Chapter Two

 

Vincent tells his childhood story…

 

 

“I remember it like it was yesterday: the day my legs gave out,” he said.

One of Vincent’s earliest childhood memories was lying flat on his back and pushing himself around the dining room, under the table and chairs, with his feet flat on the linoleum floor. His legs were bent and his knees projected upward. He was the car and his feet were the engine. This was innocent play, and he never suspected that the strength of his legs, or lack of them, was to become an indicator of the tragedy about to befall him.

He went to bed that night feeling a little flushed, with a headache. The next morning when he awoke, he sat in bed, spun around to place his feet on the floor, and collapsed. There he was, like the wreckage of a car, unable to press on his feet again, unable to stand up. He yelled for his mother. When she entered his bedroom he saw her panic. He will never forget that look on her face.

“Our summer had already been turned upside down,” he related. “The town park and pool was closed. We were not allowed to visit the nearby creek and swimming hole, but sat in the house, sweating, peering through the window as we watched the sun wither the grass. I wasn’t allowed to see my friend Tommy who lived next door.  The movie house on Main Street was vacated, its doors tightly locked. The disease and fears of an epidemic had impacted our community.”

His mother lifted him back onto his bed and ran into the kitchen to call his dad who was already at work.  Within an hour he returned home and carried Vincent to the backseat of their car, a Rambler station wagon. By then he was feeling very sick, and scared.

The drive to Doctor Mascalli’s office was about twenty minutes.  His mother had the window down on the front passenger door and the hot air stung at his face, but he didn’t complain.

His father almost ran as he carried his son in to see the doctor. He paused just inside the door of the waiting area. Every seat was taken. The people there looked up with faces of horror. Their eyes were wide, their skin was pale. Some were coughing.

By then Vincent was starting to wheeze. His breaths were short and rapid. He was beginning to feel lightheaded.

The receptionist quickly reached for the intercom that connected her to the doctor’s inner office. “Doctor,” she said. “We have an urgent case.”

He was grim when he announced his diagnosis. “It’s polio,” he said sadly. “We need to get him to the hospital emergency ward right now.”

His mother began to cry.

“Should I take him?” his dad asked.

“Yes,” the doctor replied. “That might be quicker then calling for a volunteer ambulance.”

 

“The plague hit my town hard,” Vincent explained. “ A couple of my friends never walked again. Some were fitted with calipers on their legs and hobbled around on crutches for the rest of the year. But Connie and I, another girl from my class in school, were the hardest hit.  From my iron lung I could see her in another machine, three spots down from mine.”

Vincent was paralyzed from the neck down. It was like the disease crept up his spine. The higher it got, the worse off he was. Fortunately, he could still talk, and eat, but had to swallow when the machine was collapsing his lungs, exhaling, otherwise the food could be pulled down the wrong pipe, and choking was really difficult to avoid, its cough persistent, a serious threat.

“I was scared, really scared,” Vincent concluded. “My parents weren’t allowed to visit. They sent me notes, read by Miss Jenkins, a nurse in the lung ward. Mom told me not to give up, that most kids get better in a few months. I knew that Granny Em was praying, and I believed that God paid special attention to her. And oh, how I yearned for a taste of her seasonal specialties, strawberry shortcake and pie.”

 

#

 

The iron lung had brackets that held a mirror at an angle above the patient’s head, allowing him a view of the room behind.  Vincent asked for two photos to be taped to the edge of the mirror. One was of his dog Scooter, a black and white Shih-poo. The other was a picture of Taughannock Falls, his favorite place to visit on vacation.

As the lung hummed and swished, Vincent imagined that it was moaning for help. The rhythmic sound of the machine induced sleep, a welcome relief from the slow movement of the clock’s minute hand. It was within view, in the top of his mirror.  The reverse image he saw there had the clock’s hands moving backwards, an eerie illusion, as if his life was slowly ebbing away.

In dreamland he could run and play. One day he envisioned a beautiful little girl. She resembled Julie, the first time he ever saw her.

 

Jewel was an energetic five-year-old with long braided hair. She liked to wear bright blue bows at the end or her pigtails. Her new puppy was pouncing on the floor with a rubber toy, happy in the fun. Suddenly there was a loud bang, a crack of lightning, and it shook the house. The little dog jumped through an open window. Her name was “Ransome,” and she was too young to know to stay put.

