Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: Red (10/01/09)
TITLE: Kindred Spirits
By Beth Muehlhausen
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Roscoe Jackson spent his days combing the back roads of a five-state area with his aging diesel truck named Maverick, looking for barns to paint. Eventually he ended up in my driveway.
“Hey!” Roscoe leaned out the window and pointed enthusiastically toward my hundred-year-old dairy barn with its weathered, mousy-gray wood siding. “I kin make her sparkle like new!” Charmed by his optimistic confidence and lured by a bargain price, I hired him on the spot - a totally uncharacteristic act on my part.
Roscoe arrived before 7:30 the next morning with ranks of ten-gallon buckets of red paint crammed in Maverick’s truck bed. “Yessir, you’ll not recognize her tonight!” A patterned blue bandana wrapped his head like a skullcap; unseasonably warm clothes covered everything but his face and hands. He set up quickly, maneuvering a gangly extension ladder into place on uneven, muddy ground. Soon he was spray-painting in long, sweeping arcs, carefully reaching even behind the silo and into the highest peaks.
As the morning progressed and he repeatedly moved the unsteady ladder in order to reach every square inch, the barn’s shabby gray underwear took on a blazing bright red coat. Around noon I offered Roscoe some ice water and insisted he take a short break in the grueling heat of the day. “Can I bring you some lunch? How do you endure such exhausting work?” I asked.
Roscoe quickly emptied the water glass and set it on the fence post, its ice cubes clinking as a chilling accent to highlight my questions. He continued to hold the glass, perhaps to enjoy its coolness. “No time for lunch, m’am; this is one BIG barn!” He rubbed sweat from the back of his red-speckled neck and smiled broadly, looking through me with penetrating eyes while rattling the ice cubes in the glass as if to punctuate his profession of faith. “I prays a lot, m’am. That’s how I does it.”
Several hours later the house lost all electric power. Within fifteen minutes of reporting the problem, our electricity returned. A local representative also showed up in his shiny new compact pick-up truck (a newborn babe when parked next to old Maverick). “Had a main fuse blow at the power station; affected a several-mile radius.”
We discovered Roscoe’s oversized aluminum extension ladder had fallen into twin power lines. “I was afraid to say sumthin’ to ya, m’am; I didn’t want to hurt nuthin’.”
The serviceman shook his head in disbelief. “There’s no way that guy should have survived.” But I knew the truth. The hand of God insulated Roscoe’s hands as they held the bottom of the ladder when it fell against the wires.
Throughout the afternoon the tip of Roscoe’s wand smeared lipstick-red back and forth across the barn’s bald, well-seasoned siding. By 7:00 that evening Maverick’s truck bed held emptied cans, and all four sides of the barn were double-coated with the color of Christmas. The old structure literally glowed as testimony to Roscoe’s committed sacrifice: a true picture of redemption.
I was cleaning dinner dishes when there was a knock at the door. “Kin I git some water, m’am, to wash my face before I leave?”
Roscoe’s ebony-black face was splattered liberally with red droplets, and sweat trickled from beneath his bandana to paint red rivers that framed his gentle but exhausted eyes.
I gawked for a long five seconds, struck dumb by his resemblance to Another Man. He glanced down, embarrassed, and I finally came to my senses. “Of course, you can use the bathroom if you like – please come in.”
“Oh, just an outdoor hose would be enough, m’am.”
“Our half-bath is right here near the door – I insist. And I’ll get you a towel.”
“Thanks, but no towel - no m’am! I have my own.”
Roscoe walked across the threshold of my home, splattered with bloody red from head to toe, exhausted and yet exuberantly satisfied with a job well done. I envisioned Another Man drenched with sacrificial blood entering with him, one whose Spirit indwelt both the nomadic African-American painter and myself, the Caucasian housewife: kindred spirits in love with the same Lord.
For days and weeks after Roscoe left I couldn’t help but look at the red barn through clearer eyes devoid of skeptical, hesitant, mistrustful scales. It stood like a giant red monument to a faithful man whose witness for Christ included childlike confession, trust, and regular blood-bath immersions in sacrificial service.
Author’s note: This story is true. Only the names (Roscoe and Maverick) have been changed.
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