Many years ago David had
been Paul's closest friend, now they were far apart. It was hard for
Paul to sort things out in his own mind, let alone try to explain
himself to someone else. He had heard hundreds of different reasons why
people were homosexual and he was still unsure. How could he try to
explain it? He'd tried with his father and the outcome was a disaster.
Paul decided to try a different approach, hoping to avoid
another conflict. He never liked coming across as the enlightened,
self-righteous sinner who had found redemption. It reminded him of smokers
who had quit, or alcoholics who took the cure. They would make it their
place to cure the world of the ills they themselves had once suffered. Paul
promised himself he would never be a Bible-toting preacher out to set the
world straight. He was sure of one thing though — he wanted to let people
know about the divine love of Jesus and hoped that before he died he could
at least convert a few lost souls. Leaning forward, Paul scooted to the edge
of the tailgate, and swung his legs as he searched for words. "Ask me any
questions you want. I'll answer them with no excuses, no preaching."
David saw before him a handsome man. Paul was still trim,
with a muscular build, and even had all his wavy blond hair. How could he
have been with another man? The thought of it almost made him ill. "When was
the first time you were with another guy?"
"When I was twenty-two."
"How did it happen?"
"I was going to college on my GI bill. I wanted to play
football, but the wound to my leg, along with no feeling in my left arm,
prevented that. I was having emotional problems and was not sure of what I
wanted out of life. I could barely afford college, so I advertised for a
roommate on campus and we fell in love."
With a disgusted look on his face, David spat on the
ground. "Please don't call it love."
"Okay. I was twenty-two when I met Jeffrey."
This still didn't clear things up for David but he gave
up. Instead of pursuing it, he asked, "Why'd you become a priest?"
"I was in a group therapy class for post war trauma vets
and at one class they had as a guest speaker, a priest, Monsignor Charles
Grant. The first thing I noticed about him was that he was partially
crippled and could have not weighed more than one hundred and ten pounds.
Anyway, as he talked to us about the forgiveness and the love of Jesus, I
was completely overtaken by the way this frail thread of a man spoke. I
found out what church he was at and I started going to hear his sermons
"That's why you became a priest?"
"Not exactly, but it is what precipitated the end of a
four-year relationship I was in."
"With this Jeffrey guy?"
"The more I went to church to hear Monsignor Grant speak,
the more militant Jeffrey became. He wanted to boast about our commitment
and insisted that we should educate the public that our lifestyle was right
and common, and that anyone that didn't accept us was wrong. He was becoming
the same as the homophobic. He too was intolerant. I just wanted to stay in
the closet, so to speak."
David thought he had it figured out. "So it was this
Monsignor Grant's preaching that let you know that all the homosexuals were
going to hell? And that is why you broke it off?"
Recognizing ignorance in David's words, Paul chose his
next words carefully this time. "No, not really. I never did hear Monsignor
Grant give a sermon on homosexuality."
"Then what caused you to break up with Jeffrey?"
"The more I learned about Jesus and how he wanted us to
be like him, I just couldn't try to convince other people to live like me. I
couldn't condemn them but at the same time I couldn't actively support the
gay lifestyle. It made Jeffrey mad that I would not come out. He insisted
that I support the movement and I just couldn't do that. Then Jeffrey left
"Were you hurt that he left you?" David was amazed that
he was actually asking this question.
"Yes, very much." Paul paused as he thought of Jeffrey.
"We were very good for each other and I loved him very much."
David cringed at the word love, but this time said
nothing about it. Tired of speculating, he asked, "Then what happened?"
"I changed my major at college to theology and starting
praying more, sometimes two or more hours a day. The next thing I knew I was
being ordained a priest," Paul said, with a glow of happiness upon his face.
"Do you ever see Jeffrey anymore and try to show him the
way?" "No, he died of AIDS two years ago." There was silence as the reality
hit home for both of them.
David thought that he should say that he was sorry or
something, but deep in some dark corner of his mind he actually felt good
that another homosexual was dead. Actually craving to hear Paul condemn
homosexuals, he asked, "Now that you are an expert about God, where do you
think he sent your friend Jeffrey — heaven or hell? Wasn't he a homosexual,
right to the end?"
