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The Miracle Man

Paradise, AZ 1951

Welcome to Paradise. Off the beaten path, sleepy, backwater—call it what you will, Police Chief Luke Hollis likes his town just the way it is. Clear skies and fair winds make for smooth sailing. Luke’s perfectly content to concentrate on nothing but a good cup of coffee and working up the nerve to approach his dispatcher, Ruby Brooks, with his feelings for her. When an unexpected miracle occurs at the Mount Moriah Pentecostal Church of God events are set in motion that will challenge him, test everything he believes, and ultimately change his life forever. Throw in a struggling minister, a world-class grifter, a stranger with an unbelievable story of love and redemption and the stage is set for The Miracle Man. By the time it’s all over everyone involved will come face to face with a Power that’s greater and more wonderful than any of them could have ever imagined.




Rear View Mirror...
                           a Blog

Lord I Believe – Help My Unbelief 

Traveler’s Tip #330
Blue sky, birds singing outside, water trickling… Hey, CCR - Lodi isn’t such a bad place to be stuck.
 
 
Jesus said to him, “If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes.”
Immediately the father of the child cried out and said with tears, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!”
                                                                                                Mark 9 
 
I started a two-week tour with Randy Stonehill last night here in Lodi, California. A sweet evening. Forgot a few words, missed a chord or three, but a sweet evening with a guy determined to finish well. Anyway, there are lovely people in Lodi and they don’t seem to mind a dropped word. This morning I’m tucked away in a single-wide trailer in some groves behind a church. Moving on up the coast tomorrow.
 
I miss my family terribly.
 
But Jesus is here.
 
It’s been a lot of driving over the last few days. Northern Idaho to Cali. I’ve been thinking about faith. Jesus talked about faith the size of a mustard seed. Sounds easy but sometimes I think my fingers are too big to pick up something so small. Either that or mustard seeds can get crazy heavy.
 
At night, when the monsters come out, I worry. Not for myself, for some reason my faith is strong there. My family though, that’s another story.
 
I’m not sure why I struggle in this area. In my mind I know God is sufficient in all things. Especially love—he loves my family more than I ever can. Still, the responsibility weighs. The life of a writer on the road can be challenging. Financially, emotionally, so many ways. And I want to take care of them. Give them what they need. It can be a heavy weight. You know the one… I bet you’ve been there, too.
 
“Don’t I always come through?” Jesus says.
 
“Lord I believe. Help my unbelief!”
 
 “Have you seen miracles?”
 
“Yes. Help my unbelief!”
 
“Remember Rock Springs, Wyoming?”
 
“Yes.”
 
“Remember that time in Eastern Arizona? Nebraska? That gas station in Honduras? That night by the Galilee in Israel? Was I there then? Do I need to go on? Because I can…”
 
“I wish you would…”
 
“Have you ever wanted for anything?”
 
I have to think about this one. But other than In-N-Out Burger when I’m not in the Southwest nothing comes to mind.
 
“No.”
 
“Then why do we keep having this conversation? Be still. I am God.”
 
I know He’s there. He’s proven Himself true over and over, time after time. Then why the struggle, Buck? Why do I worry about my family? I love them so much. I want to take care of them. I want the best for them. But so does He. The difference between us? He actually knows what’s best.
 
So this is me, Jesus. Confessing my shortcomings. Confessing my worry. Confessing my struggle and doubt and worry. I love You and I know You’re faithful. So I’ll put one foot in front of the other. With Your help I’ll drive on. I’ll trust You in the miles, the music, and the pen. I’ll trust that you’ll meet the needs. Of both my family and others I bump into along the road. I’d be blessed if You’d use me. I know You don’t need me when it comes right down to it, and if I’m honest I don’t have much to offer, but I’ll be your man.
 
And I suppose that’s all He’s ever wanted.
 
How about you? Do you struggle with doubt? Does that mustard seed grow bigger than the mountain it’s supposed to move? Are you the dad in Mark chapter 9 (help my unbelief…)? Welcome to the herd. Believe me, you’re not alone. We’re a curious bunch of ordinary radicals. Set apart yet human. Holy but still arm wrestling with the old man, muscles shaking.
 
