enough for me to hear, about how beautiful the place was and how good the food was. “How did you find this place? It's so quaint!”
I smiled and quit eavesdropping. I looked over the evening’s dessert menu and made a guess at what they might want. I got right to work on it. This needed to be extra special for them.
As they were finishing, I walked up. “I hope you don’t mind…I made this for y’all, my treat.”
The girl looked up at me, and her eyes brimmed. He thanked me and accepted the two fried Apple pies with frosting, spelling out “Army Strong” on each one with stars. “Oh, wait! This is my sister, Becca. Becca, this is…I’m sorry, I didn’t get your name.”
“Christina. It’s nice to meet y’all.”
“And this is Randy,” Becca laughed. “He never remembers to introduce himself. I tell him it’s because he’s SF now.”
“Airborne?” I asked eagerly.
“Airborne Ranger Infantry,” Becca said, clearly proud of her brother. I couldn’t help smiling, or the tear that ran down my cheek. “Oh, dear,” she whispered. “He told me about…your brother. Oh!” She jumped to her feet and hugged me. And I hugged her, a stranger. How had I not seen his wings the other day? Or maybe I had but didn’t want to.
How long we stood there, I don’t know. Finally, I dried up and let them enjoy their dessert. Randy laid something on the table and paid their bill. Then they left.
I cleaned up the table, my heart aching for Becca, and the news he was about to give her. I found tucked under his cup a wad of dollar bills, $10 in all, and a note. “Thanks for caring. Lead the Way.”
And I sat at the table and cried.
Interested? Want to see more of the story? What is your favorite part so far? Any ideas about what will happen next? Recognize any of these people? Let me know what you think in the comments below!
Have a blessed day and God Bless America!
IT'S CHRISTMAS EVE, PEOPLE!!!! Tomorrow is Christmas! And as a present for you, come back tomorrow for two special surprises! For now, let's get to the conclusion of Expected End!
Part Seven: Returning the Favor
“…James, darling, please won’t you answer mother?”
James moaned and rolled onto his side, barely hearing the muffled words addressing him. His face drew up and his whole body shook as a holler exploded from his lips.
“Oh, darling, it’s going to be all right! The doctor’s coming. I’m sorry, you’ll feel much better soon, I promise.”
James bit down on his lips to keep from screaming again, but it didn’t fully keep his cries silent. A gentle hand rubbed his face, then wrapped him in a tight hug. James felt constricted and tried to push the person away.
“Here’s the doctor now. Just a bit longer, darling…”
Something lukewarm splashed into his mouth, nearly choking him, but after a few moments, the pain subsided and he’s breathing regulated to it’s normal tempo. He heard a snap, but felt nothing but the doctor wrapping something stiff around his leg. He dropped his head against the pillow and with a dull moan, he slipped into a medicated sleep.
“…Darling, can you hear me? Won’t you talk to me now?”
He slowly opened his eyes. It was his beloved mother, cradling his head in her arms. “Oh, you are alive! The doctor said you would die. You’re so sick and that wagon broke your leg, oh!” She kissed his dirty cheek and hugged him tightly. He could feel her tears as she pressed her face against his. Tears of anguish at what had almost happened and joy and relief at what had happened.
James could hardly believe what was happening himself. He was in his own home, in his own bed. His mother was hovering over him, providing long denied comforts for her beloved son. Among those were a warm, wet cloth passing over his face, cleaning away the dirt and grim, just as she had done when he was just a child. She pulled another blanket over his shivering frame and continued a running commentary on how the doctor had made an improper diagnosis. It wasn’t until she left him to get some nourishing chicken and veggie soup that he noticed the two soldiers sitting nearby.
“Andrew,” he whispered. “Gabriel.” He tried to sit up.
The two came to his side and told him to lie quietly, to save his strength. Gabe’s arm was in a sling and Andy had a blood- stained bandage wrapped about his head. “You had us in a tight spot, Jamie,” Andy remarked. “Took us ten whole minutes to scare off your redcoat captors. Are you all right?”
