“All rise”, comes the command. The court room somberly stands to its feet. Silence permeates the chamber betrayed only by the rustling of black robes. “You may be seated.”
A year and a half earlier three men reunite in a bar after 10 years passing since graduation. One is a successful businessman, another a tortured vet, and the last, a severely dysfunctional drug addict. Best friends since the third grade each would choose a different path in life.
The last thing Richard ever wanted was to be tied down to a 9 to 5 job after seeing his father work himself to death in the rock quarries of Northern Arizona. Now he owned his own lucrative trucking company hauling those very same rocks all over the nation. The money his father squirreled away for Richards education took a lifetime to acquire; Richard now honored that sacrifice by taking care of his mother. His mother was supremely proud of Richard’s own sacrifice of chasing his dreams to instead settle down immediately after his fathers untimely death.
Eric, always the leader, found comfort in taking on any challenge especially if someone said, “It can’t be done.” Putting others needs above his own came natural to him, so enlisting with the Rangers was the logical choice. Eric never let a opportunity to volunteer go unmet. He was a soldier’s soldier and proud of his military heritage. But the fog of war would leave an indelible stain on his soul. After his second tour of duty was up and having seen first hand the futility of the loss of life due to the greed of malevolent policy makers, he became disenchanted and slipped into depression. Now a civilian working construction, he again donated his time at the VA hoping to find peace by helping returning veterans cope with civilian life. His wife Camil and son Jesse adore him.
Tommy was a dreamer full of grand ideas, one day he would be race car driver, the next a rock star, the next a pilot. He would inevitably settle on being a junkie. Too many dreams fueled by good weed countered any real effort to make his dreams come true. One drug led to another and before you knew what had happened, Tommy had overdosed three times in as many years. Add grand mal seizures, two subsequent strokes and and a lengthy criminal history to Tommy’s equation and you had one messed up dude. Petty crime supported Tommy’s various drug habits and he had no problems with that. He would just as soon steal his grandmother’s pain medication as break into a car parked in the church parking lot it didn’t matter to him. His grandmother was dying of cancer and she needed those meds, but after all, Tommy was coming down, he needed them too. Oh yes, all of Tommy’s actions were justified in his sick little mind. If only he could face his insecurities his shortcomings could be overcome. He had been a straight A student until the summer of seventh grade when he was introduced to Colombian Gold. Two short years later he would drop out of school and use drugs full time.
“Man, I can’t believe it’s been ten years,” said Richard
“I Know, right?’ ‘It’s so good to see you guys again. How did you find us Tommy?” Eric said.
“I see Rich’s trucks everywhere, (Ortiz Transportation-Paving a way to a Rock Solid Future), that was brilliant Rich it really was. “And as for you, Eric, I see you driving that VA van all over the place, that’s really cool E. So I just called the number on the truck and found E on social media. It was easy.”
“So here we are Tom, just like old times, what’s on your mind?” said Eric.
“Just like old times alright, straight to the point. Why’s anything got to be up, sheesh, why can’t a guy just look up his buddies and it be ok?”
“I never said anything was up, I said, ‘what’s on your mind.”
“Man you’re hard to talk too.”
“Cut him some slack Tommy, He was just trying to make conversation and you got all defensive. What is on your mind anyway?”
“Nothing! I just thought it would be cool to catch up and chew the fat that’s all, sorry I care.”
“Dude, lighten up.” Eric said irritably. “Look I’ll get the first round, let’s start over, we’ve been friends a long time no sense in getting all bent out of shape.” With that Eric sauntered over to the bar and ordered a pitcher of Bud and three glasses.
“You seem a little jumpy Tommy, what gives?”
“Oh nothing, I just got this big deal in the works and I guess I am a little stressed, waiting for the bank to approve the loan.” Tommy lied.
“Oh, do tell.”
“Well, since you asked, I have this really great idea on an invention I have but I really can’t say too much about it except that it could revolutionize the aerospace industry.”
Returning with frosty mugs and perfectly chilled bud, Eric expertly topped off three glasses with no foam. “What are we talking about?”
“Tommy was just…”
“Just an invention idea I have, but I am really not supposed to talk about it.”
“Oh cool, Eric said, who’s up for a butt whipping on the pool table?”
All three started busting up. They had been playing pool and shooting darts in Eric’s basement since they were able to see over the table. But that didn’t stop them from being terrible at it. Neither one of them could shoot straight to save their lives and the wall behind the dart board, well, it had more holes in it than the dart board did. So the three spent the next five hours playing horribly, laughing, catching up and lying. Tommy being the chief deceiver, eloquently painted a picture of travel and success, which had just enough elements of truth mixed in to make it believable.
6 pm arrived quicker than they had expected and Eric broke up the fun with his phone call. He hung up and said, “sorry guys but I got to get home, I told Camil I’d be home around five and it’s already six, I better get going.”
“Whoa, whoa, wait a minute we just got here’ Tommy said, ‘you can’t just take off on us like that, besides, you said (around five).”
“You’re wasting your breath Tommy’, Richard said, ‘ you know how he is, and now that he is married with children you can forget it.”
“Child,’ Tommy said, ‘he has a child not children and he said (around five), that is open to interpretation.”
“Sorry man, I gotta go, but it was really great seeing you guys again we should do this like once a month or something?”
“Aw jeeze,’ Tommy whined, ‘ok, ok, but can I catch a ride with one of you guys?”
“I am giving both of you a ride home,’ said Richard ‘we don’t need any DUI’s this close to Christmas.” Eric was indeed stubborn but he knew that Richard was right and conceded. The three piled into Richards SUV and turn south onto Tillson Ave.