I’m asking Him for faith, travelers. I’m committing—again—everything and everyone that’s dear to me into His hands. Maybe you are, too.  
 
Anyway, thanks for talking it through with me. I feel better.
 
We’re in this together. And to quote old, unflappable Hank Sr. – We’ll never get out of this world alive…  Might as well roll down the windows and enjoy the ride.
 
Take care of them please, Jesus. I need you so desperately.
 
Lord, I believe… I just believe.
 
Fair winds,
Buck

On Love and Duct Tape 


 
Traveler's Tip #329
Spread love everywhere you go. Let no one ever come to you without leaving happier. -Mother Teresa
 

On Love - 
 
There is no remedy for love but to love more.
-Henry David Thoreau
 
 A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.
-Jesus Christ
 
There can be no deep disappointment where there is not deep love.
-Martin Luther King, Jr.
 
Faith makes all things possible... love makes all things easy.
-Dwight L. Moody
 
Love thinks no evil.
-Apostle Paul
 
As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you.
-Jesus Christ
 
Love hurts.
-Joan Jett and the Blackhearts
 

On Duct tape-

One of the things I ask God most often is that I can hear His voice more clearly. Not what I think is His voice, or what I think He might say if I did hear Him, but to really hear His voice and heart and will.
 
I’ve found this to be a dangerous prayer. Because like any good prayer, it leads places.
 
Oswald Chambers talked about being so close to the heart of God that His will and our will become one. A great man, a good man, I tip my hat to him.
 
I’m not Oswald - I’m the duct tape guy. One long strip, wrapped over every inch of my body.
 
            Jesus asks, “You want to hear me? You want to know me?”
           
            I say yes, although the tape over my face muffles the word.
 
            “Okay, then,” He says. “Let’s get you out of the way.”
 
And so it begins. The tearing, the pulling. It hurts, sure, but that’s what love does sometimes. Little bits of me come free with every tug of the tape. Sometimes he pulls a long strip at once. I shout and complain. He smiles.
 
When it’s done I stand, cold and raw, stripped of all the useless baubles I’ve collected along the trail. They seemed important at the time. They’re nothing now—bits of unrecognizable chaff and dust stuck in a big wad of used tape. And He loves me. Enough to not let anything come between us, even me. I want to be like Him, but to do that I need to know Him. I need to understand His character—who He was, who He is.
 
Side by side through this life and into the next—tape free—here’s what I find: He’s infinitely patient. He’s kind (often when we least deserve it). He’s humble. He sees and hopes for the best in us. He’s quiet. He’s strong. The lost and broken come to Him and find a home. Children flock to Him, love Him, laugh with Him.
 
He’s the tugger of tape—the remover of self. He has a soft spot for me. He has a soft spot for you.
 
I pray that I can hear His voice. The answer is yes.
 
Yeah, Joan Jett, you’re right—love hurts.
 
But love is good…
 
Fair winds,
Buck

Goodbye From Venus 

Traveler’s Tips #328
 If you happen to wander onto the pages of my imagination don’t worry, it’s a mostly friendly place. Be sure to stop by the Venus Motel, you never know who might drop in.
 
 
I’ve written more songs than I can remember. Sometimes I’m asked which is my favorite. Writers say that’s like trying to pick their favorite child. Man, apply that to me and I’d be a miserable dad. I’d have some kids I liked, some I’m indifferent about, and a few I’d make sleep out in the garage.
 
But…there is this one song… I keep it around like loose change and guitar picks. I’m partial to it. Years ago I recorded it with good friends—we laughed a lot. And nights out playing it are great memories for me. Thinking back, nobody ever told me it was a very good song, at least not in the popular sense. No verse, chorus, or bridge. And I’m not convinced the words are structurally sound. Just a meandering piece of musical poetry that somehow fought its way out to the satellites and back.
 
I don’t play it much, unless it’s alone in a dark room. It sounds good to me there.
 

