Not Long Tales … November 5th, 2019

Jonathots Daily Blog

(4219)

13.

Turnkey Dinner

Melanie Shakeland was the mother of two intelligent, talented, precocious sons, Maxwell, thirteen, and Johnny, ten.

Unfortunately, the boys were also poverty stricken, since their mother had been out of work for thirty-five days, and all the remaining finance had been used up in the pursuit of living and breathing.

They lived in a two-bedroom apartment at the Bermuda Manors, Room 1211. There were about seventy units in the building, with people of all nationalities, all ages and certainly all dispositions.

Melanie had made her run through all the agencies, charities, churches and generous friends and relatives in McKendree, Michigan. There was no one left to tap—no one who hadn’t heard her story of difficulty and struggle.

She made a plan.

Sitting and talking candidly with her two sons as if the three of them were board members from a Fortune 500 company, she explained her scheme. She was going to go somewhere to get money to pay their rent on October 15th, take care of the utilities and leave behind enough money for the two industrious young men to survive on for eats and treats until she returned to them by November 15th—with a new job, a new city and a new home.

Maxwell and Johnny could barely contain themselves with joy. Although they liked the McKendree school system and had many friends, it was embarrassing to be considered the “poor boys” of the class. They believed in their mother—actually, they believed in their mother more than their mother believed in herself.

Melanie took a deep breath and visited one more person—a minister who was new in town at the Universalist Unitarian Church. He was a foreigner from someplace in the Mideast. He was called Tanzier. He refused to be called Reverend, Pastor or any title whatsoever. Tanzier listened carefully to Melanie’s plight, which by this time she had perfected to a sharp, pointed edge. After she was done, Melanie was shocked when the young Arab man agreed to give her money for her October rent, utilities and also extra for food and gasoline.

Melanie was so startled and breathless over the blessing that on the way home she picked up a five-dollar pizza so they could celebrate with the remaining root beer in their last bottle.

She explained the plan one more time. She would be gone for one month. They were to tell nobody that she was out of town. The boys were to keep to themselves.

She showed Maxwell her signature, making him practice it so he would be able to fake school permission slips. She also created a fictitious relative named Aunt Mindy to deter those who might be so nosy as to challenge the situation. Mindy would be staying with them while their mother was away on business.

Although Maxwell and Johnny were frightened and saddened by the absence of their mother for a month, they were determined to do their part to help the family remain a family—and hopefully, with some good luck, become an everlasting family.

On the morning of October 15th, Melanie, having paid the rent and secured the utilities, rose and shared some toast and jelly with the boys before kissing them on the forehead and lips. She handed them two fifty-dollar bills, and with tears in her eyes, said, “Make it last.” She headed out the door.

Time passed. There were many close calls—folks who felt it was needful to talk to Mother Melanie. But the promise of Aunt Mindy—the reassurance that she would get back to them as soon as she could, eventually caused all parties concerned to back away and leave well enough alone.

The hundred dollars Melanie left behind spent pretty well, but after all, the boys were only thirteen and ten, and had little experience with purchasing groceries. They went through half the money in the first week, buying things to eat from the closest convenience store.

November 15th came and went. There was no contact from Mother Melanie. The same was true the next day and the day after. Maxwell encouraged Johnny, and Johnny was attempting to be uplifted—to give Maxwell some peace of mind.

Before they knew it, here came Thanksgiving Day. All they had left was eight dollars and forty-one cents. They nearly got into a fight on Thanksgiving morning, over who had spent too much money on what, and why some particular candy bar should have been avoided.

Just when they were about to start scuffling, Johnny stopped, looked Maxwell in the eyes, and whispered, “I don’t want to fight with you. You’re all I’ve got.”

The two boys broke into tears, grateful they were alone and such an action couldn’t be mocked by their friends.

“What are we gonna do?” whimpered Johnny.

“About what?” asked Maxwell.

“Thanksgiving,” replied Johnny, with a crackle in his voice.

