Running From God

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     Tom Stiveson 
    Keymaster

    Running From God

    Chapter One
    Broke, Busted and Bruised In the Badlands

    Everything is gone, and I do mean everything. And now this. Is this how it all ends, I can’t help but wonder while sitting behind the wheel of my vintage 1968 Ford Ranger pickup? I’d finally reached the deepest pit of despair in a location that looked every bit like the end of the world as we know it today.
    The Ranger had been faithfully restored by my best friend Harvey Goad. The pearl and aqua green exterior and the matching interior glistened in the sun while sitting on the side of a desolate stretch of roadway. The combination of stunning colors, original stock fixtures down to the ingeniously crafted white wall tires proved to be a devout commitment to quality and craftsmanship.
    In some weird way, it was the truck that prevented me from ending it all right here. I think it’s fair to say I’d had enough. I’d gone as far as I could go both mentally and physically. But the sheer beauty of the truck seemed to somehow hold the last few threads of normalcy together in some weird, pleasurable way.
    It all seemed to come down to the glistening, polished sheet metal and the regular beat of the human heart. Man and machine at its finest. The bond seemed complete. Almost but not quite.
    Lanny flashed through my brain at just the right moment though and thoughts of ending it all were suddenly obliterated from my mind by the human form of a woman I’d once loved more than anything else in the world.
    The sheer hopelessness that has engulfed every fiber of my being is beginning to take its toll. For the moment I have become mentally prepared to deal with life as it is at precisely 7:05 AM on a bright, and crisp spring morning in the year 2015 perched near the rim of a million years gone by.
    Between the thoughts of beautiful, gentle hearted Lanny and the gorgeous pickup, a real 60’s heartthrob of a throwback, I’d found myself hanging on by a slender thread. Those few sweet, mind altering moments were suddenly submersed in a burning thought though. There was something I needed to do, something I’d been wanting to do for sometime now.
    While considering my plight on this desolate, yet serene country road in the very bowels of heartland America, I could not pull myself away from doing what I know I probably should not do. All life long, I’d been conditioned to think, act and walk like a man of faith. I’d been conditioned to speak the faith, and not judge others according to their individual weakness and inability to be as righteous as I appeared to be.
    I’ve always made a forthright effort to be a good man, just as I’ve always desired to do good things in life, to be honest, ethically and morally sound, a good husband and loving father. I desired to be successful in business while striving to help others become prominent members of the business community. But now it’s vary apparent things didn’t go quite as planned.
    While sitting behind the polished steering wheel as the call of a distant crow interrupted the dead silence of my surroundings, I reflected back on a conversation that took place the day before. Harvey and I were discussing my future while sitting amongst the many stately pine trees in his expertly manicured back yard.
    My good friend of many years looked me in the eyes as he moved to the edge of his heavily padded lawn chair with his signature ice cold drink in hand. “I’m sorry Martin, I just can’t see running away as the answer. Your not the type to run from stuff. Your one of the strongest minded men I know.”
    Of course, I didn’t see my plan as an attempt at running away. I mean, how can one think of starting a new life as a form of running form ones past? Ok, perhaps I’m a bit delusional but I figure I’ve earned it for all I’ve been through in the past few years. “You know I can’t stay here, Harv. There’s way to much pain. I choke a little more on the memories every day. I’m setting out to start a new life.”
    “And tell me again, what’s in Savanna, Georgia?” I watched as he sucked from a thin, red designer straw running the length of a long, narrow Crystal glass containing the remnants of a vodka, cranberry juice, and mint schnapps combo, his all time favorite drink.
    I wanted to tell him, ‘my new life, of course’, but said instead, “Allen Carson invited me down. He told me I could stay with him until I’m able to put things back together again.”
    “You have ideas for another business venture don’t you?” old Harvey could not help but ask. Just like the two previous very successful business startups, Harvey would want a piece of any future action based on my ability to plan, build and thrive in a business startup environment infused with a gluttonous dose of success. I had become known for the man with the Midas touch.
    Good fortune seem to follow me at every turn, until of course the day February 3rd, 2013 arrived. That was the day my many years of good fortune ran completely out of gas. It has been said that one can ride the gravy train for just so long. Of course, I’m officially living proof of that notion. I fell off the gravy train much sooner than I’d planned. Through this, I quickly establish the notion that life is indeed plump with a plethora of truncated, dark valleys, but many more pristine mountain summits where the hint of paradise can be found.