Goodbye From Venus
Past the edge of town,
Out where the world ends
Where the desert gives the sky
Nothing but silence
There’s an old motel
The sign is a shimmering Venus
And even though she smiles
Her eyes are sad
A husband and his wife
Laugh in the darkness
He fumbles with the key
She wraps her hair around her fingers
They walk into the room
By the light of the sidewalk
Throw the key inside the drawer
Next to Gideon’s Bible
And she says, Hey, let’s walk down by the swimming pool
Maybe we could have a beer while the room cools down
You know I really love to be with you
And there’s a million stars tonight…
 

A few chords and words—it’s a love song, I guess. Maybe not in the typical sense but more in the way that says, we’ve seen some things together and I can’t wait for more.
 
 Flickering blue light from the pool, the shadow of far-off mountains in the moonlight—and the one person in the world you know, without a doubt, is a gift from Heaven. This is the sweet thing. The thing I love. The thing that lasts.
 
As the years passed I missed the Venus Motel so I wandered back there in my writing. I closed my eyes and watched the sunset from the pool deck. Listened to Spanish guitar float from the lounge. The place wound up playing a big part in my novel and when we knocked around cover ideas I was thrilled that the Venus finally found her way to the front of the class.
 
I think of her out there, buzzing and flickering next to the great American highway while the sky tosses planets around. To me she’s always represented the broken in us. But also the watchful and the hopeful, with an eye to the horizon. She’s seen the wars, but chooses to remember the good. I’m glad she made the cover. Resurrected out of the back streets of my brain and cruising Main again. She reminds me of soft words and confidences, of holding my wife’s hand and hearing her laugh.
 
Even as the sun falls, we know it’s going to circle back. We’ll be hanging at the Venus for now but soon and very soon we’ll be able to say the night is far spent and the day is at hand. Eternity stretches out before us, a bright and shining thing, farther and more wonderful than imagination or pen can tell. I can live with that.     
 
So if you see her out there—the Venus—waving at you from the edge of the road or from the cover of a book, pull over. Check in. Relax a while. But make sure you schedule a wake-up call for just before dawn. Meet us on the deck. After all, we’re in this thing together. And the sunrise promises to be spectacular.
 
Fair winds,
Buck

The Long Road Home and Hillary in a Headlock 

Traveler’s Tip #327The road home is the longest, the last hour is the hardest, and the light in your living room window is the brightest star in the sky.
 
Hello, fellow pilgrims. I’m happy to say with the porch light at my little farmhouse acting as North Star I’ve docked safely at Planet Storm and dropped sails for a couple weeks. The sun is shining today and the air smells like cut grass and sky. I’m going to rest for a minute.
 
Not so around the world, I’m afraid. The smoke is thick out there. Buildings burning in Baltimore, Nepal shaking itself to the ground, nation rising against nation, warning shots across the bow… Damascus on the verge, Israel a cup of trembling, Russia rattling its sword… Oh, and the global war on Christians and Jews—the unvarnished truth whether it’s said out loud or not. 
 
And, in the midst of it all, to the delight of many and the indifference of others, the sun may quickly be setting on America’s long season as a world power.
 
It’s a page-turner, friends… In fact it’s an all-time, international best seller. Hey, just wait till you get to the end.
 
Yesterday’s Hillary sound bite - “Deep-seated religious beliefs must change.”
Oh well, she’s not the first. It’s been said that God’s word is an anvil that has worn out a lot of hammers. Sure, we can puff out our chests and shake our tiny fists but God is still God and we’re still not. Ha! I love Him!
 
“Of every earthly plan, that is known to man, He is unconcerned.” – Bob Dylan.
 
Translation—God’s not up there biting His nails and checking His blood pressure, amigos.
 
A conversation with Jesus plays through my brain pan:
 
            “What about Hillary?” I ask.
            “What about her?”
            “She’s irritating.”
            He laughs and says, “You’re irritating.”
            I can’t argue with that. “Could you at least take her down a few pegs?”
            He shrugs. “And while she was yet a sinner I gave my life for her, just like you.”
            “Yeah, but…”
            “But what?”
            “You don’t worry about everything going on?”
            “Um… No.”
            “I could do without the sarcasm.”
            “I’m sure you could.”
            “Just one peg?”
            “Turn off talk radio, kid. Love wins.”
 
