Visits From A Man Named Nobody 39

Visits From A Man Named Nobody 39

PT1 // PT 2 // PT 3 // PT 4 // PT 5 // PT 6 // PT 7 // PT 8 // PT 9 // PT 10 // PT 11 // PT 12 // PT 13 // PT 14 // PT 15 // PT 16 // PT 17 // PT 18 // PT 19 // PT 20 // PT 21 // PT 22 // PT 23 // PT 24 // PT 25 // PT 26 // PT 27 // PT 28 // PT 29 // PT 30 // PT 31 // PT 32 // PT 33 // PT 34 // PT 35 // PT 36 // PT 37 // PT 38 //

A tiny part of Paul resented everyone, even his mother, for simply being able to move on. Why was it so hard to let go? More importantly, why was it so easy for everyone else to let go? Didn’t they love Bill? 

Paul realized the principal was about to call Jordan’s name. He scanned the other graduates as he waited.

“Jordan Bieliel,” the principal said. 

Jordan stood just as Paul found him. Paul offered a loud shout that he hoped conveyed that he was happy for his friend even if he wasn’t actually happy in general. 

“Jordan has been accepted into the applied physics program at Carnegie in Pittsburgh.” 

A smile bloomed on Paul’s face even as Jordan pointed at him and smiled. The smile seemed to say, “We’re still a team!”

Paul always worried that they’d drift apart. It was still a dirty trick to keep it a secret until graduation. Jordan had implied that he hadn’t had a lot of luck with the application process. Paul clapped for a few blissful seconds until he thought how everything was almost perfect.  

Was there a reality where Bill was alive? Paul was going to study at one of the top schools in the country. His best friend was going with him. They were decorated students. The single omission of Bill being there to see it seemed to make the absence even worse. Would he really feel better if none of it happened? 

Paul tried to be happy for his friend, and he could sort of do that. But every time he tried to be happy about anything he had in his life, his thoughts returned to the person who wasn’t there. That made him worry about losing Jordan, or worse, his mother. 

He couldn’t stop the mental loop he was trapped in. But what eventually ended was the list of students. The final student made his way across the stage, and that was the signal for the rest of the students to stand up. The class began to file into a large square section of the football field that had been designated for the final part of the ceremony. The students arranged themselves into rows as the school’s junior varsity band played Pomp and Circumstance. 

The song reached a crescendo, and the graduates, including Paul, snatched their caps and tossed them into the air. The PID on Paul’s wrist went crazy in vibration as people in attendance snapped photos that instantly transmitted to each other so long as the network identified who was in the picture. 

The moment marked the end of the ceremony, and Paul began the search for his best friend. As usual, Jordan found him. Jordan didn’t grow up so much as put on enough weight to ensure a stiff breeze probably would’t blast him away. 

Paul, however, grew into a large, square man that seemed an odd contrast to his academic performance. While his genetics made him one suited to physicality, Paul denied the hints about joining sports. Those things were too much like Paul’s biological father, and Paul didn’t want to be anything like that man.

So why can’t I let go of this anger? Anger and fear were the two key aspect of his biological father, and they were Paul’s core emotions too if he was being honest. 

The anger in Paul’s heart wasn’t always about the same thing, but there was always anger. Even as Paul recognized the irrationality of it, he couldn’t do a thing to change it. What he could do was sort of hide it under other things, usually. One such way was to spend time around his mother or Jordan, who smiled as he flung his arms around Paul.

“Had trouble with applications, huh?” Paul said as the quick, two-pat hug ended.

“It’s not a lie,” Jordan said. “Those applications were tough! I honestly think I got in because I put you as a reference. I feel sort of guilty riding your coat tails.”

Paul scoffed. “It’s not like you’re not helping. I told them how much you helped me during my interview.”

Jordan shrugged. “I guess I owe you.”

Paul froze, worried Jordan would ask about when they’d start working not he project again. He couldn’t. He couldn’t face those white boards. He couldn’t sit at that table. He couldn’t talk about it.

“So I was wondering.” Jordan looked away as he spoke. Oh no! Don’t ask! Please don’t make me think about it! “I know you’re super self conscious about things like this, but … “

Paul felt the anger and resentment building. Why would Jordan do this? Why would he ask about this now?

“Do you think I could take you and your mom out to dinner? I just want to hang out, and it’s been a while. Why are you laughing?”

Paul couldn’t stop to answer for a few moments. He wasn’t going to ask about the project. He was just trying to hang out. Of course he wouldn’t push Paul. Jordan always knew how to shift the topic. 

“Look man, you hate it when people try to do things for you,” Jordan said. “But dude, you helped me get through school, and you helped me get into a great college.”

“You were in the top ten of our class!” Paul said. 

“Because you helped me,” Jordan said. 

“We studied together, but it’s not like I took the tests for you or did your work for you,” Paul replied.

“True, but let me treat you and your mom, OK? Tonight?”

Paul thought about finding a polite way to say no. He had another appointment. Then he thought better of it. It was already clear Nobody always knew where to go, so it didn’t matter what Paul did. If Nobody said he’d appear tonight, it would happen.

“I think Mom would like that,” Paul said with a smile he hoped looked genuine. 

