Baseball talk

As of this writing (July 4, 2016), the Chicago Cubs and the San Francisco Giants are the best teams in the National League. The Cubs have the best winning percentage; the Giants, who have played three more games than the Cubs, have one more win than the Cubs. An old tradition said that the team leading the league on the fourth of July would win the pennant. I know that tradition did not always hold true before the creation of divisions, although I suspect it was true more than half the time. Since the creation of divisions it has definitely been true less than half the time. Often, even the team with the best record at the end of the regular season does not win the pennant.

The Cubs and the Giants each have patterns that might determine their path to the pennant. The Giants have won the pennant and championship on all the even-numbered years of the decade so far (2010, 2012, and 2014). The Cubs’ pattern is more complex. Since divisions and playoff series were invented, the Cubs have reached the playoff games seven times. Each time they have been eliminated by a different team. On two occasions they met a team in the playoffs which had eliminated them in a previous year. Both times the Cubs defeated that team—the Giants in a one-game tiebreaker in 1998, and the Atlanta Braves in 2003. Last year’s playoffs demonstrated that the Cubs are not eliminated by a team in their own division. That leaves only three teams that can deny them the pennant: the Colorado Rockies, the Philadelphia Phillies, and the Washington Nationals.

Many baseball games remain to be played in July, August, and September. In the current standings, though, the Rockies and the Phillies are no threat to enter the playoffs. On the other hand, the Nationals lead the East Division of the National League. If the standings remain unchanged after the last games of the season, the Los Angeles Dodgers and New York Mets would play for the Wild Card slot, with the winner playing against the Cubs. The Nationals and Giants would face each other.

Giants fans might believe that destiny is on their side, since 2016 is an even number. Given the Cubs’ pattern dating back to 1984, I would cheer for the Giants to beat the Nationals while the Cubs beat the Wild Card team. A Cubs-Giants match-up would favor the Cubs, since the Giants barred them from the pennant in 1989. A Cubs-Nationals match-up would favor the Nationals, since they have never kept the Cubs from advancing through the playoffs to the pennant.

In addition, the “Murphy” factor would remain in play for the Nationals. According to tradition, a billy goat named Murphy was barred from Wrigley Field in either 1908 or 1945, and Murphy’s owner cursed the Cubs, saying that they would never be champions again. In 1984, the first time the Cubs played in the National League playoffs, they were within one win of the pennant, but they lost three straight games in Jack Murphy Stadium in San Diego. Last year the Cubs were winning solidly in the playoffs until the met the New York Mets. The Mets’ offensive hero of their four victories over the Cubs was Daniel Murphy, who hit a home run in each of the games. Murphy now plays for the Nationals (and, as of July 4, had the best hitting percentage in the National League).

Real baseball is played on the field, but baseball traditions and superstitions are almost as fun as the game. The Cubs were on a record-breaking pace until injuries slowed them late in June; they are still likely to reach the playoffs where they will strive once again to earn a National League pennant and, of course, a world championship. Go, Cubs, go! J.

 

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You can’t get there from here

A man, on vacation, flies up into the mountains. At the airport in the big city he rents a car. He looks at maps, programs his destination into his phone, and sets off for his cabin. Although he doesn’t feel lost, the surroundings do not seem to be matching what his phone describes. The man sees another man sitting on a porch and stops the car to talk with him. He describes where he is trying to go. The man on the porch shakes his head and says, “You can’t get there from here.”

In our world made smaller by rapid communication and rapid transportation, it seems unlikely that two places might be inaccessible to each other. Practically speaking, it still happens. The only way for our man to reach his destination is to head back to the city and take a different road. There are no shortcuts up in the mountains. “You can’t get there from here.”

I use those words in the classroom to describe Pure Land Buddhism. Most North Americans are at least slightly familiar with Zen Buddhism, but in Asia the Pure Land version is far more common. To give a simple explanation (for which I apologize, because simple explanations are always misleading), Zen Buddhists believe that under proper discipline and meditation, a person can achieve enlightenment in this world. One can end craving and therefore escape suffering by realizing the illusionary nature of all things—especially of an individual’s sense of self. Pure Land Buddhists are trying to achieve the same enlightenment, but they understand that “you can’t get there from here.” This world is too full of distractions and enticements to make full enlightenment possible. However, by proper living, proper meditation, and devotion to the Amitabha Buddha, a Buddhist can be assured of rebirth in the Pure Land. In the Pure Land are no distractions or enticements. Meditation is easy, and enlightenment is possible. The path is harder, but the destination is finally possible.

Is there any time that a Christian must say, “You can’t get there from here”? Consider one person who joined the church looking for peace of heart, inward joy, and a sense of God’s presence. The Bible promises these gifts to believers, but sometimes “you can’t get there from here.” The problem is not merely one’s own sins or lack of faith; the problem includes attacks from evil and distractions from a sinful world. The best of the saints suffered at times: David, Job, Paul, even Christ. Peace and joy are promised, but sometimes they are achieved only after a journey through the dark night of the soul.

Another wants to be a better man. He knows that his life is not fully pleasing to God, and he does not wish to join the church until he knows that he is worthy of God’s kingdom. To such a man, one can only say, “You can’t get there from here.” It is noble to want to be better, and every Christian should strive for that goal. But none of us can make ourselves good enough to belong in God’s Kingdom. None of us can work our way to holiness for God. Holiness lies in the future for all of God’s people. Even so, “you can’t get there from here.”

Jesus wants us to have joy and peace. He wants us to live holy lives. Because we can’t get there from here, Jesus accomplishes the impossible work for us. He pays the debt for our sins, a price we could never pay. He lives a sinless life and bestows on us his righteousness. He fights and defeats all our enemies—sin, the devil, and death itself. He promises to carry us to the Pure Land, a perfect creation, remade from this present sin-stained creation. We will live there forever with him, with no suffering or pain or death, and he will wipe every tear from our eyes.

