The Parable of the Road to Grandfather’s and Grandmother’s House….

One morning a young man sprung from the comfort of his bed to begin a new day. Entering the shower, he turned the faucet to cold, and allowed the water to pelt his scalp and trickle down his body in icy rivulets of adrenaline. He stood beneath the water and inwardly traced the fragments of an idea as they twirled in his mind, slowly drawn, as if by a magnet, towards the center of his consciousness. Once they clicked into place, forming a clear thought, he gave warbled voice to the thought; speaking through the torrent of icy water plunging down his face:

“Today I will go to Grandfather’s and Grandmother’s house!”

As the words tumbled from his mouth, he felt a surge of energy, fueled by youthful confidence and idealism. Stepping back from the water, he finished the shower and turned off the flow, and then quickly reached for the towel laying on the nearby sink. As he dried his body, he began to allow his mind to consider the task to which he had committed himself. Slowly, in the back of his mind, a question began to calmly creep forward:

“How will I know the way?”

Shrugging his shoulders, he finished his morning bathroom routine, strode purposefully into his bedroom and rummaged through his closet until he found his backpack. After putting a change of clothes in, he shouldered the pack, and walked into the kitchen for breakfast. The table was set, and his mother was just turning from the stove with a bowl full of hot biscuits, when the young man shrugged out of his backpack, hung it on the back of his chair, and sat down.

“Where are you headed today?” His mother asked with slight suspicion in her voice.

“I have decided to go to Grandfather’s and Grandmother’s house.” He said confidently.

His mother stopped so suddenly that a biscuit tumbled off the stack in the bowl onto the floor. “Why do you need to do that?” She asked, her voice quivering.

“What do you mean ‘why?'” he responded with irritation, “I want to know what they have to teach me. It is something I must do.”

“But the road is dangerous, and there are bad people along the way. They will hurt you, and you won’t be able to make it all the way there.” She was becoming quite animated at this point. “Besides, I know what Grandfather and Grandmother have to say. Men much smarter than me or you have told me their words, and I can tell you. There is no need for you to go.”

The young man felt anger rise within, and his words became short and loud. “This is my journey to make, and I am going to make it!”

Her shoulders slumped, and she stooped down to pick up the biscuit from where it fell on the floor. “Well….I guess this is my fault. If I hadn’t been so stubborn and sinful, you wouldn’t be leaving me alone….”

Before the young man could respond, his father walked into the room and quietly took his seat at the table. His mother set the biscuits on the table, retrieved the bacon, eggs, and gravy from the stove, started to sit down, then said, “Oh…I forgot the jelly….”, looking at the young man she asked a question for which she already knew the answer, “You like jelly don’t you?” Before he could answer, she turned in her chair, got up, and went to the refrigerator to get the jelly. While hidden behind the refrigerator door, she said, “Tell your father what you are doing.” She then took her place at the table with the jelly jar in hand.

Before he could say anything, his mother and father silently bowed their heads in prayer. After awkwardly waiting for his parents to finish praying, the young man said, “I am going to Grandmother’s and Grandfather’s house, Dad. Can you tell me how to get there?”

His father reached for the plate of eggs, served himself, and passed them to the young man. As he did so, he said, “It’s great that you want to go to their house. Everybody should travel to their house. It takes courage to go there, and I am not surprised you want to go.” As the young man served himself eggs, and his mother passed the bacon to his father, the young man said, “Ok….so….what road do I take?”

“Well…” his dad said, while taking some bacon and a couple of biscuits. “I can’t really tell you which road to take.”

“But you’ve been there, right?” The young man said between bites of bacon.

“Yes, I’ve been there… but you must find your own road to Grandfather’s and Grandmother’s house…”

The family then settled in to eat their food, and the young man didn’t say anything more. In fact, he decided as he ate, that he would just begin the trip, and figure out which way to go while he traveled.

After the meal was over, the young man removed his backpack from the chair upon which he’d been sitting, and shrugged it onto his back. After doing so, he stood awkwardly next to the table as his mother cleared away the dishes and his father stepped outside to do….something….he was never sure what his dad did during the day, he just knew he was away a lot. The young man stood waiting for his mother to take notice of his leaving, but she seemed in a rush to clean her kitchen. Finally, the young man said, “Well…I will see you later…” and began to walk slowly from the room and towards the front door. His mother turned, dropped the rag she was holding onto the counter, and said in a tired voice, “Ok…give me a hug before you leave.” The two of them continued walking to the front door, and upon reaching it, he turned and gave her a hug. She held him tightly for a long time…quite too long for him…and said, “Please be careful…and call us along the way.”

As the young man stepped out of the door and into open world, he found his father sitting in the driver’s seat of a small school bus he had recently purchased. His father was intently reading the owner’s manual, and only realized his son’s presence when the young man stepped onto the first step. The young man sensed that his father seemed faintly sad. The young man couldn’t determine whether the melancholy was connected to his own leaving, or the issues surrounding the bus which lead his dad to retrieve the owner’s manual. Life had often been this way between the father and son, with each hiding behind a wall of quietness, built for reasons which were misunderstood and unexplored by them both. They loved one another, but weren’t quite sure how to show it, and each were too absorbed with their respective lives to learn how to communicate that love in a way the other would understand. So they lived in the quietness, content in the fact of the other’s love, but seldom fully cognizant of the depth.

“I am heading out….” The young man quietly said.

After realizing his presence, his father looked up from the manual, got up from the driver’s seat, and laid the manual down. Before his father could say anything, the young man said, “I will be praying for you, Dad. I will pray that Grandfather and Grandmother will be with you in such a way that you visualize them walking beside you. I love you, Dad. Be at peace….”

The young man then turned, stepped down from the step out of the bus, and began to walk away.

“Give me a call if you……need anything…” his father said to his retreating back.

As the young man walked, tears welled up in his eyes, and began to run down his cheeks. He would have replied, but his voice was choked off due to his deep emotion. So…he just kept walking.

 

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

As he walked through the streets of the small town, he began to study the possible directions he could travel. He started asking questions of himself, but the only answers he could determine, were ones from his past experience, and something deep inside himself questioned the veracity of those answers. Somewhere along the way, he heard within himself a soft voice,

“Follow Wilderness Road…”

The young man frowned in response….

“Wilderness Road…” He thought inwardly, “Why would I travel Wilderness Road in order to reach Grandmother’s and Grandfather’s house? Grandfather and Grandmother live with people. I don’t want to go into the wilderness. It sounds lonely and hard.”

