It's sad when a man puts his life on the shelf,
And worse if he dies without finding himself.
Meanwhile, down at the Village Jail, the constable hurried Guiseppe inside while the deputy parked the black and white chariot out back. The King's officer ushered the prisoner down the dark corridor and into the little jail cell, threw a blanket in to him to go along with the bare mattress, and went out again, clanging the door shut behind him. There was a disgusting slop jar in the corner for those times when nature called. The sound of the cell door slamming shut reverberated throughout Guiseppe's mind, like a sledge hammer striking an anvil.
"Wait," he called pleadingly to the disappearing constable's back, "don't leave me here alone. I need help. I need advice. I need someone to talk to." He quit abruptly lest he should whimper, "I need my mommy." There was no answer to his cries, no one even nearby to hear him. Wearily, he sank down onto the lumpy mattress in the tiny cell as the swirling mists of depression settled over him like a shroud.
In soul's agony, he cried aloud, "Woe is me. Woe is the day I was born! Woe, woe, woe! God, why did you even bother letting me be born if I was to end up like this? Why me? What have I done wrong? What? Tell me, so I can repent of it. And why did you give me the money to help people with and then allow it to disappear? I would rather have stayed poor. At least, if I were poor, I would never have known the joy of having riches, and therefore would not feel nearly as bad as I do now. Why did you not leave me alone?"
"I tried to please you, Lord. I really did. I gave the money to anyone who needed it. I gave without ever asking for repayment, or even thanks. Look at Bors. He would have lost his livelihood but for me. Ty would be homeless and on the streets if I did not give him a home. What will happen to him now when he loses his job? Where will he stay? Look at all the charitable organizations I have aided. Look how wonderfully generous I was to help out my sister, and, oh my God, who but me would have taken in my Mother-in-law? That old bat would have driven anyone else mad, but I gave her a home. All she gave me was grief, and criticism, but I gave her a home."
At that, his self pity overwhelmed him and he collapsed into a pool of sadness. Guiseppe was suffering a total psychic meltdown. Had a modern day Psychiatrist been around, he would have promptly prescribed an antidepressant, but, well, you probably figured out that those blokes hadn't been invented yet either. Completely undone, Guiseppe broke down and sobbed and sobbed until he felt like he had no tears left. Finally, he fell asleep, and slept the sleep of the dead, or at least, of the bone weary and depressed.
When he woke up, he saw that a tray of food had been left within reach through the bars at the door. He really was not hungry, but he didn't know when he might get another chance to eat. So, he pushed the stale bread around in the thin gruel and thought longingly of Maude Ann's pot roast, gravy, and blackberry pie. When he could force himself to eat no more of the sorry meal, he pushed the tray away listlessly.
"Guiseppe, Guiseppe," called a voice.
Hoping it might be someone to rescue him from his fate, he replied, "Here I am, down here. Who is it?"
He soon saw Florence walking toward him as fast as her chubby legs could go down the dark corridor toward his cell. "Hi neighbor," she called cheerily. "Fancy meeting you here."
"Oh, Florence," he groaned. "It is no joking matter. I shall be here until they haul me away in a pine box."
"Well, let's hope not. The neighborhood is not the same without you, and Maude Ann is getting testier by the minute. Here, I brought you some fruit cake. Thought it might be better than jail fare," she said smiling, as she handed over a plate of her old Aunt Nellie's best.
"I Thought you would like to know that Tyrannious and Maude Ann had a frightful row, lots of screaming and shouting and cursing, with plates and fleas flying everywhere, and he and Suds left in a huff. I asked him where he was headed, but he would not answer me. When I find out where he is, I will let you know," she offered.
"Well, thanks, Florence. He probably went down to bunk in with Bors at the Hog's Jowl Inn until the storm blows over. Besides, since I cannot pay his fine, he will be in here with me in a couple more days," concluded Guiseppe gloomily.
"I doubt he moved in with Bors. Rumor has it that he cannot pay the mortgage on the Hogs Jowl again this month and The First Bank of The Kingdom has already decided to foreclose on him. We know you cannot help him now that, well, you know....." her voice trailed off in embarrassment. "I do not want to hurt your feelings, my dear."
"It is far too late for that, Florence. If you see Ty, tell him I will try to help him if I can ever get out, and please beg Maude Ann to take him back, if you see her that is. Ty needs her help and support just now, the poor, poor boy."
"Sure, Guiseppe. I will do just that," agreed Florence and as she turned to go.
Time marched on, very slowly, of course. He noticed that the sky outside grew darker, and from the cell window, he could see the moon peeping through the trees over by the grave yard. "This cell is just like a grave," he thought. "The only difference is that it is a little bigger, but not much, and there is no headstone marking my presence," he shuddered. He lay down again on his mattress, his bitter thoughts and constant self recriminations whirling around and around in his brain.
The jail cell was very quiet. He had no company except the mice and his thoughts. He sat up at last and looked around. Then he listened and all he heard was silence. "Well," he prayed silently, "I guess there were times these past weeks when I really wanted peace and quiet, but God, this is not how I meant to get it. God, why did this happen to me? Why did you give me the money if you were just going to take it all away again? Why did you take my wife away too? You know, sometimes, I even wonder if there is a God?"
He looked quickly around when he thought that dangerous thought, for he was not sure one could live over such a doubt as he had just expressed. He expected a lightening bolt to strike him dead. Nothing happened. He was still breathing in and out on a regular basis.
"Oh bother," he continued to himself, "it is a fine kettle of fish you have gotten yourself into, old Guiseppe, and now, how are you going to get yourself out?" With no answer forthcoming, he wrapped himself in the blanket the constable had left, curled up on the thin mattress, and fell into a deep sleep.
