Who Is this “Bronze Man”?
From my soon-to-be-released Short Stories for the Soul:
In late afternoon I met a woman in a park. She sat in a circle of elementary school kids, doing crafts with Popsicle sticks and telling stories about what’s important in life. I paused to watch, and she called me over to help. She said I looked as if I needed to join in as much as the kids.
Not sure how or why to say no, I sat down with them. I listened and helped. I asked her why she did this, and she said, “It’s an expression of my faith.”
Now as I lay in bed, I still felt the odd happiness that coursed through me when I helped the kids glue Popsicle sticks together and listened to the woman’s stories. And I felt bothered because I couldn’t escape how right she was—that I needed to join her.
Finally I drifted into sleep, and perhaps a dream. . . .
I found myself walking on a city sidewalk.
From a horde of sweat-drenched bodies bustling through a cavern of concrete, glass, and steel, a man emerged and stood at a street corner. Signal lights traded red, green, and yellow, while trucks ground by and cars weaved around them.
The man’s skin was not so much dark as it was bronzed, otherworldly, like a living statue. Yet he wore blue jeans and a white shirt. Several people met his gaze and did double takes. His eyes were luminescent and unsettling. I couldn’t help but follow him.
He walked to the city hall, where men and women in dark suits and dresses marched up and down a hillside of steps, past pillars and heavy doors. They carried briefcases, checked their watches, and held cellphones to their ears. The Bronze Man turned away. He walked through the financial district, stopped briefly under the towers of glass and concrete, and went on. He passed through the garment and electronics districts. When he would not buy, sellers turned toward the next passerby. He ventured into places not marked on the map, where people lived in cardboard boxes and others carried guns and sold bags of white powder. The Bronze Man shook his head and kept walking.
He stopped in a trash-filled park then raised his hands and his voice. “This land was once a vast forest, but this city you have built on it now subjugates your souls. I am here to heal this place and to save you from yourselves.”
People stopped. “Where did he come from?”
He raised his hands again: “Turn around! The city is to be changed. Come, follow me.”
The people stared. “Weirdo.”
The Bronze Man turned and continued walking through the city. Some people returned to their shopping and their business. A few kept staring. Others followed with me just to see what he would do next.
As he walked, the followers increased to a small crowd.
“To change a city,” he said, “we need hands to work. Give me your hands!”
“What will you give us?” they asked.
“A new city.”
“Pffft! Yeah, right.”
“Who will give me their hands?” asked the Bronze Man.
“I need both hands to work.” “I need both hands to sail my yacht.”
“Is anyone willing to give me their hands?”
“I will.” A voice rose from the back of the crowd as a young woman emerged. She held a toddler in one arm and clutched an older one with the other. “Without hands I can still survive. Though I must cook and clean, my children and husband will help.”
Like lightning, the Bronze Man thrust his hand at her, and in the blinding flash both her hands were gone. I gasped, along with the crowd, as she tottered from the shock. No blood or gore, her hands simply disappeared. At first bewildered, she looked at the clean stumps at the ends of her arms, then the look in her eyes turned to resolve. With the toddler still in one arm and the older child holding the other, she followed behind the Bronze Man.
What kind of person is this? I wondered. . . .