Continuing to walk, the young man was passed by numerous vehicles. Cars, and pickups pulling campers, large RV’s with ornately painted designs on the sides and shiny chrome in front and back, motorcycles and scooters… Eventually, he noticed that many of the vehicles seemed to travel in no particular direction, with no apparent rhyme or reason to their motion. They just seemed to move. With a little more study, however, he did notice some of the vehicles moving in the same general direction, but in varying speeds and with differing forays side-to-side along the way. A few of the cars seemed to be in really good mechanical condition, and looking through the windows, he noticed that the countenances of the occupants seemed to exude peace and caring for one another. He noticed how often the riders laughed with each other, and even when they seemed to be crying, it seemed they were doing it together, holding each other close in tender hugs. There were times when the faces of the front seat passengers appeared to be grim, as if in disagreement. The young man noticed that these same cars would stop from time to time, and the two companions sitting in the front seats would exit the car, pop the hood and begin to work on the engine, or open the trunk to lift out a new tire and replace one of the tires on the car with it. Often, these cars seemed to make better headway along the road, and didn’t take nearly as many detours as some of the other cars, he observed. “That is something I probably need to remember,” the young man told himself. He was also surprised that you couldn’t tell by how stylish the car appeared on the outside, what the condition of the motor, and mechanical stability of the vehicle was. Several times, he noticed a beautiful car putting along, with the engine cutting out and moving progressively slower and slower until it stopped altogether, and the occupants got out, slammed the doors yelling at each other, or simply walking away in opposite directions in stony silence. What was especially sad to the young man, though, was the younger passengers in the back seat. While the front seat occupants climbed out of the car and walked away, the back seat passengers stayed in the car, with no way out; their world limited by no fault of their own, destined to deal with the consequences of a dead car. As he watched these events unfold, the young man would stare at the front seat passengers with judgment and disgust clearly written on his face. He would also shake his head sadly as he watched the back seat passengers stare through the windows at the other cars which passed them by. Cars that looked to be old, and in need of a paint job, but rolling away the miles with engines running faithfully, and the occupants in sync with one another due to ongoing maintenance both in and on the vehicle.

Eventually, the young man came upon a sign along the roadside, raised above the traffic. He read it with much curiosity:

Middle Earth University: Your First Step Towards Grandfather’s House.

Smiling, the young man turned in the direction given by the sign, and walked until he found several buildings nestled together on the top of a small hill, which seemed to be carved out of the numerous cornfields which surrounded it. Walking to the first building, he strode purposefully through the door and found an information desk. After a short conversation, the person at the desk directed him to the Admissions department. The young man walked down a short hallway to a door with a simple sign on the wall next to it declaring the space behind to be “Admissions”. He opened the door and walked in. The “Admissions Department” consisted of an open area of about 15 feet square with 3 doors along one wall which opened to the space, and a desk situated in the center of the space, behind which sat a middle-aged woman who was currently absorbed with the task of putting stamps on a large stack of letters. Upon hearing the door open and the young man enter, her head raised from the task, and she asked pleasantly, “Hi. How can we help you?”

The young man smiled and said, “I would like some information about the school, and about how to get to the road to Grandfather’s and Grandmother’s house.”

Upon hearing the request, the woman’s smile stiffened just a bit, and she said, “Certainly…let me see if one of the Admissions’ counselors has time to meet with you.” She then picked up her phone, dialed three numbers, and once the phone was picked up in one of the offices, said, “Would you have time to meet with a perspective student?”

The answer must have been “yes”, because the woman hung up the phone and said, “Nathan will be with you in just a moment.”

The young man removed his backpack, and sat down in a straight-back chair set against a wall alongside a small row of other similar chairs. Since the other chairs were empty, he sat his backpack in the chair next to him, and looked around the room searching for something to read. Before he could find something, Nathan opened the door of his office and walked forward with an extended hand.

“Hi. I am Nathan, and you are….?”

The young man rose while stating his name and grasped Nathan’s hand. The young man was a little surprised by Nathan’s appearance. Nathan was dressed in crisply pressed khaki pants, a light blue, button-down oxford shirt which over-laid a  pink polo shirt with popped collar. The hand shake was also a surprise. It was weak!

The young man followed Nathan into his office where information was swapped and all necessary arrangements for the young man to become a student at Middle-Earth were completed. As he arose to leave the office, the young man reached for his backpack, and Nathan said, “Now…about the backpack…. Why don’t you let me take that for you? We have everything you need here at Middle-Earth. You won’t need the pack. I will save it for you, until you finish your studies here, and if you decide you need it when you leave, I will return it.”

“Thank you, but I will keep it with me.” The young man responded.

“I suspect you will find that many of our students and faculty will find it strange that you are still carrying it. You might feel awkward.” Nathan countered.

The young man responded with a frown strangely combined with a slight smile, and said, “I have been called strange before…I will hold on to it. Thank you for your consideration.”

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

The young man spent several years at Middle-Earth. During that time, he noticed that although Grandfather was mentioned frequently, Grandmother was seldom acknowledged, and when she was, it seemed to be as an afterthought which was given space, but not seriously respected. Further, he noticed that although the faculty seemed to speak about the search for the Road to Grandfather’s and Grandmother’s house, few students seemed to actually be occupied by the search. The ones that did search, seemed to walk lock-step in one particular Way. Intermittently in his classes, he heard professors whisper of The Wilderness Road, but more in an historical sense rather than an ongoing option. What he noticed predominantly was how often the students would pair up to purchase cars together, and then begin to drive along the Way most of their contemporaries  were driving. The young man was deeply affected by this final observation.

“That must be the way to Grandfather’s and Grandmother’s house. You must do it with another person.” He thought.

So he searched for another person with which to travel. Eventually, he found a woman who seemed to be interested in the same journey. Although their former paths, and understanding of the Way forward were very different, he eventually asked if she would like to purchase a car together. She said “yes” and they signed the purchase agreement together. The young man removed his backpack, and placed it in the trunk for storage.

From the beginning, it was apparent that they both wanted to drive, and had different perspectives about which road they should travel. Since neither had an overbearing perspective about how they should proceed, and in which direction they should drive; they basically followed the flow of traffic. Fairly quickly, they added a boy passenger and later, a girl.

They followed traffic with a few deviations from time to time, and seldom stopped to do maintenance on their car. Surprisingly, the car continued to run, although the fuel economy got progressively worse as the years progressed, so the fuel they added from time to time didn’t go as far. The engine eventually began to run rough, especially when they each began to individually pursue directions when behind the wheel that the other reluctantly agreed to.

Finally, the motor of their car gave out. However, rather than immediately getting out of the car, they stayed in it for quite awhile, until the woman opened her door and stepped out. Eventually, the man…not young anymore…also opened his door and stepped out. Looking around, he realized just how lost he was. The landscape was barren, and unrecognizable to him. As he looked around, he heard another door of the car open. Turning, he noticed the boy, now a young man, get out of the car and begin to walk away from both the man, and woman for a time. A short time later, the girl, also now a young woman; opened a car door and in some way positioned herself between the man and woman.

Eventually…

the older man walked to the trunk of the car, unlocked it, removed his backpack,  and shrugged it onto his back. With a great sense of personal failure, a fair bit of hidden, growing anger towards the woman, and feelings of confusion for the young man and young woman; the man reluctantly turned away from the car and began to walk through a strange land in search for the road…

…to understanding…

…to healing…

…to wisdom…

…to his children…

…to his parents…

…to others…

…to Grandfather’s and Grandmother’s House…

…but, first….

…to himself…

…along the Wilderness Road…..