So I have an idea (actually, I’m pretty sure it’s His idea). I stop whining and pray. I ask God to get old Hill in a half nelson of grace and peace and take her to the mat. Pin her with the love that has no end till every time she steps up to the microphone the only word on her lips is a resounding, joy-filled Jesus. That would be fun to see, wouldn’t it? To sing with Hillary in Heaven?
 
Note—Westboro Baptist, tele-evangelists, and Jesus-for-Profiters please put your fingers in your ears...
Yeah, the press is bad, but hang in there you Christians! Sure, you are hated, but so was He. Real love can be offensive. Jesus told us it would be this way. But I’ve met you all over the world, even across the brick and barbwire denominational lines. I’ve broken bread with you, slept in your homes, and laughed with you. You’re certainly not perfect but you’re lovely people. You’re the first to feed the hungry or to give a cup of cold water. You’re the first to give to those who have nothing, even if you suffer for it. I’ve watched your generosity bring smiles to the faces of the broken in every forgotten corner of the world. I’ve seen you love one race without prejudice—Adam’s race. God’s love, through you, has been no respecter of persons. You are responsible for the vast majority of good and loving works around the planet.  
 
Listen, the night is far spent, the hour is at hand, and the beginning is near. Cling to that armor of light till your fingers bleed. Hold on to what is good. Be encouraged! You’re not alone and you never will be. Oh, the indescribable glory of the Yesterday, Today and Forever God. You are His and that knows no end.
 
One day soon you will know Him even as you are known.
 
Believe me, He won’t leave you hanging…
 
And it’s not cheating to read the last chapter. Love wins!
 
Fair winds,
Buck           

A Season of Constant Unbalance 

Traveler’s Tip #326
If you lock your keys in your car outside of a Super Eight in Billings, Montana call Chuck at the Lock and Key. He’s a nice guy. Tell him Buck said hello. He’ll remember.
 
I’m feeling very ragged around the edges today. If I were a flag they’d retire me. I’ve lost track of states and miles over the last couple of weeks. Now the wind is whipping across the Dakotas and I’m in a season of constant unbalance.
 
Nighttime America stretches out in every direction. A black land-ocean broken only occasionally by islands of light—small towns and truck stops—hubs of activity and life. Somewhere near the Iowa/Minnesota border I filled a cup with ice to keep myself awake on the road. In line to get it I talked with a truck-driver with gold teeth and dreads who does the same. I was headed for the west coast. He was on his way to Amarillo with a half-load. A very nice guy looking forward to seeing his family. Later, at a rest stop, a businessman in a rush made sure we all heard his Bluetooth conversation. He almost tripped over a homeless girl sitting against the wall with her dog. He didn’t look down... She didn’t look up.
 
The woman cleaning the bathroom. The family taking pictures with the eighty-foot, concrete dinosaur. The guy at the counter with tobacco stains that stop at the end of his beard and pick up again on his T-shirt. The man in the Cadillac Escalade with a bronze statue of a racehorse bolted to the hood. So many people—so many stories. Hundreds, thousands, millions. And God—the Beautiful Reality—deeply invested in every single one, be they prodigal or pilgrim.   
 
Fortified with huge sodas and Slim Jims and trail mix we hoist our sails and ease out of the gasoline harbor back onto the terrestrial sea. We slip out into the dark and once again become nameless, faceless pairs of headlights. Out there with nothing but the broken white line I find lots of time to think. I pray, I talk, I listen. Sometimes He answers in short order. Little miracles breathed in a quiet voice or popping up on the cell phone screen. Then there are the tough prayers. The thorns in the flesh that grow bigger and more painful with every mile marker.
 
I have one particular thorn I’m wrestling with right now. I have deep conversations with the Lord about it. He smiles and puts His arms around me. He drops blessings around me like apples off a tree. I say thanks—but the thorn’s still there. I can think of lots of ways for Him to fix the thing and believe me I’m never shy about pointing them out. Still, nothing. Once in a while I decide I’ll kick open a door or two and yank the thorn out myself. He closes them again with a gentle hand.
 
“Why?” I say.
“Because My grace is sufficient,” He answers. “My grace. My love. My favor.”
 