Maxwell smiled. “You know, my brother, I’ve been thinking about that. I’ve got a plan, if you’ll help me. At school the other day, I looked up on the Internet the ingredients used for a Thanksgiving dinner. I wrote them all down. So I was wondering if you wouldn’t mind going to apartments and asking people if you could borrow some of these simple ingredients, because your mom ran out, or forgot to get it at the store.”

Johnny interrupted, upset. “Maxwell! You can’t ask people for a turkey!”

Maxwell patted him on the shoulder. “No, no, of course not. You see, that’s the beauty of the plan. What you do is ask them for this easy, cheap thing, and then when they invite you in to get it, you stare at something from their table, or maybe from their kitchen they’re preparing, and then—if my thinking is right—they might offer you a little bit of it. When they do, you can shy away like you’re upset that you got caught looking. That’ll only make them insist more. Then finally, let them give you a piece from the dish, and bring it back here. Take the thing you requested and leave, thanking them a whole bunch.”

Johnny stood and stomped his feet. “This ain’t gonna work,” he objected.

“Oh,” Maxwell said. “I see. I got it. I didn’t know you were Chicken Boy.”

Johnny hated to be called Chicken Boy. It was like pouring salt into his gizzard. “I ain’t no Chicken Boy and you know I ain’t no Chicken Boy!”

Maxwell spat, “Well, I know you think you ain’t a Chicken Boy. Since it’s Thanksgiving, maybe I should change it to Turkey Boy. Are you a turkey, Johnny?”

Even though Johnny wasn’t sure what was entailed in being a turkey, he was deeply offended, and threatened to punch his bigger, older brother in the belly. Maxwell blocked the punch and hugged him, holding his flailing arms.

“Listen,” Maxwell spoke into his ear. “Just try it once. If it doesn’t work, that’s fine.”

Johnny, still irritated and twitching, slowly nodded his head. Maxwell released his grip. “Here’s the first thing I want you to go after,” he said. “Poultry seasoning.”

Johnny crinkled his brow. “What’s that?”

Maxwell sighed. “I don’t know, and you don’t need to know either. It’s Mama stuff.”

Both Maxwell and Johnny thought it would be good to start on the furthest end of the building and work their way back toward 1211.

The plan worked at the first stop, where they offered Johnny a huge clump of pumpkin pie. When he went to the next unit, asking for cinnamon, he got some dressing. When he inquired about borrowing some aluminum foil, he was loaded down with a generous portion of mashed potatoes. At the next apartment, he requested corn on the cob holders, and they gave him a huge hunk of ham. Finally, when he was in search of a potato peeler, two ladies who happened to share a home both gave him treats—one, some corn on the cob, and the other, a salad (which had enough non-green things in it to make it look possibly edible).

It took about an hour and fifteen minutes, but the boys sat down at a table with a beautiful Thanksgiving dinner—and poultry seasoning, cinnamon, aluminum foil, corn on the cob holders and a potato peeler, just in case they ever needed them.

They were about halfway through their surprising feast when there was a knock at the door. Maxwell frowned, worried. Maybe somebody had become suspicious. Maybe they had noticed Johnny going to more than one apartment to borrow things. Or maybe, after a whole month and twelve days, some neighbor had put together what was really going on and was ready to uncork his or her opinion on the two befuddled lads.

Johnny looked at Maxwell and Maxwell back at Johnny. Should they answer the door?

They stayed as quiet as possible, but after the third knock, the visitor spoke from outside the door. “Maxwell? Johnny? Are you two boys in there?”

They immediately knew who it was. It was Mr. Caylens, one of the teachers at the McKendree School, who lived right down the hall. He was a nice fellow—kind, and always a little bit sad because he had lost his wife to cancer over the summer. But whenever he saw the two boys, he greeted them with gentleness and asked them about their studies and activities.

