The Bus Stop Messiah is a real character. He hangs around the bus stop over the road from the hospital with a cardboard sign promising “CANCER HELP!” I’ve only spoken to him once briefly, a few weeks ago and haven’t seen him since, but I can’t get him out of my head. I hope I meet him again, I have so many questions…
LPR: Remember me?
BSM: Er no. Not really…
LPR: You offered to cure my cancer a couple of weeks ago at this very bus-stop.
BSM: Ah yes. Sorry, I talk to a lot of clients every day. Of course I remember you now. Esophageal cancer, bad prognosis. How are you? Have you changed your mind about my offer?
LPR: Not as such. No.
BSM: So why are you here then?
LPR: I’m waiting for a bus. Why are you here?
TBM: I’m waiting for a patient.
LPR: I take it business is a bit slow then?
TBM: It’s not a business my friend. It’s a calling.
LPR: So you couldn’t squeeze me in then? For a quick miracle perhaps. A little laying on of hands?
TBM: Well, I’ll have to check my schedule, but I could probably fit you in for a consultation. There is a bit of a queue you see.
LPR: Actually, I think they’re waiting for the bus as well.
LPR: So. Just to recap on our previous er, consultation. You claim you can cure my cancer in two weeks, in spite of the fact that the doctors in that big white building over the road there say it’s incurable?
TBM: Two weeks is a best-case-scenario. It could take longer, every case is different. But I have a very high success rate. Over 80%. My last client, a 72 year old gentleman from Taupo had inoperable bowel cancer. I cured him in a month.
LPR: So he’s better now?
TBM: Well no actually he’s dead. Heart attack poor man. He was doing one-arm press-ups. My program places great emphasis on physical exercise. That an an austere diet and strict spiritual observance. But he was very definitely cancer free when he passed away.
LPR: I’m sure that must have been a great comfort to him. So listen, I’m curious. If you really have done what a hundred years of worldwide research and trillions of dollars of investment have failed to do, and stumbled upon a guaranteed cure for cancer, how come your standing at a bus stop outside the hospital with a cardboard sign and not on the front cover of TIME magazine?
TMB: (Reflective pause) It’s a lifestyle choice I suppose. I’m not doing this for personal gain. I’m doing it because I managed to cure my own cancer when the doctors said they couldn’t, and I want to help others do the same. I can help you if you let me…
LPR: So you do this just out of kindness? No money involved?
TBM: Well, I don’t charge a fee if that’s what you mean. I just ask for a modest donation. Something appropriate, in return for my time and services.
LPR: So what do you think would be an ‘appropriate’ amount. For saving my life? A dollar? A grand? A million? What do people usually give you?
TBM: Well, I feel a little uncomfortable discussing money in this way, It’s rather vulgar don’t you think? It’s really for you to put a value on your continued well-being.
LPR: Ahh! I get it now. That’s very clever. I can see how this could be quite a lucrative operation for a person less scrupulous than yourself.. Lucky for us your not financially motivated, or your philanthropy could be misconstrued as cynically self-serving exploitation of the physically and emotionally vulnerable.
TBM: Yes. I hadn’t thought about it that way.
LPR: So tell me. Exactly how many patients have you cured so far?
TBM: Including myself?
LPR: If you like.
TBM: (Long pause) Two.
LPR: So that’s you, and the dead man in Taupo?
TBM: I told you. That was a heart attack.
LPR: Brought on by you making the poor old sod do press-ups!
TBM: Only fifty. He was out of shape.
LPR: He was 72 and had terminal cancer!
TBM: Not when he died.
LPR: That’s all a bit academic now don’t you think? Did he make a donation before he popped his clogs I wonder?
TBM: Mr. Fitswhimple was quite generous. He left me a small bequest in his will. As a token of thanks. We became quite close you see, towards the end.
LPR: Yes I think I’m beginning to get the picture. You insinuate yourself into the life of a lonely, sick old man you pick up at a bus-stop under the pretext of curing him, get free board and lodging for a month – no doubt help yourself to a few antiques – get yourself written into his last will and wotnot, then bump the old duffer off.
TBM: (Indignantly) That is a preposterous claim. With no absolutely supporting evidence.
LPR: (Pointing toward cardboard sign) And that isn’t?
And speaking of messiahs…