I hope you enjoy this preview of the first four chapters of In Due Time.
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Fires had raged about Washington during the final battle of the revolution. I had taken time to stroll around the capital mall on the way to the White House. The monuments were heavily pock marked by bullets where they had shielded the rebels from the global forces. I rested for a time on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, or at least what was left of it. Upon crossing the river from Arlington, the rebels had used it as a stronghold from which to stage a flanking movement around the tidal basin. Global artillery had reduced it to rubble. Still it had provided them the refuge they needed to direct their attacks.
I laughed at the irony. Lincoln had fought to destroy one set of rebels in order to enforce the will of greater central power upon them. Now he had protected a different band of rebels from the ultimate central power; a global government. Yes, old Abe had served them well this time as they struggled in the initial attack which drew a large portion of the reinforcements the International Union could muster down on their heads.
They fought valiantly and took heavy losses, the globalists were confident they could destroy them here if they threw all their weight against them. That’s when the attack began from the north. The rebels were stronger than the IU had believed. The Arlington attack had been less than half of the forces. While the global army battled an attempted flanking movement around the site of the old Jefferson Memorial, the real flank attack began from the north.
The fires were all out and the globalists were gone, for now. They would try to return later, but General Birch knew this. He was wasting no time preparing to defend the country now that it was liberated. I wondered through all this if anyone had given any thought to restoring a statue of Thomas Jefferson to its former perch in the Memorial. The IU had pulled it down many years before, declaring that his values were inconsistent with the greater good of the “people.” The only people whose greater good they were interested in were those in the government. The American republic had been slowly dying nearly from the day of its birth. Now it would have a second chance.
* * *
The most amazing thing was not where I sat now, but that this room even existed at all. The globalists had attempted to lay the torch to the White House when it became obvious that they were cut off. The North American Governor had ordered several fires set as he gathered his personal guards to effect his escape under the cover of the flames. They misjudged how close the opposing forces were and they were overrun before many of the flames were set. There had been minimal damage to the building, so today I occupied a fine leather chair before an oak desk in the center of the oval office.
General Alexander Birch entered through a side door and I rose. He took my hand and quickly waved me back into the chair. He perched on the edge of the chair beside me rather than putting the desk between us. His hair was closely cropped and his face clean shaven. He looked like a different man cleaned and attired in a business suit. The army uniform of recent years was now put away.
“I suppose you are wondering why I asked you here.” General Birch said after studying me for a long moment.
“Certainly General,” I cleared my throat, “I mean Mr. President.” I smiled and nodded. It had been a long road here, from a small band of malcontents gathered in the mountains of North Carolina. Birch had built them into a highly effective force that annoyed the global forces to no end. With each government atrocity and each successful strike, his numbers grew. His real genius came in attracting similar rebel bands and organizing them into a larger force. Other rebel leaders elsewhere were buoyed by this and followed his example.
“Actually, Mr. Spence,” he smirked, “I rather prefer General to President.”
“Yes sir,” I grinned.
“I have a question for you,” he leaned forward and squinted slightly. “Who is Joshua Lance?”
I chuckled quietly. That name had not crossed my ears in many a long year, yet seldom did a day go by that I did not think about him. I smiled sadly and looked back up at him, “What prompts you to ask about Joshua Lance, General?”
Birch rose and strode around behind his desk. He pulled a small gold colored key from the center drawer and held it up between us. “When I was a baby, my mother was given an envelope by a man. It contained instructions directing her to a law firm in Danville, Virginia.”
“Faucett and Faucett?” I grunted.
“Yes,” he arched an eyebrow, “Faucett and Faucett.” His eyes bore into me for a moment. “When she went there, they told her that there was something on deposit there for me, but I couldn’t have it yet.” I grinned like someone who knew the punch line to an old joke. “You would expect that it would be held until I was eighteen or twenty-one, but…”
“But it was much longer than that wasn’t it General?”
