A Crown Without Thorns, Part 1

Tavis laced his ping with every bit of tenacity he could summon. “I’m not hungry.”

Chris sighed as he flicked the message thread and menu pane out of his line of sight. “Eat something or I’ll send your address to every instafood place in town. You’ll get so much spam your connection’ll shut down.”

He pulled the menu back and considered his options. Tavis’s ping popped up in front of the soup list. “Do that and I’ll send your mom the pics of you and Marcia.”

“Like hell. You don’t have any.”

“Your mom doesn’t know how good I am with BactaPic.”

Chris narrowed his eyes. “You’re bluffing.”

Tavis shrugged. “Try me.”

The moment hung between them until Chris shrugged.

He reopened the menu pane and selected a country fried steak. He clicked on the turkey sandwich with extra gravy and added a whole key lime pie before pinging the order to the kitchen. He reopened the conversation thread. “I just ordered you a sandwich. Eat it or you’re wasting my money.”

Tavis replied, “I hate you.”

“Good.” Chris reached up to itch around his crown. “This thing lags. New crowns never fit right.”

“It must be a burden, having to deal with that faster data flow.”

“Now I hate you.” Chris put his hand down. “Seriously. What’s your thoughtspeed running right now?”

“Unaligned.” Tavis laced his ping with reticence and resignation.

“Still? Come on. May and you broke up, what? A month ago? Get over her.”

Tavis wrinkled his nose. “I’m trying.” He sent a link. “You see this?”

Chris opened the link in a new window. A banner proclaimed, “Forty Days of Love!” A series of pings filled the window. “There are many who don’t have a home. They don’t have a bed. Many don’t even have crowns. Celebrate Lent by living like one of the homeless while building them a home. Learn to count your blessings and live under the weight of the Plus. Join us tonight.” A series of links offered further information.

Chris shook his head. “You going religious on me? Listen, that’s no way to get over a girl!”

Tavis fingered his Plus necklace. “It’s not that big a deal. I’m just thinking it might get my mind off things. I don’t care about church. And it’s just for Lent. Better than joining up with the military.”

“Anything’s better than that these days.”

A waitress came by and set down their drinks. “Anything else I can get you?” she pinged in a new public thread.

Chris smiled, “Our food.”

“Yeah, yeah, it’s cooking.” She rolled her eyes. “How about you?”

Tavis shook his head. “His food.”

By the delay before her response, Chris could tell the waitress was pinging someone else about the idiots in the booth in front of her. “Thanks for the drinks, though,” he added before she could respond to Tavis.

In his and Tavis’ thread, he pinged, “She’s hot. You should ask for her address.”

“Like hell. I’m not that desperate.” Tavis smiled up at the waitress. “I guess there’s nothing else we need,” he added to the public thread.

“You’re desperate enough to get into a church group that’s what? Forty days long?”

The waitress waited another second before pinging, “Well, you got your way. Food’s done.” She left to retrieve the plates from the kitchen.

Tavis took a salt shaker and slid it on the table between his hands. “I need something to distract me. Sitting at home isn’t doing it. I’m not going to go and get a job. No one would hire me while I’m like this anyway. Might as well do someone some good.”

Chris smirked. “Tavis Corrigan, album cover for altruism.”

Tavis sent another link to Chris. “Open this. It’s the thread I’ve had with the guy running Forty Days of Love.”

Chris clicked the link, and read the data. Pretty straightforward; Tavis asking for information, the pastor responding.

“Wait a second. You’d be living in a tent?”

“Yeah. Church provides food and housing so we find out what it’s like to be homeless.”

“They going to take your crown, too?”

“Nah. They better not, anyway.”

The waitress returned bearing two platters. “Who’s got the steak?”

“Oh, me!” Chris held up a hand as he pinged.

“You got the turkey?”

The corner of Tavis’ mouth twitched. “I guess.” He accepted the plate and gazed on the greasy wonder. He looked up at the waitress. “Why did I order this?”

