Dinner appeared at my cell at 6:30 p.m. Pepper-steak, macaroni and cheese, green beans, and chocolate cake. It looked okay, but my stomach felt queasy. I slid the tray over to the gang-banger in the next cell.
He grunted and mumbled a “thanks” in my direction.
The depression finally ran its course and I drifted off to sleep, listening to the prisoners talk about their sexual conquests.
Much later, another panic attack awakened me. Someone moved in my cell. What did he want?
“Jeremiah, stand up. Let’s go.”
Rolling over, I saw the same two guards again. The big one had his hand on his gun and the smaller one held leg irons and handcuffs in his hands.
I yawned and stood up.
I held my hands out as he put the handcuffs on. He stooped down and tightened the leg irons around my ankles.
“Okay, let’s go.”
“Where?” I said.
“Down the hallway toward the visitors’ room. And shut up. No talking.”
One of the gang-bangers woke up as we walked past his cell.
“Hey man, where you taking him at 1 a.m. in the morning?”
The big guard looked at him, his eyes seething.
“Shut up, if you don’t want to end up in lockdown.”
The gang-banger mumbled something and then pulled the blanket back over his head.
Just before we reached the visitors’ room, the big guard grabbed my shoulder.
He opened a door with a key and held it open for me. I duck-walked past him into an interrogation room with a white iron table bolted to the floor. There were two metal chairs, one on each side of the table. Three walls were painted pale green and the fourth wall had a large one-way mirror. I supposed people watched me through the mirror.
As I did, Mayor Streyer walked into the room, carrying two cups of coffee. He wore jeans, a blue chambray work shirt, and a pair of Italian loafers. His famous million-dollar smile perched itself under his nose. He sat down opposite me.
“Remove his handcuffs, Jeremiah’s not going anywhere. Then, leave us alone. I’ll call you when we’re done. Thanks,” he said in rapid fire staccato.
The small guard took the handcuffs off. The two left.
The mayor handed me a cup.
“Starbucks,” he whispered. “Your favorite, right?”
I smiled and sipped some coffee. It tasted great.
“Wondering why you’re here?”
I nodded, but did not say a word.
“My wife, Dina, is worried sick by your prophecies. She can’t sleep. Can’t eat. Wants our two children to stay in Phoenix with her parents until this blows over,” he said, sipping coffee.
“Tonight, she begged me to talk with you,” he went on. “She hopes I can persuade you to ask God not to destroy San Francisco.”
I looked at him as if he came from another planet.
“Let me get this straight, okay?” I said in a measured tone. “She believes I’m a prophet?”
The question embarrassed him. His eyes dropped to his coffee cup.
“Yeah,” he whispered under his breath.
“What about you?”
He shrugged and showed off his million-dollar smile.
“I’m a politician with a capital P. If a pollster can prove believing you’re a prophet will add fifty thousand votes to my tally, then I’ll believe you’re a prophet. But I don’t see that happening. You’ve alienated the gay community, which is twenty-five percent of the voters in San Francisco. That’s a tough nut to crack.”
“What about people? Don’t you care what happens to them?”
His blue eyes opened wide.
“Well, it’s obvious I care about Dina and my two children. I’m here, aren’t I?” he said, leaning back in his chair. “But the people, whether they’re gays, feminists, peaceniks, liberals, straights, conservatives, fall into specific voting blocks. I just need the blocks to add up to fifty-one percent at the end of every battle on my side of the ledger. Sounds easy, right? Let me tell you, it’s not. You have to kiss butts and gargle Lewis Lye to make it work.”
I stared at him and shook my head.
“Shocked at my candor?” he said with a grin. “Don’t be. I’m just laying my cards on the table. If you think church leaders are any different, you’re wrong. They’re just as pragmatic as politicians and maybe even worse!”
A strange look flashed across his eyes. I got the sense there was a lot under the surface he was not saying about church leaders.
“The Freedom Riders had a favorite Gandhi quote, describing politicians and leaders like you,” I said. “There goes my people, I must run and catch up with them, for I am their leader.”
“Great quote. It sums up the art of politics in one sentence.”
We both took a break and drank coffee.
He leaned forward with his eyes staring full bore into mine.
“So what’s your answer?”
“San Francisco must repent.”
He slapped the table and stood up.
“That’s probably not happening, but who knows? Maybe I’m wrong. If I am, I’ll make a quick change and run to the front of the group. After all,” he said with eyebrows raised, “I’m their leader.”
He pivoted around and left the room.
Two minutes later, the two guards escorted me back to the cell.
The mayor’s words aggravated me when I was alone again. I paced back and forth from one wall to another. My spirit was stirred up. I was upset. Tears and sweat rolled down my cheeks. Politicians care about one thing: power. I thought. How can politicians be our answers? And church leaders, many of them suffer the same problems, right? What hope do we have?
I knelt on the cold floor and leaned my elbows on the bed. I began weeping. Every square inch of me ached for San Francisco. For my parents. For Kari and her family. For my relatives. For my friends. For the people. I wailed so hard I retched on the floor. Dry heaves then consumed me. I gasped for breath.
A prayer forced its way out of my mouth.
“Lord, bypass the politicians, and if You need to, bypass every church leader who stands in Your way. Go directly to the people and awaken them. Have them proclaim, ‘Lord, remove the stumbling blocks in San Francisco which might stop Your mercy from triumphing over judgment in San Francisco.”
Perfect peace consumed me and swallowed up my depression and fear as I rested against the bed. I knew that sink or swim, live or die, my assignment was finished in San Francisco.
It was now up to the Holy Spirit and the people.
Excerpt from Jonah by Larry Nevenhoven, ©2012, Amazon eNovel.
(Conclusion…if you’re interested, the full series to date may be seen here.)