I thought the story of the Gremlin ended after My Ride but no such luck.
Life has been pretty crazy the past couple of months, even by my standards. A good long ride through the country to clear my head might have helped a few weeks back. Now even that doesn’t help. There’s constant noise in my head that just won’t quit. Not overly loud but not quite ignorable either. The noise of something working overtime but a dangerous, threatening noise at the same time. Something that could unleash pain and chaos without warning.
I’m pretty sure I know the source of it. After all the Gremlin told me it wouldn’t be far away. But it only has the power I give it right? That’s what Jesus told me when I finally came face-to-face with the Gremlin. And this is hardly the same as staring down seven feet of scales, claws, teeth and seething hatred. It’s just background noise, very distracting background noise.
I know where to turn for help. He’s there, waiting to for me to ask him. He doesn’t like to step in uninvited. Believe me, I know that all too well. But I don’t ask. Well not in so many words anyway. I don’t really need help, not yet. I got this. I think. So I sent him a text message: Hey, no time to talk. Lots going on. Little reassurance? Thx. 🙂
A little while later, I get a reply: Prophet & the widow with the flour jar. Here if u need me. ❤
As usual, I knew the passage he was talking about, kinda sorta, but not exact chapter and verse. She’s got just enough flour and oil to feed herself and her son one last time and then they’d die in the famine. Some prophet shows up and says ‘feed me’. Charming man.
Scraping bottom was about where was I at. I was stressed out at work, I felt like I was running constantly. On top of that everyone around me lately had gone into meltdown at the same time and I was the one they all turned to. Me, out of patience, out of answers, out of strength, at the end of my own very frayed rope, twisting in space wondering what in the hell was coming next, me. I was scraping through my days, but just barely. Most days, the sun couldn’t go down fast enough for me.
I was pretty sure this story wasn’t exactly what I’d had in mind when I asked for reassurance. But maybe I was missing something. I couldn’t remember quite where it was and Old Testament doesn’t exactly narrow things down. That meant taking the extra step of a Google search. When I finally got around to it, Google brought up every reference of a widow in the entire bible. Damn! That’s a lot of lonely women. Also a lot of reading. Forget it. I’m wasn’t digging through that stack. I was tired and stressed out. It was late. That noise inside me was making me crazy. I went to sleep instead. At 2 AM, I was suddenly wide awake and that story was ringing in my head. I’d heard it at church at some point. The lector’s voice now very fresh in my head. And the jar of flour did NOT run out…
“Seriously?! You had to wake me up? Do have any idea how how much I have to get done tomorrow?”
“Oh shit. Fine! Be that way.” My neighbors must wonder about me talking out loud to myself like this. Since going back to sleep obviously wasn’t in the cards, I reached for the iPad next to my bed. I’m a queen of Internet research. If it’s out there, I can find it. I ran my Google search again. It gave me the same sorry of batch of women. Somewhere it the back of my head, I filed this away as yet another reason to stay single. Hey, what do you want? It was 2 in the morning, laser focus wasn’t happening. I tried another site for scripture passage lookups but it wasn’t much better. Can you say needle in a haystack? But now it was the principle of the thing. On a wild shot in the dark, I tried a search for Elijah, who seemed a likely guy to pull a stunt like this. Aha! Found it! Then the aging honor student in me had to know WHEN I’d heard this at church so after another thirty minutes of sifting through useless information, I found it. It had been in the readings late last year. Why did that matter? I don’t know but it did. Funny, it hadn’t meant much to me at the time. Well, I remembered the lector was a wee bit dramatic but that was about it.
I opened the passage and I read it. Wait, I must’ve missed something. I read it again. One more time maybe? That’s it? She didn’t starve. That’s all there is to this? And he woke me up for this? I put the iPad away and tried to go back to sleep but sleep refused to come. I laid awake staring out the window into the darkness, feeling not reassured but angry.
Several hours passed and the sky started to lighten but my mood was still black as midnight. The more I rolled that story around in my head, the madder I got. This poor woman is at the end of all hope, can’t go on after today and some strange guy shows up asking her to take care of his sorry ass. Why she does it is beyond me but she feeds him. The flour doesn’t run out and they all survive until the famine ends. Well isn’t that just ducky? Why isn’t the flour jar filled overflowing? Better yet, why not just end the famine? Either sounds better than keeping her hanging on in quiet desperation, scraping bottom of the jar, trying to feed herself, her son and some guy who inserted himself into her life out of nowhere.
At 5:30, I gave up on sleep. I threw on a pair of old jeans and a black t-shirt. Pretty spring colors weren’t happening today. I skipped making coffee. It was too much aggravation when there was a 24-hour Dunkin Donuts around the corner. I picked up my lazy girl drive thru coffee and drove to the beach. I glared out at the waves and took a sip of my coffee. Obviously it was the bottom of the pot sludge. No amount of sugar and milk was going to mask it. Didn’t matter, it went with the rest of my day, or was that days? Hard to say since yesterday had run into today. I could have called him right then. It’s not like I was going to wake him up. But I didn’t feel like it so I sat there seething instead, drinking coffee that was as bitter as I felt.