Jewel came to her feet just in time to see Ransome running down the pathway through tall weeds at the back of the house. The puppy soon disappeared into the nearby woods. Jewel called her name frantically, and as loudly as she could. It had not yet begun to rain, so she darted out the rear door, leaped off the porch, and chased after the little dog that had been frightened by the coming storm.

As she ran along the trail, she could hear Ransome barking. The trail split and she went to the right, and then it forked again, so she ran to the left; right then left, left and left again, and then right. Jewel ran as fast as she could, following the barking sound.

Then it happened. Her foot caught on the craggy edgy of a Willow root and she stumbled, falling hard into a mossy patch.  She felt angry about the green stains on her pretty cotton dress as she brushed the dirt off of her knees and elbows, and then stood silently to listen for Ransome, but there was not a sound to be heard.

What should she do now? She couldn’t remember the way home because she had run so fast and did not count the turns. She decided to go on in hopes of seeing or hearing Ransome bark again soon.

And then she saw it, a little house tucked behind a high hedge. There was a gate and a walkway that led to the cottage. Do you suppose that Ransome had gone there? If not, perhaps the person who lived in the house had seen where her puppy went.

Jewel opened the gate as it creaked loudly. She took several steps along the walkway and came upon a mirror mounted on a post. Above it was a sign that read, “Say hello to Yourself.”  A short way farther she encountered another mirror. Its sign said, “Say hello to Your Other Self.” And on the bottom were these words inscribed in smaller letters: “Perhaps Your Other Self Is Your Better Self – Choose Wisely!”

Jewel thought this was very peculiar and then noticed that as she peered into the reflective glass she could see the back of her head. One of the blue bows was missing.  She spun around on her heels and sure enough, there was a second mirror, positioned to reveal what was behind. Each reflected into the other, creating an endless maze of mirrored images.

She pondered on its meaning.

Jewel stepped up to the door of the house, now feeling a little scared. Still, she had to find Ransome. She looked for a doorbell, but there was none, so she knocked on the door’s hard surface, and this hurt her knuckles. She waited and then waited some more, but no one came to answer.  Being a determined little girl, Jewel made a fist and pounded on the door as hard as she could. Soon it opened a crack. “What do you want little girl?” The voice sounded like that of an old man.

“I lost my dog. Can you help me find her?” Jewel asked with her sweetest and most persuasive voice.

“I don’t see a dog, do you?” was the odd reply. But before Jewel could answer, supposing that the question had been posed to her, another voice said, “No, didn’t see a dog this way. Now turn around so I can see our visitor more plainly.”

The door opened a little wider and small wrinkled fingers stretched out toward Jewel.  “Let me see your hand.” The person in the house suggested.

Now Jewel was taught to be careful around strangers, but she still needed to find her dog. The hand was open, held at the height of her waist, and waiting still. Slowly and carefully Jewel reached toward it, ready to pull back if the stranger attempted to grab her. But his touch was soft on her palm. His finger drew across it, and then tapped upon her finger tip.

Suddenly the door opened fully. “You are welcome. Please come in.”

It was a middle-aged man. He looked somewhat like her father, but was much shorter. They stood there, the stranger and Jewel, almost the same height, each peering deeply into the eyes of the other.

The little man quickly spun around and Jewel saw a similar face on his back. It was smiling at her. She shrieked and the high pitched sound made her ears pop.

“Please don’t be afraid,” the other face said. Jewel noticed that a hole had been cut in the back of the man’s shirt to allow the other face to show through. The shirt fit tightly around it.  It had eyes, a nose and mouth, but no ears or hair of its own.

Jewel took a step backward and intended to run away.

“We have always been this way,” the other face said. “You only stare at us because you have never seen us before.  Have you ever reflected on your image, how your other self may appear to us, as we see you through your looking glass?” he asked, and then observed, “Of course, reputation is often ill informed.”

The two-faced little man spun around again. “Hi. This is Me. What Metoo means is that we are normal here,” and he paused, “in fact, you look strange to us, despite what you may think.”

Jewel noticed that behind the man was yet another mirror. She saw the other face, Metoo, watching her, from his reflection there.

“Do you feel well?” the little man asked. “Only the ill come this way. We’re here to tell you to go back home.  Don’t try to live your life in two places –it cannot be done rightly. You must choose – with integrity, honesty, and true commitment. Otherwise, you will become a two-faced person.”

“But I must find my dog!” Jewel began to feel upset as tears welled in her eyes.

“Really?” the other face asked, “What’s its name?”

