Tuesday, June 30, 2009

TARE by Peggy Sue Yarber

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Strategic Book Publishing (November 11, 2008)


Peggy Sue Yarber has been married for over 16 years and lives with her husband, two daughters, two dogs, and two turtles in Southern California. In January of 2009, her novel, TARE, was released. Another novel, The Judas Ride will be released in June of 2009 and a children’s book Rocketships to Heaven and the SOS Fuel Station will be released in July of 2009. She gained a personal best when she receive her PhD in psychology. Spending time with her family and working with her church are two activities she loves to embrace.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $25.50
Hardcover: 208 pages
Publisher: Strategic Book Publishing (November 11, 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1606933957
ISBN-13: 978-1606933954


Peacemakers who sow peace raise a harvest of righteousness. We people have been conquered many times before… a very long time ago. The strength of guns and men do not always agree. At times, men tend to believe that the show of strength and force is the illustration of love.

“We worry about the things we want to do but can’t and in the place of doing what we can we do—we do nothing…” August says to Gilly as Gilly fills up his coffee cup again with the thick dark liquid which passes for coffee at the Rocketship Café. Not to be out done by August, Gilly quips back, “Yep. Abraham Lincoln did not get his start in life by sitting in trees and day dreaming. He got his start by splitting the tree limbs into fence rails…”

August takes a drink and settles back as comfortably as he is able on the spinning chrome and red leather barstool nailed to the floor in front of the long shiny oak counter. “There is no doubt that the only a way man can improve himself is by thinking. Perhaps the reason for so many of our failures now is that many men look upon “thinking” as a waste of time because neither their mothers, wives, friends, or employers give the man the time, faith, or opportunity to express a thought.”

“You win this round. I need to go to the kitchen and get the sweet rolls out of the oven,” answers Gilly thumping the counter as he leaves.

The Rocketship Café stands alone on the edge of town waiting for the boundary of the next town to meet it. The fringe of other towns keeps growing toward the Rocketship Café as though pulled by an unknown force. The World War II rocket stands tall and symbolic with the American flag painted proudly all around the oblong cylinder. The original owner Gill, who was in the Korean War and World War II, managed to get one of his buddies to give him a missile from the nearby by air force base.

Gill planted his café at the furthest extremity of town because he really did not like customers. He wanted to make certain that if a customer came to his café that that person truly wanted to be at the café and not waste his time. The Rocketship Café is as clean as it needs to be. The music on the jukebox is swing—all other music is tolerated, but played at a minimum.

Gill’s grandson, known as Gilly, now runs the joint. He too has the same taste for customers and has made as few changes as possible to the original Rocketship Café. Gill’s grandson was also a soldier, served in Desert Storm, and has cultivated the same stoic and guarded personality as his grandfather. Gill’s grandson is the not only the spitting image of himself, but also has the honor of continuing the name Gill Owen Dean.

Gilly has a few regular loyal customers and he gets even fewer new clients. The lack of clients or customers does not matter to Gilly because he did not take over the Rocketship Café to make money.

“Gilly, hit me again with that Rocketship fuel that you call coffee and another piece of carrot cake,” demands August in a friendly tone.

“August, you’ve already had a piece of apple pie, a strawberry tartlet, and now you want carrot cake?” Gilly answers back with a friendly chuckle.

“Do I tell you how to run your business? If I have the money to pay for the carrot cake then give me a piece of carrot cake. Hell Gilly, I am not asking for another drink. I’m asking for a piece of damn cake!” August sometimes has a tone that is hard to recognize. He could be joking or he could be serious.

“Maybe the reason it’s so easy for us to see the mistakes of others is because they were ideas we once had but were afraid to carry out,” Gilly answers.

“Interesting… just as remembering the Golden Rule in all transactions will allow us to come nearer to where we want to be than all the dogmas and creeds,” answers August.

“You win again, but only because my mind is elsewhere. Today is my baking day,” Gilly replies to August as he wipes down the counter and refills Augusts’ coffee mug. Gilly knows that August never leaves his home without some type of weapon on his body. Gilly bows to August without fear, but with respect, and then swiftly slides a piece of carrot cake onto the counter top directly in front of him. August smiles a big cigarette and coffee stained tooth filled grin and begins to eat with a sense of abandon.

“Eating so much of that sweet pie could kill you,” says Gilly.

“Lot of things have tried but they haven’t won yet,” August says with his mouth full.

“August how long have you been coming here?” asks Gilly, leaning his elbows on the counter top.

“Too long…” mumbles August.

“You know, what you don’t know won’t hurt you, but I know we all get tired of listening to it…” Gilly says as his voice trials off and gets muffled by the sound of gurgling through his thick coffee.

“Hey that is a good one Gilly. How about this one? The advertising of cigarette and food companies telling me their products are so wonderful and the cure for all my ills and aliments has me so confused that I don’t know whether to ask the medical advice of a druggist, grocer, or restaurant owner,” August says with a gleam of laughter in his eyes.

“Well, as I said, eating all that sweet pie will kill you…” Gilly’s voice trails off as he goes back into the kitchen.

August is a reporter from the old school. He uses pencil and paper, not a computer and recorder. He was good in his day, but is now regulated to the local free weeklies and every now and then a guest Op-Ed piece in a large newspaper chain. He lives on his pension and social security. His house he owns outright. He did this during the time of the GI Bill—he was one of the smart ones with his money. If he didn’t have morals and standards he too would have plenty of work in the writing business. But he wants to tell both sides of the story, not just one. One side does nothing but stir up problems.

August figures his life is too far gone for him to stir up anymore problems, though he yearns for a purpose and reason to want to write again! August remembers something his first editor told him repeatedly, “… it is an indication of success when others look upon you as owning some importance. But it is true evidence of failure when you first assume such a feeling…”

Gilly is occupying the Rocketship Café out of loyalty and love for his grandfather. He is carrying on a tradition and performing a service to all the veterans who find their way to his door. Above the door, inside and out, he has installed a neon set of large red letters that spell “S.O.S.” Gilly allows his customers to interpret the letters in any way they wish but his intention for the letters is “Save Our Souls.” Gilly doesn’t preach any message, but he believes in creating a safe place, a place of refuge and a place of sanctuary. He believes he has the ability to see through to the souls of his customers.

The Rocketship Café storefront is an honest to goodness real missile. Gill added a large oblong building that protrudes from the missile. The wood of the Rocketship Café is warped and the paint peeling, but the structure is sound. The café supports six gas pumps (three of which work), five cottages ready to rent, but only to certain types of people, and a garage to fix everything from automobiles to flying saucers. Gilly’s customers mostly consist of loyal truck drivers, traveling salesmen, and misplaced veterans. Gilly does not tolerate men and women meeting to have affairs at his café. His grandfather did not tolerate such behavior and neither will he. There are morals and values he believes are his duty to keep. Written on a scrap of paper he keeps in the register underneath the money drawer is the saying, “… find no fault with fools, for if it were not for others being able to take advantage of the fool things they do—we would have few wise and successful men.” Gilly tries to be more accepting of adulterers, but the sin leaves a bad taste in his mouth. The bad taste lingers just as long on his taste buds as does his specially brewed coffee.

