By Craig Decker
The explosion sent the terrified woman flying into a pile of rubble. Flames began licking at the walls, and from the smoke a she heard someone say her name. The woman scrambled for the door like a trapped mouse. She couldn’t open it. She screamed out for help. Out of the darkness she him staring at her from across the room. His eyes flickered orange and red as they reflected the leaping flames. The maniac stepped forward and showed his teeth in a deformed, sadistic smile. In his right hand he gripped a chain saw. In one swift motion, the machine growled to life. The screaming roar of the chainsaw ripped the air, hungry. The woman shrieked and blood splattered across the walls as the chainsaw shredded her body.
Ben looked away from the television screen and began to breathe again. The long, hot hours of the journey had filled the bus with stale air and body odor so thick he could cut it. As his eyes adjusted to the darkness again, he took inventory of the situation. Down the aisle several dozen faces were illuminated with a comical mixture of wide-eyed fascination and disgust carefully deciphered the Spanish subtitles. The line of small, flashing televisions hanging from the ceiling of the bus swayed in unison as the old Argentine tour bus sped down a dark canyon road. The dim yellow reading light shone done on his open scriptures, deserted midsentence.
Ben felt his face flush. He reached instinctively for the black name tag that lay over his heart, and cradled it in his hand, fingers caressing the badge, feeling the cut grooves of two inscribed names -- his own, and the name, ”Jesucristo.”
This wasn’t good. As a missionary, he had promised to live as a disciple of Christ so that he could help people to change their lives, and that included avoiding filth and violence. Memories from the day washed over his mind like cool water. He had been working with prisoners. He reminded them to fill their lives with good, pure things, and they would be filled with peace and power to truly change. And it was true. He had felt it.
Why had he watched the movie for so long when I knew it was the opposite of everything he stood for? How long had it been? Half an hour. His eyes seemed to have a will of their own, and had been drawn into the movie like a moth seduced into the flame of a burning candle, coming to a startlingly painful understanding of reality a moment too late.
Another string of vulgarities resounded through the dimly lit bus, and he glanced up curiously in time to see the subtitles dancing merrily across the bottom of the screen. Ben chuckled. The translation was never right. The Spanish subtitles were completely inaccurate. Of all the passengers, he alone could fully appreciate the colorful dialogue. The movie progressed in a slow crescendo of vulgarity until the screaming chainsaw ripped apart another woman and the killer raped his bloody victim.
A white-hot flash of light tore Ben’s mind. He blinked reality back into existence. Why had he l watched again? He squeezed his eyes closed, trying to rid his mind of the images he had just seen. It was no use. They played out again under his eyelids. He leaned forward and rested his head on his fists.
“Okay.” He said aloud to himself, trying to gain some sense of dignity.
The word disappeared into the air.
“Okay,” he said again.
He had to ignore the movie. He looked down and studied the dirty black floor. Not very exciting. He carefully turned his head to look out the window. A massive black void stared back at him. His traveling companion dozed quietly below the window. He envied his astonishing ability to stay asleep despite the noise and movement of the bus. A distant reflection on the window caught his attention. What was it? He curiously studied the glowing image for a few moments, and then jumped as he realized that he had been watching the reflection of the movie. He slowly closed his eyes in a desperate effort to think of something besides the movie, but the images of carnage flooded his mind. He urgently searched for a safe place to look. His eyes were pulled to the screen almost magnetically.
Earlier that day he promised a struggling man that there was no temptation that he couldn't overcome. Now those words echoed in his mind, mocking him. There had to be a solution. While thought about it, his eyes drifted back to the movie again. He leaned back into the orange and blue overstuffed seat that held him prisoner, defeated. Almost as an afterthought, he sighed again. It was a soft prayer for divine intervention.
Doughnuts… The word wandered into his mind. Doughnuts.
That afternoon he had bought a dozen hot, glazed doughnuts at a little tourist shop. Doughnuts were a rare American delicacy in Argentina. Their chewy warmth and the sweet glaze melting in his mouth was like seeing an old friend. He had eaten until the glazed sugar stuck to his hands, lips, and chin, and his stomach bulged. The remaining doughnuts were carefully placed in a brown paper sack to take on the long trip. He pulled the sack out from under his seat and looked inside. There were a few left. He took one from the sack and bit into it.
Ben casually began watching the movie again as he chewed. Ahead of him and across the aisle a young boy was playing with an action figure of a super hero. He was completely indifferent to the screens flooding the aisle with pale light and the roar of the chainsaw. He looked at the boy, then back to the movie. The boy caught his glance, and looked back. Ben looked back down at the boy. He wasn’t moving. He was staring at the doughnut, his mouth slightly ajar. Ben offered it to him, and he took it eagerly. As he shoved it into his mouth, Ben turned back to the movie. He couldn't stop.
“Vos sos Americano?” asked the boy.
“Yeah, I’m American,” Ben turned back to the boy.
“Que copado!” he said, Che, Vos queres ser mi amigo?”
“Do I want to be your friend? Sure, kid.”
“Estas mirando la pelicula?”
“Yeah, I’m watching it, but I don’t like it.”
“A mi no me gusta tampoco. Es muy aburrido.”
He smiled and laughed at the irony. The boy laughed too, not knowing why.
“You’re right. It is boring.”
“Vos queres escuchar un chiste?” The boy’s eyes shone. “wanna’ hear a joke?”
He took another doughnut from the sack and gave it to the boy. Ben listened to his joke, then told him one of his own. They laughed until the other passengers bombarded them with “shhhh’s” of annoyance—to which they chuckled defiantly.
They cleaned out the sack and licked off their glazed fingers. Ben glanced at the seething television screen. Suddenly it was all that the boy had said – boring. It was hollow and ugly. His sigh of relief made the boy pause in the middle of his newest story.
“thank you,” Ben whispered.
“Nothing.” Ben smiled and nodded for him to continue.