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Chapter Nine


The Devil’s Detour




Far down the road, the Reverend Adam Leeds felt temporarily freed.  He was, for those brief moments, unhampered by and uninvolved with an uncouth and uncivilized wife.  There were no shadows at the corner of his eyes or suspicious sounds barely perceptible to his ears.  There was only the predictable and sane flow of vehicles and people moving around him in the outside world.  There was just himself and the open road ahead: a timeless corridor of humanity with no apparent beginning and end.  Since all roads led in and out of the city, he could, with an inexhaustible gas supply drive around forever, never stopping in one place for long.  Light-headedly, he considered this option.  He dreaded returning home and confronting his wife.  Despite the chance his meeting gave him to get away, he dreaded it too.  He was tired of dealing with elders and pleasing members of his church.  He was weary of the inner conflict caused by these factors, not yet suspecting the prime cause.  Thanks to Satan’s success with Cora, a porthole of opportunity had been opened.   As a result of the conflict, he was spiritually exhausted and vulnerable.  He wanted out.  He wanted freedom.  There would be no cares, responsibilities or destination to reach, if he just kept driving. 

The road behind, a symbol of his burden, fell away like ballast from his soul.  He could, if nothing else, escape his past.  If only he could escape the future, without detouring completely from God.  God, he knew, was watching him, expecting more from him than his present performance.  Adam hoped, in spite of his troubles, to return to what he once was: a dedicated minister working for the Lord, instead of someone just going through the motions, trying to maintain his sanity with a reprobate wife, while holding onto a checkered career.



          Unfortunately, Adam’s euphoria was short-lived as he drove across town.  As he entered a freeway on ramp now, it seemed as if every rusty part and clogged valve in his automobile engine suddenly became terminal.  His vehicle emitted an ominous gasp, and there was an abrupt deceleration in his engine’s speed.  And yet, in spite these obvious symptoms, he ignored his dying motor completely.  He was too caught up in lofty meditation to hear it sputter or feel it jerk.  After it rumbled into silence, he merely gave it some gas and turned his ignition key.  When this did not work, he prayed.  As he prayed, the precious lifeline beneath his foot remained silent and his ignition groaned on impotently, growing fainter as the battery waned.

His first thought was to pull out his cell phone and call for help.  He couldn’t imagine a worst place to be stalled.  To his horror, however, he found that his cell phone was dead.  He had forgotten to charge up its battery.  After hammering it ineffectively on the dashboard and trying to miraculously bring life back his phone, the telltale darkness persisted.  It was, like his marriage and career, dead.  Darkest gloom gripped him. 

Adam now slid out of his automobile and looked back at the traffic jam he had caused.  A long line of vehicles stretched from the on-ramp onto the boulevard in town.  Taking advantage of the on-ramp’s downhill gradient, he angled his steering wheel to the right and, after shoving his automobile forward vigorously, rolled it off the ramp.  Not one of the motorists behind him offered assistance as he struggled with his car.  No sooner was he out of the way, than they began moving, one-by-one, into traffic, without a second glance.  He snarled with contempt at them as they passed.  He remembered helping an old man push his car to the side of the road.  Once he had even helped a young woman change her tire.  But not one Good Samaritan had stepped forward to help him this hour.  After trying one more time to start his engine, he climbed out of his car and looked dejectedly up the ramp.  He stranded, with no phone.  Where was God now? He wondered as he began his trek.  Conspicuously absent was the recurrent breeze that had buoyed his spirit. 

“Lord,” he uttered a wounded cry, “is this a test?” 

Somewhere soon, before darkness fell, he must find a phone.  In the twenty-first century, this wasn’t easy to do.  Public phones were becoming relics of the past.  When he reached the top of the slope, he shielded his eyes against the evening sun.  He could see below him a most unsavory part of town that bordered skid row.  All right Lord, he thought, wiping his brow, where’s the phone?  He could only stand there feeling his heart beat sickly in his chest as he pondered his next move.  His cell phone was dead.  His automobile was dead.  Now his faith in human nature seemed dead too.