Gilly asks for proof of marriage in order to stay in the cottages, but in all honesty, no couples have ever stayed in his cottages. He uses the cottages for the soldiers who are in between homes. Gilly’s stand on adultery stems from the fact that his wife left him.

Walter Herman Wiley, Wally-eyed, his cousin, used to be the Rocketship Café handy man, but Gilly never expected him to be handy with his wife. When she left she was tall, lean, and had a thick mane of auburn hair. Her eyes tinkled with the glow of golden honey. She left Gilly for his cousin Wally-eyed.

Wally-eyed got his nickname because of a fishing incident with Gilly when they were kids. Somehow, a fishhook got caught in Wally’s eye lid and damaged his eye. After a few operations, he was able to see, but not clearly. The operations left one of his eyes looking bigger than the other because of the way the eyelid had been fixed. This was back before plastic surgery, and even if the small town would have had a plastic surgeon, Wally’s family wouldn’t have enough money to pay for the surgery.

The eye damage made it so Wally-eyed could not go into the military. He has held this against Gilly all his life. Doctor Frank, the town doctor who took care of Wally, said, “There’s no man so blind as he who closes his eyes to the truth.” Wally-eyed never paid attention to what Doctor Frank said. In fact, the last time the doctor said that to Wally-eyed, he spit on his shoes. Doctor Frank just sighed and walked on.

When Wally-eyed left the employment of the Rocketship Café, he was bald with a head tattoo. Wally-eyed always wanted to live in a big city. Gilly’s wife, Cindy, always wanted to live in the big city. Cindy had pleaded with Gilly to sell the Rocketship Café and move closer to the city, but he couldn’t and he did not know how to explain this to her.

Gilly knew the moment he left the military that he needed to live in the desert because of the heat and the starkness. Gilly never went to a doctor to get an official diagnosis, but he knows that he experiences bouts of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. He needs to be able to see far into the distance because he does not want his enemy to sneak up upon him. Gilly is willing to try to decipher the mirages from the heat in hopes of getting the first glimpse of his unknown adversary. He knows in order to win he must see the tormentor before the tormentor is able to see him. Gilly has always hated big cities and big places filled with people because it is too difficult to ferret out the foe. Innocent people always have the tendency to hide the guilty—just as no good deed goes unpunished.

Though they wanted a large family, Gilly and his wife had not been able to have children. Gilly believes children are the saviors of the current generation. Sadly, he is in no position to contribute to the safeguarding of the planet. Infertility. Though, for him and his wife, the question of infertility was never clear as to who was at fault or if there was anyone to blame.

“Hey, Minnow! Want some coffee? It smells like rain. Outside, I mean… not my coffee,” Gilly says as he greets his traveling friend.

“Yeah, it does feel like rain. Strange huh? So early this year! My knees are bothering me. Does your coffee still taste as bad as my feet smell?” asks Minnow, panting from the heat and lugging around his giant frame.

Minnows’ name stuck because the name “Tiny” had already been taken by his older brother who, at age eleven, had already tipped the scales at 200 pounds. Not until Tiny reached his twenties did his body finally make an attempt to catch up to his weight and he finally grew to six feet in height. By that time, Tiny’s weight had risen over a ten-year span, and he hovered around 400 pounds on a continual basis. Minnow, without much effort, keeps his weight around 350 pounds, and he just barely touches the six-foot mark.

“I take that as a yes,” Gilly says as he pours coffee into an off white chipped mug.

Minnow, Gilly, and August are the only ones in the café. Minnow has his tape recorder in front of him in the booth. Minnow’s name is more than appropriate in an odd sort of way. His girth is so large that it is impossible for him to sit on the stool that faces the counter. He is able to manipulate the table in the large corner booth in order to sit as comfortable as a sardine in a squashed and damaged tin can.

“What are you doing with a tape recorder?” Gilly asks, not offering a menu. There are no menus. You get whatever food Gilly decides to cook.

“I’m trying to remember childhood. Or maybe I am supposed to just tell some of the best stories I’ve ever heard or known. I’m not really sure. My grandson has an oral history project and the teacher wants grandparents and parents to tell their family history. I think it is a fancy term for storytelling. So, my grandson wants me to say something in this recorder and then give it to him when I return home. I find it hard sometimes to play the dang thing, but I promised him I would try.” Minnow smiles as he talks about his family. People have been known to say that Minnow’s heart is even bigger than his body, and that is what explains the enormity of his love and loyalty.

“Well, if there ever was a storyteller it would be you,” Gilly says in a good-natured voice as he pours coffee into the cup and slides a glass of milk next to the mug. The two men laugh. Gilly walks back behind the counter. There is a deafening screech and then a tornado of dust and tires in the parking lot. In a puff of dust, two little red-headed girls tumble out of a truck. A strikingly handsome woman climbs out of the front of the truck and a huge man rolls out of the driver’s side. He is holding his head and seems to be in great pain. The family comes into the café. Gilly recognizes the woman as the reporter who used to come to the café. Gilly watches the event but says nothing. Washington enters the café with a sense of urgency and purpose. He sees Minnow sitting in the half moon circle booth and notices the recorder. With an aurora of forsakenness he guides his family to where Minnow is sitting. The twins and his wife settle themselves into the booth without a word.

Gilly walks over with two more mugs of coffee and two little glasses of milk for the little girls. Gilly sets the drinks down on the table gently. He pulls two huge cookies out of his apron and hands one to each girl. The girls take the cookies greedily with smiles and giggles smeared with “thank yous” as they take large bites. Gilly nods, but only gives a slight smile. He dips back to the counter and reaches underneath to pull something out and slide it underneath his apron.

“Daddy, we want milkshakes and French fries. Please Daddy, can we have milkshakes and French fries?” the twins Ruth and Esther petition in a voice of hope.

“Sure, sweeties. That’s fine,” answers their mom Samantha. But no one ever calls her Samantha, she is either mom or Sammy.

“Just coffee for us please,” Sammy gently yells to Gilly behind the counter. Minnow smiles at the girls and makes a few funny faces. Both girls laugh and bury their faces into their mothers’ side. The booth is in the shape of a waning moon with Minnow and Washington on the outside and the girls nested securely inside.