Still, Maxwell remained quiet, and held Johnny’s hand to keep him from responding. For some reason, Mr. Caylens refused to leave. “Maxwell? Johnny? I know you’re in there. I just saw you, not more than ten minutes ago, running down the hallway. That was you, Johnny, wasn’t it? I just wanted to step in and wish you a happy Thanksgiving. I brought some fried turkey I made this year—it sure is juicy and good.”

The two boys couldn’t help salivating. Although their dinner was quite impressive, the only turkey they had acquired had apparently died and dried out in the desert.

Maxwell considered his choice, and then all at once, spoke up. “Just a second, Mr. Caylens. Thank you for thinking of us.”

He walked over and opened the door. Mr. Caylens looked him in the eyes, but also gazed above his head, searching for an adult presence. “Is your mother here?” said the teacher.

“No,” said Maxwell. “I thought you knew that she went on a trip and left us with our delightful Aunt Mindy.”

Caylens laughed. “Is she delightful?”

Johnny stood to his feet and ran over to join them at the door. “She sure is, Mr. Caylens,” he piped in.

Caylens chuckled. “Well, if she’s that delightful, I certainly must meet her.”

He tried to step through the door, but Maxwell awkwardly blocked him. Mr. Caylens pulled back, a little startled, and Johnny tried to fill in the moment. “It’s interesting that you brought up the fried turkey, because Aunt Mindy just left to go pick ours up at the grocery store. I mean, it’s not frozen or anything—you probably saw the sign, that they cook turkeys, and she was just going down there to get ours, but this is gonna be great!”

Johnny reached up to take the turkey, wrapped in aluminum foil, from Mr. Caylens’ hands. Maxwell touched Mr. Caylens’ shoulder, trying to turn him to leave. “Yeah, this is going to be great. Aunt Mindy told us that sometimes those store-bought turkeys can be dry to the bone.”

Mr. Caylens paused. Although he had been guided to walk out the door, he turned back around and looked into the faces of the two boys, trying very hard to play their parts in the deception.

He had pretty well figured out that there was a problem when he overheard the landlord, who arrived on the fifteenth of November for the rent, and the boys explained that their mother was sending it in the mail, and it would be a few days. It just didn’t ring true.

Mr. Caylens had been a teacher for nearly twenty years, and he certainly could sense a ruse when it was trying to rise. He didn’t want to scare the boys, and certainly didn’t want to disrupt their unity.

Then, struck by a thunderbolt of inspiration, he said, “I don’t know whether you boys know this, but your mother did explain her plan to me.”

Maxwell looked over at Johnny, who was about ready to speak, excited at the prospect of an ally. Hurriedly, Maxwell stepped in. “What are you talking about, Mr. Caylens?”

Mr. Caylens leaned against the doorpost. “You know,” he replied. “The plan she devised so she could get back on her feet to take care of you boys.”

Maxwell was stumped. There was just enough truth in what Mr. Caylens said that he sure was tempted to believe that his mom had a backup person to watch out for them. After all, that would be pretty smart. And one thing Maxwell knew—his mama was a genius.

Johnny couldn’t stand the wait any longer. “She’s a few days late, Mr. Caylens,” he said. “She said it would just be a month, but you know how time can slip away.”

Mr. Caylens nodded. Even though Maxwell was still suspicious, he was also very tired of carrying the burden. He was weary of deceiving the teachers and friends who had once meant so much to him, but now were just obstacles to a private scheme.

Maxwell spoke very slowly. “I don’t know whether you’re lying to us, or trying to get information, or whether my mom did talk to you. What I want you to know is, if you have plans to mess with our plans, well…” He paused. “Well…”

Mr. Caylens interrupted. “Well what, Maxwell? Are you gonna kill me?”

Maxwell shook his head. “Hell, no! What would make you say a thing like that? I’m not a killer—and please forgive me for saying hell.”

Johnny interrupted, using his most mysterious voice. “I guess we just have to get you to swear to silence. You know—like a blood covenant.”

