Lēp ov Fāθ

 

            A brij konstrukt۔t ov rōp and paralel wōod۔ē plank۔s span۔d a dēp gulq wiθin Nōrθ Amerika kontinent’s Rok۔ē Mountin۔s.  Θe brij wuz θe ōnlē link bētwēn θe gulq’s komerxal sīd (a xak ajāsent tū a park·landlot) and it’s natūral sīd (fōrest۔ē wiθ tal pīn trē-s).  Far bēlō, Snāk river – dur springtīm a powerful tōrent ov melt۔d snō, but bī lāt sumer yēr 2016 mēr۔lē a trikel ov blū-grā water mēander۔d θrū a bōlder-strū۔t riverbed bētwēn stēp grēn fōrest۔s.

            Θat Sundā mōrnin θe park·landlot wuz ful ov kar۔s.  Yung man۔s and woman۔s weār۔ing kolorful spōrt۔wear sit۔d on benq۔s ōr stand۔d outsīd θe wīt-pānt۔ē xak top۔t wiθ a sīn rēd۔ing, Skip's Bunjē Jump۔s.  Everē sumer dur θe past seven yēr۔s θe enterprīz had atrakt۔d hundred۔s ov yungstōr۔s, al brāv enuf tū dīv of θe hī brij, θā's ānkel۔s fasen۔d tū a long elastik ruber bunjē kōrd hūz strenkθ and elastisitē wuz kārful۔lē kalibrāt۔t tū alow θā tū fal almōst – but not kwīt – tū θe rok۔ē botom, bēfōr yank۔ing θā bak up tū θe brij.

            Θe oposit leftsīd ov θe gulq wuz stil komplēt۔lē wīld.  Θik tangel۔s ov grēn bux۔s and plant۔s strugel۔d fōr eksistens bēnēθ a kanopē ov tal trē-s.  Bird۔s qirp۔d, and a brēz karē۔ing θe sent ov pīn rusel۔d trē branq۔s.  On an almōst level klērin a grūp ov Kristēan devōt۔ōrs – 17 yung man۔s and woman۔s weār۔ing grā rōb۔s and ruber sandal۔s – kamp۔d wiθin sīt ov θe rōp brij, dur θā's first dā ov a seven-dā۔s-long rēlijus rētrēt.  Θā sit۔d in lōtus posixun, fōot۔s tuk۔d bēnēθ legkaf۔s, fās۔ing Kaθolik prēst Mīkel Donovan, a xōrt θin bald man wiθ intens brown ī۔s, stand۔ing on θe lō end ov θe slōp.  In akordans wiθ his kustom bēfōr hē start۔d instrukxun, θe prēst sā۔d a sīlent prār, ask۔ing God tū help hē transfer spiritūal wizdom.  His topik θat mōrnin wuz fāθ.

            Wen hē fīnal۔lē spēk۔d, it wuz in a loud klēr vōis in England۔ēz langwij, wiq slīt۔lē ekō۔d.  Fāθ rēvēl God in our sōul۔s.  It prōmōt spiritūal vītalitē and rīqus frūtful۔nes.  It iz bī our fāθ in God θat wē mā enter θe king۔dom ov heven.” 

            A yung woman wiθ brown hār۔s kut۔d xōrt alīk a bōē’s, weār۔ing nō kosmetik۔s, ask۔d, “Wut iz θe diferens bētwēn fāθ and rēson?”

            Anser۔d prēst Donovan, “Rēson iz θe meθod ov sīens, lojik θe tūol ov filosofē, fāθ θe wā ov rēlijon.  Fāθ iz not kontrārē tū rēson; it iz bēyond rēson, a hī۔er fakultē θan rēson, θe suprēm aserxun ov hyūman θot۔s.  Rēson kan kwestyon, and help stābilīz fāθ, wīel fāθ kan suplement bōθ rēson and lojik.  Sīens rēlī on fāθ mōr θan sīensōr۔s admit.  Evolv۔t rēlijon rēlī entīer۔lē on fāθ.

            Ask۔d a yung man wiθ a xāv۔d hed, “Wut about bēlēf?”

            “Intelektūal akseptans ov a tēq۔in az trū iz mēr bēlēf, not fāθ.  Nēθer iz sertintē nor konvikxun fāθ.  Bēlēf atān θe level ov fāθ wen it mōtivāt līf and xāp bēhāvyōr.”  Hē poz۔d.  “Dur rēsent۔est haf-milenēum, rēson hav gān۔d in popyūlaritē at θe ekspens ov fāθ.  And – admit۔lē – rēson bās۔d on lojik and observāxun hav prōdūs۔d our wondrus teknolojē—”

            A blod-kurdel۔ē skrēm xater۔d θe mōrnin’s trankwilitē, az al 17 devōt۔ōrs swivel۔d θā's hed۔s tōward θe brij, of wiq a yung man weār۔ing a yelō xōrt·trouser had plunj۔d hed-first tōward θe rok۔ē strēm – tū wut wud hav bēn his sertin deθ dū۔d not θe finger۔θik blak ruber kōrd ataq۔d tū his ānkel۔s slō, θen halt, θen fīnal۔lē – not far from θe rok۔ē botom – rēvers his down۔ward mōxun, and yank hē bak up tū θe sāftē ov θe brij.

