The electric heater resting in the corner of Tony’s workshop hummed softly. Words and symbols flickered on and off the computer screen as the little red light on the disk drive responded to the rhythmic tapping of his fingers on the keys.
“There,” Tony said, studying the amber glow before him. “Just one more entry and we can go.”
Tie Li and Kim sat nearby, watching their brother. Kim was beginning to admire Tony’s attention to detail in all that he did. Even the workshop reflected his passion for organization. Everything had an assigned place. If only life could be so ordered.
Tie Li’s chin rested on her fist, her elbow pressing against the tabletop. She watched Tony’s fingers fly across the keyboard. Every once in a while she would glance over at Kim. Even now it was hard to believe he was alive and well, sitting in this room with her. How lucky she felt, and how very happy! She knew Kim loved her very much. There was just too much hurt inside him. He’d get better someday. He had to.
“Where are we going this time?” Kim’s voice broke the sleepy stillness of the room. “Will we see the little boy again?”
Tony straightened in his chair and rubbed the back of his neck. “Well, sort of. The little boy won’t be so little anymore. He’s 12 years old. He and his family haven’t moved away from Nazareth though. You guys ready to
The children walked over to Tony’s machine and settled in their assigned places. “This still makes me nervous,” Kim muttered as he helped Tie Li slip on her football helmet.
“Me too,” Tony agreed, pressing in close to his passengers.
“What?” Kim looked up in surprise.
“Just kidding, big brother,” Tony laughed. “You’ll be all right. Haven’t lost anybody yet.”
Tie Li snickered. “Just so it doesn’t rain.”
Kim cleared his throat. “What’s she mean by that?”
“Don’t mind her.” Tony looked down at his sister. “We had a little problem once, but we made it back all right. Voyager’s a good, solid machine, but it doesn’t like rain very much.”
“Is it raining where we’re going?” Kim persisted.
“Nah, it doesn’t rain much there. We’ll be OK.”
Kim didn’t seem convinced as Tony closed the door.
After making some adjustments and setting some dials, the boy spoke in the darkness. “Voyager, power up.!”
As before, lights and screens flickered to life, responding to Tony’s voice and keyboard commands. Soon the workshop glowed with a familiar blue light that quickly turned a brilliant white. In a flash, Voyager disappeared. Before long the children felt the big, wooden box settle with a dull thud. Tony busied himself putting the machine’s internal systems on standby and resetting the countdown timer.
Reaching up to adjust the stabilizer arm control, Tony felt something splash on the back of his hand.
“What’s this?” Tony opened the door to let some light in. He closed it again quickly.
“Tony, can we go out now?” Tie Li tried to shift her weight in the cramped quarters.
“Well, no, not just yet.”
Suddenly Kim called out. “Hey, something just dropped on my head . It feels like–like–”
“Water,” Tony interrupted. “It’s water. I believe it’s raining outside.”
“What?” Kim fairly shouted. “It’s raining? You said–”
“I know. I said it doesn’t rain much here.”
“What we do now?” Tie Li sounded concerned.
“Follow me.” Tony opened the door and stepped out into the downpour. His companions trailed behind as he made his way to the rear of the machine. From the back of an access panel, he pulled out a large plastic sheet folded into a tight square. The children hurriedly spread it out on the wet grass, then with Tie Li perched on Kim’s shoulders, they slipped the cover over the top of Voyager, shielding it from the rain. Then the three jumped back inside Tony’s invention.
After their huffing and puffing subsided, Kim spoke in the darkness. “Tony, I want you to know something.”
Tony looked over at his brother.
“I want you to know that I appreciate how good you take care of my . . . of our little sister. I just want you to know that.”
The rain drummed on Voyager’s makeshift cover, creating a staccato sound. The younger boy nodded slowly. “It’s OK, Kim. I enjoy watching out for her.” Tony hesitated, then continued. “But sometimes I could use a little help.”
Kim pulled dark, wet hair from his eyes. He rested his head against a panel of switches. “I . . . I’d like to help. I just don’t know how anymore.”
The boy felt a tiny hand slip into his. A small voice drifted in the damp darkness. “You know how, Kim. Remember in our village? You always walk with me when I went to see Father in the fields. Sometimes you carry me. And I was scared of the big dog, and you chase it away. You a very good brother, like Tony. I want you to take care of me because I love you.”
Kim’s hand tightened around Tie Li’s. “I miss our village. I miss Mother and Father very much.” He turned then, speaking almost fiercely. “Will the pain ever go away?”
The girl pressed her moist face against her brother’s arm, “It not go away; it change. Now when I think of our village, of Mother and Father, the pain make me smile. And when I hear your voice, I smile and there is no pain. You can learn to smile when you think of before. You can learn how, just like me.”
The steady drum of the rain slowly softened into silence. Tony stood in the quiet confines of his machine, not wanting to break the serenity of the moment. His heart was singing. He knew how much Kim’s words meant to Tie Li. “I think the rain has stopped.” Tony pushed open the door and stuck his head out into the cool, fresh air. “Yep. We can go now. We’d better hurry.”
The three made their way along the muddy path leading toward the village. Before they had gone far, they noticed a woman and a boy walking toward them. “Wait,” Tony called. “That’s them! We need to follow.”
The trio fell in behind the couple heading up the hill, away from the village. The two walked in silence, the boy helping His mother over some rough places in the path. Soon they crested the hill and sat down on a large rock to rest. Tony, Tie Li, and Kim sat nearby, waiting to see what was going to happen.
“But Mother,” the boy was saying, “I don’t understand. All the other boys my age have been attending the rabbi’s school for years. I see them pass by our house every morning. When can I go too? They make fun of me. They say I must be sick or feebleminded or some such thing.”
“Don’t you make fun of me too!”
“I’m sorry.” The woman placed her hand on her son’s shoulder. “I know it’s been hard on you, not being allowed to attend classes with the rest. I’ve taught you for the past six years because I wanted to make sure you learned all the things that are important. I wanted you to know about the God of heaven, about nature, about the flowers and trees, and about people–why they act the way they do. I wanted you to be prepared for what lies ahead.” A shadow darkened the woman’s face. “You must be prepared. It’s important that you know the truth.”
“Mother, you look so serious. What truth should I know about?”
The woman drew in a deep breath. “Jeshua, you are a very special young man. Very special. And someday . . . ” Her voice faltered. “Someday
. . . You’ll have a special work to do.”
“I know.” The boy spoke confidently. “I’m to be a carpenter like Father.”
“No, you will not be a carpenter, not always.”
The boy looked up in surprise. “I must be a carpenter. Father is training me.”
The woman stood to her feet and walked a few paces away from the rock. She spoke slowly, carefully selecting each word. “Before you were born, an angel came to me and said I was to have a son, and that . . .” she hesitated, trying to control her emotions, “. . . and that he would have a certain work to do. The angel even gave you a name.”
“My name is Jeshua.”
The woman smiled at her Son. “Yes, that’s your Hebrew name. But you have another.”
The boy stood and joined his mother. “I have another name? What is it? Mother, what is my name?”
“Your name . . . Your name is Immanuel.”
The boy searched his mother’s face. “What does that mean, Mother? What does Immanuel mean?”
Tears began to flow down the woman’s cheeks. She threw her arms around her son’s neck and wept, her sobs coming from deep within her. It was as if she were saying goodbye to him, as if he were leaving on a long journey.
Slowly she lifted her hands to the boy’s face and gently stroked his hair. For a long moment she looked into his eyes. Then, in a whisper, she spoke. “It means . . . God with us.”