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FICTION
Will Provide
Matt Whelihan

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Well, it started out simple enough. I was hungry and I prayed and you know what they say: the Lord will provide. 

That’s when I saw a man leavin his house and drivin away in his truck. He left the gate on the fence open and everything. And this was not a man of means. This was not me bein showered in riches. His lawn needed a mowin and his porch was covered with things he should have thrown away long before. 

So I went inside knowin that the door would be unlocked, and I sat myself down to a meal of some crackers and sardines. Nothin to drink but some tap water, but it slaked my thirst, and I knew those Bible passages I’d been hearin since I was too small to see over the lip of them pews was true.

When the hunger came again, I found another house with an open door. There was a woman with a baby at her teat, both of them in front of the TV. She was scared to the point of shakin, so I told her why I was there, how I had been guided. She told me as long as I let them be, I could eat. I put a hand on her shoulder and thanked her. Then I found macaroni and cheese in a casserole dish. 

You’d be surprised how many folks in that part of the country are willing to share when they hear bout the Lord’s involvement. Good, God-fearin people still live there. And that’s how I got through the winter. One man gave me a sweater, another a reading from the Gospels, and a third a stiff drink to help fight off the chills.

In the spring, it weren’t so easy. 

One old man moved like a young one when he saw me at his door. He came risin out his chair, waving his fist. “Woman, you gonna get out my house right now,” he said, “or I’m gonna send you direct to that Lord.”

Another house was full of smoke and five or six of em around the coffee table with their beer bottles and pipes, lookin just as slim and worrisome as me. 

“Who left the fuckin door open?” one yelled. “This bitch is fuckin crazy,” another said. “At least God sent her and not the police,” one slurred.

But the big one with the sunken eyes and the beard of a man stood up. 

“You’re lucky we don’t want no attention, lady,” he said. “Otherwise, I’d get my gun and put some holes in you. You got three seconds to haul ass.”

Locked doors was another problem. Whole streets of em. And I didn’t have the strength to break down no door or shimmy through no window. 

I knew the Lord was testin me, but I also knew he had not abandoned me. I watched the trees grow shaggy and buds erupt. The colors and the insects returned. He was resurrecting the world yet again. And if he could do that, year after year after year, I knew I could go on. 

And sure enough, just when I thought I’d drop, He provided.

There was a house with a big old white car behind it, a gnarled tree practically touchin its windows, and three brown paper bags on its porch. I found apples in one, a loaf of bread in another. When I came by the next day, the bags was still there so I brought them inside. That’s how I met Leonard. 

The house had its dust, but was neat enough. Keys and coats and hats hung on hooks by the door, and the furniture was older than most children, but not yet ready to collapse. In the dining room, books was stacked everywhere. Towers of them on the table, in the corners, blocking the china cabinet. 

And upstairs, in one of the bedrooms, was Leonard. 

I saw him in bed, his arms on top of the comforter, his skin almost as white as his hair. His eyes closed, his mouth agape. I told him I meant no harm. I was just hungry, and the Lord had led me to his door. He said nothin in return and I knew I was welcome.

The meat in the bags had to be thrown away, but the rest, I ate.

Afterwards, I searched through all them books for a Bible, but found none. And I saw my purpose there. Leonard needed me.

That night I slept in the other bedroom, unaccustomed to the comfort, thankin Him for letting the weary rest.

In the morning, I made my way to Leonard’s room. The chair next to his bed had a stack a books on it, so I put them out in the hall by the stairs. 

“This is all it takes,” I said. “A little something from your neighbor, a remembering of the golden rule. I wouldn’t shut nobody out either.” 

Then I told him what it says in Luke: give and it will be given to you. “The Lord will give you more than you can imagine” I said, “because of the givin you’ve done here.”

In the afternoon, the phone started to ring, but I didn’t answer. I knew enough not to intervene in the man’s affairs. It started ringin again later too, but I just kept talkin with Leonard. 

Three days later, there was a knock at the door. I made my way to the front of the house and saw three more bags was on the porch and a boy drivin off. I brought them bags in, and this time the meat was still good. 

