Saturday, August 27, 2005

Water and Cigarettes

Luke, Roy and I were a few hundred miles into our return trip to Nashville from northern Ontario. It has been our custom for many years to make a fishing trip with a few other dads and sons every other summer to the beautiful Trophy Waters north of Kenora. Although a very long trip by car, my boys and I always enjoyed the drive. We had just crossed back into the states at International Falls and stopped at one of those places that sell moccasins and maple syrup to exchange some loonies, grab some road food and pee. Luke and I had somehow separated from Roy during our brief respite but as we arrived back at the car we saw him sitting in a doorway talking to a fellow who appeared to be of Native American descent. The fellow also appeared to be down on his luck. Roy and his temporary pal were smoking and smiling. When Roy saw Luke and me getting into the car he got up, came over to our vehicle, reached inside the window for the pack of cigarettes and large bottle of cold water he had just purchased and said he’d be right back. Luke and I watched him walk back to the doorway and hand his new friend a pack of Camel Lights and a bottle of spring water. They shook hands, Roy hopped in the car and we headed south to Nashville.

Deep into the morning I was back behind the wheel taking my 2nd shift. The boys were asleep and, as I usually do, I scanned the AM radio dial to find some lathered up preacher spewing fire and brimstone at a stunned congregation. I found one. The guy was screaming about sin and hell and deprivation and evil and drugs and Hollywood and booze and abortion and Satan and gambling and tobacco and AIDS and homosexuals and dancing and female ministers and Democrats and liberals. If he ever got to the part about mercy and grace and ‘the least of these’ I didn’t hear it. I turned off the radio before this lunatic finished his message.

In the blue and moody expanse of the lonely Interstate my mind locked on these two events and it was apparent to me that somebody had experienced the gospel today - on a doorstep in International Falls. I paused and listened to the sounds of my two boys sleeping in the back of the car. My hand reached out for the radio but I pulled it back. I took a big gulp of cold water and lit a smoke.


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