Stones… Again

This is a re-post of one of my favorites…

A beautiful young woman walked the cobblestone street which traversed a steep incline through stately homes within view of both Herrod’s palace and the Temple. Beside her strode a stately Roman Centurion, both young and handsome, with a commanding saunter which showed confidence derived from youth and station. As the couple approached a narrow alleyway, she quickly surveyed the surrounding area, grabbed the man’s hand, and they furtively slid from direct view from anyone travelling the wider avenue. Moving quickly, the two approached a gate and stepped through. Closing the gate behind them rapidly, they emerged into a lush courtyard. Stepping underneath a vine-covered archway to conceal their actions from the view of wealthy gossips, the woman turned quickly to face the Roman and gave a deep, guttural laugh. The soldier looked down and flashed a slow smile, grabbing the woman around the waist. The woman slid her hand down to his leg and began searching for an entrance to his thigh through the armor covering his tunic.

Laughing, the soldier teased, “That armor is meant to ward off a warrior’s blade. Your nails will never find their mark.”

“Then I suppose we will have to remove it…” the woman taunted.

Raising her face towards his helmeted head, she brushed her lips slightly against his and then broke away from his embrace, running towards the back entrance of the palatial home.

“She is certainly brazen,” thought the soldier, “especially for a married woman.” Feeling just a bit leery, he asked, “Aren’t you afraid the servants will see us? I’m sure your husband would treat a slave kindly who protected him from a whoring wife.”

Stopping at the door she answered, “They are afraid. They know Romans know how to protect their conquests. Besides, my husband is probably right now in the arms of two women in Caesar’s household. It would certainly take two women to get their arms around him. They can have the spatter of his sweat and the flap of his belly as he pounds away on them. I would rather know the firmness of Caesar’s warrior… Come to me, Corin.”

Corin hesitated again for just a moment. Getting caught in an affair with this woman could destroy his bright career. Yosef, this woman’s husband, was a rich Jewish merchant who was the primary outfitter for the Roman legions occupying Palestine. Yosef even had ties to Egyptian traders, which allowed him to manage all supplies coming into the southeastern Mediterranean coast. By so doing, Rome could be spared using sailors and troops from the inane process of hauling their own bread. The Legions could be used for more strategic action both local and empire-wide. Using a local merchant also poured Roman gold into the local economy, helping to pacify leading citizens who might otherwise be intent on revolution and nobody made any money during revolution. So Caesar protected Yosef’s interests and kept a close tie with him, bringing him to Rome frequently and making any business trips he might need to make as comfortable and secure as possible. If Caesar found out that one of his officers disrupted the happy home of his prized merchant, that officer would become a eunuch carrying the armor of the most forward unit commander in the Legion. While Corin wasn’t afraid of battle, he was a veteran of many, he wouldn’t survive the humiliation. So if he deemed this woman worth the risk….

Ah, but that was part of the attraction. That adrenaline rush a man got when everything was on the line.

For her part, Shayna, Yosef’s wife, knew she wanted this man. She knew what she wanted was wrong. The Pharisees taught that she could be stoned for just this type of relationship. Her father would probably be the first to pick up a stone if she were caught. He had been the one to get her into this marriage anyway. Well…. Her father had accepted Yosef’s generous bridal offer. Yosef noticed her at the market while she ran errands for her mother and determined the beautiful girl would be his. Shayna’s father believed accepting the offer made sense for both Shayna and the rest of his family. Shayna would be taken care of in the house of such a wealthy man and his other children would have other options because of Yosef’s generosity. The fact that Yosef was 30 years older than Shayna didn’t matter. In fact, it was very common.

However, to Shayna, her marriage and life had no meaning. She felt nothing but contempt for her husband and her life was a bore. She was angry, and hated it that she was really nothing more than her body. In her culture, women were only useful for their bodies: working in the home, bearing the children, meeting the sexual desires of the husbands… So when Shayna saw this strong, tall Roman standing at her doorway as Yosef’s dinner guest one night, she decided she wanted him. Without knowing it, she was expressing her anger for the lack of choices allowed her, by choosing an action that symbolically spat in the face of Yosef, her father, the Pharisees… even God! How could God care and allow her to be treated like a cow, or donkey, or dove… sold from one owner to another. She wasn’t a slave, and she was going to enjoy her body by giving it to someone of her choice. It was most certainly an act of angry rebellion.

As Corin stood motionless beneath the heavy stone archway, Shayna slid the covering off her head and slowly removed her tunica until her body could be seen through the thin garment underneath. Slowly, Corin walked towards the doorway, removed his helmet with one hand and slid his other around her waist, lowering his mouth to her upraised lips and kissed her deeply. Things progressed quickly now. Shayna led Corin towards her bedroom all the while helping him shrug out of his armor, scattering the pieces in a line from the back door to the bedroom.

While deeply engrossed in their passion, neither Shayna nor Corin heard the scraping of boots against the rock wall just outside the window of the bedroom. Nor did they see the eyes peering through watching their writhing bodies. Dropping to the ground, the man turned to a large group of religious leaders, “They are in the act. Let’s go.”

A group of about 20 men strode resolutely to the stately front door of the home, lifted a wooden battering ram and smashed the door open. Dropping the ram just inside the door, the men ran towards the bedroom, scrambled through the cloth covering the entrance and were just in time to see Corin sprint to his dagger lying across the room. Shayna reached for a covering although there were none on the bed or in plain view.

The eldest man of the 20, and the one obviously in charge, shouted, “There’s no need for violence, Centurion. We aren’t here for you…” To another of his group, the eldest commanded, “Stay here with him and explain to him our offer, Joshua…”

Shayna rushed towards a corner of the room hoping to roll her body into it so as not to reveal her intimacies to the mob, but before she could reach it, four rough hands grabbed her. Lifting her up slightly off the floor, they half-carried, half-dragged her across the stone floor of the bedroom. Shayna screamed and tried to look towards Corin, pleading for help, but he was in an intense conversation with another leader of the mob. Continuing to rush out of the house, the group stopped outside the smashed front door of the house for a moment. The two men holding a naked Shayna thrust her onto the ground in the middle of the mob. She was surrounded by a sea of angry, leering faces staring down at her and obviously enjoying her naked terror. Their leader reached into a pile of rocks next to a piece of the splintered door and picked up a stone about the size of Shayna’s head.

“We are taking you to the carpenter, adulteress. We will kill three birds with many stones… We are going to expose the Nazarene’s lies once and for all, give you what your adultery deserves, and take from that traitor, Yosef, his prized possession. Let’s go. The carpenter is in the Temple courtyard spreading his insanity.”

The rough hands once again snatched Shayna from the ground and shoved her ahead of the mob with such force that she fell at the bottom of the steps headed up towards the Temple mount. The group moved quickly, usually carrying Shayna with hands pinching and prodding her as she struggled to protect herself. As they progressed up the hill, their number grew as people followed to watch the hideous show.

Shayna could hardly think while the mob pressed forward. She was in shock. All she could really make out were the stones in the hands of her captives.

Stones…

She had always loved stones as a child…

Stones flying from the sling of David and crashing into the giant.

Stones taken from the dry river bed and then piled on the shore of the promised land after Jehovah had made the way for Joshua and Israel’s children after 40 years wandering in the desert.

Stones stained with blood from a ram found in a thicket after Jehovah stayed the hand of Abraham from taking the life of his son, Isaac.