And so it goes till everything fades and one truth remains—He’s right. Nothing, real or imagined, is as sufficient as His grace—even a prayer answered the way I’d like it to be.
 
A hundred years will pass. Then a million. A billion years. Billions of billions. The stars that pepper my windshield tonight will fade and die. He’ll say, “Watch this,” and laugh new ones into existence. I’ll be with Him at every turn. This thorn? What is it to me? I’m a child of the King.
 
And so it’s a season of constant unbalance and that’s just fine. In my weakness He is made strong. Just the way it should be. My Friend will drive now and I’ll rest in the dashboard lights.
 
Fair winds all you terrestrial sailors,
 
Buck

The Problem With Pockets 

It’s been lots of states over a couple days and I’m feeling pretty spongy. Today I’m in a hotel in Lincoln, Nebraska. Playing here in town tonight. I’m looking forward to the people and time with Jesus. 
Last night in Omaha was great. Had some old friends drive a long away for the concert and it was wonderful to see them. I love the family of God. We come in all shapes, sizes, colors, and ages. We speak different languages. We wear different clothes. We worship in all kinds of ways. And yet, there’s such a joy of community with Jesus in the center. Jesus said the world would know we were His by our love for one another. I’m happy to be a part of that. I pray we’ll live up to it.
 
Over the last one million seventy-three miles I’ve driven in the last two days, I’ve been thinking about pockets. I’m emptying mine. Too many things shoved down in there that I don’t need. The old wounds and hard memories. Big things. Heavy things. After a while it gets hard to walk. Those tough, bitter stones that sink us straight to the bottom of our self-created hell. Have you been shot at? Maybe you knocked out the windowpane with the butt of your rifle and shot back? Have you been kicked into the dust then kicked some more? It happens in this imperfect world filled with imperfect people. Jesus said we’d catch a roundhouse once in a while. Sometimes we see the punch coming while our hands are tied behind our backs. It gets so frustrating. Then we have to decide what to do with the pain. God’s answer is simple—give it to Him. Lay it at the foot of the cross. Hey, Buck, drop the pistol.
 
Here I am. Emptying my big pockets of hard lumps of black. Some of them handled so often they’ve worn to a shine. There’s a great Bob Dylan line—Surrender your crown on this blood stained ground, and take off your mask. He sees your deeds, and He knows your needs even before you ask. I’m no mystery to God. I’m transparent as glass. There’s a great freedom in that. I’ll just come with all of it, turn my pockets out and ask Him to take all the trash. I’m tired.
 
I imagine a face to face with Jesus. I’d plead my case. Show Him the bruises. Talk about all the miles and dreams and dust. The churches and the bars and the broken. Man, it would be a long story. I know He could tell me to get over myself. Talk about His own very real suffering. But that’s not the Father’s heart. In the end I think He’d simply smile and say, “I love you. Be born again.” He has a way of getting straight to the heart of the matter.
 
Let me be free. Let me be clean. Let every day be the end of me—the beginning of Him.  
 
So I’m emptying my pockets of all the stones I’ve collected along the road. And I’m filling those same pockets up again to overflowing with the limitless love of God.
 
And here’s the incredible part—Love doesn’t weigh anything.
 
Fair winds,
Buck
 

Traveler's Tip #325 

If you're walking into a roadside rest area in Iowa and a maintenance lady with a mop says, "Be careful in there," if you say, "Why, are there tigers?" you'll have a new best friend.

Betting On the Global Bar Fight 

Traveler’s tip #324
If you’re vacationing in the Islamic Caliphate, it might be fun to take along a stack of Coexist bumper stickers to hand out to the guys for their military vehicles.
 
 
Jesus said, “When you see these things beginning to take place, look up. Your redemption draws nigh.” Is your neck getting stiff? Man, mine is.
 
It’s a whirlwind out there. So many things twisting with such insane abandon it must be spiritual. Brothers and sisters are being tortured and killed around the globe everyday for nothing more than having the audacity to take the hand of the God of Love. To bake or not to bake?—Make it stop! Deals being struck. Deals not being struck. Donkeys and elephants shaking their fists at one another. On and on it goes… A global bar fight, and the blood of sinner and saint alike is soaking into the sawdust on the floor.
 