Because he had left home on such a negative note, Adam expected the worst from his wife.  Slowly, as poison oozing out, a murky premonition of her began to develop in his mind.

As he exited the on-ramp, he paused in bewilderment at a traffic light, uttering a feeble prayer that sounded very much like swearing under his breath.  When the light changed, he crossed the busy intersection and began looking for the nearest phone.  The last time he had used a public pay phone, he was in high school.  The old booths were practically antiques.  Everyone, rich and poor, had a cell phone.  Unlike himself, though, most people kept them charged up and ready.  This last catastrophe seemed to sum up his life.   Here he was on the stream of life without a compass or paddle.  Blind fate or dark design carried him now.  

If he failed to find a public phone, he was in serious trouble.  He could see a patchwork of garish storefronts and faded marquees.  Evening shadows deepened quickly in this part of town.  The more he moved down the sidewalk, the drearier became the setting.  Darkened buildings loomed over him each side, the dim light of a pawnshop, liquor store, and adult bookstore offering small comfort as he passed.  Finally, after reaching a no man’s zone of boarded up, empty building in a depressed corner of town, he spotted an ancient telephone both.  Though he remembered seeing them in operation in old movies, he had never used such a facility, himself.  This one at least had push buttons on its box in place of the old dialing system, but the booth was dilapidated, leaning slightly, its sign burned out, and inside light flickering eerily, which gave the booth an ominous look.  When, he opened its door, its hinges gave off an inner sanctum squeak and groan.  The once shiny plate of the phone was corroded with age, and a grimy telephone directory, miraculously still attached, hung forlornly by its chain. With qualified relief, he was certain, after listening to the receiver, that it was serviceable.  After searching his pocket for change, he was relieved to find a few quarters, nickels, and dimes from previous shopping.  His hand trembled as he inserted the coins into the slot.  After dialing his number, the phone rang several times before the answering machine broke in: “You’ve reached the Leeds’ Household.  We’re unable to answer phone at this time…”  After this disheartening discovery, he called Dwight Higgins, almost in rote now, leaving a message on his answering machine that he would be late and that they might have to reschedule the meeting at a later date.  Pulling his Triple A card out, he called for emergency roadside service, the dispatch reassuring him that it shouldn’t take long for the tow truck to reach his car.  As an afterthought, he called his wife again.  Once more the answering picked up the call, leaving him even more troubled than before.

          “Why didn’t she answer the phone? “ He asked, looking up at the sky. “What’s she up to now? 

These unanswered questions ripped open a wound in his memory.  Although he tried to shut out the conclusion, the telephone call, innuendos, loose ends, and ominous spots began stabbing at his mind.  He was now left with the unshakable conviction that his wife was whoring while he was gone….Visions of Cora making love to strangers were now released as poison into his brain.  There was little room for God in his thoughts now.  He had given up the notion of being on time for his meeting, so it made no difference any longer that the tow truck took an hour to pick him up and then reach his broken down car.  As he sat next to a grimy looking mechanic, what still remained from the point earlier when his spiritual bliss had shattered were only dull, fading fragments as the slow moving truck hauling his automobile lumbered back to the mechanic’s garage.



          When they arrived at Henny Lumpkin’s Garage, the same grimy mechanic who had driven the tow truck, who turned out to be Henny Lumpkin, himself, surveyed Adam’s automobile.  Bending down into the abyss housing the dead engine, he grinned with secret enjoyment as his eyes traced the dark outline of a radiator honeycombed with grime tossed sloppily out by a dying machine.  From here his dark, furtive little eyes studied numerous grime-caked wires and hoses, a ragged fan belt, battery cables white with corrosion, and other wondrous uglies that seemed to stir his imagination.  When he looked up to Adam, he shook his head in disbelief and stood there laughing softly to himself.  There was not a trace of compassion on his greasy face for the distraught young man.  The glow in his cold black eyes appeared to grow as he studied him.

