After Captain Ruff left, with a friendly reminder to Moxie about his dinosaur weed-eater, the conversation continued along a totally different line.
“Well, I for one think it’s time for some of us to pay Morris Graver a cordial and, perhaps, apologetic visit,” Lucent spoke up as she looked first at Moxie, then Able and Blue. “He’s a desperate young man, who desperately needs help…”
“Which means he desperately needs understanding friends,” Sage Wiseman quickly inserted. “And that may be difficult, if not impossible … but we’ve gotta try. God knows, we’ve gotta try … for his sake and possibly others, too.”
Moxie stood up, stretched, then huffed really loud. “That’s a hellava call! Going to make buddy-buddy with the guy who quite possibly gunned down Joy Brighterday, and that after he publicly defended Preacher Sloughheart?”
“Moxie,” Effete finally spoke up. “Believe me when I say I know it’s hard. In fact, yeah, it’s hell, but that’s the point. So many people at Ebenezer are deluded victims, really … especially the young and the hurt and vulnerable. Fen preys on people like that absolutely as much as he can, and I don’t doubt for one moment he’s swooped in on this young man. In fact, I can tell you Morris and his mother had to meet privately with Fen at least once before officially joining the church; that’s just policy. And Fen can zoom in on pain and vulnerability like a hawk, so he probably had Morris in his talons before they were half way through their little get-together.”
“Yeah, wow!” Sage echoed sympathetically. “And what’s more, fiends like Preacher Sloughheart love to have an entourage of young, fit and healthy devotees to run and jump at their command, and try to fulfill their every desire. It’s truly sick.”
“Oh, you’re right about that!” Effete agreed. “Nothing more pumps Fen’s ego than young men and women – say 16 to 24, 25-years-old – following him around like some superstar, or guru, or both… You should see him basque in the glory of it all. And they so urgently want his approval, and all he has to do, really, is throw them crumbs, mere crumbs, and they’re satisfied.”
“Exactly,” Lucent chimed in again as she sat down in the easy chair formerly occupied by Captain Ruff. “And that is, beyond any doubt, Morris Graver. The least we can do … or, I should say, the least the three of you can do is visit him and at least try to … I don’t know, apologize for the misunderstanding. It wouldn’t be deceitful; after all, it was a misunderstanding, and knowing what you all know now, I’m sure you are sorry you had the quarrel with him, even though he started and even though he was in the wrong.”
“Quite right, Lucent,” Blue agreed. “In all honesty, looking back on that unfortunate … clash, I suppose, we were a bit harsh and brash … maybe even somewhat … arrogant, God forgive us!”
“Well, no, God forgive me,” Able responded. “I was the one who was such a damn braggart. Truth be told, at the time I just wanted to humiliate him and, dear God, that’s not me! That’s just not me!”
“And me?” Moxie looked at Able. “I have to stand here and admit that, yeah, I acted just like I always do when someone irritates me and especially when I feel like they’re threatening me. I acted like nothing more than a bitch! All I wanted to do at the time was slice him and dice him and leave him bleeding on the floor … metaphorically speaking, of course.”
Everyone couldn’t help laughing a good, long, side-splitting laugh. That was Moxie Keener, all right, and in a way they loved it even though she needed to mature out of that particular characteristic. Anyway, they all needed a tension-breaker, and she sure as hell provided one … as Moxie often did.
“Back to a more serious note, I very much agree with Sage. Morris, however insufferable he may seem at first, desperately needs friends,” Blue Poorman spoke in a somber tone. “I believe it was Pearl Buck who said, ‘The person who tries to live alone will not succeed as a human being. His heart withers if it does not answer another heart. His mind shrinks away if he hears only the echoes of his own thoughts and finds no other inspiration.’”
“Ah, yes, as Quintus Ennius said so simply but profoundly, ‘Life is nothing without friendship,’” Sage happily added. “Too true, too true. And so, it’s a matter of planning now – that is, when to go and what to say. And should all three of you go, or just a representative one?”
