The Apostate: the walk

8 Oct


The Apostate

Part One: the walk

By L. Stewart Marsden


Sam Martin paused at the bottom of the steps that led from his second-floor apartment and tapped the bright purple icon on his smartphone. Within a few seconds the app opened to the first page of Record My Walk, and he pressed the oblong button at the bottom of the screen marked “Begin Workout.” A Siri-like voice instructed him, “Begin workout,” and Marten stepped onto the paved sidewalk.

Martin had begun this routine nearly three months before. Each morning he donned special athletic underwear, his exercise shorts and a short-sleeved T-shirt. He then slipped on an arch bandage over his foot, on account he suffered from plantar faciitis, and he didn’t want to go see a podiatrist. He was a pain self-management kind of guy.
Special socks ($10 a pair) as well as his Áh – dee – dás (one must know how to pronounce one’s footwear correctly) Boost walking shoes ($200), and a liberal application of muscle rub, (which made him stink like a giant breath mint) plus two ibuprofen completed his prep.

His walking route was a sidewalk that paralleled a main drag in his town on which his apartment complex was situated. The road was two lanes either way, plus a middle turning lane. It teemed with every type of motorized vehicle from early sunrise to sunset, and on Friday and Saturday nights as well.

Martin walked a little over four miles each day. He varied the walk only in the direction he took coming out of the complex. Some days he headed north where his destination was a convenient store and gas station about 3/4 miles away, then he retraced his steps and continued south to a main intersection where the sidewalk ended, some 1-1/4 miles in distance. Other days he headed south and back.

The reason for the exercise was a photo he saw of his profile, taken at his niece’s wedding earlier that summer.

“GAWD!” he gasped, viewing the photo. It was his motivation. His extended family gathered each year in July at the beach. “I am NOT going to the beach next year looking like that!” he said to himself, which he repeated to his youngest daughter, who told her older sister, “Dad’s not going to the beach next year.”

The app on his phone was a clever device operated by GPS, and depicted him on screen as a little blue balloon that traversed along the mapped route. It captured his overall distance, time, average time per mile and split information per mile. It also graphed the elevation of his walk, revealing the variance above sea level — in short, the hills and dales of his route. Plus, it calculated everything into totals. For example, the app estimated he had burned over 20,000 calories since he began the routine.

It also posted automatically to Facebook, and Martin enjoyed the ‘likes’ friends and family gave him in encouraging him to continue his regimen.

He particularly enjoyed his walks on Sunday, as the traffic along the road was sparse. Not that there was much danger to him, except at one or two streets he had to cross. He held that motorists — specifically of the female persuasion — did not realize that the pedestrian has the right of way, not the vehicle operator.

More than once he stepped onto a street to cross, and came inches from the fender of a turning car where a female driver looked surprised and mouthed “Sorry!” He never replied or signaled “That’s okay,” but stared long and hard, hoping to burn sense into the careless driver’s cellphone-occupied brain.

The upshot of those experiences was when he was driving, and was particularly wary of pedestrians and cyclists — which he thought a good thing.

Along his route were the temples, sanctuary’s — whatever religious abodes — that witnessed that his was a community of ardent religionists. On his side of the street was a Jewish temple, a Baptist church, two Presbyterian churches side-by-side (PCUSA and PCA — which his ex-wife could readily and accurately explain), a nondenominational evangelical church that met in the elementary school gymnasium, and a Christian Science reading room. On the opposite side of the road was a Church of the Latter Day Saints.

It was the gamut of American religion, minus Muslim, Hindu, 7th Day Adventist and a pot of other religious strains — including Catholic. But, if he walked far enough, he would encounter those as well.

On Sundays, the God-factor infringed on his thoughts. Normally Martin mentally thought-played a vast array of music to walk by. He avoided “Eye of the Tiger” and “Chariots of Fire.” They were too cliché. His selections ranged from Billy Joel (“Uptown Girl”) to the “Wizard of Oz,” and he imagined a thump-thump-thump pace. He also rearranged each tune to include violins and other instruments not normally associated with the song.

On Sundays, the songs were “God is Working His Purpose Out,” and “Onward Christian Soldiers,” and other songs he knew from watching too many TV evangelists when he was a kid. “And He Walks With Me” was a tune that repeated often.

Martin was agnostic, like his father. He hadn’t always been that way. In his late teens he got swept up in the Jesus Movement that flowed across the country. He loved the long-hair, flared pants and open-necked shirts that were bona-fide costumes of the Jesus Freaks. That he could somehow be remotely associated with the hippie movement in its counter-culture vanguard, and yet still relate to straight-laced Baptists, was a definite boon to him.

But, alas, as the maxim points out “everything that goes up, comes down,” so did his unbridled spiritual enthusiasm. Partly because the idealism of the Jesus Movement inevitably met the reality of any movement, and struggled with sustainment. Plus, its leadership not only failed — but sinned.

In the disillusioned wakes of Jimmy Swaggert and Jim Bakker, Martin began to see cracks in the feet of clay of the most prominent (and yes, wealthy) of the religious revolution.

And so he turned away.

Those who knew him were stunned, and pleaded continuously that he repent and come back. Others cared less.

Eventually, Martin came a philosophy o “do no harm,” or if harm was inevitable, try at least to make it less painful. Especially for himself.

So he rejected the idea of becoming part of any organized religion, joining any church, espousing any spiritual philosophy. Most, he thought, turned on narrow points of what he termed “law.” Laws that could not necessarily be proved — in his opinion.

“Once saved, always saved,” said the Baptists. Right. He heard Jesus Saves, but wasn’t sure at which bank. If he knew that, he would transfer his money there immediately, he would jest to downturned frowns and scowled eyebrows.

The Calvinistic doctrine of predestination, which some of the Presbyterians espoused, meant to him, “Why care or try? In the long run, it doesn’t matter!”

The Methodist view of God: God is a really nice guy (as his ex-wife often quipped). Then why all of the natural disasters, famine and disease? Why war? Surely Man is not behind all of these!

And the Catholics — ah, yes! A history of crusades, cruelty, hypocrisy. He had been told his family — way back when — had been excommunicated from the Catholic Church.

The health-and-wealth doctrines of independent evangelical conservative sects, promulgated to the end that little old widows gave up their last $500 as a seed-faith gift to fat-pocketed ministers. “Your seed-faith gift will be returned 10-fold!” promised the TV evangelists. That’s a pretty good return on the investment. But, not likely, he believed.

On and on.

Religion after religion.

Click. Click. Click.

Those were his dominant thoughts. Religion angered him, which fueled his pace. Sundays were his best times per mile.

In the midst of this religious reverie, on this particular Sunday, at just about midway through his daily distance, Sam Martin’s walk was interrupted, and he died.


* * * * *

Copyright © by Lawrence S. Marsden, 8 October, 2014


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