Turn the Other Cheek

Elder Duncan rides a purple girl bike. The Schwinn he brought into the mission was stolen by El Monte Flores a year ago, and he salvaged a girl mountain bike from a church member who let him take it for free. The young man still has the Schwinn he brought to the field; he’s been out for three months while Elder Duncan has been out for twenty-one.

It’s dusk in Azusa, CA, in mid-January. The temperatures are mild, and people are out on their lawns. They lock their bikes at a stop sign on a street corner and start to knock doors. No luck at doors one and two. At house three, two Mexican men are hanging around in the driveway with a woman and a kid nearby. They have the hood of their car up, and they are poking around with tools. A large German shepherd stands next to them.

They approach and Elder Duncan says, “Hey, guys!”

The young man sees the dog and extends his hand. The shepherd smells it and nuzzles his hand. The young man scratches his ears.

“What’s up, vatos?” a man in a white muscle shirt says. “Out spreading the word tonight?”

“Yes, sir,” says Elder Duncan.

“That’s cool, man,” says the man. “I respect what you’re doing, but we’re Catholic.”

Elder Duncan banters some more with him, offers to talk further or say a prayer with them, but it’s obviously going nowhere. The young man continues to scratch the dog’s head and ears until Elder Duncan says, “All right, guys. Well, keep us in mind, and y’all have a great evening.”

He turns, and the young man turns with him. As he takes his first step away, he hears a snarl and feels a sharp stab at the bottom of his right butt cheek.

“Woah!” he yells.

“Roscoe!” the Mexican dude yells. “Oh, man, I’m so sorry. I don’t know why he did that. Are you okay?”

The young man feels the area, and there are at least four puncture holes in his pants. He touches his underwear through one and can feel it wet. He’s bleeding.

“Yeah, all good,” he says.

“Are you hurt? We need to call someone?” says the Mexican man.

“No, I’m good,” says the young man.

Elder Duncan looks at him. “Hey, Sister Beverley just lives right around the corner. Wanna stop there?”

The young man nods. “Yeah. Should probably treat it with antiseptic or something.”

They head back to their bikes and go to Sister Beverley’s house. Fortunately, she’s home, and when she hears the story, she laughs and lets them in. She hands them a first aid kit, and the young man says, “So this is awkward, Elder Duncan, but I can’t see it or reach it very well. I’m afraid I need you to wipe my butt.”

In the bathroom, Elder Duncan cleans him up and says, “It looks to me like he kind of grazed the top with his teeth. If he had turned his head, he could have ripped your hamstring out.”

“Awesome,” the young man says, wincing as Elder Duncan wipes alcohol around the edges of the wound.

Back out on their bikes, the young man says, “This really freaking hurts. Can we just head back to the pad and I can get a shower and really clean it up?”

“Sure,” says Elder Duncan.

The young man rides behind the girl bike. He says, “Gotta tell you, it’s really hard to sit on this seat.”

Elder Duncan turns and hollers, “Hey, when we report the day to the zone leaders, I think you should report.”

“Really?”

“Yeah. When they ask, ‘How was your day?’ you have to say, ‘Honestly, it bit.'” And he roars with laughter. Then he says, “And they should say, ‘Well, do better. How does that sit with you?'” He laughs again. Then he says, “‘Do you like Elder Duncan?’ And then you say, ‘He’s a pain in the butt.'”

The young man is laughing now while wincing as he rides.

“Hey, Elder Laws. Isn’t there a scripture about this?”

“Uh, I don’t think so.”

“Sure there is. What’s Jesus’s advice if a dog bites your butt?”

“No idea.”

“Turn the other cheek!”

The young man laughs again.

“Know what the dog’s real problem is?” says Duncan.

“No, what?”

“He covets his neighbor’s ass.”

The young man stands up to pedal, and a few minutes later, they roll into the driveway of the home where they stay with a church member.

Duncan looks at him. “Remember, if the zone leaders tell you to do better tomorrow, just say, ‘Yeah, butt.'”

He can’t stop laughing, and he smacks the young man on the shoulder who laughs with him as they walk inside.

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