Chapter 6: the whale is freed
Jacob was still mad. Mrs. James was still in a state of mild panic. She still needed to find a way to keep Jacob from talking. Jacob still couldn’t figure out how to get this whale out of the whirlpool in his head. He finally was about to decide he needed to tell Preacher James. He just had to hope that his bad record would keep Preacher James from believing him. He knew it was a long shot, but it was the only shot he had. This whale had been swimming in circles for too long, and he was ready to free the proverbial “Willy”. Mrs. James kept an eye on Jacob whenever she had the chance. She didn’t have any idea what she could do if Jacob started to say something about it, but she had to do something if she got the chance.
Every day Mrs. James saw Jacob walking by the house. He always looked very nervous to her. Jacob kept deciding he was going to see Preacher James, but changed his mind whenever he got to the gate. After about a week of this, he finally decided there was no turning back. Mrs. James was on the back porch talking to a member of her usual ring of gossips, and saw Jacob coming around the bend towards the house. He looked nervous, but he also looked determined this time. His jaw was set, his strides were longer. However, when he started down the lane, all that changed. He suddenly became more nervous than he had ever been on his previous attempts. His hands shook, his jaw quivered, and he got goose bumps the size of grapefruits. He was twenty yards from the gate. He was fifteen yards from the gate. He was ten, nine, eight, seven, six (is this getting old?), five, four (this is actually kinda fun), three, two, one… only a step away from the gate his legs turned to jelly. He literally crawled the last three feet, used the fence post to pull himself to his feet, and turned the latch…
Mrs. James (who by now was watching intently from the window) almost passed out when she realized what he might be there to do. She jumped from her seat by the window and ran to the kitchen window to get a better view. Her gossip friend, who had no idea what was going on, expected she must be witnessing the source of some potential scandal and jumped to her feet to follow. In the excitement, she tripped over the coffee table- breaking the best tea set in the process. Mrs. James, hearing the crash, ran back into the room and attempted to clean up the mess. Amid the confusion she never heard the knock at the front door…
Preacher James heard the knocking at the door from his study adjacent to the kitchen. He waited for Mrs. James to answer it, but the knock continued. He finally got to his feet and walked over to answer the door. Mrs. James heard the door open and flew into an even greater panic than before. As Preacher James uttered the words, “How are you today, young Mister Hatchbacks?” Mrs. James flew through the door, knocking Jacob completely off the porch, and smashing several flower pots in the process. “What on earth are you doing?!” Preacher James asked when he recovered himself. “I… he… ah… oh… “ was all she could reply.
After that day, Jacob never went to the James’ house again. Of course, the story of his visit came out once everything was cleaned up. Jacob told how Danny had found a forbidden device somewhere, and was hiding it in his room. The mayhem of the event made Preacher James forget about Jacob’s misdeeds and he took Jacob’s story at full face value. No one could explain, however, what had sent Mrs. James into such a frenzy. Not even Preacher James’ best interrogation techniques could get the truth out. He finally decided she was telling the truth when she said she had been missing sleep and was having a bad dream while sleep walking. “It was awful.” She said. “I dreamed that I was baking a heavenly batch of macaroni casseroles, and a man took them and tried to throw them off the roof… I saw in slow motion as they fell towards the ground, and then realized that there was a helpless kitten sitting on top of the dish as it fell! I had to dive to catch them… and I woke up on the porch with broken pots everywhere.” No one dared to dream of the horrible truth. No one could explain how this device had come into town. Preacher James had to talk to Danny.
“Mister Dominici,” Preacher James began when Danny answered the door. Danny felt his heart skip several beats in a row. What was the preacher doing there? “It has come to my attention that you have found a device that violates our strict rules about possessing worldly items.” Danny’s heart sank as the whale from Jacob’s whirlpooling mind sat down on it. Having a whale sitting on your heart doesn’t feel good, Danny found. “May I see the device?” the preacher asked. “Um, sure. Yes, sir.” Danny stammered and walked upstairs to get it. He brought it down for the preacher to examine. “Interesting…” Preacher James said, thoughtfully. “I’ve heard of these, I haven’t seen one up close for myself before, though. Where did you find it?” Danny tried to regain his composure and answered, “I found it in a bush beside your house.” “Beside my house?” Preacher James was taken off guard. “Yes, sir. I was walking over to see what Mrs. James had baked that day, and a strange dog jumped out at me. I ran around your house and hid behind a bush, and this was on the ground.” Preacher James finally understood the meaning of this all. He never would have imagined that something like this could happen right underneath his nose. After a pause he resumed his questioning, “When was this? Why didn’t you tell someone about it?” “I found it about three months ago. I was scared to tell anyone. Things like this aren’t allowed here. I was afraid that people would think that I bought it, and I wouldn’t be allowed to go into town with Mother and Father anymore.” Preacher James thought for a moment, and finally said, “Thank you for your time. I will be back to talk with your parents soon.”
Preacher James’ head swam as he walked home. The whale of a rumor in fact was a whale of a fact. That whale had had mercy on Danny’s heart after its initial belly flop on his superior vena cava, and was now happily fluttering like a huge aquatic butterfly in Preacher James’ stomach. He arrived home without the familiar smell of yeast and cinnamon that he was so used to. Mrs. James still sat on the back porch sipping Darjeeling tea. She still had that panicked look on her face that had grown worse over the last several days, but now that he knew the reason he seemed to notice it for the first time.