Pure Land Buddhists believe that they must please the Amitabha Buddha to earn a place in the Pure Land. Jesus still says, “No, you can’t get there from here.” Instead, he promises to be with us in this world. He promises to give us the gift of faith, to strengthen that faith, and to keep us in that faith. He promises to lead us. Even in the dark valley of the shadow of death we do not fear, for he is with us. By his death and resurrection he has blazed a trail across that valley. He will lead us safely through that valley, and we will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

We want to be there now. We want to be enjoying the fullness of his promised blessings now. “You can’t get there from here.” The only way to get there is to stay close to the Shepherd, for he is leading us on paths today. With his guidance, we will get there. Only our Shepherd knows how to get there from here. J.

 

Sing-a-long/A Long Long Night

I cannot stop myself. When certain songs are played on the radio while I am driving, I have to sing along. “Bohemian Rhapsody” by Queen is one of those songs. “Renegade” by Styx is one of those songs. “American Pie” by Don McLean is one of those songs. “Hey Jude” by the Beatles is one of those songs. Even if the station cheats and shortens “Hey Jude,” I continue singing until I have completed all fifteen refrains.

It doesn’t matter where I am or where I am going. I have to sing those songs. This spring I was driving to deliver an hour-long lecture, but “American Pie” came on the radio, and I had to join Don McLean from the first line to the last chorus. Even if I have a job interview later in the day and want to make the best impression possible, I will sing along with “Renegade” or “Hey Jude” at the risk of ruining my voice for the rest of the day.

When I was in college, one of us in the dorm could put on the soundtrack to “Jesus Christ, Superstar,” and a group of us would gather, singing all the songs of all the singers. The opening complaint of Judas, the conversations involving Mary and Jesus and Judas, the entry into Jerusalem, the prayer in Gethsemane—we knew them all, every word, every note. I don’t know if that’s good or bad; I just know that we were that way back then.

I’m changing the subject here, but on the Fourth of July my daughter needed a ride to the airport. She needed to be there at four in the morning. I set my alarm to wake up at 3:15 and tried to go to bed at 10 p.m. I was restless and had trouble falling asleep, probably concerned that I would not hear the alarm and awaken in time. When I did fall asleep I had a string of odd and unpleasant dreams. I woke myself from one dream, shouting, “Who’s there? Who’s there?” I had been dreaming that my father and I were at his trailer, and we could see that someone had entered the trailer even though the door was locked. A clothespin on the door was some sort of clue. I managed to open the door and look into the living room which was empty. A large walk-in coat closet was to my right, and I thought the intruder was hiding there. That is why I shouted… and awoke. By the way, in real life my father does not live in a trailer.

Driving to the airport, then, was a mixture of fatigue and stress. The city streets look different at such a time than they look, not only during the daytime, but even at nine or ten at night. To make matters worse, we drove in and out of showers. The highway to the airport was not well lit, and the paint on the pavement was faded. Driving took much concentration, so I focused all my attention on what I was doing. I got her to the airport, she grabbed her stuff and entered the terminal, and on my way back to the highway, I turned on the radio.

After the last few seconds of a commercial, I heard a familiar voice sing familiar words. “A long, long time ago.” I was right there with him, “I can still remember how that music used to make me smile.” I did not sing loud and vigorously. I still needed to concentrate on driving, dark roads badly painted, water on the windshield and on the road, and other traffic (including a truck behind me with its bright lights shining off my mirrors). Besides, I did not want to call attention to myself on the highway at four in the morning of a national holiday—I didn’t feel like taking the time for a sobriety check. Softly, and with a skipped line here or there as I navigated a curse, I made my way back home.

Even as I type this now, the urge to continue singing “American Pie” is nearly irresistible. In fact, I know of only one way to break the pattern of “…and I knew if I had my chance, I could make those people dance….” My freedom comes from four simple words: “A three hour tour. A three hour tour.” J.

 

American Civil Religion

When I was in college, I took a course on American Civil Religion. The course was taught by a sociology professor and a religious studies professor, and students majoring in both departments participated. I earned an A in the class, in spite of the fact that I disagreed with both professors about the definition of Civil Religion, stating my case in classroom discussions, in my major paper for the class, and on the final exam.

Civil Religion is a blend of religious beliefs and favoritism for one’s nation. The nineteenth-century concept of Manifest Destiny is an example of American Civil Religion. Manifest Destiny was the conviction of white Americans that the entire continent, “from sea to shining sea,” should be dominated by the United States of America, even at the expense of Native American tribes and the country of Mexico. Treating the blood of soldiers shed in warfare as a sacrifice to God for the nation (as is done, for example, in the Battle Hymn of the Republic) is an example of American Civil Religion. The idea that the United States is a city on a hill, shining its light to the rest of the world so the other nations can follow our example of “liberty and justice for all,” is an example of American Civil Religion. This is especially true when that idea is combined with the belief that God intended the United States to be that beacon to the nations and that he will bless us so long as we continue shining our virtues into every dark corner of the world.

Singing “God Bless America,” not as a humble prayer but as a demand, is an example of American Civil Religion. Saying during the Cold War that we were battling “godless Communism” is an example of American Civil Religion. Singing patriotic songs that are not Christ-centered or Biblically based during a church service is an example of American Civil Religion.

In class I argued that faith and patriotism can exist in the same mind without being Civil Religion. Pledging allegiance to “one nation, under God,” combats American Civil Religion by stating that God comes first before the nation. Praying humbly to God for blessings for the nation is a blend of faith and patriotism which is not Civil Religion. The Bible tells Christians to pray for kings and those in authority. Jesus allows us to “give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and give to God what is God’s,” and in Romans 13 Paul includes honor and respect, along with taxes and fees, as things we are required to give to our civil leaders.

