Thursday, January 5, 2012


With the first frost under their belts, the quiet people of the upper peninsula had Autumn pulled up tight around their waists like a favorite pair of trousers. In just one week the gold of the hills had descended to the very edge of the creeks and convoluted lake shores. The season is short here, and the flakes of winter were floating, being suspended on simple imaginations that would quickly yield to realizations.

David Smith was seated with his cup of coffee. Debra, who was often late, was already there as was Mike and Father Randy.  Greg had mentioned the previous week that he might be late, something about picking up another load of firewood on the way through GERMFASK.  There was no sign of the stranger.

Once they were seated and Sharon had done her duty to to collect their appetites on a paper pad and the pencil back behind her ear, David spoke, "I don't know about the rest of you, but our little experiment with the stranger should be drawing to a close soon."

Debra looked puzzled, "Is he leaving?"

David frowned, "One should only hope."

Debra gave one of those crock-eyed smiles that communicate more puzzlement than good humor, "What's your problem with the man?  I personally find him intriguing."

"The man is an enigma, and I don't mean that in any kind of positive way. He is obscure and he is arrogant. I have bad feelings about him. I think he could even have something demonic."

Randy spoke briefly to Sharon who had come back to the table to inform him that they had some fresh-picked, wild morel mushrooms in and would he rather have those in his omelet.  "Would I?" came his bright response.  Then he turned to the table, "Brother David, I really don't think the man means to be arrogant, but he is just factual, at least the way he sees things."

"If I hear him say one more time that his people make decisions from logic and we, so-called, earthlings do it from emotions, I think I will excuse myself and leave and never come back. I frankly find that insulting."

"Who's insulting?" came Greg's voice as he walked up from behind them, shaking sawdust off his jacket.

Mike answered, "David here thinks that Tom is a bit arrogant, and I would have to agree . . .  at least to a degree."

As Greg sat down, he smiled big and said in whisper, "I find the man incredible! I for one am taking him serious about his claims of being an alien."

Debra elbowed him, "Remember Greg, he would correct you, he is not an alien but a pilgrim, a displaced earthling." She paused to sip her coffee but then halted and whispered, "And he is coming in the door."

Tom walked up and stood by the table looking leaner than usual, "Good Morning Lady and gentlemen." He took off his Indiana Jones-hat and stuck it under his chair with his briefcase.  He took a seat and pulled up to the table and looked around.  He turned and looked directly at Father Randy, "So how's the ole heart doing?"

Father Randy's jaw literally dropped to the point that coffee ran down his chin. He turned and looked at Debra.  She began shaking her head as to say, "I didn't tell him."

Father Randy then looked back at the stranger, "Uh, what are you talking about?"

"Father, it is clear to me that you've had some health issues lately and I assume it is your heart."

"Who told you this?"

"It is simply logic, logic without emotion." (David to his right let out a sigh)

"What logic?"

"What you call deductive reasoning.  I observed last week that you didn't look well. You lower eyelids were of a lighter pink than normal, telling me you've a touch of anemia from possible blood loss, maybe a surgery or a procedure. Then I noticed how Debra gave you a little caress when she greeted you last week.  She has never done that before. I heard the two of you talking about a trip down the Grand Canyon. You are a man of sixty. You told me that your father died from a heart attack when he was forty eight. You have a thin white arc around your irises, a sign of elevated cholesterol. I heard you order your omelet made with Egg Beaters last week, you had never done that before. By the way, I had to look that one up in my dictionary. Debra had quite a bit more sun after your trip. That tells me that she was outdoors more than you. The only reason that she would separate from her dear friend was if he was in bed sick or in a hospital . . . should I go on?"

"Holy shit!" came Greg's response. "Father, is he right?"

"He is. Yeah, I had a little coronary mishap in Arizona."

"Are you okay?" asked Mike.

"Fit as a fiddle. I do need to take better care of myself. It was God's wake up call, but I didn't want to bother anyone with this."

Tom looked puzzled, "So you literally think that God caused you to have a heart attack, just to get you to do something.  My-o-my . . . you must think that God is mighty manipulative, somewhat like a spoiled child."

No one spoke a word as Tom gave Sharon his order, or actually just approved her recommendation . . . as always some new tomato concoction.  Finally Tom turned to his right a bit, in almost a robotic manner, and spoke, "Michael, tell us what is going on in your life. I sense that there is a disturbance close to home for you."

Greg leaned over the table and looked Mike in the eyes with great a expectation, "Did he nail you too?"

Mike blushed.  "Okay, I do have some things I'm working on in my personal life, but it isn't something I want to talk about with this group."

They all sat in silence until Mike spoke again. "So I'm curious. What gave me away?"

"Over the past few months I've seen you discouraged or concerned about things in your church. But this time its different.  I notice how quiet you were last week . . . except to take two phone calls.  Normally you just turn your phone off during breakfast. After each call, you seemed more worried than before. But your look of worry is deeper than when it was been over one of your church members. This must be personal.  I know that you  have a daughter, as you told me the first time I met you. So, I suspect that there's something difficult going on with either your wife, your daughter . . . or both."

Greg was looking at Mike, "So, tell us what's going on?"

Mike's eyes filled with tears, "Nothing. What I mean is this is personal, something I do not wish to discuss here."

"Leave him alone," came David's plea. "Leave the man alone. He said it's personal so let it be."

Tom rotated to his direct right, "David, I wish I could share with you what I know about you, but you're a closed book. I do know that you have something to hide and I haven't figured it out yet."

David chuckled with an angry laugh, like a dare, "So share your great insight, I'm all ears."

Tom smiled and looked around the group, "You, David, are a rigid man. You see the world through a rule book. Those who do such, use rules as runs of a ladder.  They grab them and pull up hard, trying to escape the murky guilt that is wrapped, like an octopus, around their ankles.You also use those rules to push others down, in order to give yourself leverage to get above the haunting guilt."

David burst out laughing. "You are so far off the mark that it isn't funny."  He took a drink of coffee and continued, "It's my turn to dissect your heart.  You are an arrogant man, judging everyone around your, because you are a con artist and don't know the Lord at all.  I don't know what your game is, but the spirit is telling me that you are up to no good. Figuring out Father Randy and Mike is a Satanic power, not from the Spirit.  The Spirit's works are always loving, warm and nurturing."

"Just like when the Spirit of God slaughtered the Philistines . . . or the Egyptians." Tom said with a somber smile on his face.

Father Randy, the perpetual peacemaker spoke up, "Gentlemen, the topic this morning was suppose to be about the nature of the Church of Christ. I think we should go around the table and each of us share our traditional or personal views of the topic.  Speaking of which, I think we have gotten way off topic for the morning."

Tom smiled, "Actually Father, and I say this with the utmost respect, that I was dead-center with the topic. The point being, is not the Church, the essence that surrounds the people of God when they are together?  If so, I was exploring this notion that you earthlings, as you would call yourselves, sit behind these towers of stone.  You can't talk about the realities of your life because you are entombed in fear, a fear based on the emotion of feeling insecure in your self-esteem.  To me, and I'm here to learn, it would seem that the Church is a place where the Gospel has penetrated fully, thus the communication is pure and open and safe. Not layers of not being able talk about the essentials, leaving only the trivial as the only permissible subjects."

Oddly, they all focused on eating while the words of Tom were being slowly digested.


Anonymous said...

Enjoying this, thanks!

Anonymous said...

What he/she said!

And why is it that only the people like David, who are sure they have everything figured out, accuse others of being arrogant?