Old wounds sometimes never heal.
March 14, 2014
A VG Serial: Borrowed to the Bone
They found Ben Tom in the back of Mesa’s old livery stable. Years earlier, he had uncovered a few horseshoes, then an old anvil, and finally, a forge while moving rotted lumber and other debris. He then treated the site like an archaeology dig, patiently uprooting and reassembling the blacksmith shop that had been there more than a century ago.
It was dark and dusty in the old shop when the ladies and Deacon opened the big door, dust motes traveled through the sun’s rays. Ben Tom sat in one corner of the old shed, patiently rubbing a preservative into his wooden cross. He had not shaved for several days. He squinted, shaded his eyes from the light as he looked up with bloodshot eyes.
The sight of his old friend in what seemed to be a desperate situation and with such a forlorn expression shocked Deacon. He feared that Ben Tom would not recognize him, was relieved when a smile broke out. Ben Tom stood, brushed off the seat of his pants, returned the cross to his neck, and embraced his old friend firmly. “Thought I might never see you again.”
“I’m like a bad penny; I just keep turning up. How are you, old friend?” The nurses smiled and departed.
“Wonderful. Things have never been better and they’re getting better every day.” Ben Tom saw the doubt in Deacon’s expression. “Seriously, everything is gonna be all right.”
Deacon let his gaze roam the old blacksmith shop, the coals cold in the forge, the anvils and hammers. He felt right at home. “Looks about like my place. You set this up?”
“Let’s just say I uncovered it. You look like a man who could use something to drink.”
Deacon felt that his old friend seemed anxious to get him out of the blacksmith shop as he put a hand in the middle of his back, ushered him out the door and over to the bank building where he had set up a portable kitchen of sorts in the vault. In the vacant lot outside the bank’s back door, the biscuits and sausages he had made that morning still sat in a Dutch oven over warm rocks.
He poured fresh honey on two plates beside the biscuits and set two glassed of iced tea beside the plates. They sat down in antique chairs at a table made out of an old Texaco sign. “So what brings you out of the dark city to the land of milk and honey?”
“I came to make a small contribution to the local hospice effort. I’m about old enough to need the services of those two lovely ladies.”
“Suppose those fine women told you I helped them out. What I do amounts to nothing more than letting them use an old building that nobody would rent anyway.”
“Not the way they tell it, but it’s a safe bet that you’re still giving away all you earn now and will ever earn in the future.”
“Doesn’t the Bible say that a man makes a living by what he gets, but a life by what he gives?”
Deacon chuckled. “I’m not sure it’s in the Bible, but it probably should be. In fact, I think a guy named Winston Churchill said that. Either way, I have good news on that front. Remember when I told you I would look into that Japanese art that Clark left behind?”
Ben Tom nodded, somewhat warily.
“Well, I know a little mid-level art dealer in Fort Worth, and he knows another guy who knows another guy further up the chain. You know how it goes. He says he thinks he might be familiar with what you have and says he might have a buyer for it.”
Ben Tom shook his head. “Can’t afford to take a chance on selling stolen art.”
“What if I just bring him out here to take a look?”
“You trust this guy?”
“He comes well-recommended by a good Christian man I would trust with my life.”
“I just don’t think I can show it to somebody I don’t even know. Could be a trap.”
Deacon decided to come at the subject from another angle. “How you been making out since you lost Trez?”
Ben Tom’s face darkened, his voice cracked. “I keep asking why he did it. We were doing just fine. How about your family? You ever patch things up with the wife and kids?”
Deacon’s eyes drifted as if going to another place and time. “Old wounds sometimes never heal, but it’s as good as I can make it now. I’ll spend the rest of my days trying to make it up to them all. But I did some terrible things and expect to continue paying for that. I’ve made my peace with it.”
“When Trez died, I thought of you. I never fully understood the frustration that you must have felt until I found Trez that morning. I wanted to make amends, but there was just no way anymore. I can’t make it up to Pop, Willy, or Trez. I just let them all down and that’s all there is to it.”
He picked up Deacon’s empty plate and placed it in the sink he had installed. “Now, I’m letting my wife and kids down. I know I told you things are good, but truth be told, I been going through a rough patch. I think my whole family may be disappointed in me.”
“I know you set the bar high, but how are you letting them down?”
“You seen the house out by the river yet?”
“No, I went straight downtown.”
“Well, it ain’t finished after all these years. I promised to finish it and just never have. Not even fit to live in.
I guess I made a few mistakes with money. Seems like I’ve been short of cash my whole life. Auctioned off most of what I had to get out from under. Deacon, I just feel like a damn failure.”
“I’ve known you since you were a boy, and you’re anything but a failure. A man who leaves the world a better place because he lived can never be a failure. I don’t have enough fingers to count the folks you’ve helped. Why, what you’re doing with those two evangelist nurses is success all by itself.
Deacon dug into the front pocket of his jeans and pulled out a wad of bills. “Open your hand.” He peeled off fifty hundreds into Ben Tom’s open palm.
Chapters of the serial are published on Friday.
You can learn more about Borrowed to the Bone and other titles by Jim H. Ainsworth on his Amazon Author Page.