Some practices of religion are on the border between faith combined with patriotism and the American Civil Religion. Having the American flag in the church building, especially in the central worship space, is ambiguous. (Europeans, especially Germans, are astounded that Americans bring the national flag into the church building.) Prayers before sessions of Congress or of a state legislature are ambiguous. In fact, the more ambiguous and inoffensive the prayer, the more likely it is an example of American Civil Religion. Glorifying our national leaders and attempting to prove that they practiced a conservative Christian faith can be American Civil Religion at work, rather than a genuine inquiry of faith or of history. Washington, Jefferson, Franklin, Lincoln—all of our great leaders can be quoted in favor of Biblical Christianity and opposed to Biblical Christianity, depending upon who is doing the research into their lives.

I still believe that I can be a faithful Christian and a patriotic American at the same time. I do not believe that every expression of love for my country is part of the American Civil Religion. In fact, Civil Religion is idolatry that opposes true Christianity. Not every leader who says, “God bless the United States and God bless you” is speaking of the God who is known only through Jesus Christ. Discerning minds will detect the difference. Christians are to be active in the public square, sharing the hope that is ours through Jesus Christ. Our presence in the public square entitles us to love our country, even as we call it away from idolatry and invite its people to know Jesus as Lord and Savior. With that in mind, I can pray, “God Bless America.” J.

 

The rockets’ red glare

“So, J., did you enjoy the fireworks last night?”

“Actually, I was pretty tired, so after supper I read for a while and then went to bed early.”

It helps to plead exhaustion (and to say so honestly) rather than trying to explain loud noises, hyperacusis, crowds of people, and anxiety. I haven’t gone to a fireworks show in years, and those are the real reasons for my absence, but last night I was tired, and I really did go to bed early.

I lay there in the dark, hearing distant public fireworks shows in several directions as well as some nearer backyard pyrotechnics. As I drifted toward sleep and back again, my mind began to wander….

I thought about an article I read in the newspaper that morning. It described military veterans battling Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and the struggles some of them face during celebrations that feature fireworks. During their military career, they were trained to react instantly to the sound of gunfire or explosions. In some cases that training saved their lives. Now, even years later, those conditioned responses still exist. Festive fireworks can bring strong and painful memories of combat events. Family members and friends need to be aware of the feelings these veterans face and know how to help them through the experience.

I thought about something I read in a book. A Confederate veteran of the Civil War had enjoyed a successful career after the war involving journalism, investments, and politics. In the summer of 1902 he was staying in a downtown hotel, and he borrowed a handgun from a friend, complaining about cats bothering him outside his window. During the fireworks show the night of July 4, when the sound of a gunshot was least likely to be noticed, he took his own life. He left behind a note mentioning, among other things, the Confederate losses at Gettysburg and Vicksburg on July 4 almost forty years earlier. On other occasions this man had shown bravery under fire, both during and after the war, but through his successful career he clearly carried a wartime burden of hidden inner pain.

I thought about cannon fire in the Napoleonic wars and the American Civil War. I thought about the Battle of the Somme, being fought one hundred years ago this summer. I thought about German guns approaching Paris in 1940. I thought about watching the rocket’s red glare on television during the first Persian Gulf War in 1991. I thought about recent events in Orlando, in the airport in Istanbul, in Bangladesh, and in Bagdad.

Perhaps some year I will be able to attend a fireworks show. It would help if we did not have American soldiers serving in a war zone anywhere in the world that summer. It would help if the world had gone a month without terrorist attacks or other kinds of senseless violence.

I am not suggesting that Americans should cancel fireworks displays until such a summer happens. I don’t understand the violence of boxing; other people feel the same way about American football, which I enjoy watching. We accept our differences, let one another enjoy their entertainment, and leave each other alone. So long as I do not have to go to the show, the cities can keep on shooting off fireworks when and where they choose. Meanwhile, a Happy Independence Day to all my fellow Americans. J.

Dual citizenship

I am a citizen of the United States of America. I am also a citizen of the Kingdom of God. I have privileges and responsibilities in both of these loyalties, and I thank God for them.

I am endowed by my Creator with certain inalienable rights. Among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Various levels of governments exist to protect my rights. They are balanced, so none of them will have too much power to threaten my rights. The national government, the state government, the county government, and the city government each have certain duties, but they balance one another. The legislative branch, the executive branch, and the judicial branch each have certain duties, but they balance one another. Even the legislative branch on the national level is balanced. Senators serve six-year terms, so they can take a longer view of concerns; Representatives are up for election every two years, so they must pay attention to immediate concerns. States are equally represented in the Senate but proportionally represented in the House. The government of the United States of America is balanced so that the imperfections of any one leader or group of leaders can be offset by the efforts of other members of government.

I am endowed by my Redeemer with certain unconditional gifts. Among these are forgiveness of all my sins, the guarantee of eternal life in a perfect world, and victory over all my enemies. The King of God’s Kingdom is perfect, so he does not need to be balanced by opposing forces. He is Almighty and all-knowing, so he does not need to have his authority distributed among various levels of leadership.

My King has given me instructions, telling me why he made me and guiding me to live a useful and productive life. I have not always followed those instructions. I have rebelled against his authority and have tried to do things my way instead of his way. Instead of delivering me to the punishment I deserve, my King has redeemed me, paying the price for my wrongdoing. He has saved me, taking me out of the hands of my enemies. He has reconciled me, canceling my rebellion and counting me again as a citizen of his Kingdom. He has even adopted me, making me royalty in his Kingdom.

This redemption was not without cost. My King gave his life for my sake and for the sake of all the members of his Kingdom. Yet his sacrifice did not end his reign. By dying, he overcame death, rising to eternal life. Because of what he has done, I can be sure that I will live in his Kingdom forever, “in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness.”

The United States has enemies. Other countries compete with the USA in the economic world. Terrorists try to weaken the United States at home and abroad. The soldiers in our armed forces deserve our encouragement and support as they protect us from these enemies.

