Lectionary Reflection: Hebrews 2: 10-18: Brothers and Sisters, Sons and Daughters

            So, Christmas is over.  The wrapping paper and stray boxes are all bagged and set out for the trash man.  The turkey and stuffing did its’ duty and stuffed whoever partook – mostly those who promptly fell asleep on the couches and chairs spread liberally around the television.  The tree is still lit, but if my wife had her way it would be taken down Christmas evening.  The frivolity is done, the joy is over, and the season of giving goes back in the box to await another year.  Time to get back to reality, the cold of winter, the day to day struggles of living.

            Aunts and uncles, cousins and grandparents all go their way in a day or so.  Some visitors get tears when they go.  Some get a big sigh of relief, but they are family after all.  So now it is back to the immediate family that sticks around all year, going to school, working jobs, hanging out on the couch.  Well … Christmas is over, right?

            Wrong, actually.

            Christmas day is the first day of the Christmas season.  There are twelve days of Christmas altogether, like the song says.  Sunday, the 29th of December is actually the fifth day of Christmas.  So, have you got your five golden rings yet?  Well, I am sure they are in the mail.

            The Christmas season officially ends on January 6th.  That is the day of Epiphany, when the wise men came to visit, and in fact the visit may have been as much as a year later.  If you read the gospel lesson for the day (Matthew 2: 13-23), you will note that Herod ordered his soldiers to kill every boy two years old and younger; just to be sure he got the child who would be King.  Herod didn’t know the angels came and warned Joseph, so he took Jesus to Egypt to be safe. 

            But the point here is that Christmas is not over.  No, that does not mean we should turn our homes into the Holiday Inn Express for another 12 days.  It does not mean more shopping madness for hit or miss presents, or more cooking madness, or more turkey.  The turkey is endless after only one day.  We already face turkey sandwiches, hot turkey sandwiches, turkey casserole, turkey tetrazzini, turkey tacos and turkey a-la-king as it is.  No.  Instead, it means sharing the spirit of Christmas: peace on earth, good will toward all.  It means loving our family because they are, after all, family.  It means loving our friends and neighbors as ourselves, and considering the poor and needy, the homeless and heartbroken in the earth.  that Spirit of Christmas is not over.

            I was thinking there is a person in my neighborhood who did not appear to have anyone on Christmas.  Being alone is hard at all times, but especially at Christmas.  We need to remember the widows and orphans, and the widowers to be correct about it.  I was thinking of getting a small thing.  I have Christmas paper left.  I might wait until she goes out and then leave it on her front porch.  I could sign it, “From a Christian who is thinking of you this Christmas season and praying that your days may be blessed.”  A scarf or a pair of mittens would not cost much.  Maybe a calendar would do.  Even a left-over Christmas card would say I care.  That is what most people want and need.  Simply to know that someone cares.

            Christmas isn’t over.  We are only now in the middle of the season.  And that makes it a good time to share the message of peace on earth, good will, and love.

            I saw Scrooge this year.  How many of you saw some version of Dicken’s Christmas Carol?  I prefer the 1951 version that starred Alastair Sim, in black and white of course.  This year, there were two lines in particular that stood out in my mind. 

            The first, I am sure, is well known.  When being visited by the ghost of Jacob Marley, Scrooge implies that it is unfair that Jacob should be fettered with chains.  After all, he did nothing so wrong.  He was merely a good man of business.  Marley wails, a perfectly frighteningly wonderful ghostly wail, and then responds.  “Mankind was my business!”

            We know this, kind of instinctively.  Mankind is our business too.  The problem is, how do we work that out in a practical way?  All I can say is most of us honestly don’t do a very good job of it.  We pack up Christmas in many bags and boxes as soon as we can, and put away faith, hope and love, peace and good will, and the spirit of giving – all neatly tied up in a box and set back up on the shelf until next year.  Only the little children have the good sense to complain.  Little children say things like they wish every day was Christmas.

            But then, the second line that stood out to me might not be familiar to most people.  It was said by the Spirit of Christmas Present and might have zoomed by the casual watcher.  He said, “We spirits of Christmas do not live for only one day, but through all 365 days of our year; like the Christ child does not live one day, but every day in the hearts of men.” 

            So, we get to the point probably most of you knew I was headed for from the beginning.  I like the way Ronald Reagan said it: “Let us resolve to honor this spirit of Christmas and strive to keep it throughout the year.”  Christmas is not over.  It should never be over.  Love, joy and peace should be on the plate every time we sit down to eat, even if it is turkey meatballs.  Love joy and peace should be written into the things we need to do today.  Keep the spirit of Christmas alive.

            Now, I know for so many of us that might not be so easy.  Like the angel Clarence in It’s a Wonderful Life said, “This isn’t going to be so easy.”  Here, at last, we get to the passage in Hebrews and I think it is instructive for us, because he speaks or the reason Jesus was born in the manger, the son of Mary.  The reason for the season, if you will. 

            He begins by calling those in Christ sons and daughters of glory, made so by the suffering of Christ.  All those who are in Christ are the children of God.  That is you and me.  We are the children of glory, but then, of course, being sons and daughters makes us quite naturally brothers and sisters with Christ who is himself not at all ashamed to call us brothers and sisters.  So we are the children of glory, and also the family of God.

            Now, Christmas is a time for family, and even more than our immediate family, more than our flesh and blood family, it is a time for our church family, or what I prefer to call our real family.  We are the ones who were made a family by the one who was born in the manger.  We are all brothers and Sisters in Christ, and it is right that we should celebrate together.  The Christ of Christmas is our brother after all.

            An elder in a church got word once that a young member was in the lock-up, arrested for DUI.  After church, he sighed and said, “I suppose I better go down and bail him out.”  The man was no flesh and blood relation, so the person beside him asked a very logical, earthly question.

            “Why should you bail him out?  He’s a no good drunk and a bum.  You should let his family deal with him.”

            The elder looked at his companion.  “His family is dealing with him.  He is part of God’s family, our family here in the church.  Instead of criticizing him, we ought to be praying for him that he may have the good sense to seek the help he needs to work through and get over his problems.  But we are not going to abandon him just because he is presently full of sin.  Christ certainly did not abandon us just because we were full of sin.”

            We are family, the real, eternal family.  That means we are here all year long to help one another keep the spirit of Christmas alive all year long.  So you see, it something we do not have to do alone.  We are brothers and sisters, seated side by side every Sunday morning, sharing Christmas every Sunday morning.

            You know, there were time throughout history that Christians way back in the middle ages in Christian communities, and then after the reformation, Christians in various denominations called one another brother and sister.  Brother Bob and Sister Mary.  Sadly, after a generation, the meaning was lost and it became something of a title, like Doctor Jones or Reverend Smith or Brother Tom.  But at the beginning it was an expression of who the people were, family in Christ.  The family of God.  And like any family, we are supposed to be there to encourage one another in love and joy and peace; to hel0p one another, meet one another’s needs, and make sure no one is left out.

            You know, there are a lot of church traditions that many young people think of as silly and a bit strange.  We sing happy birthday to people, note anniversaries and remember those who have passed away.  We share the good things in our lives and also the troubles, and we pray for one another, for family members in need of prayer, and also for friends of the family, even if they are not members here.  We share in the spirit of giving, and give liberally to help support the family and the family home which is the church.  And we encourage one another, not just on Sunday, but throughout the week.  We encourage love, joy and peace.  But when you think about it, that is what families do.

            You know, all families are made up of those who are born into the family and those who marry in, or are like adopted from the outside.  And the young people need to be reminded that every family has a grumpy old uncle and a persnicity aunt and that cousins are not always the ones the young people would pick.  They might refer to Matilda and her children as Aunt Matilda and the freak parade, but they are family all the same.  Likewise, some of the older members of the family perhaps need to be reminded that when they miss church they are in fact missing family time, and we miss them when they are not here.