          Shutting the hood was like closing a coffin.  As gently and ceremoniously he let it down and stood with his head bowed in mock reverence.  Suddenly, after a moment of silence, Henny threw the hood back up and began giggling and pointing to various points of interest.

          “Looky there,” he cried, “and looky there!  Jesus Christ mister, this is the worst V6 I’ve ever seen!”         

Adam began feeling nauseated with the events of the day, his unanswered phone, and the ugly culmination before him.  Henny, with mock indignation, chided him for not taking better care of his engine.  The conviction that in some way this man could have saved his automobile evaporated in the other man’s callous amusement.  For a while Henny flicked and dabbed a dirty rag at the motor as a mortician would when tidying up the deceased.  While the mechanic played his strange little game, Adam remembered, despite the official pronouncement of death and ensuing postmortem, the car, as it was years ago when two beaming newly-weds first brought it home.  As it rotted, he thought bitterly, so rotted his faithless wife.

          Just as the once lustrous automobile had become scratched and rusted over the years, so had his wife been corroded from abuse.  For Cora, in place of rust and scratches, there were bags under her eyes, splotches on her skin, and even varicose veins developing on her legs.  A permanent hacking cough, so reminiscent of the choking engine, belied damage to her lungs (a fiction Adam had grown to believe).   Her dizzy spills and periods of alcoholic unconsciousness reminded him of his automobiles unreliability on the road.  Yet Cora showed her greatest decay in her actions toward him, and it was here that the analogy between his automobile and his wife was the greatest, for, just as Cora, his automobile had let him down at the worst possible time.

          The grubby ghoul hovering under the hood of his car was a perfect ending to such an imperfect day…. What further misfortune or calamity waited for him tonight?

          “All right,” Adam demanded irritably, “stop playing games with me!  Can you or can’t you fix my engine?”

          Henny stopped chortling to himself and poking around.  Slamming the hood shut this time, his devilish little eyes narrowed to slits, and he began talking very strangely to Adam.

          “You expect miracles?” He asked, looking obliquely at the young man, his little eyes rolling up to the darkening sky.

          “No,” Adam said, frowning dubiously at the mechanic. “What kind’ve question is that?”

          Watching the sun flash in what would later be reported on the evening news as a solar flare, Adam felt shaken by the man’s question.  The truth was, of course, he did, in fact, want a miracle.  Without looking back at the mechanic, he wondered if the sun, itself, had given him a sign.  A mixture of fear and hope joined the emotions of irritation and disgust he felt for this man.  He wanted to share this troubling vision with someone, even with Henny Lumpkin.

          “Did you see that?” His voice trembled slightly. “Over there,” he pointed to the horizon, “in the west.  I’ve never seen it do that before.  It’s as if the sun winked.  There must have been a great explosion on its surface!”

          “I see a hot, unfriendly sun,” Henny answered mysteriously, shielding his eyes against the glare.  “…. I prefer nightfall, myself.  Night has always been my favorite time.  It’s cool and peaceful and when I do my best work.  You’re night will begin soon Adam Leeds.  You’re stranded here without me, aren’t you?  There’s no place for you to go.”

          Realizing he had barely an hour of daylight left, Adam’s dread grew.  “…. I must call my wife again,” he said softly.

          “What about the car?” The mechanic tapped the hood. “Want me to junk it for you?”

          “Junk it?” Adam, wrapped up in mental imagery, did a double take. “What do you mean junk it?  Can’t you salvage something in my car?”

          “Salvage what,” the mechanic asked slyly, “it’s soul?  You can’t raise the dead, my friend.  She isn’t worth saving.”

          “She?” Adam looked at Henny in disbelief. “What do you mean she?  Are you talking about my car?  What are you driving at Mister Lumpkin?”

          “Driving, ho-ho, a pun,” the man snickered. “No, no, you won’t be driving this piece of shit anymore!”

          In spite of the gravity of the man’s words, it was the man, himself, whom Adam found most disconcerting.  Torn between the mental imprint of the solar flash and the mechanic, he studied the horizon again as the man droned on about his car.  Sinking slowly in the west, the sun had returned to its naturally radiating form.  Somewhere between the mechanic and the peculiar sunset there was a harmony or disharmony.  He wasn’t certain which.

