Visits From A Man Named Nobody 69

Visits From A Man Named Nobody 69

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March 5, 2038, 8:32 a.m. 

13 Years, 274 Days Ago

Paul sat with his mother on a leather-cushioned bed in a stale examination room. She wore a typical hospital gown. She held her hands together and whispered prayer after prayer as Paul held her in one arm. 

“You want me to go see if I can find the doctor?” Paul asked.

She shook her head, “I understand he’s busy.”

The days leading up to the surgery where a whirlwind of visits to doctors and from friends. One guy came and mowed her lawn. A kind woman Paul had met a few times made seven separate meals and brought them over. His mother still hosted her weekly Bible study group, but she was far more an observer than group leader. 

Paul helped were he could, but he was simply impatient to get to this day, when they would pull the stupid tumor out, and everything could go back to the way it was.

But in order for that to happen, the doctor who told them to be there by 5 a.m. needed to show up. 

His mother separated her hands long enough to reach up and gently pat his face. “I think this is the sort of thing I’d rather not rush a person on.” She gave him a smile, but he noticed the squint of pain in her eyes. 

Paul glared at the door again. Why tell a family to be somewhere just to make them wait hours for a surgery that would save a person’s life? He wanted to go out there and tell someone to let him know what was going on, but he couldn’t bring himself to let his mother go.

He glanced down at her, and the sound of the door opening caused them both to jerk in surprise. 

The man who walked in had to be the thinnest person Paul had ever seen. The lab coat was obviously the smallest size available, but it still looked like it was devouring the man who wore it. Doctor Feniker might have been in his fifties or sixties. Gray hair topped a wrinkled head that seemed too big for the man’s neck and shoulders. 

“Are you ready to have that tumor out of you?” His voice was gentle and raspy. He offered a surprisingly bright smile.

“Yes,” his mother said. 

The doctor looked over her chart. “So far things look to be in order.” He flipped through a few more pages in the thin manila folder in his hands. “We’ll know much more when we go in. If it’s small enough, and it’s safe, we’ll take it out.”

“If!?” Paul moved to stand up, but his mother held him in a surprisingly strong grip. “You’re supposed to take it out!”

“That’s the plan,” Feniker said. “The scans appear to show that it’s safe to remove, but we can’t be certain until we go in.”

“But you made us wait a week! If you weren’t sure, why didn’t you go in the when you first saw it?” Even as Paul fired his questions, his mother gripped his arm.

“Paul,” it was barely more than a whisper from his mom, but it was enough to get him to stop. “I know you’re trying to protect me and care for me, and I love you, but this is frightening enough. I’d like to trust that Doctor Feniker is doing his best and using his best judgment.”

Paul wanted to tell Feniker exactly where he could shove his judgement, but his mother had a point. 

“So let’s get started,” Paul said.

Feniker gave a nod and a smile. “The nurses will be here shortly to take her up to surgery.” He gave Paul’s mom another smile and headed out.

Paul glanced at his PID: 8:36 a.m. “It’ll be alright,” he told his mom. He shut his eyes, holding her and trying to think. 

He glanced at the door. He studied whatever he could set his eyes on. He look at the gray counter that ended with a sink. He looked at the blood pressure machine across the room from him. He looked back at the door.

“How are you feeling?” He asked his mother.

“A little scared, I admit.” She still held her hands clasped firmly together. He studied them before reaching his own hand over to place them over hers.

“It’ll be OK,” he said again.

“I know,” she whispered. 

He looked over a the door again. Where were they? Were they going to make them wait another three or so hours before they came to take her to surgery? 

Footsteps came, causing Paul to perk up at the sound, but they just continued past the room. 

“Peace be to you.” Paul looked down at his mother, who was speaking with her eyes closed. “My peace I give to you. I do not give as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not be afraid.”

Paul let out a breath of air. He looked at the door. He looked back to his mother.

The door came open again. Paul was about to shout at them for taking an eternity, but as he brought up his arm to point an accusing finger at them, he noticed his PID: 8:37 a.m. Two men in blue scrubs rolled a gurney into the room. 

They were of equal height and had black hair. One was a little on the heavier side. The heavier one looked at Paul’s mother. “Let’s get you over to surgery.”

His mother nodded her head. Paul stood up to give her room. She got up from the examination table and sat on the gurney. Paul was by her side the moment her legs got up into the rolling bed. 

“I’ll be in the waiting room,” Paul said. “As soon as you get back, I”ll come see you.”

“Make sure you get some food while you wait,” she said. “You haven’t eaten yet.”

“I’ll be fine,” he argued.

“You think starving yourself will somehow make the doctor better at his job?” She cocked an eyebrow at him. “Get some food. Maybe say a prayer for your mom.”

He looked away. For the past week, people have been praying with and around his mother. They asked him to join them each time, and he’d politely refused. He didn’t begrudge them their faith, but he certainly didn’t share it. 

… to be continued …

Visits From A Man Named Nobody 66

Visits From A Man Named Nobody 66

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February 25, 2038, 11:02 a.m. 

13 Years, 281 Days Ago

“It’s not working,” Doctor Endinger said. 

Paul stood in front of the man’s ostentatiously large desk feeling like a criminal pleading his case. From one point of view, he was.

“The vacuum spheres have already created several new avenues of study in quantum physics.” Paul had to fight to keep the urgency out of his voice. 

“Which is why I’m not firing you.” Edinger was a lanky man with wispy gray hair that never seemed to look the same way twice. It sort of looked like a button up shirt and tie had sprouted hair and started walking. “You’ve shown promise in your theoretical studies, and we encourage you to continue the research, but we can’t afford to fund any further experiments after this year ends. We won’t be budgeting for your project after this.”

