TITLE: A Long Way Home 3/3'15
By Karin Butts
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Josh opened his bleary eyes and squinted into the blinding light of the morning sun. “Who’s there?” he mumbled. He was curious to see who knew his full name but not enough to change his position on the narrow park bench. Instead he closed his eyes and buried his head deeper into his jacket, waiting in anticipation to hear the next words from the stranger’s lips. Could someone have known about his plans for today? The silence that followed caused him to turn his whole body over and open his burning eyelids. He shaded his face with his hand and peered out at the silent park. He stood and stretched and looked hard about him but saw no one. It wasn’t that long an interval between the voice and his awakened curiosity that a man could disappear. Josh decided to start his morning by using the facilities of the nearby Donut shop and finding some of yesterday’s scraps in the pail that stood outside the backdoor.
As the day wore on Joshua’s thoughts drifted to the voice that woke him and he puzzled where the man might have gone. Every so often he’d stand and look about to see if someone was following him.
Today was his big day, he would strike out, get the loot and make his getaway in the car he had picked out of several that were parked at the far end of Breyer’s lot. The town had been slim pickens so to speak for him since he arrived but he had managed to get what he needed so far doing some odd jobs. It had taken him a week of loitering in a two block square downtown, watching the daily activities of the Maryville Bank. He knew he could pull off the heist with the toy pistol he hid in a belt tied to his waist.
Josh bolted and whirled around but all he saw were the aging redbrick buildings of the Midwestern country town of Maryville. It was early in the day and the only traffic was an occasional car passing him. His frustration turned to anger at the thought that someone dared to interfere with his plan. Who could do this to him? He wondered. The voice seemed very close, clear and void of emotion. He said my name, that’s all, just my name. If the man was invisible he could be anywhere, beside him, in front, in back, anywhere. Josh balled his fists and struck out here and there as a boxer would but felt no resistance. It’s in my head! He surmised relieved but no sooner he had that thought he realized the voice was not his own.
He grit his teeth feeling his jaws tense and the crease deepen on his brow. “Hey, who are you?” he shouted as he moved stealthily toward his destination. He imagined the invisible body moving alongside of him and every few step he would strike his fists toward the phantom.
A police car drove past, turned at the intersection, slowed and followed him.
Oblivious and immersed in his thoughts, Josh became more agitated and angry. He felt his one in a life time chance slipping away in the presence of his companion. Overcome with fury he began to curse with a loud voice and at the same time dance in unison with the blows of his fists. Suddenly he felt constrained, his arms bent backward. He laughed. The man with the voice had arms. He wasn’t crazy after all.
Josh found himself on his knees, two officers standing over him, putting his wrists in cold, hard steel traps. Why are they doing this? I didn’t do anything, I haven’t done it yet!
“Look what I found,” one of the officers said to his partner lifting a small package of powdery substance he had taken from Josh’s breast pocket. “I believe it’s angel dust, this guy is crazier than a loon.”
He wanted to say that it was powdered sugar from the Donut Shop but he held his tongue, they would find what it was. Josh felt hands sliding along his body, stopping at his waist, probing the pistol then relieving him of it and with it went his last hope of escape.
The officer held the pistol along with the small bag of white powder in his hands and grinned gleefully. “Gotcha!”
“Maybe he’ll lead us to the new guys that have overtaken the town peddling this crazy stuff,” the other officer said.
Josh dozed off in the backseat of the police car, relieved that he had two policemen to protect him from the voice.
Josh jerked to a sitting position feeling the hairs on his neck prickling in fear. He watched the two men in the front seat who seemed oblivious to the voice. God is speaking to me! It had to be, or he had gone insane. Knowing from Grandma’s story readings God did things like that. He thought of the boy Samuel who heard a voice three times and was told by his master to say, “Speak, Lord, thy servants is listening.”
“The Bible is a book of miracles,” she’d say and smile. He marveled why God might speak to him, who was a no-body who didn’t have enough sense to find his way home. He’d never considered he might have been killed pointing even a toy gun at someone while holding up a bank.
Josh looked at himself, the shabby clothes made him look beggarly. He never thought of himself as poor before, even though he sometimes ran out of money on his travels when he didn’t find work as it had been the case lately. He wanted to go home—it had been a mistake to leave. He had left on an adventure once upon a time with a car and a bag of money and little by little it took all he had to stay alive. He hung his head in shame, it had come to this…To think that God cared to call his name brought a bright smile to his face. Everything would be all right and it didn’t matter when, he could wait…
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