As Far as East is From West
by Jack Cloudt
Fifteen minutes until midnight.
Bells echoes across the empty bridge that spanned across a splashing abyss, laying down the path from one life to a new one. An engine’s grown joined the melancholy chorus of the angelic bells.
He was intoxicated, he knew. That didn’t matter, though, no more than the fact that he didn’t bother to turn on his busted turn signal as he turned onto the bridge. What mattered was what he had done three years before, this night. What he was going to do this night. As his car began the trek across the bridge, he knew he was nearing his inevitable future, the future he had chosen for himself three years ago, the day he chose to stop by the bar after work, rather than go home to his pregnant wife like he had promised he would.
Thirteen minutes until midnight.
The intoxicated man was half way across the bridge and about to pull over to the sidewalk, when the screeching song of sirens blasted behind him. In the rearview mirror, he saw the police car drawing near. The man, annoyed, pulled over, now out of force.
Eleven minutes until midnight.
Rolling down his window, the intoxicated man waited for the beefy cop. Sure enough, the officer’s face sank to his level outside of his open window.
The officer skipped the greetings. “I’m going to need to see an ID.”
The intoxicated man gave it to him without a fight. The officer stared at the ID, not seeming to read it. No, he wasn’t reading it. As he stared with slanted eyes at the ID, something else seemed to be going on behind his lying pupils. He gave it back. “I need you to step out of the vehicle.”
The man followed the cop to the sidewalk of the bridge. Then, in a seemingly very unprofessional way, leaned his head over the rail in a sorrowful way, watching the angry body of water far below. With his back to the man, the cop sighed and asked in a calm voice as if to the depths, “Do you know why I pulled you over?”
The man hesitated. “I was drinking and driving, I…”
“No you weren’t,” the cop interrupted in an irritated tone, turning to the man. “An intoxicated man doesn’t walk or drive a straight line or think before and speaks clearly. Your name is Marcus Turner. Three years ago, you killed a young man and ran away unscratched.”
Marcus’ mouth opened and he stared at the officer, not knowing what to say.
“Who are you?” Marcus finally let out. The officer breathed hardly through his nostrils.
“Jonathan Hardy, Sr., father of Jonathan Hardy, Jr. Three years ago tonight you were driving drunk and killed my son on this bridge.” The accident flashed through Marcus’ head: The taste of the bitter alcohol, the sound of rubber screeching on cement, the bump that made his car jump. Jonathan took a shuttering breath and continued, “For three years you left me with no one. My wife couldn’t stand the resemblance between my face and our son’s. She left, leaving me with only a bottle and a Bible for company. For three years, I thought of nothing but getting even, to make you go through what I went through. To make you feel the million shards of invisible thorns piercing your skin every sober second.”
Marcus’ face burned bright, his eyes on fire. “Then why don’t you do it? Throw me over this bridge, shoot me, run me over, and tell them that I assaulted you first!”
“And do the job for you?”
Marcus stood frozen, his jaws gritted, his fists clenched. “What are you talking about?”
“I know what you were planning to do here tonight,” Jonathan placed his hands on the rail and looked at the waves again. “I’ve been here many times as well, trying to bring myself to do the same as you are tonight. I came close to doing it once, but I realized that even if my son isn’t here on Earth with me, he is still looking down on me. I am still his father and I still need to set an example for him.”
Marcus was still in shock. He could only think of one thing to say.
Jonathan turned to Marcus, tears brimming. “As far as the East is from the West, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.” Jonathan looked at Marcus one last time and began slowly back to his car.
Marcus, who hadn’t moved this whole time, called behind him. “If I’m not drunk, did you know it was me when you pulled me over?”
Jonathan kept walking as he answered him, “You’ll want to get that turn signal fixed. Not all cops are as forgiving.”
As the cop cruiser drove away, Marcus stepped forward to the rail and looked over at the calling sea. He breathed the salty air and opened his mouth, “Who is a God like you, who pardons sin and forgives the transgression of the remnant of his inheritance? You do not stay angry forever but delight to show mercy. You will again have compassion on us; you will tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our inequities into the sea.”
And with the first minute of the new day, Marcus Turner at last hurled his inequities about himself into the sea. He could never take back the mistakes he had done, and he still wasn’t even sure if he deserved the blessing of forgiveness. But if the man whose life he had ruined was able to forgive him, it would all be in stubborn vain for Marcus to deny the ability to forgive himself.
At 12:01 A.M., Marcus Turner finished the journey across the bridge to a new life. The only thing he knew lay beyond that bridge was a second chance. Somewhere ahead of him church bells rang. He would start there. Somebody was at the church at this early hour, and Marcus knew that whoever that person was, Marcus needed to see them. He drove into the bright night, not knowing what his future held for him now. All he knew was that the past had passed.
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