“But I’m so close!” Paul stepped up and planted his hands on Edinger’s desk, though he still had to be about four feet away.

“We all thought that a year back,” Edinger admitted. “You came to us with your degree and the ability to generate self-contained vacuum spheres, but no amount of research or money has helped anyone, including you, figure out how to connect those spheres to allow for instantaneous transport.”

Paul’s head sank. There was no denying that truth. There were a few basic theories that might allow for two fields to connect, but none of them had any practical application.

Paul looked up, desperately playing the only card he had left to play.

“I’ve been thinking about one last thing,” Paul said. The formula made a kind of sense, but he wasn’t sure if it mattered. “If we created the fields in the same place, they would be connected that way.” 

The formulaic data had some odd issues. There was a variable he couldn’t reconcile, but Paul hoped the viability of the concept would give him just one more year of funding.

Edinger offered a patronizing smile. “What would be the point of teleporting to a place you already are?”

Paul stepped back, finally slumping down in the leather chair behind him. It was over. His life’s work had reached its final conclusion, and there was nothing else to do. 

“I imagine you’ll still spend a lot of energy working on this concept, and I’m not forbidding you to, but I am telling you that you need to start considering areas of study that have more immediate applications,” Edinger said.

He’d accepted a fellowship in the company’s applied physics division offering them a way to expedite shipping and delivery methods for the world. Edinger proved to be the only one even willing to hire him under those conditions. 

Jordan and Lidia happily found other jobs, thus ending their friendship, or at least degrading it to nothing more than an occasional meeting for drinks and reminiscing. Paul was the last one left trying to do something he knew was possible. The problem was, the only person capable of doing it kept it a secret. 

“I know how disappointing this is for you,” Edinger said. “Why don’t you take a week of paid leave to consider options and come back fresh. I understand what it is to set aside a long-held passion project to move onto something else. But I think in time you’ll be happier developing projects that bare more immediate results.”

Paul looked at Edinger, trying to appreciate what the man was doing. Paul nodded. He force himself up and headed to the door. He managed to mutter thanks and a promise to be back next week with some ideas.

He left the building in a daze, catching a ride to his condominium. He plodded up the flight of stairs that led to his particular unit and got inside. He finally realized what he was thinking when he stepped into the second room, which he’d converted into an office. The walls were covered with white-boards, papers, and formulas. The white-tile floor was hardly visible given desk and numerous stands that also had more and more formulas and theories covering them. 

His most recent concept was on the desk. He was pretty confident he could indeed create a field that would form a sort of frozen moment in time. In that field one could travel from one spot to the other. Once the field went down, he’d have effectively teleported. Sure, all that really happened was that time didn’t pass in the vacuum sphere, but it would have the same result. 

The problem was that field could only be so large. There was also the odd variable he couldn’t reconcile. For some reason, the space dimension worked exactly as he planned, but the dimension of time kept unbalancing the equation. 

“What’s it matter?” Paul pulled the small rolling chair away from his desk and sat staring at his life’s work. 

It was all over. He’d probably keep doing the math, but without funding for any experiments, he couldn’t prove whatever theory he showed. And without any experiments, he couldn’t verify if his theories would work. Sure, he had a little less than a year of funding, but he didn’t have any clue what to try. 

“I guess you win.” Paul didn’t expect Nobody to appear. When he first moved into his condo, Paul thought Nobody would have a place he could teleport to. Of course Paul covered his home in sensors and measurement tools hoping for just such an event. But Nobody had never shown. Still, the man somehow knew what was going on, so it felt right to talk out loud.

“Why did you use such a wonderful thing just to pester me for all these years?” Paul asked. He could imagine what Nobody would say, but he didn’t want to think about the man’s sermons or viewpoints.

He waved his hands around the room. “This could send food to every homeless person. It could make shipping and traveling obsolete. Friends and family could visit each other in less time than it would take to open a door. And you use it to yap at me.”

Of course, he also helped. A small part of Paul understood that. He’d dressed Paul’s wounds when he was a child. He’d encouraged him to build friendships and bonds that were precious. 

Of course they were all gone now too. Paul was alone. He was unsuccessful. He was angry and sad. 

His PID buzzed. He glanced at it, seeing that his mother was calling. He briefly considered letting it go to voicemail, but his mother might be the only one left who cared about him, so he answered, linking his PID to the earpiece he always wore.


“What’s wrong?” His mother asked. 

“What do you mean?” Paul asked. 

“You said, ‘Hey,’” she replied.

“Yeah, hello. Hi. How are you? What’s up?” Paul gave a list of other greetings as if any of them would have worked.

“I hear it in your voice,” she said. “Something’s wrong. What’s up?”

He chuckled. “I just had a real bad day at work, Mom,” he said. “I’ll get over it. But what about you? I haven’t forgotten to call or visit.”

He’d called her pretty much every week and visited more and more just to spend time with her. It started to feel right in a way. It was just them against his father. It was just them before Bill and Jordan, and now it was just them again. He made sure not to let her feel the way he’d felt when all the other people in his life faded away for one reason or another.

“I know,” she said. “That’s why I’m calling today. I know it’s soon, but I was hoping you could visit again this weekend.”

“Sure,” he said. Maybe that would help him. He could talk to her about his job. She always made him feel better. “Why so soon?”

“Oh, I just felt like having my son around,” she said. “Is that OK? Are you too busy?”

“No,” he said chuckling. The more he thought about it, the better it was. He needed the chance to recharge and relax. “I’ve actually just taken some time off work to relax. I could be there tonight if you want.”

“Oh that would be perfect!” She sounded genuinely excited.