Stones…

she had always liked stones….

The noise and edge of the mob reached the Temple courtyard before Shayna did. The carpenter was seated among a crowd of people teaching them about “His Father.” Hearing the commotion, The Teacher slowly stood and watched the faces of the mob as they approached. Once the leaders of the mob stepped into the courtyard, they held Shayna by the arms and shoved her along in front of them, causing her to skin her feet and trip and fall, scraping the side of her leg and elbow upon which she landed. Grabbing her hair with one hand and the scraped elbow with the other, the leader stood her up and forced her to stand fully erect with her hands to her sides within a few yards of the Teacher.

“Teacher,” the leader loudly addressed the crowd, more so than the Teacher,“ this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law, Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?”

As the leader spoke, the Teacher looked into the faces of the mob, but never looked at Shayna as she stood with tears streaming down her face, chin quivering, and eyes staring straight ahead. Finally, the Teacher knelt down and began to write in the sand. The act drew the attention directly to the Teacher. People began to press in, stones in hand, trying to see what was being written in the sand. With each separate drawing, a set of eyes would widen in surprise, as if a deep personal secret were being revealed. The eyes would then begin to glaze over, as if once again trying to hide from the truth of their own actions. All-the-while, holding stubbornly to the stones at their sides.

The leader finally broke the trance the mob seemed to be in and began to fire religious questions at the Teacher. Finally, the Teacher slowly rose and once again looked into the eyes of each member of the mob, and said, “If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” And again, he stooped down and continued to write in the dust.

The crowd quieted…

One by one, stones began to fall…

Feet scuffed through the dust as people left…

Finally…

Stones on the ground…

Silence…

The Teacher reaches out and takes up a stone…

Looks at the stone and stands…

Then looks straight into Shayna’s eyes…

“Woman, where are they?” He smiles with his eyes… “Has no one condemned you?”

“No one, sir,” Shayna softly says.

The Teacher reaches out one hand, takes Shayna’s hand, places the stone into her palm, and closes her fingers around it with his other hand.

“Then neither do I condemn you,” he slightly smiles and then says, “Go now and leave your life of sin.”

Shayna turns and his hands drop her hand as she begins to walk away. Feeling the weight in her hand, she raises it to view the stone, her stone. And she remembers,

“I always liked stones…”

(An expanded version of John 8:1-11)

Indulgent Intercessions…Part 18

“Hank…now you KNOW watchin’ that phone isn’t gonna make it ring.” Molly Dresden said in a
tender voice.

“Ok…you caught me.” Hank said sheepishly. Turning to face her, Hank said, “Why doesn’t he call, Molly?”

Sighing heavily and putting aside the book she had been reading, Mary got up from the couch and walked across the living room to where Hank was sitting in his overstuffed chair. Turning, she sat gently into Hank’s lap and put her legs across the arm of the chair. Taking his head into her hands, she pulled it against her chest in a loving hug. “I know, Baby, I know…” She said, and then taking his face into her hands and tilting it up so she could stare into his eyes, she continued, “Do you know how much it makes me love you to see how you love your son?” Kissing him on the forehead, she finished, “You’re an incredible father, Hank Dresden!”

Grabbing Molly by the waist, Hank gave her a deep kiss and then replied, “Thank you, Darlin’…now
get back to your book.” Then placing one arm under her knees and the other around her waist, Hank scooted forward and stood up while holding Molly. Molly screamed playfully and said, “Careful old man…you’ll hurt your back!”

Hank walked over to the couch and dropped her onto it. “That’s for calling me OLD!” He
said, chuckling.

Molly laughed and watched as Hank turned, and pushed through the screen door, which closed with a “thwack”.

Hank stood on the front porch, leaned against one of the pillars of the porch, and looked down the dirt lane which allowed access to his farm. As he stood listening to the early evening sounds of the birds settling in to the trees while the rays of the setting sun left a colorful hue of red and orange in the eastern sky, Hank thought about how much he loved this part of the day. The evening chores were over, dinner was over, and the dishes were in the dish washer. Molly was curled up with her book, which was one of the personal luxuries she carved out time for in a typically full day of life on the farm. So Hank often came outside, in the summer months at least, to think and pray. Every evening since Chris and Mia left, Hank found his gaze constantly returning to that dirt lane. He began the habit of saying an inaudible, short prayer for both of them whenever he looked down the lane. Tonight was no different. Hank thought of when Mia had returned home. He first found out about it when he overheard a conversation in the café in town one afternoon, when he and Molly had stopped in for lunch while making a trip to the local hardware store. Two of the waitresses, who had attended high school with Mia, had been standing at the end of the counter gossiping and giving a biting commentary about why Mia had returned, but not Chris. Hank and Molly’s waitress had just filled Hank’s coffee cup for the second time when they all heard the comment, and their eyes briefly met. The girl’s eyes quickly broke from his and darted toward her co-workers, who were too engrossed to notice Hank and Molly’s presence.

After a particularly vicious comment by one of the girls, the waitress near Hank and Molly turned red and said, “I’m real sorry Mr. and Mrs. Dresden, we are all just really worried about Mia. Sometimes…”

Molly interrupted the girl in mid-sentence, “That’s ok…um…Michelle,” …reading the girl’s name tag…”I’m sure they are just trying to protect Mia by talking about her behind her back…”

Michelle got redder still. “Uh, yeah… I’m sure that’s it…” she had replied with embarrassment.

Hank had then jumped in, “Do you know when Mia got back in town, and where she is staying?” He asked, his face turning red at the need to ask the question.

“Well, she got back in town yesterday, and is with her parents.” Michelle had responded.

Hank and Molly then hurriedly paid the ticket and left.

As he stood on the porch, looking down the lane, he thought about the meeting with Mia and her parents right after the meal in the cafe in town. The conversation with Mia was very awkward. Hank and Molly had asked Mia to be honest with them, and she was. As Mia related the story, tears began to creep down Molly’s face and Hank felt a growing knot in his stomach. Finally, after Mia had finished, Hank said, “I’m sorry, Mia,” in a barely audible voice choked with the knot which had worked its way upwards from his stomach to his throat.

That had been several months ago, and Hank still choked up as he thought about it. In the following months, the new baby had been born: Hope Margaret (Maggie) Dresden. She was a joy to both sets of grandparents as well as her mother, and Mia had no problem finding a babysitter with such a collage of extended family vying for the privelege. Mia was still home with the baby, but planned on getting a job eventually so she could move out on her own. Several members of their little church had offered her a job, including Father Baaken, who said that his memory and his wife required that he hire a secretary. Mia was leaning toward the latter offer.

As the sun continued to sink lower in the East, Hank watched it and eventually noticed the unmistakable, distant sound of a large truck approaching on the main road. Lifting his coffee cup to his lips, he said aloud to himself, “That’s weird… it’s late for a delivery. He must have too heavy a load and is tryin’ to bypass the scales.” This was a fairly common practice when a trucker had just refueled, and knew that the weight of his fuel plus his load would cost him a fine at the weigh station on the main highway because he was over the legal weight. He watched for the tell-tale dust the truck would stir up when it passed where the blacktop ended and the road became a dirt road a mile-and-a-half to the south of his spread. Eventually, Hank heard the engine begin to slow as the truck approached and then crossed onto the dirt portion of the road, and he saw the dust immediately kick up.

