The Preacher

PreacherStanding on the graveyard grass, looking down at the freshly-filled grave, stood The Preacher, dressed in black and wearing a black, circular, wide-brim hat. There was not a headstone as of yet, but The Preacher knew the name of the occupant. It was his brother. Five days previously, he had murdered the man who now lay under the earth at his feet. The Preacher did not want to kill this one. But he felt he had to, and he knew with a certainty that he would have to kill again … and soon.

After saying a prayer over his brother’s buried body, The Preacher walked slowly back to the highway. As he walked, he thought of how unnecessary it had all been. All his brother had to do was not interfere in the Lord’s work. It should have made no difference that the work involved the killing of Junior McGuire.

He thought back to his last conversation with his brother:

“You must not interfere.”

“You’ve been killing since you were a boy. But you was family, so I held my own peace.”

“I am family to man.”

“You always were different, even when we was kids. But now you come to town and tell me you must take Junior McGuire. Well, Junior is a friend of mine. He’s the mayor of this town, for God’s sake.”

“Do not take the Lord’s name in vain. Are those your last words on the matter?”

“Yup, I just can’t let you kill Junior McGuire.”

The conversation replayed itself repeatedly in The Preacher’s mind.

Now that there were no more obstacles, The Preacher could be about the Lord’s work. And this time, the Lord’s work was the quick dispatch of Junior McGuire.

The Preacher had been at this work a long time. Sometimes he wearied of the mission the Lord had bestowed upon him. However, he believed that no matter how weary, he must persevere until he was allowed a rest or brought to his just reward.

The walk from the graveyard into town was a short one. Before he knew it, The Preacher found himself standing in front of McGuire’s Dry Goods Emporium. He entered without hesitation and sought out The McGuire.

The store was empty, but filled with people or not, it made no difference to The Preacher. He was about God’s work. He proceeded to the back room where he encountered a man of about, fifty stacking cartons in a corner. The Preacher inquired of the man, “Are you McGuire?” When an affirmative response was forthcoming, The Preacher laid his hands upon the sinner.

The Preacher had been at this so long he felt as though he could see the soul of the damned leave the body and pass through the floorboards on its way to perdition.

As he left McGuire’s, The Preacher thought to himself, “I pray the time never comes when I enjoy this work.”

 

 

 

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I Saw Jesus

I saw Jesus the night before he died, the night before he hauled that damn cross up the hill. I ran into him outside that little bakery, the one across from the wine shop on the main street. He was sitting on the stoop, talking to a gaggle of children. He always did love the kids.

“Hey, Jesus. What’s happening?”

“Hello, William. I’m just hangin’ with my little buddies.”

“If you can tear yourself away, how about I buy you a cup of wine at that shop over there? We can sit and talk and catch up. I haven’t seen you since forever.”

He smiled that smile of his.

“I’d like nothing better, my friend.”

He stood, patted one or two of the kids on the head, and whispered into one little girl’s ear. She looked up at him and smiled a thousand-watt smile.

“What did you say to the kid?” I asked.

“Nothing you’d understand, you old fart. Let’s get that wine.”

Of course, I had to buy. I never knew Jesus to have a dime on him. In the old days, I used to see him on the street with a bowl in his hand, begging for food. I would always tell him he didn’t have to do that. I’d be more than happy to buy him a meal. And he always said the same thing. “There are many hungry people in this city. Buy them a meal and you will have fed me.” I never understood what he meant, but then, Jesus always was an odd duck.

With wine in hand, we sat at a table overlooking the street. It hadn’t rained in a while and there was a bit of dust in the air, but we didn’t mind none.

“So, Jesus, what have you been up to?”

“Just walking the streets, talkin’ of love. What have you been up to?”

That was too much for me. “Never mind me. What do you mean you’re walking the streets talking of love? You’re in your mid-thirties. You should have been married long ago. When I knew you back in Nazareth, you had a thriving business going with your old man. Then you gave it all up. I worry about you, brother.”

He supped from his cup and smiled. “I thank you for your concern. But do not worry for me, I’m just passing through … as we all are. My needs are few. And come tomorrow, they’ll be fewer still.”

“What are you talking about, pal?”

“It’s not important, William. What’s important is that you live your life in love and not in fear.”

“Whatever. How about meeting up tomorrow? I’ll buy you lunch.”

“Sorry, my friend. I have an appointment with the governor. I’ll catch up with you in the next life.”

Jesus was always kidding. He had one wicked sense of humor. So, I paid no mind to what he said. I wish I had.

I was with Honest Abe the night before he died. He had lost a lot of weight. And he had more lines on his face than I remembered. He smiled at me as I walked into the room. “Well, well, William, it is good to see you. How have you been?”

“I’m cool, Abe. That was some war you just won. And I love how you had the band play Dixie right after Lee surrendered. You got class.”

He did an aw shucks gesture and asked me to sit down.

“So, Abe, tell me. What are you gonna do with all those traitors, all those rebels now that you beat the hell out of ’em?”

Abe stroked his beard and looked to the ceiling before answering. “I’m gonna treat them like I’d want to be treated. I’m gonna treat ’em like any human being would want to be treated. I’m gonna treat ’em with love.”

“So, what’s your plan, Abe?”

“Stop by tomorrow and I’ll tell you all about it. I’m gonna heal this country, by gob. I have a plan to bring the South back into the fold. But right now I have to get ready for the theater. There’s a play Missus Lincoln wants to see. But remember this, William. Approach your adversaries with love and there’s no way you can fail. I’ll leave word with Mister Kennedy that I’ll be having lunch with you tomorrow. Till then, my friend, pray for me. I have a big job to do in the next four years.”

I was with Martin King, Jr. the night before he died.

“So, Marty. What’s shaking?”

“Please don’t call me Marty. You know I don’t like it.”

“I’m just fucking with you, Martin. You’re finally getting there. You’re about to bring your people into the Promised Land. And it’s about fuckin’ time as far as I’m concerned.”

“One thing at a time, William. Yes, we’ve gotten to the mountain top, but it’s a long way down to the fertile valley below.”

“At least it’s all downhill now. I remember when you were in the Birmingham jail. Things looked pretty bleak back then.”

Martin smiled a sad smile.

“I don’t think I’ll make it to that valley,” said he. “I think it’s an illusion. There are so many more miles to travel and I’m running out of steam. But I can say with pride that I got the ball rolling. So, let’s not think about it now. How about a drink?”

We toasted with bourbon and branch water. We laughed and talked of old times. We hugged at the door as I said goodnight. The last thing he said to me was, “Go gently into the future. Go with love. You can never have enough love. Leave your fears at home. Go with Jesus.”

I saw Jesus the night before he died. I saw him in Abe and I saw him in Martin. I’m still waiting to see him in me.

 

Brother

Brother, help me please.

Brother, I need to feel. I need my soul to weep.

I need to cry for my fellow man. I need to feel his pain.

I need to understand why we are so filled with fear.

I need to speak out for the downtrodden.

I need to love more.

I need to put my fears aside.

Brother, help me.

Brother, lift me up.

I need to see things clearly.

I need this fear in my soul to go away.

Brother, reach in and take this fear.

Brother, throw it away.

Brother, please, please help me.

I need to love.

I need to be loved.

I need to belong.

Brother, take me in.

Brother, I love you.