Birch stared back and slowly nodded. “Yes, it was, Mr. Spence, in fact it was only a month ago that I was allowed to access this. You know what it contained?”
“Hmm,” I mused, “a key?”
“Yes, it was this key.” He set it down and stared at it for a few seconds, “Do you know what the really strange thing about that key is?”
“I would only be guessing sir.”
“It goes to a safety deposit box at a bank in Montana.”
“Okay,” I wanted to point out that Montana has banks too, but remembered who I was speaking to.
“I know,” he waved a hand and smiled, “Montana has banks too. The strange thing is that this bank wasn’t built until five years ago.” He reached out and thumped the key with his index finger, “This key has been sitting in that office for thirty-seven years for a bank that is only five years old.” He waved away the notion and reached for an envelope on his desk, “Anyway, it contained an envelope with a note in it. Do you know what it said?”
I shook my head.
“It said,” he opened the envelope and pulled a letter from it, “this, ‘By the time you read this, you will be an important man. But a deep scandal will soon destroy everything you worked for. If you want to prevent this, find the great writer, Howard Spence, and ask him to tell you about Joshua Lance’” He then laid the letter back on the desk beside the key and turned back to me.
“Mr. Spence,” he propped his elbows on his knees and stared into my eyes. “Who is Joshua Lance?”
“General Birch,” I said, “it will take quite a while for me to tell you about Joshua Lance.”
“For this sir,” his gaze bore into me, “I have all the time you need.”
The old man had told me that he would find a way and I guess he did. I took my glasses off and rubbed my temples. These old eyes tired more easily now. I sighed deeply.
“Well sir,” I said, “Joshua Lance, in a different, um…” I struggled for the right words, “time dimension… reality, perhaps…” I smiled and put my glasses back on, “well, he would have been your step-father.” I watched him sit back in his chair as his eyes opened wider.
“In this reality,” I continued, “he is a man you will never know, because he sacrificed everything for you.” I laughed ruefully, “And he was the best friend I never had.”
In the spring of 2001 I was working for a daily newspaper in Asheville, North Carolina. As a young reporter mostly writing about garden parties and local parades, I was eager to chase down any lead that seemed more promising than the latest community craft fair. So when I began getting tips concerning a rather unusual man up near Mount Mitchell I was willing to listen. He suddenly showed up one day with millions of dollars. He proceeded to buy a small mountain top and isolate himself in the tiny cabin at its peak. His anti-social attitude intrigued his neighbors. He seldom left his own land. People would see him buying groceries or picking up his mail from the post office at Micaville. He would speak, but would never entertain any real conversation.
Folks in the community burned to know where all his money came from. Someone had heard that he had won a lottery. Others thought he was a bank robber or connected to the mafia. The speculation was wild and I was wild about the speculation. I had a gift for drawing people out and hoped it wouldn’t fail me now.
The leaves sprouted from the limbs above me just enough to give the trees an easy green glow as the sun peeked through. An earthy fragrance from the mountainside floated on the breezes streaming through my windows as the highway passed beneath my tires. The boring fluff pieces were complete and on my editor’s desk, so I decided it was time to do some digging into this peculiar old man. Maybe I would strike a goldmine of human interest or at least find some interesting dirt along the way. Or maybe it was just a wasted trip. The truth lay at the other end of the driveway I turned into.
I rolled to a stop in front of a wooden gate a short ways up the drive and walked up to it. A stream gurgled over dark rocks and disappeared into a culvert running beneath my feet to reappear on the other side of the driveway and spill into a groove in a boulder. From this rock the water dropped about a foot onto some smooth stones creating a miniature waterfall. The sweet scent of the fertile humus wafted up from where it lay nestled about the trees; a flock of Canada geese flapped by overhead, honking as they went. Even if this James Mack guy proved to be a non-story, I decided that it was still worth the trip just to experience this.
