Monday, February 24, 2014

The Four Men

The Four Men met for years after It happened. They were so young back then. They were foolish and assumed that they knew it all, that what they did back then was right -- and all right. They even secretly cut the cloth in four pieces. Never did they dream that the drama they took part in would affect the world for all time.

They kept in touch through the years, as difficult as that was. Their profession had been such that they had forever a common bond of being a bit cynical, perhaps even cruel, although at the time they didn’t consider it as such. After all, this was how the world treated the criminal element. But when It happened, these four comrades were so affected that they pledged to meet each year at a certain place. They didn’t understand why this urge to meet and talk about It (they had discussed this strange aspect with each other), but they kept their pledge faithfully each year, even though the trip became more draining both physically and financially as the years slipped by.

Through the years each got married and raised a family who in turn started raising their families. At the yearly get-together they would discuss the mundane issues of kids, bills, and wives. But always, always the conversation turned to It. The whole thing still seemed so strange, and yet so grand. What a puzzle! Finally, as they did each year, they would remove their pieces of cloth from their packets and lay them on the table to see if they still fit. And then they would tell their stories.

Maurice spoke first. “My grandson was so sick a few months ago. It was right after a party we had for his third birthday, so we thought maybe he ate some bad food. It was my wife who suggested I put the cloth on him. Well, I thought, who can figure women out! But it was so strange -- he got better right away. You can’t imagine how happy I was! But I started thinking about that man again and whether we did the right thing.”

Abiathar spoke next. “Well, I’m not sure mine was as dramatic as that, but it meant just about as much to us. My wife got the strangest feeling one day about her mother. I happen to like my mother-in-law a lot, so we both walked over to her house and there she was; she had slipped on something and was on the floor. I carry my cloth with me everywhere -- yes, I’m superstitious -- so I immediately put it on her leg which we thought was broken. She got up right away and was fine! One thing about it, she doesn’t tease me about the cloth anymore. She has even asked me about the Man.”

Helios broke in excitedly with his remarkable incident. “I can’t wait to tell you what happened this year! Julius -- our 15-year-old grandson -- decided he wanted to try out for the decathalon. Well, I have never seen a young man so inspired to make his family proud of him. He was obsessed with it. His best friend entered the decathalon too, but Julius was so sure of himself and he didn’t say much about his friend. As it turned out, Julius’ friend won the decathalon and poor Julius ... he was so depressed and discouraged! He thinks I’m crazy when I take out this bit of cloth, but one day I decided why not? I placed it on Julius’ arm and it was like his heart was healed. My dear friends, I was amazed! Now he is one of Paul’s disciples.” Helios could speak no more.

Claudius, the gentlest of the four men, then spoke. “I’ve always been reluctant to share my feelings, as you all know, but this year something happened that was so overwhelming. My dear brother who wouldn’t hurt a living thing was charged with harming a man who had accused him of fraud and slander. If anything, this man was the slanderer. We were stunned. As it turned out, my brother was finally acquitted, but he was so full of bitterness. The accusations seemed to turn his heart to stone. Then one day I showed him the cloth. Well, he thought I was deranged. I told him what the Man said as He was dying: `Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.’ We were all there, remember? We all heard it. I think that was the moment I realized that we had helped murder the most innocent Man on earth. So I took the cloth and placed it in my brother’s hand, and -- what a miracle -- he said, `Yes, I now understand.’ He then told me that he had wondered for years what had happened to me back when It happened. I had changed so, he said, and he almost envied me the peace I had. He told me that he would go see the man who had made a rubble of his life. Instead of throwing stones he would rebuild with them!”

The Four Men picked up their pieces of cloth from the table and made plans for the next year.

Patricia Erwin Nordman

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