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by Jeffrey Snell
12/21/2009 / Holidays
In a small town fifteen miles outside Omak, Washington, spring was drawing new blossoms from the fruit trees and emerald sprouts from buried bulbs. One main street led typically through the center of the town whose population had never peaked over 2,000. On the east side, a single row of concrete buildings housed the drugstore/grocery, a barber shop, an old movie theater, decrepit and abandoned, and a fishing tackle store. On the west lay two wide, adjacent and unoccupied grassy plots separating the hardware store and a small cafe.
The town was mostly quiet, but a grainy breeze carried an almost imperceptible tension. Most would overlook or ignore it, but not Jedd Hoven. Resting on a plastic chair outside the cafe, he gazed at the few folks meandering in and out of the shops and scratched his white beard. Even at sixty-eight, Sheriff Jedd was perceptive as ever and his mind sharp. He was the type to hold his tongue until the last possible moment, hoping others would follow the rules he'd written up years before and work through a dispute or mystery on their own, gaining understanding and moving past anger. When the time was right, though, Jedd would compassionately offer help. And rarely, if those he observed were oblivious to the plain truth or worse, ambivalent to it, he'd step in more forcefully to upright what was off-kilter.
This morning, Jedd had encountered the worst of these times he'd seen, watching from the same chair as residents gathered in the middle of the street. More and more were coming to watch as the argument between the owners of the drugstore/grocery and barber shop escalated. Voices grew darker and mouths widened, as did eyes, and blood rose in both men's faces till they resembled the faded bricks in their shops. Jedd waited, but the men were only gathering steam. Words like "hate" and "idiot" were being spit both ways, fists barely restrained and in a minute the men's noses might touch. So, reluctantly and with a quiet sigh, he pushed up and stepped to the edge of the sidewalk. Around twenty-five folks had gathered in the street to this point, but half noticed Jedd right away and turned expectantly. Ten beats passed before the glaring two perceived attention shift from their slashing words, and they, too, began turning toward Jedd, countenances already lightening a shade but fists still clenched.
Jedd cleared his throat quickly and other voices went mute. "Boys," he began, though the men were both beyond forty years, "I believe you've gone far nuff beyond." He smiled slightly but his eyes showed no whimsy. "The law is the law. You keep on like this, you'll wind up dead sooner'n otherwise." He nodded. "You head on back to your shops or head on over to the jail." Done, Jedd returned to the chair without a sound, eyes unmoved.
The men chose to return to their shops, the others resumed their prior activities, and all seemed well. But this was the fourth happening of this kind in the last month, and the worsening wasn't lost on Jedd. Something was changing, and he knew full well what it was. He nodded to himself again, another decision made. It was time to finish the job he'd started years before; time for the plan to hit home.
The next morning, after breakfast in the cafe, Jedd used the phone to call back home. His son, Manny, was a strong, good law-abiding boy of thirty years and Jedd's pride and joy. He'd known the time would come to bring Manny into this as his deputy, but with the time at his door, it was nonetheless worrisome. Manny loved these folks just as much as Jedd, and Jedd knew with certainty Manny would do whatever he asked of him; in fact, Manny wouldn't be surprised at all. Jedd could already hear his son's voice saying, "This was always the plan, Daddy."
"Hello, Manny? It's Daddy. It's time Son it's time."
Writing since 2000, I live in the Seattle area with my wife and three children. My passion is to draw others to a more intimate knowledge & love of Jesus through fiction & non-fiction. To contact me, you may send an IM from my FW profile page or visit my website below.
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