Problems: chapter 2

“So, whatcha going to Fairplay for my preacher friend?” asked Bob.

“To pray for the recovery of a soul,” John replied as he leaned forward as if to will the car faster onto their destination.  “An unfortunate young man with more than a few broken bones. He had an accident on the job site you see, and he needs some holy comfort from the church. Oh, and by the way, I am no preacher, just a helpful believer.”

As John told of the day laborers plight and his mission to help the poor man’s recovery, you could feel the exuberance emanating from him.  He sat in the passager seat, excited as a child on his way to Disney land and going on about the church and its long-standing part in the spiritual community. Bob could not help but smile and let the touched man blabber on.  It was a positive distract, and he had to admit the man could tell a store. But, the more John talked of his beloved church, the questions about the location of this church came back into the forefront of Bob’s thoughts.

Upon a rare pause, Bob quickly inserted, “About this church of yours.  Where exactly is it, and where do you come from yourself?”

John was thrown a bit by the questions leading him off his current flow of conversation.  He paused, then answered, “Ah yes, the accent.  It throws off a lot of you Americans.  Not quite limey, not really Kiwi, eh?”  He looked at Bob with a tilt of his head and raised eyebrows, but he could see that Bob was in no mood for guessing games. “Yes, right, I’m from the other down-under.  South Africa, mate!”

Bob nodded in genuine surprise,  admitting to himself that as Americans, we probably do overlook  South Africa. With all that Apartheid stuff, it might parallel an earlier time in our history a bit too close?  “And, the church?”

“Yes, the chapel of St. Martins.  Wonderful little place.”

“St. Martins, like the one in Kent, Scotland?”

John turned to Bob with a raised eyebrow. “Just the same.”

“The oldest church in the English speaking world, I believe.”  Bob was upon these things.  The historical nature of his family and his high position required he had knowledgeable around all spiritual affairs.

“Precisely, mate!” John leaned forward even more to emphasize his approval. “I am impressed indeed.”

“Funny,  I know these parts quite well.  Might say it’s part of my heritage.  Never knew of or seen a church in those parts.”

“Well, let’s just say this one here is somewhat of a franchise.  A smaller, less obvious version of the flagship store or chapel as it may be. You Americans like your franchises.  McDonald’s and all that.”  John seemed very satisfied with his explanation and sat back in his seat with his arms crossed.  Like an overconfident poker player after laying down his full house.  As he gazed out the windshield, his mind seemed to be concentrating on something in the not so distant, time, space, or otherwise.  Bob could almost feel the energy emanating from the man as he kept his eyes on the snow-covered road. Then John leaned forward again and squinted his eyes. Bob hadn’t noticed this, but he did feel it.

Bob was just about to challenge the franchise metaphor when from his left, a sizable buck lumbered from the roadside trees.  This came as no real surprise to Bob since the deer were thick in these parts.  He was fast yet smooth to the brakes and the shifters.  The car quickly slowed, and the seat belts locked in as they filled up with their body weight.  The buck stopped in the oncoming lane in an uncertain stance as deer do.

Here is the part that always gets sticky.  Is the buck going to spook across the road, or back to the trees or just stand still?  These three options determine the next set of actions and all in a critical second.  Then the weight hit the front tires, and the back end started to come around to the right.  Throttle! Bob thought.  Lightening up on the brakes and bringing it down one more gear Bob eased into the gas just enough to start veering right.  Straightening out the back end and propelling them forward. Bob was betting on the buck standing still.  This was based more on the lack of distance between the beast and the car than any skill.   Bob stared at the buck.  The buck stared back at Bob.  Or was it, John?

“Staaayyyy” Bob calmly said as if it was a dog waiting for its treat.  The buck crooked its head sideways as if listening. They slid just passed the majestic beast with six inches to spare.  He jumped back on the gas and worked his way up through the gears to cruising speed.  Bob’s shoulders released the tense moment back into the leather seat.  With a quick glance in the rearview mirror, Bob saw the buck turn and bound back into the woods.

“Nice work, my man” John had not moved a stitch from his cocky poker player positioning. Bob was somewhat impressed and somewhat not sure about the timing of these events.  Either way, the church had fallen from his questioning mind, and a renewed concentration on the road took over.

The snow was thinning as they left the Front Range and into the Platte River Mountains.  Must have been an upslope storm, Bob thought.  There won’t be any snow by Kenosha Pass, and sure enough, this was true.  Moving along at a quicker pace now, Bob kept it all to 10 miles over the speed limit.  Although the local police have a good working relationship with the Alfson Clan, the state police are always changing.  A newly stationed young recruit would enjoy nothing less than harassing an action seeking Denver-ite heading to the hills.  No time to haggle my way out of a ticket today, thought Bob.  She hates it when people are late.

Then as sudden as ever, John was leaning forward again in anticipation. “Nothing like a bit of a dance with danger, eh, my man? The buck and all.  It reminds me of how I found my calling. My special ordained gift. My power!”  John launched unprovoked into his story.  Bob quickly realized nothing would stop him from talking on, but he was a good storyteller, and Bob was in the mood for some distraction.

