Tuesday, August 28, 2018
“Hey, you Al? I’m Jimmy,” Before Al could get up from the bench the young man was right in front of him. “I’m Jimmy, from Salmon Stream Crossing; you gotta be Al, right, nobody else around here.” Al replied, “Yea, I’m Al and I bet your first name must be Jimmy.” Al held his hand out and his first introduction to Salmon Stream Crossing grabbed his extended hand and shook it with gusto.
A torrent of words spilled out of Jimmy’s mouth, “Well I’ll be, face to face with a real-life hero and newspaper reporter. The folks up home are really looking forward to meeting you.” Al stood there trying to take in this first impression. Jimmy seemed to know only one speed, fast and somewhat reckless. In an instant he had grabbed Al’s bag and tossed it on the first bench seat. In one motion he had the front passenger door open and was swinging his arm, like he was trying to sweep Al into the van.
Al got in the front seat and fastened his seat belt. Jimmy looked at Al and said, “You big city fellers wear them seat belts. I don’t ever wear em, I want to be able to jump out if I have to.” Bouncing his rear on the driver’s seat, with one fluid move of his right arm he shifted the van into drive and hit the gas. “Man, I can’t believe it! You are really coming to the Crossing. Are you going to live in town? Where ya gonna stay? I know a place, rents cheap. O’man I still can’t believe it. Ray has been talking about you.”
Al’s head was shaking as Jimmy finished. Turning just a bit in his seat, he looked at Jimmy, already liking the kid, “Jimmy,” he said, “Do you always talk as fast as you drive? Do you have only one speed, that is, pedal down and hang on?” Jimmy snapped his head around so fast it startled Al. “Awe man, I’m sorry, I did it again, Ray warned me, that I better get control of myself before I met you, forgive me man, I didn’t mean no harm.”
Thursday, August 23, 2018
Entering the diner, Al turned to find Edith right behind him. He asked, “Would you like to join me? We can sit at the counter or a table?” “The counter is just fine”, Edith said. The young waitress came from the other end of the counter and began to ask Al what he wanted. Edith spoke up, “Oh excuse me for being forward, but I think I know what my friend wants. I think he likes his coffee strong and black, along with a piece of peach pie, if the crust is made the old fashioned way, with lard.”
Al turned his head so fast to look at Edith he almost fell off the stool. He asked, “How in the world did you know that was the way I liked my coffee? And, what about peach pie, with the crust made with lard, was I talking in my sleep or something?” Edith snickered at Al’s remarks and just very politely said, “I could just tell by looking at you, you’re the kind of young man that likes the basics in living and nothing more basic that strong black coffee and peach pie.”
The two sat quiet for the next few minutes. Al drank his first cup of coffee and ate his pie. Edith sipped at her English Breakfast Tea and nibbled at her piece of rye toast. As Al was nearly done Edith turned on her stool, looked right at him and said, “You know, Al, I can see in your eyes a great love, but I also see seasons of great pain and suffering.”
Friday, August 17, 2018
Reverend Williams took Al’s hand and said, “We’re gonna pray in a minute, but there is something you need to hear from me.” Al could see tears beginning to form. “You know, you saved my son’s life. I know that you didn’t even know it at the time, but that doesn’t change what God allowed to happen. You saved his life so he could save the lives of those precious children in the orphanage.”
Neither Al, nor Mrs. Williams, could look at the massive preacher choking back soul cleansing tears. He continued, “Nobody but God knows this, but I was mad at God for allowing my Joey to be taken from us. In Joey we saw the promise of God touching the lives of our dear people. When God allowed him to be taken I was mad, mad at God and mad at the world.”
As the words were penetrating the souls of Al and Mrs. Williams, Al watched the wife of this massive man of faith, as she choked back her own pain. “Al,” Reverend Williams said, “That time of being mad at God ended when you came to us and I began to understand His ways. You are my son now. You will always be a part of us and I hope we will always be a part of you.”
Friday, August 10, 2018
She said, “That is the last letter my Joey wrote to us. He wrote it just three days before he was killed. There is a part of the letter I want you to read.” Al said, “No, I don’t think I should be reading your son’s letter. It is far too private for me to read.” She replied, “The man who saved my son’s life is now part of our life. Please do this for me.”
Al opened the envelope, with the care that what he was holding in his hands was close to holy script and took out the letter. The salutation jumped out at Al. It read, “Dearest Mum and Pa”. Instantly Al recognized the intimacy and tried to hand the letter back to Mrs. Williams. She refused his offer and said, “Skip down to the middle of the page where it starts with; I know God has a plan.”
Al found the sentence and began to read what followed. Along with the intimacy of the letter Al noticed that her son had printed it. He thought, not too many young men have the patience to print their thoughts. The visible thoughts of her son went on. “I know God has a plan for my life, just like He does for all life. Living among the people here, knowing their struggles and trials, I believe that I am a much better man for being here. Yes, I have witnessed far too much death and brutality, so do most people living here. But, I have also seen the hand of God. The reporter who saved my life, he had no idea what was going to happen that day. But, God used him, for my benefit and I believe in some time to come for the good of many more people. I wonder how he is doing?”
At the last line, Al’s hands were trembled and tears were flowed freely. The bedroom door opened and Reverend Williams, standing at the end of the bed, understood within seconds what had taken place. Al’s trembling hands held out the letter to Mrs. Williams. Taking the letter from his hands she held it close to her chest as if she was cradling her newborn son. Slowly she folded the thin airmail paper and slid it back into the envelope. As if she was saying goodbye, her frail fingers tucked the flap inside the envelope. Quietly she glanced up at her husband and placed her hand on top of the letter.
Wednesday, August 1, 2018
“Would you please go into the other office and get the box?” Al looked puzzled as she got up and came back carrying an old Dutch Masters cigar box.
Mrs. Williams stood in front of Al holding the old cigar box. One of her hands was under the box and the other was across the top. Then she said, “All of your friends gathered up a gift for you.” Stretching out her frail hands Mrs. Williams handed Al the old cigar box. Al’s hand rested on hers for a moment and they both sat down on the squeaky sofa.
Reverend Williams said, “We are not really sure how much the trip north will cost, but this should help.” Al opened the old cigar box to find a mixture of coins and paper money. A few folded and crumpled bills were atop the coins. As Al held onto the box his hands shook and his lip quivered as he tried to talk. Mrs. Williams took Al’s hand, causing the cigar box to slip on his lap. Reverend Williams said, “I didn’t count the money and tomorrow we will go to the bus terminal and find out how much the ticket is.”
Back at the Williams’ home, Al sat on the edge of the bed, with the cigar box next to him. He opened the box and tuned it upside down. He pulled the bills out and very carefully, almost cautiously, straightened them out and positioned each one facing the same. After he had each bill straight he counted them, nineteen dollars in all, a five-dollar bill and fourteen single dollar bills.