“What’s going on?” he asked again. 

The line was quiet for a moment. “Why don’t you come down, and we’ll have some dinner. Then I’ll tell you why I’m so excited to see you.”

Did she have news? Did she finally meet someone new? More likely, she’d found some new project at her church she could work on, which maybe wasn’t the great news she always thought, but it mattered to her.

“Sure,” he said. “I’ll see you tonight.”

… to be continued …

Visits From A Man Named Nobody 65

Visits From A Man Named Nobody 65

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Paul considered the thought. It was good moral premise. It even made him consider the religion for an instant, but that made him think of Bill. The next moment, he was a teenager hearing the man he’d thought of as a father had died. The most exemplary Christian Paul could ever name was ripped away from a family. 

He opened his mouth to ask how his mother could love the same God who took Bill away, but that would only hurt her, and he didn’t want to do that. Instead, he changed the subject.

“I think about you plenty,” he said. “I’ll do a better job visiting and calling more often.”

“I appreciate that,” she replied, “but I understand you’re busy, and you’re building a life for yourself. When you were a child, I had a greater role in your life, and you had fewer influences. Frankly, the size of your world was much smaller.”

She smiled  at him, causing her brown eyes brighten. “I remember when your world was little more than our house and a video arcade. You’re older; your world is bigger; but I know you love me.”

“You’re saying I should let Lidia and Jordan have their space, and that they still love me,” Paul said. “Whether I’m the same size in a bigger world or they’re just with me less, it still feels like a loss.”

His mother shrugged. “Nothing in this world is permanent.” She pointed her fork at him. “And that’s why it’s important to make the most of whatever time you get with anyone. Let the time you have with people be about love and fellowship. That way, when those people aren’t in our lives anymore, for whatever reason, we have all those happy memories to hold on to. Isn’t that better than just being angry and resentful and arguing?” She returned to using her fork to eat rather than emphasize her words.

Paul chuckled at her. “No matter what happens, I love you, mom.”

She looked at him and smiled. “That’s so sweet. Now, eat your food. I figure we could enjoy some nostalgia tonight.”

“Nostalgia?” He cocked his head in confusion.

“I still have our game. It’s saved on the console just where we left it,” she said.

“Does that thing still work?” Hadn’t he thrown it away? Maybe that was an older system. No, he distinctly remembered …

“I started it up and played a second or two,” she said. “Still seems to work.”

“But didn’t I throw it away?” Paul was more certain every second he thought about it.

“I don’t know what anybody else did with it,” she said with a bit too much innocence in her tone,” but I found it, and when I realized it still worked, I put it away for just such an occasion. I suppose I’ll finish it alone if you don’t want to play it with me.”

“I didn’t say that!” The thought of her finishing the game on her own gave him a strange blend of remorse and betrayal. 

“OK then,” she said. “I think it’s been far too long since we’ve finished that game”

“Have you even touched a controller in the last six years?” He couldn’t keep the grin off his face.

“I just said I played a few seconds, so yes. Besides, how many video games have you played in the last six years?”

He stared at her. She had a point. The project had taken up pretty much all of his time and effort, at least when a girl wasn’t involved.

“Let’s do it.” He dug into his food, genuinely excited to play a kids game with his mother.

… The End of Chapter eighteen …

… to be continued …

Visits From A Man Named Nobody 64

Visits From A Man Named Nobody 64

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She smiled at him. “Of course I miss you, and, if I’m being honest, sometimes I get a little jealous. I just have to remember that while you are my son, you’re not my property.”

Paul chuckled. It was very similar to the point Nobody had made. But it didn’t answer his question. “But how do you remind yourself that?”

“I think I’m different from you there. You’re supposed to leave me to find a wife,” she gave him another shameless grin.

“Mom, I told you-“

“You’re making up excuses because you don’t think you’re worthy of having a wife.” Her face hardened the moment she said it. She gave him stern look. “That’s a lie! Life is a series of choices. Sometimes people make the wrong ones. A lot of people fail to make the correct ultimate choice. But even if you never make that choice, you don’t have to be like your father, and this nonsense that you’re destined to be like him is only a self-fulfilling prophecy if you focus on that rather than just giving your love to the woman who is lucky enough to choose you.”

“Stacy was a wonderful girl,” Paul frowned as he looked down and picked at his food with his fork. 

“Wonderful girls don’t cheat on their boyfriends,” his mother replied. 

“You’re being inconsiderate,” Paul said flatly. “Yeah, she shouldn’t have cheated, and the most painful part is she apologized for doing it. Meanwhile, I ignored her. I never spoke to her. I pretty much only used her.”

“So learn from that,” she said. “For one, remember to truly invest in whatever partner you choose. Don’t use them to gratify your physical desire. Simply appreciate them and care for them. The thing you should learn from her is something we should learn from anyone who sins against us.”

“What’s that?” Paul asked.

She looked at him. “No amount of wrong someone does to you permits you to do wrong.”

He rolled his eyes. “So you’re saying a guy should let someone steal or assault him and just let it go?”

“Or a guy could lock his house and buy an alarm system and maybe defend himself without attacking, smart guy.” She furrowed her eyebrows, annoyed at his half-hearted witticism.  “It’s not OK to lie just because others lie. It’s not OK to kill just because others kill. It’s not OK to commit adultery just because others commit adultery. If one person hurting another made it OK for people to respond in kind, then the world would devolve into a planet of animals.”

Paul tried to press his lips together. This conversation was a set up, and he knew it, but she’d gotten him bantering, and she knew he could’t resist the debate. Eventually, he caved. “So what are we supposed to do?”

“Forgive.” She said. 

