General Fiction posted February 28, 2016

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A conversation about religion

God works in mysterious ways!

by Bar62

My name is Rickie Shapiro, I am a divorced 60-year-old man who owns a small, very successful café, on Hwy. 36, about 15 miles on the outskirts of Forest Glen, in Trinity County, Calif. it’s a pretty rural area, not many café’s or restaurant’s for many miles in either direction. Consequently, the joint is almost always standing room only! I have three employees; a cashier, a waitress, and a busboy/dishwasher. I am the cook and fill in as waiter, and dishwasher in a pinch. What I would like to share with you is one of the most fascinating, and yet troubling conversations that I have heard in quite a while. As the proprietor of the Café’, I have heard some very wild stories. This particular conversation took place in Rickie’s Rockin’ Café’, a week ago Saturday, and man let me tell you it was coming down in buckets. I expected to see the Ark sailing by any time. And you know I was not the only one experiencing biblical images.
The place was close to capacity, as usual, mostly truckers, and a handful of regulars. About 8 pm, a middle-aged man walks through the door and makes his way to the only vacant table in the place. The door barely closes when another man, much younger, comes in looking for a place to dry out and get a warm cup of Joe. I ask the middle age guy if he would mind if the young man shared his table. The man looks at the young drenched, disheveled man, and then gestures to the empty chair, indicating his answer in the affirmative.
“Thank you; man I have never seen it rain like this. My name is Bear.” he says, extending his hand.
“Brian.” The middle-aged man says returning a rather weak shake.
The final participant in this conversation walks through the door, and heads turn. This woman was a ‘looker’. Well everyone else in the joint was settled in, so I once again asked the two strangers if they would mind having one more share their table. The young man was very open to the suggestion and pulled out the last empty chair with a large welcoming smile. Brian, was kind of indifferent and again just gestured as if to say “whatever.”
So the characters are all in place, I’ve got meals to prepare; take a listen to the conversation. Tell me what you think?