The young man shrugged. “Been better, been worse. Thank you—”
“No, James,” Gabe cut in, kneeling beside him and gripping arm with his good hand. “Thank you. That night you were caught, twenty-seven prisoners were able to escape because of your work. And your papers were dropped in the snow. You must have dropped them in the scuffle. One of the men were able to get them and bring them back to camp. We got the ammunition you detailed about. Thank you for risking it all. Thank you for not giving in to the tyrants. Thank you for your sacrifice.”
James looked at his two friends as his mother returned. She took his hand and squeezed it tightly. James was overwhelmed with gratitude to his friends and his Savior for his rescue. He turned his face away for a moment. His mother gently rubbed the moisture off his cheeks as the tears trickled down. “I’m too old for this,” he said with a laugh.
He faced his friends once more, only to find that they too were wiping their eyes. The three were like brothers and the fact that they were all safe, out of British hands was a relief. James didn’t know of their sleepless nights spent searching for ways to get on board the Hawk without the Redcoats’ knowledge; of the bribes they had used to gain information about him; or the times they had tried to negotiate his release. He didn’t know how close they had come to getting caught by the Brits trying to free him, or of the tortured thoughts they’d had about his being killed or otherwise dead. That is a story for another time.
The important thing now was that James was safe, on the road to recovery… and no longer condemned to die.
Mrs. Tanner helped James with his supper. By the time he had finished his food, he was exhausted. Mrs. Tanner stayed by his side until he fell asleep. She turned to Andy and Gabe. “How’s the other patient?”
Gabe shrugged. “If the towns people had their way, he’d be dead right this minute. As it is, he’s still not doing that well. Doctor Ames said the bullet went very deep. He still hasn’t woken up yet.”
Mrs. Tanner filled a bowl with warm water and picked up a cloth. “Will you boys sit with James? I’m going to see to the lad. What was his name again?”
“Cpl. Howard Percy, that’s what the other soldiers said anyway,” Gabe replied.
Mrs. Tanner nodded and left the room. James mumbled, stirring, “Percy… help Percy…”
Andy bent over him. “What?”
“He’s asleep again. I guess hearing us talk leaked into his sleep.”
The next morning, Mrs. Tanner took a seat next to James and opened her Bible. “Let’s read some of the Word together, shall we?”
James smiled. He had missed this.
When the reading was over, Mrs. Tanner insisted that if James felt up to it, he should tell her everything. And when Mrs. Tanner said everything, she meant everything. Slowly at first, James told her his story, beginning with his volunteering for the mission on impulse. Then the words tumbled out one after another, telling her everything that he could remember, omitting only the very worst parts.
Mrs. Tanner bent forward, listening to her son’s saga with rapt attention.
“I was coming very close to dying when a fellow named Percy… Percy! Didn’t you say something last night about Percy?”
“Well, yes, but—”
“It was a fellow named Percy that saved my life! He helped me when I was about to die in the hold of the ship! Mother, what were you saying about Percy?”
“Dear, I seriously doubt it’s the same fellow. Remember, you said you were in New York when this happened. We’re all the way down in Virginia.”
“But it could be! Our ship was boarded many times! And I didn’t get a good look at all of our guards. It could be him! Mother, is he here?”
“Calm yourself, darling! Yes, I have a redcoat here in my care, a young one named Howard Percy. He was shot, and the colonel had him brought here until further notice. But—”
“Please, mother, let me see him!”
“Mother, he… he prayed with me. He was the only man who prayed with me when I needed it the most.”
Mrs. Tanner looked at her son, and gently rubbed his shoulder, seeing the tears gather in his eyes and feeling the tears welling in her own. “I’ll see what we can arrange. For now, you need to rest yourself. I’ll do what I can for him and talk with the doctor when he comes.”
“Please, mama, don’t let him die! Please!”
“That’s not up to me, darling, that is up to our Heavenly Father. Why don’t we talk to Him about it?”
Later that evening, Cpl. Percy was carried into the same room as James, so they would only need to light one fire to keep the boys warm. James took one look at his face and knew at once that it was his prayer warrior.
Day after day, the Tanners carried for and prayed over Percy. When at last he awoke and had eaten some of Mrs. Tanner’s delicious soup, he turned to James. “Looks like we’re destined to bump into one another. Thank you for praying.”
James smiled at him. “Thank you for praying with me when I needed it most. You really helped me to rest in the Lord.”
Percy’s smile widened. “We might not be on the same side, but we serve the same God I see.”
