Welcome to The Writer's Corner
Chapter 27 - The Sound of Children
Written by Michelle Palmer
Six months earlier
Jebb Simpson paced the floor in his cabin as he listened to the
cries coming from the bedroom. "Is Mama gonna be okay, Papa?"
Seven year old Paul’s eyes were wet with tears as he stared
hopefully into his father’s worried eyes.
"I’m sure…" Jebb patted his son’s head. "I’m sure she’ll be
A blood-curling scream sounded from the bedroom, then it was
quiet…so deathly quiet. Jebb hurried to the door of the room and
put his hand on the door knob, but then he smiled when he heard
the baby cry. "You hear that, son?" Jebb laughed. "Everything's
gonna be just fine!"
The door opened. Emily Livingston stepped into the room holding
a bundle. "It’s a little girl." She walked up to Jebb and forced
a smile on her tired face. "Congratulations, Pa."
Jebb reached out for the bundle and cuddled her close. "I’m sure
May is very happy," he mumbled. He studied his daughter’s face,
and looked up when he heard Jason step into the room. Jason
stood beside his very pregnant wife. That’s when Jebb noticed
that Emily wasn’t simply tired. She was sorrowful. Emily placed
a hand to her rounded belly and looked sadly into her husband’s
face. Jason held sorrow on his face. "What’s wrong?"
"Jebb…" Jason’s Adam’s Apple bobbed up and down. "Maybe we
should sit down."
Jebb looked back at Emily, then toward his son. He flung the
bundle in his arms toward Emily, who was forced to take the new
baby. "Jason, stop him!" Emily cried out. But Jebb shoved Jason
aside, causing the doctor to fall hard on his backside. Jebb
rushed to the closed door and flung it open.
The Livingston’s heard the sorrowful moan escape the man’s lips
when he saw his wife covered with a sheet.
Jason and Emily Livingston stayed for as long as they could,
offering comfort. The man didn’t say a word for a long time.
When the evening was finally growing late, Jebb came out of the
bedroom and went to stare at the flames in the fireplace. Jason
stepped up behind the newly widowed father, prepared to give him
comfort. When Jebb finally spoke, his voice was shaky and wet
with tears. "Her sister…Joe Blevins…lives in Oklahoma City.
She’ll raise the girl."
"Mr. Simpson!" Emily protested. Jason put a hand on her arm and
shook his head.
"The boy will stay here with me. He’ll do good on the farm. I
ain’t got no use for a girl."
Emily’s eyes filled with tears as she looked down at the baby.
"GO ON NOW! GET OUT OF HERE!" Jebb screamed these words.
"Alright, Jebb. We’ll go." Jason knew the man was hurting.
"We’ll keep the baby for a few days…find a wet nurse for
her…just in case you change your mind."
"I won’t!" Jebb stared into the fire. "I never want to see that
girl again, ya hear?"
It wasn’t long after the Livingston’s had left with the baby
that Jebb picked up his hat and walked out the door, leaving
Paul there by himself. Neighbors had come by the next day to
find his mother’s still lying in the bed. They took her and
buried her. Paul watched from a distance, wondering where his
father was. The neighbors were just about to take him home with
them when Jebb Simpson came stumbling in. He ordered everyone
out of there.
The days turned into weeks. Paul cried for the loss of his
mother, but Jebb smacked him and told him there’d be no crying.
Jebb was usually drunk by nine in the morning and never stopped
drinking. He didn’t bother feeding the boy or even paying him
any mind, except to order him to bring in more wood for the
Three months later, things hadn’t improved. The boy knew his
sister was long gone. When his father was passed out, he just
went and sat at the grave of his mother and stared at the dirt
that covered her grave. The snows and the cold slowly went away,
but his mother continued to sleep. Spring slowly made its way
onto the prairie.
The distant sound of church bells sounded. Jebb slowly stood
from the grave one morning in early February. He looked down at
his clothes. Only four months ago they had been neatly pressed
and washed by his mother’s loving hands. But now they were
soiled with whatever food he could find to eat. His clothe
reeked from weeks of wearing them. His hair was filthy; hadn’t
been washed in weeks. Yet he felt a sudden desire to be near the
Paul’s feet her bare, but he didn’t mind. He ran the short
distance to the church and stood on the edge of the yard
watching the families make their way into the church. He
remembered going there nearly every Sunday with his Ma. He
remembered whispering to the children after church. Something
deep inside him longed for that again, yet he couldn’t…he was so
scared and confused.
"Paul?" A lady stepped up to him. He remembered her. He often
saw her walking with a tall man who carried a strange-looking
rifle. "Would you like to come inside?"
Paul cowered away and shook his head. He was terrified and
didn’t want anybody to bother him. "Paul…it’s okay. I’m sorry
about your Mother. How’s your Pa?" Paul continued to shake his
head, his eyes wide with fear.
"Margart?" The big man with the rifle walked up beside her,
except he wasn’t carrying his rifle now. "Oh, hello Paul! Would
you like to come inside?" Paul walked backwards and pressed
himself up against a tree. The big man scared him now. "It’s
okay. The preacher’s so loud…you can hear him all the way out
here, I’m sure." The big man took the woman’s arm and walked her
The next Sunday, Charlie McCain walked up to Paul. "Haven’t seen
ya in school. Ya been ditchin’?" Charlie asked. He sniffed the
air. "What’s that smell? Ya smell that?" Paul stared at Charlie.
"What’s wrong with you, Simpson? Cat got your tongue?" Charlie
gave Paul a confused look. A tall man with a thick beard called
to him. Charlie walked backwards, looking Paul up and down. Then
he turned and hurried up to the man who had called him.
The next two Sundays, different people tried to get him inside,
but he wouldn’t budge. He was scared.
