"People convinced against their will are of the same opinion still." Amish proverb
Like all other seventeen-year-old Amish boys, Joni (pronounced Johnny) Weaver was finished with school. He'd completed the eighth grade and was now caught in that strange uncertain time between being a child and being old enough to be baptized into the Amish faith.
At least, that's where his parents hoped he'd end up. Joni wasn't so sure. Scooping manure from behind the cow stanchions, he knew he didn't want to be doing this job forever. He put down the shovel and reached down deep into the tack box for the package of cigarettes that he kept hidden from his father. He changed the cigarettes' hiding place every day, just to be sure. As he lit the cigarette, he leaned against the wall to take a break.
The barn door slid open and someone ambled in. Joni quickly stamped out his cigarette and waved the smoke away. He relaxed when he saw his little brother, Marty, silhouetted against a beam of sun. Joni shook out another cigarette and lit it. The end of it quivered, brightening as he inhaled long and deep.
Marty walked up to him. "You shouldn't be smoking in the barn."
"Who's gonna tell?" Joni said.
"Not me," Marty answered quickly. "Can you blow it through your nose?"
"Yup." Joni inhaled again and blew the smoke out of his nose.
"Can I try one?" Marty asked, as Joni flicked ashes off his little finger.
"Nope. I told you before, your time will come."
Marty climbed up on a bale of hay near Joni's stretched out legs. "Joni, you planning to leave?"
Joni scowled and cuffed Marty, sending his hat spinning on to the back of a cow. "Little brother, you ask too many questions." But it was a burden that sat on his mind every day, especially after he and his friend, Zeke, bought a car last summer. They kept it tucked at the far end of a parking lot at a local motel. On weekends, and even on a few summer weeknights, they would meet in the parking lot with their buggies, change into English clothes, and take off in the car. The manager of the hotel knew what the boys were up to and didn't seem to mind. Once, he even waved to them.
Joni loved the way that car made him feel. He loved driving fast, knowing he could just keep on going down the highway. He wasn't sure he could ever give it up and spend the rest of his life behind the backside of a horse, where the scenery never changed.
It wasn't just the horse and buggy. For the last year or so, Joni had been chaffing under the tight rules of the church. He glanced over at Marty, wondering how much his brother knew. Did he know about the car? Probably. Marty watched his every move. That was part of Joni's dilemma. He loved his family, too. Why did it have to be one or the other? Why couldn't he have both?
He threw the cigarette on the ground and stamped on it with his shoe. Then he climbed up on a hay bale and tucked the package on a rafter, far out of sight from his dad. "Back to work," he said, picking up the handles of the wheelbarrow and maneuvered it down the aisle. He gave a nod of his head toward the shovel, indicating to Marty to give him a hand.
When he reached the barn door, he looked toward the alfafa hay fields, a green sea that undulated with the breeze. In the distance, a dog barked and another answered.
Joni still wasn't sure whether he would leave home or not, but for today, he would stay put.
About Suzanne Woods Fisher: She is an author of bestselling fiction and
non-fiction books about the Old Order Amish. Why the Amish? Well, Suzanne's
grandfather was raised Plain. She's always been fascinated by her gentle,
wise relatives. Learn more about Suzanne, her books, and Amish Wisdom, her
weekly radio show, by stopping by www.suzannewoodsfisher.com. Please subscribe to this blog and consider leaving a comment!