Chapter 3

“Verily I say unto you, no prophet is accepted in his own country.” Luke 4:24

Before long Elijah was climbing the steps of the school bus. Bus steps always seem to be made just a little higher than the average school kid's natural step for some reason. Add this to Elijah’s being lost in thought and still being worn out from the experience of last night and you have the perfect recipe for a stumble. Which Elijah did as he took the last step.

Elijah fell forward toward the bus driver, who held out his hand to steady the falling boy. His book bag swung from his shoulder and caught on the lever that opened and closed the door. As Elijah pulled the book bag back onto his shoulder the door swung shut, leaving Becca and several other kids standing outside. Laughter broke out from the other kids on the bus.

“Pay no attention to them,” Becca whispered after the bus driver had reopened the door to let her and the others in.

But Elijah hardly noticed he tripped, much less the laughter going on at his expense. His mind was lost in thought over the vision and what he would do at school. That is until he heard the taunting voice of Mark Roche.

When they were kids Elijah and Mark played together. Mark was two years older than Elijah and once they got into elementary school Mark decided it wasn’t cool to hang out with “little kids.” Now that they were in high school, Mark had become down right antagonistic towards him.

“Smooth move, geek,” Mark called from the back of the bus. “Hope you don’t try out for the team this year.”

Elijah didn’t bother to even look in Mark’s direction. Why give him the satisfaction? He sat down in the first empty seat and looked out the window. Usually, he sat alone. His few friends lived on a different bus route that crossed the river down at the Fourth Street Bridge. This gave him some time to sort out whatever was on his mind before school got in the way. Today Becca decided to sit with him.

“For such a hottie, he’s a real jerk,” Becca exclaimed angrily. “So have you figured out what you’re gonna do?”

“Not yet,” he sighed.

What to do? Elijah had been turning this question over in his mind since he had gotten off the phone with his father. A very vivid memory of a picture on the Sunday school wall at his mother’s church kept turning around in his head. The picture portrayed the prophet Noah standing on a large log pile in front of the ark arms raised and yelling for everyone to repent. The angry crowd in the picture looked like they were ready to add one more sin rather than repent though.

That just wasn’t him. Blogging in front of a computer, yes; standing in front of a large crowd preaching hell fire and damnation, no way! Maybe he should have listened to his father and laid low. His grandmother’s words this morning encouraged him though. The Lord always provides a way. Elijah tried to take comfort in this and decided to just get to school and let the Lord take care of the rest.

He laughed to himself as he remembered being stopped at the door by his grandmother. “Get back upstairs. If you’re going to school with the idea of representing the good Lord you can at least put on something more presentable than an old t-shirt and raggedy blue jeans. And you still have time to run a comb through your hair before the bus comes!”

A blur of houses raced pass the bus as Elijah blindly stared out the window. He continued to toss options around until the bus brakes let out a shrill screech, announcing their arrival at school. A chill ran down his spine. The time had come. Soon Elijah was making his way through the river of kids flowing up the main walk to the school. A sea of faces swam passed him, some happy, some sad, most yelling to someone beside them, trying to be heard over the noise.

“Hey ‘E’!” came a familiar voice from somewhere in the crowd. Only one person ever referred to him as ‘E’, Ben Kennedy. Ben was his best friend. They made an odd pair. They were totally different in almost every way. Where Elijah was quiet and nerdy, Ben was loud and fit every bit of the ‘stoner’ image. Elijah short and clean cut, Ben was tall, thin, and had shoulder length shaggy blond hair. “Man I almost didn’t recognize you! What’s up with the collar?”

Elijah was dumbstruck. He had hoped to make it to homeroom before he actually had to talk to anyone. Ben paused for a moment waiting for Elijah’s reply. When none came Ben moved on.

“So, what do you think about all these mad visions?” Ben asked with a smile.

Elijah could feel his heart start to pound. Ben and he had been friends for a long time and talked about everything under the sun, but that was about normal stuff like video games or girls. “Dear Lord, tell me what to say,” he prayed in his heart. Elijah looked up hoping the answer would be written on the side of the tan brick school building. Suddenly he heard, or perhaps felt, a quiet voice in his chest say; “Tell them why you are here today.”

“Hey, Earth to 'E'!” Ben stepped in front of Elijah. “What’s up with you today? You’re more zoned out than usual.”

Elijah took Ben’s arm and started walking again. “Listen and try to keep it down! I’m one of them. One of the vision having people” he said not sure exactly how to put it while trying to keep his voice low, yet loud enough for Ben to hear him over the crowd.

“No way! You’re a prophet?” In his surprise, Ben’s voice came out louder than expected.

“Shh! Please keep it down. I'm not ready to start talking to large crowds or anything yet,” Elijah pleaded. It was too late however. Several of the students around them turned to see what was going on.

“Uh, sorry,” Ben answered, shrugging his shoulders. “Don’t be looking at me like that. So, what happened, what was it like?”

Elijah began to walk again, leaning forward a little to quicken his pace. As Elijah began to respond to Ben he notice someone was walking very close to him. He glanced over his shoulder to see who was brushing against his arm and found himself face to face with Deborah Bowley, a sophomore that Elijah only knew well enough to say hello to. She was an attractive girl with long straight brown hair that was blowing slightly across her face in the cool spring morning breeze. Although he had always thought she was pretty, he never had the courage to approach her.

Deborah or Debbie, as everyone called her, instantly stopped walking and asked, “Did you just say you’re one of the ‘visionaries’?”

He turned red and looked at the ground. Everywhere he looked the ground around him began to fill with the sneakers of quickly approaching students. With this sudden turn of events Elijah found himself suddenly surrounded by curious onlookers. “Well, this morning is not going as expected at all,” he thought to himself.