During his times at the edge of the churchyard, he noticed a
red-headed lady who reminded him a lot of his mother. She even
wore her shirts out of her skirts like his Ma did when she had
that baby inside her. She even put a hand on her belly. Sunday
after Sunday he watched this lady until one Sunday she didn’t
show up. He saw the man with the beard – Charlie’s father – run
up to the church and soon leave with the nice lady and the man
with the rifle. The next Sunday, They were back, but not the
lady with the red hair.
Then one Sunday, Charlie got close to him again. Paul spoke
rather quietly. "That woman with the red hair…you ken to her?"
"Don’t reckon I heard her name."
"She was s’posed ta have a baby."
"S’posed to?" Paul questioned.
"Papa sayed he died."
"Died? How come?"
"Happened a’for he was borned. Can’t know why." Charlie looked
Paul up and down. "I heard your Mama died too." Paul’s eyes
filled with tears. "Ya missin’ her?"
"I reckon," Paul said quietly.
"I reckon I’d miss my Mama a powerful lot if she died. " Charlie
drew in the dirt with his shoe. "I wuz listenin’ at the wood
pile when Papa and Mama wuz talkin’. Papa sayed yer Papa sent a
Paul turned from Charlie then. He didn’t want his peer to see
him cry. "Mama had a sister…then she died." Paul ran away to
cry. He didn’t want to talk about it anymore. It hurt to think
But the very next Sunday, he was back. He heard the commotion
coming from inside the church. He watched the families as they
stomped away angry. He saw his friend Charlie lined up with the
other children being yelled at by the man with the beard. He saw
the man with the rifle laugh before he left. Then he watched as
all five children were whipped by the man with the beard and
sent to marching home as they bawled.
That last Sunday, the wife of the man with the rifle came up to
Paul and once again invited him to come in. Paul put a hand to
his mouth and shook his head before he turned and ran away.
But he already knew he’d be back the next Sunday.
Em McCain didn’t mean to allow the heavy sigh to escape her
throat, but it did. Jeremiah paused in tasting his coffee and
looked up at her as she quickly wiped out the pan she had just
emptied. Without saying a word, Jeremiah sat down his cup and
walked up behind her. He wrapped his arms around her from behind
and kissed the top of her head. "You’re thinking about it
Em felt ashamed. She knew she needed to shake herself from
dwelling on the past. She gave a slight nod as she leaned back
against her husband and put her hands on his arms folded around
her. "Please don’t be upset with me, Jeremiah. I’m trying."
Jeremiah put his hands on her shoulders and turned her to face
him. "I’m not upset with you. I’m worried." He searched her eyes
and saw the sadness there. "I see you smile, but not as often…or
sincere…as you did before. I watch you watching the other
children. You put on a good front, but I’m not fooled. Neither
is anybody else."
Em forced her eyes off of her husband’s and went to wash Abby’s
face. "I can’t explain it, Honey. I’m just so…"
"Lonely?" Jeremiah finished for her. He bent down beside her and
smiled at their daughter. "And you feel guilty because you have
me and Abby, and that should be enough?" Em nodded again. "But
it’s not enough. Perhaps…" Jeremiah stopped.
Em’s mind flashed back to the day before at the Gibbs Ranch. She
had listened to all Margaret had to say about starting a Sunday
School. Later, Margaret had approached her and asked her if she
could help with the children. "I notice how down you are. You’re
so lonely, and I can’t imagine how it must feel. But honey…if
you just take you mind off the baby and…"
"You think my being around children Sunday after Sunday would
help?" Em had felt the hot tears fill her eyes. She had been
angry that Margaret would even suggest such a thing. Why, she
hadn’t even returned to church yet! "I can’t…I just can’t!"
"At least pray about this," Margaret had suggested then as Em
quickly walked away from her. "Maybe God’s bringing you to this
Em looked up into her husband’s eyes now. She knew without
asking that he was thinking on that conversation from yesterday.
Sunday night as they lay in bed, Jeremiah had even questioned
her. "Have you prayed about Margaret’s suggestion?"
Em had lay staring at the wall in the darkness. Her answer was
barely heard by Jeremiah, who had sighed and pulled her into a
tight embrace. "She needs your support, Em. You know that."
Em looked up into her husband’s eyes again. Abby, realizing her
parents weren’t giving her attention ran off to play with her
dolls. Jeremiah’s words just now had echoed those in the
darkness the night before. She knew their marriage was
suffering. She knew she needed to find some way to move on. Most
days, she could smile a few times throughout the day, but she
still wasn’t well. She still remembered how blue and cold their
son had looked as Jeremiah screamed at her that their son was
Em pressed a hand to her forehead as if to push down the
memories of that dreadful day. "I know." Em bit her lip as it
started to shake. Jeremiah put a hand on her shoulder. "I miss
you, Em." It was a mere whisper spoken. Em nodded her head,
knowing Jeremiah longed for the intimacy that hadn’t come since
their son had been born. Though the days of love-making were
still physically impossible, she knew Jeremiah missed her hugs,
kisses, and just being held. She longed for those things
herself, but she couldn’t do it…not now. But she also realized
that she needed to try and do something to heal her heart.
She wondered if she’d ever want to make love to her husband
again. That thought scared her, but the thought of risking
putting herself through that sort of pain ever again made her
almost want to flee far away.
"I’ll go to the grave…and pray." Em stood and hurried from the
house. Jeremiah knew that was her place when she was feeling
lonely. She was able to cry and talk to God. When she returned,
she would often feel more at peace.
Em hurried to the grave and cried out to God. Thirty minutes
later, she stood and wiped her eyes. Then she turned and looked
at Jeremiah who was looking very concerned as he held Abby tight
in his arms.