James nodded. “Praise the Lord for a Savior who doesn’t care about the color of your coat.”
Did you like the ending? What did you think of the story? Are you excited for Christmas? Don't forget to hop over to Stories by Firefly for more Christmas fun!
Merry Christmas Eve!
Merry Christmas! Wow, day 9 already! Only three days until Christmas! Who's excited?? I'm thrilled to bring you part 6 of Expected End today! Without further ado, let's hope into today's story!
Part 6: Condemned to Die
The next morning, the condemned were marched down the plank onto dry ground for the first time in what seemed like forever. James found he couldn’t walk as a combination of his leg injury and being used to a rocking ship. Two fellow prisoners were chained to him and were forced to help their dizzy companion along.
Snow fell thick and fast around them as they slogged through the drifts and mud. If they had shoes, they were ragged. Those who didn’t grimly resigned themselves to dealing with frostbite in their final day. James shivered, trying to hop on his good foot, but he finally gave up; he was more of a hindrance than a help.
After five hours of forced marching and sheer misery, the twenty men were loaded onto a wagon bound for the town of Lynchburg… two towns over from James’ home. Half of him hoped perhaps he would see someone, anyone, familiar, the other half hoped no one he knew would witness his present appearance or execution. He had been a miserably impulsive soldier and not very helpful at all. But he had been eager and willing… and now he was preparing to die. He had nothing to show for his service or his life for that matter. He didn’t want them to see him like that. He didn’t want to die like that!
Around 6:45 that night, the wagon rolled into Lynchburg. The guards shouted and the men were unloaded from the wagon. They were marched to a jail house which to be honest was a big improvement from their previous confinements. The jailer watched as the men were marched into his building. James glanced at him as he limped past and read his expression clearly. He looked as if he wanted to express sympathy, but he wisely kept his mouth shut. He couldn’t say anything in front of the redcoats.
“Make sure their chains are secure and that your doors are locked. No visitors, not even the clergy are allowed. We are not taking any chances on losing these prisoners”
The jailer nodded and urged the Redcoats to hurry to the hotel before they were locked out. As soon as the brawly lot had taken their leave, the jailer hurried over to a door which led to a side room. Moments later, he emerged carrying large basket. Setting it outside the first cell, the jailer fumbled with his keys and inserted the key into the lock, swinging the door open.
“Here,” he said, briskly, “I was able to get word to my wife before you arrived, and she sent food. I’m so terribly sorry about this turn of events. Don’t lose heart yet. God is still in control. Here, take this roll, and there’s roast chicken too.”
He went from cell to cell, handing out food and then hurried away to fetch fresh water. That in itself was a luxury. Grateful, the prisoners blessed their food and tore into their bounty. James tried his best to eat, but due to his recent illness, his appetite was nearly gone.
“Come on, James, chicken will help you get stronger,” his companions urged him.
“Stronger?” he said with a humorless laugh. “Yep, I’ll get plenty strong with less than 24 hours to live.”
“Well aren’t you mister optimistic tonight.”
“I’m just stating a fact. God’s done with us. We need to accept that and not be disappointed that we are going to meet Him. It almost seems rude to pretend it’s not true.”
The soldiers looked at each other, unsure what to say. The jailer smiled. “With God, my young friend, all things, even the impossible, are made possible. Never give up hope.”
James arched an eyebrow and shook his head. He was tired of sitting up and stretched out on the floor, his breathing wheezy.
“Can’t you believe in the impossible, lad?” the Jailer asked, coming to sit beside him. Gently, he raised James head to help him take a sip of water. “Isn’t Christmas the time for impossible miracles? It started with one, the virgin birth of the Christ Child. If God can do that, can’t He do something as simple as rescuing the captive from the jaws of death? He did it for Peter you know.”
James furrowed his brow, wracking his brain for the account the man spoke of, but he was too exhausted to remember it. “You’ll have to refresh my memory, sir.”
“Well, lie quiet and listen up,” the man instructed, popping a small piece of chicken into the boy’s mouth. James relented and chewed on the savory meat. Maybe he was hungry after all…
“Peter was arrested and condemned to die in the prisons of the Roman government. There was no escape. There were over a dozen guards watching over his cell and Peter was chained between two of them! It was impossible for his friends to break in, much less rescue Peter. But God sent an angel to deliver him. His chains fell off and the door and gate opened for him, all without the guards seeing a thing!
