Too Late, by Matt Hoose
“So, how can I help you, Rick,” She said, a bit of her hair hanging loose and out of place.
“Could you just…” He paused.
“What?” She asked.
“Could you just tuck that piece of hair back,” Rick said?
She tucked the hair back, wrote a note, and then asked a question.
“Why did the hair bother you, Rick?”
“It didn’t bother me, it was just,” He thought, “it was just out of place.”
“And I thought you’d want to know. I’d want to know if my hair was out of place.”
“Do you get embarrassed a lot, Rick?”
She took another note.
“Tell me a little about yourself, Rick. I’m just meeting you and all I know is that you’re a church-goer.”
“Yeah, I go to the Church on the Hill.”
“They’re an interesting bunch. Do you like the people there?”
“Yes, very much.”
She took a few more notes. Her pen made a scratching noise, an annoying scratching noise.
“Are you out of ink?” Rick asked.
“Out of ink?”
“No, I’m fine. Why do you ask?”
“No reason. Just, you’re pen’s scratching. You might be low on ink.”
“Thank you, Rick. I’ll switch it out. Give me a second.”
She rose, pushed the folds from her skirt. Walked across the room to her desk.
“Tell me about the tattoo,” She said, walking back with a new pen.
“Oh,” Rick stared down at his left wrist. “It’s just a watch.”
“It’s magnificently rendered, did you do it yourself?”
“Oh, no. No. I don’t have any talent. I got it in Japan.”
“You’ve been to Japan?”
“Yes, with the military.”
She flipped the page on her legal pad. Rick watched the scribbled notes flip by, as a new page turned.
“You were in the military?”
“What was that like?”
“It’s was OK. I mean, it was tough.”
“I would imagine.”
“I have a hard time getting places on time. The military frowns on that, but I’m just late, all the time”
“Why do you think that is?”
Rick thought about it, then he thought about how each of her questions led to another question.
“I don’t know. I’m just unorganized, I guess.”
“But doesn’t the military teach you organization? Didn’t they give you the tools you need to be on time?”
“They tried. I mean, they tried to get it drilled into me, but I’ve always been this way.”
“Yeah. My mom used to tell me about how I was two weeks over due. ‘Late from day one.’ she’d say.”
Her new pen moved quickly across its clean page.
“So you’ve always been late, and you get a tattoo of a watch. Is that to remind you to be on time?”
“No, it’s sort of an inside joke.”
“An inside joke?”
“When I was a junior in high school and got my first girlfriend, I got my first job too. She insisted that I get one so that I’d have money to take her out and stuff, but I lost it. ‘Cause I missed my first shift, I ended up losing my girlfriend too.”
She jotted a few things down.
“She’d bought me a watch for our two-week anniversary, because of the always being late thing. Then she’d asked her Dad if he’d get me a job at his auto repair place…like detailing the cars and whatnot.”
“How did that work out?”
“I was supposed to start at Noon on a Monday and she wanted to be extra sure I was on time, so she set the watch she’d got me ahead an hour. So when it said noon, it’d really be eleven.”
“I had a flat and I didn’t get there until one o’clock.”
“So you made it. Since the watch was set ahead, one o’clock was actually noon.”
“No, I got there at one o’clock for real, so by my watch it was 2:00pm.”
Rick noticed that the loose hair had fallen back out of place. She noticed his noticing, and pushed it behind her ear.
“I’d guess your girlfriend’s father wasn’t happy?”
“He wasn’t, and he told me this wasn’t going to work out. She broke up with me the next day.”
“So what’s the watch tattoo about, what’s the inside joke?”
“It’s forever set to 1 o’clock to remind me that even when I’m early, I’m late.”
“But the watch on your wrist isn’t set to 1:00, its set to 2:30pm.”
Rick stared again at the tattoo on his wrist.
“That’s the weird thing, Doc,” He said. “I don’t know how that happened.”
“You don’t know how the tattoo on your arm went from reading 1:00pm to 2:30pm. What do you suspect?”
“I think God did it.”
“I don’t know why, but,” Rick thought for a moment. “Could it really be anybody else?”
She scribbled furiously.
“You think God changed your watch tattoo?”
“Why would God change the time on your watch tattoo?”
“I’m not sure,” Rick said. “That’s why I’m here. I needed to talk this through.”
“I’m glad you came.”
“I have pictures, on my phone, of the tattoo.”
“Well, I wasn’t sure you’d believe me that it used to say 1:00pm, so I got pictures. They’re not pictures of the tattoo specifically, but pictures where you can see the tattoo.”
Rick dug into his pocket, swiped his phone “on”, searched for the pictures, and handed the phone to her.
“See that first one?” He asked.
“The watch is clear as day there. It reads 1:00pm.”
“And the next couple, they all have it at 1:00pm as well.”
“So, what do you think it means?” Rick asked.
She thought for a moment.
“Well, I’m not sure I’m qualified to speak for God,” She answered.
“Is anyone?” He asked.
“Rick, and I might be wrong here, but play along for a second: If your girlfriend had set the clock ahead to 2:30pm all those years ago, instead of 1:00pm, what time would you have left for work that day?