He stared at her as if she just suggested a person learn to sprout wings and fly off. “That’s it.”

She nodded. “The hardest thing to do is learn to forgive, but it’s what I wanted. It’s what I needed. So why, if I’m so hungry to be forgiven, shouldn’t I find it in my heart to forgive?”

“If that’s true why don’t you call-up the bio-dad and tell him you forgive him.” The words flew out of his mouth. They were insensitive. It was a crass, hurtful thing to say, and for no other reason than to win an argument.

“Actually,” she said softly. “I went and visited him in prison to offer my forgiveness.” He stared at her. His mouth opened and closed a few times, but he couldn’t possibly imagine what he would say. 

“I only visited him one time,” she said. “I’m not really sure what else to do, but I didn’t want that resentment anymore. I didn’t want that anger. So I let it go, and the way I did it was remembering all the things I’ve done.”

“You’ve never done anything as bad as what he did.” Some of the words sounded more like an animal’s growl than actual words. It was all Paul could do to keep from shouting.

“Oh if only it were that simple,” she said. She held a hand in front of herself horizontally. “This is all the wrong I’ve done in my life.” She placed her other hand far below the first. “And this is your father. At least as you describe it. Sure, I’ve done wrong, but the things your father did are so much lower and so much more awful.”

She raised her first hand almost like a student in class and pointed upward. “But how does any human look compared to a perfect and holy God? All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”

Paul flung his hands in the air in frustration. “How perfect and holy can a being be to allow that man to do what he did?”

“Would you rather be a machine?” she asked. “Would you rather have no choice? Would you be human if you didn’t have the capacity to choose? People always get that question wrong. They ask, ‘Why would God allow these things to happen?’ But the better question is, ‘Why do we keep choosing to do the wrong thing when God gave us a way to do the right thing?’ We can’t cry out for freedom to choose and then be shocked when some choose to do evil, especially when we want to use the sins of others to justify our own.”

Paul stared at her. It wasn’t blind religion. It wasn’t pseudo philosophy. It was simple reason. 

“Did you plan this?” he asked her.

She chuckled. “I’m not nearly so calculating, but I’m your mother. Anyone who’s talking to you better be very careful with what they say and think. But don’t miss my point, Son. I forgave your father because it was the right thing to do, but more so because that’s what I wanted. I want to be forgiven for how I let him do what he did to you. I want to be forgiven for so much more than that. And if that’s what I want, then that has to be what I’m willing to give. That’s what it means to love your neighbor as yourself.”

… to be continued ..

Visits From A Man Named Nobody 63

Visits From A Man Named Nobody 63

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November 20, 2036, 2:21 p.m. 

14 Years, 13 Days Ago

Paul felt truly excited to be approaching his home. He hadn’t seen his mother in quite a while. He couldn’t help looking out of the car window during each turn. A smile came on his face. He spoke with his mother here and there about life and how things were going, but he hand’t been home since Christmas the year before. He took a short flight to get most of the way, some 200 miles, and sent a message for a ride the rest of the way.

The vehicle he was in turned the corner, and the smile on Paul’s face melted in to shock. A black, four-door car sat in the driveway. Paul’s PID dinged, and he jumped a the noise. It was just the driver connecting with his unit to collect the fair for his ride from the airport. Paul slowly got out of the car in a daze. 

It was the same color, make, and model. Paul reached out and touched the car, scrambling to think about what it meant. Maybe it was just the same type of car. It wasn’t like there was only one black car in all the world.

He tired the rear door, surprised it opened. He leaned in, looking at the center console. There it was: the tiny dent he put in it when he hit it in frustration. It was the exact dent, and this was the exact car Nobody had used to drive Paul home.

“So I guess you like it.”

Paul jerked at the sound and knocked his head against the frame of the car. He spun around even as he rubbed his skull. “Where is he!?”

“Where is who?” His mother stood before him in a long, form-fitting pea coat. Some blue jeans peaked out from under the black overgarment. A few streaks of gray had started to creep into her black hair, which was loose around her head and shoulders. 

“Who’s car is this?” Paul asked.

She laughed. “It’s mine.” She cocked her head at him in confusion. “I’m glad you like it?” Her voice squeaked as if it were more of a question than a statement. 

“You bought this car?” Paul asked.

She nodded. 


She shrugged, “About six months ago.”

The math flew through Paul’s mind. “Did someone come to borrow it from you. He’d be about my height with black hair.”

Her face lit up with a bright smile. “What’s going on?” She reached into her pocked and produced a key. “I had this key made for you, so you could borrow it whenever you wanted.” She walked over and held it out to him. “But no one has come to borrow it. Who would?”

So he did steal it! Well, Nobody borrowed his mom’s car without asking. Sure he returned it, but it was stealing regardless of whether or not he gave it back.

Paul held the key staring at it in thought. Then he looked at his mom. “I don’t visit you enough; do I?”

“Come on inside,” she said. “I have some food ready.”

Paul followed her in, and they both removed their coats. Paul wore a university shirt. He wasn’t exactly all about school spirit, but his mom liked the idea of seeing him in a school shirt. His mother wore a simple blouse. It was black with a series of white specks that made the shirt look like a pattern of stars. 

Sure enough, there was a feast on the table even though it was several days before Thanksgiving.  He chuckled. “Your church friends coming over to eat, too?” He tried to keep his tone even, but he never felt comfortable around her church friends. They weren’t bossy or preachy. They were a lot like Jordan, or even Bill. But it wasn’t exactly easy to sit around a table full of people who seemed determined to talk about God in some way, shape, or form.

“They’ll be here for Thanksgiving, but not today. I wanted my son to myself.” She sat down at the table and offered a silent prayer before making a plate. 

