By Terry Atchison
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Ed was almost laughing as he saw Joe pull into the parking lot. He had been posted at his office window now for almost an hour waiting to see his arrival. Ed was Joe's boss. They had grown up together. He liked Joe because he was a hard worker and really contributed much of his private time to the company. Only one thing about Joe... He was a chronic liar. So here he came, shutting the car door on his trench coat and almost ripping it off. Then, as he ran across the lot, he was almost hit by two cars; jumping over the hood of one and doing a matador's side step to miss the other. Ole! Just as he arrived at the door, he dropped his briefcase and when he went to pick it up, his left foot slid out in front of him making him do the splits with one leg. Tears were rolling down Ed's cheeks and he was sure his secretary could hear him laughing. Never a dull moment with Joe Crockett around!
"Dana, tell Joe to see me as soon as he gets in please." Ed wiped his eyes and tried to look like the director of a company. It will be interesting to hear his excuse this time. He had always regretted not to have written them all down. What a book that would make! "Mr. Pierce, Mr. Crockett is waiting."
"Send him in please, Dana."
"Joe! How ya doing? I was looking for you this morning, but I didn't find you in your office."
"Mornin' Ed. I'm sorry that I was late this morning."
"Was it the circus animals going by on tenth street again that held you up?"
"Oh no! Just as I was getting ready to leave the house this morning, I couldn't find my keys. We looked all over but nothing. Then I noticed the little pieces of leather next to Pierre's bed. The dog had swallowed my car keys! We drove to the vet's, then I came here with Sylvie's car."
'Sure does look like YOUR car in "the parking' Ed was thinking...
"So tell me Joe, where are we with the McLean contract? You get it signed?"
Joe's speech changed to 'high pitched'. This was an amusing 'sign' for Ed...
"Yeah Ed, eh, Patrick Sullivan had dinner with me Friday evening and we wound up all the loose ends.”
"It's signed then? Good, we'll have a production meeting this afternoon and start filling the order asap. We have waited long enough for them to decide. Congratulations! You know, of course that you were our fourth and last effort with them. You succeeded where the others failed. BONUS Joe, a big bonus for this one!"
Joe was sweating BIG droplets all over his shirt. Friday evening he was bowling with his 'girlfriend'. His wife was out of town until Sunday afternoon. He had told her that he was with Ed at a business dinner. The contract had stayed in his briefcase all weekend. Fun and HER had been more important to him. Now he must contact Patrick before noon! "Ed, I have a doctor's appointment this morning at ten. Do you mind?"
"No, of course not. Meeting in the 'big room' at 2pm. Be there, buddy."
Joe is NEVER sick. Ed knew that he hadn't gotten the contract signed. Then, after
thinking about it for a split second, Ed almost burst out laughing. It was just too much...
"Katty, I'll be out all morning. If anyone calls, tell them.....tomorrow."
"But Mr. Crockett, you had an appoin.."
"Tomorrow, Katty, I have to go to a funeral this morning." Sounded good to him. "This morning, Mr. Crockett? Aren't they usually in the afternoon?"
"Jewish, Katty, Jewish..." As if that answered her question.
"OK. I'll reschedule everything for tomorrow."
"See ya later, bye." Joe raced out of the building. He was calling Patrick on his cell phone as he ran to his car.
"Good morning, Mr. Sullivan's office. Joan speaking. May I help you?"
"Hi Joan this is Joe.." BAAMMM!!! As his pants caught on the bumper of the old car, Joe's body did a 90 degree left turn and his left hand banged down on the hood. He heard his pants rip as he became prisoner of the vehicle. His cell phone went flying through the air in the same direction Joe was originally going. The arc was beautiful, Joe thought. Didn't know they could fly so well, or so high! Seemed like it took forever for the phone to start the decent towards the asphalt. Joe hunkered his shoulders and watched as his little marvel of communication touched down and exploded into many multi-colored pieces. The batteries seemed to roll on forever. 'A new worlds record!' he was thinking...
"Hi Joan, I'm Joe Crockett. I tried to call awhile ago but we were cut off." 'My pants too', flashed through his mind.
"I really need to see Patrick. "
"Sorry Mr. Crockett, Mr. Sullivan is on his way to the airport. "
Imagine the biggest bell in the world. Now imagine you are next to that bell. Imagine that the bell is ringing and your eardrums are vibrating in and out with almost insupportable reverberations! This is what Joe felt when Joan spoke her words...words echoing in his head like huge tidal waves of sound!
"We have to stop him! When did he leave? What time is his flight? Call him, quickly!" He must of looked like a crazy man; especially since his trench coat had come open and bear skin was revealed to Joan's regard. 'Should call the police' was what she was thinking.