Rick did the math in his head.
“Well, I’d been planning to leave at 11:30am, to be sure I was there by noon. If the clock had been ahead by two and a half hours, that means I’d have left the house for real at 9:00am.”
“If you’d left at 9:00am, do you think you’d have had time to change the tire and still make it to work?”
“Sure. It took me about two and a half hours to change the tire. If I’d left at 9:00am, I’d have been there by 11:30am.”
“A half hour before noon, instead of an hour after.”
She leaned forward, setting her pen down for a second.
“If you’d kept that job, how do you think your life would be different now?”
“I probably wouldn’t have lost that girlfriend. I didn’t get my next one until after my first four years in the military. Actually, my next girlfriend was Beth, my current wife.”
She made a mental note of that.
“You know, Doc, if I’d kept that job I might not have even been in the military. If I’d stayed working, I could’ve saved up the money for school.”
“So, you went into the military to help with school costs?”
“Yeah, but that meant I ended up being a freshmen when I was, like, twenty-two. I had to do a full tour before they’d send me to class, so I missed out on a lot of the college experience.”
“Do you regret that?”
“No. I mean, I might have missed out on school stuff, but Beth and I had the kids.”
She picked the pen back up and scribbled away.
“What else would be different, if you’d set that watch ahead to 2:30pm instead of 1:00pm?”
“Well, if I hadn’t been in the military I’d have never met Doug.”
“Doug’s my buddy. We did a tour in Afghanistan together.”
“Super close. He once noticed an IED that’d been planted along our route. If he hadn’t been there, I might not be here.”
She turned the page again.
“So you wouldn’t have met Doug. How would that have changed things?”
“Well, Doug keeps me sane, he’s a great guy. That, and he’s the one that turned me on to the Church on the Hill.”
“The church you attend now?”
Rick started to realize something.
“You know,” Rick said. “If I’d set that watch to 2:30pm, most of the best things in my life wouldn’t have happened. Being late that one time, it sorta changed my life.”
“For the better?”
Rick didn’t need to think about this one.
“Of course. Yes, for the better. For sure for the better. I mean, it hasn’t always been easy, but things are good right now. I’ve got a good wife, and we’ve got great kids. I started a little late, but I’ve made up the ground. Plus, I’ve got Doug as a friend, and my church.”
“So, if God did change the time on the watch, why?”
Rick thought for a moment.
“I don’t know, maybe to let me know that it’s okay to be late, as long as you get there.
– The End
My sister-in-law, Linda, is one of those people I call hidden poets. Who knew she had this talent inside her for exploring her insides? I have been blown away by some of the stuff she’s been sharing with me. Who knew. Amazed by yet another of her creations, I wanted to share it here today, with her permission. Linda, you ROCK, that’s all I can say. Thank you for sharing your gift for writing with me. We are kindred spirits, you and I. You’re just a bit more eloquent than me in sharing your heart, I think. Love you, girl. Keep writing and keep sharing with the world. This is good stuff!
It’s Just a Body
It’s just a body, nothing more.
It’s just a vessel people see.
It’s just a glimpse of you and me.
It’s just a part of who we are.
It’s just a place to wear our scars.
It’s just a start for us to form.
It’s just for weather against the storm.
It’s just a half, it’s not your whole.
It’s just a body…it’s not your soul.
By Linda Edinger August 2013
The following poem was written by my sister-in-law, Linda, who I dearly love and who has quietly recorded her thoughts as a way of processing life for years. Why did I not know this? She’s been secreting away all this passion, but now has given me permission to share this recent work with my readers (Aug 2013). Linda, as you rise from the ashes of personal pain, you inspire me. Your warmth, your love, your willingness to forgive–it is of God. I pray He will reward you in earnest for being vulnerable and open to His Spirit in these days. Good job, faithful servant. Good job!
A clear summer day
Near the end of June
A saw him standing there
Surrounded by glum.
His heart is heavy with
Good and bad.
His head full of evil
He seems so sad.
A lifetime of confusion
Is all he has known
His heart is in torment
His head takes control.
I pray for him daily
To see his way clear
To gods greatest temple
Away from his fears.
To find the light that shines so dim
To bring out the goodness within him.
So he will know the truth that I see
And he can again be happy and free.
August 22, 2013
The following poem was written by my daughter-in-law, Megan Hoose. Thank you for allowing me to share this with my readers, Meg. I love this poem and I LOVE YOU!
From giving up, deliver us.
From worshiping our own voices, deliver us.
From striving to be right,
and having the last word,
From yearning for revenge,
From jumping to conclusions,
From falling asleep,
From lazy contentment with mediocrity,
From discontentment with Sufficient Grace,
From the glittering that distracts,
From the half-truth that distorts,
From fear that kills;
From all death,
both blatant and insidious,
and may we make our home in your embrace
and only be at rest there.
In our rustic and fearfully crafted vessels,
Within which is Life itself and everlasting Love,
In every place, at every moment.
Megan Hoose October 2012