Shortly after her prayer, the lion reappeared. Hilda thought she had a good bead on him, but when she turned on the flashlight and cocked the rifle, he turned toward her… and lunged. If her shot hadn’t been true, she would have been the next kill. His head landed close enough to spill blood on her boot. She quivered so hard she couldn’t move for several minutes. The rifle suddenly weighed as lead in her arms. She had to let it fall, and she became aware of stucco abrasions where her arm scraped when she collapsed.

“Thank you, Jesus,” she tremulously whispered from her knees. She staggered to her car and drove to her house farther up the hill. In her bedroom she swayed toward the bed and brushed against the aging quilt hanging on the wall.

Memories of her childhood days assailed her. She had sat at her grandmother’s feet, listening to the muted chatter of the women in the Ladies Aid Society quilting bees in the local Church of the Brethren. She heard many discussions on the evils of war and guns and the value of pacifism. “Grandma,” she called silently as she fell onto the bed, “I’m sorry I find guns so necessary. I wish there were a gentler way.”

#

                “Erick,” Hilda flushed and looked at her plate. She hesitated and then continued. “We both use guns—sometimes fairly frequently. Does our reliance on firearms ever bother you? Is it unscriptural?”

Erick propped his chin in his hands and gazed at her thoughtfully. He shook his head. “I don’t have all the answers. I don’t think Jesus’ admonition to turn the other cheek means we shouldn’t defend ourselves. And we can’t escape evil. He said we’re supposed to resist it. He didn’t say we couldn’t have help. He said He came to bring the sword, not peace, and at one point he told his apostles to take a sword with them even though He had told them before not to take a sword. So I think we have to consider circumstances before we decide whether to pack heat or not. Believe me; I’ve gone over the scriptures numerous times, knowing I could be in a position sometime of having to at least threaten a human with my explosive power. Does that help any?”

“I don’t know,” mused Hilda. “I’ve gone over the same scriptures and come to the same conclusions. I don’t feel entirely comfortable using guns, but I sure wouldn’t want to cope with the problems up here without them. I don’t envy you knowing the time could come when another human would be involved. That would be an incredibly difficult position to be in!”

“Yeah, I know,” admitted Erick. “I’ve been trained to kill a human if necessary, but I’m not sure I could do it. I thank God that wardens seldom meet that kind of problem. I wouldn’t want to be a policeman.”

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