Editor’s note: We’re spinning our wheels in St. Augustine, Fla. A big part of the reason: Try as I might, I haven’t found a mechanic ready, willing and able to figure out what’s going on with our illuminated “check engine” light. I wouldn’t care, but the behemoth has a tendency to sputter and shake. I’m guessing it’s costing us additional money in gas. I’d love to get this situation sussed out and fixed before we go another thousand miles.
Yesterday, my new friend Mark Badgley spent several hours fiddling about under the behemoth’s hood on the beach here. He couldn’t fix it, but he tried. Out of the goodness of his soul, he tried. He told me today there’s a cult of RV-buying-fixing-and-selling Jesus freaks here who might help us out if I’d be willing to offer my soul as recompense. Well, been there, done that.
On that note, here’s another except of an email I sent nearly a decade ago to friend of the blog Lauri Lebo. Back in Berwyn, Pa., there’s a microcassette which documents the whole ordeal on tape. I hope it still plays. The Barnettes were sweet, sweet people. They’re likely gone now. Bea told Becky to send her a note when she accepted the Lord as her savior. Becky feels bad about this still. I don’t mean to cheapen our time with the Barnettes with wanton blasphemy. I just want to share the story of my saving. Without further ado, here it is in email sketch:
Bessemer, Ala., Nov. 17, 2003: Time’s short, and I’ve got big news.
The biggest yet.
It’s been two days, but I can finally tell you:
In Indian Trail, N.C., on Saturday, I was saved.
Goddamn right, I am saved.
We visited Barnette’s general store (I was there last year. It’s a time-worn, archaic ma and pa shop soon to be celebrating 75th anniversary, run by 84-year-old Reid Barnette and his wife, 85-year-old Bea Barnette.) I was in the process of interviewing the wonderful Barnettes when a flat-faced man named Garvin Miller stumbled in, picked up a chair and plunked it down by the kerosene heater.
Mr. Miller apparently has a talent for recognizing souls in peril. When he found out about mine, he got on the horn and summoned his preacher, Mitchell Griffin, to come on down and join the colloquy.
Don’t have time to go into the whole saga, but … Mitchell Griffin is about 50. He has an understated, matter-of-fact way about him. He leaned on the grimy, old Koloflo cooler, which was empty save 10 bottles of Yoohoo resting on their sides, a few cans of Mountain Dew and several other sundries.
Mitchell seemed kinda embarrassed, but he has experience. He shoved his hands into the pockets of his jeans (he had been called away from his side business, a welding shop he runs with his son). His blue eyes poked about gently for understanding.
Then he went to work like a craftsman with a job to do. And worked.
And about 15 minutes in, I stared ridiculously at the gold label and brown liquid of the Yoohoo bottles, thought of you guys and knew this episode would end with me accepting Jesus as my personal savior.
It was like being on a used car lot with a sweet man who only has your best automotive interest at heart.
Finally, after 20 minutes of debate, I understood my choice: Either I must look him in those sweet blue eyes and tell him I didn’t want to know Jesus, or look him in
those same eyes and say yes, dammit, introduce me to the goddamn Lord. Please.
It broke down along purely logical lines. Better yet, Mitchell broke it down further. He said once I thanked Jesus for dying in for me and expressed how
grateful I was for a few other of his good deeds, it would be God’s responsibility to change me. (Editor’s note, and blasphemy warning: And don’t get me started on this guy, this God of our fathers, who sacrificed his only begotten son — in quite gruesome fashion, I might add — just to fix his own design flaws.)
Well, I thought, it’s not exactly a win-win, because I don’t really want to be a Christian anymore, but it’s kind of a can’t-lose. I was being honest really. I don’t believe there’s any blasphemy here. Where’s the blasphemy? I had a slight headache and a bit of the chills, and I wondered if it might really be true.
But it’s up to God now to, as Mitchell put it, to change my ‘want-tos.’
(Becky, for the record, stayed true to her ideals. She refused to join me in the Lord. God bless her. I hope this doesn’t have metaphysical ramifications for the long-term future of our relationship.)
So, the final tally from Barnette’s General Merchandise, the details of which I’ll have to provide later: For about $5, I got three sandwiches (white bread, cheese slice, pickles and tomato), two packs of crackers, one diet Pepsi (20 oz) and one gift of everlasting life.
I guess I’m doing pretty fair.