Eddie doesn’t know it yet, but today is going to be the day that his life changes.
On his way to work this morning there had been a terrible accident. Eight cars involved, three pronounced dead at the scene, a backup over six miles long, meant it would be a very long morning. Eddie amused himself by reading from the most recent paperback he had stuffed into his glove box for an occasion such as this one. Normally he could pass any amount of time by reading, but today he felt restless. After thirty minutes he crammed the book back into the glove box and turned on the radio.
“YOU all KNOW!!! We ALL fall short to HIS GLORY! But we have been SaaAAVVEEDdddd BY THE BLOOD OF HIS ONE AND ONLY SON! The Lamb sent by GOD, SAY AMEN, BROTHERS! PRAISE JEeeeeEESUUSSssssS! Get down on your knees wherever you are, throw your hands to the sky and sAAAAYYYYY THANK YOU JeSuS!”
Eddie liked this program, it was one of his favorites. The speaker is a man by the name of Pastor Jenkins. Eddie wrote to Pastor Jenkins about how he made Eddie want to go out and change the world. He had asked him what he needed to do to deliver souls to God’s kingdom. What could Eddie do to win over the hearts of men for God? Pastor Jenkins sent an answer three months later.
Dear Mr. Phillips,
Thank you for your kind and uplifting message. It was my great pleasure to hear from you! Receiving such messages of hope and inspiration confirms my belief that I am doing God’s Work and making a difference! I do hope that you continue listening and do your part to spread the word of God’s LOVE to the world. As a reminder All to God’s Glory! will start at a new time beginning on March 12th at 9AM (EST) /8AM (CST). Don’t forget to tune in during the all new time slot!
Now, the harsh reality is that my mission to spread God’s love isn’t free. It costs money to bring the gift of eternal life and SALVATION that can only be found through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Since I am but a poor farmer’s son I ask that you consider making a donation to help fight SIN! For less than what the average family pays for their cable bill each month you can help my message reach MILLIONS. Think about that! MILLIONS OF SOULS CAN BE SAVED!
Thank you again for the time you took to send me such a touching letter. May God’s Love and Mercy shine upon you all the days of your life.
Eddie felt like Pastor Jenkins hadn’t read his letter, but he sent the donation, and he remembered the new time slot Pastor Jenkins had been so kind to remind him about.
Pastor Jenkins talked about a lot of things that morning but Eddie wasn’t listening. He was watching the occupants in the sea of cars spread out before him. Eddie found their actions much more interesting than what Pastor Jenkins was saying, he turned his car off and sat further back in his seat to watch. A man in the passenger seat of a green Subaru, two cars over to his right caught his eye. He was an older man, with tan skin, big teeth, he was wearing sunglasses, and a floppy hat. The man was smoking, cigarette butts littered the pavement outside of his window. The man kept his hand directly in front of his mouth so he could take the next drag as soon as he had exhaled the last one. Eddie did not like this man, but he couldn’t say why. He watched the man finish his cigarette and drop it to lie with the others. Seconds later he lit another one. Eddie couldn’t watch anymore, he turned his eyes away, and began to study the car directly in front of him. It was an older model Toyota, it may have once been a nice shiny red, but its color had faded into rust. The sun beamed through the car’s windshield. It gave the illusion of a halo hung above the driver’s head. He looked at the car’s right rear bumper and saw a series of stickers:
ABORTION IS MURDER
ALL TO GOD’S GLORY!
JESUS LOVES YOU
BILL PARKER FOR CONGRESS
Eddie didn’t know who Bill Parker was but he hoped he had won the election. He looked back to the halo surrounding the driver’s head. The light shining in through the windshield intensified, Eddie lifted his hand to block it out. He felt dizzy and laid his head back against the headrest. It was suddenly too warm in the car, he needed air, he couldn’t breathe. Eddie opened the car door and stumbled onto the pavement. The man from the Subaru was bending over him with a cigarette hanging out of the corner of his mouth. Eddie knew he was going to faint, the last thing he saw was the set of bumper stickers.
He was diagnosed with dehydration, they gave him fluids, instructions on after care, and released him. Eddie took a taxi home, his car had been impounded, he’d have to see about that tomorrow. Right now he just wanted to go home and sleep for a while. His wrist hurt from hitting it when he fell and he had a burn on his forehead from it resting against the pavement. Eddie showered, put on clean boxers, and slipped into bed. He was asleep within minutes.
His sleep was peaceful.
