posted on Aug, 30 2011 @ 01:39 PM
It was the spring of 2002. I had just landed a job as a closing manager for a tiny convenience store in a little touristy central Texas lake town. I
had always been one for smalltalk and conversation. It was especially good for me in the retail industry. Any clerk worth their salt knows their
regular customers. My first month or two of working there, I was an observer. I watched the people come and go about their daily lives, looking for
their patterns, noting their purchases. The fact that people are creatures of habit is beyond obvious to clerks.
I was going through some difficult times then, as was the world. People were still reeling over the fallen, as was I, though my towers were my
crumbling marriage. In all the emotion that comes with sepparation and eventual divorce, I lacked the capacity to wrap my mind around the worlds
problems and thus shut them out. However, I didn't shut people out. There seemed to be an emotional rawness exhibited by most of those I
encountered. It was something that I haven't felt before or since in my dealings with the general populace. There was an openness, a connectivity
one could feel with complete strangers. We were all in this life together, and for a short period of time we all accepted it.
There were a few regular customers that I couldn't wait to pop in. I knew that with them would come an enjoyable conversation to break the monotony
of my button pushing and shelf stocking. One of these customers was a man named Max.
Max was a fascinating old cat. He drove a black Ford pickup. I tend to know people by their cars first and then their names if it comes up. Max
was in his early to mid sixties. He was a tall man, dark complected with angular features. He always wore dark jeans and a dark cowboy shirt with
the pearl buttons and pointy accents over the pockets. He wore a black cowboy hat with a somewhat tapered top and always had a toothpic in the corner
of his ever smiling mouth. I could tell he always smiled, as every wrinkle accentuated it. His eyes were dark with a glimmer of kindness. His
breath smelled of jalapenos. He was a retired professor and musician. His voice was raspy but no underlying harshness to it. We had conversations
about life in general that somehow always led to god.
Then there was John. John drove a white Chevy pickup with a camper shell. He was a carpenter and painter by trade. He was an average man, late
fourties early fifties with sandy brown hair and mustache with round facial features. His eyes were deep blue and sad. He was tan, his hands were
big and calloused from years of his trade. He always wore painters' bibs and a white t-shirt speckled with dots and drips of paint. He and I too
had conversations of manything almost always leading to god.
Under my uniform shirt I always wore a leather choker-style dog collar. It was black with the little chrome buttons and about an inch diameter metal
ring that hung just where my collar bones come together. I knew what it meant to me, and didn't really care what others thought. I would
occasionally recieve insults from the passing jerk-off. Before people would approach the counter they would cast looks at me as though I were some
sort of sexual deviant. I really enjoyed the suprise in their faces when they realized I was friendly and conversational.
What struck me about Max and John was that both of them identified and recognised, on sepparate occasion, that I wore the collar as a symbol of the
enslavement I felt to societal structure. They were the only two that picked up on this without my disclosure.
John and I were conversing one afternoon. I forget the specifics, but I was having a bad day. It was near the end of my shift, and I didn't really
want the conversation to end. I offered to buy a six-pack of beer and invited John to my house so that we could further ponder the bonds of reality.
I was suprised when he declined and told me that he didn't drink. It dawned on me at that moment that Max had told me the same thing. He too
I had entertained the symbolism of both Max and John since shortly after getting to know them. Max was of darkness and John was of the light. I
dismissed some of these thoughts at the time and attributed them to my overactive immagination. I did notice their similarities, but what also struck
me as strange is that neither of them ever seemed to occupy the same space. In eight months of working there I realized that they had never crossed
I took that thought and ran with it. Upon seeing Max later that week, I asked him if he knew John. He said no, he didn't think so. I asked the
same of John later, and he said no not that he could recall. I just said wow, I think you guys would like each other and probably have some good
conversation. I told them both on sepparate occasion about some of my dealings and conversations with the other. Then the subject would change or
they would go on about their day.
Things went on as usual. I had one day where my car had broken down and I was walking to work. Up drives Max. He offered me a ride and I accepted.
We conversed a bit on the way, but when he dropped me off, he sang me a folky tune that I can't remember fully, but it was about a man laughing as
he insulted the Devil to his face. He waved and went on with his toothy grin. That was the only time I had ever talked with Max outside work.
I saw John once outside work as well. I was doing my laundry at the local mat. He and I got to talking and that is when he disclosed to me that he
was in the fight of his life. He was fighting to bring souls to his side. I was floored. We had spoken for months now, and this time was different.
He said that "We are in an eternal war for the souls of Man, and I want to WIN!!!" The way he said "Win", he curled his calloused hands into
fists and slammed them on the folding table, yelled through clenched teeth. The entire laundromat stopped for a moment and looked at the pair of us
with suspicion. There was a ferocity in John's sad blue eyes that I had never before seen. It was a moment of fright for me. I gathered my things
and left as nonchalantly as I could without being rude.
Maybe a week or so after that, I had gotten some news that I would be getting another job doing maintenance on a golf course. I love being outside
and couldn't pass up the opportunity even if it was less pay. It was my last day at the store and to my suprise, in walks John. I told him that it
had been cool chatting and that I appreciated all of the conversation. He told me the same and wished me luck in my life. Then he walked back to the
beer cooler and grabbed a six-pack. As he walked back to the counter, I flashed him a smirk of dismay. I said "I thought you didn't drink.?" He
said to me "I don't, I just lost a bet."
He proceeded to walk out the door and I watched after him as he went. That was when I saw Max's black Ford pickup in the lot. John got into the
passenger seat, and handed Max a beer. Max momentarily put his hand on John's shoulder. They drove away and I never saw either them or their
I think Max and John had a wager on my soul.
This is a true story that has shaped me from that time forward.
Take from it what you will, but keep your mind's eyes open.