"Who am I to say how God is going to judge anyone? But I
can say that toward the end of my relationship with Jeffrey, hatred was
poisoning his soul and he became more militant. Jeffrey wanted the pleasures
of earth and would not accept the conditions that could set him free.
Anyway, it's too complex and I thought we were going to stay away from
religion. Neither of us wants a repeat of this morning," Paul said.
"See? That's your problem, Paul. You can't say God is
going to send all the gays to hell. I have heard other preachers say it, but
because you were one, you can't."
Wishing to avoid another physical confrontation Paul
picked his words carefully. "David, there are two small groups of people
that are evil and are spreading hate. Their reckless condemnation of each
other has drawn in millions of innocent individuals and divided decent
people. This is how Satan gains his strength — he divides, then conquers.
One group preaches all homosexuals are going to hell. They are bigots who
call themselves Christians and are equal to the truculent homosexuals who
insists God condones their lifestyle. Both groups ignore the divine love
Jesus Christ told us to live by."
"You're losing me again," David said. "You are saying
that militant homosexuals and bigoted Christians are the same in God's
"Amen!" Paul responded, now standing face to face with
"So you are telling me hate is the devil's tool, and love
is what Jesus wants."
Paul again responded with a loud, "Amen," delighted that
he might be getting through to David.
David felt both threatened and angry. "So my hating
homosexuals is wrong and Jesus does not like that?"
Paul recognized David's hostility, something he had tried
to avoid. Then in the stillness he heard something, a slight rumbling coming
from down the mountain road. "Do you hear something?"
David cupped his hands around his ears, listened hard and
then said, "Sounds like a truck or something coming up the road."
The low crawling noise was definitely a truck winding its
way up the steep road. After a few minutes, a white pickup rounded the last
corner and the driver waved. "It's Bill, the guy I work for," David said and
The truck stopped inches behind them. Out crawled a big
man, at least six foot five and over two hundred fifty pounds. He wore a
cowboy hat that made him look even more intimidating. "How y'all doing? I
figured you guys got in trouble up here. Marcea called up this morning and
said y'all never made it home last night. I figured I better mosey on up
here," Bill extended his hand to Paul.
"David just told me your name is Bill," Paul said.
Shaking Paul's hand Bill rambled on with his Texan drawl.
"And I know your name. It's a real pleasure to meet you, Father Paul. David
told us all about how, with a broken collarbone you caught that football
that won your State Championship Game, became a decorated war hero, a
martial arts expert, and now a priest. Glory be, he has been bragging on you
Paul glowed. It had been so long since he felt worthy of
such praise. Feeling tears behind his eyes, he let go of Bill's hand and
simply replied, "Thank you."
David jumped in. "There is another thing to add to Paul's
list of achievements."
Paul's face immediately tightened up and turned red. He
could hardly breathe.
"He saved my life last night. First the wind was blowing
so hard it slammed the truck door and the window broke out. Then I got
soaking wet in the rain and the truck battery died. There was no way I could
get warm. I almost froze to death. Paul got me into some dry clothes and
kept a fire going all night. I don't remember much, but I owe my old buddy,"
said David, moving next to Paul, putting one arm around him and giving him
half a hug.
Stunned, Paul wanted to blurt out, I love you David, but
knew not to. Instead, he humbly said, "It was God who got us through the
David was not going to let Paul off that easily. "If God
built that fire, I wish he would have stayed around so I could've thanked
All three men chuckled while Paul thought, I already
did. Paul tried again, trying to down play things. "And that catch I
made — I bet he didn't tell you the whole story."
"I don't know," replied Bill. "David's got us plumb wore
out about that catch. He has gone over the story about fifty times just this
last week. I'm sure we know it by now," Bill guffawed.
There was determination in Paul's voice as he asked, "Did
David tell you how he blocked my man and left me in the open so that I could
catch the ball?"
"No, he never mentioned anything about that part. But
I've got a gut feeling you're going to tell me," Bill laughed..
