One Morning in Paradise - pages 1 - 2
"He's in the house, Bill. He's pretty shook up. Says he ran over a Bigfoot in his car," John says as the patrol car pulls up in front of the porch where he is sitting in an old rocking chair.
John Phillips is a tall, slim man with a long face, and his short, gray beard terminates at a sharp point under his chin, making his face seem even longer and thinner. When he looks at you from under his dark gray eyebrows with his pale blue eyes, he makes you feel like he is peering right into your very soul. When he speaks, you can hear faint traces of a New England accent, Maine, to be precise, considering that's where he originated.
John is a retired Baptist pastor who set aside his retirement to build "Paradise Farm" in eastern Pennsylvania. Although he often works into the night making sure the farm runs smoothly, he's the first to tell you he is retired. John loves what he does, and the last thing he will admit is that he is working. The old parson knows deep down inside that this is what he was born to do, and any loss of sleep is just par for the course.
"From the looks of his car, he's hit something alright. There's a mighty big dent in the front of it," he says as the officer gets out of his car.
"Morning, John," the officer says as he dons his hat, "How's Emily?"
"Oh, she's happier than a lark," replies John. She brought back a hefty sum of money from bingo last night, enough to make her mother proud. Right now, she's in the kitchen bending the ear of that poor young fella and feeding him and his friend breakfast."
The officer swings his door open, gets out, stands straight up, and leans his elbow over the door, and places his left hand on the roof of his cruiser. He studies the front of John Phillips' beautiful, freshly painted farmhouse; and then slowly turns his head down the long driveway that stretches down toward the lane where the battered car sits in a ditch on the left side of the narrow, gravel road. He let his eyes wander across the field on the other side of the lane to the mountain just beyond. The sun is just getting ready to peek over the ridge, and within a few minutes, bathe Phillips's little farm, called "Paradise," with its warm, Indian summer radiance.
Officer Teller is almost as tall as John is and has a much stockier build and much cleaner features, as is expected for a uniformed town official. His black hair is cropped short into a military style, and his chiseled face terminates in a clean-shaven, almost perfectly squared chin. When he looks at you, his steel brown eyes lock onto you and engage you as if they were twin guns trained on a target.
Bill had just started his career as a cop when John moved to the quaint Pennsylvania valley almost twenty years earlier. He loves his job, and he is good at it. You might say he is genetically inclined to a career as a lawman since he is a fourth-generation peace officer.
His great-grandfather, William Teller, walked a beat in South Philadelphia early in the last century, and his grandfather, Joseph (Galloping Joe) Teller, also patrolled the same neighborhood on horseback. However, Bill's father, Jack Teller, opted for a career in a more serene setting and moved his little family to the small Pennsylvania town of Lehighton. Now here it is, over a century later, in a small village just to the east of Lehighton, and Teller blood still flows beneath the well-pressed uniform of a Pennsylvania police officer.
"John," Bill says, turning back to look at him. "You know you've really turned this place into a genuine paradise in the twenty-odd years that you've been here. That Youth for Christ group you put together when you were pastor at the church sure came in handy. That's a lot of work.
One Morning in Paradise - pg 3 - 4
A lot of work," he repeats. "It would be a shame to see all that hard work go down the tubes by holding out on getting your tag. You know the amnesty expires next spring. They'll come to take your house and put you in a re-education center if you don't."
"I know that, Bill," John exclaims, "I should have the place sold by then. I had two people stop by yesterday and ask about it. I even heard that the mayor over in Allentown is interested."
The constable closes his car door and continues talking as he walks up the stairs to the porch. "I don't have any doubt you'll be able to sell this place, John, but after that, then what will you do?" Officer Teller responds as he pauses at the top in front of John. "You know you still have to get your tag. If you don't have a tag, you won't be able to participate in the new economy. If you don't participate in the new economy, you may end up with a huge fine and be sent off to a re-education center, and that will surely damage your credit and make it hard to buy a new place."
"Bill," John retorts with a concerned tone in his voice, "We’ve known each other since the first day I set foot in this valley, and we’ve been good friends since then, but I’m a Christian, and the Bible says I’m not to receive neither a number nor a mark of any kind from any government. It’s bad enough that I had to deal with my social security number, but I’m damn sure not gonna receive no mark. The Bible warns….”
“John, John,” Bill interrupts, “There is no mark. Look!” Bill thrusts out his right hand, palm down, and his fingers curled under in a loose fist.
“See? There is no mark.”
John looks at his hand with a mixed expression of horror and disbelief, which takes the constable by surprise. In all the years he’s known the pastor, Bill Teller has never seen that look on John’s face. Never.
“Bill!” John almost gasps, “I really don’t believe that you went and done that.”
“Do you realize what you have done?”
“Yes, I do!” Bill snaps back, “I’m doing what is necessary to take care of my family. Now, if you don’t mind, I have a job to do. We can discuss this topic later, John.”
The police officer turns his attention to the front door of the old Victorian house crosses, the porch, and disappears through the screen door.
“As I said before, they’re in the kitchen,” John says half to himself as he stands up to follow after the officer.