“Man,” Hank said aloud as he saw the dust begin to billow, “we could sure use some rain, Lord.” The prayer came unbidden, as if a comment to a close friend standing near.

As he continued to watch the billowing dust and listen to the sound of the engine, he noticed that the engine continued to slow, rather than remain constant on the dirt road. In fact, it sounded as if the truck were slowing down even further. “Wonder if he got a flat…” Hank said with a slight frown on his face. Taking another drink of his coffee, the frown deepened into a scowl as he suddenly realised his coffee was cold. He spat out the mouthful, and then dumped his cup into the bushes next to the steps. As he did so, a young cotton-tail raced from under the bush, dodging this way and that, in an attempt to escape an imagined pursuer. Hank immediately laughed. “I don’t blame ya’. I hate cold coffee, too!” He said to the retreating rabbit.

Suddenly, a movement at the end of the lane captured Hank’s attention, and he turned to see a large truck stopped on the main road, just in front of the entrance to the lane. The passenger side door opened, and a duffle bag was dropped to the ground just before a familiar figure began to slowly emerge from the open door. Hank heard a voice say something into the cab, but he couldn’t hear the message due to the distance from where he stood. Hank straightened to a standing position at the top of the stairs. He watched the figure climb down from the cab of the truck, reach down and pick up the duffle bag, and then stop for a couple moments as the truck began to pick up speed and cover him with dust.

“Chris?” Hank said quietly at first. “Dear God, let it be…”

Hank absent-mindedly pushed his coffee cup in the direction of the porch railing, but let go of the handle while the cup was half-way on the top railing, and the cup immediately toppled onto the concrete steps and shattered at his feet. Ignoring the shards of pottery at his feet, Hank jumped off the porch in one bound, swinging his arms wildly… “YES!” He screamed while in mid-air. As soon as his feet touched the ground, Hank spun around in his best touchdown dance with knees pumping, and arms thrust straight up in the air, screaming, “YES! YES! MY SON!” Taking off at a dead sprint, Hank let out a long, loud, “Wah-hooooooo….” as he sprinted down the dusty lane.

At the other end of the lane, Chris stopped walking as he saw his father’s joyful dance and retreated a couple of steps when he saw him sprinting towards Chris’s position. The color drained from Chris’s face in direct proportion to the closing distance between his sprinting father and himself. He prepared himself for what he thought would be his father’s anger at his return, and the poverty of his situation. Rather than resume his walk towards home, Chris stood stone still, feeling smaller and smaller until he wished he could disappear into the ditch alongside the lane. He spoke in whispered tones to himself the words of regret and remorse he had rehearsed in his mind and heart throughout the long return home. Words which acknowledged how his actions had disrespected his father and mother, the family name, Mia and their child, and even himself. Words which spoke of his understanding that he had forfeited his place as son, but begged for a place as employee. He closed his eyes as he whispered to himself, over and over, and he could hear the heavy footsteps of his father getting louder and louder and louder….

Hank exploded into Chris in a perfect form tackle, lifting him up off the ground completely, lost his balance, and fell; twisting as they fell, so his own shoulder took the full force of the fall. When they both hit the ground, Hank continued to roll over and over again with his son grasped tightly in his arms; his breaths coming in deep, rasping sobs which emanated from a well-spring of joy in his heart.

The two of them ended up in the middle of the road with Hank laying on top of Chris. Looking down at the face of his son, Hank noticed Chris’s eyes closed tightly, and he began to laugh heartily at the sight. When he heard his father’s laughter, Chris opened his eyes to see his father’s eyes squinting with mirth, the corners of his mouth spread wide in an inviting smile, and tears flowing from his eyes, making trails in the dust of the road which covered his face.

“It is SO good to see you, Chris!” Hank said in a voice, choked with emotion.

Hank placed his hands on the ground, rolled off his son, and stood up; towering over his son. In response, Chris turned to the side, and worked his way onto his knees, with hands to his side, and facing his father. Looking down at the dusty road, Chris began to speak…”I am no longer worthy of being called your son. I…I… really need a job… could I work around the farm, for my room and board?”

Hank grabbed his son by the arms and raised him to a standing position. Looking directly into his eyes, Hank said, “Welcome home, Son…” He then put his hands on either side of his head, kissed him on the forehead, and then on each cheek. As he kissed his son, he could taste the grit of the dust from the road and at the taste, Hank immediatly turned his head upwards and began to laugh while pulling his son close in a strong, tight hug.

Releasing his hug, Hank turned to pick up the duffle bag which had been thrown by Hank’s tackle about ten yards away. As he threw the duffle bag over one shoulder, he put his free arm around the shoulders of Chris. “Let’s git some dinner! Are ya hungry?” Hank said as they turned towards the house and began the short walk to the house, and to Molly, who was standing on the porch with her own welcome to a lost son.

As they walked the lane, Chris was almost certain he heard the church bell sounding in the distance.

“It’s good to be home.” Chris said quietly.

“It’s great to have you home….. I didn’t hurt ya, did I?” Hank said, turning his head towards his son.

“I’m good…,” Chris responded. “Actually… I’m great!”

Indulgent Intercessations…Part 17

Mercer leaned back in his chair with a look of disbelief on his face yet saying  nothing. Chris shifted his weight from one foot to another with his head bowed  and his eyes transfixed on the edge of Mercer’s massive desk in a blank stare.  The look on Mercer’s face slowly transformed to a sarcastic smile as he slowly  brought his chair upright and stood up with both hands planted on the desk.

“Do you have some kind of a career death wish, Chris? I mean SERIOUSLY, dude! Maybe you
should just go back to the farm. I don’t THINK you can get any cows pregnant. Although
I wouldn’t put it past you to try!” Taking a deep breath and turning away from Chris to face the wall of windows looking out across the city, Mercer slowly said, “If it weren’t for this deal you just made…” But he didn’t finish the sentence.

Suddenly, Mercer turned quickly from the bank of windows and said, “Where are we with
DuBois? When do you meet with them next?”

“Uh…t-t-two days…um, I mean, two days from now.” Chris answered.

“Ok, where is Creative on this?” Mercer was all business now.

“What do you mean?” Chris asked.

“I mean do they have the file? Have you spoken to Andy yet? As head of the creative department, he is your next step.” Mercer asked rapidly.

“Well, no. I just got back from lunch and the envelope…”

“Go talk to Andy, present what you have, and then get out of here and don’t come back until
your meeting with DuBois. I will take care of…Dee Dee…” Mercer continued in rapid fire.

“Delores…” Chris corrected.

“What?” Mercer asked severely.

“Delores…her name is Delores.” Chris answered.

“Does it really matter, Chris?” Mercer asked, his voice a fountain of sarcasm.

“I guess not…” Chris said.

 

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

“Chris, you look like you could use a friend.” The bartender said as he poured Chris his
second shot of bourbon.

“Yeah…Not a good day.” Chris said dejectedly. “Do you mind if I ask you a question?”