Because of the letdown after the game Paul had never
talked about that victory night. Now twenty-plus years later, he could
finally set the story straight. "Sure, I caught the ball but was only
because David annihilated my man. It was our last play and my shoulder was
killing me. The defensive end was huge and was grinding me into the field
every play. I just wanted the game to be over. When we were in the huddle
and a pass play was called, I wanted to change the play. I knew I couldn't
get by this defensive end. But David here had one of his mind sets — that we
were going to win!" Paul stopped and looked right at David.
David can be one stubborn mule," added Bill.
Paul laughed. This big Texan had just described David to
a tee. "Anyway, we broke from the huddle and David ran right up to the line,
like a man with a mission. The ball was snapped, David hit his man and then
cross-blocked the defensive end. He hit my man so hard it flipped him on his
back, and then he drove the guy into the turf like a pile driver. The field
was wide open for me and all I did was catch the ball. The clock ran out and
when I looked down the field, David gave me a thumbs up. At that instant we
both knew it was his taking my man out that enabled me to catch the pass."
"David told the story a tad bit differently, Bill said.
"All about how y'all caught the ball with a broken collar bone."
"That part might be true but the truth is, without David
blocking my man, we would have lost the game. I just got all the glory . . .
and the game ball. I only wish I had that game ball today. I'd give it to
the person who really deserves it," said Paul, shifting his gaze from Bill
A knot tightened in David's throat. He had always
wondered why Paul had never said anything about that night. Now he knew it
was because of what happened with Paul's father after the game. At that
moment David was reliving that night, only this time, in David's review,
Paul was saying, "Here's the Most Valuable Player," and handing the game
ball to him.
There was a long silence as the three men stood there, a
sanctifying moment brought on by the truth. A large amount of the resentment
David had held against Paul for all these years ebbed and receded. David
savored the moment, then spoke quickly to change the subject. "Hey, we
better quit the bull. I'd better get the battery hooked up so we can get off
"Yeah. If you two keep it up, y'all be grabbing butt
soon," said Bill. Paul and David looked at each other, then erupted into
laughter. Bill joined in, despite not thinking what he'd said was all that
As soon as they started down the winding mountain road,
Paul fell sound asleep in the cab. David drove all the way back to Denver
trying to sort things out. A force . . . a spirit . . . a new blood was
flowing through David, growing larger every minute. Finally David turned the
truck into a motel parking lot. He reached over and shook Paul by the
shoulder, "Hey, wake up."
Paul woke up and looked around, his neck stiff from
leaning against the window. "Where are we?"
"I got you this room last week when you called and told
me you had to come and see me. I made the reservation for three nights.
There's two nights left."
Paul felt awkward as the two of them sat there in front
of the motel office. He figured that this was probably the last time he'd
see David. This was to be their final good-bye. He had hoped for something
different, but in the back of his mind knew it would end something like
Paul reached down to his satchel on the floor and pulled
a white envelope out. He handed it to David and said, "I am genuinely sorry
for the inconvenience I've caused you. Here is a round trip ticket to San
Francisco and directions where to go to get your name and Social Security
number taken off my medical records. I have everything set up. You just have
to show up in person to sign a few forms, and you might have to take a blood
test. The airplane ticket is wide open so use it when you want. I also wrote
down a phone number where you can get a hold of me when you're in town, if
David took the envelope and noticed there was some cash
along with the ticket. He tried to count the currency without being obvious.
It looked like five one-hundred dollar bills. "What's the cash for?"
"You will have to stay overnight and you will need some
cab fare," answered Paul. With that, he pulled back on the door handle, got
out of the truck, grabbed his suitcase from behind the seat, and then walked
around to the driver's side.
David sat in the truck with the engine still running,
counting the money. He noticed Paul by the broken window, turned his head
and said, "Oh, by the way, Marcea is cooking a big Sunday dinner for you.
I'll pick you up about noon tomorrow. Wait till you taste her cooking. It's
great." David dropped the truck into gear and as he turned out of the
parking lot, he waved at his friend.
Paul stood there, suitcase and satchel in hand, and
watched the pickup fade down the highway. He wiped at a small tear and
headed toward the motel office.