          “…. Cars are extensions of people,” he heard him saying. “They take on the personality of their owners.”

          Adam could barely hear this preposterous statement as he grappled with the unknown.  A sign, he believed, had been given to him, and he sensed that it was no accident Henny Lumpkin had been the one to pick up his disabled car.  Adam would never know that what he saw was a natural phenomenon, which would be reported later on the news.  As he shook his head in wonder, it seemed as if he was disagreeing with what Henny had just said.  On the rough, grimy surface, the mechanic seemed slightly indignant, but the crafty gleam in his eyes was hard to read.  Adam wondered if he was simply toying with him as a sadist might do.  He appeared to be watching his every action and listening for every sound he made.  Seen in a different light, though, his apparent sadism seemed to mask another, even more sinister purpose.  Yes, Adam told himself, he’s studying me…. I’m his captive audience!…. But why?  What does this degenerate man want?

          He felt cornered where he was.  There seemed to be nowhere to escape in this out-of-the-way cul de sac, except through Henny Lumpkin’s Garage…. Where would he go even if he escaped?…  Did he really want to abandon his car to this man?… How would he get home?

…. Did he even want to go home?  These questions remained unanswered as he pondered his next move.

          In a toneless voice, revealing deep thought, he uttered “All right, tell me about my car…. What personality does it have?”

          “I told you, but you weren’t listening.  It’s not an it;” the mechanic answered, his awful presence moving into view “it’s a she…. Judging by the mauve seat covers and powder blue paint job, this was your wife’s car.  Am I correct?”

          “No, Mister Lumpkin, you’re not correct,” Adam replied, looking back into darkness. “She only picked it out for me; I do all the driving.”

          “All right, she didn’t drive it, but she picked it out.  It has her personality.  Don’t you see?” Henny insisted slyly. “It has her personality, not yours.

          As sarcastically as he could, Adam replied, “I think you’ve got cars mixed up with dogs.  It’s dogs who look like their owners, not cars.”

          “Young man, it’s not what I think,” Henny clarified. “It’s what you think.  You equate this car’s demise with your wife.  Am I correct?”

          As Adam thought about his words, he wanted to tell Henny how ridiculous his analogy was, and yet he had the terrible feeling this time that Henny had read his mind.  He had, in fact, mentally compared his wife with the car, and had earlier dreamed of murdering her.  The mechanic remained silent now.  Waiting for some sort of response and staring, with unblinking dark coals, at him, his presence was becoming unbearable for the younger man.

          “What’s your point?  Why’re you playing games with me?  Adam asked, clenching and unclenching his fists.

          The other man, who towered several inches over him, was not impressed with his anger.  Again, as he opened up the hood and looked down at the engine, he spoke succinctly, completely captivating Adam as both tutor and discomforter.

          “Why don’t you simply get rid of her?” he asked softly.

          Kill her? The question again flashed in Adam’s mind.  Although the mechanic’s eyebrows had raised, his own lips had not moved, leaving him with the feeling that the man had, in deed, read his mind.

          “You can’t divorce her; it would ruin your career,” the mechanic remarked, removing the oil filter and tossing it aside. “It seems, because of your faith, you can’t even run away from her.  That might ruin you!

          “I still love my wife,” Adam whispered.

          “And hate her,” the man jerked a handful of cables loose. “It’s the proverbial love/hate relationship.  But it’s also much worse, because your wife has made you pity her and worry constantly about her soul…. Tell me, do you love pain?”

          “No,” Adam murmured, wanting to flee but finding his legs numb and mind reeling from the truth of his words.  Who was this creature—this spawn of Satan, who was trying to destroy the last shreds of hope and sanity he had left?

          “Be honest,” the mechanic insisted, throwing the cables to the ground. “You’ve thought about it several times.  She’s a drag and an emotional burden on you and, by her activities, a threat to your profession and faith.  But you just can’t give up on her.  She’s your cross!

