The Sixth Commandment Copyright © 2022 Sean Slagle
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As he drove back to Short Ridge, Michael James’ mind was on the revival he preached that week. Many souls came to know the Lord, and Michael felt at peace knowing that he was in the center of God’s will. Many times, over the past few months he thought himself a failure at Mt. Sinai. The church didn’t have the programs or special groups that the big churches had. He worked very hard to meet the needs of the people in that community, but he wasn’t sure he was doing enough. There wasn’t a strong youth group, which Michael felt was important for the growth of the church. Being young himself, Michael thought he would reach this population the best, but so far that wasn’t true.
The youth at the church weren’t faithful. Most were hit and miss, except for the Simmons kids. They came to church almost every Sunday with their mother. Their father never came. Most people in town knew him and knew enough to stay away from him. He was rumored to have mob connections with the marijuana he grew in the mountains. No one had ever seen these grand patches, but that didn’t keep people from believing. Some people say that he also killed a man a few years back and the police did nothing about it. Michael never thought there was any truth to that. He knew that people build reputations, which seem to follow them and get bigger throughout life.
He often thought of the Simmons kids and prayed for them and their family. Stopping at a stoplight, Michael wondered why the Simmons family had passed through his thought process. He wondered if God were telling him something. So, trying to be receptive to the Holy Spirit, he prayed for the children and whatever they might be going through. Michael felt an assurance that the Simmons kids would be safe. After all, they were also God’s children.
After praying, Michael realized he was pulling into his driveway. As usual, he had no idea how he got there. He had been lost in a prayerful trance. He didn’t mind the fact that he was twenty-three and his mother was at his house almost as much as she was at her own. Ever since his father died three years earlier, Michael had become the complete center of her life, second only to Jesus. Michael tried not to think about his father’s death. So many things went wrong, and he didn’t know if he could ever repair most of the mistakes he made. At least he had clung to his faith and didn’t let go of God’s call in his life, but that was about all he held on to.
The late September air was cool. He stepped out of the car and stretched his back. He was tired and ready for bed. His mother, Julia, waited by the door and greeted him with a kiss. “How was the revival?”
“It was great.” Michael walked into the house and placed his suitcase on the sofa. “There were so many teenagers who got saved.”
“I prayed for you the whole time.”
“I knew you were.” Michael flopped onto the sofa next to his suitcase. “I am so tired.”
“I ran into Samantha while you were gone.”
Suddenly, Michael’s stomach tightened. “So?”
“You know, she is working for the D.A. now,” she said with a shrug. “We had such a nice chat.”
Michael turned his head and stared at the window. He didn’t want to have this conversation, but he knew he was going to anyway. His mother always had a way of bringing Samantha up during their conversations, but this time she hit him without warning. He knew he was about to be attacked.
“Michael, why don’t you give her another chance?”
“Because I don’t want to. Things didn’t work out.”
“But they could.”
“Mrs. Julia James,” he called her that when he tried to playfully make a point, “I don’t want them to work out.”
She stood there with a knowing grin on her face. “I think she still loves you.”
“Love.” Michael tried to snort as he said it but wasn’t sure if it came out that way. “I don’t love her. Otherwise, I’d still be with her.”
“I’m not so sure about that.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“I think she scares you. I think marriage still scares you. You know, your father and I had a wonderful marriage. I don’t know why you would be so scared.”
“The only thing that scares me is you attacking me as soon as I walk in the door.”
She shrugged. “I won’t say another word. I just think you’re making a big mistake. You know she’s not dating anyone, don’t you?”
“Mom, I don’t care.”
“She was dating that one lawyer, what’s his name?”
“I don’t care.”
“What’s his name?”
“Luke Olson. The low down, dirtiest snake in town.”
“Yeah. Well, I guess she realized that herself. Samantha said she often thinks about you. She even prays for your ministry.”
“I thought you weren’t going to say anymore,” Michael said, jokingly, hoping the conversation would end.
“I won’t,” she said, then smiled. “At least, not anymore tonight.”
Michael carried his suitcase to the back room. He thought about how nice it would be to see Samantha, just for old time’s sake. But no one else would see it like that. His mother would have them engaged within a week and Samantha would admit to it a week later. It was all a conspiracy. Soon the elderly ladies at church would join in and start planning the wedding. Michael put his clothes away and poured himself a glass of lemonade.
* * * * * * * *
Judd Simmons loaded the pistol and slid it into his pocket. He snapped a full cartridge in the second, then rechecked the last. All three were good to go. He slammed the desk drawer shut, then knocked back the last of his whisky. This was a long time in coming, but he had no choice. She had to die tonight, and this was one job he would have to do himself.
He took one more look at the divorce papers, then crumbled it in his hand. No Simmons had ever gone to court, not even for a parking ticket. He wasn’t about to be the first. How could she do this? Who does she think she is? Doesn’t she know who I am? She’s going to leave me, just like my mother. Just like mother. My mother. He poured himself one more drink before heading out the door. Lizzie was not going to leave him. Not alive anyway. And he would take care of the children, too.