I hated phoning Jane, but there were no other options because she needed to know my situation. The long distance operator took my info in a business-like manner and connected the call as I sat there with my hands cuffed together. Sweat dripped off my forehead onto the plastic-covered information blotter in front of me. The police officer standing next to me belched, coating the air with his garlic and onion breath.
“Dylan, what’s wrong?” Jane shouted into her cellphone.
“Well, I have a little situation here in San Francisco, but don’t worry —”
“Don’t worry! Are you kidding? Where are you right now? And where’s your cellphone?”
“I’m at County Jail Number Four, on Bryant Street in San Francisco —”
“Is this one of your jokes? If it is, it’s not funny!”
“Honey, it’s not a joke. I’m being charged with a hate crime and will be arraigned tomorrow morning. You need to call our attorney, Jacob, and have him refer me to a criminal lawyer here in San Francisco. Tell him I’m in County Jail Number Four.”
A gasp could be heard through the receiver, followed by a few sniffles.
“Hate crime? What’d you do?”
“It’s really no big deal. I just preached a short message to the gays in the Castro District. That’s all…no big deal. So don’t worry, please.”
“Gunsmoke, no big deal! It’s Pride Week there, right? Did they rough you up?”
“There was a little fighting, maybe even a small riot. I have a few bruises, but my nose should be okay once a doctor checks me out and sets it in place.”
“Sweetheart, don’t talk. That beep means we have thirty seconds left before we’re disconnected. Call Jacob and tell him I’m at County Jail Number Four.”
“Honey, I love you and —”
The officer tapped me on the shoulder as soon as my call finished. I stood up and he pointed toward the door, leading back to lockup. My glasses steamed up as we moved from a cooler room into the warmer cellblock.
Yikes, I thought as I walked through the door, Jane’s really upset because she called me by my college nickname –Gunsmoke – which she hates. Not only that, she’s probably wondering how my arrest will affect our forty-eighth wedding anniversary plans to travel to Tahoe for this upcoming weekend. What a jam you’re in, Dylan Matthews! I’d better geezer up and prepare my seventy-thee year old body for what awaits me in the days ahead.
Any syrupy ideas I might have had about jail were erased when the door banged shut to my holding cell. The five young men who sat on the bolted down metal benches, which lined both sides of the cell, followed me with their dark eyes as I sat down in the far right corner. A stainless steel toilet without a lid and a sink stood in the middle of the back wall. No privacy here, I thought.
“Hey, old white man, what terrible crime have you committed that the police would lock you up with five MS-13 homies charged with murder?” asked a young man covered with tattoos and wearing a white tank top.
My ears perked up with the mention of MS-13, also known as the Mara Salvatrucha. It’s the most violent gang in the United States with its members known for their cruel murders and merciless revenge.
“I preached the gospel of Jesus Christ to the LGBT parade watchers down in the Castro District. Some became angry and kicked me around like an old football. I was charged with a hate crime.”
“Did you fight back, old man?” asked a short young man with teardrops tattooed under both eyes.
“No, of course, not,” I replied.
The five laughed and slapped each other on the back as if my words were the funniest ones ever spoken.
“Old man, that is hilarious!” said the biggest youth with a large scar on his neck. “You preach the gospel to gays and lesbians. Then they beat and kick the crap out of you, but you don’t fight back. And you’re the one who gets charged with a hate crime. We MS-13 homies understand that type of justice. So, what happened to the gays who did this to you?”
I rubbed my baldhead and shrugged. “I don’t know, but I pray that God won’t hold their actions against them.”
The same youth leaned toward me. “Do you really think God cares about gays and lesbians?”
“Yes, and not only that, He cares and loves you, too.”
“Old white man, now you’ve gone too far.”
The five leaned back and closed their eyes, ignoring my presence.
I sat there, checking myself out. My broken nose hurt. My ribs were sore and all of the other bruises added to my suffering. Blood covered the front of my blue oxford shirt and khaki slacks. Yet, in the midst of my pain and bloody clothing, I wanted to jump and shout and praise God because He counted me worthy to suffer for His name.
“Lord,” I prayed softly, “thanks for giving a seventy-three year old geezer, like me, a second chance to be a part of the action and not allowing me to retire from Your kingdom work. And Lord, use me even more in the days ahead.”
The Lord reminded me of this prayer often in the days following it.
The afternoon turned into evening and the evening into night. Fourteen people joined us in the holding cell. The newcomers forced me to make a decision between sitting with tattoo-covered murderers or with vomiting drunks and strung-out druggies. I chose the five MS-13 homies and behaved myself.
Do you remember how bad school lunches tasted when you were in first grade? Dry bread, chalky-tasting peanut butter sandwiches, and soggy potato chips served with stewed prunes and a dollop of day-old whipped cream. All of it ladled out on a yellow compartment tray.
Well, let me tell you, my first bite into the peanut butter sandwich made me yearn for the good old days of first grade. I gagged and spit up a mouthful into a napkin.
“Hey, old white man, about three in the morning, you’ll be wishing you ate this garbage,” said the youth with the teardrops tattooed under his eyes.
I shook my head and offered my tray to him. He took it and consumed both his and mine. I admired how he and his friends adapted to their situations without so much as a single complaint. I supposed being in jail was just a normal part of their lives.
But the smell!
Nineteen guys in a ten by twenty room with vomit, diarrhea, normal toilet usage, and BO swirling around us without a fan to alleviate the stench. My poor stomach tried its best to unload itself, but somehow everything remained below deck. Steady as she goes, I thought to myself in a moment of humor, which quickly passed
If I leaned back, my back hurt because of the iron bars, but leaning forward moved my nose closer to the vomit and diarrhea on the floor. I compromised by slouching down like an old sweater midway between both positions. I dozed a little here and there throughout the night, but around 3 a.m., I had a vision.
In it, I was seated high above the city of San Francisco, maybe even in the heavenly places, which are mentioned in the Bible. I heard the Holy Spirit speak to my heart, “I am going to use your time in jail as an opportunity to take on the spirit of depravity, which is the main principality governing San Francisco. Be bold and allow me to speak through you. I will give you more than enough grace for this season of your life.”
