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 4

On the 4th day of Christmas: the next installment of the short story, The Miracle Man. (Check out previous paragraphs in “Past Posts” under “Love, Joy & Miracles.”)

“It’s like this: no one wants to invest in a product that will be last year’s model. THAT, my friend, is a tough selling environment. But like I always say, tough times—”

“‘Only make you tougher,’” Wendell finishes, hoping to quell the conversation.

Ira steams ahead at full speed. “I follow a hunch; make a call. And do you know what happened?”

Wendell spies Ruth boarding the bus. “You wish you’d gone shopping at the mall.”

“What,” Ira blurts as he pushes his glasses back up his nose. “No, not shopping, I got the account. It was like tapping into Fort Knox! My boss couldn’t believe it. He nicknamed me–”

“The Miracle Man.” Wendell turns his attention back to Ira. “What the hell does any of that have to do with joy?”

“Simple: Since I know what it’s like to live without joy, now that I’ve found it, I’m qualified to be its salesman.”

“Oh Judas,” Wendell fumes. “You’re going to start preaching about religion again, aren’t you?”

Ira waves him off. “No, not religion. Besides, it never did much for me anyway. What I’m talking about is joy and Christmas.”

Wendell wags a finger in front of Ira. “Then you’re still talking religion. Like I’ve told you time and time before, I don’t doubt Jesus existed, but to claim he’s God, born of a virgin? Those can be explained with science and logic.”

“Unless it was a miracle.”

Wendell grinds his teeth and drifts back in time…

He sits beside Ellen’s bed, holding her limp fingers; machines clack and whiz in the background. Tubes are in her nose, arms; face is snowy white.

This isn’t how he planned it. This had to be a mistake. He is Wendell Bennett, top-notch trial attorney for Goddard County. His prestigious degrees, good looks and panache had given him the footing to storm up success like a marine hitting Omaha beach. Over the years he became so iconic in the courts that he is known only by his last name. When defense attorneys learn that Bennett is on the case, the matter is quickly settled out of court. Those that are opportunistic eye him like a gunslinger, but he mows them down. Mercilessly.

He is at the top of his game, ready to enjoy life with Ellen: trips to Europe, long walks on the beach, visiting grandkids, sipping wine in Napa Valley. Ellen isn’t supposed to find a lump. The oncologist isn’t supposed to tell them it’s malignant.

He is Wendell Bennett and cowers to no one, so he attacks Ellen’s disease with the fervor he is noted for as an attorney. Second opinions. Third. Fourth. He reads books and magazines on the topic, attends seminars and workshops, even gets out of his comfort zone and blogs. Only the best centers will do: Mayo Clinic, Johns Hopkins, Stanford. He tries holistic health, wellness retreats, even the black market. All promise a cure. All let him down.

He leaves no stone unturned. He tries Eastern yoga, mysticism, Pentecostal pastors, Catholic priests, holy men of Yemen.

Nothing.

The cancer, like a plague of microscopic locusts, continues to gnaw away at Ellen. Weak and haggard, she begs for home, longing for the comfort of her own bed with family and friends nearby. He obliges, but Bennett never loses, so he makes one last ditch effort.

He prays to God for a miracle.

He begs, willing to swap his life for hers, vowing all of his time and money to pious service if only God will answer his prayer. For months he prays, daring to hope, steeling his faith, yearning for God’s healing touch.

Now he sits beside her. Tears well, vision blurs. Ellen lifts a weak hand and touches his cheek, and in a frail voice, gives him God’s answer: “Let me go.”

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.”

Love, Joy & Miracles…Day 1

Over the next 12 days, I’m going to post paragraphs of my short story, The Miracle Man. The setting is a retirement home at Christmas and the characters deal with love, joy and the possibility of miracles.

Thanks for stopping by, and I hope you have a wonderful Christmas!

The Miracle Man

Wendell Bennett shuffles down the north wing of Villa Velencia clutching the aluminum handrail—his lifeline to The Commons—with knuckles throbbing with arthritis.

Slippers slide over the tiles, the whoosh-whoosh sound echoing with the Christmas music piped through the building. His gray eyes are like dried water holes on a once great plain.

The image of his son handing him the brochure for Villa Velencia, five years ago, is still vivid. The pamphlet is eye-catching, professionally done; no expense spared. Even the slogan, done with a calligraphy font, is inviting: “A progressive retirement villa.”

