Bridge Between Heaven and Hell, Chapter 3

Chapter 3   The Come To Jesus Meeting

The world turned and skies were painted a deeper gray and the river flowed out of control as the rain continued. The weathered old man waited patiently to hear a river moron story he was sure would be worth hearing.  The Wolf Dog watched quietly as the weathered old man wrote in a leather bound journal that had obviously been a victim of years of use and abuse. He laughed as he wrote and talk to himself as ideas came to him.

The nest started to move more vigorously than before. Then there were several minutes of uncontrolled coughing. When the coughing stopped the voice from the nest asked. “Were the hell am I? Are you still there? I think you need to get me to a hospital.”

“Well Mr. Demanding Dipstick. That’s a damn fine idea.” The weather old man laughed uncontrollably for several minutes. “Yeah, since I don’t have a cell phone and there’s no electricity here, I think I’ll just swim that raging river out there so I can end up just like you did. A matter of fact I think I’ll do it stark naked too, that seems to be the style these days. How does that sound to you Mr. Nude Trendsetter, yeah, that’s what I’m going to do. Yeah, I want to be exactly like you Mr. Style. I can see myself laying face down on a gravel bar naked with crows in Turkey vultures fighting over who was going to eat my private parts. Yeah, that’s what I’m going to do, risk my life being a moron because I want to be just like you. As matter of fact, I’m stripping down right now just because you’ve been such a grateful nice person to me. Yeah, it’s just too dang bad that we used our last wish from the genie bottle to turn up the heat here at Fantasy Island. Because if I had a wish left I would have a medical helicopter land right here at Fantasy Island so the whole medical profession of Idaho can kiss your royal ass.” The weathered old man laughed at his own humor like he was watching a comedy act.

  The nest was silent but the weathered old man could see movement. Occasionally just to poke at the bear under the blankets, he would talk and mumble to himself not quite loud enough to be heard. Then he would let loose another exaggerated laughing rant.

After a long silence the nest moved in unison with a loud grunt as the voice from under the nest became a human figure squatting by the fire. He aggressively wrapped himself up in the deerskins and blankets as he moaned. “You don’t happen to have any Tylenol or better yet some prescription pain pills do you? I feel like I’ve been drug through hell, right to the edge of death.”

The weathered old man chuckled as he said. “Now we’re getting somewhere, that getting drug through hell deal is the story I want to hear. You just need to fill in all the cracks and tell the truth in some detail and then we can figure out why you were sunbathing naked on Fantasy Island beach on a rainy day.” The weather old man laughed and looked at the man wrapped in the nest. “Really not even one little laugh out of that comment. That was some of my best humor. I guess you’re just going to sit there locked in your little box of thoughts. And not laugh or cry or show emotion. Come on Sonny boy give me something I can work with. I’ve been alone here all winter with your new Wolf Dog girlfriend you’ve been kissing. And frankly Mr. Stone Cold Silence, that Wolf Dog doesn’t like to chat much either.  The worst part of my cabin fever is he doesn’t think I’m funny at all.”

The whether old man and the man in the nest could see each others face as the fire flickered a dim light. The only sound was the rain pounding on the shelter and the raging river grinding logs into bits and pieces. But neither one smiled they just stared at each other as if emotions had been removed from the earth. Finally the old man filled a tin can from the steaming makeshift teapot and handed it to the man in the nest. “This is better than any painkiller a doctor would give you. Now let’s start over in our relationship. Why not start by telling me who you are?”

  Bobby took a sip of the tea and then another and stared at the steam rising from the can without looking at the weather old man. Bobby just wasn’t ready yet to share his story, which he wanted to be washed down the murky Snake River. The weather old man reached up and unhooked one of the smoke trout from the barbed wire hook. He picked a small piece of meat away from the bones with his fingers and put it in his mouth.  He then created an exaggerated teasing moan of taste bud joy, loud enough for Bobby to hear. He then spoke to the Wolf Dog. “Holy moly this is good I’ll bet you’re hungry.” The Wolf Dog whined and the weather old man tossed him a large piece of skin, which the Wolf Dog consumed without chewing.

 This continue for what seemed like a long time until Bobby finally looked the old man in the eyes and said in an angry voice. “I haven’t eaten since I don’t know when and that sure looks good, how about sharing that with me.” The weathered old man continued eating silently until the fish was gone. He tossed what was left of the fish to the Wolf Dog, which he consumed instantly. Bobby finally yelled, “Are you just going to sit there silently and be a jackass.”

