“Look Dave, I know you mean well and all, but somedays it just get’s a little old, alright.” Jeff and Dave had been working in the same area of the plant for about three years now, and although they did not always work side by side, they saw each other on a fairly regular basis. Dave appreciated the fact that Jeff had spent extra time with him when he had first hired on at the big factory on the outskirts of town, teaching him some of the various nuances of the different machines that Jeff himself had been around for over twenty years.
Jeff didn’t mind the young kid, he had seen enough of them come and go, he seemed willing to learn and that was always half the battle. Jeff had started on the night shift twenty-seven years ago, at about the same age that Dave was now, had stuck with it not only when the company had hard times, but his own also, and it had paid off. He was now a floor supervisor in the final staging area of the production facility and ran the machinery only when necessary, his other duties taking up the majority of his time. For the last few years it had become more and more difficult to get the new workers to show up to work, much less stick around, especially in this particular area of the plant. The work was repetitive and tedious and could become boring very quickly, and that was the reason he didn’t mind working around Dave so much, at least the kid showed up, didn’t complain hardly at all and generally seemed to be in a good mood.
“Sorry Dave, didn’t mean to come off as rude, it’s just been a long day and I’m ready for the weekend.” “That’s alright Jeff,” the young man replied, “I understand, but the offer still stands.” They got their work gear off, and after waiting to clock out with the several hundred other employees, headed to their cars and then they’re separate ways. “Kids always got something positive to say at least,” Jeff thought to himself as he started his car, “wish I could do the same.”
Dave’s smile was not always on his face, but it was never faked when he offered it. At twenty-six he had known his fair share of suffering, at least that was how he used to look at it. Mother and father killed by a drunk driver when he was only sixteen, spending the next two years living at his aunts house, rebelling enough that on his eighteenth birthday there were suitcases waiting at the front door for him, and stern looks from his uncle that Dave knew that he meant what he said when he told him not to come back.
The only job that he could get after his year and a half in prison was at a pizza place, and the only good part about it was the girl he met while working there, his wife now of almost four years. She was the one who watered the seed that three of the long-term prisoners had spoken to him about, and now at age twenty-six Dave was the youth leader at their church and in training to be an associate pastor. “I have every reason to smile,” he thought as he pulled into the driveway of their small but comfortable home, a home filled with love for each other and for Christ. Jeff was of course not the only person that he was witnessing to at work, but he was one of the few that did not mock his faith, didn’t make fun of his beliefs. These things did not bother Dave much, he knew that he had brothers and sisters in Christ around the planet that were suffering much, much worse. He said a small but intensely felt prayer for them and for Jeff as he walked through the front door of his house and into the loving arms of his wife and small daughter.
“Same old day, dear?” “Same old day” Jeff said to his wife of many years, his once college darling. She knew how he was feeling, having learned every expression on his face over their many years of marriage, but today he looked very bad, the pain was quite evident. “Go sit down, I’ll make some coffee” she said as she took his lunchbox and set his work boots in their regular spot by the door. He had eaten very little of his lunch again, and as she open her mouth to say so, she thought better of it. Jeff’s wife had reluctantly agreed that as little as possible would be brought up between them about the diagnosis that the specialist had given them about his terminal condition three months ago.
“We are sorry, but there is nothing more that we can be done but to ease the pain.” Those were the last words that the doctor had spoken to them, and they were etched in Jeff’s mind as if in stone, almost always at the forefront of his thoughts. Today had been especially bad, he had never realized that there could be such pain, the pain pills that he had been given didn’t even seem to touch the fire in his body, but he gave a half-hearted smile and swallowed the two with his coffee that his wife put into his hand.
As she went back into the kitchen to prepare the evening meal, a dinner he knew that he would not be able to keep down, his thoughts went to some of the words that Dave had spoken to him that day, words the he had been repeating more or less since the first day the kid had started working at the plant. Dave had invited him to church more than a few times, and Jeff knew where the church was, had even driven past it one Sunday morning on his way to the store just to see how many cars were in the parking lot, but had never taken him up on the offer.
Jeff and his wife were not religious people, never had been, everything they owned they paid for themselves, worked hard all of their lives for them, even put two kids through college, took a lot of overtime but he was not about to go into any bank to borrow money. He took another sip from his coffee, about the only thing he could keep down the last week or so, and thought about some of the other things the kid had spoken about. Of course, he always brought up his Jesus, kid talked about him like he was his best friend or something, but it was a little unnerving to be around Dave when he talked about that Holy Spirit guy, it sounded to Jeff like he had some kind of ghost living inside of him, like some alien was directing his thoughts.
“Weird stuff” Jeff thought as the coffee turned his stomach into a fireball, a pain shooting up his side like he was being split open. “Be a man” he whispered under his breath as he brushed away the tears of intense physical pain. He thought about when he had told Dave that the only way a man makes it in this world is by working hard, by going and doing what needs to be done, by not depending on anybody but himself. “The works already been done, Jeff” he had replied with that silly smile on his face. He knew what the kid was talking about of course, Jeff had ears, he meant his Jesus dying on a cross and taking away every body’s sins, then coming back alive again.
“Yea, sure, dead guys coming back to life, you bet” Jeff thought to himself as an excruciating pain like he had never felt before seemed to grip his entire body immediately in a vice-like grip. He thought he heard himself utter a piercing scream, but he looked quickly into the kitchen and saw his wife continuing about her business of preparing the evening meal. He felt himself beginning to sweat profusely, like someone had just turned the furnace up as high as it would go, but it was early spring, and he could see the curtains fluttering from the breeze blowing through them.
“You know, He really does love you.” Jeff heard Dave’s voice as clear as a bell, in fact he turned to see if he was really there, but the house was empty except for his wife and him. “Look at all that stuff you’ve got, and what good did any of it do you?” Jeff was terrified now, he didn’t know whose voice that was, the words seemed to be coming from inside his head. “You were supposed to be on that cross Jeff, but I took your place and I did it because I love you, and I want you to be with me where I am.”
The sweat was pouring off Jeff now, his body twisting in agonizing pain, he saw his wife’s terrified face staring into his, tears pouring down her face, screaming his name over and over as she shook his pain racked body. He started to scream at the top of his lungs, “No, I did it all, I earned all this stuff, you’re not real, get away from me, get away from me, I don’t need you!”
A few moments later the pain was gone, Jeff could no longer hear himself screaming, but off in the distance he could hear other’s, thousands and thousands it seemed like, wailing and screaming in the twilight darkness.
“Well, did you have a chance to talk to anyone today?” Dave was making airplane sounds as he attempted to fly the next spoonful of green stuff into his darling daughters giggling mouth as she sat in her highchair at the small kitchen table. “Yes, I did, and I would really like to pray for Jeff again before we eat, I think he might actually be listening a little more than he used to.” “Of course, sweetheart” she said with a smile as she sat the dinner rolls on the table.