A villa, he reflects. More like a compound. Damn place always smells like chicken noodle soup!

He studies the painting on the opposite wall: an impressionistic piece in the style of Renoir. He shakes his head at the cheap imitation as “I’ll Be Home For Christmas” rains down from of the overhead speaker.

The melody carries him back home. It’s A Wonderful Life is on TV. Christmas lights glow on the tree; the pine scent foretells of joy yet to come.

His son—too excited for Santa’s arrival—is playing upstairs. Ellen is in the kitchen sautéing onions. He sneaks up behind her and wraps his arms around her. She melts into his embrace.

Wendell shakes off the daydream. Warmth courses his veins as if he downed a jig of whisky. Gray eyes mist and he leans on the railing with all of his weight, desperate to capture the memories like fireflies and store them in a jar to admire at his choosing. But the song fades, the spell is broken, and they flutter away.

He strains forward and continues down the hall.

Step Into My World

Characters

When creating characters, I draw from actors, athletes, politicians, neighbors, etc., and use their physical appearance or personality traits for the basic form. Next, I develop them with more detail so that they fit in my story.

In Tears of Min Brock, I created Mithe from bits and pieces of people I’ve come across in life. But was she believable?

Welcome!

Months later while dining out, I glanced up from my Teriyaki Chicken to witness Mithe waddling in! She didn’t have all of the physical characteristics I’d imagined, and I’m sure she was a much nicer person too, but nevertheless, there she was. My point is that the world is full of funny, interesting, weird, odd, stunning, horrible, beautiful people just waiting to step into your story’s world.

For those following the “FREE” book posts, here’s the next installment.

Passing each dwelling, she noticed all had a crystal arrow stuck in its door. The parchments rustled in the wind like dried corn stalks. Curious, she slowed her pace.

I’m the only one who’s removed the arrow and untied the parchment.

She suppressed her fears until nearing the communal fire, she heard her neighbors whispering and saw them pointing at the arrows. Anxiety and fear sparked within Elabea’s thoughts.

Mithe, the old widow, spied Elabea and most noticeably the parchment clutched in her hand.

“Look!” she hissed to the assembled families. “Here comes Quinn’s only child! Behold what the homely girl is holding!”

The whispers stopped. Eyes stared at her parchment. Children hid behind their parents. Elabea stopped cold in her tracks.

Mithe wobbled toward her, leaning heavily upon her thick, twisted cane. Wrapped about her head and shoulders was a dark tattered blanket; a few long, gray hairs protruded out.

Peering from the shadows was a round face whose flesh no longer fit the bone. Seventy summers had covered it with large, thick wrinkles, some of which cascaded off her high cheekbones like floppy saddlebags. A furrowed brow, wrinkled by bitterness, concealed her pain-filled eyes. The one feature that made Elabea cringe was her voice. Steam hissing out of a pot that had been on the coals too long.

Mithe raised a long, bony finger accusingly at Elabea. “Destroy that invitation before it destroys us!”

“So it’s an invitation,” Elabea cooed, delighted to finally know the note’s contents.

Mithe’s eyes narrowed, angry with herself for inadvertently revealing the parchment’s message. Regaining her composure, she continued her tirade.   “Do you wish to curse us? I command you to destroy it!”

“Why is everyone so afraid of it? What’s it an invitation to?”

Elabea searched their faces. “It’s from Claire, isn’t it?” she asked them.

The crowd pressed toward her.

“Silence!” one man shouted. “The Oracles forbid you to speak the name!”

“Death will come! We’ll be cursed!” yet another threatened.

“Take your parchment and leave us…NOW!” a woman boomed.

“I don’t believe the Cauldron can hear,” Elabea countered. A corporate gasp erupted from the crowd. Undeterred, Elabea continued. “What if the Ebonites tell us such tales in order to control us with our own fears?”

“Stupid waif!” Mithe hissed. “You know nothing of such things!”

“You’re right,” Elabea replied in defense, “I’m ignorant because no one has taught me such things. You refuse to teach us how to read, so how can I know if I cannot read for myself?”

The crowd stepped closer, but all eyes were on the parchment, as if it held unspeakable powers.

Or evil.