Friday, April 4, 2014
Spring Break, Part two: The Miracle
We had to climb through a lot of shit. When the car arrived at the gravel parking lot I realized how long we would end up walking and it was going to be a long time.
There was a tunnel that we climbed through, underneath the railroad tracks we had been walking on; there was water going through the tunnel. My foot fell into a half of a foot water that had industrial waste and shit in it. Like real shit, animal shit, maybe human shit. It was disgusting.
Jed was being a dick, but Sarah helped me out of the puddle. When we got out of the tunnel I saw that we had to climb back up again on a steep hill covered and concrete. I was already sweating because we had to inch our way through the tunnel with our arms and legs pressed into the curved sides of the wall
(The priest interjects.) How was Jed being, as you say, a dick?
Well, he kept telling me to man up. I had never crawled through a tunnel before. I've never even been in a real cave. There was no place to stand except in the gross water. I'm not use to climbing against walls and I said so. When I said that, Jed called me a pussy. That's when my foot slipped into the puddle.
(The priest interjects.) Can you tell me where this tunnel is?
Yeah, it's right near the construction site where they found us.
After I made it through the rain tunnel, I began climbing back up the hill on the other side of the tracks. It was covered in garbage embedded in carelessly poured concrete. Broken glass bottles of clear and green and brown were littered about. Aluminum lawn chairs with weaved plastic or white and synthetic colors made in factories were shredded at the ells where the were wrapped. A couch upholstered crimson red in sheets of gleaming waterproof plastic, stood upright, sideways, turned erect by gravity in the latter day flow of concrete which eventually set and posted the piece of furniture perpendicular to the earth and sky.
I have never seen something so unusual, yet so mundane and with out purpose, except for possibly and Oldenberg sculpture.
There were also discarded lumber scraps that numbered too high to count. It was as if for a brief moment this was the place to go in order to bury your waste into a concrete hill. There were still trees of sycamore, evergreen, and cottonwood, but the bases or their trunks were completely encased in the craggy pebble spotted gray and dried sludge. This is where the four teenagers ascended to find and acre of wood in front of them. Past that is where they finally reached the construction site.
"I was in two places at the same time, once." The man said. "This body" he pointed to his chest, "and this brain" then to his left temple, "at the exact same time.'
"My buddy, Max, doesn't believe me. He always argues with me when I bring it up. He always says that it is totally impossible for anybody to be in two places, physically, at the same time. But it happened and I'll never say that it didn't. Hell, a couple of days ago, we got so heated about it that we started throwing punches. That's how I got this shiner." He pointed to his right eye, which had a faded mauve circle around it that transitioned into a jaundice yellow aura on his face.
"I know it sounds insane, but it happened. I was alone in both places, except for these kids who were off in the distance, but I'm fairly positive they didn't see me, so you're just going to have to trust me." The man took a pack cigarettes out of his pocket. "Do you mind if I smoke?" He asked.
"Can it possibly wait just a little bit longer?"
"What do you mean by it? Is it me? Is that what you are saying?"
"I want to hear what you have to say, but if you could not smoke I would really appreciate that."
"You don't want me to smoke -I get that- but am I allowed to smoke?" He asked, leaning into the wooden desk he was facing.
He put the cigarette into his mouth and lit it with a gold plated Zippo with a buffalo etched into the broad end of its reflective surface.
"I guess those are better than Father Daniels cigars." The priest said quietly, reaching into the leather satchel next to him on the wood floor. He gracefully brought out a small black tape recorder.
"What is that for?" The man asked suspiciously.
"I want to hear you out. The church would like to hear what you have to say about your supposed miracle."
"I never said it was a miracle. It was certainly out of the ordinary, but I never once said it was a miracle." The man muttered quietly, then took a drag of his cigarette and shrank into the back of his chair.
The priest stared at the man patiently for a moment. The man would not make eye contact with him. "Okay." The priest said. "The church has filed this as a possible miracle. That is why we are here, together. I want to hear what you have to say and the worst thing that could possibly happen is nothing at all." The young priest was dressed in the starched black and white suit of a man of God. His hair was dark brown and perfectly pomaded; set in its glacial place. He leaned forward, cross legged, towards the man slouching in front of him.
The man took another drag of his cigarette and looked at what the priest was wearing.
"Would you like something to drink?" The priest asked. "We have a kitchen just pass the rectory, downstairs."
"You guys have a water tank down there, like a Culligan?" The man inanely asked.
"Heavens no. We just drink from the faucet." The priest smirked. "We have a lot of drinks, though. Perhaps some juice or tea."
The man put his cigarette out in the small, but ornate copper ashtray in the back right corner of the desk. "I feel strange asking this, but do you have something a little bit stronger?"
