"I have held many things in my hands, and I have lost them all; but whatever I have placed in God's hands, that I still possess." -Martin Luther

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Nathanael Booth and the Ring of Power, Part I

Dear Readers,
it is my pleasure to bring you the beginning of another Adventure of Benjamin Dobbs, this time guest-starring, as indicated by the title, Nathanael Booth. The story takes place on the campus of Covenant College in ('on' is more accurate) Lookout Mountain, Georgia. The college is real. So are many of the characters. Alas, the ring of power has yet to be discovered. Please forgive unintended inconsistencies with reality. The story is in no way crafted to offend, but to entertain. Enjoy.

"There are two great questions in college, both crude renditions of that historic interrogative, 'to be or not to be?'" announced Nathanael Booth, standing at the head of the table, and all eyes were upon him as he continued.
"The first is, will my classes ever be of any practical value in the real world. The answer to that question is an intriguing mix of yes and no -- yes, because the real world is just as eager to demand pointless exercises and trials as college, and no, because no one really needs to know the name of our neighboring galaxies.
The second question is, do I starve or eat Graphgood's? To that question, alas, I still seek the answer. But today, I eat."
Nathanael set his loaded tray down on the table, sloshing a few drops of cappuccino into his egg-beaters, and seated himself carefully, his hat and coat already resting on the back of the chair. Breakfast in the Great Hall was always an adventure of sorts, prepared as it was by the dining service Graphgoods. One never knew exactly what to expect.
"Betelgeuse -- or is that a star?" murmured Benjamin Dobbs, as he attempted to spread grape jam onto a half a biscuit, and succeeded in mutilating it. "Anyway, I would certainly like to go there, and you can't like to go someplace without knowing what it's called."
"My dear sir, I most certainly can. If I wish to go to a place of rest and relaxation, I don't need to know that it's called 'my suite with Bob Dylan playing on the stereo.'"
"But could you find that place without its name?" asked Graybeard, engaging in melee combat with his hashbrowns.
"Ah! Would not a rose, by any other name, smell as sweet?" smiled Nathanael.
"Practically speaking, though, if you didn't know it was called 'rose,' you could never get one to smell," replied Graybeard, and they were off, two philosophy majors flexing their intellectual muscles. Nathanael never allowed himself to sound completely in earnest, always testing the boundaries and making no assumptions. Graybeard, eager and happy, with fluent speech rebounded from each attack to a sortie of his own. Benjamin ate his bacon and tossed in the occasional amateur fallacy that his friends graciously chose to ignore rather than squelch.
The few minutes of breakfast soon fled, and the three friends ended the conversation only to scarf down the last few bites they could before hurrying to class.
"Aack! What a place to keep a...a." Nathanael spat something from his mouth and fished it off of his tray, even as the other two stood up to go. Benjamin peered over the rim of his glass, grimacing as he hit the bitter dregs of his orange juice.
"What's that in your breakfast?"
"A ring...goodness, the places people put them nowadays."
"Perhaps someone is trying to propose?" Graybeard glanced here and there, catching the eyes of a few weary freshmen who still bothered to pay attention to what was going on around them in the Great Hall.
"Hang on to it and see if you can find whose it is," suggested Benjamin, leaning over Nathanael's shoulder and eying what appeared to be an expensive ring underneath its false-egg garnishing.
"Hmph," said Nathanael, chugging the last of his cappuccino as they hurried to the tray return. "I'll just put it through."
"But it could be worth a lot. Here," Benjamin took Graybeard's water-glass. "Rinse!"
Nathanael rinsed. "I suppose it might look good on me, now that you mention it," he allowed.
"Goodness, Nathanael, it's you!" exclaimed Graybeard, examining the piece.
The ring had a broad silver band with a strange design cut into a swath in its center. The band widened to a circular head, which was set with a ruby stone.
"Are those letters around the stone?" asked Graybeard as the three left Carter Lobby, their book bags slung at various awkward angles, squinting at the sunrise and pulling light jackets tighter about them. It was barely fall, but the morning breezes were still cold.
"I hadn't noticed those," said Benjamin, and the two leaned in over Nathanael's shoulders as he obligingly rubbed egg-beater remnants from the ring.
"Latin," said Graybeard decidedly, and Nathanael nodded. Benjamin was opening his mouth to read the words aloud when the sound of an engine coming up behind them brought them all about in surprise, just in time to see a bright yellow taxicab jump the curb and slide, slinging turf, onto the sidewalk. All but the most dedicated and tired turned and stared as the cab squealed to a halt beside the three friends.
"Holy cow!" exclaimed Benjamin.
"Good grief!" gasped Graybeard.
"I'll say," commented Nathanael.
The window of the cab rolled down, and from behind a stogie and beneath a flat cap spoke a fat face with a long pointy nose.
"Where to, doc?" It asked.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Textual Criticism

My new bell number is __________

That's how it started, about a week ago. I laughed at whoever had texted me and flipped my phone closed. Then it buzzed again.
This time there was a name, followed by the number. I knew one person who had the first name given, but the second name was uncapitalized, unfamiliar, and, by the wording of the message could have been a dramatic typo of a part of the sentence, not a name after all. I wondered if I should call the number, but why bother? The first time one of us wanted to get in touch with each other, we would find out whether my mystery texter had the correct number or not.
That all changed a few days later.
My phone buzzed early in the morning. I was downstairs at the computer waking up.
My mom's in the emergency room. Pray for us.

The urgency and frustration caught me a hefty blow in the stomach region, as I realized that if this was someone I knew, I wanted to know who it was right away. I should have called then, but if whoever it was didn't have time to call, they certainly didn't want me calling them while their mom was in the ER (especially if we didn't even know each other).
So I prayed for whoever it was' mom, and sent the following, rather obscure message on facebook to the friend whom I thought might be the culprit.
Hey bro, how are you and your family? I'm keeping you in my prayers.

I felt this message would convey situation-appropriate sentiments and actions for either a normal situation, or one of my friend's mother being in serious medical trouble. I spent the rest of that day waiting for a response. Not only did I receive none, but my acute Facebook stalking skills told me that my friend had no activity at all that day. I decided to call the number back soon thereafter, which turned out to be this evening, a good 36 hours after the startling text.
The initial exchange was the type you expect from two people, both at least partially expecting someone else, one of whom is in the middle of something else and not expecting to be called upon to understand convolutions of any variety.
We finally sorted out that this person was indeed the name mentioned in the text, and had no idea who I was. It was time to go...
"Sorry to ask this, but," said I, with grace typical of myself on the telephone, "how's your mom?"
I was gratified to hear she is much improved.
"Well, that's great. And I was praying for her."
Turns out my new acquaintance thought my number was one of his pastor's.
(This just goes to show you that you really never know who is praying for you.)
"Well, if I ever call you by accident again, I'll know who you are!" said my new friend, and we said goodbye.