KEEP ON KNOCKING
Miguel was already sweating, and they hadn’t even knocked on their first door yet. “It must be ninety degrees already,” he commented to Lucas, who looked surprisingly fresh. Lucas was glad he’d opted to wear short sleeves. “It could be worse,” he said, smoothing his necktie.
“Think of our brothers and sisters in Tunisia. It gets well a hundred degrees, easily.” “You think they have to wear ties?” “Not the sisters,” Miguel said, and they both laughed.
Miguel and Lucas kept their conversations generic. Everyone was watching and listening these days, cameras and microphones on every door. Their assignment was a righteous one. No slip-ups.
After leaving the first door, Lucas marked down the house number on his record. Not Home.
Eleven o’clock. Faithful to its commission, the sun was blazing down on both wicked and good alike. “There’s a little shade on the other side of the street. Want to cross over, Miguel?” “No,” he answered, “Let that be our reward for finishing the sunny side.” “Our reward is great in the heavens,” Lucas said, white teeth flashing.
One doorbell chime and a couple of half-hearted knocks later, Lucas was writing another house number down. “I saw the curtains move,” he said. “I’ll write Home But Hiding.” They both chuckled, just a little. They were professionals.
The door opened almost immediately at house number 3920. Lucas stepped back slightly so that Miguel would have to speak. “Good morning, ma’am,” he began. “What do you want?” Miguel reached into his small leather attaché. His pulse quickened as his fingers brushed against cool smooth metal. Then he brought out the Bible. He didn’t need to speak again. “I’m not interested!” The door slammed. “Have a pleasant day, ma’am,” Miguel said to the peephole. “Not interesting” was what he and Lucas were aiming for.
Miguel avoided eye contact with his partner. They had worked together for so long he could hear Lucas cautioning him silently. “Watch it. You almost grabbed the – – “But he hadn’t. He hadn’t. “Well, I talked,” he told Lucas cheerily. “You’re up!”
Lucas’ bag was slung over his shoulder. His shirt was getting a little damp there, finally, Miguel noted, with a bit of satisfaction. It only got hotter after that, in more ways than one.
“You people!” An angry man getting into his SUV parked in the next driveway let them get no further. “There’s no soliciting here. Go bother someone else!”
Still Lucas’s turn, he hadn’t spoken yet.
The next man, a senior citizen wearing a Veterans of Foreign Wars cap, brought more heat. “You don’t belong in this country!” he spat at them. Lucas looked at Miguel. Both, and their parents in fact, were born in the United States. “Get out of here!” the man shouted. “You people won’t fight for your country! People died for your freedom!” He jabbed a crooked finger at them.
“Thou shalt not kill,” Miguel thought about interjecting. It would be deliciously ironic, and more than a bit hypocritical. Lucas shook his head slightly, reading his mind. Don’t say it. “Thank you, sir,” he told the angry man. “Have a nice day.” “I will once you’re gone!” the man snapped.
“We’re still giving a witness,” Lucas said, once they were back on the sidewalk.
Miguel took the next door, mostly out of pity. He would have regrets momentarily.
The cross on the door encouraged him, this would almost certainly be someone who would appreciate a Scripture. “You people!” was what they were greeted with when the door flew open. Again with “you people,” Miguel thought. “You let your children DIE! You don’t believe in blood! You don’t believe in doctors! Get off my property!”
The pair hurriedly obliged, without taking time to shake the dust off their feet.
The woman rinsing her car off next door had heard the outburst, everyone had. She barely glanced at the two, waving them off and heading inside, shaking her head. “We are a spectacle both to angels and man,” Lucas quoted drily.
“At least she didn’t turn the hose on us.” “That might have felt good, actually.” They stayed on track and stayed in form.
They reached the cul-de-sac finally, Miguel smiling in relief as they left the next driveway, and he marked down Not Home. The silence had been very welcome.
The shady side of the street was just as hot. Both temperature and humidity had surpassed the forecast, and Miguel was nearly soaked. Lucas had sprayed anti-perspirant generously all over himself before he began, and he was faring much better. For the moment. Who knew what the long-term effects of all those fluorocarbons would be.
As they continued house-to-house, the residents who answered their doors did so with heat to match the weather. Without saying a single word, Lucas and Miguel were accused of:
Belonging to a cult.
Twisting the Scriptures.
Denying both God and “Our Lord and Savior.”
Also, as one young person eloquently put it, they were “losers who hate on Christmas.”
Miguel smiled to himself. His Christmas present was with him, inside his briefcase.
Lucas wondered how all these people knew what they did or didn’t believe without ever even listening to them.
They were moving slower between houses now, with little to no conversation.
The last house was a complete turnabout. A middle-aged man was watching their approach through the screen door. And he was… smiling! “Good morning, sir,” Miguel said. He nearly forgot what came next, as neither he nor Lucas had gotten this far yet. “I’m Miguel,” he continued. “Lucas and I are Je–” He couldn’t finish. Superstitious, maybe. He didn’t need to finish, though. “I know who you are!” the man said. “You two are doing a good work.” That was true, Miguel thought, though certainly not the way he was thinking. “Charlotte!” the man called out. “The Witnesses are here.” “Dennis and I were about to have lunch,” his wife said as she approached, wiping her hands on her pants. “But we always take the latest Watchtower when you people stop by. If you have one?”
Of course, he did. And he remembered his presentation. He pulled out the journal, saying, “Many people find the book of Revelation (he’d practiced repeatedly so he wouldn’t say ‘Revelations’) mysterious or even frightening, but it is actually filled with good news.” “Armageddon – – It’s Nearer Than You Think,” the cover of the Watchtower announced. If they only knew, Miguel thought. He handed the journal to Dennis. “Thank you,” Dennis said in unison with Charlotte. “Thank you,” Miguel said. “You’re the reason we came out this morning.” Another truth that the couple didn’t understand just yet. Charlotte held up the Watchtower. “We’d love to discuss this with you next time you come by,” she said, she and her husband stepping back from the door. An effective end to their conversation, but a positive note to end the morning on.
The door closed and the woman calling herself Charlotte chuckled. “More garbage off the streets,” she said, throwing the Watchtower magazine in the trash. “We’ll have to keep them longer next time,” the man who called himself Dennis said, “Waste their time so they don’t convert any of our neighbors.” His wife laughed. “You know, we’re really the ones who are saving souls.”
“Whoever wishes to save his soul shall lose it.” A voice both familiar and unfamiliar came from behind them. The couple whirled, startled to see the men they’d left standing outside now standing inside. Still smiling but without any warmth.
The man who had called himself Miguel brought his hand out of his briefcase holding something black, that was not a Bible.
“You two aren’t – – “was all the man could manage to say. “No, we aren’t,” said the man who had called himself Lucas. “Seems like none of us are who we’ve been pretending to be.” All color drained from the faces of the reluctant guests. “Who are you?” the woman gasped.
“You might call us your own personal Armageddon,” was the chilling answer from Lucas.
“What do you want?” No good answer would come. Miguel and Lucas moved closer. “Just need to know where you keep your gun.”
The news would call it murder-suicide. Shocked neighbors would say how quiet and how friendly the couple had been. They’d tell meaningless stories about the people they knew as Charlotte and Dennis, and come to think of it, nobody knew where they had come from. And of course, nobody knew, how could they have, that they had once been Jeff and Lucinda Edwards. That was before they’d exchanged their testimony against a child-trafficking ring for immunity for their crimes and two new identities.
Witness Protection. Beautiful irony, the sort that the man who called himself Miguel enjoyed.