The Messenger

I was heading west after driving across the country for at least a few weeks when I decided to stop in Pensacola where I was stationed many years before, mostly to see how much it had changed in over a quarter-century. I barely recognized the place it had changed so much and I didn’t think for the better. To me, it seemed as though the entire place had been completely destroyed by development. Even Pensacola beach appeared to be nothing but a wasteland of condominiums. What was once an absolutely beautiful white sand beach between a forest of palm trees and the Gulf of Mexico, was something I could barely stand to see. Unfortunately, this feeling was becoming all too familiar to me over the years.

So I did what anybody whould have done, I went to a bar which I used to frequent and I ordered a glass of gin. As I was standing there alone, quietly swilling my drink down and minding my own business, a man came in and stood to my right at the bar and he ordered a beer. Naturally, I didn’t think too terribly much of that, other than, why didn’t you stand somewhere else? I continued to drink my gin and I tried to ignore the man’s presence as I stood there wondering what had happened to everything I once knew.

A minute or two passed and he said to me, “You know, I never go into bars.”

I shook my head and thought, what a brilliant thing to say. I looked at him and replied, “Well, you’re in one now…enjoy.” I wasn’t a happy camper to say the least and I just wanted to be left alone.

He chuckled and said, “I was told to come in here and give you a message.”

I really wasn’t in the mood to listen to this or anyone or anything at this point in my life, especially someone who apparently, at least in my view, was some sort of quack who was trying to involve me in something in which I wanted no part. But I said, “Yeah alright, who told you to come in here and give me a message?”

He said, “God told me to come in here and give you a message.”

Honestly, I didn’t know if I wanted to hit this guy or what. But after a few moments and some more of my gin I begrudgingly said, “OK, what’s the message?”

He said, “I was told to come in here and tell you not to do what you are thinking of doing,” and he smiled.

I suppose I remained expressionless as I looked at him, but what I was thinking was, how the…could you know what I’m planning on doing anyway? And of course, really, God told you to come in here and give me a message? All I could do was sigh and wonder why I bothered to stop there at that bar in the first place.

Back in those days I drank excessively, but I wasn’t a drunk, I just drank a lot. But I have to admit, it was the first time anyone had walked up to me and said anything like that and in that moment I can most assuredly say I would have preferred not to hear it at all. I really couldn’t believe what this man had just said, actually it was more disbelief than anything else.

Why would someone walk into a bar and stand next to a total stranger, especially someone who considered himself to be an atheist, and claim to be a messenger from God? And unequivocally state on top of that, he was told to come into that bar, at that time, specifically to give me a message? As far as I was concerned, things just kept getting worse. Fortunately, that was all he said with regard to his message, and I was not going to press the issue any further.

Somehow, we proceeded to talk about unrelated matters for a time as I swilled more gin. After we finished our drinks we went out back where we talked quite a bit more. It was the usual pleasant autumn night in the Florida panhandle and I was actually feeling much better than before, and not due to the gin. He seemed like a decent man and despite my attitude at first, I did enjoy speaking with him; he was a good old boy and I was happy to have met him that evening.

He told me what Parish he was from in Louisiana and he told me his name, then he said, “Don’t forget where I’m from or my name.” We shook hands and parted ways.

Of course as you would expect, much to my chagrin and due to my pigheadedness (meaning I didn’t take the advice he was sent there to give me), I can’t remember his name or the Parish from which he hailed. However, I did think quite a bit about what he said that evening and how that could have happened or have been possible, but a lot of water has passed under the bridge since that evening.

It was fairly late so I went next door and got a room and without much more thought on the subject I went to sleep. I suppose I didn’t sleep any better or any worse than any other night, it was without event. The following day after a gigantic breakfast at some greasy spoon it was time to hit the road. I guess I had seen and heard enough, so I continued to head further west.

I made more than a few stops as I meandered across the country on my way back to the Arizona desert. As pleasant as it was at times, it was equally unpleasant, but I did enjoy seeing that part of the country again. Over the course of the next few weeks there were many times when I thought about what that man said to me that night, and how the whole thing was even possible, but I never figured it out. I guess I really just wasn’t paying attention to what the messenger said to me at the bar that evening. I should have listened, it would have saved me a lot of trouble.

Looking back, I would say I was driving toward something, I suppose it was my death. My views during this period of time were pushing me toward something which I apparently couldn’t or wouldn’t stop. I was losing and soon a whole new set of events were about to unfold around me. Everything in my life was about to change and I didn’t even know it.

Brett Baker

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