When he woke up the next morning he called in sick to work. He called a taxi service next, and picked his car up from the impound lot. He drove back home and dug out his suitcase. He filled it with various household items such as, bleach, duct tape, hand towels, small pruning shears, a melon baller, an ice cream scooper, a handheld can opener, a meat slicer, and several kitchen knives.
Eddie has had a change of heart about everything he once believed in. Whoever he had been died in the right lane of that highway yesterday. The bumper stickers had sent him a message. The world was full of sinners, but he had been wrong about who the guilty were. He thought about the messages on the stickers, how they preached judgment and hate. Eddie felt like he had been called to a purpose, God had spoken, and he must carry out His will.
At first Eddie had no idea how to get started, but as he was searching for anything else he might want to add to his suitcase, his eyes landed on the phone book. Eddie grabbed it and flipped it open, he closed his eyes, and pointed with his index finger. When he opened them he was disappointed to find he had targeted and ad for liposuction. He closed his eyes and tried again.
Collins, Anthony. 1524 Morgan St. 814-555-7260.
He closed the book, put it under his arm, and picked up his suitcase.
The day was warm with a nice breeze coming from the east. He gets into his car and puts the phone book and suitcase onto the passenger seat. He starts the car and backs out of the driveway. He stopped for gas before heading over to 1524 Morgan street. Once Eddie has found the house he drives by slowly so he can take a look at the vehicle parked in front of the house. No bumper stickers. Nothing in the front lawn that would speak to the inhabitants point of view on anything. Eddie pulls over and opens the phone book again.
Lux, S. 765 W. Main St. 814-555-4287.
The idea of being on Main Street makes Eddie nervous, but he has been called by God himself, and when you’re called to do something, you do it. He drives to Main Street.
It’s a small house, about eight hundred square feet. The lawn is overgrown and the shutters in the front hang at a slant. There is a car in the driveway, on its bumper a sticker that reads God Made Adam and Eve, Not Adam and Steve has started to peel off. Eddie parks his car a little way up the street, he turns the ignition off, grabs the suitcase, opens the door, and gets out. Main Street is a lot less busier than usual. He looks both ways and crosses the street. He walks slowly and calmly to the door of 765 W. Main St. There is no hesitation as he reaches out and rings the doorbell.
After a few minutes there is no answer, Eddie rings the doorbell again, he waits. Still no answer, Eddie starts making his way down the sidewalk back to his car when he hears the door open, and someone say “Yes?” Standing in the door is a middle aged man, a dirty bathrobe hangs open revealing even dirtier pajama bottoms. His hair is messy, his brown eyes are bloodshot, and he is missing several teeth. Eddie walks back to the door with his hand extended.
“Hello, Sir! Sorry to bother you this morning but I’m delivering an important message this morning. Have you heard it yet? Have you heard the good news?”
He takes the man’s hand and shakes it firmly, the man shakes back. After the shake, the man takes a step back into his house.
“Listen, Mister, I don’t want to buy anything if you’re selling something.”
Eddie gives the man a big smile and says, “Lucky for you the news I have doesn’t cost much. Only costs a moment of your time and a little bit of faith.”
The man seems to be set at ease, it may be the way Eddie smiles, or maybe he feels like being social this morning, he lets Eddie inside. He closes the door and offers his guest coffee. Eddie declines.
The man sits down in a recliner, Eddie sits down on an old couch with stuffing coming out of its seams. The men sit in silence, now that Eddie is here he isn’t sure where to begin. He knows he needs to gain the man’s trust, knows he has a message to deliver, but isn’t sure how to get started. Eddie’s mind is racing, the man is looking at him expecting him to get on with it. It’s hot in the house, he has begun to sweat, and is afraid he’ll end up passing out again.
“So, what’s in the suitcase, my friend?”, the man asks.
“Oh, that? I didn’t mean to bring it in, actually. I must have been awfully excited about starting this morning and I grabbed it by mistake.”
Another uncomfortable moment of silence passes and the man speaks up, adjusting himself in his chair.
“What is it that you want? I’m sorry, but I’ve got a big day ahead of me. If you could hurry this along, that would be great. What’s your name?”
“The name’s Eddie. Yours?”
“Sam. Nice to meet you Eddie.” Eddie has a moment of uncertainty, he looks toward the back of the house into the kitchen. The sun is pouring through the window, a glass cross has been hung in its center. It catches the sunlight on its edges and throws rainbows on the floor. Eddie relaxes and begins speaking.
