“Fifty bucks!” he spouted as he quickly pulled the sword behind him as though protecting it from being snatched away.
“I gave you my word that I would give you a reward and I will, but you crossed a line with this. You know I have always treated you well by helping you when I can. Stealing from my dojo was an insult. You are never to come into my dojo ever again. Do you understand? Never again!” The negotiation and conversation ended there with his agreement. All that was left was the payoff and the exchange. “We need to walk up to my car to get the money.”
We walked over the first of the three hills protecting his camp and stepped onto the sun-soaked railroad tracks. Walking side be side, we made our way to the bottom of the slope that lead back up to the parking lot, the edge of my world. I was still fearful that things would not work out. Johnny still held sword and he certainly was not someone who had earned any trust from me. So who should walk up the hill in the lead? I motioned for him to go on first and he did. About 10 feet from the summit he turned around and looked down at me walking a few feet behind him. I did not know what to expect. He reached out and almost shyly passed the sword over to me. His face showed remorse; at least I think it did.
I climbed up the remaining few feet to my car to get Johnny his money. The payoff was made and Johnny oddly thanked me profusely. I put the sword onto the back seat and closed the car door. Johnny meekly asked me if I could drive him a mile or so up the road to get breakfast. I could not help but feel sad compassion toward him and toward the circumstances that he lived in. I agreed to bring him.
He babbled on about how this money was going to be really helpful to him. My thoughts went to how I was going to call my friend and tell him about retrieving his sword. I had succeeded. I had done what I set out to do. I felt proud. The ride over to IHOP’s breakfast place brought Johnny right alongside the liquor store. Was that his true destination? Did I understand him any better now than I did the day before? My pride evaporated with my next thought: Had I just given an alcoholic an easy way to drink himself into oblivion? Would he be able to control himself or would that money damage him terribly.