THE VISITOR

 

By: Jim Sanders

 

            Harry whistled to the beat of the tapping of his fingers on his keyboard.  Words filled his computer screen like soldiers marching into line. The top of the screen proclaimed, “What the Hell is Wrong with This Country”, with smaller beneath stating, “The blog of truth by Harry S. Walker.”   Atop the monitor sat a framed color photograph of him standing in front of a tank with a popular talk radio host.  A plastic American flag and a nodding bobble head Jesus figurine anchored the corners of his desk.  A droning monotone drifted from a radio sitting on the windowsill.  Harry nodded along with the commentary blaming illegal aliens for the high unemployment rate.  “People who don’t speak English should get out of this country,” he muttered.   After finishing typing, he sat back and read aloud the words on the screen:

            I drove by a university the other day, and what did I see?  A bunch of sloppily dressed kids who don't ever comb their hair carrying signs saying Impeach the President.  What the hell for?  Because our President doesn't

believe in giving handouts to people who don't want to work for a living?  What the hell is wrong with these kids today?  Their parents pay them to go to school and they waste their time smoking dope, listening to rock music, and whining about everything!  Why don't these college kids get their hair cut, go out and get a job so they can support the American economy, the best in the world.  You know why?  Because of capitalism, where a man can work his ass off to make something of himself without having to give it to lazy ungrateful idiots!  “I’m Harry Walker, and that’s the truth according to me.  Thank you!”

            Harry clicked the send button on the bottom of the screen and slammed his fist on his desk as his screed appeared on a page framed with blue borders surrounding white stars.  He leaned back in his chair and smirked in satisfaction over the wisdom he had unleashed in cyberspace upon whom he considered America’s enemies: liberals, environmentalists, feminists, and the government who stole tax money from hard-working Americans.  Harry prided himself as being a true patriot who attended church every Sunday.  He had worked 14 hours a day for the past twenty years to become the owner of a successful string of car dealerships.  The front door of his million-dollar mansion nestled in Atlanta’s most exclusive gated community was decorated with a placard proclaiming, “Residence of Harry Walker, self-made man.”

Harry leaned forward and emailed his comments to everyone in his address book whom he was convinced needed his advice: Congressmen, newspaper editors, Hollywood movie producers, and most importantly the President of the United States.  He then arose from his chair and walked into his kitchen to get a drink of water.  “Good old fashioned tap water, full of all the minerals God intended,” he muttered.  A threadbare Ohio State University T-shirt fit snugly across his broad chest and soft middle.  When he was a starting linebacker on the Buckeyes football team twenty-five years before, he prided himself on breaking the legs of three opposing quarterbacks.  Now he channeled his intensity toward posting his viewpoints on his blog every night after his wife went to bed.  Sally, a slim blond with clear green eyes frames by lines formed by exasperation, was once an Ohio State cheerleader.  After twenty-four years of marriage, she had resigned herself to keeping his house clean, having dinner ready for Harry at 7:00 every evening, and staying out of the way of his nighttime campaign to save America.

            As the radio host raised his voice, Harry walked back toward his desk and inclined his ear.  He winced at the memory that was triggered by hearing the letters “ACLU”.  His son Paul stood on their front lawn with twenty fellow college students and two policemen.  Harry peered out his front window and fumed as Paul directed the officers to remove the Confederate Flag from the twenty-foot flagpole in the middle of the lawn.  His shaggy-haired son had squandered the money Harry had provided him to pay for his college education to train him as a capitalist keeping the American economy strong,  Instead Paul had joined the emery, the American Civil Liberties Union, and his political correctness had forced his father to remove his tribute to the dead soldiers in the War of Northern Aggression.  Remembering his son’s satisfied smile, Harry’s nostrils flared and he sat down to type another angry volley:

            “Now all you patriots who read my blog know the number one enemy of America is the ACLU, a bunch of communist gay-loving socialists who have one agenda to destroy our fine nation!  They make sure kids don’t pray in school but let the liberal media poison them with their lies!  They let the government steal taxes from hard-working Americans to give welfare to lazy pansies who don’t want to work for a living!  They tell people it’s OK to burn the flag while they put pornography on prime time TV!  Well, God has a message for each and every one of you smug lawyers in your BMW’s.  He’s going to send pestilence starting in California, then on New York, Boston, and Washington DC!  After God purifies our country from the cancer of liberalism, then we can become decent and moral again!  God is not mocked, my friends!  He hates people who he doesn’t like!  Thank you.”

            Harry clicked the send button and jumped up from his chair.  “Yes!” he shouted.  “Take that Hilary Clinton and Larry King and Hanoi Jane Fonda!  Harry Walker knows the truth and isn’t ashamed to say it!”  He marched into his darkened living room punching his fist in the air.

            Suddenly he froze.  He saw the outline of a man sitting in a recliner underneath the moonlight seeping through the front window.  “Who’s there?” he barked.  The outline didn’t move.  Harry rubbed his eyes, wondering if his mind was playing tricks or if someone was coming to get him.  Harry crept backwards to his hall closet and unlocked his gun cabinet.  “Thank God for the right to bear arms,” he thought.  He reached into the cluster of guns and pulled out a Remington rifle, the one he bought before the Y2K scare.  Harry thought back to how he stood at his front door as the clock struck midnight that New Year’s Eve.  He peered out onto the quiet street with his finger on the trigger; ready to defend himself from the crazies he was sure would run wild when the chaos started.  His wife hid in the basement behind their three-year supply of freeze-dried food.  As the sun arose the next morning, Harry walked away from his post satisfied that mayhem was averted only because he had handed out copies of his book, “Shoot First and Ask Questions Later” to everyone in his neighborhood.  It was then Harry had become convinced God had called him to spread messages throughout cyberspace warning America of divine judgment.  His wife became more and more withdrawn over the years, but Harry was certain that she would one day realize the importance of his cause.