… to be continued …

Visits From A Man Named Nobody 38

Visits From A Man Named Nobody 38

PT1 // PT 2 // PT 3 // PT 4 // PT 5 // PT 6 // PT 7 // PT 8 // PT 9 // PT 10 // PT 11 // PT 12 // PT 13 // PT 14 // PT 15 // PT 16 // PT 17 // PT 18 // PT 19 // PT 20 // PT 21 // PT 22 // PT 23 // PT 24 // PT 25 // PT 26 // PT 27 // PT 28 // PT 29 // PT 30 // PT 31 // PT 32 // PT 33 // PT 34 // PT 35 // PT 36 // PT 37 //

Twelve

May 11, 2029, 6:16 p.m. 

18 Years, 243 Days Ago

The principle called names as Paul waited to hear his. Even if Paul weren’t close to the top of his class, he’d still hear his name quickly since his last name began with the letter a. 

Sure enough the principle called out, “Paul Autumn,” which allowed Paul to stand and walk down the grass isle between folding chairs and up to the stage that had been set up on his high school’s football field. 

The crowd clapped politely. Of course, a few people shouted. 

“All right, Paul!” That would be Jordan.

“I’m so proud of you!” And there was his mother.

Paul fought down a smile as he climbed up the wooden steps and started shaking hands. All the big wigs of the staff were up there. Paul eventually made his way to the principal, who handed him his diploma. That was more a formality these days. In reality, his credits and qualifications were already digitally sent to Carnegie in Pittsburgh. 

Paul wasn’t sure why they were still interested in him. He hadn’t worked on the project in more than a year. Every time he thought about it, he thought about Bill. He could study without the sadness hurting him so much. He’d even had a few ideas bounce around in his mind, but if he came anywhere near those white boards, all he could think about was the life he was supposed to have and was denied.

Paul plastered a fake smile on his face and turned to the person with a ComPad. The man snapped a photo, and Paul immediately felt his PID, personal information device, vibrate. These days, everyone had one. These functioned as watches, phones, and Blue Tooth connections to other devices with more space. 

Paul made his way back down the stairs and to his original seat to watch the rest of the graduation. He looked down at the red certificate folder. On a whim, he opened it. He expected to see the fancy lettering giving his school name and his own name. The folded piece of paper that rested on top of the protective plastic sheet was what caught his eye. 

A flame of anger seemed to blossom from Paul’s gut. Of course. It would be too much to hope that Nobody was gone for good. Paul waited for more than a year to face the man, but of course he was too much of a coward. So here was another note.

Paul opened it if for no other reason than to consider ways to refute Nobody’s claims. “Pain eventually fades, unless one refuses to go through it. Don’t worry, you will see me tonight.”

Paul felt a different sort of smile form on his face. Finally! He was going to be able to look Nobody straight in that mask and tell him everything he wanted. Paul turned around and eventually found his mother sitting in the bleachers. She wore a simple blue pull-over dress. She’d stopped crying after a year, but she was still alone. She seemed OK, but she shouldn’t be OK, she should be deviously happy, and Bill should be next to her. 

She noticed Paul looking and gave a cheesy grin and thumbs up.  Paul shook his head. Over the past year, he’d been concerned that she’d start hounding him about religion. True, she was different, and some of the rules of the house changed, but the changes in her life were so like what Bill would do that Paul couldn’t bring himself to resent her for it. 

So why am I the one who’s acting like he forgot Bill? 

Maybe his mom felt better remembering and doing things that he would do. Paul just felt pain and anger. 

Visits From A Man Named Nobody 35

Visits From A Man Named Nobody 35

16 // PT 17 // PT 18 // PT 19 // PT 20 // PT 21 // PT 22 // PT 23 // PT 24 // PT 25 // PT 26 // PT 27 // PT 28 // PT 29 // PT 30 // PT 31 // PT 32 // PT 33 // PT 34 //

An annoying thought kept popping into his mind. 

He was Bill’s God, too. Well that made Bill an idiot! What was the sense in praying to a God and serving a God who was only going to let you die right when everything was so great?

Another, less annoying and more convicting, thought occurred to him. 

Your mother is downstairs alone.

Paul rushed down, but she wasn’t on the floor in the living room anymore. He opened the door, wondering if she went out with those two policemen, but there was no police car there. 

Paul went inside. He started to worry as he looked around and let out a sigh of relief as he found his mother sitting in the dining room. 

Just a while ago, we were all celebrating.

Paul didn’t know what he felt. Suddenly all the white boards and numbers seemed wrong to him. It wasn’t the same without Bill. A part of Paul was shocked to feel hatred. He hated himself for letting Bill in. He hated Bill for dying, and that didn’t even make any sense.

Paul’s mother sat in her usual place. She stared at the boards as if she were trying to figure the science out. 

“Mom?” He didn’t have a clue what to say. He opened his mouth again to ask if she were OK and shut his jaw as soon as he realized what a moronic question it was. 

“Do you know what he always said to me before he went home?” Her voice quivered even as she spoke. 

Paul shook his head.

“He’d always say, ‘I’m thankful for today, and if this is my last day, I’m glad this was it.’” She started sobbing again just as she finished the quote. It did sound like something Bill would say. It was still stupid. He was still an idiot for pretending a day was worth every day that could have come after.

Paul darted over and wrapped his arms around his mother. Still unsure what else to do, he just held her and let her cry. 