Mr. Caylens frowned. “Well, I certainly don’t know what you mean by that, but it doesn’t sound very good. Here’s what I can do. I can become Aunt Mindy.”

The two boys frowned at him. Mr. Caylens burst out laughing—like he probably hadn’t done for months. “What I mean,” he said, still chuckling, “is that I know there’s no Aunt Mindy. But you see, I’m right down the hall. I don’t need to move in with you, but I do need you to check in with me. And I need you to trust me to quietly find out what’s happened with your mother.”

Johnny looked up at him with big, brown eyes and said, “Sir, we’ve only got eight dollars and forty-one cents left—plus the food we were given by all the nice folks.”

Mr. Caylens reached over and ruffled his hair. “I don’t think it’ll bust my budget to help you all to keep groceries in the refrigerator. But here’s the one stipulation—”

Maxwell jumped in. “Now, I know you’re an English teacher, but does stipulation mean ‘rule?’”

Caylens nodded. “Yeah,” he answered. “Basically. Rule might be too mean. Stipulation is just an agreement. And here’s the stipulation. You will contact me when you come and go. You will let me know if you need something. You’ll let me do all the signing on the notes, and you’ll check in with me in the morning and before you go to bed.”

Maxwell and Johnny felt like slaves that had just been freed from a Roman galley ship. No longer would they have to lie, cheat, plot—and worse, scrounge. Johnny looked up into Mr. Caylens’ face. “Don’t worry, sir,” he said. “It won’t be long. Mama’s comin’.”

Caylens sat down with the boys that night, adding some leftovers from his own table, and he had a delicious dinner with the turnkey boys. As he left to go back to his apartment, wishing the boys a good night, deep in his heart, he knew there was something wrong.

He had always known Melanie Shakeland to be a solid person but being poor could make someone do poor things. He was doubtful that the boys would ever see her again. He was already formulating what he would have to do on the first of December when she didn’t return.

It was November 30th, in the afternoon, when Johnny knocked on Mr. Caylens’ door. Opening it, the young man said excitedly, “Can you come down to our apartment?” As soon as the words were out, he disappeared down the hallway.

Caylens slipped on a sweater and slippers and ambled down to their unit. The door was open, so he stepped in.

There was Melanie Shakeland, surrounded by two of the happiest boys that had ever been known.

She reached out, took Mr. Caylens’ hand and thanked him. “Maxwell and Johnny tell me that you figured out our little deception, and that you were good enough to watch over them. I’m sorry I was late. But I found a job. A good one. Actually, it’s kind of weird—I got a position as a nanny for a very wealthy family down in Grosse Point. I couldn’t come back on time because they were going to Europe and needed me to immediately move into the home to take care of their two children. I didn’t know how to get hold of the boys or what to tell them. I probably did wrong. But anyway, this family lives on beautiful grounds with a mansion and a house out back, that used to be called servant’s quarters. They’ve invited me to bring my two boys to live there, and to take care of their daughters. I don’t know how science, God or Mother Nature saw fit to bless me so. I just plan on trying to do my best to be worthy of it.”

Mr. Caylens was shocked to the point of tears, overcome with the emotion of being present for what could only be called a miracle.

For this mother he had presumed dead was alive.

She was lost, and now was found.

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Catchy (Sitting 31) Everything Butte That…January 14th, 2018

Jonathots Daily Blog

(3552)

Sitting on the tarmac in Butte, Montana, getting ready to lift off in the jet back to Las Vegas, Jubal Carlos desperately tried to capture pieces of his mind, seeming to float in his inner space.

The major question was very simple. What in the hell was he doing? He found himself interacting and working with people he hadn’t even known this time last year. They were nice enough, but a loneliness was settling into his soul–a yearning for purpose to join passion, to offer possibility.

The band he once loved was beginning to grumble and complain over the schedule, even though there was lots of money and a gentle atmosphere for the work. He cited to his mates that they were reaching people, but realized that they were becoming weary in all their well-doing.