            So the writer to the Hebrews goes on to explain that Jesus is not a stranger to us.  He brings us together as a family of brothers and sisters, people who might otherwise be strangers in this world, but he, himself is no stranger to us.  He became like us, human, flesh and blood.  That is what the Christ child is that was born on Christmas morning.  But he was born so that he might tell us about the relationship between ourselves and God.  He tells us about God, and invites us to follow after him into eternity.  And then he suffers, struggles with temptation just like we do, and offers us forgiveness, a clean slate every day. 

            The baby born in Bethlehem gives us light and life, so we can walk in love, joy and peace every day, not just on Christmas day.  Christ was born and lives not just on one day, but every day in the hearts of his people.  He is a faithful high priest, being just like us, and in him forgiveness and mercy and grace and life have no end.  So the spirit of Christmas: the spirit of giving, of peace on earth and good will toward all, of love and sharing with family and friends should have no end.  That much is up to us.  We are his disciples now. 

            So here we are, waiting for our five golden rings.  I assume they are in the mail.  Then again, they may only be available after we enter into glory.  We shall see …

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Word & Spirit: A Very Merry Christmas to All

Merry Christmas to you and to everyone. 

To those of you who are not Christians or perhaps don’t believe in God, what I mean is may your days be filled with love and joy and may we all have peace on earth, good will to all.

To those of you who are offended by my saying Merry Christmas, you are the reason the world is not filed with love and joy and we do not have peace on earth.

Sigh …

Merry Christmas anyway …

Storyteller Monday: Ghosts 17

            Mya was the first to arrive at the scene of the accident.  She ran the whole way and was not tired in the least.  She never ran in her life before, her foot being the way it was.  Now, maybe she was making up for lost time, or at least she never before had such a reason to run, and she grinned at her own thoughts. 

            She stopped just before she got to the gate and noticed something she had not expected.  The young man and the suicide bomber were sitting side by side on the curb, talking quietly.  She could not hear what they were saying, and she did not intrude, knowing that would be rude, so she did what she could.  She said a little prayer that somehow they might find a way out of the pit they had thrown themselves into – that they might find a solution to the mess they had made of their lives.  Her heart went out to them, but she could do no more.

            Mya looked down and saw that her high heels had become flats, and she was grateful, knowing that she was going to have to climb up the grassy knoll that held the park bench.  She stepped up to the gate and smiled.  It was not that long ago she would have had to stand on tip-toes, and even then it would have been hard to open that big, heavy iron gate.  Now, she simply reached out, and it was an easy thing to do.  As she stepped on to the grass, she was filled with joy and gently closed the gate tight behind her.

            She noticed right away that the park bench was taken.  The minister was there with his newspaper neatly folded beside him, and she almost clapped to see the burly man beside him.  The man’s arm looked fully restored, and most of his face was whole as well.  “Thank you, thank you.”  She lifted that prayer as well.  Clearly, the minister still had some work to do, and just maybe he could add another name to that book of his in heaven.  She thought it was good that everyone had someone, and she had Nathan, except right at the moment she did not have him.  She nearly doubled up for want of him, and she cried out.

            “Nathan!”  When she heard no response she almost collapsed.  She yelled, “Nathan!”  It was as loud as she could, and then she heard an answering call.

            “Mya!  Mya!”  He had come in the other gate and he was running to her.  He was running!  Mya jumped and started to run as well, but she did not get far before they were wrapped up in each other’s arms and he was kissing her everywhere on her face, on her forehead, eyelids, cheeks, ears, on the tip of her little nose, and he did not neglect her lips, and she kissed him right back before she finally pressed her head into his chest and shoulder.  They were crying, but there were no more sad tears left in them.  These were tears of pure joy.  They had found each other and they held each other so tight it was almost as if they were trying to absorb each other into the depths of their souls. 

            “I am so happy.  I am so happy.”  Mya kept repeating her words into his chest, and he also kept repeating the same phrase.

            “I love you.  I love you.”

            After a while, Nathan took a step back in order to look into Mya’s eyes where there was no hiding that special smile that showed everywhere on her face.  Nathan returned her smile as they wrapped up in each other’s arms and kissed for a very, very long time.  When the earth began to tremble beneath their feet, they thought it was only a result of what they were feeling.  When that trembling increased, though, they thought they had better look.  There was a hole opening up on the green between this world and someplace else, and they separated to stand side by side and watch in wonder, though they never quit holding hands.

            Neither knew where that other place might be, though they both knew very well.  All they could see was a brilliant light, pure and holy so it made them tremble, but warm and inviting so they knew they were welcome.  As usual, Mya was the first to speak.

            “Perpetual light,” she named it, but it sounded like a question so Nathan responded.

            “It is.”

            “Do you know how much I love you?”  Mya asked.

            “I do.  And how much I love you?”

            “I do.”  Mya and Nathan squeezed each other’s hands.  “But I was thinking, now that I know what love is, do you know how much I love the one who first loved us?”

            “Exactly.”  Nathan affirmed her feelings and confirmed his own.  “With all your mind and all your heart and all your soul and all your strength.”

            “That is the first commandment.”  Mya looked up at Nathan once more to seek Nathan’s assurance, just in case she got it wrong.

            He nodded for her and that brought out her most radiant smile, and  they turned and walked into that perpetual light, side by side and hand in hand, forever.

 

END

Storyteller Monday: Ghosts 16

 

            Nathan found himself in a funeral home.  He did not have to guess what was going on nor for whom the festivities were.  Since Nathan was cremated, there was no need for a graveside ceremony.  He listened from the door as the minister up front droned on in the funeral service.  The man talked about the love of God, but he hardly understood what he was talking about.  Still, he did get one thing right: that God loves us and he is merciful and giving, and right then and there Nathan changed his tune from accusing God of setting him up to thanking God for Mya.  He felt he could hardly thank God enough.

            This man also talked of perpetual light.  Nathan could vouch for the light.  He saw the angel and the old woman who knew all about loving God.  Nathan knew that love was the key.  He remembered the phrase about faith, hope and love, and the greatest of these is love, he thought to himself.  And again, he knew that was true.

            After the formal service there was a receiving line where everyone who attended, most of whom were church members or childhood friends of Stephen or Susan, could pay their condolences.  Nathan got in the back of the line and he thought of everything he wanted to say.

            He never knew what love really was until he met Mya.  His mother was bitter from her childhood days in the war.  His wife found him convenient for a time, and he thought he loved her, but now he realized he really did not.  He was just grabbing at what he saw as a kind face that would feed back to him what he needed to hear.  When she realized he was never going to be president of the company, she dumped him.  But for a minister?  Well.  He shrugged it off.

            He thought he should apologize to Lisa.  He never told his daughter about love.  He never taught her because it was something he did not understand himself.  That was a terribly sad thing both for him and his daughter, but he supposed it could not be helped.  Even sadder was watching her perpetuate the cycle of the lack of love.  She drove her husband away, scum that he was.  Nathan had no doubts about that.  And then she proceeded to pass the same dysfunction on to her two children. 

            Susan was just like her mother, getting harder and crustier every day.  Her two perfect children were perfect because they did not dare step out of line.  Yet Nathan had learned something about human nature in the last day or two.  Human nature was very resilient.  God made it so.  Nathan imagined in the years to come one or both of those children would become true rebels.  He only hoped and sent up a little prayer that it would not be the self-destructive kind of rebellion that lead to everyone’s heartbreak and an early grave.  He hoped something good might come out of it, like a new view of life and a real chance at love.