“Why?” Paul hoped she wasn’t asking him, but he knew what he would say. 

He’d say, “Because there isn’t any God. There couldn’t be one if he’d let something like this happen.” 

Something held his tongue though. It was probably because he knew saying something like that wouldn’t help his mother feel any better. As much as he wanted to punch Nobody so hard that mask shattered, he wanted to comfort his mother that much more. 

“You know he loved us, right?” This time his mother pulled back and looked right at Paul. He knew she wanted an answer.

Yeah, he thought. The word didn’t come out. 

His mother grabbed his chin in her hand in a firm grip and stared into his eyes. “He loved you! And I know he loved me.”

Paul’s jaw trembled. “Then why didn’t he stay?”

“Oh, Paul!” She pulled him back into an embrace. “I don’t know how to explain it, but there’s more to love than where you sleep.”

But if he’d stayed, you would have been together! He wouldn’t have been on the road! He wouldn’t have died! In fact the only reason he’s dead is because he was too afraid of pissing off an imaginary being. He died anyway. He did the right thing, and he died because of it! 

“It’s OK.” His mother whispered gently to him, and he realized he was weeping again. He was so angry. All that anger was back. It was like all the years he spent trying to let it go was just like some sort of deposit into an account, and now it was back with interest. The only things stronger were his sadness and his desire to make his mom feel better. 

She held him, and they cried together until the sun came up. 

Visits From A Man Named Nobody 33

Visits From A Man Named Nobody 33

PT 1 // PT 2 // PT 3 // PT 4 // PT 5 // PT 6 // PT 7 // PT 8 // PT 9 // PT 10 // PT 11 // PT 12 // PT 13 // PT 14 // PT 15 // PT 16 // PT 17 // PT 18 // PT 19 // PT 20 // PT 21 // PT 22 // PT 23 // PT 24 // PT 25 // PT 26 // PT 27 // PT 28 // PT 29 // PT 30 // PT 31 // PT 32 //

“This calls for a celebration!” Paul’s mother took a moment to take another bite of her dinner before standing and heading into the kitchen. 

“Your project truly does have a lot of potential,” Bill said.

“It’s our project.” Paul couldn’t understand why Bill wouldn’t take any credit.

Bill shook his head. “It’s just like I told the university. All I’ve ever done is provide you research and formulas. Everything on those boards is yours. I’d never have even considered these possibilities before meeting you. I’m honored to be your mentor, but this is all yours.”

Paul shook. Every inch of him wanted to hug Bill. He couldn’t remember ever doing so. There was a sort of fear denying him. If he hugged Bill, it would mean he’s choosing him. It would mean he’d found a father. Then he’d have to let go of the last ounce of anger he held for his bio dad. 

Bill walked up to him, and Paul felt the desire to step back, but he was still every bit as frozen as he was the moment before. He was trapped between his fear of letting go and his fear of moving on. 

Bill wrapped an arm around him, and something broke. Paul threw his arms around him and hugged him. He didn’t weep, but tears flowed down his eyes freely. The more joy he felt, the tighter he squeezed. 

He heard Bill grunt, but he didn’t stop, and Bill didn’t ask him to. They held each other there. 

Paul looked up to Bill, who wasn’t that much taller. “I’m going to figure this out,” he said. 

“I doubt doubt it,” Bill said smiling. 

Paul coughed as if he had something stuck in his throat and tried to pretend he wasn’t drying the tears from his eyes. “I’ve … “ He took another breath. “Did Mom tell you about what happened?”

Bill nodded his head. He understood where Paul was going.

“My bio dad never showed an interest. I was like another muscle to him he could exercise or train to be his. At least, that’s how I felt. I was an annoyance. I never felt like I was a son.”

Bill moved and sat down in his chair. He didn’t say anything. Again Paul noted the similarities between Nobody and Bill. Nobody was quite. It was like he wanted Paul to feel free to say anything. 

“I’ve never felt chosen before,” Paul finally said. “I never felt wanted.”

Bill smiled. “Before I ever met you, before the world was made, you were chosen.”

Paul chuckled. Of course Bill would find a way to make this about God, but not in some sort of sermon. It’s just how Bill worked. 

“You still don’t know that yet,” Bill said. “But I’ll keep planting. The joy is mine, Paul. You’re a gift, and I’m glad God gave you to me.”

Paul felt another urge to hug the man, but grunted instead. He wasn’t sure he was ready to trust his feelings. Instead, he changed the subject. “Where’d Mom go?”

He walked to the kitchen without waiting for an answer. Paul turned around the open frame that led to the kitchen and found his mother sitting on a stool, crying. Three white bowls sat next to a tub of ice cream, and she sat there weeping. 

Paul rushed up to her. “Mom! What’s wrong?”

He gently wrapped her in his arms before stepping back to check for injury. She laughed. It might have been the most melodious and cheerful laugh he’d ever heard. “I’m not sad or hurt.” She pulled him back into a hug. “I’m happy.”

She held him there for a long time. “I’m just so very happy.”

After another long time, Paul started to feel a bit silly. “You know, Bill’s out there waiting.”

His mother laughed again. “Isn’t it wonderful!?”

