A flash in my side-view mirror caught my attention just as Bobby smacked the dashboard with his hand. The last part of his mini-relationship lecture was lost as I adjusted the rear view to get a better look and tried not to hit the slowing car in front of me.
As the stoplight turned red, I glimpsed another flash in the blue sky. Maybe a firework.
“Phil, do you understand what I’m saying?” Bobby leaned around, so that when I turned he was in my space. “You can’t just blow this off, you know. You’re too laid back about everything. You’ve got to make some decisions here. Cut bait and move on or throw down the gauntlet and fight.” He had that I-know-what-I’m-talking-about look in his I’ve-already-had-a-beer eyes. “Well?”
“It’s going to take me a minute. You’re mixing your metaphors and I’ve got to process and DRIVE, so maybe this dissecting of my personal life should wait until after we’ve gotten back to the station.”
He shook his balding head. “Right, you’re avoiding. But that’s okay. You in-front-of-the camera types are just that, one big façade. Newsflash, reporter Will Pentor doesn’t want to deal with his issues.”
I resented that, but I also resented arguing about my break-up with my camera man, who’s evidently been watching too much Dr. Phil lately. The light turned, but the car in front of me stayed put.
“Hey buddy!” Bobby yelled at the windshield.
None of the cars were moving and the driver in the compact car blocking the way was stepping out of his car and looking at the sky behind us. I checked the mirror again. White light spread across the blue spring sky. It looked more like silver than white actually. Bobby kept colorfully shouting to the oblivious driver, but I pushed the handle and stepped out of the van.
Nothing prepared me for what I saw. Impossible. Illogical. Blood-stopping. My brain couldn’t swallow it, so I looked away. But that didn’t help because everyone else was having the same experience. Terror and disbelief filled their faces. One lady pushed her kids back into her minivan and tried to maneuver around the traffic. But where would she go? The silver light was stretching across the entire sky.
When I dared to look back, a man with caramel skin and black hair put a shiny cylinder to his lips and blew. The sound rang through the air, full and rich not like any instrument I’ve ever heard, but yet somehow familiar. Thousands of them stood in the sky. People. They stood there as if they were standing on a platform overlooking the world. And even though they had to be miles up I could see their faces, the twinkle in their eyes.
As I walked to the back of the van, my knees gave out. I knew what this was, but then unbelief pulled at me. When I saw him though, it all came together, and I fell facedown to the pavement. As the man blew on his instrument again, the crowd of people parted, and the King of Kings stepped forward.
My thirty-three years ran through my mind. My mom and dad reading to me. The old church on the dirt road. My first communion. Coming up out of the water. The promises I’d made at Glorietta, and then how I’d pulled away from all of that when Amy broke up with me. I’d been meaning to get back to church. Time just got away from me.
His voice broke through the air like rain drops falling on thirsty ground, but I couldn’t look up. He called for them to come. My heart ached so hard I thought it might break in two. I believed. I still do, but I know I’ve messed stuff up. I wanted to think he meant me too, but every stupid thing I’ve ever done pushed me down.
“William?” A feminine voice whispered my name, and a tap tingled on my shoulder. When I looked up, she smiled. “It’s time to go.” And she held out her hand.
I shook my head and tried to speak, but my shame choked me. All I could manage was, “I don’t deserve…” and then I started to sob.
She lifted me to my feet, stronger than she looked. “Of course you don’t deserve this. But he’s taken care of all of that, and now it’s time.” When she smiled, the world brightened.
I dared to look up and when I did he met my eyes and I knew what she said was true. Loved and forgiven. He welcomed me home.
As I took her hand, the back doors to the van slammed open. Bobby had the massive TV camera aimed at the sky. When he noticed me with her, he leaned it to the side. “What are you doing?” he asked me. “You can’t take off. We’ve got to do an on-the-spot right now.” He scooted out of the van and aimed the camera again.
I didn’t know what to say, so I stepped into the air with the strange woman. She was walking into the sky as if there were steps leading the way, and I followed finding the air strangely sturdy.
“Will,” Bobby shouted. “Where are you going? C’mon man, we’re gonna make millions. I can telecast from here.” Bobby already looked far away.