We all got into Grandpa Tuttle's Toyota sedan. Me in the driver's seat with Allen beside me. Laura and Kit sat in the back. There was just a light drizzle when we started out. I was pretty familiar with the roads near the Tuttle's house, but the farther away that we got, the more unfamiliar things became. To make it worse, the rain started coming down in sheets. Fortunately, there weren't any other cars on the road at this ungodly hour of the morning.
Laura and Kit were silent. I think that they weren't fully awake, and I had all that I could do keeping my mind on the road.
By the time we were about a third of the way to the airport, they had fully awakened and were helping me to drive with tactful remarks:
"You're over the white line!" Laura said.
"I know," I replied, "That's how I stay on the road.
In the glare of the headlights, everything ranged from black to grey, alternately clear and then stippled as the windshield wiper swept across.
Allen, being in God's hands, was not concerned for his safety. I guess the the silence must have gotten to him, because he said to me, "I read Ecclesiastes like you asked me to."
I really hadn't asked him to read it. I had merely suggested the wisdom literature as a contrast to the begats. I was inordinately fond of Ecclesiastes. Besides, I didn't want him to think that I knew nothing about the bible.
"Well, what did you think?" I replied.
"I believe it, except the part about all is vanity. I don't think that life is in vain."
"There's a car coming!" Laura interjected.
"I don't read anything to believe it, "I said. "I read it because it's a way of touching someone in the past who has gone through the same reasoning processes that I go through now. I think that there are many things where Solomon the Wise was mistaken. Yet, he was wise and, if he knew then what I know now, he might have written it somewhat differently. I respect and admire his wisdom as well as the beauty of his language; but I would be a damn fool if I accepted, verbatim, something that was written 4,000 years ago."
"I don't see it that way. I believe the Bible."
My right wheel went off onto the shoulder, which, fortunately, was hard. I heard Laura and Kit gasp.
I had hoped that the "wisdom literature" might have add to his understanding. But it obviously hadn't. From what he said, I gathered that he saw it as something to be read and believed -the word of God.
"Then you believe the Bible to be literally true?" I asked.
"Yes", he said.
"You believe that god did all of this in seven days?"
There seemed to be no hope; no little place where
I could insert a small light of reason -I had run into a blank
wall. Perhaps, with time, I could persuade him with the same kind
of argument that Clarence Darrow used with William Jennings Bryan
during the Scopes trial. But I had no time since we had, at most,
half an hour together. Besides, I doubt that Darrow had persuaded
Bryan of anything. He had merely showed those who already agreed
with him, what a good argument he could muster.
A person looking at Kit would see a self posessed young woman with curled brown hair. Her face revealed virtually nothing about what she might be thinking at any moment. The image which she projected was "thoughtful". Having grown her up, I had a fair idea about what went on inside her although she probably saw me as insensitive. Underneath her preposessing exterior was an exquisitely sensitive child. I use the word exquisite the way that a physician uses the word to describe "exquisite tenderness", where the patient almost leaps off of the examining table when a finger gently probes the tender spot.She could feel bad vibrations across a football field; but she hadn't the experience to know what to make of them nor what to do about it. Her sensitivity was at the same time, her greatest asset and greatest liability. I could see that when she had harnessed it, it would be a powerful tool. Now, for me, it was a liability, because she couldn't tell when I was sullen, whether it had anything to do with her -she usually assumed that it did.
Her relationship with Allen had been more than just a sister. She was as close to him as if he had been her child. She had as much, if not more, difficulty with Allens state of mind than I did
Allen was so absorbed in Jesus that he had turned off all of us. To turn Kit off was tanatmount to punching her in the belly. She reacted with internal pain and could do nothing to relieve it other than try to escape from the source of the pain. This was easy, with her being in San Francisco, and he being in Santa Barbara. But Allen was here now, and Kit hurt.
So when she said to him, "Allen, surely you must have a little doubt?" she was asking him to take his fist out of her abdomen.
But just as Kit was exquisitely sensitive, Allen had turned his sensitivity off completely. No one was going to hit him ever again. He had Jesus and Jesus had never hurt him and never would. What's more, Jesus couldn't do anything to him that he didn't want done to him -because he controlled everything that Jesus did, and what Jesus said is written down and he had read it in advance. There were no surprises with Jesus; no unexpected desertions the way that his natural father and his girlfriend had done. So Allen smiled and replied "No, no doubt whatever."
No one could think of anything to say after that. What do you say to a door after it has been slammed in your face?
Allen's sensitivity, while considerably diminished, wasn't all gone. He knew that the silence in someway connoted disaproval. He turned to me and said, "Pop, you don't approve of what I think, do you?"
"No," I replied, "I think that you have abandoned reason."
"Then you think that my brain is dead?"
"Yes," I replied.
The silence that followed that answer was different. Before, the silence had been directed at Allen; now it was directed at me. Out of a corner of my mind's eye, I could see the frowning faces of Laura and Kit. Allen's face had his usual idiotic "me-worry" expresssion.I sensed what was to come and wished that I could be somewhere else -anywhere else. When a person screws up, there are two kinds of people that it is very difficult to square accounts with; a child and a school teacher -and I had to square it with both.
Fortunately, an arrow appeared in my headlights said "AIRPORT" and a right turn brought me to the airport parking area. We took Allens luggage and proceded to the airport, where Allen was busy checking in. This time, I could see the expressions on Laura and Kit's face --boy, was I in for it!
By the time that Allen had finished checking in, the plane was ready for boarding. Everyone exchanged hugs. When my turn came, I was embarassed, because I really didn't want to hug him and say the things that one says on departure. What I really wanted to do was kick his ass all the way back to California. But I hugged him and said "It was good to see you". I felt as if I was embracing someone and not being sure whether either he or I wanted that embrace.
We watched the plane load, taxi down the runway and
disappear in the rain. Then there was a roar and we could see
the plane lift off the runway. I felt unfinished, hanging, hurt.
Kit, Laura and I returned to the car. The silence continued. Finally Kit said "I think that Allen was hurt when you told him that his brain was dead."
"I didn't tell him; I answered his question honestly."
"Do you really believe that his brain is dead?" Laura asked.
"Yes, I do." I replied. I could feel the hostility emanating from both Kit and Laura. Somehow, I had to tell them why I had said what I did. "I think that Allen has come to expect honesty from me. Besides, I don't think that he's as fragile as you think. He will only hear what he wants to hear. I only wish that I could shock him into thinking, but I doubt that I've done much of anything except make you two mad at me."
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