“Hello I’m Bear, hell of a storm huh?"
“Lord knows we need the rain, we’ve been in a drought for the last three years. My name is Mary; it’s a pleasure to meet you. Did you say your name was Bear?”
 “Yes Ma'am, well my birth given name is Barry, but I kind of have always liked the name Bear, and people have been calling me Bear for years. So I decided I would start introducing myself as Bear.”
“I see, if you don't mind I would prefer to use your “God-given” name?”
“Hmm, well the thing is Mary, I don’t really put much stock in the God thing.”
“Oh my, what exactly do you mean by the God thing?” Mary asked obviously troubled by Bear’s response.
“What I mean is I don’t believe in a God, not, at least, the God that I hear so much about. I mean there is so much misery, hatred, and suffering in this world, what's this God doing to make things better? It just seems to be getting worse, not better.” Bear answers confidently in his position.
“This is quite disturbing, I am so sorry that you have no faith. You’re like a ship without a rudder, floating with no direction; I feel sorry for you.”
 “I must disagree with you Mary, I have both faith and direction. I have faith in myself and I know exactly where I’m headed.” Bear says a little defensively.
“You're awfully quiet, I didn’t even get your name.” Mary addresses Brian.
“My name is Brian. This storm is just the beginning of what is coming to cleanse the earth.”
“Ah a man of faith, how refreshing. Maybe you can talk some sense into your young friend here.” Mary says naively.
“You reach some careless conclusions, this young reprobate is as much a stranger to me as yourself,” Brian says in a quiet controlled voice.
“Hey, what’s a reprobate? I don’t fancy being called names, especially names I don’t know what they mean.”
“May I ask your particular faith, what I mean is what or who do you align yourself with?” Mary puts to Brian.
“I am associated with the Evangelical Lutheran Church.” Brian answers.
“What in the world are you doing in this part of the country?” Mary presses Brian for more information.
“I prefer not to discuss my business, especially in ear-shot of a non-believer.”
“What’s there to believe in? What I do believe in is what I can see, feel, hear and smell. All these senses inform me that there is plenty of negative stuff that we all encounter every single day of our lives.  I do not believe in some guy with a long white beard, sitting on a throne and calling the shots.” 
At this point in the conversation, I approached the table to take their orders. “Well folks have you decided on what you want, we do have a few specials, do you want me to go over them?”
“I’m ready to order, I’m famished,” Bear speaks up.  
“What’s it going to be son?” I say, pen at the ready.
“I’m going to have your brisket sandwich with the works, mashed potatoes, and salad with Italian dressing. Oh, and a Humboldt IPA.”
“Good choice,” I say.
“And you Ms.?”
“I’m just going to have a bowl of your chicken soup,” Mary responds.
Brian says, “Just keep this coffee coming and make sure it’s hot.” Normally I impose a $5.00 minimum so as to avoid the all-night coffee hound, but I was finding the conversation so interesting, I decided to let the minimum go unspoken.
“Not a problem, Ricky’s Rockin’ Café is known far and wide for its bottomless coffee pot!”
“You know partner, I get the distinct impression that you don’t care much for me. What I want to know is what did I do or say that put you in such a foul ass mood?” Bear confronts Brian.
Brian looks at Bear with such disgust bordering on rage, he then takes a cigarette out of an inside pocket in his jacket, starts to light it until he feels the eyes of the café staring at him. He thinks better of lighting the cigarette, returns it to his pocket and then says to Bear,
“The truth is I don’t dislike you, that would require some energy output on my behalf. I really have taken very little notice of you, but what I have noticed is that you, like our sweet, simple, God-fearing table companion noticed; have no direction in your life, you wander aimlessly, not leaving any lasting impact on what you might encounter. The fact that you do not believe in God does not surprise me; it fits with your personality type.”
“Where do you get off making statements like that? You don’t know me at all, and you think you can paint me into a corner?”
“Wait a dang minute, I think I resent being referred to as that sweet, simple table companion!“ Mary says as if she just got the subtle insult.
"You think you resent, I know I resent being talked to in such a demeaning way. I don't know what you're all about buddy, but I don't think I want any part of it." Bear says with a noticeable hint of anger.
Brian looks up at Bear and for the first time that evening, a smile crosses his face.
"Ah anger, there may be hope for you yet," Brian says with a bit of a chuckle
"Take a leap," Bear says.
Brian then asked Mary if she is familiar with the Planned Parenthood Clinic in Redding, Shasta County.
"No, I am not familiar with that facility."
"There's a doctor, a Dr. George Biltmore, that has been doing abortions at an alarming rate; he's killing babies, left and right, with no concern for mothers or child." "He needs to be stopped."
"Abortion is so wrong, if only people could accept that life begins at conception." Mary comments.
"I think abortions should remain the decision of the pregnant woman. It should not be left up to the state or Feds to decide, a woman should have the right to determine what's the best thing for her to do." Bear shares his opinion.
“That is so naïve, you are condoning murder!” Mary says righteously
"Childbirth is a holy occasion, God is an active participant in the birthing experience. To terminate a pregnancy is like taking a piece of God." Mary continues.
"I believe our young rebel has a number of contrary opinions to what you and I would agree on." Brian shares with Mary.
"For instance, what are your feelings about homosexuality?" Brian asked Bear.
"I believe that two consenting adults, regardless of their gender should be able to engage in whatever type of relationship they choose. Be they two men, two women or transgender individuals."
“Oh please, the thought of two men or two women together makes me ill.” Mary interrupts the exchange between Brian and Bear.