"His life is in danger! You must let me speak to him!" There. .he had said it. OK, so what? If it worked, it worked. If not, he could start looking for a new job.
"What?! What do you mean? Are you serious?! Mr. Sullivan in danger? From what?" Joan was really getting worried now. Her eyes were as wild looking as Joe's. Who, by the way, saw her reaction and was thinking, 'gottcha'!
"What are you talking about Mr. Crockett? Please tell me what's going on!?"
"No time right now, Joan! Just give me his cell phone number and I will call him. It's really urgent!"
Joan tried to call Mr. Sullivan on his cell number, but she only got his usual message. After three tries, she stopped.
"No answer, just his recorded message, Mr. Crockett. That's strange... Oh no! He forgot his phone on the charger!" She stood before her boss' desk, almost in a state of panic now, her two hands up to each side of her head, tears coming to her eyes.
"What airline is he flying with Joan? What time is the flight? This is critical! You don't underst... "
"I'm back Joan! Flight was canceled. Air controller strike again." Joan and Joe both stood with their mouths open as Patrick walked into his office.
"Joe? What are you doing here? And in my office?" His look turning towards Joan. "Mr. Sulli..."
"Patrick! Am I glad to see you! We need to talk. It's VERY urgent!" Joe was talking and urging Joan out the door with his hands.
"Mr. Sullivan? Are you..."
"It's OK Joan. Please make sure that we're not interrupted."
"Very well." And she sat at her desk trying to understand what had just taken place.
"Joe, Joe. We had a dinner meeting Friday evening, didn't we? I tried to call you, but got your wife. She
had no idea where you were.”
'Sylvie? Friday evening?' Joe's mind was racing! 'But Sylvie hadn't been home. She went to her Mother's for the weekend.' Joe had the 'gut feeling' going on.
"Air controllers' strike started Friday afternoon. This morning it was to have been settled, but apparently there are going to be more negotiations. Really complicates business!" Patrick was smiling, hands in the air.
'Sylvie had been home for the weekend? She didn't say one word to me when I went home Sunday afternoon. She hadn't asked where I had been Friday and Saturday nights.' Joe's mind was blurred, trying to figure out what Sylvie was up to.
"That's too bad, Pat. Euh, I have something here for you." Joe's speech was almost confused. Joe was thinking of Sylvie. Was it over now? Fifteen years down the drain? He thought of all the lies and unfaithfulness. When they were younger, they were such devout Christians. Little by little, money and success had controlled their lives. Joe had changed...
" ... that's why I signed this contract with Ed last week. You blew it Joe. "
What?! They had already signed the contract? 'Gut feeling' became a chest pain.
"But you said you would look over the contract Friday with me." Joe's mouth was hanging open. For once, he couldn't lie or twist the truth to escape his wrongdoings. Patrick looked at him with sparkling eyes and a big smile. His lips seemed to be moving in slow motion.
"I LIED... G'bye Joe, I have a lot of work to do. Say hello to Ed for me."
As Joe walked out of the building, each step seemed as if he were in mud up to his knees. The pain in his chest t had subsided, but his breathing was different...as if he was smothering. Only after sitting in his car for ten minutes or so, did Joe feel up to driving back to the office. As he drove, his whole life was presented before him in his mind, like a movie. It hurt, and he was ashamed to see what he had become. Maybe it wans't too late for Sylvie and him. Joe changed routes and drove towards home.
"Sylvie, I'm home! Baby, I need to talk to you! I'm sor.."
His words trailed off when he saw the suitcases sitting there in the front room. Sylvie was on the phone, calling a taxi. Pain shot through Joe's chest once again and he had to sit down to breath. All his strength left his body as he watched his wife hang up the phone. She turned to him. Surprisingly, a big smile was on her face. She came over and stroked his head.
"I'm glad you came home Joe. We can say our farewells face-to-face."
"Listen to me Joe. I don't love you anymore. You have ruined our marriage and destroyed any feelings that I had for you. It's over." Still smiling, she watched his face change to a bright red.
Chest pain 'big time' now! Each breath he took seemed filled with knives that cut his insides. The burning inside his chest was worse than any he had ever experienced before. "B-but baby, you know that I have worked hard for us. I DO love you. My life means nothing without you. What can I do to prove my sincerity?"
"But these past few weeks you have told me that you loved me more than ever before and that you were proud of me. Sylvie?"
She was still smiling at him and had gotten down on her knees beside him to look him in the eyes. Her smile turned into a big grin. "
"I LIED!" She stood up and started to carry out her bags.
"Bye Joe. You will be hearing from my lawyer before long."
Wow! A surge of pain went through his body! It wasn't even like electricity. Just a surge of pain like he had never felt before. Short cutting breaths that hurt and a wet feeling on his skin were new sensations that scared Joe. What's wrong with me? Calm down. Be cool. This will work out...
