. . . this is the first chapter of a new book that will be submitted to various publishers at the end of the month (or early February) to see who wants to put it into print. I can't show you anymore than this, but I can tell you the story takes place between 1917 and 1919 and it is not not only about the love between a man and a woman, but about the love between a people and their God, and also about the great courage that is possible from the human heart.
I hope you enjoy this small portion of what will eventually be a 100,000 word novel. At this point I am about one-third of the way through the story.
God bless you all in this brand new year of 2011.
[the book now has a publisher and will be released in the fall of 2011 or spring of 2012 - I'm not allowed, by contract, to show more than 1500 words of text.
Lyyndaya Kurtz straightened her back and looked up at the blue and bronze evening sky. It was that strange sound again, like a large swarm of bees at their hive, and it grew louder and louder. She leaned the hoe against the picket fence her father had built around the garden. Her mother, whose hearing was no longer very good, continued to chop at weeds between the rows of radishes and lettuce. She glanced at her daughter as Lyyndaya shielded her eyes from the slowly setting sun.
“What’s wrong?” she asked, using Pennsylvania Dutch.
“Can’t you hear them, mama?” Lyyndaya responded. “There are aeroplanes coming.”
Her mother stood up, still holding the hoe in her brown hands, and squinted at the sun and sky. “I don’t see anything. It must be just a small one.”
“No, it is too loud for just one aeroplane. Do you see, mama?” Lyyndaya pointed. “Coming out of the west. Coming out of the sun.”
Now her mother shielded her eyes. “All I am seeing is spots in front of my eyes from looking into the light.”
“Look higher. There are – three, four, six – there are half a dozen of them.”
The planes were not that far from the ground, Lyyndaya thought, only a thousand feet, not much more. Each with two wings, the top wing longer than the bottom one, each plane painted a yellow that gleamed in the sunlight. As she watched, one of the planes broke away from the others and dropped toward them. It came so low the roar of the engine filled the air and children ran from their houses and yards into the dirt road and the hayfields. They were soon followed by their mothers and fathers and older brothers and sisters.
Lyyndaya laughed as the plane flew over their house. A hand waved at her from the plane’s open cockpit and she waved back with all her might. “Can you see the plane now, mama?”
Her mother had crouched among the heads of lettuce as the plane flashed past. “Oh,” she exclaimed with a cross look on her face, “this must be your crazy boy, Jude Whetstone.”
“He’s coming back!”
The plane had banked to the left over Jacob Miller’s wheat field and was heading back over the farmhouses while the other five planes carried on to the east. Its yellow wings dipped lower and lower. Lyyndaya’s green eyes widened.
“He’s going to land in papa’s field!” she cried. “Where the hay was cut on Monday!”
She lifted the hem of her dress in both hands and began to run. The black cap that covered her hair at the back, left untied, flew off her head.
“Lyyndaya! This is not seemly!” her mother called after her.
But the young woman had reached the old grey fence around the hayfield, gathered the bottom of her navy blue dress in one hand, climbed over, and with strands of sand-colored hair unraveling from their pins, was racing over the stubble to where the plane’s wheels were just touching the earth. Others were running toward the plane from all directions, jumping the fence if they were spry enough, opening the gate to the field if they were not, and several of the boys and girls had reached the plane before Lyyndaya. It came to a stop in the middle of the field and when the propeller stopped spinning a young man in a brown leather jacket and helmet pushed his goggles from his eyes and jumped from the cockpit to the ground. He immediately mussed the hair of two of the boys who came up to him and tugged the pigtail of a red-headed girl.
“Jude!” Lyyndaya exclaimed as she ran up her, the tan on her face flushed. “What are you doing here?”
“Hello, Lyyndy,” the young man smiled, lifting one of the boys up on his shoulders. “The whole flying club went up and I convinced them to come this way to Paradise. I wanted to see you.”
