Tuesday, May 15, 2012
A lonesome windmill wobbles in deliberate circles as its tail interminably forces it to always face into the relentless west Texas winds. The elevated Texaco sign on the horizon is the only other landmark the dark stranger sees as the pale rider deliberately moves across the desolate land. The red and white porcelain sign sharply contrasts against the stark background and quietly sighs in the wind above the isolated weather worn country store.
The dark stranger enters the aging store as unsettled dust devils whirl in the distance amidst the rising afternoon heat. He confronts the apathetic clerk at the register who probably hasn’t seen a customer all day today and would appear to be satisfied with calling it a day while turning over the dog eared “closed” sign at the front door.
The clerk hardly looks up to ask “Will there be anything else”? He hasn’t taken notice that death is at his doorstep.
The foreboding stranger replies “I don’t know, will there”?
The clerk now senses that the atmosphere in the dusty store has become tense and threatening as he sheepishly asks “Is something wrong”? He then begins the most high stakes conversation of his life.
“You don’t know what you’re talking about do you? What’s the most you ever lost in a coin toss”?
“I don’t know. I couldn’t say”.
The dark stranger flips a quarter onto the counter and covers it with his fingers. “Call it” he sternly demands.
“Well, we need to know what we’re callin’ it for here….I didn’t put nothin’ up”.
“Yes, you did. You’ve been putting it up your whole life…..You just didn’t know it. You know what date is on this coin? 1958. it’s been traveling twenty two years to get here and now its here and it’s either heads or tails and you have to call it.”
“I need to know what I stand to win”.
“Everything. You stand to win everything. Call it”.
The reticent clerk finally wakes up to the reality that the stakes are high, very high. The stakes are his very life that is now squarely in the hands of this dark stranger that has suddenly invaded his boring existence for all time. He looks the hit man in the eyes and with all the conviction of a man who is looking deep into his executioner’s twisted soul reluctantly says “Alright, heads then”.
The two men remain transfixed as the high stakes coin toss has suddenly transformed a boring every day afternoon into a heart pounding, nerve tingling, jaw setting, life bursting moment. They both stare at the dusty counter as George Washington’s profile slowly appears from under the stranger’s fingers and reprieves the clerk’s life.
“Well done” intones the dark stranger. “It’s now your lucky coin. Don’t put it in your pocket and mix it with the other coins so that it becomes just another coin, which it is.”
That bit of riveting dialogue from the movie No Country for Old Men is one of my all time favorite scenes. The environment is stark, the dialogue is measured, and the casting is perfection. The country store clerk has just had his life jolted into overdrive and it slowly begins to soak into his mind that he has just bet his very life on a coin toss. Yet it was just his temporary mortal life. How many of us don’t give much more effort into deciding how we will gamble on the fate of our immortal spiritual life? Some believe God’s son when he tells us that he is the way, the truth and the life everlasting. Some believe otherwise. If they’re right, neither party will ever know. If they’re wrong, they’ve sadly lost a restored and eternal life in the loving presence of their creator. And it’s worth more effort than a coin toss.