View from the Rafters
Obidiah Ishmael woke up in the rafters of the Miller’s barn, up where the hay is kept through the winter. Straws of it had stuck to his face, creating a criss-cross pattern across his left cheek upon which he had lain. Obidiah pulled them off one-by one and scanned the barn’s upper vault – no Eli. Finally he’d found an escape from the pestering of his little brother, though his father would hide him something rotten if he discovered his trespassing.
The young boy pulled himself to his feet and made his way towards the wooden ladder that led down to the stone floor some ten metres below, but when two voices approached Obidiah quickly lowered himself to his belly and peeped his small, freckled face over the lip of the raised floor.
“Don’t be Eli. Don’t be Eli. Don’t be Eli” he whispered. But the voices, much closer now, were far too deep to be that of his nine-year-old brother and, when the two figures burst through the rectangle of light at the barn door, Obidiah shuffled himself forwards slightly to get a better view.
The first was unmistakably his father; same small stature and wiry, copper hair; shiny where it was thinning on top. The other man was much taller and broader, with a wide-brimmed hat, and Obidiah was sure he recognised his voice as Mr Miller, although his father kept referring to him as ‘Samuel.’ The man was visibly agitated, waving his arms around wildly as he spoke, his voice becoming more and more exaggerated, louder.
“Jebidiah, please, you can’t do this. He’s my only son.”
“I’m sorry Samuel,” Jebidiah Ishmael replied calmly, “I truly am. But the council have spoken, and he must serve his crime.”
“Jesus Jeb, he’s just a kid, it’ll break him. And I need him. Can’t you see? I can’t bring in the harvest all on my own, without him we’ll starve.”
“That be as it may, the decision has been made. You must co-operate Samuel, for all of your sakes.”
Samuel Miller began shaking now, his voice cracked and hoarse.
“Jebidiah, I beg you, show mercy. He is my only son, my own flesh and blood. You cannot do this.”
“It is already done,” Jebidiah Ishmael replied. “You know, there is a passage in the good book that I think will give you clarity in this situation; Apostles five, chapter…
But Jebidiah Ishmael never had the chance to finish his reading. Instead he stood, staring wide-eyed at the shaft of the pitchfork that was now sticking out of his chest; the same pitchfork that, mere seconds ago, had found the large, strong hands of Samuel Miller. Jebidiah Ishmael moved his lips as if to speak, but all that escaped from the tomb of his mouth was a low hiss before he collapsed to the floor; pitchfork sticking straight up in the air like a fence post, four scarlet pools gathering at the entry points of the metal prongs.
Up in the rafters, Obidiah watched his father slump lifelessly to the floor. His face blanched instantly and he let out an involuntary squeal. Obidiah quickly brought his hands to his mouth, willing his exclamation back into his throat, his beating heart sounding in his ears like the crashing of thunder. Ten metres below, Samuel Miller scanned the rafters till he caught the young boy’s gaze. Then, without a moment’s hesitation, the stocky farmer made his way towards the ladder.