Thursday, November 3, 2016
excerpt--The Butcher, The Baker, and The Coffee Makers
The late Thursday afternoon traffic in the city of Lexington, KY was in its usual state of chaotic motionlessness. One lane of the inner loop of New Circle Road was at a crawl, and the other lane was doing little better, because of all of the automobiles trying to get into the slower lane to reach a desired exit ramp, or trying to merge into the faster lane. Somehow, the result of all of this mess was only a couple of fender-benders and no serious injuries.
The exit ramp for Tates Creek Road was backed up to New Circle itself, which wasn't helped by a traffic light programmed to keep cars from turning onto Tates Creek for just a few seconds less than a geological age. Several drivers sat through two full cycles before they were finally able to make their turn.
After that, things got a bit easier for most of the drivers. On this day, Tates Creek had no back-ups, so the only delays were at the traffic signals.
At Brown Road, several cars turned right into a suburban maze. One of those cars was a dark brown sedan, of a foreign make known for reliability, a car no longer new though far from being an antique. This car wended through the suburban maze at a slow pace, turned right at one stop sign then left at the next, and finally stopped at the curb in front of a narrow two-story house.
The driver stepped out of the car, and immediately had to wipe the fog from his glasses. It was an early September day, but felt as if August was not yet ready to give up its fiery hold on the weather, even this late in the day. He cleaned his glasses, then turned to the house's driveway. At the open garage door, a man was setting up a grill, and he waved at the man who had just arrived. "Hey, Bob, glad you could make it."
"Hello, Nick. Wouldn't want to miss it. Here in about an hour or so, all will be right with the world."
The man at the grilled laughed. "You do take your football seriously, don't you."
"Especially now, with the season getting ready to start. I missed a lot of the past few seasons, being overseas and all, so I'm anxious to enjoy some games."
"Well, I'm getting this thing ready for the meat. We should have quite enough for everyone."
"Who all's coming?"
"Carrie and I invited some people we met at the church we've been going to, Steve and Amy Fairfax. Nice folks, a lot like us, married a bit over a year, trying to make some headway at work, stuff like that. I think you'll like them."
The door at the back of the garage opened, and Nick's wife Carrie came out. "Hello, Bob."
Nick said, "I was just telling Bob about Steve and Amy."
"Oh, good, you haven't yet met them, have you?"
"I do hope you'll get along with them. In fact, Amy's sister Naomi is coming with them this evening. I've met her a few times, she's a sweetie. I think you'll like her, Bob."
"Don't be like that, Bob. I'm not trying to set you up or anything, but if something should work out between you and her..."
It was a bit of an irritant to Bob, that his friends seemed to want to press him into dating. "We'll get along, but I'm not promising anything else."
"I know, I know. Well, I'll call Amy, and see if they're going to arrive soon. If so, you can start grilling, Nick."
"I am armed and ready, some might even say dangerous"
Carrie shook her head in mock exasperation. "I swear, Bob, put Nick in a kitchen, and he's completely lost, but put a grill in front of him, and he thinks he's all that."
"Only because I am." Nick replied with a mischievous tone.
"Anyway, I need to get back inside, and find my phone, wherever it was I last left it." Carrie walked back through the garage and into the house.
"I'm sorry about the whole thing with trying to set you up." Nick said.
"No big deal."
"You've only been back a few months, and the break-up with Darla was..."
"I'm not going to say I'm over it. We both know better than that."
"You cared for her, Bob. Heck, how long did you two date? I know it was while you were in high school with her."
"A few years." Actually, Bob had known of Darla while they were both in high school, but she had been a couple of grades behind him. He had not felt anything special towards her until the summer he'd returned home after his first year of college. He had taken her out for a couple of dates that summer, and they kept in contact over the next school year. It was after that year, with college seeming to be more and more useless to him, that Bob had enlisted into the Army. He had proposed to Darla a few days before going to boot camp. He had been in the military for five years, including over two years in Afghanistan, and Darla had gone to college. Their plans had been to marry after she graduated.
"Still, to break up with you while you were off like that..."
"Let's leave it be." The nerves over what had happened between him and the woman he'd loved were still raw, and it was difficult to talk about, especially since his own reactions were not the types of bitter diatribes many people seemed to expect. Of course, there were ill feelings and bitterness in him over it, and he struggled with them. But he didn't want those feelings to overwhelm him.
"If it helps, Naomi is about as pretty a young lady as you could hope to meet. Only the best for you, man. Well, the best after Carrie, you know."
The door opened again, and Carrie returned, this time carrying a tray of steaks, burgers, and brats. "They're on their way, maybe about ten more minutes, if traffic stays good."
Nick visibly livened up."Good, good. By the way, Bob, thanks for all of this food."
"Being a butcher does have its advantages." Bob worked at a place called MacCutcheon's Meat Market, and got the employee's discount.
"You're not kidding. Ah, I love the smell of barbequing meats in the evenings. Thanks, hon."