            “…teknolojē suq az bunjē kōrd۔s,” θe prēst kontinyū۔d (tū sniker۔s from his lisen۔ōrs) “and, impresiv۔lē, send۔ing pēpel۔s tū our mūn.  Yet fāθ iz ēven mōr powerful.  Al θing۔s iz posibel fōr θā hū hav fāθ, akord۔in tū θe Bībel.  In rēkōrd۔t histōrē nōbodē profes۔d mōr fāθ, and nōbodē perfōrm۔d mōr mirakel۔s, θan Jēsus, hū tel۔d wē:  Fāθ kan mūv mountin۔s.”

            ۔d Andrew, θe ōnlē membōr ov θe grūp wiθ a substanxal amount ov flex on his bōn۔s, "Mountin۔s iz fōrm۔d dur θousand۔s ov yēr۔s bī gradūal kolixun۔s ov kontinental plāt۔s far bēnēθ planet Erθ’s surfas. How kud fāθ mūv a mountin?"

            Θe kwestyon linger۔d alīk θe mōrnin mist trap۔t in θe gulq.  Fīnal۔lē θe prēst sā۔d, “How kud a mēr karpentōr bēkum θe gīd۔ing līt fōr bilyon۔s ov pēpel۔s around θe planet dur θousand۔s ov yēr۔s?  Jēsus fās۔d enōrmus obstakal۔s, yet suksēd۔d bēkuz his fāθ wuz absolūt.”  Θen wiθ his rītsīd hand hē jestūr۔d on his qest θe fōur end۔s ov θe krūsifiks, θe signal fōr devōt۔ōrs tū xut θā's ī۔s in sīlent prār. 

*

            Wēkend۔s wuz espexal۔bē bizē fōr Skip Robinson's bunjē trādkō, wiq had bēkum popyūlar wiθ tēnājōr۔s and yung adult۔s from az far awā az Koloradō provins's kapital·sitē Denver.  Mōst wuz yūniversitē stūdent۔s, ōr rēsent gradūāt۔ōrs, from midel ōr up۔er sōxalklas familē۔s; θā weār۔d stīl۔ē klōz, ōn۔d ōr had akses tū kar۔s, θā's resīdens۔s kontān۔d ēlektronik۔proses۔ōrs and vidēō·odēō entertānment sistem۔s.  Fyū θink۔d muq about rēlijon, wiq θā and mōst ov θā's pēr۔s konsider۔d non۔relevant tū θe modern world; if pres۔d, θā wud sā θā wuz agnostik.  Wut θōs present θat Sundā mōrnin xār۔d wuz adventūrus dār۔ing (poses۔ing enuf kouraj tū jump of a brij θe hīt ov an āt-flōr·level۔ē bild۔in and frē-fal hed-first tōward a rok۔ē riverbed), and fāθ in teknolojē (poses۔ing enuf konfīdens tū bēlēv θat bēfōr θā's hed hit۔d θe rok۔ē riverbed θe elastik kōrd tī۔d tū θā's ānkel۔s wud halt θā's fal and pul θā bak up).  Wut render۔d θe sītplās partikyūlar۔lē entīs۔ē wuz θe brij itself:  ōld-faxun۔ē, konstrukt۔t ov rōp۔s, it’s flōr līn۔d wiθ paralel plank۔s, wiθ twū rōp handrāil۔s on ēq sīd.  It konstant۔swā۔d, bōθ from fōot·step۔s and from θe brēz θat blō۔d down·hil θrū θe wīden۔ing gulq.

            Θat sun۔ē mōrnin at eksakt۔bē nīn ōklok entreprenōr Skip – at 36 yēr۔s ōld, stil wiθ a V-xāp tōrsō, muskyūlar arm۔s and leg۔s displā۔d bēyond his xōrt-slēv۔ē “Dār tū Bunjē!” inskrīb۔t red tēxirt and dark۔bē blū xōrt·trouser۔s, and wiθ blond hār۔s xāv۔d tū disgīz his bald۔nes – step۔d out ov his xak, θe signal θat his instrukxun۔s tū first-tīm۔ōrs wud bēgin.  Az hē strīd۔d tōward θe gaθer۔d yungstōr۔s, hē survā۔d θe woman۔s, won ov hū hē wud target tū slēp wiθ θat nīt.

            Wen al 21 jump۔ōrs had asembel۔d on a paq ov lon, Skip sā۔d, “Bēfōr wē bēgin jump۔ing, a brēf intrōdukxun, bēgin۔ing wiθ a bit ov bunjē histōrē.  Dur dekād 1950۔s a xip's krū from England bring۔d bak a vidēō fētūr۔ing sōkald land dīv۔ōrs from won ov θe Vanuatu islands in θe Pasifik Ōxen ēst۔ward ov Ostrālēa, xō۔ing yung man۔s jump۔ing from a tal wōod۔ē platfōrm wiθ vīn۔s tī۔d tū θā's ānkel۔s, az test۔s ov θā's kouraj.  Θe mōxun·fōtō۔s inspīer۔d Kris Bakōr ov Bristol, England, tū yūtilīz an elastik rōp tū imitāt θā's fēt۔s.  Θe first modern bunjē jump okur۔d dur yēr 1979 from θe 245-fōot hī Klifton Suspenxun brij in Bristol sitē, England, bī fōur membōr۔s ov Dānjerus Spōrt۔s Klub.  Θe jump۔ōrs wuz afterward arest۔t, but kontinyū۔d bunjē jump۔in, inklūd۔ing hēr in Nōrθ Amerika from San Fransiskō’s Gōlden Gāt Brij, θus spred۔ing θe konsept world-around.  Bī yēr 1982 θā wuz lēp۔ing from mōbil krān۔s and hot ār balūn۔s.  Θe first komerxal bunjē jump۔in operāt۔ōr wuz an Aotēarōan, mistōr A. J. Haket, hū had jump۔d from Īfel Tower in Paris.  Dur θe dekād۔s sins θen, θe fenomenon hav spred۔d around θe planet.”  Hē ad۔d, “Θe word bunjē iz Aotēarōa۔ē England۔ēz, slang fōr `elastik strap’.”

