01. Abel Meholah [rainy season, so they could get the plow in the ground.i]
Elisha paused his plow in the middle of the field and draped the reins of his two oxen over the plow handles. The early morning sun rose toward high clouds, while a yellowhammer hidden in the hedgerow called zit-zit-zer-lit.
Ahead of him, his father and ten brothers drove their teams toward the end of the field. As their plows turned furrows of thick, heavy sod, robins hopped along, snatching grubs and worms from the black loam. Three brothers looked back with raised eyebrows at Elisha’s two stalled oxen. They needed a complete furrow to guide the next pass of the plows.
Yet, two tall strangers had strolled in from the road.
Last week, his mother had dreamed strangers would come for him. His brothers had clapped him on the back. No more small potatoes for baby brother. Elisha was to leave home and accomplish great things in places no one in Abel Meholah could pronounce.
The strangers ambled along the hedgerow where they wouldn’t spook the oxen. Farmers, perhaps, but their headscarf patterns had never appeared in the local market, and yellow stained the hems of their robes. They had not worked in the black loam of Abel Meholah this week.
The two strode to him through the grass, their sandals kicking up grasshoppers and bees, and as they drew near, the aroma of chamomile.
He took a deep breath and wound the reins around the plow handle. Mother had said the strangers would appear during his twelfth year, and he would turn thirteen at the full moon. A quick greeting would not delay the plowing.
With his fingers curved and stiff from gripping the plow handles,Elisha raised his hand to shield his eyes from the morning sun. By the strangers’ matching square jaws and coal black eyes, they were brothers. They stood with their backs to the sun and their arms relaxed at their sides. The younger one tipped his head in a bow. “The Lord be with you.”
“And with you, sir.” Elisha stared. The man had no eyebrows. Or if those black marks above his eyes were brows, the hair was very short. “Elisha’s the name.” He tipped his head toward the end of the field and gave a slight nod. “See the man driving the lead team? My father.” His shoulders straightened.
With one quick move, the stranger draped his cloak over Elisha’s shoulders. “This is for you.” Elisha fell back against the plow and took a deep breath. “Thank you, sir.” In Mother’s vision of the night, the gift of a cloak signaled Elisha was to be the man’s servant.
The two strangers walked back toward the road.
Elisha pushed off from the plow and lifted the stranger’s robe from his shoulders. It smelled of sweat. He jumped up, twirled, and tossed his own robe over the plow handles. He was leaving home. He slipped an arm into the stranger’s robe and froze. Leaving Mother and Father and ten big brothers.
He dashed through the grass to the stranger. “Let me kiss my father and mother goodbye.” He poked his other arm in and pulled the robe up around his neck. “Then I’ll come with you.”
“Go ahead,” the stranger said, “but don’t forget what I did to you.”
The robe’s weight on his shoulders carried his Mother’s vision of the night. This man had claimed him for his servant. ii
Elisha trotted off to his father and brothers at the end of the field. His stomach dropped like a rock. He was about to leave home. Just like in Mother’s dream.
Elisha’s brothers circled him.
“Those guys? Mother’s dream?”
“They’re too young to have a servant.”
“That cloak stinks. The hem’s full of sand.”
Father pulled him by the shoulder. “Come.” He led him across the field to the strangers. “Welcome. Shaphat’s the name.” He held out his hand.
The stranger with no eyebrows took his hand. “My, um … my name is Elijah, sir. And this is my brother, Nathan.” He tipped his head toward the high plateau. “We’re from Gilead.”
His speech had enough words to show he came from east of the river, and Elisha grinned. With an accent that thick, it would be fun to hear this fellow pronounce “Shibboleth.”
Father stepped back. “Elijah, you say? The Goatskin Kid?”
Nathan took Father by the hand. “Please, sir. The queen would like to remove my little brother’s head, but I’m taking him home to our mother. She would appreciate it if you said nothing about him to the neighbors.”
“The neighbors.” Father shook his head. “Oh, son, I’ll be surprised if half the houses in this village aren’t jabbering about your brother’s four-year drought and his fire show on Mount Carmel. We won’t bandy it about, but don’t expect any miracles of silence in Abel Meholah.”
