Leander dropped his head on his hands and slouched on the edge of a metal, straight-backed chair.
The crowded room murmured with low-toned conversations amid a swirl of officious activity.
A uniformed officer paced before him, his hands clasped behind his back. “So you—what? Give online advice?”
The floor, grey plastic tiles with chipped edges and age cracks, offered not an ounce of inspiration.
Leander peered up, barely lifting his head above his hands. Weariness engulfed him. “No. Not really. I just…chat with people and reflect on the state of things in our world.” He sat straighter. “How could that be so wrong? Everyone does it.”
The officer stopped mid-pace and blew air into the stagnant room. “People make all sorts of suggestions—demands even. But few listen. In your case, you were unlucky enough to have someone follow your advice and do exactly as you suggested.”
Leander stood, his hands waving, imploring. “I only said that we should throw all our guns in the ocean…you know…get rid of our weapons of destruction.”
The officer chuckled and rubbed the back of his neck. “So this lady gets a group of moms, and they gather every weapon they lay their hands on, hire a boat, and go out…and do just that!”
Leander gripped the desk for support. “I didn’t think anyone would really do it—not like that.”
“Like what—you think?”
“I just wanted to make a concrete suggestion, something people could do to make the world a better place.”
“Drop your assorted guns in the ocean?”
“Out of kids’ hands! Yeah. Is that a bad idea?” Embarrassment, fear, and anger played touch football in Leander’s stomach. “Listen, Officer, I’m not the bad guy here. I didn’t mean anyone should break the law or do anything stupid. I figured anyone who read my post would understand what I meant.”
“You know, when Ms. Stevens was apprehended, the first thing she said was—‘Leander Jones told me to do it.’”
“Oh, God.” Feeling faint, Leander dropped back into his chair.
The officer stepped over and crouched before him. “What—you’re in your forties; you’ve got a wife and kids, and you honestly thought you were helping humanity out.” He stood. “When she mentioned your name, I read through your blog. Got some nice sentiment there.” He stepped away and stared at the wall. “I’ve seen the aftermath of a school shooting. I know what guns can do. I know how—” He stopped and ran his hands over his face. He turned. “Still—fact is—she blames you.”
Lander pulled himself to his feet. “I didn’t say anything that Hollywood stars and politicians haven’t been saying for years. Guns are dangerous.”
The officer pulled out his desk chair. “In the wrong hands. I agree with you.” He sat down and glanced up. “So is advice.”
Leander sauntered over to the embankment and stared at the waves rippling over the lake. Kids and adults hustled between picnic tables, arranging and snatching food, joking, chatting, and having a fun Sunday afternoon.
A man dressed in black, wearing a Roman collar, plodded over the short grass and stood next to Leander, facing the scenic beauty. “Love this view. Trees, sky, and water refresh the soul—” He glanced at Leander. “Don’t you agree?”
Leander’s eyes narrowed. “They should.” He sighed. “But I’ve found that life is nothing but a bundle of contradictions.” He whisked a fly off his arm. “You oughta know better than anyone. Blessed are the poor…riches lead to slavery…good intentions pave the way to hell.”
Father Peter retreated to a log situated on the water’s edge. Propping one foot on the trunk, he crossed his arms over his thigh and watched a flock of geese fly overhead.
Leander faced his priest. “What? No clarification? Aren’t you going to explain that God knows our hearts, and we should trust in Him no matter how wretchedly things turn out?”
Father Peter dropped his gaze and met Leander’s eyes. “You said it—what’s left?”
Leander pounded across the spongy turf and stood before the priest, his hands on his hips. “You know what happened! I gave innocent, well-meaning advice—and I nearly went to jail.” Tears welled. “What that would’ve happened to Jeanie and the kids then?”
Father Peter waited. His gaze steady, his demeanor calm.
Leander flung out his hand and waved a finger in the priest’s face. “Really, it’s all your fault! Aren’t you always preaching about how we should be salt and light in the world? What a world!” He turned and paced away. “The other day, I gave a steak bone to the dog, and he choked!” He swung around. “I gave twenty bucks to a homeless guy and not ten minutes later I saw him buying cigarettes!”
Someone called from the distance and waved.
Father Peter straightened and waved back. He returned his gaze to Leander. “So what do you want to do?”
“Do? Duck and hide—if only I could. But this damned world hounds me. The other day my son came home with a guy dressed like a girl, my sister was hospitalized for alcohol poisoning, and my boss thinks he might have cancer.” Leander plopped down on the log. “There’s too much grief and when I try to mend a problem, I nearly get sent to Alcatraz.”
Father Peter shook his head. “You can’t save the world.”
“Save? Heck, I can’t even apply a decent band-aid.”
Father Peter chuckled and patted Leander on the back. “The job of Savior has already been taken.”
Leander pivoted on his heel, thrusting Father’s hand away. “Ah! There’s where we disagree.” His face flushed, he felt nearly drunk on fury. “Kids are killing other kids, drug abuse is on the rise, for all our prosperity—the world’s a miserable place.” He glared at the priest. “Doesn’t seem to me that anyone’s safe—or saved!”
His jaw hardening, but his eyes softening, Father Peter lifted his hands in surrender. “You’re right. The world as we know it is pretty miserable. No denying that. But this world is not all there is. We don’t have to be saved —not if we don’t want to.”
“Stop being so sanctimonious.”
“Stop trying to be God.”
The two men glared at each other. A shuffle turned their gazes.
A little boy hovered near, his eyes wide. Fear scrawled across his face.
Leander closed his eyes and rubbed his temple.
Father Peter crouched and beckoned the boy over. “It’s okay, Davy. Your dad and I are just having a little discussion.”
Davy hesitated, glancing from one man to the next. He finally settled on his dad. “Mom said lunch is ready. Eat now cause she’s not fixing anything else.”
Leander opened his eyes and nodded. “Be right there.”
The boy turned and scampered away.
Father Peter turned to follow but glanced over his shoulder. “Everything you said is true, Leander. You’re not wrong. But you’re not completely right, either.”
A sob welled up inside Leander as he peered into the distance and watched his son tug on his wife’s arm, probably babbling on about how dad was arguing with the pastor. “So what, in Heaven’s name, am I supposed to do? How do I live in this crazy world?”
Father Peter sighed and waited. “Do the best you can. Remember, you’re a man. Not the Creator of the universe.”
Leander shuffled forward. “There’s a new world waiting for us—and God’ll make everything right in the end?”
Father chuckled, patted Leander’s arm, and moved on. “With your help—yep.”
Leander snorted, shook his head, and headed for lunch.
A. K. Frailey is the author of 15 books, a teacher for 35 years, and a homeschooling mother of 8.
Make the most of life’s journey.
For books by A. K. Frailey check out her Amazon Author Page