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 Dyingto Live

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Anthony van
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PostSubject: Dyingto Live   Wed Sep 13, 2017 6:15 pm

Chapter 16



            Reece arrived, unhurried, to pick up Ari half an hour later than he’d stated. The temperature was already climbing beyond comfortable and they were both glad that Reece had his Dad’s van. It had air conditioning and his old Ford didn’t any more. Ari noticed that there were mattresses in the back.

“What are they for?”

“Didn’t I tell you? There’ll be a few more of the group down this time.” He looked across at his friend. Ari watched the road and didn’t comment, but inwardly he was disappointed that they wouldn’t have the house to themselves. He just wanted to hang out with Reece and relax. They could talk about his new found faith and ... just life issues. His friendship with Reece was something he was already so thankful for and he meditated quietly about the talks they had recently enjoyed together. It would be difficult with others there. And, they still had plans to consider. For instance, what would they do if they actually found some concrete evidence of this criminal conspiracy? Ari glanced back at the mattresses. He wondered who else would be there. At least half a dozen he estimated.

            “Bit uncomfortable last night hey?” offered Reece as they waited at a turn off from the freeway.

“You can say that again...” replied Ari while immediately putting his hand on Reece’s mouth before he had a chance to oblige his suggestion. The car wobbled a bit as its driver sniggered.

“Honestly, I don’t know where to go. I guess I’ve wrecked any chance we ever had.”

Reece nodded, “Several times over.”

“You don’t have to be so emphatic.”

They pulled into the turn off before Reece spoke again. “So what will you do now?”

“I’ve tried to apologise, and I’ll probably say sorry again, but as Ryan says... eventually you have to forget the past and press on. If Juzzy can’t forgive me then there’s nothing I can do about it.” They were quiet for about a minute before he confessed, “To tell you the truth, it’s killing me seeing her so angry with me and knowing there’s nothing more I can do.”

            After another short pause Reece reasoned, “It may sound patronising, but sometimes you just have to wait and let these things work themselves out. You know what Penny told me... I can’t remember it exactly, but something to do with things working together for good when you’re walking with God.”

“I appreciate the thought Reece. That condition might be a barrier for me.”

“I don’t think it works like that... It’s not like you have to earn the favour of God. I’m sorry. I don’t think I explained it too well.”

“Yeah, it seems a bit confusing. Remember last night we talked about ‘keeping in step with the Spirit’ and I sort of recall Ryan saying something about pressing on. It’s all about the direction you’re heading in your life.”

“Yeah.” Reece assented almost absent-mindedly.

“Talking about direction, do you know where you’re going? I don’t know this way.”

“It’s new... avoids the traffic. I checked it out on the computer.”

 

They were driving past large plots of market gardens when they saw the traffic diverging up ahead. As they drew near they noticed an old farm vehicle pulled over with an elderly woman standing next to it.

“Pull over Reece, ask if she needs help.” Reece responded and the two climbed out into waves of heat from the roadway.

“Do you need a hand?” Ari called as they approached slowly to the back of the truck.

“Thank you young man... I have a flat tyre.”

“Do you have a spare?”

“I do, but it’s all too heavy for me. I’ve been waiting for you to stop and help.”

Ari looked baffled, “You were waiting for me?”

“I knew someone would stop.”

            Ari and Reece hefted the heavy spare wheel off the truck and used the jack to lift the wheel they had loosened. Eventually they completed the sweaty job of changing the wheel. Eva, the stranded farmer, was most grateful. She lifted the tarp off the back tray of the truck and urged, “You boys come here and grab a couple of these.” She revealed a pile of large watermelon.

“You don’t need to do that,” said Reece.

“I insist, God bless you boys for being so kind.” Grubby, hot and sweaty the two friends lugged a couple of melons into the back of the van. After some thankyous from both parties they headed their separate ways.

            The streaming cool air of the air conditioner gradually cooled the van and made them shiver in their sweat soaked clothes.

“I just want to get into that cool ocean water,” moaned Reece.

“I’m with you there. But you can turn the air down a little until we dry off.”

“Okay... say how weird was that... I mean that old lady and scoring two water melons?

“I don’t get you.”