            Stephen, on the other hand, had married a wonderful girl.  It was too bad he was such a pin head.  He was going to lose her, Nathan had no doubt, and with her his great-grand.  She was the only child of his issue that maybe had a chance for real life.  God, how he wished he could be there to watch her and help her grow along the way.  He wished he could be there now since now he knew what love was.

            The line shuffled forward slowly and Nathan came to realize there were more people there than he imagined there would be.  He had supposed that it would be a very small affair.  Most of his old friends were already dead; well, just about all of them, and the few survivors were in far-away places, mostly below the Mason Dixon line in retirement communities or nursing homes.

            Nathan jumped, just because he could.  He was twenty-something years old and he was so glad he would never see the inside of one of those nursing homes.  Maybe that suicide bomber did him a favor, and he grinned and thanked God again for yet another thing.  He felt the love of God very strongly at that moment, and he loved God right back just as strongly as he could.  God is good.  He kept thinking that, and he wondered if that was something he could tell Lisa.

            Lisa, I am all right.  God is good.  Don’t worry about me.  I have met the most wonderful girl, make that woman, and I am going to be with her, God willing, and happy forever.  To be sure, God gave her to me and she is everything I ever dreamed of.  She is twenty-something, but so am I now; but you know, even if she were seven, I think I would become seven just so I could be with her.

            He paused.  With that thought, he watched the last of his reluctance slip away.  It did not matter if they were both seven or both eighty-four.  He just loved her.  He just wanted to be with her, and she wanted to be with him, and that was that. 

            Lisa, I know I will be very happy; and he did know it.  I pray that you will be happy, too.  He could only pray for his daughter.

            Then Nathan hit on a thought.  It was not the goodness of God that was Lisa’s problem.  It was her trust.  It was her inability to trust God or anyone else for that matter.  It was her incessant need to be in control, to never let anything be out of control, to be in charge to be sure things stayed in control, the way that she wanted them to be.

            Lisa, he wanted to say, there is so much in life, in this world that we cannot understand when we are in the middle of it.  There is so much we cannot control, my own demise being exhibit “A.”  You can’t be in charge of death, or the weather, or the way other people think and feel.  At some point you just have to let go and let God, as the Baptists say.  At some point you just have to trust in a God that is even greater than I can imagine, and I am standing on the cusp of running into him.  At some point, and honestly it is at all points in life, you can only do so much and then you have to trust God to work things out; and, you know?  If you will just give God a chance to be in charge, if you will just let God be in control, you may be surprised, like me, when he works things out in a way that is more wonderful and incredible than you can ever dream or imagine. Please, Lisa, just give God a chance.

            Nathan thought all of these things and more, but then he came to stand before his daughter.  He was flabbergasted when she reached out and shook his hand.  She squinted at him for a moment as if trying to place him and even asked, “Do I know you?”

            Nathan startled her by kissing her on the cheek.  “Just in this,” he said.  “That God loves you and wants the best for you if you will let him give it to you, and your father loves you, too, and he will always love you even if he never told you so.”  Then he rushed down the line without speaking to anyone else until he came to Stephen’s daughter, little Emily.  He kissed her smack on the forehead.  “Be good and live a good life,” he told her.  “And always remember that God loves you and your great-grandfather loves you too.”

            “Grandpa Nathan?”  Little Emily looked up at him and he winked and ran out of there as fast as he could.  He knew where Mya would be and he did not want to be late. 

 

Storyteller Monday: Ghosts 15

 

            As the mist faded, Mya felt utterly lost and alone.  The fact that she found herself in a graveyard did not help one bit.  When she looked down,  she saw it was the grave of her own grandfather.  There was a space beside him for her grandmother when she died, but Mya knew Grandma was still alive because so far the space was untouched.  So why am I here?  She asked herself.  She could not see anyone around.  It was a slow walk in those heels to get to the top of the little hill, but she made it without mishap and there she looked all around and saw that she was not far from a canopy tent.  There were chairs set up there, and a little grave with the coffin waiting to be lowered to its final resting place.  Mya knew whose grave it was before she saw the stone that would be set up.  It was her own, and she tried to cry.  She felt she should cry for herself, but she could not cry.  She was much too happy about Nathan.

            Nathan!  That thought ran through her head like a shot.  She had to get back to him, but just then cars began to pull up on the narrow, one-way gravel drive.  People got out and came to the graveside.  Mya recognized a couple of her childhood friends, her best friends, her only friends.  As a child with a crippled foot, she did not have many friends, and that did bring a tear to her eye.

            Then she saw her mother and she ran to her and stumbled once because of the heels.  That caused her to think before acting, and in the end she decided to accompany her mother from a little distance and again she cried because she wanted a hug so badly. 

            She stood a step back and watched the others come.  Her relatives sat in the chairs.  The others stood, making nearly a full circle around her little grave.  Then the priest came and he talked about the love of God.  She knew that was true, absolutely, and she lifted up her heart to the almighty in thanksgiving for Nathan.  She realized then what Nathan had already figured out in the bathroom; that this whole thing was a set-up from the beginning.  God knew all along that she and Nathan belonged together, but they never would have met if she had not missed the school bus, and they never would have even been close unless they died.

            “Thank you,” she cried out to God.  “Thank you.”  And she felt then and there that she truly loved God even as he loved her and she felt warm and unafraid and never alone.  Still, she understood that for those gathered around the grave, these were hard words to hear.  If only she could tell them.  If only she could assure them of God’s love; but then she knew that they would learn some day, even as she had, and she prayed for every one of them that was sitting and standing there.

            She heard the priest talk about perpetual light, and she thought of the angel who glowed so brightly she could hardly look at him, and again she felt the love of God flow through her, and she reciprocated and loved God all the more, and then all at once she understood something she had not quite understood before.

            The priest gave the benediction and Mya drew near to her mother, and she spoke, even knowing that her mother could not hear her.  “Mother,” she said.  “I know what love is.  Mother.  Do you understand?  You did a wonderful job.  You have nothing to be sad about.  I know what love is, Mother.  God is love.  I am all grown up now, Mother, and God has given me the most wonderful man in the whole world to love.  And I do love him, Mother, with all of my heart, but first I loved you, only I did not understand what that was.”  Mya paused and reached out toward her mother’s face, but she did not touch.  All the same she saw her mother turn briefly to look in her direction.  “First with you, and now with Nathan, I know what love is, Mother.  God is love.”  And Mya watched while Sam, Mother’s friend, came up and placed his hand gently on her mother’s shoulder.

            “Sam.”  Mother reached up and patted that hand and then kept her hand there as if not wanting him to go away.  “She would have made a beautiful woman,” Mother said.  “I can almost see her all grown up and all filled out.”  Mother tilted her head to the side a little, just the way Mya did once and though she was not looking at Mya she spoke this way:  “I see her in a purple sundress and lavender heels to match, and she is lovely.  No, she is beautiful.”

            “I am so sorry.”  Sam said as Mya leaned forward and kissed her mother on the cheek.  Mother paused and put her hand to her cheek and then began to weep as Sam helped her back to her feet.  Mya watched while Sam escorted her to the waiting limo, and Mya finally cried for her mother.  She knew her mother was only twenty-seven and Sam was not much older.  She hoped and prayed that they would be good for each other and she hoped and prayed that her mother would never forget about love.

            “You did I good job, Mother.”  Mya repeated herself.  “I know what love is.”  Then the cars pulled off and Mya thought to run.  She pulled her heels off to run faster because she knew where Nathan would be and she felt if she did not see him soon, she would burst for the love of him.

