I was going to deliver a car the other morning to Clearwater, Florida. Then I had another one to pick up that night in St. Petersburg, but not until after 9 pm. My old friend Pastor Rex agreed to pick me up at the dropoff point in Clearwater, near his home, as long as I didn't mind running some errands with him.
When Pastor Rex arrived in his old but sturdy truck, I saw that there was a young man in the front seat. "Get in back," he said to me, "I've got shotgun."
As I squeezed into the back of the truck's cab, Rex said to me, "This is my nephew Rick, he's here for a visit. He's my sister's son."
"Nice to meet you, Rick, I'm Bill."
"If you say so," he replied, with a healthy helping of attitude in his voice.
Rex chuckled. "Rick thinks he's a bad boy, but we both know he has a heart of gold. Don't we, Rick?"
"Shut up, Uncle Rex."
Rex looked back over his shoulder at me and winked. "He's a pistol!"
"I'm bored, when are we gonna do something?" asked Rick.
"Well guys, I'm afraid I'm going to have to drag you along on a church errand. I have to stop by the hospital and perform an exorcism," Rex explained.
Rick came to life. "Really? Cool, I want to see this."
"Sorry Rick, you're not invited."
"Hell with that, just try to stop me. I love that satanic shit."
"Watch your language, Rick."
"You watch your own language, I'm 23 and do what the hell I want to do. Got me? Ha ha, don't take me too seriously."
Rex smiled and shook his head. "You are one little son of a gun."
"Um, Rex, I thought exorcisms were a Catholic thing," I said, pondering.
"But you are Baptist, they didn't teach you about this in the seminary did they?"
"They certainly did not."
"Then how will you proceed?"
"I've seen that movie THE EXORCIST at least a dozen times, I think I can approximate it." Rex let go with a snort.
I shrugged. "I still don't understand."
"Look, the woman in the hospital is dying. She has a brain tumor that is making her act strangely and say bizarre things. Her grandparents are convinced that she has been possessed by Satan. Basically, I'm just trying to do something which will give them some peace."
"Lame!" sneered Rick.
"There's nothing lame about it, Rick, I try to bring comfort to my church members."
Rex looked over his shoulder at me and winked, motioning towards Rick. "He's a rascal."
We turned into the hospital, and as Rex angled for a parking spot someone cut in front of him. Rick went off, spewing a long string of cuss words and pounding his window with his fist, displaying deep anger at the other driver.
"Calm down, nephew."
"You just gonna let them get away with that crap? No way, there has to be some payback."
"Have you ever heard the expression 'turn the other cheek'?"
Pastor Rex parked and started to climb out of the truck. Rick opened his door. "No Rick, you stay here."
"Hell with that, I'm coming in."
"Rick, I'm going to have to insist, you stay in the truck with Bill."
"Dammit!" Rick shouted. Rex grabbed his Bible, shut the door and went on into the hospital. Rick spun around to face me. "Uncle Rex is a good, kind man."
"I agree fully. There is no warmer, kinder, more generous man than your Uncle."
"That's not me. I am vengeful and violent and vindictive. If I were driving and that guy had cut me off, there would be hell to pay. I'm the kind of guy who would dismember you, put your parts into separate Hefty trash bags, and then throw all the bags into the Gulf of Mexico." He paused, then reached back and punched my shoulder. "Hey dude, I'm messing with you. God, don't be so serious all the time."
After a moment, Rick opened the truck door. "Screw it, I'm going in."
"But your Uncle Rex--"
"No one tells Rick what to do!" With that, Rick jumped out, slammed the door, and ran for the entrance.
An hour later, they came out to the truck again. Both very quiet and subdued. We drove back to the house, and I asked if I could go into the guest room and read for a while. I guess I fell asleep, because a few hours later Rex was waking me up. "Hey Bill, you OK?"
"Yeah, I nodded off for a while."
"You needed the rest. Listen, something has come up and I have to drive down to Naples. Would you mind if Rick gives you a ride to the pickup point in St. Pete?"
"Not at all. If he doesn't mind."
"No, he said he'd be glad to do it."
Rick's voice sang out from the hallway. "I did not say that!"
Pastor Rex shook his head and smiled. "He's a scoundrel."
A few hours later, Rick looked in my room and said, "I have to go meet some girls, you want to come along? Or are you afraid of girls?"
"Uh, no, not afraid of them. But if you want to go be with them, then come back and get me later..."
"The thing is, they are in St. Pete, so it doesn't make sense to go over there then come back later to get you to take over there."
I agreed, and a half hour later we were on our way over. Rick shared his jaded philosophies of life, and I was slightly frightened by some of his views. We arrived at a Gulf front bar at Happy Hour. I could not have a drink, as I would be driving. But Rick dove right in, and when the girls came he began to act like a gangsta rapper. "Yo, yo, yo, ladies, gangsta Rick is in the house. Yo check it, I saw me a real live exorcism today."
The girls were intrigued, and Rick began to tell a tale that had me fascinated as well. He said that Pastor Rex had beaten on the chest of the girl with his fists, screaming for the Devil to come out. And then he had smacked her in the head repeatedly with his Bible, demanding for the demon to vacate the vessel. More mayhem, more madness, and finally Rex and the girl had hit the floor, where he commanded that all evil spirits leave the place while burning a cross into her chest. It was a powerful story, and Rick told it in a way that had us all on pins and needles. He made us feel that we were there with him, witnessing this evangelical event.
"Now," Rick said, "which one of you ladies wants to get lucky and get wit me? Or shall we try a Rick sandwich. I got the meat if you got the bread, baby." He proceeded to get very drunk very fast. So I decided to take a few city buses to get where I needed to pick up my next car to deliver. As I left he shouted out a few obscenities, but I actually think he meant them in the nicest way.
The next day as I was driving, Pastor Rex called me on my cell phone. I put on the headset and spoke to him for a while. I told him how very cool it was that he had such an exciting exorcism. He asked me what Rick had told me, and I gave him a good description of the story. Rex just laughed and said, "Here's what really happened. I went in and talked to the girl for an hour. I shared my testimony, and told her about incidents where I have seen God's work in action. Where I have seen His hand at work, and that miracles really do happen. And about His greatest gift, giving us His son to die for our sins. And she accepted the Lord Jesus as her savior, then she passed away late last night. So there's a happy ending."
"Rick's version was so convincing."
"Did he get you where you were going last night?"
"No, he was getting involved with 2 pretty girls, so I left and made it there on the bus."
"He has my wife's car, and hasn't been home since you two left yesterday. She's getting upset, she wants her car back. But what are you gonna do? He's a rascal."