Jeremiah’s features relaxed when she gave him a small smile. "If
you’ll hitch up the team, I’ll go to Margaret. She said she and
Luke would visit Reverend Gathers at noon."
Margaret toyed with her tea cup as she sat across from Ann at
Ann’s dining room table. They had been conversing for the last
thirty minutes – mostly small talk. Ann studied her best friend
closely, and then sat down her tea cup. "Okay Margaret, out with
Margaret smiled for a moment before sobering. "I don’t want to
hurt you more than you’re already hurting."
"I’ve a favor to ask you…of course, you’ll have to have Hal’s
permission, but…" Margaret paused, allowing the rest of her
words to go unspoken.
"What’s the favor?"
Margaret began speaking, cautiously at first. But as she went
further into her story, she became more excited. Ann listened
calmly and without much expression showing on her face. But by
the time Margaret was finished, Ann was shaking her head in
surprise. "A Sunday School? Oh Margaret, it sounds…wonderful!"
"Of course!" Ann laughed as she jumped up and hurried from the
room. She returned with a letter. "Claire wrote me the other
day. Has she written you?"
"Not in about a month. I figure she’s been busy."
"Well, listen to this…" Ann skimmed through the letter. "Oh,
here it is…’The most amazing thing has happened in our small
church, Ann. We’ve started a Sunday School. Some of the mothers
grew quite tired of their children misbehaving in church and
suggested that the children attend their own class where they
could learn about Jesus on a more simplistic level. Ann, these
children BEG to go to church now! I’m so very excited to see the
excitement dance in their eyes as they are dismissed for Sunday
School. There are afternoons, believe it or not, after the
children are dismissed where they run to their parents and tell
them the whole story! It’s truly a blessing.
"’Ann, I know the trouble you’ve had. I get a bit lonesome
myself, remaining unmarried and all. Teaching Sunday School has
helped me so much. I know your love for children and wonder if
maybe…perhaps…you should see about starting a Sunday School at
the community church there in Enid…’
Ann folded the letter and looked up at Margaret. "And now you
are telling me about your idea of starting a Sunday School. When
I first read this letter, Margaret, I cried. I couldn’t believe
our friend would suggest such things when my heart’s aching…when
my arms are aching so badly to hold a baby of my own. I wept in
Hal’s arms that night. I was angry and told him I felt like I’d
just been slapped…to be around children, teaching them about
God’s love when my womb stays empty…"
Margaret reached out and clasped her friend’s hand. "Oh Ann…I’m
so sorry for you. Three miscarriages and now Jason’s saying you
shouldn’t…" Margaret shook her head. "I can’t imagine the pain
you are feeling." Ann looked up at Margaret. "So did you and Hal
Ann nodded. "We aren’t going to try anymore. Hal told me he’d
rather have me happy and moving on then watch me suffer so much.
We’ve decided we’ll make every effort to make sure I don’t get
"I’m so sorry!" Margaret cried. "I prayed things would change
"Well…" Ann stood and went to refill their tea cups. "God has
his reasons. Maybe this house will never hear the sound of
children. Maybe my heart yearns to teach them about Jesus."
"So you’ll go with us then?"
Ann nodded. "Hal’s even tried to encourage me to talk with you
about it. Oh Margaret, what if I…"
Margaret shook her head. "I think it’s just what you and Em
"How will they manage that?" Lucas questioned after Margaret
announced to him later that morning that Ann and Hal would make
every effort to avoid future pregnancies. "I mean…"
Margaret chuckled as she watched her husband’s cheeks redden. "I
suppose the same way that’s mentioned in the Bible, Luke." She
laughed when his face turned into confusion. "Attended church
your whole life. It’s in Genesis, and that’s all I’m going to
tell you!" She quickly changed the subject before they both
found themselves discussing a topic they didn’t wish to delve
into. "Anyways, I was hoping to convince Em and Jeremiah to come
with us, but I don’t suppose…"
A knock sounded on the door. Jeremiah opened it and stepped
inside with Em beside him. Em’s face held nervousness and fear,
but she was there. Margaret turned and looked up at her husband
who only smiled down at her. "Em…" Margaret stepped forward and
grasped the grieving mother’s hands. "Are you sure? I didn’t
mean to hurt you."
Em smiled a nervous smile. "I told Jeremiah…and God…that I would
give it a try. Oh Margaret, I love children…grew up in a house
full of children, and my heart grieves to hear the sound of
children all around me. Maybe…perhaps…it would do my heart good
to hear their laughter on Sunday mornings. And I was thinking
that it wouldn’t just have to be on Sunday mornings. I’m sure
some of them need so much love and…"
"Em, I think it’s all wonderful!" Margaret’s heart swelled with
pride and excitement. "Reverend Gathers will too. Oh, he’ll have
The three couples went to town in Lucas’ wagon. The women
chatted nervously as they rode in the back. Lucas and Hal sat on
the seat while Jeremiah sat beside his wife holding her hand.
Ann sat on the other side of Em. They held hands and spoke
softly together. Margaret watched with a keen sense of respect,
knowing the two women had a lot in common.
It wasn’t until they were all sitting in the dining room of the
local hotel with empty lunch plates in front of them that
Margaret dared to breathe a word to the Reverend. She watched as
Reverend Gathers dropped his dessert fork on his plate and wiped
his mouth. "Well Mrs. McCain," Reverend Gather’s eyes glowed
warmly as their corners crinkled in amusement. "What you all
have to tell me must be mighty important. You haven’t said a
word since we met for lunch.
Margaret lifted her eyebrows toward Lucas and smiled when he
nodded his head for her to begin. "I’ve not come to tell you
something, Reverend. We’ve all come to make a request."