I then fell into a deep sleep, comforted by the gift of faith, which enveloped me like a warm quilt.
If someone would have asked me, “What do you want for your last meal?” It would not have been soggy cornflakes, warm milk, and awful tasting coffee, which I ate for breakfast that morning. Sugar helped me endure the blitzkrieg against my taste buds, but my stomach demanded calories to halt its rumbling sounds. At the time, it was a dismal meal, but in the days ahead, I looked back on it as a pleasant repast. It’s funny how hunger can distort one’s memories.
Forty-five minutes later, the jailer stood in front of the holding cell with a clipboard in his hand. “Listen up men,” he said, looking down. “Ramos, Soto, Delgado, Valdez, Trujillo, and Matthews − you are in the first group to be taken to the courtroom. Your arraignments will begin at 9 a.m. If you have a lawyer, he will meet you there. If you don’t, a court appointed lawyer will handle your arraignment.”
He spun around and walked away.
I did my best to wash my face and clean up in the sink, but there was no mirror to help me in this task. I looked at the others in the holding cell and figured I looked better than some and worse than others. Oh well, I thought, this is as good as it gets for me today.
Two deputies guarded us as we walked over to the courtroom’s small holding cell. I sat down with the five homies on a metal bench and faced the empty courtroom. The clock on the back wall read − 8:34.
I looked up and saw a man wearing a dark suit and white shirt standing in front of the cell. He had short black hair and seemed to be of Chinese or Korean heritage. He motioned for me to come near him.
“I’m Artie Chin. Your lawyer, Jacob, referred me to you,” he whispered.
“Thanks,” I replied.
“You are charged with a hate crime for preaching to gays. This is a new law enacted by the San Francisco City Council and went into effect one week ago, just in time for Pride Week. The good news for you is that you are the worst possible test case for the law −”
He blew out a deep breath.
“You’re a retired seventy-three year old man, not an ordained preacher, have no ministry, and have no history of preaching or writing against gays. They’re after bigger fish than you.”
“Okay, what do you think I should do?”
“I’m sure you will be released on personal recognizance. No bail required. You will have to promise to show up in court a couple of weeks from now, but I think I can get the charges dropped altogether. The judge may ask some questions, but probably not. You should be a free man in about sixty minutes.”
His words would have encouraged me if the Holy Spirit had not spoken to me a few hours earlier. So, I prepared myself for bad news.
“The People of San Francisco against Dylan Matthews,” announced the heavy-set bailiff in a booming voice. He walked over and handed the case file to a clerk.
Almost with a snap of a finger, I stood to the right of Artie Chin while a junior prosecutor with sad eyes stood on the other side of Chin. Judge Ester Strong sat directly in front of us. The fifty or so year old judge looked down at the file in front of her and then over at me. A slight smile crossed her deep red lips for a nano-second before she resumed her judicial posture.
The prosecutor opened with a legal sounding statement. Chin countered with his defense lawyerly jargon. Back and forth the two fired legalese-laced salvos until Chin ended by saying, “My client enters a not-guilty plea.”
Judge Strong closed the file and turned to dismiss us, but then she stopped. She leaned forward and stared into my eyes.
“I’m inclined to allow Mr. Matthews to be released on his own recognizance, without bail, but I do want to ask him a couple of questions,” she said, pausing to collect her thoughts. “What will you do if I set you free this morning? Will you go back to Temecula and return for your hearing in two weeks?”
Three possible answers crossed my mind at that moment: forty-eighth anniversary trip to Tahoe, playing with my grandchildren, or enjoying a few rounds of golf with some buddies. All would have pleased the judge so I could have walked out the door into the sunlight once again, but they all evaporated into nothingness. What then came out of my mouth caused a reaction like dropping a live grenade into the courtroom.
“I will walk out the door and go directly to the Castro District and preach the gospel of Jesus Christ to that community. They deserve to be set free from the kingdom of darkness by the love of Jesus.”
Judge Strong jumped to her feet. A finger jutted out of her black robe and pointed at me. Anger stripped the judge of her judicial mask, revealing her true inner feelings.
“Mr. Matthews, you have no right to impose your self-righteous religious beliefs on our gay and lesbian communities. I will make sure your bigoted beliefs cost you dearly by setting your bail at one hundred thousand dollars and remanding you to the county jail. What do you think of that, Mr. Matthews?” she proclaimed loud enough for everyone in the building to hear her.
“I shall not pay one dime nor allow anyone to raise money to set me free nor will I eat another bite of food until I am set free from this jail. Whether I walk out the door or am carried out in a casket is up to the Lord, I shall trust Him to set me free,” I replied.
“Well, we’ll see about your so-called God and how your arrogance holds up two weeks from now at your preliminary hearing. Next case.”
My lawyer resumed his normal breathing as he escorted me back to the small holding pen.
“Maybe you would have answered differently if I would have warned you ahead of time that Judge Strong is a lesbian and staunch leader in the LGBT movement,” he whispered.
Then, a voice from the courtroom cut my heart.
“Dylan, Dylan, I love you…”
I turned to see Jane waving at me. She looked great in her yellow dress, one of my favorites, but all I could do was nod my head and wonder about what she was thinking.
My wife, Jane, can best explain what was going through her mind from the time of my phone call until the arraignment:
The first thought to cross my mind when Dylan phoned was to give him a big piece of my mind. We had planned our forty-eighth anniversary trip to Tahoe for months and even paid a nonrefundable deposit on a five-bedroom home on the beach. Our three children, their mates, and our eight grandchildren were going to be there, too. All of us in one home on the lake for seven days. It was a dream vacation and how many more of these could we expect to have in the years ahead? I could have chewed nails when I hung up, especially after him saying that it was no big deal!
I slammed the phone down and screamed.
That’s when the Holy Spirit spoke to my heart, “Quit acting like a baby. Call the lawyer. Get on a plane and fly to San Francisco. Dylan needs you.”
I fell to my knees and wept.
“Forgive me, Lord.”