Paul chuckled. He grabbed the bowls, and she picked up the ice cream. They headed out to the dining room to celebrate Paul’s scholarship. 

It might have been the best night in Paul’s young life. They just talked and ate ice cream, but it was wonderful. After they finished, Paul stood to grab and rinse the dishes. 

“It’s getting late,” Bill said. 

“Do you have to go?” His mother asked. 

“It’s OK if you stay,” Paul called out from the kitchen. 

“It is most certainly not OK if I stay,” Bill said. “Though I am very tempted.”

Paul heard the sound of kissing, so he turned up the water and scrubbed the bowls as hard as he could. He didn’t leave anything to chance. He washed ever dish by hand just to make sure he didn’t have to overhear his mother making out. He hoped they were, but he didn’t want to have to listen to it.

When he shut the water off, he heard them talking. 

“ … have to do things the right way,” Bill was saying.

“Who’s going to know? Who’s going to care? Whose business is it?” His mother asked.

“Ours, and we’ll know.” Bill said. “You’re more important to me than my desire.”

“But aren’t I the one you desire?” She asked. 

“Of course you are,” he answered. “But I don’t want you for a night. I want you for the rest of my life.”

Paul wondered if they’d noticed him eavesdropping. It’s like the air got sucked out of the room. He felt the urge to peek around the wall, but stopped just as his mother let out a deep breath. 

“Are you … are you asking … “

“Not tonight,” Bill said. “Tonight’s already special, and it’s Paul’s night. Let it be his. But maybe I could take you out tomorrow.”

Paul felt the urge to shout for some reason. He actually covered his mouth like to make it sound more like a sneeze. That gave him an excuse to turn the water back on. He washed his hands. As soon as he turned off the water, he shook his hands dry and rushed into the dining room.

“Where’s Bill?” He looked around, but it was obvious he’d gone home. “What happened?”

His mother smiled. “He had to go, but he’s taking me out tomorrow.”

Paul smiled back and snatched her into a hug. She laughed again, and it was wonderful. 

They talked for a bit about unimportant and silly things, but it didn’t take long for his mother to yawn, fighting back a rare evening of work. 

Paul said goodnight and headed to his room. He opened the door and found Nobody sitting at his desk. 

The End of Chapter Nine … To Be Continued …

Visits From A Man Named Nobody 32

Visits From  A Man Named Nobody 32

16 // PT 17 // PT 18 // PT 19 // PT 20 // PT 21 // PT 22 // PT 23 // PT 24 // PT 25 // PT 26 // PT 27 // PT 28 // PT 29 // PT 30 // PT 31 //

Nine

Oct. 23, 2027, 9:33 p.m. 

18 Years, 145 Days Ago

Paul and Bill sat at the dinner table talking about scientific theory. They’d gotten a series of white boards and had somehow started jotting down notes that became an honest to goodness theory. 

Phrases and formulas littered the bulk of the boards, and they’d have to buy a new batch soon. Jordan quickly joined the effort, but he wasn’t there at the moment. Paul let the experiment slip in class, and the next thing he knew, even the school had started showing an interest. Honestly, other schools, started showing interest.

Paul distracted himself from the news by checking his latest numbers. Bill probably knew something was up, but Paul was waiting for his mother to get home. Which meant Paul needed a more powerful distraction, and he also wanted to try and test a more unusual theory.

“Do you ever, um, evangelize?” Paul asked.

“Hopefully every day,” Bill said, “but I imagine you mean something more formal. I’ve done two missionary trips, and I’d like to do more, but I haven’t really set anything up yet.”

Two? Paul had seen Nobody far more than that, and neither Bill nor Nobody would ever lie. They were eerily similar. The problem was it was hard to remember Nobody’s physical attributes. They may have only been standing together once, and Paul was much shorter then. Nobody always wore that mask, which muffled his voice just like it covered his facial features. 

He couldn’t exactly blurt out the questions he wanted to ask. “Are you Nobody?” “Why did you wait years after visiting me that first time to talk to my mom?” 

Then there was the experiment. If Bill was Nobody, he’d already know how to teleport. Could he just be teaching Paul how to do it in one of his drawn-out lessons? 

“The problem is researching a way to break down a physical object in a way that doesn’t destroy it,” Paul said. “Right now, I’m thinking of teleportation like a sort of physical email.” 

Bill nodded. “It’s a line of thought to consider. It may not lead to the answer, but in things like this, all a person can do is develop theories and test them.”

This was actually their eighteenth theory. The front door opened, announcing that Paul’s mother was home. 

“We’re in here!” Paul called.

“Where else would you be?” She walked in smiling. She gave Paul a hug before accepting a light kiss from Bill. In all these months, Bill had never stayed the night. He’d hang out until bed time and go home. 

Paul originally thought Bill would circle around back and sneak in so things looked appropriate, but even an all-night observation, one he felt both idiotic an ashamed about, proved Bill never stayed the night. 

This was one of the odd nights Paul’s mother worked late. Bill went into the kitchen to heat up some of the leftovers from dinner while Paul’s mother looked around the dining room.

“I think it’s time we think about getting something like a small garage with a space heating and cooling unit,” she said. “I want my dining room back, but I don’t want you to stop your studies.”

Paul smiled. “About that,” he said. “I have some news.”