The two girls’ dad, Washington, looks at the recorder and immediately starts talking. “We don’t have much time. The experiment didn’t work. Well, it did work. Things are out of control. I don’t know how to begin… how do I explain about the field? Is that thing on?” he asks, pointing at the tape recorder. Minnow turns on the recorder and sets it in the middle of the table.

“Ok, good. The virus is under control, in a sense. Ah, the magnetic shield is down around the town…” Washington’s voice begins to trail off and he rubs his head with both hands. Washington’s pain shows severely. Sammy, Washington’s wife, tries to rub his neck, but her fingers can’t seem to penetrate his tight muscles. The girls look up and concern shows in their eyes.

“Maybe, sweetheart, we should try to start at the beginning,” Sammy offers.

“Sure,” answers Minnow. “That would be good for me.” Minnow glances over to Gilly with a look of confusion. Gilly nods in approval as if to say, “let them sit and talk.” August says nothing, but turns ever so slightly so that he can see the entire family. It is not uncommon for people to drop into the Rocketship Café and believe that they are part of a giant conspiracy. Most people who frequent the Rocketship Café have a healthy sense of paranoia. The conversation usually involves conspiracy theories of old and new. Sometimes reality is difficult to find inside the Rocketship Café.

“The terrorists… or maybe even we did it to ourselves… or maybe it is God’s way of waking us up. I don’t know. All I know is that somehow we let a virus loose, and my mission, my team’s mission, was to isolate the virus. Find a way to kill the virus or at least stop it. We did find a way to stop it, but we didn’t know about the fields…”

Washington stops again, drinks his coffee, and rests his head in his hands.

Sammy picks up where Washington left off. “The virus is in the plants. The grain. Our bodies now are able to digest it and live. There are no bad effects anymore, but now the fields that grew the grain have… the fields have…” Sammy looks at her children and her eyes swell with tears.

Everyone seems to have forgotten about August. He walks around behind the counter and refills his coffee cup all the while listening to the story. He does not intrude. He does not take notes. He just sits close enough to listen. His clothes are a drab shade of blue. He wears the same suit that he has worn since he got out of the army. His weight has remained the same, but his muscles have changed. His face has layers of wrinkles that are from laughter, fear and sadness. His eyes contain the woe of a million stories that have yet to be told. His laughter is a roar that is seldom heard.

There comes a time in everyone’s life where they reach a certain age and become invisible. August believes he has reached this zenith and that he has not only become invisible, but completely and utterly invisible.

Gilly brings the milkshakes, one vanilla and one chocolate, to the table. The girls squeal with delight. Gilly leaves the tin cup and extra spoons for the girls. It is obvious they love both chocolate and vanilla.

“Fries will be ready in a minute, girls,” Gilly says.

“Okay. Thank you. May we have some ketchup too, please?” the girls ask at the same time.

“Yes, little ladies, you may have as much ketchup as you want,” Gilly whips out the ketchup from his apron and leaves two completely full bottles. The girls shriek with laughter.

“You need anything else?” Gilly nods to Minnow.

“No, I’m fine.” Minnow says as he smiles abnormally. Minnow hasn’t touched his coffee, which is unusual.

“Your food will be up in a minute,” Gilly says. He always says that, even if it will be thirty minutes.

“I know you don’t have much time and neither do we,” Washington says, trying to regroup his thoughts.

“Well, I do have some time,” says Minnow, smiling at the girls and picking up a sugar cube tossing it into the air catching it in his mouth. The girls laugh uncontrollably.

“We are so thankful that you will listen to us,” Sammy says as she tries to shush the girls and move items on the table to keep them from being knocked off. Washington brings out the manual and lays it out on the table. He places both hands on the book and takes a deep breath before beginning again.

“The virus could no longer be contained and there was fear that it would take over completely. We had to begin using innocent people to experiment on in order to find the cure. I know that this sounds horrific and unbelievable. I know I sound like I am crazy and that I am a conspiracy nutcase, but I am not. You got to believe me…” pleads Washington.

“Why, sure fella… we believe you,” says Minnow with his gentle voice.

Washington smiles and begins again. “I know that not all the country’s food sources are damaged. That is another one of the complexities. The scientists cannot figure out why some grains are affected and some are not. But what is true is that once the grain is affected, it transfers to people. Then the fields are affected and then…”

Gilly walks back to the table with two heaping plates of curly French fries. He also has a big silver cup filled with more vanilla milkshake. Without asking, he fills both the girls’ empty glasses. They mumble “thank you” with milk mustaches as they drink and eat. Sammy sips her coffee with one eye on the door and the other on the sky as the thunder clouds approach.

“The sky is a true blue now,” says Sammy. Gilly returns in a moment carrying a huge plate covered with biscuits and gravy, the sides dripping. He sets it in front of Minnow along with a bottle of barbeque sauce made from his own recipe.

“Ok, what is important is that the people are no longer dying after eating the grain. I mean, their bodies are holding together now, but the fields now seem to be the problem—not the infertility thing (he looks over at Sammy) right? The fear of infertility from the virus has been conquered. We no longer are worried about people becoming sterile if they eat the grain. Then there was the magnetic shield. My mission was called tare. Do you know the significance of that word?” Washington says to Minnow. Washington turns to his daughters and smiles.

Washington knows that Sammy is pregnant. But what is not clear is exactly under what circumstances Sammy became pregnant. Washington wonders if Sammy will terminate the pregnancy or not. The ordeal with the Pastor was beyond comprehension—it was not the killing that bothered Washington it was the lack of moral judgement. He hopes and prays Sammy does not ask him how he feels about the baby growing inside her. Washington knows how important it is for Sammy to give birth to this child, but the child is not his.

“As a matter of fact, I do…” Minnow says as he sips his coffee.

“Shouldn’t you be taking notes?” Sammy asks with a strain in her voice.

“Sammy, he is taping everything. See the recorder? Let the man do his job—his way,” Washington says curtly, sensing her anxiety. It is obvious that Washington is saying this in response to her investigative work as a reporter before their marriage. It is also obvious that he hurt his wife’s feelings. His daughters come to the rescue.

“Daddy, do you want to try some of our curly French fries?” ask his daughters. The two girls have perfected the talent of talking at the exact same time.

Washington smiles. It is obvious that his entire body relaxes when talking with his girls, though he quickly composes himself and becomes rigid again. “No thank you, girls. I need to finish the story… then we must go.”

“According to my understanding of the Bible, Tare is a medicine, drug, plant, or something that makes people sleep. I know that because I remember the sermon the Pastor gave,” Minnow says, very proud of himself.

“Tare is a parable from the Bible. It deals with Christians knowing that they are Christians and tares knowing that they are tares. The tares know that at the end, they are to be gathered together and burned,” August mumbles under his breath, and only Gilly hears him. Gilly gives August a look as if to say, “stay out of the conversation.”