Paul bent over and gave her a side hug and a kiss on the cheek. “I’m glad to be home.”

He walked around the table and sat down across from her. 

“So you like the car, huh?” She stabbed her fork at a slice of ham. 

“Yeah.” She offered him the serving dish of meat, and he took it, gratefully plopping a few slices on his own plate before setting it down. 

They traded food as they spoke. 

“So did you notice the mileage change?” Paul asked.

She laughed. “I only pay attention to that stuff when I think it’s getting close to the time I need to change the oil.”

“What about the small dent on the back seat center console?” They’d finished filling their plates, and Paul set to cutting up his food.

“There’s a dent back there?” She took a bite of her own food, completely oblivious to the fact that someone took her car, drove it almost 200 miles,  and returned it.

“Yeah, I saw it when I was checking it out.” He also put it there, but he didn’t intend to say that. 

“The truth is I did buy it hoping you’d use it, which, yes, would mean I’d get to see you more.” She rolled her eyes as if he’d just caught her cheating in a board game. 

Paul let out a breath. “I’ll come visit more, but I wish you’d just say what you want.”

She took a bite, giving him a flat stare as she chewed and swallowed. “What I want is for you to want to come visit me more. I certainly don’t want you to show up on some regular basis just because you think you have to.”

“It’s not that,” Paul said. “I know I should visit more often, and I do want to. I just get caught up on work and other things.”

Her eyes glittered. “Do any of those other things have a name, maybe?”

“No.” This time he gave her the flat stare. 

“So no one since Stacy?” Her tone was as gentle as anyone could make it. She wasn’t trying to bring her up, just see if there was anyone new. 

Paul shook his head, trying to hide his frustration and shame. “Not me, but Jordan just got engaged.”

His mother dropped her knife and fork and clapped excitedly. “Oh that’s wonderful! Do you have a picture? What’s her name? How long have they been dating? What—“ she paused. “What’s wrong?”

She read his expression. Paul offered her a smile and worked at his PID, trying to find a picture of the three of them together.

“It’s OK.” He found a picture and sent it to her PID. 

“Ohhh, she’s beautiful! They look so happy!” She looked at him and narrowed her eyes. “So why does my son have that fake smile he uses when he wants everyone to believe he’s not angry about something.”

“I talked to them about it,” Paul said after swallowing another bite of food. “The truth is I was jealous about their relationship and how much time they were spending together. I felt left out, but we’ve worked it out.”

She stared at him.

“OK, so we don’t hang out like we used to,” Paul admitted. “But things are good in the lab, and I’m still his best man at the wedding.” He took another bite of food. “The truth is none of us really know how to act around each other, so we hang out every now and then, but we haven’t figured it all out yet. Honestly I still have to figure out how to be happy for them instead of thinking about how I’m losing out on two friends.”

“I see.” His mother grabbed a roll and used it to scoop up some mashed potatoes. “It can be challenging when relationships change.”

“How did you do it?” Paul suddenly realized she had experience. One minute, he was living there and hanging out, the next he was at college.

“I have to accept that you’re your own person,” she said. “I have to remind myself that I know you love me, and then I have to appreciate the time I do get with you.”

“Even if you have to buy a car to try and get me to spend more time with you?” 

She smiled. “It’s completely fair to provide motivation for people to come see you. But that motivation isn’t obligation, and that’s the real trick. I don’t want to guilt trip you into spending time with me. I just want to make sure I give you plenty of reasons.”

Paul nodded. That made a kind of sense. 

… to be continued …

Hand and Foot

Hand and Foot

Hand and Foot is a beautiful game.

It’s beautifully convoluted.

Even to understand the rules, people have to sit together for hours. Then it takes hours to play the game.

We played more than 100 games, more than 400 hours.

I cherish every one.

During those hours, we listened to Patty Page sing about the Doggie in the Window and the Tennessee Waltz, a song about a girl who’s friend stole her loved one. You would always offer the same joke: “I sure am gonna miss my friend.”

During those hours, you’d tell little dirty jokes, just happy to have a new joke to tell, even if it was only new in your memory.

Even the last game we played together, you had a joke.

Even the last time I sat with you on your bed as you waited for help to use the restroom.

Those times were sad, but I have those other times, those 400 hours.

During those hours, you’d tell stories about your time in the Navy, your time serving the president, and your time in the U.S. Marshal service.

Each story was told with a wry smile and a in a matter of fact tone.

Each game was adorable. Your wife would talk, but you couldn’t hear her, so you’d ask her what she said, but she couldn’t hear you. Even though there were plenty of times you couldn’t hear each other, you always understood each other. You’d share knowing looks with each other. You’d offer each other sly, witty comments that were somehow endearing.

We played our last game together last week.

You needed help getting up and down. You were in obvious pain, but you wanted to play just one more time, and I love you for that just as I love you for the others before.

You played this beautiful game the same way you lived, with wit and determination.

However, the object of the game is to run out of cards, and days ago, you ran out of time with us.

I love that game.

I played it with my grandmother until the day she died.

I played it with my mother until the day she died.

Now I’ve played it with you until the day you died.

If I’m lucky, my wife and sons will play with me until the day I die.

There’s sadness. I’ll never hear you curse as you draw a completely useless card. I’ll never again hear another joke of any kind. I’ll never get to watch you and Granny playfully banter back and forth. I’ll never hear you answer the phone with a dry remark.

I’ll miss those things, but I’ll cherish them just the same as I cherished knowing you.

I only knew you for a short time compared to my wife, who you cared for so very much. That short time doesn’t diminish the fierceness with which our bond formed.

We watched football and talked about the games. We talked about the Navy. And we played a lot of cards.