Reece glanced at him, “We were talking about being confident that good things will happen, and wham, we get a real life example. Eva, standing in the scorching sun confident that it will all work out. I reckon that’s what keeping in step with the Spirit means.”

“What, bad things happen but ‘keep your chin up’?”

Reece shook his head, “No it’s more positive than that. Bad things happen but God’s in control. Going through the bad things makes you trust more.” 

“You really believe that?” Ari was intrigued by the ‘insightful’ side of Reece.

“I’m beginning to.”

            About half way they pulled into a store for an ice-cream. They could smell the salty, fishy tang in the air. Boats moored along the tidal inlet bobbed. Sea birds wheeled close by some picnickers, pecking and screeching for scraps. They stood watching the peaceful scene when Ari asked something that was bothering him.

“What are we expected to do at this coffee house thing?”

“Apart from some setting up and maybe handing out leaflets, I was told just to talk to people and if you get a chance share something of your faith.”

“I feel a bit low in the experience department for that.”

“Don’t worry, there’ll be people who will give short messages and songs and stuff, we’re just there to be friendly with the people who come in.” He was thinking for a minute before he added, “You said it’s all about direction; If I asked you why the new direction... why Christianity? What would you say?”

“The direction I was going was going nowhere... it was all superficial... this way has a purpose and it’s more about others than yourself.”

“That’s a pretty good answer. And I bet there’s a lot more you could say in comparing the two directions.”

“You’re right... all I have to do is talk about Gran or Ryan and Penny... even Jo, Juzzy’s sister.” Ari sort of went into a parallel universe for a minute as his meandering mind reviewed thoughts of the elder Wells’ girl.  

Reece shattered his day dream with the harsh reality of the real world, “Come on Ari, let’s have a toilet break and then get going... I’m frying here.”

            Forty minutes later they drove across the bridge onto the island and then took another ten minutes to reach the house. The two travellers unloaded the van, hefting the mattresses onto the lounge floor, their bags inside and the watermelons into the refrigerator. Reece grabbed some warm Coke from the van and they collapsed onto the deck chairs on the front veranda. Like compliments for their hard work, zephyrs of the relatively cooler sea breeze wafted across their faces. No one else was there and they luxuriated in the peace and quiet.

“When do you expect the others to get here?” Ari asked over the top of his drink can

 “Hard to say, but I think they might leave later and avoid the heat.”

“So what do we do now?”

Reece leaned forward conspiratorially, “This is the plan. We go for a swim, get a burger and a milkshake at the shopping centre, and then go for another swim.”

“Great plan... only one problem.”

“What’s that?”

“You forgot to wait an hour after lunch.”

“Oh Mom, do I have to?”

 

            Half an hour later Ari and Reece were swimming at the surf beach. At first touch the water was frigid in comparison to the shimmering heat. There was some surf. Just enough to do some body surfing. They were only in the water long enough to cool off and become sufficiently accustomed to its temperature to comfortably enjoy the refreshing foam. Still wet with stringy hair and sitting on towels in the car, they drove to the shops. It was relaxing being part of the beach scene, eating fast food in a large paved outdoor area under large shade trees. Across the street was a sheltered boat harbour with a long pier. Their first idea was to walk its length before returning to the beach house, but Reece pointed out that they hadn’t put sunscreen on and he was already showing a tinge of pink. Instead, they wandered around the mall with milkshakes in hand and had silly conversations... ‘is land- is not water, no wonder people say I-land’... ‘look they wax surf boards while you wait – that’s so they don’t get too hairy’ ... ‘I think that hairdresser would get more customers if they advertised haircuts—while you wait’... the frivolous babble went on and on ad nauseum as only guys could do. Reece stopped the drivel by informing Ari that they were wasting good beach time and they hastened back to the surf beach, making sure they brought the sun block with them this time.

            Bedraggled, salty and slightly pinker from the sun, the surf surviving duo stumbled into a group confab back in the lounge of the beach house.

“Where have you two been?” cried Jen in dismay, “It’s five thirty.”

Standing in board shorts with towels over their shoulders it hardly needed asking. Reece looked guiltily around while Ari hid behind him. He was just as sheepish as he mentally registered those present. He shrank back inwardly when he saw Juzzy. Looking around, he metaphorically ticked them off: Zoe, Sissy, Jess, Jo, Juzzy, Jen and Joe (lots of ‘js’ he thought), and there were five others he couldn’t put names to. That meant fourteen in all.