“Wow, you really do understand what I mean by this virus and about tare,” Washington says to Minnow with a sense of hope in his voice.

“Well, ah… sometimes. But you left off with the town surrounded by a magnetic field,” Minnow says.

“Yes, tare is from the Bible and you are right. Thank you for listening. We must get this information out to everyone. It really isn’t as complicated as it sounds,” Washington replies.

“What about the shield?” asks Minnow.

“We have found a cure. Well, we haven’t really found it—it was always there. We needed our eyes opened to see it. Laminin is vital to making sure overall body structures hold together. Bad production of Laminin can cause muscles to form something like muscular dystrophy. That is one of the many things the virus was doing, but we seemed to have found a way to manage it,” explains Washington in an almost insane maniacal voice.

“That is mighty interesting. So Laminin is the answer to the virus… okay, so then you found the cure?” asks Gilly.

“No, there are the problems with the fields,” Washington hangs his head as though it is his fault.

“But didn’t you just say that Laminin was the cure?” asks Minnow.

“Well, the nutrient problem is gone, the insanity problem is gone, and the infertility problem might not be a problem anymore, right Sammy?” Washington replies.

Sammy looks at Washington, says nothing, and reaches for her belly out of habit.

“What about the shield? How did you get a shield to go around a town without anyone seeing it?” Minnow questions, a look of confusion on his face.

“You know how the bullet trains work? They run on the magnetic rails? Well, it is the same premise except that it is a giant transparent bubble. The bubble surrounds the town and the people can’t escape. They can’t send any form of communication outside the bubble either. It works very well, but the people complain that it changes the color of the sky somewhat,” Washington is making a great effort to sound logical and believable.

“So the news that there was a quarantine around the town because of the nasty fruit fly that was destroying all the citrus trees—was just a rouse?” Gilly asks.

“Yes, and it seemed to work pretty well, but then we had the problem of the fields…” Washington says as he smiles. Gilly breaks into the conversation.

“Why, of course it did. No one wants the entire crop of oranges to go bust! Just think what that would do to the economy!” hoots Gilly.

“We need to hurry, honey,” Sammy says, giving Washington a loving squeeze on his firm muscled arm.

“Our orders were to take over the town because it fit the requirements and needs for the experiment. We’ve had failures in recent months trying to find a cure for the virus. The difference in this experiment was that we had the people plant, harvest, and eat the planted grains. We had scientists from all over the world living right in the town with the people. They worked day and night in the most spectacular lab…” Washington paused for a moment to drink his coffee.

Washington begins again as he gazes at the jukebox. “The scientists and the people of the town did absolutely everything involved with the virus. The people planted the grain, harvested the grain, and then ate the grain. Everything went according to plan. We thought we had the cure. There were pregnancies, and some women even carried their baby to full term. The soldiers did not have a high rate of suicide or some type of mental break down. Then there were the fields, but the soldiers had something else… maybe it was the many years of wearing the suit and not having any real physical contact… but that too is not a problem that can’t be solved,” Washington releases a long, deep sigh. He seems extremely weary. Everyone sits riveted to the story because Washington is physically huge and convincing even though the tale is so crazy.

“The fields are alive and have become the problem,” Washington says.

“The suit?” Minnow asks in full bewilderment. “What suit? Why would a suit cause a soldier to commit suicide?”

“The suit. The suit is the uniform. It is our second skin. It does everything for us. Ah… ah…” Washington’s voice and concentration trail off again.

Sammy immediately sees that Minnow is not understanding about the suit. She attempts to explain, “My husband hasn’t been wearing his suit for over a year. His body is having a hard time adjusting to not being protected. I don’t know how to explain it in medical terms. I just know that his immune system has to work extra hard right now. I know that the scientists were giving him injections to help build back up his immune system. The suit kept him at a constant body temperature, and it stopped any virus or a bacterium that was harmful. I mean, he wasn’t sick and never even had a headache the entire time he wore the suit. But now, as you can see, he is having a rough time.” Sammy tries to make Minnow understand while attempting to soothe Washington at the same time.

“Yeah, he looks to be in pretty bad shape. Are you sure you don’t want something to eat? Gilly may not look like it, but he can cook up a storm,” Minnow is genuine in his concern.

“You know, some soup might be a good idea. Does Gilly make soup? Honey, do you have the medicine for the injections?” Sammy asks.

Without missing a beat Gilly brings a bowl of soup. “Don’t want you to think I was eavesdropping, but I heard Minnow tell you that I have soup. Chicken soup is my specialty. My grandpa taught me how to make it. Everyone thinks that it is the chicken meat that is the secret, but that’s not it—not it at all,” Gilly sets the steaming bowl of soup in front of Washington then digs a huge spoon out of his apron and hands it to him.

Washington grabs the spoon weakly. Gilly smiles a warm friendly smile. “You know, it is the special ingredients of spices, tears, and love that make it work,” Gilly says this last line to the little girls.

“Really? You know how to put love in the soup?” asks Ruth.

“No Ruthy-ooey, he can’t put love in soup, but he can put tears in soup,” says Esther with authority.

“I really don’t like being called Ruthy-ooey and you know it! I know he can put tears in soup. All he needs to do is cry and let the tears drop in the soup, but explain how he puts love in the soup. Messy-essie,” Ruth replies, not to be one-upped by her twin sister.

“Girls! This is not the time or place to argue,” Sammy grabs a hold of their small frail arms. “Thank you, Gilly and sorry about the outburst.”

“Kids are kids and their thoughts are not to be harnessed—yet,” he says.

“Don’t thank him until your husband eats the soup. Then, if he doesn’t die, thank him,” it is evident that Minnow has a deep affection for Gilly.

“I don’t see how you’ve been any worse for the wear after eating my food,” Gilly says to Minnow.

“Well, thank you anyway,” says Sammy with a smile. She rummages in her bag and brings out a small spiral notebook as if she is about to start taking notes. This behavior shows a routine. It is a characteristic of a habit held over from her previous career. She begins flipping through the pages, then becomes distracted by her children again and lays down the small spiral notebook on the table. The page that is flipped open begins with the sentence Am I good enough?

“Daddy, can we have some coins to play the music?” Ruth asks in a soft voice.

Minnow shoves over the change lying on the table. “Here, girls. Play as many songs as you can. I love all kinds of music.”

“Thank you very much. Is there a special song you like?” Esther asks as she grabbing the coins.

“No, like I said, I like all music. But Gilly, he likes the swing music. Play something by Glen Miller or Duke Ellington,” Minnow explains to both of the girls.

“We can do that! We like swing music too! Mommy has shown us how to dance to it—it’s fun to dance too!” Ruth twirls toward the jukebox.

“Thank you. They have been so cooped up for so long I am afraid they have forgotten manners and shyness,” Sammy offers as an apology.