 

  I was just a young lad of about 12 or so, on our family farm down in South Africa. My father was warning me of the dangers once the animals would come.  Come to take over, he would say. They will come with a vengeance, like a lioness after the hyena, for the killing of a cub. The family and farm will be in terrible danger, my father would say.  They will take our land, and they will make us pay.  This will be our penance for the social order we have created.   It was the correct order, my father would say.  The only one to keep us all in our proper stations.   The only way we can all get along.

 

Bob was putting two and two together and getting a bit uncomfortable with the undertones of bigotry in the beginning of this story.  John was telling it so matter of the fact that Bob possibly thought this god-fearing Christian was just another unabashed hypocrite, using the lord’s good book as a shield to excuse his profound transgressions against select parts of society.  He had seen this done plenty in his own world with rune stones, sticks, and bones.  His family often looking to the gods for some divine immortal reason to be less than human.  Then John got downright fervent and took his story a direction Bob would never have seen coming.

 

    Old man Calvin showed up one day to cut down some large dyeing trees for my father.  The kind of trees with limbs, that when set free from life, tend to kill roofs, fences, and so much more.  Well, Old man Calvin was just that, old.  He was an accomplished arborist, but time had taken away his ability to shimmy up a tree.  So, this day I was to be his assistant.  I was eager and ready to please, as well as show off for the older man.  I took to climbing the first big old tree and cutting off the smaller limbs.  I threw all safety to the side, singing about with a small chainsaw from the upper branches.  I pruned the first tree down to the main trunk and some sizable limbs.  What was left stood approximately Twenty meters tall.

    The old man went to work on the base with his long blade chainsaw, pounding in wedges as needed to keep the blade free from pinching.  I was mesmerized by the saw and skill of this 70-year-old powerhouse of a man.  By now, a crowd of workers had gathered to watch the falling of the old monster.  Another inch of cutting and the remaining fibers would let loose and the slow arching fall would start.

    With a series of cracks and pops, the splintering of the truck begun, and the tree started to topple slowly.  I moved my eyes from the top of the tree to the surroundings and the landing zone.  This was when things slowed down.  Well, At least for me, they did.  At this moment, I had an undeniable feeling that everything was not right.  This tree was not falling where we thought it should, and where it was headed was not good.  Just to the right of the planned landing zone was a chicken yard.  In the yard was a young girl.  I say young, but she was just about the same age as me.  She was not watching the spectacle but doing her job and feeding the chickens.

    A voice sounded in my head and told me to run to her!  Don’t worry. I will protect you, Run! The voice said again.  So, I did!   I ran to her.  Without a sound, I ran.  The tree fell faster and faster.  The silence of its fall was full of violence. The speed of my feet was full of God!  My head was full of God.  I was a messenger of God! This, I knew as truth.

 

By now, John was downright regal as he sat up even straighter, and his head cocked back.  The man’s story and the storyteller were fully entertaining Bob.  Not like some astonished believer but by the theatrics.  His inner 12-year-old was snickering at the pure Baptist style preacher voice of the pale round man.  John continued after a dramatic pause.

 

    I bounded over the fence and dove at the girl. I tackled her to the ground as the tree released itself from its silence and crashed against the ground.  The land wasn’t the only casualty of the old beast.  The tree pinned both of us beneath a crook of the first significant limb.  She screamed and squirmed with fear beneath me.  The tree answered back with a moan and a creek and a little more pressure as it settled on us.

     I will not let you be harmed. The voice filled my head again.  With this, I gained my senses.  The voice was right; God was right. I was unhurt, and so was the servant girl. True, the tree had us pinned, but we were all fine. They pried the tree off of us, and that was that. So, danger, I quite like it.  Especially knowing who has my back.

John sat back, folded his arms as if he just set down a royal flush.  “Ya see mate, I’m touched, and that is my power.”

All of this was way too much for Bob.  The voice, the racial undertones the theatrical sale of the story.  He wanted to ask around a million questions, but he didn’t know where to start. Was the voice real? Was God always with him, or was it just periodically?  I mean, was it like all of a sudden god shows up and says, “Ok, I finally finished up with the Pope. Now John, what kind of trouble can we get you in or out of today?”  Was god talking to him right now?  These are not far off from the same questions Bob always wanted to ask his father’s shamans.   Well, I guess there my shaman now, he thought, and the darkness started to creep over him.

John spoke up and saved Bob form his memories. “So my savior, maybe I should know your name.  That way I know what to call you and all.  Calling you ‘My savior,’ would be a bit odd, don’t ya think?” said John with another broad smile. “And, if ya don’t mind sharing, what is your special power?”

Bob shook off the growing cloud. “Damn, Twenty-five minutes down and one hell of a good story from yourself, and I have still not properly introduced myself.”

“Yes, well, I tend to take over on the conversation front, if you couldn’t tell.”

