People who have not taken heat baths cannot believe how good they feel. The Native Americans consider it a religious experience. Finlanders reject that idea for very practical reasons. If it is religious act, then you can only take the bath at certain times or with certain ceremonies. Finns want their saunas whenever they can.
James Makinen was sitting in his father’s sauna for his regular Saturday night bath. He loved his father’s sauna. His father had worked for years to get the size of the room to match the size of the stove. Too large a stove and the heat could get too intense and ruin the tranquility of the bath. Too small and the room could become cold-under 100 degrees-by Finnish standards during the bath. James had only been in the sauna for five minutes barely able to get acclimated for the normal one-hour bath. His father sat next to him. Neither man talked. They let the dry heat soak into their bodies.
Used to the heat, James poured some water on the top bench to cool it and climbed up to the hotter ceiling temperatures. As the heat penetrated his body, he considered what had happened to him that week. By the time he reviewed in his mind the phone call he placed on Friday to the union lawyer, he had relaxed enough to calmly analyze everything she had said. She had told him that over the last three years, seventeen teachers in the state had formal sexual complaints filed against them. Only two had been proven. Out of the remaining fifteen, five teachers had kept their jobs. Those five districts had not made any public announcements and had let the professionals investigate their cases. Six of the others had won their cases and had received back pay but had not been given their jobs back. The remaining four had won every case in court, but instead of paying any money, the districts had kept appealing the awards. She felt that the remaining four teachers would never receive any back pay. The districts had already paid more in lawyers’ fees than the court awards.
The more James thought about the conversation, the more he became convinced he would not take it anymore. He heard his father fill the dipper at the faucet near the cement floor. He handed his wash cloth to his dad to wet.
James covered his face with the cold wet cloth. He heard his father throw the water on the rocks covering the stove. He listened to the rocks sizzle, then felt the hot steam roll down off the ceiling. Needles of heat penetrated his body as the steam transferred its heat. Finally, James had to go to the lower bench. Careful to sit where his feet had been resting so his bottom wouldn’t be burnt, he let the heat slowly soak through his body, dropping the blood pressure and relaxing the muscles. In the calm of the heat-induced lethargy, he let his mind plan his moves for the coming week.
He heard his father wet some cedar boughs and briefly heat them on the rocks. He took one and gently slapped his body. The heat had relaxed his muscles and dropped his blood pressure to close to dangerous levels. The gentle slaps would tighten the muscles and bring the pressure back up.
James and his father cycled the heat up once more, then doused themselves with cold water and went into the cool dressing room. There they stayed until the steam stopped rising from their bodies. They repeated the process.
The only conversation between the two men occurred when they were cooling in the dressing room. The heat from the sauna seemed to let each know everything they needed to know from the other. The only two unusual items talked about were Jim’s request to borrow a 200-pound nail magnet from his father and his father’s request that Jim join them on Sunday morning at their church. His father sensed that his son was in trouble.
A 200-pound nail magnet didn’t weigh 200 pounds but it was capable of lifting a 200-pound weight. They were used for collecting small metal objects such as roofing nails from the ground after re-shingling a roof. His father wondered what Jim would be using it for.
* * * *
Tom Peterson was a young pastor. He had been minister of the Chapel of God Church for only a year. He still felt the passion and enthusiasm of life in the Bible College when they talked about The Church fighting the things of the world. What he didn’t know and what most people attending the politically active Protestant denominations don’t know, is that the fight against the ‘world’ now being waged by the churches is mostly a creation of their own making. Peterson’s bible college teachers knew that competition brought the best out of a group. In sports, the competition is easy to define. But bible colleges taught theology, and for theological competition, you needed an opponent. Any education the religious couldn’t control has always been a safe target for a church to compete against. The college instructors taught that the public education system was a religion called secular humanism with the school’s educators as the religion’s priests and the school buildings as its churches.
One of Peterson’s first memories of his college days was a group of classmates driving to a public school passing out Christian flyers. In that group was a pretty young girl who would soon become his wife. It was in his second year at college during another evangelistic push that he decided that he would become a pastor of a church. He never knew that his church’s fight against humanism, Darwinism, secularism and any other newism was just made up so they could have an opponent to compete against in every town and village in this country.
