The idea for this story came while listening to Bob Dylan’s Highway 61 Revisited. It wasn’t until I began to write that I found out that Highway 61 does not travel through the southwest, the setting that sparked my imagination. This is not an attempt to put the story of Abraham sacrificing Isaac in a modern day setting. It comes from a desire to make the Bible fresh. I have read parts of the Bible so many times that they are no longer interesting. This comes at a time when I have noticed that when you view the Bible from a literary perspective, its stories hold their own against the best of world literature. For this reason I took some of the attributes of the story that stood out and tried reworking them to see what would happen.
On the outskirts of Concho Arizona stands a sign for Desert Bloom Trailer Park. The park is now closed, but in its heyday it boasted 115 lots. Back then the landlord of the park was a man named Abe. He lived near the entrance with his wife and son in an orange and tan trailer.
Abe liked to take walks in the desert by himself in the cool of the morning and in the evening. One spring, when the sage-brush was just beginning to turn green, up comes God to Abe on his evening walk. To Abe it was an extraordinary though not unusual experience. God frequently talked to Abe in the desert. It was God’s direction that had led his family to leave Ohio and roam all over the southwest.
That night God said to Abe, “Go kill your son for me as an offering.
“Go to the place I tell you and kill your son.”
“Where do you want this killin’ done Lord?”
“On Chalk Butte, thirty miles outside of Flagstaff.”
Abe was mighty set back by this request, but it God said it had to be done, it had to be done. When he returned to the mobile home park that night Abe looked for his son Izak. He found him outback behind trailer #76 talking to Carol-Jo. The acne faced boy was startled to see his old man show up, but when he told Izak that he wanted to go camping with him, Izak was relieved.
The next day they loaded up the back of Abe’s El Camino with sleeping bags, food, and firewood. Abe’s wife Sara packed them a cooler of egg-salad sandwiches and oranges for lunch and they drove off.
It took father and son three days to drive to Chalk Butte. Each day they drove with the windows down, because the AC was busted, listening to Hank Williams on the radio. At night they slept in the back of the car underneath the stars.
When they got to Chalk Butte Abe told Izak that he wanted to climb to the top to make a sacrifice to God. Izak carried the wood and they trekked up the hill. Izak was familiar with sacrifices so he kept asking, “Uh dad, haven’t we forgot somethin’.”
“God always provides,” was Abe continual reply.
It was late-morning by the time they started out and was afternoon by the time they reached the top. From the top of Chalk Butte you could almost see the entire county. Together they piled up rocks to make an altar. When the altar was built Abe wordlessly grabbed Izak and began to tie his hands and feet with yellow polypropylene rope. Izak was so stunned that he kept quiet and let his father lay him down on the pile of rocks and rope him to it.
All the while Abe’s face was rigid, stone-like. If there was an emotional storm raging inside of him he did what most men of his generation would do, suppress all emotion. Don’t think, just do.
Abe pulled out the bayonet knife he had gotten as a Marine serving in Korea. He raised it high over Izak, whose face wore a mixture of confused terror. Before Abe drove the blade into his son’s heart God called to him.
“Stop Abe! Don’t hurt ‘em. Now I know that you respect me because you haven’t kept your son from me, who you love.
At that moment Abe saw an antelope caught in a juniper tree. He cut Izak loose and together they killed the antelope and burned it on the altar.
A few years later Abe and his family followed God’s leading and moved on from the trailer park to another locale. In recent year the town has all but dried up and the park gone bankrupt. Still, if you drive through Concho, look for the faded Desert Bloom sign by the roadside.