By Shawn Spjut
The last of Zarrin’s smoldering cigarette disappeared beneath the heel of his boot. Triple digit temperatures made the fabric of his snap-down-cotton shirt cling to his back, while corded muscles, made lean through hard labor and even harder winters, tightened in fear and indecision. Furtively the fifteen year old glanced around, his finger unconsciously tracing the jagged ridge of scar tissue that ran the length of his tanned jaw line.
Standing on the corner of First and Main, the boy wrestled with whether being discovered by Angus was worth whatever it was the Preacher Man was selling. But after a few minutes he finally decided that no amount of forgiveness, or promises of heaven after death were powerful enough to banish the image of what Angus would do should he find out.
But as he turned to leave,Zarrin felt the cold presence of evil come up behind him seconds before the anvil like weight of his step-father’s hand fell on his shoulder.
“What do you think your doin’ boy?” barked a voice as big as the man who welded it. “Didn’t I tell you to meet me back at the truck as soon as you were done delivering those eggs for your ma?”
“I…I was just on my way pa.” Zarrin said, trying to keep the fear out of his voice. “Just stopped to have a smoke… you know…so ma wouldn’t see me.”
The finger’s gripping his should tightened. “Why is it I don’t believe you boy? You sneakin round, waitin’ to see that Preacher Man again?
“No pa. I…I swear I was just grabbing a smoke.“ Keeping his eyes lowered, he added, “You…you know how much ma hates it when you and I smoke”
Angus McCullen studied the boy for any signs of the lie he knew was there. Deciding punishment could wait until they got home, he turned to leave and nearly ran into the object of his hatred.
As opponents went, Preacher Man was out weighed, out muscled, and over shadowed. Standing just under five foot five and weighing even less than the boy, Zarrin’s would be savior didn’t look big enough to shadow box himself, let alone take on the six-foot seven giant before him.
Nodding to Zarrin, Preacher Man smiled, “Evening Mr. McCullen. It was good of you to come to see Zarrin off.”
There was no doubt in anyone’s mind, including Angus McCullen, that he had murder in mind when he let out a roar, drew back his fist and aimed it at the man trying to steal his son from him. But instead of feeling the satisfaction of the preacher’s face crumbling beneath his fist, Angus McCullen screamed as that same fist met the trunk of a tree, shattering the bones in his left hand.
Back on the corner of First and Main, a bewildered Zarrin looked around, “Where…where did he go?”
Tilting his head to one side, Preacher Man answered, “Honestly? I have no idea.”
“But how?” the boy asked, his hands shaking as he drew another cigarette from a crumpled pack and tried unsuccessfully to light it.
Smiling, Preacher man took the lighter, stepped in close, held the flame under Zarrin’s cigarette and said, “Just a matter of knowin’ the right people son.”