The craziness of Washington, D.C. and the near-death experience of Jo-Jay hollowed out his insides.

But mostly, it was Butte, Montana. It was the most recently-selected little city to receive the noontime luncheon and show. Of the thirty-thousand-plus residents, a jubilant and warm-hearted five hundred came out to sit on the grass and “consider the lily.”

Shortly after the rally was over, Jubal excused himself and drove a rental car over to a nearby convenience store to buy snacks for the plane trip. In the parking lot he saw four young men sitting in the back of a pick-up truck, passing rifles back and forth.

It seemed fairly harmless.

Just before Jubal entered the store, one of the young men screamed across the distance, “So do you supposed to be Jesus?”

His comrades in the truck giggled.

Jubal just smiled, waved them off, and went into the store to acquire his delights. When he came out, the four fellows were gathered around his rental car. A shiver went down Jubal’s spine. Could be trouble. Yet small-town folks could just be curious, even though you’d swear it seemed threatening.

Jubal took a deep breath and walked to his car. He opened it, threw in his supplies and started to climb in himself when one of the young men grabbed his arm.

“You ain’t Jesus,” he said.

Jubal mustered his courage. “You sure are right. I’m not. No more Jesus than you are.”

“Well, I ain’t Jesus,” said another.

The boys showed no sign of being dangerous, but were certainly out on a lark, and Jubal realized that from their menacing profile, they could accidentally produce some mayhem.

A third one spoke. “We got all the Jesus we need here. What nationality are you anyway?”

Jubal smiled. “I don’t know. My mother died before I was two. My father split out after he found out I was gonna be born, and I don’t know where my grandparents are. So I usually have people guess. What nationality do you think I am?”

The fourth one piped up. “You look a little Korean.”

The other three laughed. “He ain’t no Korean,” said the second fellow. He was still holding his shotgun. The other three had leaned their weapons against the car, making Jubal’s departure more precarious.

The original fellow who had yelled across the parking lot offered, “I think he’s just a partially bleached-out nigger.”

“Now, Billy–you can’t say that word. It’s not proper,” laughed his friend.

“What? Bleached out?” said Billy, giggling.

Jubal decided it was time for him to use the gifts God had given him. “I could be bleached out,” he said. “You see, when I was a little boy, the foster home I was living in did laundry every Tuesday morning, and I wasn’t able to help much. So I sat on a stool nearby, watching all the grownups and older kids work on the clothes.”

Suddenly all four gentlemen were listening intently. Jubal continued. “Well, here’s what happened. Auntie Maria–that’s what we called her–well, she brought in a big bucket of bleach. And wouldn’t you know? I was so young and dumb I thought it was water. So when nobody was lookin’, I jumped in. I mean, the bucket was big enough to hold me, and I saw no reason to resist.”

There were a couple of snickers.

Jubal pressed on. “I wasn’t in the bleach very long. So I didn’t get totally bleached out, like you suggested. But word has it that before I went in that bleach, I was as black as an ace of spades.”

The young men stared at him curiously. Billy squinted. “So what you’re sayin’ is, you could be bleached out.”

“Maybe you are, too,” said Jubal.

Young Man Two jumped in, objecting. “No siree. I’ve been white all my life. I’ll live white and I’ll die white.”

“Well, I’ll probably die this color,” answered Jubal, “unless I get a hankering to jump in some more bleach.”

“You’re a dumbass,” said Billy flatly.

“Of course I am,” smiled Jubal. “What kind of idiot jumps in a bucket of bleach? So if you fine gentlemen will forgive me, I’ve got some friends waitin’ for me.”

There was a long pause as the group considered their options.They looked around the parking lot to see if they had gained any attention. There was a small crowd at the door, watching the events, since word had spread that the “Jesus fella” was in town and was picking himself up some Twinkies.

Billy peered at Jubal. “Do you think Jesus liked guns?” he challenged.