I ate in Leonard’s room that night, chicken and baked potato and broccoli on my plate. 

“Faith,” I said, “does pay its dividends. I roamed my desert. I faced my Egyptians. Their words and their blows, but I’ve come out that other side.”

I put my empty plate on the floor.

“The world shies from the truth these days. I’m sure you seen it too. Forgets what’s behind it all. You may a forget too, Leonard. But not no more. And I thank you for that. The Lord guides, but man must follow.”

Leonard looked cold. I put his arms up under them blankets. I closed his mouth. The phone started ringin again. 

“You sure are popular,” I said. 

It was quiet for a couple days, and then the man came. 

I was upstairs in Leonard’s room, tellin him bout where I had grown up. The willows, the cicadas, the humidity. I heard someone at the door, the knob twistin, the lock turnin. Then the man’s voice.

“Hello?” he said. “Dad? You here?”

I heard him move through the living room, clomping into the dining room and kitchen. I moved to the top of the stairs and looked down, wonderin how I was supposed to feel. He was already on the stairs when he saw me.

“Who the hell are you?” he said. “Where’s my father?”

“The Lord showed me this house,” I said.

He looked like he had just tasted milk that had turned. But he didn’t move.

“Get out,” he said, “before I drag your ass out.” 

I’d learnt when you need to move on years before, so I started down them stairs. At the bottom, the man pushed past me and rushed to the top like he was aimin to get a prize. When he made it to Leonard’s room, I heard him cry out.       

“You better not be going anywhere,” he said.

I looked up at him. He took a step, and then his foot hit that stack a books I’d put there. He fell fast, his arms swingin. His back hit the railing, crackin a couple a posts. His head clunked and his body followed, slammin round like some clothes in the wash. At the bottom, he lay still, and the house was quiet again. 

I asked him what he needed, but I got no reply. I stepped over him, and made my way back to Leonard.

“There’s been an accident,” I said. And I knew Leonard agreed. It was divine intervention. 

“He does work in mysterious ways, don’t He?” I said.

That night, I talked to Leonard about the husband I’d had. It seemed like a story I’d half forgotten. A mess of whiskey soaked moments. A few images of pain to fix on. A general sense of what it all meant. But it was so long ago, and I told Leonard that. I’d been alone for longer than I’d had company. I’d been movin for longer than I’d stayed still. I’d been waitin for it all to come to a halt. 

The next day, the food came again. 

I had to move the man so I could open the door. I put him on the couch. Put a pillow under his head, eased his mouth shut. Then I brought the food to the kitchen and made sure it was put away. 

I looked at all them books in the dining room again. There was more words than anyone needed, none of them sharing anything worthwhile. I told Leonard about it that night.

“Were you distractin yourself?” I asked. “Or just fillin the space? I guess I shouldn’t judge you none. I just ain’t had the opportunity for that. And here we are now. You understandin that whatever you do for the least of His people, you do for Him.”

The next afternoon, there was a mess of noise outside the house. Car doors and static, voices and key jangle. I peeked through some blinds and saw two men in uniform blues. They was making their way toward the house.

I planned to tell em why I was there, how I’d been shown the way. But then I knew. This time, for certain, He was callin on me to go. His message was obvious: I’d given in to sloth. 

I was headed for the back door, when the Lord reminded me bout them keys on the hook. I made my way back to the front of the house and took em down. I knew one would start that big old white car in the back.

They started knockin, so I said my thank yous to Leonard. 

At the back door, I blessed myself, and stepped outside. The first key I tried got me in that car and started the engine. When I pulled out into the day, I saw them cops comin down off the porch in a hurry, but I knew the Lord was with me. I’d drive until it was time to stop, and then I’d find me a place where two or more were gathered in His name.


Matt Whelihan is an English professor from the Philadelphia area. His work has appeared in publications such as Slice, Midwestern Gothic, River River, and Good Works Review. In 2017, he received an honorable mention in Glimmer Train's Short Story Award for New Writers contest.