    I try to smile as I watch Harvey greedily suck the remains from the bottom of the ice cube laden glass. “No plans Harvey, not yet anyway, just a clean break and a fresh start.”
    “And what about money? I know you didn’t end up with much in the divorce settlement.” Harvey shook his glass in an attempt to break up the ice. “Would you like another Perrier?”
    “No thanks, I’m good. I still have a few bucks left. I’m not totally penniless, yet.” I couldn’t bring myself to tell Harvey a few bucks translated into two-hundred and fifty dollars to be exact. Hard to believe it’s all I had left considering I pretty much had it all at one point. Had the tax man, the divorce lawyer and the stock market not taken the majority of my wealth, I’d be looking at starting my third very successful business startup or retiring to the Mediterranean in style with my energetic wife, reluctant daughter and a great big stash of cash in tow.
    “Is it enough to get you to Savanna and set up shop?” Harvey Goad had his doubts.
    “I’ll be fine Harvey, trust me.”
    “And what do you plan to do for wheels? I know for a fact the IRS took just about everything you owned. And I don’t even want to discuss that little rental you’ve been driving around you got parked out front.”
    All true of course, lock, stock and barrel, including the little rental I have parked out front. Everything I’d ever held dear to my heart was gone including my spouse of 26 years and my 15 year old daughter, Jennifer. Nothing left but a suitcase of clothing specially selected for extended travel, two pairs of shoes, a few books, a photo album and several small boxes of items that actually meant something to me.
    I nearly cried the day I watched my prized high end Ram truck with all the available options imaginable, and my beloved Fire red Challenger SRT 396 Coup being brutally yanked from my custom built, four car garage. A real man cave in every sense of the word.
    In the past few weeks, I’d been renting a Ford Escort for around thirty dollars a day. I had one credit card to my name, with a balance of two-hundred and sixty-three dollars on it, the balance remaining for the rental. Per contract requirements, the car was scheduled to be returned by noon tomorrow. I was rapidly running out of time and of course, money. A thoroughly humble man through and through.
    Finally, I looked at Harvey straight in those suspicious but sorrowful brown eyes of his and told him the truth. “I was going to see if you’d follow me to the rental car agency tomorrow and drive me down to the bus station.” I nearly choked at the mere thought of it. I didn’t really want Harvey to know about the bus station.
    Harvey sat motionless at the edge of his chair while gripping his elegant glass in one hand. “Your kidding?” he offered, as though the words had been delivered in slow motion. “You’re not really planning to take the bus are you?” I watched as the eyebrows developed a curious little quiver.
    Believe me, I didn’t want to be thought of as the bum riding the aged, odoriferous bus to Savannah, Georgia either. I never thought I’d see the day, but the bus, the rental and the Motel 6 is the new reality in this mans world. For the record, I did research the cost riding the rails via Amtrak. I’d been on the Amtrak several times in the past few years making me semi qualified to offer a rather distasteful review of the government-owned corporation. The price of a one way ticket to Savanna from my side the country ended up being $85.00 dollars cheaper, so the bus very quickly made the most sense.
    Several years ago I thought I’d be in a much different place at the age of 49. My new life sure isn’t what I’d envisioned after selling my first business for slightly more than 3 million dollars at the tender age of 37. Harvey ended up with his 30 per cent investment and smiled quite broadly all the way to the bank.
    We quickly created an encore performance with the 2nd startup and sold it again for little more than 2 million dollars 8 years later after a very lucrative run. We even made a few other people wealthy along the way. The sale of that business is what created a massive snowball effect that eventually obliterated everything g I’d every worked my whole life to gain, including my custom built home, vehicles, and family, everything. I’ll be sharing all the gory details as we move along with this story.
    “It’s not all bad,” I finally offered. I simply couldn’t wrap my brain around just how bad it really was. I’d never felt more depressed in all my life. There was a time when I would jump out of bed in the morning, filled with a passionate desire to see what exciting events the new day would bring. Starting and running a successful enterprise was wrought with a multitude of pits, and deep valleys, but always, my faith in God would pull me trough while soaring to new heights yet seen.
    My dad use to enjoy sharing these words with me, “remember son, as promised in scriptures, the Lord truly does want us to receive the desires of our heart if only we are willing to remain as close to Him as possible while honoring His commandments and maintaining a well devised covenant. Life was good, and the sheer joy derived from each day certainly made life worth living. The more I received, the more I wanted to give back to people in need.
