The Call of Love: Part 1
Justin had a hard lot. The bigger children said he was a baby, and maybe he was. But Justin didn’t like it when others made fun of him. It wasn’t funny that he bumped his knee when he tried to catch the rooster. “I can’t help it if I cry,” Justin said, rubbing his eyes. “It hurts!”
“You cry as if you broke your leg,” said Sam.
“Maybe you better stay inside so you won’t get hurt,” said Rochelle.
“I’ll just play with Teddy,” Justin muttered, and went to find his little cousin. Teddy didn’t tease, and soon was following him on a bear hunt behind the tool shed.
“Justin!” It was Aunt Linda. And she wasn’t happy. Suddenly Justin remembered that he had been sent to gather eggs. Now Aunt Linda would call him “undependable.” He hated to go to the house, but he did. Slowly.
“Well, Justin. What happened?” Justin could tell when his aunt didn’t like what he did. She pushed her lips together in a frowning sort of way and he felt like hiding. It made him feel all jittery inside. Like something bad was going to happen.
“Where are the eggs?” Justin looked at his toes. “Go get them, and then I want to talk to you.” He felt the hand on his shoulder push him sort of hard. Why couldn’t she just give him a hug? His mom would give him a hug. But Justin didn’t have a mom.
The chicken house was dark and as Justin reached the last nest he tripped over something. Clank-bang! The egg basket flew out of his hands and crashed to the floor. The eggs were smashed and gooey and now he would have to clean them up! Justin leaned against the wall and cried.
Everything was going wrong again. And what would Dad say when he got home? He yelled when Justin had been bad. “Justin Carey! I’m tired of hearing how you cause everyone trouble. You’re nearly eleven—old enough to behave. Shape up, or you’ll get it!” It was bad when he “got it.” The memory made Justin cry louder. Suddenly he stopped.
“Justin?” It was Aunt Linda standing in the doorway. Justin hurriedly kicked some straw over the broken eggs and picked up the basket. Aunt Linda turned to the house without saying anything. When they got to the porch she would talk to him again. She always talked to him when he was bad.
“You have to make a choice,” she said, looking at him sternly. “You are not helping anything by crying, but only making yourself miserable. I want to be able to count on you, but I can’t.”
“I’m sad,” Justin sniffed. “I don’t like it when you’re mad at me.”
“I’m not mad at you, Justin, but your selfishness is making you miserable.”
“But I can’t do anything right!” Justin wailed, covering his face with his hands.
“Jesus will help you do right if you’ll ask Him,” Aunt Linda reminded him. “Shall we pray?” She always said that, just like it was her favorite thing to do.
Justin shrugged. “You pray.”
Her arm felt heavy on his shoulder as she said, “Dear Lord, You see Justin’s problem and how he needs help. I know You love him very much. Please help him want to do right and have a cheerful attitude. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.” Everything was still and it felt safe under Aunt Linda’s arm. Justin knew he should say something.
“Dear God, help me be good. Amen,” he whispered. He felt a bit better. If only Aunt Linda didn’t mention the cracked eggs, maybe it would be alright.
“Can I go play now?” Aunt Linda hesitated. Justin knew she would give him a job if she could think of one. “I could watch Teddy for you,” he pleaded, adding his best smile. She always liked it when he smiled.
“You’ll have to do the dishes after supper then,” she said, standing up. It wasn’t worth arguing about that one.
“I will,” he promised.
Freedom! Justin felt like yelling as he dashed through the gate into the backyard. Teddy was swinging on the tire. “Push me!” he called.
“You’ve had a long turn already.” Justin gave a big shove to the tire. “Three swings and then it’s my turn.” Teddy grinned as he soared high above the fence, but Justin just counted. Teddy would give in to him. It was the older cousins that always argued.
He was just giving himself a big kick off when Sam came around the corner of the house pushing the go-cart. Why hadn’t he thought of that sooner? “Hey, let’s make the high-jump today!” Justin said, springing down to clear the way to their favorite dirt track.
“But we were going to hitch Daisy up and go down the lane,” said Rochelle, bringing a rope from the shed.
“Daisy is too slow,” Justin said, frowning.
