This is the continuation of Jerome’s story after the lights went out. If you missed the last edition or any before they can be accessed here or on “The Stories” Page:
Today Oliver picks up where Jerome left off.
The Good Shepherd Pt. 5
I remember sitting beside Poppie in his last wheezes. Nannie had dropped dead two days before in the kitchen. There was no one to call. No one would come anyway. So I managed to drag her body into the bedroom and close the door. I cried a thousand tears that night, but even my little girl wailing couldn’t cover over Poppie’s labored breathing from the other room. Without his oxygen he could do little more than sit and stare at the candle I kept lit on the mantle-piece in place of the television. He still thumbed his Bible pretending to read in the dark.
“Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:…
Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God:…
But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men:…
And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross….
Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name:…
That at the name of Jesus…”
He gasped between the quotations and always finished with “He’s comin’ soon little girl. Don’t give up.”
I stayed until I couldn’t stand the smell anymore. Three days maybe four.
Poppie had taught me the woods. I had a pack and a little tent. I knew I wasn’t going to survive in the city. So I walked straight out along the edges of 101 until it met with 68 then over towards the old 32.
I met Jolly’s boys (I never called them Bone Brothers, what a dumb name) one day while I was fishing the hollows with a hook and string and a bit of bread. The first thieving we did was for hunting and fishing supplies. I wanted a hunting pack but when Jolly realized it was quicker to steal food than hunting gear I ended up with a juvy chain gang. Still Poppie always said “You work with what you got.”
When the Good Shepherd came I pretty much thought it was God giving me a break. When the cops came and killed all my friends and arrested the only man who ever tried to help us I realized it was a punishment… just slow like God usually works.
I watched between the roots where the good shepherd had hidden me. I watched them strip off his clothes and march him off towards town barefoot and naked. When they’d gone I went and gathered my stuff. My tent was all covered with bits of brains and bones. The cops had taken all the food. But my pack inside my tent was safe. My boots were still inside.
I thought about heading deeper into the woods, but the key Jerome had given me was burning in my pocket. I headed towards town keeping well off the roads. He never told me which church it was I was supposed to hide in. Most of that first night I hunkered in shadows and ran between beams of moonlight. I tried three church doors before I found the right building.
I wandered through the deserted building. Something made me take my shoes off at the sanctuary door. I remembered the story of Moses and holy ground. Thinking maybe if I played it right God would let my people go, bring Jolly and the others back and let the Good Shepherd go.
I walked up to the altar steps feeling the plush carpet smoosh between my bare toes and I knelt down. “Jesus I’m sorry about what I let the boys do. I guess we deserved what we got, but Jerome… you sent him. Now he’s in trouble all because of us. Help him.”
That’s when I saw the dress in the box under the cross. It had blue flowers on a white background and a pin on the lapel that read, “helps committee”. It even fit. I found a matching pair of shoes in the bottom of the box. It was God’s plan and my choice.
I started visiting the jailhouse the next day. I introduced myself as Virginia, but no one cares what your name is when your pretty. They just trust your eyelashes. A few bats of the baby blues and I was in like Flynn. I had brought extra blankets the first day. The second day I brought a thermos of tea. The third I brewed up some coffee for Jerome and an extra thermos for the deputies.
“You all work so hard.” I cooed “It’s just not right that I bring coffee for the pastor and not for you fine men in blue.”
Word circulated that the pastor was going to be tried for treason against the town council on Monday next. The deputies told me that under martial law the penalty for helping the Bone Brothers would be death for the Good Shepherd.
On Sunday I brewed two thermoses of coffee and went for my usual visit. I had also sawed half way through my right heel. The guard smiled at me as I walked into the station holding up the thermos of coffee for the deputies.
“We just love it when you visit us Virginia!” the crew chief smiled.
I screamed as my heel came unglued. Hot coffee splattered the protective glass as the thermoses smashed against the walls where I flung them. I made sure to cushion my fall with the powdered creamer I had taken from the church. Fine white powder exploded beneath my left hip mixing with the puddles of hot brown liquid congealing around my dress.
He didn’t notice when I lifted his keys from the belt. I made sure I lamented loudly about my only good shoes as he mopped up the floor with towels from the back. He insisted I go in and visit while he cleaned up. I unlocked Jerome’s cell. I put paper in the latch of the doorway into the cell block. Then I put the deputy’s keys back on his desk.
“I’m just too upset to visit today deputy. I’ll come back tomorrow.” I hobbled out of the station.
It was midnight when Jerome knocked softly on the church door. I was packed and ready to go. It’s time someone else was told about Tyson and his martial law in Winchendon.