Who's At Your Door?

November 01, 2009

In the dead of the night, a knock at the door jarred me awake. I lay still, uncertain of what I'd heard. Then it came again, more persistently.

Groggy with sleep, I stumbled across the room, jerked open the door, and was nearly bowled over by an assertive little chap who strode in as if he belonged. He scurried over to a foot stool near the window and sat down with a grunt. He clearly meant to stay.

Dumbfounded I pushed the door closed, gave myself a sharp pinch to make sure I was really awake, and turned to observe my uninvited guest.

He sat looking straight at me. In fact, as I scrutinized him, I got a bit of a start. He looked remarkably like me — only smaller. I was mystified.

The little fellow gave an abrupt snort. "You don't recognize me, do you? Years ago, you and I got together quite often."

Still groggy, I mumbled about how busy I'd been, while racking my brain for any fuzzy memory of this impertinent fellow.

"Oh yes, you've been busy," his visitor replied tartly. "You couldn't even stop for a few minutes to see Mrs. Jones at the hospital on your way to work this morning."

My mouth gaped. How he knew was anyone's guess. I'd gotten a late start, was pressed for time getting to a teleconference at the office, so opted to skip the side trip to see Mrs. Jones. I figured I'd send her a card, maybe an e-mail — I didn't think she was into Twitter.

"Interesting bumper sticker you've got on your car," he continued. "'For all you do ... His blood's for you!' I wonder how the guy you cut off on the freeway exit this afternoon liked it? At least you gave him a good chance to view the message right up close."

I could feel my face getting a bit hot. Not only had my uninvited guest hit a sore spot, he was beginning to really chafe my bunions.

Yet he wasn't through. "And when you had a chance to speak up in support of Jack Horner at church board tonight, you kept silent. You chose to be politically correct ... and you should be ashamed."

My emotional radiator boiled over. "Get out," I shouted. "Get out, and stay out!" I roughly pulled the impudent runt to the door and pushed him out into the dark night.

Slamming the door shut, I stood for a moment, letting the heart rate subside. Finally I trudged back to bed. There lay a business card. Crawling under the covers, I held the card up to the light. It read simply, "With regards — Your Conscience."

I gazed at it for a long moment. Then, flicking off the lamp, I turned over and tried unsuccessfully to go back to sleep.

Adapted with apologies to Mark Twain

"Cowardice asks the question, 'Is it safe?' Expediency asks the question, 'Is it politic?' Vanity asks the question, 'Is it popular?' But, conscience asks the question, 'Is it right?'" —Martin Luther King Jr.