Rune Rofke - Glenn Emery
My heart was still pounding as I walked from Betty Lou’s trailer out to the highway. The streets were wet and the summer air had cooled considerably from the afternoon storm. Within a couple minutes I had a ride into town. I trembled a little every time I thought about what might have almost happened. I didn’t want to believe the guy back at Betty Lou’s would have actually shot and killed me. But the memory of his menacing, unseen voice made me shudder.
“Yeah. Just had a close call with someone I hope not to meet again.”
“Chauncey.” I pronounced it Chancey, like Betty Lou did.
“Man, you do not want to go there unless you have to. There’s some bad characters there.”
“I know. I think I accidentally crossed paths with one.”
“You a student?”
“No. Just passing through.”
“Where are you staying?”
“I don’t have a place.”
A few minutes later the guy pulled up outside a house. The sign said United Campus Ministry. “If you need to, you might be able to crash here,” he said. “I know they let people sleep here sometimes in an emergency.”
I thanked him and got out. Just being back in Athens made me feel better. It was almost sunset, and I needed to find a place to sleep. It was too wet to sleep on the ground, plus I didn’t want to risk a repeat of last night. So I went inside, where a young guy was sitting behind a cheap desk, talking on the phone. He glanced up at me and told the person on the other end he had to go, and then hung up.
“Can I help you?”
“I’m new in town and don’t have anyplace to stay yet,” I said. “I don’t have any money and some guy I just met said you might let me crash here tonight. I slept outside last night, but the storm was really bad and I don’t want to go through that again.”
“You spent last night outside in the storm?” The guy seemed mildly shocked or concerned, I’m not sure which.
“By the river, in an abandoned building.”
I thought the interrogation would continue, but the guy seemed satisfied I was in need of some Christian charity.
“This isn’t a place you can stay. I can let you sleep here tonight, but you’ll have to leave in the morning and try to find someplace else. We don’t really have housing accommodations. It’s not a shelter.”
“I understand. I wouldn’t even be here except I’ve been out all day trying to find a place to stay and I haven’t had any luck and now it’s getting late. I’ll leave in the morning. I’m sure I’ll be able to find something suitable.” I hated being in such a helpless situation, having to rely on a handout, but it was getting dark and I didn’t have much choice.
As I stood there, somebody else came in. A tall, lanky guy who looked even more destitute than me. The fellow behind the desk barely looked up. He just said, “Hi, Richard,” and then led both of us to the basement.
It was a comfortable space, obviously used for social activities. There were two sofas, and we each took one.
I wasn’t worried about eating. The meal at Betty Lou’s would hold me over until morning. And I was relieved there didn’t seem to be any ill effects of her cooking. No stomachache. No urge to vomit. No sudden bout of diarrhea. It appeared I had escaped food poisoning, and I didn’t get raped, and I didn’t get shot, and now I had a dry place to sleep for the night. I didn’t have many blessings right at this moment, but I was willing to count all of them several times.
The other guy, Richard, was gone by the time I woke up. I washed up in the small bathroom and grabbed my stuff. It was still early and I didn’t see anyone around as I left. I made a mental note of the address in case I needed to come back. But my intention was to not have to.
Today I would look for a job. It seemed the easiest, most straightforward way to approach people without arousing suspicions. All I wanted to do was make some friends, and from those friends hopefully there would be someone I could witness to, and if all went well, they would come back to Indianapolis with me.
The job search didn’t go as planned. Nobody was looking for any help. The town was saturated with college students who needed part-time employment, even in the summer, so finding something to do wouldn’t be as easy as I thought. Even so, looking for work gave me a good excuse to meet people and try to establish some contacts.
Maria was my first real meaningful conversation. She worked in a pizza parlor and was very friendly toward me when I explained my circumstances. She said they weren’t hiring, but that I should check back later. Something might turn up. She must have thought I looked like I had missed a few meals because she gave me a couple slices of pizza to take with me.
