The doors to the tavern were open and it smelled like fall outside. Pink Floyd was singing, “No more turning away from the weak and the weary.”
“You don’t really seem like a teacher,” the student observed, loving the weather and nursing his first Stella.
The teacher didn’t respond. He’d never really fit in anyone’s categories or ideas. He was more comfortable in that than he used to be.
“So, what are you?” the student pressed.
“Just a man,” the teacher decided to simultaneously reveal and conceal nearly everything. “Perhaps you could consider me a farmer.”
“Yeah. I throw seed out on all kinds of soil, seeing where it will bear fruit. Here, I’ll show you.”
The teacher didn’t know what had moved him. Often this operation turned out poorly, but one never knew.
“Read this.” He handed the student the Wall Street Journal and pointed out the crucial article.
The student put his cell phone in his pocket and concentrated on the article. It took him longer than the teacher thought it should. The teacher order a merlot but nothing for the student. Finally the student looked up.
“You didn’t notice anything?”
“Not really. She was saying something about civil rights and religious rights, I think.”
“Read it again.”
“So what?” the student asked upon eventual completion, annoyed this time.
“Nothing disturbs you there in particular?” The teacher touched the article where the Obama appointee to the EEOC was quoted.
At least he was being honest, the teacher thought.
“It says right here,” the teacher spoke through gritted teeth, “‘There can be conflict between religious liberty and sexual liberty, but in almost all cases the sexual liberty should win because that’s the only way that the dignity of gay people can be affirmed in any realistic manner.’ You understand the context? That Christians are being sued and put out of business for not providing service for gays when it goes against their beliefs? You understand he’s saying the dignity of the gay is the trump card? Where’s that going to stop?”
“Mellow out,” the student said with a furrowed brow. “Who cares? Gays are people, too. They pay taxes.”
‘You’ve heard me’
The teacher continued with the operation. The ink portraying the quote from the Obama appointee transmogrified into its source. A serpent appeared on the table, unhinged jaws stretching open and fangs bared.
“Whoa!” the student shoved his chair back focused on the snake on the table but not noticing the asp coiled around his own heart.
“Sit down,” the teacher commanded in a soft tone. “I just want to sow, I mean show, you something.”
“Tell him who you are,” the teacher offered to the serpent.
The snake expanded. “I’m the leader. You are the follower. I rule this world. I am the air you breathe. Just for starters,” he appended slyly.
“I would never follow a snake,” the student declared in disgust.
The serpent expanded again, now appearing more dragon like. “You believe whatever I tell you to believe.” That last statement upped the level of disgust a few notches.
“I’ve never even heard you,” the student whispered, cowed by the serpent’s arrogance and menace.
“You believe you evolved from the muck with no creator. You’ve heard me. You believe killing your children is your right because they have transgressed and imposed on your body. You’ve heard me. You believe the history unfolding in the Mideast is random instead of eschatologically driven. You’ve heard me. And, you are consumed by the tyranny of the present and the smallness of your personal comforts.”
“Tell him how you work,” the teacher commanded.
“Simply put, I lie. And you are so easy to lie to because you are driven by emotion. By appealing to your feelings I pull your strings as if you were a puppet. Indeed, you are a puppet. None of your beliefs are owned by your mind. You simply absorb them from the culture I run. You couldn’t think your way out of a paper bag. Pride, anger, and lust are the favorite strings I pull. With them I can circumvent your brain. Your mind is your castle. Your drawbridge has been lowered since you were born.”
“Bottom-line it, without the rhetoric,” the teacher commanded the serpent.
“I cut you off from the source of truth. Cut off, you are easy prey for the lies that pander to your emotions. For example, you believe you evolved from lower life forms which in turn evolved from lower life forms, which in turn came about by chance. The actual chance of this is zero. Yet, you believe it. You believe this even though there has never, nor could there be, an experiment that shows this. You believe this even though there is soft tissue in dinosaur bones. You believe true science is determined by consensus rather than by experiment. The rest of your beliefs are similar. I own you.”
“And?” the teacher prompted.
“And I hate the Bible and teach people that it is a fairy tale, merely a relic and a curiosity, or, simply religious. Anything but truth.”
“And what defeats you?”
“The truth. Facts, if you will.”
“Enough,” the teacher determined. “Depart.”
The serpent wanted to stay and gloat but he remembered how his last meeting with the teacher had turned out and decided to leave. The ink reformed back into the quote on the page. The student’s heart was covered up. The serpent was out of sight.
“You’re a creep,” the student hissed through unhinged jaws and pointed fangs.
“No, the serpent’s gone,” the teacher pointed out.
“I know,” the student contended. “I’m talking to you.” His eyes were yellow. “Our society would be a lot better off without intolerant, ignorant people like you. We will trump and trample all your rights. You will conform to this world or be eliminated.” The student began to rattle.
Rocky, shallow, thorn-infested soil the farmer concluded, wondering when he could simply go home. He paid the tab for both of them and left. Somehow the air had turned from smelling like fall to smelling like winter. He pondered anew how when one was making a decision about the powers that be, they were really making a decision about themselves.
“I rode a tank, held a general’s rank, when the blitzkrieg raged and the bodies stank,” Mick revealed.
Bob Branden lives in Gypsum.
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