“Shoot!” The bartender responded.

“Have you ever felt like you are letting everybody down?” Chris asked.

The bartender began to laugh. “Only every day.” He said. “I’ve been in the city for… what…10 years? Yeah, think that’s right. My life just sucks, dude. I left home with a quarter million dollars in my pocket, came to New York for a ‘sure thing’!” He chuckled, “Aren’t they all? Well, it didn’t work out… Neither did the marriage I had with the sweetest little thing I brought with me from home. She packed her bags not 5 months from when we moved in, and took our little baby back to Wisconsin with her.”

At the mention of Wisconsin, Chris lifted his head to look at the bartender’s face, but he had turned his back to Chris in order to get another customer a drink. Shaking his head, Chris chugged his shot of bourbon, and said, “Gimme another three of those, wouldja?” and then turned his eyes down to stare into the empty glass.

“No problem…” the bartender said and, with his back to Chris, took down three shot glasses and filled them quickly to the very rim, and resumed his story while he poured. “So, anyway…here I am, all alone…my job hanging by a thread, and so I do the most natural thing I can think of…I get drunk. But not your ordinary kinda drunk. Nope, I mean your black-out-and-wake-up-freezing-in-the-back-of-a-cab-in-Denver-when-you-started-drinking-in-New-York-and-don’t-have-a-clue-how-you-got-there drunk. It was crazy. I miss a meeting at work, so they cut me loose, and I am scuttling between bars in New York ever since.”

“Dude, that sucks.” Chris said, into his empty glass.

“Yeah… It does suck, Chris.” The bartender said as he turned  to place the three shots of bourbon in front of Chris. “And you what, Chris?” The bartender asked.

“What?”Chris responded, head still down.

“I would love to go back to the farm and work for my dad. I don’t want wanna be a son… I’m not worthy of being his son… I just want a bed in the shed. I want some of my mom’s biscuits and gravy, with bacon, freshly squeezed orange juice and the aroma of my dad’s coffee filling the kitchen. I don’t wanna be here anymore… I wanna be home, even if it isn’t exactly home anymore. If my dad would just give me a job… I wouldn’t even mind muckin’ the barn! Gotta be better than the shit
I’m shovellin’ here… So, yeah, I know how you feel, Chris. I know EXACTLY how you feel, !”

As the bartender spoke, Chris chugged each shot in quick succession. Finally, after the story ended, the bartender removed the glasses and turned his back to stack them on the other side of his work area. Chris slowly raised his head, and stared at his own reflection in the mirror on the wall just beside the figure of the bartender. Shifting his gaze for a moment, to the reflected face of the bartender, whose head was turned down as he concentrated on his work, Chris made a mental note of how familiar he looked.

“He kinda looks like an older version of me!” Chris thought to himself. After a pause, Chris asked, “Where in Wisconsin did you say you were from?”

“Actually Chris,” he said and then paused as he wiped his hands on a bar towel. Turning, he said, “…I just call it home, and I’m afraid that I have been gone so long that I don’t know how to get back.”

When the bartender turned, Chris’s mouth dropped open as he stared into the same eyes he had just studied so intently in the mirror: his own. However, they were older, and, if it were possible, even sadder.

“Go home, Chris.” The bartender instructed, “Go home. You’ve had enough.”

Immediately, Chris jerked awake. Struggling to sit upright on the couch upon which he had fallen asleep as soon as he had returned to his apartment from work, he heard the muffled ringing of his phone. Reaching for his coat, he fumbled through the pockets until he found it. The call was from Mercer.

“Shit!” He said softly and then slowly pressed “Talk”.

“Hello?” Chris mumbled.

“Chris, if you receive any communication from Delores, do NOT under ANY circumstances respond. I have taken care of your mess and she no longer works here…” there was a pause, and then, “You have one day to get your shit together, Chris. Once you come back to meet with DuBois, I want you to know where you are going and be fully committed to it… One day, Chris.”

Indulgent Intercessions… Part 15

The summer and early fall months slipped past for Chris. He tried to keep busy developing new accounts, but he wasn’t very effective. Mercer had been right about his court date. The attorney worked it out with the court, and if he stayed away from contact with the police, he would have no blemish on his record. Although this was good news, the downside was that Chris wouldn’t receive a paycheck for the rest of the year in order to pay the attorney’s fee. He still had the money from his father, or at least SOME of the money, but it would take a lot of that to keep paying the rent on his apartment and to play. And Chris was certainly determined to keep playing. At least 4 days a week, Delores would meet him in one of the janitor’s closets. While the sex was great, he was getting tired of her. Sometimes they would meet at a bar when her husband had to work a double shift, and they would usually end up at his apartment for a while. Eventually, however, Chris began to find ways to avoid her. He stopped answering her texts and calls. He began to go to new bars in different parts of town. With each new bar, he found new people to hang around with, and many times, these “friends” would come back to his apartment to continue the party. Chris financed it all, too, so he began to develop an entourage’ of sorts. Many times, he would awaken to find an assortment of bodies curled up throughout the apartment. In fact, a couple of people were usually still there when he returned from work at the end of the day.

Chris’s financial package dwindled down to just a couple of thousand dollars, which wasn’t enough to pay for the next month’s rent and he began to worry that he would lose the apartment. He had good reason to worry, too. The other residents of his building were becoming increasingly angry with the constant parade of drunks and assortment of women and men earning their income from the parade. They didn’t appreciate that their building was becoming “Party Central” for the City!

However, one night Chris thought he had found the answer to his money problem. Chris was
sitting at a bar which had become one of his favorites, when he noticed a couple of guys come in the door. At once, Chris knew they were country boys from out of town. Everything about them screamed a life used to hard work and small towns. There were two stools next to him, and they moved their way through the tables and people to where Chris was sitting. They each took a seat
next to Chris, and ordered a couple of beers. Chris turned on his stool to face them.

With a crooked smile on his face, Chris said, “Evenin’!” He left the “g” off the word as sort of a joke to himself, with just a hint of mockery.

“Hi.” The older of the two responded.

“Where you guys from?” Chris queried.

The older one grunted and half smiled. “That obvious, is it?”

Chris smiled his most charming smile and said, “Well, I grew up on a dairy farm and I know the look of a couplea men who make their living by hard work.”

“You in some sorta sales, are ya?” The older continued to respond, while the younger man looked around the bar with the look of a kid in a candy shop.

Chris threw back his head and gave a hearty laugh. “I like you,” he said. “You are as
street smart as my dad.”

“We are from upstate New York. In town for a convention.” He said. The bartender sat their
beers in front of them, and the older man took a swig, winced and slightly shook his head. “Never did like this much. Reminds me too much of…”

“Horse piss…” Chris repeated at the same time. “Yeah, my dad used to say the same thing. He
never was much of a drinker. I however…” he said, reaching for his drink, “make up for him. Cheers!” He saluted the man with his glass.

“I’d probably like your dad.” The man said. “I’m a dairyman too… So, what brought you to New York?”

“I’m in advertising.” Chris said.

“So…. Sales…” The man said with a smile.

