“Pardon me, I don’t mean to bother you, but is that the Bible you’re reading?” Jay turned towards the man seated next to him and gestured at the book he was reading.
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“Yes, I find it passes the time on the bus and often helps me through my day.” Bill shifted uncomfortably in his seat answering quickly and returning his eyes to his Bible.
“Then you believe in God?”
“Yes, I grew up as a Catholic.”
“But, do you believe in God?.” Jay leaned in smiling through greasy strands of hair.
“Yes.” Bill replied.
“May I tell you something that may change your life forever?”
Bill shifted again in his seat taking in a deep breath and closing his Bible. He thought about refusing, but he could hardly sit on a city bus reading a Bible and then follow this act by being unkind to a stranger, even a slightly unkempt stranger. “Sure.” Bill said, sounding relatively sincere.
“First let me introduce myself, my name is Jay.”
“Nice to meet you, Bob.”
“Well, it happened three days ago and it has filled my mind to the bursting point ever since.” Jay rubbed his fingers along the top of his jeans.
“Okay?” Bill sighed.
“It was early Tuesday morning, long before the sun came up, God appeared to me in my apartment and spoke to me.” Jay had the curious look of someone who had just laid an egg.
“GOD, appeared to you in your apartment?” Bob asked.
“Exactly.” Jay shifted his eyes from Bob’s face to his Bible and then back again.
Slightly amused, Bob felt powerless to avoid entertaining this obviously absurd statement. “Okay, so God appeared to you, in your apartment?” “What did he say?”
“Well, he started by telling me a joke.”
“He told you a joke?” Bob searched his face for sarcasm or satire and found only sincerity. “So what was the joke?”
“I can’t tell you that.”
“God told you a joke and then told you that you can’t tell anyone.”
“No, It’s just that I never could tell a joke.”
“That’s ridiculous.” Bob could no longer resist the urge to roll his eyes. The bus pulled to a stop and several passengers made their way off.
“It’s not ridiculous, look I suck at telling jokes and if I were to retell the joke God told me and blow it, you’d never believe me.” Jay pushed his look of sincerity up another notch.
“I guess that makes a strange kind of sense.” Bob was in for the entire ride now so he pushed ahead. “So you say God appeared to you?”
“Yes, last Tuesday morning.” Jay looked around as another passenger stood in anticipation of his approaching stop.
“What did God look like?”
“One of those oscillating desk-top fans.” Jay smiled.
Bob now laughed openly, smiling he asked... “An electric fan?”
“Yes, one that was sitting on my desk.”
“How did you know it was God?”
“He told me.”
“Of course he did.“ Bob noticed the chain above him and contemplated pulling it even though his stop was not for several miles. Something made him hesitate. “Did God have anything else to say besides the joke?”
“Yes, he told me where to find the watch I had lost two months ago.” Jay pulled back his sleeve exposing a silver wrist watch.
“Well, then, that proves it.” Bob could see Jay was not immune to his sarcasm. “Look, you’ll have to forgive me, you seem nice enough, but this just sounds crazy.”
“I know and imagine me having to wait three whole days before telling anyone.”
“So let me see, God chose you to speak to...and all he came to do was tell you a joke and help you find your missing watch?” Bob’s tone would have led someone hearing the conversation without seeing, to believe he was talking to a child.
“I wish I could tell jokes, it was very funny, but that’s not what he came for.” Jay rubbed his fingers along his jeans again. “I think the joke and the watch thing was incidental.”
“Well please, get to the point, my stop is coming up.”
“He came here to help YOU, Bob.” Jay’s smile widened.
Bob laughed again. “Look Jay, or whatever your name is, if you want to bum a couple of bucks, just ask like everyone else does. You don’t have to make up some crazy story, albeit funny.”
“I’m serious, he wanted me to give you a message.”
“God (a desk-top fan) told you to find me?”
“Well, God told me that in three days I would meet a man on the bus and he would be reading a Bible.” Jay took another swipe at the hair in his eyes. “When I saw you reading I thought it might be you, but once I found that it was the Bible you were reading, I knew for sure.”
Having heard all he could take Bob shifted forward on his seat and prepared to stand. He didn’t know what this guys scam was, but no longer wanted any part of it. His Bible now tucked under his left arm he rocked forward on the balls of his feet. “Jay, again, nice meeting you, but I’m not sure I want to hear anymore of this.” Bob stood quickly and moved to a seat across the aisle from Jay. He hadn’t noticed the bus emptying the last of its passengers, but now realized, to his discontent, he sat alone with Jay.
Spinning towards Bob’s new position Jay leaned closer. “God told me you would be resistant to his message.”
“Fine then, just get it over with, what did he want you to tell me?”
“He said to tell you that many answers are found in the Bible, but the answer to your problems with her would be found in Palm Springs.” The apparent satisfaction of delivering his message now spread across Jay’s face.
Meanwhile, Bob jerked back as if he had touched something hot. His head swam as he took in what Jay had just told him. The shock raced through his mind to his right hand which trembled while reaching to his inside breast coat pocket. He touched the pouch containing two first class tickets to Palm Springs, CA. The tickets were still there, but was he? He pinched himself on the stomach. The twinge of pain assured him he was in fact awake.
Bob sat mesmerized considering how this scam, or whatever it was, could have been perpetrated on him. Without warning the sudden and undeniable smell of Coconuts flooded Bob’s nose adding to his confusion. How could a man he had met just minutes before on a city bus know to tell him this? How could he know, that he had been estranged from his wife for more than six months? How could he know, they had met and fell in love in Palm Springs? How could he know...unless?
Bob felt the bus pull to a stop as he floated in shock. Jay stood and patted Bob on the shoulder. “I left something for you...God Bless you.” Jay said and without looking back he exited the bus.
Bob now sat alone with his thoughts. Looking down he saw a brown paper bag under the seat where Jay had been sitting. He shifted again across the aisle to the seat over the bag. Pulling it out, he looked inside and sure enough, it was a slightly discolored desk top fan. Bob stared at it unsure, still reeling from the message.
He pulled his Bible out from under his arm and moved it from hand to hand, looking at the cover and holding it as if considering its weight. “God does work in mysterious ways.” He thought. “And, how else could he have known about that stuff?”
He tilted his head towards the heavens as if for answers. It was then that he noticed two adds pasted on the inside of the bus directly above where Jay had been sitting. The first add was for a local Lutheran church and the caption read, “Faith, your first step to God”. Directly to the right of this add, another add for a Travel Agency read “Explore Palm Springs with someone you love.” Bob smiled. “You never make it easy, do you?” He spoke aloud to the ceiling of the bus.
Neither by God’s design nor his own He missed his stop while contemplating what to believe. When he finally pulled the chain and the bus came to a stop he was a mile past where he normally gets off. As he stood to leave the bus, he hesitated for a moment, looked again at the two signs, and bent to pick up the desk-top fan.
One thing Bob knew about his own faith was that God had a plan for him. Maybe God did send a stranger to him to deliver a message to help mend his marriage and change his life for the good. Then again, maybe God just sent him a desk-top fan.
Bob held the fan (God) close to him and stepped off the bus.
It wasn't my fault...I fell asleep and missed my stop.