Or, since flick is here, four times.
I purposely chose a pairing that would normally be found difficult. Not so hard for me, but there are reasons for that.
Title: Winchester's Conversion
Note: This is a sequel to "The Winchester Challenge" by BlueEyedBaby.
Ironic, isn't it, that it was Hawk who tipped me off. Hawkeye the unobtainable.
I've been chasing Hawk for a couple of years. It was about three weeks after we first met before I had the courage to raise the subject with him, and he half-smiled, half-glanced at Trapper, said "Sorry, Father, I'm taken." When Trapper went, and once Hawk emerged from the brief refuge he'd taken with Radar, I tried again: there was the same half-glance, at BJ this time, and "Sorry, Father ..." all over again.
But early this morning, he came to see me, told me to expect a visit from Charles, told me what it was about. And then he went.
Hawkeye does some funny things, tells some tall tales. Often I wonder if he's just saying something purely to get a rise out of me. On this occasion, I was particularly unsure: what he'd said just didn't make sense, knowing what I knew about Charles.
And then, later, Charles turned up. He's never sought me out before. He told me the other half of exactly the same story.
From Hawk, it sounded like a funny story. Even though he'd been there, he made it sound like a story that even he didn't quite believe. From Charles, it sounded like a confession. I didn't think protestants knew about confession, but he had the technique perfectly, even if some of the words he chose weren't straight out of the book.
There he was, at the door to the tent. "Father, help me. I'm a filthy sinner."
I stood back and waved at the bed for him to sit down. "Bless you, my child," I said. Autopilot took over. "How long is it since your last confession?"
Charles Winchester, the most Protestant of all the flock, was confused. He's almost never confused, almost always confident. Arrogant, even. That was gone. He stumbled in, sat on the bed. "It wasn't me, it was the brandy," he began, "it really wasn't like me at all."
Of course, I'd been talking to Hawkeye, so I already knew what to expect. Charles was a good man, had never done anything like this before, didn't know what had got into him. You know how people are with themselves at this stage, we've all been there. I needed to teach him how not to hate himself.
Yes, I know, it sounds ridiculous. Trying to persuade Charles Winchester that he shouldn't regard himself as a piece of filth.
Charles was a lot less direct than Hawkeye. We talked around the subject, rather than about it. Then we talked about why he thought it was wrong. We talked about the authority of scripture, the value of its interpretation through prayer.
By this time, I was sat on the bed with him, holding both his hands in mine. Hip to hip, shoulder to shoulder. He was still too tense, too up-tight, simply far too Winchester. What could I do?
I freed one of my hands, reached to the shelf by the bed, retrieved my favourite bible. "You recognise this book as the authority in your life?" I asked. He nodded, dumbly. "Take it, put it on the bed, let it fall open. Tell me what you see."
He took the bible, stood it on its spine beside him on the bed, and let go.
Did I say that this was my favourite book? Between the Law, the Prophets, the Histories, the Gospels and Epistles there are some wonderful passages. Every book reveals the mind of its owner with a tendency to fall apart at certain pages. Certain of the tastier parts of Leviticus, the stories of David and Jonathan, the Song of Solomon. I sat and prayed.
It wasn't the law, or the history, or the song. When he picked the book up he had seven hundred and forty pages in his left hand and only twenty-eight in his right. God moves in a mysterious way. He looked, and I could feel him relaxing. He almost started to breathe.
"What have you found?" I asked. I knew, before he said. This bible of mine had been open on this page perhaps more often than in any other place. Charles began to read from the first letter of John, at chapter four, and verse seven.
"Dear friends, let us love one another," he read, "for love comes from God." An answer to prayer if ever I'd heard one. I put my arm around him and leant on his shoulder, as if to read with him. "Everyone who loves has been born of God, and knows God." I gave his waist a little squeeze. He carried on reading, didn't tense up. "Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love." With every line, he relaxed a little more. This was starting to look like a good day.