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A Simple Handshake
Alice C. Bateman & Clive S.
Luke and Bobby, frantically slapping at mosquitoes, were finally discussing how to kill Dan. "The knife!" Luke insisted.
"No, the tire iron! You know I canít stand the sight of blood!"
"Christ, Bobby, you are the biggest freakiní cry baby I have ever known! What the hell kind of killer canít handle a little blood? You make me want to
Luke was totally disgusted. Bobby had been whining for hours about how he didnít really want to kill anyone. Stealing and dealing drugs was one
thing, but killing put them on a whole new level.
"Yeah, and since when exactly have you been some freaking hotshot killer, Luke? You make me sick, pretendiní itís nothiní, that you can just whack
some guy for a piece of tail, and it donít mean nothiní! I donít know Ďbout
you, bro, but I still remember the Ten Commandments."
At this, Luke burst out laughing and rolled over and over on the ground heíd been sitting on. "The Ten freaking Commandments! Jesus Christ,
Bobby, when the hell did you get religious? You ainít been near a church since we was kids,
and that time Maw dragged us in by the ear!" Luke choked out between bouts of laughter.
"Aw, shut up, Luke. You donít know nothiní. I been doing everíthing youíve
told me all our lives, and Iím just getting sick of it!"
"What? You little pissant! Whad'you do, go out behind my back and grow some guts?" Luke poked his younger brother in the chest as he yelled at
him. "You just do what I damn well tell you, you slug!"
"íSíthat what you really think of me, Luke? Donít you love me at all?"
At this, Luke burst out laughing again. "Love you? Shit, I dunno. You ainít serious, are you?" There was something in Bobbyís expression that made
Luke stop and look more closely at him. "Bobby? What the hellís going on in that
pea brain of yours anyway?"
"Aw, I dunno, Luke, beiní out here has kind of made me feel like there might be more to life than what we know about, you know?"
"What the hell you talkiní about! We got it made. We got all the drugs that we
got time for, all the booze and tail we can handle, we always got money, we eat. What the hell else is there?"
"Donít know, Luke, but I aim to find out. One thing I am sure of, though, killing that guy would be a very bad thing to do.
Wrong. God-wrong, like itís something He might just decide to pay us back for,
you know? Thereís lots of legs that will spread for us, Luke, what do we need that woman for? Let her find somebody else."
"Shit, Bobby, you mean to tell me that I gotta do this all by myself? Shit, man!
Iíd of brought somebody with guts if Iíd known you didnít have any!" Luke grabbed another beer from the almost empty two-four, snapped the cap off
angrily, and threw it at his brother sitting cross-legged about three feet away.
Luke didnít like the expression on Bobbyís face. The vacant hero-worship look
was gone, and a thoughtful expression had replaced it. He couldnít ever remember catching Bobby thinking before, let alone talking back!
"All right, man! Shit! Iíll freakiní do it myself then! And Iíll use my freakiní
knife!" Luke slid his five inch blade out of itís pouch at the back of his belt,
ran his thumb along the edge, and said, "Me aní Mack donít need you, you wimp!"
Bobby remained motionless and silent.
"Whereís the freakiní flashlight? Itís gonna be dark by the time I get back
now, you little weasel." Luke stood up and gave Bobby a kick on the thigh. Instead
of springing to his feet to grapple with Luke as they always had, Bobby remained calm, and gave Luke an appraising look.
Somewhere during the dayís speed trip, Bobby'd had an awesome experience, and been shown that the path
he was following was the wrong one. And that he didnít need Luke to order his life for him, not if he stood firm with God.
For a couple of hours now, they had been arguing, much to Lukeís shock and dismay. Bobby had always been his kick-dog, his lackey, the object of
his scorn and abuse. Luke needed Bobby for those things, to make himself feel strong.
He couldnít understand what was going on with his little brother at all. He seemed calm and self-assured, and his face even looked different.
Bobby always gave up and agreed with whatever Luke wanted to do, but today he was
adamant in insisting that he would not go along with killing.
Luke had no idea that Bobby had experienced a spiritual awakening, because there was absolutely no way Bobby would even try to explain it to him. Heíd
only be subjected to endless ridicule if he tried. Besides, it was too personal to
share, too impossible to put into words. Bobby hugged the experience to his heart and soul.
Somewhere in the early afternoon, his consciousness had expanded. Heíd been sitting on the shore, tossing small rocks into the water, with a fix of speed in his
system. Heíd switched from drinking beer to drinking the clear water from the lake hours previously. His eyes were enjoying the play of the sunlight on the
rippling water, his ears were tuned to the intermingling calls of the birds.
Luke had been drinking Bobbyís and his own shares of the beer, and was passed out face down in the tent.
Bobby was alone and at peace, for virtually the first time in his life. Raised in
the Projects in Toronto, Bobby had never had a chance to reach, or even glimpse, his own potential. Shy and quiet, it was easier for Bobby to
play follow the leader than to try and break away from Luke. Heíd always known
that under all the bravado, Luke needed him. Even if only as someone to humiliate, to make himself feel important or superior. Because
he loved his brother, and remembered something about Ďyou are your brotherís keeper,í
Bobby had put up with Lukeís treatment for as much of his twenty-three years as he could remember.
The two boys had different fathers. Their mother had never married. All his life
Bobby had heard about how his father was some drunken, gambling Russian who was no good for anything, and how Lukeís Dad had at least stuck around
and helped her out now and then. Bobby had felt guilty for years, for the actions of another man.
His mother said she hadnít even told his no good Russian drunk of a father that
she was pregnant, there was no way on earth she was going to get involved with a man who couldnít even speak English. Or one who spent all his time at
Woodbine Race Track or in some poker game. And that gave Eugene two strikes against
him already. She wasnít going to wait around, hanging around him, until she found out what the final strike might be.
Eugene. Thatís the only name he knew his father by. Bobbyís mom could never remember his last name, she said it was just incomprehensible
gibberish to her.
Lost in thought, Bobbyís lazily drifting eyes were caught by a particular sparkle
on the water. His eyes held on the spot, then seemed to unfocus slightly. The sparkle shimmered around the edges, and grew large. To his amazement, but no
discomfort or feeling of strangeness, no feeling of being startled, a brilliant blue
background appeared within the shimmering frame of light.
On the screen appeared the living face of Jesus, or so it appeared to him. Long,
reddish gold hair, a beard, kindly face and eyes. Bobby could no longer hear the birds or anything else, he became totally impervious to his surroundings,
seeing only the vision. Transfixed and in awe, Bobby sat in the same position for hours, connected to something he couldnít put into words. But the
occasional radiant smile that transformed Bobbyís countenance said it all.
Bobby had at last met his father.
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