I pulled through and closed the gate behind me. The narrow road wound around to the backside of the mountaintop. I held my breath as I looked down upon the treetops going by to my left. Finally there was a simple cabin nestled among the trees on a shelf of flat land just below the ridgeline. The vista spread out before the cabin to command my attention and I stood with my back to the log building. I closed the car door gently and stared. There was a valley between two larger mountains. A distant tiny town peeked out from the sprawling foliage. How could there ever be a trouble in the world with a view like this?
“Beautiful isn’t it?” I snapped around; an older man, not as old as I had expected, but still a good bit older than I was, stood on the front porch.
“Mr. Mack?” I asked. He nodded slightly. “My name is How…”
“I know who you are Howard,” he cut me off. I’m sure my surprise was obvious and it seemed to amuse him greatly. “I’ve been expecting you.”
My stomach did a slight flip-flop as he waved me toward the porch and turned toward the house. I hesitated wondering if I should go up. I wasn’t sure what I had expected, but this wasn’t it. He stopped at the door and turned back raising his eyebrows.
“Are you coming?”
I mumbled a reply and nodded. I followed along as he disappeared into the house. The cabin was light and airy. Plenty of windows vented the air and brought in the sunlight as it filtered through the trees. Books jammed the shelves that lined the walls. A shotgun stood guard in the corner next to the now cold fireplace. Ashes lay as witness to recent nights when flames kissed the stones and chased away the night time chill.
The clinking of ice against glass came through the door Mack had disappeared through followed by the swooshing of pouring liquid. The old man emerged from the door carrying two glasses of iced tea and held one out for me. Being a native of the South, of course, iced tea was my favorite drink. I like it sweet with plenty of ice and no lemon. Lemon adds a certain tang and is an affront to properly sweetened tea. I took the glass from his hand noting the absence of lemon and took a sip. The man could certainly make tea.
He smiled and walked out the back door. I followed him out and around to the side where a set of chairs rested in the shade. We sat in silence for a few moments. He stared off across the valley and I studied him carefully. My nerves began to ease as I sipped the tea. This man was about as threatening as a domesticated teddy bear. He crossed one leg on the other, resting the side of his foot on the other knee, and smiled.
“It’s good to see you buddy,” he nodded. I leaned in and looked harder at the face, it wasn’t familiar.
“Have we met?” I asked. The old man grunted out a soft laugh.
“That’s a complex question,” he grinned.
“Yeah, okay,” I rolled my eyes. “I was wondering if I could ask you some questions.”
“Sure,” his gaze bore into me. “First let me tell you one thing.”
“My name is not really James Mack,” he smiled as if a great truth of the universe had been revealed. I sat back and pulled out my note pad. This might prove easier than expected.
“Why? I mean, why use the fake name?” What would it be; fugitive, witness protection, international spy, foreign legion deserter? The truth was beyond my ability to imagine.
“You’ll see,” he said.
He sat back silent for a moment, “In due time.”
“What is your real name then?”
“Joshua Lance,” he said. I scribbled this down, guessing at the spelling.
“Well then,” I looked up, “Joshua Lance, where are you from?” The old man smiled and stood up. He strode over to a pile of firewood sitting beside a tree about ten feet away.
“Do you like splitting wood Howard?” He set a stick of wood on end atop a stump and picked up an ax and sited down the point toward the log like a sniper sizing up a target.
“What does that have to do with anything?” I asked.
“Well,” he lifted the ax and slammed the edge into the end of the log splitting it into two blocks. “You take a piece of wood that is too large to burn efficiently in the fireplace.” He stooped and picked up one of the halves he had just split and set it back on the stump and swung the ax again turning the one half into two quarters. “Then you break it down into smaller parts that are more digestible.” He leaned against the ax handle and looked back at me. “Do you get what I’m saying?”
“No,” I ran my hands through my hair and sat forward.
“It’s like this story… just too large to digest in one telling.”
“What? So that’s it!” This was no story.
