Monday, October 30, 2006

Becoming Salvish Theander, pt 1

Becoming Salvish Theander
“For all of you who have been baptized into Christ
have clothed yourselves with Christ.” Gal 3:27
Harris Oldman awoke to the sound of rustling on the bedside table. He opened one eye and observed the stack of envelopes shifting to one side. They stopped and he closed his eyes once more, hoping to go back to sleep. No such luck! The pile of envelopes landed heavily on his chest like an angry cat, and slid down to one side of his neck. The envelopes contained notices, indicating that money was owed, and threatening severe consequences if that money did not appear in the office of this company or that one.
It was his own fault, Harris knew. He had incurred these debts. Some luxuries were just too delightful to go without, and the terms of credit had seemed so pleasant at the time. But not everything had been frivolous. Why, a man must eat, after all, and heat his home, and be able to see in the long dark winter nights! And then there were those unexpected bills! How could he know that this would be the worst growing season on record for fifty years? And how could he predict that business would dry up, and that he would be suddenly unemployed, like so many others? Why must everything be so expensive?, he asked himself. How am I going to pay for all this?
The fine people at Bloch & Feinstein had been very gracious to lend him money to help him over the first rough patch… and the one after that… and the one after that. But the interest had been exorbitant, and now he was at their mercy.
It amused him to think for a moment as he lay there, that if the bills continued to come in like this, and continue to pile up and fall off the night stand into his bed, he could—one day—literally drown in his debts!
He arose, with little enthusiasm, bathed and dressed, and headed into town to check into another long list of places that would likely also refuse to hire him. He was either too qualified, or not qualified enough. Or, “If you had only been in here last week! There was a position open that would have suited you perfectly!” Or, “We’re not looking to hire anyone at this time, but if you’ll leave your contact information with us…”
“D.D.S.S.,” muttered Harris. “Different Day, Same Stuff.”
It was early evening, but the After Hours Tap was already open. Harris had some money left, and a good poker face. He entered the familiar spot, and waved to the bartender.
“How’s it goin’ Arnie?”
“Can’t complain, Harry. And you?”
“Ah, you know… D.D.S.S. Any action in the back room?”
“There’s a game waitin’ for a fourth player.”
In the haze of smoke around the table sat Big Ed McCulsky, one of Harris’ coworkers who had also been laid-off, and Johnny Deeds—who, as best as Harris could figure, sat in bars and played poker. One of the chairs was his, but where was the other player?
“Hey fellas! Who’s our fourth?”
“Harris Oldman,” a voice behind him said, “I believe we have some business to discuss.”
Michael Bloch. Of Bloch & Feinstein. Terrific. D.D.S.S.
“You missed your appointment with us today, Mr. Oldman. But it can wait ‘til after the game. Who knows? You might get lucky and win big today!”
“Well I don’t play to lose,” he said, sitting down. “Deal ‘em, Big Ed!”
Harris had a very good poker face—and even better instincts. After a couple of games, the pile of cash in front of him would make a nice dent in his bills.
“Well fellas, it’s been a real pleasure—and I do mean ‘pleasure’! Johnny, Big Ed,” he nodded to each of them as they left. He began stacking up the bills to put in his pocket.
“Just a moment, Mr. Oldman. I believe that belongs to me. Your debt repayment is a little behind schedule. That amount should be a sufficient offer in good faith to prevent our collection agency from breaking your hand.” Yeah. They were that kind of lending firm! “Just the pinky should be enough, I would think.”
Bloch sauntered out into the night, having turned Harris over to Bloch & Feinstein’s “collection agency”—a six-foot-four-inch brute who went by the name of Thor.
In retrospect, resisting Thor had been a bad idea. Trying to fight back was an even worse one. It was a very bruised and bloodied Harris Oldman that left the After Hours Tap that night. He made it as far as the alley, leaned against the cool brick wall, and slid slowly to the pavement.
“D.D.S.S.,” he whispered, before everything went dark.

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