Christian Short Stories
A Different Love
By Web Ruble
Web Ruble writes: I am a retired newspaper reporter of some 40 years, and a couple of those years I was religion writer at The Oregonian, Oregon's largest daily. Now I am a novelist and short story writer. My wife Norma and I live in Fairview, OR but split our time between there and Tucson, AZ where we are now until about April 15. We are lay leaders and deacons at Smith Memorial Presbyterian Church in Fairview, OR (near Portland). We also are volunteers on Thursdays about nine months out of the year in a soup kitchen in Gresham, OR.
The foul-mouthed trollop didn't win his love. But her tart tongue may have saved his life.
Trenton Tripitz had been at The Billiards and Beer Barn and there she had been as he had hoped.
She was such a curvy lass – poor but dressed rather well – that she clearly stood out among the denizens.
Angie had perfected a gentle sway when she walked. It showed off her stuff. And her “stuff “was attractive. Moreover, at this moment she displayed it in accented swing as she approached the dart board to retrieve her darts.
Nevertheless, few if any paid much attention. Perhaps she was dressed too fine for a tavern game room of mostly young hooligans. Maybe she came across as affected, “high hat” or phony. Whatever it was, the display she offered fell on almost blind eyes.
Except for Trenton. He was perhaps the one in the tavern closest to ogling. He was doing it from a distance. He thought she was one of the best lookers in town. And he admired the way Angie dressed – always with a touch of class. That to Trent was sexy, and beyond that it told him that she had lots of self respect, which was more than he could say about most of the tarts and low-life dudes who lurked in those shadows.
She was well groomed and always carried herself well. Actually, he thought he was in love with her.
That was his intention. To find somebody to love – somebody who could use some help -- by secretly heaping gifts upon that person. However, he was certain that this Angie, about 40, didn’t even know he existed, because he was older – 66 and white haired – and never played darts or shot pool. He never even so much as talked to her. Rather, he was content to just sit at the bar and quaff his very quaffable beer, observing.
Actually, Trenton was looking for a different kind of “love,” Agape might come to mind if the analyst were Christian and he were to stretch the definition. He had no intention of sexual contact, or dating, or for that matter being identified. Rather he wanted to be a benevolent phantom – or more accurately, a “secret benefactor” – to someone who needed help. That person, of course, would have to appreciate the help even if she didn’t know who her benefactor was.
Trenton, retired with a lot of money from a big construction company where ha had been an accountant, was alone in the world. His wife, Charlotte, had died four years earlier. They had no children and he had no close relatives to call heirs. He had spent several months looking for a candidate for his secret philanthropy.
He wanted to help a young person, preferably a woman. He knew he couldn’t take his wealth with him to the next world, and he didn’t want to leave it on this terrestrial ball for the state. Trenton was searching because he figured he wouldn’t live more than another decade. He had a heart murmur and although it hadn’t been bothering him lately, he had been increasingly tired for several few months.
To be sure, Angie hadn’t always been his only candidate. He would decide for certain and act soon to make arrangements.
The darts action stopped. Angie and the score keeper erupted into a loud argument. Apparently the game was being played for money. She was shouting that the score guy was a butt and cheating her out of “some serious bucks.”
She was bent attractively over the scorer’s table but what she said was anything but attractive. She uttered such a battery of foul words that eloquent Russian soldiers Trent had met in Europe right after the war would certainly blush.
Trenton was shocked. Angie discarded her classic pose, put her kicker up on a chair adjacent the scorer, and then really opened fire. What mouth! She insulted the scorer’s looks, clothes, mind and sexual prowess among other things. Her face turned crimson and ugly.
Huh? In all the weeks he had been watching her, he had never heard anything close to the epithets she had just dispatched. It was too much. Trenton began to cry – inside, at least.
He threw down his mad money on the bar and left coughing (to cover up emerging tears).
Trenton was more than discouraged. Depressed didn’t quite cover it, either. Rather, he was flat-out angry – mainly with himself. How in the world could he be taken in by such cosmetics and the way she wiggled her hips? Was he loco? What was he doing in a tavern anyway?
Now he knew how she was. And he was glad it was over. He just wondered what was wrong with his judgment. He prayed for better.
