The summer before I entered college, I worked at a new shopping mall, just about to open. My favorite co-worker was a bit older than I, a good, solid worker, and had a bit more life experience than I had at the time.
By this time in my life, about to enter college, I'm trying to picture myself as anything but a priest. My model was my father, a very good businessman. I had seen my father in action-- addressing rooms with a large number of other businessmen, using his scary smart brain and sense of humor to solve a problem, and persuade others he was right. In TV and in the movies, it is always a man at a desk. I didn't like the idea of being a man at a desk.
I enjoyed that summer working to get the giant department story ready to open its doors. I learned about shipping and receiving, about floor displays and product placement, inventory, pricing, and other marketing tasks. I chose a BBA degree in Marketing Management because of that summer-- and also because it was not seminary which is where I knew I should be going.
Am I alone in this? That I can talk to work friends about some topics which I would never open with non-work friends or even family? Well, I have a track record of doing that. No one with whom I had a long relation had any idea, that I know of, that I had suspected a calling to the priesthood from an early age. It was a secret, but with my work-friend, Brad, I found it is easy to talk about spiritual things when he brought it up. I still kept that priestly part a secret, however.
The discussion about spiritual things was a good one-- and Brad ran with the theme, wanting to share something of a horror story in his own life about wanting to find the spiritual nature of the world, but not having any direction. This is what Brad told me, as best as I can recall it
Brad holds up his left hand, to indicate the three shortened fingers on that hand and says, "Let me tell you about what happened to my fingers.
"A few years ago, like my sophomore year in high school, some of my friends were experimenting with spiritualism. I was invited over to this guy's house to smoke some grass and hang out. There were five of us there, and we were drinking and smoking and listening to music; we had a pretty good buzz on.I tend to agree with Brad concerning the probability that if there was a spirit using that Ouija Board that night, it caused the accident, rather than foretold of it. Primarily based upon Saint Athanasius' Life of Antony, in which he speculates that demons do not know the future, I would suspect a demonic and malicious cause, rather than a warning about a certain future. Athanasius speculated that demons could appear to know the future by (and for example) witnessing an event, and then traveling at the speed of thought to a destination where it could then tell of the event as if it were happening at that instant. When news reached the far away destination, the humans would be amazed and assume the spirit had a useful power which it did not have.
"Someone pulls out this Ouija Board and started screwing around with it. This one girls starts saying that she knows how to use it correctly, and she would show us if we were really interested. I thought it was a toy, but she told us stories that were kind of intriguing. She swore that, sometimes, some neat stuff really did happen if you were serious about it. So, we start messing around with it sometimes when we would go over there.
"Well, she sets up an evening for us all to come over, and she is going to do some seance sort of thing. She's got the room all black, and lost of candles burning, no other light. She said that the color of the candles effects the types of spirits you call and never to use black candles. She has some red and some white candles burning-- but I notice she has some black ones she didn't light. I guess, she didn't always take her own advice. I forgot what she said the red ones did.
"She has the room all dark except for the candles and we are sitting around and she does this kind of prayer or chant and has us saying it with her. Honestly? I was thinking that there is something wrong with this girl. I don't think any of us were taking it seriously, but she was really into it. So, that little thing you put your fingers on with the Ouija Board starts moving after a while. I mean, she has her hands on it and one of my buddies has his fingers on it, too. He swears that he wasn't moving it and that it didn't feel like she was moving it.
"I was watching, and I tell you, it looked like it it was coming up off the board on its own-- maybe it really was moving by itself. I really can't say, but it did look like it, and my friend says it felt like it. You know? I guess you can't prove it; but, personally, I think she was doing it, somehow-- but maybe there was something weird going on at the same time-- I mean, not her.
"Someone else wanted to try, and they were taking turns. Some were screwing around, being funny, but with this one guy... I didn't know him real well, but it started moving. He said that the whole little plastic pointer thing came up off the board and floated under their fingers-- his and the girl's. I didn't see that, but he said that is what it felt like.
"They start moving their hands with it and it spells out B-R-A-D-D-A-N-G-E-R-3, and then goes off the edge. Everyone is looking at me, and I admit I was pretty freaked out. I'm thinking they are just screwing with me, but they both swear that is what the thing did-- they weren't doing it. It did it three times and then it stopped doing it, "Brad, Danger, 3."
"When I was leaving, the girl told me to be very careful, and to take it seriously. She promised that she had nothing to do with moving it-- that it wasn't a joke."
"So I go home, and really creeped out. I'm still awake at three in the morning, and I'm thinking, something bad is going to happen. Nothing happens and I go to sleep. I mean to tell you that three days later, I wanted to stay home from school, but I didn't and nothing happens. After a while I kind of forgot about it and decided that it really didn't mean anything.
"I'm out racing that summer, and go around a corner, and the guy inside of me loses traction. His back tire kind of kicks my back tire out, so I lose traction on the back and we are both going down. It was so stupid-- I mean I knew better. Just as instinct, I took my hand off the handlebar and put it out to break my fall. My hand goes straight into his chain, and 'zip' the ends of these three fingers are gone."
"Three fingers. Get it? well, I'm sitting at the hospital and waiting there in ER to be released. My Mom is there and she is real upset. It's no big deal, you know? But I'm thinking about the "Brad, Danger, 3" thing and start counting back. I went home and got a calendar. It was exactly three months, three weeks, and three days after that Ouija Board night.
"Here's the deal. If something really was going on that night, then, even so, nothing good came out of it. I still lost three fingers. It is a pretty weird coincidence, don't you think? But it didn't mean anything. I figure if it was some spiritual good, then that spiritual power would have done something to prevent it. But 'Brad, Danger, 3?' That is meaningless, who would have thought that meant three fingers in three months, 3 weeks and three days? It's worthless. I figure that if there was any spirit communicating with her through that Ouija Board, it was malicious. At most, it taunted me, and for all I know, it caused the accident to happen-- because it sure didn't do anything to help me avoid it."
That leads me to want to write of two more co-worker stories, that of Rick at IBM and that of Rock at CE Services. There is a common, thematic thread, so perhaps I consider these as Mission City stories, but which are gentle hints to spiritual work, rather than gentle images of adventures in that work. Perhaps it is that best stated as some stories are of the unseen reality and some stories are seen-- but equally mysterious.
Only when I sit at a keyboard and try to share these experiences (and the reader ought to realize that I intend to share these for the benefit of others, while also having a beneficial use for my own journey-- trying to put it all together in some understandable way-- the unseen and the seen being part of the same whole of our existence.
That, then leads me to speculate that there is a more subtle, gentle theme besides spiritual stories. Perhaps-- just perhaps, these co-worker stories suggest not just what I learn from others, but also that others seek to share their spirituality with me. In all three cases, they are not "ghost stories" but rather all three are moral stories.