          Adam agreed in his heart, though his face displayed great loathing for this man.  The mechanic smiled knowingly.  It was as if he knew the young man’s innermost thoughts.

          Popping off battery caps and tugging on a grease-caked hose that caught his fancy, the mechanic again declared, “You must get rid of her!”  “…. Why right now,” he added as he disengaged the air filter and tossed it aside, “she’s probably partying with one of your neighbors or some stranger dragged off the street.”

          “Shut up!  Shut up!  God damn you, shut up!” Adam cried.

          “What is this—blasphemy?” The mechanic peeked mockingly up to the heavens. “Are you calling your God to damn me?  If you think you’ve blasphemed God, you’re a fool, Adam.  God is dead.  This is the New Age, in which reason rules.”

          It was an old refrain favored by atheists, existentialists, and New Age philosophers.  Coming from the greasy mechanic, however, it sounded ludicrous.  One of Adam’s elders had accused him of using New Age philosophy in the church.  Inexplicably, the mechanic had attached atheism to this philosophy in an apparent effort to undermine Adam’s faith, which was a blend of philosophy, liberal Protestantism, and, lately, Norman Vincent Peale’s positive thinking.  Adam decided that it was time to break free of Henny Lumpkin’s spell.  Not knowing how to respond to Lumpkin’s statement, he launched an angry complaint about the service at his garage. 

          “You’re a poor excuse for a mechanic,” he erupted in rage. “You didn’t even try to fix my car.  I’ll not pay you a red cent for what you put me through.  I should call the police after what you did to my car!”

          “You don’t owe me anything for my services,” Henny replied calmly. “My services are free.”

          Backing away slowly, Adam began his exit from the garage.

          “What services?” he looked incredulously at the mechanic. “You’re not talking about my car, are you?  You’re talking about my wife!  Why’re you so interested in her?”

          “…. I’m not interested in your wife, “ replied Henny, after a long pause, “I’m interested in you!

          “Me?” Adam’s head swam with the implications. “…. Why would you be interested in me?  What sort of sick game are you playing Henny?  Why is it that when I used my Triple A card, they sent you?  You couldn’t be a reputable mechanic!  You’re not even a reputable human being!

          Satisfied that he made his point, Henny tucked his dirty rag into his overalls and relinquished his hold upon Adam as he retreated into the evening shadows.  In the foreground the dark hulk of his car was almost lost in this unlit portion of the garage.

          “You’ve been living your life in a dream,” he called back from the darkness. “It’s time now to wake up and face reality: your wife, your failing career, and the only option you have left.”

          “Option?  What option.  My career isn’t failing!  My wife’s just sick.  She’s an alcoholic.  I’m going to get her cured.  I won’t give up on her.  There’s still hope for us.  Who in-the-hell do you think are you?” Adam was now shouting at the top of his lungs.

          Before the mechanic could reply this time, however, he found himself running into the hollows of the city, his aim to call his wife and somehow dispel his awful conviction but his immediate desire to escape the conclusion now unfolding in his mind.



          Despite his concern for his wife, Adam knew that a far more important issue was at stake.  He wanted to believe that it was his concern for his sanity and not fear for his immortal soul that had caused him to flee Henny Lumpkin’s Garage.  Pushing the thought from his mind, he focused upon a more immediate problem in his life: Cora, his wayward wife.  At this point, as he detoured yet further away from God, he remained in denial.  He couldn’t bring himself to accept the appearance of Henny Lumpkin as anything more than an ugly coincidence.  Although he had been excited about the strange and timely things happening to him throughout the past several days, he wanted to believe in a rational God.  Until this week, he had never experienced supernatural phenomena or questioned his logical, freethinking faith.  Because he was a liberal Christian, he couldn’t believe in predestination, natural sin or any of the other doctrines of Christianity that would have prepared him for what lie ahead or what was befalling him now.  Mankind had free choice in his thinking and was too blame for its destiny and sins.  God, though offering salvation or damnation, didn’t intervene regularly in human lives.  There was therefore no room for miraculous events or the fulfillment of New and Old Testament prophecy in his mind.  If his wife was damned, she had no one to blame but herself.  She couldn’t blame God or the medieval devil pandered by the Roman Catholic Church and so many Protestant faiths….   This is what he told himself as he made his way into the unknown.