            “How sāf iz it?” a petite redhed wiθ a bōē۔ix xāp ask۔d.

            “Gōod kwestyon,” rēplī۔d Skip, tū gigel۔s.  “Despīt θe inhērent dānjer ov jump۔ing from a hī hīt, several milyon۔s suksesful jump۔s hav okur۔d sins 1980.  Θat iz atribyūt۔abel tū bunjē operāt۔ōrs’ rigorus۔lē konfōrm۔ing tū standard۔s and gīdlīn۔s, suq az dubel-qek۔ing kalkyūlāxun۔s and fitin۔s fōr evrē jump.  Hēr wē yūtilīz ōnlē faktōrē-prōdūs۔t brād۔t xok kōrd, wiq iz komprīz۔d ov manē lāteks strand۔s enklōz۔d in a tuf outer kover – aplī۔d wen θe lāteks iz pre-stres۔d, sō θat θe kōrd's rēsistans tū ekstenxun iz alredē signifikant at θe kōrd's natūral lenθ.  It alow a hard۔er, xarp۔er bouns, and iz sāf۔er and mōr durabel θan qēp۔er non۔brād۔t kōrd۔s.  Wē ofer bōθ ānkel ataqment۔s (wiq alow a grāt۔er sens ov frē-fal۔ing) and harnes۔s (in wiq som jump۔ōrs fēel mōr sekyūr).  Ī personal۔lē qek ēq jump۔ōr – twīs.”

            An aθlētik-apēr۔ing blak۔bē skin۔ē man ask۔d, “Wons yū xō wē how tū dū it, kant wē purqas our ōn bunjē kōrd۔s and jump bī ourself۔s?”

            Skip xāk۔d his hed sīd-tū-sīd, nō.  “Tyū dānjerus.  A relativ۔bē komon mistāk – won yū wil never hav tū worē about hēr – iz yūtilīz۔ing tyū long a kōrd.  Θe kōrd must bē substanxal۔lē xort۔er θan θe hīt ov θe jump۔in platfōrm tū alow it rūm tū streq.  How muq xort۔er depend on θe kōrd’s faktōrē spesifīkāxun۔s, and on θe jump۔ōr’s bodē maswāt.  Ēven suq konsiderāxun۔s az wind spēd, if signifikant, must bē faktōr۔t in.  Amatūr۔s tend tū ōverestimāt θe permit۔abel lenθ ov θe kōrd – a mistāk θat if akt۔d upon wud bē fātal.  Θerfōr it iz wīz۔er tū pā fōr profexunal bunjē ekspertēz suq az yū۔s get hēr.”  Poz.  “Bī θe wā, if somθin dū gō rong and yū krax hed-first intū a bōlder, wē ofer a ful rēfund.”

            Laughs and gigel۔s, miks۔d wiθ a fyū frown۔s.

            “Wut if wē desīd not tū jump?” ask۔d a brūnet, her būb۔s and butok۔s bulj۔ing out ov her blak bikēnē.

            “Yōr dēsixon, ovkōrs,” axūr۔d Skip wiθ a frend۔ē smīl.  “But if yū qānj yōr mīnd, our polisē iz not tū rēfund yōr monē.”  Hē lōok۔d around θe krowd.  “Won oθer θing:  θe brij bouns and swā, espexal۔lē wiθ manē pēpel۔s on it.  Θerfōr, under al sirkumstans۔s, alwās hōld tīt۔lē tū θe rōp handrāil wiθ atlēst won hand.  Wē dōnt want anēbodē jump۔ing wiθout a bunjē!”  Hē wāt۔d wīel several in θe grūp gigel۔d.  “We hav never had an injurē hēr, and Ī intend tū kēp it θat wā.  If nō oθer kwestyon۔s, lets bēgin.”

            Wiθ a xout evrēbodē hed۔d tōward θe brij, som trot۔ing.  First in θe kyū wuz a tal muskyūlar man weār۔ing a blū-and-wīt strīp۔ē xōrt·trouser.  Al waq۔d wīel Skip fasen۔d won end ov a blak elastik bunjē kōrd around his ānkel۔s, and dubel-qek۔d tū bē sertin θe oθer end wuz sekyūr۔lē fasen۔d tū bōθ ov θe brij’s flōr rōp۔s.

            Θe yung man step۔d ōver θe rōp handrāil, plant۔d bōθ bār fōot on θe ej ov θe wōod۔ē plank brij, and tiltlēn۔d fōrward az if sūn tū dīv intū dēp water.  Az hē dīv۔d of, hē uter۔d a terifī۔ē xout.   Down۔ward, down۔ward hē fal۔d, hed-first, hand۔s spred۔d out۔ward from his sīd۔s alīk wing۔s.  Wen hē had rēq۔d almōst tū θe botom, his bodē slō۔d, θen mōmentārē۔lē stop۔d, θen – az hē ēmit۔d a xout ov jōē -- rīz۔d bak up۔ward wiθ apārent۔bē ēkwal spēd, until hē rēq۔d almōst tū θe brij, wenupon hē grab۔d hōld ov a hāng۔in rōp lader, and from θer skrambel۔d up۔ward.

