General Fiction posted June 15, 2021


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3,000 words. Fall in love with Carey, as I did.

The Prophet

by papa55mike


Full title: The Prophet in the Overturned Semi-trailer


The sun begins to bake the city on this June day. Carey sees the heat rising in waves from the sidewalk then slips onto the ruins of the old sewing factory. It was closed way before he was born. He loves to walk in the shade of the rusting semi-trailers lined up in a row. The temperature is at least ten degrees cooler in their shadows. 

His mind begins to wander into the family legends.

Mama told me that Grandma worked here for many years, and it was probably the dust from all of that cloth that gave her lung cancer. But I think it was her two and a half pack a day habit that lasted fifty years. Grandma sure loved her L&Ms. I can't count the times we rode in her Oldsmobile to the Q-Mart. Grandma would get a carton of the blue L&Ms, a six-pack of Miller Lite (she always watched her calories), and for me, a Three Musketeers bar. It was Grandma who taught me to cherish every morsel of chocolatey goodness.

Dad always has the craziest stories to tell, from smoking dope with Bigfoot to drinking whiskey with aliens. Those drugs he did in college sure didn't help him any. He might be a brick shy of a load, but nobody ever worked harder for his family. I think it was Dad working those two jobs for twenty-five years that caused the stroke and put him in a wheelchair - a year ago this month.

Carey sets his Ruler Food bags down and throws a rock through the employee entrance.

Sue, my sister, is the smart one of the bunch. She is currently enrolled at Ole Miss, studying to be a lawyer but has several skeletons hidden under her bed. There's no telling how many boys slipped into her room at night. Some would only stay a little bit, and some would sneak out before the rooster crowed down the street. Since my room was next to hers, I thought about keeping a journal for blackmail purposes but decided against it.

Mama is the glue that holds this family together. She babysits two little girls during the day while sewing for the orphanage down the street. There's not a week goes by that Mama doesn't bake something for somebody at church - all of that plus helping Dad with his needs, which aren't many; he's still pretty independent. The crazy thing is, she devotes an hour a night to write poetry in her journal. Mama still believes in getting a book published.

We all have our dreams, I guess. Me, I'm just a red-haired, freckled face kid who will be a sophomore at Milan High when school starts again. There ain't much to tell about me yet. I'm too little for football and too short for basketball. My life hasn't kicked into gear, and I'm beginning to wonder if it ever will. After all, not everybody gets to smoke pot with Bigfoot.

I guess reading books is the only thing I do. There isn't an Asimov, Verne, Bradbury, or H. G. Wells book that I haven't read. The Milan Library even gave me a golden library card for reading the most books in a year. Piers Anthony is my new favorite author, and the library has a whole collection of his books starting with, Nightmare.

Maybe I do have this one desire. One day, I hope to write a story that would spark someone's imagination. If I ever put pencil to paper. But for now, helping Mama keep the family going is the best thing I can do.

For some reason, I always stop at the overturned semi-trailer. It intrigues me somehow. There are times I wish I could turn into the Incredible Hulk, then grab this useless bit of metal and throw it to Trenton, seventeen miles away! But it lands in a cow field and not hurting anybody or a cow. 

Setting the bags down, I see the condensation pouring out of the milk bag. It is hot today. A large rock beckons to be thrown. I pick up the boulder, in my mind, then launch it over the length of the overturned trailer. It lands on the roof of the guard station - a distance never reached before.

Grabbing the bags, I head around the overturned trailer. Our home is under the back fence, across the cornfield, then into the back yard. Mama doesn't like me coming this way; she's afraid I'll run into a snake. My path takes me around the open doors of the trailer. It reveals the darkness of the deep cave where the gruesome monster is born. I've been reading too much Bradbury.

A voice comes from the darkness while I'm walking past the opening. "Carey."

It must be in my head, and I keep walking.

"Will you help me, Carey?"

I stop. "Is there someone there?"

"Yes, a friend."

"I've never heard your voice before, and you say you're my friend."

"I've come a long way to help your family, Carey. Please, leave me some of that bread you have in a sack."

"Come forward, and I'll give you some bread."

"No, Carey. My form has become too ghastly for people to accept. I'm that monster you were thinking about."

"You say you're here to help us. How?"

"I can't say until you leave a gift of faith."

"What are you, some prophet, like Elijah?"

"I'm not Elijah, but I am a prophet of the Lord."

"Really!" Carey shakes his head. "I can't believe I'm doing this. Mama will ground me for a month, but I don't go anywhere. I'll leave you four pieces here at the front. I have to get home." Carey turns to walk away.

"I will not forget your act of kindness."

"Yeah, I've heard that one before. I don't even know your name."

"My name is Omar."

Carey's mind is reeling, walking through the cornfield then into the backyard. How can a prophet be living in an overturned trailer? What is he supposed to do for the family? How will four pieces of bread feed anybody? Things don't add up.

Carey walks in the back door. "I'm back, Mama."