The priest's face went flat. "It is the middle of the day." He stated and was met with a moment of silence. "I'll put on some coffee."
"Okay." The man said quietly, failing to hide the sound of disappointment in his voice.
There was a bottle of scotch on the top left shelf of the kitchen. It was Sunday, and everyone else in the church was in service. The lodgings were all but empty.
"Thank you." The man stated with reserved appreciation.
The priest, who rarely drinks -unlike Father Daniels, who is just as comfortable sitting on a bar stool as he is standing in front of a pulpit- found himself grabbing two glass tumblers from the kitchen cabinet. He was not a man that could not appreciate a good scotch. He poured the two drinks neat, in hopes that the sweet sting of the liquid would vie on the side of moderation.
The man took a sip of the drink, and let the intoxicating feeling settle over his body. And then he began to speak. "I always forget that the weather never ends. I have it instilled in my mind that with everything in life, there is -no matter how tragic or sublime- a beginning, middle, and end to everything. But that is not true of the weather. It adapts and changes. It fluctuates and flows. You can broadly define its cycles, but those cycles shift as well, like a brain wave not operating on the same visceral level my mind, or anyone's mind is synced up to, because of our memories or predictions. It was cold and windy on that March day and everything around me that entire day was gray, green, and black." He took another drink.
"I'm listening." The priest said as he looked down at the notebook he was writing in. With his free hand he reached for his scotch -which he could see peripherally to his left on the desk- and took a sip as well.
"I was walking through the alley between the Jacques building and the building next to it, where there is a frozen yogurt joint. It use to be a place that sold Purdue apparel. That alley use to be a perpetual shit hole -pardon my French- but the city put in a new drainage system and paved the alley. It doesn't collect any water when it rains anymore, but there are still people that it treat like their personal dumpster. They even hired some artist, or fartist, to paint the walls. It's all colorful and geometric." The man said.
"Like the Quran?" The priest inexplicably interjected while continuing his near feverish note taking.
The man looked up, confused by the question. "What?"
"Is the mural Islamic in nature." Unaware that his question was divergent of anything the man was thinking or talking about.
"What the fuck are you talking about?" The man said with enough disgust in his tone to break the priests note-taking concentration.
Looking up, he saw the man's faced furrowed with annoyance and confusion. The man finished the last of his whiskey. The priest looked down, in order to reprocess exactly what he had been just been writing.
The young priest's notes:
The Quran does not allow images of humans, most importantly, the prophet Mohammed. I have not read the Quran, but I have seen illuminated script and design of their art.
I have also seen a cartoon that presents the Prophet Mohammed with a turban that is also a nuclear bomb.
Syriana. Bombs. Gas. God. Movies.
Two things occurred to the priest, after rereading these notes: that both glasses of scotch were empty and that he had not really been listening to what the man in front of him was saying. He looked up at the man, trying to re-adjust to what the man was talking about, but -being a light drinker- the scotch had made him light headed and unfocused. He was well aware of the curtness in his voice, and it made him cringe thinking about it the next day, when he said to the man "Why are you talking about the weather?" And then he realized, suddenly why the man was talking about the weather.
"Why the fuck are you talking about Muslims?" The man countered.
The young priest had heard this man's story echoed through the voices of his congregation and neighborhood. He broadly and abstractly knew what happened and why there are those who believe, truly believe, it was a miracle. He remembered what the man had said to him earlier. "I never said it was a miracle." The priest realized that even though their are many who believe what happened to this man was a miracle, the man himself truly did not believe it was a miracle. The man viewed what happened to him and what he saw as an accident. An unfortunate accident. And it was an accident because of a gust of wind. Weather. That is why he is talking about the weather.
"Priest." The man finally said. "You're all red."
"We... We should end the session for the day." The young priest muttered.
"I'm not coming back to this place again." The man said. "No offense, but it kind of gives me the creeps."
The young priest took a deep breath and began to feel level-headed again after a short wave of intoxication. It was, after all, only one drink. "Okay. Where would you like to meet?"
"I don't know. Why don't you meet me downtown after I get off work tomorrow. We'll go to Hunter's."
"This is a pub."
"Yeah priest. It's where the rest of us congregate."
The Priest thought for a moment, and decided to overcome his initial thoughts of possible debauchery. Father Daniels was a regular patron of many drinking establishments in the downtown area and his reputation as a respected man of the cloth was no worse for wear. He decided he would meet this man downtown after he got of work, believing this kind of social atmosphere would leave the man feeling less defensive and cagey. The priest would simply not wear his collar at that time.
"What do you say there, Priesty boy?" The man said playfully. The change in the air of the man took the young priest by surprise.
"I suppose." He finally answered.
