[The following is a short story from the collection (book): In These Last Days: Shorts Stories of Humor and Whoa. Each story is the last day of a person’s life only they have no idea at all. Some or humorous; others not so very much so. This one is hopeful.]
Brenton Sax felt foolish the day he died. But the first thing you should know about him was that he was a Christian man, a deacon in fact, who was well known and respected an the North Hill Presbyterian Church. He served on a committee every Tuesday evening, and he gave his 10 percent (albeit begrudgingly, but his wife insisted, and it was, after all, tax deductible) to the stewardship committee.
He woke up that morning, ate a silent breakfast with his wife and read the paper. His children had already trudged off to catch the bus for their last day of school before Christmas vacation.
It was the 21st of December, and he was sitting at the breakfast table thinking very hard about the exact location of his battery cables. The reason he did this, was because he had done something the day before that he was still uncomfortable with. He thought about yesterday morning, and tried to piece together what had happen.
He remembered he had been late for an important meeting. He was cursing a small cloud, and sweating a little on the forehead and around the collar as he gingerly crunched across the crystaline turf toward his car. After putting his briefcase and lunch on the passenger side seat of his late modeled Chevy sedan, he shut the door and turned around just in time to see a large black man approaching him.
This worried him a little. Not many black men lived in his neighborhood. This man wasn’t one of them; he wasn’t dressed well, and he seemed to be agitated.
“I’m going to get robbed,” he had thought to himself, “ oh shit.
“Heh Man. . “the man started to say.
“Is there something I can do for you?” Sax said sharply, a hint of aggression in his voice.
“Yeah. I’m from out of town visiting a friend,” the man said rubbing his hands together for warmth, “and I left my car lights on. The battery’s dead. Could you give me a jump?”
Brenton Sax had felt relieved because it looked very much like he would not be robbed, but he was annoyed because he was very late as it was. “I’m sorry, I don’t have time to give you a jump. The best I can do is give you my battery cables so someone else can jump your car. When you finish, you can put them over by the fence, behind the garbage can.”
“Hey, that would be great man,” the man said.
“Why did I say that?” Brenton Sax thought as he opened his trunk and extracting the twisted pile of greasy cables. “Oh well,” he thought “I said it, so I can’t do anything about it now.” He gave the man the battery cables, and the black man put out his hand, and Brenton Sax shook it and said, “Good luck.” Then they parted ways.
After he was hurrying down the freeway, Brenton Sax thought about his battery cables, and the fact, as he saw it, that he would never see them again. “Well, treasure in heaven, I suppose,” he said to himself, and he felt a little better, although still a little angry over the fact that he had been so unwise as to just hand the man his battery cables.
He thought at the time about the black man, and that he had nothing against blacks, it was just that he had never been around any (with the exception, he thought, of the black family who attended his church. He always noticed them, because they were dark, and that stood out in the congregation that was very white). So, he didn’t know anything about them. “It was dumb, but I’m late. And besides that he could have robbed me.”
That evening, Brenton Sax arrived home at 11:30 p.m. He was very tired, but he had not forgotten the battery cables he had given to the man. As he pulled the big sedan into the driveway, the lights creased the frosted garbage cans and the fence, and Brenton Sax saw that the battery cables were right where he had asked the man to leave them.
“Well, if that doesn’t beat all?” he laughed to himself. Then he did the second uncharacteristic thing of the day: he left them there.
Two things about Mr. Sax were laid deep in his character: He never gave things to strangers, and he never left his personal property unguarded. This day had been like every other day, with the exception of these two battery cable-related incidents.
The reason for the deviation was fatigue. Brenton Sax was tired, “and besides that, it’s cold and I haven’t got enough arms,” he said to himself as he balanced his briefcase, lunchbox and leather portfolio in his arms and walked quickly towards the front door. “I’ll just get’m in the morning,” he told himself.
The Next Morning
In the morning, when he went out for his paper, he also went out to the garbage cans by the fence to retrieve the battery cables. “Dammit, they aren’t here,” he said to the half-empty cans. Then he turned and went back into the house.
And that was what Brenton Sax was thinking about as he finished his coffee, and left for work.
He would have been on time this morning, since he left good and early figuring the traffic would be heavy – which usually cost him about twenty minutes – but as he was waiting in heavy traffic under an overpass, he had no idea what was about to befall him.
Neither did Rex Richardson, who had heavily overloaded his semi-truck earlier that morning.
To make a short story shorter, the weight of Rex Richardson’s over-weighted semi-truck, combined with the weight of the cars waiting on the overpass which had been weakened by recent earthquakes, was just enough to break the overpass supports and send the whole lot of them (and most of the huge cement overpass), raining down on the cars below, including Brenton Sax’s Chevy sedan.
Later, it would be up to an L.A. coroner to instruct his team on how to subtract Brenton Sax from what used to be his sedan; but Brenton Sax was not at all concerned about this because at that very moment he had been welcomed to heaven after what seemed to be a very quick trial .
The charges had been viewed in front of a host of twelve judges and God Himself, who, by the way, didn’t look anything like how Brenton Sax had imagined Him. But , there was no mistaking his being God. Everyone in that immense and glorious room knew who God was, and because of this, they also knew who they were.
Brenton Sax’s life was reviewed pronto. And just as everyone had certain and living knowledge of God’s person; everyone also knew that Brenton Sax was guilty of a great number of things; certainly a lot more than he himself had been aware of. “I am guilty.” Brenton Sax said, without doubting or disputing.
Then One called the Son of Man appealed on Brenton Sax’s behalf. “He is guilty,” he said, “ but he has given me permission to pay his penalty. The defense rests.” And with that Brenton Sax was welcomed into heaven.
“Let’s go for a walk,” the Son of Man said.
“Lord, when did we meet, when did I give you the permission you spoke of?” Brenton Sax asked. “It all seems like so long ago.”
“You were a boy of fifteen, and You were at a campfire meeting at the end of a church retreat. The preacher said a lot of things about Me; and the Father wanted you to be with Him very much. At the end, the preacher asked if anyone wanted to meet Me. He said that if they did, they should “throw their faggots in the fire.” At the time, that meant you should throw a small stick into the campfire to signify an opening of life and heart to Me, and not at all what Jerry Falwell used to mean.”
Brenton Sax didn’t know if it was okay to laugh or not.
The Son of Man laughed and said “It’s okay to laugh for we dry away every tear most especially those caused by ignorance or hate.”
Then the Son of Man said, “You know, don’t you, that you have a reward?”
Ah no. . . ahem, but , ah . . .it really isn’t necessary, but if you say so,” said Brenton Sax.
“Some who come have great treasures and riches, and others have only their residency here; but all are full,” said the Son of Man. And at that moment Brenton Sax realized that he felt full and complete in the radiance of God Himself. He knew he lacked nothing, and would never lack again, or feel homeless or strange.
“I used to say that men and women should lay up treasure in heaven, and not on earth,” said the Son of Man. “I meant they should give their lives away like I did. Needless to say, treasure is hard to come by, especially this year. It’s a bad year for treasure. But you did send one thing here ahead of you.”
And there, on the Onyx table, was a pair of battery cables.
And God, and the Community of Heaven all began to laugh lovingly, and Brenton Sax understood, for he was laughing the fullest of all.