The Most Important Man in the World


The Most Important Man In The World

At 4:52 in the morning on the third Friday in September, Clive Johanssen woke with such a start that he was tempted to roll over and wake his wife, Sarah, to tell her of his dream. He was breathing heavily and the sweat bathing his body was cold, despite the heat of the late Indian summer. It was an odd dream, so extraordinary he wasn't sure that it had been a dream at all. More than that, it had been a voice, a message, prophecy. He really should wake Sarah and tell her, he thought. Who else would believe that he, Clive Johanssen, middle-aged farmer from Kindersley, Saskatchewan, had been chosen by God to meet the most important man in the world today?

But he didn't, of course. Wake Sarah, that is. She wasn't the type to put stock in such things. Not that he was. Normally that is. But this was no ordinary day. No, better not to wake Sarah. She'd accuse him of working too hard and make him stay in bed all day with hot mustard plasters on his chest. Then he'd never get to meet him. Yes, better not to wake Sarah. She'd been working hard, too. She could do without the worry. Better to get up and go about his day as if nothing was wrong. He would come when he would come, Clive knew, and nothing he could say or do before then would change that. He slipped into his overalls quietly and made his way to the kitchen where the aroma of fresh coffee was waiting for him.

It was there that Sarah found him, coffee and Ag-Viser in hand, so quiet that at first she missed him altogether. She had a busy day ahead of her. The sun would be up soon and she'd have a kitchen full of hungry farmhands fueling up for another day's hard work on her potato-pancakes and eggs. Clive, without doubt, was already out and about; lubing the tractor, adjusting the differential, or any of the myriad other chores that couldn't wait during harvest time. As Clive was fond of saying, "Time and God wait for no man."

He was a good man, Clive was, raising four fine children along with his crops, in the end allowing them to pursue a life beyond the farm. When they'd gone off to college to "find themselves," he'd calmly accepted it, saying, "That's fine, Mother. They're good kids. Chances are that when they find themselves they'll find they're no farther away from us than they've ever been, whether that means here on the farm or someplace else."

Of course, that meant extra work for all of them now at harvest time. But he accepted that, too, saying, "We managed before the young ones came along, Mother, and we'll manage now. We've had some good years together. Now it's their time. It looks like a good harvest anyway. We can afford a hired man or two."

She knew that extra load would fall squarely between his own shoulders, as so much of it often did. "Time is money, Mother," he'd say. And, "Waste not, want not." That's why she almost burned herself on the griddle when he calmly cleared his throat from the kitchen table.

"Heavens, Clive," she said, hand flying to her throat in surprise. "You startled me." It was so unlike him to be sitting there idle, what with so much work waiting to be done.

"Oh, it's you," he mumbled, and buried his head back in the paper. The kids were gone. Who else could it be? Something was troubling him. She could see that. It was the combine, she was sure. It had to be. What else could it be? It had broken down only yesterday, leaving the back quarter standing and rain forecast for the weekend.

"Don't worry," she soothed him. "You got in so late last night I never had a chance to tell you. Merrill from Massey Ferguson called. Said he'll be around first thing this morning to fix the gearbox on that combine. Said he would've come last night, but he's shorthanded. Seems his youngest's gone off to try his hand with the stock cars again. For the life of me, I'll never know why he always picks this time of year to leave Merrill in such a bind."

The opening she left him was deliberate. She knew his opinion of Merrill's youngest well, having listened to it countless times in front of the big cabinet radio during the farm's idle hours. She waited patiently for it now. Instead, surprising her for the second but not last time that day, he cleared his throat again. He took a measured sip of his coffee and creased his paper neatly down the middle, where he knew she'd have it waiting from him when he got back after dark. She waited patiently. He mopped up the last of the egg yolk from his plate with his toast, ran his fingers through thin grey hair, covered it with his green John Deere cap and got up to kiss her goodbye.

"Honey," he said, his eyes searching hers uncertainly. "Today I'm going to meet the most important man in the world."

With a struggle she turned back to the griddle, keeping her back to him, fighting the worry in her voice, concentrating on fixing the meal before her. She stirred some of the links of sausages in front of her, counted to ten, and said, "Should I call you in from the fields when Merrill gets here, then? It might be nice to say hello?"

He raised his voice a half notch higher, as high as it ever got. "A Voice came to me last night," he said. "Clear as the day. Said I'm going to meet the most important man in the world."

"Because we really haven't spoken with him since the Anderson's barn raising," Sarah continued, fighting the worry. "I just thought it might be nice to say hello."

His voice went up the rest of the notch, an unprecedented event. "A Voice told me I'm going to meet the most important man in the world today and I'm going to meet him." He stomped off, leaving her standing in the doorway, open-mouthed with wonder.

Sarah Johanssen watched her husband carefully the rest of the day. Something was wrong, but she wasn't sure what. The best way to describe it was like a calf off its feed. Merrill failed to notice when he drive up with the spare part for the combine, even when Clive carefully scoured the cab of his empty truck. But Sarah knew. They'd been together too long. Every truck that threw up a cloud of dust that day drew inordinate attention from her husband. In vain. The day ended and he was still waiting.

At supper, they did not mention it, Sarah and Clive. When the hired hands straggled in well after sunset, he perfunctorily questioned them about the harvest's progress. Even then, his gaze unwittingly strayed to the kitchen window, as if still expecting his phantom visitor. Later, in the sitting room, Sarah talked happily about nothing as he unfolded the Ag-Viser along the same sharp creases he'd folded it earlier that morning. He finished it with a sigh, checked the morrow's weather on the antiquated cabinet radio, and got to his feet.

"I'm off to bed then, Mother," he said. "I'll be wanting to get at that back quarter tomorrow. It sounds like rain for the weekend. Time and God wait for no man."

Sarah hesitated, unsure. Then she said it, the topic she'd avoided all day. "I'm sorry, Dear," she said. "I'm sorry you didn't get to meet him. I really am. Get some rest. You've been working too hard with the children gone."

Nodding, he left the room. In the bedroom, he paused before the mirror. A middle-aged man with a deeply tanned face and forearms looked back at him.

"You know," he told his reflected image, "I really thought I was going to meet him today. I really thought I would."

With that, the most important man in the world got undressed and went to bed. Time and God wait for no man.

#Calgary story #Calgary author

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Darvin Babiuk writes novels, short stories, articles, shopping lists, and has more than once been considered a write-off. Friends say he has never been the same after the tragic incident that took place in the 1984 Moose Factory cribbage tournament. He is currently working on a mystery series set in Vancouver.

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