Later I met Mark. He had a bagel buggy on the curb across the street from the Class Gate. He was very friendly too, and we talked for while. Mark had a small charcoal grill and he sold toasted bagels with a slab of cream cheese and some jelly. He said he did most of his business at night when students were out drinking and wanted a snack.
It was early afternoon and he didn’t have many customers. He was just sitting and playing his guitar. He had a second guitar and I asked him if I could see it, and we ended up playing together a little. I couldn’t really keep up with him, so I put the guitar away and took out one of my blues harps. I wasn’t great but I was okay and could improvise around what he was doing. Mark liked it and we jammed there on the street for a while. He told me he’d be playing at open mic later that night at a bar called Cripple Creek and I should come by and play with him. So I said okay. He gave me a toasted bagel with some cream cheese and jelly. He also said he had a vegetable garden at the house where he rented a room and I was welcome to come over and pick some vegetables.
I had been through all of downtown and not really found much else to explore job-wise, so I went over to the campus green and sat on the grass. A few minutes later I spotted Richard. He was coming straight toward me.
I hadn’t really paid much attention to him last night. I was just too worn out from the storm and the encounter with Betty Lou. But here in broad daylight, feeling more rested and alert and having had something to eat, I was much more keyed in on his disturbing presence.
Richard didn’t walk. He loped. He was exceptionally tall, but he hunched over so that his head led his body, bobbing like a bald orb in front of an ungainly torso that struggled to keep up. His long limbs seemed to be on the verge of careening off in some random direction at any moment. But somehow he kept coming straight toward me.
He stopped in front of me. “Mind if I join you?”
I was not at all happy with the sudden company. His spirit was very dark, very low. I wouldn’t say that he was evil, but he certainly had witnessed and experienced a lot of evil in his life, and it had permanently marked him. If he had a name tag, it would say, “Sick Fuck.”
Richard had the thousand-mile stare. Never a good sign. His eyes were hollow and ringed with dark circles. The front half of his head was shaved clean, while wispy brown hair covered the back half. Separating these two hemispheres was a thin, pink, surgically straight scar that ran from one ear, across the top of his head, to the other. His teeth were in bad shape. Richard was scary to look at, even in daylight, and hanging out with him did not seem to me a wise way to spend my time, but I didn’t feel like getting up.
“Yeah, but everybody calls me Mooney.”
That made me stop. It wasn’t unheard of as a nickname, but it seemed a strange coincidence given my own peculiar circumstances.
Richard, or Mooney, explained that his family had lived in the hills of southern Ohio for generations, working as miners, loggers, farmers, trappers, moonshiners -- whatever they could do to get by. They were hillbillies and always dirt poor. Eventually they came to live in a small mining community west of Athens called Moonville, which was deep in the hills along the railroad tracks.
I was intrigued by the name of this little town, so I asked him if it were still there.
“No. It’s long gone. There’s a small cemetery, but no buildings or any sign there was a town there. The only thing left is a small tunnel through the mountain. The train still runs through there, but the place is haunted, somebody wandering the tunnel at night with a lantern. Story is they were trying to get the train to stop, but got run over and killed.”
Like almost everyone else, Mooney’s family eventually left Moonville to eke out a meager living in the Appalachian forests with other hill people. It was always a desperate struggle for survival. Mooney went to school off and on, but kids always picked on him because of his height and his strange appearance. They called him Mooney because his family had been from Moonville.
One day he got in a fight with another boy and Mooney picked up a big rock and when the other kid wasn’t looking, bashed in his skull, killing him. The state determined Mooney, who was just a child, was insane and sent him to The Ridges, the sprawling asylum just south of Athens. That was 40 years ago.
His father was killed long ago in a mining accident, but his mother was still alive, living in a state-run nursing home in Columbus. He hadn’t seen her in decades. As far as he knew, he had no other family.
Mooney said he hated The Ridges, but it was the only home he had ever known, so even though he had been formally released from state custody years ago, he never strayed too far from the asylum. He lived on monthly disability checks from the state, which he spent mostly on weed and speed. When he ran out of money, he’d voluntarily check himself into The Ridges until he got another check.
