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The Ultimate Failure

By Jeffrey A. Davis

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The room is cold. I look around at the four walls, three of which are empty and one of which holds a copy of the FBI's "Most Wanted" list, the door and the thermostat. Quickly, so that nobody comes in to see me out of my seat, I lunge to my feet and dart to the heat control. The temperature in here is 75 degrees. Why am I shivering?

Voices in the hall. I move quickly back to my seat and plant myself in it just in time to avoid being noticed by the large man who enters. He finishes a conversation with an associate in the hall, then moves to stand on the side of the table opposite of me. After taking as good a look at him as I dare, I find it rather strange that he is a policeman. He's wearing a "Current River Rat" T-shirt and a pair of army green knee-length shorts. A baseball cap with the words "Doniphan Sheriff's Department" on the front sits upon his head. His badge is the charm of a simple, silver chain that hangs around his neck. Stuffed under his arm is a manila folder.

But I mostly notice his feet. I know that, by looking down, I can avoid eye contact much longer, so I examine his feet. He wears a pair of gray flip-flops with a blue strap looping between his big and second toes. His toenails are too long and yellow.

"I'm Deputy Stevens," I hear his deep voice rumble. "I'm here to take your statement." I look up to see him staring at me. He drops the folder onto the table, then folds his massive arms across his equally massive chest. I can tell now that he has no intention of being friendly.

I clear my throat and, looking back to the horrid events that bring me here this evening, I find my voice. "I'm . . .."

"Wait," he interrupts impatiently. Seating himself, he opens the folder and takes out a blank sheet of paper. "Okay . . . Name?"

"Allen Tiernon."

"Date of birth?"

"March 2, 1975."


I'm getting irritated. What do these questions have to do with Michael? "College student."

He looks up at me then, his crooked smile condescending. I wonder how much of an education that this meathead has?

"Excuse me," I say as politely as I can, "but what do my birthday and job have to do with this statement?"

"Just formalities." His voice has a cold edge to it. I'm not to ask questions. I'm only to answer them. "Well, then, let's get down to business, shall we?"

I nod and pray silently for guidance on how to answer these questions. He doesn't seem to notice my plea to God.

"How long did you know Mr. Gibson?"

"About a year."

"And where did you meet him?" He is busily scribbling down something, though he seems to be writing an awful lot, considering my three-word answer.

"I met him at a Dungeons and Dragons tournament in Poplar Bluff last summer."

He stops scribbling and looks at me intently. "You played Dungeons and Dragons with Michael?"

"Yes." Another question that has nothing to do with anything. He goes back to scribbling.

"Did you ever do any kinds of drugs with him?"

"No," I reply. "Never touch the stuff."

"Were you two drinking buddies?"

"I drank with him a couple of times . . . before I was twenty-one."

"Who bought your alcohol?" I think back to my wild youth, as this hammer-headed hick is probably thinking of it. In truth, it wasn't been very long. I started drinking when I was twenty and quit after going back to church and rededicating my life to Christ. My partying days lasted all of six months.

"You'd be surprised at how many adults will buy for you."

"Anybody you know personally buy you booze?"

"My friend John did once," I answer truthfully. I feel lousy for telling him about that, but I can't lie.

"And did he buy the rum that Michael was drinking last night?" He had stopped writing and was staring at me again.

I almost laugh at that. John and Michael hated each other. John only bought us beer once and he only did it that one time because I had asked him to. He wouldn't have gone anywhere near Michael, let alone have bought for him. He'd even tried to talk me out of going.

To answer the officer's question, I simply shake my head.

"Did you ever take part in blood-letting or any other cultic activities?"

"No," I say in shock. "I have never done anything like that."

"You said that you had played Dungeons and Dragons . . ." he starts to argue.

"Which is simply a game and has no real ties to the occult." He glares at me angrily for interrupting him, then moves back to his paper. "Why did you go there last night?"

Why indeed? Three months prior, I had sworn that I would never darken my alcoholic friend's doorstep again. I hadn't wanted what he had. His parents were wealthy and gave him anything material that he wanted. But nothing made him happy and I had felt that he was dragging me down.

Then, I'd found what I needed for my happiness. I'd found God. And I had wanted to share Him with everyone. And that everyone had included Michael. "I wanted to introduce him to God."

I can barely get the words out, so ashamed of my failure am I. "I wanted him to know the joy that I felt." The deputy doesn't miss a word. After he stops writing, he realizes what I said.

"God?" he asks, his voice tinged with sarcasm.

That sarcasm about my Lord makes my angry. "You know . . . God? The Sovereign Creator of the Universe?"

The deputy swears, then asks, "How do you introduce someone to God?"

Undaunted by this professional's vulgarity, I respond, "To tell someone about Jesus' sacrifice is to introduce them to God."

By now, Stevens seems to have forgotten the purpose of me coming here. "And what makes you think that he needed God?"

How did God get on trial here? "Michael was an alcoholic atheist. You figure it out."

"Everyone has a right to their opinions, young man."

"True," I respond. "I'm relatively new to being a Christian, too. But I believe that there is a hell and that, if I don't tell others about it and what Christ did to keep them from going there, there will be a lot of opinions that will be tinged with fire." I look him squarely in the eye and say, "Is it so wrong that I didn't want my friend to burn there?"

The officer sighs in frustration and leans back in his chair. "Well, did you talk to him about God?"

I look down at my hands, unconsciously wringing on top of the table. "I did until I realized that he wasn't listening."

"And when did you figure this out?"

I move back to that night. I see me still professing Christ to my friend, even as he pulled the trigger on the gun that held me hostage . . . The gun that had only one empty chamber. He could have killed me then, but one-sixth of fate was on my side. "When he tried to shoot me."

"How long did he hold you captive?" His business tone has come back into play.

"Three hours. Maybe a little more." I shiver again and bite my lower lip to force the tears back.

He continues to write as he asks, "How did you get away?"

I can see Michael's parents coming in the front door. I can see his father coaxing him to put the gun down. I can see my friend's eyes locked solely on the older man. "His parents came home." I can hear myself speaking in the present, but I am less than twenty-four hours in the past. Mrs. Gibson motions for me to leave and I move to the door without hesitation. I can hear them talking and I know that I can safely get out. I don't look back as I step out the door into the chilly, early March air and head directly to my car.

I will live to see another day.

I don't look back as I turn my radio on and raise the volume full blast to drown out the terror that I've felt this night. And I don't realize that my radio drowns out something else . . a gunshot that signals the ultimate failure of my God-appointed mission.

"Mr. Tiernon!"

I jump as I snap back to the present. The deputy is staring at me and I avert my gaze in embarrassment. "I think that I have enough from you," he says.

I nod as two tears break though my defenses and trace their way down my cheeks. Standing, I turn to leave as I hear him say, "You don't have to feel guilty." It's the first compassionate thing that he's said all night.

"I can't help it," I say as I wipe my hand across my face, my body facing the door and my head bowed toward the ground. I then look up at the door as I move silently toward it. "Hell is worse than any bullet. And forever is a very long time."


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