The Kingdom of God has enemies, but they are not flesh and blood. The devil entices me to sin and join his rebellion against our Creator. The sinful world around us tries to drag me down to its level of sordid evil. The sin still within me cooperates with the devil and the world. All these enemies have been defeated by the work of my King. I can contribute nothing to his victory, but he freely shares that victory with me and with all his people.

Dual citizenship is filled with blessings. I rejoice to live under the government of the United States of America. Here I have freedom to think and say and write whatever I choose, within very generous limits. I am free to exercise my religion without government interference. I am free to pursue happiness. But my greatest freedoms come to me as a citizen of the Kingdom of God. I am free from the burden of my sins. I am free from the power of death to end my existence forever. I am free to imitate my King, having been given power from him to be like him. I am free to be the person he created me to be, knowing that even while I continue to fall short, he continues to forgive me and to rescue me.

This Independence Day weekend I celebrate freedom as an American. I also celebrate freedom as a citizen of the Kingdom of God. To Christ be thanks for both sets of freedoms! J.

 

Independence Day, freedom, and politics

On the Fourth of July, citizens of the United States of America celebrate Independence Day. Especially as part of a three-day weekend, the festivities include parades, picnics and cookouts, outdoor concerts, and fireworks shows. Independence Day is the biggest national holiday that is not faith-based, as are Christmas and Easter. Best of all, though, is that the day commemorates signatures on a document. The holiday is not about victory in battle, like Mexico’s Cinco de Mayo. It is not about a mob storming a castle, like France’s Bastille Day. Independence Day is about ideas: the idea of freedom, the idea of human rights, and the idea of government limited by the people and responsible to the people.

Thomas Jefferson echoed the philosophy of John Locke when he wrote that “all men are created equal… [and] are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights… among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” Locke’s formula had been simpler—life, liberty, and property—but nothing is more American than the idea of the pursuit of happiness. Happiness is not guaranteed. Being created equal does not ensure that all people will be equally happy. We possess the right to pursue happiness, seeking happiness where we expect it to be found.

All rights are limited. Most Americans concede that a murderer or other violent criminal has waived a right to life, although a minority opposes the death penalty in all cases. Americans generally agree that certain crimes lead to imprisonment, a loss of liberty, although ongoing prison reform is needed to keep imprisonment from being a cruel and unusual punishment. Nearly all Americans concede the right of the government to tax its citizens so it can provide services needed by those citizens. These include the work of armed forces to keep citizens safe from hostile foreign governments and terrorists, police protection where we live, public schools, highways, inspections of various kinds to protect workers and customers and to limit pollution, and many other government functions. Citizens debate how many services the government should provide and how much property and liberty it can claim to make those services available. My point is that we can debate these questions. We can talk about them and write about them without fear of arrest and punishment. We can send messages to our leaders. We can vote leaders out of office and replace them with new leaders. We can work in campaigns of potential leaders or campaigns targeting specific policies and causes.

Freedom is not cheap. Not only do we need armed forces to protect us from those who would rob us of our freedom; we also need men and women willing to serve as leaders. These men and women know that they will be publicly insulted, mocked, and reviled. They expect to work long hours to educate themselves about the issues facing government, to respond to requests from the citizens they represent, and to talk to one another about the choices that must be made in their sessions. They will be paid less money than they could receive in other careers for which their abilities qualify them. They will be called “politicians” as if that word is vulgar. The positions they take will be challenged vigorously by opponents, and then they will be scolded by their supporters for compromises they must make to accomplish the work of government.

The word “politics” comes from the word “polis,” which described the independent units of ancient Greece (such as Athens, Sparta, and Corinth). Some poleis were monarchies; others were oligarchies. Athens experimented with broader participation in government, which their leaders called “democracy.” To make democracy work, citizens had to talk to each other. They had to listen to each other. They had to defend the ideas that were most important to them. They had to compromise on some of their ideas to preserve those ideas that ranked highest to them.

Politics is the art of communication and compromise which allows a government to rule wisely and efficiently. Otto von Bismarck is quoted as saying, “Laws are like sausages—you lose your appetite for them when you see how they are made.” Politics is not a career for the weak-hearted or the thick-headed. Politics requires quick and clear thinking, the ability to listen and to speak, and zeal for serving the citizens of a city, a state, or a country. Politics requires a strong trust in one’s own abilities, but also the humility to realize that, in every election, more than half the candidates are going to lose.

America needs politicians. In the United States, we have the privilege to choose among our politicians, to try to select the best of them to be our leaders, to disagree with our leaders, to inform them of our positions and beliefs, and to work to replace the leaders we think are wrong. This freedom, defined by the Continental Congress in 1776 and eventually structured by the Constitution of the United States, is celebrated on Independence Day across this great land. From sea to shining sea, let freedom ring! J.

 

First Friday Fiction Flashback — 1985

Grant Caldwell woke from a strange dream. As was his custom on Saturday mornings, he lay in bed for several minutes, contemplating life in general, and considering sleeping a little longer. Realizing he was not tired, he reached over and switched on the radio. A minute later, a tune was running through his head, and his dream was fading into forgotten memories. This was unfortunate, as several clues about the next few days had been hidden in that particular dream. Grant would have to survive without the benefit of these clues.

Whistling, Grant climbed out of bed, stripped off his pajamas, and wandered into the bathroom. In about fifteen minutes he showered, shaved, dressed, and completed the rest of his morning routine. Then he casually strayed into the main room of the apartment.

Grant shared the apartment with a friend named Jim, but Jim had left for work before Grant was awake. He would not return until evening, so Grant had the place to himself for hours. He picked up Jim’s clothing from the floor and threw it into Jim’s closet. Then Grant crossed the room, lifted the blind, and looked out the large window. Across the street was a grocery store. As a view, it was not exciting, but the store was convenient when Grant and Jim were short on food. Grant first looked at the sky, which was clear and sunny—it promised to be another warm day. Then he looked down into the parking lot, curious to see who was starting their day shopping for groceries.