Jubal thought for a moment to make sure he portrayed that he was taking the question seriously. “I don’t know, Billy. I’m not real familiar with his feeling on firearms. But I do know that he loves people. And I do know he loves you fellas.”

They laughed him to scorn.

Billy turned to walk away, motioning to his friends to come on. “Like we were tellin’ you–we got plenty of Jesus here. You don’t need to come back.”

With a smooth, choreographed motion, Jubal slid into the car, shut the door and rolled down the power window. “Tell you what. Maybe I’ll just come back and see you guys. Thanks for the conversation. By the way, you didn’t ask me what I think about guns.”

Billy paused, turned around and frowned. “Well, that’s true.”

“You see?” said Jubal. “I’ve already got a reason to come back.”

He rolled up the window, started the car, backed up and drove away.

As Jubal sat on the plane, he realized that even though the moment in the Butte parking lot had been fraught with some danger, he loved it.

He loved the opportunity to meet people and see if he could sweeten their spirits and motivate their minds.

Off to Vegas.

Another three hours in the air, when he should be sleeping.

But his thoughts held him captive.

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It’s Me… February 26, 2013

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opossumI just stepped out for fifteen minutes to go get ice, chips and dip during one of those frenzied moments when you realize that you just can’t live without them.

My two sons, one twelve and one seven, were settled in, watching a TV show, so I felt fairly confident that I could leave, pick up my supplies from the local convenience store and be back before they even broke the trance, staring at the magic screen. I told my oldest boy that I was going to the store.

Upon arrival, I was not in the establishment for even two minutes, browsing, when a young man at the cashier stand called, “Is there a Mr. Cring here?”

Keep in mind–these were the days before cell phones, so it seems that my oldest son had tracked down the name of this store and called, apparently in desperation, to get hold of his dad. I picked up the phone and was assaulted with a nervous, excited and frightened jabber. Through the spurts I was able to figure out that my guy thought there was somebody at the back door, trying to get in the house.

Obviously, I was alarmed. I told him to lock the door and ran out of the convenience store (sans supplies). I drove to the house, parked the car and came around to the back door, where my son had heard the noise. There on the doorstep, banging its nose against the door for some inexplicable reason, was what seemed to be a very angry opossum, with some sort of bizarre agenda.

I could understand why my son was so frightened–it was really quite loud. Upon careful inspection, the possum, through determined smackings, had bloodied his own nose, and it was obvious to me that this was one crazed animal which I certainly did NOT want to deal with.

The possum turned, scowled and growled at me. Not knowing what to do and not having any weapon handy, I duplicated the scowl and growl, adding my own human flavor to it. To my delight and surprise, he turned on his paws and scampered across the back yard, out through the hedges and into the woods.

I was relieved. I was not an excellent possum fighter. Fortunately, I was not required to prove my prowess by disemboweling this creature. When I was sure the possum was long gone, I quietly knocked on the back door. There was a pause, followed by a wee, tiny voice barely resembling the first-born that I knew and loved.

“Wh-wh-who is it?”

“It’s me.”

That’s all I said. Suddenly the door flew open and gangly, awkward son leaped into my arms, hugging me and praising my role as his savior. I hadn’t identified myself in any way except through my voice. But because he knew he had called for my help, and I said I was on the way, he was not surprised when I arrived. He was not afraid to let me in. He was overjoyed.

It happened one night on a lake. Fishermen and good seamen, who should not have been terrified by a storm, were suddenly overtaken by uncontrollable anxiety. In the midst of that turmoil and anguish, a voice spoke through the darkness.

“It’s me.”

The very relieved and overjoyed fishermen received their friend into the boat … and the storm went away.

That night when I returned and was blessed by NOT needing to go on a possum hunt, I still was able to create an even deeper connection with my children because they recognized my voice, I came to their aid, and the danger disappeared.

I do not understand why we would think that teaching people to be afraid of God is a way of creating better humans and more devoted disciples.

