Marta reflected on her visits with John – how she had enjoyed them, and how matchmakers popped up out of the woodwork. She had waved them off, not taking their comments seriously. She and John had insisted there was nothing to become excited over. John was her pilot, a link to the outside world. He brought her mail, supplies, and good conversation. But she had to admit, she looked forward to those visits. She refused to admit that these feelings were out of romantic notions, even if those like Tucker noticed differently.
“Do you think John likes to visit here to my mother?” the twelve¬ year-old asked.
“Maybe we can ask him later.” Even he has his suspicions about us, she thought, feeling ambushed by the question. They walked down to the dock for the boat ride to the leper colony.
Within twenty minutes, a boat chugged up river. Smoke belched skyward in dirty cotton puffs as the diesel engine reversed, then revved to dock the boat. Marta smiled a welcome as Eric Schneider tied his craft and lowered a plank. Marta accepted his invitation to load as he made a swooping motion with his hat.
Eric had been navigating the Baliem River for the better part of twenty years. “Always wearing khaki pants, knit shirts, and a navy blue hat trimmed with a patent leather brim. He arrived in Irian Jaya with the Dutch army back in the 1950s as a gun boat officer, and fell in love with the natural beauty.
“It is well to see you again,” Eric said in his milkshake thick accent. After years of private business on the Baliem River, Marta was his favorite passenger.
“Looking sharp, Eric?”
“Ladies love a man in uniform,” Eric replied.
Floating down the river was always an adventure. Startled deer and wild pigs drinking from the river darted from behind river plants as the boat rounded a bend. Water snakes swam by, and occasionally, a crocodile. Such scenery sounds, and smells always helped the trip go faster. A few hours later, Eric docked the boat, helped the passengers off, and floated away.
Marta and Tucker stayed around and waved the TULIP away, watching it drift slowly while collecting themselves for a difficult visit.
Marta took Tucker’s hand as they walked to Delany’s Colony. They passed between huge upward sloping hills surrounding the valley. Emerald green highlighted the brilliance of blooming plants, more commonly orchids, Javanese edelweiss, and ginger.
Tucker looked up and spoke, “Do you think that God knows mother is sick?”
Marta continued to walk, holding his hand all the while. “Yes, he does. He doesn’t like that she’s sick, but he knows it.” She knew where he was going with the questioning. She had the same questions when her husband was suddenly taken from her, but she wasn’t sure she had the courage to answer Tucker.
“If God knows she is so sick, why doesn’t he help?”
“God didn’t do this to your mother, Tucker. I believe he let it happen for reasons only he can give,” Marta replied.
“But why have to let it happen to mother?” he sobbed.
Marta stopped and held him for a few minutes until he quieted down. “God loves you and your mother. We don’t know why this is happening to her, but you have to have faith and pray for God’s will and our understanding.”
“I do that, but I still have these questions. I know God is merciful and strong, that why it is so hard to believe this happens, even to mother. But I am not mad at God, I am sad,” Tucker said.
Marta couldn’t have been more proud of him. Mentally, he was growing into a young man quicker than she was ready, one of amazing courage and conviction.
“Do you think John visit my mother, if I invite him?” he asked a second time.
“Why don’t we wait a little before inviting him? The time will be right for that soon enough, and I’m sure he will be glad that you gave him this honor of meeting your family,” Marta replied.
“He has already met my family.” Tucker allowed himself a small smile.
“You my family, Marta,” he said hugging her again.
Remember, 100% of all royalties will be applied to Jeff's mission trip to Asia. Jeffrey W. Bennett, ISP is the owner of Red Bike Publishing. Jeff is an accomplished writer of non-fiction books, novels and periodicals. He also owns Red bike Publishing. Published books include: "Get Rich in a Niche-Insider's Guide to Self Publishing in a Specialized Industry" and "Commitment-A Novel". Jeff is an expert in security and has written many security books including: "Insider's Guide to Security Clearances" and "DoD Security Clearances and Contracts Guidebook". See Red Bike Publishing for print copies of: Army Leadership The Ranger Handbook The Army Physical Readiness Manual Drill and Ceremonies The ITAR The NISPOM