On the third pass, Maureen spotted the island. Smacking Charles on the shoulder to gain his attention, she shouted over the sound of the blades. “An island! He could have made it to that island!”
Charles didn’t bother answering. He just nodded his head and aimed the Enstrom toward the shapeless mass on his left.
Yes, it was an island. But it was practically fifteen miles from where his son had last been spotted. Jacob had been a strong swimmer, but he wasn’t Olympic material. This was beyond hopeless. But if it pacified Maureen, maybe forced her to accept the inevitable, then so be it.
Maureen had not stopped running her mouth. “Of course, he made it there. You said he wasn’t the best swimmer, Charles, but when it comes to fighting for your life, the human body can do awful amazing things. Heck, he could have floated here. He’s gonna be there. He is there.”
Charles doubted it, but might as well let the old gal dream just a bit longer.
The island was a bit larger than what he had first allowed. At first, with all the forest growth, he doubted he’d be able to find a suitable enough place to lay the Enstrom down. But the beach was plenty wide.
Charles expertly, well, after thousands of dollars worth of classes and five years experience he certainly wasn’t a beginner, landed the Enstrom Turbine 480B on what he judged to be the most level part of the beach and killed the blades as soon as he could. He knew Maureen couldn’t wait to jump out and, with her luck, the blades would lop the top of her head off.
Lop her top off. Charles almost chuckled. But he didn’t dare laugh or even smile. He didn’t need her sarcastic tongue taking his head off, not like a half hour ago when he made that flippant comment about the rough looking waves.
Maureen hesitated on the beach as the rough-looking interior of the forest cowed her. She waited until Charles had exited the craft before venturing a step forward.
“I don’t know, Charles. It looks so dangerous. Do you think he could be in there?”
“Well, he’s not out on the beach. If he’s anywhere on this rock,” and Charles mentally added, but I doubt it, “then he’s gonna be somewhere in there. Let’s get a move on, Maureen.”
Charles pushed past her and shouldered his way through the grassy growth. There was no path, only what he could make for himself. Sure wasn’t any sign of any other living creature for miles. And a mile was about all they had to this island. If Jacob were here, they would have surely spotted footprints on the sand or some sort of…
A shadow from something far above, in the trees, crossed over their heads. They stopped immediately; Maureen actually shrunk close to the dirt, and focused toward the treetops but could see nothing. No branch creaked, no leaves moved except by what little wind there was. There were too many shadows at the top of those trees to make out anything specific.
Charles took a cautious step forward and a shadow detached itself from the top of a nearby tree, swung down several branches and landed with a thump directly in front of the couple.
“Jacob!” Maureen shrieked, rushing forward to embrace her son.
Jacob looked amazingly fit, Charles decided, especially for someone who had been marooned for well over two weeks. Well, except for that slightly wild look in his eyes, full beard and unkempt hair. It may well have been over a month ago when he had seen the boy last. In fact, their last discussion, an argument really, played over and over in his head for the past few weeks during the desperate search.
Jacob had been about to depart, yet again, on some journey overseas to find out who he really was. It was a common occurrence among the offspring of the wealthy. And Jacob had his fair share of introspective adventures. But always, Jacob returned just as malcontent, still as ignorant about his place in the world as when he had departed. Charles doubted the boy would ever come to grips with who he was and what he was made to do.
He remembered remarking something similar on the eve of Jacob’s recent, disastrous trip. “You don’t need to travel halfway around the world to find yourself, damnit. You can find yourself anywhere, boy! And what does it matter anyway? Life’s not about finding which religion is the right fit for you or finding what your purpose is! There is no purpose beyond the family name. You won’t live past 80 or 90 if you’re lucky. But the family name, as long as you don’t screw it up, is gonna last forever. Or at least well past your life.”
It was then that Jacob rattled on about how there had to be more to life than money and power and fame. There had to be more than living forever through the family name. There had to be something more out there. He could just feel it.
So off Jacob went one more time. Only this time, he hadn’t come back. But Charles and Maureen had found him anyway.
After Maureen finished fawning over the boy for a few minutes, Charles brushed her aside with his voice. “Well, you look good boy. At least the ocean didn’t swallow you alive. So, are you ready to give up this nonsense and take your place in the family business? If this didn’t bring you to the end of yourself, what’s it gonna take?”