“But Mom said we can’t make a high-jump,” Sam said. He took the end of the rope and tied it to the front axle.
“We can still make a track over the dump,” Justin argued, crossing his arms. But no one would listen. He watched in growing anger as they tied the little gray donkey to the cart. Rochelle climbed in and Sam pulled on the lead, but Daisy wouldn’t budge.
“I knew it wouldn’t work,” Justin growled to himself. “They never listen to me.”
“I want to ride on Daisy!” Teddy said, jumping up and down.
“Come on, then.” Sam boosted him up and Daisy stepped forward quickly. The cart gave a lurch and rolled forward.
“Get up!” Teddy cried, kicking his heels. Daisy took two more steps, but then stopped. But the cart kept on rolling.
“Watch out!” yelled Justin. It was too late. As the go-cart banged into Daisy’s heels she jumped forward and then kicked, snapping the wheels right off.
“You’ve ruined it!” Justin screamed, and threw himself down to pound the dirt. Teddy was crying and Rochelle was calling for help. Justin didn’t listen. The go-cart that he had worked so hard to build was smashed! Tears blinded his eyes and he shook with angry sobs. He was mad at the silly donkey and his cousins. He was mad that no one listened, that no one even cared. “Stupid, stupid idiots!” he choked. “You never care about anything!”
How long he lay there, Justin didn’t know. It was the stillness that made him look up, and he found that the yard was empty. Off to one side the go-cart had been left, nose in the dirt. He couldn’t see the front wheels anywhere.
As he pulled himself up, Justin felt the blood throb in his head. He felt sick and miserable. And very alone.
Justin stumbled toward the house. He was dirty, but probably no one would notice. No one loved him anyway. Maybe he should go to the barn. At least Trinket might want to curl up with him. “Here, kitty!” he called softly as he passed the shed. No kitty came.
The door opened and Rochelle called to him. Justin pretended not to hear. He slumped down beside the shed. He was still mad at her for ruining the go-cart. “It’s suppertime!” Rochelle called. “Aren’t you hungry?”
“No.” Justin was hungry. Just now he felt his stomach churning, but he wouldn’t go in. The screen door slammed and he could hear their voices. If Aunt Linda came, just maybe he would go in. Justin waited. And waited. But no one came.
“Hey, Trinket,” Justin whispered as he felt soft fur rub up against him. It was getting dark and he was glad for company. “What do you have in your mouth?” She had caught something alright. Justin looked in disgust at the pile of feathers that Trinket dropped at his feet. “Get it away from me. I don’t want any of your old bird.”
No one seemed to notice when he slipped inside. Dishes were clinking and supper was probably over. At least someone else would wash the dishes. Justin cleaned up in the bathroom and went to his room. It was Sam and Teddy’s room, really.
He slumped on Teddy’s bed and picked up his favorite monster truck book, but he didn’t feel like reading. No one wanted him here, so why did he have to come? Justin knew Dad had to work long hours trucking, but it didn’t seem fair.
Above the bed there was a picture of Jesus holding the children on his lap. Who was that Man that Aunt Linda said could help him? He seemed so far away. All of a sudden he wished he were home in his own bed with a mommy to love him. He buried his face in the pillow and for the fourth time that afternoon Justin cried.
“It is time for prayer,” Aunt Linda said, touching him on the shoulder. Justin felt tired and his head ached. He lay still, hoping she would think he was asleep. “Justin, I know you are disappointed about the go-cart, but it doesn’t help to be angry about it.”
The memory of that terrible afternoon flooded back and Justin clenched his fists. Aunt Linda continued on: “Jesus wants us to forgive. He wants to take the hate and sadness out and to fill your heart with love and peace.”
Why did she have to talk like that? Just like it was his fault that everything went wrong! She didn’t care that his head hurt and that he didn’t have supper. She just thought that he was a bad boy. Well, he wasn’t! Justin made up his mind that he wasn’t.
“Jesus loves you, dear, and He is calling to you… Justin, Justin.” Aunt Linda’s voice pleaded as she whispered the words, but he wasn’t going to yield to them. Not yet. Maybe not ever.