by John Fox
Once I decided to go visit my daughter Catherine and the grandkids in Portland, not even the Devil himself could have stopped me. Driving up without speaking engagements seemed a waste of my talent, so I placed a few calls. I told one pastor I was doing a steeplechase up the coast, a bit of wordplay I found uproarious, but his humor was off as old cheese. “Randolf,” he said, approaching my name like a wild animal, “I think you frightened a few of our high schoolers last time.” I held the phone like a barbell and said, “Nothing wrong with a little fright!”
So that apostate turned me down but I booked two others. My shtick dramatized stories from the holy battlefield. Closest I came to guns-and-bombs action was serving as a chaplain in the early years of the Vietnam war, but let me tell you, I’ve run the gauntlet: I’ve dealt the Word in eighteen languages, survived a poisonous snake bite, smuggled Bibles across hostile borders, outlasted three imprisonments (one solitary), and abetted two exorcisms. Technically I was retired, but there weren’t any laggards in the army of God, only those taking a resting spell. So I rested up and did my duty.
My daughter loved surprises, so I didn’t call beforehand. On Wednesday I put on the brown corduroy suit with thin wales and drove up Pacific Coast highway with all four windows down on Ehud, my battered Buick. Ehud had endured several assaults, including Halloween sabotages involving maple syrup and eggs because I gave out verses instead of candy for the pagan holiday, but it never stopped running.
Just after dusk, I arrived in Eureka and found my first church. The youth pastor sported cheeks with virginal fuzz, and said, “Nice. In the flesh. God’s Guerrilla.” I’d been dubbed that in the seventies, after kamikaze trips smuggling Bibles through the Iron Curtain. I should have been shot, poisoned, or betrayed more times than Caesar and Mandela combined, but a halo of safety hovered on my crown. “You ready to have your world rocked?” He nodded as though I were promising him streets of gold.
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John Fox is the author of “I Will Shout Your Name,” (Press 53) and has also published in Crazyhorse, Third Coast, Shenandoah, and the Chicago Tribune. He provides editing and resources for writers at Bookfox, which has received mentions from The Guardian, Los Angeles Times, Publisher’s Weekly, and The Huffington Post. He earned an MFA from the University of Southern California and an MA from New York University, but after teaching at the collegiate level for a decade, he decided to focus on Bookfox full time. After traveling to more than forty countries and living in three, he has settled down in Orange County, California with his wife, twin boys, and eight chickens.