There was a soft, yet urgent tapping at the door.
“You gotta help me, doc.” His voice was a raspy whisper. It was still dark out.
“What is it? What’s the matter?” I asked.
“I’ve been hit. I think it’s bad.”
I didn’t bother to ask him why he wasn’t at the local emergency room. I knew why: he wasn’t the first one to come here with questionable wounds. Quickly, I ushered him to my examining room at the back of the house. I told him to take off his coat and lie back on the table while I washed up.
The lower part of his shirt was all bloody and sticking to his skin. I picked up some bandage scissors and gently cut the fabric away. Soon I could see the wound. It was immediately clear what this man had been up to. Just barely protruding from his flesh was the number 4, a colon and then the number 16.
“Scripture dueling, eh?” It was a rhetorical question – the evidence spoke for itself.
“Yeah, doc….high stakes….we were…. fightin’….fightin’ over… the nature… of… God.” Breath ragged and hoarse, he struggled to get the words out.
“For God’s sake man! When will you people learn? How many more must end up like you before this stops?” I said, exasperated. I had seen too much suffering, too much anger, too much bloodshed on both sides. Sides that both claimed exclusive ownership of the truth. Taking a clamp I gingerly tried to work the verse out of his side. It was in deep.
“Ouch! I was doin’-ouch!- okay. Got…off a couple a good ones. Thought I had him nailed when…dammit –ouch!… I shot a Jeremiah 13:14 right in his face. You know….the one that goes “And I will dash them one against another,…. even the fathers and the sons together, ….saith the LORD: I will not pity, nor spare, nor have…. mercy, but destroy …them” ? He suddenly began to cough violently.
“Yes I know it, of course. But context man, what about context?!” I lifted him up so he could drink from a cup of water. I gave him a strong sedative.
“Thanks. Yeah, yeah, you’re right. That’s what he said too. Right after he…blocked my shot with James 5:11. I He confused me for a second….that’s when he hit me in the gut with 1 John 4:16. That was it. That was all she wrote.”
It wasn’t too long before he fell asleep and I was finally able to remove the scripture verse. It was dug in pretty good and he lost a fair amount of blood. It clanged loudly as I dropped it into the enamel bucket beside the table. Not bad work, I thought. By morning, he’ll be out of the woods. Pouring myself a healthy slug of bourbon over ice I sat down to relax. Just then the phone rang.
“Doc? O’Brien here, down at the precinct. We’ve got a bad situation and we need someone who has experience with verse extractions. Don’t bother denying it – everyone knows what you do. But this is real bad and we’re willing to overlook a couple of things. We need your help.”
“What happened? Why can’t the hospital handle this?”
“Doc, it’s a nightmare. It’s Jack van Impe. He’s gotten loose downtown and he’s spraying everything in sight with scripture verses. He’s like a .50 caliber verbal machine gun. He’s got his wife spotting for him and people are down all over the place. It’s mass confusion – a real mess. No one can make sense of all this.”
My God, I thought: Will this madness never end?