Writer Author Kevin Corbin
- Fiction Yes
Business had been good that morning, but it slowed down a little just after lunch time. Enjoying the brief break between customers, I poured myself a coffee and sat down in one of the wing back chairs at the front of my store. The late fall sun silhouetted the name of the shop against the window, Buckman´s Books.
An old pickup truck that had seen better days slowed down and coasted to a stop in front of my shop. There was no way to know the trucks original colour, since it was made up of salvaged body parts replacing damaged ones. All of the pieces seemed to be held together by rust. The rear box was closed in with four foot high sideboards made of recycled plywood. Painted on the side, in letters barely discernible through the dirt of a thousand gravel roads, were the words “Jackson´s Salvage”.
The driver, a tall thin man, stooped at the shoulders from a hard life, slid out of the cab slowly and headed for my door. He was on the far side of sixty. His hair and beard were long, gray and unkempt. He had a long, hooked nose that looked like a beak, and bushy eyebrows that resembled a set of wings. His bib overalls and plaid shirt were dirty and had seen a lot of use. “Worn out and tired” came to mind as I looked at the truck and its driver. Appearances could be deceiving though, I knew he was a shrewd businessman, a haggler. The man would grind you mercilessly for the joy of bargaining.
A lot of townspeople didn´t think much of old man Jackson. He was course, crude and cussed more than a pirate´s parrot. To make it worse, he had a special smell about him that was hard not to notice. No one could describe the smell, but it came from a lifetime of digging around in dumps, junkyards and abandoned buildings.
Despite all that, I liked him. He was a good customer who knew his books. He would spend hours looking through the latest acquisitions on my shelves, searching for true value. I say acquisitions, not new books, because I sell used books.
Buckman´s Books is neither a fancy name nor a fancy place, but I sell a lot of books. Two wing back chairs, a couple of small tables, and a pot of coffee welcome my customers to the store. Behind that stands a thousand square feet of space, filled to the ceiling with books of every imaginable kind. My customers know that if I don´t have it in stock, I will get it for them and they show their appreciation by coming back time and again.
When he came in this time, Jackson had a package with him. That was usually a good sign, because some of my best merchandise had come because of his sharp eye at estate sales and auctions. The old man had a nose for good literature and saleable books. He´d bring them in, haggle with me for hours over the price, (which I´m sure was half the fun for him) and eventually I´d break down and give him his price. With my network of special collectors, I never failed to make money on a Jackson deal.
He poured a coffee from the pot I always kept on, and grumbled “Buckman, you make the worst coffee I´ve ever tasted,” then sat down in his favourite chair.
“Thanks Jackson. From you that´s a compliment. Besides, it´s free even for a contrary old cuss like you. What did you bring me today?”
Handling the package like it contained delicate treasure, he slowly unwrapped several layers of newspaper. He pulled out a thick leather book.
“I think you´ll like this one, but it´s gonna cost you big time.” He laughed at the thought of the bargaining to come.
It was a Bible, well preserved, but obviously well used. A thick strap of tooled leather kept the cover closed. It was an original Geneva Bible, almost impossible to come by.
“Where did you get this?” I was so excited that I forgot who I would be bargaining with and almost drooled.
“It´s a gem, one of the best I have ever seen.”
With a loud laugh he said, “I knew you´d like it. Bought it at an estate sale over in Pierce County. The family were in a hurry to sell off the estate so they could get back to the city. I bought a whole truck load of stuff that I thought I could make a few bucks on. After I got everything loaded, I went for another quick once over to see if anything good was left. I rooted around some and saw the book in the bottom of a box under the cellar stairs. Almost missed it. I had to buy the whole box of useless junk just to get the book.”
I slowly leafed through the Bible, caressing each page and stopping now and then to read a passage that caught my eye. The text was clear and sharp, although the pages had begun to yellow a bit. There is something about the feel and smell of an old book, that I can´t describe and never grow tired of. Like people, no two old books are ever alike.
“Don´t know why anyone would want an old Bible” he grunted “ but I figured that you would know who would want it. You´ll make a profit, and still pay me handsomely for it.”
As I sat reading, he got up and perused the shelves. The Bible was almost identical to one my grandfather had when I was a boy. I got my love of good books from grandpa. He´d sit around and read us Bible stories for hours. I couldn´t help but sit and read some of his favourite stories.
More than an hour later, Jackson reappeared from among the shelves, with a half a dozen books in hand.
“You still sitting there reading that thing?” he asked. “Can´t imagine why.”
“It´s a long story, but I like old Bibles. I´m reading one of my favourite parts, the parable of the prodigal son.”
“Don´t know that story. What´s it about?”
“It´s the story of a boy who gets his inheritance early, spends it on the fast life and ends up dirt poor, slopping pigs and sharing their food to have something to eat.”
Old man Jackson looked almost teary. “I know how that works. Dropped out of school, sold some of dads stuff, and headed out on the road at fifteen. I went to the big city to make my fortune, but blew the money pretty quick. Ended up on the streets for a long time. Even did some county jail time for a while.”
“I didn´t know that.”
Pouring another cup of coffee, he plopped down into his chair. “Not many people do. I keep my business to myself.”
After taking a deep drink from his mug, Jackson said “I swear you make lousy coffee! I don´t know why I even bother to drink it. Never met anyone who makes coffee as bad as you do.”
“Jackson, don´t change the subject, you were telling me about when you left home.”
“Right” he said.
For the next two hours he told me about doing time for stealing something to eat. About not being able to get a job because of his lack of education and his record. He told me of moving from place to place and ending up here in Pine Brook about forty-five years ago.
He started work with a borrowed truck. Before long, he traded some scrap he collected for an old truck of his own and started in the junk business full time to make a few bucks and keep a roof over his head. Twenty years ago, an old friend had died, leaving him the pickup truck parked out front. It was an old truck then, but Jackson swore that he´d keep it on the road, forever, in memory of his friend.
When he finished his tale, I asked “Did you ever go home again?”
“No, I figured I made my choice and blew my chance. They would never want to see me again. I heard my folks died a few years back. Never even went to the funeral.” He swallowed the last bit of cold coffee with a grimace and asked, “So what happened to the kid in the story?"
I read the story to him.
“So the father waited for him to come home, even though he knew the boy would mess up. I wonder if my old man waited for me to come home?”
“I don´t know if he did or not, but I know God does. He´d claim you as His child if you´d let him.”
“Not likely! I´ve had too many years of making mistakes for that to ever happen.” With his finger pointing at the Bible, he said, “Show me in that book where it says that God would want me.”
I did just that. We sat a read a few verses together. Jackson smiled at me, “How about that! God even wants an old misfit like me.”
Don´t take my word for it. Look the verses up yourself. If you are like old man Jackson and want to know if God wants you, grab a Bible or a New Testament and read the same verses he and I read together. Start with the story of the prodigal son in Luke 15:11-31. Then read the other Bible verses we looked at: Romans 3:23, Romans 6:23, John 3:3, John 14:6, Romans 10:9-11, and Revelation 3:20.
Then simply pray this prayer or something like it,
“God, I have messed up, and made my share of mistakes and run away from many things. I want to be your child. Forgive me for the things I have done wrong and the mistakes I have made. I believe that you died on the cross for me and were born again. Please be the Lord of my life. Amen.”
It´s as simple as that. It doesn´t matter who you are or what you have done, you are now forgiven and free. The prodigal child has returned home and your heavenly father rejoices. You will spend eternity with the father who waited for you.
May God richly bless you.
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