Paul slept like a log that night and woke up early. He
walked to the nearest church, a small but beautiful turn-of-the-century
Episcopal relic. He prayed for David, thanking God for going to battle over
David's soul and ridding him of at least some of his destructive hatred.
After the service, Paul was back at his motel room by ten. He worked out and
had time to practice his martial arts. He showered and was ready, knowing
David would be there right on time.
Sure enough, at noon straight up there was a knock at the
"How did you sleep?" David asked.
"Great. I really was tired, I slept for almost ten
"Are you ready for the best meal of your life?"
"Sounds great. I haven't had home cooking for years,"
Paul said. "David, you can't know how good it makes me feel that you invited
me to your home for dinner."
"Hey, it's the least I can do for my old buddy," replied
David. He slapped Paul on the shoulder, "Let's get a move on."
Once heading south on Interstate 25, Paul could sense
tension in the cab. David had not said a word in the last ten miles. To
break the tension Paul asked, "How much further to your house?"
"We take the Castle Rock exit and then go about five
miles east on Highway 86," David said . Then they were silent again.
David turned the truck off the interstate and they went
back across the overpass. Then he steered the truck into the parking lot of
the abandoned filling station, reached down, turned the ignition off. "I
have a few things to tell you and one thing to ask of you."
David had been mulling the words over and over while he
drove and now laid out his prepared speech. "There is something that I have
never shared with anyone. I trust you, and am asking that you never tell
anybody else. When I was in Vietnam, I had problems too, somewhat different
than you had, Paul. I truly believed in this country but I was also scared
and did not want to go to the front lines. I knew that with my aptitude for
electronics and radio equipment, I probably would not see much action. That
is why I enlisted, but I have always felt like I wasn't really a soldier.
When you signed up for the Army, I thought you were so brave. After you told
me about your experiences yesterday, I am glad I never saw what you did.
Anyway, you dragged up some memories that I would like to get off my chest.
I am asking you never to tell anybody."
"Sure, as a priest I have taken an oath of
"Good. If you told anybody, I could still get into
serious trouble." Paul knew that this had to do with either the Clipper Chip
or David's military records. "You have my word as a friend and as a priest.
I will never repeat what you tell me, even if my life depends on it."
"Thank you," David said. He then started to pour out his
story. "When I was in Vietnam I got this cush job in Saigon working on the
news teletype and communication equipment. I had it made — no one really
knew much about the equipment and I was pretty much on my own. I had Top
Secret Clearance and even worked my own hours. In the later part of '68 I
started to notice that some of the information was being suppressed. The
number of casualties was a lot higher then what we were telling the press.
Almost every time a village was hit and innocent people were lost, that
information was not put on the wire. I also became aware that some
information was being made up. They were hand feeding the press only what
they wanted them to know. It really bothered me, but being young and naive I
just figured that was the way things were done."
David stopped and looked around the parking lot, like
somebody might be listening. "I was working late one evening on the Teletype
trying to solve a communication error we had been having. No one was allowed
in the communication headquarters after midnight, so I ran a separate data
line into my private electronic shop so I could try to isolate a problem in
this one Teletype machine. While I was working on the machine, some
information came across. I knew it was Top Secret, and that I should not
Paul frowned before he replied, "But you did. David, ever
since we were in grade school you always were getting into things like that.
I remember when you tapped the school phone and almost got expelled."
"You're right, Paul. I am always snooping into things
that I should keep my nose out of. But anyway, I read that an American
Special Forces Team had been sent into Cambodia. They were going to run into
a heavy build up of enemy troops ready to ambush them inside the border. The
government expected heavy losses and would deny any American troops were in
Cambodia. It went on to say there'd be no more radio contact or support for
these seventeen soldiers — too risky, expendable loses. The words
expendable losses made me sick. Then the Teletype started again and
seventeen names printed out, with their military numbers in a nice neat
alphabetical column. The Teletype was already listing these men as MIA. I
read the names one at a time, knowing they were going to walk right into the
enemy hands." David stopped abruptly and reached to start the truck. "That
all I should tell you."
Paul had been listening carefully, something he had
learned to do. Knowing David was holding back, he probed, "David, why don't
you go on? I know how you feel."
