The Rich Young Ruler

ImageFitz figured his laptop only had about twenty-five minutes of battery power left before he’d have to get out of bed, dig under his desk, fish out his computer cord and plug it in, but he was on a roll and didn’t want to interrupt it.

Furthermore, he typed, his fingers spidering across the keyboard, how many things will the Church take a stand against before it learns that it’s not doing any good? Everyone knows what the Church is against. It’s against gay marriage. It’s against abortion. It’s definitely against Obama. You all have made that loud and clear. But if you were to ask the average person what they thought the Church was for, what would they say? A taller wall between Texas and Mexico? And where do you get that from the Bible—because it isn’t

Fitz stopped and started to look up references to verses about how the Israelites were supposed to treat foreigners. Twenty-three minutes left, and he was feeling okay. 

His bed was situated underneath a poster of Tom Waits, who he’d been listening to while scrolling through the Internet, nursing the faintest trace of a Sunday morning hangover. He did not recall feeling drunk last night but, then, the hangovers were coming easier of late. The most he’d managed was to climb out of bed to pour the last of his roommate’s French Press into his own mug and make his way back to bed, and Tom Waits croaking over his speakers.

Bloody moon rising with a plague and a flood
Join the mob, join the mob
It’s all over, it’s all over
It’s all over

It was while scrolling through Facebook he’d found an article Tim had posted that had bugged out his eyes. There was nothing particularly odd about this. Tim was always posting such articles. They came from strange websites Fitz had never heard of, like REAL CLEAR RIGHT or Loony Lib Logic and whoever wrote the headlines seemed to have a malfunctioning caps lock key.

“Dems Show DISDAIN For Family Again”

“IN GOD WE TRUST? Nobody Told the Libs.”

Where Fitz had met Tim or why Tim popped up so frequently in his timeline, Fitz couldn’t say. But now that it had happened, it filled Fitz with a loquacious zeal, and their online comment debates lasted for days. True, it felt a little cheap sometimes—Tim was no genius—but damned if Fitz wasn’t going to let him spout this nonsense without a fight.

This time, the inciting article title was “Gay Couples SUING to Force Church Weddings.” It was from yet another website on the distant Right that Fitz had never heard of (no telling where Tim found all these) and it took only the briefest skim to determine that the article was, if not altogether fabricated, than at the very least overstating the seriousness of the case. Fitz had tried to be diplomatic in pointing that out in his first comment. But that was two hours and seventeen comments ago.

A taller wall between Texas and Mexico? And where do you get that from the Bible—because it isn’t [Here, he copied and pasted] Leviticus 19:34, “The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the LORD your God.”

Fitz liked the finality of the verse—he’d like to see Tim try to push back against holy writ—and posted the comment.

He clicked around a little. It was almost all dumb. “No more time for fake people in my life!” read a status from some girl he had met at a camp nearly a decade ago. “This is a drama free zone! LOL!”

“THIS!” someone else posted, with a satirical article about Syria. Fitz clicked “like.” Then, a picture of Sydney, hugging what looked like a pillow, leaning her head on a friend’s shoulder, both of their mouths split into grins.

“Love this beautiful lady,” Sydney had written. “My friends are the story of my life.”

Fitz could have done without that last part, but he gave Sydney credit for the photo which had an artful carelessness to it. He clicked over to Sydney’s profile and then to her photo albums.

She was still single, or seemed to be. There were plenty of boys in her photos, some of who seemed friendlier than others, but all of whom were clearly kept at arm’s length by her. In each photo, she looked terrific, relaxed and charming—even the ones that were clearly meant to peel back the curtain.

“Sick day :(” read one photo, of her lying in bed with a smoothie, up to her chin in blankets, frowning a sweetly pitiful frown.

None of the titles of her photo albums led him to believe that they were devoted to beach photos, so he dug a little deeper. “Summer Lovin” had neither loving nor anything particularly summery, but “These Friends of Mine” was much more fruitful. There were no fewer than three shots of Sydney laughing on the beach, frisbee in hand, her freckle-splattered body wrapped up in a red bikini, just so.

A notification dinged. Tim had responded.

UH, whose saying anything about immigration? Tim frothed. Dems havent yet forced us to take down our boarders THANK GOD so Im more worried about the here and now. The now is the loss of religous freedom. Libs dont care what freedoms we get lost just as long as everyone feels nice and happy about gay people getting marreid. Whats good for you is good for you and whats good for me is good for me, unless you object to the lib agenda. The only intolerance thats alloud these days is intolerance of Christianity .I DO NOT HATE GAY PEOPLE but the US is out of control.

Fitz leaned back and rubbed his eyes. It was difficult to keep from despairing, and if you didn’t steel yourself against it, you’d be tempted to throw in the towel altogether.

He clicked away from Tim’s profile from a moment, and went back to his feed, smattered with new posts.

“When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, ‘Do you want to get well?'” wrote his roommate’s mother who’d requested his friendship some time ago. “AMEN! Greatful for these words today.”

Another friend—not yet thirty years old, and already a father of two—posted a pictures of his two red headed sons, plunging their hands into a freshly tilled garden. My hair. Their mom’s thumbs! read the caption. Fitz sighed and scrolled back up to Sydney’s picture, clicked on it, and looked over her page. Her profile photo was black and white—Fitz figured she’d edited it herself—of her looking down with a passive smile. It annoyed Fitz a little, and at first he thought it was too hipster, but then he decided it was just a little too infuriatingly good. She’d just posted something new.

Lord, you search us and know us. May we all remember HOW TRUE that is!

He fought to keep his eyes from rolling a little, and went back to Tim’s post.

Tim, are you even reading what I’m writing? he clattered. Religious freedom isn’t “getting lost,” and the Church’s paranoi—

A warning window bumped onto his screen. His battery was on reserve power. Fitz swung his legs out of bed and crouched on his floor. It was cold against his bare feet and the shock rattled his headache up a notch. His various power cords were tangled like snakes. From his speakers, Tom Waits boomed.

In the boiler room
The poor, the lame, the blind
Who are the ones that we kept in charge?

Fitz grabbed his computer cord, collapsed back into his bed and plugged it into his laptop, where it sunk with a reassuring click. He looked at his screen again and the warning message read Beware, Children, the Terrible Speed of Mercy. 

Fitz clicked ‘OK’ and his computer burped a little error tone and the message remained, just the same. He clicked ‘Cancel,’ to no more productive result. He clicked it a few more times, and it simply blipped and returned, silent and steady as a stone.

Beware, Children, the Terrible Speed of Mercy. 

Fitz pushed down a few keys, to no avail. He fired his mouse arrow like a sniper and might as well have thrown soap at the screen for all the good it did. Finally, he shut his laptop with finality, as if he was waving a white flag. Tom Waits shut up like a shot. His head hurt worse than it had when he had woken. He had never had a computer virus before, and it made him feel powerless.

He laid back on his bed and pulled his hands across his face, scratchy from a few days without a shave. He was hungry, but he did not want to eat. He felt lonely, but he did not want to put pants on. He grabbed his phone and began scrolling through his feed. He did not particularly want to respond to Tim using his phone, but he went back to Tim’s final comment anyway. He was saddened to see that three people (3!) had liked Tim’s previous, nonsensical comment.

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1 Comment

  1. Chelsea Peebles

     /  March 31, 2014

    This leaves a bad taste in my mouth- I’m presuming it’s an intended effect by the author. How often my life has mirrored the misery of Fitz. Thank God for continued lessons and grace. Thanks for writing. I enjoy your blog.


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