Storyteller Monday: Ghosts 14

 

            When the morning came, Nathan was the first to wake.  He did not think anything special and did not immediately remember the past couple of days, being in his own bed and in his own place.  He did wonder, though, who this immensely comfortable female creature was that was snuggled so tight against him.  He heard her let out a little sigh or sound of utter contentment and it prompted him to look down.  She had the most radiant, raven hair that came back easily to his hand and that revealed a face that was absolutely stunning with  high, thin brows and rosy cheeks, long dark lashes which somehow he knew covered big, beautiful brown eyes.  She had a little nose and sweet little ears and wonderfully luscious thick lips, but not too thick, he thought.  Then he looked further and let his hand run down her back.  She was young and masterfully made, slim in all the right places and well toned, and all her curves were perfect in every way, and she had the most utterly gorgeous bumps.  He sat up like a rocket.  Mya opened her eyes slowly at first.  Nathan hopped out of bed and grabbed the clothes he had set on the back of the chair.

            “So is it that bad?”  He heard Mya ask, but he had already shut himself in the bathroom to try and get his racing heart to calm down.  He could not help a look in the mirror.  He looked to his own eyes to be about twenty-four, or anyway, not over twenty-five.  He looked at the back of his hand and there were no spots or wrinkles, and not even a hint of such things.  The skin was firm, but with the elasticity of youth.  And he had abs, and a perfect hairless chest, and he could not help but lift his arm and making a muscle; but then all that time he was wondering if Mya would like it.  He could not stop thinking about her.  She was perfect.  She was too perfect. 

            There was a knock on the door.  “So was it that bad?” Mya asked through the doorway.

            “No,” he shouted back.  “It was that good.”  It was too good.  It frightened him, and what he felt frightened him even more.  He was not going to be able to hold out very long.  If he thought Mya was beautiful, absolutely attractive and sexy at eighteen, that could hardly describe what he thought now that she was twenty-two.  Anyway, she was certainly over twenty-one.  “I’ll be right out, and it was perfect, only I think we need to get dressed.”  Nathan put his ear to the door for fear that he might hear her start crying again.  He breathed because of the silence, and then he dressed in his slacks and polo shirt.  He did not even realize that the suit was gone.  Then he had a thought and promptly accused God.  “You knew this from the beginning.  You set this up.  How could you?”  He did not expect an answer, but he felt now that him being eighty-four and her being seven should no longer be an obstacle.  In fact, it took a second for him to remember how old he had been and how old she had been.

            There was another knock.  “Are you coming out?”  Mya was getting impatient.

            “Hold on,” he said.  He looked in the mirror again.  He looked twenty-four and felt twenty-four, and he was thinking like a twenty-four year old and could hardly help it considering what was waiting for him in the other room.  Then he realized that he was acting like a twenty-four year old as well, locked in the bathroom, scared out of his wits by the beauty of the woman.

            He opened the door.  She sat on the edge of the bed, mercifully dressed in a purple sundress with white flowers.  Mya stood right up and he saw that the dress was quite short, and she was standing in high heels.  Along with everything else, he was not surprised that she had incredible legs, and those heels.  He bit his lower lip and noticed she was biting hers and looked at him with big eyes filled with trepidation.

            “You look spectacular,” he said in complete honesty except for thinking that the word spectacular was not good enough so he added the word, “Awesome.”

            Mya reached out and grabbed him by the arm.  Only his head had been sticking out the door.  She pulled him all of the way into the room and said, “Wow!” and rather loudly, and she made him turn around once so she could get the full view.  “That does it, I don’t care what you say.  You are my boyfriend and I am your girlfriend whether you like it or not.  If I so much as catch another girl looking at you I’ll poke her eyes out.”  Her mouth was open that whole time and Nathan had to reach out and tap it closed.

            “Scratch,” Nathan said.  “Women scratch each other’s eyes out.”

            “That too.”  Mya said with that irresistible smile and she stepped up, right into his arms.  What could he do but hold her?  She certainly did not mind.  He noticed that barefoot, Mya topped out at his chin, but in those heels her eyes came up to where he could kiss both eyelids without bending in the least.  He did that, and watched her flush.  She pulled in closer, if that was possible, and raised her lips.  He met her half way, and he thought all sorts of terrible, wonderful thoughts when he remembered her again as a child.  He broke it off, broke free and turned his back like when he turned to the sink.   He knew the issue of their ages was a sham.  He had no excuse there.  It seemed on that score they were designed for each other, and judging by her reaction to him, he imagined on looks they were equally designed for each other, and he knew in terms of compatibility, they were also designed for each other.  He was already reading how she felt about things.  It was how he felt.  And he understood the way she thought because that too was how he thought.  Yet there was one other thing, a small thing perhaps, but very important.

            “No.”  He shook his head sharply in denial.  “It’s just.  I can’t.”  He paused because even he knew that was not true.  He could so very, very easily.  “I just want you to be happy, that’s all.”  He did not say anything about his own feelings of inadequacy.  He hurt his mother when he married a Baptist.  He failed to make Penny happy.  He failed with Lisa.  He hurt and failed with every woman who ever loved him, and likely every person who loved him.  He would rather die than hurt Mya.  He did not say these things, but it was in his voice.  When he said “I just want you to be happy,” he might as well have added, “And I don’t believe that I am able to do that.”

            Mya sat on the edge of the bed and sniffed just once.  “But that is all I want, too,” she responded.  “I mean, I just want you to be happy.”  She sounded utterly sincere before her voice took on the sound of determination.  “And I feel if the only way I can make you happy is to go away, then I will go away.”  She sounded sniffly again with those last words, and then Nathan heard her crying, but softly, as if she was trying to hide it.

            Nathan spun around to face her.  “No.  Don’t do that. That isn’t what I meant.”  He lifted Mya from the bed so she could stand and face him, and he held tight to both of her hands while she sniffed back the tears and looked into his eyes.  “I don’t ever want you to leave me.  I would die if you left.”  He was serious.  He was afraid to be with her, certainly in that way, but he knew he could not live without her.  “Please stay.”  Nathan pleaded and he almost got to his knees to say it, and then he really looked at her and he saw the slow spread of Mya’s lips until she grinned at him like the Cheshire Cat.  Nathan pulled back a little to look sternly in Mya’s eyes.

            “I was hoping you would say that.”  She spoke through her grin.  “I really, really wanted you to say that.”

            “Why you…”  Nathan had to think for a second to come up with just the right word to get his revenge.  “Why you woman.”  He concluded and with that word, he surrendered.

            Mya stepped up a little and put her arms up on his shoulders, clasping her hands around the back of his neck while he dropped his hands to her slim waist and slowly found them encircling the small of her back.

            “You’re a Pinocchio,” Nathan said, now grinning as broadly as Mya.  Mya laughed just a little, and it was no child’s giggle but a wonderful, warm and tender genuinely grown-up laugh.  And she nodded. 

            And all this time they remained locked in eye contact.  Then all at once the smiles vanished and Mya’s lips parted ever so slightly and they drew in to each other just as tight as they could and they kissed.  Mya kissed him, not like a little girl might kiss her grandfather or even as a daughter might kiss her father, but as a woman who was absolutely and completely in love with this young man; and Nathan kissed her back like a vital young man who remembered, no, knew for certain what it was like to be on fire for the woman he loved.  It was perfect, and they might have remained that way forever if not for the tug.

            The lips parted first so they could look into each other’s eyes and note that they both felt some sort of tug on their backs.  It came again, stronger than before, and became a steady pulling that wanted to separate them, pulling them in opposite directions, away from each other, and it was growing in strength.  At first, they clung to each other and tried to hold on, but the pull became too much to resist.  They held each other by the shoulders, then the elbows, then the hands as the room around them began to fade away to be replaced by a kind of gray fog.  They grasped hands in mid air, their legs straight out behind them pulling ever so hard.  They struggled equally hard to hang on to each other, Nathan finally called her for the first time by name.