“Sort of lost track of time... sorry guys—but we had a great time didn’t we Ari?”

Ari grinned in a guilty comical fashion behind him as Reece took charge.

“So, let’s everyone introduce themselves then we’ll sort out sleeping arrangements.”

The five new to Ari were Mel—Zoe’s sister, Tessa and Lani—Mel’s friends, Ethan and Max—who went by the name Mac. The two new guys were friends of Juzzy and Jo’s brothers who both happened to be fond of Jo.

            After introductions the girls were allocated the bedrooms and the guys were given the lounge room floor. Joe explained that they wanted to set up some tents in the back yard and that would mean they wouldn’t have to pack up every morning. So it was decided that only Reece and Ari would sleep in the lounge - mainly because they didn’t have a tent.

Before they all disappeared to settle in Reece described the catering process. To Ari it was so... Reece.

“How about we all put in fifty dollars then we’ll list the things we need to get at the shops.”

Most everyone thought that a fair thing and the money was collected with little fuss, though it was clear some sponsoring managed to see through some siblings and less financial members.

They got a large sheet of paper and listed with a marker pen: cereal, milk, bread, butter, spreads, tea, coffee and hot chocolate, soft drinks, crisps and then as an afterthought they added an assortment of some fruit and vegetables and some flour. Then Juzzy added ‘meat for barbeque’ as a post script.

“So, who’s doing the shopping?” Reece inquired looking directly at the girls?”

“Forget it surfer boy,” retorted Jen, “You guys have been lazing away all day. You can do the shopping and we’ll settle in.”

“Wait a minute,” Reece spoke with a mischievous smile, “I have to show the guys where to set up and then there’s dinner to organise.”

“Dinner... what are we going to do about dinner? I’m starving.” Sissy divulged her point of view noisily. There was a chorus of support and a couple of ‘amens’ thrown in.

“I’ll organise dinner if someone else will do the shopping.”

“Sounds fair.”

“Okay with me.”

“Let’s go for it.”

There was general agreement of an anonymous nature, and volunteers for shopping were even more anonymous.

Even though he felt wrung out by the day’s exertions Ari offered, “I’ll go shopping, but I’ll need the list.”

There was a quiet interval before another voice acquiesced, “I’ll go with him.” It was Juzzy. “I’ll need to copy that list though.” Ari was unsure what Juzzy intended to do with him as a captive audience, but the giant piece of paper appealed to his sense of the ridiculous. He rolled up the large sheet with a peculiarly pleased countenance.

“No, no this will be fine... a big job like this needs a big list.”

Justine rolled her eyes but the others were most entertained. Reece handed over four hundred dollars for the shopping and gave Ari the keys to the van.

“You’ll need the van for the shopping,” he asserted, “but don’t smash it.”

“What, me... have I ever had an accident?” The comment resulted in a friendly shove before Ari went to his bag and dug out a fresh tee-shirt.

            As Ari and Juzzy were about to leave they heard the meal arrangements being made;

“That’s right, ten large pizzas to go.” He described the varieties he wanted. “Does that offer include a variety of soft drinks?”

 

            In the van Ari self consciously held the door open for Juzzy before clambering in himself.

They were on the main road before Juzzy broke the silence.

“Ari, I’m sorry.”

He looked across. Her eyes were moist. Seeing her upset tugged at his emotions and he took a deep breath before replying.

“You don’t have to be sorry. I’m the one who hurt you. I should be sorry.”

“You already apologised, and I didn’t accept it... that’s why I’m sorry. And I didn’t listen to you. I should have found out why you did what you did... I didn’t try to understand.”

“What I did was a pretty shocking thing to do.”

“Maybe... and I know it sounds corny but I have to say it... I forgive you... and I want you to forgive me for not listening... I didn’t realise the danger you were in.”

“Who told you?”

“Ryan... we had a long talk last night and ... well, I think he’s a wise man... So,” she watched him watching the road, “will you forgive me?”

“I guess I figured you had a right to be mad... Yes of course... and Juzzy,” Ari took a breath, “you don’t know how glad I am that you can forgive me.”

