JACOB INSTALLMENT #18

Chapter Eight (continued)

The next day they began to lose hope. The ocean was just too vast, their chances of being seen so small as to be nonexistent.  Around noon Sid sighted another ship on the horizon, but after the previous episode with a passing vessel the sighting evoked a sense of mockery, of an insubstantial mirage.  It was smaller than the other and had the color and appearance of a war ship.  He looked at it indifferently and began to close his eyes again, but the memory of his outburst against Jacob intruded sharply into his mind.  “Jacob,” he said, shaking his companion.  “Jacob, please.”

“What?” Jacob responded shortly, his eyes still shut.

“I’m sorry about what I said yesterday. I spoke in anger.  I do like you.  You’re my best friend.  Forgive me, please.”

“Okay. I knew that.  I forgave you yesterday.  Not that it makes much difference.”  He went back to sleep.

Sid mulled over this latest conversation, but within less than a minute he drifted back into sleep also.

When he opened them again, his entire vision was taken up with a wall of grey. Raising his head, he saw a number of faces peering down at him.  They were dressed as sailors.  He was assaulted by a range of emotions in rapid succession: joy at being rescued, quickly replaced by fear that the authorities had recaptured them.  But then his eyes saw the proudly-waving flag.  It was white with a blue Star of David.  Hope returned, and with it a great joy. God has provided! he thought, giving thanks to the Lord.  He nudged Jacob awake, laughing and crying at the same time.

They were brought aboard, given doses of water, examined and then set at a table, where they were given plates of food.

“What’s this?” Jacob asked, looking dubiously at the tiny morsel in the center of the plate. It looked like a dot.  “Don’t get me wrong,” he said to the sailor who served him.  “I’m grateful for anything, but are you guys on starvation rations or did we mysteriously end up in an upscale restaurant that just looks like a ship?”

The sailor laughed. “No, but we do need to conserve.  Captain’s worried that if we give you too much at first you’ll just upchuck it.  Don’t worry – keep that little bit down, and I’ll give you more right away.”

The two wolfed down their bites of food and in unison handed back their plates. “Next course, please,” Jacob said with a smile.

The next course took longer to serve, but it also was much larger. When they finished their meal a steward came to their table and, in perfect English, asked them to follow him.  They were shown into the officers’ mess, where the captain introduced himself and bade them sit.

“Who are you?” he asked without preamble. “Your pockets were empty.  No identification.  Where are you from?”

Jacob spoke for the two refugees. “We’re from America, sir.  And we’re Jews, which got us into trouble with the regime.  We were hauled off from our homes and tossed into a prison camp.  They were about to put us to death.  We. . .”

“That bad, huh?” the captain broke in. “We knew it was bad over there, we’ve been hearing from our relatives about mistreatment.  I have cousins in New York, or at least I did at one time.  They couldn’t get exit visas.  But up to now we haven’t heard of actual death camps, but I shouldn’t be surprised.  The old hatred has come back and it’s not just in America.  It’s a worldwide thing now.  By the way, my name’s John.  Go on.”

“Maybe so, but there’s a higher Power at work too. Would you believe me if I told you that we’re here because we were trying to get to Israel?  As a matter of fact, sir, what brought you out of the Med?”

The captain chuckled. “Don’t we know about that higher Power!  Half of us aboard have become Christians, including me!”

“As are we!” Sid exclaimed.

John returned their smiles. “There was a ship inbound to Israel from Brazil, loaded with Jewish refugees escaping a vicious persecution there.  They were endangered by Hurricane Emma to the south of us.  After their distress call, we were dispatched to give them assistance.  Turned out that they were able to make it out of the danger zone without our help.  They’re just behind us now.  The hurricane, on the other hand, is now heading directly for Galveston.  Odd, that,” John reflected.  “America’s been getting hammered by weather for several years now.”

“And nobody seems to make the obvious connection,” Sid added. “I remember one popular televangelist talking about it years ago.  There was such a huge public uproar that he backed off.  I’ll bet he wishes that he was bolder before he was permanently shut up.  But ever since that fiasco, Christians everywhere have been silent about what to me is an obvious link.”

“As a matter of fact,” Jacob said, “way back when Bush Senior was president, he was the first to try to peddle America’s answer to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which was called “The Roadmap to Peace”.  He was at the peace conference in Madrid offering it to the world when the perfect storm hit the northeastern United States.  You know, the one they made a movie of, where George Clooney meets his end trying to climb a huge vertical wave.”

“I saw that too,” John said. “You’re saying that there’s a connection.  Maybe so, but. . .”

“Oh, the best part’s yet to come. The storm generated huge waves that trashed Bush’s Kennebunkport home.”

“Ah.” John laughed, adding “that connection is pretty direct.”

“And when Israel was evacuating Gaza in preparation for the Palestinian takeover there, the one that was forced on Israel by America, New Orleans also was being evacuated in preparation for Hurricane Katrina.  After that the American Midwest began to get hammered with drought, tornadoes and generally bad weather, a process that’s continuing even as we speak.”