“To see me? You fly a plane from Philadelphia just to see me?”
“But you were coming back on the train in a few days.”
“A few days. I couldn’t wait that long.”
Lyyndaya could feel the heat in her face as neighbors began to reach them. A few overheard their conversation. She saw one or two frown, but most of the men and women smiled. A very tall man in a maroon shirt wearing a straw hat laughed. She dropped her eyes.
“Bishop Zook,” she murmured, “how are you?”
“Gut, gut,” he responded. “Well, Jude, what is all this? Why has a pigeon dropped out of the sky?”
Bishop Zook was not only tall, at least six foot nine, but broad shouldered and strong. He shook Jude’s hand with a grip like rock. The young man pulled his leather helmet off his head so that his dark brown hair tumbled loose. Lyyndaya fought down an overwhelming urge to take Jude and hug him as she had done so many times when they were nine and ten.
“I wanted the children to see the plane, Bishop Zook,” said Jude.
“Yes? Only the children?”
“Well – “ Jude stumbled. “I thought perhaps – I might ask Miss Kurtz – ”
“Ah,” smiled the bishop. “You want to take her up, as you flying men say?”
“I thought – “
“Are you two courting?”
“You remember what is courting, my boy, you have not been among the English in Philadelphia that long, eh?”
Everyone laughed and Lyyndaya thought the heat in her face and hands would make her hair and skin catch on fire.
Bishop Zook put an arm like a plank around Jude’s slender shoulders. “You know when there is the courting here, we let the boy take the girl home in the buggy after the Sunday singing. You remember that much after a week away?”
“Yes – “
“So your horse and buggy are where?”
Jude continued to hunt desperately for his words. “In the barn, but I wanted – ” He stopped, his tongue failing him as the whole colony stood watching and listening.
The bishop waited a moment and then walked over and touched the top wing of the plane. He ran his hand over the coated fabric and nodded. “A beautiful buggy. Pulled by horses with wings, eh? How many, Master Whetstone?”
Jude was trying not to look at Lyyndaya for help, but did anyway, and she was making sure she did not look at him or offer any by keeping her eyes on the stubble directly in front of the toes of her boots.
“There are - ” Jude stepped away from the crowd pressing in on him and Lyyndaya and turned around to look at the plane behind him as if he were seeing it for the first time – “there are – ” He stood utterly still and stared at the engine as if it did not belong there. Then he looked at Bishop Zook’s thick black beard and broad face. “Ninety. Ninety horses.”
The bishop nodded again and kept running his hand over the wing. “More than enough. There is the problem however – if God had meant us to fly, Master Whetstone, wouldn’t he have given us wings, hm?”
He took his hand from the plane and looked at Jude directly. Several of the women and women murmured their agreement with the bishop’s question and nodded their heads. Most remained silent, waiting for Jude’s answer. Jude stared at the bishop, trying to gauge the look in the tall man’s blue eyes. He thought he saw a flash of humor so he went ahead with the answer he had used a hundred times in their own Amish colony as well as dozens of the ones around it.
“Bishop Zook, “ he responded, “if God had meant us to ride a buggy he would have given us wheels and four legs.”
“Ah ha!” shouted the bishop, slapping his huge hand against his leg and making most of the people jump, including Lyyndaya. “You have it, Master Whetstone, you have it.” He clapped his hands in appreciation and most of the men and women and children clapped with him. “So now take me up.”
“As bishop, I must make sure it is safe for Miss Kurtz, ja? After all, who has ever had such a horse and buggy in our colony, eh?” He gave his hat to one of the men and climbed into the front of the two cockpits.
“I only have a little time before I must head back to Philadelphia – ” Jude began, again glancing at Lyyndaya for help, who had gone so far as to raise her gaze to stare fixedly at the bishop and the plane, but still refused to make eye contact with the young man.
“Five minutes,” smiled the bishop. “That is all I ask. I am not the one you are courting, eh?”