          Adam, who had never felt the Lord’s Spirit or heard His knock, was spiritually unarmed as he set out on foot through town.  After walking through an unsavory district in Los Angeles to find another telephone booth, one loomed suddenly out of the darkness as he crossed the street.  This one stood between an old boarded-up corner liquor store and abandoned used car lot, dilapidated, leaning slightly, but still empty, waiting, it seemed, just for him.  

          With mounting anxiety, he began trotting toward the booth, expecting to be its next occupant.  Half-heartedly thanking God for his good fortune, he was not so sure he wanted to make his call now that he was so close.  He should really be calling a taxi or be looking for a bus, should he not?  Why not let sleeping dogs lie?  He asked himself as he came closer and closer to the ominous booth.

          As he came within a short distance of his destination, a monstrous dark shadow staggered out from behind the building.  At first, fearful that it was the mechanic coming back with more taunts, he froze in his tracks.   But, as the figure approached, a different specter—one that would prove to be more terrible than the first—emerged in the dim light.  A woman, who was a tower of undulating fat, promptly occupied the empty booth.  He watched unhappily now as she opened her purse inside the booth, downed a mouthful of something from a paper sack, and peeped around with two tiny black eyes.  It appeared to him as if the stall had suddenly become just a way station for the thirsty lady, a place to bide her time until staggering off somewhere to sleep it off.

          A heavy wave of depression settled upon him, as his suspicions remained unresolved.  After several moments, the lady was still biding her time, and it was apparent that this was, at least temporarily, that somewhere she had staggered off to.  She appeared to be falling asleep in a standing position, her blubbery face pressing comically against the dirty glass as her tiny eyelids closed.  Adam was not amused.  After several moments, in which her eyes opened as she took a snort and then closed as she clutched the sack to herself, the woman was still biding her time.  The question in his exhausted mind was ‘how long?’  Was this booth the creature’s nest?  Perhaps there wasn’t even a phone in the dilapidated booth or, if one existed, it might not even work, which would make his wait fruitless, perhaps even dangerous considering the monstrous occupant inside.

          While he stood stewing in the silence, suspecting the worst about his wife, the woman stirred, opened her pig-like eyes but remained inside the booth, chewing her gum lazily, staring out at him vacantly, without a care in the world.  Adam now rapped on the glass to get her attention.  Like a great obese, ice age sloth she slowly turned toward the source of the noise.  After watching her gaze stupidly out a moment longer, he lost his patience entirely and beat on the door.

          At this point, she reacted to his commotion and began emerging from the booth.  Squeezing out of the overstuffed enclosure, rocking its aluminum frame to and fro, she came at him, arms outstretched and mouth agape.  He wondered fearfully if his agitation and facial expressions had given her the notion that he was interested, and perhaps the dimwitted woman thought he had a proposition in mind.  A hideous smile spread across her painted face exposing rotting teeth.  Though he managed to dodge her embrace and reach for the door, the lady grabbed his coattails, stopping him in his tracks.

          “Please, you don’t understand,” he explained frantically, “I want to call my wife.”

          “Why honey?  I’m available,” she replied, almost tearing his coat. “You can have me, and it won’t cost you a teensy-weensy dime!”

          “I’m warning you lady,” his voice shrilled, “I’ll call the police!”

          As she playfully grabbed the seat of his pants and cackled madly under her breath, Adam panicked, screaming at the top of his lungs “Help police!  Help police!”  After pinching his buttocks and giving him a playful swat, she let go of him, allowing him to finally take possession of the booth. 