“Peter went straight to the home of some fellow believers and after quite a mix up, he was let in. If God could do that then, don’t you believe He could do that now, this very night if he chose? Or do you believe God has lost his power?” the jailer challenged.
James finished the last bite of his chicken, considering the man’s words. “I know He is able. I just don’t believe He will this time.”
“Ye have not because ye ask not,” the jailer quipped. “You may be right, but never give up praying for a miracle. God may choose to celebrate His Son’s birthday by answering yes to your prayers.”
James looked up at the man as he stood to leave.
Be still and know that I am God… For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.
The following evening, the twenty prisoners bid a silent farewell to their jailer friend and were marched out to the town square. James was held up between two men as they were marched to the execution grounds. They were lined up in front of forty Redcoats with shiny muskets. James saw a group of townspeople gathered nearby. Some were calling out words of encouragement to the poor Patriot victims; other wept for their loved ones in the line of condemnation. A preacher lifted up his voice in prayer for the brave, unrepentant heroes about to die.
He turned towards the voice just as a wild war whoop sounded from behind the troopers. James’ companions threw him and themselves to the ground as bullets flew and shouting continued. Dogs barked, and the church bells pealed through the cold winter air. James heard a snap and pain shot through his right leg as something rolled over it. His face contorted with the pain. What was happening?
Have you figured out what happened? Well, if not, you'll have to wait until Christmas Eve to hear the conclusion! Tomorrow I am sharing 5 things I want to do this Christmas! Click here for more Christmas fun and I'll see you tomorrow!
Merry Christmas and welcome back! I'm so excited to share today's story part with you today! I'm writing this in advance but I know that today is very busy and filled with Christmas spirit! We have a lot going on today, so prayers are appreciated!
Part 4: A Friend Among Enemies
For days, the Hawk bobbed in the rough waters just off the New York shore. James could keep nothing down as his illness raged in form of a fiery fever. Precious pounds melted away as his conditioned worsened. Delirious most of the time, James would moan and cry out for his mother and people he knew from back home. His former comforter was no longer there to ease his fits; he had succumbed to pneumonia and consumption.
The guards cared little that he was deathly ill, only that he was disturbing the “peace” of the deck above and did all within their power to silence him. James continued to toss and turn in his sleep until his body was completely exhausted.
One day, when the water was calmer, the prisoner could hear footsteps overhead. Several people were boarding the ship. More prisoners perhaps? But nearly half an hour went by and no one came down the rickety old ladder.
Suddenly, the old trap door groaned and squeaked in protest as it was heaved open. For a full minute, nothing happened. Then, light, almost silent steps descended the rungs. Something bumped the wall with a clank, like the sound a bottle of liquid makes when bumped. No one dared to move, or scarcely to breathe… except James, oblivious to his surroundings or to the covert intruder of their misery and humiliation.
Keeping to the shadows wouldn’t have been hard; that was all the prisoners knew. Their ears pricked at the sound of a match being struck and their eyes burned as a lantern was lit, illuminating their dungeon for the first time in days.
“James Tanner?” a thick London accent called in a hoarse whisper.
“What do you want with him?” someone snapped. “He’s not hurt a soul! Leave the lad to die in God’s time!”
“Nay,” the Londoner said briskly. “I only want to ease his suffering,” he motioned to a bag he carried. “If ye shan’t help me, I’ll find him one way or another. I know what he looks like.”
“Far corner there. But please, don’t hurt him. He’s in enough pain as it is.”
The London speaker made his way through the wretched hold of the ship to James’ corner. He knelt and gently examined the young man by the light of his lantern. A fellow prisoner watched as the redcoat carefully cleansed the wounds, stitched cuts and applied salve to bruises. Carefully, he measured out a dose of medicine and poured it into James’ mouth.
James stirred, and his eyes fluttered open. He stared up at the British soldier, his vision blurry. The soldier smiled and gently squeezed James’ shoulder. “Might I pray with thee, friend?”
