Frozen Between Two Worlds,
Tarp Man...Part II: Access Granted
Church was great today. We worshiped. Praised. Broke bread and even tipped those microscopic shot glasses of grape juice in remembrance of a man so full of love that the Heavens split upon His arrival. The service began sharply at 11. Grabbing a few mints from some little stiff fella holding a box of candy at the entrance to the sanctuary, my eyes settled on the young, maybe-handsome, definitely tall, charismatic, fill-in preacher hugging everyone around him.
“Not again,” I thought. Every time this dude gets up to speak, jealousy surfaces like a geyser as his talks are as flawless as a new pair of Jordans. He wasn’t preaching today though. But he did get up to toss out a few shiny words to the expectant crowd.
“There are weak people all over the world who God yearns to give strength and hope to. In a couple weeks, I’m going to such-and-such country to bring life, hope and peace where such-and-such people are even living in tents.”
The tension in my hand from the Firecracker squeezing it, quickly jumped to the front of the line of my consciousness. As they did mine, the poised preacher’s words drilled miles into her tender heart. Wiping the tears from her puppy-dog-eyes, quivering, she whispered, “No one should have to die like that Jeff, homeless or not. A 22-year-old really froze in that tent under a bridge here in Colorado Springs?”
I softly said,“Yes babe, he did.” Then the steady preacher’s words sent my mind limping back to the chill of the past weekend.
The gang and I ventured into unknown territory. Via phone, Sassy-South-of-the-Border (a fiery...oh-so-helpful..Latina from somewhere down south I can’t pronounce), group texted all of us, “maybe we should go to this new spot under a bridge where I hear the homeless live in tents.” After meeting at basecamp (my house), all in agreement, we pulled up the anchor and set sail. We drove near the spot (Sassy-South-of-the-Border is about as good at directions as I am a rubrics cube).
Slowly driving down the highway looking for signs of the invisible ones, like a frog hunter sweeping the banks of a river, just as we were about to call it quits, we spotted a stammering campfire right off the highway. A swift man in his fifties was salvaging a fallen tree’s remains to fuel his campfire about twenty steps from the highway.
“Dallas, is the name. Y’all ain’t cops are y’ans?”
Scrambling back-and-forth to fetch tender for his fire, tall and lanky, his head scrapped the limbs of a nearby tree. His words were as quick as they were unorganized,
“Johnny cash...I’m an elder around these parts...you wanna go to tent city?...what you make, about $900 a week?...anybody gives you a hard time, you tell ‘em you’re a friend of Dallas and they’ll leave y’ans alone.”
I think it was the new duffle bag hanging out of the truck that turned his attention toward the Firecracker’s (my wife) shiny GMC. As he rummaged through the supplies we had in the back, the matriarch of the area strolled up on the scene.
Mother Mary had a presence that was rugged and worn like the shoes she wore and a street wisdom as deep as the valleys in her leather-like face. She could see deep into a person’s soul and draw out anything impure. When she talked, we listened. Mr. Elvis Boy especially--he took a liken to her for some reason. With the campfire heat blazing on one side of her face and the sounds of the highway bouncing off the other, she said,
“Y’all want to go to Tent City? The spirits tell me y’all are good people...come with me, I’ll take y’ans.”
I have to admit I had my doubts about Sassy-South-of-the-Border when I first met her, but this ended them all. She trusted us. And this lady could see right through all the filth of a person. Like one of those gold sleuths, she picked out the good from the bad of your soul, dissected it and gave it back to you, with just a look.
Meanwhile, in the background next to the highway, lanky Dallas was gearing up for a run. Loaded up with his new duffle bag, hoody, and a beanie from our stash, after what appeared to be a running start, he darted off into the setting sun like a school-boy who’d just gotten a new hunting dog. Mother Mary, pointing a dirty finger toward the trail Dallas disappeared into, said,
“Y’all can go this way to Tent City, that’s if you’re up for the hike.”
As I surveyed the trail, I could sense my heart objecting (it’s been a year-and-a-half since the heart surgery; and I’m not sure the heart’s going to get any better).
We don’t normally give rides, but there was no way we were going to pass up the opportunity to a backstage pass into Colorado’s unknown.
“Can you take us there Mother Mary?”
“Of course,” she answered.
It felt like we had been given a pass to another world...