Around a Table in Little Rock

Just before ‘a screaming comes across the sky,’ somebody around the table at lunchtime in Little Rock says, “Can you believe we’re still here? How the heck did THAT happen?”

Outside the restaurant a grey crawling mist settles in on what was moments ago a sun baked August day. A slight chill seems to rise. Inside somebody takes a bite of an oyster Po Boy and says, “The Program ended what, 5 years ago? It was a freaking management development program. No one even does that anymore! What was it about us? Why did we stay in touch? Why do we even care? We work for a corporation. That’s like saying we work for a bushel full of data stored in a vault somewhere in Delaware or something. Why are we different?”

Where the street outside was normally a happy throng, it had now gone quiet.

“Ha! Why are we different? How much time you got! And the group around the table all laughed.

“Well, Chad made it home safe from Afghanistan. And so did all of his troops. And there is a birthday or two going on.” The glasses were raised around the table.

“That made us grateful. I’m not sure it made us different.”

And at that exact moment there was a piercing pop. As if the ear drum of the world had just been punctured. Around the table everyone froze. Then all eyes swept to the window.

Total darkness. Everything outside that small circle was gone. Vanished. The fingers of fear starting to rise. And then someone at that table said, “Wait.”

Another voice from the table. “Who’s here?”

And they all said their names.

“Who else?”

“We’re all of us. 25. All of us here in spirit.” All 25 were named.

“Who else?”

“A power greater than all of us. Unseen.”

Then another voice said, “Count us down Chad.”

He started the count at 10, drew a breath at 8 and someone said,

“All of us. At the table. The rest of the 25. All of our friends, our families, everyone we touch, everyone we pray for, all of us are here. Everybody’s here. And everybody’s welcome.”

He resumed counting and paused at 5. Someone at the table sang out, “We are here to take care of the vulnerable. That’s what we do.”

Someone else rang out with, “Blessed are the meek.”

The count resumed and at 2, someone shouted, “Because we know our strengths!”

And when Chad reached 1. The entire team rose in perfect unison, something they’d actually worked on before but never quite mastered. Moving from the table to the restaurants’ front door as if to do battle with the very heart of snarling darkness itself. Throwing open that door. They all stepped out into that trembling unknown. And as that whole group, the ones right there and the ones in spirit, as they all leapt out flinging their very souls into the darkness. . .

The street came alive in the blessed heat of an August in Little Rock. Everything was moving, was alive and singing.

And someone from the table said, “What were we talking about again?”

3 Responses to “Around a Table in Little Rock”

  1. chicagoguy14 Says:

    With thanks to Thomas Pynchon–who is undoubtably reading this. . . .

  2. Ted Schneider Says:

    Reminds me of LCP in Little Rock – ate many times at the Flying Fish. I liked “punctured the ear drum” of the world.

  3. Paulhaider74 Says:

    James Taylor has more talent than Livingston, but I’m sure that James would give up some of that talent to get his brother’s hairline; a little hair is better than none at all.
    Paul Haider, Chicago

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