But without missing a beat, I jumped up, phoned Jacob, our lawyer, and made a standby reservation for a flight on Virgin Airlines out of San Diego International Airport to San Francisco. My flight’s departure was scheduled for 6:15 a.m., which gave me just enough time to pack and make the sixty-mile drive from Temecula to the airport.
Bluetooth allowed me to make four important phone calls on my trip. The first three were to our children, telling them about Dylan’s situation. The words “hate crime” never ricocheted off my tongue, but instead I termed it a slight misunderstanding, one that a lawyer could easily handle. We would see them on Saturday and have a big laugh over Dylan’s latest faith escapade. The three had questions, but I pooh-poohed their fears with a couple of quick Bible verses.
When I finished calling the three, I looked down at the speedometer. Ninety miles per hour! Jane Matthews: beloved wife, caring mother, doting grandmother, and committed believer of Jesus was acting like Mario Andretti at the Indianapolis Five Hundred, passing every car in sight. I tapped on the brakes and slowed down to seventy-five miles per hour. A police car with a radar gun sat at the next exit.
“Thank you Jesus,” I muttered.
Then, I phoned J.C. Bates. Someone needed to fill me in on the details about Dylan’s arrest and J. C. was the man who could do just that.
“Hi Jane, I’ve been expecting your call,” said J. C. as he answered my phone call.
“Hi J. C., I figured you would.”
“You probably want to know what happened?”
“Right! Dylan said that it was no big deal, but he’s the master of understatement. So, fill in the gaps between hate crime, no big deal, and a broken nose.”
- C. laughed.
“Well, as you know Dylan spoke and gave his testimony at our businessmen’s noontime luncheon down in China town. There were about thirty men there. All enjoyed his inspiring words. I’d say it was a great success.”
J C was the owner of Bates Properties, a commercial real estate firm in San Francisco. His success caused him to seek ways on how he could give back to the city he loved. He ended up being involved in Business Men’s Fellowship and became the chapter president.
“After the luncheon, I was driving him to Mission Terrace to spend some time together before I dropped him off at the airport. We were heading down Market Street, past the Castro District, when we saw a Pride parade. He asked to stop and watch. I pulled over and walked across the street with him.”
“So far,” I said, “everything seems okay.”
“Yeah, nothing happened until Dylan stepped off the curb and began preaching in a loud voice, ‘Each of you must repent of your sins and turn to God, and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. Then you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.'”
- C. paused for a moment.
“Then everything hit the fan. A couple of guys pushed and shoved him. Another hit him in the face, knocking his glasses off. He fell to the ground and quite a few kicked him. Two police officers came over and inquired what was happening. A man said that Dylan was preaching hate. One officer asked Dylan what he was doing and he replied he was preaching the Gospel of the kingdom of God. They cuffed him and threw into a police cruiser and took him off to jail.”
“That’s all my sweet hubby did.”
“Yep and he even forgave the crowd before he was ushered away.”
We talked a few minutes more. J. C. offered to pick me up at the airport and wanted me stay in his home with his wife and him.
I agreed to his offers, but I still had an unanswered question gnawing at me.
Because of my standby reservation, I was the last person to board the Virgin Airline’s Airbus A320. One hundred and forty-five other passengers walked ahead of me to their seats. I looked at my boarding pass − Row 24 Seat B − and tried to look over shoulders and heads for my seat, but my five feet three inches of stature hindered my efforts. I eventually arrived at my seat, lifted my black suitcase into the overhead storage compartment, and squeezed past the outside passenger’s long legs into the seat.
The young sailor with a shaved head in Seat A by the window looked up from his iPad and nodded at me. The lanky man to my right, sitting by the aisle in Seat C, paid no attention and opened his iPad, connecting to the Internet through Virgin’s free WiFi service. Both put headphones on as soon as the plane taxied toward the runway.
I reached down and pulled a Michael Connelly paperback novel out of my purse, but the Harry Bosch story failed to hold my interest for long. My mind kept wandering back over Dylan’s and my off-the-beaten-path spiritual journey.
It all began when Dylan walked out of Jedidiah Smith Community Church on that first Sunday in June three years earlier when the new pastor preached his first sermon. Dylan explained that he couldn’t listen to another sermon while he ignored the Lord’s voice telling him to branch off into a different type of church ministry. That different type of ministry ended up being a home church, which we called Last Chance. Two senior couples joined us in the new venture: Phil and Faye Strawmeier and Vinnie and Gracie Nguyen. Both couples had been four of our closest friends for years. Others joined our house church so that the original assembly now numbered eighteen people.
But it was Pamela Walter’s words to Dylan and me just before she died which stirred Dylan’s heart. “The Lord wants the Last Chance groups, like yours, to spread all along the West Coast, from San Diego to Seattle. He wants to use senior citizens as His last chance army to touch millions of people −” she said.
Dylan interrupted her and explained we didn’t know how to do something like that.
I still remember her words: “Shush! Of course, you don’t, but He knows how to do it. Fast and pray and He will show you.”
Then, she died.
Dylan focused his life on obeying Pamela’s prophetic words to us from that moment forward. He fasted, prayed, studied the word, and continually sought the Lord on what we needed to do. His seeking led to three new groups being started: one in Hemet, Lake Elsinore, and Corona.
I went along with whatever Dylan wanted, not because I heard the Lord’s voice for myself or even felt impressed to do so. I just trusted that Dylan had heard the Lord’s voice and then followed him. Maybe I caved in too easily rather than seeking the Lord on my own, but that’s how I handled it.
But when Dylan said he felt the Lord wanted us to plant Last Chance home churches in San Francisco, I was shocked. As he spoke his vision to me, I comforted myself by figuring it would be years before we reached the Bay area. Yet, two days later, he received an invitation to speak at a Business Men’s Fellowship luncheon in China Town. He left a week later, hoping doors would open for Last Chance groups in San Francisco.
I watched him leave and waved at him, but in my heart, I prayed nothing special would happen. I hoped it would be a nice trip for Dylan but nothing more. Nothing more at all.