“For today,” he held up one quarter of the log he had just split. “This is what we discussed today. We’ve got to go through that whole woodpile.” He gestured over his shoulder, “I don’t think you’re quite ready for all that today.”
“Alright,” I waved a hand and got up to head toward my car.
“Oh, by the way Howard,” his face took on a more serious look as I turned back. “How are your parents?”
“Fine,” I sputtered, “why?”
“See ‘em much?”
I nodded dumbly. How did he know all this?
“I know you’re busy,” he set the ax down on the woodpile and straightened up, “but do yourself a favor. See them all you can. Call your mom, that doesn’t cost you much time. And while you’re at it talk to your dad, I know he doesn’t like to talk on the phone, but make him anyway.”
I narrowed my eyes and shrugged in a questioning manner.
He shrugged back, “You never know how long they’ll be around.”
“They’re like,” I feebly managed, “ten years younger than you.”
“You just never know.”
“Thank you for your time,” I said after pausing a moment and turned to leave. I wondered what kind of game this man was playing.
“I’ll see you when you come back.”
I whirled back around scowling, “After the way you’ve wasted my time, Mr. Lance, you don’t have to worry about my returning.”
“You’ll come back Howard.”
“What makes you think so?”
“You’ll have to,” he said quietly.
After leaving the mountain, I wasted no more time returning to Asheville. I did call my parents from my cell phone, however; I talked to my father for twenty minutes.
A couple of months later I did manage to squeeze in a visit to my parents’ house. To my shame, I probably wouldn’t have otherwise, but that old man’s words gnawed at my gut like a bad meal. On that day Raleigh was its usual self. The people quietly went about their business unawares while the politicians proceeded to rob them blind downtown in the state capital.
Dad was already up and lounging out in the screened in porch when I joined him. Two pigeons were fighting a losing battle with a squirrel over their turf beneath one of Mom’s bird feeders, despite additional air support being mounted by an angry blue jay. The squirrel would duck just in time with each swoop from the screeching dive bomber. The little varmint seemed to enjoy the sport of the whole affair as he gathered up the bird feed spilled from above. Just then the squirrel’s brother leapt from a nearby limb onto the feeder causing two sparrows and a cardinal to join the battle. Dad laughed and took a sip of coffee.
“I get a real kick out of watching those critters,” he said.
“Yeah, it is pretty entertaining I guess,” I couldn’t help smiling. It was nice to see him so relaxed. This was a real contrast to the busy career Air Force meteorologist I remembered. His job with the state allowed him a much more leisurely pace of life now. No more postings in northern Alaska or Reykjavik, Iceland; like he had been when I was born. Dad had packed Mom up and sent her home to Raleigh to live with my grandparents. He insisted that I should be born here like they both were. Now they were back to stay.
Just then reinforcements showed up in the form of two more squirrels sending the pigeons into full retreat. The sparrows continued harassing the one on the feeder and the determined blue jay made a couple more passes at his foes on the ground before he packed it in and flew off in the direction the cardinal had left by a moment earlier.
Dad looked up at the clouds and pointed out something about their formation and the direction they were moving. Then he mentioned something about the movement of the Gulf Stream. This could go on for hours without pause. I’ve never known anyone else who actually talked about the weather and not be making idle chit chat.
“Dad?” I asked when he stopped for a breath.
“Do you ever miss the Air Force?” Someone had asked me this recently and I had to admit that I didn’t know. We never discussed such things. He was always either instructing or disciplining. Never did we share our feelings about anything. To him life was a series of choices. You made a choice, you adjusted to it and you moved on. Feelings were not relevant in his little ecosphere.
“Well…” he caught himself in the middle of rolling his eyes. Something in my grimace must have caused him take this a bit more seriously. “Do I, hmm… Well sometimes I do.”
“Why, you were either on some piece of tundra freezing your tail off or battling mosquitoes the size of bats in the tropics, what’s to miss?”