“Man that brought back memories, mind if we stop at Rocky’s Express Mart for some smokes, It’s just around the corner. I usually don’t go there because them foreigners own it. You know what I mean don’t ya E?”
“Umm, no not exactly Tommy, did they mistreat you or something?”
“Well no, it’s just that, well you know, they’re foreigners. They come over here from where ever and take our jobs and after 9-11, well you know.”
“Look man I have been through way too much and have seen evil all over the world. I am not going to start judging hard working, tax paying people just because of where they came from. Richards family comes from Mexico, my great grand parents were Irish immigrants and yours came from Sicily, so what are you talking about?”
“Wow, I never thought you’d be sticking up for them.”
“I ain’t sticking up for anybody I just ain’t jumping in the car with you on that, that’s all. You want to walk around with a chip on your shoulder and haven’t even been to their country, that’s on you.”
“Whatever, I’ll be right back.” Tommy said.
Rich pulled up to a vacant parking space just around the corner and let Tommy out. “I’m going to run in too, they have those cool little flowers in tiny vases; Camil loves those things maybe this will calm her down,” Eric said with a sly grin. “Be right back,” and jumped out.
Rich popped in a CD and watched the rain begin to fall. It sure was good to see the fellas again. He hoped that whatever was eating Tommy would fade away and maybe they could start hanging out again. Where did all the time go he thought to himself..
Eric sifted through the tiny vases at the back of the store and found the perfect one. “Camil is going to love this one,’ he chuckled to himself. ‘I have never seen this kind before I am sure she hasn’t either. it’s perfect.” The store owners daughter made the intricate lace flowers by hand and his son blew the glass that formed the tiny vases. They were very beautiful indeed. And best of all they were only five bucks a piece, they could easily charge twenty-five and get it no problem. Eric was impressed with the store owners willingness and dedication to preserve their culture. Too many immigrants move to America and in hopes of fitting in lose their identity by becoming Americanized rather than American. “Anyway,’ he thought, ‘she’ll love this.”
Eric stared intently at the tiny work of art as he walked to the register. He looked up smiling trying to make sense of what he was now seeing. Tommy had the store owner at gun point demanding he open the register and give him the money. “Tommy!” Eric squealed, as the vase slipped from Eric’s hands and shattered on ground. The breaking glass was just enough of a diversion to make Tommy turn his head. The store owner snatched the gun from Tommy and fell backwards against the liquor bottles sending them crashing to the ground.
Wide eyed with disbelief, Tommy stepped back a few feet now even with Eric. “You filthy animal’, screamed the owner, ‘you again, you’re not going to rob me ever again,” With spittle escaping from clinched teeth, he raised the gun up slowly towards Tommy’s chest. Time stood still.
“Nooo. . .” Eric yelled out and lunged in front of his friend. It all happened so fast. No one even remembers hearing the gun fire. A small red dot appeared on Eric’s chest blossoming into a red flower, then its twin appeared on Tommy’s chest directly behind him. At that close of range the slug passed through both men and lodged in a can of Ravioli. Each man fell to his knees before the other then slumped over. They laid there staring at each other the tiny broken vase between them. Eric looked at the little lace flower and smiled, “It’s perfect, “He said, and passed away. Tommy blinked and followed suit.
Richard with his eyes closed singing along ironically to “One Tin Soldier Rides Away,” by Joni Mitchell, doesn’t see the police surrounding the SUV. A violent crash of breaking glass rains down on him. “Get out of the vehicle with your hands where we can see them, NOW!” Richard jumped up throwing his hands in the air and he was immediately tased. The Police rushed the vehicle and cuffed Richard and charged him with two counts of First Degree Murder. He was found guilty by association, being the driver of the getaway car.
As the judge pronounced sentence the courtroom erupted into tears. The state’s strict mandatory sentencing structure tied the hands of the judge. The prosecution had convinced the jury that because of the long history between the three, that there was sufficient evidence that they were in cahoots together in the botched robbery attempt. The store owners testimony of having been robbed once before by one of the men, and the fact that Eric called Tommy by name during the robbery, also convinced the jury of Richard’s involvement.
Richard the only son of his father turned to face his mourning and devastated family. Tears rolled down his face. How could this have happened? Two of his best friends were now dead and he was being blamed and punished for something he didn’t do. Where was God in all of this? Why was He letting this happen?
Jesse Eric’s only son, conceived the day Eric came back from his second tour of duty, was only five and a half years old. He didn’t understand the magnitude of the court proceedings but what he did understand, was that his daddy was gone. Why did God take his daddy? Who was going to help him become a man? A single tear rolled down his little face and he silently asked Jesus to help his mommy.
Two thousand years ago, another only Son stood before a Roman Court accused of crimes that He did not commit. A week prior as He entered into Jerusalem, He looked upon the city; Knowing the coming destruction and loss of life, including His own, He wept. Jesus’s love for His creation was so great that He laid down His own life that we might be granted eternal life through Him. Though Jesus was crucified, died, and was buried, He rose again and is now seated at the Right hand of Power, making intercession for us even now. He took upon Himself the crimes and sin of all humanity and paid the price for us all. The free gift of salvation is open to us, all we need do is accept Him for who He is, The King of Kings and Lord of Lords, Savior and Judge of all the earth.
Richard would get a second trail and be acquitted. He eventually married Camil and adopted Jesse. Jesus answered Jesse’s prayers.
I invite you today to give Jesus a chance to restore all that was lost or taken by the enemy. Jesus in willing and able to give you a new and better life. Come to Him now and ask Him to be King and Comforter ruling from the throne of your heart.
Jeremiah 29:11-13New King James Version (NKJV)
11 For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.12 Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. 13 And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.
Your Servant in Christ,