            Harry crept into the living room and pointed his Remington at the shadow, but it didn’t move.  “If you’re here looking for drugs, I don’t have any,” he warned.  “If you’re from the liberal media trying to shut me up, you’re not going to.”  After a few seconds of silence, Harry barked, “Hey I’m talking to you mister!”

            “You’re going to wake Sally,” a soft gentle voice from the shadow.

            “You leave her out of this.  Stand up!”

            The shadow still refused to move.

            “You want me to shoot you, is that it?  So some pinko judge will put me in jail because I dared to protect my house from a criminal who broke into my own house!”  Harry raised and cocked his gun.  “Well, I’m going to make you sweat for a little while.”

            “What are you afraid of, Harry?”

            “What am I afraid of?” Harry felt his cheeks redden and his forehead break out with sweat.  “That our society is going to fall apart because of the socialists and the feminists and the homosexuals!  Who sent you here?  Are you going to assassinate me?  Well you’re not because I’m doing God’s will in warning of the coming judgment!”  His finger caressed the trigger.

            “Why don’t you ask me my name?”

            “Why should I?”

            “I’m the one you claim to serve.  I want to know something.  Why are you so full of hate?”

            “Hate?  I don’t hate anyone who doesn’t hate God and America!”  The veins in Harry’s neck bulged.

            “Would you like to discuss this matter with God?”

            “You want to know what I’d like to ask God?”  Harry’s voice rose.  “I’d ask him what the hell is wrong with this country?  What the hell is wrong with this world?  People like you blaspheming his name.  Satan running rampant all over the place.  Perversion in every movie and television program.  Homosexuals parading in the streets.  Half-naked women in every magazine.  When is God going to make society decent again?  When are we going to march into Washington DC and reclaim our government?  Well, God helps those who help themselves!”  Harry glared into the darkness, feeling like smoke was pouring from his ears.  The hate surging through him started to convince him that maybe he could be like God and make a little rain to fall on this intruder.

            Suddenly the man arose from the chair and walked toward Harry.  Harry pointed his rifle toward the man’s face, and then dropped it when he saw the man’s bearded face, white robe, and the crown of thorns encircling his head.  Falling backward onto the floor, Harry laughed nervously.  “That’s a hell of a costume, isn’t it?”

            The man said nothing.  Harry scrambled to his feet.  “This is a joke right?  I’m on Candid Camera or one of those radio shows where they play tricks on famous people.”  He took two steps forward and froze when the man extended his hand attached to a pierced wrist.  Harry opened his mouth but was unable to speak.

            “You had certain grievances with God.  As he is my father, I will pass them on.  You are convinced there is a judgment coming.  But may I ask you something first?”

            Harry stumbled backward until he crashed into his closet door.

            “Last night you had a fight with your wife.  You said some pretty nasty things to her.  A few of those words would violate the obscenity standards about which you are quite adamant.”

            Harry began hyperventilating.

            “And last week you walked by a homeless person on the street and threw a hamburger and a cup filled with soda at him.  I believe that is called littering, if not outright assault.  And your blog in which you claim to know everything that is wrong with the country.   Yesterday you proposed the death penalty for litterbugs.”   The robed man slowly shook his head.  “On your blog, have you ever said anything positive about the police officers, the doctors, and the teachers who sacrifice their time and money to help the poor, keep the streets safe, and heal the sick?”

            Tears dribbled down Harry’s cheek.

            “I think you should be concerned about facing a coming judgment for yourself.  I could send pestilence down on you right now.  But I won’t.  I’ll let you consider why.”  The man turned and started to walk away.  However, he turned and faced Harry one last time.  “One more thing.  How is John doing these days?”  The man then turned and disappeared into the darkness.

            Harry slowly stood and peered into the darkness.  The man was gone.  Harry stood silent while his breathing and heart rate returned to normal.  He stumbled on wobbly knees to his desk and sat staring at the screen.  The text from his last rant pierced his heart like tiny daggers.    He switched off his computer and walked outside.  He remembered when John, when he had come to visit for last year’s Thanksgiving dinner.  While Sally looked on with tears in her eyes, John and Harry stood at opposite ends of the table and argued over John’s wardrobe, his hobby of playing the sitar, and his decision to drop out of grad school to join the Peace Corps.  They traded barbs back and forth.   Harry accused John of being a red commie pinko.  John fired back by calling Harry a reactionary bigot.  Their argument escalated in a shouting match.  Sally sighed and buried her face in her hands.  Finally John stormed out of the house, and Harry hadn’t seen him or talked to him since then. 

            Moved by the kind eyes of the mysterious visitor, Harry wondered if he had seen an angel, or Christ himself.  He raised his eyes toward the sky. Seeing the stars, he realized that he was not a prophet but simply a lousy husband and father.  He bowed his head as he awaited a crushing blow from above.  Instead he felt a voice calling to him.  He hadn’t heard this voice for many years.  Was this God speaking to him in the stillness of the night instead of through a radio?  Harry raised his head feeling a levity in his heart and a sense of purpose.  He couldn’t save the world, but he could make one thing right. 

He walked back into the house and with a trembling hand he picked up the telephone and dialed John’s number. When John answered the phone, Harry gulped, and then forced out of his mouth two words he spoke for the first time he could remember.  “I’m sorry.”