            "I·iz a nū man!" hē eksklām۔d wiθ dēlīt az hē step۔d ōver θe rōp handrāil.  "Θe jump qānj۔d mī līf!"

            Fōr θe rēmān۔ōr ov θe mōrnin θe yung pēpel۔s stā۔d on θe brij waq۔ing and wāt۔ing θā's opōrtūnitē, ōr, az som sā۔d, "Gaθer۔ing kouraj.”  In θā's kolorful nīlon skin-tīt klōθ۔in θā stand۔d and sit۔d, flont۔ing θā's bodē۔s, lēn and strong, glisen۔ing wiθ fizikal and seksyūal enerjē. 

*

            On θe wīld sīd ov θe gulq, prēst Donovan wuz rēgret۔ing, wiθ inkrēs۔ē iritāxun, his qōis ov θe rētrēt spot.  Θik wiθ pīn trē-s, ap haf-dā’s hīk on θat sīd ov θe river from θe nēr۔est rōd, θe lōkāxun had bēn, nīn sumer۔s erlē۔er wen hē had lēd۔d a similar rētrēt, īdilik۔bē sūt۔abel.  Hē had not no۔d about θe konstruktxun ov θe brij, and, on θe far klif, θe xak and park·landlot.  Evrē fyū minut۔s blod-kurdel۔ē skrēm۔s ēmit۔d from bunjē jump۔ōrs on θā's wā down۔ward, folō۔t bī xout۔s ov jōē az θā hed۔d bak up۔ward tū sāftē, klēr۔lē distrakt۔ing θe devōt۔ōrs from θā's meditāxun and θā's rēflekxun۔s on θe wisper-alīk suteltē۔s ov rēlijon.  It prūv۔d imposibel fōr evrēbodē but hiself tū rēfrān from glans۔ing at a man ōr woman frē-fal۔ing from θe dizē۔ē hīt hed-first tōward θe bōlder۔s.  On nēθer sīd ov θe stēp gulq wuz a plās from wiq θe spektikal kud not bē sē۔t and ērhēr۔t.  Θe devōt۔ōrs, θe 51-yēr-ōld prēst suspekt۔d, sēkret۔lē enjōē۔d θe distrakxun.

            Fīnal۔lē, ap mid۔dā, prēst Donovan, sukum۔ing tū θe kolektiv wil ov θe devōt۔ōrs, lēd۔d an ekspedixun ov āt tōward θe bunjē xak fōr soda۔s and snak۔s.  Θā hīk۔d akros stēp terān, grab۔ing ontū vīn۔s and bux۔s fōr supōrt, fīnal۔lē, won bī won, step۔d ontū θe flimsē brij.

            Az θā aprōq۔d mid-brij, θe diferens۔s bētwēn θe twū grūp۔s sēm۔d aksentūāt۔t.  Θe bunjē jump۔ōrs, weār۔d skimp۔ē faxun۔ē klōθ۔in, xōkās۔ing θe man۔s’ musel۔s and θe woman۔s’ kurv۔s, skin glisen۔ing tan from sunrays; θā's qater wuz loud and bōld.  Θe devōt۔ōrs, pāl and θin, klōθ۔d nek tū ānkel۔s in fōrm۔les grā rōb۔s, sīlent۔lē eksqānj۔d glans۔s ōr soft۔lē murmur۔d tū won anoθer. 

            Rēq۔ing θe brij’s senter, wār nīn jump۔ōrs waq۔d Skip strap a muskyūlar yung woman intū a leθer harnes, θe devōt۔ōrs slō۔d.  Bēkuz on θe bouns۔ing, swā۔ing brij, it wuz imperativ tū tīt۔lē grasp θe rōp handrāil at al tīm۔s, pas۔ing θe jump۔ōrs wud rēkwīer θā's kōoperāxun and, from evrēbodē, koxun and pāxents.

            Skip, after dubel-qek۔ing al θrē bukel۔s ov θe harnes, lōok۔d up at θe grā-rōb-klad nūkomōr۔s.  Hē stand۔d and sā۔d in his hartē sāels۔man's vōis, “Yū iz welkom tū kros mī brij.  wil fīnd fūd and drink۔s in θe stōr.”  Hē pōint۔d leftsīd۔ward tōward θe wīt xak.  “And if anē if yū want tū jump—“

            Yōr brij?” kwestyon۔d θe prēst, a wisp ov a man kompār۔d tū θe tal muskyūlar bunjē enterprīz ōn۔ōrt.

            “Desīn۔t and pā۔t fōr bī nun oθer θan mīself, wiθ θe kountē’s permixun ovkōrs.”

            Prēst Donovan glans۔d at θe woman in θe harnes, hūz yung brow wuz rinkel۔ē wiθ fēr, θen glans۔d down۔ward at θe sliver ov ānkel۔dēp water wiq snāk۔d it’s wā around jīant bōlder۔s apēr۔ing nō big۔er θan grāp۔s.   Abov θe θik grēn fōrest on θe wīld rītsīd ov θe river glīd۔d a blak krō.  Koment۔d θe prēst, “Dānjerus.”

            “Our spōrt?  It iz, if not profexunal۔lē sūpervīs۔t,” agrē۔d Skip.