“I love kids. I have kids of my own. I even have some grandkids,” Minnow says with pride. “I have some pictures. Want to see them? In fact, I should show you my grandson. He is the reason I have this…”

Washington stops eating his soup and interrupts Minnow, but seems to be unaware that he did so. “Do you have any questions? I know the story sounds far fetched. I don’t remember if I explained about the infertility and soldier’s suicides though. I can tell you for sure that we conquered the virus, but at what cost is the conquering? We tried to go by the manual as much as possible but we still didn’t win completely,” Washington places his hand on the manual almost as if in the middle of a prayer.

“You’re right. Your story does sound a little crazy, but this is a time of crazy things. I’m not exactly certain what you want me to do with this story,” answers Minnow.

“Just do what you do—tell the story. Be sure you tell everyone about the fields. We all have our jobs to do in life,” Washington says in a pleading tone. The music has filled the Rocketship Café. “In the Mood” by Glen Miller helps Gilly wash the dishes in the kitchen. The girls dance together in front of the jukebox and laugh.

“Mommy and Daddy come dance with us!” Ruth and Esther stretch their hands out to entice their parents to come to them. Sammy stands up and pulls Washington to his feet. They sway to the music, then Washington takes Sammy away with a small flourish.

“I will always love you. I will love all of our children.” Washington murmurs in her ear as he strokes her belly. Sammy does not answer, but stifles a small sob and smiles with relief. Her relief is short lived.

“I know you will. I know…” Sammy replies, her voice deeply confident of this knowledge.

When the music stops they all walk back to the table. Washington leans heavily on Sammy as he places money on the table. The girls run to the back kitchen and say goodbye to Gilly and give him a hug and a kiss. Then, as if caught up in a tornado, the girls run to Minnow and repeat their routine—a goodbye, hug, and a kiss. The girls don’t seem to notice August sitting slightly ajar at the counter.

Washington shakes Minnow’s hand but does not say goodbye, “The suit is just as bad as the virus. At least with the virus, we knew it was made to kill people. The suit was made to help the modern day soldier and all it did was eat away at my body and almost destroyed my mind. The suit protects us but it is like our body gets lazy and stops working and becomes dependent on the suit. Then when I took off the suit I felt like there were times I was losing my mind. I can’t explain why this happened I just know it did and it scares me. I don’t like not having control of my own thoughts.”

“Then there are the fields…” Sammy cuts Washington off.

“Come on honey, we need to get far away before they know we have left,” Sammy tugs at Washington’s arm.

“I know, honey, but we need to make sure that the story gets out and that people learn the truth. Remember the fields,” Washington says as though he is giving a sermon. He salutes Gilly who nods in return and then gives a salute as well. Though Gilly never told Washington he had been in the military, both men knew. Sammy smiles at them both. As Sammy walks behind the girls, she twists to close the door. As an after thought, she spies a man sitting at the counter drinking coffee. He looks familiar. Sammy stops for just a second to look, and at the same moment the man at the counter turns ever so slightly and winks at her. She nods, but only enough so that he could see. August sighs a breath of relief—she saw him. The family walks out the door to the truck and leaves just as they came—in a puff of dust.

Gilly comes back out to Minnow’s booth. “Crazy, but a cute family.”

“Yeah, the kids are really cute. They make me miss my own grandkids,” Minnow says sadly.

“Do you think he thought you were someone else? Maybe a big important newspaper reporter? What is that book he left on the table? Look! Here’s a notebook. What’s in it?” Gilly asks, wiping his hands on his apron.

“That’s a hoot! Me a writer? You are right, he must have thought I was someone else. Maybe he thought I was August. Wasn’t August a writer? Then he kept calling the Bible a manual. That little book? Humm… oh yes, the wife was digging in her purse and pulled it out. I don’t remember if she wrote anything in it or not,” Minnow says, pushing the Bible toward Gilly.

“Yes, it is a hoot and a holler,” says August while drinking his coffee, his back facing the booth where Minnow and Gilly are seated.

“She did. Look, here’s the first line. “Am I good enough?” Did you have the recorder on the whole time?” Gilly sits down and takes hold of the Bible.

“Should we read it? The little book?” There is a long pause while Minnow thinks about what Gilly asked him. “The recorder? Are you kidding? I can barely get that silly thing to work, but I do have a story to tell my grandson. I wonder if it is okay for his project if I use someone else’s oral history?” asks Minnow.

“You got none of it? None of what he was saying? How are you going to remember everything?” Gilly asked in an astonished voice. Flipping through the notebook, he says, “I think we should read it.” August smiles and nods his head.

Minnow is thinking more about the recorder. “True, I would need to either write it down now or tell it to the recorder. Or I could tell it to you… to see if I get all the details?” Minnow says with a playful glean in his eyes. “But, reading his wife’s writing? I don’t know… it seems almost like it would be reading her diary.”

“She left it didn’t she? She even left it open to a certain page. You don’t think it was on purpose?” Gilly asks. “Well, you were given an assignment by your grandson, so he must have faith in your ability in telling a story,” Gilly says as he settles back in the booth.

“Yes, I am pretty good at telling stories. That guy even said that it was my duty to tell the story,” Minnow says in a fearful voice as he too settles into the booth.

“I think we should read the wife’s writing. I know she used to be a reporter. She used to come in once in a while to meet with her clients,” Gilly replies.

“You know her and you didn’t say anything?” Minnow inquires, a little upset.

“I don’t really know her, I just know that she used to be a reporter for the local newspaper. We talked but never got personal,” Gilly answers indignantly.

“So these two aren’t the normal crazy people that stop by here? They could be for real?” asks Minnow. “That is spooky!”

“I don’t know about spooky. I do know that she never seemed like a nutcase. I met her husband once, but that was a long time ago. It seemed that when he left today, he remembered me, but I’m not sure.” Gilly says looking out the window to watch the last glimpse of the truck disappear into the desert.

“She is not a nutcase. She is someone to be believed because hard nuts usually end up cracked,” August mumbles to himself.

“You mean that story about an experiment, a virus, grain, and people killing themselves or something just might be true? No way…” Minnow says as he eats more of his dinner.

After a few seconds Gilly says, “I think they might be telling some sort of truth, but I don’t know what truth. I don’t believe they were lying. I think that they believe what they were saying, and I also think that your grandsons’ teacher would like any story. Before we start in on this story, let me get us some coffee,” Gilly walks a few feet to grab the pot of coffee.

“What is better, memory or forgetfulness? Memory brings back old friends and happy days. Forgetfulness empties mistakes and regrettable actions out of the mind and then allows life to be more enjoyable. I wonder which one we’ll choose?” August asks himself.

“What are you going to do with that Bible?” Gilly asks as he pours the steaming coffee into the mugs.

