“You up for some breakfast? My treat.”
Granger sat motionless for a second, staring at his cell phone as if it had grown nostrils. Sparks was a giving man, but had never yet offered such a treat. Smiling to himself, he agreed that was a spiffy idea.
“Meet at Jimmies?”
“Mm-hmph. Get a Rizzo table if you can.” Just as he clicked the phone off, he heard Sparks through the tiny speaker:
Granger’s grin widened. He sat back from his desk, noting that if the light hit just right, those same five old coffee rings faintly and stubbornly shown through. Moving downstairs to his parking spot, he mused, I’m glad I have a few friends with that same strain of stubbornness. . . His mind flicked back to the present as it always did when he turned the key and fired up that potent Shelby engine. Pulling out, the Magnaflow exhaust grumbled at a dawdling Prius.
Granger always enjoyed the easy morning drive to the diner. He’d gone there often enough the vintage red Mustang convertible almost drove itself. On the way, his mind picked up his previous train of thought.
He pictured Arlough in his trademark cargo shorts and ratty polo, his unruly black/grey hair and aw-shucks lopsided grin belying a laser-sharp mind and faith. He thought of stolid, taciturn Raven Wing whose nondescript clothing and quiet demeanor barely hid a penetrating philosophy of life and take-no-prisoners approach to her personal spiritual life.
And then there’s Sparks. Sparks Dickerson. The young deputy sheriff had the strange nickname stemming from an accident on the motorcycle he hadn’t yet been medically cleared to ride.
An Air Force veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan, the humvee in which he’d been riding hit a buried bomb; in the blast, the young troop lost his left leg just below the knee. Returning stateside, he’d tried a succession of prosthetic devices while being bored into oblivion doing desk work with the sheriff’s department. Finally, fitted with a state-of-the-art prosthesis, he excelled in his follow-up therapy and applied for full duty.
Getting cocky one day, he’d decided he had stared at his tarp-concealed patrol motorcycle long enough. Ignoring doctor’s orders, he reveled in the freedom of once again riding until he thoughtlessly extended his left foot to stabilize himself going around a corner. His polished black boot and cushioning sock slid smoothly off his artificial foot, leaving nothing between the titanium and Teflon and the pavement. From that day on, no one knew him by any other name but—
“You coming? I’m hungry.”
“I’m right outside. Hold your water; be there in a minute.”
Greeting Rizzo with a hug, he asked about her toddler, then followed her pointing finger. He walked over to where Sparks sat and slid into the booth across from him.
“So can I put it down now?”
Blank, Granger looked up from the menu. Sparks sat there with a sardonic grin, holding aloft his glass of water. Shaking his head, Granger scanned the menu again, then slapped it closed and laid it on the end of the black-and-silver flecked table.
They ordered and had fresh coffee ready to sip. Somebody didn’t open that hanging tinsel-foil decoration all the way. Resisting his desire to get up, reach up and fix it, Granger instead took a second appreciative sip of fragrant coffee and leveled his gaze on Sparks.
“Oh, you mean—” here he made a circular motion with his hand— “this? Breakfast?” Granger nodded.
“Well, some time ago you and I were talking about conviction; y’know the way that—when God’s trying to tell you something.” Here Sparks’s brow furrowed. “I think that happened to me yesterday.”
Granger had learned there’s more value in waiting if you’ve nothing to say, than there is in saying something merely because you don’t like quiet waiting. He waited.
“I’d just clocked off duty. I was thinking how it’d been awhile since anyone had called me up and invited me to do something. I was—well, I was feeling sorry for myself, truth be told. Aw, man…“ He stared in dismay at the damp spot on his uniform blouse and the dribble on his coffee cup. “Dadgum! Hope that won’t show too bad. Well, anyways, and then I got this–this feeling like I wasn’t alone in my Jeep, y’know? An’ I was pretty sure from what you’ve told me it was God.”
Granger caught Rizzo’s eye with his uplifted coffee cup, then calmly refocused his eyes on Sparks.
That young man sat with eyes unfocused for a second or two, then raised his eyebrows. “So, what I heard–no, felt–no, well, it was kinda both/and. This making any sense?”
Smiling, Granger nodded. “Sure.”
“And He’s like, ‘When’s the last time you invited somebody else out just to be a blessing to them?'” I just sat there for a minute, thinking. I mean, I’ve done stuff like that, but usually because it sort of had to be done, or was job-related or something like that. So, anyway, I got to thinking back on some things I’d read not too long ago. One was about making a lifestyle of being a blessing to others. And then there’s this neat quotation that’s kinda been sticking sideways in my mind. Every next level of your life will demand a different you.”
