Ruthanna’s mama drove carefully, trailing along behind the rented truck which was transporting their paraphernalia to the new house. They had regained a heap of forgotten articles from the rented house, which they had left suddenly four years ago. Bill Elston, their old friend and fellow missionary, had a truck driver’s license, and he had offered to drive the truck to Karuizawa and help them move in.
In the jouncing car, Ruthanna slowly dropped off to sleep. Her mother cheerfully warbled “Karuiza-ha-wa, Karu—iza-ha-wa.”
Suddenly, the rhythmic bouncing changed to a crawling slide. Ruthanna’s subconscious mind was tickled by the change. The lighting in the car had changed too. Is it morning already? Ruthanna wondered. Surely not. No gold or red or pink warmed her. There was only a bright silvery gray. Now the movement of the car felt smooth and slippery.
Ruthanna blinked several times and pulled herself up in the seat. As she peered out the window, she understood why she had sensed a gray light. On both sides of the car, ice-frosted walls shimmered in the moonlight. Ruthanna yawned as the car glided slowly up the hill behind the truck.
“This is the road to our new house, I guess,” said Mrs. Taylor. “Did you have a nice nap?” “Yeah, I did. This sure is a narrow road. The walls are so close to the car.”
“I know, but Japanese neighborhoods often have walls around the houses. I have the feeling that this is the only way up or down the mountain. It will take some manuevering to pull into the driveway, when we get there. Uh-oh! The truck stopped.”
“Here comes Papa,” Ruthanna cried. “He’ll tell us what’s going on.”
Mrs. Taylor rolled down her window. “Hi, Ralph, what’s up?”
“The truck stopped, because the wheels can’t grip the ice. Bill tried to go forward again, but it’s really steep! I’m going to hike up this branch of the road and look for the house number—865. Don’t worry. We’re almost there.”
Ruthanna’s papa strode up the other road, and Mrs. Taylor sighed as she watched him. “So close, and the truck gets stuck.”
Ruthanna chanted in a singsong voice, “The truck got stuck! The truck got stuck!”
“Be quiet, Ruthie. We have to pray!” said her mama.
“OK. I’m quiet.”
“Dear Lord, please help us to find the house soon, and let the truck move again so it can get there. Thank you for keeping us safe. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.”
“Papa’s coming back!”
“I couldn’t find the number,” said Mr. Taylor. “I’ll go talk to Bill again.” He turned around to face the steep hill.
“The truck is rolling back at us!” Mrs. Taylor suddenly cried. “It stopped. Praise the Lord!”
“Are you sure it moved?” said Ruthanna.
Running up to investigate, Mr. Taylor shouted, “The truck slammed into this pole across the street! Looks like the neighbors put it here to chain off their driveway.”
“Oh dear, I hope we don’t have to pay for that,” hollered Mrs. Taylor.
“That and the crooked bumper!” added Mr. Taylor.
“Good thing we prayed already, since we didn’t want to be squashed,” said Ruthanna.
“The Lord takes care of us, doesn’t He?” said her mama. “Of course, I prayed for the truck to move, but I didn’t mean down on top of us!”
“Maybe we already passed the house, and the truck’s moving the right way,” Ruthanna suggested.
Mr. Taylor searched for the house number quite a while longer, but finally, he shuffled over the snow to the white car again. “I figured out where the house is,” he announced.
“Really? Where? How can you tell?”
“It’s the house right beside the truck! I went up to the mailbox, and I noticed there was a paper taped over it. I lifted up the paper, and—wouldn’t you know it?—they taped the paper right over the house number—number 865! It’s our house all right.”
“How do you like that!” Mrs. Taylor was floored.
“Who taped it over the mailbox number?” Ruthanna wanted to know.
“The people who lived there before us, I guess,” said her papa. “The paper has their new address on it. They probably didn’t know how to notify the post office.”
“So shall we go in?” asked Mrs. Taylor.
“Sure, Sarah. The truck’s not going anywhere. We put some blocks of wood under the wheels to make sure it doesn’t roll back towards you again. There’s plenty of wood in the shed up there on the wall.”
“What do you mean by the shed up on the wall?” asked his daughter.
“Well, the road is down here in a sort of trench, and the house is built up above. The land extends on back at the same level as the wall.”
“Now let’s hurry up and go in,” said Mr. Taylor. “It’s freezing cold out here.”
“Oh, Ralph! Go inside right away,” said his wife. “Ruthanna, let’s get our suitcases out of the trunk.”
“I can barely fit around the side of the car to reach the trunk—especially with my thick coat on.”
“Will you hand the suitcases to me, then? If you can barely fit, I’m sure I won’t be able to.”
“Here, Mama. That’s your suitcase. Here’s mine . . . and Papa’s.”
“Good. Now let’s go inspect the house.”
The Taylors and Bill Elston climbed up the stone steps to the front door. Mr. Taylor fumbled with the key, and then, with a loud click, the door opened.
“This is the genkan [the Japanese entrance],” Mr. Taylor said.
“Don’t forget to take off your shoes!” Mr. Elston joked.
“We won’t,” said Ruthanna. “We’ve been in Japan before, Uncle Bill.”