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A Night in May: Eighteen Months Part 3

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Just a note about what is coming next. . . I know that this story has gotten long, but it is about to get much longer. You might want to get cup of coffee or take a break before you continue.

You are about to find out that I have set you up. I have spent a lot of time and words to set you up for a story that I wrote twenty five years ago. It was the first serious short story I have written as an adult. I submitted it to Guidepost Magazine and just basically forgot about it. After a few weeks, I received a call at work,

It was from an editor at the magazine. He told me that he didn't usually call a writer to tell them that their story had been rejected, but he was making an exception in my case, because he felt strongly that the story should have been printed but he was overruled by the editor in chief. He went on to tell me that my story had caused the biggest argument the magazine had ever had over whether to publish or not. They wanted me to change a few things in it but this editor felt it would change the story to much and at the time I agreed.. He was very sorry to disappoint me; everyone agreed the story was very well written, by a "trained wordsmith", to use the words of the editor in chief. He asked if I had written anything else. I said no, the conversation ended and the story sat in a drawer for years. I took it out of the drawer a few months ago, dusted it off and made a few changes to it.

Here is the story of the miracle that came to my family, just when we needed it. Take a deep breath and don't read it too fast.

A Night in May

We all have life defining moments, a moment that changes us and helps to make us who we are.. It may be for good, or for bad. We said yes to something when we should have said no. We stopped when we should have gone. We sat when we should have gotten up. Sometimes we run away from them. This is about one of those moments that happened to me. It was a moment in time when I got up.

You may choose not to believe what you read here, that is up to you. I will tell you this. It happened just the way I have written it.

My Mom and I argued that night. Was it a Tuesday or a Thursday? I don't remember. I do remember that it was sometime in May, 1968. I was fourteen years old, halfway between the time I first thought I should be treated like a man and nobody would and the time my parents thought I should act like a man and I couldn't.

What did my Mom and I argue about? Was it clothes or grades or just my "attitude"? It must have been aright big fight because I remember doing what I usually did afterwards. I took a long hot shower, the kind where Mom would bang on the bathroom door, rattle the doorknob, and remind me that there was a water shortage or would be if I didn't hurry up and get out of there. No response from me of course. Ten minutes or two yells later, whichever came first, I would turn off the water as the words "it's about time" seemed to slide underneath the bathroom door.

I will admit that I was not the easiest teenager to get along with. I was a know it all, stubborn as a rock, and at times just plain unfriendly. Simple things gave me a lot of pleasure, like removing my brother from his bunk bed, the top one, with a well placed kick in the middle of the night, or attaching a clothespin to the tail of the cat next door in order to watch it run in noisy circles.

I did not do these things very often but my parents could not understand why I did them at all. I didn't know why either. I did know that something was wrong. I was frustrated. I was anxious. I was bored. I didn't like life. I certainly didn't understand it. Why was I here? Why was anybody here? Is there a God? Lots of questions like those constantly rolled through my head until I thought I was going crazy,

It was usually in the wee hours of the morning that I would mull the possible answers to life's profound questions around in my brain, until out of frustration I would send my foot to the unseen, but still perfect spot, over my head which would send little Rodney flying to the floor where he would land with a thump, a wail, and a "Be Quiet In There!" from the room across the hall. I would respond by wrapping my pillow around my head trying to shut out everything. The questions with no answers just keep on coming.

I finished my shower this particular evening, dried off and shoved the unfolded towel over the rack. As I was putting on, what I considered to be my unfashionable bathrobe, I looked at myself in the mirror. My face looked tight and drawn. The argument lines were still on my forehead and around my mouth. There was the red beginning of a zit forming over the right eyebrow,

"Great that's all I need." I thought. "The girls will really like me now."

I turned to leave the bathroom and stubbed my big toe against the door just as little brother was coming in; loudly claiming he couldn't hold it any longer. He also bet there wasn't enough water left to flush with. I cuffed him upside the ear and strutted angrily down the hall. I passed by my little sisters' room.

They were both asleep. Kam was in her bed and Penni, the younger one, in her crib. Both girls were born with a twisted foot. Kam wore a cast for about a year and then wore corrective shoes so she was now cured. Penni's right foot was twisted so badly that she could hardly walk. She was due to have a cast put on her leg and foot in just a few days. She was a very active eighteen month old so the cast was sure to make things unpleasant for her. I loved my sisters very much. However at that moment as I passed the door of their room I was not thinking about them. I kept on walking.

When I reached the den I sat down hard on the opposite end of the couch from my parents, folded my arms and stared blankly at the new color television. I couldn't stand it. They were watching that nutty religious channel again.