I’ll miss you Pop Pop. We all will.

Visits From A Man Named Nobody 41

Visits From A Man Named Nobody 41

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 // PT 39 // PT 40 //

Finally! Paul wasted no time charging the man. He unleashed a flurry of punches, all of which Nobody dodged as if Paul were moving in slow motion. Nobody didn’t make any effort to retaliate. 

“Fight me!” Paul shouted. 

“Why?” Nobody asked. The jerk wasn’t even out of breath.

“Because if you don’t I’m going to kill you!” Paul meant every word. He wouldn’t hurt so bad if he hadn’t trusted Nobody and let Bill into his life.

“Would you rather have lived a life never knowing Bill?” Nobody asked the question even as he ducked another wild punch from Paul, who fell to the ground sobbing.

“I don’t know.” Paul managed to speak through the tears. “It hurts so much.”

Nobody stood far enough away to dodge in case Paul got up, but he was out of fight. He was out of energy.

“The lives we have on this world are always temporary,” Nobody said softly. “People tend to act as if they’ll live forever, if not a nice long while, but we don’t have any say in it.”

“So God gets his kicks out of ripping the people we love away from us!” Paul rolled over and sat up, but he still didn’t have the strength to fight anymore. It took everything he had to keep from just sitting there and crying forever. 

The anger he felt gave him a distraction, and that’s what it had always been. The rage was a tool to keep the sadness at bay, but none of it ever worked well.

“I believe Bill was a great Christian, loved by God,” Nobody said.

“So what?” Paul sat there covered in road grease and bits of trash from the alley. 

“So what I think is that God called his child home,” Nobody said.

“We were his home!” Paul found a pebble and threw it. Nobody dodged it easily. 

“So we come back to the question of property. You don’t own your mom. You don’t own Bill. The people in our lives are gifts, but they’re not property.” Nobody took a few steps closer as if to test Paul’s willingness to lash out again.

“It’s not the same!” Paul screamed.

“Then what is it?” Nobody asked.

Paul stammered a bit, trying to find a way to explain how he felt without making it seem like Bill was some toy he wanted to keep to himself forever, but he couldn’t think of a way. “Fine,” Paul said. “I wanted Bill. He was supposed to be my dad and my mom’s husband. We were supposed to be a family.”

The words came out more like whimpers than the ones before it. 

“Nobody this side of Heaven understands why we lose the people we love when we do.” Nobody spoke in that soft, gentle whisper he always used. It was hard to hear through Paul’s sobs. He wasn’t even sure he cared enough to listen.

“You loved him.” Nobody said.

“Of course I did!”

“You wanted to make him proud,” Nobody said.


“Then make him proud,” Nobody said. “Become the man you know he’d want you to be.”

Paul couldn’t shout anymore. He couldn’t even speak. All he could do was curl up into a ball and cry. The temperature swung from normal, to freezing, to hot, to normal again. Just as quickly, less than an eye blink, a light flashed, which meant Nobody had left.

“But how do I do it?” Paul finally managed to say. “He taught me everything. How do I be the man he wanted me to be when he’s not here to tell me what to do anymore?”

Of course Nobody would leave those questions unanswered. He never really said anything. He just pointed at some dumb Bible verse or quoted the Bible and left it there for Paul to think about.

Isn’t that what Bill would do?

The thought came unbidden, and Paul shoved it down. No! I won’t turn to the one who took Bill from me!

Isn’t that exactly what Bill would want?

Paul lost the energy to argue even with himself. Whatever happened, he couldn’t think of what to do.

“I don’t know what to do without him,” he muttered. 

Someone embraced him. For a split second, Paul jerked in surprise, but the slender arms and gentle manner were familiar to him. 

“Neither do I,” his mother whispered. She had to have sat next to him and wrapped him in her arms. 

“Stop!” Paul said, trying to pull away. “That dress of yours is expensive.”

“I don’t care,” she said softly, gripping him tightly even as he tried to stand. The tremble in her voice made it clear she was crying, too.

Suddenly, another pair of arms wrapped around him. Paul glanced to his left to see Jordan there. The moron! He didn’t know what to say or do, so he just held Paul quietly. He was the greatest friend anyone could have. 

“We miss him, too,” his mother whispered. “I’m just doing my best. I’m just trying to do what he’d want, and it’s not because I  don’t miss him; it’s because I miss him. It’s not because I’ve stopped loving him; it’s because I still love him.”

Paul codlin’t even speak. The dam of anger he’d tried to hide his sadness behind had come crashing down, and the tears wouldn’t stop. 

Jordan gave him another squeeze. He didn’t say a word. But that firm hug said everything. It said, “I don’t know what to say, but I’m here.”

They were a trio of well dressed idiots from the perspective of anyone who might have seen them. They were all sitting in a filthy alley holding each other and crying as if they’d been beaten or robbed. 

Paul felt that way. Maybe I did think of Bill like mine, but that’s only because I wanted to be his.  

Paul kept thinking as he cried. Even his mother had gone silent. 

Paul wondered what Bill would want. It wasn’t hard to imagine. He’d want Paul to do what his mother had done. He’d want Paul to become a Christian. 

He couldn’t do that. He couldn’t turn to the one who took Bill from him. 

Was there something else? Yes. 

“We’re going back to work on the project tomorrow,” Paul said. 

That was something he knew he could do. 

The End of Chapter 12. To be continued …

Visits From A Man Named Nobody 40

Visits From A Man Named Nobody 40

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 // PT 39 //

Apparently, Jordan didn’t mean dinner. Dinner would have been some pizza or burgers, but the place Paul was in demanded a dress jacket. The three of them sat at a small circular table underneath a private chandelier. A waiter came by now and then to check on them using an accent Paul was pretty sure was fake, but not in an obnoxious way.