And here I am, like many of you, spinning through space with the dust and stars and tumbleweeds and bits of trash. I find myself looking for ways to hedge my bets against the spiritual and political climate of the day. I wrack my brain for some way to build a razor wire fence around everything I love and believe. Just like the seekers at Mars Hill in Apostle Paul’s day, I grope in the darkness for an answer that’s right beside me, loving me, whispering out of the wind.
 
The most unpopular answer of all—Jesus. God of Love, wild and free.
 
Why? Because He’s the lover of the lost. He’s the radical. He’s political poison. He’s the crusher of walls. He rejoices over the prodigal’s return. He is LOVE without cost. He is gentle and just. He’s the friend of hookers and children and addicts and the I.R.S.
 
I’m in no position to judge anyone. That’s already happened and men are found wanting. Inflicting my vision of morality on a fallen world is pointless. Winning the debate makes me nothing but right. Who cares about that? But there is something I can offer. Just like Paul, I can bring the stripped down, simple message that offers hope and peace and light and life. I can say—Come home! Your Father misses you! I can show them Jesus. Be they rich or poor, gay or straight, tele-evangelist or talk show host, king, common man, or lice-ridden child on a Honduran street. I can show them love. And that’s something worthwhile. 
 
President Obama needs Jesus.
Congress needs Jesus.
Billy Graham needs Jesus.
Jews and Palestinians need Jesus.
Donkeys and elephants need Jesus.
Bakers and buyers need Jesus.
The ACLU needs Jesus.
The ACLJ needs Jesus.
I need Jesus.
You need Jesus.
 
If He is the answer then there’s no more fight. And He will be. When the final punch gets thrown to clear the floor… His love… is a bottomless ocean.
 
Fair winds,
Buck

G.K Chesterton, Drunk Truckers, and a Couple of Churches 

Traveler’s Tip #323 
If you find yourself in Montana, make it a point to visit Ovando, population 94. Such wonderful people! But, if you’re playing in the log church on the hill there, try not to continually say Or-vando. This is the west, and most people are armed. Thankfully, they’re too polite to shoot.
What a great Sunday in Ovando! Hope to come back and I promise not to add an R.
 
 
I drove through a tiny town in Idaho recently. A pretty place with a short main street, a scattering of houses, obligatory log tavern, a town library in a single-wide trailer—these are the places I love. At the end of Main Street there were two old churches, almost identical, right across the street from each other. So close they could have thrown open the stained glass and had a spitball fight. It brought to mind the old joke about the lone castaway on the desert island with his three huts—his house, his church, and the church he used to go to.
 
I wonder about us Christians sometimes and our churchianity chest thumping. We love our doctrine and—be it conservative or liberal or cautiously in between—we’re proud of it. We talk about it, teach it, arm-wrestle over it, write thick, important books about it so we can teach it some more…
 
The problem is you and I can have doctrine in common but if we don’t have Jesus in common we’re just wind banging a loose shutter against the house. We’re a general annoyance with nothing real to offer. I’m not just talking about the idea of Jesus—the historical, print Jesus—as wonderful and important as the Christ story is. I mean the reason-to-get-out-of-bed-in-the-morning Jesus. The one who gives us breath today. The one who walks with us and guides us on the minute-by-minute, second-by-second paths of our lives. The Love that rescues us from the storm and calls us friend. Doctrine without that Love exemplified as its foundation is nothing but a scattering of dead leaves. Worthless and forgettable.
 
I wonder which of those two churches Jesus would walk into? Both most likely. Because both would be filled with the beautiful and broken. And afterward He’d be down at the tavern chatting with G.K Chesterton and C.S. Lewis and other thinkers with initials for first names. He’d most certainly be hanging with the prostitute and the drunk trucker over in the corner by the Coors sign. He’d find me, and you, and offer us hope from our helpless posturing.
 
Oh the infinite love of Jesus! A bottomless ocean. A shoreless sea.
 