 The shelter filled with loud laughter and the Wolf Dog howled. The weathered old man placed a piece of wood on the fire then reached up and unhooked another trout from the barbed wire and handed it to Bobby and then said just loud enough to be heard. “Silence can be deafening can’t it? Especially when you’re hungry and it’s attached to a big dose of what comes around goes around.”

 Bobby didn’t acknowledge the weathered old man’s statement. His full attention was on eating the fish. He couldn’t get the meat off the bone fast enough. He swallowed before he chewed and moaned the whole time. He gave the Wolf Dog, who was almost laying in his lap, pieces of skin as he ate the meat. When he was done he gave the head and bones to the Wolf Dog, who consumed it without chewing. Bobby released a comfortable moan and then he took another sip of tea. “Hey old man,” Bobby said and then moaned. “That was the best trout I have ever eaten.”

Bobby started looking around at the inside of the shelter as he finished his tea.  Bobby looked at the weather old man without seeing the wisdom he needed to see and said “Wow. Did you build this?” The weather old man answered, “Yes but the architect was a beaver that lives on the end of the island. Can you see the similarities of beaver lodge construction techniques?”

 Bobby laughed for the first time in a year as he studied the weathered old man’s eyes. “So who the hell are you?” Bobby asked. “You’re not the typical homeless man I’ve ever met, and I’ve met my share. You are definitely different and I think I’m going to figure out who and what you really are.  I’m pretty sure I have all the time in the world to do that. It’s not like I’m going anywhere soon or I have some place I need to be.”

 The weathered old man grunted and said to the Wolf dog. “That’s a damn good point. I think he already missed his appointment in hell, or just maybe he was early and they threw his ass out.” The weathered old man laughed hysterically as he threw a stick on the fire.

 Bobby didn’t see the humor in the weathered old man’s verbal abuse. And said. “You know old man, I wouldn’t quit my day job if I were you. I’m sure you couldn’t make it as a standup comedian. Trust me you’re really not that funny.” The old man took a sip of tea with his hand wrapped around the cup so Bobby could see he was flipping him the bird.

 Bobby rolled his eyes as he told the weathered old man. “Why don’t you talk first and tell me your story. Then if I think there’s any truth to it I will tell you mine. Why don’t we start with what your name is and then proceed from there.”

 The old man looked at the Wolf Dog and spoke. “It’s amazing what a little smoked Trout and a sip or two of my special truth serum tea will do for a man that not long ago, almost became a slimy pile of Turkey Vulture crap. Personally I think your a little demanding for a guy that is wrapped up in my blankets and deerskin and is enjoying a fire at my personal estate. But if this is what it takes to get you to flap your tongue and smack your lips then I’m ready to rock and roll Mr. Beached Skinny Whale.”

 The weathered old man looked at the Wolf Dog again and said. “I don’t think Mr. Snake River Flasher knows who’s supposed to be the therapist here.” Then he chuckled as he poured Bobby some more tea and carefully placed a couple more small pieces of wood on the fire. “That is a damn fine idea.” The weathered old man said in a smartass tone. “I think a breathing talking dead man should know a little bit about his mortician before he lets him dissect his mind, body and soul.

So here we go, I’ll start by telling you about my dog. She’s not really a dog at all she’s 100% Wolf. When she was a pup I found her with her leg caught in a Beaver trap along the river. She had almost chewed through her back leg to set herself free. So I hypnotized her and brought her here to my riverside luxury home, combination veterinarian office. I sharpened up my old buck knife and sterilized it in the fire and then amputated her injured leg. Then I invited her to stay and I nursed her back to heath with holistic medicine and lots of love.”

Bobby looked over and shared a hug with the Wolf and felt the stump where a rear leg used to be. The whether old man watched carefully then continued. “You can’t buy the kind of loyalty you get when you save a man or any living thing from sure death.”  The weathered old man started chuckling as he told Bobby. “Yeah, She more than repaid the favor one night when a black bear came to visit. The bear probably thought it was happy hour and had heard what a masterful chef I was. I can’t believe he decided to bust in this fine establishment help himself to some free hors d’oeuvres.