Thank you, Lord, for showing me how this person really is – just in time -- as well as showing me my own stupid folly. Please, please help me push this aside so I can settle upon someone true blue.
He liked that saying, “true blue.” It made him chuckle.
Even this moment had its levity.
So here he was before God and country with financial aid to give – and no worthy receiver in his sights. Hmmmm. Maybe he should look for a long-lost relative who might be deserving. But he knew of none, except for his most-distant family in Virginia. Of them he knew next to nothing.
However, he still had some local candidates. He’d sleep on it.
He went to Joe’s Grub House and ordered what he called a gritsburger. Those greasy missiles one didn’t have to chew. They just slid down. So he let 'em slide. He then sipped some coffee and went home to sit in his rocker and try to find "true north" in his Bible.
He tried some Proverbs, some Psalms, and some John, but nothing leaped off the page. As a matter of fact, the 1½ hours of reading offered little help. Or if it did he failed to see it.
The next morning instead of scrambling some eggs and boarding them on scorched toast, he stumble-walked the five blocks to Pam’s Six Egger. Breakfasty-pooh was always fine there and he loved the restaurant’s tortured java. He would sit there and ponder things before deciding whether to renew his search.
The diner was almost full. One seat was available at the counter curve. He took it. Gertrude. the long-legged waitress, appeared before him, standing like a comic modern Colossus at Rhodes. He ordered his Breakfast Denver and she poured his coffee. As usual it was delicious. He was just beginning to ponder his situation when a ruckus exploded in one of the booths.
He looked across the aisle. A thin, willowy – if not slightly haggard -- woman was pounding the back of a little girl. The tot appeared to be about 2. She was choking and turning purple. The woman gave her a sharp slap on the back and it was enough to propel a food clog like a howitzer out onto the table.
Nobody was in the trenches. Yet nobody was hurt. It all happened so fast that Trent was shell shocked.
Wow! She moved fast! And she knew exactly what to do, too. Interesting.
Trenton’s Denver arrived spread across a huge platter. And he prepared to dive into it. About this time a thin man – about 5-foot-10, and looking almost emaciated – came in and sat opposite the woman and child.
Trenton glanced twice but paid little attention as he began to excavate his Denver-like onion-peppers-and-grilled egg omelet.
Curiosity, however, caused him to look anew across the Nile (aisle) to the trio in troubled Gaza.
The man and woman were preparing to share a plate of toast. Each had an egg, as well. Open on the table in front of the man was a Bible. The couple was holding hands in prayer. The tot was back to stuffing her mouth with something – probably toast. The woman looked like she had been crying.
Trent watched for a while, growing more than curious. He was downright fascinated. Then, as if the words were meant for him to hear, he caught snatches of conversation:
“I knew it wasn’t anything . . .but I had to check it out anyway,” the man said.
“I just don’t know what we’re going to do,” the woman said, sobbing. “Ohio. Maybe if we . . .”
“No! We just have to keep looking,” the man said, going from hang-dog in appearance to more like a grim-faced sergeant. He was taking charge. Probably because of floor-scraping morale, taking charge was something he hadn’t felt much like doing lately.
He said, “It’s getting harder and harder to explain no work in two years. This down-on-my-luck stuff just doesn’t work. They don’t believe it.”
“I know,” the woman said. “Oh, I just wish I hadn’t quit that job I had.”
“Well, cleaning that stupid house three times a week wouldn’t do it, anyway, you know that. Besides, for what that woman was paying you, I’d rather you stayed home to take care of Betsy. I can help some with Betsy, too, but I need time to keep looking, too.”
“Today is the worst.”
“I know. I think we may have just enough money to pay for this . . .this . . .this brunch. What we’ll do after this I don’t know.”
Oh please Lord, help us,” the woman said with her crying eyes closed and one hand on the Bible as if the end had come.
Trent could stand it no longer. He turned back fully to the counter.
“Hey Gertrude. C’mere a minute.”
The waitress arrived as if she had just been booted out of the kitchen. She waved a coffee pot at half mast.
“No not coffee,” he said, begging her to bend closer so he could whisper. “See that couple and child across the aisle? Give me their check but be quiet about it. Just tell ‘em the meal is paid for. Don’t mention me, okay?”
