A Gatored Community / Chapters 3 & 4

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  1. William D'Andrea

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    3

    Binding the Devil

    Ted and Andalib moved through the warm early evening darkness, with the lights of the Amberjack Restaurant behind them. Their feet clopped along the planks of the floating wooden sidewalks, as they passed beneath the streetlamps, the moonlight and the stars.

    “What do you think Ted?” Andalib asked, as she gazed cautiously out along the dimly lit ripples in the channel just beside them. “Could the alligator be within biting distance?”

    “I hope not.”

    “You ‘hope’ not?”

    “It probably isn’t.” He told her, “The oyster farm is a good distance away from town; and I understand that alligators don’t usually move around all that far. As long as it has plenty of fish to feed on, it won’t have any reason to come searching around here.”

    “Well are there plenty of fish for it to feed on, out around your oyster farm?”

    “I hope so.”

    Around 8:15 that evening, Ted and Andalib were seated at the table in the dining room of Pete and Carol Mantelini’s split level houseboat that was moored along a side channel. After their fifteen-minute walk from the Amberjack Restaurant, the two had reached the vessel.

    Pete and Carol were also in their early twenties. They sat across from their friend Ted MacKenzie and the woman he’d brought with him. Each one had a Bible opened on the table, in front of him or her.

    Ted told Andalib. “Nobody else among the regular group is here tonight. I assume they were all too afraid of the alligator to come over.”

    Pete said, “It’s just the four of us tonight.”

    “I hope they’re not avoiding me, because of Doris getting eaten by the escaped alligator.”

    He looked at Andalib. “I need my friends to pray for me tonight.”

    Carol told him, “They’re here Ted. Wherever two or three are gathered in His name, the Lord is in their midst.”

    Now Andalib spoke. “Do you really believe that? The Lord is actually here? Now?”

    “That is what He said,” Carol told her, “and I believe what He said.”

    “Wouldn’t it be better, if He was out helping people find the alligator, before it can harm anyone else’s ex-fiancée, or future bride, or groom, or whatever relationship they’re in?”

    Ted said, “I’m sure He is Andalib. The Lord is everywhere at the same time, helping all who call upon Him in truth.”

    “What about those who don’t call upon Him?”

    Carol told her, “He’s ready to help, as soon as they call. If people don’t call, they put a barrier between themselves and the Lord, which keeps them from receiving His help.”

    Pete added, “But the idea of coming face to face with an alligator would be a good incentive to put in a call.”

    Ted told him, “Doris came face to face, and she was a member of this Bible study and prayer group.”

    Carol sighed.

    Pete said, “We’re back to that same question again. To which there is no satisfying answer.”

    “There is one answer.” Ted told him, “We are in the middle of an eternal struggle. God and His forces on one side. The Devil and his forces on the other. With every individual, as the ultimate prize, in the middle.”

    They were all quiet for a moment. Then Andalib looked at Ted.

    She asked, “But what if the thing you need help with, isn’t as bad as an alligator? Just what help do you expect to receive from God, when you think that your friends are avoiding you, because of what happened to your ex-fiancée?”

    “I expect,” He told her, “to receive guidance in dealing with it. That’s why I’ve come here tonight, in spite of the risk. I want to help myself and my family to get through this thing, without losing any of our friends because of it.”

    “Ted.” Carol told him, “It says in Proverbs, ‘A soft answer turns away wrath.’”

    Andalib chuckled, “But it won’t turn away any alligator.”

    “Yes it will.” He told her, “That’s what happened, when I came face to face with the beast.”

    “You came face to face?”

    Ted told them all, “I’ve put in a call to the people who sold us the alligator. They’re sending us a professional alligator trapper. He’ll be arriving the day after tomorrow.”

    Andalib asked, “Day after tomorrow?”

    “Right. Then it shouldn’t take too long for things to get back to normal around here, and hopefully, over time, I’ll be able to go back to getting along with everyone, the same way as before.”