"A request?" Reverend Gathers leaned back in his chair,
"Yes sir." Margaret licked her lips and leaned forward in her
chair. "You see…I’m sure you’ve noticed the
children’s…behavior…recently and…" Her face burned hot when
Reverend Gather’s eyes laughed at her. Of course he had noticed
it, Margaret McCain! Margaret shook her head and forced her
voice to remain even. "What I mean is…" Margaret laughed
nervously. "I reckon I am a bit nervous."
"Margaret…" Reverend Gathers rested a hand on top of hers and
smiled sincerely into her eyes. "Whatever it is, I’ll listen."
"Very well." Margaret felt Lucas’ hand slip into the one in her
lap. He gave her a squeeze, encouraging her to take her time.
"Have you ever heard of…Sunday School?"
"Oh." Reverend Gathers lifted the cup to his lips and took a
drink. "So that’s what this is about." He didn’t speak again as
he took another long drink of coffee. Margaret’s eyes focused on
Lucas, but they didn’t reveal anything to her. She looked at Ann
and Em, both nervous and wondering what the Reverend’s reaction
"Yes sir. You see…I believe that the children should be taught
on their own level. They’ll be expected to behave the same way
in Sunday School as in church, and we’ll patiently teach them
those manners as well. But they need to hear those Bible stories
that we grew up learning. I wonder how many of them have ever
heard the story of Zacharias in the tree or Baalam, the talking
donkey. How many of them can quote the Ten Commandments or
understand the Parables Jesus taught in the Sermon on the Mount.
How many children know of God’s miracles when he put the rainbow
in the sky for the first time, or when he parted the Red Sea for
Moses and his people to pass? Oh, they may know David killed a
giant with a sling shot, but do they really understand WHY it’s
"Now, I’m not saying, Reverend, that you don’t teach these
things in your sermons. You do, and I always get so much from
them. But sometimes the true meanings of the Bible stories are
buried deep in other things that mean little to the children."
Margaret saw a look of impatience suddenly cross his face, so
quickly, she clarified. "Your sermons ARE wonderful, but I’m
sure you’ve seen the blank looks cross the children’s faces!"
Margaret sighed before plunging on. "Reverend, I know that
growing up our folks taught us all these stories and made sure
we understand all there was to know. But there are so many
children who don’t get those teachings from home. Perhaps their
folks are too busy. Why, I know four children in church who
simply don’t have a father, and their mothers are doing their
best just to keep them schooled. And several children who do
have fathers don’t understand because their father’s don’t come
to church with them. They are lucky that these men allow the
wives and children to come!
"Then there are the children who come by themselves. They walk
all that way and misbehave in church because they don’t know how
to properly sit still and listen. They hunger for God’s Word,
but they can’t understand the words when you speak to adults. I
understand, Reverend, that for many, many years the sermon would
be explained in the homes later so the children could understand
it. And I know that our family – the Gibbs and McCain’s – still
do so. But now days…well, let’s face it…they aren’t being taught
the way they used to be."
Margaret was exhausted from her rapid speech. She felt every eye
on her as she lifted her coffee cup to her lips, her hand
shaking, and took a sip. Reverend Gathers leaned back in his
chair and scratched his chin as he thought. His eyes narrowed at
her as his thinking increased. It seemed hours before the
Reverend uttered a word, but it was only moments. Finally, he
said, "Mr. McCain…That’s quite a woman you’ve got there."
Margaret turned and looked at Lucas who put a protective arm
around her shoulders. "I like her, I guess," Lucas said as he
smiled into her eyes.
"I think she’s wonderful," Ann said; and Em quickly agreed with
"Hm….How would this…Sunday School work?"
Margaret gasped. She threw her hands to her mouth and felt her
eyes fill with tears. "However you want it to, Reverend.
Anything…Absolutely anything would be better than what we have
"Luke…" Reverend Gathers chuckled. "If your wife ever thinks of
going into Politics, I’d say she has a pretty good chance of
"I won’t allow that," Lucas declared.
"Luke!" Margaret rolled her eyes and looked back at the Reverend
"The truth is, Margaret, I have heard of Sunday School. I have
thought on it, especially lately, and up to this point I’ve told
myself it just won’t work. We have so many close-minded people.
Even those men who simply ‘allow’ their wives and children to
come to church would have a problem with a woman teaching their
children religion. That’s why I haven’t broached the subject."
"Reverend…" Ann spoke then. She swallowed the tears that
threatened to fill her throat. "Sir, as you know, I have
miscarried three babies. Each time I lose a baby, it’s harder
for my heart to heal. Recently, Dr. Livingston has told me that
I should not try for another one. I fought this at first. I want
more than anything to be a mother. But Hal and I had a long
talk. Recently, we’ve decided that we will abandon the idea of
my ever giving birth to a child." Ann wiped a few tears that
spilled from her eyes. "But my heart still longs for children. I
have this empty space deep in my heart that longs to hear the
sound of children. My house is empty, just waiting for children.
Hal and I had planned on a big family.
"Margaret came to me yesterday telling me about this idea of
starting a Sunday School. I was quite surprised, to say the
least, because only days before I received a letter from our old
school friend…Clare Wheatley, you remember her?" Reverend
Gathers nodded. Ann wiped more tears from her face. "Reverend,
Clare talked of the same problems happening in her church and
said that children now desire to come to church. They want to
learn and often go home telling their parents all about what
they learned in Sunday School." Ann gave a slight shrug of her
shoulder. "I can’t help but to think that God’s telling us
"Are you saying you want to help Margaret with this Sunday
"Yes sir." Ann reached across the table and clasped Margaret’s
hand. "I am."
Reverend Gathers shifted his eyes from Ann to Em. "And what
about you, young lady?"