"Guiseppe! Guiseppe!" a voice called in the night. He sat up rubbing his eyes and looked all around.
There was no one there. "Who is it?" he asked.
"Guiseppe! Guiseppe!," the voice called again. "You are a human DOING, not a human BEING. When are you going to see the light?"
The words were no sooner spoken, than a white light filled the jail cell and made it bright as day. Within the light, Guiseppe could see the old angel who had brought him the gold, which seemed like such a long time ago. "Michael? Michael, is that really you? You came. You are here to rescue me. Did you bring more gold to pay my back taxes? Oh thank you, God. I knew you would not let me rot in this jail cell forever. I did not really mean to imply that I think God does not exist," he added hastily, covering his 'back side' as best he could.
"Actually, you have only been here about 10 hours, Guiseppe," the angel observed dryly, "but time passes slowly when you are faced with yourself."
"What do you mean? Faced with myself?" he puzzled.
"Guiseppe, all the airways in Heaven are tied up with your cries for help. What are you whining about?"
"Well, you know, why. Why am I here? What did I do to deserve jail? Why do I have to live like this? I need answers."
"Look within yourself, Guiseppe. All the answers are there. For example, you talk on and on about those folks you have helped, all the good you have done with the money. Who exactly were you trying to help?"
"Well," stammered Guiseppe, "I helped Bors, and the King's chariot driver, and Tyrannious, and my sister and her family, and Maude Ann, of course, and a lot of charitable organizations. What is wrong with that? But," he sighed, "the money disappeared before I could do the real work I wanted to do."
"But, who really needs your help?" insisted the angel.
"I already told you. Bors, some of the King's men, Tyrannious needs my help a lot, my sister's family, and of course, Maude Ann."
"Those are the same people you already named, but since you have repeated their names, will you tell me, son, are those people any better off now than they were before you began helping them?" persisted the angel.
"No, I suppose not," admitted Guiseppe in a dejected tone of voice.
"Do those folks have any one thing in common so far as you can see?" Michael asked.
"They are all poor, miserable victims of their circumstances who became discouraged and distressed along the way. Their lives were a failure. I just tried to help them."
"Have you ever felt that way yourself?"
"No, of course not! I trust God and take action!" asserted Guiseppe.
"Hmmm, I see," reflected the angel. "You have never felt helpless, discouraged, distressed, and poor, never felt like a failure?"
"Well, yes," admitted Guiseppe, "before I got the million dollars, I often felt that way."
"How about now?"
"Well, yes, I do feel like a failure, now that the million dollars is gone."
"So, you felt that way before the million, and after the million was gone. What if you had those feelings all along, but the money just hid them so you were not aware of them?"
"Why would I feel depressed and down when I was helping folks out by giving them money? That made me feel good, not bad," insisted Guiseppe emphatically.
"Oh, is that so? Then perhaps it was the rescuing activity that hid the feelings of worthlessness. Is that why you feel bad now?"
"Well, sure. I am not in a position to rescue or help anyone anymore. That really makes me feel worthless. In fact, I cannot even help myself," moaned Guiseppe miserably.
"Do you only have worth if you are helping someone?" persisted the angel, "And, do you think that maybe you rescued other people to keep from feeling the need to be rescued yourself?" asked Michael, peering intently at Guiseppe.
"No, not at all! The only reason I need to be rescued is because I am, through no fault of my own, here in jail, and I have no money to pay my bail," Guiseppe replied defensively.
"It seems you are in jail more ways than one," remarked Michael, turning to go.
"Wait! Do not go. Please stay. I need you. What do you mean I am in more jails than this one?" asked Guiseppe nervously.
"Think about who needs to be rescued, Guiseppe. The answer will come to you if you are honest with yourself about your feelings. The only person in this cell whom you can deceive is yourself. I will come back when you have the answer to my question."
"Thanks, Michael. I guess I will be here, and thanks for not being mad at me about losing the money," he added, but the angel had gone. He lay back down and fell asleep and slept until the next morning when the deputy brought breakfast on a tray. It was thin gruel and stale bread again, but at least it was food.
He ate, cleaned up a bit, using the jug of water and towel the jailer had brought, and sat back down on his mattress. "I wonder what Michael meant when he asked me who I was really helping? Was that the question he asked? No, it was 'Who needs to be rescued?' Did he mean me and if so, why?"
The day passed slowly, and no answers came to him. He walked around and stretched his muscles as often as he could, but the more he walked, the more uneasy he became because no answers came to him. If he didn't do better than this, he could plan on a long jail stay, because Michael wouldn't return until he answered the question correctly.
"What if I never figure it out?" he worried. "What if I have to stay here the rest of my life? Michael?" he pleaded aloud, "Please come back and give me a clue."
To be continued....
Lenny and Jan Antonsson
17178 Highway 59, Neosho, MO 64850 (Snail Mail)
Forward to The Man Who Asked God For A Million Dollars
The Man Who Asked God For A Million Dollars, Chapter One
The Man Who Asked God For A Million Dollars, Chapter Two
The Man Who Asked God For A Million Dollars, Chapter Three
The Man Who Asked God For A Million Dollars, Chapter Four
The Man Who Asked God For A Million Dollars, Chapter Five
The Man Who Asked God For A Million Dollars, Chapter Six
The Man Who Asked God For A Million Dollars, Chapter Seven
The Man Who Asked God For A Million Dollars, Chapter Eight
The Man Who Asked For A Million Dollars, Chapter Nine
The Man Who Asked For A Million Dollars, Chapter Ten
The Man Who Asked God For A Million Dollars, Chapter Twelve
The Glory Road
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