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21. Why me?

Elijah woke to the distant jingle of ships’ rigging knocking against the masts and the faint smell of surf with a tinge of rotting fish guts. He and Nathan followed Zim into the back yard. “Out here Mr. Nathan.” Zim laid both hands on the trunk of a huge tree.

Elijah closed the door behind him and paused, but Nathan joined Zim at the tree. “An Absalom oak.”

Absalom?”

That’s what we call them in Tishbe.”

You mean like the Absalom who tried to kill King David?”

The very one. You heard about that, Zim?”

Professor Hashabiah says Absalom hung there for the longest time. But I never knew my tree was the one that grabbed him.”

Elijah looked up. The platform stood higher than the ceiling in the house. Nathan leaned back. “Sure is high.”

The highest tree house in the world, Mr. Nathan. And the most beautiful. It’s the best anywhere. My dad helped me build it. And up there we’re gonna see a hummingbird.” Zim undid a knot, and a rope ladder swung out from the trunk. “It’s wobbly, but it held my dad.” He stepped onto the bottom rung.

The rope shot left and took Zim’s feet with it. Elijah laughed, and Nathan steadied the rope.

Thanks!” Zim scrambled up and in. Then he stuck his head over and looked down.

Nathan took three times as long to make it to the top. “Yup. Most beautiful tree house in the world. Maybe even better than the one my brother and I built.”

Zim hung his head over. “Come on up, Mr. Lijah.”

Elijah cocked his head back. Zim was the closest thing to a friend for Nathan since the priest killed little Omar. “Thanks, Zim. I’ll help from down here today.”

Zim’s mother came out into the back yard and smiled up at Zim and Nathan. But she squared away toward Elijah with a sober look. “I want to know something, young man. Why aren’t you boys with your mother and father?”

Our mother and father.” Elijah looked up at Nathan. “It’s a long story, Ma’am.”

And another thing, why me? Understand me. When I scoop the flour out of that barrel I’m so thankful! My son and I thank your God for flour and oil.”

She looked at up Zim. “But how did you find us?”

The Lord showed me pictures of the route, Ma’am, from the Brook Kerith all the way to Zarephath.”

She pointed to herself. “And did he show you me? That one. Ask that woman there.”

Elijah laughed. “No, Ma’am. But the Lord did show me sticks like those in your hands.”

So, why did you say the flour and the oil would, would—why did you say all that?”

It kind of bubbled out, Ma’am.”

So, your God sent you to Zarephath. But why?” She glanced up toward Zim. “Understand me. I am so grateful for flour and oil! Since my husband died, we’ve had nothing. Nothing. But why Zarephath?”

I don’t know why Zarephath, Ma’am. First Nathan hid me in a ravine, but when the brook dried up, the Lord showed me Zarephath.

Hid you? Who from?

The king, Ma’am. I told the king, ‘Neither dew nor rain until I say so.’”

But, son. You’re only a boy.”

I know, Ma’am. That’s what my mother says.” His head went down.

So, what’s your father say about this?”

My father said to do the right thing.”

Her cheek twitched into a tiny smile. “But why no more rain? What’s your God got against you people?”

It’s the Asherah temples, Ma’am.”

Her smile disappeared, and Elijah flinched. Her face lay flat like the face of a baby goat on butchering day. One minute nibbling every blade of grass, testing the folds in his sleeve — the next minute, eyes unlit, lips still.

She looked up at the tree house and lowered her voice. “What do you know about Asherah temples, son?”

Elijah glanced around the yard and up at the tree house. He took a breath and looked at the widow. “I’ve seen their slave girls, Ma’am. And—and my father told me what the priest makes those girls do.”

Zim’s mother nodded. She folded her arms and went and stood by the door.

This story in the Bible – 1 Kings 17:17

“…the son of the woman who owned the house…” 

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