Charles always knew his faith would be rewarded. They had laughed at him, but he knew. He had repented the gambling. It was a sin, and he had been weak, but he had repented and he had prayed. Oh how he had prayed, and in his darkest hour the lord had come through. He had counted it up. It wasn’t enough, he needed more. Prayer, that was the answer. More prayer was needed. He knelt by the bed and prayed.
When he was done he reluctantly got on with getting ready to go see the shrink. It wouldn’t do to tell her about this… windfall. This manna from heaven. She wouldn’t understand. He was only seeing her because his mother had begged. His father understood. He was a man of God, just like Charles, but mom was another matter. Still, he prayed for her. The lord would guide her back to the fold. For now she continued to fret about his “condition,” as she put it. So he had some problems. So what? The lord would look after him. Meanwhile, to keep peace in the family he put up with these weekly appointments. He wouldn’t take the pills she prescribed for him though. They were the devil’s tool. He told her and his mother he was taking them, and he did his best to act around them the way he figured they wanted him to act. It would all be good with prayer.
Sitting in his usual seat in Mrs. Taylor’s office he listening to her going on about him. She was wearing her usual grey suit. She always looked so stuffy. She was so sure she could help him. So many questions. How did he feel? What did he want? He didn’t dare look at his watch, but he counted down the mintues in his head.
Leaving her office he heaved a sigh of relief. He hated every minute of being there. The longest hours of his life. She kept going on about how he might be better off in managed care. Hah! He needed faith, that’s what he needed. He also needed a beer. He headed for his favorite watering hole.
He stepped out into the late afternoon sun a few hours later, a little shaky on his feet, but feeling good. He walked along the avenue and put his hands in the pockets of his jacket. What was this in the right pocket? Strange…
Sitting on a rickety stool behind the counter of his rundown liquor store, Mr. Patel tried hard not to nod off. The days were so long sometimes. It had been quite busy earlier, but this was the afternoon lull, and there had been no customers for over an hour. Perhaps a crossword puzzle would keep him sharp. He reached under the counter for the magazine, and when he looked up he found he had no need of it. Things had got more interesting.
“Empty the cash register into a bag and hand it over.”
The gunman was crazy, with a wild look in his eyes. Mr. Patel, shaking badly, did as he was told and pushed the bag across the counter.
“Get on the floor, face down. Now!”
“Please, sir, please!” Mr. Patel beseeched the intruder. “I have a family. Please don’t kill me!”
Mr. Patel lowered himself to the floor and closed his eyes and started praying silently. He realized that a few minutes had gone by and slowly lifted his head. He was alone.
Charles woke up with the morning sun on his face. His head was pounding. He remembered stopping by the Golden Cockerel for a beer, but he must have had one too many. Or maybe two. He pulled himself to his feet and stumbled to the bathroom when he pulled up short. Thank you Jesus! His prayers had been answered again. He must have prayed hard before he got into bed last night.
He finished his ablutions and counted the money. It would keep those sharks at bay for awhile. He wondered why the lord didn’t just give him all he needed to get himself out of trouble. Oh well, maybe this was God’s way of getting him to pray more. Not that he needed the encouragement, no sir. He was the Lord’s most humble servant.
The following week he left the psychiatrist’s office more agitated than usual. She seemed to know he was “acting”, as she had put it. What did she know? He was a man of God. If he didn’t love his mother so much and follow the Ten Commandments as best he could he wouldn’t even be going there. He needed a beer.
Leaving the Golden Cockerel later he spotted a betting parlour a block down on the right. He really shouldn’t. Still, the lord had been with him lately. Just maybe…he had a sudden sense of deja vu.
Waking up the next morning he prayed fervently before opening his eyes. Why oh why had he gone in that betting shop? He was weak, that’s what it was. He still wasn’t praying hard enough. He would be good. He could do it. If only…he opened his eyes. Hallelujah! Thank you Jesus! Thank you Lord! He would make a generous donation at Our Lady of the Immacualate Conception on Sunday.
That night he went to his parent’s house for dinner. He told them of his reinvigorated faith and that the Lord had blessed him in so many ways. His father was beaming, but his mother had that look on her face. He kept up a patter and tried to steer the conversation in different directions, but she would not be denied.
“Charles…how are things going with your sessions?”
Charles put his fork down and quelled his agitation with a mighty effort. He looked her in the eye. “Mom, the Lord moves in mysterious ways.”