Tag Archives: faith issues

Free Chapter

Nothing Dyin'Blue Skin (Pt 1)

(Taken from When Kings Clash, J.E. Lowder)

“Vonn, Mälque, wake up,” their mother whispered as she jostled them from their sleep.

The boys, recognizing her voice, rolled over and opened sleepy eyes. Their mother stared at them with a wild look, her face aglow with bluish light from a MerriNoon firestick clutched in her hand. Despite its brightness, it was cool to the touch until heaved onto a stack of wood where it would spark with fire.

Mälque opened his mouth to ask a question and she clapped it shut with her free hand.

“Hush up. Listen. It’s your father. Somethin’s happened to him. Somethin’ bad. Now get up. I need your help, but be quiet. Don’t need anyone followin’ us.”

As the boys rose, she fired off more instructions. “Vonn, grab a shovel. Mälque, bring an extra firestick. Hurry.”

She spun on her heel and disappeared into the gloom.

They snickered.

“Here we go again,” Vonn mumbled as he searched for a shovel.

“Yeah,” Mälque huffed as he reached for their stash of firesticks. Like everything they possessed, these were acquired from thievery. “When is she gonna quit?”

When they were little, she took them on walks in the woods and pointed out what she ascribed were omens: A fresh pile of gor dung was a sign that death would visit their tribe; a white stag – rare indeed – prophesized that a chieftain would be born; a hawk feather was a portent that great fortune would come their way.

As they matured, they noted that more times than not, the grand events the omens foretold never occurred. Vonn found a hawk feather but riches never followed. Death often visited their tribe, with or without dung sightings. When Vonn and Mälque pressed her for an explanation, she reinterpreted the portents in light of a new day. They accepted her explanations faithfully until the day she heard whispers, voices from the dead. From that moment on, they dismissed her beliefs as Superstitious nonsense.

They grabbed their tools and caught up with her.

 


Love, Joy & Miracles; Day 8

On the 8th day of Christmas: the continuation of the short story, The Miracle Man. (Previous paragraphs can be found in “Past Posts” under “Love, Joy & Miracles.”)

The south corridor is darker than usual, which is no surprise to Wendell: Doors remain shut when someone dies. Some hide. Some mourn. Some—like kids trying to ward off the Boogie-man—hope that wood, varnish, and steel will delay their fate.

Only one door is open. Yellow light spills into the gloomy corridor. He makes his way to Ira’s room and peers in.

The bed is made. A wheelchair sits in the corner. The room is empty.

A middle-aged man emerges from the bathroom holding some toiletries and spots Wendell hovering in the doorway.  

  “May I help you,” he asks as he makes his way to the bed where a duffel bag sits.

 “Ira Rubin. Is it true? He’s gone?”

 The man stashes the toiletries in the bag. “Went in his sleep.” He zips it shut. “Were you a friend?”

“I suppose, although now that I think about it, I wasn’t a very good one.”

The man grabs the bag and heads for the door. He extends his hand to Wendell. “I’m Cliff Rubin, Ira’s son.”

Wendell stares in disbelief at Cliff’s hand and then into his face. Hooked nose, close-set eyes, piercing gaze. Just like Ira.

He throws off his doubts, regains his wit, and shakes Cliff’s hand. “I’m Wendell Bennett. I’m so sorry for your loss.”

Cliff sucks in air and gives a solemn nod. He reaches into his breast pocket and pulls out a white envelope.

“He left this for you.”

“What’s inside,” he asks, fearing the worst news possible.

“No idea; yours is sealed shut, just like mine was.” He taps the pocket holding his letter. “Kinda how he lived: all sealed up, keeping everyone away, all his thoughts secret.” Finger tap, tap, taps. “I sat on his bed for over an hour working up the courage to open it.” He pauses and draws in a deep breath. “Figured it was a suicide note.”

“Suicide…” Wendell staggers against the doorframe.

 “No,” Cliff says as he helps Wendell maintain his balance. “That came out wrong. I thought it was, but it turns out to be an apology.”


Love, Joy & Miracles; Day 6

Merry Christmas!

On the 6th day of Christmas: the continuation of the short story, The Miracle Man. (Previous inserts can be found under “Past Posts” under “Love, Joy, & Miracles.” )

“Well if he’s in the kitchen, I want to file a complaint.”

“You just don’t get it, do you?”

Wendell sets his mug down. Jaw line is tight. “Look. I’m glad you’ve found something that gives you purpose, even joy, but it would take a miracle for me to believe again.”

  “A miracle?” There was excitement in Ira’s voice.

 Wendell crosses his arms. “I was speaking hypothetically.”

 “Hey, you started this. So I’m curious: what would you call a miracle?”

“Boy! For a guy with tubes crammed up his nose, you sure are a cocky-cuss!”

“And I thought a hot-shot lawyer like you would be more open-minded.”

“I am open-minded, Ira. I just know the difference between fantasy and reality.”

“So you’re scared.”

“Of what?”

“Truth. Love. Peace. Joy.”

“Please!”

“But what if miracles happen? Wouldn’t that make you consider another verdict about God?”

“Okay,” Wendell snaps; nostrils flare. “You want a miracle? I’ll give you one, but remember: You brought this on yourself.”

Wendell surveys the room and considers his options. He zeroes in on the group sitting off from the others. His years as a prosecutor kick in and he formulates his case in a matter of seconds, and as was his custom, begins with a feint. “I want God to give them joy.” He gestures at the woman cursing like a sailor. “Or make ole what’s-her-name shut up.”

Wendell turns, eyes narrow, and he delivers the real terms. “Better yet, how about a miracle for me and…” He points an index finger at Ira. “You.”

Ira doesn’t bat an eye. “Such as?”