Paul used an oddly small fork to pick through the meat and vegetables on his plate. “This is a bit more exorbitant than I was thinking.” He smiled, hoping his friend would understand the comment wasn’t a complaint.

“I saved all year for this, but not a ton, just a couple hundred,” Jordan said.

“It’s very kind of you, Jordan,” Mary said. 

“I figured you must have cooked a thousand meals for me over the years.” Jordan smiled. “It’ll be weird being so far away from our parents, so I just wanted to do something to say thank you.” 

His eyes widened as Paul’s mother looked around, probably for Jordan’s family. “I already took my folks out,” he said quickly. “I know it would have been nice for all of us to eat together, but I wanted time with just my folks, and I wanted time with just you two.”

“All of us could never have been together,” Paul muttered. The comment had all the bitterness the words implied. They just fell out of Paul’s mouth, but they were true. He didn’t want to ruin the mood, but he did it just the same.

“I still miss him.” His mother almost whispered the comment.

“I’m sorry.” Jordan spoke as if he were the one who brought Bill up.

“I don’t know what to do.” Again, Paul was only thinking out loud, but the thoughts had been brewing in his head for months. “I can’t think straight. I know I’m supposed to move on. I know I’m supposed to go back to the project. I know life is supposed to keep going, but I don’t know how to do that because all I can think about is the way life was supposed to be.” 

By the time he finished speaking, tears were flowing down his face. How had this happened? Why was he in the middle of some fancy restaurant crying his eyes out like some baby?

Two hands, one from his friend and the other from his mother, gently touched Paul’s back. Paul shot up from his chair and darted out. He had to escape. He didn’t want to deal with it, certainly not in public. It was all Paul could do to resist shouting at them. No matter how stupid the thoughts were, they kept flooding into his mind.

They were over Bill’s death so easily! They all moved on as if Bill never existed! Then they talk about him like a few words would make any difference. 

If Paul hadn’t rushed out of the restaurant, he’d have shouted until he got kicked out. He burst past the waiting area and a confused employee who shouted at him not to run. He flew through the doors and turned into the first place he could find. 

It turned out to be a dead-end alley. Of course … 

Nobody stood there, waiting. 

… to be continued …

Visits From A Man Named Nobody 21

Visits From A Man Named Nobody 21

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 //

March 17, 2027, 6:12 p.m.
19 Years Ago

Paul’s mother laughed as the car sputtered to a stop and died in the middle of a vacant lot. 

Paul glared at the steeling wheel. “I don’t even know why you want me to learn how to drive like this.”

Electric cars first became commonly available and affordable about five years ago, and Paul’s mother just had to be the only person on the planet who still owned a manual transmission, gas-powered vehicle. It was like driving a museum. 

“Well,” she said while still trying to get over her latest round of chuckling, “the first reason is the fact that if you can drive stick, there isn’t a car out there in the world you can’t drive. But that’s not the most important reason.”

“So what is?” Paul used his left foot to press in the clutch and his right hand to put the car into neutral. Then he turned the car on.

“This is the only car we have.” She smiled at him, clearly still trying to hold in more laughter. 

Really, it wasn’t all that funny. Every time he tried to put the car into the next gear, it shook like some sort of giant’s favorite toy. Either that happened, or the car would just lurch once and die. 

“Just focus on what I taught you, Paul,” His mother put a hand on his shoulder. 

She kept encouraging him softly even as he followed the steps she’d given him. 

He put the car into first. He kept his left foot, and therefore the clutch, planted firmly into the floorboard as he slowly used his right foot to press the gas. The engine started to grumble; then it began to hum.

“That’s the sound!” His mother said, confirming what Paul already thought. “Now don’t move that right foot. Just slowly let your left foot up.”

Paul followed the directions. The car started to move. 

“Don’t let go!” She squeezed his shoulder. “Just ease in the gas as you ease up the clutch.” She emphasized the word “ease” each time she said it.

Like his mother had taught him, Paul imagined his feet were sort of connected to a lever. If one went up, the other had to go down. He slowly shifted his feet and the car came to life. He’d actually gotten this part down pretty well. It was the next part that usually made the car act like they were trying to drive through an earthquake.

The car had only moved a few dozen feet before the engine started to roar. Paul’s mother had told him the engine should growl to start, hum to move, but never roar. The trick was all about how he moved his feet. 

He forced himself to lift his foot off the gas completely. The car slowed, but it didn’t jerk. Paul used his left foot to push in the clutch. His right hand grabbed the stick and brought it down, activating second gear. 

“Release clutch, press gas.” His mother’s voice had an excitement in it. 

Paul raised his left foot. He even went so far as to plant it on the floorboard away from the clutch pedal. Then he pressed the gas. The whole process might have taken a second, and the car just kept on moving. He didn’t even feel a single jolt. 

“Keep going!” 

The lot they were in once belonged to a large department store. The empty building sat at the far end of the lot, but no one ever came here, which is what made it safe for Paul to drive around in. 

Paul listened to the engine. It really did sound like an animal in a strange sort of way. Each time the car started to roar, Paul let go of the gas, pressed in the clutch, shifted the gears, let go of the clutch, and pressed in the gas. 

Paul made it to fourth gear. 

“Clutch and break!” Paul obeyed, but the strange yelp his mother used caused him to look up. The building, which only moments ago was on the other end of a huge parking lot, had somehow appeared right in front of Paul. He went from pressing the break to slamming it. 

The car skittered, sputtered, and then died just before they hit the massive building’s red-bricked wall. 