Maybe you think I’m selfish and maybe I am. But I am seventy-three years old and so is Dylan. I want to get off this spiritual merry-go-round and enjoy life again. I want to travel to Branson, Lake Tahoe, Las Vegas, and even Paris or London. I want to enjoy our sunset years without worrying about jail or confrontations or planting more home churches. Why not? We deserve it, don’t we?
Jacob Cohen (J.C.) Bates and his wife, Shira, waited for me in their BMW outside San Francisco International Airport in the passenger arrival zone. I noticed J.C. packed on twenty extra pounds to his five-foot seven-inch frame, but it did not detract from his rugged good looks. Shira stood a couple of inches taller than him, but the difference seemed even greater because of her model-like figure. Both were Messianic believers and servants of Yeshua the Messiah.
“Shalom, Jane,” said J.C., jumping out of the car and greeting me with a hug and a kiss. “Here, let me put your suitcase in the trunk.”
“Thanks and shalom to you, J.C.,” I said, handing him my black suitcase.
“Even though this may not be the best of times for you,” said Shira, standing outside the BMW’s passenger door, and also hugging and kissing me, “I was so excited to see you again that I went out and spent J.C.’s money on this new black sweater. But as usual, you win the fashion prize with your blond hair, Levi jacket, and khaki slacks. You look fabulous.”
Her gracious words should have reddened my face, but instead, I broke down and wept. Shira hugged me even tighter.
“God will turn your mourning into dancing,” she whispered.
“I sure hope so.”
“Let’s keep moving,” shouted a stocky TSA agent, walking toward J.C.’s car. He pointed at us with a black baton to emphasize his point.
We obeyed and took off for their home.
If you have ever wondered what type of home three million dollars would purchase in San Francisco, J.C. and Shira’s condo on the fourth floor of a prestigious address in Nob Hill would be the answer. Twenty-three hundred square feet, three bedrooms, two baths, hardwood floors, gourmet kitchen, formal dining room, large family room with stone fireplace, and captivating views of Alcatraz and the Golden Gate Bridge through floor to ceiling windows. The furniture and decorations looked like they had been selected by a top Bay area interior decorator.
Shira served a tossed salad with grilled chicken for dinner, but I only moved the food around on my plate without eating much. As soon as possible, I excused myself and headed for the guest bedroom. There I unpacked, hung up my clothes in the closet, and sat down on the bed without changing out of my traveling clothes. Somehow, I closed my eyes and dozed off.
Then, I had a terrifying vision.
In it, I stood before the Judgment Seat of Christ. I wasn’t alone because hundreds of other believers stood there in numerous rows, waiting for the Judge − Jesus − to appear in front of us. I watched Him off to my left walking down my row with a torch in His right hand. He stopped in front of each believer, looked down, and lit piles of what looked like grass and sticks at the feet of each person with His torch. The piles burst into flames. Then, the piles quickly burnt out to reveal gold, silver, precious stones, or nothing but scorch marks on the ground. Those who had precious metals and stones bowed down and worshipped the Lord. Those who had scorch marks wailed and screamed like they were in hell, even though they were in heaven.
I looked down at my feet and saw a puny pile. I knew this small heap represented all of my works done on earth for the Lord. Not much for a whole lifetime, I thought. A holy fear enveloped me.
I turned and looked at the person next to me and realized it was a successful Christian businessman, whom I greatly admired. He was an elder at Jedidiah Smith Community Church, Sunday school teacher, weekend street evangelist, and well-known benefactor. The newspapers were always reporting on his philanthropy and many works.
I watched Judge Jesus bend over and light the businessman’s pile with His torch. The pile quickly burnt out to reveal nothing but scorch marks on the ground. The businessman fell to the ground and wailed at the top of his lungs. His screams echoed through my mind.
Oh no, I thought. If this businessman’s life did not please the Lord, how will mine be any better?
The Lord stood in front of me.
I looked into His eyes and knew His love was not on trial, but mine was at that moment. He bent over, ready to touch my puny pile with His torch.
“Lord, give me a second chance,” I pleaded.
He looked at me without straightening up. His torch remained close to my pile. “And what would you do differently?”
“I will serve you night and day without complaining. If need be, I will crawl on my knees across San Francisco on streets covered with broken glass to be Your ambassador. I will gladly carry cups of cold water to people and minister to them as Your servant.”
He straightened up and looked me squarely in the eyes. His love melted every hindrance in my heart. “Remember to do your works to please Me, not to please others like the businessman did during his life. He received his reward on earth. Go and be My servant.”
I woke up and immediately slipped off the bed onto my knees. I worshipped the Judge, King, and Lover of my soul − my Lord Jesus.
My iPhone’s text tone brought me back to earth. I stood up, realizing I had spent the whole night on my knees in traveling clothes. What time is it? I thought. I picked up my phone from the nightstand and clicked the power button − 6:15 a.m.
The text was from our lawyer Jacob: “A good lawyer and close Christian friend of mine, Artie Chin, has agreed to represent Dylan. He will be at the courthouse for the arraignment at 9 a.m. Let me know if you need anything else.”
I need to get ready now, I thought. Help me Lord!
J.C. and Shira drove me to the San Francisco Hall of Justice Building on Bryant Street, parking the BMW at an underground parking lot. The Justice Building resembled a drab concrete rhombus designed by second graders who were given cardboard boxes and told to create a building out of them. No ionic columns. No domes. No frills. No inspiration for those of us searching for hope.
A short walk later, we stood in a chrome elevator, heading to the fourth floor.
“Darling, why did you dress up so much? You look like you’re meeting the mayor,” whispered Shira, wearing blue jeans and white top.
“This yellow dress is Dylan’s favorite dress of mine. And the yellow heels? They add height and confidence, which I really need right now.”
“Well, this should be over soon and you two will be on your way to Tahoe,” said J.C., patting my shoulder.
“That would be great, but I have doubts.”
“Doubts?” asked Shira.
“This could be a long drawn-out battle with today just being the opening skirmish.”
“Do you know something we don’t?” asked J.C.
I shrugged. “Maybe.”