            “Mya!”  And they parted, speeding up as Mya was pulled away, and she screamed her response.

            “Nathan!”  It echoed in the gray mist.

Storyteller Monday: Ghosts 13

 

            When they got to Nathan’s first floor condo, he knew the door would be locked so he went in through the door and brought Mya with him.  “I didn’t know we could do that.”  Mya said when they were inside.

            “We did it at the theater.”  Nathan pointed out.  How could she not have noticed?

            Mya looked down.  “I had other things on my mind at the time.”  She answered his unasked question and then ran a finger through the dust on the little table by the door.  “Nice mess.”  She turned her little nose up.

            “Welcome to my pad,” Nathan said.  He brought her into the kitchen where he turned on the light.

            “Not too bad.”  She looked around the room.  “I could live here.”

            “No.”  Nathan shook his head and she looked upset for a second to think that he might exclude her from some part of his life.  “You deserve better.”  He finished his thought and she smiled.  Then she turned serious and took his hands and made him sit down beside her.  She worried his hands a little as she spoke.

            “I’ve been thinking about what you said earlier, you know, about the way this world has become.  I don’t want to be like that so I have to say this.”  She had to clear her throat and Nathan thought it sounded so cute.  “I’m sorry.  I was wrong.”

            “No, no.”  Nathan started, but Mya slapped his hand softly.

            “Quiet.  Stop treating me like a child.  Let me finish.”

            “You’re right.  I’m sorry.  Go on.”

            Mya cleared her throat again and paused.  She almost laughed when she saw the smile on Nathan’s face.  She cleared her throat in an exaggerated way and they both laughed before she lowered her eyes and began to worry his hands again.  “Anyway.”  She used his word and said it with the same inflection he used.  It almost got them laughing again.  “Anyway, I’m sorry.  I shouldn’t have kissed you and I shouldn’t have asked you to be my boyfriend.  Maybe I’m not old enough for that yet.”  She was being more than gracious.  She knew she was old enough on the inside, and he knew it, too.  She looked up at him because she seemed to be finished and she was only waiting for him to respond.

            “First of all, you have no need to apologize for the kiss.”  He thought about it and was as careful as he could be in how he described it.  “It was very nice and I kissed you too, you know.”  Mya looked down.  Clearly she thought the kiss was more than just very nice.  “And as far as being old enough, I know you are.”

            “But.” 

            “Now you let me finish,” he said, and she quieted.

            “I’ve been watching you very closely, and I have seen the changes you have gone through.  Somehow, you have been growing up and maturing on the inside faster than possible for a living person, but I know it is real.  I have seen how you have responded to people and situations, and I know the difference between a child and a teen and an adult.  In fact, I would say you are an adult now, already.  You are absolutely no seven year old trapped in a grown up body.  If anything, I was thinking your outside body has just been adjusting to keep up with your age on the inside.  You said you did not want to be a child forever, well now you certainly won’t be.”  His eyes looked her up and down.  He was a man, and far younger than he used to be so he could not help it, but Mya caught the look and leaned forward to expose herself just so and spoke in a more husky voice.

            “So, do you like what you see?”

            She smiled and joked again, but Nathan growled, stood straight up and turned toward the sink to turn his back on her.  “Don’t do that.”  He spoke sharply, and she responded with a little anger, or perhaps some frustration.

            “And what about you?  You were nothing but a pot bellied bag of bones.  Your arms were so spindly I was afraid at first if I squeezed too hard the bones would just snap in two.  But now look at you.  You can’t be more than thirty, and you have real arms and muscles and a flat belly and a chest and… and I better not say anymore.  But you know what I mean.  You have shed far more years than I have gained.  Where have they gone?  You’re not old enough to be my father anymore, maybe not even if I was still seven.”

            “That isn’t the point.”  Nathan turned toward her still angry, but he softened the instant he saw her and he realized that she was genuinely struggling with all of this.  She knew what she was feeling, but she needed to know what he was feeling.  She needed to understand, and he could tell by the look in her big brown eyes that she would never force herself on him if he honestly felt that it simply was not right.

            He spoke with all the tenderness that was in him and explained things once again as well as he could to this little girl.  “I remember being eighty-four.  It is a bit like a dream or maybe a story I read once, but I remember working all those years, and all the bad times and good, though maybe not so many bad, I think.  Still, even if it does not exactly feel like me anymore, I know it was me.  And you.  I remember you as a frightened little rabbit, just seven years old with a bad foot and a limp, begging for a ride home so you and your mother could visit your grandmother who was dying.  I remember you that way like it was yesterday, because it was just yesterday.  Do you know what they call old men who take liberties, like do things with seven year old girls?  I’m sorry, I just can’t.”

            “But you just said I am far from seven, and you are becoming a very attractive young man.  Isn’t there somewhere we can meet in the middle?”

            “No.  Stop it.  Not now, not tonight.  I don’t know.”  He turned again to face the sink.  “It is just how I think of you and me, fool that I am.  I’m sorry.”

            Mya started to cry, and after a moment, Nathan sat down beside her and held her.  He could do that much.  He never wanted to hurt her.  It was breaking his heart to even think that he was hurting her.  But what could he honestly do?  She was weeping, holding on to him for dear life and wracked with tears, and he was crying right along with her.

            At last, as always happens, the tears subsided for a bit and Nathan helped her to her feet.  He practically carried her to the guest room where he pulled down the covers.  “I think it would be best if you slept here tonight.”  He said as he glanced at the clock.  “It is almost eleven.”  He said.  “I don’t know about you but it is way past my bedtime.”  Mya laughed once through her teary eyes.  Of course it was way past her bedtime too.

            “Mother would be very upset to know I stayed up this late.” 

            “Mine too,” Nathan agreed and then he explained before Mya could ask.  “My daughter, Lisa.  She treats me more like she is my mother than my mother ever did.”  He sat Mya on the bed.  “And I am her wayward son,” he added with a touch of his finger to her little nose.  That made Mya smile, but it also caused her hand to go up and caress his cheek.  She grinned, almost appeared happy again as she brushed his unruly hair behind his ear.  “Now go to sleep,” he said and backed up to the doorway.  “You think about it,” he said.  “And pray about it,” he added.  “And I promise I will do the same.  Maybe in the morning we will be able to figure this out.”

            Mya nodded.  “Good night.”

            “Good night,” he said and turned toward his room.

            “Good night.”  He heard Mya again, but he dared not answer her again.

            Mya got out of her gown, not wanting to wrinkle it.  She had already decided to sleep without it but was kind enough to wait until Nathan left before she got undressed.  She found, then, that she could crawl under the covers, something she was not sure she could do, and she snuggled under the sheets and expected to get a good sleep.

            Nathan also got undressed, but it was because he felt he had worn the same suit for two days and that was long enough.  He left his boxers on and crawled into bed.  He was confused.  He was more than confused.  He was madly in love with the girl and he knew it.  She was the most beautiful creature in his eyes that he had ever seen, and he lived a long time and saw a lot.  What was his problem?  God, what is my problem?  He almost said that out loud as he closed his eyes for sleep.  Then he had a thought, and apparently Mya had the same thought at the same time.  The angel said they had two times a time between and a half time.  He translated that as a half a day, two nights and one day between   They had a half a day on the day of the accident, and then last night and the day.  What if this was their last night on this earth?  What if they were taken up in their sleep?  What if they were separated and never got to see each other again?  He was about to rise when he heard Mya at the door.  She came over quietly and pulled up the covers, and then she crawled in and pulled up against him.  She held on and laid her head in the crook of his shoulder.  His arm went around her of its own volition.  He could not help that, but he honestly thought it was best if he pretended to be asleep.  All he knew was if he was going to be taken anywhere in the night he was going to do everything he could to take her with him, and she felt the same.

