Saturday, March 5, 2011

Jesus Wants Us To Keep The Money

I know you're afraid. You are concerned, and you want to do the right thing, all of you. I agree. But let's remember Joshua and Caleb from Numbers, and see this situation with the eyes of faith:

We came to this beach house on our third annual Pastor Mike Prayer Warrior Retreat to enjoy God's beauty and talk about the future of our church. All of you want to help me and Kailynn build up this worship center until it is a beacon to people across the mid-Atlantic region. We want to nourish people in the spirit. At sunset we read John 10:10 and talked about God's abundance, and then we claimed $5 million in building funds for a new outreach center. And what happened this morning on our prayer walk? We found three large duffel bags filled with newly-minted hundred dollar bills. None of them have any tags or markings on them. They're just lying there in the surf, like they're waiting for us.

I don't know how they got here either. I really don't, Tom. But I do know that my God is a mighty God, and he wants me to spread His Gospel. I know we can use this money to save people. I understand you're worried, because there's a wrecked cigarette boat on that sand bar 200 yards away, and it appears that someone has died in it. But that doesn't mean this money is connected to it at all. Can you prove beyond a doubt that it is? Can you prove that this is not the miracle that we've been asking God to provide?

The easy solution is to just hand over this money to the homicide detectives, tell them everything we know, and just be on our way. That would make us all feel comfortable, right? We'd be certain that no one on earth -- no earthly law or authority -- would get us into trouble. But what did Paul say about the mind set in the flesh? When we worry too much about earthly authority, we forget Who is really in charge. Don't we?

Tom, I know you want to do the right thing. Kailynn is a lawyer, and we have her word as my wife and as a Christian that she will contact the police for us. I know you're worried -- just like when we talked last spring about that crisis you were having, and we worked it out together, because we had faith. That's what I'm asking you to have. Faith. Don't be like the servant who buried his talents in the ground, because he was afraid of the consequences. God is giving us a test here with these duffel bags full of money. He wants us to prove that we can remember that He is above all earthly authority, whether it's the local police... or even if it's federal agencies that might get involved. He's in charge, and I can feel that he wants us to use this money for His glory. Not the glory of some North Carolina district attorney's office. But His alone.

Now, let's say a quick prayer and then get these bags out of the water. Kailynn, honey, could you go get the Escalade?

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Reckoning (Part 2)

Mike and I went to the same college, but I don’t think we ever even talked. He was Julie’s ex-boyfriend though, and I’d heard all the stories. A year before I transferred in, he’d broken into her place and dragged her by the hair right out into the commons, and no one did anything about it. He never got kicked out of school either, never lost any friends after he beat her so badly she had to go back home for three weeks. Never got barred from his fraternity or the engineering honor society after her restraining order or the complaints she filed with the U-Life Committee. He spent a couple of days in jail once, and it was like some big joke – a drunken war story he could tell his friends, and no one really thought about stopping him. Because Mike had a lot of friends – people once told him he should run for student council. He was tall and athletic – a black belt in karate – and his entry in the yearbook index had quite a few lines. Nobody wanted to think hard about what he’d done to Julie. They didn’t like Julie all that much anyway. She was like me. She didn’t have too many friends in college.

Julie was pre-med, and she lived in the same building I did, a few floors above. I ran into her when we were both down in the laundry room, and we started talking. She was brown-haired, a little taller than me, and she used to play sports in school – she had one of those thin, gangly kinds of tomboy bodies. She looked all elbows and ankles sometimes, but then she’d wear a dress and get girled up, and there was something even more soft and feminine about her because she didn’t seem sure of it. Julie was all kinds of beautiful.

Soon she’d come by my room for coffee. And then one fall break everyone else cleared out, and we found ourselves alone for the whole weekend. We didn’t do anything, really. Kissing. I held her a lot. But she stayed in my room the whole time. She didn’t know if Mike had gone away – that’s when she told me about Mike – and staying with me made her feel safe. And even after everyone came back we were friends. I don’t know why she didn’t want anything more. But she didn’t. Maybe she just needed me, and I was okay with being needed, even if it was only for certain things.

