December 25th, 1999, Somewhere in Middle America
Three old men stumbled, tiredly along a stretch of highway, carrying ragged suitcases and dirty canteens. They muttered quietly to themselves, every so often casting a wearied glance towards the nighttime sky. They watched in silence as cars and semi-trucks pass by going well over the speed limit. They say nothing nor extend not even an arm for the forlorn chance at receiving a welcomed ride. Not many people pick up hitchhikers anymore these days and three old men that look as if they haven’t bathed in weeks, even less.
“How much further do we have to go Frank?”
“Merle, if I even had a clue, do you think I wouldn’t have told you guys by now?”
“Goldy, do you know where were going?”
“All I know is that I got a message to head east, and that’s where were going, but for how long, I don’t know. Just keep walking will you. We’ll figure this thing out. As God as my witness, we’ll get there in time.”
The three men walked on, their shoes almost worn out through the soles. What was left of their socks almost peeked out the front and could feel the night’s cold chill of wind. They gripped their old long coats tighter to their chests with their arthritic right hands and almost dragged their battered suitcases, briefly scuffing the ground every so often with each odd step.
On a telephone wire along the highway rested a large white dove. It shone like it was blanketed from an unseen spotlight.
The old man named Goldy who played the role of their leader noticed it. He stopped and the two other men did the same. “That is a sign were on the right path, I can feel it. Keep walking.”
They all nodded in silence and grinned.
The three old men continued to walk on in the darkness, every so often lit up by the light and the loud hum of passing cars until they saw the outline of a small building upon the horizon. They could barely make out the distant glow of what looked to be the building’s adjacent sign, flickering in the far off distance. Without a word, they brought their dirty canteens to their mouths and quickened their pace. They knew they were close.
As the three old men got closer to the building, they could now tell that it was a gas station. Oddly, although it was closed for the day, the sign stayed lit. Frank nudged Merle and the two men chuckled in giddy happiness. They had walked so far after leaving their shelter in the middle of the night three months ago. They had endured torrential rain, strong winds, small snow storms; strangers’ harassments and other inconveniences, but now appeared to finally be at their destination.
“Shhhhh, do you hear that?” Goldy asked his two companions.
“Huh? Did he say something?” Frank asked in response.
“I don’t know, did you?” Merle replied with a question of his own, confused.
“Shhhhh, there it is again,” Goldy said. He did his best to block out the mutterings of his two companions so that he could concentrate on what sounded to be a young woman crying. “It sounds like a young woman. This is it.”
The three old men stood at the closed front doors of the gas station, silhouetted underneath the flickering light of the adjacent sign.
“Is anyone here?!” Goldy shouted.
“Were in back of the building!” A man’s voice replied.
“Let’s go fellas, it’s what we’ve been waiting for,” Goldy said.
As the three old men turned the corner to the back of the building they began to hear the loud crying shrill of a newborn baby. A young woman was lying on her back atop of blankets placed atop of a cut up cardboard box, her legs shaking above a pool of blood. A young man was staring in disbelief and open mouthed wonder at the baby she held in her arms.
“My wife, my wife……..she just had a child, is there anything you can do?” the young man asked. The look on his face of fatigue matched the three pair of eyes that greeted him.
“I’m not sure there is anything to be done, but to love the child with all of your heart,” Goldy replied. The old man nudged Merle in the side and he did the same to Frank.
“What Goldy means is that from the looks of it, you all are going to be just fine. Isn’t that right Merle?” Frank stated.
“That’s right young man, for we’ve traveled a long way to find you two and him,” Merle said, as he pointed his shaking index finger toward the crying newborn baby.
“The name is Goldy and these are my friends, Frank and Merle. We mean not to surprise you, but like Merle said, we’ve traveled a long way to find you three,” the old man said. The tone of his voice did its’ best to reassure the young couple that they meant no harm.
“What do you mean? How did you know about us?” the young man asked. The shock on his face couldn’t disguise the fact that he was having a difficult time putting all of the pieces together.
“I think I know how, or at least why they’re here Joseph,” the young woman said, wiping the tears from her eyes as she cradled her crying newborn baby boy.
“Maire, what are you talking about?” Joseph asked.