"I…" Em looked to Jeremiah for help. She had seen the emotions
Ann’s speech had caused her and wasn’t sure she could get
through hers without becoming emotional.
"Reverend Gathers, Margaret discussed this issue with the entire
Gibbs/McCain family Sunday. The previous Sunday, we were very
much against it but we’ve come around to her way of
thinking…every one of us. We are willing to give Sunday School a
try." Jeremiah squeezed his wife’s hand. "As for Em…Margaret
asked Em to help her with Sunday School, and at first Em was
angry that she would even mention such a thing. She is still
grieving over the loss of our son."
Em shot a hand to her mouth and allowed a little sniff to
escape. Then she spoke. "Reverend…Jeremiah and I talked
yesterday. He asked me to pray about it. He knows how lonely I
am…even with my husband and daughter. I love them more than
anything, but I too came from a large family and wanted to have
several children. That may still happen for me, but until then I
too need to hear the sound of children. I finally took my
husband’s advice and talked to my Heavenly Father. He gave me a
peace…it’s a peace that surpasses all understanding. I know
God’s asking me to do this. I want to do this."
Em looked at Margaret. "We’ll have to be gentle on my heart…take
it slow at first. But I really feel this will help me as I
continue to heal."
Reverend Gentry nodded. "Very well. I’m willing to give it a
try." He looked at the men at the table. "You are willing to
stand by your wives through it all? It may be a bit rough. You
men okay with that?"
Lucas squeezed Margaret’s hand. "I think the women understand.
They saw how hard it was to convince us stubborn men they are
married to. If at any time it gets ugly, we’ll stop immediately.
They all understand that."
"And the other women will help as well," Margaret assured the
Reverend. "We can do this! Oh, I want to do this so badly!"
"Very well." Reverend Gentry said for the second time as he
stood to his feet. "I’ll discuss this with my deacons tomorrow.
Do you think you could give it a try this coming Sunday?"
The women all looked at each other, their mouths open wide.
"I…think so…" Margaret’s tone silently questioned the Reverend.
Reverend Gathers chuckled. "I have this…desire…to get through
one sermon I spend all week preparing for…without being
interrupted." Everyone laughed. "I’ll be in touch."
Margaret jumped from the table and hurried to the door, yanking
it open and hurrying out onto the porch. After a minute, she
slowly walked back inside and closed the door. Lucas lifted an
eyebrow at her as he waited for yet another explanation.
"I…thought I heard a buggy coming."
"Sit down and finish your lunch, Margaret," Lucas suggested
gently, but sternly. Margaret took another bite before standing
from the chair. Lucas reached out and grabbed her arm. Margaret
looked at him and he shifted his eyes toward her seat. "Am I
going to have to sit on you to get you to…"
"Luke?" Margaret asked hopefully, her heart beating faster. She
thought she had heard someone approaching that time, and hoped
Luke had to.
Lucas wiped his mouth and stood from the table. He went to the
window. "It’s the reverend."
Margaret hurried to the small kitchen and dipped a bowl of soup.
As the door opened, Lucas motioned for him to sit down. Margaret
was filling his cup as Reverend thanked Lucas for the offer of
lunch. "My wife’s been waiting for you all day, Reverend," Lucas
said as he sat down and smiled at Margaret. "I was threatening
to sit on her if…"
"Luke!" Margaret cut him off and glanced toward the reverend.
She cleared her throat and calmly sipped her coffee. But inside,
she was anything but calm. She felt she would burst if he didn’t
give them the news soon.
"I’m glad you’re here, Reverend," Lucas said as he again glanced
at Margaret. A playful twinkle was in his eye and a grin played
around his lips as he added, "You best share your news. I think
Margaret’s about to burst like a bubble."
"Luke!" This time, Margaret’s voice held a stronger warning for
him to be respectful around the man of God. Lucas chuckled and
reached for her hand, but Margaret quickly tucked them in her
"Well…" Reverend started as he took a bite. "Margaret, now this
is good potato soup!"
"My wife can make a different soup every day of the month. Every
time I come in for lunch, it seems there’s yet another kind of
"Luke." This time it was the Reverend who held up his hand. "I
think she’s been tormented enough." He sat down his spoon and
turned to look at Margaret. "It took some doing, but I convinced
the deacons to let us have a trial run. It helped having Abe as
"So we can do it?" Margaret asked, not realizing her face had
turned aglow with excitement and her bright eyes had grown wide
as saucers. She leaned forward and stared straight at the
reverend, standing half-way out of her chair. Reverend Gathers
looked at Lucas who merely cleared his throat. Margaret,
suddenly realizing she looked like a child at Christmas, blushed
and sat down, folding her hands back into her lap. This time,
Lucas did reach under the table and clasp her hands in his. His
eyes crinkled as he chuckled. "I mean…Thank you, Reverend. The
women and I will do our best to teach the children about the
"Now, keep in mind, Margaret, that this is a trial. I’ll
announce it as I make my rounds to all our members this week.
Some will fight this. But I’ll do my best."
Lucas and Margaret stood as the Reverend started to leave. He
shook Lucas’ hand as he thanked Margaret for the delicious
potato soup. Then they walked him to the door. Margaret felt her
eyes filling with tears, but promised herself that she would not
cry in the presence of the Reverend. Lucas opened the door.
"Reverend…" The words caught in her throat as the Reverend
looked into her eyes. She swallowed and nodded her head. "Thank
you. You don’t know what this…" Again, she had to stop speaking.
She was overcome with emotion.
Lucas rested his hands on her shoulders as at they stood
together on the porch and watched the reverend leave. After the
buggy was out of sight, Lucas squeezed her shoulder. He heard
her sniff. "Come here, Sweetheart." That’s the only invitation
she needed. She turned as his arms went around her. She buried
her face into his chest and wept tears of joy.