“I got a Bible of my own in my car. Why don’t I leave this Bible in the café for you and your customers?” Minnow asks, adding sugar cubes to his coffee.

“That would be nice. I have one in my cottage, but I don’t have one in here. You never know when you might need to look something up,” Gilly says, adding sugar cubes to his own coffee mug. “Why did you listen to him tell you the story anyway?”

“For starters, he is a mighty big guy and his family looked scared. The little girls were extremely cute and had such a sweet laugh,” Minnow says as he sips his coffee.

“Laughter was given to us to use to scare away our troubles,” August mumbles loud enough for Minnow and Gilly to hear.

Ignoring August, Gilly says, “You know, the Ebola virus could quarantine an entire town.” Gilly turns serious, but then lightens up. “I thought the twin girls were as cute as little red buttons. His wife was good looking, but what I liked most about her was that she believed in him.” Gilly begins to thumb through the Bible.

“Yeah, a family can’t be all that bad if they all believe so much in each other,” Minnow says.

“True. If they all love and believe in each other, what more can we ask from a family?” Gilly replies.

“You okay, Gilly?” Minnow asks.

“Sure, I am. You know, the town they came from is in a valley and the air stays in it until some big wind comes by. It is really smoggy there! It is a few miles up the road, and there are only two roads in to the town—one is highway and the other is the interstate,” Gilly tries to make sense of the story.

“You okay, Gill? Are you really trying to figure this out? I think he is a soldier on leave or just retired and doesn’t know how to end his tour. I think you know what I mean,” Minnow says trying to brighten up the conversation.

“Yeah, I guess I do. But think about it… people touch hands and then die… the Ebola virus… I’ve heard of that type of thing, but the airborne virus is the most dangerous. Have you heard of any food shortages in your traveling?” Gilly asks in a cool grim tone.

“No, not really. Why would I hear about food shortages or airborne virus? I’m a salesmen—I sell fertilizer and seeds. All I ever do is make certain that all the fields are covered with super duper manure and that I have the right seeds. That is my world—fertility and manure. Gilly, this guy seems to have you spooked. Okay, maybe food prices did jump, but they always do. You know how that goes. It seems when the big corporate types want a raise they say there is a shortage and they hike up the prices,” Minnow says in an attempt to get Gilly to smile.

“Wait, Minnow… didn’t he say something about fertility or infertility? I don’t remember… what was it?” Gilly asks, rubbing his head.

“I don’t remember. I was eating and making faces at his kids,” Minnow replies.

“It is true about the food prices, so very true. You know, Minnow, we seem now to be living in a world where all the roads don’t always meet in the center. Even on the biological level—the gene pool level—we are not one, but more like an octopus. When we move away from unity…” Gilly says, still tying to make sense of the conversation.

“Gilly I’m not that smart. I don’t understand your idea of gene pools and octopuses,” Minnow states as he drinks his coffee in one large gulp.

“Minnow, it is complicated and simple at the same time,” Gilly says, opening the Bible.

“You know, come to think of it… Gilly, I do have something that I find puzzling. I have a new fertilizer called tare. I just got it. I guess that is why I remembered the Bible story. It has not been officially tested. I just have samples. I have it to show a few choice customers and to maybe let them use it as a trial run. Gilly, it is to stop the spread of weeds in certain grains,” Minnow says, very much afraid.

“Tare… tare… didn’t he say something about tare?” Gilly asks, searching through the Bible.

“I don’t know, Gilly. Now you got me so scared I can’t think straight!” Minnow says with a big sigh.

“I think he did. In fact, you said you knew it from the Bible,” Gilly says in reply.

“I did? Maybe I did. I don’t remember that, but I do remember the names of his little girls. Ruthy-ooey and Messy-essie,” Minnow laughs.

“Really? That is very interesting, Minnow. How do you explain that?” Gill asks, drinking his coffee, flipping open the Bible and stopping at the book of Matthew.

“I remember a sermon about wheat and something about gathering and burning. I only listened because it was about soil and seeds and that’s what I sell… I can’t remember anything! I don’t want to remember anything. Let it alone, Gilly!” Minnow says in a dejected voice.

“I can’t. I know the story. Wheat represents the Christian population of God’s kingdom. The tares look very much like wheat, but it is a different plant that is harmful,” Gilly claims, beginning what could be a long story.

“You read the Bible and know the Bible stories?” Minnow seems pleasantly amazed.

“I read enough and know my share,” Gilly replies.

“Everything of real worth is bought with self sacrifice,” August sighs as he pours himself another cup of coffee and grabs a sweet roll from the glass box on the counter.

“I mean, that’s okay with me, Gilly, if you’re a Bible thumper. I just never really thought of you as… as…” stammers Minnow.

“As what? Someone who believes in something bigger than myself?” Gilly shoots back with indignation.

“Well… well… yeah…” Minnow answers rubbing his head.

“Look Minnow, the one thing I know is my limits. The other thing I know is the parable of tare. My fat grandma taught me it was a very apocalyptic parable,” Gilly says, reading the Bible. Minnow’s look on his face shows he has no idea of what Gilly just said.

“Apo-o-what?” asks Minnow, completely confused.

“According to the story, tare is not wheat, but it looks like wheat. Tares were something that was sown, not by God, but by his enemy. The kingdom on earth is populated with wheat and tares. You might say, the wheat stands for God’s people and the tares look like God’s people, but they aren’t,” Gilly speaks slowly to get Minnow’s attention.

“So, the tares are the aliens that are really reptiles with human skins on them? Like the President of the United States right?” responds Minnow with a newfound excitement.

“Minnow, be serious! Aliens and reptiles are not the President of the United States! But if you must, I guess you could put it that way. Most importantly, there are a few who can tell the difference between wheat and tares,” counters Gilly.

“Gilly, I would like nothing more to be serious and sit here and tell the stories again and again, but I got to start driving back home,” Minnow drinks the last of his coffee and takes a biscuit off the plate Gilly had brought to the table earlier. With deftness, Minnow soaks up the last of the gravy without losing a crumb.

“Well, my friend, don’t forget the recorder. Even though it wasn’t on,” Gilly says.

“Right, my grandson would be very upset if I didn’t bring it back. See you on my next time around. Take care. You know, Gilly, this tare business will give me something big to think about on my drive,” Minnow exhales his words as he struggles to get up from the table.

“I can loan the Bible to you if you want it,” Gilly offers the Bible to Minnow.

“No thanks, pal. I’m the one who gave it to you! I have an extra! I’m good with my thoughts and you know what? I don’t think all those people who choose the wrong road end up at a dead end,” Minnow says as he struggles again to get up out of the booth.