So right at this particular point in time he was relatively flush with cash and wandering around Athens trying to score dope.
“You’re different from everyone else around here,” he said.
“You’ve got a light around you. I dunno, sort of like an angel or something. Different.”
I wasn’t sure what to say, so I didn’t say anything.
After an awkward pause, he said, “Why are you here?”
“I’m looking for someone.”
“I don’t know.”
“How will you know when you find ’em?”
“I’ll know because I’ll be able to speak to them. I have some important things to say, but very few people are willing or able to listen. So when I find someone who will listen, and I’m able to speak freely and deeply, I’ll know it’s them.”
“And then what?”
“That depends. If they accept what I have to say, they may choose to come with me back to Indianapolis.”
“That’s where you’re from?”
“There are others like you?”
“So you have a tribe. A tribe of angels.” This concept seemed to fascinate Mooney.
“Yes, you could call us a tribe, I guess. But we’re not angels. We’re just ordinary people who know some things that most people don’t know.”
“You’re not ordinary,” Mooney said. “Maybe you’re not an angel, but you’re unlike anyone I’ve ever seen or met before. You’re an old soul, and you’re a kind person. I can tell that in people right away. I knew it when I met you last night. I wasn’t even planning on sleeping there last night, but something just made me go over there, and when I walked in and saw you, I knew there was something special about you. I was hoping to find you again today. I’ve been looking all over for you.”
“Why did you leave so early?”
Mooney looked away. “I had something I had to do.” Whatever it was, he didn’t want to talk about it, and I didn’t press him.
“Well, you found me.”
“I feel like a dog that’s caught the bus. I’m not even sure why I wanted to find you. I just did.”
I was thinking I should say goodbye and go. I really didn’t want to be around Mooney. His appearance gave me the creeps, and the possibility of him latching onto me and following me around like a puppy for the next 38 days wasn’t acceptable. I started to get up.
“I want to hear what you have to say,” he said.
“I don’t think that’s a good idea.”
“Why not? You think I’m too stupid?”
“Because what I have to say could change everything for you, and it wouldn’t necessarily be good. You’d be responsible for what you understand,” I said. I waited to see if any of it registered. “Right now you’re not held accountable for what you do because you’re ignorant of spiritual law. If I tell you what I know, then you’ll have to bear the burden of knowing.”
“Really, it’s not a good idea. You’re better off not knowing.”
“Maybe, but I felt compelled to find you today, and I think this is why. I want to hear what you have to say.”
I thought it over. Mooney was, for lack of a better term, a zombie. At this moment, right now sitting here on the green with me in the middle of a hot July afternoon, he was lucid and alert. But I could tell this was a rare thing for him. Most of the time he was out of it. In Oakland we called people like him “bombed.” His spirit was dead. He was beyond salvation. He couldn’t join if he wanted to, nor would I want him to.
On the other hand, I needed to talk to someone. Perhaps teaching the Principle to Mooney, although ultimately futile for him, might help break the ice for me. Perhaps it would mobilize the spirit world to direct me to the person or people I needed to meet.
“Okay, I’ll tell you,” I said. “But on the condition you don’t blame me for what might happen to you later. I’m serious. Some of this is potent information. It might mess you up even worse than you already are.”
“I doubt it. Just go ahead and let me worry about it.”
So I started in, from the beginning. I explained about the duality of creation, how everything in nature is either positive or negative, male or female, because that’s God’s nature, and how Adam and Eve were the embodiment of that ideal, and when they grew up they would embody God’s nature in the flesh. But Lucifer, the archangel who took care of them, like a nanny, became jealous of how much God loved them, and Lucifer fell in love with Eve and wanted to have her for himself. So he seduced Eve, and afterward Eve understood that she was supposed to be with Adam, so she seduced Adam, and God’s ideal was ruined before it could reach its full potential. Adam and Eve were cast out of Eden and Lucifer became Satan.