“He’s been exceptionally quiet this evening,” Bill said as he walked back from the kitchen and set the plate in his girlfriend’s spot. “I imagine whatever it is will be exciting.”

“It is!” Paul waited for Bill and his mother to sit down. “This experiment … It’s important.”

“I certainly never expected you to be this passionate,” Bill said. “One day I hope you’ll trust me enough to tell me where the idea really came from.”

Only if you trust me enough to tell me why you’ve been visiting me all these years, if you are Nobody.

“I’m not lying,” Paul said. “I met someone years ago, and I think he vanished.”

“So someone can do what you’re trying to learn how to do,” Paul’s mother said. 

Paul nodded.

“Wouldn’t he be selling his idea?” she asked.

“I don’t think he’s very interested in money,” Paul said. “I’m not either really. I just want to see how he did it.”

Paul kept the more unusual details out of his story, but by the time they realized Paul really wanted to develop this technology, he had to at least explain why he was so adamant that it was possible. 

“Anyway, the school found out, and I guess they told, well I don’t know who all they told, but Carnegie in Pittsburgh found out,” Paul said.

The mention of one of the more prestigious technical schools caused Paul’s mother to sit up straight. 

Paul smiled. “They offered me a scholarship if I study this at their universi— ACK!”

Paul’s mother practically flew from her chair and flung her arms around him. It was genuinely hard to breathe. 

“I’m so proud of you!” she said. 

“Mom, can’t … breathe .. “ he wasn’t exaggerating. She was much stronger than she looked.

She let him go, but then she covered him in kisses. Suffocation would have been a preferable alternative to embarrassment. Paul stepped away. She thankfully realized she was being dramatic and sat back down.

“That’s an incredible achievement,” Bill said. 

Paul shrugged. “I still have to graduate high school. Oh! and yes, I told them you were helping me. They didn’t seem to mind.”

Bill shrugged. “It’s not like I’m doing much more than offering you research.”

Paul frowned. “They called you, didn’t they?” 

Bill nodded. “Not to convince them to offer you a scholarship. They only wanted to see if you were helping me more than I was helping you, and I told them the truth.” “

“Why didn’t you tell me you knew?” Paul asked.

“I only knew they called,” Bill said. “I had no idea they’d actually offered you the scholarship.”

… to be continued …

Announcing the Week 4 2021 May Book Cover of the Month! Vote for Your Favorite!

Announcing the Week 4 2021 May Book Cover of the Month! Vote for Your Favorite!

Greetings all,

We’re coming up on our second moth of the 2021 M.L.S. Weech Book Cover of the Year, and that means I need your help to name one! So, let’s start by naming the winner for the fourth week of May.

The Week 4 2021 May Book Cover of the Week is…

Facing Off by Tanya Ross really is all about nostalgia for me, and that’s enough. I love the ’80s feel to this cover, and apparently a few other people did, too. That means Facing Off joins A Hag Rises from the Abyss by Douglas Lumsden, The Sunfire King by Sylvia Mercedes and Betrayed by, well, me! I’d apprecaite it if you took a moment to vote for your favorite (especially if it’s mine). You can vote for the 2021 May Book Cover of the Month right here.

But that’s not all! The 2021 June Book Cover of the Month contest is already off and running. You can vote for your favorite Week 1 2021 June Book Cover of the Month right here!

I’d be grateful if you would be so kind as to watch my channel, where I talk about all seven of the covers and why I think they were so cool.

Remember to vote for your favorite through the links I provided above! You guys can choose who wins the title and then support your favorite in the yearly competition (obviously next year)! I hope you’ll participate.

Thanks for reading and watching,

Matt

Visits From A Man Named Nobody 31

Visits From A Man Named Nobody 31

PT 1 // PT 2 // PT 3 // PT 4 // PT 5 // PT 6 // PT 7 // PT 8 // PT 9 // PT 10 // PT 11 // PT 12 // PT 13 // PT 14 // PT 15 // PT 16 // PT 17 // PT 18 // PT 19 // PT 20 // PT 21 // PT 22 // PT 23 // PT 24 // PT 25 // PT 26 // PT 27 // PT 28 // PT 29 // PT 30 //

“I don’t think he’ll be harassing you anymore,” Bill said, “but let me know if he does.”

Paul laughed. “Dude, you totally shut him down.”

“I didn’t do any such thing,” Bill said. “If he had been willing to sit down and look at scripture, that would have been better. If we could have been reconciled, that would have been even greater.”

Bill really sounded sad. A part of Paul had no issue feeling smug about someone shoving Mr. Dorney’s words back down his throat, but it was hard to feel that way when Bill, who also claims to be a Christian, was the one who did it. On top of it all, Bill felt remorse. 

“Why are they all so different?” Paul asked. They were still making their way back to the house, so Paul came to a stop. He wanted to understand.

Bill turned around to answer. “I assume you mean why so many people who claim to be Christian can have so many different views and attitudes?” 

Paul nodded his head. 

“There are at least four religions who all share a portion of the Bible,” Bill said. “They have at least the bulk of the same text, that being the Old Testament and even a significant amount of the New Testament, save those of Judaism, who do not recognize Christ as the Messiah.”

“You’d think God would make it clear,” Paul said. 

“You mean like sending his son down to earth saying, ‘Listen to me’?” Bill said. “The trouble with religion isn’t God; it’s man.” 

