Shadow stomps his path of flame as he steps into the desert and he burns. His feet burn, his legs burn, his hips burn. He sees in the distance, he is headed for an object jutting out of the sand. He gets closer and sees it is a statue. When he gets closer, he sees it is a statue of Arthur. This idol is made of salt. Shadow looks up at the face of his mentor and father figure, and sees a warm smile and soft eyes.
Set on the pedestal of the idol’s feet are roses and laurels. And on the plaque set into the base is the word “Sloth.”
“This is not right. This man worked sixty to seventy hours a week.” Shadow spits the ground. “The idol that should be here is Guinevere.”
“And so if Bekah turns from your bed, it is her fault? Arthur had plenty of chances to make his wife feel pretty, sexy and fun, but he did not. He chased his dream of being a servant of God and he left his wife home alone. He sent another man to do his job and he was too lazy to love his wife. The man’s sin is Sloth, and you worship a false idol.”
Shadow stared at the loving face of his mentor for a few more seconds before he pulled out his dick and pissed on the roses and the laurels. He made sure to get every one of the blooms and leaves, then he walked away.
He walked for a while more until the path veered to the side and he came to a figure in the sand. He stared down at it a long time before seeing the face on the image.
“Sasquatch?” Shadow said. “Why am I looking at Sasquatch?”
“Because he hurt you. And you are obsessed with the people that hurt you. If you are stung by a person, you come back to them again and again. You watch Sasquatch across social media even though you feel hate, and you feel weak, every time you see his face. You bring that vitriol back to Bekah and you talk about him constantly. This is what you are obsessed with. Those that would hurt you get most of your time.”
Shadow digs with his hands in the burning sand. He digs a huge hole then stands, filthy and sweating. Gasping and crying. He kicks the image into the hole and buries it.
But the path of flame does not go any further. Shadow can stay here or step off of it.
He grits his teeth and walks on. By the third step he is past the anger, by the fourth his hips are healed. By the fifth, the legs. And by the sixth step, his feet are healed.
He feels but a slight nagging anger that sits bitter in his mind.
He sees a figure up ahead of him and heads for it. When he gets there, he sees Bekah sitting on a park bench.
“Bekah, what the fuck are you doing here?” Shadow says.
“Look at Me and see Me,” God says, and Shadow looks into God’s black eyes and sees the truth of His being.
“Why come to me as Bekah?” Shadow says. “I’m not complaining.” He grabs his crotch and God laughs. “But it seems like an odd choice.”
“She is the only person you listen to. So here we are.” He motions to the bench beside Him. When Shadow sits on it, it is freezing.
“Wow! This bench is cold!” Shadow says.
“This is from Shade. This is his goal. I chose it for you as well,” God says.
“Why a bench?”
“Park bench. I have my ways and reasons. Not as mysterious as everyone thinks they are, but they are there,” God says. “Will you rest where Shade found peace and talk with me, or do you want to walk?”
“No, this is cool. I don’t give a fuck where this happens.”
“Love it,” God says.
“Is it the cussing?” Shadow says.
“Yeah, it cracks me up. So many people throw away the cussing when before me. You never do.”
“I don’t understand why people have a problem with the cussing,” Shadow says.
“Well some people when they find me, they want to be devout. They don’t want there to be anything profane in their lives anymore. They see their cussing, or anyone else’s, as profane and they stop doing it.
“But that is a personal choice. That is the person saying, ‘I choose not to do this thing anymore because of my walk with Jesus and the Lord.’ They don’t realize that is their choice. And how people speak is their personal decision. If that person were to cuss, I would frown at them. They have made a choice and they are going against it. They are embracing something they mark as profane. You though, you never gave it up.”
“It’s just an expression. A way of expressing myself,” Shadow says. “I don’t see anything profane in the way I talk. I just fucking talk this way.”
“Those that know you understand that. Those that care can see. Those that want to push their decisions on you will never accept you for the way you talk.”
“Yeah, fuck those guys.”
“Want to talk about why you are here?” God says.
“Kinda still pissed about the Dixon Baptist thing.”
“Oh my son, you are not kinda still pissed. You are furious,” God says with Bekah’s crooked smile.
“Trying to keep it together,” Shadow says. “Why did you let that happen? I had a ministry. I was making a difference. I was reaching those kids.”
“And cursing while you did it,” God says.
“Yeah, we just talked about how it is not a big deal.”
“No, we talked about how I didn’t think it was a big deal. But if those kids had started coming home and telling their parents that their youth minister was cussing in church, it would have been a problem eventually,” God says.
“So it was my fault,” Shadow says. He can still feel anger welling in his chest.
“No, it was not your fault. It was Guinevere’s fault. She handled her wild years all wrong. She went and found the exact opposite kind of life and it bored her and ended up breaking her. No, she needed a calmer kind of chaos. She needed to find a middle ground between pastor’s wife and whore. It exists. You found it.”
“I found it. What do you mean?”
“You don’t have to fight and run the city anymore. You settled down but you didn’t give yourself up,” God says. “You still cuss at your dinner table. You still sow seeds of rebellion in your children.” He slid Bekah’s hair back behind His ears. “You are teaching your kids to deal with their foul-mouthed father the way that they deal with their fair-mouthed grandparents. This is doing a lot of good.”
“What do you mean?”
“Well they won’t think to just look down on someone for the way they talk. They won’t just immediately set a person in a hole for letting a foul word slip, and they will know how to talk to that person,” God said. “It’s kind of brilliant, really.
“Arthur neglected his wife. Guinevere turned her back on herself too much and couldn’t handle the whiplash. And you were not meant to be teaching at a church where people and parents are so uptight.” God shook Bekah’s head and smiled with her smile. “You are a leader. But you have to lead people that can understand and respect you.”
Shadow looked at the sky and sighed.
“You are doing my work. You are doing it well. Much better than you ever could have taught a youth group. You are a man that I can use for so many other things. I have men for churches.
“I need you on the street.”
This chapter is from Reality of the Unreal Mind, Vol. 3: The Keep.