            "Kārful," Donovan advīz۔d.  "Wind gust۔s somtīm wip θrū hēr.  Wons wē ekspērēens۔d a gust θat blō۔d ōver al our tent۔s.  Strong enuf, Ī suspekt, tū xāk θis brij up·sīd·down."

            "Yes, Ī no.  Θe wind۔s kan indēd bē vixus, but ōnlē dur stōrm۔ē weaθer."

            "Probabel۔lē trū." 

            "And tūdā iz not ēven kloud۔ē."  Bōθ man۔s lōok۔d up at θe slīs ov pyūr۔bē blū skī bētwēn θe rij۔s.  A brēz, bārlē nōtis۔abel, kūol۔d θe ār.

            “Sō wut iz θe pōint?” ask۔d prēst Donovan, trī۔ing tū konsēal anē negativitē from his tōn.

            “Wī bunjē jump?” Skip snort۔d in disgust, survā۔ing θe nūkomōr۔s.  Θā al apēr۔d mēk, timid, wēak.  Hē kud not imajin xār۔ing seks wiθ anē ov θe woman۔s, hū had apārent۔lē render۔d θāself۔s az un۔atraktiv az posibel.  "Fōr θe θril, ovkōrs!"

            Θril-sēk۔ōrs wuz ap az far awā from God-sēk۔ōrs az θe prēst kud imajin.  "Hav yū analīz۔d θis θril?”

            Skip’s biznes wuz sel۔ing θril۔s, and hē dint aprēxēāt bēing qalenj۔t in front ov his kustomōr۔s.  "I·iz not in θe habit ov analīz۔ing θril۔s."

            “Θe θril ov survīv۔ing, after risk۔ing deθ?”

            "Θe risk iz miniskyūl.  Statistik۔lē, bunjē jump۔in iz sāf۔er θan mountin klīm۔in, kar spēdrās۔in, hānglīd۔in, probabel۔lē skē۔ing and manē oθer spōrt۔s.  Ī hav sūpervīs۔d a hundred ōr mōr jump۔s per wēkend evrē sumer fōr seven yēr۔s, wiθout won injurē.”

            "Bēsīd θe θril ov plumet۔ing tū wiθin a fyū fōot۔s ov θe riverbed and bēing jerk۔t bak up agin tū θe brij, iz θer not an ad۔d θril ov wonder۔ing weθer ōr not θe bunjē wil brāk?”

            Skip – rēakt۔ing tū anoθer qalenj tū θe hart ov his biznes – rēq۔d down and pik۔d up θe blak kōrd.  "Θēz ruber kōrd۔s iz presixon manyūfaktūr۔t, garantē۔t tū streq tū θe spesifī۔t lenθ and nō far۔er.  Sē, it iz imprintstamp۔t on θe ruber in wīt leter۔s:  75 fōot.  Āt fōot۔s xōrt ov θe nēr۔est rok.  Under sirkumstans wil it streq ēven won fōot long۔er.”

            "Akord۔in tū θe faktōrē."

            "Akord۔in tū faktōrē maxēn۔s," Skip korekt۔d hē.  "Evrē spek ov θe entīer 75 fōot۔s lenθ hav bēn qek۔t fōr flo۔s bī ēlektronik۔kontrōl۔t lāzer۔s.”

            "Maxēn۔s manyūfaktūr۔t and kontrōl۔t bī pēpel۔s," θe prēst rēmīnd۔d hē.

            “Xur.”

            “Θus yōr fāθ in maxēn۔s and pēpel۔s must bē pritē strong.”

            Skip θink۔d fōr a mōment and rēplī۔d, "Admit۔lē, jump۔ing of θe brij wiθ nothin but a ruber kōrd bētwēn yū and sertin deθ iz a lēp ov fāθ."

            "But fāθ in pēpel۔s iz risk۔ē.  Fāθ in God iz sāf۔er."

            "Ī wuz ekspekt۔ing yū tū start wiθ θat God stuf,” rētort۔d Skip ānger۔lē.  “I·wil put mī fāθ in wut Ī kan sē, ērhēr, smel, tuq, and tāst, abov som non۔visibel θing nōbodē kan deskrīb ōr hav prūv۔d tū eksist."

            "Θen fōr yū, θe hī۔est gōl iz matērēal plejur?"

            "Yū ōnlē liv wons, θerfōr enjōē yōrself az muq az yū kan – θat iz mī filosofē.  And" -- hē turn۔d brēf۔lē tōward θe oθer jump۔ōrs, al hū wuz lisen۔ing θe konversāxun – “mōst ov θā wud agrē.  Ovkōrs θat inklūd not dū۔ing anēθin θat wud harm oθer۔s."

            "Wāraz mī aspirāxun iz tū asend tū θe nekst spiritūal level.”

            "Mīn iz tū purqas a manxun, marē a byūtēful woman, drīv a Rōl۔s Rōis kar, enjōē long vākāxun۔s on mī yat, and konsūm plentē ov gōod fūd and drink – xār۔d, ovkōrs, wiθ frend۔s," Skip elaborat۔d, glans۔ing at his qōis fōr θe nīt, a xāp۔yung lādē weār۔ing a red bikēnē, hū, brown ī۔s sparkel۔ing, smīl۔d bak.

            Afirm۔d θe prēst, "Mīn iz tū sē past θe kluter ov pēpel۔s tū θe world ov God."

            "Mēr۔lē an ekskyūs, a mīnd trik, bēkuz yū lak wut it iz rēkwīer۔d tū suksēd.  Insted ov admit۔ing yōr fāilūr, yū prētend yū dōnt want θe gōod θing۔s in līf."

