As the Greyhound bus lurched onto the highway, Jason slouched into his seat, trying to get comfortable. His knees jammed against the back of the seat in front of him and the sound of rap music drifted across the aisle from a teenager’s head phones. It was going to be a long ride home.
He reached into his shoulder bag, his hand hesitating for a second. He should be reviewing Candace’s budget or figuring out how the mayor’s office would afford her re-election campaign, but there was that book his sister had given him… He pulled it out, closing the shoulder bag and stuffing it under the seat. He’d just read for a bit and then work on making sure Candace’s figures were in order.
He flipped the book open and scanned the words on the page, trying to block out the incessant rap music. Yet as he read, the words didn’t make sense. They were beautiful, poetic, but confusing. A scowl settled over his brows, and he barely noticed when the bus pulled into the next stop on the route. Had his sister told him to read it because it was a riddle, a mystery he was supposed to figure out? What did the words mean? Who were they talking about?
“Hey, mind if I sit here?”
He looked up, startled, at the young man standing next to him, gesturing to the seat.
“It’s, uh, the only seat left,” the man continued. “Seems like everyone’s going the same way today.”
“Yeah, sure.” Jason moved his jacket off the seat, balling it up and stuffing it by his bag. The man introduced himself as Philip as he sat down, sliding his backpack under the seat and then sticking his long legs into the aisle. He glanced over, caught the title of Jason’s book.
“You enjoying that?”
“How can I, when I don’t get it?” Jason demanded. “You know what it’s talking about?”
“Yeah, I’m pretty familiar with it. Where are you at?”
Jason read the latest, most confusing passage out loud. “‘He was led like a sheep to the slaughter, and as a lamb before the shearer is silent, so he did not open his mouth. In his humiliation he was deprived of justice. Who can speak of his descendants? For his life was taken from the earth.’ What on earth is the guy talking about? Himself, or someone else?”
“Lemme see that,” Philip said, taking the book. “Isaiah here is telling us about a man named Jesus, who came to earth…”
As the bus resumed its journey, Jason barely noticed the passing highway or the other small towns along the route. He was immersed in Philip’s story, listening to what this Jesus had done. The lights in the bus went out and darkness hid the landscape outside, while the two of them talked on. Philip could no longer flip through Jason’s book, but he knew the passages by heart.
At last the bus pulled up to Jason’s stop. He glanced out the window, overwhelmed with Philip’s tale, and caught sight of the fountain in the park across the street. He turned to Philip.
“Hey, what you’ve told me about… I want that. Will you baptize me?”
“Sure.” Philip grinned and stood up. They grabbed their bags and pushed their way off the bus. Jason dashed across the street, dropping his bag beside the fountain and kneeling down in the water. Philip leaned over, putting his hands on Jason’s shoulders and pushing him under the water once, twice, three times, saying as he did, “Jason, I baptize you in the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”
Jason came up laughing and shivering. He leaped out of the fountain, shook the water from his face and hair, and looked around for Philip. He was gone, and Jason felt a moment of panic. He had more questions! Then he saw his book laying on top of his bag. He grinned as he bent to pick them up. Swinging his bag over his shoulder, he walked across the street, leaving wet footprints behind him.
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