 

Storyteller Monday: Ghosts 12

 

            The symphony hall was not far away.  There was a little time yet before the concert since the sun had just about set.  They spent the time looking at the posters and reading about the season’s offering, and Nathan confessed that he used to have season tickets.

            “I had to give it up when my ears started to go,” he said.  “God knows that when you get older, all of the senses start to go, one by one.”

            “Can you hear me now?”  Mya whispered.

            “Yes I can.”  Nathan whispered back, and she laughed again.  Nathan thought it was a great pleasure to hear her laugh and he wondered if she was ticklish.  She was, and in short order they were both on their knees laughing as hard as any two people had ever laughed.  Finally, as Nathan got hold of himself, Mya had a thought.

            “Oh, but I have never heard a symphony before.  Mother only listened to country music.  What exactly is a symphony?”

            “What is a symphony?”  Nathan puffed.  “What is a symphony?”  He grabbed her hand, pulled her to her feet and rushed her inside.  They snitched a look at the program and ran up the stairs to the box seats, Nathan hoped that the performance was not sold out.  “I used to sit here,” Nathan said as he caught his breath.  He was certainly under forty years old by then, but not by all that much.  Mya, who was not winded at all, had to be maybe and finally an honest eighteen, maybe.  They sat and Nathan explained all he could about Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony, and then after an intermission there was going to be a waltz by Strauss and a piece by Mahler.  By the time he finished, the hall was beginning to fill up and Mya began to get excited.  Nathan gave her hand a fatherly pat as if to say, just wait, when an older woman came to sit in his seat.  Mya nudged him and he got up as quickly as he could, but it was not quick enough.  The woman’s shoulder went right through his shoulder.

            The woman paused and looked at the ceiling as if searching for the air conditioning vent.  She pulled her shawl up fully around her shoulder and took the next chair over so Nathan got to sit down again.  Mya tried to hold back a laugh and Nathan wiped his brow.  “That was close.”  He spoke to the woman, but of course, the woman heard nothing.  He turned back to Mya but she hushed him.  The orchestra was warming up and the lights were going down.  Beethoven was wonderfully done.  Nathan could not resist pointing out his favorite part in the piece, but he saw that Mya was moved to tears so he really did not need to say anything.  When it was over, he thought that Mya applauded more than anyone, and then it was intermission.

            The old woman beside them did not look like she was going to move, so Nathan politely said, “Excuse us,” even if she could not respond.  Of course, their legs inevitably went through her legs, and Mya stopped them at the curtain for a moment to watch.  The woman bent down as if searching for the source of the breeze.  She pulled her dress all the way down to cover her legs.  Mya did finally giggle a little, but there was no little girl sound in it.

            When they got downstairs, they found it very crowded and very difficult to get around without walking through people.  Several men turned up their collars at the sudden cold, and some women adjusted their shawls and sweaters, but really, Nathan and Mya disrupted very little.  Nathan felt bad, briefly, that he could not get them some of that famous watered down orange drink.  They found the water fountain but Mya said that even in the hospital all she could do was wet her lips.  The lights flashed and that startled Mya for a moment.  She grabbed on to Nathan, but he assured her it was nothing to worry about.  They went back up the stairs, more slowly than the first time, but when they arrived, even as the orchestra began to warm up once more, they saw that two late arrivals were sitting in their seats.

            Nathan had a thought, and without saying anything, Mya asked, “What is it?”  She was beginning to know him rather well, too, and she could read the excitement etched across his face and eyes.

            “Come on.”  That was all he said, and they were off, running again, going down the stairs two at a time.  The lights were off by the time they broke into the orchestra seating.  They reached the stage as the applause for the conductor abated.  Nathan dragged Mya right up on the stage.  She looked more than once, nervously at the crowd even if she knew the audience could not see her.  By the time the first strains of the waltz began, he had her in the back corner of the stage, opposite the percussion section, where there was some room to move around.

            “What is it?”  Mya finally insisted.

            Nathan smiled and lifted his left hand.  “The waltz,” he said.  “We should be dancing.”

            “Oh.”  Mya put her hand to her mouth.  “But I’ve never danced like that before,” she protested.

            “Then time you learned young lady.  Come, come,” he insisted.  She took his hand and he lifted her other hand to his shoulder while he set his hand gently on her waist.  “Just do what I do,” he told her, and they bumped legs.  “I mean the opposite.  When I step forward, you step back.”

            “Oh.”  Mya turned a little red and decided her only recourse was to keep looking into Nathan’s eyes.  He looked into her eyes as well and waited for the right time to start, and then they waltzed.  She was so unsure at first, but it was not long before she got it.  The waltz was not a complicated dance.  By the end of the Strauss piece, Mya was moving with delight, so gracefully and effortlessly, and Nathan was feeling a bit awkward as only a man can feel when dancing with a beautiful young woman.  He stepped back at the end to look at her.  Her school clothes were gone and she was dressed in a lovely gown, all pink and sparkling and a little bit low cut, he thought.  He still had on his suit, but his shirt was tight and spotless.  The suit looked like it just came from the dry cleaners and he was wearing a tie.  He had not worn a tie in years

            Then it was over and while the people applauded, Nathan leaned over and kissed Mya’s cheek, and she kissed his.  Nathan thought that this was like dancing with his daughter on her wedding day.  It was a dance he never got to have.  His daughter ran away when she was eighteen and when she came home she was already married.  It was not that she eloped, though.  She lived with the scum for two years first.

            Mya thought something quite different.  She still had to get a little on her tip-toes, though not much, and she kissed him softly right on the lips.  “You could be my boyfriend,” she said.

            Nathan’s eyes got big for a minute before he grabbed her hand roughly and dragged her backstage and down the hall.  They went out the stage door, actually walked right through it without realizing it.  She shouted the whole way, “Let go, let go!” and tugged against his big hand.  He did not speak, but thought terrible things.  When he got her outside, he found some stacks of crates in the alley and he threw her down to sit on a crate, not to hurt her, but to not take no for an answer.  Then he spoke.

            “Stop it.”  He shook a finger in her face.  “I’m eighty-four and you are just seven years old.”  He knew that was a lie when he said it, but his mind was still telling him that.  “I don’t mind being your grandfather.  I don’t even mind being your father, but I’ll have no talk about boyfriend and girlfriend.”

            “And why not?”  She shot right back at him, not intimidated in the least.

            “Because I’m too old for you, I mean way too old,” he yelled.

            “Don’t you think that is for me to decide?”

            “You can decide anything you like.  I don’t care.”

            “Well, I don’t care either.  I don’t need you hanging around, you know.”

            “Oh no?  Where are you going to go?”

            “I don’t know.”  Mya shrugged.  “What do you care?”

            “I don’t care.”

            “Well, I don’t care either.  I’m grown up and I can take care of myself.  I don’t need you.”  She folded her arms, turned her head and stubbornly refused to look at him.  Nathan paused.  He just realized something he had overlooked.

            “But I need you,” he said, softly.  “Your insight and willingness to go through all of this no matter what is the only thing that has kept me going.”

            “Really?”  Mya asked.  She turned back to face him, her eyes grew terribly wide with surprise.

            “Really,” Nathan confirmed, and he lowered his eyes, unwilling to look into hers.

            Mya got up and put her hands on his arms, not hugging him exactly, but inviting a hug.  He responded by squeezing the breath out of her, and she found a few tears.  “But don’t you know?” she said.  “You saved my life.”

            “I tried to.”  His answer suggesting that he failed.

            “No, I mean really.  I thought you were nice from the very beginning, and I was right.  I was wonderfully right.  Don’t you know you are the most wonderful man in the whole world?”

