Sunday, May 29, 2016

Juggernaught: Chapter 2 - Passing the Torch

Michael Moast stood outside the room, waiting anxiously.

As he did, he looked over the waist-high marble pillars lining the corridor.  Halogen spots captured each in a field of dazzling light.

The spacious corridor looked like an exhibit hall of a museum.  Atop the pedestals, one might expect to see busts of famous playwrights, objects of sculpture, or priceless historical artifacts.  Instead, these carried what appeared to be random swap-meet finds. 

The one which Michael looked upon now carried a torn Harvard sweatshirt.

The natural deep crimson of the school colors made it hard to see the blood stains unless one knew where to look.

Michael did.

It used to be his.

"You remember that job?", said a voice behind him, and gave a small laugh.

"Of course", he replied, "how could I forget?"

"Hey."  said the other.  She took a step closer and squeezed his arm.  "Look at me."

He obligingly did.  His prim and proper wife Melinda looked back.  She refused to say more until he made eye contact.

He did.

She smiled.

He couldn't help it.  He smiled back.

"There.  That's better.

"You know, God brought us all together for His good reasons.  If He wants this thing to end, it'll end."

"I know." said Michael simply.

Silence hung a long time as the two turned back to the familiar object on the pedestal.  They looked at it, but did not see it.  Their thoughts were too far away.

Michael spoke again.  "I know, but it seems like... like..."

" we're not done yet." she completed his thought, as she often did.

Michael nodded.

The stillness was broken with the sound of a door latch.  It echoed like a gunshot in the quiet of the grand hall.

Michael spun to see Miss Maarm standing on the other side.  The woman was as deceptively straight-laced as a third grade teacher, but, chillingly dangerous when she had a mind to be.

"Come in.  They'll see you now."

Michael and his wife followed her into the room.  From the wing chairs to the gigantic tiger head over the roaring fireplace, Dr Carl's personal apartment looked like a gentleman's club straight out of Victorian London. 

Had Phineas Fogg or Dr Livingston walked in puffing on a pipe, none would think anything of it.

Indeed, the man himself stood over by the fireplace, one booted foot on the hearth, arm on his knee, and chatting quietly to a man in silk pajamas.
The other nudged him and pointed.

Carl dropped his foot to the floor and straightened up to his full height.  What an impressive height it was, too!  The man directly hailed from an African tribe in the Congo, known for their massive size.  Though he had plenty of years left, he was certainly slowing down.  White had also invaded his crew-cut hair and bristly mustache.

"Michael." he acknowledged slowly.

His somber face did not bode well for this conversation.

He had promised himself (and his wife) that he was going to stay calm and take whatever came.  He had really intended to, too.  Now, however, his instinct for quick action, gained the upper hand and he blurted out,  "We can't dissolve the Bible Study!"

Carl raised an eyebrow.

Michael's eyes flicked from him to the man in pajamas standing next to him.  "Dr Puttery?"

He looked away, apparently finding some sudden attention-grabbing fact to stare at in the drink in his hand.

He turned to the char next to him.  "Blevens?"

The man was still wrapped up like a mummy from his burn treatments.  He tried to shake his head, but it hurt.  Instead he said hoarsely, "Nah.  I still got a lotta fight left in me!" 

He laughed. 

It hurt so bad it trailed off in a squeak of pain.  He began to cry.

The ladies rushed to his side.

"He's going back to his father's store."  explained Miss Maarm.

She glared back at Michael and added, "...where he belongs."

Michael only had one last appeal.  "Ms McCready?", he pleaded, "Surely you, of all people aren't ready to just give up all the adventure?"

The ex-secret-ops markswoman patted the thick mitt of Bleven's bandaged hand.  She looked over at Carl. 

The two locked eyes for a long time.

She looked away first.  "Ah, Michael", she sighed.  "These old bones ain't what they used t' be.  When a woman reaches a certain age, she belongs at home, plantin' flowers... maybe bakin' a little."

"You?  Bake?", Melinda couldn't help but laugh.  The laughter hung in the air like a dead fish.

Ms McCready was a woman who had lost the life she loved and was trying to find a new place in this world.  That was nothing to laugh about.

A sad pall hung over the room.

Carl walked over to Michael and placed a giant palm on his shoulder.  "I'm sorry, son, but this is just the way of things.  Generations come and generations go.  Now it has come time for the world to spin on without ours."

"No!" he said, slapping the friendly hand away.  "I refuse to accept that!  We are the salt and the light of this world!  If Christians refuse to act, what hope is there left!??"

Carl's lips drew back, showing his gleaming white smile -- the smile Michael had hoped to see upon entering.

"Oh, no.  You mistake me.

"Just as the previous generations passed their torch on to us, now it is time for that responsibility to pass to you."

Michael's eyes grew wide.  He took a step back.  In his life he had already been in countless hair-raising perils, but that moment left him more terrified than any other.


"I can't go on without you!"

Carl shook his head.

"For years I have watched you grow as a man.  I stood beside you at your wedding.  I trained you in business savvy and how to be wise, and to fight.  Yes.  Yes you can go on -- because you must.

"And if I know anything about you, you are a man who can always do what he must!"

Michael didn't know what to say as the former Bible Study members each shook his hand and congratulated him on their way out the door.

Their way out the door, that is, for the last time -- and that made it a bittersweet moment for all.

When the last person had left, Michael put out his hand.  Then, thinking better of it, threw his arms around his old mentor.

With a heavy sigh, Melinda took his arm and the two began to walk away.

"Where are you going?"  asked Carl.

Two confused faces turned back to him.

"This is your home, now." he said with a wave of the hand.

It was only at that moment that they noticed the small blue suitcase by the door.

"The van will be over in the morning to pick up my things." he explained matter-of-factly as he slipped into his jacket and donned the eightpanel newsboy cap he loved.

Giving the place one last look for old times' sake, his eyes landed on the tiger head.  He winked at Melinda.  "Might want to redecorate though."

She gave a slight laugh and held her fingers a little distance apart.

She also gave Carl a hug.

The two watched as his figure receded away along the great hall, casting a long and lonesome shadow in the pale moonlight.

The preceding has been a chapter from Juggernaught: A Moast Unusual Bible Study
(Copyright 2016, Edmund Lloyd Fletcher.)

For more on this story, please visit its main page.

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