“I want Ruth to give me a hug and a kiss tomorrow. And not something done in the spirit of Christmas, but the real deal.”

 Ira rubs his chin, whether to counter or in wonderment, Wendell is unable to discern.

  “And for you…” Wendell raises his finger like he did when making his closing arguments. “I want your son to visit on the same day.”

Ira’s eyes widen. “My son?” His voice is hollow.

“Yes. The one who never visits because of your quarrel.”

 Ira bites his lower lip.

Wendell sneers and sweeps an arm like a symphony conductor. “There, you see? Those can’t happen, not by tomorrow, so let the matter—”           

“I had a dream…”

Wendell’s arm plops to his side. “Ira, seriously, let it go.”

Ira gets a far away look. Fingers drum his chin as he mulls over Wendell’s requests. “Okay,” he says with a head nod, “tomorrow.”

Wendell’s mouth drops open in shock. “Tell me you’re joking!”

Ira’s determined expression tells him otherwise.

“Then you’re a bigger fool than I thought!”

“Perhaps.” Ira’s voice is silky-smooth. “But I’ll risk it all if it means you find joy this Christmas.”

Wendell’s blood boils, and he clinches his fists. “Then let’s raise the ante: if the

miracles don’t happen tomorrow, you promise to never, and I do mean never, talk to me about religion again.”

“And if they do?”

Wendell rolls his eyes. “They won’t.”

“Hey, a bet is a bet.”

“Fine.” He plants his hands on his hips. “I’ll go to the Christmas service.”

Ira considers his offer and gives him a faint smile. “Good. Then it’s settled.”

He flicks his joystick and rolls away.

Wendell stares after him in disbelief. “It’s not going to happen, Miracle Man.”

Ira rounds the corner and the oxygen tank chimes down the hall.


Love, Joy & Miracles; Day 5

On the 5th day of Christmas: the next installment of the short story, The Miracle Man. (You can read previous portions in “Past Posts” under “Love, Joy & Miracles.”)

Wendell jerks away from the memory. “I used to have faith like yours.”

“Faith like mine?” Ira snorts. “The only time I set foot in a church was to get married. And you know how that ended.”

“But for the past month, all you’ve talked about is religion.”

Ira reaches for Wendell who instinctively steps back. “That’s what I’ve been trying to tell you! I’ve found joy.”

Wendell smirks. “So what does she look like?”

Ira scowls and leans back in his wheelchair. “You do that a lot.”

“Do what?”

“Joke around when I hit on something uncomfortable.”

 Wendell takes a sip of tea and gives Ira a nod of respect. “Okay, I’ll bite: tell me how you found joy.”

Ira leans forward and gestures with his hands to illustrate his story. “It all started several months ago. I was feeling like one of those elephants in that Tarzan movie. You know, life’s over, nothing to live for, so many mistakes and regrets. Even thought about ending it all. But as fate would have it, Ruth dropped by. Something about her intrigued me.”

“It’s called sex appeal.”

Ira smirks. “See? There you go…”

“Okay, you were saying…

“Well, she’s always wearing a smile and seems, well, content. Anyway, we talk and she says it all has to do with her faith, so she hands me a Bible. I was skeptical, so I decided to read a chapter or two and if nothing happened, then I’d figure something else out.”

Ira looks over the top of his glasses. “Now I know this will sound crazy, but the words seemed to hop off the page and into me.” Ira taps his chest. “I haven’t been the same since. You wanna talk about joy?!”

“Look, just because you experienced euphoria doesn’t prove God exists. Maybe you should go see the doctor. I bet your meds are out of whack.”

 Ira, undeterred, wets his lips to deliver his final thought. “What I’m trying to tell you is this: I found God here in Villa Velencia.”


Love, Joy & Miracles; Day 3

On the third day of Christmas: the next installment of the short story, The Miracle Man.

(Read previous portions in “Love, Joy & Miracles” in “Past Posts.”)

He eyes the carafes, pondering whether to have Constant Comment or coffee, when a familiar voice shouts: “Christmas!”

Ira Rubin, Wendell deduces without taking his eyes off the table. Salesman from Akron; south wing; wife died years ago; son never visits; the man is obnoxious as the day is long.

He drops his tea bag into the mug of steaming water and faces Ira. Racing toward him in a motorized wheelchair, green oxygen tank clanking like an alarm bell on a destroyer, is a bespectacled man with close-set eyes. Strands of hair sway like Kansas wheat, and his over-the-ear oxygen tubes accentuate his wrinkled face.

“Christmas,” Ira fires at close range.

Same old Ira! Manipulates you into a conversation you never want to have. Lately, the topic is religion. But since it’s almost Christmas, I guess I can humor him…

“What about it,” Wendell asks as he stirs his tea.

“Does it bring you joy?”

“No. But I hear the cafeteria’s serving fried joy, sautéed joy, joy ala mode…”

“Very funny.” Ira sizes up Wendell. “Seriously, what’s your answer?”

 Wendell sips his tea. “It’s the same as it was yesterday and the day before that: no.”

“I figured as much, which reminds me, did I ever tell you about the Christmas I made the sale of a lifetime?”

“As a matter of fact–”

“Coldest December Akron’s ever seen. Sales were down, China was manufacturing for less, and Christmas was a few weeks away. In my business, Christmas was the valley of death for sales.”

“Just like the cave in that Tarzan movie.”

“Huh?”

“Remember that old Johnny Weissmuller film? The one where he follows those elephants behind a waterfall?”

Ira shoots a finger into the air. “Yeah, I remember that one! They go there to die and poachers try to steal their tusks. Well, it’s just like that only worse.”

Wendell swirls his tea. “Naturally.”


%d bloggers like this: