Head in the clouds. Feet on the ground. Heart in the story. Christa Kinde is a cheerful homebody whose imagination takes her new places with every passing day. Making her home between misty mornings and brimming bookshelves in Southern California, she’s been writing for more than a decade, but the Threshold Series is her first foray into fiction. Learn about Christa’s books, Bible studies, short stories, weekdaily serials, and more at ChristaKinde.com.
Part Eighteen: Good Listener
Uncle Al stole Daichi and dragged him through a circle of introductions to the members of the Turnquist household, but he eventually returned to Marcus’s side. Once again, Daichi mussed up Marcus’s hair in a wordless show of affection, but his gaze shifted to the gawking boy at his side. “May I meet your friend?”
“Best friend. I’m Ransom.” He thrust out a hand and asked, “Are you a body builder?”
“Let us say I am fit for the journey ahead.” Daichi bowed slightly. “And you … are you not a runner?”
While Ransom leapt into introductory basics, Marcus took a longer look at his foster brother, trying to see him through human eyes. Dark eyes, heavy brows, and fine black hair kept short except for long tail at the nape of his neck. Daichi was certainly built, but not musclebound. He moved with the fluidity of one whose first priority was stealth, not strength.
“What’s in there?” Ransom asked, indicating the long case strapped at an angle across Daichi’s back.
Marcus was curious himself, but he tried to deflect his friend’s curiosity. “We’re going on a trip tomorrow. That could be how he packs his socks.”
Ransom stuck his hands in his back pockets. “Looks more like an instrument case.”
Aleff, who had somehow herded the rest of Marcus’s family into the house, returned to Daichi’s side. “Oh, he’s armed, but not with a saxophone.” He lowered his voice. “But we should keep that little detail to ourselves.”
“Armed as in … a gun?” Ransom asked.
“Seriously? Where do you keep your bow?” Ransom’s attention veered to the motorcycles.
“Up my sleeve,” said Aleff. “But you should be more worried about what’s up his. Throwing stars, blades, needles.”
Ransom was right back to gawking. “Do you collect ninja things?”
Aleff grinned. “He is a ninja thing!”
Punching Marcus’s arm, Ransom asked, “Why didn’t you tell me your brother’s a ninja?”
“Uncle Al exaggerates. A lot.”
Daichi chuckled. “Let us say I have an unusual hobby.”
Aleff lifted a finger. “One best not mentioned to young, impressionable children during dinner.”
Ransom raised his hand. “I’m young and impressionable.”
“Good,” said Al, whose gaze sharpened. “Because this summer is all about making impressions.”
Aleff wasn’t a freeway kind of traveler. Meandering county roads brought them past fields, around lakes, and through dinky towns. The unhurried purr of motorcycle engines frequently stilled because he’d stop for pretty views, short hikes, and spontaneous exploration.
In a small park with a historic marker and a handful of picnic tables, they unfolded a map. Al asked, “Can you show me where we are now?”
Ransom elbowed Marcus. “Is it bad that your uncle’s already lost?”
Marcus smirked, but he dutifully traced the winding route they’d taken to their current location. “We’re here.”
“And where should we go?” Aleff inquired. “Anywhere’s fine,” said Marcus.
“Or everywhere,” said Ransom. “We made a list.”
“Admirable preparation, but this is the first I’ve heard of it. Marcus didn’t breathe a word.” Al held out a hand. “Show me.”
Ransom pulled a folded notebook page from his back pocket, all frayed edges and smudged pencil. “We mighta gone a little crazy. Half of it’s impossible. Most of it, probably.”
Marcus touched the blue-lined paper. “The ocean, though. That’s important. Can we get that far?”
“We have all summer, boys. I can show you two oceans and a gulf if that’s what’s important.” As Aleff scanned the list, his smile widened. “Do you have anything to add, Daichi? I know I do.”
“More?” Ransom asked. “Isn’t it too much already?”
“Not at all. We’ll have to meander a bit, and some things will be harder to find than others, but I like having goals.”
For another half hour, they tossed around ideas, pored over the map, and added bakeries, diners, fruit stands, and tunnels to Ransom’s list.
Toward evening, Uncle Al pulled into a backwoods campground with rustic cabins for rent. Marcus, whose sense of direction was as good as his sense for strategy, remarked, “It took us all day, and we’re not even a hundred miles from home.”
Aleff merely smiled and suggested a stroll around the lake.
Marcus fell in step beside Daichi, while Ransom picked up where he’d left off the last time Uncle Al visited.
“Is it short for Alec?”
Uncle Al chuckled, “Nope.”
“Okay, how about Almanzo?”
“Are you serious?”