"What took you so long, son." She turns to me with her short blonde hair, navy blue pocket tee-shirt, and old jeans. But her once beautiful face shows the pain of the past year.

"The lines were long, and I stopped to talk with a prophet in the overturned semi-trailer."

She starts emptying the bags. "A prophet in the overturned semi-trailer." Mama looks at the bread. "Is that what happened to this loaf of bread?"

"Yeah," Carey drops his head. "He said I needed to leave a gift of faith before he could help."

"Now that's a new way of getting food." She walks over to me and pushes the red hair out of my eyes. "It's okay, sweetie. I would have done the same thing. Now go kiss your Dad. He's having a tough day."

Dad hears me walking into the living room. With his right hand, he wipes his eyes and runs his hand through his gray hair. It looks like he's aged a hundred years since his stroke, but there's still life in his big brown eyes. "Did the Cardinals win last night, Dad?" I see the tears in the corner of his eyes, then lean over his wheelchair and kiss his forehead. 

"No, the Dodgers won four to three in the ninth. It's tough to beat the world champs at home."

I sit down on the couch when the Cubs score flashes on the ticker. "Well, the Cubs lost, Dad."

"That's always a good thing." A smile trickles halfway across his face.

"It's good to see you smile, Dad."

"You have the unique ability to make everyone feel better when you walk into a room, Carey."

"At least I've got that going for me."

~

The sun slowly sets behind the old sewing factory, causing the streetlights to turn on. There's a siren heading out Highway Seventy towards Bradford while the shadows lengthen across the yard. Carey is sitting in a lawn chair with a one-subject notebook and a blue mechanical pencil in his hand.

If I can come up with a title, and a first-line, maybe there's a story in me. But I can't put it all together. So Carey closes the notebook in frustration and starts thinking about the prophet again.

What could a prophet of the Lord do for this crazy family? Why would God want to help us in the first place? I know why, to help Mama. If anybody could use help from heaven, it's her. 

The back door opens, and Mama walks out with a huge piece of strawberry cake on a styrofoam plate with a clear plastic fork. "We had this leftover Wednesday night from our women's meeting. I thought the prophet might like it." She smiles. "I'm going to write for thirty minutes, and if you're not back before I finish, I'll send every cop in West Tennessee out looking for you."

"Thank you, Mama. I'll be right back."

The sun is still setting, leaving enough light for me to see, but I can walk this path with my eyes closed. A quick turn under the fence, then across the parking lot, to my target. Stopping short, I'll stand here a minute to see if he knows I'm here. 

A voice comes out of the darkness. "That strawberry cake smells delicious, Carey. Your Mama made it, didn't she?"

"Yes, she did." I walk over and set the plate down on the edge of the trailer. "I need to talk to you, Omar."

"The Lord knows what a kind woman your Mama is, and He hasn't forgotten your family."

"Well, tell me how you're going to help my family?"

"It doesn't work that way. You have to tell me what you need."

"We need so much. I don't have time for this."

"You still have twenty minutes before your Mama calls the police. Think hard, Carey. There has to be one thing that would change everything."

"I'm thinking hard." Carey paces in front of the trailer. "Yes, I need you to heal my Dad. If you know what happened to him."

"Oh, I know about the stroke your Dad had. It curled his arm up like a pretzel and paralyzed his left side. I know that people say he's a little touched, but he loves all of you so much. I feel the pain he has. You have chosen wisely, Carey."

"Are you going to say a prayer, wave your hands, dance, or say that my faith has made him well?"

"No," Omar laughs. "I think this is something you can do."

"Something I can do. I don't have any power. I'm a fourteen-year-old kid. You're the prophet."

"Do you believe that Jesus Christ died on the cross, then rose on the third day?"

"Yes, I think I'm the only one in my class that does."

"Then, if you do, your Dad will never sit in that wheelchair again. But you'll need strong faith to utter the prayer of healing."

"But."

"No." Omar snaps an answer. "Believe! When daylight breaks, bring your Bible, notebook, and pencil, and I'll teach you the prayer of healing. Now head home. Your Mama is almost finished writing."

"All right. I'll be here at daybreak."

~

The stars beckon through Carey's window while his mind searches for the Lord in the night sky. He's trying to remember a prayer of healing in the Bible, but he hasn't read much of it. Suddenly he gets an idea.

There's a Bible on Grandma's dresser, and it has something in the back of it that has certain words and verses in it. I remember Grandma showing me while she polished off the sixpack. Unfortunately, my Bible doesn't have that. Mama has already got up and gone to the bathroom. Grandma's room is right beside theirs. I'm surprised we haven't had a yard sale with all of her stuff. 

It's eleven-forty-five, and all seems quiet in the house. I sort of miss the noises coming out of Sue's bedroom and haven't figured out why Mama never heard them. 

Carey slides out of bed then right to his door. He slowly peeps out, and the coast is clear. Carey still has his socks on to keep his feet from sticking to the wood floor. He slowly cracks Grandma's door, reaches on top of the dresser, slides the book into his arms, then quickly tiptoes back to his room.

