David's father closed the Bible he had been reading at the dining room table before Officer Jenkins came to his door. Sitting on the opposite side of the table, he seemed to be studying the granules in the glass, salt and pepper shakers.
The house was quiet, which was his father’s preference when he read. These days, concentration was a struggle … but, as a minister, there were no excuses he could rely on. Many days he would try to think of some, but then he’d get a call from one of his members. He had to find a way. He was used to finding a way.
Lifting his head out of his hands, having gathered his thoughts sufficiently, David’s father looked at his son.
“There was a time when I would have reacted differently than I’m about to, but I’ve come to a place where I think I understand. I have to be calm,” he began, picking his eyeglasses up off the table and sliding them onto his face.
David could see a combination of concern and fatigue in his father’s expression. He had seen these separately, but never in this singular display.
He failed to maintain eye contact.
“See, even Jesus got angry, David. I tell myself that when I do it sometimes, but that would help nothing right now. This isn’t a “money changers” moment, no matter how many times I’ve reminded you never, ever to bring a policeman to my front door ….”
David remembered those times, which were usually padded in loose comedy or gentle suggestion.
“But, you don’t understand what happened, I was just ….”
His father shook his head slightly, and showed his palm.
“No. I think I do, son. You are so fortunate that Officer Jenkins is a member of the church, and decided he had to pull you away from that nonsense. So, thank God tonight. Do that, you hear me? Anyway, what I’m trying to tell you is that I think I do understand. I stood out there with Officer Jenkins taking in every detail, and I’ve processed enough of it.”
The ceiling fan operated at a low setting above their heads, and seemed to be the only sound in the house other than their voices. Its benign hum (and the slight noise the pull chain made as it flapped around) was a mood noise. It filled in their pauses with something audible, and gave the room an open feel. David waited for what his 57 year-old father (the preacher) would tell him, but could only suspect that it would be some Bible quote or allusion to what Jesus had taught the world.
His father continued.
“You have terrible troubles today. I’m not clueless or foolish. I know these things because the signs show up in the church, too, like dirty footprints left behind for me to notice, and – of course – to clean up. I’m not so good at it, though. I only get by,” he admitted, “you have bullies stomping around in your life – as free and bold as a stampede. They aren’t a thing like mine were. The bullies that attacked my life were muscular guys on the beach who kicked sand in my face, making me look bad in front of my girl. Your bullies carry guns, and sometimes threaten to shoot at both you and her. They don’t care about sand … or anything else. The devil is winning too often. I know that.”
David crossed his arms, and leaned back in the chair.
“See, I messed up … but it was never what I wanted to do,” he said weakly, as his father paused.
“Look, I’m trying to get you in and done tonight. The only thing I’ll say is this, and you can just go to bed or do what you believe you need to: stay calm. Think about what can happen to you. Run away from a bad situation if you have to because you ain’t no man for withstanding an obvious ambush. There are no Super Christians. Tonight, and every night or day you think something is wrong, find a place to be quiet with God. I’m not always going to be able to understand it all – like I’ve been saying. I’m just a man really – the middle-man.”
“Thanks. I’m on this. I’ll get it right somehow,” said David, rising from the chair to head toward his bedroom.
His father opened the Bible back up, and read again in silence.
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