That caused Paul to cock his head in confusion. 

Bill gave one of those knowing and patient smiles. “God is perfect. God is all knowing. Humanity was made in his image, after his likeness.” 

Bill firmed his lips. Paul guessed that Bill was fighting the urge to cite the scripture he just quoted. Does he always cite the scripture he’s referencing in his head? 

He didn’t offer the verse he was referencing. Instead, Bill continued. “But man has ever wanted to be God himself. That might sound harsh, but it’s true. We want to be masters in our fields. We want to be masters of our homes. We want to satisfy our own desires and our own goals. This is the nature of sin.”

“What does this have to do with why so many religions are so different?” Paul asked. 

“I’m coming to that,” Bill said. “Humanity ultimately has two choices. The first is to honor God and submit to him. The second choice is to refuse to take the first. But there are those who want to maintain the appearance of faith, so they create new gods, idols. Or they deny the existence of God, thus making themselves an idol. True Christians will ever seek God’s authority on the matter. They’ll read his words and work to come to an understanding. Indeed, if the word seems unclear, they’ll accept the differing opinions as equally valid and let the matter go without judgement because True Christians are called to judge rightly.”

“Wait,” Paul said. “I thought they weren’t supposed to judge at all.”

“You’re referencing Matthew 7:1-3,” Bill said. “Where Jesus warned about hypocritical judging. There is absolutely a wrong judging, and I’d define it as judging designed to elevate yourself rather than bring the person you’re speaking to closer to God. There is also a right judgement, which Christ talks about in John 7:24. And that’s the answer to your question right there. When people seek after themselves, they might cherry pick parts of the Bible that fit their ideals, letting the rest of the word pass away, but no one who wants to honor God can only follow part of his word. Sure, we’re human, but we’re meant to pursue knowing and honoring him. We’re not supposed to just take the parts we like and cast the rest aside.”

“That’s what Mr. Dorney does.” Paul realized it as Bill was speaking. “That’s why he didn’t want to sit and look through the whole scripture with you.”

Bill nodded and smiled. “A True Christian would be excited to sit and look at scripture with another person. I’m not saying Mr. Dorney would have welcomed us into the house that moment. I’m not implying I don’t do anything but read the Bible. Otherwise, how would I be dating your mom. The point is, we’d have made arrangements. If the issue of dispute was critical, we might very well sit down that moment and look at it, but that, to me, is the difference.”

“I’m not sure it makes sense,” Paul said.

Bill nodded. “Let’s say you’re playing a board game.”

Paul shrugged.

“During a board game, if someone breaks a rule, you have a choice to make. You can let it slide, or you can challenge him on it,” Bill explained.

“OK.” Paul was just trying to show Bill he understood, at least so far.

“Well if you challenge the player on it, you create a new choice. The simplest thing would be to open the rule book and see what it says.”

Paul scoffed. “Of course.”

Bill held up a finger. “But what if the person you challenge says something like, ‘I don’t play that way’ or “That’s not how we do it in my house’?”

Paul scoffed again. “Doesn’t matter. The rules are the … “

Bill smiled. “People unwilling to look through all the scriptures, are those trying to create their own rule books. That’s something I never want to do.”

“What if I don’t want to follow that rule book?” Paul asked.

Bill took a deep breath. The comment honestly hurt Bill to hear. Paul sort of understood. Based on religion, if you don’t follow God, you go to Hell. Bill obviously didn’t want Paul to go to Hell. The problem was Paul wasn’t sure there was a Hell, so why be afraid of it?

Bill shut his eyes, probably thinking or praying, or both. He opened them just before speaking. “Christians are supposed to evangelize and spread the Good News, you may not know what that is, and that’s also a place where Mr. Dorney went wrong, but for now, I’m just trying to answer your question.”

Paul nodded to encourage Bill to continue. 

“If you choose not to follow God, that’s your choice. At least, it is in the simplest sense of the idea,” Bill said. “For those who aren’t of the faith, I’ll only ever be a light to shine for it, and I will continue to offer the Good News, but that’s it. If the word of God isn’t enough, nothing else I say is. I’ll be sad, but there’s no point in being angry. If I’m angry, it’s probably based on some degree of pride on my part. Think of it like finding a hungry person on the road. I bring him the tastiest fruit I have, and he rejects it because he doesn’t want it.”

“But if he’s starving, won’t he eat anything?” Paul asked.

“Maybe if you were inches from death,” Bill said. “But you’d be surprised how many people turn away perfectly good food because they don’t like the taste, so I think the metaphor holds up. Speaking of food, your mother told us to be back quickly.”

Paul smiled and followed Bill to the house for a few steps. But then he froze again. 

“What …. what is the Good News?”

Bill turned. He had a huge smile. “Well, Mr. Dorney probably covered the first part. He’s not wrong when he says that those who don’t follow God are doomed. The point is, all men have sinned.”

“I get that part,” Paul said. Mr. Dorney really loved talking about how evil every man was, every man but those who went to his specific church. 

“Every man needs to come to terms with the fact that he isn’t perfect.”

“Of course they’re not.” Even the statement sounded ridiculous.

Bill nodded as he sighed. “But one needs to understand that the fact that you’re not perfect means you’re evil in the sight of a perfect God, in whom there is no evil.