You should’ve seen it, Mr. Sexually Confused Mermaid. That crazed bear came charging ass holes and elbows through the elk skin door without even knocking. I’ll tell you what Mr. Nude Beach Lover, it was like an F5 tornado touched down in this place. There was bear hair, wolf hair, and blood from hell to breakfast. Firewood was flying everywhere, and for a moment my teapot ended up on the Bears head like he came here shopping for hats. It was the damnedest thing I’ve ever seen. I’ll tell you what, it didn’t take that bear long to understand he was getting his ass handed to him. Yeah, it wasn’t long, but it seemed like forever, before that bully bear ran bawling out the door like his ass was on fire, and actually it was. I don’t know if you’ve ever smelled burning bear hide but it will get you higher than a kite. It was hilarious the wolf had pinned him down on the ground right here in my fireplace. It just long enough to give that freeloading bear a fire enema.” The old man laughed so hard that he started to cough uncontrollably. It was several minutes before he could tell Bobby. “You know, in the beginning I just called her Wolf, but after the fire enema, F5 storm from hell incident I started calling her Angel. Appropriate, don’t you think?”

Finally Bobby laughed from deep down inside, a place he hadn’t laughed from for a year. The weathered old man watched and listened carefully and knew he was getting somewhere. Bobby reached over and started scratching and tickling Angel.  Finally he looked up into the eyes of the weathered old man and said softly, “I wish my wife would’ve had a Wolf like Angel, then we would still be together and I wouldn’t have needed to take my sabbatical from life.”

 Bobby sat quietly for a moment scratching the Wolf’s head. He finally spoke in a voice mixed with anger and sadness. The only thing I really think I understand about life is that God created some people that are truly evil, dark souls that have no concern for another person’s pain. And I can’t figure out why the hell he did that? It’s a question I’ve been asking, and is something I need an answer for. I’ve asked the question on my knees way too many times to hear nothing but silence and my own tears hitting the floor.”

The weather old man looked at Bobby who was now crying and said, “You know Mr. Skinny Dipper, what makes you think God created evil men? Do you think it might be possible that evil men are just victims of their life and other evil men? You know they might just be a product of their screwed up dysfunctional environment. Maybe all men were created, honest, compassionate, loving, truthful and lily white. Maybe something happened to them that you could never understand unless it happened to you. Maybe no one on this earth has the right to judge another man because you will never understand another mans truth until the next part of the journey. Where maybe just maybe, an existence without emotion will give us perfect vision. Then we can look back from the point of perfect perspective and total indifference. Maybe then we will totally understand the step in the journey we just finished.”

Bobby’s head was down and he refused to look up, the weathered old man could hear Bobby trying to hold back his tears to no avail. The weathered old man spoke softly to Bobby. “You know son, the secret to life is learning to control what you can control and don’t waste time trying to control the uncontrollable. There are sinners in this world and there are Saints. I think our mission here on this rock is to figure out which is which so we can find happiness. Another thing I’ve noticed is there are people out there who are givers and there are the users of the world. And the users can smell the givers a hundred miles away. The users believe they are entitled to everything that is yours, your money, your possessions, your happiness, and even your life. The secret to happy life is to identify the users and takers. Then learn to separate yourself from all the dysfunction, especially people, but also situations and institutions. Then you will have quality time to fix yourself and find happiness. Which by the way in your particular case I’ve noticed, your body, soul and mind is like a beat to hell 1960 something Ford truck.  It is vibrating as it rolls down the road, leaking oil and every other liquid. And it is blowing blue oil smoke like a 911 call waiting to happen.”

Bobby was too upset to acknowledge the weathered old man’s humor. But that didn’t keep the weathered old man from laughing at himself. Angel had crawled over and was now in Bobby’s lap offering comfort for all the pain that was trapped in Bobby’s soul. It wasn’t long before Bobby was snoring cuddled up next to Angel. The weather old man poured himself some more tea and placed stick on the fire. Then spoke softly to Angel. “Well girl, there is pain and anger oozing from every pore in this young man’s body and soul. But you know there’s something about him that makes me believe he could be one of the special ones. I hope he will let us get inside and fill that hole in his soul. That’s just me talking Angel, you can make your own decision.”

When Bobby was asleep the rain continued heavier than before and played hypnotic music to sleep by. The mighty Snake River added percussion to the magical music as it churned. Huge root masses connected to trees floating on the surface disappeared into swirling sinkholes to be ground into small sticks. It was as if the river knew it had a job of cleansing the earth to do. They say the ancient ones, that lived along this great river, believed the spirit of the river knows all things. They say the river is like life itself, and all must be pushed and pulled along in the journey downstream to ensure the process of continuum.

 Inside the shelter the old man had spent the silent time writing in his journal, cutting and sewing leather and scratching words on flat river stones. Bobby was snuggled in the nest with Angel and was dreaming vivid dreams of 20 some odd years of sheer bliss. He dreamed he was renewing his wedding vows with Rachel on top of Haystack peak again. He felt like he is there as they watched the sunset and then made love in the moonlight as the stars applauded. He dreamed they were skinny dipping again at Grizzly Lake in the Wind Rivers. It was like he was in that grassy mountain meadow in Montana on his honeymoon again, and they were teasing each other on a blanket as the wind tickled their skin. He dreamed he was in her father’s haystack hugging and kissing Rachel, the love of his life. Bobby was teased out of his dream by reality. He woke and realized Angel was licking his face. Instead of pushing the Wolf, away he put his arms around her and enjoyed the moment.