Bill Teller walks into the immaculately preserved Victorian-style farmhouse, which was so beautifully restored by the Youth for Christ organization that John Phillips had founded and ran for the first thirteen years at the farm. On his left is an archway leading to the parlor, or living room furnished with delicately finished, early American furniture donated from a local furniture store. Although it was brand new stock thirteen years ago, it is well kept and very modestly decorated, and very comfortable for reclining and relaxing. Bill glances at the fireplace. The enormous hearth on the far wall supports a rustic oak mantle where sits a large eight by ten family portrait of the pastor and his wife, Grace, standing behind his two teen sons. Noble, the eldest, and Conrad are seated in wooden chairs, and his daughter, Emily, the youngest and is kneeling between the two young men and sitting back on her heels in a dress.
On either side of the middle photo are smaller photos, in frames, of a younger Mr. and Mrs. Phillips in wedding attire on the left and an image of a young football player on the right. Undoubtedly, John's high school photo. An old flintlock musket hangs over the pictures and adds a pioneer-style charm to the room's rustic atmosphere.To the left of the fireplace is a turret, standard in many Victorian houses where a small office resides with a polished maple secretary and a solid oak desk complete with ink blotter phone Rolodex. Both pieces are restored to a glistening lustrous finish. Many a check has been written while John sat at that old desk, and many a deal has been struck over the rustic old touch-tone phone sitting upon it.
Oddly enough, there isn't a television in the living room. There isn't a television anywhere in the house or the whole farm, for that matter. There are no cell phones or computers either. In fact, there are no electronic gadgets to be found anywhere on the farm, outside of power tools and
 Rev 14:9-10
One Morning in Paradise - pg 5 - 6
kitchen aids. They are strictly forbidden. Not because they are considered evil or anything like that. It's just that everyone at the farm believes electronics are compulsive and distracting. The only phones are an old "Bell" telephone with a rotary dial that hangs next to the hall entrance and the one in the turret on the desk. The kitchen phone has an extra-long cord to reach the farthest edge of the vast, spacious kitchen and even runs to the staircase where the person talking on it could sit on the stairs.
The archway on Bill’s right leads to the magnificent and lavishly decorated dining room with an unusually modest chandelier over the dining room table, which is framed by six beautifully carved ladder back chairs. The buffet and china closet are of the most exquisite mahogany, buffed to a lustrous shine and donated by another furniture store owner in town who would not be outdone by his competition when he found out about the living room donation.
The officer keeps going straight ahead but to the left of a recently restored staircase with an elaborately carved mahogany banister. The short hallway leads past a coat closet under the stairs to the kitchen entrance.
Emily starts walking down the stairway as the officer walks down the hall. She is a tall, charming twenty-seven-year-old and wears her long blond hair in a ponytail high on the back of her head. Two tufts of hair frame her face because they are too short to be gathered behind her head. She has large blue eyes that hold the same piercing gaze as her father, and she knows just how to use them effectively.
Even though the young woman on the stairs looks as though she just stepped out of a magazine ad, underneath, she is tough as shoe leather with a will more potent than the most devoted marine ever to shoulder arms.
Emily is the only family that John has left. She is the grown-up version of the little girl in the photograph on the mantle. The two boys were killed in a tragic bus accident only a year after her mother, Grace, passed away from terminal brain cancer.
Since her arrival at Paradise Farm at the age of eight, the farm is all that Emily knows. She grew up and had her schooling while helping take care of horses, cows, pigs, and chickens, including Beowulf, the family dog,
and an occasional stray animal both wild and domestic should it have stumbled into Paradise.
After her mom and brothers were gone, Emily took on their responsibilities without a single complaint. She seemed to have a natural knack for any chore she undertook seem like it was her pleasure. She was and still is, her dad’s right hand, and she is proud to be there for him.
Emily's father, who is following behind Officer Teller, stops underneath the banister below Emily. Although Officer Teller hadn't noticed Emily coming down the stairs on his journey toward the kitchen, John, on the other hand, does, and he shoots her a questioning look as she pauses. She points upstairs with her eyes, then lowering her gaze, she turns and gallops down the rest of the way. Then the two of them walk together into the verbal carnage that spontaneously erupts in the kitchen as the two young men at the table see the uniformed officer enter through the narrow archway. Stepping through the entrance only seconds later, John and Emily slide to the right against the counter behind the police officer.
In the center of the kitchen is a huge round table around which sits eight ordinary kitchen chairs—nothing fancy, just slightly substantial for a kitchen set. The table's size doesn't matter; however, the kitchen itself is uncommonly large, even for an old Victorian farmhouse.
Almost directly across the kitchen from John and Emily, centered along the back wall, is a mudroom. In the room is a bench on the right under which lay an array of shoes and boots. Over the seat is a line of pegs where several coats are hanging, waiting to be claimed by their owners. Across from the bench is the basement door, and on the back wall is the door leading outside. Although the basement door is in an unusual place for cellar access, the builder must have had some reason for it when he built the house in 1910. To the right of the mudroom is a door that hides a huge walk-in pantry.
A counter runs the entire wall length on the right side of the kitchen with a large double sink made of white porcelain in the center under a large window flanked by hanging cabinets and covered with flowery curtains.
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