    And now? Well, I have never felt more distant and alone. I feel totally abandoned and filled with dread each waking moment. I’ve been waiting for just one sliver of sunshine, something I could look upon as being positive, anything that would lead me to believe that there was hope.
    Finally, Harvey rose from his chair looking like he’d been told a good friend had just died on one hand and had just been handed a winning lottery ticket in the other. “Hey Marty, follow me out to the garage. I want to show you something.”
    What now, I couldn’t help but wonder as I followed him through the long, winding maze of his sprawling ranch style home? I could not help but notice as Harvey placed his empty glass on a counter top in the kitchen, a cavernous room filled with everything one would expect to find in an upscale, kitchen, a large swath of marble inlays and black walnut cabinetry, with cherry oak flooring.
    Harvey opened a solid oak door leading out into yet another enormous cavern designed to please the eye as well as the pallet. Harvey spends a considerable amount of time in this showroom of a garage. The immense space of glistening floors, hardwood cabinetry, tantalizing art work depicting automobiles from nearly every era and the Ranger truck. Parked near dead center was the beautiful display of restored metal, woodwork and upholstery, truly a sight to be- hold.
    I stood in amazement, but even the ingeniously crafted vehicle could scarcely lift my soured disposition. “Very nice old boy. I see you finally got it restored,” I said, without much emotion.
    With hands buried deep inside his tweed trousers, Harvey stood a few feet in front of his troubled friend while scrutinizing his masterpiece. Suddenly, he spun around while pulling something from one pocket. He lifted the small object upward for a brief inspection while producing a gentle smile. “I want you to have it Marty.” Harvey dangled a gleaming set of polished keys outward. A moment later, he tossed the neat little package to me.
    I snatched the key set out of the air while staring wide-eyed at the master-mind behind living life to the full. “You want me to have the truck? But why? I have no way of paying for something like that. You must have a bundle of cash buried in that thing.”
    “Take it. It’s yours to use. Drive it to Savanna. We’ll call it a test run. It has a brand new 360, loaded with plenty of power and fairly easy on gas. There’s a credit card in the glove box with your name on it. Use it for gas if nothing else. Return the truck when you’ve got a good grip on your new life. You know where I live. I’m not going anywhere. And won’t be at all worried about the truck. I know it’ll be in good hands.”
    A long, hazy minute passed before I was able to respond. The truck seemed to be the very bridge I needed to get me from here to there while saving a few dollars in rental fees along the way. Feeling overwhelmed, dazed and a bit confused, I finally produced a hint of a smile, jostled the set of keys in my hand and said, “you are indeed the only friend I have left in the world. As for the credit card, I could never…”
    “Marty, look, had it not been for you I wouldn’t be where I am today. It’s the least I can do. Besides, both the card and truck are loaners. I would like to have them returned at some point down the road.”
    Somewhere down the road, I thought. One of many thoughts wrapped in a bank of thoughts spinning freely inside my head. Somewhere down the road, indeed, where ever that might be. Life suddenly seemed a little more palatable at the moment but I still couldn’t help but wonder about tomorrow. For the first time in my life, God seemed to be fading from my highly compressed little world and I can’t recall a time when I ever felt more lost in all of my life, and yet I thought I could detect the slightest twinge of freedom.
    The open road with zero obligations began to appeal to me. Starting a new life without the bothersome covenant of God looming large over my head made me feel semi normal, if for just a moment. Perhaps just long enough to offer a hint of a smile as a brief vision of tomorrow filtered through my brain. Gee, what was that I could not help but wonder, a happy thought?
    Finally I said, “You know I’ll take good care of it. Just like it’s my own.”
    Harvey stepped up to his best friend while placing a hand on one shoulder. “I know you will. And I’ll feel better knowing your in a reliable vehicle.” Harvey pressed down on the firm flesh of my shoulder. “Take good care of yourself and email me concerning your progress every chance you get.”
    “Of course, I’ll stay in touch and I will be back.”
    “And I’ll be looking forward to the day you do return.”
    A little voice in my head instructed me to focus on the problem at hand while sitting calmly behind the wheel of the truck. The little voice also told me to turn back. You’ve gone to far as it is. You don’t belong in Savanna. Turn around, go home.
    And then the little voice was gone. Reality kicked in and my Marten voice came out. The confident, ‘I will recover’ voice instructed me to get the truck fixed and move on. You still have a lot of miles to cover between here and Savanna. I liked the Marten voice. Little did I know this trusted voice offered a rare piece of bad information. Going to Savanna is the last place I should have picked to start my new life. Soon I would realize just how bad it would really get.

    • This topic was modified 2 years, 2 months ago by  Tom Stiveson.
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