            “Hardly,” he said and looked once again into her eyes and loved her smile.

            A voice came from overhead where there were likely some apartments, though they could not see a speaker in the dark.  “Hey, buddy!  Could you keep it down?”

            Another voice joined the chorus.  “Take her home and screw her brains out, you’ll both feel better in the morning.”

            “Come on,” Nathan said and Mya was right with him.  That last was certainly a line he was not going to cross, but the taking her home bit made some sense.  His condo was not all that far away, and they walked hand in hand, but both were quiet.  Neither was willing to bring up the boyfriend-girlfriend thing again; but in Mya’s heart, that was the way it was already, and Nathan kept telling himself it could never be that way.

 

Storyteller Monday: Ghosts 11

 

            After that experience, neither felt any desire or need to return again to the scene of the accident – the name they finally settled on calling it.  Nathan decided that they needed something good to do, so he led them to a nearby garden which he knew and which always seemed to have something in bloom, and certainly at that time of year promised plenty. 

            While they walked, Mya found a question that started with her short summary of recent events.  “So, the suicide bomber thought he would go straight to paradise, but he didn’t.  That young man thought God owed him tons of good, but nothing happened there.  The minster refused to believe that he was not already perfect, though he was still stuck on a park bench, and the burly man refused to believe in anything at all, even if his own experience proved the opposite of what he was saying.  I don’t get it?  Why don’t they just say, I was wrong and get on with it?”

            Nathan looked at Mya and slipped his arm over her shoulder.  She responded by placing hers around his waist.  She looked up at him like a girl might look up to her father to explain the hard bumps and curves of life in a way that she could understand.

            “I have made plenty of mistakes in my time, and I have generally admitted them, but for most people these days that is not how the world works,” Nathan began.  He paused for a moment while he remembered a story.  “There was a woman in church way back when Penny and I were going.  I remember whenever the preacher started talking about sin; she would arch her back and give him terrible stares.  I heard her once going out the door in front of us.  Even as she shook the preacher’s hand she said, “Some of us don’t think of ourselves as sinners.”

            “But that’s crazy,” Mya said.

            “But she was absolutely sincere.  You see, the world has become a very hard and fast place.  If you admit doing something wrong, and especially if you apologize and say you are sorry, most people see that as a weakness, as something they can hold over your head and manipulate you with.  Consequently, most people will never admit a mistake even if they know better, and they will never, ever say they are sorry.  Do you follow what I’m saying?”

            “Yes,” Mya said.  “You are telling me the whole world has gone crazy.”

            “Maybe the world is crazy.”  He would not object to that description.  “But it gets really bad when you think that no one can ever start over.  You see, when you admit the wrong and apologize, you get over it and it gives you the chance to try something else, something different or new; but if you never admit that you were wrong, you get stuck.  It’s kind of like telling a lie, and then trying to cover it up with another lie, and then another.  If you don’t confess, you never get over it.  It just gets worse and worse.”  Then Nathan added another thought.  “I think the whole problem with every one of those men is they are unwilling to admit that they were wrong.”

            “What about you?”  Mya asked.

            Nathan leaned over and rubbed his knuckles gently, lovingly really on the top of her head.  He spoke instantly.  “Sorry.  That was wrong of me.”

            Mya pinched him in the roll he still had around his stomach and caused him to yelp.  “That might have been wrong of me.’  Mya grinned.  “But I’m not sorry.”

            Nathan grinned right back at her.

            When they arrived at the garden, Nathan was not disappointed.  It was as beautiful as he remembered.

            “It’s lovely,” Mya remarked.  “So charming and quaint.”  She was trying out the words, and then she tried something else.  She got on her tip toes, steadied herself with a hand on Nathan’s arm, and she kissed Nathan right on the cheek.  She smiled as she stared at him with true love and affection in her eyes.  No one would have ever guessed that a day ago they were complete strangers.

            Nathan coughed to bring her back to the flowers.  He also took her to a bench where they sat and drew in the myriad of scents.  Mya kept saying how beautiful everything was, and she got up a couple of times to take a closer look when she saw a more distant flower with a new color.   Nathan could hardly bring himself to move at all.  He was amazed at being able to catch all of the aromas, which were indeed beautiful, and he found he could even pull out the scent of one or more flowers independently from all the rest.  Poor Nathan could hardly smell anything after the age of seventy-five or so.  Now, the return of this most vital sense was positively overwhelming him with pleasure.

            He was startled out of his reverie when he heard Mya let out a little shriek.  He bolted to her side, his first run in more than twenty years, but he found her delighted, indeed, enchanted and not in danger as he feared.

            “Look.”  Mya pointed, and there was a kind of light fluttering around one of the flowers.  Nathan looked again, and he noticed that there were several lights in that corner of the garden.  Then he looked closer and gave his new, wonderful eyes their first real workout.  He saw a little human-like figure with wings, a figure no bigger than a hummingbird hovering over a rose.  He noticed, because the light was right then noticing him.

            “Fairies.”  Mya named them and she clasped her hands together in pure delight.  Obviously her seven-year-old world view had no trouble accepting such things.  But that was not fair, Nathan thought, because she was clearly now more like seventeen, and he knew it.

            One part of Nathan’s mind tried to say that fairies were impossible, but it was another piece of his mind that parted the silence of his lips.  “I knew it,” he said.  “I always knew this universe was not the way I was taught.”  Mya looked curious, so he explained.  “Like the burly man.  We were all taught that this earth was no more than dead matter and energy, that our minds, our consciousnesses were merely an accident of nature.”  Mya shook her head as if that did not make any sense, especially in light of their experience.  “But somehow, deep inside, I always knew the universe was alive, everywhere.  I bet there are all sorts of things in the real world about which the living with their closed matter and energy minds have no idea.”  He concluded and Mya nodded as if to say that now she understood.

            The fairy flew up to Mya’s face and then Nathan’s face, and finally began to fly around them in a circle of streaming pink light.  Other fairies were attracted to this and joined in adding gold, lavender and pale blue lights to the mix.  Round and round they went, faster and faster so that Mya and Nathan could not keep up and began to get dizzy.  The two humans drew closer to each other, and eventually held on tight.  They got as close as they could lest they inadvertently bump one of the speeding fairies which they could no longer distinguish from the light.  Then the circles of light began to rise and for a second, Mya and Nathan thought they were going to rise with it; but as soon as the circles got above their heads, they began to contract in size.  They became smaller and smaller circles until it came to a single point and the light and the fairies vanished altogether.

            Mya clapped her hands and squealed with delight.  If she had been younger, like closer to actually being seven, she probably could not have resisted making the sound.  Nathan stood with his mouth open in wonder.  It was the most glorious sight he had ever seen!  Then he remembered the angel and said to himself, the second most glorious.

            Nathan started to let go of Mya, though he felt very comfortable holding her in that way.  Mya also did not seem to want to let go, but they did, and Nathan had a terrific thought.  He held out his hand, palm up as he spoke.

            “Would my lady care to attend the symphony with me this evening?”

            “Yes.”  Mya spoke a bit loud and much too quickly.  “A date?”  She asked.

            Nathan shrugged off the implication even if he could not stop smiling.  “No, no,” he said.  “You are supposed to say, “Yes, My Lord.  I would be delighted.”  And then you put your hand, palm on my palm, and give a little curtsey while I bow.

            Mya laughed briefly at the idea, and it was no little girl giggle.  She offered her hand and spoke as requested, and then Nathan drew her in to hold his arm again and noted that she was now as tall as his shoulder, and then just a little bit more.