One night recently I started thinking about where Mike was. It happened at my job. I was there late, and it had been a long strange day, and I was in a mood where I couldn’t decide to just get up from my desk and go home – frozen almost, doing mindless busywork. And all of a sudden I just went to the office fridge where they kept the airline bottles of cheap champagne, popped open a few, and started looking people up on the web like I usually do when I’m alone and drunk at the office, and it’s late. (It’s happened a couple of times.)

First I look ex-girlfriends up. Not Julie, but people like her. There are two or three women I don’t keep in touch with whom I’m curious about. Then it’s old friends – kids I haven’t seen since grade school. Teachers sometimes. Sometimes I go through the alumni database on the college website, and I enter organizations, class years, and majors that might bring something up even if I don’t know what it is. All those names – people I remember, and miss, and hate, and sometimes only barely recognize. All those people I’ve passed, and seeing entries they’ve posted on discussion groups now out of date, or the personal websites they’ve opened and forgotten for years, and the addresses where they no longer live listed at organizations they no longer belong too… seeing them there, only existing because no one’s bothered to erase them yet. Seeing them there makes me feel what? What?

Looking these entries up at random, late at night, and drunk in my office, long after the cleaning people have cleared out – this is a game of mine. This is something I do to pass the time. I have a lot of time at nights. Maybe I should get out more.

One night it was Mike’s name I entered – I wasn’t even thinking about it too much. But he had an address listed somewhere in southern Maryland, right out of DC. I did a general search of his name cross-referenced with the city, and found a press release from a consulting firm that mentioned him as a new staffer. I did other searches, and I found something else, and I didn’t know how I’d missed it before. But there it was. Mike was married. Someone named Marie. They were expecting. The entry was a little more than a year old. Mike had a wife and a child, and he was living somewhere in the suburbs, and he had a good job, and he didn’t even appreciate it. I didn’t know who this Marie was, but I knew she had a problem. I was determined to solve it.

Part 3

Monday, February 28, 2011

Stop Trying to Kill Me

I don't know how I can make this any clearer. Yes, I am an animated ventriloquist's dummy. No, I am not trying to stab you or steal your soul. Can you just stop trying to fucking kill me?

Okay, okay. I'm sorry, that was a little harsh. I don't mean to sound angry about this. I understand that from your point of view it might be disconcerting to hear the lock snap on that old steamer trunk up in the attic at midnight... followed by the clatter of tiny, spindly wooden legs and me appearing at the foot of your bed. It would startle a person. Sure. But you know what? Twenty minutes ago I was not even alive. I wake up in this closed space that smells like mothballs and old people, and everything is strange. I'm just trying to find someone to explain it to me, when all of a sudden some lady is screaming at me and chasing me with a hairspray blowtorch.

Look, I won't come any closer. I am just going to clamber up in this seat and stare at you with my large, unblinking eyes while we talk about this. Do you remember anything about the person who shipped you the steamer trunk? Was there a note or a set of instructions? Anything written in ancient Assyrian?

Do you have other living ventriloquist dummies? Any porcelain dolls with glass eyes that seem to be in a different place every morning? Huh. No, that's not it then. This is just weird. Not as weird as a lifeless wooden doll being animated with some kind of strange, mystical energy, but still. I know this is personal, but have you murdered anyone in the past seven years and hidden their body? Sorry. I had to ask.

Well I guess there's nothing for me to do but make my way in the world. Um, I'm going to find an abandoned carnival or schoolhouse or something tomorrow, but for now could I just grab a rest in the guest bedroom? I don't need much. I'll just prop myself up near a wall or something and sit deathly still for a few hours. It's what I do, Miss...

Wait. Did you say LaVelle? Judy LaVelle? And you dated a guy named Steve, who was really into magic and crap like that, didn't you? And you just broke up three weeks ago? Wow. It's all coming back to me.

Sorry about the mix-up. Yeah, look: You'd better get the hairspray, because I have to try to stab you now. It's on.

(Image grabbed from Upon A Midnight Dreary, from the movie Dead Silence.)
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