In time, she lifted from him and thanked him for his support.
Lucas stroked her cheeks softly as he nodded his head. "I’ll
clean the kitchen when I get back, Luke." Margaret started to
step off the porch, but Lucas still had a hold of her hand and
tugged on her, pulling her back into his embrace.
"Where are you going?"
"To tell Ann. Then we must go see Em and give her the good news"
Lucas chuckled as he watched her run across the street.
Em stood and looked out the window. "Margaret…I don’t know if I
can. I mean…"
Margaret and Ann looked at each other. They understood that Em’s
heart was still very tender. Ann stood up and walked up behind
her friend. "It’s painful. I cannot imagine what it’s like, Em,
carrying a baby for nine months, then giving birth to a baby
you’ll never be able to watch grow. I’ve lost three babies
earlier on before I could feel them move inside me and…" Ann
gently turned Em around "I tell you what…this first Sunday, all
three of us will be out there. We’ll all be there to support you
and help you. Your own daughter will be there. If you feel
uncomfortable with it at any time…you go on inside with your
Em looked toward Margaret who gave her a soft smile and nodded.
"Alright…Let’s do it!"
To say they were busy that week was putting I lightly. The three
women drove their husbands crazy with questions. They decided to
talk to the children about the Ten Commandments. Each week,
they’d take a commandment and explain it to the children. By the
end of the ten weeks, they hoped the children could stand in
front of church and recite every one of them to the
By Friday, Lucas was just about to run out of the house
screaming with his hands over his ears. He prayed nothing would
happen to delay the start of Children’s Church. Lucas was just
about to slip out to go out to the barn when Margaret stopped
him with yet another question. "You suppose Paul Simpson will be
there Sunday? Oh Luke…he’s been through so much lately. I would
hate to…I mean…with Sunday School being outside weather
permitting…You think that maybe, just maybe, we could convince
him to join us?" Margaret straightened up from scrubbing the
kitchen floor. A look of thought entered her features. "Of
course…I’m surprised his father even lets him come. He’s been
against God ever since his wife…"
"He probably doesn’t even know the boy’s gone, Margaret," Lucas
answered as he picked up his rifle. Margaret looked at him
puzzled, then recognition entered her features. She knew exactly
what he was saying. Everyone knew that Mr. Simpson spent almost
every night at the saloon in town, leaving his six year old boy
at home alone. Margaret had declared someone ought to do
something about it, but everyone kept hoping that Jed Simpson
Margaret shook her head, then went onto another tangent,
wondering if the lesson they had prepared would be good enough
for the first Sunday. They had to teach the children in a way
that made them hungry for more.
Lucas just smiled and nodded his head, knowing any look of
impatience would send her over the edge. He was happy when he
was finally able to escape the house.
Saturday morning, Jeremiah delivered Em to Margaret. Ann came
from across the street, and together the three women worked on
the lesson. They were so excited. Em went to lay Abby down for
her nap when Lucas came in and grabbed some stuff from the
kitchen. "Luke?" Margaret questioned as he kissed her and
started out the door.
"We’re going fishing," Lucas answered her unasked question. "And
we’ll be back with supper."
Margaret watched the door close. Then she turned back to Ann.
"I’ve a feeling they’re running away from us."
Giggling erupted from behind them. Both Ann and Margaret turned
to see Em leaning against the closed bedroom door with her arms
folded across her chest. "Do you blame them?" Neither woman
could answer. They were both overwhelmed by the sound of Em’s
The boy sat on the bed, he knees drawn up to his chest as he
rocked back and forth. He couldn’t remember what she looked like
anymore. He couldn’t remember her smile, and that scared him. He
longed to be held, kissed, hugged by his father. He longed to
hear his Pa say "I love you." He longed for somebody…anybody…to
tell him it would be okay.
Unbeknownst to his father, the neighbor lady came by and
delivered him left-overs from her evening meal. Sometimes there
wasn’t much left, but sometimes there was plenty. On days there
were plenty, the boy would hide the food to save for lunch the
next day. Other days, he would have to go without.
Tonight, the only thing he received was a chicken leg and a few
green beans. He ate them as a tear slid down his cheek. On
Sundays he didn’t get any food. The neighbor lady and her
husband would always go elsewhere for their supper. It was on
those days the hunger pains would be the worst.
Nothing of his mother was left now. Everything that had belonged
to her had been burned soon after her death. He’d screamed,
begging his Pa not to do it; but his father had been drunk and
merely smacked the boy hard. Then Paul watched the memories
burn. Her clothes, pictures, memories, letters…everything that
had been hers was either burned or buried.
Paul felt tears again fill his eyes as he started rocking back
and forth on the bed. Back and forth…back and forth…His body
started shaking with sobs as he huddled in the corner of the bed
and waited for sleep to come.
A little bit of hope filled his heart. Tomorrow was Sunday.
Tomorrow he’d go and stand at the edge of the churchyard,
watching everyone walk into the church. Maybe that lady would be
there…The lady who lost her baby. Ever since Charlie had told
Paul about it, he longed to see her. Somehow, she reminded him
of his mother. Tears streamed down the boy’s cheeks now. His
mother had taught him to pray. While he lowered his head to the
bed, Paul’s lips moved in silence. "Our Father who Art in
There it was again!
Lucas groaned as he allowed sleep to slowly lift from him. He
turned on his side and lifted his arm to put around Margaret,
but Margaret wasn’t there. Another clang sounded. "Ohhhhh…"
Lucas threw the covers back and stood up from the bed. He didn’t
even bother with his pants as he opened the door to their
bedroom. The light from the table nearly blinded him as he
stepped through the doorway. He saw Margaret bent down,
rummaging through the cabinets.
