They went into martial arts when they were young. How young, you might ask? Well, my boys went to Dunham’s Martial Arts, to get started on a promise they had been given when they were infants, when Rayph was six and Tobin was five. Right next door was a place called Pickleman’s.
Rayph was in the advanced Young Warriors class at this point and it met on Fridays. I was hungry and broken. Usually I stayed to watch class, but that night I needed food, and I needed to not be around people who knew me, so I went next door for a meatball sub and a break from the world.
I ordered my meal, sat at my table, and ate. I drank my drink and pulled out my Kindle to read a little. I was about to start the third Madness Wars book. I was reading the first two to remind myself where I was in the story and get pumped up for this upcoming book.
But I could not concentrate and had to read the same page over and over again. I dropped my head and sighed. When I looked up, the kid was there.
He was about seventeen, not nineteen. He had a beaten book in his hand and a gentle smile. “Can I maybe sit for a minute and talk to you?” he said.
I wanted to be alone but I needed the company. Does that make any sense? I don’t think it does when you say it like that, but I know a few of you can tell exactly where I was that night. I waved him into the seat across from me and he sat.
“I have been watching you for a while now,” he said. He was in a Pickleman’s uniform and had sold me my salad. The meatball sub turned my stomach when I tried to order it, so I went with the bunny food. I had only eaten half of it and was done. I looked at him with a bit of hope and a lot of dread.
“Well, God told me to come talk to you.”
I almost started crying. He could see it, and waited for me to get myself in order before he continued.
“He told me to come talk to you and I couldn’t not.” He set the book in front of me and I got a look at it. It was kind of thin but not really, obviously a cheap leather cover, and no words on the front of it. The spine had been duct taped back together and it was beaten and used.
It looked exactly like I felt.
“See, I have had this book all my life, but yesterday I went and bought myself a brand-new Bible. I was going to stick this in a drawer somewhere and keep it for sentimental reasons but today when I left the house, I grabbed it for no reason at all and put it in my car.” He did not smile, and he was not selling anything when he slid the book across the table. “This is your Bible,” he said. “I know it is yours and I hope you will take it with you when you go.”
Well Bibles are sacred, especially old Bibles, and I wanted to tell him to keep it. It would be a family heirloom one day, but I placed my hand on the book and it was hot. Not warm from his hands, but hot. I grabbed it and put the spine on the table top.
“My mother told me that if I was ever unsure, I should open the Bible to any page, place my finger on a random spot, and God would talk to me.” I was near to crying and my voice was cracking terribly. “I do not want this Bible, but if God tells me it is mine, then I will take it.”
“Why don’t you want to take it now?” he said. “I am not trying to talk you into it. It is either yours and God will give it to you, or it is not. I can stand either way. But why would you turn it away?”
“It’s too heavy for me right now.”
He smiled softly and nodded. “Very well, let’s see what God has to say.”
I opened the Bible with my eyes closed. I was terrified of what I might see, wanting God to talk to me and to leave me alone at the same time. When I thought about God, I had too many confusing emotions running through my mind. Too many bad feelings and too much anger. I dropped my finger a little low and to the right then opened my eyes.
I don’t remember the verse. It was taken from me. But I remember the quote well enough. God will forgive me if I get it off just a bit. For the most part it said, “Rejoice and come home to the Lord.”
I burst into tears and closed the Bible. I laid my hand on it and it was cool to the touch as if I had just taken it out of the refrigerator.
“Is that your Bible?” he asked.
I could not talk. I just nodded.
“I thought it might be. I won’t ask you what God said to you, but I will ask if I can pray with you,” the kid said.
“I can’t pray. I can’t talk to God,” I said. “I just can’t.” I broke down. And he let me. He did not try to comfort me or touch my hand. He did not try to talk to me. He just let me cry.
“Well if you can’t pray, I respect that. That is for you and God to work out. But I will pray for you. And maybe you can find your way home.”
“Can you pray for me here?” I asked. I just wanted to hear a devout man speak, wanted him to stay a little longer.
“I can do that for you,” he said. “God, look down on me and find this man. I cannot tell you what has brought him from your side, but I ask you to lead him home and hold him up. Fix what he thinks is broken and show him your power and his own.”
I kept my head down and that kid walked out of my life. When I looked up, he was in the back of the store. He was no longer working the register. Was no longer in sight.
I stuck the Bible under my jacket. I was not trying to hide it, only hoping to feel it against my body. I left and went to pick up my son.
When I got home, I pulled Bekah into our room and broke down. She held me and asked me what was wrong. She rubbed my back, and I pulled out the Bible and handed it to her. She opened it, turned it over in her hands, looked at me as I changed shirts, and she said, “Where did you get this?”
“I was given it by a man I cannot name. I saw him at Pickleman’s. He talked to me for a while and I opened that book at random and found a scripture that told me it was mine.”
I gave her the scripture that I will never find again and she read it. “Holy shit,” she mumbled. “What are you going to do?”
“I have to be at Sasquatch’s in twenty minutes. I am going to take it with me and talk to him about it. Then I will see what I can do.” I sobbed and she hugged me again. “I will just have to figure it out.”
When I got to Sasquatch’s house, he could definitely see I had been crying and I sat down.
“I was given a Bible today,” I said through hitching sobs.
“A random guy at a restaurant. He just walked up to me and gave me the Bible. Said that yesterday he had bought a new one and he just had it on him.”
“Used Bible,” Sasquatch said. “Okay.”
“I opened it up and it spoke to me.”
“What did it say?” He was quiet, I thought solemn, but I can’t be sure now.
What follows is very confusing for me and hard to nail down, but I know it was not God’s work because when this conversation is over, I will be as far removed from God as I find myself today.
“I opened it at random and the verse was…” I told him the verse. I don’t know what it is now.
He took that away from me.
I repeated it because at the time I had it memorized. “Rejoice and come home to the Lord.”
He sat with that very quietly before he said, “It’s never okay to take scripture out of context. That is a line said by David when he is trying to raise money.”
I looked up at him confused. My Bible verse was about money? How could God be telling me to give him money? I had not tithed in decades.
“Well he is talking to the church about something he will build in God’s name and he is telling them what to bring him. He asks for…” Then Sasquatch read all the money and gold and silver God was asking for, steel ingots and other items David wanted for his creation.
Sasquatch talked about the money the church asks for and told me this verse was not about coming home to the Lord.
“He wants you in his world. He wants you to provide for him and give him what he is due. We all owe the Lord, Jesse. We all have to do our part. This verse is telling you to serve and give to the Lord. You owe him.”
And that was the end of it. Adam took the Bible home and almost threw it away. He found a safe place for it to sit in darkness and wait for him.
Sasquatch asked about the Bible the next week at my house, asked me what I had done with it. I told him where I hid it and used that word. I told him I had hidden the Bible, and he had nothing to say about that.
This chapter is from Reality of the Unreal Mind, Vol. 3: The Keep.