Chris nodded and said, “I guess you could say that, although sales haven’t been very good
lately. By the way, the name is Chris Dresden.” He stuck out his hand.

Taking his hand, the man responded, “Walt Dubois… and this is my son, Pat.” Walt nudged his son and leaned back so his son could shake Chris’s hand.

“Uh…nice to meet you, uh… Chris, was it?” The son responded, and although he met Chris’s eyes
for just a moment, his eyes quickly strayed to a movement behind Chris. He then said, “Whoa…” absentmindedly.

Turning around, Chris saw a tall, dark-haired figure wrapped in a skin-tight red dress. Chris winced, and started to laugh hard and loud. Looking up at Pat with a twinkle in his eye, he said, “That’s a friend of mine. Would you like to meet her?”

“Uh…ssssure,” Pat responded with an eager smile.

Turning back around, Chris stood up and yelled, “Hey Sugar…. SUGAR!” Finally getting her
attention, Chris yelled. “C’mere Sugar, I got someone I wanna introduce you to!”

The red dress strutted over to the bar, and Pat’s mouth continued to lower with each swing of the hips. When Sugar finally reached the bar, Chris stood, put his arm around her waist, did two air kisses to her, and said, “Sugar, I want to introduce you to a new friend o’ mine…” Turning to Pat with his arm still around Sugar, Chris said, “Pat DoBois, meet Sugar…”

Pat stood up from his stool, put his hand out and said, “Pleased to meet you… uh, Sugar.”

Sugar slinked away from Chris’s arm, moved close to Pat, took his hand in both of hers and said, “Well aren’t you just the CUTEST thing…” in the deepest baritone voice you could imagine.

Pat’s face immediately turned four shades of red while his dad bust into raucous laughter and Chris continued the introduction by saying with a straight face, “Frank Sugar… the best drag queen in all of the City!”

“N-n-n-nice to meet you Mr. Sugar…” Pat stammered as he tried to slowly pull away from the
death grip Sugar had on his hand.

“Don’ worry baby, I’ll be kind…” Sugar said. Turning to Walt, Sugar said, “I can see where this boy gets his good looks from. You know, I’ve never done a father and son before… at the same time… Whatya say, Dad? Are you up for some New York adventure tonight?”

Walt continued to loudly laugh, and put up his hands in front of him and wheezed, “No… no… thanks for the offer, but we aren’t quite that adventuresome. Sorry, Sugar.”

Sugar said, “Well, that’s too bad. Welcome to New York, and if you are in town again…. Look me up.
I’ll show you why they call it the ‘city that never sleeps’!”

Turning to Chris, Sugar asked, “See you later, Chris?”

“I’m sure you will, Darlin’. We usually seem to hit the same places.” Giving Sugar a hug and two more air kisses, Chris watched as she returned to the group she had come in with.

Turning to Pat, Chris smiled and said, “I’m sorry Pat. I couldn’t resist.”

While his dad continued to laugh uproariously, Pat smiled ruefully and said, “Daaaang… I just… couldn’t tell…”

“I KNOW,” said Chris, “and believe me when I say that it was FAR more embarrassing when I
found out that ‘she’ was actually ‘he’! We never had drag queens in Wisconsin!”

Still laughing, Walt said, “Chris, you have absolutely made my trip to New York one I will… WE… will never forget!”

Turning once again to the bar, the three began to get better acquainted and talk about the convention Walt and Pat were attending. It was a convention for dairy farmers throughout the northeast United States, and Chris found out that Walt was to be a presenter for a new technology he had invented to increase milk production. Since Chris had experience in farming, he was genuinely interested, and the conversation eventually turned to how they were going to market the new invention.

After about an hour of discussion, Chris invited the two to come by his office the next morning
to tour the building and speak further about the possibility for the company to market Walt’s invention not only to the Northeast, but also the rest of the country.

Rising from his stool, Walt said, “Well Pat, we better git goin’. Mornin’ comes early!” he stretched out his hand and said, “Chris, thanks for such an educational evening.” He smiled and turned to his son, “Pat, I guess we gotta talk again about the diff’rance between a cow and a bull.” He then again erupted into laughter.
Pat smiled slowly and lowered his head slightly, looking towards the floor.

“Here is my card, Walt.” Chris said, taking Walt’s hand with one of his own and handing a
card to Walt and then one to Pat with his other hand. “And Pat… just remember, I let you off easy. At least you still had your clothes on.”

They all heartily laughed, and the three left the bar together.

Indulgent Intercessions… Part 14

After being left off at his apartment, Chris approached the outer door of his building and made his way up the stairs to his apartment. The door was closed but not locked. Turning the knob and giving the door a nudge with his foot, he tentatively slid his hand down the wall just inside the door to the light switch. Before he found the switch, however, his hand passed through a sticky substance of some sort. Jerking his hand back, he thought to himself, “I’m not even going to ask…”

Flipping on the light with just the tip of his finger, Chris entered to find the apartment in remarkably good shape. Just inside the door on a small table, Chris noticed a piece of paper with the imprint of two lips made with lipstick at the bottom. Picking up the note, he began to read:

C,

Baby, I am so sorry for tonight! I hope you are ok. After you left, and the building super kicked everyone else out, I cleaned up after the party. BTW… YOU OWE ME… BIG time! Anyway, I didn’t want you to come back to such a mess. Text me and let me know you are ok. I will probably see you at work, or depending on when you get home, give me a call.

Love ya, Baby!

D.

Chris looked at his watch. Five AM. “Great,” he thought, “I’ve gotta be at work in a couple of hours.” He walked through the living room to the bedroom and began to remove his clothes. As he removed his pants, something made him look more closely at them.

 “Shit! These aren’t even my PANTS!” He walked to the French doors which lead to the small, Juliette balcony off the bedroom. Opening the door, he threw the pants into the humid, early-morning air; watched them flutter as they fell down the 15 floors to flop across the windshield of a parked cab. A slight smile crossed his face as he imagined the half-awake cabbie’s surprise by their unexpected impact just inches from his face. The smile on Chris’ face turned into a full-out laugh as he watched the driver’s door of the cab explode open, and a string of profanities emerge before the cabbie emerged and looked around the cab, finally looking upward and directed his continuing blue speech to Chris. For his part, Chris stood in the doorway and just laughed, finally going back inside and closing the door.

Suddenly, a perplexed expression came over his face, and Chris said aloud, “That guy looked familiar…”

Shrugging his shoulders, Chris pulled off his shirt and underwear, threw them on the bed, and pulled open the dresser drawer to retrieve a clean pair of boxers. Walking into the master bathroom, he stopped by the mirror and caught a glimpse of his naked body; his gaze perusing his form until it rested on his face. He stared intently into his own eyes for a moment and repeated Mercer’s statement: “…you have to get control of your life!”

Dropping his own gaze, he laid the underwear on the sink, and stepped into the shower. “You’re probably right, Phillips… you’re probably right…”, he said aloud. Grabbing the soap, he began to get ready for the day stretching out before him. His mind began to search through the slight haze still in his brain from the previous night. Thinking about his client load, he came to the realization that he didn’t have many of his own. Most of his clients were ones Mercer had floated his way and the work was mainly complete for them. That meant that he would need to do some cold calling and maybe visit a couple of businesses he knew about who were looking to advertise some special events they had coming up. As he ran the list of businesses through his mind, he realized that most of them were bars! He laughed at the thought.