“Sam, I’ve come to tell you something. Now I know you already know about the salvation Jesus Christ has offered to us by the bumper sticker I saw on your car, but there’s an even greater message that you need to hear. I’m hoping you’ll be willing to give me another fifteen minutes of your time. That’s all it will take me to tell it, then you can go on about your day. I do hope that you tell others what I’m about to tell you.” Eddie clears his throat, looks around the room, and then continues speaking.
“The message I have is one of love and acceptance.” He clears his throat again, it feels like he has gotten something caught in it. He swallows hard, determined to finish what he has started.
“For years I’ve been under the assumption that it was my duty as a Christian to inform others of their wrongs. To show them the evil in their ways.” He stops, still trying to itch the scratch in his throat. “Could I trouble you for a glass of water?”
“Sure, I’ll be back in a just a second. You can keep talking, I can hear you from the kitchen.” Sam gets up out of the recliner and walks to the kitchen. Eddie hears him take out a glass and turn the sink on. He hears water filling a cup.
“Let me tell you what happened to me yesterday, Sam. It was just like any other morning, only I was stuck in this traffic jam on my way to work. I had been listening to this program.” Sam comes in and hands Eddie the water, Eddie takes a long drink, thanks him for the water, and continues on. “I don’t know if you listen to the radio but there’s this program I like called All to God’s Glory and I was listening to it that morning. All of the sudden I didn’t want to hear it anymore, so I shut it off and started watching the people around me. There were all sorts of people around.” Eddie does not mention the man in the green Subaru.
“I’m watching and I see a set of bumper stickers on the car in front of me. They were very similar to the one you have on your car and then something happened. It got too hot and I had to get out of my car. I passed out on the highway then, but when I woke up my eyes had been opened. I had been so blind, Sam, and now I can see.” Eddie stands up, holding the glass Sam gave him, it is empty now. Eddie continues talking as he walks towards the kitchen. Sam doesn’t turn around, or follow him, which is exactly what Eddie wants.
“You see, Sam. Some of us have been going about things the wrong way. We condemn, instead of lifting up. We sell salvation with God’s hatred of sin as the price tag. We judge, Sam! If we’d only take a moment to understand people’s perspectives and stop throwing their sins in their faces, the world would be a much better place. So many more would find the peace of knowing a loving God, instead of fearing a God who will cast them into the pit of hell for eternity.” Eddie washes the glass and sets it on the counter to dry. He spots a rolling pin hung on the kitchen wall. Eddie takes it in his hands, and feels power surge through him.
“That’s why I stopped here today, Sam. I saw your bumper sticker. God made Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve. I had to stop, I had to show you the light.” Eddie is behind Sam’s chair. He lifts the rolling pin high above his head and swings down hard on Sam’s head. There’s a sound, like a melon hitting a linoleum floor, Sam dips forward and lands in front of his chair. Eddie smiles as he pulls Sam into the kitchen.
Eddie walks back to the living room and grabs his suitcase. He sets it on the kitchen table, unzips it, removes the items he has brought with him, and sets them neatly on the table. He pulls one of the kitchen chairs to the middle of the kitchen floor. He tries to pick Sam up, he’s dead weight, Eddie has a moment of fear when he thinks he may have killed him with the blow to the head. He checks his pulse, finds it, and then hoists him in one back breaking motion into the chair. Sam’s head rolls back on his neck, his face turns towards the ceiling. Eddie takes the duct tape, starts the roll, then begins to wind it around one of Sam’s wrists. He does the same to the other wrist, and to his feet.
Eddie waits for Sam to wake up.
An hour passes, in this time Eddie has thought of different ways he can use what he has brought. The meat slicer is the one item Eddie is the most excited about. He figures he will start with the bleach and then go on to the other items. Eddie has checked the different rooms in the house for any sign that anyone else may live there. The bedroom was enough to convince Eddie that Sam lives alone. They will not be unexpectedly interrupted.
Sam wakes up, his eyes have the cloudy look of confusion, he sees Eddie, and they clear up quickly.
“Hello again, Sam. Did you have a nice rest? I’m sorry if I’ve given you a headache. I couldn’t think of any other way to get you into that chair and I don’t know you well enough to have asked you to sit still while I tapped your arms and legs. Not that knowing you would make a difference, people have an aversion to being tied up if they know they could suffer because of it. So, I did the only thing I could think of to do. If you tell me where you keep pain reliever, I’ll be glad to get you some.”