“Good question,” Able answered. “After all, he might feel intimidated if all three of us showed up.”
“Oh, I don’t know,” Moxie questioned. “If you actually went up to the door and knocked, or rang the doorbell, Blue and I could stand back some distance so as not to be imposing. And I think it would be good for you to speak first; you’re the one who kind of toned things down at the end and tried to bring some sense of peace out of the disharmony… I think you felt sorry for him.”
“Oh, I did. Believe me, I did, and I feel far more sympathy for him now, of course. In fact, I’m ready to do this today; after all, it’s really not too late. Evening service hasn’t started at Ebenezer, and he’s likely to be at home … I think. And, yeah, I’ll be glad to go to the door and explain why we’re there. Of course, something tells me he won’t respond well, but like Dr. Wiseman said, we’ve gotta try!”
“So what will you say,” Lucent asked. “It might be good to kind of have an idea … maybe even rehearse it a bit, especially with Sage here. This is important, so your first approach has to be right.”
“Yeah, I know,” Able looked down at the floor, considering what he might say. “I guess I’d just start out right off the bat and say something like, ‘Hey … I know you didn’t expect any of us at your front door, but we’ve come to apologize. That day in the Frosty Parlor, we were … well, you know, impolite and undignified, to say the least. You don’t know us, but honestly we’re not ordinarily like that, so we’ve come to ask your forgiveness and try to make amends somehow.’”
“Well, that certainly sounds good,” Wiseman evaluated his words. “It’s a straight-line approach, and in this situation that probably is best, but just in case he asks, what kind of amends could you make? It might be best to leave off that last bit and simply ask his forgiveness. See how that goes, and be prepared for him to accept your apology. What I mean is, if he does, then what? Do you just say ‘thank you, we really appreciate it,’ then turn and walk away? Or do you, maybe … I don’t know, try to engage him in some small talk … you know, pleasantries?”
“Hmmm,” Blue thought about Sage’s suggestion. “We certainly don’t want to try too much too soon. That could be coming off too strongly. If he does accept our apology, and God knows I hope he does, then simply exchanging some pleasantries would probably be the way to go. Perhaps something like, ‘Say, how long have you lived here?’ or throw some very light humor in, like, ‘Since we met at the Frosty Parlor, how do you like the place? We go there pretty often because it’s one of the few meeting places in Splinterbit … unless you want to spend a whole lot of time cooped up in the college or city library.’”
Moxie smiled. “I think if he accepts our apology, there’ll be plenty of options for small talk. If there’s a car parked in the driveway, I could easily ask, ‘Is that your car?’ and ‘That’s a 2005 Ford Malibu LS Sedan with a V6, isn’t it?’”
“O.k. o.k. We know you’re the master mechanic and automotive guru here!” Able placed his hands on his hips and wagged his head, while Lucent and Sage stifled their sniggers. “If he wants to talk cars, trucks, races and whatnot, we’ll let you have him all to yourself, Ms. Evel Knievel Keener!”
“No need to get testy, sweetheart. I was only adding examples of small talk,” Moxie’s grin was like the Cheshire cat of Alice in Wonderland. “I love you, Able Dilettante.” She squeezed him from the side.
“Yeah, yeah, yeah … in all my automotive ignorance, too, right?”
“Why, of course! I would never let a little thing like not knowing how to change the oil in your car get in the way of our deeply romantic commitment to one another!” She pecked him on the cheek and then returned to her Cheshire cat grin. Now the other three couldn’t help but laughing out loud.
“O.k. guys, if we’re going to give this a go today, we’d better be off,” Blue summoned. “Well … we’d better be off and praying the whole way… You know, none of us really knows where this could ultimately lead.”
“Yes … I know,” Dr. Wiseman responded quite seriously. “That, my dear Blue, is also part of the reason you’re going.”