Jacob paused for a moment, letting a smile play over his lips. “But I did find what I was looking for, father. I found it right here on this island.”
Charles looked around. “This island? I thought you were going to a Buddhist monastery or something peasant-like. What are you saying? Did you find your Buddha, your purpose here in this godforsaken island?”
“Not Buddha. No. I was wrong about all that. But I did find God here. And yes, right here on this island.”
Charles was not so easily daunted. “Well, let me see Him then. Let me see this God of yours.”
Jacob again smiled broadly. “Of course.” He gestured to a Bird of Paradise to their right. “See. There He is.”
“What? Behind the flower?”
“I don’t understand, honey.” Maureen cried.
Jacob gestured expansively. “Don’t you see? His handiwork is everywhere. It’s all around us. Look at the spider’s web: the water glistening off that puddle. The stars! The moon! The rising of the tide! This is like a giant painting and God put His signature everywhere.”
Charles frowned. “So you’re worshiping nature now? Is that it? You had to come to a deserted island to discover that you enjoyed hugging trees!”
“Now,” replied Jacob. “God isn’t nature. He made nature. And his touch is everywhere. Look, do you remember all of those art classes you had me take?”
“And a fat lot of good it did you. You hated art.”
“Yes, but I did learn something. Every artist is unique in how they communicate. Every artist is unique in how they put a little bit of themselves into their artwork. Picasso was a jumble of faces and shapes. Monet used watercolors and mostly drew water scenes: lilies or whatever. Rembrandt usually had…”
“Okay,” Charles yelled a bit loudly. “I get it. I didn’t come all this way for an art lesson. We came to bring you home!”
“The point is,” Jacob calmly continued, “Every artist is unique and you can tell who drew a painting if you know what the artist’s characteristics are. If I really know how Picasso drew, I can spot a Picasso from a mile away. And that’s the same with God.”
Jacob placed his hands on his mother’s shoulders. “The first night I spent on this island, I was a wreck. I’d just spent at least 24 hours in the water, thinking that I was as good as dead. And then I washed up on this beach and I had hope, but only for a little bit. I was searching for people, for food, for anything. But there was nothing at all. This is just a rock with a few trees attached. And as soon as I knew that, the dread returned. I was going to die here. I knew it. Then it rained and I could barely find anything resembling shelter and I prayed. I didn’t know who or what I was praying to, but I prayed. And God answered me in a dream that night.
“I was standing on this amazing, white beach and I was dressed in jacked up clothes. And I knew this really important person was coming by any minute but I was embarrassed because of the way I was dressed. And so I ran, but there was nothing to hide behind, nowhere to hide this immense shame I felt. And then it was too late. He arrived and there was nowhere else to go. So, I just hung my head in shame. I could only look down and hope He passed by quickly.
“But then I felt his hand on my chin and he lifted up my head and I saw in his eyes. And he wasn’t angry or judgmental or anything. He just…loved me. And He told me not to be ashamed anymore because He was going to cover me. His love was going to replace my dirty rags. And I looked down, and my dirty clothes were gone. I had a white robe on that reached all the way to the sand. He told me to get up because He had a job for me to do. He told me that I was going to be rescued within a few weeks but during that time, He wanted me to get to know Him a little better. I asked Him how I was going to do that and He said to look around. He said that everywhere I looked, in every plant, rock, thing in the air or fish in the sea, I would find Him.
“He said He had another message for me waiting until I was rescued, but for now, He wanted me to get to know who He was through His creation. And so, for the past ten days or so, I’ve been getting to know my God and He is magnificent.”
“And this other message,” Charles asked, “Did he mention what that was?” Jacob stopped to rub the whiskers on his chin. “You know, He didn’t. But I bet it’s a lot like what I see here. He’s amazingly strong and good. And He cares about everything, big and small. And He’s very orderly and precise. He loves beauty because He made so much of it. And obviously, He would do anything to get to know me, so He must be very personal. I think I’ve only just brushed the surface of who this God is. But I’m going to spend the rest of my life getting to know Him. And that, I know, is my purpose.”