The elevator bell signaled our arrival at the fourth floor. We stepped out into a narrow hallway and walked toward the courtroom. A tall policeman directed us to remove our rings, watches, necklaces, pocket items, cell phones, place them in a silver bowl, and walk through a scanner. We passed our inspections and then rearranged ourselves before entering the courtroom.
The courtroom, unlike the boring building’s exterior, was almost lavish with its rich mahogany paneling, mahogany judicial bench, mahogany attorney’s tables, and black padded seats. There was seating for forty spectators, but only twelve or so awaited the arraignment proceedings. We sat in the second row, near the aisle.
At nine, a chubby bailiff, standing on the right side of the judge’s bench, announced, “All rise for the honorable Judge Esther Strong.”
Everyone stood as the thin female judge with dark hair swooped in and sat down on the bench. We followed suit and seated ourselves. The ruffling of clothes echoed throughout the courtroom.
Five Latino defendants with dark tattoos were arraigned for murder cases in a rather cut and dried fashion with very few comments from the judge, attorneys, or the attorneys. Bails were set at a million dollars each and all were remanded to the county jail.
Next, the bailiff announced, “The People of San Francisco against Dylan Matthews.”
I gasped when I saw Dylan approach the defendant’s table. His face looked like a Mafia hit man had worked him over with a baseball bat. His nose was swollen and both eyes blackened. What have those bullies done to my sweetheart, I wondered.
My ears tuned into the proceedings as the attorneys spoke and the judge then asked Dylan what he would do if she set him free on his own recognizance. Dylan’s words of defiance and his announcement of a fast stirred my heart so that I wanted to jump up and shout, “Hallelujah Gunsmoke, I’m with you,” but I bit my tongue and kept quiet.
I am not sure if he heard me say, “Dylan, Dylan, I love you,” when he left the courtroom, but the bailiff did. He pointed at me and shook his head at my outburst.
Oh, how I wanted to stick out my tongue at the bailiff, but I kept my lady-like composure by inwardly visualizing the action in my mind. The rebellious thought reminded me of my teenage years.
The adrenalin rush I felt at Dylan’s defiance in the courtroom soon burnt itself out, leaving me drained. I collapsed into the chair next to Shira who put her arm around me and stroked my shoulder with her left hand.
I watched Dylan’s lawyer, Artie Chin, walk with him to the holding pen, pat Dylan on the back, and turn around, heading back toward the defense table where he picked up his briefcase. The wiry prosecutor motioned with his hand to meet with him for a conference. Artie walked over to the prosecutor’s table. The two talked for a couple of minutes with Artie nodding his head at the end. Then Artie walked toward us.
“You must be Jane,” Artie said, offering his hand. “I’m Artie Chin, the lawyer Jacob called to represent Dylan.”
I shook his hand. “Thanks for helping my husband.”
“Let’s go out into the hallway and talk.”
J.C., Shira, and I followed Artie out of the courtroom, through the walnut paneled doors, and out into the almost empty hallway. He waved for us to follow him to an alcove with two wooden benches abutting each other. He sat down and patted the seat next to him. I sat down while J.C. and Shira seated themselves on the other bench.
“The prosecutor wants to settle the case right away. So, all Dylan has to do is offer some type of apology, even a feeble one, and the charges will be dropped. Dylan would be released almost immediately. What do you think?” Chin asked, his dark eyes revealing little of what he really thought.
I reached down with my left hand, smoothing my yellow dress, which allowed me to ponder his words for a few seconds.
“I know my husband,” I said, shaking my head. “He will never agree to watering down the gospel by being ashamed of speaking the good news to others.”
“I figured that might be the case, but you need to hear the rest of the story. The prosecutor stated that if Dylan refused to apologize, the City Attorney’s office was willing to go after your husband with an all-out effort, which could result in Dylan spending time in prison. It might even end up being appealed to the California Supreme Court or the U.S. Supreme Court. All of this may take months or years.”
My hands rushed to my mouth.
Artie nodded. “Justice moves slowly and will not take into account Dylan’s age.”
“Well, I’m going with what Dylan decides to do. So, when will I be able to see him or talk with him on the phone?”
Artie blew out a deep breath.
“I will be able to meet with him tomorrow morning. He can call you tomorrow afternoon, but you won’t be able to meet him until Saturday and then again on Sunday.”
“Okay, until then I will seek the Lord on what we should do.”
“Yes, ma’am, I will be praying also.”
Artie gave me a hug, stood up, and walked away. His footsteps echoed in the hallway making me feel so alone. What should I do? I wondered.
“Jane, what do you plan on doing next?” asked J.C., snapping me out of my thoughts.
“I don’t have a clue, but I think…it’s time for me to begin a new career, maybe in TV and radio.”
“What?” asked Shira.
I shrugged my shoulders, slapped the bench with both hands and stood up.
“Let’s roll,” I said.
(A new sequel to Unhitched Geeser, which can be checked out here.)
One moment, I felt ten feet tall, full of faith, defying the judge, announcing my fast, and the next moment, which happened as soon as I stepped out of the courtroom, I was weak old Dylan again. A seventy-three year old, bald, fifteen pounds over weight geezer who needed afternoon naps to stay awake until 9:30 at night. Not only that, I craved blueberry pie, ice cream, chocolate covered peanuts, pizza, and would have robbed a bank to get them if I had a gun or a knife. What’s my problem, I thought.
The young guard marched me up to the seventh floor to County Jail #4, a maximum-security facility for murderers, rapists, drug dealers, gang leaders, and now, a geezer with a big mouth.
After signing in, I went to a room where a soft-spoken guard ordered me to strip off my clothing so he could thoroughly search me. He then handed me my orange county jail outfit, white t-shirt, white underwear, white socks, pair of black slide sandals, and a bag containing toothbrush, toothpaste, soap, deodorant, and a locker key.
I finally arrived at my cell just before lunchtime. My cellmate sat at the small built-in desk, reading a thick book and taking notes on a legal pad. He looked up and shook his head.
“I was hoping for a cute young guy, but instead, I get an old, worn-out coot like you. What are the odds?” he said with a smile. Then, he stood up and offered his hand. “My name is Kyle Bogart. I’m the gay terminator on this wing.”