I’m no bible scholar and I can’t quote you chapters and verses but I know there are numerous passages about still waters, life giving streams, cups running over, I am with you, don’t be afraid, the end of tears and abundant love. I asked him for reassurance and I get ‘she didn’t run out’. It felt cheap, like I’d been ripped off somehow. After an hour or so, I finally fired off a text message: That passage sucked.
The reply was almost instant: I didn’t think so. Breakfast? We’ll talk about it.
I almost told him to stick it but then I remembered who I was talking to. I agreed to meet him at a little luncheonette nearby.
Luncheonette seemed a bit too grand of a name for the place. It was a glorified shack and I strongly suspected at one time it had been a bait shop. But their breakfast sandwiches were excellent and their picnic tables outside looked out over the salt marsh. I got there before he did. I had the place to myself. The only patrons at this hour were fisherman who usually took their food to go. I decided to wait for him outside and sat down at one of the tables with my feet on the bench watching the egrets and herons stalking their morning meals. An osprey appeared, swooping twice over the marsh then making long slow passes back and forth across the sky. Watching him fly, my soul was swept up with him. For a moment or two I was soaring with all the grace and power that only the great birds of prey seem to have.
“Waiting on someone?” The raspy voice snapped me out of the sky and a wisp of cigarette smoke drifted past my nose.
“Yeah something like that,” I answered, carefully assessing the man who had managed to get within arms reach of me without my hearing him approach on the gravel. He was rather tall and a little stocky with jet black hair. His ash gray suit was an odd choice given our surroundings. His dark aviator sunglasses were overkill for the early morning sunlight. The smoke from the cigarette in his hand curled lazily on the breeze. He looked so familiar but not in a good way. Yet, for the life of me, I couldn’t place him.
He smiled but it seemed more a warning than a greeting. “You smoke?” He pulled a pack of Benson & Hedges 120s from inside his jacket and held them out to me.
I hadn’t smoked in four years and B&H had always been my favorite. I took it and he lit it for me with a silver lighter. There was something intimate in letting someone else light my cigarette and with this guy, it felt dangerous. The sunglasses were so dark, I couldn’t see his eyes, which was downright unnerving. I took a long drag on the cigarette, savoring the taste of the tobacco.
“I hope he’s worth waiting around for,” he rasped, casting a sideways glance my way and leaning at the end of my table. The temperature seemed to drop, as if a block of dry ice had been plunked down next to me. Cold radiated off him in waves. “It’s not very nice to leave a girl hanging.”
“He’ll be here,” I replied, hoping I sounded less hesitant than I felt. I took another long drag on my cigarette, stalling so I wouldn’t get dragged into a conservation with this guy.
“I’m sure,” again with the creepy, sharky smile. “Nice place to wait though. Pastoral almost. ‘Beside still waters, He leadeth me. There He refreshes my soul,'” he chuckled to himself then took a long drag on his cigarette. “Well if you don’t end up dead in the valley that is,” he muttered as he blew a smoke ring then slashed it with his finger.
I jumped to my feet, backed up a step and stared, recognizing him now. My nightmarish encounter with the Gremlin came back in a rush. Images of the yellow-eyed, seven-foot, black, scaly demon blowing smoke rings and slashing them with its foot long claws overlapped the unnerving man in the ash gray suit in front of me.
The Gremlin Man smiled his sharky smile and it turned into a low threatening laugh. “How ya been Kid? It’s been a long time. Miss me?” He flicked his cigarette butt to the ground with one hand and slipped off the sunglasses with the other as he stepped closer to me. There was no mistaking those yellow eyes. His suit started to darken and shimmer. Then it registered, it wasn’t shimmering. It was moving. His suit was now alive with the noise that had been growing in the back of my head for weeks. Wasps, thousands of them, were crawling all over him and their buzzing grew louder every second. The laugh turned into the shrieking cackle I knew all too well. It seemed to incite the wasps. In a cloud, they started taking wing, flying around me, even bouncing off me. Their noise was deafening and I didn’t dare open my mouth to scream for fear of swallowing some. I felt the panic in my gut rising, tightening my chest and squeezing my throat as it did. I was paralyzed where I stood, my heart racing far too fast.
Finally, over the horrible, crawling shoulder of the Gremlin Man, I saw Jesus coming toward us wearing a pair of worn blue jeans and a Rolling Stones t-shirt. He was in no particular hurry. Of course, he wasn’t. Tall creepy guy covered in a suit of wasps and clouds of the stinging terror are all just part a typical breakfast date with me. I waited for him to smite the Gremlin, or with one great sweep of his hand, banish the cloud of wasps. But no, he strolled over, calm as ever and looking from me to the Gremlin and back again, he smiled. “Am I interrupting something?”
“We were just catching up,” rasped the Gremlin Man, “since you left her hanging around.” Then he burst into a furious cloud of wasps that swept around me and out into the marsh.
The noise was gone. In the quiet, my fear faded but anger swiftly swept in to take its place. “Damn it that’s twice now I’ve run into that thing!” I spat the words out of my mouth. “Breakfast was your idea. Why weren’t you here?”