“The Regulator.  That’s what my associates call me.”  this came out in an awkward formal tone, fitting him like an adult tie on a five-year-old.  John’s face was expressionless.  Not easy for a man, touch by God, but for the first time since they had met, John was speechless.

“The Regulator,” John finally said flatly and turned to look out the window.  It was not said in a questioning way but more in a manner to try it out.  He said it a few time to himself as he stared out the window.  He said it as if he was re-discovering a lost memory or experience.  Then seeming satisfied, he turned back. “Right, and what special power do you have? A man with the name The Regulator must have some sort of powers? Or are you just another ordinary person wandering through life with no purpose?”  John looked hard at Bob. “No, I don’t think so.  I know a man with a purpose, and you, my friend, have an immense purpose.”

Bob was hoping the name thing would distract John from the whole special power thing, but no such luck.  Now John wanted to know if he had a purpose.   Bob was not very open about himself, as it was an occupational hazard.  Bob was also a horrible liar.   Typically, when people asked him about his occupation or activities, he kept his answers simple,  Like “I’m a programmer.”  Most of the world enjoy the benefits of technology; few are interested or care about how it all works.   So most of the time, he would say programmer. Then he would get a polite smile, and the conversation would move on to more generic pastures.   Bob could tell that John was not a typical person.  He was inquisitive and would most likely want to know more about Bob’s current project. Since Bob had no actual working knowledge of programming, and for some reason, felt comfortable around this odd stranger, Bob decided to let John in a little.

“I am in the family imports and information business.  And, let’s face it, in any business problems will arise.  Sometimes there is a need to protect our interest and the interest of our partners or clients.  Problems can come in all shapes and sizes. When they arise, these problems need to be solved.  Most of the time, they need to be solved discretely.  But, ever now and then, I get to make a show of it all. You might say the most important thing is for these problems to go away.  That is where I come in.  I am The Regulator of problems.”

“Ah yes, every successful business is run on critical thinking and problem-solving. Or so I am told,” said John

“Yes, well, you could call it that.  let’s just say I’m very good at making problems disappear.” Bob was starting to fade into himself as he cryptically explained his ‘special power.’  A multitude of family memories washed through his head in a matter of seconds. Memories drenched with the hard work of many generations who constructed the reality Bob lives in today.  “Fact is, every problem I have set off to solving has never been an issue again…Ever.”  This last word was quietly blown from his lungs and hidden in a sigh. The forever in the word ‘ever’ hung in the air.  It made the car feel a little smaller.

John was quiet as he contemplated the words and looked straight ahead. What John was not, was surprised. After a few moments, he said flatly, “Your father must be very proud of you.  Being so good at your job in the family business and all.  Must give the whole family a good sense of security.”

This was not what Bob expected to hear.  In fact, he was not expecting John to say anything else the rest of the way to Fairplay.  John was not what he seemed, and this made Bob a bit nervous.  Too many wrong things had been happening lately.  Too many unplanned things and John was becoming an extension of that.  In Bob’s world, everything was calculated and ordained.  Bob’s whole life was based on things happening for precise reasons.  The precision was typically a product of Bob’s doing.  He was excellent at controlling situations.  Or, at least that’s how it had been, until lately.  You might say the master plan was not going as scheduled.  Too many unexpected events had been taking place.  Bob was starting to look at John as one of those unexpected events.  John was not on Bob’s schedule, and Bob was beginning to feel an enormous need to get back on schedule.

Ten miles to Fairplay said the sign. After nine silent minutes, the odd couple had arrived.  Bob Eased the car on to the side of the road at the main intersection of 285 and 9.  He looked over at John’s full face.  Bob saw an old soul with what seemed like more knowledge than time itself.  He thought he even saw a touch of fire in Johns’ eyes.  As in actual flames.  He found himself wanting to sit with the odd preacher man and ask him a ton of questions.  Perhaps another day.  Bob had a feeling he would be seeing this man again, and today, time was not on his side.

After an awkward silence, Bob spoke up. “Hope the worker heals well, but I have a feeling your presence will secure that.  Have a good day Sir John.” He was not sure why he added the ‘Sir’ part.

“Thanks for the lift and the stirring conversation!”  John extended a heavy hand, and Bob met it with a firm grip and quick shake. “Until we meet again.”

As John un-wedged himself from the car, he bent and turned back in to face Bob. “Mr. Regulator, would you by chance be willing to make a small donation to the Chapel of St. Martin’s?”

Bob looked at John and, with a slight smile and earnest eyes, “Ya know, John, I figured the ride would be donation enough.  You don’t want to become a problem now, do ya?”  Bob pointed a finger up and said, “I already have a cargo box full of problems.  I really don’t have the time right now for anymore… problems.”

John pursed his lips and nodded his head. “Right then! Have a wonderful day.”

Regulator Bob watched the door close, checked the mirrors, and pulled on to 285.  He looked at the clock on the dashboard and thought; The old woman will not be pleased.

 

 

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