Chapter 30: A Lesson in Manhood

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Chapter 30: A Lesson in Manhood

In the help wanted ads, I found a position at a Sears and Roebuck Company outside San Francisco as a member of the night maintenance crew consisting of myself and two other men. The pay and the hours were very good. Locked into the department store each night after closing, there we remained until it opened again the next morning. Our jobs were waxing and buffing the floors, dusting, and ensure the proper placement of the displays. Usually we finished in less than five hours of an eight-hour shift. My two co-workers were veterans, knew the positions of all the store cameras, and made it clear that our primary responsibility after the completion of our itinerary was to remain out of sight. This suited me just fine, so we each sought a comfortable mattress in the bed section and slept until half an hour before the doors were unlocked. Looking back on it, this was the best civilian job I have ever had. If it were not for my burning desire to acquire an education, I very well might have been tempted to remain on this easy graveyard shift until retirement. However, I wanted more from life than just an easy street, considering that the avenues of choice limitless.

Debbie remained in my mind and my heart. Now that I felt settled, it was time to drop in on her. The magnitude of this error I cannot even begin to relate properly. To this day, I do not know what scenario I imagined. I suppose it might have been better had I also gotten her phone number and called first. A woman answered the door resembling Debbie, except many years older. Like Debbie, she looked beaten down, oppressed in a way that made me feel sorry for her.

"I'm a friend of Debbie from the prayer meeting," I said through the locked screened door.

Her expression became terse as she turned and called for someone named Sam. Moments later a burly man appeared holding a lead pipe in one hand.

"What do you want?" He demanded crossly.

"As I said to your wife, Debbie and I attend the same campus prayer meetings. I just dropped by to say hello."

"We are Catholic—our daughter is Catholic! We don't want any part of 'holy rollers'," he growled, and slammed the door.

I stood there for several minutes shocked and angry. As I left, I saw someone peering out of an upstairs window like a trapped bird in a cage. I was certain it was Debbie, but as I waved the specter disappeared.

Obviously, my first encounter was disastrous. I wondered what I had done wrong. Was it the way I dressed, my manner of speech, or maybe because I was so obviously ex-military? I later shared my perplexity with Hans and his girlfriend during a Sunday brunch.

Hans and I became quick friends after a violent incident between him and Fred. Hans was a small man with delicate features and looked frail. One Sunday morning, Fred, hung-over more than usual, became belligerent, threatening Hans. I quickly intervened, stepping between the two men. Avoiding a swing of his fist, I grabbed Fred by the throat and swung him to the ground penning him.

"You will be still," I commanded in a loud voice.

After struggling for several moments, the man relaxed, and begged me to release him. I stood up cautiously, and backed away. Hans, gentle by nature, forgave Fred his indiscretion; adding that if he ever did something like that again, then he would need to find another place to live. After that, I became an unofficial bodyguard to my new landlord.

Hans, a religious person, who attended church regularly with his girlfriend Pat asked if I would like to accompany them for morning service. I missed group communion, gladly accepting the invitation. The German Church of God, established since 1960 was located on Newport Avenue not far from Pat's home. To my disappointment, the sermon was in German, the service much drier than my expectation based on prior experience. Nevertheless, I accepted by faith that where true believers gathered, Christ was manifest. The preacher, an animated man with stocky features, sometimes waved his arms wildly like Germany's Consular during World War II, seemed at other times almost stoic and near to crying. At first, I was altogether bewildered, finding the man's voice harsh and angry sounding. Hans, on the other hand, stood translated as he raised his hands in supplication. I decided to follow his lead and allow myself lifted by the spirit of this place without judgment or restrictions of the mind. By the end of the service, it was as if I understood German receiving the full blessing of God's word.

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