James stared at him blankly, then closed his eyes and let his head drop to the side. The redcoat bowed his head and placed a hand on James’ head. “Lord God, we bow heart and head before Thee to ask for healing of this brave young fighter. Father, Thou knowest that he and I do not see eye to eye on the situation with the rebellion. But Father, he showed up for what he believed in, and I cannot fault him for the stand he has taken. It takes courage to endure what he has endured. Lord God, I implore Thee, bless him, strengthen him and heal his body. But let it not be in vain, my Lord and Savior. Let him come unto Thee if he has yet to do so. And if he is already Thine, I pray Thee make a difference in this darkened world through his life. Help him to be still and know that Thou alone art God and that since Your eye is on the sparrow, that he is worth far more to Thee than a paltry bird. Let not his life be in vain. I humbly ask these petitions in the Name of Thy Holy Son, Jesus the Christ, Messiah and Lord. Amen.”
James opened his eyes, water gathered in the corners. Through the moisture, he saw the insignia the soldier bore, that of a corporal. Recognition washed over James. The commander’s aide.
“Percy, hurry! There’s a guard coming!” a voice called from upstairs. Quickly and quietly, “Percy” made his way back the way he had come. The light disappeared, and the trap door swung closed. Once more they were engulfed in darkness.
James let his eyes fall shut and for the first time in weeks, he slept peacefully, the words of Percy’s prayer trailing though his mind.
The next morning, watered down corn mush was served and for the first time in weeks, James was able to finish his portion and keep it down. The guard scowled at him and scrutinized his appearance. His eye narrowed to slits but he said nothing.
The head guard leaned against a beam, his arms crossed. “We’ll, you rebels will be glad to know, we are leaving the harbor. We’re heading back south. But don’t get your hopes up. You’ll never get off this ship… unless you decide to join us. If not, this ship will be your death bed and the sea will be your grave!”
James pulled himself up, what little life that was still in him lighting his dark eyes. If only he could just see the land again! Maryland, Virginia… either one would be a sight for his sore eyes.
A week passed and the news soon arrived that they were anchored off the coast of Virginia. The knowledge was enough to drive James mad. He could almost smell his home colony, yet it was hidden from his sight. He begged the guard to have him up on deck for only five minutes, but he was flatly refused and got his ear boxed for his trouble.
For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.
I know, God, James thought. I know Your thoughts are higher than mine and that You are going to give me an expected end. But why can’t I at least see my homeland before I die?
Be still and know that I am God.
James sighed. That verse brought a calm over him. Every time he complained or asked God why, that verse played through his mind as if audibly spoken. What was the reason behind it? Why did God want to teach him to be still right before he died? What good would that do him?
A washer woman arrived at the Hawk to gather laundry. She picked up the basket, then glanced casually around the room. Seeing James, she hurried over to him. “What’s you’re unit?”
“15th Virginia. Why?”
“Never mind, that’s all I needed to know.”
He watched as she disappeared.
“Guard, what day is it, please?” someone asked, and James lifted his head.
“And why would ye be wanting to know, Yank?”
“Just wanting to add up how long I’ve been here.”
You and me both, James thought.
“December 11th,” the guard snapped.
The questioner dropped his head. “Two years in this place,” he whispered.
James swallowed hard. Two years? Oh, dear Lord, please no. Please, get us all out of here!
“For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.” James froze. Had he actually just said that out loud?
Apparently so, because everyone in the guards’ dim lantern light were staring at him.
“You have an expected end,” the guard growled, back handing him. “You’re end will be a splash in the water and eternity in—”
“Humphreys, come on!” a second guard shouted. “Something’s going on upstairs!”
Humphreys hurried over to the ladder and soon darkness swallowed the room again. All was silent until the two-year veteran said, “Thank you, Tanner. I needed to hear that verse again.”
James shrugged nervously. “Sometimes I speak out of turn. I should have waited for the guard to leave. I didn’t mean to upset him.”
“It convicted him,” the man answered solemnly. “As it should. And you didn’t talk out of turn.”
James fell silent. Feet ran back and forth along the deck. “Pepper, what do you hear?” someone whispered to the fellow nearest the ladder.
Pepper strained his ears and his eyes widened, even in the dark. “Benedict Arnold is aboard fellows!”
“They’ve captured the general?” someone cried in alarm.
“Where have you been? He deserted to the enemy over a year ago.”