His wife was long gone before Joe was able to move from the chair. He had passed out, but didn't realize it. Never in his life had he felt like such a zero. The two o'clock meeting! What time is it? Three forty-five?! How? What happened? Must go try to straighten things out with Ed.
Driving over to the office, Joe was looking for some kind of story to help his case with his boss. He realized that there was now nothing that he could say or do. He had been caught in a lie and must now pay the consequences. Ed would surely not fire him. They were too good of friends.
"Mr. Pierce, Mr. Crockett is here. "
"Thank you Dana. Tell him to wait please."
Twenty minutes passed...
"Dana, please send in Mr. Crockett."
"Joe, Sylvie just called me. Too bad it ended this way after all those years..."
"Well Ed, you know, she was always get... "
"Stop Joe, please. It's over! We don't need to talk about your family life or your professional life either. As far as I am concerned, they are a thing of the past.:
"But Ed, just let me expl..."
"BE QUIET, JOE! You went over the line this time. Not only in regard to the company, but with your life as a whole. Our company needs employees with integrity that project honesty and professionalism. Sorry Joe. Sylvie can't help you to keep your job now."
"Of course, you moron! Do you think that I kept you on for so long because of your actual work? Sylvie and I have became closer these past few months. She is like a sister to me and I am tired of her getting hurt!"
"But you told me that we would always be friends and that you were happy with the way I get things done. And that I am an asset to the company... "
Ed was smiling at Joe, only inches from his face. His eyes sparkled and his teeth showed through his open lips.
"I LIED!" Laughing, Ed said it over and over: "I lied! I lied! I lied!..."
Joe had never noticed all the fluorescent lights that garnished the ceilings of the corridors of the building. Of course he had never seen them from this angle before. He was being pushed along at great speed by the paramedics towards the ambulance that waited outside. There seemed to be no pain really. His heart had stopped while Ed was repeating the same thing over and over. His memory seemed fuzzy now and he didn't really understand what was happening to him. What was the fuss about anyway? Where did the lights go to?..and the sound?!
Darkness...deep, dark blackness. What's this? Where am I, he thought. Joe's eyes opened and he found himself lying in a cave! What am I doing here? Ouch! He stood up quickly because the ground seemed hot, almost burning. Looking up, he could make out rock walls going up and disappearing into the black nothingness. He slowly looked to his right. Nothing but darkness and rock walls. When he looked to his left, Joe knew that he was in trouble. There was an enormous iron gate as big as a house! Behind it, there was a tunnel which went straight for a few hundred yards, then turned left. There was an orange light that reflected on the walls at that end and diminished as it reached the place where he stood. Was that moaning that he heard? It came as if in waves. Just audible. And that smell? Sulphur and burning flesh?!
Then he sensed a movement to his right. My God! What is this thing?! It looked horrible. Of course, demons aren't supposed to be pretty...tall, dark with flesh hanging all over, like a Buddha. It towered above Joe. The skin looked a sort of purplish color. A gap opened in the fat head and revealed wicked looking yellow teeth. Pointed teeth!
Then he saw two red eyes open. The demon raised his left arm and pointed towards the gate.
"No way!! I'm not going down there! Not even for you, ugly!"
The demon took a step, and the gate opened. He took another step which pushed Joe closer to the gate. He then raised his arm and pointed again. Joe knew where he was now! No doubt about it. But he knew that he had once been a believer and that he must try to talk to his Savior one last time. He fell to his knees' and began to pray.
"Father, please forgive me. Please hear my prayer. I am sorry for the life I have lived. My life turned from something beautiful to a nightmare because I put other gods first. There was a time that I lived my life for only You, Lord. Now I find myself here and asking You for forgiveness. You say that once we are saved that we are always saved in Your eyes. "
At those words, Joe heard a rumbling noise from above and looked up. There, way up there above the darkness and rock walls, was a blue sky! And looking down from the blue sky, Joe could see the smiling face of Jesus! He actually saw Jesus! How beautiful He looked smiling down on him.
"Oh, thank you Jesus for hearing my prayer. Oh Lord, You are the Almighty, the greatest power of all! Please hear me now and deliver me from this terrible place."
"NO!" Was the answer that Joe heard.
"Why, oh Lord? You have always taught us that it is never too late to turn to You. That You would always be there in our times of need to lift us up and protect us... "
"Joe, Oh Joe." And Jesus looked down from so far off above him. His eyes twinkled and his smile became a grin.
"Joe, I LIED."
"NNNNNOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!! Was all Joe had the time to scream as the demon pushed him along to the end of the tunnel!
Aren't we happy that God doesn't lie? Think about Joe the next time you tell that "little white one" .
Terry L. Atchison
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