Tag Archives: love

Love, Joy & Miracles…Conclusion

On the 9th day of Christmas: the conclusion of the short story, The Miracle Man. (Previous paragraphs can be found in “Past Posts” under “Love, Joy & Miracles.”)

“Yeah, go figure. For years we hardly talk and when we do, it’s on the phone and only about sports or work.” He pauses; bites his lower lip. “I didn’t see this day coming.” His voice quivers with emotion; he looks away. “It was as if Dad knew last night was his last.”

Dizzy, Wendell heads for the chair near the window. “I need to sit…just for a minute.” He plops down and runs fingers through his thinning hair.

“Do I need to get one of the nurses,” Cliff asks.

Wendell fans himself with the envelope. “I’m fine. So much has happened…so much I’m having a hard time explaining.”

“I know.” Cliff puts his palm over the pocket holding the letter. “It’s as if Dad wanted to set things right. But how did he know he was out of time?”

“Luck or coincidence, I guess.”

“Or a miracle.”

Wendell stares at the envelope, unable to wrap logic around the day’s events.

Cliff steps to the threshold and halts. He keeps his back to Wendell. “You must think I’m a pretty lousy son.” Voice cracks. “Never coming to visit…”

Cliff wags his head as self-contempt delivers jaw-shattering blows.

 “Don’t blame yourself,” Wendell counsels while fingering the envelope. “It’s not what Ira would have wanted. Didn’t his letter say as much? Besides, it takes two to tango.”

Cliff wipes his eyes. Then, without looking back, says: “It was nice to finally meet you, Mr. Bennett. He spoke very highly of you.”

“As he did you, Cliff.”

 Wendell runs a finger around the edge of the envelope. Time is a blur and he is oblivious to the woman standing in the doorway.

“Is everything all right,” Ruth asks. “Cliff told me you got dizzy.”

“I’m fine,” he sighs as he pushes up from the chair. “Just a lot to process in one morning.”

She spies the envelope. “What’s that?”

“Something from Ira.”

“Aren’t you going to open it?”

“Later.” He tucks it in his shirt pocket. “Besides, I’m pretty sure I know what it’s about.”

Her brow furrows and she tilts her head to study him.

Wendell stares at the empty wheelchair.

“Ruth, do you believe in miracles?”

 Her head rights and she perks up. “Yes. Do you?”

 He takes in her sapphire eyes. “So tell me again: what time is the Christmas service?”

 She smiles, stands on her toes, and kisses his cheek.

 

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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 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 2

On the second day of Christmas: The continuation of the short story, The Miracle Man.

Wendell reaches The Commons of Villa Velencia and stops to get his bearings. In the center of the large room is a big-screen TV. The faithful huddle on sofas and loveseats to watch the morning game show. Scattered about the TV are sitting areas where other members gather. Some play cards. Some read. Some converse.

For the most part, he acknowledges, Villa Velencia lives up to its claims: elegance and amenities for those who can afford it. But there are some things not even money can disguise… He braces himself before checking on the cluster sitting in a shadowed corner. “…or change.”

They are phantoms of themselves; minds melting like wax near a flame. One entertains invisible guests; a petite woman hurls vulgarities; one man rocks back and forth incessantly. The others stare into space with eyes frosted over like panes of glass against a deep frost.

“Retirement villa,” he muses. Look at us! We’re like elephants in that Tarzan movie marching to a waterfall to die.

 “Good morning, Wendell!”

 He turns his attention to the feminine voice.

Ruth Tucker: South wing; husband passed some time ago; nice woman; attractive smile…

Her eyes twinkle with child-like exuberance, and for a split second, Wendell gets a glimpse of her when she was twenty. His emotions flair; he looks away to regain his composure.

“Are you going to join us?” She pulls her shawl close. “The shuttle is leaving soon for the mall.”

 He notes the white microbus warming up outside the glass doors. Snow dusts the tinted windows.

 “Why in blazes would I want to go to the mall?”

 “Because it’s almost Christmas!”

“Oh yeah, ‘the most wonderful time of the year.’ We buy things we don’t need for those we don’t like, and churches visit us to ease their conscience. Or is it to appease an angry God? Never mind, the fact is we’re alone 11 months like Tarzan’s elephants and…”

He catches himself, and despite his tirade, Ruth is all smiles. “I’m sorry. I must sound like Scrooge.”

She pulls her hand out from beneath her shawl and pats his forearm. “No need to apologize: I’m used to your moods. Should you change your mind, we’d love to have you tag along. Might do you good.”

She turns to join the others gathering near the doors. They spot him and wave him over. He ignores them and heads for the table holding hot beverages.


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.


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