A Swift Current Christmas — Part I
The moment Jose (his friends all called him Joe) walked in the door that Friday night, Maria knew something was wrong. What now?! Hadn’t they had enough?!
The raging fire that burnt through Fort McMurray that had them all fleeing last summer? Sure, their house had been spared but Joe missed days of work, and some of their friends had not been so lucky.
Then the uncertainty of start up after the fire. And the uncertainty caused by dropping oil prices and what it was doing to the equity in their home. She had lost her job a month ago but given the nature of Joe’s work, his job would be secure. But, now something else had gone wrong! What could it be?
“I got my two-week notice today,” Joe said. “Two weeks of work and I’m done, along with a bunch of other guys.”
“Oh, no!” was all Maria could manage as she fell into Joe’s hug and started to cry.
Both toyed with their food at supper. They tried talking but what could they say. Two weeks, and they would be out of work and without a pay cheque. A mortgage on the house. Payments on the truck. They had to eat and pay utility bills. What would they do?
As supper finished, Joe’s cell phoned dinged. Joe checked his text messages and read the newest one.
“It’s from Zack,” he said. “He and Liz want to have breakfast tomorrow.”
When Maria raised her eyebrows in question, he added, “Yeah, Zack also lost his job.” Zack and Liz were their closest friends. The fact that Zack and Liz were Muslim (they had changed their names when they moved to Fort Mac so no one would guess they were Muslim and they trusted in the forgiveness of Allah the Merciful when it came to head scarves), the fact that they were Muslim and Joe and Maria Mennonite did not matter. Friendship, a deep friendship by now, overcame any barriers religion might raise.
The next morning the four of them sat over breakfast at their favourite diner and talked. What would they do? Where could they go? Suddenly all four cell phones dinged, indicating a text message.
They checked and realized they had all received the same message: “Go to Swift Current. There is work in Swift Current.”
No one recognized the source of the texts. They looked at each other, perplexed. Where had this come from? Who was texting them? Zack was the first to speak, “I have heard the rumor and I know a bunch of guys are thinking of going. Maybe, if we hurry, we can get there and get work quickly. Apparently they are building a new gas-fired electric plant and there is work in construction and in the service industries. Maybe we can all land jobs.”
“Sure,” said Maria, “What do we have to lose?” For a moment all four looked at each other, and then started making plans. Zack, who had a company truck, would have to give it up. Maria’s car was an old beater and they would just leave it with neighbors who were looking for a second car. They owed as much on their houses as they were worth. They would simply turn in the keys.
With Joe’s truck they would have a way to SC and a little bit of cash till they got jobs. Wolf Energy had said they would be happy to give them pay in lieu of notice. Monday Zack and Joe would pick up their cheques. Hopefully it would be enough to tide them over till they got work in Swift Current.
(Excerpted from Ray Friesen, Jump into the Story: The Art of Creative Preaching (Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock) to be released in spring, 2019). Used by permission.