I guess if you need me I’ll be down at the tavern too. You know what? Maybe we could unload the guns, kick down the church walls, and all meet there. It’s easy to find. Just across the street from the hardware store. I’d love to ask C.S. a couple things. Who knows, maybe J.K Rowling and J.D. Salinger will show up. We could call the prostitute and the trucker over and watch the things of earth grow strangely dim in the light of God’s glory and grace. Let’s put the inescapable love of the resurrected Jesus in the middle of our lives and see where the conversation goes…
 
See you there. I for one could stand to learn a few things.
 
Fair winds,
Buck        

The Beautiful Ashes of Gomez Gomez 

A strand of black hair blew across Gomez Gomez’s face and he pushed it away with a rough hand. Hands that hadn’t known the indoors for what, two years now? A strange pair they must have made. Father Jake, the wind whipping his black cassock against his legs, and Gomez Gomez—the outcast. Unclean.
            Gomez Gomez knew what they thought of him. And why shouldn’t they? They lived their lives offices and churches. Went to schools and picnics and shopped at Harlan’s Market. They went home at night to houses made of solid things like wood and brick and the warm smell of cooking food.
            Not him. Nothing solid made up the walls of Gomez Gomez’s camp beneath the Palos Verdes tree in Johnson’s vacant lot. His walls were made of nothing but ghosts that flickered and shimmered around him through the long days and nights. His house smelled like lizards and diesel fumes from the highway.
            But here they were. Gomez Gomez and Father Jake. The unclean and the priest, standing on top of Apache Drop—the very edge of the world—with a hundred miles of Arizona desert stretching out beneath them in three directions.
            “It’s a nice evening for it,” Gomez Gomez said.
            “Would have been good for it two years ago.”
            “I wasn’t ready then, I told you.”
            “And you are now?”
            “No.” Gomez Gomez held up the Folgers can. His hands trembled. From the whiskey, not nerves. “I wish I had something better than this.”
            Father Jake put a hand on his shoulder. “We do what we can with what we’ve got. She wouldn’t have minded.”
            “That’s just it. She wouldn’t have. That’s why she deserved better.” He grunted a laugh—a foreign sound. “She liked Yuban. Always told me to get Yuban when I went to Harlan’s.”
            “Let’s do it, amigo. Whenever you’re ready.”
            The lid came off too easy, even with trembling fingers. He’d hoped it would take longer. “Okay. Goodbye then.” She always liked to keep things simple.
            A tip of a Folgers can. A life, dreams, all of it—into the updraft. Air rushing from the warm desert floor to coolness of the deep blue. The ashes swirled and dipped, rising high into the air, falling, then climbing again. They whipped around Gomez Gomez and peppered his clothes. Small white specks of her.
            He didn’t brush them off. “They were beautiful ashes, don’t you think?”
            “Prettiest I ever saw.”
            “She really knew how to die, you know?”
            “I do.”
            “I don’t just mean at the end. I mean from the first day I met her. She knew how to die. I never did.”
            “I know what you meant. Most of us don’t know how. Not like her.”
            Tears came but Gomez Gomez blinked them away. She wouldn’t want them.
            Father Jake bent and picked up a rock. He threw it over the edge. Even when they were kids he’d had the best arm. “She touched us all. Everybody. You should have seen the memorial, man. The whole town…”
            “I couldn’t. You know? See… I never bought her Yuban.”
            “She loved you. You were the world to her. She didn’t care about Yuban.”
            “Exactly. That’s why I couldn’t go.”
            “Yeah.”
            Gomez Gomez pulled the bottle out of the inside pocket of his coat—Dewar’s White Label. He removed the cap and took two steps forward. The whiskey didn’t pour as much as spray in the stiff wind. He wound up and threw the bottle as far out toward the dropping sun as he could—not far. A strong gust drowned out the sound of it breaking below.
            “We can go now,” Gomez Gomez said.
            “Alright.”
            “I want to learn how to die.”
            “I’m glad. We all need to die more.”  
            “Maybe I could come inside now.”
            “We have a room for you at the Mission can till you get back on your feet.”
            “Thanks for driving me up here, Jake.”
            “You got it, amigo.”
 
 
Fair winds,
Buck 
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