“At times, I think that evil can be stopped, but it can’t be made into something good. Minnow, do me a favor would you?” Gilly asks, standing and facing him. Gilly is just as tall as Minnow, but has a cowboy leanness that only comes from living alone.

“Sure, Gilly. What is it?” Minnow asks.

“Before you go, would you just check and see if you did record that story?” Gilly inquires delicately.

“Why does this story mean so much to you?” Minnow seems puzzled again.

“I’m not sure. Maybe it is because he was—is—a soldier and I was a soldier…” Gilly stammers.

“You mean, something like the buddy forever thing? You know, Gilly, I was never in the military,” Minnow says with anguish.

“I know, but you possess the loyalty of a soldier,” Gilly says in an honorable manner.

“Thanks, Gilly,” Minnow says in a beholden tone. “Do you think I will be able to tell the difference between wheat and tare? I mean, I have the fertilizer and seeds, but jeez, I never thought I might have to really know something about the plants that the fertilizer kills!” Minnow is upset over the dilemma.

“Minnow, you will be able to tell the difference, I’m sure of it… you can count on me to always be your friend. Just as the evening comes each day, I will be here for the sunrise. Minnow, I never believed in safety in numbers before, but I do now…” replies Gilly.

“Gilly, I am at a loss… safety from what?” Minnow asks.

“From real things, imagined things, and other things that hide so that we cannot tell the difference from good and bad,” Gilly says, lost in thought.

“Oh, you mean like nightmare fantasies… fantasies of such a long time ago that only our ancestors would understand,” Minnow replies.

Gilly was visibly taken aback with the level of depth coming from Minnow. “Well, I am not certain about my ancestors and their nightmares. I do believe that materialism and insanity are fast coming out here to greet us. It seems that we will need to sharpen our levels of discernment. I always considered this café to be my spiritual get away, but now it seems that I have been found. I thought I could hide away from many of the problems of the world. But there seems to be no escape from trouble no matter how hard I try to close my eyes to it. Somehow, someway the nightmares of the world seem to find me,” Gilly testifies.

“Well, I hope that I am included in this Earth-bound hideaway, my man! Gilly, don’t worry. Not that many people know about this place, and once they do, your food will keep them away!” Minnow says with a loving laugh.

“Absolutely, Minnow. Thank you for that peace of mind. You are sublime to me,” Gilly says with vigor.

“Slime?” Minnow asks, “Well, its time for me to head home to my family.”

“No, sublime. A beautiful thought and memory,” Gilly laughs and slaps Minnow on the back. “Have a safe trip.” The two men embrace as proud warriors. There is electricity in the touch as if they are both leaving for their final battle.

After Minnow leaves the café, Gilly sits back down in the booth and begins to read the opened “manual” at the book of Matthew. A small piece of paper that seems to be functioning as a bookmark softly slips out onto the table. “I came forth from the father, and I come into the world again. I leave the world, and go to the father,” Gilly reads aloud. “From God into the world, from the world back to God. Eternal son ship with the Father—oneness with the Father. He is the God-man, uniting two natures in one, distinct yet mysteriously connecting one personality,” Gilly softly closes the manual. “Enough of this; I got to get back to work,” Gilly says loud enough for August to hear.

He leaves the manual open on the table and clears off the plates and glasses. He pulls the notebook off the table and notices a diagram etched over and over again on the front of it. He flips it open to read the words written by the handsome loyal woman.

Am I good enough? Am I worthy enough? These are constant questions for me. I can’t remember a time when I was not asking these questions. Though, when I was younger the questions were phrased a little differently.

I always wondered why my mom didn’t love me. Why was she always so mad at me? Why was I always on the outside looking in? Why didn’t I have a best friend like everyone else? Why did it feel like I needed to make deals and concessions to God to make him like me too?

Through a series of events in my life and the wisdom of God, I think I can finally answer this question, but only for myself. This question to me seems to be wholly individualized. What is worthy for me is not worthy for anyone else because the entire idea of being worthy is simply knowledge from your soul and God’s soul.

There are just a few childhood stories that really stand out in my life. There is one in particular that has shaped who I am, my style of parenting, and even how I believe. I remember the day, time, weather, smells, and most of all my emotions.

I was still going to elementary school. My oldest sister was living with us again. Her husband was in his third tour of the Vietnam Conflict (as she called it). She had already given birth to two sons and was on her third child.

After each birth, she moved back from Missouri to live with us because her husband was always off fighting in the conflict. She gave birth in the local Catholic hospital and came to our very small two-bedroom house in Iowa.

She said she only lived in Missouri because her husband was stationed at Fort Jackson. She had my mother convinced that the grocery markets did not sell mayonnaise, my sister’s favorite cookies or coffee, so my mom always gave her these items or money to buy them when she came back to Missouri.

I always wondered why my mother gave her money if the items were not available in Missouri. I came to visualize Missouri as some extremely small town that had one grocery market with about five or six shelves of food. Not until I got older did I understand what my sister was really doing, but by then it was too late because my mother had sold her house and moved in with her. They both shop at the one and only market that does not have any of their favorite foods.

The day that changed my life.

I felt that each and every time my sister moved in with us, I did more babysitting than she did parenting. It’s hard even now to know what the truthful perspectives of those months really were. I learned that I did not want to have children until I was old. Her children were too messy, too loud, and too much work.

The day was a simple day. I wanted so badly to go sledding with the neighborhood kids. They were all going to Longfellow Elementary School, the neighborhood school. In the back of the school there was a huge hill that leads to the football field, which was covered in ice.

We could all go sledding or ice skating at the same place. The kids came to my house all suited up with sleds and ice skates in hand. I said, “Wait a second and I’ll be there!”

My sister slammed the door shut and said, “No!” The neighborhood kids all scattered. We all knew each other’s families well enough to know when a whooping was going to happen. No one wanted to be around in case the adult decided to come outside and land a few slaps on young bystanders.

She grabbed my arm and tossed me back into the kitchen. She created chore after chore for me to do. The faster I got done with the chore, the faster she would find another one even more trivial than the one before.

I did not know that there were so many chores to do in the house. I felt as though she was punishing me, but I had no idea as to why. Finally, the last chore came. I had to rewash all the pots and pans stored underneath the oven. Even though my mother had bought a portable dishwasher, I was never allowed to use it.

The brown box with a wooden butcher-block top (the portable dishwasher) was rolled away into a corner and collected dust. My mom stored all her plastic bowls in the dishwasher, along with pennies. Any item bought at the store that was plastic and had a lid my mother kept inside the dishwasher. The pennies were loaded into the plastic containers and placed as orderly as possible in the trays that have never known the touch of water.

I was angry and told my sister we could put all the pots and pans in the dishwasher and turn it on to dry. She got angry and screamed, “No!” The word “no” pretty much summed up my conversations with my older sister.

