M oe looked at the clock on the mantel. Three hours until delivery. That’s how Officer Maxwell referred to the meeting at the park. He scratched his white hair beneath the gray cap. Each minute that passed seemed to last an hour.

He had sent a telegram to the Matthewses’ place informing them that he had a family emergency and was unable to return at this time.

He knew Mr. Matthews wouldn’t be pleased with the turn of events, but he wouldn’t be terribly upset either. Moe was a devoted worker, and could count on his hands the number of times he had taken an extra day for himself. Besides, there was enough of his homemade bread and jam in the icebox, along with hard boiled eggs and vegetables.

He wished he could accompany Toby to the park to make the exchange, but Officer Maxwell had deemed it too dangerous due to Moe’s advanced age. Moe’s bushy brows pulled together. Who was he calling an old man? Nevertheless, he understood. The meeting in the park was a serious one. One mishap could cause the kidnappers to panic, and he didn’t want to think what could happen then.

Mr. Matthews hadn’t returned to the farm due to the heavy rain. He’d give Zachary another day to relax before heading back. The trip hadn’t been an easy one. It never was. Although he told his employees his weekend trips were to visit family, in truth, he had been taking Zachary to the clinic to try to get his legs to work as they did before the accident. All the poking and prodding from the doctors hadn’t amounted to anything over the last two years, but Mr. Matthews wouldn’t give up. He’d take his son to the clinic forever, if need be.

“Some more maple syrup?” he asked Zachary.

Zachary shook his head. His father’s forehead furled. Zachary had been extra quiet on this trip, especially during breakfast at their favorite cafe.

“Something bothering you, Zach?”

Zachary moved a piece of pancake around on his plate. “No, sir.”

Not one for heart-to-heart talks, Mr. Matthews left it at that. “All right, then,” he said. “You finish up your breakfast.”

He pulled out his wallet and dropped some coins onto the table. “Order yourself dessert. I’m going to the General Store for some supplies. I’ll be back in about 20 minutes.”

Zachary sighed when his father left. Ever since the accident, things had changed drastically. With his mother’s death and his damaged legs, his father had become short-tempered and closed. All that seemed to matter to his father was that Zachary gain full mobility of his legs.

Zachary thought back to better days when he had helped his father on the farm. They had been a team. A good one at that! They had spoken about things and had been as close as a father and son should.

Now, Jacob was the hired hand, and Zachary was treated as an invalid. Zachary sighed. Why had his father gone and hired a boy? Didn’t he realize how much it hurt his only son? (Originally featured in Mishpacha Jr., Issue 662)