Even though he wore an orange uniform like mine, Kyle looked like he had stepped out of GQ Magazine with his stylish cut blond hair, blue eyes, chiseled good looks, and muscular six-foot frame.
I shook his firm hand. “My name’s Dylan Matthews. I’m a retired cute guy.”
Kyle laughed. “Okay, that’s funny, but because seniority has its benefits in here, you get the top bunk, and the little locker on the right.”
“That works for me.”
I pointed at his thick book. “What are you studying?”
“That sounds boring to me.”
“Yeah, it is, but I’m accused of murder and thought it would be a good idea to understand what the lawyers are talking about.”
“Murder? You look like a successful businessman.”
“Good guess! I am a part owner of a successful restaurant, but my partner was recently bludgeoned to death.”
“Sorry to hear that.”
“Well, things happen. Plus, he was my husband and cheated on me. By the way, what are you in here for? Robbing a bank or something exciting like that?”
It’s funny how at that moment I remembered his words “gay terminator” and how he didn’t elaborate on that title. My imagination kicked into gear with all kinds of hypothetical possibilities.
I blew out a deep breath and plunged into the deep end. “I spoke a short message to some men watching the parade down in the Castro District. All I said was, ‘Each of you must repent of your sins and turn to God, and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins.’ My words caused a small riot and ended up with me being arrested for a hate crime.”
His facial expression changed from normal to deranged in a San Francisco second. His blue eyes glazed over and the vein on the side his neck popped out, looking like it was ready to explode. He hurdled the distance between us and grabbed my neck with his huge hands and began choking me. I tried to protect myself, but he was too strong. His hate-filled eyes slashed my heart as I stared into them. I figured his face would be the last one I’d see before meeting Jesus in heaven.
The lunch chime sounded.
He released his chokehold on me, much like the dogs had responded to ringing bells in Pavlov’s experiments. He looked at me and then down at his hands, flexing both of them.
“My mom preached this crap to me until I finally left home. So, don’t ever mention Jesus or God to me again because I don’t know if I can contain myself from ripping you apart!” he proclaimed. Then, he lowered his voice. “Let’s go eat lunch now, okay?”
I struggled for breath and shook my head. “No! Go ahead without me. I’m going to rest a little bit.”
“Suit yourself, but today’s lunch is pastrami on rye with lentil soup. It’s really good.”
And just like that, the gay terminator left.
Every part of me trembled from a fear so overpowering that my teeth chattered aloud. All I could think about was Kyle’s death grip on my neck and how the next time, he would finish the task. I didn’t know what else to do so I climbed into the top bunk and curled up in a ball, resigning myself to the fate soon awaiting me in Cell 27 at County Jail #4.
My exhaustion and fears struggled with each other for a few minutes, before exhaustion won out. I fell into a deep sleep.
Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote in his memoir, Stride Toward Freedom, about his receiving forty or more death threats per day during the Montgomery Bus Boycott of 1955-1956. One particular phone call late at night pushed him over the edge. He walked into the kitchen, made a pot of coffee, and sat down in a chair at the kitchen table. He tried to think of a way to quit his leadership position without appearing to be a coward. Finally, he prayed and asked God to help him because he was too afraid to continue. The presence of the Lord cloaked King, assuring him that He would always be with him in the days ahead and forever. King never again doubted or feared for his life again.
What the Lord did for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. at the kitchen table, he did for me in that top bunk.
Was it a dream? Was it a vision? Or did I really ascend into the second heaven? I don’t know for sure, but you can judge it for yourself.
In my sleep, I heard my voice echoing the earlier prayer: “Lord, thanks for giving a seventy-three year old geezer, like me, a second chance to be a part of the action and not allowing me to retire from Your kingdom work. And Lord, use me even more in the days ahead.”
My words came out of an intense darkness without shadows. Yet, peace, love, and joy filled the same darkness. A spotlight then came on, shining on Reverend Morgan Churchill, the most godly man I had ever met and father of one of our closest friends, Faye Strawmeier. He was the founding pastor of Jedidiah Smith Community Church, which Jane and I attended for thirty years.
“Dylan, give me your hand,” said Reverend Churchill.
I sat up and offered my right hand to him. He grabbed it and we took off, up through the ceiling of Cell 27, through the roof of the Hall of Justice Building, and up into the heavenly realms. Even though I figured we were traveling at the speed of light, my eyes had no problem adjusting to the speed. I could focus on images as we zoomed past them.
We stopped thousands of miles above San Francisco.
“Today, you are going to begin learning about your enemy and how to battle him in the days ahead,” Reverend Churchill. “Pay close attention to what you see, okay?”
I nodded my head, but my mouth itched to blurt out questions.
Reverend Churchill had been an easy-going leader with an infectious sense of humor when he pastored. His blue eyes always looked ready to smile and enjoy a good time with people around him. But on this day, his manner mirrored the solemnity of the occasion, as did his dark suit, starched white shirt, and red-stripped tie. His chronic back problems seemed no longer an issue for him because he stood tall and erect before me.
“Look over there,” he pointed toward a radiant being sitting on what appeared to be a golden throne covered with jewels located in the realm next to us. “What do you see?”
“It looks like a god. I almost feel like worshipping it.”
“What you’re viewing with your eyes is the ruling principality over San Francisco −”
“But he’s beautiful!”
“The Apostle Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians, ‘For even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light.’ That is the spirit of depravity and how you’re seeing it right now is how most San Franciscans − believers and unbelievers alike − view this principality, as something good, and not evil.”
Reverend Churchill reached over with his right hand and covered my eyes. He then removed his hand.
“Now look again at the creature now that your spiritual eyes are opened up two levels.”
The being changed in one nano-second into a grotesque creature, much like a King Kong-sized gargoyle. His body parts appeared to be a surreal mixture of wolf, reptile, and goat parts with a stubby tail, talons for feet, scale-covered wings, paw-like hands, and misshapen goat-like face with two outlandish ram’s horns covering his wolf-shaped ears. His open mouth was filled with hideous teeth. There was nothing beautiful about him at all.