Carey plops down and turns on his light by the bed. He flips to the back of the book and finds the concordance, then finds the word healing. 

They're all through the Bible. From Isaiah, Jeremiah, James, Psalms, Mark, Luke, Acts, 1 Peter, 3 John. It will take me the rest of the night to look all of these up. Okay.

~

The first light of the morning blackens the trees. It's like all of the colors are bleached away from the landscape until the sun kisses the ground. Carey walks with a purpose towards the trailer. His deep desire on this morning is to see his Dad healed. It took him most of the night, but he found every scripture on healing and every miracle Jesus did. They were also written in the back.

I'm armed and dangerous today, and I feel God's spirit flow through me. I didn't find any prayer of sorts but lots of principles that we never did for Dad.

Carey walks into the cornfield with a bagel, Grandma's Bible, notebook, and pencil. First, he steps through the fence onto the parking lot. Then, walking with a relentless pace to the front of the trailer, he stops in front of the opening.

"Okay, Omar. I have what you wanted me to bring. I'll place a bagel with cream cheese right here. Please, tell me that prayer so I can heal my Dad."

"But you already know it, Carey. You read all of those verses last night. What was the one key component in all of them, including Jesus' miracles?"

"Faith! They all believed in the healing power of the Lord."

"Do you believe that you can heal your Dad?"

Carey pauses and searches his heart. "Yes, I do."

"Okay. Did you read Isaiah 53: 5?"

"Yes, with His stripes, we are healed."

"What about James 5: 14-15?"

"I think so, but let me look it up." Carey begins to leaf through his Grandma's Bible. "Here it is, is there any sick among you? Let him call the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith shall save the sick."

"Listen to me, Carey. You now have the process to heal your Dad. But there can be no doubt in your mind. So focus your thoughts only on your Dad already healed. See it in your mind and believe it in your heart."

"Where do I get oil?"

"Your mom's vegetable oil will do. Pour a little in the cap, raise it toward the sky and ask the Lord to bless it. He will. When you get to your Dad, dip your finger in it and rub a little on his arm, hand, or forehead. Then pray, Carey, like you never have before. Use every ounce of power in your body to heal your Dad."

Carey gathers up all of his stuff, then looks into the darkness. "I'm going to heal my Dad. I'll be back."

"Go, my son. The Lord is with you."

Carey hears his Mama start her morning shower. He should have about ten minutes. The oil was easy to get. He creeps down the hall and into their room. Dad is still sleeping. He's turned towards Carey. That will make it easy to anoint him. 

I dip my finger and put some across Dad's forehead. He shakes his head, trying to get a fly off of him. Carey whispers to himself. "Now, the prayer of my life. Oh, God. You are mighty in power. Please, heal my Dad. He's such a good man. In Jesus' name. Amen." 

Tears begin to stream down Carey's face while he rocks back and forth, repeating the prayer.

The next thing he knows is Mama walking into the room. "Carey, what are you doing on the floor?"

Her voice brings him back to the room. 

Dad suddenly sits up, and with both hands, wipes his face. "Can't a guy sleep in a little?"

Mama gasps and grabs the wall. "Tim, look at your hand."

Dad pulls his left hand in front of his face, makes a fist, then wiggles each finger separately. He raises his hand above his head, then grabs his face. He can blink his left eye again, then opens his mouth wide. Slowly, Dad stands for the first time in a year. 

Mama walks over to Dad with a big smile. They both begin to laugh uncontrollably. Suddenly, Dad grabs Mama and throws her on the bed. Their lips connect in a passionate kiss. 

I fall against the wall. "Thank you, God, for healing my Dad."

Mama says, "I believe you have something to explain, Carey."

"Yes, Mama, I do."

~

The next afternoon. Carey looks out his window watching Dad fire up the grill for the first time in a year, and Mama is right beside him. 

For some reason, they can't keep their hands off of each other since yesterday. It's like they have started all over again. I love Mama's new smile, and I've never seen Dad so loving. God does work through people to perform His miracles. Another one will happen tomorrow when the whole family goes to church together if the building doesn't collapse.

Of course, when all of us went back to the trailer to tell Omar what happened, he was already gone. Mama said his name wasn't Omar but wouldn't say who she thought it was. I like to think it was Jesus, Himself.

Me, I finally have a story to tell. I've even written a title on a page:

The Beast From The Stinky Cave!

Man, I love Ray Bradbury!




Story of the Month contest entry

Recognized


The verses I quoted were out of my old King James. It has an excellent concordance, Harmonies of the Gospel, and all of Jesus' miracles. None of my newer Bibles have that.

That picture I took on a recent photo safari, and I'm sure you'll see some more of them soon. This story was a joy to write. I have, The Walkers, chapter~4 written and need to read for it.

Many thanks for stopping by to read!
Have a great day, and God bless.
mike
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