Jesus Returned but Few Noticed
Beatrice B. Blue
He was a simple man. Shoulder length hair, a scraggly beard and modest clothes to match. He carried a black backpack that held a toothbrush, a day’s worth of extra clothes, a small book of Rumi’s poems on love and an inspiring refrigerator magnet he had found somewhere that read: Be the change you wish to see in the world.
When he came in on the ten a.m. bus, only a few took note. Another drifter, they assumed, ready to suck off everyone’s hard work. It was better to pretend he wasn’t there than to make eye contact and give a friendly southern hello, or worse, feel pressured to give him some change. Charity, after all, was reserved for those who earned their place in Springfield’s society, not lazy wanderers.
The truck stop was one of three major employers in the slow moving town, next to it was a little hole-in-the wall restaurant called, Matt’s Café. The simple man walked through the door of the cafe and every local mentally sized him up then returned to their conversations about the day’s drama in the news.
“What can I do you for?” Mary asked the man as he sat on a bar stool. Mary wasn’t scared of strangers like the others; she found out-of-towners intriguing. One, they didn’t know anything about her past, so no judgements, and two, they had the most interesting stories to tell.
“Sure thing.” Mary turned around and began making a new pot of coffee. “So, where you coming from?”
“Out east…the New England area.”
“Oh yeah, where-bouts? Matt, my boss, is from Boston.”
“I was born in Bethlehem, New Hampshire,” the simple man replied. “Stayed there until my dad got a job in Egypt, Maine, but once I hit twenty, I got a little bored with that after a while and set out for Asia.”
“Wow!” Mary looked back at him while she held his cup and poured the dark brew. “Asia, huh? How exciting, I have always wanted to travel and get out of this place, ya know.” She rolled her eyes, not paying attention to what she was doing and the cup overflowed and burned her tattooed hand. “Shit!” She pressed her lips together so that nothing else escaped. “I’m so sorry, my language tends to slip.”
“No, problem.” He said with a kind but concerned expression. “Are you okay?”
“Yeah,” she stuck her hand under the cold facet at the bar and whispered, “Matt’s got the temperature setting so fricking high, Satan himself would love to take a swim.”
They both laughed.
A bell dinged several times, calling Mary’s attention. “Sunnyside up!”
Matt yelled from the rectangular window. “Two shingles with a shimmy and a shake!” A plate emerged with eggs and jelly covered toasts in the warm stainless steel window.
“Hey Matt, you gotta neighbor here!” Mary nodded to the simple man as she grabbed the plate with her good hand. “He grew up back east, too.”
“Oh yeah,” Matt, a former club owner responded with a thick Bostonian accent. Matt left Boston after his divorce. He had to start over, and most of all get away from the white powder that had caused his divorce. He sold his business for quite a profit, under the table, of course, to avoid taxes, and needed to lay low and off the government’s radar. Springfield was the perfect place for that. He could blend in, launder the money through the café, and because the people were old fashioned and ultra-religious, drugs were scarce, keeping his temptations for the nose candy on the down low. A win-win for Matt. “What parts?” Matt asked.
The simple man told him he was raised just two and a half hours outside Boston, and a friendly conversation began about old times, good friends and great food. Several hours later, the simple man thanked them for the friendly conversation as it was time he go. Mary gave him his ticket and the man counted his pennies. He had just enough to pay for the three coffees and to tip Mary. Mary realized this was all the money the man had.
Moved to compassion, she told him there was no need to tip her, not that she didn’t need the money, Matt paid awful wages and the people that tipped here usually weren’t that generous due to her shady past. Most felt she needed to suffer a little more for her sins. But, today, it was an honor for her to serve this man so she didn’t mind about the money.
The man’s heart was moved by her kindness because he knew Mary needed the money more than he did, she had a little girl, Sinclair Grace, at home, to feed and she was a month behind on all her bills.
The simple man took her burned hand in his and said, “Bless you, Mary.” A happy, joyful feeling pierced her heart and she knew something significant had just happened to her.
That night, Mary unwrapped her hand to put some Aloe Vera on it and to her surprise the burn was gone. That was strange, she thought, it was so red and burned she had considered going to the hospital earlier. Had she had insurance or the money to afford a medical bill, she would have went.
Happy it was all better, Mary went on with her evening routine and counted her tips. Something wasn’t right though. She discovered an extra thousand dollars. How could this be? She never received a tip that large, she would most certainly have remembered that.
Her eyes became blurry, and she looked up at the ceiling. “Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!” She could now buy some food for her and Sinclair, instead of eating scraps from the café, and pay the overdue rent.