Elijah held his hand against his swollen jaw and marched into the kitchen. “Mother, I’m going to Fort Jezreel, and I won’t be back for supper.”
Her jet-black eyes widened. “But, son! The queen’s men. Your father’s friends saved you, but we don’t know anyone at the fort.”
Sheerah looked up. “You can’t leave now, Lijah. It’s almost the Day of Trumpets.”
He brushed past his mother and sister on his way to the cook stove. “What they’re doing is wrong, Sheers, and somebody’s gotta tell ‘em.” He stuffed pita bread into his pack. “Okay if I load up on these, Mom? You can make more for the day, right?”
Elijah plopped down on the goatskin between his brother and father. He chomped on bread and olives. “While I’m on the road, maybe I’ll discover David’s greatest moment.”
He glanced at his sister. “Day of Trumpets? I’ll be back tomorrow.”
But his father laid his hand on Elijah’s forearm. “Fort Jezreel might be a longer hike than you think. But I want you to listen to your mother.”
Elijah turned toward his mother’s brimming-over eyes, got up, and sat with his arm around her. “Look, Mom. I couldn’t stop that priest from killing Baby Omar, okay?” He pointed to the newly crusted-over gash in his forehead, his purple-rimmed eyes, and his split lip.
He lifted the bowl of fresh figs. “All right if I grab a few?” He dropped six into his pack. Then two more.
“And you see what it did to Nathan. Won’t talk to us. If I had a little buddy like Omar, and they killed him, I wouldn’t talk, either.
“Nate, can you prune vines while I’m gone today? Get Dad to tie your sandals. Just for today. When I get back tomorrow I’ll fasten everything on you, and we’ll haul wine.”
Tears streamed down his mother’s cheeks. She looked full into Elijah’s face. “But the fort. The king. You’re only a boy.” She sobbed. “My baby.”
Sheerah slipped her arm into his. “Does my baby brother think he’s David, the shepherd lad, visiting the field of battle?”
“Oh, yeah. That’s me, Sheers. I just can’t find my trusty sling and five smooth stones. Dad, you still got that old goatskin?”
“Huh! You don’t want that, son. Moths found it. I hung it out in the shed.”
Elijah clapped his father on the shoulder. “Thanks.”
While a crested lark warbled its familiar “whee-whee-wheeoo,” he jogged past the well out toward the vineyard. Behind the wine building, he opened the door to the shed in the donkey pen and found his father’s old cloak of goatskins sewn together with the hair turned out. He went back in the house and shrugged into the skin.
“The Lord of Hair.” Sheerah giggled.
He shucked the goatskin off and jammed it into his pack. “Just the thing.”
His mother wiped her cheeks and sniffled. “But in Jezreel they’ll kill you.” She sobbed. “They’ll kill my baby.”
“They’re not going to touch me, Mother.”
Elijah’s father held up a hand. “Your mother’s right, son.”
“Dad, when that priest shoved that first baby into the fire, I tried to hide my face in your beard. But I felt you sobbing, Dad. Your tears dripped on my ear.
“They killed little Omar because they don’t listen to the Lord. Now, somebody needs to tell them how the Lord feels about burning up little babies. I’m going to Fort Jezreel, Dad, and I need your blessing.”
Elijah’s father drew in a sharp breath, opened both hands toward Elijah’s mother, and put his head in his hands.
But Sheerah frowned. “Remember Ma-ahz?”
“Ma-ahz.” Elijah looked at his brother, head down and silent beside their father. “Nathan would quote you the entire story. But, yeah, I know. The speedy guy. Outran the Ethiopian. Show-off.”
He took one quick stride to Nathan’s side. “That’s not me, Sheers.”
He bent over his brother. “I’m going to Fort Jezreel.” He clasped Nathan’s shoulders. “When I get back please be talking.”
He shook his head at Sheerah. “I don’t even want to leave home. I like it right here. These limestone walls Mom and Dad laid up and that old stone cook stove. Our vines, our wines, our customers. The world comes to Tishbe. No need to trot over to Jezreel. But I’m going.”
He reached into the pantry and came up with a brick of raisins, a piece of cheese, and a small skin of red wine. “Okay, Mom?” He plunged them into his pack and headed out the door. He sat on the well’s limestone wall and pulled up a bucket of water. Sheerah held the mouth of the water skin while he poured.
He stood to go, but Sheerah held the water skin behind her back.
“When Ma-ahz got to the king, he could only say, ‘I saw a lot of confusion.’ Just because you have a few whiskers now doesn’t mean you have anything to say.”
“Um, you mean the words.”
She handed him the water skin and wrapped her arms around his rib cage. “Of course the words, you silly.” She hugged him tight. “You can’t just tell the king, ‘God’s gonna get you.’”
He pulled her head to his shoulder. “The words, Sheers. I…I’ll work on that.”
His father stepped in and pried Sheerah away. He reached up and put his hands on Elijah’s shoulders. “The little shepherd lad didn’t just sit in the pasture and write poems about Goliath. Listen for the voice of the Lord, son.”
The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make His face to shine upon you, and be gracious unto you; the Lord lift up His countenance upon you and give you peace.
“Thank you, my Father!”
His father pulled Elijah’s head down and kissed both his cheeks. “Do the right thing.”
Elijah straightened up and embraced his mother. As her long chin slid over his shoulder, she wrapped him in a desperate bear hug and watered his hair with her tears. “Don’t go. Don’t go!” Her sobs shook their long frames. “My boy. My boy. My baby boy!”
Elijah unwrapped his mother’s arms and wiped at his own tears with the palm of his hand. He turned and grasped the gate, but his mother laid her hands on the top rung. “Milkah. What about Milkah?”
The rising sun cast long shadows. Milkah would be leading her father’s sheep into the valley, and he could make a quick detour over the ridge to her pasture.
But, no. His father was right. Fort Jezreel might be a longer hike than he thought.
Elijah hugged his mother again, swung the gate open, and stepped through. “I’ll tell her when I get back.”