His mother chuckled. 

“What’s so funny about that?!” Paul asked. He was so frighted he couldn’t rip his eyes off his hands, which strangled the steering wheel. “We could have died.”

His mother laughed harder. “When you live through a scare like that, I think a little joy is appropriate. Good job.”

She wrapped her arms around him, still laughing. Maybe she was just scared witless. “Nothing to do but take this chance to learn how to back up. Come on.” She let him go and sat back in her seat. 

He’d nearly killed them both, and she just laughed about it. No, she not only laughed about it, but she also wanted him to start the car again.

“This is child endangerment!” Paul said.

“You’re sixteen,” his mother replied. “And the only endangered children would be the ones on the street if I let you drive without teaching you how a car really works.”

“This is the only car that works this way.”

His mother shook her head. “Every car has a transmission. Even these new fancy electric ones still operate on the same principle. You’re taking all those additional science classes, right?”


“So think of this like a science class.” Her face scrunched up in confusion. “There has to be some sort of applied physics or engineering here.”

“None of my classrooms are likely to plow into something if I make a mistake,” Paul muttered even as he set up the car to start it again. 

His mother let the comment go with just a teasing smile. The joke would be on her if the car leapt out of its spot and hit the building. Maybe then she’d finally buy a real car. The clunker they were in had 162,927 miles on it. Then again, it still ran. The only time it died was when Paul failed to operate it correctly. 

Paul still wouldn’t be caught dead driving the car alone. He’d borrow Jordan’s car. His family had bought him one for his birthday. It was electric. It had an engine that wouldn’t try to kick someone like a bull in a rodeo. 

Of course, Paul couldn’t drive anything until he got a license, which meant he had to drive his mother’s car.

… to be continued …

Sonnets for My Savior 5

Sonnets for My Savior 5

A Family Under God

Let husbands love their wives with a sacrificial love;

let husbands love their wives as they love themselves.

Let wives respect their husbands as heads just as the Lord is head above;

let your scripture be the source for guidance into which the family delves.

Let children be obedient and honor their parents;

let them be raised in the Lord’s discipline and instruction.

Let Your word and Your teachings be parents’ primary arguments

to guide them to a life free from the evil one’s seduction.

Let family members bear with each other and forgive

just as the Lord has forgiven us.

Let their worship for You outlive

any personal distrusts.

Let families live only in accordance to Your will,

so that love and blessings from their hearts overfill.



Let us give thanks to the Lord with all of our hearts

and proclaim all of His wonderful deeds.

We owe all we have to Him who gives all one needs;

We know that once You have one’s soul, from You it never departs.

He is our rock and our salvation,

so let us always keep him near.

His presence means we need not fear

the curse of eternal damnation.

He grants us our strength and makes us strong,

and to His people He gives peace.

We give thanks to the God from whom all things flow.

He has passed over the sins we have committed, indeed every wrong.

Through him we receive a release

and await the new lives he will, eventually, bestow.


An End to Suffering

We pray for Your day to come fast,

for that day, You will wipe the tears from our eyes,

and death will no longer last.

Mourning, crying, and pain will cease on the day You arise.

Even if we suffer for a time,

we rejoice despite the pain

because the age to come will be sublime.

Therefore our endurance is not in vain.

From the character endurance breeds comes hope,

and hope does not put us to shame.

Even if we feel we can’t cope,

we will put our trust in Your holy name

We await Your return eagerly,

for on that day, from suffering we will be free.



Oh gracious God, You keep Your ears open for our supplications.

Your love is steadfast with those who love You and keep Your commandments.

You are faithful and provide ways to escape our temptations.

You provide for us and heal us from our ailments.

When we seek You with all our hearts, we find you.

When we come and pray to You, You hear.

Let us hold fast to our hope, for when You make a promise, You always come through.

We exalt You, Lord, for to us You are dear.

In times of temptation, we take heart in Your son.

Even if some are unfaithful, your faithfulness remains.

Even when we suffer, we trust in your will, which will always be done.

We were trapped in sin, and You have broken our chains.

Thank you for being merciful and true

and we give thanks for all the glorious things you do.


Trust in Your Wisdom

Your Wisdom is pure;

Your judgements are unsearchable.

Though we may doubt, you are always sure.

The depths of your knowledge are unmeasurable.

Fear of You is the beginning of knowledge;

to shun evil is understanding.

In times of sadness, let us pledge

to offer You praise that is abounding.

Should we encounter disappointment,

let us see it as an opportunity

to glorify your sovereign judgement

and conduct ourselves with dignity.

Any one can praise You in times of gladness,

but blessed are those who praise You even in times of sadness.



We know it isn’t enough to know.

Our fathers and ceremonies are not what count.

With all we do, we are held to account,

and we will reap what we sow.

You, Lord, measure our heart,

so the rule of law is not where our salvation lies.

Any person who relies on himself dies,

but those who put their faith in Christ are held apart.

Those who do the law are justified;

righteousness doesn’t come from listening.

Even those who haven’t heard it can be a law to themselves if they do what is required.

Those who know the law but break it show themselves falsified.

The disobedient will find the obedient condemning.

For those who receive grace through faith are the ones who are desired.


Call Me

Here I sit in my iniquity;

call me please, so with You I may sit.

To claim not to need You is fatuity.

I am a sinner, so to You I submit.

I am sick;

You are the only physician who can heal me.

Rebuild me, Lord, brick by brick,

and leave my transgressions in the debris.

I listen for Your call,

for I can not escape my sin.

Let me hear You before I fall,

for there is nothing good in my skin.

The table of tax collectors and sinners is where I should be,

so please sit with us and share the truth that sets us free.