Isn’t it preferable to believe, deep in your heart, that “Daddy’s home” … and all the bad things have run away?

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Terkel… February 23, 2013

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On the third day I decided to stop.

Sprawled on the gravel near the dumpster behind the convenience store, sitting out in front of my motel, was a man who certainly conveyed that he had lots of time on his hands and not too many places to go. I guess that’s a quaint way of saying–homeless.

I passed by him in my van the first two days, waving and smiling. On my first passage, he seemed a bit bewildered by my friendliness but on the second day he returned my greeting with the vigor of a long-lost friend watching his confidante fly off to Siberia on a secret mission.

But on the third day I decided to stop. I rolled up, eased my window down and said, “How ya’ doin’?”

Stumbling to his feet, staring into the distance and refusing eye contact, he replied, “Zeus has given me the light.”

I paused, recollecting my Greek mythology. Zeus was the top-dog god on Mount Olympus. I continued. “Zeus, huh? How’d you get an appointment with him?”

The question obviously baffled him so he continued his runaway train of thought. “Mercury gave me wings,” he proclaimed, still staring off into the distance.

It seemed we were going to run the entire roster of Hellenistic deities.

“What’s your name?” I asked.

There was a long pause. I decided not to repeat my question. I felt it would seem as if I were insensitive or impertinent. I just waited. At length, he responded.

“Terkel. T-e-r-k-e-l.” Each letter grew in pitch of volume and intensity.

“I would have guessed Brian or Kenneth based on your age,” I replied.

For the first time the trance was broken and he glanced at me with a crinkled brow. Noting his coherency, I asked, “So what are you doing out here behind the convenience store?”

He yelled, ‘The policeman said I could be here as long as I didn’t lean against the building and sat on the gravel. It’s public property.”

I obviously had struck a nerve.

“You misunderstood my question,” I explained. “What I’m asking you is, what’s your story?”

“Zeus gave me…” he began.

I interrupted. “Listen, Terkel. I don’t know whether you believe in Zeus or not, but let’s just pretend for a second that you don’t. If you’d like me to stop bothering you, I get it. But really, it’s quite simple. I have passed by you for two days and waved, and I thought i would stop this time–just to see if there was anything human that could happen between us.”

This time he paused, recollecting human manners. “Do you have any money?” he asked.

“You know I do,” I replied. “You see, they don’t let you leave the back end of the convenience store and roam around if you don’t have it.”

I think he smiled, which led me to believe there was a little bit more inside of him than just a supernal messenger from Zeus.

“Do you have any money you can give me?” he asked more pointedly.

I reached for my wallet, pulled out two one dollar bills, and as I was beginning to hand them to him he added, eyeing the cash, “Breakfast tacos are three dollars.”

“You  mean Zeus left you out here without breakfast?” I probed with a smile.

He smiled back, as if mirroring my image. I reached into my wallet and added an additional one to my offering. “Breakfast tacos it is, then.”

He took the money and inquired, “What’s your name?”

“This is gonna be weird,” I said. “My name is also Terkel. T-e-r-k-e-l.” I mimicked his previous bravado.

He chuckled in spite of himself. “You’re not Terkel,” he said.

“Neither are you.”

He chuckled again.

“You see, this wasn’t so bad. We talked for a minute, we got past the lineage of the Greek gods and you ended up with money for breakfast tacos.”

I reached down to close my window, finishing up the conversation. He stepped forward, and for the first time, looked me in the eyes.

“Thank you, Terkel,” he said. Then he stepped back and stared in the distance as if perched on the deck of the Santa Maria, peering for the north star. He mumbled something about Zeuss and collapsed onto the gravel in a giant heap.

I drove away. I do not know if I did a good thing or a bad thing. Such determinations, in my mind, are deliberated by foolish souls who pursue levels of divinity instead of acquiring the true depths of their humanity.

What I did was something different. And without difference, we are stuck with what and who we are … believing that nothing can change.

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