 

Storyteller Monday: Ghosts 10

 

            There was a second gate that let them out of the fenced area down closer to the actual scene of the accident.  Nathan was reluctant to lead them past the angry young man again, though he added that man and the minister to his prayer list, even if that list was growing rather long.  He knew the angel only asked him to pray for the terrorist, the young suicide, and he was tempted not to worry about the others, but he also knew that Mya’s prayer list was very long and that she was praying regularly, if not continually for them all.  He could only imagine her asking God to love and help others in a completely kind hearted, loving and selfless way, and he thought that perhaps that was another lesson the grown-up world could learn from the young.

            They saw the man as soon as they got through the gate.  He was pacing back and forth on the edge of the street.  Nathan had no trouble identifying the man as the big, burly fellow who moved up at the last to sit behind him.  “What is it, friend?”  He asked without hesitation, feeling very gregarious with Mya so close beside him.

            The man turned to face them and Mya gasped and buried her face in Nathan’s side.  The man was missing the side of his face, down to the bone and including his eye.  His right hand was missing almost up to the elbow, and the stump was a bloody mess that looked to be festering.  The man recognized them right away, too, though his vision of them seemed a little skewed through that one good eye.  “The old man and the little kid.  What are you, a hundred and something?  And Kid, you must be, what, four or five?”

            “I’m eighteen.”  Mya picked an age, though she probably was not that old yet.  “And he isn’t a day over forty,” though he probably was.  She brushed Nathan’s hair again behind his ears and this time he did not mind at all.

            The big, burly man stared at them for a moment and Nathan prepared to run and drag Mya after him if necessary.  He was a bit surprised that the man did not respond to her teenaged flippancy with anger.  Instead he looked up and threw out his good hand.  “What is wrong with everybody?”  He shouted to the sky.  “So tell me this.  When is the ambulance going to get here?  I could die before they show up.”

            Mya and Nathan looked at each other with the most curious expressions.  It was Mya who spoke.  “But we are already dead.”

            The man frowned as far as they could tell from what lips were left.  “Don’t be stupid.  We can’t already be dead.”

            A woman took that moment to come by on the sidewalk.  The burly man jumped out in front of her and began screaming.  He raised his arms, including his stump and yelled.  “Would you get me a fucking ambulance!”  Mya and Nathan were repulsed by the man’s anger, but not as shocked as they were by the woman’s response.  She screamed which made Mya burry her face again a bit deeper in Nathan’s arm to prevent her own scream.  And then the woman shrieked something about a ghost and she hurried off back the way she came.  It was the woman’s terror that Nathan and Mya felt most of all, and as strongly as they felt the cruelty in the woman with the puppy.  Nathan was suddenly glad that they had not spent much time around many living people since the accident.  It reminded him once again that he and Mya had become very sensitive to the disposition of the souls of the living.

            “Damn selfish bitch,” the burly man said.  “Can’t she see that I need help?” 

            “Why not?”  Mya looked up again, now that the feeling of fear had passed, and she was genuinely confused.  “I mean, we are already dead.  Why can’t we be dead?”

            “Eh?”  They had the man’s attention again.

            “You said we can’t possibly be dead.”  Nathan reminded the man.

            “Because missy.”  He spoke to Mya.  “If we were dead we would no longer exist.”

            “Not if there is a God,” Mya said forthrightly. 

            “Maybe the spirit can survive after death.”  Nathan tried to add his own thoughts but stopped when the burly man’s frown deepened and a little piece of lip fell to the ground.  This caused Mya to hide her eyes a third time. 

            “Don’t give me that God crap and all that spiritual mumbo-jumbo.  That’s all just so much shit and you know it.”

            “No.  I know the spirit can live after death.”  Nathan was completely certain about that, obviously, and his words reflected his certainty.

            “If you believe that, you’re an idiot.”  The man walked to the back of a parked car.  “Look, I know what is real and what isn’t.  It’s like this car is real.”  He pounded on the hood, and though in fact he was putting his hand right through the hood, there was no doubt that he thought he was pounding on it.  “Science tells me what is real, and that is good enough.  If you want to believe in some fairy tale, that’s your business, but I’ll say you are an idiot.”

            “But maybe there are some things science doesn’t know,” Nathan suggested.

            “I’m sure that is true.”  The burly man responded.  “But when they figure it out I am also sure it will be as solid and real as this car.”  He made to pound on it again and went through it again.

            “But please.”  Mya could not stand listening to the pain in the man’s voice.  “We all died yesterday.  The accident was a whole day ago.”

            “Yes.”  Nathan took up the cause.  “If you were bleeding for a whole day, you would be dead by now, except you are already dead.”

            “What are you talking about?  Did that concussion rattle your brains?  That kid only blew up ten, not five minutes ago.”  He went to look at his watch, but that part of his arm was missing.

            “But.”  Mya was not for giving up, but the burly man was not going to listen.

            “Look.  I don’t want to hear about your God.  I don’t want anything to do with a God because there is no such thing.  I don’t want some freakin’ fairy tale hanging over my shoulder telling me what I can and cannot do.  I am my own man, the captain of my soul and master of my fate or whatever.  And even if there is a God, I don’t want anything to do with it.  A pox on your moronic God.  He should leave me alone forever and I’ll do just fine without him, and when I die, and when you die, I am sure we will all just blend back into the universe and cease to exist.”

            Nathan was concerned for the vehemence and seriousness of the man.  He thought it best if they did not tempt him any further, but Mya was still not giving up.

            “But.”  She tried again, but the man’s shout cut her off.

            “Screw your God.  He can leave me alone, forever!” he said, and suddenly he began to sparkle like the old woman sparkled, except his sparkles were pitch black, of a kind that swallowed all of the light rather than giving light.  It started out in small spots, but as it spread, the spots began to join with others and became black blotches all over him.  The man screamed.  Nathan heard, “Not that.  I never knew. Not alone.”  Or Nathan thought he heard those words.  Mostly he just heard screams.  Mya had her face pressed into Nathan’s chest and she was crying her eyes out.  Nathan was frightened half out of his mind, but he could not tear his eyes away to save his sanity.  Then it was over.  The man was gone and only a black wisp like smoke remained.

            Then Nathan heard a voice come from the smoke that frightened the other half of his mind.  “Would you like to join him?”  The voice asked.  “It will be very easy.  Curse God and die.”  Nathan nearly lost his wits completely on hearing that, but Mya dragged him to his knees by then and he wrenched his eyes from the black wisp to see her kneeling and watch her clasp her hands in the classic position of a child at prayer.  Her eyes were shut tight, too, and Nathan thought that was a good idea.  Nathan squeezed his eyes shut and felt his mind and his heart go out to the God of Gods. 

            “Please, please.”  That was all he could think at first.  “Let there be light.”  That came to him.  “The darkness can’t stand against the light.” And slowly he regained his wits.  “God, give that man another chance, just a little more time to see the light, and please send a better messenger than me.  Please, please God, please.  The man can’t hear me.  I tried.  I tried.”  After another moment he opened his eyes, and he saw that there was an actual light shining over his shoulder.  He knew, without looking, that it was the angel, and the wisp of darkness stood no chance at all.  When Mya opened her eyes, she saw the man sitting on the curb, gasping for air.  With that done, Mya took Nathan’s hand and quickly led him away. 

            “We have so many to pray for,” Mya remarked.  Nathan agreed and he lifted up a prayer then and there for the suicide bomber.  He was told to pray for the man but thus far he had not actually prayed at all.  He had just said he would like he always did when he was alive.  Then he added a prayer for the angry young man, and one for the minister, and another one for the business man and the hungry man from the hospital.  Then he started on his daughter and eventually worked his way through everyone he could think of.  He did not pay much attention to where he was going, but he trusted Mya implicitly to lead him carefully down the street.