by Steve & Barry Simpson
It was a late May afternoon at Twin Rocks Trading Post, and I was sitting in my office trying not to nod off. The last time I fell asleep at my desk the resulting crash raised a bump on my forehead and Barry and Priscilla unkindly referred to me as “Knothead” until it disappeared a week later.
As our operations have expanded, the time I spend on bookkeeping has also grown, which seems to have had a direct impact on my waistline. There must be a mathematical explanation for this phenomenon, something like girth = hours at cubical per day squared.
It could also have been all those cookies, so maybe the formula would actually be, circumference = cookies per day + daily cups of coffee/pie. As one might guess, math and nutrition were not my strongest subjects.
As I glanced out the window that overlooks the store, I noticed a tall, slender man of about 70 years stroll in through the Kokopelli doors. He was dressed in a blue Nike tech shirt and corresponding dark trousers, both slightly rumpled.
He wore a few days salt and pepper stubble on his cheeks and a somewhat longer goatee surrounding his mouth and chin. There was a look of casual, confident intelligence about him.
Close on his heels was a late-50ish, attractive women, also slender, but more carefully fitted out. They seemed to mesh well, and comfortably interacted as they perused the turquoise jewelry, she pointing out bracelets and necklaces, he distractedly nodding his head.
Needing a chance to clear out the cobwebs generated by looking at reports too long, I got up and walked into the showroom. As I did, I heard the gentleman ask Barry, “Are you a brethren?”
When Barry responded, “No,” the man replied, “Well, then you must be a sinner.”
Historically Barry has not responded well to such comments, so I edged closer to the stool on which he perched. My fear was that an argument might erupt, and I would be forced to intervene. Instead, Barry just sat there like he’d never heard a sound.
Acting not the least put off, the man gave out a slight cough and spoke once again. “So, if you’re not a brother, you must be a sinner.”
This time Barry, cool as a cucumber, replied, “Oh?”
The visitor, also placid, was clearly intending to open a dialogue, not incite a confrontation. Continuing along his earlier line of thought, however, he announced, “Well then, I can give you a blessing.”
About that time his partner came to life, gently touching his shoulder and saying, “Honey, not now, not again. These guys are going to get mad.”
Barry, obviously amused, said, “Not us, we never get upset.”
Thinking I would get ahead of any potential controversy, and at the same time wondering whether there might be something in it for me, I interjected, “Can you bless me too?”
The gentleman scooted closer to Barry and told him this story. “You may not believe it, but I am a distinguished lawyer, recognized as the top three percent in the nation.
“I watch out for my clients, I make sure nothing bad happens to them. During the Great Recession of 2008 I helped a high-ranking member of the predominant religion in this state with some serious financial problems, saved him a great deal of money, kept him from collapsing, if you know what I mean. He was grateful.
“Now I’m not a particularly religious guy, but this spiritual leader gave me a blessing and told me I can use it to bless others. Funny thing, it works.”
Up to that point, Barry had been slumping on his stool, acting the part of disbeliever, but that statement caused him to sit up a little straighter and pay closer attention.
The woman, sensing there might be something coming she could not control, tried to redirect the conversation by pointing to some coral earrings and saying, “Those are nice, I’ll take them.”
To her husband, she said, “Honey, I need the credit card.”
When he did not immediately respond, she began to relate the tale of a man who tried to divorce his wife because she spent too much money.
“He was discovered chopped to bits and scattered across three states”, she concluded. “No need for divorce after all.”
Winking at her husband, she prompted him again, “You don’t want that to happen to you, do you?”
He reached into his pocket, fished out his wallet and gave her the card, moving away from Barry to stand face to face with me.
As we talked about how he had spent over $1.5 million educating his daughter, putting her through Columbia University, Wharton School of Business and Finance and a variety of other prestigious institutions, I thought I sensed alcohol on his breath.
“Guilt over the break-up of my first marriage. I’ve had three,” he admitted.
“We won’t name names,” he said, “but just understand my daughter has become extremely successful. You would recognize her work.”
He continued, “So I sent her an invoice . . . for all the money I paid. She just laughed. Didn’t send me a dime.”
All this time his wife was trying to maneuver him out the door. “I’ll leave him”, she threatened, “I’ve done it before.”
Ignoring her altogether, he continued with his story. Sensing something dramatic was needed to end the conversation, she walked outside and got into their car.
As she began to back out of the parking lot, I said, “Hey, there she goes; she’s leaving us.”
“Oh, I better go,” he said, turning away.
“Wait, what about our blessing”, Barry called out.
Like a moth to the fame, he could not help but return. Coming back to the counter, he held up both hands in anticipation of performing the solemn ceremony. Barry and I bowed our heads.
As the car inched further back towards the street, the man looked at us soberly and said, “Dear Heavenly Father, please bless this food. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.”
The ritual came so swiftly Barry and I were caught off guard. As he quickly headed out the door, Barry and I gazed at each other in amazement. Later in the day we began to question whether we might soon be invited to dinner with the cannibals.