512 Words

You'll Never Touch Me

M. Stanley Bubien

A cold breeze blew through my coat and iced my lonely bones, for, on this soap box, I stood above the crowd flowing by, leaving me unprotected, untouched by the warmth of the thousand bodies pressed so closely together as they made their morning commute.

"I'm beyond you, Preacher!" a voice cried from my left. My body seemed to creek as I turned toward him, and when I faced him, I felt the remaining color drain from my cheeks. He was nattily attired in a suit and tie, a dark trench coat draped to his ankles, but it was his fiery eyes---they chilled me colder than any breeze. "Lord," I uttered, "why this? Please, anything but this."

"You can't reach me," he said again.

I cleared my throat and replied, "But my voice brings hope."

"I'm not talking about hope. I'm talking about your religion. It's hollow. It's pointless. It can't touch me."

I sighed, "Take a moment and listen. You may find that my faith is not hollow."

"I have listened," he gestured toward the people passing on the sidewalk. "Every day I walk by, I hear you. Not once have you helped me or made any difference. Not one damn time!"

I swallowed hard past a growing lump in my throat. "I'm trying, Lord. I'm trying," I whispered in my mind. Aloud I told him, "You may think I haven't reached you, but if you've truly listened," and lifting my arm slowly, as though it weighed a hundred pounds, I pointed at his chest, "my words would have touched your heart."

"Oh, I've listened all right! Yes I have! And nothing's touched me!"

My hand began to tremble, and I lowered my arm, but he continued his accusations without a sign that he'd noticed, "You'll never touch me." Passersby began to gather, and he swept his arm at them, "You'll never touch anyone! And I'll prove it!"

Before I could react, he leapt forward and rammed me with his shoulder. I teetered backward, arms flailing, and tumbled to the sidewalk with a thud that knocked the wind out of me. As I lay there, his scowling face came into view.

"See?" he said, "I told you!" And he stormed away.

I watched him go, and, unable to shake the conviction that he was right, I turned over on my side and buried my head in my arms. I couldn't understand it. I felt God wanted me to be here, preaching from my soap box, but every morning it was me against the world, and I never did any good.

"What am I doing wrong, Lord? What?" I begged, wishing the crowd would stop staring and just go away, just leave me alone.

Yes. Alone---exactly like I felt.

"Mister?" a youthful voice cracked from above. "Mister?"

I uncovered my eyes.

"You okay Mister? That was a pretty bad fall."

Silently, I looked up at him.

"Looks like you could use some help gettin' up." He reached out his hand, "here."

"Lord," I whispered, and hesitantly, I grasped his hand.

Copyright ©1997 M. Stanley Bubien. All Rights Reserved.

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June, 1997
Issue #14

512 Words