“You have a point, but…” His eyes focused on the victorious squirrel on the bird feeder for a moment. The sparrows had given up the fight and flown off to join their less persistent brethren. “I guess it was the most significant thing I’ve ever done.” He turned back and looked me straight in the eye. There was a certain something there I had not seen before. A personal warmth; maybe he had longed to talk about these things but didn’t know how. I broke the gaze and looked down for a second.
“I see what you mean.”
“Oh, other than you and your mother of course,” he added eagerly.
“Of course,” I grinned. “Dad,” I looked back down. I needed to say it but couldn’t really look directly at him. I didn’t have much practice at this. “I love you… and I’m proud of you.” The last part I barely croaked out. I felt his hand on my arm and I looked back up.
“I know son,” I was unsure whose eyes were moister. We both choked back our tears, not willing to turn loose. That was just not how we did things. We sat there in silence the rest of the morning watching the squirrels play. It was nearly lunch time before we headed back into the house.
* * *
I had hugged them both warmly before going. I hadn’t hugged my father since I was six years old. I reveled in their lingering warmth all the way back to Asheville. I was sure I wouldn’t be able to go back to Raleigh very soon, but sometimes plans have a way of making themselves.
I knelt and picked out the best rose from each spray before walking back to my car. The passenger seat was the perfect spot—I thought—and rolled down the driver side window. I closed the door and leaned my head back against the headrest. It had turned warmer that day and the slight breeze did little to ease the heat. Everyone had left earlier and I had the cemetery to myself. I knuckled my eyes then reached out and turned the ignition. Lance had been right; I would be going back to his cabin. I had to.
* * *
I didn’t bother going home to Asheville first. Instead, I sped on up along the winding Yancey County roads until I reached Lance’s driveway. It was early evening by now. The bubbling of the stream seemed barely noticeable. The rich earthy fragrance hardly registered. As I opened the gate, a gaggle of geese annoyed me with their honking overhead. I drove on through and slammed the gate behind me.
I slipped and slid about the narrow gravel road until I pulled to a stop in front of the cabin. The old man leaned against the wooden rail on his front porch. My tears no longer flowed; they had been replaced by something harder and more determined. I climbed out of the car and glared up at him.
“I told you that you would be back.” He said softly.
I walked across the yard and stopped at the front of the porch. I looked at him for an eternity without speaking. Finally I shook my head and asked, “Who are you?”
He walked down the steps and circled around me and headed out to the side of the house without answering. I shadowed him all the way to the chairs beside the woodpile.
“I’m sorry,” he said after a moment. “House fires are a bitch… but they were asleep. There was no suffering.”
“How do you know all this? How did you know this would happen? How…” I stammered, “Why… I mean… Did you have something to do with this?”
“No Howard,” he shook his head, “I have no power over these things. I just know about them.”
“How do you know? How do you know any of this? How do you know me for that matter?”
The old man grunted and let out a sigh, “I know all about you. I’ve known you for over twenty-five years.” His piercing blue eyes gripped me.
“But…” my words were feeble, “but, I’m only twenty-four. Did you know my parents?”
“No, I didn’t,” he leaned forward, “The fact is I will know you for over twenty-five years… or at least I would have.”
“I don’t understand.”
“Howard,” he said softly, “I am from your future. You may not believe me now, but you will… in due time.”
“So,” I asked, “were we like buddies or something?”
“Yeah,” he nodded, “pretty much.”
“What are you doing here then?”
“Did you go see your folks?” he asked. I nodded. “Good,” he smiled, “you always broke my heart any time I heard you talk about that; the deep regret. You would say, if only I had made time to see them…”
“So that’s why you’re here; to make me see my parents one last time?”
“No,” he looked off toward the valley. “I have a much bigger reason.”
“When are you going back?”
“Why not,” I leaned forward, “enjoying the good life in your mountain paradise too much?”
“Good life,” he grunted, “I’m practically a prisoner here. Can you imagine how lonely it is being afraid to talk to anyone because you might screw something up?”
