Valley of Shadows- Chapter Thirty-Two

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The next afternoon, Joshua drove his friend to the rootworker’s shop. He had mixed feelings about it. Something was clearly very wrong with his friend. He wasn’t sleeping for more than a couple of hours at a time. Besides that, Thomas’ legs were swollen and discolored.

Something had to be done. If his doctor couldn’t help him then Joshua was all out of ideas. All he could do was offer his support and look out for his friend. He didn’t see how some rootworker could do what an experienced physician couldn’t, but it didn’t really matter what he thought.

The shop was in a not-so-good part of town, situated among unoccupied storefronts,  in an old building on a neglected corner.  Joshua parked where he could keep an eye on his car and they walked across a sidewalk glinting with  broken glass. He shot his friend a cynical glance. Thomas looked so excited that Joshua decided to keep his snide remarks to himself.

They stepped inside and Joshua was surprised to find himself in what appeared to be a convenience store. He hung back and watched his friend disappear behind a beaded curtain at the rear of the shop. Joshua decided to pass the time by getting a few snacks for later. He took his time browsing, slowly walking across the warped wooden floor. He quickly realized that there was no snacks for sale.

The shelves were full of a wide assortment of objects that he didn’t recognize.  Joshua was bewildered by the assortment of strange objects like little stuffed dolls, jars of dust, railroad spikes, rusty skeleton keys, and a bin of dried snake skins.  The only things that looked as though they belonged in a convenience store were musky smelling sticks of incense,  bottles of liquid soap labeled with names like “Adam and Eve Wash”, spices and candles in jars etched with deities of whom he had never heard.   He was so preoccupied that he didn’t notice the young woman standing next to him until she repeated her question.

“Can I help you?”

“Huh? Oh, sorry I didn’t hear you the first time.  I’m just browsing while my friend is in the back.  I was looking for snacks, but now I’m getting a little weirded out.  Is…that a pile of dried chicken feet painted blue?”

“Yes, they are used for making  Ju Jus for protection.  You know, to keep evil away.”

Joshua laughed and shook his head.  Now, he had heard everything.  It amazed him that people would actually pay money for things they could find in a dumpster.  Joshua decided to go and wait in his car for Thomas.  He turned and encountered the angry glare of the store clerk.

“Americans are so quick to dismiss what they don’t understand.  Intolerance is a sign of ignorance you know.”

“What is there to understand about shriveled up chicken feet and rusty old keys?  If this junk was really worth something, you wouldn’t have to be in this neighborhood.”

“We don’t have to be here.  We chose to set up shop in this neighborhood.  People around here know how to mind their own business.”

“That’s because most people around here are up to no good themselves.  A lot of crime goes down in this area.  Of course, you don’t have to worry about anyone breaking in here and stealing anything.”

“On that note, I’m going to walk away before I say something we both regret.”

“Oh hey, I didn’t mean to hurt your feelings.  I guess I can be a little blunt sometimes.”

“If by blunt you mean rude as hell, then I agree and don’t flatter yourself.  You couldn’t hurt my feelings if you tried.  Only people who I respect have that much influence over me.”

“Ouch, I guess I deserved that one.  Look, I wasn’t trying to insult you.  I just don’t happen to believe in this voodoo mumbo jumbo.   Why are you looking at me like that?  Oh my bad, I did it again didn’t I?  Sorry about that. Tell me something, do you believe in this…stuff or do you just work here?”

“This is my mother’s shop.”

“You didn’t answer my question.”

“I’ll answer a stupid question with a stupid answer.  Don’t you believe in what you were raised to believe in?”

“That’s not a fair comparison.  I was raised up attending a real church and worshipping the one true God.”

“How do you know your God is real?  Because your mother told you he was real?  Have you ever seen him?  My supreme being is no less real to me than yours is to you.”

“Oh come on, you seem like a very intelligent woman.  Are you seriously telling me that chicken feet and snake skins and little dolls have actual spiritual significance?”

“Just as much as eating tiny wafers and sipping wine out of a golden goblet has for you.”

“That’s different, the wafers represent the body of Christ and the wine represents his blood.  They are symbolic.  Don’t be so literal. ”

“You need to take your own advice!”

Joshua was about to respond when Thomas walked up behind him.  Wordlessly, Joshua turned on his heels and stalked out of the store.  He unlocked the car, climbed in and slammed the door a little harder than he’d meant to, out of irritation.  He folded his arms across his chest and tried to calm down while he waited for Thomas to pay the cashier.  His friend came out after chatting with the young woman before joining him.  Joshua could feel his friend watching him intently.

“So, she’s kind of hot,” said Thomas.

“What are you talking about?”

“Don’t play dumb with me Josh.  You know who I’m talking about.  I saw you flirting with that hot little African chick.  She’s spicy.”

“Are you dumb?  Did you not see us arguing?  We got into it because I told her I didn’t believe in this voodoo mumbo jumbo.  No offense man, I know you’re a recent convert.”

“I don’t know about all that Joshua.  What I do know is that at this point, I’m willing to try anything to get a good night’s sleep.”

“So, why didn’t you just go to the doctor and get something to help you sleep?”

“The last thing I need to do is to drug myself so I don’t wake up the next time I sleepwalk into the street.”

“I wouldn’t let you do that.”

“I know man, but I can’t ask you to stay with me forever.  You have your own life.  Let’s just hope this stuff works.”