Margaret jumped at the sound of his voice and whirled around.
"Luke!" She stood looking guilty as Lucas folded his arms and
cocked his head to one side. "I’m sorry."
"Sorry?" Lucas questioned as his eyebrow popped up.
"For waking you. I just couldn’t sleep because…"
"…you were too excited," Lucas finished for her. Lucas continued
to watch her.
"Will you stop looking at me like that?" Margaret turned from
his increasingly annoying gaze. "You’re making me nervous."
"What are you doing anyway?" Lucas questioned his wife as he
walked toward the kitchen. "It must be four o’clock in the
"I’m just looking for that old pan…you know, the one Mama gave
me before we moved in here? She put an apple spice cake in it
and told me to…"
"This one?" Lucas lifted the pan that sat beside her and
chuckled. Margaret blushed. Lucas lifted her back to her feet
and turned her toward the bedroom. "Come on. You’re going back
"Oh, but I couldn’t sleep!" Margaret argued.
"I know." Lucas stopped her and grinned down at her. "Maybe I
can find something else to occupy your mind for awhile."
Church was starting at ten o’clock. It was already nine, and Em
was brushing Abby’s hair while Abby cried. Jeremiah stepped into
the bedroom and looked down at her. "Honey, we’ve got to go! You
aren’t even dressed! You’re hair isn’t done!"
Em chewed on her lip as she tied the ribbon in Abby’s hair.
"I’ve been thinking…Maybe I should stay home. My head…"
"Abby, go on outside and wait for us. Don’t get dirty." Abby
looked from her mother to her father. She heard the tension in
her Pa’s voice. "Go on now." She obeyed her father.
Em didn’t move from her crouched position. Jeremiah crouched
down beside her and took the hairbrush from her hands. He gently
began brushing her hair. "I know you’re scared, Em. The girls
know you are scared. This is a big step for you, but I think
it’s time…don’t you think?"
Em studied the floor intently as if it held the mysteries to her
confused thoughts. She felt Jeremiah’s hand cup her chin and
lift it up toward him. "Abby and I love you…very much."
Em laid her hand on his hand that rested on her cheek and leaned
into it. His eyes showed her just how much he cared for her.
"What if I fall apart?"
"I’ll be right there to make sure you don’t. I’ll stand outside
the church and watch today. I’ll be there." Jeremiah took her
hands in his and bowed his head. He prayed to their Heavenly
Father to help Em through this experience. Em knew, through
listening to the prayer, that her husband wasn’t giving her a
choice. When he lifted his head back up to her, he said, "Now…go
get dressed and put your hair up. Abby and I will be in the
Paul Simpson stood on the edge of the church yard. A hand was to
his mouth as he watched the children slowly leave the church and
walk to the benches at the side of the yard. His soiled shirt
and jeans, two sizes too small for him, smelled. His father was
usually too busy drinking or beating him to pay much mind to his
hygiene. Many Sundays, Paul would be seen lurking on the edge of
the church yard, but nobody had been able to get him to come
As the women stepped out of the church, they saw Paul standing
there looking curiously at the children. Em, who had nervously
faulted her steps at the bottom, fixed her eyes on Paul. A hand
suddenly took a hold of her heart and squeezed. The feeling was
so strong, and somehow she felt it was the sad little boy’s
Paul’s eyes grew wide. He knew the woman on the bottom step
looking at him was the one who had lost her baby. There was
something in those eyes that were looking at him…something that
made his heart swell inside his chest. Paul couldn’t take his
eyes off the woman. The hand at his mouth slowly lowered as she
took a step towards him.
Em looked at Margaret and Ann who were currently trying to
corral the children and get them settled on the bench. Then she
slowly walked toward Paul. She ignored the stench that reached
her nostrils, and simply wanted to take the little boy in her
arms and help him. The little boy’s sad eyes focused on hers. Em
stopped in front of him and bent down so she was eye-level with
him. She didn’t say a word. There was something about those
eyes. Paul studied her intently before cocking his head to one
For several moments, the little boy and the grieving mother
stared at each other. Em tried to find the words to day…We’d
love to have you…I’m sorry about your Mother…How’s your father?
Can I help you? All these things flashed through her head, but
nothing seemed appropriate. She’d heard that Paul had come
every Sunday even after she’d had her baby. She’d heard, also,
that nobody had been able to get through to him.
It was a great surprise to Em, then, when Paul spoke first. His
voice was weak and shaky, but his words were very clear.
"Your eyes look sad too."
Em stared into the boy’s sad eyes and merely nodded her head. He
continued to stare intently at her as she bent down in front of
him. It was then that Em saw the redness around the corners of
his eyes. Paul looked much older than six, and she saw the
healing bruises along his bare arms. "I’m shamed," the boy
"Shamed?" Em’s eyes grew intense, filled with question.
"Yer shamed a me."
"Oh no!" Em’s eyes filled with tears. "I was just thinking…"
Emily said quietly. "That had my little boy lived…he may have
grown to be handsome like you."
"Yer lil’ boy died." Em nodded. "When he was borned?"
Em, surprised that this boy was so smart, didn’t hide the
surprise in her eyes. She merely nodded as her eyes shone with
unshed tears. "Yes," she finally managed to say.
"My Mama died."
"I know. Six months ago when she gave birth to your sister."
Paul nodded. "Pa sent her away. He said I ain’t got no sister."
"I’m sorry. That makes you sad."
Paul nodded. "Seems unfair…I mean you losing your boy and me my
Ma and sister."
"It is unfair." Em wanted to burst into tears, but she could
tell Paul needed her to be strong right now. "I’m tired of being
"Me too." Paul reached out and touched a tear on Em’s face.
"Supposing if I smile, my Mama would be too upset with me?"