By now he was in the throes of hysteria.  Feeling momentarily safe inside, he shut his eyes and prayed for deliverance as the creature hovered outside.  For the moment, his main concern was his personal safety.  His wife’s behavior and the unanswered phone ranked second in his list of priorities now.  If it was possible, he decided, he would call himself a cab.  As soon as he spotted a bus he would, regardless of its destination, flag it down.  When he finally opened his eyes, however, the woman was turning slowly and blinking off into the horizon as would any dim-witted brute who was tired, hungry, and looking for a place to bed down for the night.  As he aimed a trembling hand at the coin slot, she was still moving slothfully away and he was still praying.  Finally, as the change began tinkling through its rusty circuits, the woman had disappeared completely into the shadows and his phone had begun to ring.  When the answering machine picked up, he shouted “Cora answer the goddamn phone!”  After several more tries, in which he grew increasingly hostile, the phone rang several times and his wife’s voice blurted finally into his ear.

          “Wha-what do-o you wa-ant?” She asked irritably, suspiciously out of breath.

          “Cora, where have you been?” Adam blasted back, the overwhelming thought of her betrayal reeling in his mind.

          All the air seemed to rush out of his lungs, and he gasped with shock as he steadied himself inside the booth.  She didn’t answer his question, but it was evident that she had company.  In the background a man was yelling “Come on, I don’t have all night!”

          Upon this thundering revelation, a buzzing filled his ears as Cora hung up and continued her slimy business of pleasure.  Adam dropped the phone, staggered out of the booth, and found himself bending over and purging himself on the pavement below.  He wanted also to vomit out his sorrow and begin his life anew but all he could manage was the evening’s dinner.  A sensation of wretchedness had been implanted in him when his ministry first began conflicting with his marriage.  It was always quelled each time by a promise, seen in the Scriptures or in the faces of his congregation, that things would get better.  In childhood, thanks to his Scripture-quoting mother, he was held together by such promises.  After his father died, he was coaxed out of sloth and caprice by the promise of retribution if he sinned.  God, as the Father then, became law in his house.  But when his mother died, he turned to the Son and the promise of salvation.  In the seminary the relentless effort of the scholarly Adam was also counterbalanced by the promise of the Spirit.  He could remember long ago feeling what had seemed to be the Holy Ghost or at least a great inspiration to do God’s will.  But this member of the Holy Trinity, in spite of God’s presence, was to be challenged by Cora, his wayward wife.  It had grown faint, almost imperceptible after she entered his life, so Adam turned from the Holy Trinity to humanism and philosophy to bolster his resolve.  For reasons he would never fathom, Cora had decided a few years into their marriage to become an opposing force in his life, distracting him at every turn, threatening his career, and finally corrupting his faith.

After shattering their marriage and threatening the last shreds of his faith, she was destroying his sanity too.  It was all so nightmarishly clear to him now.  The worst sickness possessed Cora’s mind, controlled her body and had eaten away in secrecy at what was left of their marriage.  All the while he had tried to ignore the symptoms, looking beyond the telltale signs and pathetic lies.  And, despite her lying, drinking, and continual hardship upon his ministry, he still believed he could save her.  Somewhere along the way, though, he should have thought about saving himself.  Now it was too late.  The evening and its demons had moved him to know this ugly business of living, leaving him at the end of a series of crashing events with no more faith and no more hope to draw upon when he needed it most.

          At the center of the madness, the filthy core, lie Cora: Cora, the deceiver…. Cora, the liar…. Cora, the destroyer, adulteress, and fornicator.

          As he left the phone dangling in the booth and lurched into the night, the lonely drone of the receiver followed him a ways.  He thought then of her shortness of breath, the man’s voice in the background, and the phone suddenly hanging up, signaling the end of this chapter in his life.  The pattern he had blamed on spiritual malaise had finally led to a cesspool of physical lust, beyond Christian charity or forgiveness.  He thought instead about the mechanic’s solution to his problem, the taint of horror still hanging in the man’s innuendo but sounding so logical in his present state of mind…. Death!

Carrying this notion with him now, Adam walked aimlessly up the street awhile, fleetingly searching the dark silhouettes of buildings for more disaster to befall him, and, at the same time, wondering how it could be done.



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