Then Israel Finch got to his feet and pointed the light at Dolly. He told Tommy to hold her arms, and Tommy roared as if they were the funniest words in his reduced language. Realizing his cut wasn’t mortal, Israel slapped Dolly across the mouth, told her she was in for deep regret now, boy, and reaching forth his strong smelly hands rent open the front of her sweater. That, Dolly said, is when she would’ve started to give up inside, had she not looked over Israel’s shoulder and seen Dad coming. Keep in mind he ought not’ve been visible at all; there were no lights on but the flashlight, which was aimed at Dolly. She said Dad’s face coming toward them was luminous of itself, glowing and serene, the way you’d suppose an angel’s would be, that it rose up behind Israel Finch like a sudden moon, and when Tommy Basca saw it he was so startled he dropped her right down on her bottom. She said Dad was as silent, those next moments, as he was incandescent; he made no sound except a strange whistling, which turned out, of course, to be the broom handle, en route to any number of painful destinations. What was odd, she said, was how the boys weren’t even up to the job of running away—Tommy went screeching to his knees before the first blow landed, and Israel prostrated himself and moaned as though the devil had hold of his liver. The two of them just lost their minds, Dolly said, while her own reaction was nearly as insensible; she suddenly could not stop laughing. Here was Dad, his face still lit though now even the flashlight had gone out, smiling (Dolly said) though his eyes looked terribly melancholy, whacking Finch and Basca every second or two while the pair of them shrieked in no English you’d recognize—Dolly said the laughter just flooded through her and came not only from relief, as you might surmise, but from a reckless and holy sort of joy she had never felt before, not even while cheerleading.
I was drawn on. Conscious now that something needed doing, I moved ever higher on the land. Here entering an orchard of immense and archaic beauty. I say orchard: The trees were dense in one place, scattered in another, as though planted by random throw, but all were heavy trunked and capaciously limbed, and they were fruit trees, every one of them. Apples, gold-skinned apricots, immaculate pears. The leaves about them were thick and cool and stirred at my approach; touched with a finger, they imparted a palpable rhythm.It took a long while to traverse the orchard. I began to feel hungry but didn't pause; though all this fruit appeared perfectly available, I felt prodded to appear before the master. The place had a master! Realizing this, I know he was already aware of me - comforting and fearful knowledge. Still I wanted to see him. The farther I went the more I seemed to know or remember abut him - the way he'd planted this orchard, walking over the hills, casting seed from his hand. I kept moving.
It seemed necessary just then to touch base with the Lord. Shutting my eyes, I leaned into the horse. I prayed in words for a little while . . . and then language went away and I prayed in a soft high-pitched lament any human listener would’ve termed a whine. We serve a patient God. . . . Andreeson, who I’d despised, now appeared to my mind as he might’ve to a worried brother. Talk about an unwelcome change. There in the cold, curled against Mr. Ford’s sighing horse, I repented of hatred in general and especially that cultivated against the putrid fed. A pain started up, as of live coals inside, and like that I knew where he was. Knew, with certainty, why he hadn’t come back out of the blizzard. I began to weep. Not only for Andreeson—weeping seems to accompany repentance most times. No wonder. Could you reach deep in yourself to locate that organ containing delusions about your general size in the world—could you lay hold of this and dredge it from your chest and look it over in daylight—well, it’s no wonder people would rather not.
Let me say something about that word: miracle. For too long it's been used to characterize things or events that, though pleasant, are entirely normal. Peeping chicks at Easter time, spring generally, a clear sunrise after an overcast week - a miracle, people say, as if they've been educated from greeting cards. I'm sorry, but nope. Such things are worth our notice every day of the week, but to call them miracles evaporates the strength of the word. Real miracles bother people, like strange sudden pains unknown in medical literature. It's true: They rebut every rule all we good citizens take comfort in. Lazarus obeying order and climbing up out of the grave - now there's a miracle, and you can bet it upset a lot of folks who were standing around at the time When a person dies, the earth is generally unwilling to cough him back up. A miracle contradicts the will of the earth. My sister, Swede, who often sees to the nub, offered this: People fear mirales because they fear being changed - though ignoring them will change you also. Swede said another thing, too, and it rang in me like a bell: No miracle happens without a witness. Someone to declare, Here's what I saw. Here's how it went. Make of it what you will.