Elisha’s brother older by a yeariii jogged out to them and handed Elisha his robe off the plow handle. “You can’t expect Father to plow around this jogiv you left in the furrow.” [Maybe reword this dialogue? I keep getting tripped over “left him in the furrow.”] GG He collected the reins and finished the furrow straight and clean to the end of the field.v
[This needs to waitvi.] As Elisha’s father turned and tipped his head on/to? one side, Elisha performed the same movements. [Oopsvii] “My sons are saying we could use the plow. [Was this what the one son meant when he was talking about expecting the dad to plow around the jog?] GG Got a few years’ service left in both those oxen.” As he thrust his chest out, Elisha struck the same pose. “Helped my boy put that plow together. Cuts true. Doesn’t make a man fight to follow the furrow.viii And a man doesn’t want to give the Lord second best.ix Not a real man.”
“Not a real man,” Elisha said. [echoed (?)]
“My brother and I are vintners,” Elijah said. “I might not understand all you mean, but fighting a plow doesn’t sound like fun.”
“That’s right, young man. Andx my wife saw what she saw. Here she comes now.” He laughed softly. “Can’t get out here fast enough.” [who?]xi
As Elisha’s mother appeared in the far corner of the field, Elisha beamed at her.xii She glanced at the path around the border, then gathered her skirts in one hand and angled across the plowed ground, knocking clods aside, hopping over furrows, and hustling through the grass.
“You’ve come.” She panted slightly, holding a dish towel [not linen?] in one hand and a robe over her arm. [How did she know to bring a clean robe?]xiii
Elijah said, “Yes, ma’am. I’m here.”
To rest his forearm against hers, Elisha stepped closer and took deep, savoring breaths.
She draped the robe over the stranger’s arm. “That robe my boy was wearing has dirt from the sod.” [So she’s giving Elijah a robe?] GG
He [who?] smoothed the fine wool with his fingers. “Thank you, ma’am.” [??xiv]
Father said, “We’re preparing a feast in your honor.” He tipped his head toward Elisha’s two oxen at the end of the field. “We’ll be butchering that fine pair of oxen. I’ll make the cut myself. The wrong knife or the wrong pair of hands, and the incision can pull or tear. It’s not right to make an animal suffer.”
He paused. “Were you expecting someone quite so young, dear?”
Motherxv turned her soft, olive-skinned facexvi [Good description. Does she have laugh lines? Shadows under her eyes?] GG up toward Elijah and gazed as if she ownedxvii him. “He’s the one.”
Father strode back across the field to the oxen.
As Mother held her hand in the small of her son’s back, she gazed up into the faces of their visitors. “I realized this baby was special when I was carrying him.”
Elisha leaned into her and inhaled, eager for the next familiar words. xviii
His mother looked Elijah directly in the eye. “No voice. No dream. I just knew. Sometimes as our sons came in from the field [, GG] I reminded his father.”
She anchored her hand on a/her hip. “Then last week the dream, and I told the boys and their father first thing.” Elisha’s mother beamedxix up at the visitor. “We knew you’d come. I’d recognize your face at any age.”xx
At the far end of the field, one of Elisha’s oxen bawled. The younger brothers crowded the ox’s four quarters, pinning him in place. Two older brothers gripped his ears, while the senior brother lifted his nose, exposing the ox’s throat. Elisha’s father made one quick stroke with a long, straight knife, and the ox sank to his knees. The brothers withdrew, and the ox lay bleeding on the ground. After they killed the second ox, Elisha’s aunts and cousins emerged from the far corner of the field with saws and knives and took over the butchering. [Is this a big field? Would the aunts and cousins work close enough to see and hear what was happening?] GG
The brothers broke up Elisha’s plowing equipment and made a fire with the pieces. His nephews jogged off and came back with neighbors.
Elijah and his brother helped drag in dead limbs from the hedgerow and build small cooking fires for the guests. While the fires burned down to beds of coals, guests selected pieces of meat and cut sturdy green sticks.
“Join us at our little fire.” Blue and yellow flames sent gray smoke curling into the night [I didn’t realize night had fallen. Possibly you could give a few supporting hints as the preceding action takes place, by referring to the setting sun at one point, then the dusk, then the fading light. Each of those three used as a tiny punctuation to some of the action sentences you have above would make it very clear that it’s now night.] xxisky.xxii Elisha pointed, and the two visiting brothers sat next to his father and mother.
