Curtis Dahlgren
"My name is Saul," he said (a Classic)
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By Curtis Dahlgren
December 23, 2013

THREE DAYS before Christmas, I walked into a bar. I looked around, but no one was there, though the Packers were playing to a full house. After awhile a bartender appeared, all bubbly and bright, and I ordered a beer. As she popped the top, a stranger came in, dusting off snow, kind of nondescript. He had nary a smile, and for some reason he seemed older than he looked (though I'm not too good at judging the cover of a book).

I SAID "HOWDY" and he said "Shalom, or, that is to say, hello, more or less." I couldn't place the guy's accent, but he certainly didn't look Nordic, so I said:

"You from around here?"

"Not hardly," he said with half a smile.

So I said as I stared, "So where are you from? Not that it matters, but . . ."

He turned, as if looking right through the plate glass mirror behind the bar, thinking I guess. Just as he started to speak, who should appear but the bubbly bartender. "What'll you have, Bud?" said she, and says he:

"Have you any Mid Eastern wines from about 40 A.D.? If so, I'll have it."

"Not in this place," she laughed. "Would you settle for a Mogen David?" And he says:

"Close enough! I know how to abound and how to be abased."

"Hey, that's pretty good," I said. "What do you do? Are you a writer or what?"

"I'm retired," he says. He stuck out his hand and says "My name is Paul. Some people knew me as Saul. Of Tarsus."

We shook hands and I said, "My name is Curt, but some people call me the crazy woodcutter. Because." And he says:

"I can relate, I think. That is to say, I used to be a tent maker on the side, and some people thought that's all I was."

"Let me guess," I said. "You were on Reality TV. Or were a TV evangelist. Before they got such a bad reputation?"

"Close, but before TV," says he.

I began to wonder if this guy was sick, so I just said, "You're the Apostle Paul." And he says:

"How did you ascertain that so quick? Quickly, I mean?"

I looked around, but no one was there, not even the bartender (she must have stomping the grapes yet). I managed to catch Paul's eye and said, "Well, let me hear a few lines. Something you've written."

"God gave them over to a reprobate mind, being filled with fornication, wickedness, covetousness, and maliciousness; full of envy, hatred, deceit, and malignity; whisperers, backbiters, proud, disobedient to parents;
without understanding or natural affection, liars, and unmerciful debaters; who, knowing the judgment of God – that those who commit such things are not worthy of immortality – not only do the same, but have pleasure in those who
do them too!"

"Sounds judgmental,"
I said with a smile and a sip of my beer. "Before I go home, I'll buy you that Mogen David if you can recite the first sentence of your letter to Rome without taking a breath" (I finally got a laugh out of him). "But seriously, what is 'malignity'?"

"'Malignity,' from 'malignus' – 'bad' or 'wicked'other words from this family including 'malice,' 'malaise,' and 'malignant'; but the simplest way to define 'malignity' is 'TROUBLE' – as in 'here comes trouble,' that is to say, a popular culture out of control like a malignant growth, so to speak," he said.

I took a quick glance at the wide-screen and around the room, and then I said:

"Assuming for a minute that you're the Apostle Paul, where have you been?"

[TO BE CONTINUED]


© Curtis Dahlgren

 

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Curtis Dahlgren

Curtis Dahlgren is semi-retired in southern Wisconsin, and is the author of "Massey-Harris 101." His career has had some rough similarities to one of his favorite writers, Ferrar Fenton... (more)

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