For some strange reason, Paul took a step back as if Bill had shoved him. It’s one thing to admit you’re not perfect, but to think that being imperfect makes you evil?

“That’s the part most people struggle with,” Bill said. “Who wants to think that the slightest imperfection makes you intolerable? But that realization, that hopelessness is why we need a living hope. It’s only the first part. God knew this from Eternity Past. So he sent his Son, God in the flesh, to pay the price of man. It is Jesus who gave himself up, so that his perfection could become ours, if we earnestly confess he is Lord and believe in our hearts that God raised him from the dead. So we need Christ to give us his righteousness, so that we can enter God’s presence as adopted sons.”

Paul waited for a few moments, but Bill just turned back and started walking to the house. 

“That’s it?” Paul asked. 

Bill kept walking, but he answered. “Yep.”

“But I didn’t say I believed.” 

“Nope.” 

Paul waited again. He actually had to jog to catch up to Bill. He managed to get along side him. “But aren’t you going to say more?”

Bill still didn’t stop walking. “Like I said, if the word of God hasn’t taken root, nothing I think of with my mind or say with my mouth is going to do anything. But please know that won’t stop me from offering the Good News again. Maybe the soil needs a bit of tilling, but I’ll keep planting because that’s my job.”

“Planting?” Paul asked.

“I’ll explain later.” They had made it to the driveway of Paul’s house. “For now, let’s have dinner.”

Paul was willing to wait, but he was far more interested in how Bill spoke. He sounded exactly like Nobody. But how could Bill be Nobody? Could it be coincidence? Paul meant to figure it out. It was a new puzzle, but at least he felt pretty sure he could think about that puzzle on the way home. He didn’t think Mr. Dorney would be botching him anymore. 

The end of Chapter 8. To Be Continued.

A 5-Star Review for The Power of Words

A 5-Star Review for The Power of Words

Greetings all,

I don’t care how “big” I get (not claiming to be big now); I’m always going to love sharing reviews. The five-star review below from Shawna is for The Power of Words.


Great Collection!

I was given this free review copy audiobook at my request and have voluntarily left this review.

These short stories were a great collection. I love having short stories by different authors in one book. It always seems to shake things up a little bit.

These stories really spoke to me and I loved every second of them. Usually, I can’t really connect too well with shorter stories but these ones all had me hooked from the moment I hit play. Very well done!


I truly appreciate the thoughtful words.

As always, please allow me this opportunity to ask that if you’ve read any of my books (especially Betrayed), please be kind enough to leave a rating and review on Amazon, Goodreads, or Audible (or all three). They really do help.

Thank you for reading,

V/R
Matt

Visits From A Man Named Nobody 30

Visits From A Man Named Nobody 30

PT 1 // PT 2 // PT 3 // PT 4 // PT 5 // PT 6 // PT 7 // PT 8 // PT 9 // PT 10 // PT 11 // PT 12 // PT 13 // PT 14 // PT 15 // PT 16 // PT 17 // PT 18 // PT 19 // PT 20 // PT 21 // PT 22 // PT 23 // PT 24 // PT 25 // PT 26 // PT 27 // PT 28 // PT 29 //

“I’m Bill Tayro,” Bill said. “I’m courting Paul’s mother, and he’s told me you’ve been speaking with him.”

“I’ve been trying to save his soul,” Mr. Dorny said. 

“Evangelism exists to lead people to Christ, who is the only one who can save anyone,” Bill said. 

Mr. Dorny smiled, but it didn’t have any warmth. It was a picturesque definition of condescension. “What would an adulterous man know about salvation?” 

Paul felt his body tense, but Bill’s hand fell onto his shoulder. Paul looked at the man, who had a truly contemplative face.

“You’re accusing me of adultery?” Bill said it like a question, but he didn’t sound defensive or angry.

“You’ve confessed already,” Mr. Dorny said. “You’re dating a woman, doing who knows what with her.”

“She’s divorced,” Bill said. How did he keep that calm?

“Divorce is a sin,” Mr. Dorny said. “To have relations or even look at a person’s wife in lust is a sin.”

“I’m not sure your comment aligns well with Matthew Chapter 5 clearly enough,” Bill said. “Would you like to open the word together and look more closely?”

Wait. Paul thought. Did he seriously just offer to open the Bible and read it together?

“I’ve no interest in debating scripture with a clear unbeliever,” Mr. Dorney said.

“But you’ll use half-truths to harass a child to a point to where he’s afraid to even walk by your house?” Bill asked. 

Mr. Dorney’s eyebrows furrowed. “I’d have anyone not of Christ fear my presence.”

“I thought you said you were trying to save him?” Bill asked.

“I am.” Mr. Dorney’s tone grew louder.

“Have you tried sharing the gospel?” Bill asked. 

“No unrepentant sinner is ready for the gospel!” Mr. Dorney had started shouting.

“Why are you angry?” Bill asked. “If your goal is to evangelize to this young man, simply offer him the complete gospel.”

“He won’t even admit his sin!” Mr. Dorny stabbed a finger in Paul’s direction. 

Paul again tried to step forward, but Bill gently pulled his shoulder back. 

