They all condemned him worthy of death. Some began to spit at him, cover his face, hit him and say to him "Prophesy!" and the servants treated him to blows.
- Mark's gospel
Robbie. I'm pretty sure that was his name. He was a weird kid. He and his family attended the church my father pastored. Or maybe it was just Robbie and his mom; a single mother thing. I cannot remember for certain. I do know he was my age.
Robbie was hyper with a capital H; ADD before it was really known. He had buck teeth and thick black glasses. And if I remember correctly, a haircut that was obviously a mistake.
I was the preacher's oldest son and near the top of the food chain among those my age in that little town. Robbie was a bottom feeder.
I distinctly remember the afternoon, outside the red-bricked church building. We were playing dodge ball. Little Baptist kids were lined up against the bricks, Robbie being one of them. I was out in the yard, the "thrower." And every time I aimed for Robbie. Every time. Trying, trying to get him "out." The taut red ball finally connected with his body. I'm pretty sure I hit bare arms or face, probably leaving a mark. He looked at me through those glasses and a why? was magnified that I can still see to this day. Then his eyes fell and he slowly stepped to the "out" place. Got him.
My dad walked up and indicated we had to go. I handed the ball to another "thrower." The game continued. And Robbie remained out-cast. As we walked, dad asked Why did you keep throwing at Robbie? He had obviously been watching long enough to see that I had condemned Robbie worthy of dodge ball death. He had seen the throw, no doubt heard the whir of the ball as it connected with Robbie's skin. My father had watched me treat Robbie to blows.
As my son and I walked the Beagle last night, he told me of not being picked for the three-on-three basketball team; at least not for the team he wanted. Some kid told him You can't be on our team. Dear God. The sins of the father, visited upon his only son. As we walked I tried to suggest other options, other kids he could gather to form a team. The conversation was all well and good, but my son had been hit that day by the whir of the taut red ball of cruelty. I know of this ball. I have thrown it before. Little did my son know he walked with one whose hands have thrown cruelty.
Jesus, the thought of you in that room full of robes and sandals feels very distant. The thought of you standing against the bricks with thick black glasses is a little closer. But the thought of you walking with me and the Beagle last night? It was so close I could reach out and touch it, touch him, touch you.