“More like desperate. What else could Al be short for?” Giving up—at least for the moment—Ransom turned to address Daichi. “You know, Marcus said he was surprised you’d have a bike. How come?”
“The noise,” he replied. “I prefer stillness.”
Ransom considered that, then asked, “Is that some kind of zen ninja thing?”
Amusement warmed Daichi’s reply. “Let us say that I am a good listener.”
Marcus was honestly surprised by Ransom’s reaction to Daichi. Over the next few days, his friend toned down the unnecessary chatter. It wasn’t that Ransom stopped talking, but he spoke in more subdued tones and lapsed into longer silences. The sudden change worried Marcus. He doesn’t like quiet.
Aleff’s thoughts touched his. “Neither do you.”
Marcus tightened his arms around the Caretaker’s waist as he leaned into a curve. Silences can be lonely.
“He’s never been alone.”
He doesn’t know that. And we can’t tell him.
“I think he’ll listen to Daichi.”
Marcus struggled to make sense of that. What good comes from listening to silence?
Aleff said, “Watch and see. Daichi has a way of drawing others into his peace.”
That night, they unrolled their sleeping bags on the gentle slope of a green hill in some random pasture.
“Warm enough?” Aleff checked.
“Yeah,” whispered Ransom.
Marcus only hummed. It had been a long while since he’d seen the night sky empty of all but stars. If they needed proof that they were all alone in the middle of nowhere, this was it. No Guardians. No Messengers. No Protectors. Either they’d traveled beyond the boundaries of every Hedge, or local Flights were giving Aleff a wide berth.
“Good night, then,” said Aleff.
This time, Ransom hummed his affirmative.
Marcus stole a peek at Ransom’s face as he stared into the glittering sky, trying to get a sense for his mood. Was there something he should say? Anything that would make a difference? But throwing words into the serene silence felt wrong, so Marcus held his tongue … and waited to see what God would do.
Twenty minutes stretched into thirty, and the silence grew comfortable. Almost reverent. Not quite the same as when Marcus was around a believer, but close. This was more basic. The beginnings of awe.
Marcus turned his head. Ransom had needed to settle down. Not all the time, but sometimes. Because only in the quiet did people notice the yearning in their soul. And only when they took the time to listen to the stars did they hear their message. The heavens declare.
Ransom glanced his way, eyebrows lifting.
But Marcus was spared from answering by his big brother.
“Do you see?” murmured Daichi.
One streak, then two. Aleff whispered, “Make a wish.”
Ransom gasped as the sky tore up in a meteor shower. Marcus wondered if their resident Caretaker had anything to do with the magnificent display, or if God Most High was showing off. The sky wasn’t falling; it was dancing, and it was beautiful. Here was a universal invitation, a thousand opportunities to wish upon a star. Would Ransom ever hear their songs and join the chorus?
Ransom turned toward him again, head pillowed on his hands, the glory of the heavens reflecting in his eyes, voice low. “We should start another list. Of stuff I never want to forget.”
In a diner two states over—one with suspiciously familiar placemats—Uncle Al ordered half the items on the breakfast menu, then deferred to Daichi, who pulled a flat paper bag out of his jacket’s inside pocket. “It is time to keep your promises.”
Marcus peeked inside the bag, then spilled the contents onto the table—postcards, pens, stamps.
Aleff said, “Write home.”
“We did say we would,” said Marcus. He filled out cards for his foster parents, Brenna, Landon, and Flopsy. There were even enough to include Russ and Sheldon.
Ransom dutifully wrote a short message for his dad and passed it to Uncle Al for approval.
Once he interpreted Ransom’s messy scrawl, Marcus snorted. Here’s proof that I’m alive. And having fun. Thanks for letting me do this. Ransom.
When every family member was accounted for, they had one postcard left over. “You need one?” Ransom asked Daichi.
“No, thank you.”
“Don’t let it go to waste,” said Aleff. “Think on it while we eat.”
They made short work of the diner’s breakfast specials, only returning to the problem of the spare postcard while Daichi lingered over a second pot of tea.
“Who else would we write?” asked Marcus. “Brock or Joey?”
“Nah.” A mischievous grin worked its way onto Ransom’s face, and he whispered, “How about Miss Priss?”
Ransom shrugged. “Why not?”
Marcus asked, “Do you even know her address?”
“It’s a small town. They probably know where she lives at the post office.”
“Guess so.” Marcus passed Ransom the spare. “Go for it.”
And so Ransom addressed the last postcard to Prissie Pomeroy in West Edinton, adding a two-word greeting—Guess who?
Next Month: Angel Unaware, Part 19: “Wanderer”