“The reason I was pregnant in the first place Joseph. Don’t you see, this is his will,” Maire replied. The understanding was reciprocated in the eyes of the three old men that stood before her.
“Mr. and Mrs. Sheesah, I don’t want to alarm you. We’ve traveled a long way and I believe that you Maire are quite aware of why we are here. If the two of you would be so kind, we’ll then be on our way. Would you do three tired old men the benefit and allow us to bless your son Tim?”
“It would be an honor,” Maire replied as she handed the child over to Goldy.
“How the hell do you know our names, let alone what we’re gonna call our boy? Maire, are you sure about this?” Joseph asked. He was ready to pounce at a moments notice.
“I am Joseph,” she replied. She nodded in agreement and looked down at their baby boy, “He is.”
The young child stopped crying as he was placed into the cracked and dirty hands of Goldy. The old man muttered something to Frank. Frank then began digging around in the duffel bag that he was carrying and brought forth a small silver flask, scraped and dirty from the their long journey. Merle grabbed it from his hands and unscrewed the cap. He took a long deep pull from the bottle and then gasped in relief.
“God, if there ever was a time for a drink,” Merle said as he wiped the drops of whiskey from the corner of his lips.
“Don’t hog it all. Show some damn manners Merle,” Frank said as he grabbed the flask. “Joseph, you most of all look like you need a drink. Here, it’s my family’s old Kentucky mash,” he said as he handed it to the young man.
Joseph gratefully received the flask and took a pull. His face and lips contorted as if there was something behind the skin on his face that pulled them back into his skull, but only for a brief moment. He felt the tingling lightning bolt extend to the nerve endings of his fingers and toes.
“Whooooo, heeeeeeeewwwwwwwww!” Merle shouted. He couldn’t help but slap his right knee in laughter. “The boy don’t know what hit him.”
“Alright, alright, enough clowning around gentlemen; let’s not forget why we’re here,” Goldy interjected.
“You’re right boss. Our apologies Ma’am,” Frank said. The embarrassment and joy humbled his appearance.
“As it has been written, let him be our guide,” Goldy whispered atop of the baby boy’s forehead, “Our everlasting savior, blessed be that unto all, his glory shall shine forevermore. Amen.”
“Amen,” Frank and Merle replied in unison.
Maire, who was struggling to stay awake as she watched three tired and dirty old men bless her newborn, caught a glimpse of something white in the corner of her eye. Her husband Joseph caught it too. The two of them, Maire on her back, legs akimbo, shaking and Joseph kneeling at her side, an arm around her shoulders gazed up towards and past the three men making baby talk, holding the newborn boy. There resting atop of the telephone wire that ran parallel to the back fence adjacent to the back of the gas station building was a large white dove. It was brilliantly luminescent in the glow of the moonlight. For a split second, Maire and Joseph could’ve sworn that the darn bird smiled.
Goldy nodded in agreement as if to someone who had just whispered in his ear. “I understand, it is your will. It has to be done.”
He knelt down and handed the newborn baby boy back to its’ mothers waiting arms. There were tears falling down Goldy’s wrinkled face. He mouthed the words, “I’m sorry,” to Maire. With a puzzled look on her face she gazed back into his eyes.
Goldy stood up and Joseph rose to meet him, extending a hand to shake. Goldy grabbed the young man’s hand and shook it. Joseph wrapped his arms around the old man and hugged him deeply, and then convulsed with a look of wide eyed horror as his mouth gaped in shock at the other two old men standing before him.
Goldy slowly withdrew the blade from the young man’s stomach as he watched him fall down to his knees, blood spilling out onto the dark pavement.
Maire, holding her child close to her chest, screamed in horror.
Frank and Merle knelt in obedience before their old companion. Goldy with Maire’s screaming echoing in his ears, he drew the knife’s blood drenched blade across each of the other two old men’s’ necks. They collapsed face first onto the pavement as if wet bags of sands. Goldy brought the blade with his two hands in front of his stomach and gutted himself, without a word. Bliss covered his face as the sounds of the young woman screaming coupled with her newborn baby boy’s learning breaths escaped into the dark night.
The dove that had previously sat alone on the telephone wire was now accompanied by a large raven. In silence they looked down upon the scene of birth, murder and suicide as the young widow and her son wept for the new world that was to come.