The weather old man said, as he sharpened his buck knife, “I’m pretty sure you needed that little siesta, I don’t know who was snoring the loudest you are or Angel. I was actually going to take a little nap myself, but it’s hard to sleep when it sounds like someone is using a chainsaw in your house.”

 Bobby smiled silently as he sat up with a blanket wrapped around him. “Man I can’t quite get the fog out of my head” he said, as he shook his head back and forth. “How long was I out, better yet how long have I been here?”

The usually humorous weathered old man looked at Bobby without even a smile and replied. “I’m pretty sure not long enough Mr. Clock Watcher.” Bobby didn’t even know how to comment to that statement. The weathered old man handed him some hot tea. Then he unhooked another trout from the barbed wire at the top of the shelter and handed it to Bobby. The weathered old man carefully placed another stick on the fire and watched Bobby consume the trout. This time Bobby gave almost half of the fish to Angel. The weathered old man laughed to himself as he watched the bond between Angel and Bobby.

“Let the magic or madness begin.” The weathered old man said loud enough to startle Bobby. He chuckled at the surprised look on Bobby’s face. “I guess it’s time for me to fill this exquisite piece of architecture with propaganda, bull crap and a thick smoke screen.” Bobby didn’t know what to make of the comment and decided not to ask. “Here is the real bona fide truth about me Mr. Truth Seeker. I can say with pride that I’m not an attorney or have ever practiced law. I’m pretty sure I’ m not dumb enough to do that. As well I have never been a politician, I’ m just to damn honest of a person for that self-serving job. But I have dabbled in psychology, psychiatry and psychotherapy, and I must say I have a pretty good handle on it even though I don’ t have a degree. So don’t call me Doctor and put my ass in a sling with the professional licensing board. So here’s another truthful fact, I’ve been a life coach to a lot of people even though I don’ t have any certification. And as far as I know I haven’t screwed anyone up to bad yet, but the day is still young. What I really am is a professional people watcher. I’d say I’m captain of the All-Star team, and you know what, I think the sport is far more interesting than football or baseball or soccer. But is probably a close tie with professional wrestling and full contact golf with helmets and guns. I like to think of myself as a damn fine fisherman which obviously you’ve seen the truth of that statement. Now here’s the deal Mr. Jail Bate, I’m going to give you fair warning, if the Idaho Fish and Game comes busting through that door, you are the one who caught all these fish without a license and poached the rabbit and duck out of season.”

The weathered old man was talking fast and it was as if he didn’t even have to stop and breathe. It was like he was reciting a memorized speech as he spewed the words out. “Here’s another fact, Mr. Worried Look On His Face.  I have never been to prison or spend more than three months at a time at the cuckoo’s nest. Oh and I almost forgot, although I’ m not licensed in the state of Idaho I do believe I can design and build a house out of mud sticks and garbage better than any old fart in these parts. I’ve also been called a Wolf whisperer by all the Alpha Wolves in the area.  As well, as I have told you, I’ m a damn fine veterinarian, although I’ve never been to vet school. But as you can see, the proof of my professionalism and expertise is that new girlfriend you’ re cuddled up to and kissing. Yeah, I believe, Mr. I Better Cut And Run, I have the perfect mix of left-brain logic and the right brain artistic, creative, almost anything goes mentality. Which by the way reminds me I could just possibly be the best poet in the universe. Which of course makes an expert in philosophy. In fact I have a PhD from Crazy World University.  So hang on tight to your IQ because I intend on proving that to you with combinations of words that will fry your brain. That is, if there’s any brain in that thick skull to fry after spending too much time not breathing at the bottom of the Snake River.”

 The weathered old man was enjoying the strange look on Bobby’s face so he just kept on trying to blow his already tangled mind with his word tornado. “So here’ s the deal Mr. I Can’t Swim Worth A Damn, I’ m pretty good at anything I try. Especially filling a room full of propaganda, bull crap, and a thick smoke screen. Which reminds of another one of my many fine talents, I’m really not afraid of anything. I can kick a Grizzly Bears ass with one hand tied behind my back and with my legs in shackles. I can ride a wild Mustang through hell and steal a six from the devil. I can teach a wild mountain lion to purr like a kitten. Oh and by the way you can call me the name given to me by a Blackfoot Indian healer who I saved from the part of him that loved whiskey. He called me River Man. A fine name indeed don’t you think, Mr. Fried Brain River Cadaver.”