Pushing his flatware and now-barren plates back, Granger pulled out a small wirebound notebook and began writing. “Say it again.” Sparks complied.
Notebook and pen back in his pocket, Granger sat surveilling Middle Space, absorbing the flavors and tasting the meaning of that quote.
“See? I love that about you, man. You, like, ponder stuff; really think about it.” Granger allowed as how that single quotation was worth the entire morning’s visit.
“Yeah, well, I’ve been feeling like maybe God’s leading me into my next level, and I don’t just want to be different. I want to make a difference in things and people around me. See, that’s what you do, Granger. I know you don’t think so, but you do. And listen: before we head into the day, I want to do something you’re always doing for the rest of us. I want to pray a blessing over you.”
Floored, Granger just looked at his younger friend. Suddenly it dawned on him the normal subdued hubbub of different conversations had dwindled. Rizzo and a couple of the other servers in poodle skirts, polka-dotted scarves and baubled earrings had come to stand by their booth.
Sparks looked up at them all, including in his gaze a few of the nearby booths. “Folks, this man is constantly giving. Whether it’s wise counsel, a listening ear, a good cup of coffee, a prayer or just a word or two of personal encouragement, Granger’s forever giving out. Well, yesterday God put His thumb between my shoulder blades and said it might be nice to return the favor. So–here goes. I’m not very good at this, so bear with me.”
Standing, the young deputy stretched to his full height, imposing in his creased and polished uniform. “Granger, my friend and brother, stand up.” As Granger silently complied, Sparks gently, awkwardly laid his hand on the head of his friend and quietly began to pray God’s blessing over him . . .
“. . . Amen.” Half embarrassed, Sparks looked around from beneath his eyebrows. Everyone he could see was standing, and no one there had dry eyes. Rizzo, Nadine and Jo-Jo were sniffling and wiping their noses with napkins as they rushed to pick up orders.
Overwhelmed, Granger sat back down and watched as patron after patron filed by the sheriff’s deputy, thanking him for doing what he had. “What a cool idea!” “Hey, man, with all the negative junk out there, this really shines!” “Dickerson, is it? I want your commander to know what a wonderful advocate the department has in you. Thanks!” And on and on it went.
After the hoopla had waned, an older couple came by the booth where Granger was just finishing his coffee. They were well-dressed, both in casual yet classy summer-weight cotton blends. She had beautiful gray hair styled in a saucy way that set off the challenging glint in her brown eyes and, even at this early hour, was carefully made up. She was dressed in bright yellows and whites, while he was wearing natural-shade linen slacks and a deep-blue-based paisley longsleeved shirt with tails out and sleeves casually rolled halfway up. His well-groomed cotton-white hair offset a pair of intense green eyes.
Granger looked up at them. The man seemed oddly familiar, although he was certain he’d never before seen them. The man spoke in an easy, thoughtful manner. “We’re traveling through and couldn’t help overhearing and observing what just happened. I gather you’re normally the one offering the blessings and encouragement.” It was spoken as fact, not query.
Still mute while processing what had just transpired, Granger tilted his head slightly to the left in acknowledgement. As the man slowly smiled, the woman’s pleasant alto chimed in: “It’s much easier for you to give than receive, isn’t it?” Nodding, her husband gently said, “Learn to receive blessing from those least used to offering them, for therein lie some of life’s greatest rewards. Judging from the kind of friends you gather to yourself, I suspect you’ll have more opportunities to reap those rewards as they continue to learn from you.” Stepping back, his wife said, “You’ve no idea what an impact you have on those within reach of your voice and pen, Granger. May you be blessed.”
As they both turned to leave, an astonished Granger found his voice. “Wait! How did you—what brought you here this morning?”
Looking over their shoulders, the man said, “Oh, we’ve always loved finding great places to stop and have coffee dates. And we always seem to meet new old friends everywhere we go. Don’t we, babe?” “Mm-hmmph”, she said. “That we do. Anyhoodles . . .” And they were gone.
Granger sat there for a minute. Now, where have I heard that before? And who were those two? I know we’ve never met, but I felt like I’ve known them all my life . . .
Going through dazed motions, he reached in his pocket and tossed two bills on the table for a tip. As he headed toward the exit, Rizzo quietly said, “Uh, did you mean to leave two fives here?”
Granger just waved over his shoulder, stopping just long enough to adjust that tinsel-foil thingie that was supposed to look like a bursting firework but instead resembled a deformed jellyfish. Satisfied, he opened the door to go out and said,
“Blessings are for sharing, Manieca; and you’re one of mine.”
© D. Dean Boone, July 2017