“Then why are you talking to me?”
“You will understand that,” he shook his finger in the air letting it hang on the last word, “once you’ve heard why I’m here.”
“I’m all ears,” I said leaning forward. I widened my eyes emphasizing the point.
“Okay,” he sat back and smiled. “It will all make sense; soon.”
“Eventually,” the old man said, “There will be no America. It will just be another subject state to a global government. Everything is international law this and greater good that.” He bobbed his head sideways as he said this. “In theory all this sounds alright,” he held up a hand. “Everybody is taken care of, everyone is equal; the big old fat utopia.” He laid his head back and sighed.
“But…” I offered.
He laughed, “I think you know how well this worked in practice. You see Howard; you were the only one of us that could see what a disaster this global village would become. You have foresight, you always did.”
I’m sure I squirmed slightly. A crow landed on a limb above us and called out a few times before flying on. Lance sat and watched the crow sail away over the expanse. The sleek black bird dived into the valley below as a hawk flew from the distance and dove in after him.
“Anyway, the America you know will be gone,” he stared out across the mountainside. “Even the greatly reduced freedom you’ve grown used to won’t exist. There will be no president, just a North American governor who reports to the European government.”
“So, you’re here to fix it right?” I asked. “What do we do to prevent this?”
“Nothing,” he smiled sadly.
“But,” I said, “I can write about your experiences, get you on TV, something…”
He laughed softly and shook his head. “No, it’s not that simple.”
“But, we have to…”
“No Howard, no one would believe us anyway. Hell, you’re not fully convinced yourself are you?”
I looked down and pulled out my notebook. This was unbelievable, but there had to be an explanation and I couldn’t come up with a better one.
“You see,” he said, “there are a lot of Americans who think that this is a good thing. They don’t want the responsibility of taking care of themselves. Sure they rave all the time about how much they love freedom, but when they have the opportunity…” his face took on a flustered look, “They don’t even want their own money or property. They would rather give it to the government and trust that they will get some back. No my friend, they won’t thirst for freedom before they drink from tyranny.”
“So we’re screwed? Is that why, you’re here; to deliver hopelessness?” I stammered
“Not exactly,” he smiled, “let me tell you the story.”
I shrugged; there didn’t seem to be many options, so I listened. Lance sat for a moment composing his thoughts staring out across the peaceful mountainside.
“A lot of folks around here think I’m from somewhere else because no one knows me,” he smiled, “but I’m a North Carolina boy like you. I grew up in Alamance County; the first place where the people took a stand and told the British to take their taxes and shove them. Of course the Brit governor Tryon couldn’t have this, so they killed a bunch of them and executed their leaders. That happened in a field beside Alamance Creek. They called it the Battle of Alamance. It wasn’t much of a battle, more of a slaughter really; but it did serve to show all the colonies just what they were dealing with. There would be no redress of their grievances, no fair forum. Any complaints would fall on deaf ears and death to those who refuse to remember their place as subjects of the crown. The future leaders learned from this that if they laid it on the line they had better be prepared to back it up with hot lead and cold steel.”
“Nice little history lesson,” I said. “What does that have to do with the future?”
“The future is the same as the past,” he leaned forward. “It always is. That’s the reason governments don’t encourage their people to learn about their past. Well… enough on that. About me, I was born in 1980. I was the captain of the football team at Burlington Central High School.”
“You’re the oldest looking twenty-one year old I have ever seen,” I smirked. He laughed.
“I was fifty-six when I returned to this time. That was four years ago,” Lance ran a hand through his thick salt and pepper hair. “I guess in reality I would be about sixty now.” I had to admit that he was in very good shape for a sixty year old. He was a good sized man, just a little over six feet tall with a thick chest and broad shoulders. The mountain life kept him in good tone.
“Anyway,” he continued, “I was a really good football player. I was all-state quarterback,” he smiled. “Several schools, including UNC were offering me full scholarships. My future looked bright.”