Tom Peterson, still fresh from the indoctrination of the Bible College, hadn’t as yet tempered his thoughts of the schools as churches of secular humanism and of teachers as their priests. When he heard the rumors of a teacher having sexual relations with a high school girl, his anger flared. He pulled his class notes from college. He called the _good_ Christians and asked them to find out who the teacher was. He prayed and prepared for the calling down of hell and damnation.
Tom stood in front of his congregation. He had heard that the name of the teacher was James Makinen just before the service. He recognized the name. When he asked his deacon, Mr. Shermon, about the name, he was told that he was the son of the older couple who always sat in back. He decided to ask them to
come up to the front of the church after the service to pray for their son.
The congregation was waiting.
“The text today will be coming from Second Peter PAGEBREAK
CHAPTER two.” Tom waited as the people turned to the pages of their bibles. He loved to hear the rustle of the pages. While he waited, he noticed a few new faces in the congregation, a lone man in back, a young woman in front, and a family in the third row.
“I will read verses one, fourteen, and fifteen.
“‘But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction.
“Having eyes full of adultery, and that cannot cease from sin; beguiling unstable souls: an heart they have exercised with covetous practices; cursed children:
“Which have forsaken the right way, and are gone astray, following the way of Balaam the son of Bo’-sor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness;’ Amen!”
“False teachers!” Peterson yelled. “Bringing damnable heresies!”
“Teachers! Heretics! Teaching lies to your children. How we came from monkeys. The false prophecies of humanism…” Peterson stamped and yelled and pranced about the altar. He told of teachers denying the Lord. He told of humanism permitting drugs and sex. He told of one teacher in their own school! He had gotten to the section in his sermon where the adulterous teacher had just beguiled the unstable soul of an innocent student when the young woman in front got up and left. Everyone watched her. The man in back and the Makinen couple left next. The young family followed. Unknown to Peterson was that half of his congregation either were teachers or had sons and daughters or mothers and fathers that were. Before he could start his sermon again, the auditorium had emptied. The only ones left were two deacons and their families and an old man in a walker who had to wait for a ride to pick him up.
In the silence of the nearly empty church, the old man spoke up. “Son, you sure acted dumber than Balaam and not as smart as his ass today. You need to know what you’re talking about and who you are talking to before you open your mouth. I guess you now know how many teachers you had in your flock.”
* * * *
James Makinen woke in the pre-dawn light. He had slept badly. He kept seeing, in his mind, the soft curve of Lori Waithe’s back as she stood in the front pews of the church. He watched over and over again the swaying of her body as she strode out of the church. He had enjoyed watching her before. But after seeing her stride out of the church, it had changed from pleasure to desire. In his dreams, he kept reaching for her body. All he found was the shabby blanket he had on his bed.
Unable to go back to sleep and prevented from going to work, he decided to clear some of the brush from the swampy lowland in back of the trailer. He got an axe, a bow saw and a machete from the small shed he had built in back. He cut, chopped, and dragged brush into piles all day only stopping for a sandwich at noon.
It was late afternoon when he heard the honking and cars. A caravan pulled up along the road. Out of the cars and pickups poured high school boys and some of the wilder girls. A few threw empty beer cans at the trailer. A knot of rowdy kids got tangled on the steep sides of the highway ditch and tumbled into a pile of arms and legs and squeals. A girl at the bottom of the knot took the opportunity to grope her boyfriend’s crotch. The resulting squeals occupied three carloads of students and kept them out of the upcoming fight.
Makinen had learned early in his career that you never back down from a confrontation. He walked right up to the screaming kids. In his hand, he had the bow saw. The cars had arrived while he was cutting a small tree down. The saw had seemed to stay in his hands. He rocked the saw back and forth in his
hand as he walked to the kids. When he was only a few feet away from the mob, the swinging brought the saw up against his forearm. It seemed to fit. The steel tube of the bow saw ran along the edge of his forearm in the same classic way you see the police hold their batons on the late night cop shows. The saw blade ran along the outside edge of the arm protecting it.
The first student, an Arne Johanson, was swinging a tire iron. Behind him and to each side were a half a dozen other boys two of which had baseball bats. Arne didn’t wait. He and John had beat up other people for Pike. He had learned that the one who strikes first usually has the least bruises afterwards. He swung the iron at Makinen’s head. Instead of the crunch of metal against flesh that he expected, he heard the ring of metal against metal. Before he could recover, he felt excruciating pain in the back of his knee followed by the air leaving his chest when he landed with his back on the ground. It took him a full minute to catch his breath and open his eyes. When he did, he saw two of the boys with him with their hands raised, one had blood flowing from a ragged cut on his arm while the other had a foot long gash across his chest. Arne heard screams of terror from the distance and the sound of cars speeding away.
