Challenge – The Wrong Choice
The air was hot inside the stagecoach, hot and stale, almost stifling. It didn’t seem to bother the two men across from him. Both sat, each a mirror image of the other. Feet propped up on the seat, one pair of boots on either side of him, right foot crossed over left, arms crossed similarly over their chests, hats, one brown, one black, pulled low over the eyes.
Mr. Smith slept, Mr. Jones did not. The partners wouldn’t sleep at the same time. One would sleep, the other would watch. How the reverend knew this, he couldn’t be sure, but he knew it just the same. They functioned as one, not in unison mind you, but harmony. Separate notes strummed at the same time, blending to create a perfect chord.
There were miles and miles to cover before they’d reach Taos. Reverend Spencer continued to watch Mr. Smith and Mr. Jones as if somehow he could, by simply studying them long enough, discover a truth that had eluded him for far too many years.
Reverend Spencer had been forced by the events of the last few days to re-examine the choices he’d made in his life. He had to admit most of his choices had been wrong. His choice to pick up a bottle every morning, his choice to walk away instead of helping the congregation he’d been called to serve.
The stagecoach jostled on and Spencer continued to wonder. Smith and Jones. What choices had they made in their lives? Obviously the best choice each had made was in choosing the other for a partner. But no one wore a gun like that, no one used a gun like that unless he’d made a wrong choice or two somewhere along the road.
The reverend considered Jones’ thoughts. He appeared to be sleeping, though Spencer knew he wouldn’t be, couldn’t be. He would be reviewing the scene in his mind, “What if I had killed him?” “What if he’d killed my partner?” playing the scene again and again until he was sure he’d made the only choice he could have. The choice not to bend, not to break, not to back down. The choice not to kill.
And what of Smith? Was he dreaming it now? The nightmare of burying his partner. The nightmare of killing a man over something as simple as a jig. He knew Smith would be having no second thoughts. He was where he needed to be, backing up his partner. The place for him to make his stand was firmly at his partner’s side.
Jones made his choice and Smith made his. Briggs had made his choices a long time ago.
“Reverend Spencer, what choice will you make today?” The voice was not audible. It seemed to come from somewhere deep within his soul.
He smiled. He had studied the two until he knew the answer. A wise man had told him once, “Take things as they come.” Yes, take things as they come and make a choice. Make each choice as best as he could each day then, live with the result. Good or bad, right or wrong. He was wiser now. Seems wrong choices do that to a man — make him wiser, IF he chooses to learn from them.
Reverend Spencer chose to return to his congregation a wiser man. Not a saint, but a sinner just like the rest of them. A man wise enough to learn from his mistakes.
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