“Well done for me.” Elisha’s father flipped a steak on the coals. “Got a cousin down in Adam City likes ’em rare. Never could go for that.”
Low chatter came from around the fires as guests and family munched on ox meat. Every time a neighbor came over to his fire, Elisha’s father lifted the sleeve of his son’s robe. “The cloak this young fellow slipped over his shoulders. The Lord’s way of appointing my boy to serve.”
The neighbors thanked him for the meal, offered bits of advice as they slapped Elisha on the shoulder, then drifted off to their homes.
Elisha’s mother leaned over the coals. “Son, that thick, soft rug hanging on the back porch. Stretch it next to yours for these boys tonight.” She looked up at Elijah. “Well, young man, now that the Lord has assigned our son as your servant, just what are his duties?”
The visitor sat up straight as a rock badger under the hunting cry of a hawk. “Duties?”
Elisha straightened with him. Yes. Duties. The sooner he knew what was expected of him, the sooner he could get to work, check to-do’s off his list [anachronismxxiii], and find something great to accomplishxxiv for Motherxxv. [Nice! I’m seeing a glimpse of his goal.]GG
Elisha’s father said, “Let’s put it this way. In the morning, will you be needing our boy with you, or shall we send him later?”
Elisha sagged. No, Dad. Don’t open that “send later” door. [anachronismxxvi] xxvii His brothers talked about the day of salvation. Today. Right?
“With us?” Elijah glanced at Nathan. “Well, sir, it’s like our Uncle Hiram used to say. You can trust a faithful man whether he’s under your nose or in a far city.”
The day of salvation – Isaiah 49:8
i[rainy season, so they could get the plow in the ground.]
iiElisha ran his fingers over the weave, lifted the garment, and held it up to view. “Thank you, sir.”
The robe smelled of sweat. The cuffs were smooth with wear. The hem torn. Perhaps this fellow needed him to wash and repair his clothing. The eleven brothers scrubbed their own laundry. And last month, Elisha had taken the sleeves from his oldest brother’s hand-me-down and sewn them onto a robe which had the hem in one piece.
iiiThe grammar here is a bit strange. John
ivSS Did you mean to use this word? jog
vWait! Doesn’t Father need tell them to unhitch, etc.? . [, where the brothers unhitched Elisha’s oxen] And don’t we need Mother to confirm Elijah is the one first? MAYBE NOT
viThis need to wait for Mother. MAYBE NOT
viiAl the writing in the chapter is very smooth. In contrast, this description comes across as quite stilted and mechanical. John
viiiJohn Good dialogue from a farmer, showing what’s important in his world.
ixSS I’m wondering if someone who hasn’t read the biblical account might be a little confused by this. Consider providing a little more context.
xin her dream
xiIs he referring to Elisha? If so, it would be clearer to name him. John
xiivs. Mother appeared in the far corner of the field. Elisha angled his shoulders to match hers and raised his knees with her strides.
xiii[How did she know to bring a clean robe?]
xiv John I’m a bit unclear what’s happening here.
xvBoth mother and father could use a few wrinkles.
xvi Does this work for mother? soft, olive-skinned face
xviiI’m not understanding the meaning of owned. As if she birthed him? As if he were part of her family/clan? Sorry! ERma
xviiiI love the changes you’ve made to this chapter. It definitely feels like we are much deeper in Elisha’s POV this time around. Becca
xxDoes he look just like he did in her dream? Becca
xxi John – I didn’t realise night had fallen. Possibly you could give a few supporting hints as the preceding action takes place, by referring to the setting sun at one point, then the dusk, then the fading light. Each of those three used as a tiny punctuation to some of the action sentences you have above would make it very clear that it’s now night.
xxiiSo many great descriptions to help us feel like we’re there with the characters! Becca
xxiiiJohn this feels out-of-place for the historic context
xxivThis tells us a lot about Elisha’s character in a natural way. Well done!
xxvElisha obviously refers to her as Mother. So, since we’re in his POV, you could call her “Mother” during other parts of the narrative as well, instead of “Elisha’s mother,” to save on the added words. You could also call his father “Father.” Becca
xxviAlso here, the phrasing feels like 21s Century phraseology. John
xxviiSince this moves into Elisha’s thoughts in present tense, you’ll want to put it in italics to show that it’s a direct thought. Becca