“Well, you know,” and he heard a spark of joy in her voice... , “Penny told me before I left last night; ‘whenever you forgive someone you do yourself a favour’. So I guess I’m just being selfish.”

            Ari pulled the van into the car park and with a noticeable spring in his step he scampered around to open Juzzy’s door. The two drew some strange stares as Ari unfurled the oversized list to consult the progress of their purchasing. A second trolley was half filled by the time they reached the checkout. Much to Juzzy’s embarrassment Ari ceremoniously displayed the giant list to ensure they had everything. When he had almost finished reading the items he declared, “I know what’s missing,” and dashed off to the frozen goods momentarily before returning, triumphantly with a huge pail of vanilla ice cream and some chocolate and strawberry sauces.

Justine spoke to the checkout girl, “I apologise for my friend... a little too much sun this afternoon.”

She giggled and shook her head while finalising the docket, “Don’t worry, I understand... it’s a male thing I think.” She passed the change to Justine and added, “Good luck with your boyfriend,” and motioned her head in Ari’s direction. Ari was trying to drag both trolleys at once toward the exit and customers with concerned looks were giving him a wide berth. Juzzy chased him down and rescued one trolley from slewing off into the automatic doors. The last thing the checkout girl heard was, “How old are you Ari?”

 

            “Do you want to get a coffee before we go back?” Ari had just loaded the last bag into the van.

“Sure, as long as you’re happy to explain why we bought a large pail of creamy milk back with us.”

He stood and stared for a moment before reacting, “Oh...”

Justine flashed a smile, “You’re right... Oh. Come on let’s get going before it melts... and don’t worry about the door this time.”

            Back at the beach house there were bodies strewn all over the couches and floor polishing off the pizza. Everyone mobilised to pack away the food with a special cheer breaking out at the appearance of the ice cream, although there was some consternation when, at first, it didn’t fit in the freezer. But with a little rearranging, Reece managed to jam it in.

            While Ari was silently wondering how they could have finished off all the pizza without thinking of them, there was a general consensus that a night beach walk would round the night off well. And, although Reece was really weary he walked slowly along with Jen and led them along the shallows toward the point about two kilometres away. Ari and Juzzy stayed back having finally been presented with their pizza – a conglomeration of different flavoured slices- that had been warming in the oven. They laughed and chewed together as they remembered the practical joke played on them:

 They had both resigned themselves to believing the colourful tale described to them that everyone was so hungry that all the pizza was gone before somebody thought of them. The slightly concerned, apologetic faces were so convincing, especially when Joe suggested he go and buy another pizza, that their protests—that they would manage to get something—caused small giggles to escape. The hilarity when the pizza was produced with a resounding chorus of, “Got ya!” was magnified when Reece mimicked their crest fallen faces at the news there was no pizza.

“It’s okay we’ll mange, it’s all right... don’t worry about us.” Even though it was exaggerated, his mock humility act brought a riot of laughter and a large bit of olive flying in his direction. With a deft reaction he caught it and popped it in his mouth to further cheers and applause.

 

            When the pizza was finished and they had generally cleaned up, there was a moment of awkwardness. Here they were together, friends... no... even more than just good friends and they were alone for the first time. Ari looked at Justine and saw her look up at him through wisps of blonde hair with bright blue eyes. There was a playful smile on her lips.

“Juzzy... I...” his voice croaked.

She moved closer and placed her finger to his lips, “Shh... I have just the thing to help you find the words.” She ran off to her room and came back seconds later and produced a box.

“Scrabble!” she announced.

As Justine placed the tiles face down she started to find out about the frightening events that led to Ari’s funeral.

“Tell me about the girl who died,” was her first question. It led to Ari retelling the whole story from his infection by the high-powered world of politics, his affection for the attentions of Collette and his disaffection brought on by the selfish motives of people in the whole scene—Collette included. Juzzy was shocked by the insidious way the law was flouted and lives became disposable.

As the recount ended she wanted to apologise again, “Ari I’m sorry, I didn’t know you’d gone to hospital in a coma and had broken your leg. I was mad at you for not moving when I visited you.”

