1. from Big Machine
"My brother threw me out," Ronny said. "Everyone just tossed me away."
I don't know how I would've reacted to Ronny's stories a few years earlier. Not too sympathetically. We all got troubles, as Peach Tree once said to me. But by that time, in that break room, I wasn't the same man I used to be. I'd never shaken the image of that nut standing on the side of the highway after we'd kicked him off our Greyhound bus. We'd sacrificed him. And there, sitting with Ronny, I felt I was on the verge of that choice again. Sacrifice this guy, or... And just like that, snap, the Voice's commandment made sense to me.
Invite them back in.
How long would it be before Ronny told this story again, in another break room or a run-down bar, and after he was done, the folks listening would commiserate, pat his shoulder, lean in close, and ask if he'd ever heard about a man, a martyr, named Solomon Clay.
Or who knew if the Dean might not become less of a race man in the future, and sometime soon Ravi Arapurakal gets a mysterious invitation in the mail.
This was our moment.
But what to do? How to invite Ronny back in? It's not like we were going to have him move in with us. Or, even if we did, what would we do for the next Ronny? The next woman or man we found teetering at the edge. Even the Washburn estate couldn't house them all. Maybe what Ronny needed right then, in the depths of his own turmoil, was just the possibility of relief. The hope that he might climb out rather than keep falling. In his warped way that's all Solomon had been offering his followers. I wondered if we could redeem the best aspects of his message.
2. I Say a Little Prayer
Aretha Franklin, 1970