“Um, well, yes… yes, last night I had a vision,” Elijah found himself saying as he anxiously looked around at the flow of students now starting to flow towards him. He was rapidly encompassed by the expanding group.

“Well, let’s hear it,” Ben chimed in.

“Um, last night while I was sleeping an angel appeared in a drea…”

“We can’t hear,” shouted a faceless voice from the mass that was congregating.

Elijah looked at Ben not sure what to do. Ben looked around and motioned for him to follow. “Clear a path people,” Ben yelled as he lead Elijah to a short wall that ran along the steps to the main entrance. The steps were usually covered with students waiting for the early bell to ring. Now it was completely clear and waiting for its wary speaker.

Elijah jumped up on the wall and looked over the crowd. He again imagined the picture of Noah on the pile of logs. This morning was definitely not going as expected. He glanced around the crowd and found Becca standing in the front row. She had stayed close as they were coming up the walkway. Now she gave Elijah an urging look and gestured for him to say something.

Say something? Oh yeah, he was supposed to be saying something. He could feel the sweat forming on his forehead. As he glanced from face to face he could see friends and familiar faces, there were even a few teachers. Suddenly he felt the voice inside him again, “tell them why you came to school today.”

Why was he here? Right now temporary insanity came to mind. “Get serious! The vision is the reason I’m here,” he thought. Now where to start? Got to say something before the crowd gets ugly. Lord, here I go.

Elijah took a deep breath and began to speak. Suddenly he realized that the words were flowing out of his mouth effortlessly. He was recounting the vision as though he was reliving it. The speech went on for several minutes before Elijah was interrupted by the morning bell.

The bell only lasted for a few moments, but it was long enough for other influences to grab the attention of the crowd.

Elijah could hear several voices shouting to his left, “Hey, back off!” and “You don’t have to shove, Meatplow!” Meatplow, head and shoulders above everyone else, was pushing his way through the crowd. Meatplow was the biggest kid in the school, probably the whole state. His size and bulk, not to mention the usual oblivious look on his face, always made him appear out of place amongst the other students. His appearance did, however, make him a perfect match for the football team and wherever Meatplow was Mark Roche and the rest of his football gang were not far behind.

Meatplow moved through the crowd just like a snowplow through a winter's storm, nothing stood in the way. As he broke through the front of the crowd, Mark and several of his football buddies pushed their way from behind him. Mark stepped forward and jumped on to the wall beside Elijah. He turned to face the mass before them. “What a bunch of bull,” he shouted arrogantly to the other students. “Sounds more to me like someone watched the news this morning and is looking for a little attention.” Mark’s friends shouted with agreement.

Elijah wasn’t sure what to do. He felt like pushing Mark off the wall, but that didn’t seem to be a very Christ-like solution, especially for someone that was trying to tell others about a vision from God. Turning his attention from Mark back to the crowd, he could see that they were waiting for his response. “That’s not true! It really happened! God gave me a vision to tell all of you. I don’t like attention; I never try to stand out at all.”

“Why would God want to talk to a geek like you? If the Man upstairs wanted to get people to listen, He’d talk to someone cool like me, not some dork!” The football players in the front of the crowd, along with several others, started to laugh at Mark’s comment.

Elijah’s face reddened. He turned toward his antagonist and with all the sarcasm he could muster said, “Maybe God tried, but he couldn't get through your big head!”

Now it was Mark that was turning red, only with anger instead of embarrassment. No unpopular, underclass geek was going to get the better of him. Before either could speak again, they were both grabbed by the arm and pulled off the wall with a jerk. As Elijah regained his wits he looked up to see the face of Mr. Jackson, the principal. “Alright, everyone to their classes! The bell rang five minutes ago.” He then pulled Mark and Elijah in front of him. “I don’t know what’s going on here, but we are going to discuss it in my office right now!”

The stream of students began to flow into the building again. Mr. Jackson led the boys up the walk towards the main entrance, still holding each by the back of the arm. As they walked into the building, Mark looked over his shoulder, “Elijah, you’re the thorn on a rose.”

After a stern lecture, Mr. Jackson had excused Mark to go to what was left of first period. He had escorted him out to the secretary’s desk for a hall pass, but hadn’t returned for several minutes. When he finally re-entered the room Elijah could tell he was uneasy.

“Perhaps it’s best for you to go home today Elijah,” Mr. Jackson sighed as he moved back behind his desk. “Not as a punishment of course, but having you here is going to be too disruptive for the rest of the students and faculty. Not to mention that the press has already called my secretary three times to confirm reports that there’s a ‘prophet’ on the premises.”

“But Mr. Jackson, I have to say something to those who want to listen!” Elijah was astonished by the suggestion. Despite the morning’s turn of events he had resolved that he must continue to spread the vision. “Maybe I could stay after school and use the auditorium?”

The principal sat down, clasped his hands together, and leaned forward on his elbows. “I wish I could Elijah, but I just can’t allow that! Heck, I’d like to hear what you have to say myself, but school facilities cannot be used as a personal forum.”

“Listen my secretary, Mrs. Simmons, has already called your grandmother. Go home and take it easy for a day or two. I’ll make sure you get all of your assignments while you’re out. Several of the students have a nondenominational pre-class prayer group. Perhaps when you come back you could sit in with them, after things settle down a little.”

“But I already have an assignment,” Elijah retorted, surprised at his own boldness.

“Elijah, please. There has got to be places better suited for that assignment.”

Elijah’s heart sunk. His choices seemed pretty slim at this point. “I guess you’re right, Mr. Jackson. Maybe I should just lay low!”

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