His eyes were drawn immediately to a young couple, about the same age as Grant, strolling aimlessly through the parking lot, as if they were paying attention to nothing in particular. The girl looked familiar to Grant, as if he should know her from somewhere. (He did not understand that this feeling was an echo from his forgotten dream.) As it happened, though, Grant did know the girl. Her name was Marsha Sorkin, and she was one of Grant’s fellow students at the College of Osbourne.

The man with Marsha was Tim Bernard. The two of them were reputed to be leaders of a radical group of Osbourne youth, said to be responsible for much destruction of property. They were anarchists, vocally opposed to local and national government, and they were also against corporations and businesses. Rumors about the band were varied. Some citizens claimed that the group was communist, while others said they were merely hoodlums glorifying their havoc by claiming a cause. At any rate, the damage they caused was common knowledge to everyone in Osbourne except for the police force and the local judge.

Marsha, Tim, and those that gathered around them were blamed for anti-American slogans painted on the high school and on the railroad station. They were accused of slashing tires and breaking windows of cars belonging to the members of the city council during the past three council meetings. On the Fourth of July, they had disrupted the parade, first with chanting and then by blocking the street, waving flags and singing revolutionary songs. They were believed to be responsible for igniting the scheduled firework show in the middle of the afternoon to spoil the traditional nighttime celebration. The mayor of Osbourne had publicly accused them of setting the blaze that destroyed his house during his family’s vacation in August. They were said to be the ones who stormed into the First National Bank the Saturday before Labor Day on a vandalism spree that ruined the interior of the bank and netted the perpetrators several thousand dollars.

In spite of these rumors, neither Marsha nor Tim had spent even an hour in jail. They had been questioned by police, they had testified in public hearings, and they had been quoted in the newspapers. Although their philosophy clearly was anarchic, no evidence had been produced to warrant their arrest. Parents shuddered as they awaited the next terrorist activity and warned their children to avoid Marsha and Tim.

The two of them were treated like heroes by many of their fellow college students. No one doubted that they were responsible for all the violence in Osbourne. Considerable doubt existed, though, about the relationship of Marsha and Tim. Even though they appeared together at social functions, both claimed full abstinence from romance, let alone sexual relations, for the good of their cause. No one ever saw them express affection toward each other. On the other hand, it was widely whispered that they were sleeping together. Looking down upon them as they patrolled the parking lot, Grant speculated that those rumors were false. They were too intent upon their next mission to be distracted by one another.

Grant had never joined their group, although he and Marsha had a nodding acquaintance. Grant, like many people his age, was disillusioned with politicians, with business leaders, and with the military. He had no love for the system of capitalism, nor did he trust the mechanics of representative democracy. Still, Grant had never viewed violence as a solution to society’s problems. His interest in Marsha and Tim was not political, and his opinion of them was not negative.

As he watched them casually wander around the parking lot, Grant became convinced of two things. Both these convictions were the result of his forgotten dream, but by this moment Grant no longer recalled even that he had dreamed. The first thought in his mind was that Marsha and Tim were planning a raid on the grocery store, much like their attack upon the bank three weeks earlier. The second thought that accompanied that awareness was that Marsha was beautiful, perhaps the most beautiful woman Grant ever had seen. On an impulse, he left his apartment, ran down the stairs, and crossed the street to he could speak with Marsha Sorkin.

His idea that Marsha was the most beautiful woman he had seen did not dissipate as he approached her. Her beauty filled his eyes, although it was a stark beauty, unsoftened by any gentle touch. She had jet-black hair, parted in the middle and hanging straight down her back past her shoulders; deep brown eyes with a core of ice in the center of each; a narrow face, with a grim line for a mouth; and sharp animated moves that showed command of the situation that not even her escort, Tim Bernard, could imitate.

Grant had rushed so quickly to talk with Marsha that he had not considered what to say when he reached her. “Hello,” was an obvious opening word, but after that he was lost. He felt inadequate, unworthy, and out of place. He was about to retreat in befuddled embarrassment, as Tim merely nodded in reply, but Marsha was more gracious.

Smiling, she returned his hello and added, “Are you going to the Yellow Ribbon Dance tonight?”

“Uh…yes… that is, if I can find a date,” Grant stammered, forgetting that he was scheduled to work that night. He had also forgotten that never had any intention of attending the dance. He even forgot to ask why she called it the Yellow Ribbon Dance and not the Homecoming Dance.

“I hope you do,” Marsha said, smiling sweetly. “I’d like you to be there.” Tim nodded again, remotely, and the two walked away.

His head swimming with euphoria, Grant wandered in the direction of the store. He did not notice the number of young people gathering around him, since he was reliving again and again his brief conversation with Marsha. “She’d like me to be at the dance,” Grant said to himself in amazement. “All I need is a date.”

A nearby conversation distracted Grant from his daydream. One girl was distributing unlabeled bottles. Another girl asked, as she was handed a bottle, “What’s in it?”

“Acid,” she was told.

“I can’t take it,” she said, returning the bottle. “I don’t think my pastor would approve of this.”

Grant winced. Pastor Smith had always accused Grant of having a rebellious streak. He knew that the good pastor would not have approved of anyone’s participation in what was certain to become a riot. Grant thought that he probably should just go back to his apartment and watch the action.

He never had that choice. Before he could turn around, someone at the front of the crowd yelled a signal. The entire mass flooded through the doors of the grocery store. Grant had no choice but to run with the others.

Carnage reigned inside the store. Customers and clerks ran screaming as the terrorists emptied each cash register. Shelves of stock were thrown to the floor, windows were broken, and acid was thrown in every direction. Those who followed Marsha and Tim screamed and ran around the store breaking every fragile item they could find.

