Skip to main content

Breakfast with Buck


I already started telling you this. Here. Catch up, catch up.
-----------------------------------

Hard to watch, hardest to listen to, so it has always been for me. The tearing, the chewing and ingesting, right out in plain view, too – in public! – whereas it seemed to me such activity should be confined strictly to the private sphere, like in using the toilet or pleasuring oneself. Ah, it was a lost cause. Thoroughly established in the culture.

Still the relief I felt as Buck paused in feasting to pick up with his story was not a thing of insignificance. He said,

“Dear Saint Christopher,
protect me today in all my travels along the road’s way.
Give your warning sign if danger is near
so that I may stop while the path is clear.
Be at my window and direct me through
When the vision blurs rom out of the blue.
Carry me safely to my destined place,
like you carried Christ in your close embrace.”

Buck said, “Yes, that was the ticket. Those were the magic words.” His sales went up and then no more flat tires and he expanded into white bass, crappie, and walleyes. If he were to say, by way of example, “Dear Saint Christopher, let me sell twelve walleye at this next stop” – walleye in particular – then he would sell precisely twelve walleye at his next stop and no more and no less.

His superstition ran like rivers, you see.

Years went by and he went on selling fish, more fish than you could shake a stick at, if you had a stick and for whatever reason wished to shake it at some fish.

But then this happened: Along I-29, just south of Council Bluffs, down where the hills were plenty and solid yellow lines the rule, a maniac drove up on him. Right to the bumper complete with flashing lights and hand gestures. And the maniac came out around into oncoming traffic, too, threatening and looking to slam against him. Out of control.

And Buck had never thought to do such a thing before but he said, “Please, Saint Christopher, may this man’s tire blow out, on the front passenger side,” and no sooner said than there appeared sparks and the offending car went veering down a convenient (or an inconvenient) embankment. This was new. A new level of interdiction he meant intercession.

That night at a motel called The Bilingual, implausibly. Buck looked through rusted Venetian blinds when who should get dropped off but our maniac, who proceeded to the office, paid his money and took the key to the room right next door. And with Buck’s fish truck just out front, too!

He knew. Our maniac knew. Of course he knew. Buck heard him outside his door, saying, “O, you’re in for one ass-whooping now!” but Buck hid inside quaking. After many hours of night spent in this quaking, staring into the darkness, Buck said, “Please, dearest Saint Christopher, do something! Take care of this maniac for me just this once in order to save me.”

The words were said and they could not be taken back, and no sooner said than Buck heard in the darkness a shuffling. Someone and maybe it was none other than Saint Christopher himself arose from the chair near the bed, unlatched the door, and departed. From next door, the screams and smashing, they were awful until Buck pressed the pillow down and around his ears.

Morning came and the flashing of police lights. Buck took his breakfast at a shop across the street to watch. He saw the gurney with body bag pushed off as he read the morning paper. What caught his eye was this:

“The Church has announced measures to ‘clean up’ the existing calendar by removing several saints for whom it finds there is insufficient evidence of their having existed. These saints include Saint Christopher”-

Buck said, “You don’t know what shaking is, Harry. A shaking deep down inside that never stops even after years of shaking.” And no more praying to Saint Christopher, of course, it could never be done again. Sales or no sales. Fortune or no fortune.

There was no fortune.

Forty-eight years later and my breakfast partner was staring out the window. Eyes redder, yes definitely redder than at the start. Then he met my gaze.

He said, “Tell me, Harry, I ask you: If Saint Christopher never existed, then who – or what – was it that killed that poor man for me all of those many years ago?”

This was last time I was ever to have breakfast with Buck.

Comments

  1. Spooky, fishy and religious all at once! Bravo!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you! I knocked out part 2 pretty quickly, but I knew what I was going to write. next week we shall return to shorter humorous stuff, hopefully.

      Delete
  2. My dad used to catch crappie on Lake Murray and complain that they weren't the bass he was after. I always thought that to be a strange name for a fish. They cooked the fish they caught from the lake, and I didn't care for them, but really liked another fish my aunt cooked, which turned out to be flounder that my uncle caught on his boat down at Corpus Christi. That didn't go over that well, me being the only one in the family not born in Ardmore, and not liking the lake fish and preferring ocean fish, and Jesus Richard, how are you raising these kids in California, anyway?
    An occult-y, sorcerer's apprentice-y take on St. Christopher, with an engaging character to boot. You're pretty damn good at this, Harry, and thank you.

    -Doug in Oakland

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I like seafood. My understanding is that mercury levels being what they are these days, I really shouldn't eat it all of the time.

      I've been reading too much Robert Aickman. Whenever I read too much of one writer, it starts to seep into my writing.

      Delete
  3. Apparitions and manifestations may not explain all that happened here. We can only draw conclusion here about Buck and the church. Both are human enough to make mistakes.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I've accidentally had some guys killed myself. It could happen to the best of us.

      Delete
  4. That prayer reads like a poem.wow,such a mysterious story.your masterpiece.beautifully wow,dark,suspensing, thriller with good humour.is this story has some truth in it as the labels say mostly fiction which means not all.then pics for two parts were superb.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks. Some people had difficulty distinguishing between my fiction and nonfiction pieces, so I added that tag to help. It's been on a few of my posts.

      Delete
  5. I always suspected the line between good and evil was a lot thinner than folks say.

    Wait. I can't pray to St. Christopher any more? No wonder my house won't sell.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I did some research after writing this (which is always a great time to research writing, I guess), and it appears that the Church has wavered on whether or not he existed. I was taught (when I was getting my theology degree) that he'd been declared fictional, basically, but my research seems to indicate that although he was removed from the calendar, it doesn't necessarily mean he never existed.

      So he's free, I guess, to murder maniacs or help people sell their homes!

      Delete
  6. I don't blame you, the thought of being implicated in a cold case investigation where the main suspect is a saint that might've never existed is a perfectly reasonable justification to part with a breakfast companion. Beside, if your mind/memory works like mine does, you're probably thinking of those almost uncooked eggs. So yellow and runny... so difficult to forget.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. When my great-grandmother used to come over to eat, we'd fight for the seat directly next to her so we didn't have to watch her eat. I still remember that.

      Interesting and powerful woman, but don't watch her eat. At least once she hit her nineties.

      Delete
  7. I always find it fascinating when overly religious types say God-ordained natural disasters hit places like blue states because they are soft on gays or whatever their chief prejudice happens to be. Such people always fail to appreciate when their own states or locals areas are hit with similar calamities.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yeah, it begs the question - when a tornado hits Tennessee or a hurricane hits rural Texas - "What did those people do to make the Big Guy so angry?"

      Those preachers have as little foresight about what they're saying as the ones who put a date on the end of the world.

      Delete
  8. No Saint Christopher to protect me from maniacs? Well, dammit, back to the string of garlic it is!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Haha...Not making eye contact generally works, too.

      Delete
  9. Sounds like Buck may have had a date with the Devil......a Saint scorned and all that.

    ReplyDelete

Post a Comment