"Well, okay, but remember your promise." David pulled his
hand away from the ignition. "Anyway, I just sat there with this information
still on the Teletype, knowing that these men were trapped, needing some
support. If somebody didn't get help up there fast there would be seventeen
dead soldiers. I tore the paper off the platen and knew that if I got caught
with it I would be court marshaled. More than that — I knew what kind of
operation they were running and I had the proof on paper."
"David, I thought you said you had Top Secret Clearance
to work in communications. Didn't you see reports like this all the time?"
"No, I never saw any of the reports or information. My
job was just to keep the equipment operating. Only when I ran the wire to my
shop for test purposes did I actually see a report, and that was an
"Oh, now I understand," Paul said. "What did you do with
"All night I thought about what I should do with this
teletyped printout. I knew that it was urgent, that these soldiers needed
help. I couldn't go to the commanding officer because I suspected he was in
on altering the news. He was a poor commander and didn't care how many
troops died, just so he kept his enemy killed ratio high."
"Did you do anything?" Paul asked.
"I surely did!" snapped David. "I put the teletyped
message in a plain manila envelope and mailed it to The Times news
desk in New York. I thought they would run the story the next night and that
we would be forced to send help in for these soldiers." David's face seemed
to collapse. "The story ran three weeks later — as an unconfirmed story in
the back section of the paper."
Paul had heard stories like this before from other
soldiers in his group therapy class and was aware of the guilt. Although
some men never saw the ground war like he had, they were traumatized just as
badly. He remembered a navigator in his class who had not even carried a
gun, but, because he was the one that plotted the air strikes, felt
responsible for all the people killed, he ended up committing suicide. Paul
knew that he was treading on thin ice and chose his words carefully. "You
can't hold yourself responsible for those men."
"Oh, I don't feel responsible, I did what I could. It was
the people higher up that were guilty . . . along with the news media, which
was still afraid to print anything against the war. In fact, The Times
gave the document I mailed them to a military investigation committee. The
investigators traced it back to my base from the cancellation marks on the
postage stamp and there was an investigation.
"Did they find out that you were the one that mailed it?"
"By the time they started their investigation I only had
four weeks left. I had planned to re-up but with the direction the war was
going, compounded with the chance of being found out, I decided that was a
good time to get out."
"Did they ever try to investigate you after you got out?"
"They did better than that. They ruined my whole life! Do
you remember when I got my discharge? You came to San Diego to pick me up."
Paul rubbed his forehead, straining his mind into the
past. "I can sort of recall picking you up at the base. Then we hung around
the city and went to a couple of clubs. That part of my past is kind of a
"Remember how as soon as I got my discharge papers I
wanted to celebrate? I felt like the two of us owned the town. Here I was
still in uniform and you a decorated vet. All I wanted was a woman that
The purple haze quickly cleared. After some twenty years
that night was coming back to him. Whatever it was, Paul hoped that he could
handle it. His mind had been pulled taut often over the past years and he
did not know when it might snap from the constant dredging up of suppressed
memories. Paul wished he were back at the monastery where prayer kept him
focused. Taking a deep breath, Paul said, "Go on."
"Well, we got pretty drunk that night. I can understand
why you can't remember. Anyway, after we left the base we headed for a
nightclub to celebrate and all I had on my mind were women. I had heard that
this was the hot spot. When we walked in it was wall to wall people. The
smoke was thick and you could smell the marijuana. They were playing rock
and roll. I walked in so proud to have served for these people. We got a
booth in the back and had a couple beers while I checked out all the women."
Paul gazed through the windshield. The haze was clearing,
things were becoming crystal clear. Paul could almost taste the beer and
smell the smoke in the air as they sat there in a booth under the dim light
. . . the music blaring out over the exchange of useless rhetoric.
"Anyway, we were feeling no pain and I kept noticing two
girls up against the bar. They looked like college girls. One had some hip
hugger jeans, a halter top, and no bra! I said 'There's my date.' I motioned
for them to come over to the table and as they slowly walked toward us I was
thinking how they probably liked men in uniform."
With a jolt, Paul remembered that exact moment. "Yes!