Finally, I gathered up the courage or I was at the end of my rope and asked if I could go. She said I had to dry everything and put everything away. I started to dry everything, but then I thought I’d put the pots on the stove and turn on the gas flame. By the time I was done drying the other things, the pots would be dry too.

Well, I finished and told my sister. She was planted in front of the small black and white TV watching “Let’s Make a Deal” and smoking her pack of cigarettes. The pot of coffee was within reach of her right arm.

The coffeepot was sitting directly to her side so that she would not have to get up to refill her cup. Her sons were asleep taking their nap or at least pretending. Even the babies knew when to be quiet for her.

I quietly got ready for sledding and slid out as softly as I possibly could. I justified my not saying goodbye because I did not want to disturb her concentration on Monty Hall and whether she should choose door number one or the beautifully wrapped box. Even though I thought I could hear a chicken clucking from the box. I left and softly closed the screen and storm doors.

I caught up with my neighborhood kids and had a wonderful afternoon sledding with abandon and ice skating as though I was a swan princess.

When I got back to the house it was just beginning to become dark. Once I opened the door, her anger made the outside of the house feel bright. She was furious. She started screaming at me, “You stupid kid! You could have killed four people. You are a murderer. You could have killed three innocent babies and me. Then you would also have the murder of my husband on your head too!”

I had no idea what she was screaming about. My non-reaction angered her even more.

She grabbed me again by my arm and tossed me hard against the stove. The pots were on the stove. I thought she was angry that I didn’t put the pots away.

“Because you are so selfish! Because you want everything just for you! Because of your need to have fun—you left the pots on the stove. You murderer! If I had not gotten up to check and see where you were, I would not have noticed the flame under the pots. My three babies and myself—we could have gone up in flames. You would have murdered us and even burnt down the house. What do you have to say for yourself? And don’t try to blame this on anyone else!”

She grabbed my hand and was shaking my whole body. With her other hand she turned on the gas flame. Her entire body weight was shaking. She was not much taller than I was, but she weighed close to two hundred pounds and the thin housecoat she always wore displayed the ripples of her fat. She was very intimidating.

I was startled and taken off guard. I could understand burning down the house. I did not understand how I was a murderer. I was even more at a loss at how I was killing her husband who was in a war on another continent.

I had the image of a murderer in my mind and I definitely did not fit that image. I knew from experience to not say anything to her or she would slap me in my face. I just stood and hoped that her yelping would make the babies cry so she would send me to tend to her children.

She never did explain how I was a murderer, but I did get the message that a ten-year-old girl who wanted to go sledding with her friends was nothing more than an insect, a worthless and selfish kid who did not deserve to live.

Finally, the newborn baby began to cry and she sent me off to give him a bottle and to change his diaper. At that point, my feelings for taking care of children began change because I felt that the crying baby saved me from having my hand placed on the burner. I did not want my hands full of fire.

It took a few years and a lot of soul searching before I realized what she meant by me being a murderer. The death of her and her children would have ended her husband’s emotional life. He would have become just a shell of a man. She took great pains to explain how his mind would be shattered and he would be nothing more than a walking skeleton. I remember being so amazed when he did come home from his tour that he looked like a regular guy. I was really expecting to see a skeleton or a ghost of a man.

At the age of ten I could not understand how her death and the death of the children could creep all the way across oceans and mountains to kill her husband already in a war.

I need to give full credit to my older sister for planting the seed for my great preoccupation with the question of whether I am good enough or worthy enough. I decided at this point in my life that I was not worthy.

I had done something so evil that I would need to spend the rest of my life making up for almost murdering my sister’s entire family. I knew that I must on a constant basis repent and do enormous amounts of selfless good things for others. This is when I began making my deals with God. I was always trying to second-guess God. I figured if I was one step ahead of him that I would not do anything evil and that I might be able to put some heaven points in my column.

This is how I began my need to try to always be better. I would do one more extra mile, I would write twenty more extra pages for the research paper, I would always be the one recognized as trying the hardest and the most dedicated to others. I just wanted God to think I was good enough. But now, I don’t even know if that matters anymore. Does it matter anymore if I am good enough if there will be no one left to see or hear me?

But then, for some reason Gilly abruptly stops reading and looks out the window. The solitude outside the café is a lurking phantom with a bellyache. The wind outside blows as if it could be a threat. The earth shakes at the power of the wind. It sounds like a thousand naked warrior’s feet treading on the grass deprived ground. The soil teems with an unknown life force as the sky turns to a deep blue majestic hue. In the near distance thunder moans in the clouds.

The note drops from his fingers and his eyes water. He understands the guilt the young woman feels; he feels it too, but from the war, not from his immediate family.

August walks over to the booth, “May I see that?”

“What?… I forgot you were still here,” Gilly says in surprise.

“Yeah, I seem to have that affect on a lot of people. May I read it?” August extends his hand.

“Read what?” Gilly asks, not following the conversation.

“The paper you are holding,” August states in a non-threatening tone.

“I don’t know… it came from a personal journal,” Gilly says, feeling uncomfortable at being caught.

“So, why are you reading it?” August demands.

“Because it was left on my table,” Gilly answers confidently.

“Well, it is my job to read and report… so that means I should read it,” August says as he slides next to Gilly in the booth.

“I forgot that you used to be a reporter!” Gilly says slapping August on his back.

“Yeah, that happens to me a lot too,” August takes the rub with dignity. They both chuckle at August’s loss of respect. “Now, how about letting me read the things that they left,” pleads August.

“Why?” Gilly asks sincerely.

“Well, as you just pointed out, what else do I have to do?” August is growing weary of this banter.

“Good point. Why not?” Gilly gets up. “Want a refill on that coffee?”

“Why sure,” smiles August as he settles back to read the story.

“Good, I’ll put on another fresh pot. Considering you drank the entire pot I just made…” Gilly walks behind the counter and gets busy with the preparations.

“Good. You do that. I’ll be right here reading,” August begins to read. As he looks at the front cover of the notebook and the manual he traces with his fingers the outline of a crucifix on both. Without even looking at the words underneath the diagram, he says the word Laminin. “I always did believe in Intelligent Design (ID). I just never thought I would ever see it in plain view.”

As Gilly is making the fresh coffee he thinks “could a virus that mimics wheat kill people? Could it really be happening just a few miles up the road?

“No,” Gilly says out loud to no one and he shakes his head.

“You say something to me, Gilly?” August asks.

Gilly mumbles to himself as he makes the pot of coffee. “No. It is just a citrus virus and there could not possibly be a magnetic shield.” Would I be able to tell the difference and to identity the tares of the world? Gilly looks out the large front window. The day has become a dark blue purple as he gazes on vacant streets and barren abandoned houses. At that very moment, Minnow finally has his truck up and running and is gone in a puff of dust.