“Huh?” Gertrude said. “You don’t even know them do you?”
“Well, I know ‘em a little, “ Trent said. “Please. Just do it. Hey, I just won the lottery!”
Gertrude stared at him, shrugged, said “Okay,” and strode away like a long-limbed dromedary bound for a more reasonable oasis.
He had just hit the lottery indeed.
Why not give to a couple instead of one person?
Trent felt a tingle in his fingers.
As the couple was leaving, Gertrude told them about the bill. They just stared at her. Then, the woman started crying and trying to wipe tears from her eyes. The man, holding the tot, frantically searched the room. “Who?” he said.
“Never mind,” Gertrude said. .
Trent was able to follow via a distorted mirror afforded by a stainless steal mixer machine just behind the counter. He continued to nibble his Denver.
After a number of protests, thank yous, and some sobbing the couple and child left. Trent watched as they turned right out the door and walked down Songer Street and disappeared.
Trent polished off his Denver and with rare joy in his heart, although admittedly with some apprehension, he grabbed his check and headed for Mable at the cash register.
He paid $21, combining his own with the couple's bill, and returned to the counter to leave $5 for Gertrude. Returning to Mable he asked to see her in private.
She had known Trent for years and decided he was not one to attack damsels in daring daylight. She was willing to grant him his quick inquest. She motioned to Gertrude to take the register. She and Trent adjourned to the cafe's closet-like office.
He took a seat and started bombarding Mable with questions about the couple.
Mable at first was reluctant to talk. But through diligent verbal acrobatics, Trent was able to pry out of Mable that over the months the cafe staff had come to know the couple.
The family came in often because the trailer they had been renting had poor to non-existent cooking facilities. When the woman quit her job, they were forced to leave an apartment and rent an 8-by-35-foot single wide in an old RV park down by the tracks. It was cheaper but the family -- arriving from Ohio just after the baby was born -- even at that was now about to run out of money. They were sure to be homeless. Time and options were running out. They were destitute. He had been a musician in Cincinnati but something -- nobody in Portland had learned exactly what -- had forced them to leave. They headed west, arriving in Oregon about two years ago. The only skill she had was housekeeping. He apparently had no marketable-in-Portland talents.
To make matters worse, the RV court housed single men -- a couple of odd-acting cretins -- and was not the place for a young couple with a child.
Trent also learned the family's name -- Ahlberg -- and that the family still had a post office box. He also learned lots of other family facts.
Upon leaving the Six Egger, he retreated home and began to make plans for $5,000 monthly checks to the Ahlbergs' post office box. He then went to the Midas Bank and asked to see an officer. Trent explained his gambit and made detailed arrangements. He then signed a $15,000 cashier's check and wrote a short note -- "From a secret admiring friend. God be with you."
Then came the tricky part. How would he deliver the check without being detected? Oh, he could leave it at the diner, but no -- the couple might be in such a financial fix that they might not be back. He could mail it. No. That would take too long and perhaps the family would be gone. Yes, he would have to wing it on a prayer and hand deliver it -- immediately.
God please be my co-pilot.
Trent sashayed down Songer, trying to look as indigent as he could in his snappy tan slacks and crisp shirt.
He crossed the tracks and found the court --six trailers -- and located the couple's rusting unit.
Trent looked around. He approached the trailer. Nobody seemed to be home. He took a chance and wedged the envelope, addressed to Tom and Sybil Ahlberg, into the gap between the door and its jam.
He then turned on his heel and walked rapidly back to the street. Just as he was crossing the iron rails he heard a "Whoop" from the trailer.
He was out of sight but could see the front of the Ahlberg's trailer through some blackberry vines. Sybil was whooping and hollering and running around in circles. Tom came running from the back, saying "What the dickens is the matter?"
"Money. We've been saved," his wife shouted. After a few more yells and some sobbing she showed him the check and note. Tom fell to his knees.
Apparently the couple had been home, after all.
Trenton Tripitz began crying. God had saved him, as well as the couple. Trenton had just crossed the Jordan.
(© 2010 Web Ruble – All rights reserved. Written material may not be duplicated without permission.)
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