Honorable mention: Sharon Sweda, Huron, Ohio
Jacob slumped as Katherine cleared the table around him. Sensing he’d skip choir rehearsal, she chose to pray, rather than argue.
The foreclosure notice had changed everything at the farm and Jacob became more withdrawn as the deadline approached.
“Where’s Jacob?” Pastor Thomas inquired. Rumors circulated that Jacob was angry at God – as if the Creator deliberately orchestrated the crises.
“I can’t deal with this!” Jacob bellowed as he opened the foreclosure notice. “First the drought – then floods! Now this?”
His frustration was justified. The bad economy and weather eliminated any chance of paying the mortgage.
“Pastor asked about you.” Katherine’s voice signaled it was nine o’clock. Jacob hadn’t moved from the table and his depression stirred aloneness in his partner.
“Let’s get help,” she pressed.
“Help? Can someone make it rain or stop flooding? Has church helped?”
Later, Katherine sat and prayed for strength. She knew that while God didn’t cause bad things to happen, he could help them cope.
The days both crept and flew by. Each grew nearer without a solution.
Ironic, Katherine thought as she emptied the Rainy Day Jar for grocery money. At the mailbox she collected the mail that Jacob avoided, as a car slowed to view their property.
“Get moving! Blood sucker!” Jacob yelled from the porch. The pending foreclosure brought plenty of lookers.
Katherine glanced at her husband who felt let-down by life as the car stopped behind her.
“Excuse me, M’am?” The Cadillac driver’s accent indicated he was from further east.
“M’am, I am moving to Missouri and I need a farm. I’d like to propose a win-win.”
Katherine didn’t understand his City-Slicker talk.
Seeing confusion, he inquired, “May I speak with your husband?”
“You can try.”
Dinner was quiet with no mention of the stranger. The calendar hung by the table and neither understood why the county would conduct sales at Christmas.
Katherine filled her days with food preparation. From the kitchen she heard vehicles slowing to view their property, and paid little attention to Jacob’s absences. Each faced grief in their own way.
“Leaving?” Katherine inquired of Jacob on Christmas Eve. “Be back for church?”
“I’ll try,” he mumbled.
Katherine mistook a spectator’s car for Jacob’s as she left for church. She was sad that Jacob failed to recognize her suffering.
The choir ended with Silent Night. Katherine held back tears until spotting Jacob holding a small present. Her heart ached with love for her partner of 42 years.
“Merry Christmas, Katherine.”
“Jacob! A gift?”
Inside the box was a lease and a check for forty-eight thousand dollars. In a moment she realized that Jacob had leased the farm to the stranger in the Cadillac. The affluent horseman had hired Jacob as caretaker, while allowing them to farm the back 150 acres. The first year’s payment would save the farm.
The joy of Christmas and its eternal hope filled Katherine with gratitude for their extraordinary blessing. She was convinced that although the Creator didn’t cause droughts and floods, he was surely the provider of this miracle.