“Really, I kind of get off on two women, but whatever the formula is, as long as they are both consenting adults, everyone else should mind their own damned business,” Bear states emphatically.
“It’s not up to the state or Feds to decide what is best for it’s gay, lesbian, and transgender individuals. I support same-sex marriage.”
"It figures. I believe that any form of homosexuality is a cataclysmic mistake, and should be dealt with immediately and severely.” Brian says with some emotion entering his voice. The bible says homosexuality is an abomination and warrants the death penalty.” Brian continues.
“Speaking of the death penalty, I believe I can guess your thoughts on this topic.” Brian queries.
“I believe it should be abolished. There is no proof that the death penalty has reduced other violent crimes, or has been an effective deterrent in preventing those crimes that currently carry the death penalty. We spend way too much money on incarceration of prisoners. We need radical changes in our prison system.” Bear shares his thoughts.
“What about someone who loses it and goes on a rampage, killing innocent men, women, and children?” Mary puts the question to Bear.
“They obviously need psychiatric help. We need to spend much more time and money on mental health services. They should be sentenced to life without a chance of parole unless they can prove that they have been rehabilitated.” Bear answers directly.
"You know the two of you are beginning to freak me out," Bear says to both of his companions.
Mary was unable to let go of Brian’s comment about the abortion Doctor needing to be stopped. "I know I shouldn't ask, but you peeked my curiosity when you said this doctor has got to be stopped," Mary questions Brian.
Brian says nothing but instead takes a small pocket sized new American standard bible out of another jacket pocket. He randomly opens the bible and begins to read to himself. Mary is both intrigued and pleased that she is sharing a table with an obviously religious man. She begins fishing in her purse and after sometimes pull out her own bible, the King James Version.
Mary concentrates on her bowl of chicken soup, not wishing to know any more of what Brian might be meaning by “He needs to be stopped.” Bear does not want to get any more involved in the secretive life of Brian; he is getting a rather uncomfortable feeling that Brian is planning something that is not at all what Bear wants any part of.
“Tell me about this God of yours, why is there still such horrible shit happening to so many people if in fact this God is so loving and all-knowing?” Bear makes an attempt at to establish a normal conversation.
“A legitimate question which deserves a straight answer,” Brian says in response.
“This is not going to satisfy you, but all I can say is that God works in mysterious ways.”
“Man, you are so right, that answer does not in any way answer my question!”
“I believe you have to find that answer for yourself, have you ever tried having a conversation with God?” Mary suggests to Bear.
“No, not believing in a God makes it somewhat difficult to start up a dialogue.“
Mary finishes her bowl of Chicken soup, Bear knocks down his second pint of Humboldt IPA, and the sky outside continues to dump water, flooding roads and highways, turning the northern California counties into giant lakes.
Brian sipping on his never-ending cup of mud, reading his pocket bible and periodically checking his watch. Bear notices Brian’s preoccupation with the time, and finally, asks Brian,
“You going somewhere brother? You keep peeking at your timepiece, looks like you have somewhere else to go.”
“Not that it’s any of your business, but I have a meeting in Redding in an hour and a half.”
Mary almost jumped out of her seat when she learned that Brian was going to be in Redding. She put two and two together and came up with minus one! The minus one was none other than Dr. George Biltmore. Mary was aware that there existed people on the far-right; religious extremist, who advocated the killing of doctors who performed abortions. Their defense being one of a Defense of Necessity. That is, the taking of a life was necessary to save the life of the unborn!    
Brian gets up to go to the restroom, on his way to relieve himself he stops at the kitchen and ask me how long it will take to drive to Redding.
“On a normal day I would say to give yourself two hours, but given the weather and the current road conditions, I would tack on another hour to your trip.” Brian takes care of his business and then gathers his few possessions and starts towards the exit.
Mary stops Brian and attempts to talk him out of his meeting with destiny.
“Brian, please reconsider what you are planning to do. I feel your angst, and I am right there with you in your belief that abortion is murder, but please, PLEASE, don’t throw your life away. You have so much to live for.”
“Mary, you’re a very nice woman, you have a good heart, and you have faith in God. You will be rewarded in the world to come. But, you know not of what you ask of me. There is so much more involved in this scenario then meets the eye. So much more at stake than just one life! I must leave now, I have already stayed longer than intended.” Goodbye, sweet, innocent Mary.”
With that Brian leaves the café’, gets in his Mercedes Benz and peels out of the small parking lot.   
Mary returns to the table where Bear is working on a third pint.
“So, what’s up with Brian, he left in kind of a hurry? “ Bear asks Mary.
“I pray that Brian changes his mind, and is alright. He is a very dedicated man.”
“A little bit out there if you ask me.” Bear remarks.
“No one asked you,” Mary says annoyed by Bear’s whining.
The following morning in the Trinity Journal, there was a short Sherriff’s dept. report on a fatal vehicular accident. It was a head-on collision on County Hwy-A16 near Placer Rd. The driver of a Mercedes Benz attempted to pass a logging truck on the left, in doing so he ran head-on into a Louisiana Pacific logging truck. The driver of the Mercedes Benz was killed on impact. The driver of the logging truck suffered minor injuries. The driver of the Mercedes-Benz was identified as Brian Curtis, 56 years old. From Mosinee, Wisconsin      
God cerainly works in mysterious ways!

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