Before reaching Grassy Butte, though, Dad spied a farmhouse with two pumps in the drive and a red-and-white sign out front saying DALE’S OIL COMPANY. Another sign said CLOSED, but a light was on in the house and Dad pulled in, saying, “I believe we might prevail on Dale. What do you think?”
“Prevail on Dale,” I repeated to Swede.
“To make a sale,” she added.
“And if we fail, we’ll whale on Dale–“
“Till he needs braille!”
“Will you guys desist?” Dad asked.

Real miracles bother people, like strange sudden pains unknown in medical literature. It’s true: They rebut every rule all we good citizens take comfort in. Lazarus obeying orders and climbing up out of the grave – now there’s a miracle, and you can bet it upset a lot of folks who were standing around at the time. When a person dies, the earth is generally unwilling to cough him back up. A miracle contradicts the will of the earth.

But I shook my head. I just couldn’t go with him. Nor could I tell him it wasn’t his public mistreatment that stole my breath and blocked my tongue; it was something too mean to explain. It was the fact that Chester the Fester, the worst man I’d ever seen, even worse in his way than Israel Finch, got a whole new face to look out of and didn’t even know to be grateful; while I, my father’s son, had to be still and resolute and breathe steam to stay alive.

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