On closer inspection, the principlity’s throne was not made of gold, but rather out of worthless pyritic minerals or fool’s gold. The jewels decorating the throne were nothing more than worthless colored glass.
“In the days ahead, you will expose the spirit of depravity to the people of San Francsisco,” said Reverend Churchill.
“By revealing God’s goodness to the city because it is through His goodness that people’s eyes will be opened to repentance.”
Before I could say another word, he held up his hand in a stop sign manner.
“Your first teaching on spiritual warfare is over for today, but from now on, you will walk in His peace. Nothing will faze or upset you in the days ahead because His presence within your heart will be a roaring fire, burning all doubts and fears that may confront you.”
Seconds later, I returned to my bunk a changed man.
J. C. and Shira sat in the front seats of their BMW while I sat in the backset. Our conversation died off within the first few blocks of driving toward their home on Nob Hill, which suited me just fine because I was arguing with God.
Most people who have met Dylan and me would assume that we must have been cut from the same small town cloth, but nothing could have been further from the truth.
Dylan’s parents were two of the sweetest people who have ever lived. Love and peace permeated every corner of their home. Meal times for Dylan and his sister Darla were filled with lively conversations about what happened during their day. All who sat around the table, even guests, were encouraged to contribute. Family problems were handled in love, rather than anger. Both parents attended Dylan and Darla’s school events, cheering them on from their seats. Because of the loving atmosphere provided by his parents, Dylan grew up to be a confident, loving adult.
By comparison, fear filled our home because of my dad. Although he was a successful real estate broker, he hated his career, his life, and himself. He took out his anguish on my mother, brother, sister, and me. We never knew what would trip his trigger, but when it happened he would turn into a ranting madman slinging four-letter words and accusations at everyone. It usually climaxed with him slapping us around.
Mealtimes? Oh my! These were tortuous occasions for the family because Dad demanded absolute quiet from us while he ate his meal. If for any reason, we children made a chewing noise or squirmed a bit in our chairs, he might smack us and send us to bed, berating us as we left the room. If he did speak and asked a question and then didn’t like our answers, he might slap us across the face right there at the table. Mom always sat in her chair with her head down like a timid titmouse, too afraid to confront Dad or defend her children. Her only solace was a bottle of Jack Daniels hidden behind the cereal boxes in the pantry.
Not only that, my dad attempted to molest me soon after my thirteenth birthday. I fought him off and ran into the bathroom, locking the door behind me. He never attempted to touch me again, but being alone in the house with him caused panic attacks to strike me so that I trembled and struggled to breathe. All I could think about during those times was the day his hands fondled my breasts.
What few friends or boyfriends I had were never invited into my home nor did I ever share the shame and pain I felt in my heart with anyone. Never once! Looking back, I now realize how fortunate it was for me to be a straight-A student because it kept prying eyes away from my life and our home.
My most awkward moment occurred on October 12th of my freshman year at the University of San Diego. My phone rang at 6:35 in the evening while I was writing an English essay at my dorm room’s desk. I answered, “Hello.”
“Oh, hi mom.”
“I have some bad news.”
“Okay, let’s have it.”
“Your dad suffered a heart attack this afternoon and died before the paramedics arrived at his office.”
I did not say a word nor did mom. The dead air space continued between us for more than ninety seconds before I finally said, “Oh.”
Mom closed by saying the funeral arrangements would be made the next morning.
I hung up, shed no tears, and felt no grief.
Is it wrong to feel like this, I wondered. Then, I continued writing my essay.
Meeting Dylan and Jesus changed me into the woman I eventually became, but still, I froze up and could not speak in front of audiences. All of my childhood pain and shame came roaring back into my mind. I just couldn’t do it!
So, when the Lord spoke to my heart in the backseat of the BMW, saying, “I want you to speak on TV, radio, in churches, and wherever I open the door, defending Dylan’s stand and pleading his cause,” I shook my head.
“No, Lord, I can’t do that,” I whispered.
Have you ever argued with the Lord? Did you win?
Of course not and neither did I.
“Okay, what’s your problem?” asked J. C. when we walked into the tiled foyer of their townhouse.
“Nothing,” I said, shrugging my shoulders.
“Sorry, that doesn’t work with me,” he said. “We can’t help if you don’t open up to us. Now, what’s you problem?”
We walked down a short picture lined hallway and into the family room. I sat down on a soft brown leather sofa while J. C. and Shira sat on a matching one on the opposite side of a glass-topped coffee table. I turned to look out the windows at the Golden Gate Bridge. No fog. Sunny and clear. Traffic seemed light on the bridge for 10:30 in the morning. I turned to face my friends.
“Here’s the deal,” I said, blowing out a deep breath. “The Lord wants me to go on TV, radio, to churches, and wherever He opens the door to defend Dylan’s stand and plead his cause.”
“What a great idea!” proclaimed Shira.
“Not really because I hate public speaking. I just can’t do it!”
Shira moved over next to me and put her arm around me. The gentle scent of her Estée Lauder perfume cajoled my emotions, calming me down a notch or two on my inner Richter scale.
“Jane, what’s the worse that could happen?” she asked.
“I might fail.”
“Really? The Lord would put Dylan’s future into your hands so He could watch you fail. How would that advance the kingdom of God?”
Although still sweet, a different side of Shira emerged at that moment: the exhorter. She had her periscope up, torpedo tubes loaded, and I was in her crosshairs.
“Okay, maybe I won’t fail, but I will most certainly make a fool of myself.”
The words skated past my brain and out my mouth before I could filter them. Shira looked into my eyes and grinned.
“Ah, at last, the truth.”
I wrinkled my nose.
“My answer didn’t sound very good, right?”
Shira shook her head. “No, darling.”
I raised my hands in surrender. “Okay, do either of you know how I can carry out this assignment from the Lord?”
“Hobart Effingham III,” said J. C., pulling his iPhone out of his pocket.
“Hobart Effingham? What’s that?”