Sam whimpers and begins to beg. When he sees that Eddie is not going to untie him at the moment, he tells Sam there is some Ibuprofen in the medicine cabinet of the bathroom. While Eddie is gone Sam struggles against the tape, he knows it’s useless, but it seems like something he should do. Eddie comes back two minutes later, takes the glass he had used earlier, and fills it with tap water. He puts the pill in Sam’s mouth and holds the glass to his lips. Sam swallows, Eddie lets him drink, then sets the glass on the table. He takes a second chair and places it directly in front of Sam.
“Now, back to what I was saying before I hit you in the head with the rolling pin. Such a stupid decoration, by the way. A rolling pin? My guess is that you were probably involved with a woman at some point and that was her doing. I don’t know of a grown man that would keep such a thing on the wall. Yeah, you were probably married at one time and she left you. Probably got sick of you not having a steady job, or maybe she got tired of you drinking, or hitting her. Women are like that. They’ll take a lot of shit and then one day they wake up and decide they aren’t taking it anymore. They pack their bags and they’re out the door while the man is somewhere else. That’s the sneaky part, they know that if you’re around you’ll be able to convince them to stay. Anyway, back to the reason I’m here.”
Eddie pulls his chair in closer so that he can look Sam directly in his eyes.
“So, Sam, as I was saying. I was blind before. I thought telling people how much of a sinner they were would keep them from going to hell. I now know that’s the opposite of what God wants. You may think I’m crazy, but I heard him speak to me. He told me how disappointed he is with the people who call themselves Christians. He told me I must build an army. I’m here Sam, to ask you to join me. I’d like you to help me with this mission I’ve been given. We will go out and tell others about how God really feels. If you accept, we start first thing tomorrow. If you don’t, well then, I’m sorry to have to say this Sam, but you’re going to have a very unpleasant afternoon.”
“Please, I’ll do anything, just don’t hurt me anymore.” Sam has begun struggling against the tape again. Eddie ignores this and keeps speaking.
“I don’t want to hurt you. That’s not what God would want, but he’d understand if I had to hurt you. This is his will, not mine, you understand? I’m merely his messenger. You said you’d do anything, and I’m starting to believe you, but I need reassurance that you’re going to keep your word. I want you to tell me how you’ve seen the light. I want you to tell me the error of your ways, lay it on me, Sam, and I’ll listen. God will listen. He’ll forgive you, he always does. No sin is greater than any other, and his mercy is very great. Now, you tell me how you’ve been wrong.”
There’s a look of bewilderment on Sam’s face. He tries to speak, but his voice fails him. He tries again and is only able to manage asking Eddie not to hurt him anymore, and please would he let him go? Eddie knows this has been a waste of time, Sam cannot help him, he cannot see. Eddie sighs and gets up from the chair. He pushes it back under the table, stretches his back, and cracks his knuckles.
“This is unfortunate, I had much hope for you Sam. All you had to do was see what I see and be willing to tell others about it. I’m sorry Sam, but I’ve got no choice in the matter. God told me what to do if someone wasn’t able to see.”
Eddie picks the duct tape up off of the table, he unrolls six inches and tears it off the roll. Sam is screaming to let him go, that he’ll kill him, the final pleas of a desperate man. Eddie puts the tape over Sam’s mouth and walks back over to the table. He picks up the bottle of bleach and a hand towel. He places the towel over Sam’s face, Sam is trying to knock himself over in the chair. Eddie unscrews the cap off of the bleach, forces Sam’s head back, and pours the bleach in his eyes. The sound that Sam makes fills Eddie with a mixture of sorrow and joy.
“This is just the beginning for you, Sam. Since you cannot see, I’ll make sure that you’ll never see anything again. Don’t worry though, your time on earth is limited. You’ll be in the arms of Jesus before the end of the night. Take comfort in that and pray that God is more merciful than you have been.”
The morning’s sun gives way to the afternoon’s. Children play on the sidewalk outside, cars go up and down the street, and the birds sing a song that neither Eddie or Sam can hear. Eddie uses every item he has brought except for the meat slicer. He hopes the next one will join him, but if not he’ll use the meat slicer first.
“A man thinks that by mouthing hard words he understands hard things.”― Herman Melville
Special thanks to my friend Matt, who prompted this story by asking the question: “What if a bumper sticker could change your beliefs on a subject?” He also said Eddie should bring a meat slicer. You’re as fucked up as I am, my friend. Thanks for the inspiration and for reading the stories I write.