I didn't mind religious things. Not a whole lot anyway. Well maybe I did. My Mom and Dad had been taking me to church all my life. I thought it was the right thing to do but I also thought it was boring. When I was small it seemed more important and frankly, then it was more fun. I liked the summer church programs with the games, the cookies and juice. I listened when I heard the stories about Noah, Sampson, David and Goliath. One thunder stormy Sunday night when I was about seven years old I asked my Father what dying on the cross must have been like for Jesus.

"Did he hurt bad?" I asked.

I don't remember the words that my father used. I do remember that while he talked I could almost smell the dust on the streets of Jerusalem. I could hear the shouts of the soldiers and the cries of the people as Jesus stumbled his way to the hill. The hammer struck the nail. The cross dropped roughly into the ground. As Daddy spoke the sky grew dark, the lightening struck and Jesus said, "It is finished." And somehow I knew that this had something to do with me. This terrible death of a man who healed children, made the blind to see, and the dead live again, had something to do with me. What, I wasn't sure.

Not long after that, I was baptized and became a member of our church. It felt good for awhile. For a few years I continued to believe and to grow. Then something inside of me began to change. Church became a place to talk, to meet people (girls), to show off new clothes, and to complain that it was boring. Religion just did not have my attention.

Religion didn't have my attention but this television show sure did. As I watched, I could tell the small studio was full of people. They were praying. I guess that's what it was. I had never seen anything like it before. Their arms were in the air. They looked at the ceiling a lot. They prayed out loud and I do mean loud. They moaned and swayed together. It made me feel very strange.

A man named Jim, kind of small, with his hair slicked back and carrying a microphone seemed to take center stage. Two more men, a tall one and another one moved over next to him. The small one motioned to a lady who was standing off to one side. She was carrying a young boy who had a brace on one leg. On the same leg he wore a built up shoe. Obviously that leg was much shorter than the other. The boy also had one arm that was thin and twisted. He kept it pressed up against his chest.

I found myself leaning forward on the couch. A piano began to softly play. Then the three men did something I had also never seen before. They put their hands on the little boy and starting praying. "Heal him Jesus. . . . Heal him God."

I didn't like it at all, yet it was so compelling at the same time. The men started praying in some kind of Arabic sounding language. That really made me nervous. The piano began to play a melody that seemed to follow the sing-song pattern of the prayers of the men. The people in the studio joined in.

One of the men asked the lady to put the boy down and when she did he began to walk, hesitantly, and then with greater speed. Then he started to walk unevenly, a kind of side to side gait. The camera took a tight shot. My mouth went dry. In awe, I realized that right in front of my eyes his short leg was growing!

The lady looked absolutely shocked. She picked the boy up and hugged him. The people were shouting now. The music swelled and then as if on cue it stopped.

The man named Jim held a pencil in front of the little boy. "Take this," he said. The boy reached out with his good arm. "Noâ€, he said, "I want you to take it with your other hand."

It was obvious that the little boy had to think about this. He paused for a few seconds. I held my breath and then as if in slow motion he straightened out that little shriveled up arm and with a firm grab took the pencil.

The people let out shout of joy that shook me to my soul. I breathed in a lung full of air. My eyes began to fill with tears.

Then the man named Jim turned and faced the camera. He seemed to be looking right at me.

"What just happened is real," he said. "Very real and it's just the start. Jesus wants to heal children tonight. He is going to heal children tonight, sick children, and crippled children. They will walk. They will see. They will hear."

Then this little man with the round face, funny smile and slicked back hair pointed his finger at a boy sitting on a couch and changed his life forever.

"Parents, go and pray for your children. Big brothers go and lay your hands on your little brothers or sisters and do it now! "

Suddenly, without thinking, I got off the couch, ran down the hall, made a sharp left turn into my sisters' room and stopped in front of Penni's crib where her little form was asleep under her favorite blanket.

My mind went blank. What do I do? Touch her. I did that. Maybe I should put my arm in the air like those people. I did that. Now ask God in the name of Jesus to heal this crooked little foot. Yes. I will. I did.

"Oh please God, please, Jesus, please, please make her foot well." It was all I knew how to say. It was enough.

I began to shake. I began to sweat. My knees became so weak I thought I would fall. Then a feeling or maybe it was a kind of presence seemed to be in me or around me. I became calm and peaceful on the inside while still shaking on the outside, and I started to cry. I felt like I was not me anymore. Somebody that was me, but not me, took my place and this somebody was better, cleaner, a new person. And this new person knew that Penni's little foot was now perfectly fine.

I'm not sure how long I stood there. I was surrounded by something very special and I just keep breathing it in. After awhile I knew the moment had passed. Feeling a little weak and still trembling, I went back to the den to tell my parents what had happened.

The next day watching Penni run around without the need to hold someone's hand was an amazing, wonderful sight. Just as wonderful was the change in my family and in me.

For a short while I had been connected to something infinitely great. It was a power older than time itself. I was no longer centered on myself. I was at peace.

The questions that haunted me no longer needed answers.

But the story isn't over yet...

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