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01 January 2017

Winter Thieving (Sunday Psalms)

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Sunday Psalms: Fictional Narratives Inspired by the Psalms, Proverbs, & Other Biblical  Works

During most of December, snow covered the suburban neighborhood of Sherwood Hills. The usual holiday chaos was kept to a minimum as folks chose to stay indoors, shuffling about in Santa pajamas and sipping mugs of hot cocoa. For days, the hill on Greenville Street was closed off, and long hours were dedicated to robust sledding competitions. To date, Johnny Moseley held the record for farthest distance traveled (Johnny was the sort of boy who won at everything).

After weeks of dictating the neighborhood activities, the snow gradually dissolved. By December 31st, a dull gray-brown appearance returned to the town, and the little neighborhood prepared for the annual New Year’s Eve party.

Midst the snow, the neighbors weren’t the only ones anxious to get out. The weather had kept the local band of thieves dormant for a good many weeks. After this extended confinement, they could feel the restlessness in their legs. The dissipation of the snow brought the perfect opportunity for a fresh round of prowling.

“It’s time,” Jasper announced. “Tomorrow night.” Jasper was the mastermind of the criminal group. Tonight he would case the neighborhood; tomorrow they would strike.

“But what about the snow, Jasper? It might come again. I can feel it in my teeth.” Queenie infused an extra dose of pity in her voice.

“Exactly why we should do it soon, before it snows again.” Queenie frequently complained about things like rain and wind and sore feet. It could be seventy degrees out and she would still find a reason to fret. Jasper was through discussing it with her. Queenie gave him a little shiver in response but did not contest his decision.

The subject of their sting operation was a quaint bungalow at the end of Heatherwood Street. The house belonged to a couple whose charcoal mailbox informed passersby that the Jacobsons lived there. In this particular neighborhood, Harold Jacobson was known for his expertise in accounting, his passion for literature, and his love of skim milk. Warm. His wife Claire was popular for her well-executed parties.

From the seclusion of the bushes, Jasper peered into the windows as the Jacobsons hosted the neighborhood’s New Year’s Eve extravaganza. He noted the presence of cheese platters and chocolate cake and creamy eggnog. He was unable to take his eyes off the sparkling diamonds the ladies had donned for the occasion. It was the perfect house for a hit.

Jasper wasn’t the only one who enjoyed the party. Even though her eggnog-spiked neighbors may not have been the best judges of quality, Claire Jacobson’s guests insisted it was the best party of the year. They sang her a terrible rendition of Auld Lange Syne and praised her skills as hostess. Leaving her husband with instructions for keeping the house in order, Claire rewarded herself with a shopping trip to Seattle. She’d be back in a few days. The house was all his.

Like most married men, Harold Jacobson enjoyed the occasional evening alone. He knew the best route for post-holiday grogginess was to retire early. Therefore, he planned to do what he always did when his wife left town: he would warm a glass of skim milk, begin a new book, and fall asleep with the lights on. On this particular evening, he selected the Brandon Sanderson novel he’d received for Christmas. He would be asleep in a matter of minutes.

“Not until the lights are out. All of them.” Around seven-thirty, Jasper led his small posse to the bushes behind the designated house. His instructions were firm.

“Seriously, Jasper. Let’s get moving. I’m starving.” The despondent remark came from Fargo, the largest of the three bandits. His size made him the most intimidating to people.

“Shouldn’t be long, Fargo. He’ll get tired soon enough. Your stomach will survive until then.” Jasper was not affected by Fargo’s complaints. Especially after Raul. You could never be too careful.

“What’s happening?” Jasper called up to Queenie. The smallest of the three, Queenie could squeeze into places the other two could not. Tonight she had swiftly climbed the branches of the evergreen tree, giving her a direct view into Mr. Jacobson’s bedroom.

“I see him. He’s reading,” she whispered down to the other two. “A big book. Looks boring.”

“Is he sleepy?” Jasper asked.

“I can’t tell,” Queenie answered. “No. Wait. Wait, he’s yawning.” She inched out on the branch until she was almost touching the window pane. “Now! Now! Old guy’s asleep.” Queenie scurried down the tree, her breathing rapid. This was her favorite part, that moment before striking. It was the most alive Jasper had seen her since Raul was killed.

“You’re sure he’s asleep? The light’s still on.” Jasper signaled them to huddle.

“I’m positive,” Queenie assured him. “He’s snoring. I saw his mustache hairs twitching.”

“Let’s get on with it, Jasper. I’m starving.” With that, Fargo stepped out of the bushes. The light from the moon followed him as he made his way to the back porch.

Tonight, the moon was a full round vision. One of those moons that made you stop and stare. The sort of moon that gave you hope that things weren’t as bad as they seemed, that made you consider the notion of something greater than your own life. This was the kind of moon that made you believe.

“Raul loved the moon,” Queenie mused. The brilliant yellow ball reflected in her black eyes. She didn’t realize she was talking out loud. Lately, she had developed the habit of talking to herself which, at times, proved embarrassing to all parties involved.

“Raul loved his life,” Jasper whispered and gave her a reassuring pat. Queenie’s mate had been shot by a spry elderly woman who wielded a shot-gun as good as any man. Barely eating, Queenie had been grieving for weeks. “This one’s for Raul.”

“For Raul.” Queenie nodded, sniffling back her emotions. She fell into step behind Fargo, cautiously looking from side to side. Jasper always brought up the rear.

