Jephthah’s Daughter


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Jephthah’s Daughter
By Bobby Neal Winters
I’ll not tell you where he lived. I will tell you it was a small town in Kansas and to give it a name, I’ll call it Gilead. I won’t tell you his name either, but I have to call him something so it might as well be Jephthah Jones. It’s a Bible name and Jephthah Jones was a Bible type man. Those who know the Bible real well will have a better idea of what I mean by that than those who don’t.
Gilead was a place where the highway crossed a blacktop county road just out to the west of Parsons. Jephthah, his wife Jolene, and his daughter Jessie lived there in a nice house and had for the 18 years of Jessie’s life. Jephthah and Jolene had moved in two months after they were married and three months before Jessie was born and hadn’t blushed in that entire time.
Jephthah figured anybody could do the math and wasn’t about to be ashamed of anything that was human nature.
On that day the Joneses sat down and had breakfast together. I guess I need to be a little plainer there. They didn’t all sit down at once. Jephthah had got up first and made himself some bacon, eggs, and coffee. Jolene had come in a few minutes later in her pink bathrobe and had some toast. Then Jessie had come in and had a pop tart.
“What are you doing up so early today?” Jephthah enquired.
She smiled coyly with a blush so tiny her daddy didn’t notice.
“I’ve got some plans,” she said. Then quickly added, “What are you doing today?”
“I’ve got some business up in Fort Scott today,” he said. “It’s probably going to take all day because those jug-heads up there won’t just get their heads out of their asses and do it my way.”
Jolene, who’d up to this point been more interested in what the paper said than the conversation looked up.
“You’re going to be gone all day?” she asked. “How late will be getting back?”
“About six,” he said. “Why are you asking?”
“I need to know when to have supper ready,” she said.
Jephthah looked at his watch and gave a start.
“I’d better get going if I’d going to make it,” he said.
He got up, put his jacket on, and as he was about to head out the door, Jessie got up, grabbed him around the waist, and said, “I love you, Daddy.”
“I love you, too, Baby,” he said with a hug in return and headed out the door with warmth in his heart.
He climbed into his Dodge pickup, checking the gun rack almost subconsciously, to see if his 12-gauge pump-action shotgun was still there, and it was as always. He’d never had need for it in his 20 years of driving, but it was nice to have it there. You never knew when you might need it.
He pulled out of the driveway where he was parked beside his wife’s cherry red Ford Mustang with the “Honk if you love Jesus” bumper sticker.
About a half hour later, a shadow passed briefly over his heart as he drove past John Johnson’s house with the big red truck parked in front with the name Johnson and Son stenciled in gold across the side. John Johnson lived as far to one side of Parsons as Jephthah Jones lived to the other. His son John Junior went to the same high school as Jessie.
Jephthah hated John Senior.
Jephthah was a mild mannered man, so he wasn’t good at hating. When he did it, he knew no moderation and did it with all the fiber of his being. This went back to his senior year in high school. Jephthah had been going with Jolene all through high school, but they’d broken up senior year, and she started going with John Johnson. Over the course of about a month a lot of things had happened. Jolene broke up with John and gotten back together with Jephthah. Then John had gotten back with his old girl friend. Then each of the girls in turn had discovered they were pregnant.
It’d all happened so fast that Jephthah didn’t know what to think, but over the intervening years, he’d thought about it a lot. He’d always wanted to have more kids with Jolene, but they never had been able to. John and his wife had had a half-a-dozen.
Jessie was the dearest thing in his life, but he’d always had a shadow of a doubt whether she was his.
When he drove passed John Johnson’s house, this all rushed back on him and wouldn’t leave him. It ate out the warmth left by Jessie’s sweet hug and grew into a monster. So much was this the case that when he got to his meeting in Fort Scott he was in a horribly bad mood.
It was such a bad mood that he wouldn’t back down when the jug-heads didn’t want to do it his way. He stuck with his guns, and they did do it his way and it got done a lot quicker than it would have otherwise.
As a consequence of this, he was going to get home three and a half hours earlier than he would have otherwise.
He discovered he was in a good mood again, and he didn’t want anything to mess it up, so he decided to take a way back to Gilead that didn’t go by John Johnson’s house. When he got to the point where US 69 met KS 126, he turned west on 126. It wasn’t as nice a road, but it didn’t go by John Johnson’s house.
He was in a good mood right to the point where he saw the corner where KS 126 turned south to go to Walnut.
This was one of the awkward places in the road where you had to slow down. The state highway had been made to fit the plat of the section-line roads that checkerboard the fields of wheat, soy beans, sun flowers, and corn. A curve had been put in to join the east-west road with the north-south road, but the old section-line roads still came off the curve as tangents and met in a junction like they always had.
It was a great place for a truck to pull off and the driver to go back into the sleeper.
And Jephthah ahead of him saw just that. It was a red truck with Johnson and Son on the side that was hooked onto a tank trailer with the word “Flammable” stenciled on it. That would have been enough to darken his mood, but the red Ford Mustang with “Honk if you love Jesus” bumper sticker had a more profound affect.
Jephthah followed the old county road as it came off in a tangent to the highway and slowed to a stop. Though rage had stolen his brain from him, his body remained steady. He opened his truck door, stepped out, and rolled his truck window open about four inches. Then he removed his 12-gauge from the gun rack, pumped a round into the chamber, and slipped it through the opening he’d just made.
Then he squeezed the trigger.
The slug tore into the gasoline trailer at the point where it was nearest to the sleeper bunk on the back of the truck. The explosion of flames engulfed the cab in an instant.
One piece of debris came down on the hood of his truck and another careened off the open door that shielded him.
Putting his gun back in the rack, he closed the door behind him and headed toward home.
As he rolled into his driveway, parking in the same spot he’d left that morning but without the red Mustang there, a question occurred to him.
“What will happen to my daughter?”
He knew it wouldn’t take the sheriff long to figure out what’d happened. He knew he was going to prison and maybe get the needle. He hadn’t thought about what would happen to Jessie.
He walked into the front door which led into the kitchen and saw a boiling pot of pinto beans on the stove.
This confused him.
He was more confused when Jolene walked in.
“You’re back early,” she said.
“Your car?” was all he could manage.
“Jessie took it,” Jolene answered. “She said she was going to meet some friends. I think she has a boyfriend somewhere, though, truth be known.”
It was Jolene’s turn to be confused when he left back out through the front door without saying a word and then heard the report half a minute later. The sheriff did figure it all out later and explained it to her, though.
Wow, Okie. I don't know what to say. I only hope this isn't based on a real story. You've been missed around here. But this one is overwhelming in its implications.
Not a real story. I was on a trip on a back road and saw a truck with a sleeping birth and a car parked like the ones described in the story, but the rest is imagination.
I dont know what to say..

that was powerfully moving.

Its one of those ones Im going to be thinking about the next 20 mins.