In the end, we will not survive the rest of our lives. Sooner or later, we will understand the fates that have befallen everyone before us.
How will it all feel? What is that final thought before one passes on? Is it filled with euphoria or regret or a longing for more? Does some sort of angel come down to lift you from this earth and transport you to a heavenly world of ever-knowing bliss? Or is it just done? A big awkward piece of nothingness. Maybe it’s something beyond nothing like a void so deep a countless number of universes could occupy the space.
So many times had such questions run through Bob’s mind about the end. Especially about that specific part, right before the end. In all fairness, would one not wonder why Bob wouldn’t ponder these things? After all, he has been there, in the end, with so many people. Shepherding them along to their voids or bliss or whatever it is. Sometimes they are ready and willing, with what seems like a calm acceptance. Sometimes, it’s all messy and full of kicking and screaming. A meaninglessly drawn-out ordeal. One last fleeting moment to be connected to this world. Sometimes they are oblivious to what will unfold, and that state ignorance is usually for the best. Even if there is a slight dissatisfaction for Bob when he is not more intimately involved.
Is it different for each one — the end? Does it matter how they go? Whether In a blaze of glory with guns blasting or in their sleep after the toxins have complete their appointed task? Where do all The laughs, the voice, the tears, the sweat, the electrical charges, go?
Again, these questions rattled through Bob’s head as he looked down at the familiar and ashen face of The Sherif. Too bad the man has been so predisposed to making bad poor decisions. Bob had always wondered how his uncle could live with him himself. Especially after what he had brought about over the past few weeks.
Will his poor unfortunate soul remember his treachery? Will it all be carried with him as a small explainable fear in his next life as a dog or a bird or a banker?
The questions occupied Bob for a short bit, but the sun was coming up, and the fresh snow would be turning into a slippery slush. The drive would be slower than usual, and the day is already so full of appointments and other problems to solve. He was reminded by a younger part of himself – the old woman is not fond of tardiness. – and yet again, life has gotten in the way of answering all these questions. Bob resigned himself to stop mulling over these things for now. It was time to get a move on. After all, the day was young, and it still might present another opportunity to ponder these thoughts later.
Spring on the Front Range of Colorado can be a fickle time of year. Warm summer-like days can give way to sudden snowstorms in a matter of hours. This type of storm hit the Denver area last night, dropping 6 inches of snow during the afternoon commute. Now the rising sun was shedding its light on the mayhem caused by the storm. Abandoned vehicles littered the windy commuter road heading west out of the city through the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. Some were on the side of the road purposefully set in a neatly parked manner. Others were strewn about like matchbox cars after a game of crash up.
Bob maneuvered his black WRX Subaru wagon up the corners of 285. Dodging around cars on the snow packed roads, the after market muffler changing pitch with the working of the excelerator. He chuckled as he past the abandoned vehicles and tow trucks. His car, complete with a large Thule cargo box and bike racks, screamed mid-thirties, Colorado, urban-dwelling, X Games wannabe. He was very comfortable with this connotation, and it was precisely what he wanted everyone to think. Plus, the all-wheel-drive made it very practical for the mountains and the varying conditions of Colorado roads. With the sun steadily pushing from the east, he moved up into the hills as the commuters slowly made their way back down to Denver or their abandoned cars.
The roads were starting to get a bit slick and slushy. There is a short space between the nightimes well packed snow and the slightly melted wetness of the mid-morning. This short space holds inconsistency. An east-facing stretch of road could melted out under the early sun, just before you dive around a shady corner slick with surprise. There could be black ice, packed snow, perhaps a slow-moving delivery truck, or in this morning’s case, a well-dressed stocky man in loafers trying to thumb down a ride. People trying to hitch a ride in Colorado are familiar enough. The state is known for being hitchhiker-friendly. What was bizarre was the hichhickers location, which would be as close to nowhere as one could get. And then there was his attire. He was dressed for a day at the office rather than a snowy morning along highway 285, and he easily caught Bob’s attention. No winter jacket, gloves, nor a hat. Bob figured he was probably stranded from the night before and needed a ride to a service station or such. Before he knew it Bob found himself pulling over despite the fact he had business to get to and not a whole lot of time. A small voice reminded him, The old woman will not be happy if you are late, young man.