“I’ve been here for a year. No one ever told me… why would Gen. Arnold do such a thing?”
“He’s a sorry traitor, that’s why,” another responded.
“Maybe, but an underappreciated hero while we had him,” another pointed out. “He was the best General we had!”
James decided to stay out of this conversation. He needed to focus on a new thought. Perhaps he should share the scriptures that had been playing on his mind. Maybe the others could help him make sense of it all.
What do you think of Percy? Do you think James will get to see Virginia before he dies? What is going on? Swing by tomorrow for part 5!
As Always, swing by Stories by Firefly for more Christmas fun!
Merry Christmas and welcome back! I have a surprise for you! Today, tomorrow and the day after, you will be getting a story part everyday! That's right! Three days in a row of Expected End!
Part 3: Bound for New York
James was completely unaware as he was lifted, stiff and shivering from the cell. Fremantle and Wellington carried James to a nearby tavern serving as the camps medical facilities. He awoke with a start as he was plopped down on a rough table.
Without a word, the doctor ripped open his shirt and began to poke and prod the bullet wound in his side. James sputtered as he tried to hold back a cry. He soon gave up trying. The doctor ignored him, neither bothered nor concerned by the apparent discomfort of his patient.
A scream burst through his teeth as the doctor dug after the bullet with a pair of pinchers. “Please,” he moaned, then cried out again as he dug deeper into this side. “PLEASE!”
The doctor muttered something under his breath, reached for a bottle of foul-smelling medicine. He popped off the lid and tilted the mouth to James’ lips. Liquid poured down his throat, making James cough and gag, gasping for breath. His vision blurred and in mere minutes, he was in a state of incoherence.
“That’s all I can do for the lad,” the doctor said half an hour later, tightening the bandage on the young man’s leg. “Move ‘em on now.”
James felt disoriented, dizzy and sick to his stomach. He knew he had been cared for; he had survived the night. But he had no clue what time of day it was or where he was or who these funny speaking men in red jackets were. He couldn’t think clear. Why was he here anyway? Why was he being treated by a doctor? Why did his stomach hurt so furiously? Where were Andrew and Gabriel? Where was Gen. Lafayette? And why did his throat burn and his head ache so furiously?
“Come, ye Rebel dog! Move along now!”
He felt himself being pushed forward. “The colonel reviewed yer case whist you were asleep, you lazy urchin.” Who was talking? Why was James’ ‘case’ being reviewed by Col. Potts? What had he done? “He’s decided you’re not a spy after all, against our better judgment. Looks like ye get to spend yer days on a man o’ war, Rebel.”
At last memory was restored to the poor confused soldier. His stomach churned. He’d never liked the water, and now he was to be surrounded by it for months… or weeks if his illness claimed him. The soldiers were laughing at his bewildered face. James was frightened, though he would probably have denied it.
Shackles were clasped about his wrists and ankles as he was prodded by bayonet to walk faster between the guards who helped him towards the wagon. He was lifted into the air and dropped with a dull thud into the wooden frame. He shook his groggy head as a whip snapped behind him, scaring the living daylights out of him. A mule protested, but the wagon slowly began to clop forward. The wind blew less forcefully than the night before but was every wit as cold. Snowflakes blew inside the wagon, chilling James, who was now left in only his shirt and breeches. His gear and outer coat and vest had been confiscated.
Every bump tugged at his injuries and caused James to moan. He sounds were rewarded with a butt from the musket against his injured leg, which only made matters worse. By the time they stopped to rest the mule and for the soldiers to have their afternoon tea, James’ leg had swollen so badly, he was sure it was now broken.
After three agonizing days of travel, James arrived, battered and bruised, at the Maryland port that would be the beginning of the end of his journey. New York was the final destination, where the ship would put in just off the coast for its prisoners to rot their lives away.
That very day, he was taken below deck in irons. The HMS Hawk was full of prisoner of war, each chained to the wall or floor, some in stocks. They couldn’t move around without the Brits knowing, for the chains were heavy and clanked with even small movements. This wasn’t a problem for James; he couldn’t move anyway.
The smell of waste and garbage caused him to lose what little food was still on his stomach within the first five minutes, which garnered him a blow from his new guard. As he finally left him to lie in his misery, another smell mingled with the putrid air… blood.