            "Kontrārē۔, θe matērēal world iz ōnlē a test۔in ground fōr θe rēal world ov spiritūal development,” kontradikt۔d θe prēst, spēk۔ing az muq tū his adversārē az tū θe devōt۔ōrs and bunjē jump۔ōrs nērbī.  “Wut mater۔s at θe end ov yōr līf iz not how muq plejur yū hav ekspērēens۔d ōr how manē θing۔s yū ōn, but how klōs yū hav bēkum tū God, and konsekwent۔lē how yū luv۔d, wut yū giv۔d, weθer, in sumtōtal, yū hinder۔d ōr help۔d."

             “We hav al ērhēr۔d θe adaj:  rēlijon iz θe ōpēat ov pēpel۔s,” sā۔d Skip.  “Rēlijon iz alīk a drug, a wā tū eskāp rēal līf."

            Donovan dro۔d in his breθ nōiz۔lē.  "Eksesiv matērēalizim iz θe ōpēat ov pēpel۔s."

            Skip, a fōrmer midel·skūol and yūniversitē resel۔ōr and award-win۔in hous-aplīans sāels۔man hū had never no۔d fēr, and hū despīz۔d fēr in oθer۔s, fēel۔d inkrēs۔ing ānger.  Hē hōld۔d fōrθ θe bunjē kōrd.  “Want tū trī?”

            Θe prēst laf۔d.  "Nō θank۔s.  Θril۔s iz ōnlē temporārē, wīel blis iz everlast۔ē."

            Skip snort۔d, bārlē rēfrān۔ing from uter۔ing θe word `koward’, wiq kud hav insult۔d his kustomōr۔s.  Insted hē ask۔d, "Wiq wud yū raθer hav protekt۔ing yū wen yū jump of a brij:  a bunjē kōrd, ōr God?"

            Θe kwestyon hāng۔d in θe ār, az a gust ov wind az θō on kyū rok۔d θe brij, wiq θen swā۔d.

            "Bunjē, korekt?" prod۔d Skip, grin۔ing wiθ self۔satisfakxun.

            "God," prēst Donovan anser۔d. 

            "Θen lets bōθ jump of θe brij sīd bī sīd, Ī wiθ nō God but wiθ fāθ in mī bunjē kōrd, yū wiθ nō bunjē kōrd wiθ yōr fāθ in God."

            Sīlens.  Θen lafter erupt۔d from som ov θe jump۔ōrs, θā's fās۔s ekspres۔ing admirāxun fōr θe argyūment Skip had yūtilīz۔d tū outwit θe prēst.  Θe Kristēan devōt۔ōrs wuz al frown۔ing, ī۔ing θā's mentōr wiθ konsern۔ē eksprexun۔s.

            Prod۔d Skip, “Dū wē hav a dēal?”  Hē slip۔d on an angel kolar, and tū it snap۔d on θe frē end ov θe bunjē kōrd, θen turn۔d bak tū θe prēst.  “Wut dū yū sā?"  Hē skan۔d his yūθful kustomōr۔s, som stil smīl۔ing wīd۔lē, θen turn۔d bak tū θe prēst.  "Wut iz θe mater?  Spēq۔les?  Ha, ha, ha!"

            Donovan anser۔d, "Alrīt.  Wē wil jump tūgeθer, yū sāfgard۔t bī yōr bunjē kōrd, Ī sāfgard۔t bī God."

            “Gōod,” Skip rēplī۔d, his adrēnalin surj۔ing.

            Θe twū man۔s xāk۔d θā's rītsīd hand۔s tū seāl θe agrēment.

            Devōt۔ōr Andrew krī۔d out, Dōnt!  Nō won kud survīv suq a fal!"

            Prēst Donovan turn۔d tū hē.  "Mī fāθ iz strong.  Az xur az Ī iz stand۔ing on θis brij, God wil protekt mē from harm."

            "But..."  Devōt۔ōr Andrew pōint۔d tū anoθer ov θe bunjē kōrd۔s on θe plank flōr.  "Justinkās?"

            Θe oθer seven devōt۔ōrs nod۔d vigorus۔in agrēment.

            "Ha, ha, ha!” laf۔d Skip.  "Xur, gō ahed, monk, ōr prēst ōr wutever yū iz.  Fasen on a bunjē kōrd justinkās.  Ha, ha!”

            Prēst Donovan turn۔d tū hē.  "If Ī agrē tū tī on a bunjē kōrd justinkās, wil yū agrē tū sā a prār justinkās?" 

            "Nō."  Skip stuborn۔lē fōld۔d his muskyūlar fōrarm۔s.  Hē turn۔d tū Randē, a skwat blak-hārs۔ē man, won ov θe regyūlar jump۔ōrs hū often asist۔d at θe stōr.  "Harnes hē tū a bunjē," Skip direkt۔d.  “Nō fē rēkwīer۔t.  If θe fūol jump tū his deθ of mī brij, it wil hurt mī trādcō.”

            "Ī dēklīn yōr ofer."  Prēst Donovan bow۔d fōrmal۔lē.  "It wuz not fōr a bunjē kōrd fōr mīself, θat Ī propōs۔d amend۔ing our dēal, but tū kōks yū tū prā.  Ī hav nō nēd fōr a bunjē.  God, not anē man, iz rēsponsibel fōr mī līf."