“What you’re doing is harassing a young boy,” Bill said. “You’re countenance is fallen, Geneses 4:6. You’re not acting with kindness, patience, or love, Colossians 3:12-13. Neither are you treating this outsider with graciousness seasoned with salt, Colossians 4:6.”

“You dare quote scripture to me!” Mr. Dorny shouted. Now he seemed ready to hit someone.

“Are you unwilling to discuss scripture?” Bill asked. “How is it you intend to help any souls find Christ if you’re only willing to use his word to condemn?”

Through the whole exchange, Bill never wavered. He wore the same smile that was gentle, not condescending. His tone was patient and kind. 

Paul hadn’t seen anyone use or understand the Bible this way, no one except …

Paul looked at Bill. Could he be? That didn’t make sense. Bill didn’t even know Paul’s mom when Paul was a kid. But they spoke so similarly. 

“You false teacher!” Mr. Dorney said. “You’ll be put to death for your sin!”

“I’m not certain whether or not you’ve just threatened my well being.” Bill sounded like he was reading a particularly complex book. “But you’re quoting Deuteronomy 18:20 as if you know I’m speaking against one of God’s commandments. I don’t believe you’ve tested my spirit in accordance to 1 John 4:1-6. If you had, you would have remembered that I began this conversation acknowledging that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life, John 14:6. He came in the flesh from God, and only those who come to him can find salvation.”

Mr. Dorny’s face turned red. “You blasphemer!”

“I think I’ve heard enough shouting.” The more Mr. Dorney shouted, the stronger Bill looked just keeping his tone and posture under control. “I’m not of the opinion you are worried about anything other than passing judgement, which isn’t anything like evangelism. So here’s how this is going to go. I’ve approached you personally in accordance with Matthew 18:15. Paul has witnessed this exchange. You’ve refused to repent. You’ve shown no desire to be reconciled to a brother.”

“You’re no brother of mine!” Mr. Dorney said. He sounded like he was trying not to laugh or shout, so the sound came out like some strange sort of cough. 

“Very well,” Bill said. “But I truly pray you search the scripture and reflect on this exchange. I pray that your eyes will be opened, and you’ll see you’re acting far more like Saul the oppressor rather than Paul the evangelist.”

It was weird for Paul to hear his name so many times and know that Bill was talking about an apostle who supposedly lived thousands of years ago.

Bill stepped behind him to put a second hand on both Paul’s shoulders. “This young man will be using this road to get home. You will not harass or approach him. If you do, the police will be notified. More importantly, I hope you’ll leave this young man to walk the path God has chosen. He’s a child, one of those to whom belong the Kingdom of Heaven, Matthew 19:14.”

Mr. Dorney sneered. “Fine! Go enjoy your flesh and adultery. You’ll burn in Hell, and I’ll be happy to see it.”

“Would you be Lazarus standing with  Abraham? I’d be far more concerned about the plank in my eye.” Bill turned and started to walk back to the house. 

Mr. Dorney shouted a lot more as they walked away, but Bill didn’t appear to pay any attention.

Book Review: Demon Slayer Volume 11 by Koyoharu Gotouge

Book Review: Demon Slayer Volume 11 by Koyoharu Gotouge

Spoiler Free Summary: Demon Slayer Volume 11 by Koyoharu Gotouge is the eleventh volume in the Demon Slayer manga. The fight against Daki enters its final stages. Every time our heroes feel like they have found a new level, we see the upper Kizuki are still just that much better. No one demon slayer stands a chance, but what if they fight as a team?

The cover image for this volume was taken from its Amazon buy page for review purposes under Fair Use doctrine.

Character: The development continues here, but this volume is far more about the fight scene (and man is it great). Here what makes the character work is something important: I was genuinely worried about the characters. To make a fight scene great, and to make a character sympathetic, we have to worry for them. We have to be afraid that they hero might lose, and that’s an impossibly high standard sometimes because who goes into a story genuinely expecting the hero to lose. We’ve seen an uptick in side-character deaths, but it’s a rare author (Martin) who’s willing to kill off any character. This means establishing that worry is very hard. I had that from this issue through (I’m currently caught up and eagerly awaiting Volume 22).

Exposition: Once more, we’re seeing an actual fight, so the exposition is pretty much non-existent and not necessary.

Worldbuilding: The worldbuilding doesn’t really shift from the earth-shattering reveal in Volume 10, but I don’t need every volume to have that. This issue is the culmination of an arc, and so all the worldbuidling had been done. That lest us readers sit back and enjoy the show.

Dialogue: That 1980’s cartoon villain banter was still present, but I didn’t mind. There is minimal dialogue in this volume aside from “I can’t believe you’re still alive!”

Description: The art is amazing. The way the breathing forms are done is just wonderful. I love aspects like that, and I intend to steal it at some point (the technique, not the literal names). There isn’t any description via the written word, but the detail of this art is second to none (at least outside of anime/manga).

Overall: This volume ends the fight that started in Volume 9. It’s not the best fight anymore (see later reviews), but it still really holds up. To me, this volume represents the last surge before the final push that begins in Volume 17. From 11 to 17, there is a lot of great stuff, but once you start 17, you better have the rest ready to go. This arc, however, is similarly (if not as) difficult to put down. I love it when a conclusion (even to a chapter) is worth the build up, and this volume is.

Thanks for reading,

Matt