    4
    Nightingale
    Inside the cramped, narrow cabin of the sloop called Nightingale, Xavier was seated at the table, with a half-empty mug of beer in front of him, and several empty bottles beside the mug. Quin sat across from him, with an open lap-top computer that was logged on to the socialjustice.com website, along with a partially emptied beer mug of his own.

    Xavier asked, “You see anything interesting from your ‘very powerful connections’, who run that website?”

    Quin smugly read what he saw on the screen, in a condescending tone. “’The Left is right, and the Right is wrong. The Left is always right, and the Right is always wrong.’”

    Xavier told him, “You know that isn’t true, and so does whoever wrote that thing.”

    “What is ‘true’? Quin asked him, “What is ‘truth’?”

    Xavier pointed at the lap-top. “Not very much of what you read from whoever runs that website.”

    “Whether it is or isn’t, we’re just supposed to go along with it.”

    Xavier snorted in disgust.

    “We’d all better go along,” Quin told him, “with whatever they choose to post on this website.”

    “‘Better go along’?”

    “If we’re ever in need of their help, we’d better.”

    “I see.” Xavier asked, “Beyond ‘The Left is always right, and the Right is always wrong’, is there anything else we’re expected to ‘go along with’?”

    Quin scrolled down the page, then stopped and read the headline from the first article he came across.

    Floating Communities Endanger the Marshlands

    He challenged Xavier, “Tell me that isn’t true.”

    “It’s arguable.”

    “We don’t argue. We go along.”

    Then he returned to reading the article aloud.

    “‘When global warming melted the polar ice caps, raising the sea level by 30 feet, it was nature’s way of establishing justice, by reclaiming the coastlands from humankind’s total destruction, and by setting up a natural barrier against any further damage. The vast majority of the people living along the coastlines did the only enlightened thing, and moved inland.

    “‘However, millions of the backward thinking masses, refused to move. They listened to the unenlightened saying, ‘When the water’s rising, get in a boat.’

    Xavier interrupted, “How is that ‘unenlightened’. It makes good sense.”

    “Sometimes,” Quin again spoke with condescension. “what seems like ‘good sense’ can be the most unenlightened thing that anyone can do.”

    He continued reading.

    “’Then that’s just what they did. They actually built hundreds of thousands of boats, barges and all kinds of nautical craft, and constructed floating communities just so they could stay where they were, and continue their thoughtless damaging of the environment.

    “’The time has come for the Floating Communities of the unenlightened masses to be removed from the Marshlands, so the ecology can finally begin to repair itself.’”

    Xavier laughed. “Remove the ‘Floating Communities of the unenlightened masses’? Yeah-right.”

    “You’ll see.” Quin told him, “Sooner than you think.”

    Andalib came down the steps.

    They both looked at her.

    Quin said, “It’s 10 PM. Do you know where Xavier’s girlfriend is?”

    “Hey!” She glared at Xavier. “I’ve had enough of your jealousy! If anyone saw the way you were glaring at the two of us in the restaurant, they might have wondered what was going on.”

    He growled, “Quin’s right. It is very early. You hardly ever settle for a quickie. What happened? Couldn’t you satisfy him?”

    She spoke sharply. “That isn’t what happened! Believe it or not, he and I just spent almost two hours attending a Bible study!”

    Both men looked up at her and chuckled.

    Xavier repeated, “‘Bible study’?”

    “Which included a prayer for a ‘Binding of the Devil’, so no one else will be harmed here in Shellfish Shoals.”

    “I believe it.” Quin told them both, “Shellfish Shoals is like any other typical small American Community, whether it’s afloat or on dry ground. We’ve come to the middle of Yahooland. Just another benighted Rubeville.”

    Now Xavier spoke to Andalib, “So you’ve found yourself a benighted yahoo to play with.”

    She said, “Hey! None of us is here to play! Tomorrow morning, he’s taking me out to see the oyster farm. I’ll have all the information we need, by the time I get back.”

    Quin asked, “Has he told you anything yet?”

    “They’ve hired a guy who traps alligators. He’s supposed to arrive the day after tomorrow. The gator could be back guarding the pearls within a few days, so we have to act fast.”