            Skip turn۔d tū θe lisen۔ōrs.  “Yū ērhēr۔d hē.  Hē rēfyūz۔d a frē bunjē.  If hē jump anēwā, not mī falt.”

            Θe mūd ov kolorful۔lē dres۔d bunjē jump۔ōrs had pas۔d from amyūz۔d lafter tū brow-rinkel۔ing konsern.

            “Dōnt test God,” koxun۔d θe prēst.

            “I·iz afrād ov nōbodē and nothin,” xout۔d Skip, “sertin۔lē not som imajinārē God!”  Az if tū prūv his pōint, hē θrust۔d his fist tōward θe skī, wār manē Qristēan۔s bēlēv۔d God tū resīd, and from his fist ekstend۔d θe finger ajāsent tū his indeks finger – θe ultimāt obsēn jestūr.

            A kōrus ov astonix۔ē gasps ēmit۔d from devōt۔ōrs and jump۔ōrs.  Θe fās۔s ov θe jump۔ōrs, hū perhaps dū۔d not bēlēv in a hī۔er power but wuz respektful ov θōs hū dū۔d, ekspres۔d klēr۔bē un۔komfort.

            Θe prēst’s pāl fās bēkum۔d pink, but hē sā۔d nothin.

            Skip lōok۔d ōver at hē.  "Redē?   Wē bōθ jump, mē wiθ mī bunjē kōrd, yū wiθ yōr God."

            Prēst Donovan nod۔d up and down, agrē۔ing.  Hē lōok۔d ōver at his devōt۔ōrs, ignōr۔ing θā's sīlent plēd۔in tū qānj his mīnd. 

            "Gōodbī," Andrew uter۔d, az θō about tū wēp.

            Skip stūp۔d down tū rē۔qek θat his ānkel kolar wuz sekyūr۔lē bukel۔d.

            Prēst Donovan, stand۔ing on θe rītsīd ov Skip, his hand۔s grip۔ing θe rōp handrāil, gāz۔d not down۔ward but up۔ward, intū kloud-les blū skī.  Hē fēel۔d in komyūnyon wiθ God, hū hē no۔d wud sāv hē.  How, wuz God's problem, and not his on wiq tū spekyūlāt.  But hē worē۔d – espexal۔lē after θe blasfēmus jestūr – about θe sāftē ov his adversārē, hūz līf depend۔d on ōnlē a mas۔manyūfaktūr۔t ruber kōrd.

            "Redē?"  Skip ask۔d Donovan, grin۔ing self-konfīdent۔lē.

            "Redē," konfirm۔d Donovan.

            "Wē jump at θe sām tīm, agrē۔d?"  Skip afirm۔d.

            "Sām tīm.  Agrē۔d."

            Skip turn۔d bak.  "Θen Randē, kount θrē, and θen xout:  jump."

            "Redē:  klīm outsīd θe rōp handrāil,” Randē kal۔d out.

            Bōθ Skip and Donovan klīm۔d ōver θe rōp۔s, θe prēst rītsīd۔ward ov θe trādkō ōn۔ōr, θā's bār fōot perq۔d on θe ej ov θe wōod-plank brij flōr, hand۔s bēhīnd θā grip۔ing θe rōp handrāil.

            "Won," Randē kal۔d out. 

            Devōt۔ōr Andrew krī۔d out, "Nō, dōnt!"

            Prēst Donovan turn۔d ānger۔lē at Andrew, hūz fōrhed wuz rinkel۔d wiθ worē.  "Kompār۔d tū mūv۔ing mountin۔s, wut iz stop۔ing a fal?  Hav yū nō fāθ?"

            "Twū..." Randē kontinyū۔d.

            "Wut iz θe mater?" snēr۔d Skip.  "Yōr lōok۔d worē۔d.  Afrād?”

            "Yes," admit۔d Kristēan prēst Donovan.  "Yū iz jump۔ing wiθ ōnlē yōr bunjē kōrd.  Wud it hurt yū tū sā a litel prār ask۔ing God tū fōrgiv yōr mokerē?"

            Skip anser۔d, "I·iz not sūperstixus.  Prā tū wut?"  Hē turn۔d un۔pāxent۔ tū his asist۔ōr, hū neverθeles rēmān۔d sīlent.

            "Θrē...," Skip hiself kontinyū۔d θe kount.  Tū θe prēst hē sā۔d, "If yū hav θe kouraj, now iz θe tīm!"

            Prēst Donovan nod۔d his konsent.

            "Jump!"

            Bōθ man۔s stūp۔d, nē۔s bend۔d, hand۔s rēq۔d bak, hōld۔ing θe rōp.  Θen bōθ man۔s lēp۔d klēr ov θe brij.

            Bōθ hōld۔d out θā's arm۔s, Skip bēing trāil۔t bī θe bunjē kōrd, Donovan frē fal۔ing.

            Down۔ward θā plumet۔d, az a fērs gust ov wind wip۔d θrū θe gulq, vīōlent۔lē rok۔ing θe rōp brij.  A kolorful۔lē garb۔d yung woman xrēk۔d wiθ frīt, and wud hav bēn blō۔d of if not fōr kwik-θink۔in Randē hū grab۔d her arm.  Oθer۔s -- devōt۔ōrs and bunjē jump۔ōrs bōθ -- kling۔d desperāt۔lē tū θe rōp handrāil۔s.  Az θā rē۔gān۔d θā's balans, al lōok۔d down۔ward.