Grant dodged the broken glass, the acid, the spilled produce, and as many people as he could. Running at full speed, he was the first to reach the manager’s office in the far corner of the store. The office was set apart and the door was not clearly marked. Therefore, none of the rioters followed Grant into the room.

Inside, the manager was talking urgently into the telephone. Behind him in the well-furnished office was a case of hunting rifles. Around the paneled room were photographs and hunting trophies. Several comfortable chairs and a large desk filled the room, which was richly carpeted. With a dash of insight, Grant realized that the manager of this store must also be its owner.

He had no time to think, though. In an instant, Grant jumped to the desk, ripped the cord from the telephone, and threw the telephone at the case of rifles. The glass shattered.

Fred, the manager and owner of the store, rose to his feet. In a threatening voice, he bellowed, “You shouldn’t have done that!”

Grant laughed. “Why not?” he snarled in an insolent tone. He had not planned to be violent, but he knew that he must end the manager’s conversation.

In the distance, sirens sounded. They obviously were coming closer.

Fred smiled.

For once, the police had noticed that something bad was happening in Osbourne. As soon as they got Fred’s call, they were ready to respond. When the call ended abruptly, they hurried even faster. In less than a minute, five squad cars were in the parking lot of the grocery store.

When the police arrived, the members of the mob were already scattering. The officers rounded up as many delinquents as they could, and they fired warning shots over the heads of those who escaped arrest. Almost immediately those shots were answered by return fire from inside the store. As one officer fell, the others turned and fired through the broken windows of the grocery store.

After a moment the shooting stopped. For a brief time all was quiet. The police had only one casualty on their side. Cautiously they approached the store. The first to look inside saw Marsha sobbing over her fallen comrades. She put up a token struggle as two officers raised her by her arms. Then she let herself be led toward the manager’s office. Other police officers checked the fallen terrorists for signs of life. They found none.

On the outside the police maintained a professional appearance. Inside they were chuckling. At last the town ruffians had misstepped and had been caught. The heroes of the battle would receive commendations, and nights in Osbourne would be quiet again. With a touch of arrogance, the two policemen pushed Marsha into Fred’s office. “Here’s one of the ringleaders,” they boasted to Fred. “The other one is dead.”

Fred remained at his desk. He looked up at the policemen but did not speak. Meanwhile, Grant squeezed himself flat against the wall opposite from the store manager’s desk. Keeping a rifle in is hands steadily aimed at the doorway, he waited for the policemen to take one step into the room. His eyes watched Marsha with pity as she struggled to maintain her fierce dignity in the face of her tragedy. Like her captors, Marsha was unaware that Grant was in the room.

“Fred? Is everything OK?” one of the officers asked. He took the extra step for which Grant had been waiting.

“Hands in the air, gentlemen,” Grant said roughly. Turning, the police officers saw a double-barreled shotgun in Grant’s hands. Sheepishly, they obeyed his order. Grant stepped between them and removed their guns from their holsters. “Now, you two get behind the desk,” he ordered.

Marsha looked up at Grant, her eyes glowing. Her fire made Grant’s stomach boil, but outwardly he remained cool. He chose the officer who was about as tall as Grant. “Your jacket, please,” he demanded. The officer glared at Grant, glanced at the shotgun in Grant’s hands, and shrugged the jacket off. He tossed it to the floor at Grant’s feet.

“The hat too,” Grant directed, and the officer’s hat joined the coat on the floor. Both police officers stood behind Fred, watching to see what Grant and Marsha would do next.

“Very good,” Grant said, still using a rough voice. He handed one of the pistols to Marsha, set down the shotgun, and donned the jacket while she held the three men at bay. Grant put the hat on his head, pulling it down to hide his eyes. Tucking the second pistol into a picket, Grant seized three more rifles from Fred’s display case. He tucked them under his left arm, and then pulled the pistol back out of his pocket. “Now the three of you stay back here and keep quiet for at least ten minutes,” he demanded—“that is, if you want to live.” As the three men nodded obediently, Grant turned to Marsha. “Hide the pistol,” he told her. “For the next two minutes you are my prisoner. Do whatever I say, no matter how stupid it seems, OK?” She nodded. “OK,” he repeated. “Good day, gentlemen.” With a wave of the pistol, he directed Marsha out the door and followed her through the store. Like any captive, she walked slowly and cautiously.

As Grant and Marsha moved wordlessly through the ruins of the grocery store, police officers and ambulance attendants parted to let them through. Marsha and Grant proceeded outside. Grant chose a police car, of the five in the parking lot the one nearest the street, and pointed Marsha toward it. The car was unlocked, and the keys were in the ignition. Gawking onlookers cheered as Grant pushed Marsha into the back seat, climbed in front, dropped the rifles on the seat next to him, started the siren, and began driving in the direction of downtown.

Before they passed the police station, Grant shut off the siren, slowed to normal driving speed, and began cruising down side streets through residential neighborhoods. Once Marsha leaned forward and asked conversationally, “Where’re you going?”

“Sit back and shut up,” he grunted back. She did as he said.

After ten minutes of driving, Grant had worked his way to the bowling alley behind the apartment building where he lived. Seeing no one in the immediate area, he stopped the car, removed his disguise, and opened the car door. “Follow me,” he told Marsha, “and don’t ask questions.” He left the guns in the car; they had been needed to escape the store, but Grant had no intention of using them.

Racing across the field that separated the bowling alley parking lot from that of the apartment building, Grant was pleased to observe a large crowd still surrounded the grocery store. Their presence would diminish the visibility of his homecoming. With Marsha’s hand in his free hand, he slipped across the side of the building and opened the door to its one entrance. A quick run up the stairs followed, and a moment later the door to Grant’s apartment was closed and locked behind them. The crowd outside began to dissipate as Grant and Marsha gasped to regain their breath. Grant saw that already the steel of command was beginning to harden in Marsha’s eyes.

“Now can I ask a question?” she inquired after a minute or two of silence.

