Emily Sue Harvey: An excerpt from HOMEFIRES

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Homefires (CMYK)INTRODUCTION: I chose this particular passage because Janeece has just learned of her husband, Kirk’s “high calling”.  She wrestles with her conflicting emotions, now set into play by the prospect of living in “the glass house”.  How much must she invest of herself? Would anything of self even be left? This passage foreshadows the sacrificial adjustments to come.

 

Within moments, glasses of iced tea frosted beside my best cornflower dishes while we took seats at the table.

“Let us pray,” Kirk said and all around the table, we joined hands.  “Father, thank you for this food of which we are about to partake. And thanks, too, for making your will known to me. I thank you for the High Call on my life. Amen.”

I felt that jerk in my plexus region again as a frozen silence struck the family. We look like a Norman Rockwell painting, was my inane thought. Dad spoke first, “When?”, then Anne, “You don’t mean it, Kirk. Really?”, then Trish, flashing her dimples,  “I can’t believe it–my brother-in-law–a preacher!” Then everybody was talking and laughing and rushing to embrace Kirk, who took it all with a little boy grin on his face. Heather and Krissie raced, Heather nudging and winning the ‘first hug’ spot and even insisting Cole and little Dale hug Kirk before Krissie. I sat glued to my chair, emotions gyrating, but managed a wide smile when his eyes searched out mine.

Instinct took over and the actor in me rose to the occasion. I could find no button to push and stop the building dread whose litany played over and over in my head; Things are going to change…to change…to change. I operated on automatic, giving such a convincing performance of support that nobody seemed to notice I had nothing to say.

The visit that day stretched interminably long. I needed to be alone and when Anne hugged me goodbye, she looked me in the eye and said, “you’ll make a great preacher’s wife, Neecy.”

“Thanks,” I replied, and smiled as though it were the sweetest compliment in the world.

After they left, I escaped to my bedroom. Kirk had gone for a walk, no doubt to enjoy his new status, one already fitting him like a soft elastic suit that breathed and caressed.

I kicked off my shoes and stretched out on our white chenille bedspread, hearing the girls in their room’s big climb-in closet, enlarged by their Daddy, doing a play-like scenario of church. Heather was the song leader, of course, with Krissie sitting on the bench, actually a twelve-inch-high shoe shelf stretching along each side of the closet floor. When they pushed back the hanging clothing to one side, presto, they had a  sanctuary…or house…or whatever.

I closed my eyes and tried to relax, to let my mind go. Lord, help me. Several deep breaths later I felt the tension begin to loosen and I uncurled my fingers and pictured an enormous vat of jello, sitting beside a still lagoon, where a soft breeze wafted over my skin, cooling and soothing.

Rationale kicked in. I handled the facts. Tradition and religion dictated that a man dislocate the universe, if necessary, to follow the High Call–a wife or children never being mentioned in the variables. Only thing I’d ever heard was that a man forsake all to take the gospel to the world. And woe unto that wife who dared to interfere or come between her husband and the Hand of the Almighty.

My eyes popped open. I, Janeece Crenshaw, walked on shaky, Holy ground. Was I questioning God’s will? I closed my eyes again and searched my heart the only way I knew how. Honestly. No. I did not question the purpose of Kirk’s decision. It wasn’t that.

So what was bothering me?

I sat up in bed, having seen the mountain. I needed it moved.

First, however, I had to know what the mountain was. The front screen door slammed and I saw Kirk walk by the bedroom to the kitchen. He looked so darned noble, already different. Why can’t I switch channels as easily? I gazed out the window, through drapes stirred mildly by a breeze. Our friends across the street, the Nelsons, sat on their porch, fanning and rocking. I would soon leave all this–my roots. That fact stared me baldly in the face.

Pwaise de Lord,” pealed Krissie as Heather’s sermon warmed up. “How-de-youu-ah!”

From the mouths of babes….

And in that moment I felt a warm, warm presence and slowly, like a jammed door screaking open, something  inside me shifted. And certainty flooded me that  I could, when the time came, cope with whatever faced us.

Deep down where it counted, I was happy for Kirk and tickled by his sense of fulfillment already so apparent. And I knew that, even if I could, I wouldn’t lift a finger to change things back to the way they were yesterday.

“Oh Vic-to-ryyy, in Je-sus,” chorused my daughters’ voices from the closet’s church, “my Sav-iorrr, for-eh-ber…He punched me, to Vic-to-ryyyyyy–”

I clapped my hand over my mouth and laughter spilled through my fingers.

Moments later, as humor ebbed, it came to me what this was all about. For the first time, I had to sort out things without Kirk. This time I must come to grips without involving him. It was a new role: protector.

The bedroom door opened, Kirk stood there and I saw it in his hesitancy, his guarded eyes. He’d noticed.

“What you doing?” His voice was soft, husky, tentative.

I got up off the bed and moved to stand toe to toe with him, my fingers playing with his shirt buttons. “I was just lying here thinking Lordy, imagine us–a preacher’s family.” I laughed then, a genuine belly one and we slid into each other’s joyful embrace.          

Over his broad, strong shoulder, I glimpsed beyond the window a world clothed green by springtime and made vibrant by the sun. A new chord, with clear, precise harmony, struck inside me. Heck, I could handle this new role.  Kirk would be happier than he’d ever been.  And if Kirk was content, so was I.

 

Emily Sue author photoEmily Sue Harvey is The Story Plant’s Author of the Month. This means we are offering sensational deals on all of her works, including Homefires. You can learn more at our website.

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On August 13, 2013
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