I explained that the messiah -- Christ -- was the only person who could fix it, but for God to send the messiah to mankind, sinful men had to make certain conditions to prove they were ready for the messiah and wouldn’t reject him. Since God wanted to send the messiah right away, He chose Cain and Abel to make that condition, but Cain failed when he killed Abel. So instead of being able to send the messiah to restore Adam and Eve directly, the providence was delayed for many generations.
Then the burden of setting the proper conditions fell to Noah and Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and Moses and other figures in the Old Testament. I explained that that was all the Old Testament was about: the story of God trying to work through certain individuals to fulfill the necessary conditions so God could send the messiah.
After thousands of years, the necessary conditions were finally set and God sent Jesus as the messiah. But instead of accepting Jesus as God intended, the Jews murdered Jesus. They refused to believe he was the messiah because he did not fit their concepts of who the messiah would be. They were expecting a great warrior, but instead they got the illegitimate son of a carpenter, somebody everybody already knew. Except for a few people, they didn’t see anything remarkable about Jesus. So Jesus performed miracles and said a lot of things that at the time were very revolutionary and profound, to try to convince the people who he was. But in the end they rejected him and crucified him.
So now, today, God has to send the messiah again, what Christianity refers to as the Second Coming. After the crucifixion, the whole process started over of setting the necessary conditions so the messiah could come a second time.
“And then in 1920…”
Mooney jumped up. I was just about to tell him about Sun Myung Moon, but he interrupted me.
“I don’t want to hear anymore.” He pulled a $20 bill from his pocket and tossed it to the grass in front of me. Without saying another word, he loped off.
His abrupt departure took me by surprise. I had actually enjoyed teaching him the Principle. But I guess it was for the best. On some level he knew he’d be responsible if I told him who the messiah was, so he split. Better to not know.
It was getting late. I walked around for a while, and finally went back to the pizza shop where Maria worked, but she wasn’t there. The money from Mooney changed everything. I knew I wouldn’t starve.
I went to Cripple Creek and Mark was in there, sitting in the corner, playing and singing. He motioned for me to come over. I wasn’t sure if he still wanted me to play harp with him or not, but he said he did, so I got out my harps and after a few tentative bars we got into it. We played for a couple hours, and when he was done, Mark gave me the money from the tip jar.
I wanted to stay with Mark, because I was still high from talking about the Principle with Mooney and I wanted to try to witness to Mark. But he wasn’t interested. He took off to meet his girlfriend.
For the next several hours I wandered up and down the street, checking out the bars and other places people were hanging out. It was hard for me to meet anyone though, especially since everybody was drinking and I wasn’t. It was hard to fit in. Later I saw Betty Lou come out of a bar that was playing loud country music. She was with some young guy with stringy blond hair. He didn’t look like a student, but I don’t know. They were both pretty drunk, and I hoped Betty Lou didn’t see me, just in case. Seemed to me she was going to get laid, which I knew is what she wanted.
I thought about going back over to United Campus Ministry and see if I could spend one more night there, but I was afraid I might run into Mooney and I really didn’t want to see him again. I had to find something else.
Then I remembered seeing some cars parked in a gravel parking lot not far from the river. There was one in particular that caught my eye. It was an old Ford from the late ’40s. It looked like it probably still ran, but whoever owned it probably didn’t drive it much. Grass had grown up in tufts around the wheels. I felt pretty confident that sleeping in it, though technically a petty crime, involved low risk of getting caught. Since I had no other options, and the car mercifully was unlocked, I crawled in the backseat.
It had that old car smell, but it was otherwise fairly clean. If anyone did catch me, I’d simply tell them the truth, that I just needed a place to sleep for a few hours, that I wasn’t going to take anything. But no one bothered me, and an hour or so before sunrise I vacated the car, took another shower over at the campus -- this time at a different dorm -- and started anew the task of trying to make friends in a strange place.