That girl walked up to the table with her friend, leaned toward you and
asked, 'How does it feel killing innocent women and children?' Then she gave
you the finger."
"Yep! Then we proceeded to get so drunk that we ended up
sleeping in the car. I hadn't even fired a gun my whole time in Nam and here
this girl accused me of killing women and children. I couldn't figure out
who she thought see was or where she got her information. It was like my
whole effort in trying to make this country better evaporated with her one
Without even thinking Paul butted in. "I know the
feeling, like being a priest and having someone tell you that you're all a
bunch of gays, molesters or some type of sexual predator. I don't know where
they get their information. And you are right — it is like all your efforts
to help people are gone with one callous sentence."
David hated having Paul compare his patriotism with . . .
being a homosexual. He tightened his grip on the steering wheel, his
knuckles turning white. Hot, he reached for the window crank for fresh air
but then noticed the plastic that was in place of the broken window, making
him even angrier. But then David felt some unexpected kind of emotional
liberation. "You're right, Paul. Some of my remarks have been cruel. I hope
you can forgive me for them. But I just don't understand. I don't know if I
can ever . . ."
Stunned, Paul interrupted, "I do forgive you for your
words, and I hope someday you will better understand about men like me."
Neither glanced away, their eyes locked as an eternal
bond bridged between two old friends. Knowing each other's imperfections
only strengthened their respect for each another. Finally, Paul turned away,
focused his eyes on the windshield, yet saw nothing. He prayed in silence
for the presence and power of the Holy Spirit to free David's soul from the
intolerance still in his heart.
David, also silent, twisted all around, looking out every
window of the truck. He nervously checked the entire parking lot with a
three hundred and sixty-degree scan. Things looked clear so he continued.
"Anyway, that teletyped message and that incident with that girl in the bar
were really causing me to question my feelings about the country. Then three
weeks later a Dishonorable Discharge showed up in the mail and my life has
been living hell ever since."
"A Dishonorable Discharge? I never knew that. Why? What
for?" Paul asked, astonished.
"I have never been able to figure it out, but I think it
had to do with my sending off that teletyped information to the news media.
First, I was honorably discharged, but then somebody must have altered my
records. I think they were trying to figure out who leaked the information
to the press. Somebody was on to me and was trying to flush me out. They had
me. If I asked for a hearing to correct the discharge error, they'd ask
about the teletyped paper. I was trapped."
Things clicked in Paul's mind. Now he knew what was
behind David's rambling the night they spent on Mount Antero. "You know, you
accused me of altering your military records the other night."
"Yes. I thought the cold was affecting your thinking."
"Did I say anything else?"
Paul now knew for sure that David did not recall some of
what went on up at the mountain, when David was in the early stages of
hypothermia. "You told me about the Clipper Chip."
David bolted toward Paul and put his hand over Paul's
mouth. He scanned the parking lot and then whispered into Paul's ear, "You
have to promise me you will never mention to anybody about that Clipper
Paul nodded his head in the affirmative and David removed
David worried someone might be watching, or maybe
somebody planted a microphone in the truck. He actually enjoyed the
adrenaline rush. He probably would have been working for the FBI or CIA if
it were not for that Dishonorable Discharge. Just in case somebody was
eavesdropping, he changed the subject, "There are a couple more things we
need to talk about."
"Okay," said Paul nervously. David's paranoia had rubbed
off and he too was scanning the surrounding area. Out of the rear corner of
Paul's right eye he caught a white sedan coming across the overpass. Its
left blinker came on. "Who is that?"
The sedan wheeled into the second driveway of the
abandoned service station, turned one hundred and eighty degrees and came to
a stop right in front of David's pickup truck. Both men sat petrified in the
cab, unable to speak or move, their eyes on the driver in the car. The man
wore a dark gray suit, white shirt, and black tie. He moved and picked
something up off the seat. Paul and David's heart beat wildly, almost in
The driver moved from behind the steering wheel and, with
something in hand, walked up to the passenger side of the truck. Paul's
years of martial arts training helped him plan the next move. He immediately
opened the door and stood less than two feet from the stranger, prepared.