“Hell if I know. You probably hate your gut.” She turned and retreated to the kitchen.

Chris dug into his steak. The thing was overdone and as crispy as pudding, but at least the seasoning was good. “So you’re serious about this thing? Forty days living like a hobo without a crown?”

Tavis poked the sandwich with a fork. “Yeah. If I don’t like it, I can always leave.”

“You haven’t deleted her pictures yet, have you?”

Tavis sent a rather rude message in response.

Chris sent a smirk and a question. “When does it start?”

“Tomorrow, for Ash Wednesday.”

“It’s already Wednesday.”

“I haven’t gone to sleep yet. It’s not tomorrow until then. Anyway, it begins with a special service talking about how we’re going to add to the lives of others, so we’ll be added to. Pretty typical church stuff. I guess it used to be pretty normal for people to do junk like this during Lent. My church is pretty old-fashioned, I guess.”

“Well, you can keep me out of your Lent. I like the celebration before and after. No need to give anything up to have a good time.” Chris took another bite of his steak. “Now eat something.”

Read Part 2 here.

8 thoughts on “A Crown Without Thorns, Part 1

  1. Interesting beginning for a story. I’m curious where it’s going to go, since right now it sounds more like a social Gospel kind of concept. I’m going to assume that’s not where you’re taking it, but it will be interesting to see how you change that.

    Up until the end it sounded like Tavis wasn’t really part of the church, but just decided to be a part of it. Then at the end he said something that sounded like he’s been a member for some time. Does he know the Gospel at all?

    I liked the whole “Plus” idea in place of the cross. It makes a lot of sense in a society that seems to have lost the ability to think deeply in the face of such a constant deluge of information. The cross remains. It’s taken a new name, but it’s still important. What I wonder is how that plays out in the churches. Obviously, the concept of the cross is more powerful because of what it means, and would changing the name to mathematical symbol perhaps detract from the meaning and the weight? How would the church hold the depth of the cross?

    One question I had through the whole thing: In your mind, what is the definition of the word “ping”? It seemed kind of inconsistent in your use, or maybe it’s more general than I’m thinking.

    I guess when I hear the word I think of the original use in computer terms, which is just to send a simple, small packet of information from one server to another, with the instruction that it be sent right back. The purpose of a ping is to test speeds; how long it takes to go from one IP address to another and back helps you determine if things are operating at the speed they are supposed to, and where you might have network connection issues.

    Now they use the term “pingback” in the blogging world as a means of linking similar articles together, and I don’t know how that came about.

    So, yeah, I got a sense of what you were doing with the word, just kinda confused as to how it’s to be defined in your world. Maybe not something that needs to be fleshed out, but I think that the important thing is that YOU have a settled definition in your mind of what it means in your world. If you don’t, it will just end up being a source of confusion, but if you do, it will become clear the more time we spend in this world.

    So, when’s the next piece coming?

  2. Thanks for your comments! Part of this flows from some questions you’d asked of previous stories set within the Crowns world: Don’t they know who Jesus is? We’ll be exploring what the church is like in this world throughout the series. Your feel for Tavis’ lack of knowledge of the Gospel is right on, though. And the changing from social gospel to Gospel… well, that will also be part of the story.

    “Ping” is meant replace the bland word “said” in a society that vocalizes very seldom. I’ll be experimenting with other verbs for the new mode of communication since this story is certainly longer form than the previous dabblings in the universe.

    I’m thrilled you immediately grasped the “plus” being their version of the cross, and the importance of that change. Part of the story will explore that aspect of the world more deeply, but to give a preview: When someone empties the power of the cross, what is left?

    I’m hoping to post Saturday or Sunday. My goal is to update twice a week (or perhaps thrice should I get the opportunity) throughout Lent, ending at Easter or shortly thereafter. Let me stress that this is the goal! The reality has yet to reveal itself.

  3. I would have never thought of a Lenten posting. Good idea. Makes sense to call Lent the “40 days of love” Tell that to your pastors. (sorry Luke, you are one. 🙂 )

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