Carrie had also brought some cold cans of soda, and the friends stood and talked while the food was cooking. A few minutes later, another car pulled up in front of the house, and the rest of the party arrived.
"Hey." The man, who had to be Steve, was a lot like Nick--a bit over six feet tall, looked like he obviously spent some time in the gym, dressed in a formally casual way, professionally short hair and a smile that showed glowing, perfect teeth. The woman walking with him had to be Amy, and she was tall, tan, blonde, and dressed in some kind of short sun dress.
Now being in on what was going on, Bob couldn't help having a bit of interest in the young lady whom his friends had decided to target him with. She walked a little behind the couple, but smiled brightly at Carrie when they greeted each other.
Bob had to agree with Nick, she was quite pretty. A few years younger than her sister, maybe college age, and a couple of inches shorter. She wore her blonde hair long and tied back in a simple pony tail. "Steve, this is our friend Bob. I think we've mentioned him a few times." Nick said, pointing to Bob with the spatula.
"Yeah. Hey, I'm Steve Fairfax."
"Bob. Bob Smith."
Nick spoke up. "Bob's the one who brought the burgers and brats, so you'd best be nice to him."
"Oh, really! Yeah, I'll play nice, sure. This stuff looks good, where did you get it."
"I work at Mac's Meat Shop, one of the butchers there."
"Oh, wow, a butcher, that's cool!"
Some part of Bob's mind whispered the word "Twit", but he said nothing.
Steve kept going. "Honey, this is their friend Bob. Bob, my wife Amy, and her sister, Naomi. She's going to the university here, what year are you in?"
"Junior." The girl said with a bright voice. "Hi, you're Bob, right?"
"Happy to meet you." Bob was annoyed with himself for not being able to think of any better way to describe the girl than "bright", but it was simply an accurate description. Her blue eyes were bright and alert, her smile was bright with a hint of mischief to it, her personality was bright and sunny.
He had to admit, he was struck.
"What are you studying?" He asked, noticing that the other two couples were leaving the two of them alone.
"Social work. I want to be able to help people, you know."
"Yeah. The school year just started, so things aren't very stressful yet. If I remember, Nick said you were in the Army?"
"Yes. Spent some time overseas, in Afghanistan."
"Did you do any...fighting?"
"Some, yes. I missed the initial conflict, but did have some encounters with insurgents and other kinds of rowdies."
"So you've shot people."
"Yes." He could see her face get a troubled expression, and immediately got the impression things weren't going to go very well between them. There was no blame in him, she was simply one who didn't like to think of things like violence and killing, and his own blasé manner about his actions bothered her a little.
But Bob wasn't going to pretend to feeling badly about what he had done. Some years before, he had developed a certain mindset, based around his theological views. He knew that he was a fallen, sinful person, and that he had very real reasons to feel guilty. But he also knew that there were people who tried to create guilty feelings in others based on bad reasons, while also trying to tone down the guilt of really sinful and wicked acts.
Bob's view was that anyone who wanted to make him feel guilty had numerous ways of doing it, but that he was not going to feel guilt for things that were not wrong. Bob had shot and killed men who had been trying to kill him and his fellow soldiers. He saw no reason to feel guilty about having done those things.
"How was your summer break?" He asked, thinking it may be a more comfortable topic for the girl. She jumped at it, and for a while they talked about more normal things. Then Nick announced that the food was ready, and they all went into the house to get plates and drinks.
Pre-game programs were on the wide-screen television in the living room, and they made their way to the couch and chairs to eat and wait for the game to begin. After a bit, Steve looked over at Naomi. "Hey, have you asked Bob yet to the single's ministry meetings?"
The girl, who had been seated next to Bob on the couch, blushed a little. "No."
"You should. That's where Amy and I met, back about the time the church's size really exploded, two or three years ago. We went when the single's ministry was still new, and, well, yes, we met, and started seeing each other, and, well, the rest is history, as they say."
"Really?" Bob said.
"Yeah, you should go. Naomi will probably be there, it's a good place to go and meet people, and they have some good teachings, too. Well, I guess so, I haven't been there for a while. We've been going to the newlywed's meetings, along with the small groups we're both a part of. The single's ministry still meets Saturday evenings, right?" He asked the last of Naomi.
"Yes, at seven." She said.
"Check it out. Do you have a church, Bob?"
"I think I've found a good one, yes."
"That's fine. But take a look over at Lanover Christian, if you get the chance. We've really been growing! If nothing else, come listen to the praise band on Sunday. Man, they rock the house! And Pastor Mike is always finding great ways to make sermons interesting. He did a good series a few weeks ago, talking about spiritual lessons in movies from the past year. We even had an indoor fireworks show for the Sunday before the Fourth of July."
"Really?" Bob wasn't sure what to make of that. "Maybe I will."
"Hey, I think they're coming to the kick-off." Nick said, and the rest of the evening was mostly devoted to enjoying the game.