Return Engagements (Book Two) PART 7

(Continued from part six)

I took a taxi to the Golden Olympic restaurant, where I installed myself at a booth and ordered a spinach, feta and gyros omelet. I fixed a newly poured cup of coffee and pulled out my note. It was written on stationary from the Congress Hotel. As best I can recall it read thusly:

Greetings Paul. I am Arnon, the partner of Noncia, the woman who brought you to 1963. Time requires me to be brief, but we apologize for not greeting you very well. We’re both busy with other things and we were sure you could cope with an era you’ve lived through once already.

The world you’re in has only three weeks, perhaps a day or two less.

At this point I stopped and read it again. Three weeks?! I all but said it aloud… and it would have been loud. What can I do with less than three weeks? But the letter continued, and so I followed.

This is a very short time, but our friend who lent us the equipment for these insertions suggested that it would be good for you to have a short visit to a comfortable place, and then this one popped up. He asks that you relax as much as possible.

The rest you know. I’m sorry we can’t spend time together. I will now procure some currency and get it to you. Good luck.

I must have sat at my booth for several minutes, in a sort of daze. I was only pulled out of it when the waitress came by with some fresh coffee.

Twenty days,” I muttered to myself, “at least I have plenty of money.” I continued eating and re-read the note, in a slightly stunned frame of mind. But when the waitress passed by again I asked her for some scratch paper and a pen.

I made a hand-drawn calendar for myself. I was in day 2 of 20 and my ending date, give or take a day, was February 28th. I penciled-in the next two days for the Corwins, and after that I’d have to somehow extract myself from their home, but I’d still come visit them another time or two. They deserved it and time with them might be fairly relaxing, if I could keep away from doctrine.

If I were staying longer I would have thought about an apartment, a car and so on, but with only 19 days in front of me and with $20,000., taking taxis and staying in nice hotels would involve a lot less wasted time. And somehow a few weeks of quiet comfort appealed to me. I wondered how the equipment providers could judge what I needed, but they were right. My life in 2018 was very full, and some days off would do me a lot of good. And hopefully that would transfer back to 2018 when I returned.

I sipped my coffee thinking of these things and feeling a bit relieved that I didn’t have to mount an assault on 1978 and 1979. Then I paid my bill, tightened up my parka and headed out. I thought of walking through downtown Evanston and buying some clothes, but the winter of ‘77/’78 was a rough one and a cold wind was blowing out of the north. And so I walked straight to the Sound Post (south of the restaurant, so the wind was at my back) and spent a pleasant hour looking through their guitars. I eventually decided upon an excellent used Mossman (it had a checked finish, which didn’t bother me). Then I called for another taxi and made my way back to Dorthea and Micah’s apartment.

* * * * *

I amused the Corwins by tuning and testing my new guitar, and discovering that my guitar-player callouses hadn’t come through to 1978 very well… which reminded me that I needed a haircut. Like last time, each hair on my head was about an inch and a half long. And so I went out for a shopping trip on Lawrence Avenue.

I found a barbershop a few blocks to the west and a hardware store a few blocks to the east. Then I came back to the apartment and recreated an “add callouses” trick I once devised, involving Super Glue and Saran Wrap. That entertained Micah and Dorthea all the more.

We had a nice early dinner, I re-fixed one of my fingers, re-tuned my guitar, and we called for a cab. By 7:00 we were walking into Hosanna Tabernacle and greeting seven or eight others who had come.

What grabbed my attention was that these people all had a significant level of the spiritual instinct but had never been able to use it beyond the realms of “church.” They were all at Hosanna Tab for that reason; it was church enough to satisfy their doctrines, but not so much as to quash the instinct altogether. I cried for them while they sang their hymns. To have an instinct that demanded transcendence, and to be imprisoned because of it… that was tragic.

Clearly the Corwins had told the others something about me. The way they looked at me made that clear. But their little meeting proceeded all the same, and soon enough they invited me to share some songs. And so I did. The surprise was how the others helped me open up. As Robert and James taught me, expectations are powerful, and the group expecting me to be an advanced spiritual being helped me act like one.

As I sang my songs, I found myself free to do something that felt like extending my spirit, while still able to critique what I was singing. And more than that, to emphasize the lyrics in ways that minimized questionable concepts. The little crowd was moved… as was a man who walked in about halfway through.

As I stopped singing and headed back to my seat, the man walked up to Walter and whispered something to him. Walter nodded and stood to address the little crowd.

Brother Daniel has something he’d like to share,” he said, and then sat.

Brother Daniel was an American Indian, and a notably intense man. He reminded me of my old friend, Chuck Caputa. And as I learned later that night, Daniel was an on-again, off-again itinerant preacher, with the off-again seasons featuring lots of alcohol.

Brother Daniel stood silently for several seconds, then began softly, his voice slowly rising and eventually becoming quite loud. He explained that he was returning from work when the spirit moved him to come to Hosanna Tabernacle at a time when no meeting was scheduled. But the spirit compelled him nonetheless. Then he fixed his eyes upon me, raised his hand and shut his eyes, as if transmitting words directly from God… which I’m sure was his intent.

Daniel told the gathering that I was sent from God, on a mission no one else would understand, but that they should help me however they could. And then he sat down.

How does one respond to such a thing? I dropped my head in prayer and waited.

Then, finally, I knew what to do. I stood, smiled, picked up my guitar again, and led them in a song they had to know, “A New Commandment.” It’s a beautiful, simple song, communicating one of Jesus’ core messages. It resonated wonderfully through the crowd, and after several runs through I closed the song and put down the guitar.

Walter (whose name morphed to Brother Walter when they were feeling especially moved) dismissed the meeting, and we began to talk amongst one another. Several people asked me how they could help. I thanked them and said that I wasn’t yet sure, but that I’d let Dothea and Micah know as soon as I was. To a person they went immediately to the Corwins and expressed their desire to be informed.

Daniel left a bit before everyone else, and once he did, Micah explained his problem to me. I couldn’t help pitying him. He also had the instinct, and found people among whom he could express it, however imperfectly. But he couldn’t hold his daily life to the requirements of his doctrine.

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