For the first time this blog introduces a work of fiction. This short story, my attempt at a modern day parable, grew out of an assignment from my spiritual director. Due to its length, this will run over the next few weeks. Explanations of the symbolism involved will be given at the end of the series.
Part 1 published on May 3, 2009
From My Ride Part 5
Am I dying or in Purgatory or just plain crazy? And then the guilt over my lack of faith, over my never-ending doubt, floods my heart and the gremlin begins to snicker.
My Ride – Part 6 – The Finale!
I look up in time to see the gremlin dissolving into a massive cloud of black smoke, which rushes towards me, enveloping me. I can’t see anything but I hear the gremlin’s unmistakable hiss close to my ear. “See you around kid.” Then it’s gone. There’s just silence and I look up at Jesus, who is no longer a stranger to me. He now appears to me with shoulder length brown hair and a short beard. The white robes are gone, replaced with jeans, a white t-shirt and black leather jacket. The sandals have been replaced with motorcycle boots.
“Will that thing come back?” I ask as He helps me to my feet.
“The gremlin never really goes away. But it doesn’t have as much power as you think it does. It only has what you give it.” He starts walking towards the stream and I follow Him closely, still glancing around, half-expecting the gremlin to reappear at any moment. He gestures for me to sit down on the fallen tree where I’d first seen Him. On the tree is a cup made out of tightly woven grass. So that’s what He was doing with the grass! Dipping it into the stream to fill it, He then hands it to me. The cool water tastes so clean, so good. Taking my bandana from my hair, He dips it in the water.
“I have something I want to give you, but first we need to clean up these wounds of yours.” He slowly and gently wipes the blood and dirt off my face, then my arms and hands. Taking the cup, He pours water over the cuts until they’re flushed clean. I gasp in pain as the cold water hits the open wounds. The bleeding has nearly stopped and the flesh has already begun to knit back together. There’s no doubt these cuts will be leaving some wicked scars behind but I feel whole and clean for the first time in a very, very long time. My mind has finally stopped racing. I give up trying to understand as I realize that acceptance has replaced fear. Acceptance of Him or acceptance of my own complete insanity, I don’t really know, but it beats being so damn scared.
“Come with me.” He begins walking towards the charred spot where the remains of my now obliterated car lay. We climb up to the road and parked on the shoulder is a brand new motorcycle. Not just any motorcycle either, but an Indian Chief Vintage painted in rich Thunder Black with long classic fenders over white walled tires. I’m awestruck. I’ve been eyeing a bike like this for years but never dreamed I would ever get a chance to ride one. The tank was detailed with a Celtic cross with a white rose at its center – a flawless replica of my tattoo! I walk in slow circles around the bike, tracing the cross with my finger and comparing it to my tattoo. It’s exact down to the tiniest details.
I turn to ask Him the hundred questions racing through my mind but He’s gone. Sitting on the road where He had been standing was a black helmet with a white rose on the side resting atop of a folded black leather jacket. On the back of the jacket is a flame-colored orange and yellow rose in the center of a delicate leafy green vine. Above the rose there’s an inscription in white Celtic lettering that reads Beloved, Believe, Be Healed. It’s a replica of my other tattoo, which is hidden on the small of my back. Few people know it exists and only the tattoo artist and I have actually seen it.
Slipping on my helmet and jacket, I climb onto my dream bike. I take off down the winding country road. The sun is hanging low in the sky as I come to a wide place in the road near the river. I pull off watch the sun paint the sky with rosy pinks and deep purples before finally disappearing from view. I’d like to thank Him but he’s gone from my sight.
I thank Him anyway.
I still ride every chance I get. Highways are for pansies. I long to get out on those winding backcountry roads but now I take in the sights as I ride. I return to the scene of my wreck every few months, looking for what I do not know, perhaps to prove to myself that it was all real. If not for the scars and the bike, I’d have written off that whole afternoon off as a mental breakdown. Climbing down to the stream, it gets kind of hard to ignore the broken trees and burnt scar in the ground surrounding the heap of charred scrap metal that had been my Nova.
I don’t smoke anymore – too many bad memories. I do stop for coffee though and to enjoy the beautiful views. My bike and my jacket usually attract a lot of attention. People seem drawn to the designs and I explain how they match my tattoos, which often leads to lengthy discussions about spirituality, faith, and of course, tattoos.
I haven’t seen or heard from the stranger since, but when I ride, I trust that He rides with me, well sort of – trust is still really hard for me, but I’m working on it. As for the gremlin, I still hear that grating hiss all the time but it doesn’t matter as much as it used to. He doesn’t have any real power, I don’t think…