"No." Em shook her head. "I’m guessing, Paul, that your Ma would
be very happy to see you smile." Em hugged the little boy to her
then. After pushing him away, she said, "We’re stating a Sunday
School today. It would make me happy if you’d join us."
Paul looked toward the children who were beginning to sing a
song. His eyes lit up at the prospect of being included. "I
don’t look too good. Heard tell, I don’t smell good neither."
Em smiled at the boy. Then she stood and reached her hand out
toward the little boy. "You suppose we can stick together? I’m
kinda scared too."
"Ya scared?" Paul was very surprised.
"Yes. This is my first time back…too."
Paul looked at her hand, than lifted his face to her. His eyes
filled with tears, happy that finally somebody understood the
pain in his heart. Tears filled his eyes and streamed down his
cheeks then. Em dropped in front of the boy and held him for a
long time as he wet her dress with his tears. She cuddled him
close, telling him to let the tears go. She spoke to him in a
hushed voice, sounding very much like his own mother had when he
cried in her arms. In time, he lifted from her and wiped his
Then he gave her a very weak smile. That smile made Em’s heart
leap in her chest. She smiled back at the boy, then stood and
held out her hand. "Shall we go?"
He nodded and put his hand in Em’s. His heart swelled and came
to life – a feeling he hadn’t felt since his Mama had died and
changed the course of his life. His Pa had died that day too.
But now he was connected to someone who knew just how he felt.
Together, they could help each other through the bitter loss
they had both experienced. Together, they would be forever
Jeremiah watched the entire exchange from the bottom of the
stairs. He looked down at Abby who still stood at his side,
holding his father’s hand. "Mama’s smiling, Papa!" Abby
"Thank God," Jeremiah declared as he lifted Abby to him and held
her tight. "Now, go join your Mama." He sat her down and watched
her run to her mother, who picked her up and held her close.
Paul didn’t leave Em’s side.
Jeremiah turned and slowly made his way up the steps, not
minding one bit that tears were streaming down his own face.
Peter looked up at him with question as he slid into the seat
beside Peter. Jeremiah smiled as he leaned over and whispered,
"She’s okay now. She has some good medicine...Paul Simpson."
"You mean he went to Sunday School with her?" Peter asked in
"He did more than that," Jeremiah answered. "So much more..."
That night, Margaret wrote in her journal.
I saw an amazing thing today. As we taught the children about
the Ten Commandments, I watched their eyes shine with
excitement. I listened to their voices sing the songs and recite
the Bible Verse we had taught them, and I must say it did my
heart proud! Oh, I cannot wait for these children to recite all
Ten Commandments to their parents in church!
I heard Em laugh several times today. She took Paul Simpson
under her wing and gave him the life back. Paul Simpson…I still
remember the day I heard the news about his mother’s death.
That very day, Mr. Simpson had sent the baby away. He never
wanted to lay eyes on that baby – not ever! Then he turned to
the bottle and lost all respect. That poor little boy has been
through so much these last six months. Em did more to help him
in the short time we had this morning than anybody else has been
able to do. There is a bond between them.
I must admit I was worried some of the citizens would fight us,
but there were only two families who refused to participate. I
hope that in time, they will allow their children to come to
Sunday school as well. I pray they will come to realize that
their children need to hear the stories of God as told on their
Em and Ann are both naturals with the children! They have a keen
bond with the children, and I saw their faces light up when they
heard the sound of the children.
The children have asked to put on an Easter Program for the
parents. I cannot wait for Good Friday to get here so they can
surprise their parents with what they know!
I will forever treasure this day in my heart.
Jeremiah blew out the lamp and lay down in bed. Em rolled over
and took him in her arms, giving him a long, slow kiss. Jeremiah
was very surprised, but gave into her kiss with one of his own
as he wrapped his arms around her. "I love you," Em whispered in
his ear. Then she laid her head on his chest.
This had been the first act of intendancy the couple had
experienced since that fateful day they lost Baby McCain.
Besides the kisses they had shared the day of her ‘healing,’ her
kisses had been brief and stiff. She had hardly touched him
since. But tonight…tonight intimacy had returned. Jeremiah ran
his hand up and down her side as they stared into each other’s
eyes. "Margaret was right."
"All I needed was to hear the sound of children again. That’s
the best healing of all." Em sighed. Tears again filled her eyes
and ran down her cheeks. "And Paul...Jeremiah, I can’t describe
it, but when I saw him standing there on the edge of the church
yard...Something deep inside me propelled me to go to him. I feel
we’re connected somehow. I need a little boy to love and he
Jeremiah kissed her again, not wanting to have that conversation
tonight. Their kisses deepened and became more passionate.
Finally, Em sighed and lay against him as his hands continued to
caress her gently. "As soon as we’re able...I want you to make
love to me, Jeremiah." Her voice was almost a whisper. Desire
was in her voice.
"Are you sure?" Jeremiah questioned. "I don’t want to make you
"I’ll be ready when the time comes, My Love." Em reached up and
touched his face. She sighed at the sensation his caresses sent
through her body. "I’m getting better each day. And now with
Paul...Jeremiah, if I can I want to spend time with him...to help
"I’ll talk to his Pa." Jeremiah kissed her. "And as soon as
you’re able, we’ll make love."
"Until then...can you hold me tight? I need to sleep in your arms.
I need to feel your hands...to kiss you and..." Jeremiah put a
finger against her lips and hushed her. As his hands stilled on
her back, he silently thanked God for sending them that little
boy and the sound of the children.
The Margaret Years ― The
Mosquito’s Ugly Return
These stories are based on the TV series
Here are some other great stories. Enjoy!
The Writer's Corner
Table of Contents
around The McCain Ranch