“Ask,” Grant invited.

Marsha crossed to the window. Hiding behind the curtain she gazed carefully outside. “How long do you expect to hide me up here?”

Grant shrugged. “I don’t know.”

“How soon do you expect the police to come over here, looking for witnesses about this morning’s drama?”

“Four, five minutes at least. We’ll think of something.”

“Think faster,” Marsha commanded, dropping the curtain. “They’re on their way now.”

Grant wondered why Marsha was asking him to do the thinking when she had been in charge of the local terrorist group. Then Grant recalled that she was used to having Tim Bernard as a partner. He also realized that she was used to striking and running, not to hiding. Even now she was approaching the clothes closet, surely one of the first places the police would check.

“Not there,” Grant commanded. “Get in the shower.”

Marsha balked. “Clothes and all?” she asked.

“Do you think your clothes would look better out here?” Grant asked, indicating the masculinely-furnished apartment. Marsha glared at him, but she then darted into the bathroom and started the shower, clothes and all. Grant slid the shower curtain shut, ordering, “Turn the water on and leave it on until I tell you to shut it off. Don’t say a word, no matter what I say or do.”

“I’ll get all wet,” Marsha hissed at him, but when someone knocked on the door of the apartment, she turned on the water.

Grant answered the door, welcoming two police officers into the apartment. He was relieved to see that they were not the officers he had encountered in the manager’s office.

“Excuse me, sir,” one of them said as they stepped into the apartment. “We’re here because of that business across the street.”

“Yes, the noise woke us up,” Grant lied. “There was such a crowd, though, we couldn’t see what happened.”

“Armed robbery and vandalism—turned into a shoot-out,” the second officer informed him. “A couple of them got away and a witness told us she saw them run into this building. Mind if we look around?”

Grant shrugged. “Don’t tear anything apart,” he said. He opened the bathroom door, which he had closed just seconds earlier. “Hey, Jim,” he called, “Some police are here because of the melee across the street. Mind if they look around the apartment?” As he expected, there was no answer. “He’s got to be at work by noon,” Grant told the policemen.

“That’s OK—we won’t bother him,” they promised. Casually they looked into the closets, behind and under furniture, and even behind the drapes. “Where does this door go to?” one of the officers asked, coming out of the bedroom.

“Storage,” Grant said. “I’ve got the key.”

When the officers had checked the storage room thoroughly, they met Grant again in the living room. “Don’t you or Jim go anywhere without checking with us,” they commanded. “We’ll need to ask you both some questions, but we need to search the rest of the building first.”

Grant shrugged. “Sure,” he said, and they left.

When they walked out of the door, Grant had the phone in his hand. This was not just a ruse. As they went down the steps, he dialed ten numbers and listened to the phone ring. On the third ring, Tony answered. “Hey…Tony,” Grant said.

“Hey, Grant,” Tony shouted back, “How’re you doing, old boy?”

“Not bad, not bad,” Grant said. “Listen, Tony, I need a favor.”

“Sure—what is it?”

“Can you put me and a friend up for a couple of weeks, starting tonight? We really need to get away.”

Tony chuckled. “What’s her name?”

“I’ll introduce you when we get there. Any problems?”

“No, none at all. See you tonight.”

Grant sighed with relief as he hung up the phone. Tony was always good for a favor. Going into the bathroom, he rattled the shower curtain. “C’mon out,” he called.

“They’ve gone?” Marsha’s voice queried as the water stopped.

“They’ve gone,” Grant said. When the shower curtain opened, Grant saw Marsha in dripping clothes, crossing her arms tight against her body and shivering. “You ran out of hot water,” she told him, her teeth chattering.

“Sorry,” he said, while his mind raced, planning their trip. “There’s towels on the rack there.”

“Just towels?” Marsha snorted.

“Oh, Yeah, Right.” Grant went to the closet, opened it, and pulled out a flannel shirt, a pair of jeans that were pretty tight on him, and a belt.  “Here,” he said, tossing them to Marsha. She grabbed them and closed the bathroom door.

While Marsha dried and changed clothes, Grant found a suitcase and tossed in the clothes he expected to need. “She can buy what she needs in Marshalltown,” he told himself. That thought reminded him to grab some extra cash and toss it into the suitcase. Then he took several post cards from Jim’s collection, some writing paper, envelopes, and stamps, and a couple of books to keep him busy.

As he zipped the suitcase closed, Marsha stepped out from the bathroom. Her long black hair had a tendency to curl when it was wet. Without makeup her face was freckled. The shirt was baggy, but it looked good on her. Grant’s jeans fit her waist but were double-cuffed to keep from dragging on the floor. Without her boots, Marsha was fully twelve inches shorter than Grant. Her curly hair, freckles, and outfit changed the sparks in her eyes into a twinkle.” Now what?” she asked him, mostly in a commanding tone, but with a hint of teasing in her voice.

“Now we leave town,” Grant said. He went into the bathroom and opened the window. First he tossed out the suitcase, then he looked at Marsha and pointed to the open window.

She winced. “Is it a long way down?” she asked him.

“Not far. You just slide down the drainpipe.” She put her hands on the windowsill and looked outside.

“It’s too far,” she told him.

Grant put his hands on her slender waist and boosted her through the window. “Fall or slide,” he told her. She took hold of the drainpipe, he released her, and she slid to the ground.

Grant had never liked heights. Even after forcing Marsha out the window and down, he had to take three deep breaths to steady his nerves. Then he put one foot out the window, then the other. Next he tried to convince himself to remove the rest of his body from the windowsill. Marsha beckoned urgently to him, but he didn’t dare look down. “Hurry,” she hissed. He dangled from his hands, took another deep breath, and let go. Landing on his feet was a jolt, but it was over and he wasn’t hurt.

“That’s my car,” he said, pointing. They rushed to it, he unlocked the door, and soon they were in the car and on the road. There was no pursuit.

