Here is this week’s section from Part Two of Soul Cages (PG-13).
L. M. May
Copyright © 2011 by L. M. May
Published by Osuna Publishing
This story is a work of fiction. The characters, incidents, dialogue, and locales are either drawn from the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, and locales is entirely coincidental.
Part Two. Broken Masks
After Henry, John, and I slathered ourselves down with sunscreen, we got into John’s truck. In the enclosed space the sunscreen scent was overwhelming, bringing back memories of summers on the Outer Banks. But here in Albuquerque there was no ocean surf, no seagulls, no sand dunes.
Henry insisted on sitting next to the window, so I found myself in the middle seat between him and John. The truck’s cab was clean, the dashboard faded from the sunlight. I peeked into the back—various big tools and yard equipment (a weed whacker, shovels, rakes) were on racks, and storage boxes and toolboxes were lashed down. Even a lawn mower had been squeezed in.
The truck’s A/C was a welcome change from the swamp coolers as we drove to the park.
Henry bolted straight for the swings as soon as he was out of the truck. John and I hid from the heat under the trees. The park was rapidly turning into my only refuge from the house since I had neither a car nor anyone who could watch Henry for me. And to go to a different park was to risk Henry losing it by changing the one predictable loved activity in his new life.
I thought about the words I’d overheard Dad say earlier to Mom. “John, can you tell me more about the healings?”
“What do you want to know?”
“Anything. Mom and Dad told me a little about Luke, and Mrs. Girady and Mr. Rickmand.”
John sat down under the oak’s shade and stared at the Sandia Mountains. A variety of emotions passed across his face: sadness, wonder, confusion. I sat down on the cool grass as well, and waited.
John said, “Luke was dying. Make no mistake about that. With every passing day in the hospital, he got weaker despite the meds and treatments. His lungs kept filling up so that he couldn’t breathe and the fever wouldn’t come down. Then one afternoon he slipped into unconsciousness.”
Unseeing, John plucked at blades of grass. “Dad did a prayer of healing at Luke’s bedside that evening. There was no change in Luke’s condition right after. Mom took the shift from six to midnight to watch over Luke, and I took the midnight to six.”
He brushed the grass fragments off his fingers. “When Mom woke me up, there’d been no change, yet. I sat in the chair beside his bed and held his hand. It was burning up with fever. And then slowly, as I sat vigil, the fever seemed to fade. I thought I’d just gotten used to his palm being so hot. But near dawn Luke’s eyelids began to move. And then they opened, and he tried to say ‘water.’ His lungs were still full of fluid, so it was hard to understand him. It took months until he was back to full health. But the turning point had been that night.”
“I’m sorry,” I said, “but it sounds like coincidence to me.”
“Maybe.” John regarded me. “The possibility of Henry being healed is the major attraction for your dad to First Beginnings, isn’t it?”
I squirmed. “Yes.”
“And if there’s no healing, what then?”
“I … don’t know.”
“You said Henry was diagnosed when he was nine. Why is it after two years you know more about Asperger’s than your parents?”
I jumped up. My heart beat hard and fast. I recalled my parents’ words to Mrs. Brent. “They’re afraid of labeling and limiting Henry by learning stereotypes about Asperger’s Syndrome.”
“That’s utter bullsh—”
“It’s none of your business!” I strode away.
He called after me, “What happens to Henry after you’re gone?”
I paused in mid-stride, and then stalked onward to go push Henry on the swings. John’s questions had stung. Considering how messed up his parents were, he had no right making aspersions about mine.
John watched me, and no matter how I tried I couldn’t get his words to shut up in my head.
In the end, I went back to the oaks to finish the fight with him.
But before I could speak, John held up a calloused palm. He said, “I’m sorry I was harsh. It’s just … I’ve seen what happens when people demand a miracle to save them, instead of acting in the here and now.” He grimaced. “Part of the reason Luke ended up in the hospital was because Mom and Dad waited too long to get his pneumonia treated.”
Thinking of Luke and Henry, sadness flooded through me.
John got to his feet in alarm. “Forget what I asked. Let me tell you about Mrs. Girady and Mr. Rickmand.”
I took a couple of deep breaths to steady myself, and nodded.
