(an outtake from Once More, From the Beginning. This is one of the bits that didn’t make it into the book.)
When the prophet Elijah sensed that his end was near and set off on a final farewell stroll from town to town, his loyal apprentice Elisha could not be dissuaded from following along. After one last nostalgic parting of the waters as they walked across the river Jordan – this was an old trick, but always a favourite – the man of god asked his sidekick what he would like in the way of a parting gift.
“I didn’t like to ask, but since you insist . . . I’d like to become twice the prophet you ever were,” answered Elisha, who was not a bit shy.
Elijah was taken aback a bit and, of course, could make no promises, but he had made the offer and he agreed to do his best. As they strolled and chatted, a chariot of fire appeared, with horses of fire (it was a matched set), and Elijah was forthwith whisked up by a whirlwind into heaven.
This spectacular show had not gone unnoticed, because there were a lot of lesser prophets around at the time, and they had all gotten the message that Elijah would be checking out that day. After all, these advance bulletins were part of the reason they’d signed up to be prophets. Everyone could not attend, of course, but they sent about fifty of their younger members, with instructions to take notes and report back later. Against the advice of Elisha, who knew better, these stunned youths insisted on organizing a search party lest The Lord had just snatched up Elijah for a prank and left him, stranded, on a distant mountain or in some isolated valley somewhere. Three days later, they returned, footsore and discouraged. No luck! Elijah was gone for good.
In the meantime, curious to see whether his request had been granted, Elisha returned to the river bank with the mantle Elijah had dropped during his dramatic exit, and struck the waters with it, most energetically. Sure enough, the waves parted and he was able to sprint across in comfort. His career as a master prophet was assured.