Upon entering the subterranean bar on the corner of Third and Ferry Street, Zeke consumed three Pabst Blue Ribbon tallboys and spoke to three patron's of Hunter's Down Under that night before he said anything passed "hi" to the young priest -whose name he still could not remember- he had walked in with. He also took a shot with one of his co workers, who was sitting at the bar counter. The co worker offered to buy both Zeke and the priest a shooter of something called Slow and Low. Father Clayton was the young priests name and he resisted the idea of taking the shot at first; he had not taken a shot of anything since college. He quickly and quietly conceded to taking the drink when Zeke mentioned to his co worker, Mike, that he was a man of the cloth. Mike mentioned that he was good friends with Father Daniels and if he offered Father Daniels a shot the Father would happily oblige him.
"Lighten up, Padre, you have friends here." Mike said as he handed Father Clayton the shot with a resigned and satisfied look on his face; happy he had persuaded the Priest that there was no other option besides drinking the liquor he had bought him.
"Slow and Low is a prohibition term. During prohibition they didn't have standards and practices on how someone makes alcohol. So speakeasies would take their rot-gut batches of whiskey and sell it for cheap. When they served it, they would stir it first with a stick of rock candy." Zeke said after all three of them had saluted their two ounce glasses and swallowed its contents.
"It tastes kind of like cough syrup." Father Clayton said, staring at the Indianapolis Pacers game being broadcast on the old television behind the bar. He could feel the drinks intoxicating numb travel down his throat and spread into his chest.
"A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down, right priest." Zeke said with his arm on Mike's chair.
"Can we get a table?" Father Clayton asked, clearly annoyed.
"Yeah alright." Zeke answered. "Have a good one, Mikey. I'll see you tomorrow."
"Will you talk to me about the miracle?" The Father leaned back in his chair with a frustrated look on his face. He had set his black tape recorder out on the worn wood table.
"You know, I don't know if I should." Zeke answered. "I mean, my life doesn't have anything to do with the church. It kind of freaked me out yesterday when I saw you in that get up. The formality of it, I mean, it just isn't my style."
"Think of me as a journalist. I know I have that uniform, but I'm just like you. Wearing that uniform solves one particular thing in my life that I no longer have to worry about." He pressed stop on his tape recorder. "My mother and the women of my congregation always act strangely when I am wearing it."
"You just defined why I am not a religious guy."
Father Clayton smiled. "Let's stick to the subject at hand, and forgive me, but I am required by the church to define it as a miracle."
"To tell you the truth, the main thing I remember about that alleyway, was that there was a pile of spent red nitrous oxide cartridges on the pavement."
Father Clayton stared at him while writing quietly in his notebook with a calm smile on his face.
Possible drug user.
Regular drug user.
What does that do to a person?
Where is it located and dispensed in larger quantities?
Who is the demographic this drug is catered to?
When are they doing it?
Why are they doing it?
"They weren't mine, but I've seen them before." Zeke stated bluntly. "It mostly makes people act like idiots, so I would mind if you didn't paint me in that light."
The Father abruptly stopped writing his notes. His face went blank. "Well." He said with empathy. "Please tell me your story. Why were you talking about the weather, yesterday?"
"I... I..." Zeke took a drink of his beer. "It's a habit. I'm from here. The Midwest that is."
"I'm from here as well." Father Clayton said with changing to tone and inflection in his voice. "Tell me what happened."
The man leaned forward, suddenly agitated, and waved his hand pathetically in the air. "What do you want me to tell you? A kid fell in a hole and got hurt."
"How did he get hurt?"
"I don't know, priest. God ate a bad burrito and a gust of wind knocked a goofball off his ledge." Zeke said in sarcastic defeat.
"Bobby is his name." The Priest added. "Bobby Fischer."
"I thought that was that chess guy."
"He isn't the only person with that name sake." The priest was clenching his notebook when he wrote these words within its pages: Praise be to God.
The chair creaked as the man sighed and leaned forward. "Jesus, man. What do you want to know? You seem to know more about than I do. You're the one calling it a miracle."
"Describe what you saw passed the alleyway. How did you know where those kids were? If your claim is true; that instead of there being what is normally just more alleyway passed the two buildings you were standing between, there, in fact -in that one moment- was actually a different place. There was a place miles away from where you saw it at. How did you know where that place was?"
"Well that last question I can answer pretty easily. Those kids were at a construction site that I worked at several years back. That was the second place I was in. It was suppose to be some high end, private suburb, but the company ran out of money well before it was finished. They just abandoned it." The man drained his beer and grunted mildly.
"How did you know for sure it was that particular construction site?" The priest asked.
"Hey man, I know my own work." Zeke answered.
"Alright. Now we're getting somewhere."
Aaron C. Molden