John dug his hands into his pockets. “I got to witness those healings up close since I do yard work for both of them. After Luke’s recovery, Dad started doing prayers for healing after the Sunday church service, and would then do healing prayers at home visits. For many months, nothing of note happened. Both Mrs. Girady and Mr. Rickmand were home-bound, so Dad would visit them in turn each Sunday.”
He checked my face to see if I was still upset. But my urge to weep was gone. Relieved, he went on. “Neither healing was spontaneous. More like watching a film rewind over a few weeks’ time. Mr. Rickmand’s recovery came first, this past November. Then in February came Mrs. Girady’s.
“I could actually feel it happening as I held their hands during farewell prayers.” John flexed his hands. “Before the turning point, at each visit I found Mr. Rickmand—and later Mrs. Girady—more drained of life. Then one day, I’d come and find all had changed, life was flowing into them instead of out. Both of them swear it wasn’t natural and that Dad’s prayers made the change.”
Despite my best efforts, my skepticism showed with a raised eyebrow and curl of lip.
Instead of being offended, John laughed. “You, a ‘lowly’ member of First Beginnings, dare to doubt me, Pastor Andervender’s son? Now I know who to turn to if I need to be taken down a peg or two.” Then he sobered at a memory. “I’m glad they’re better. Mr. Rickmand used to give Sydney rose petals from his garden for her to make sachets with.”
It always comes back to Sydney. Were you in love with her? I almost blurted the question out, but caught myself in time.
A gust of wind from the Sandias shook the grass blades so that they quivered like a tiny green sea.
John lay down in the shade on his back, and stared up at the sky, his hands folded over his chest. His fingers and the backs of his hands had tiny white scars from doing yard work.
I jerked my gaze away to trace the dark green lines of pine trees at the top of the Sandias. Then I called Henry over, and started therapy work with him while John watched.
First Henry and I did hopscotch-type exercises with rectangular squares set up in different patterns, followed by tossing a tennis ball back forth with alternating hands. Henry endured both without complaint, because he knew his favorite activity would come next—the Frisbee throw.
Once the ball toss was done, Henry ran for my backpack and pulled out the Frisbee. He ran back with it and said, “Pretend discus throw … please.”
“Oh, okay.” I positioned myself as if the Frisbee were a discus, swung my body as Coach Lucas had taught me, and threw the Frisbee as far as I could.
John ran by us to catch it, but was too late. He picked the Frisbee off the ground, and sent it back in a fast arc that had Henry humming in excitement.
I caught it, barely, and sent it back as fast as I could. This time he caught it out of the air.
I said to Henry, loud so John would hear, “Your turn.” John threw it to Henry, slow and steady, so that Henry almost caught it.
Henry picked it up, and tossed it to me. We started a three-way game of Frisbee toss that went on until Henry sat down, indicating he’d had enough. For Henry’s amusement, John and I began a duel of fast high throws to see who would miss first.
John made a dive at the Frisbee that resulted in him tumbling across the grass. I ran up to make sure he was okay, but before I reached him, he called out, “Go long!” He threw the Frisbee past me so that I had to run after it to try and catch it. I missed, but the hard run had been exhilarating after being cooped up in the house.
I noticed that I was less out of breath from the altitude, and that the hot dry air wicked away sweat. Which meant we needed to take a water break.
We returned to the oaks to get bottled water out of the backpacks. Henry complained about being too hot, so I poured half the water of an extra bottle over his head. Then Henry insisted on pouring water on my ponytail.
That started a water fight between Henry and me—with John watching, amused—until Henry and I joined forces and doused John with a newly opened water bottle.
We were all dripping and laughing when my cell phone went off. John stopped in mid-laugh, and soberly looked at his watch.
Mom said to me, “It’s after five-thirty. Gena called wanting to know where John is. Come home.”
“Fun’s over,” I said to them. I felt a pang of disappointment. Despite the heat, the park was more pleasant than the house.
************** End of Part Two. 29. *****************
If you are reading this after January 20, 2014, you should be able to click here to go to the main information page of Soul Cages to find Part Two. 30.
Soul Cages is available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Sony, Smashwords, iBookstore, Kobo, and other e-bookstores. A print edition is now available on Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble, and through independent bookstores either in stock or through order (ISBN-13 is 978-0615870465). Links can change over time, so click here to go to the main page for Soul Cages if any links don’t work.