Makinen walked into his sight. Arne saw that the bow saw he held was bent at an angle with blood dripping from the blade. Makinen looked at them and shook his head.
“Stupid. Stupid. Stupid,” he said, still shaking his head. “Okay, boys, you grab Arne and start walking. Your friends left you. I’m going to call the sheriff’s department now. I want you a half mile down the road by the time they arrive. If you’re not, I will have to talk to you again. Understand?”
The two boys shook their heads ‘yes’ and dragged Arne to his feet. For the first time, Arne realized his leg was broken. He screamed himself unconscious. When he woke again, he was in the hospital.
* * * *
Henry Hakanen was finishing the last of the day’s paperwork when Nancy buzzed him and told him he had a call on line two. Al Gallea was leaving the office when Henry waved him to a stop.
“You’re coming with me on a call, Al,” Henry told him after he hung up the phone. As they were leaving the station, Henry told Nancy, “Send an ambulance up county six. Tell them they will find three injured boys walking down the road. Then send a deputy to the hospital. Tell him to hold the boys there until I get there to arrest them.”
Al asked, “What’s going on?”
“Some local punks tried to attack Makinen. We’ll get Makinen’s statement and then talk to the kids.”
When Henry and Al pulled up to Makinen’s trailer, they saw the dozen black tire marks left by squealing tires along the edge of the road. In the driveway halfway to the trailer, they saw a tire iron and a couple of baseball bats. Makinen was waiting for them, sitting on the trailer’s stairs. After they got out of their car, Al noticed that there were drops of blood on the bats.
“Al, would you collect the evidence while I talk to James?” Henry ordered.
Gallea went back to the car and got out a camera to photograph the scene. He walked back toward the trailer until he could overhear the conversation between his partner and Makinen.
“Henry, you’ve got three in the hospital. If you want the names of the others, get their names from them. I’m tired. Right now, I feel about a hundred.”
“Okay, Jim, but why don’t you stay with your parents until this thing settles down?”
“What, and have them show up there? I’m staying.”
“Jim, I can’t have you hurting any more kids… “
“Hold it, Henry. You’re the law. You take care of the problem. It’s your job, not mine.”
“I can’t have you hurting anyone else. I can put you in protective custody.”
“I’m staying… “
Al had to move past hearing distance to get pictures of the tire tracks on the road. When he started back to the car, Henry was carefully loading the baseball bats into the trunk. Makinen wasn’t in sight anymore. Al figured he went into the trailer.
“Henry, what went on here?”
“James was in back, doing some yard work. The kids pulled up more drunk then sober. They were yelling something about getting even for Jenny when they came at him. Three of them had those bats and the tire iron we put in back.
The other kids seemed to be along to see the fun. Makinen took their weapons away and everyone got scared and left.”
“Henry, there’s more to it than that. What else happened?”
“That’s all, Al.”
That was all Gallea got out of Hakanen about his talk with Makinen until they got back to the station. “I told Jim he should go somewhere until we could get things settled down. I even suggested he go to California to see his kids. All he did was look at me and say, ‘I’m not the one you should be worried about.’ We’ve got to work fast, Al!”
The two deputies got out of the station just before midnight. The three juveniles were booked on assault and battery charges. Two had been released into their parents’ custody, while Arne spent the night in the hospital so a specialist could view the x-rays of his leg in the morning before his release.
* * * *
James woke, drenched with sweat. When he concentrated, he could just remember the last few images of his nightmare. He was watching Lori walking away. He followed, enjoying the swaying of her body. He reached out to touch her shoulder. When he removed his hands, there was blood on her blouse. He looked at his hand. It was filled with blood. He woke. It was the second time that night that he had the same nightmare. He took a shower and went into the living room, turned the TV to the morning news shows. He slept finally, with no dreams, to the reading of the death tolls from across the world. One hundred killed in fighting in West Africa. Thousands die of diseases in Asia … earthquake in South America … bombing in Ireland … school bus in California…
* * * *
_The hands turn over the card._
_A man in armor sits on a large black horse. He has in his hands a circular disk inscribed with a star. The armored figure looks as solid and immovable as a stone mountain.