It was Ari’s turn to place his finger on her lips. “No more apologies for this. It’s in the past. Besides it’s still no excuse for what I...” He was cut off. She had placed her finger on his lips again. They sat there momentarily looking into each others eyes. She kissed his fingertip. He kissed her fingertip.

She dropped her hand, her eyes focussed on the board, “Now let’s get serious about this game. Come on, hurry up.” There was a slight colour in her cheeks as she said it. He gazed at her, just enjoying her lovely presence. Justine looked up, “What?”

He smiled.

“Will you get back to the game?”
Ari’s smile broadened.


“What?”

“It’s your turn.”
”Oh.”


 

            The game wasn’t anywhere near as competitive as subsequent games they were to have. There was swapping of tiles to make words... nonsense words and slang words were accepted if the explanation was good enough, and then there was far too much mutual appreciation for either of them to want to win. It was a quiet ‘get to know you’ time; a time to just enjoy each other’s company.

The close friendly mood was shattered by Joe, then Ethan and Mac bursting in gasping and heaving for breath, having sprinted the last one hundred metres along the beach back to the house.

“..spected you guys to follow us on the walk,” managed Joe between breaths.

“No... we had words,” Ari replied with a wry grin.

“Slurk?” Joe said looking over Juzzy’s shoulder, “Is that a word?”

“...means to lurk slyly... like ‘who’s that slurking around that corner?”

“Yeah, right... what about hamel?”

“It’s a hybrid... between a horse and camel,” Ari explained, “You know, like a liger or a geep.”

Jess and Zoe came panting in having jogged the last distance. They also peered at the board as Joe continued, “What about ‘helcom’ and ‘disative’?”

“Hey, don’t knock my seven letter word,” protested Ari.

“What’s ‘slurk’?” asked Zoe.

“Lurk slyly,” responded Ari and Juzzy in unison, before bursting into laughter.

“I’m afraid to ask about ‘burcup’,” said Joe

“I believe,” responded Juzzy, “as Ari explained to me, it’s when you burp and hiccup at the same time.”

 

“Stop,” shuddered Joe with his hands held up as he backed away, “You’re tampering with my mind... it’s starting to make sense!”

            The others ambled in and Reece proclaimed knowledgeably, “You can’t be talking about Ari. He hasn’t spoken a word of sense since I’ve known him.”

The pillow, hurled by Ari, caught him on the side of the face and started a brief pillow fracas amongst all those game enough to remain in the room. It ended quickly when a table lamp was knocked down and the globe broke.

            After that they gathered for supper and Joe read a passage from1 Timothy 4:11

            Command and teach these things.  Don't let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity. Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching. Do not neglect your gift,

In his direct way Joe gave his interpretation, “We’re going to help out in the coffee shop on Friday and Saturday and I guess this says don’t make excuses because you’re young or inexperienced. Even if you don’t know the words to speak, let your actions be an example. And when you speak to people there, don’t preach... just tell them what you believe... and why.” He read the verses again and then opened it up for discussion.

Zoe and Jess just shared a couple of experiences from the last time they helped with the coffee shop and then they sat around in small groups just talking.

Reece turned to Ari, “So, do you think you’ll be okay... given that you can’t have any excuses?”

“Well, you know how much I know about this stuff. I think I called it a ‘coffee house’.”

Juzzy put her hand on his, “You’ll be fine... Say, you didn’t tell me how you became a Christian.” So Ari shared a little of his struggles, of reading the Gospel of John and of his talk with Ryan.

“That gave me the impetus to take the final step,” he said... then continued reflectively, “I guess it’s really the first step.”

            By the time he’d finished most everyone had gone to bed. Jen brought them some coffees and was soon joined by Reece and Sissy who had some cookies.

As the five sat sipping their drinks Sissy observed, “Hey, isn’t this how we started ... how long ago? And none of us were believers then.”

“Yeah, a lot has changed since then,” Reece commented looking at Jen.

“And some things haven’t changed,” Sissy noted with a nod to Jen and Reece indicating Ari and Juzzy gazing at each other over the rims of their mugs.

            Once the girls had gone to their room it left Reece and Ari free to set up the lounge for sleeping and have a quick shower. Succumbing to the effects of the physical activities of the day, both sank into deep sleep quickly.   
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