“So, you said vandals did this?”
Zach Jericho strained to look up at the maintenance man. The man’s cool blue eyes reminded Zach of a calm sky. He glanced down again. Someone outside had noticed the broken window several stories up, and found him sitting on the floor, his back to the desk.
Zach was almost too ashamed to speak, but he mumbled, “I didn’t say that.”
The maintenance man straightened up, and glanced back to the broken window. He seemed to catch on when he noticed the unstolen diamond cuff links on the floor. He scooped them up and laid them on the desk.
“Listen, this office is insured so don’t you worry about the window.” The maintenance man turned and leaned against the arm of the couch to face Zach.
“Whenever I feel shaken, I go for a walk.” Zach didn’t respond. “Why don’t you take the day off, son?”
Zach soon found himself outside, aimlessly walking down the busy city street. The weather was getting warmer, and a few puffs of wind had that fresh spring taste to them. Zach didn’t notice. He hadn’t slept at all last night, and his eyes ached. His dress shirt, underneath his Armani suit, itched, and he didn’t care that his Italian shoes were getting scuffed on the pavement. Wrestling with how to remove the heaviness from his chest, he stumbled down the sidewalk.
Suddenly, a crowd gathered in an outdoor courtyard caught his eye. They grouped around a single man who spoke loudly, his voice echoing off the gray walls. “Listen! You think money will make you happy? Too much of it will only bring you trouble.”
Zach remembered this man. He had heard about him from the news. This guy traveled the city and preached the Bible to anyone who would listen. Some loved him, some hated him. Zach thought him as “one of those Christians.”
But something compelled him to make his way toward the crowd and listen. He sighed, What do I have to lose? The man continued speaking about money, life, and how to gain lasting happiness. Zach found himself more and more intrigued.
It wasn’t long before more people flooded the courtyard and Zach was pushed to the back of the crowd. Some taller people shoved their way in front of him. He couldn’t see and had trouble hearing. Zach glanced around; a black lamppost met his eyes. That’ll do.
Remembering his childhood days climbing trees, he shimmed up the lamppost. He didn’t mind the grungy spots it put on his suit, and was able to see over the crowd. He saw the preacher look directly at him, and then talk to a few people nearby. Oh, great…he’ll figure out who I am and ask me to leave. He glanced to the crowd. A few people had recognized him. One woman glared. A young man in a t-shirt made a rude gesture. One older woman with grizzled, dark hair yelled at him.
“Get out of here, lawyer!” More people turned and joined in the glares. Zach looked away, his head pounding again. No matter where he went, people hated him. I don’t blame them.
He was about to slip down and leave when the crowd started shuffling. He glanced up to see the people parting to let someone through. His heart stopped when he saw the preacher walking toward him. Clinging to the lamppost, his thoughts raced. Oh no! What do I do? Run?
Too late. The man looked up at him, as he clung halfway up the lamppost like a scared cat. The entire crowd was staring at him now, many snickered. Zach thought he would die of embarrassment. He finally glanced at the preacher. To Zach’s surprise, the man’s expression was soft.
“Hey Zach, come down here, I want to buy you lunch today.”
No one had offered to buy Zach lunch in years. He slid down the post, his feet clapping against the concrete ground. He was stunned and didn’t know what to say. The preacher stepped over and clasped Zach’s shoulder, leading him back toward the street.
The crowd watched in shock as this honorable man left with a dishonest lawyer. Zach overheard some angry murmurs “Doesn’t he know who that is?”
Once they rounded the corner, the man glanced at Zach and flashed a genuine smile. “Pick any restaurant you like.” Zach couldn’t take it anymore. He looked away in shame and his head pounded like it was between a hammer and anvil. “W-Why…? Why are you doing this for me?” Tears spilled from his eyes.
The preacher stopped and looked him squarely in the eye. “It looked like you needed a friend.”
“But you don’t understand, I’ve done some awful things and everyone hates me.” Zach sniffed. “I’m not someone you should be hanging around with.”
The man placed his hands on Zach’s shoulders. “Yes, I should. I want to let you know that I can forgive all the things you’ve done. You shouldn’t hate yourself. I can help you become an honest man.”
Back in the office, Zach gripped the phone tightly. His stomach was twisting into knots. But he knew this was the right thing to do.
“Mr. Stephens? Yes, Zachary Jericho…No! Wait! Don’t hang up! I…I wanted to call and offer a deep apology. You were correct, I overcharged you an unforgivable amount, and I would like to reimburse you completely…no, this isn’t a joke. In fact, we should meet. How about lunch tomorrow? My treat.”
After hanging up, Zach crossed Mr. Stephen’s name off a sheet of paper.
“One down,” he murmured under his breath as he ran his finger down a list of past clients.
Copyright 2013 by Molly Anderson. Use by permission only.