            Bēlō, bōθ man۔s wuz stil fal۔ing, but had bēn wip۔t out۔ward, down·river and rītsīd۔ward (awā from θe water, tōward θe wīld sīd ov θe gulq) bī θe suden gust.

            Skip, hevē۔er, wuz bēing blō۔t dīagonal۔lē tōward θe bōlder-strū۔d river xōr.  His kwik mīnd, suplement۔t bī ekspērēens, kalkyūlāt۔d θat θe fōrs ov θe suden gust wud probabel۔lē streq θe bunjē kōrd bēyond θe manyūfaktūr۔ōr’s stāt۔t lenθ limit, but bēkuz hē wuz bēing blō۔t dīagonal۔lē and down·river θe inkrēs۔d distans wud not rēsult in his hit۔ing θe rok۔ē river xōr.

            Prēst Donovan, līt۔er, his grā rōb flap۔ing nōiz۔lē bēhīnd hē, wuz bēing blō۔t ēven far۔er rītsīd۔ward awā from θe river, tōward θik۔bē fōrest۔ē pīn trē-s.  Not awār ov θe gust, his mīnd fōkus۔d on θe sensation ov frē-fal۔ing.  Hē fēel۔d wonderful, frē az a bird.

            Skip mēnwīel, aprōq۔ing θe bōlder-strū۔d xōr down·river from θe brij, no۔d θat his bunjē kōrd wud sūn rēq it’s maksimum lenθ.  Kalm۔lē hē antisipāt۔d θe familyar mōment ov ekstasē, wen nēr-deθ wud bē avōid۔t, gravitē defī۔t, his direkxun rēvers۔t. 

            A mōment lāter his bunjē kōrd rēq۔d it’s maksimum 75-fōot lenθ, at a spēd and wiθ a fōrs – bēkuz ov θe powerful gust – grāt۔er θan if hē had drop۔d strāt down۔ward, grāt۔er θan θe limit test۔d at θe faktōrē.

            Snap!

            Skip's bunjē kōrd snap۔d intū twū almōst ēkwal sekxun۔s, send۔ing θe big man hed-first intū a bōlder θe sīz ov a kar.

            Θump!  Θe sound ov flex and bōn۔s smax۔ing aganst rok.

            Donovan, wiθ līt۔er bodē maswāt, and hav۔ing start۔d far۔er rītsīd۔ward, wuz blō۔d awā from θe riverbed tū abov θe fōrest.  Az hē aprōq۔d θe trē-top۔s, hē instinkt۔lē rōl۔d intū a sumersalt posixun, hed tuk۔d down, arm۔s fōld۔d akros nē۔s.

            Swix! 

            Hē fal۔d ontū a tal pīn trē.

            Θe trē swā۔d, and bouns۔d hē ontū θe up۔er branq۔s ov an ajāsent pīn trē, hūz branq۔s bend۔d wiθ his maswāt – az hē kontinyū۔d tū fal, lāer after lāer, wiθ diminix۔ing spēd, until fīnal۔lē hē wuz ābel tū grab hōld ov a branq tū halt his down۔ward mūvment.  Dāz۔ē, hē gradūal۔lē klīm۔d down tū θe fōrest flōr.

*

            Abov, on θe brij, stil rok۔ing from θe suden gust, bunjē jump۔ōrs and devōt۔ōrs tiltlēn۔d ōver θe ej and gasp۔d in hōror at Skip's krumpel۔ē bodē on θe bōlder, θe grā rok drip۔ing wiθ red blod.  Θe prēst, hav۔ing disapēr۔d intū θe trē-s, wuz nōwār in sīt.

            Θe bunjē jump۔ōrs kwik۔lē but kārful۔lē skrambel۔d of θe brij tōward θe bunjē xak, som ov θe woman۔s wāil۔ing histerik۔lē.

            Θe devōt۔ōrs al hurē۔d tū θe wīld end ov θe brij.  Fīv ov θe māel۔s klīm۔d down θe stēp hil, bār fōot۔s stumbel۔ing on rok۔ē sōil, until θā rēq۔d botom, som kal۔ing, az θō pōint۔leslē, fōr θā's bēlovd tēq۔ōr.

            Θen from θe fōrest apēr۔d θā's prēst, limpwok۔ing tōward θā, his fās and arm۔s and leg۔s kover۔d wiθ red skraq۔s, grā rōb tār۔d in several plās۔s.

            "Prēst Donovan!  Prēst Donovan!"  Θe devōt۔ōrs run۔d tōward hē, θā's rōb۔s flō۔ing, alīk lost xēp۔s hūz xeperd had rē۔apēr۔d.

            Devōt۔ōr Andrew fal۔d down at θe man’s fōot.  "Wē hav witnes۔d a mirakel!"

            "Not a mirakel," θe tēq۔ōr korekt۔d his stūdent.  "A demonstrāxun ov fāθ."

            Andrew nod۔d.  “Θe tīmlē gust.  A non۔visibel fōrs dispaq۔t bī a non۔visibel fōrs.”

            Raθer θan tārē, θe prēst limpwok۔d past θā tū θe river's ej, tū wār on a hī bōlder lā۔d θe ded bodē ov Skip Robinson.

            Sūn bunjē jump۔ōrs and devōt۔ōrs gaθer۔d around, manē ov θe woman۔s wēp۔ing.

            Prēst Donovan jestūr۔d wiθ θe sīn ov θe krūsifiks.  "Lets now al prā fōr his sōul."

*       *       *

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This story is from a collection of Christian short stories, Christianity, by Flora Morales

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