The stranger, somewhat startled, stepped back and asked,
"Do either of you know where Cooley Road is?" Then he pulled a business card
from a black zippered case and handed it to Paul. "I work for Rocky Mountain
Realtors and I'm looking for a property located on Cooley Road."
Sure enough, it said Rocky Mountain Real Estate Company.
Paul breathed a sign of relief. "David, this gentleman is trying to find
Cooley Road. Can you help him?"
David leaned across the seat and yelled, "Just keep on
this road for about six miles. There's a big yellow barn on the corner. You
can't miss it."
"Thanks," yelled the stranger. With a wave to David, he
said, "Have a good day, Father." Then got back into his car.
Paul looked at David and broke out in laughing. "You've
got me half scared to death! I thought that guy was a spy or something."
"Yeah, I guess I am a little paranoid. Sorry about that."
Then David reached out and took the business card from Paul. "Did that guy
give you his name?"
"Oh, nothing. It just seems strange that a real estate
agent wouldn't have his name on his business card."
Paul took the card back and sure enough, there was no
name. But there was a phone number. Paul was now playing the investigator.
He looked across the road at the country store, an old white wooden building
with a gravel parking lot and a sign with big red letters: OPEN 365 DAYS A
YEAR. There was only one vehicle parked in front of the store, a van with
tinted windows. Paul got out of the cab and said, "I'll be right back."
As Paul walked across the road toward the store, the van
started with a roar and backed up right toward him. Paul had to jump to the
side, but in front of the van he saw what he was looking for — a pay phone.
A phone book hung from a chain. Paul set the book on the shelf, turned to
the real estate section, and found what he wanted — a listing for Rocky
Mountain Realtors. He checked the phone number against the one on the
business card. They matched.
Paul turned around and started back to tell David, but
instead reached into his pocket. He found a quarter, deposited it, and
dialed the number. The phone did not even ring twice before Paul heard a
woman say, "Rocky Mountain Realtors." Paul hung up the phone.
David watched Paul from the truck, surprisingly
unconcerned about Paul's calling someone. He was concentrating on the two
more things he had yet to tell. He had saved the worst for last.
Paul rapidly crossed the road and got back into the
truck. "The number on the business card matches the one in the phone book. I
called. The real estate company is legit," Paul reported smugly.
"Good," David said with a distant tone.
Paul sensed the change in tone and asked, "Is there
anything else you need to tell me?"
"Yes, It has to do with Marcea. You already know we are
living together . . . and I probably should marry her, but . . . "
"She used to be a dancer," David said almost inaudibly.
Paul could hardly hear him. "Did you say she used to be a
"Yes, she was a dancer in a night club."
"So," snapped David, "don't you get it? She danced in a
"David, I'm not stupid, but I don't understand. Why do
you feel that you have to tell me this? You should let me meet Marcea
without any prior judgments."
"I am telling you this because it is one of the reasons I
can't marry her."
Paul took a deep breath. "What's the other reason?"
David hesitated for a moment, "Well, I guess it might be
her kids. Plus she breaks down and cries quite often. I know she's hiding
something about her childhood."
"David, you have to learn to free yourself before you can
find love. Even if you asked this Marcea to marry you today, it would not be
fair to her."
"How can you say that? You don't even know her. If I
asked her to marry me, she'd jump at the chance. She needs me and I even
help her out with her kids."
Paul knew it was not the time to continue but had to ask,
"Do you truly love her?"
David kept running the words truly love around in
his head. Then he answered. "Yeah, I guess."
"David, let's drop the subject about your relationship
with Marcea, I know you take very good care of her. Now, was that all you
had to tell me? I can't wait to meet her and her children."
Her children! rang in David's head. "Oh yeah,
there's one last thing. Don't touch the children, you know hug them or
anything," said David as he reached for the key and started the truck.
Paul did not even notice the beautiful old country road
as they wound through it. The words don't touch the children, echoed
in his head. This was the biggest curse, at least for him. He was prudent
and knew that he would have to accept eternal responsibility for anyone that
he infected. Maybe it was David's lack of trust that hurt the most. Whatever
it was, the pain was almost unbearable.