The Best Ever Good Friday








Ezra Azra


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Copyright 2023 by Ezra Azra
 
Photo by Matheus Berte;;o at at Pexels
Photo by Matheus Berte;;o at at Pexels
 
Friday 13 October 1967. I had just spent some time alone in an empty Church. I had long lost faith in Church people, but, quite inexplicable to me, I still found peace in sitting inside an empty Church, alone with my unresolvable thoughts.

I was on my way home. I was still on Church grounds, taking shelter under trees from a particularly violent electric rain-and-thunder storm. At about one o'clock in the morning.

Police car sirens erupted on a nearby street, and faded into the distance. Those noises did not mean a thing to me, shivering from wet cold in complete darkness under strange trees deliberately flinging their soaked branches and leaves all about, and against me.

Everybody knows under a tree is the worst place to be during a lightning-thunder storm. After my initial ignorance washed off, I was preparing myself to step out and walk through the storm, rather than stay under the trees and risk angering the gods by ignoring wisdom came down to us over thousands of years.

And then, just as I was gathering enough courage to step out from under the trees into the rain and wind, a tiny black human form, heavily clothed, appeared out of the dark, and threw a bag on the ground against the tree trunk; and then slithered away into the darkness. It was a perfect throw.

The bag landed upright against my lower legs, pinning them against the trunk of the tree. I half-prayed one of the many lightning strikes would happen in order to show me how to free my feet from that heavy bag.

It happened. Lightning struck. It shook the tree; rocked the ground, and dislodged the bag from my feet. In the process, the bag's metal zipper must have caught some of the lightning, because a section of it ripped open.

I saw bundles and bundles of bank notes inside the bag. I suffered an attack of dizziness.

My first impulse was to flee the stolen money. I squelched the impulse and hastily, clumsily, mechanically picked up the bag. I had to squeeze it tightly against my chest because of the broken zipper. The bag was wet and cold. I shuddered so convulsively I lost my balance and fell against the tree.

I had the presence of mind to take a roundabout way home, despite the rain and wind and thunder and lightning. I was tempted over and over again to sneak a guilty look back to see if I was being followed. I violently squelched the temptation; and the guilt. I was not guilty; the bag, clearly, was a gift from the gods. In that moment, the violently discomforting weather distracted me from asking, which gods?

Because of the ugly weather, I encountered no pedestrians on the sidewalks. Not surprising; this was an evil neighbourhood of the City. I met nobody inside the building on my way to my apartment.

The next fact that is clear to me, was that I was in my kitchen on the third floor of the Apartment high-rise building. I had emptied the bag onto the kitchen table.

Bundles and bundles of bank notes in tight bundles bank-wrapped with some numbers stamped all over.

I so desperately wanted to start counting how much was there. But my wet clothes were bringing on severe itchings and were threatening to bring on pneumonia. I hurriedly dumped the bank notes in a red-tag black plastic garbage bag, and dashed off to towel himself and to put on dry clothes.

I went to bed to try to sleep, quite forgetting the next day would be Saturday, a non-work day. Expectedly, I was too excited to fall asleep; I fell unconscious. I awoke in midmorning, fully and instantly. I jumped up and went to see if I had had a nightmare about a bag of illegal money.

I found the garbage bag where I had stashed it. Under the kitchen sink. I made myself a simple breakfast, mechanically, as I tried to sort things out.

Was this money a gift from Jesus? From as far back as I can remember I attended the Christian three-hour church service from 9 pm to midnight on Good Fridays.

Yesterday was not Good Friday, but, anyway, I had spent those three hours in the Church a few city blocks from my home.

I was depressed because about a year earlier that Church had been struck by lightning. The parish could not afford the repairs. The seriously damaged building was now waiting to be demolished.

I cannot explain why I went there on Friday 13th October 1967. Somehow, the date triggered an urge in me to mourn the death of that Church. After ignoring the "Do not enter" yellow tapes, I had first spent three hours inside the Church, and then a few extra minutes sitting in the dark against a wall I considered safe, in silent grieving thought. A section of the damaged roof jutted out so far, it provided enough coverage, barely, against the whirling rain.

I had moved into the neighbourhood four years earlier. I had been drawn to that Church especially because it was claimed the founder and original builder was a missionary, over three centuries ago. He was buried in a sarcophagus in the stone foundation of the Church

It was one of those Churches that still kept its doors unlocked all day for persons to spend some alone-time with their thoughts and feelings.

My life was going through a rough patch. I spent many of my lunch hours sitting outside with my back against a Church wall, here and there in the City.

I counted the money. It took me the rest of that Saturday, and well into the evening. Twenty-million dollars!

The radio and television and newspaper news told the same story. The bank, a few blocks away from where I lived, had been broken into and robbed. The amount stolen was not yet known. Explosives had been used. Much of the bank building was in rubble ruins.

That bank was where my few hundred dollars were kept. The news emphasized that no client's money was at risk, and that everyone was free to close their account.

I was torn by doubt. On the one hand, clearly, the bag of money was not mine, on two counts. It was the proceeds of a crime. That person who threw the bag under the tree would not have done so had they known I was there.

On the other hand, there were too many facts that came together to give me the money for my deeply religious mind to doubt the money had been especially given to me by Jesus, my former god: it was night; there was a storm; there were trees; I was there by a once-in-a-lifetime deliberate coinciding by me of a lifetime religious family grief-tradition with a temporary Church building grief situation. Clearly, the connivance of Jesus, my former Messiah, attempting a Second Coming into a second Doubting Thomas.

Had 13 October 1967 not been a Friday, I would not have been at that Church for three hours that night, in mourning.

I searched for opportunities to donate the money, anonymously. It was dangerous. The bundles of banknotes were bank-wrapped, which meant all the serial numbers were on record.

And there was that elephant-in-the-room wherever I went; the bank robbers. Would they ever stop trying to find their loot?
I was ever so thankful I lived alone.

I bought a backpack, and stuffed all the money in it. Nobody would think me suspicious, wearing a backpack.

Sometimes I would go for recreation walks, wearing the backpack stuffed with twenty-million, just for mischievous fun.

The best joy was when I would sit on a park bench in a park, crowded with people, take off the backpack and put it on the seat next to me, next to a stranger seated next to me on the bench; take out a bottle of water from a backpack pocket, and sit and sip while enjoying the happy noises all around; especially enjoying the ignorance of the stranger sitting on the bench within reach of millions.

Some years later I eventually came up with a plan of how to separate my life permanently and safely from those sinful twenty-million. By then that forlorn Church building had long been demolished.

To meaningfully connect all the dots in the end, I waited for a Friday 13, to execute my plan. That was some forty years-or-so ago. Thank you, Jesus; et cetera, et cetera.
 



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