Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Spring (as in the season) (11/28/05)
TITLE: Spring Will Come Too Late
By Amy Michelle Wiley
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Tanith stood in the doorway of her house. Even her tears no longer fell to water the ground. The flowers and crops would never again come. At least not for her.
She shifted to look behind her, always watching her son. Hanno was little more than dry skin stretched over bones. His stomach protruded from his small body, and his eyes fell deep into their sockets. It would not be much longer. Not for either of them.
Tanith sank to the floor, her legs trembling with the exertion of standing for the few minutes. She pulled her son close.
“Soon it will be spring.” His voice was raspy, but somewhere deep inside, he found the strength to smile.
Always she had told her son to look for spring. It was a time for rain to wash away the dirt, sun to touch away the cold, and crops to grow with health. But rain had not come for several years. And this time spring would come too late.
“I will go now and get kindling to build a fire and cook our last bit of meal.” Some mothers perhaps would give all the food to the child. But not Tanith. She would not let him die alone. She would be there, holding him, whispering to him. “Then we will eat together.” And die together.
The breeze was cold against her dry skin and it kicked up clouds of choking dust, making the world seem to swirl even more. The road to the edge of town stretched unending before her.
Tanith tripped on something unseen. Or perhaps her legs simply gave out. She lay in the road, nearly unconscious, and panicked. No! Do not let me die here! Have mercy on me, on my son. She was not sure who she cried out to. If there was a God, He had long ago abandoned her people.
Somehow she dragged herself once again to her feet. Only a few more steps and she could see some scattered branches. Even the trees were dying, their brittle branches falling with the smallest wind, the hope of spring too late.
A voice suddenly reached out to her, faint and unclear. Tanith raised her head, trying to focus on the hazy figure of a man that stood before her. Finally the words entered her ear. “Please, would you bring me a jar of water so I may drink?”
He wanted water. She almost laughed. Why would she bring him, a Jew passing through, a bit of their precious, nearly-gone water? Ah, but why not. It was not as if she would be needing it. She was moving toward the city well when he spoke again.
“Bring me also, please, a bit of bread.”
That stopped her. She turned, aghast. “As surely as the LORD your God lives, I don’t have any bread--only a handful of grain and a little oil! I am gathering these sticks so I may prepare a last meal for my son and me.” Would he take the only thing she had left to give her son?
“Do not be afraid. Go and prepare the meal. But first take a bit of it and make me a small cake. Then make something for you and your son. For the LORD God of Israel says, ‘The jar of grain and the jug of oil will not be used up until the LORD gives rain on the land.’”
Tanith could only stare. Could she believe this? Would she believe this? Her feet turned and she went numbly toward her home. Her mind could not get around what the Jew had said. Surely the God of Israel did not care about a Gentile. The words she had thought only shortly before came to her mind, “Have mercy on me, on my son.”
She allowed herself to hope just a little, imagine that it might be true. That this would not be her last day. Her son's last day. And that perhaps, perhaps they would live to see spring after all.
(Based on 1 Kings 17:10-16)
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