Her coal-black eyes widened. “But, son! The queen’s men. Your father’s friends rescued you, but we don’t know anyone at the fort.”
He brushed past Mother and Sheerah on his way to the pantry. “Trumpets? I’ll be back tomorrow. What those Asherah guys do is wrong, Sheers, and somebody’s got to tell the king.” He stuffed pita breads into his pack. “Okay if I load up on these?”
Mother’s lips parted, and she stared at him.
Elijah plopped down between Dad and Mother and chomped on a pita bread and a cucumber. “Maybe I’ll discover David’s greatest moment.”
His dad laid his hand on Elijah’s forearm. “King David can wait. Fort Jezreel might be a longer hike than you think. And you haven’t been listening to your mother.”
Elijah turned toward his Mother’s tear-brimmed eyes. He put one arm around her and waved the other toward Nathan, who sat with head in hands.
“You see how Nate’s clammed up, Mother. I couldn’t stop them from killing Baby Omar, but somebody’s gotta tell the king.”
Her cheeks paled. “Not my little boy.” She raised her fingers and brushed the crusted-over gash in his forehead. She touched his split lip and the puffy rims of his eyes.
Elijah withdrew his arm from around her. “They killed my brother’s friend.”
He pulled a bowl of fresh figs over. “All right if I grab a few?” He opened his pack and dropped in six. Then two more.
Elijah slipped out the door into the cool light of dawn. He jogged past the well as a crested lark warbled its familiar whee-whee-wheeoo. “Good morning to you, too.”
In the donkey pen behind the wine building, he opened the door to the shed and found Dad’s old robe of goatskins sewn together with the hair turned out. He fingered several bare spots where moths had eaten the hair.
Back in the house, he shrugged into the rough skin of the robe. “Scratchy.”
“Pee-ew!” Sheerah wrinkled her nose. “The lord of hair.”
He shucked the robe. “Just the thing.” Elijah opened his pack and folded in the robe.
Mother’s lips trembled. “In Jezreel they’ll kill you.”
“They’re not going to touch me, Mother.”
She stood and looked full into Elijah’s face. “But the fort. The king. You’re only a boy.”
Sheerah slipped her arm into his. “Does my little 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.” He wrapped a clean cloth around pitas and slid them into his pack beside the goatskin. He opened the pantry. “Okay, Mother?” He added a small skin of red wine. He put figs, a brick of raisins, and a piece of cheese inside another cloth and laced the flap over it all.
Elijah’s dad held up a hand. “Your mother’s right, son.”
How to explain? Elijah stood silent for several breaths. Instead of seeking his parents’ blessing, he had bounced from shed to pantry. He had to do this, but he couldn’t do it on his own.
He turned to Mother. Her tears had spilled. Her eyes were dry and red.
He found Dad’s face and swallowed but held his gaze steady. “My father.”
Elijah took a deep breath and began again. “When that priest shoved the baby in the fire, I ducked into your arms. I did not save those babies. I hid. But I felt your sobs. Your tears.
He headed out the door and raised the bucket from the well.
Sheerah followed and sat by him on the limestone wall. “Remember Ahimaaz?” She held a water skin open.
Elijah poured. “Ahimaaz. Fast. Show off. Wouldn’t stay. Had to run. That’s not me, Sheers. I like it right here. These limestone walls Mother and Dad laid up, and this old well. Our vines, our wines, our customers.” He rose. “But I have to go.”
“You mean words?”
“Of course, the words, silly.” She put the water skin in his hands and her arms around him. “You can’t just say, ‘God’s gonna get you.’”
He pulled her head to his shoulder. “The words, Sheers. I’ll…I’ll work on that.”
Elijah’s dad lifted Sheerah’s arm. “The little shepherd lad did not sit in the pasture and write poems about Goliath. Let me embrace my son. Listen for the voice of the Lord, Elijah.”
He put his hands on Elijah’s shoulders. “I now borrow ancient words. ‘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.’”
Dad pulled Elijah’s head down and kissed both his cheeks. “Listen. And do the right thing.”
Elijah embraced his mother.
She wrapped him in a desperate bear hug.
He wiped at his cheeks with his palm, unfolded Mother’s arms, and grasped the gate.
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. Dad was right. Fort Jezreel might be a longer hike than he thought.
Mother released the gate and turned to Sheerah. “Perhaps you can take Milkah another bag of my figs.”
Squirrels rustled the leaves under an oak tree, and a lark warbled whee-whee-wheeoo, both noisy enough. So, why was the Lord silent?
Elijah slipped into his dad’s too-short goatskin and frowned at how his knees and elbows poked out at the edges. As he stepped out from the shelter of the oaks, a breeze ruffled his scraggly new beard, and he squinted against the early afternoon sun.
He took in a deep breath, let it escape through his open mouth, and held his hand against his swollen jaw. “Well, words or no words, Lord, here goes.”
Elijah trudged up the rise, over the plank bridge, and through the gate.
Farmers held small bags beside mounds of beets, cabbage, or melons. Geese gabbled in clusters, tied by their wings. Chickens clucked from bamboo cages. Shoppers stepped around puddles from the recent shower and clutched tiny purses.
At the front gate of the king’s compound, the shields of fifty royal bodyguards flashed in the sun.
Elijah clenched his fists, raised his chin, and headed toward the guards.
The shaggy cloak swung with his strides and bared his elbows and knees.
Two little girls giggled. Laughter followed him through the crowd.