As the days slowly creaked by, James listened to the old timers talk. They were only allowed up on deck when they were to be interrogated or punished for something, neither being often, they said. That very day, three men were taken up top… and were returned, half dead. James dragged himself farther into his corner, as if doing so would help him to escape this horrible reality that was now his life. It wouldn’t be long before he was called up, he was sure. And he wouldn’t survive such a beating. Where was God in a place like this?
I will never leave thee nor forsake thee… Be still and know that I am God… For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.
An expected end? James thought, shivering in his corner, removed from everything and everyone he knew and loved. This is the expected end God has for me? Why God? If this is the expected end, why don’t You just let me die? Where are Your thoughts of peace for me in a place like this? It surely seems evil to me. God, I don’t understand!
Be still and know that I am God. Be still…
An unbidden sob escaped James and shook his limp frame. He didn’t even care who heard him. “God, please,” he whispered. “Please, help me be still! I need help, Father! Don’t you care anymore? God, please, help me!”
“Shh,” someone whispered, scooting over to him, dragging his chains with him. “There, now, lad, God hears you and He does care. He gives His hardest test to His strongest soldiers. Don’t forget that. He knows where you are and He cares about the pain you are going through. But He’s just trying to grow you, lad. And I don’t doubt but that you’ll bring Him honor and glory in suffering, if you’ll let Him use you for His purpose. But He’s not forsaken you, lad. Just be still now. Lie quiet and let the sweet Holy Spirit speak to your heart. There, that’s it, lie quiet.”
James’ sobs subsided into gasps and finally into silence as the man’s words took hold of him. God did care, or else He wouldn’t have sent His Son to save mankind. James knew that. Jesus had suffered far worse than this. Was he better than his Lord? No, of course not. But why did God seem so far away?
A few nights later, a prisoner tried to jump ship, having picked the lock on his bonds. He made it to shore but was picked up by a harbor patrol. Being returned to the ship, the soldier was flogged. He died that night. James didn’t dare try such a stunt, even if he could. He would never forget that poor man’s screams of pain and pleas for relief. “God, please don’t let me die like that,” James begged.
Hawk at last arrived off the coast of New York and the prisoners were given “generous” terms by a commander who interviewed them one at a time on shore: They could vow allegiance to the King and join the Royal Forces and he would forgive all their insurrection. Or they could remain in rebellion and return to the ghastly conditions of the warship.
James had never felt so conflicted in his life. As he sat shivering on the bench before the commander, he contemplated his options.
A corporal standing by stared hard at the young man, willing him to give it up. He was so weak, the commander had decided that if he did give up the fight, he would just release him to go home. Military service would be too taxing on him. He needed rest, good food and medical care. He was only a lad as it was and surely, he could see the wisdom of letting go of this foolish dream of Independence!
“Allegiance or the Ship?” his bailiff repeated to the young prisoner.
James shuddered at the word ship. The corporal winced at the terror shining in the young man’s eyes. Were ships really that bad? He had never been inside one, but when the wind blew just right a foul stench accosted all standing by the harbor. Perhaps he should visit the Hawk and find out for himself…
“My patience is wearing thin, young man,” the commander sighed.
James trembled as he stared at the floor, his shoulders hunched as he tried to keep from falling to the ground. “I… I… I can’t, sir. I love my country. I have no king… but…. But… King… Jesus.”
The corporal closed his eyes, aching for the poor young man as the commander said, “Then let your King Jesus release you, for King George will not. Have him away.”
James was pulled to his feet and dragged stumbling out the door and back out into the cold air. His body went limp just outside and the guards had to carry him the rest of the way to the little boat waiting to return him to the pit of woe anchored out to sea.
The commander turned to his corporal and remarked, “That lad has some courage. He won’t last three weeks.”
James felt sick to his stomach as they bound him below, once more shackled to the wall. If he could just live to see his home colony… just once more. He lay on the floor, listless and unheeding. He prayed for a miracle… a miracle he dared not share with anyone… one he only dared to hope would come true, just in time for Christmas.
What do you think of James' decision? Is he brave or foolish? What do you think his miracle is? Think it will come true? Guess you'll have to come back tomorrow for more clues!
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Christian. American. Southern. Author.
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