Jewel paused and answered slowly, “Ransome is her name.”

“Really? Well I guess she did!” the man chuckled. “But if Ransome ran away, how will you find her? By now Raven has probably captured her.”

And he spun around again.

“Don’t go on this journey,” the second face warned, “or your other self, this self, may not return. We have seen others like you and many do not return to your world,” Metoo warned.

This confusing talk was causing Jewel to become angry. She grasped the sides of her skirt and thought about what to do next.

 

“Vincent… Honey, it’s time to eat,” a voice said from a parallel reality. His mind spun, not wanting to leave the cottage of Me and Metoo. “Vincent, it’s important that you eat something.”

 

“But I’m lost!” Jewel moaned. “I don’t know the way home.”

“Then you must consult with the three-eyed frog,” Metoo advised.

And the man spun around again.

“He’s a toad and a wizard,” Me corrected his other self.

“No, he is definitely a frog,” Metoo argued from the mirror.

“A toad!”

“No! A frog!”

“Well what’s the difference and who cares anyway?” the old man frowned as he stiffened his shoulders.  This action seemed to wrinkle Meetoo’s nose.

Jewel found their bantering to be humorous and her mood quickly changed as she laughed softly to herself.

“You will find him at the shoreline of the Great Lake… Go right, left, right, and…” the voice faded away.

 

He moaned as light brightened and the groaning of the mechanical lung filled his ears once again. He tried to move but his body did not respond. A hand touched his forehead. “Vincent, everything’s okay. Just try to relax. You were having a dream, but you’re back with me now,” the nurse smiled reassuringly. “I’ll give you a minute, and then you need to take your medications again. Is that okay?”

 

Vincent pondered on his strange dream.  What was the journey and why would he not be able to return?  What if the two-faced man was telling the truth? He wondered if his mind was just playing tricks or if he should heed this warning.

 

CLICK HERE for Chapter Three

"The Contemporary Christian Series" - Four Steps To Knowing God

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SALVATION

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When life wasn’t fair, God was calling his name. 

Robert Love experienced great loss.  His grandmother died under a cloud of suspicion. Memories of better times became miserable haunts as the skeletons of his past continued to rattle in the closet of deceit.

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Truly alone, his head hanging low, tears are dropping onto his lap. Already disgraced, this pastor feels no need to defend himself.

There have been many arrests of the clergy in recent times, the institutional church is weak, and the public is hungry for revenge. The police are ordered by the District Attorney to bring him in, to answer his accuser for the crime she alleges. 

Robert Love, the clergyman accused of sexually assaulting a minor female, searches his memory for a clue. Had he mistaken the events of his life, the way he saw God working and leading him into the ministry?

His divorce and aggressive response to the false allegation of infidelity brought by legalistic Christians is in his past. More recently there was the baby’s funeral and the unexplained reason for its death, as well as the demise of the mother, to cancer. She had refused radiation treatments, sacrificing her life for another, the unborn child that didn’t survive.

Thrisa is the only bright spot in this pastor’s otherwise dreary work at the parish and she is found in a dumpster, left for dead. Then, answers to the mystery are suddenly revealed at the bedside of a man even as he exhales his last breath.  The final verdict: “not guilty!”

 

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Young adults and siblings, James and Steffanie Wallas, who tragically lost their parents in a train wreck, are struggling to continue with their lives. 

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   James needs absolute proof that their mother has not returned from the dead.  The weight of the evidence needed rests upon a cross necklace, the one their mom gave to Steffanie at her baptism. Rejecting faith, she returned it at the funeral to be buried with all of her hopes and dreams. It was this necklace that she saw the being wearing. Now, James must find the explanation that will bring his sister back from the brink of insanity.

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The Daniels men held their legacy in secret, preserved for future generations.

Levi Daniels was shot while Confederate soldiers invaded his southern Pennsylvania farm.  In a small wooden box, he took his prized possession to California, seeking better fortune. But as history has it, trouble followed.

As a young boy, Darren is expected to carry the torch.  From his hospital bed, Darren’s grandfather spoke reverently of the responsibility as he bypassed the birthright of the next person in line. It should have been given to Darren’s father, Joseph, but he is still missing.

Darren and his fraternal twin sister, Deidra, are able to avoid their ancestors’ haunts until engaged in the disaster. An earthquake strikes the U.S. and it falls into anarchy. Joseph returns, searching for the remnant of his family.

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