“Effingham is a Christian businessman who happens to be the president of the largest public relations firm in San Francisco. A few phone calls by him will land you on the top-rated TV and radio programs in the area. As for churches, I can make some contacts to help you.”
Okay Lord, I thought, here I am. Use me.
Two hours later, I sat in the lobby of Effingham and Effingham between J. C. and Shira. A thin middle-aged secretary with auburn hair typed on a computer keyboard at the receptionist desk in front of us. Off to our left, two suit-clad men sat huddled over their iPads.
“Jane Matthews, Mr. Effingham is ready for you now,” said the receptionist, looking over the top of her reading glasses and pointing to the right. “Go down that hallway and take the first left. His office is the last one with his name on the door. Just knock on the door.”
The three of us stood up and walked past her desk down a cherry paneled hallway. After we turned the corner, Effingham’s office was straight ahead.
“Jane, how are you feeling?” asked Shira.
“Scared to death and like throwing up.
J. C. patted me on the back. “You must be ready for the big game then?”
“How can you say that?”
“Bill Russell, Hall of Fame Boston Celtic basketball center, vomited before every big game he ever played in. His coach thought it was the team’s good luck charm and would not let the team run onto the court until Bill vomited.”
“Thanks for encouraging me…I guess.”
J. C. tapped on the tall six-panel door. A deep voice directed us to enter. J. C. then opened the door and ushered us into an office that in my wildest dreams I could never have imagined ever existed. It was a basketball court with a large walnut executive desk in the right corner. A round table with four chairs sat on one side of the desk and a leather sofa sat on the other. Prints and photos of the Golden State Warriors’ stars hung on the walls.
A tall man wearing a blue Warrior’s basketball warm up suit stood up and pointed toward the round table. He appeared to be in his middle forties, but it was hard to judge his age because of his fit shape and dark hair.
“Hi J. C. and Shira. This must be Jane Matthews, right?” he said, holding his huge hand out to me.
I shook his hand and nodded at him.
“Do you actually play basketball here?” I asked, looking around the gigantic room.
“All the time,” he said. “In fact, my dad purchased the glass backboard and hoop from the Warriors when they moved their games from the Cow Palace in Daly City to Oakland. It’s a one of a kind.”
We sat down around the table. Effingham had a legal pad and silver pen in front of him.
“Okay now, you’re planning on pleading your husband’s right to free speech versus San Francisco’s new hate crime law by taking your case to the media, right?” he asked.
“Have you done much public speaking before?”
“No, none at all.”
“Do you have idea what you will say?”
“Do you realize the interviewers will infer that you and your husband are hate filled Christian bigots and will paint you as being worse than the most vile member of the Westboro Baptist Church? How do you plan on handling this?”
I shrugged my shoulders. “I have no clue.”
He dropped his pen and blew out a deep breath. “So, you want me to help you without letting me know ahead of time what you will say or do? Is that correct?”
Before I could answer, a mantle of boldness draped itself over my shoulders. I smashed my fist on the table without planning to do so, causing his pen to fly onto the floor.
“Listen up, Effingham, the Lord said not to worry about what I would say ahead of time because He would give me a mouth and words which my adversaries would not be able to contradict or resist. I plan on trusting Him. How do you feel about that?”
Effingham’s dark eyes bulged out for a second and then a smile etched his lips. “I think we’ll make a great team. But what I’m really going to do is just stay out of your way and toss you into the toughest lion dens in the city. I pity them. They won’t know what hit them.”
He stood up and shook my hand. “So, give me the rest of today to work out the details. I’ll should have a speaking schedule ready for you sometime tomorrow.”
“Thanks,” I said. “Do you have a restroom? I think I’m going to throw up.”
(A new sequel to Unhitched Geeser, which can be checked out here.)
Except for the early moments in Cell 27 when my cellmate wrapped his hands around my neck, the rest of my first twenty-four hours of jail life crept along like a snail on a hot sidewalk. Slowly! Bogart and I reached a tacit truce, which allowed me to speak only when he directed a question at me, but otherwise, I remained silent.
I wandered out into the common area and spent time with eleven other inmates watching TV. Reality shows, especially “Judge Judy” and “Dog the Bounty Hunter,” were the favorites with comments being peppered at the TV throughout each show.
As far as eating, no one noticed that I was not doing so. God’s grace covered my fast and my efforts to do it in secret.
At 10 a.m., a tall guard came to the cell. “Matthews?” he said.
“Yes,” I said, sitting up in my bunk.
“Come down here. Turn around. Put your hands behind your back.”
I followed his instructions as he put handcuffs on my wrists and quickly patted down my body for weapons.
“Turn around. Walk out the door, turn right, and head toward the entrance. Your lawyer is waiting for you in meeting room #2, on your left.”
When I entered the small room, Artie sat at a metal table, wearing a light gray suit and black shirt open at the collar. The guard removed my handcuffs and left the room. I sat down on the opposite side of the table from Artie.
“How are you doing?” he asked, looking into my eyes.
I shrugged. “Well, it’s not a picnic, but so far, I’m doing okay.”
“Well, that’s probably as good as one can hope for right now.”
He opened his brown briefcase and took out my worn black leather Bible.
“Jane brought this over before I left the office this morning.”
I grabbed the Bible and fanned the pages.
“Thank you, just what I need right now.”
“Here are some legal pads and jail approved pencils, too.”
I nodded my head.
Artie blew out a deep breath before explaining the prosecutor’s offer of leniency in exchange for my admittance of guilt and apology.
“No, not interested in that deal.”
He then mentioned how the City Attorney’s office would throw the book at me if I refused the offer, which could result in a log prison sentence for me. Even if the decision were appealed, I might end up being locked up for months or years before the case was settled.
“Still not interested. Sink or swim, live or die, I’m determined to trust the Lord all the way to the end of this.”
Artie stood up and picked up his briefcase. “I will be back in eleven days to ready you for your preliminary hearing. Jane will visit you tomorrow and Sunday.” He paused a moment. “My wife and I are praying for you…just want you to know that.”
We shook hands before the guard returned to take me back to Cell 27.
(Continued in Part 17