A short work of fiction that I had previously submitted as an entry to the FaithWriters weekly challenge.
The flight from Vegas did not last long enough. Having arrived at her hometown early, Carrie sat silently in her rental car. She carelessly smoked a cigarette. She was parked on a street behind the church. She watched the pallbearers who were clad in dark suits and velour gloves. They transferred a cumbersome looking casket onto a wheeled cart. They maneuvered the casket up a ramp and through the back doors.
‘You told me you wouldn’t ever be caught dead in a church, Billy,’ she thought. She flicked the ash from the tip of her cigarette through the cracked window. She was not happy about going to her old church. It had been twelve years since she stopped believing in fairy tales from outmoded literature. Despite this, she managed to rationalize that if she was going to go in a church for anyone it would be for Billy.
Carrie had met Billy Varnes when she was dealing poker at the local casino. Over the years they became friends. Billy was a sullen, light-haired poker player who always wore sunglasses when he was playing. His success was due to part skill, part craftiness, and lots of luck. Legend had it Billy never turned down a wager.
One night, prior to a game at her table, Billy took out a pocket Bible. Like herself, Billy was a stoic atheist, and openly contentious towards the Christian faith. Naturally, she was puzzled by the sudden appearance of this battered, orange Bible. He nonchalantly laid it to the side of his chips, along with his wallet.
“Uhm, what’s with the Bible?” asked Mike, another one of the regulars at the table.
“What? Oh…this? Well, Mike, I am considering Christianity.”
Mike Boyd was also an atheist. Carrie was on edge; she knew that religion was similar to politics. Both have an interesting quality to it that could get certain people riled up rather quickly. Mike was one of those such people.
Mike instantly turned red, “Christianity? More like brainwashing!”
“Oh, I beg to differ. There are many educated people who freely choose to believe.”
The heated conversation lasted for some time before the first deal. Billy was calmly and methodically advancing Christian arguments. In fact, he almost seemed smug while Mike got flustered. The rest of the players were a bit stirred up too. In the end, Billy won the pot. It seemed the other players just could not focus.
“Christianity? Were you serious?” she inquired outside during one of her smoke breaks.
“Of course not,” he laughed as he smoked his own cigarette, “You gotta know your opponents to overcome them, Kid. That’s true of both poker and life.”
A number of years after Carrie moved to Vegas Billy had written her an email. His luck had finally run out; he was diagnosed with stage four lung cancer. A couple months later, a flight Carrie had booked out of Vegas to visit him ended up being a flight to attend his funeral.
She stepped out of the car and slammed the door. She put out her cigarette with her foot and walked towards the church.
“Carrie? Carrie Baker!” said a familiar voice. It was Mike Boyd. He dashed across the parking lot to meet up with her. “I have…I have…something for you.” Out of breath, he handed her a dingy, orange pocket Bible.
She recognized it immediately, “What do I want with this?”
“Billy wanted you to have it,” Mike observed the confusion still on her face. He looked her directly in the eye, “Carrie, he accepted Christ as his savior before he died.”
“Please…Mike. This is–”
He shook his head and interrupted, “No. I was there. He didn’t have a lot of family, ya know? Me and some of his old card buddies stayed with him till the end,” Mike began to cry as he continued, “He told me, ‘There is finally one thing I refuse to wager, Mike, and that is eternity.’ He passed about four days after.”
“I don’t believe it…”
“It’s true, and I accepted Christ too.”
Mike turned and walked into the church. Carrie stood there. Confounded, she flicked open the dingy cover. Inside was a message. The handwriting was shaky and weak but she recognized that it was Billy’s:
I was able to overcome my opponents in poker,
But it took Jesus to overcome Death, the real opponent.
Take care, Kid.