“Well,” he said to himself, “maybe they can repay me for what I have spent. That’s kinda like getting your drinks on the house! I have been investing in clients and never knew it!”

Stepping out of the shower, he reached for the towel which usually hung on the nearby towel bar, but found nothing there. He walked over to the linen closet, leaving a trail of water droplets on the floor. When he opened the door of the closet, he noticed a slight bulge in one of the towels. Picking up the towel, he found a pack of cigarettes under it. He took the pack and placed it on his underwear and then dried himself. Grabbing his underwear, he pulled them out from under the pack of cigarettes, which fell onto the floor at his feet. As he bent over to put on his underwear, he picked up the cigarettes and noticed the pack seemed heavier than expected. Frowning, Chris opened the pack to find one cigarette, a wad of $20 bills and a ziplock bag with small white rocks.

“What the fu…..” Chris exclaimed. Suddenly laughing, he pulled the lone cigarette from the pack, put it into his mouth, closed the top of the pack, and threw it onto the bed. With the cigarette still in his mouth, Chris walked to the closet and retrieved a lighter from a jacket and lit the cigarette. He returned to the bathroom, leaving a trail of blue smoke in his wake. As Chris stepped back into the bathroom again, he looked at himself in the mirror again, studied his unshaven features with the cigarette dangling from his lips and began to laugh.

“Maybe self-control is over-rated!” He said to himself. Suddenly, he heard his phone signal an incoming text. Chris turned and went into his bedroom to search for his phone, again leaving a trail of smoke and also ash behind him. It was Delores.

“Are you ok?”

“I’m great!” Chris texted back. “Are you busy tonight?” He texted again.

“Yes. I can’t get away tonight. I can meet you at work, though.” Delores texted.

“Ok. I’ll see you at work. At our regular place?” Chris asked.

“Of course. Whenever I smell Pinesol, I get the most interesting mental pictures…” Delores responded.

Chris smiled, and continued getting ready for work. When he put on his suit jacket, he placed his hands in the pockets for a second, and found a condum. Removing it from the pocket, he laid it on the dresser. Unopened… He then left for work.

Indulgent Intercessions… Part 13

“Dresden…. Chris Dresden…” No answer, just the coninued rumble of conversation in the holding cell between the usual crowd of angry men exchanging their stories of a court system run on politics and money, as well as the occasional news from the streets. A final, urgent call of  “DRESDEN!” by the officer, brought sullen glances and profane responses by the more courageous of those sharing the cell.

“Uh… YEAH! That’s me!” Chris groggily responded, awakened out of a deep sleep.

“You want outta here, or what?” The officer angrily asked.

“Yeah… definitely… Coming.” Chris said as he rose out of the chair, which was bolted to the floor so it couldn’t be used as a weapon.

“You’re a lucky man, Dresden. The guy who posted your bond wasn’t real happy, and our boss just about had to talk him into posting your bond. Doesn’t look like a guy who does this very often.” The officer explained.

“Who is it?” Chris asked.

“How am I s’posed to know… He’s YOUR friend. YOU called ‘im.” The officer responded.

“I did?” Chris said quietly.

“You don’t remem…. ahhhh, yeah…. evening shift said you were pretty much out of it when you came in.” He explained. They made a stop at the property room, where Chris had to sign a form in order for him to receive the items taken from him when they had processed him into the jail. The escorting officer said, “I’ll give you a couple of minutes to put your stuff back on, and then you can be released. Your buddy has posted bail for you. Show up in court, Dresden. If you stiff this guy on the bail, you might need a doctor instead of a lawyer.”

“You sure you don’t know who posted my bond?” Chris asked again.

Without responding, the officer walked to the exit door, pressed a button, and pulled the door after a stark, metallic buzz. With a slight smile, he said, “Surprise!”

Chris hesitantly walked through the door into a large waiting room, where he immediately saw Mercer Phillips speaking with another man. Upon seeing Chris, Phillips said, “Damn, Chris…” His voice trailed into frustrated silence. After a few moments within which he gained his composure, Mercer said, “Chris, this is our attorney, who is now your attorney. Chris Dresden, meet Mark Caulfield. We’ll talk in the car.”

The three men left the station, and approached a black limosine, beside which stood a driver, who openned the door as they drew near, closed the door behind them, and then got in behind the wheel. The glass was up between the driver and passengers, and as soon as the door was closed, Mercer began to berate Chris. “Shit, Chris, how could you have been so STUPID? If you wanted to party, why didn’t you call me? I could have pulled some strings. Do you have a clue who was in your apartment? One of the biggest crack dealers in the whole neighborhood! That’s how the cops knew about the party so fast. They were tailing him…  There were at LEAST 10 hookers there. Did you know that? What the hell did you do, open the door and invite in anyone with an active warrant? Shit, half the neighborhood probably thinks you are an undercover cop now, there were so many arrests! They got you with possession of crack and drug paraphenalia… Why the HELL didn’t you ditch it? And shit… who was the bimbo you were with? Where is your wife? Don’t you give a damn about the opportunity you have here? I have been able to keep this from my father, but if he finds out….” He left the statement unfinished, as if HE were afraid of the rest of it. “Ok, here is what you are going to do… You are going to get your pregnant wife, duct tape your zipper shut, and be the perfect angel….”

After Mercer mentioned Chris’s “pregnant wife”, Chris mumbled something under his breath.

“What?” Mercer demanded fiercely.

“Mia left me… she went home.” Chris said more loudly.

“What?” Mercer asked again, without really wanting an answer. “Shit, Chris… SHIT!” Mercer sat in silence for a moment, and Chris SURE wasn’t going to say anything. “Dad will be PISSED! You should have let me know there was a problem.”

“I figured I had it covered.” Chris responded.

After a few moments of silence, Mercer said, “Ok… Mark thinks we will be able to eventually make this go away. You may get a year of two of probation, but all that means is meeting with a probation officer, and I have a really good buddy who is a P.O. and I think we can arrange you to get on his case load. But YOU GOTTA QUIT SCREWIN’ UP! Mark isn’t cheap, and he is REALLY good, so I will pay him up front, but you will have to repay me…. understand?”

Chris was sitting in the darkened passenger compartment with a blank look on his face. Truthfully, he was a little shell shocked. He was really hazy on the previous evening, and wasn’t sure how the “party” even happened.

It took a moment for him to respond to Mercer’s question, so Mercer repeated it more forcefully. “I said… DO YOU UNDERSTAND?”

Shaken from his stupor, Chris nodded his head and said, “Uh… yeah… I understand…. And… Geez… I am sorry, Mercer.”

Phillips’s demeanor was softer following his frustrated explosion at Chris. After Chris’s apology, Mercer looked at Chris, shook his head, and said, “Look, I’ve been where you are, dude. Well… except for the wife. And if you looked at my record, you would see it polished clean. We can make this disappear, Chris. But you have to get control of your life!”

“I’ll try, Mercer.”