“Looked bright?” I had caught the nuance and he smiled that this hadn’t slipped by unquestioned.
“Yes, looked. Well, Howard, our big rival was Durham and we had just beaten them. We were behind by three and it was third down on our four yard line. I barely managed to scramble away from their linebacker in my own end zone and there wide open was Larry Maddox. I sailed the ball right into his hands and he was off. He outran the only defender and it was green grass and blue skies all the way. We won, seventeen to thirteen.”
He smiled and put his hands behind his head. The memory seemed to relax him then he sighed and the smile faded. “Well, we celebrated that night. There was a party at the Finches’ cabin down at Lake MackIntosh.” A scowl crossed his face, “Connor Finch was the backup quarterback. Quite a schmoozer; he could charm anybody, but very jealous of me. I was quite sleepy when I left the party and I fell asleep driving home along some back roads beside the lake.”
Lance stood and walked over to the woodpile and picked up a stick of wood, then tossed it back onto the pile. He stood with his hands on his hips for a while. It almost seemed that he would not continue, and then he came back and sat down again.
“I had a brand new Mustang, boy it was pretty. Sleek, royal blue; I had just polished it. Of course I kept it that way,” he scratched his chin then shook his head. “Oh yeah, anyway; it ran off the road and hit a culvert on the left side of the car. The floor area crumpled in and crushed my left foot and the car went into a spin. I knew I was in real trouble when I heard the splash. I had landed in a shallow inlet in a corner of the lake.” He lowered his head and grunted, “It was just deep enough to cover my car. Only the top of the roof was sticking out. I had left the passenger window slightly ajar to let some air flow in; of course it also let the water flow in rather quickly. I was able to release the seat belt and work my foot out from where the dash had collapsed on it, but…” he seemed to have trouble looking directly at me. The lines in his face deepened, old pain etched in his brow. “Well, I couldn’t get the door open and the electric windows wouldn’t work. My foot was too messed up to let me crawl to the other side and I was in a panic.”
“The water was up to my chin. I prayed out loud,” he chuckled nervously. “I never did that. Don’t get me wrong, I was always a believer, but sorry to say, I never was the praying type; especially out loud. So it was like the Lord’s Prayer, the 23rd Psalm, singing Jesus Loves Me, whatever I could think of until the water got too high. Then it was just sputtering ‘God help me’ and ‘Jesus save me’ and such. The end was upon me and I was scared.” His chest rose and fell. In his mind the water was all about him and he vainly searched for air.
“I remember the moon shining through the water about the front windshield. I would put my mouth up at the ceiling to get a breath of air and then settle back into the seat until the air was gone. I wasn’t sure I could keep doing this much longer,” his shoulders sagged a bit. “Then I heard a loud bang on the roof above me. A voice cried out for me to hold on, so I pushed up on the seat and the console and pulled in another lungful of air and heard something hit my window. I looked over as it hit again. It looked like a metal tool of some kind. The water resistance was too great, he wasn’t going to be able to break the window and I couldn’t hold out. As I began to sink back into the seat, he had turned the tool; I was to later learn it was a tire tool that came to a point on one end. Well, he turned it around and made a stabbing motion with the pointed end into the water and it slammed into the window shattering it. The last bubbles escaped my mouth when I felt the hands under my shoulders.”
The retelling seemed to tire him out. My own breathing had grown shallow and now I relaxed a bit. The edge of my seat dug into my rear.
“The next thing I remember I awoke on the side of the road. There was a young man, about my age,” the old man smiled, “sitting beside me. I could hear a siren in the distance. The boy was vaguely familiar. The voice and face,” he made a tapping motion in the air with his finger. “I had seen him but I couldn’t place him. That would change.”
“That’s quite a tale,” I said, “you were lucky.”
“Luck had nothing to do with it.”
“Well,” I offered, “at least it has a happy ending.”
“Ending hell,” he pointed at me. “This is just the beginning.”