“Hey, neat hat,” Marsha exclaimed. She was holding the formal hat that Grant’s grandfather had worn in the forties and fifties. Grant had forgotten that he had left it in his car.

“Wear it,” he said. “No one will recognize you.” The two chatted and got acquainted as they drove toward Iowa.

Grant Caldwell’s friend Tony welcomed Grant and Marsha when they arrived at his house. He offered them both the guest room, but Grant insisted on sleeping on the living room sofa, leaving Marsha the guest room. Intently he read the newspapers when they arrived and watched the news at six and ten on TV.

The day after they arrived, Grant set himself to work. Taking out the postcards he had packed, Grant wrote brief notes to his parents, to his roommate Jim, to his boss, and to his friend Wayne. “I am fine,” the notes said. “I have done nothing wrong, but to keep out of trouble I am hiding. Please do not look for me. I will see you soon.” He signed and stamped the post cards and set them aside.

Next, he took out his stationery and removed four sheets. On these he wrote four short letters, similar to the notes on the post cards. To each letter he added, “I need a favor from you. Please mail the enclosed post card, today if possible. And please destroy this envelope.” He addressed the envelopes to his cousin in Phoenix, Arizona, to another cousin in Washington, DC, to a friend in Memphis, Tennessee, and to another friend in Cincinnati, Ohio. When the letters and postcards were sealed in the envelopes, his work was done.

“Tomorrow,” he told Marsha, “I’ll drive to Cedar Rapids and mail these. Nobody will find us here in Marshalltown for quite some time.”

Marsha snuggled up next to him. “Can I go with you? I’d love to go shopping at the Terrydale mall.”

Grant shook his head. “Someone might recognize you. After I’ve gone through this trouble to get you out here and safe, I’d hate to blow it.”

“Thanks.” Marsha took hold of his arm. “Why did you do it?”

“Do what?” Grant asked, stalling for time as he thought of an answer she would accept.

“Why did you save me? You aren’t one of us. You could’ve hidden, said you were a shopper, and gotten away. Why did you stick with me?”

Grant leaned back and closed his eyes. “It’s hard to describe. Something in me hated to see you lose. I hated what you were doing, too, but striking out against rich people and those who make the rules—I understand that. If I let you lose, I guess I felt that I would’ve betrayed every kid in town.”

Marsha rested her head on his shoulder. “I don’t understand,” she told him.

“Neither do I. I just did what I felt I should do. That’s all.”

Marsha then did what she felt she should do. Tony saw them embrace on the couch and, quietly, he left them alone.

Later that night Grant sat in front of the TV, newspaper in his lap, news on the screen before him. Marsha came into the room and asked, “So, what’s the news? What are they saying about us?”

Grant chuckled. “They say you kidnapped me and forced me to take you to Chicago. They’re searching the city for us—mostly for you.”

Marsha sat down beside him. “They’ll find us sooner or later,” she said, stroking the back of his hand. “There is no point in hiding.”

“We have to hold out as long as we can,” Grant insisted. “We owe it to ourselves and to everyone who believes what we believe.”

“And what do we believe?” Marsha whispered.

The next afternoon, Grant Caldwell whistled as he drove back into Marshalltown. All seemed to be going well. He had mailed the letters in Cedar Rapids as planned. Then he stopped by the shopping mall to buy a couple surprises for Marsha. He enjoyed revisiting his hometown, even though he could not stop to visit his friends. The weather was beautiful, and all his plans were working as well as he could expect them to work.

He was surprised to see a great number of cars parked outside Tony’s house as he pulled into town. He was dismayed to see that most of them were police cars. His first thought was escape, but he knew that he had to find out what had happened to Marsha. He stopped his car and opened the door. Climbing out, he slammed the door shut, and began walking toward the house.

Police officers were leading Marsha out of the house as Grant approached. Her wrists were held by handcuffs. Grant rushed up to an officer and blurted out, “Please, sir, she is my sister. Can I talk to her alone for a minute or two?”

The Iowa state trooper was friendly, and he did not recognize Grant. “Sure, son,” he said, “but only for two minutes.”

“What happened?” Grant demanded when they were alone. “Did someone in town recognize you? Did Tony report you? Or did they track my phone call the other day?”

Marsha smiled sweetly. “No, dear,” she assured him. “I just turned myself in.”

Grant was speechless.

“Don’t ask me to explain, ‘cause I can’t. It just wasn’t working. Oh, you were great to help me, and I love you for it, I really do. But there’s no action in this town—nothing worth blowing up. I might as well suffer for my crimes if I can’t cause any more trouble.” She winked. “Who knows? I may learn a thing or two in jail.”

For this Grant had no answer.

“I’ve got a story all set. I kidnapped you, like they said on the news, and I made you do everything that you’ve done. None of it is your fault.”

Grant shook his head. “You can’t say that.”

“Isn’t it true? Tell me, did you hold Fred and the police at gunpoint and lie to the cops in your apartment and drive all the way out here for anyone besides me?” Grant denied it. “Then it’s true. I charmed you, or I forced you. In the end it’s just the same: it’s not your fault.”

“Marsha,” Grant said, “It didn’t work for Patty Hearst. It won’t work now.” A tear slid from his eye. “I had hoped we’d be together for a while—maybe share some adventures. I was getting to like your company.”

She smiled. “There’s plenty of time ahead of us. Our paths may cross again.” She winked once more. ”Meanwhile what’re you going to do?”

Grant thought for a second. “I’ve got friends in Nebraska I could visit,” he declared. “Of course I didn’t tell you that.”

“You’re going to Minneapolis,” she told him. “That’s what I heard.”

Grant kissed her, one quick kiss, then pulled himself away. “I’ll miss you,” he confessed.

“Don’t look back,” she replied. “We’ll meet again… unless we don’t.” With that, she returned to the custody of the Iowa State Police.

Grant climbed into his car and headed west.