Bobby was laughing before River Man finished is long speech and continued laughing for a long time, “So River Man that’s quite a resume for someone living in a beaver lodge look-alike on an island in the Snake River. Someone with that kind of experience should probably have a huge house on the hill overlooking this river. You’ve got to admit that you don’t reek of success.”

River Man let loose a long hearty laugh. He threw a stick on the fire and then chuckled a little more. He looked into Bobby’s eyes and said. “That’s a pretty uneducated comment for someone as smart as you. Seriously Mr. Raven Bate, all the really smart men I’ve spent time with usually spend their free time swimming naked in the Snake River at flood stage. So Mr. Einstein, here is what I see happening right now. You’ve got a bucket full of cow pies that define your life. And you’re trying to jam my world into your shit covered bucket. My guess is someone with as big of an ego as you have, would never spend time in self-imposed solitary confinement meditating, writing and praying. Especially not in an uncomfortable environment like, lets say alone for an entire winter, in a one room shack on the Snake River. Yeah, you would probably be too damn scared living in a look-alike beaver Lodge without a phone or electricity or nothing to protect you from the bogeyman. So Mr. Denial, will you ever be ready to spend as long as it takes, when you find a perfect place, to introspect deep under your own skin. You are ready for the task, from your time in homeless shelters, or waiting out the rain in any shelter you could find.  So pack your bags Mr. Time Traveler, you are ready to fly somewhere past the great beyond and past the distractions in the noise of the world.”

 Bobby sat silently staring at the fire seemingly not listening. So River man continued his speech “Here’s what I think Mr. Stick Your Head In The Sand.  You keep telling yourself that you’re not ready to go there, because you really don’t want to find the answer to a question you haven’t even asked. So listen up Mr. Little River Boy. You might want to take this opportunity in my beaver Lodge to do a little internal excavation. So you can find and dispose of all your preconceived self-imposed nonsense you’ve stored inside. Because all the meaningless crap in your bucket has been fermenting with hate and frankly it stinks. So maybe if you quit being a dipstick we can dump the bucket and give you some swimming lessons and see if you can get on with your life.”

Bobby still hadn’t looked up from the fire and River Man didn’t care he just continued to speak without coming up for air. “Oh and by the way Little River Boy, I took my turn and spilled my guts and didn’t even lie once to you, so now you get to feed me full of your magic and logical madness. And guess what, I need to warn you as an expert people watcher, I can see a lie in someone’s eyes and hear a lie more than a 100 miles away. So consider yourself warned, if you lie to me I will drag you and your skinny sickly ass out to the gravel bar and throw you back where you came from. Then hopefully you can find someone else that will save you from you. Yeah, you might be better off with someone that won’t call bull shit on your piss and pity party. Someone who will think it feels good when they let you blow smoke up their behind. Of course, there’s a good chance that you might just drowned when I throw your ass back in that river because you’ve lost your will to fight.”

Bobby started to talk but coughed uncontrollably for a couple of minutes finally he looked into the eyes of River Man as tears rolled down his cheeks and he said in an emotional voice. “I ended up on your island after I jumped off the old railroad bridge upstream. I had been looking for a way to end it all for quite a while now. I thought about jumping in front of truck or maybe a train, but I didn’t want to leave a bloody mess that might show up in someone’s bad dreams down the road.”

Bobby stopped talking and coughed uncontrollably before he spoke again. “When I was halfway across the river I knew I was at the place I had been looking for. You know what’s crazy is that as I stripped down to leave the world the same way I came into it. I felt warmer than I’ve ever been. And when I hit the water it felt like I might have felt in the womb, you know so safe, comfortable, peaceful and totally weightless. Anyway the next thing I remember was Angel sticking her tongue down my throat.”

 River Man took the opportunity for a long planned silence as Bobby cuddled Angel and cried. Finally River Man asked, “So Mr. Wolf Kisser, why don’t you tell me your real name, I’m running out of classic nicknames. Oh and by the way, so far you passed my lie detector test. So why don’t you keep telling me your story, right down to the smallest detail. Yeah, feel free to tell me things you wouldn’t tell your mother.”

The Bridge Between Heaven And Hell-
A Story About Changing Preconceived Perceptions About God,

Book 1   of   Unlikely Disciples.
© Paul H. Keeler… A Cosmic Cowboy

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