The porch was a large one. To be accurate, it was actually a deck, one that spanned the entire length of the house. Last summer, Mr. Jacobson had constructed it from mismatched lumber he had collected from the neighbors. Every night after dinner, Mrs. Jacobson would sweep the deck with her red-handled broom. The Jacobsons loved their deck.

The most honored item on the deck was Harold’s industrial-sized grill. Even in the chill of winter, Mr. Jacobson fired up the gas for ribs and chicken wings and pork chops. Last night, Jasper had observed Mr. Jacobson grill thick steaks and shrimp for the party. The smell had been intoxicating. When Mr. Jacobson ducked inside for a pair of tongs, Jasper had a moment of weakness and considered stealing a bite. To his credit, he had remained steadfast. He was not a whimsical thief.

Now, the remnants of last night’s party filled the metal trash cans along the far side of the deck. Claire Jacobson was partial to metal trash cans. She felt the plastic ones were hideous. Metal provided an air of civility to one’s trash.

“Smells like steak,” whispered Fargo as they crept up the wooden steps. “T-bone.” Fargo would know.

“Sure does,” Queenie agreed. “And sausage too. And maybe some onions.”

“These people sure know how to party,” Fargo said, sniffing at the can closest him.

“Would you two pipe down?” Jasper snapped. “What are you? Squirrels? No more chattering. We get the goods and get out of here.”

“Sorry, Jasper,” Queenie whispered and began a methodical forage through the Jacobsons’ trash. Can by can, the team gingerly pulled out used paper plates and turkey legs and shiny decorations. It wasn’t until Fargo decided to balance his girth on the rim of one of the cans that the whole thing toppled over. The crashing metal sent a reverberating crash throughout the quiet neighborhood. Jumping at the noise, Queenie careened into Jasper, causing him to smash into the grill, which tipped and wobbled over with another huge crash.

“Who’s there?!” The noise successfully jolted Harold Jacobson awake. He inadvertently bumped into his bedside stand, knocking his milk onto his lap, his pillow, his novel. “That’s it!” he shouted as milk soaked through to his skin. From his dresser drawer, he pulled out the handgun he’d purchased months earlier. It had never been fired.

“Jasper! Jasper!”

Jasper and Fargo had already reached the safety of the bushes when they heard Queenie’s cry. Her back paw was caught in a mess of soda plastic rings and old balloon strings. The more she tugged, the more tangled she became.

“Queenie, hurry!” Jasper yelled. He could feel the wave of panic as Mr. Jacobson stormed through the house. It was the same feeling Jasper had when the woman shot Raul.

“Who’s there?” Mr. Jacobson hollered again, flicking on the floodlights. Like an actor in the spotlight, Queenie’s trembling figure lit up. With a clear view of her shiny black nose, Mr. Jacobson raised his gun and pointed it. This was the first raccoon he had trapped on his deck.

“See you soon, Raul,” Queenie said under her breath. She looked up at the moon and sighed. And then she felt it — the first snowflake alighted on her nose. Another snowflake danced down from heaven and landed on the cold barrel of Mr. Jacobson’s gun.

“He’s going to kill her,” Fargo hissed and moved like he was going to re-enter the open territory.

“No. Wait.” Jasper held a paw out. From the bushes, they watched Mr. Jacobson and Queenie stared at one another in the falling snow.

“Go on. Get out of here,” Mr. Jacobson griped at Queenie. He bent down and carefully tugged at one of the strings. The raccoon eased her paw out and darted into the bushes. Her back was turned when the man smiled and shoved the gun in the pocket of his terry cloth robe. “You’re lucky Claire wasn’t home,” he called after her. “She’d make sure you never came back.” After all, Harold Jacobson wasn’t the sort of man who wanted the reputation of being a soft touch.

“That was a close one.” Fargo hugged Queenie as returned to them.

“We’ll have to lay low for a while. We’ll come back after he goes back to sleep” Jasper was already planning their next step.

“No. Not this house. We’ll find another one.” Queenie was adamant.

“Alright. We’ll find another house. Come on. Let’s get out of here.” Jasper nodded in the direction of the trees where they lived.

Before scampering off, Queenie turned back to get one last look. Through the brush, she could see Harold Jacobson standing there in his fuzzy bathrobe and mismatched socks. The snow fell around him in heavy flakes, and she decided that Raul would have liked this human, this man with the snow clinging to his hair and beard.

He sends His command throughout the earth; His word runs swiftly. He spreads snow like wool; He scatters frost like ashes; He throws His hailstones like crumbs. Who can withstand His cold? He sends His word and melts them; He unleashes His winds, and the waters flow. Psalm 147:15-18 (HCSB)

Question to Ponder: When do you feel calm? Chaotic?

Song Recommendation: It Is Well by Kristene DeMarco

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Embracing life’s wilderness through music and community

-Read Previous Sunday Psalms from Season Two: Episode 1Episode 2, Episode 3Episode 4Episode 5,Episode 6, Episode 7, Episode 8Episode 9, Episode 10, Episode 11, Episode 12, Episode 13, Episode 14, Episode 15, Episode 16,  Episode 17, Episode 18, Episode 19, Episode 20, Episode 21

Written by Heidi Sadler, Inspired by Psalm 147. Copyright © 2017 Heidi Sadler, All Rights Reserved.

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