“Well,” John said, “there’s no doubt in my mind about God’s involvement in today’s affairs. It’s a pretty comforting thought.   As I read the Bible, I find that when things look really grim here on earth for God’s people, that’s when our Lord makes His presence felt the most.  Anyway, glad to have you aboard.  We should be docking at Haifa day after tomorrow, after which I’ll hand you over to immigration.  Don’t worry about that,” he added when he saw their anxiety.  Just tell them what you told me.  They’ll treat you like natives.  In the meantime, you have free run of the ship, providing that you don’t interfere with its workings.”  He shook their hands and called for the steward, who recited the ship’s mess schedule and showed them to their bunks.  Other sailors gave them friendly smiles as they passed through the ship.

Chapter Nine

During that night Hurricane Emma made herself felt to the two couples in Jimmy and Millie’s motor home. They were now in an RV park on the northwestern outskirts of San Antonio, where the buffeting became so pronounced that they awoke in fear.  The screeching of the wind terrified Millie, who hurriedly dressed and commanded Jimmy to do the same and exit the park forthwith.  “I knew we should have left the area,” she wailed.  “Now we’re going to have to run for it.”

“Calm down, Millie,” Jimmy countered, inwardly as fearful as his wife. “The authorities told everyone to stay put.  The only thing we can do now is pray.”  He looked at Earl with a pleading expression. “But I don’t know how.”  Earl got on his knees in front of the couch that he and Joyce had just vacated, and Joyce joined him.  Millie shook off her claustrophobic sense of entrapment and got on her knees too.  Jimmy soon followed.

“Dear God,” Earl began, “We know that everything, even this storm, is in your hands. We simply ask that whatever happens, we remain in your will and that You use this storm for Your glory.  Amen.”

Jimmy looked over to Earl, expecting to hear more. Finally he asked, “Are you through?  Don’t you want to say more?”

“Not right now,” Earl responded. “I don’t seem to have the call right now to do that, maybe because God is dealing with a whole bunch of long-winded pleas for help.  Anyway, God knows our situation better than we do.”  The simplicity of his plea to God impressed Jimmy. Maybe Christianity is more real than I had thought, he reflected, having been subjected once to a pastor who delivered in fruity-voiced eloquence a sermon that went on interminably without saying anything of real substance.

 

The storm rocked their rig and threatened to overturn it, but as the winds abated with the movement of the front to the northeast their home remained upright. The dawn broke to a dark, cloudy and wet sky, but the winds were no longer a threat to their lives.  Jimmy opened the door cautiously, peering out at their surroundings.  He ducked back in with a frown.  “I don’t know how we managed to stay intact,” he told his companions, “but the entire park except for us seems to have suffered major damage.”

“I do know how we came through it,” Earl said. “Our Lord indeed answers prayer – if it’s spoken with the right attitude.”  He immediately went down to his knees and offered his thanksgiving to the Lord.

“Hey, wait for us!” Joyce said as she went down beside him. He repeated his thanksgiving as all four held their hands together and joined in with a fervent “Amen”.

Power was out in the park, but the motor home was equipped with a generator and, with that and their propane enjoyed the comforts of heat, light, and an operable stove. Joyce was thrilled with the availability of all the essentials of home in such a compact vehicle that could move at will. Not at will, she reminded herself as the depressing reality of governmental repression intruded into her mind.  She shook off the impending anger and offered to help Millie with breakfast.

After breakfast they went outside to look around. There was a break in the rain and they waded dry otherwise through ankle-deep water to their neighbor’s rig which lay on its side.  “Help!” a feeble voice called in despair.  After that plea there was nothing but silence.  Earl reached down and grabbed a rock, which he used to smash the windshield.  He squeezed himself in, bloodying his arm on the sharp glass, and searched inside for the source of the voice.  He found it underneath a pile of cartons that had cascaded out of the cupboards when the vehicle had turned over.  He quickly removed the mess on top and discovered two people beneath.  “Ow!” the man said when Earl attempted to tug him upright.  He looked at the arm he was holding and saw by its distorted shape that it was broken.  “Sorry,” he replied, and after several more gentle attempts he succeeded in getting the man to stand.  He handed him over to Jimmy, who had come into the rig after him, and Jimmy managed to extract him through the broken windshield.  Earl focused next on the woman who had lain beside him.  She was dazed, but despite her grogginess she also stood with Earl’s assistance, and extricated herself from the vehicle with Joyce’s helping hand on the outside.  Without being asked, Millie helped them over to her vehicle and went in with them to get them into dry clothing.

The next victim of the storm that they came upon was an actual doctor. “My name is James, and I’m grateful for your kind assistance,” he offered as they helped him to emerge from the wreckage of his motor home.  “I’ll try to pass it forward.”  Fortunately, his bones had remained intact during the night of terror.  Earl directed him to the first victim he had encountered, the one with the broken arm.  The doctor immediately improvised a splint and went back to his own demolished rig to acquire some pain medication, which he offered to the man.

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