Bob watched the man in his side-view mirror come gingerly, walking through the softening snow in his not-so-sensible shoes. He opened the passenger door, and upon seeing the cleanliness of the car, started to take off his shoes. Bob was a bit amused by this but also found the gesture quite endearing. This seemingly stranded man was so respectful that he would remove his shoes, not to get Bob’s insanely clean car the least bit dirty. Bob found this amusing because once in the car, where exactly would the man put them then? On his lap? Hanging out the window? This image made Bob grin, and he was suddenly pleased with his decision to pick up him up.
“Never mind that,” said Bob “Just hop on in.”
“Ok, then, mate.” said the man in an accent that was not quite British, yet not from Down Under either.
Bob noticed that the man’s suit was not as nice as it had seemed while cruising by at 55 MPH. It had the air of a man trying to appear more important than he was, without having much success. The hitchhicker introduced himself as John. John was a heavy-set man with a round open face. He had nicely combed-over ginger hair and a warm, broad smile. John didn’t fit in the narrow, bucket seats so well. He squirmed around a bit and settled on sitting at a slight angle, facing Bob, trying to act as comfortable as he could.
“Did you get stranded out in the storm?” Bob asked. “I can drop you at the next gas station.” Bob pulled back out on to the road, and the exhaust backfired as he paddle-shifted through the gears.
“Not quite, my man. I was dropped off back there around six this morning, and I have been trying to wave down a ride ever since.” He said this in a very matter-of-fact tone. It seemed like being dropped off on a random bit of mountain road, early on a cold, snowy morning, was all part of a typical day for him.
Bob could not help but bite. “That was kind of a bad spot to be trying to catch a ride. Been there long?”
“Yes, as a matter of fact, I was. My first ride on my pilgrimage today was from the saintly pastor, Joshua. He brought me up to the Church. I tramped, half slid, down the hill, and well, that is where you found me. And a good thing you did, too. The wet snow was starting to soak into my shoes.” John Looked down at his feet, wiggling his toes inside the tight faux leather loafers.
Church? Bob thought to himself. Highway 285 and the foothills between the west side of Denver and South Park are the clan’s territory. For generations, this has been their land, his land, pagan land. And he knew where everything was on that land, including all the churchs, synagogues, templess, or otherwise. The only thing Christian that came to mind in the area was a white cross on the stump of a large pine tree. Bob picturing in his mind the tight draw between the rock walls behind the stump. The small trail leading up to steep mountainsides and rocky cliffs above.
What exactly was this man, John, getting on about? There was no church in those parts. Bob’s mind quickly generated a million questions. A growing sense of suspicion set in on him. He was prone to doubt and inquirer. Trained from an early age to question everything, he was now questioning the integrity of this traveler. His father’s voice came to the back of his head, saying, “It’s what you don’t know, that causes blindness.” Bob vividly pictured the first time he ever heard his father say this statement of his. Then he remembered the litany of questions Bob asked in clarification. All his father said was, “Exactly, so glad you understand.” This response left young Bob more than a little confusion. But, over time ha came to understand, and soon it became his motto for everything in life. Bob asked his father questions about everything, and to his delight, his father would almost always answer them. Or, he would send Bob to who could.
Bob had opened up a stream of memories about his father. He was beginning to reminisce about a host of father and son moments when John cut in. “You OK there, my man?” asked John after seeing the forlong look in Bob’s eyes. “You suddenly turned a bit sullen.”
Bob ignored the attentiveness of his passenger. “Church, huh? I never knew of a church along that part of the road.” This was more as a statement than as an inquiry. The memories of his father had more or less pushed the concerns about the Church out of his mind. He decided he would rather know more about this “pilgrimage” John was on and where it was taking him.
“Today, it’s Fairplay.” John said, turning to Bob with a quizzical look and asked, “Just how far is that from here anyway?”
Now Bob was all in. This guy dressed in a dime store suit, from a foreign country, is standing on a blind corner, hitchhiking to an unknown location, in a dime store suit, on a cold, snowy mid-April morning. All this to do what? Complete some pilgrimage for the good Lord. After the events in Bob’s life over the past few days, this was just what he needed. The company of someone with a life just as whacked out as his own.
Chuckling a bit, Bob said, “About an hour from here and you are in luck, I am heading right through there.”
“Splendid! The receivers of the Lord’s prayers will be mightily comforted on this day.”
Bob just shook his head, grinned to himself, and downshifted. With a backfire, the Subaru sped up, and headed west.
hifted. With a backfire the Subaru blasted forward.