Jesus didn’t say a word but smiled held his arms to either side and looked from me to his feet and back again in a gesture of ‘I am here’.
“You’ve got to be kidding me! You wanted breakfast. You wanted to talk. We’re both here. I seem to have lost my appetite so why don’t you start talking!” Words were flying out of my mouth while my brain was on a three second delay. By the time my brain had caught up enough to censor, it was too late.
Jesus sat down on the picnic table, resting his feet on the bench, exactly as I had a short while ago. “Will you sit down and talk to me?”
“No I won’t sit down and talk to you!” I was still furious and I paced the ground in front of him.
“Then will you tell me what’s bugging you?” The same calm, even tone but there was a hint of a smirk in his voice as he said it.
“Seriously?! Do you have any idea how pissed off I am…”
“Well I was kind of hoping you would sit down and tell me…”
“…and you think this is the time for puns?!”
“…but if you’re not done yelling yet, I’ll just sit here quietly and wait.”
I threw up my hands and turned away from him to look out over the marsh. There’s nothing more maddening than trying to fight with someone who won’t fight back. The longer I stayed there with my back to him, the harder it was to turn around to face him. I could feel his eyes on my back, waiting as the silence stretched out.
Finally, I couldn’t stand it anymore. I walked over to the table, unable to meet his eyes. As I put my hands down to boost myself onto the table to sit next to him, there was a sharp pain in the palm of my hand. I had put my hand down right on top of a wasp, obviously a straggler, and it stung me three times in rapid succession before I could move my hand and brush it away.
“Shit! That hurts!” I howled looking at wounded hand. “You really aren’t much help today are you?” I chomped down on my lip as soon as I’d said it.
Jesus looked over at me and cocked an eyebrow. “You want to try that one again?”
“Not really,” I muttered.
“Well try it again anyway.”
Where to start? I squirmed and I stared down at the gravel. “Why that passage?” I demanded quietly. I wasn’t quite ready to let him off the hook for that yet.
“Why not?” he asked gently.
“Because…,” I summoned up what was left of my nerve, “because I’m at the end of my rope here. I asked for your help and with all the passages about love, abundance, cups running over, being shield, defender, protector, life giving streams, blah blah blah, you give me a chick who scraped by for a really long time and didn’t starve. Period. The End. What gives?!”
He didn’t answer me right away. He sat there quietly, watching me, waiting until I finally looked him in the eye. “If I’d sent you any of those passages you just rattled off, would you have believed it?”
Shit. I hate it when he does that see right through me thing that he does. “No…”
“I hear a but. But what?”
Oh here we go, the tears welled up in my eyes and once the waterworks start, it’s all over. “But I want to. I just…can’t.”
“Can’t or won’t?” The tenderness in his voice was awful to me. I’d rather he get angry and yell at me but he never does.
I looked away, tears streaming down my face. It was all I could do to answer him. “Won’t.” It was barely a whisper.
“You already know why!” I sobbed. “Honestly, you know better than I do!”
“Yes I do. But you need to know why.” He sighed softly. “Will you please look at me?”
I knew why too but there was a big difference between knowing something and saying it out loud. But there was such kindness in his eyes, it gave me the audacity to say what I didn’t think I could. “I don’t want to get hurt again. I thought I was past this but I’m not. I’m scared all the time that one day I’ll call for you and you won’t answer.” There. I’d said it and to my ears it sounded just as awful as it had rattling around in my head.
He reached for my swollen hand and taking it in both of his, turned it palm up. “Do you see this? One little wasp caused all that pain. That’s the way life is. Sometimes it’s one little thing that hurts over and over and over. Sometimes it’s a lot of little things. And sometimes it’s the big things. But if you try to ignore the pain and carry on like everything is fine, that’s when you really get hurt.”
“The Gremlin? In his creepy crawly suit?” I shuddered to think of it again.
“Precisely, all the crazy stuff that’s been going on in your life lately, instead of asking me for help, you shoved it away like it didn’t matter. Do you remember I told you, the Gremlin only has the power that you give it? Well, you gave it an awful lot of power in a lot of very small ways.”
He was still holding my sore hand and I wiped tears away with my good hand. “And you’re not mad at me for that?” I’d been keeping score in my head. That was two No’s, one Won’t, a Blah Blah Blah, and whole lot of shouting.
Jesus threw his head back and laughed. “Mad at you? For being human?” He stood up and put his hands on my shoulders, “No, I’m not mad. And quit keeping score when you talk to me. Just say what you need to say so we can deal with it. Will you do that for me?”
How could I refuse? Jesus kissed me on top of the head and started to walk away. “Hey, wait a minute,” I called after him, “that passage still sucked. Don’t I get another one?”
He turned and gave me the most mischievous grin, “Well now seems to me you named off at least a half dozen. Pick one. Let me know if it works for you.”
One more thing was still nagging at me. I couldn’t pass it up. I pointed at his shirt. “You’re a Rolling Stones fan? How come I didn’t know that?”
He laughed again and the world lit up when he did. “Reminds me of that trip we took up to the Cape a couple months ago. That was a lot fun to just hang out for a few days, drive, talk and listen to good music. We should do that again, sooner rather than later.”