Sunday Psalms: Fictional Narratives Inspired by the Psalms, Proverbs, & Other Biblical Works
Part 1: The Wife Speaks
Call it a premonition, call it women’s intuition, call it whatever you like, but when he told me we were leaving, a chill wind blew through my heart. Intellectually, I knew my husband was right. I knew it was time, but I couldn’t shake the sense that tragedy was on the horizon.
It wasn’t a complete shock. Eli had been talking about it for months, hoping I would come around. You see, we are not known in these parts for being quick to change our minds. It takes consistent prodding. My husband has learned this better than anyone.
“I sold the farm. We have until Friday.” That was how he broke the news. It was Monday and I was in the middle of preparing a soup that was little more than water and beans when he put his hand on my shoulder. I refused to acknowledge his touch.
“It can’t be helped, my love.” Eli said this as if it was fact. He wasn’t going to debate the matter any longer. He had grown disillusioned with men who kept promising that things were going to turn around, that we just needed to hang in there, that we would come back stronger than ever. All Eli knew was that our boys hadn’t eaten a solid meal in months. It didn’t matter what politicians or economists claimed was sure to come. We were starving.
“You know what the family will say,” I said as I choked back tears that threatened to spill over into the pot that simmered on the stove. It was the stove he had bought me for our wedding. The stove I would now be leaving to the wealthy man who bought our farm for less than we had paid for it, just because he could.
“The family is starving too. You think they have food to share?”
“Better to starve together than to be fat apart,” I snapped, envisioning what the aunties and cousins and neighborhood busybodies would have to say about my husband’s decision to leave. They had been wary of my Eli from the beginning. Ever since he was a boy, he was always coming up with new ideas, challenging the rules. Forbidden behavior in our community.
I remember the time Eli first came home with the gramophone. I thought the ladies in the sewing circle were going to stab him with their needles.
“It will send him to the flames for sure. How can you sit by and do nothing, Nomy? Don’t you know what those young people do in town, listening to all that jazz and wriggling their bodies around like heathens?” They must have spent the good part of three months on the topic of Eli’s rebellion and how that music was going to lead him straight to the devil.The most vocal had been Beatrice Hillshire who managed to convince Reverend Garvin to make it the topic of his sermon several weeks running.
“Nomy, I don’t give two cents about what those old biddies think,” Eli had said as he turned the music up even louder — I think it was an Al Jolson record — and twirled me around the sitting room with all the gusto of the young men at the swing clubs.
Staring into the meager soup, I almost laughed as I thought back on the faces of those women, plump with contentment and completely horrified. But when I thought of those faces now, cheeks so thin that it made you look twice, I remembered my grief.
If I had been honest with the sewing circle, I would have admitted that I rather liked jazz music. When Eli and the boys were out fishing, I was actually known to put on a record or two and have my own private dance session right there in my beloved kitchen. But that was before the Crash. That was when I had a reason to dance.
It was hard to fathom all that had been gained and lost in a decade. Men had come home from the war, eager to forget, and we women were happy to forget with them. We embraced every bit of laughter, squeezing out every last drop of passion that each day afforded. We just hadn’t understood that the end of the war was just the end of the first act to life’s great tragedy. The follies that followed were simply the intermission before the second act. In the weeks and months following the Crash, we realized that those carefree years had been the exception.
“I think we should keep the roadster,” Eli said as I continued to stand with my back to him, stirring the soup and wanting to pretend this wasn’t happening. “Don’t think we’d get far without it.” I nodded my agreement. The car was the last bit of luxury we had left. The gramophone had been sold more than a year ago, along with the furniture, the sewing machine, and my grandmother’s silver.
“I’ll go talk to the boys,” Eli said, leaving me to wallow in my memories. Over the years Eli had learned the futility in trying to tell me how to feel. I warm up in my own time and not before.
Our sons would be out fishing at the creek that had once been a river. It was the least they could do, these children forced to become men. When one of them brought home a scrawny fish for dinner, it might as well have been a fat hog for butchering.
Lately, as I studied the faces of the boys and girls in our community, there was a silent terror that began in their eyes and settled down into their thin cheeks. Youth was supposed to be the time for them to be hopeful, to dream. But there was none of that now. Now there was a fear that one day there would be nothing to eat, and fear made people do things that they lived to regret. Even in our own close-knit community, some of the best of folks found themselves grabbing and stealing for their very lives. Since ’29, we had slowly become scavengers, and scavenging was just a few steps away from the grave.
Now it came to pass in the days when the judges ruled, that there was a famine in the land. And a certain man of Bethlehemjudah went to sojourn in the country of Moab, he, and his wife, and his two sons. And the name of the man was Elimelech, and the name of his wife Naomi, and the name of his two sons Mahlon and Chilion, Ephrathites of Bethlehemjudah. And they came into the country of Moab, and continued there. Ruth 1:1-2 (KJV)
O lord God of my salvation, I have cried day and night before thee: Let my prayer come before thee: incline thine ear unto my cry; For my soul is full of troubles: and my life draweth nigh unto the grave. I am counted with them that go down into the pit: I am as a man that hath no strength: Free among the dead, like the slain that lie in the grave, whom thou rememberest no more: and they are cut off from thy hand. Thou hast laid me in the lowest pit, in darkness, in the deeps. Thy wrath lieth hard upon me, and thou hast afflicted me with all thy waves. Selah. Psalm 88:1-7 (KJV)
-Questions to Ponder: What do you need today? Then ask God the same question: “What do You think I need today?”
-Song Recommendation: Since I am So Sick by Waterdeep (available on Spotify)
-Film Recommendation: Cinderella Man
Check back next Sunday for Part 2 of The Refugee.
-Other Resources: Farming in the 1930’s
Written by Heidi Sadler, Inspired by Ruth 1: & Psalm 88. © 2016, Heidi Sadler, All Rights Reserved.