Monday, August 24, 2015

Ghosts, Part 4

You're back. Well, it's your funeral. Heh heh. But remember this: there is always hope and there are always, always, always heroes.

You recall when I was telling you about the Watts family, I mentioned the father Jacob; the mother, Mattie; the three children: ten-year-old Nate, nine-year-old Bettie, seven-year-old Davey; and one other, Mattie’s brother Simon Simple.

Of course, that wasn’t his name. Well, Simon was his first name, but he got “Simple” because he was. He was born with the umbilical cord wrapped around his throat. Lack of oxygen damaged his brain. He couldn’t talk and had trouble walking. The doctors would have put him in a home, but his parents took their baby boy home and raised him with as much love as they could manage among all those other children. Simon had one gift; the best gift, his mother used to say, and that was he could love better than anyone you’ve ever known. When one of his brothers or sisters got hurt, he’d wrap them in his clumsy embrace and coo to them. It was silly and makes no sense, but he made them feel better.

In the little country school he went to, the other kids made fun of him, and eventually he became Simon Simple. He didn’t care what they said; he just laughed along with them and eventually the name stuck. No one thought much of it, certainly not him. But if those kids or his parents or those doctors could have seen into his mind, they would have been shocked. Because since he was born, the Shining Ones had been his constant companions, and in the gentle paradise that he spent his life in, he was never alone. They patiently taught him secret songs and hidden languages, and with great regret, prepared him for the Trial to come. It didn’t matter what the outside world saw; in his inner world, Simon lived the life of a prince of the sky.

Older than Mattie by three years, he attached to her when she was born, and to the best of his ability, he tried to take care of her. When she married and moved away, he was sad to the point of not eating. When his mother came down ill, the family asked Mattie and Nate to take him. They willing did, and to their credit, even during their hard financial times, they never thought of sending him back. He was a good companion to the children – not so much that he took care of them, but because they tried to take care of him, they didn’t do dangerous things that children sometimes do.

On that hot summer morning, Simon had been attempting to weed the poor garden. Simon had grown up large and strong, still clumsy, but capable of more than anyone would expect. He was trying to figure out if a particular plant was a weed or an onion when a Shining One came to him, and in a voice full of love said, Simon, our love, it’s time.

For a moment he stood there, the outside world snapping into focus for the first time in his life. He looked at the Shining One and smiled, his face full of courage and willing obedience. Then he ran toward the woods, with every stride his clumsy steps becoming steady and straight. Behind him, the Shining One watched and wept as Simon Simple raced to his destiny.

In the woods, Bettie brought the box up to Davey and said, “Open it, Davey. There’s a surprise inside.”

Davey stretched out his little hand, but innocence has its own wisdom, and he paused. Once Nate had hid a frog in his hand and threw it at Davey. Davey liked frogs, but it had still been scary at first. He shook his head.

Nate’s hands tightened on his shoulders. Davey tried to shrug him off, but Nate’s grip became stronger.

“Open it, Davey,” Nate commanded harshly.

“No!” Davey said and began to struggle.

Bettie caught Davey’s hand and brought it to the box.

Davey began to cry. “No, Bettie, no!”

Bettie laughed. She pulled harder, and his hand touched the box.

Davey screamed. He could feel the Curious Box moving under his hand, like a surface made of oily snakes.

“Open it!” Nate forced Davey to his knees.

Bettie shuddered as the creature in her drank in his delicious fear, sweeter than honey, and fiery like pepper.

Davey screamed again. He felt himself going numb, his mind trying to protect him, trying to close his eyes, trying to protect his little boy spirit from things that shatter the strongest adults.

The Curious Box started to open; inky blackness flowed toward Davey.

And then Simon Simple, running like an Olympian, swept Davey up into his big, strong arms and kept running, his passage scattering Bettie and Nate like chaff in a strong wind, the Curious Box closing with an angry snap and tumbling across the rocky ground.

Simon Simple disappeared in the woods before Nate and Bettie could recover.

“So he’s the one,” Bettie said as she picked up the Curious Box and carried it easily under her arm.

“He will be no trouble,” Nate said. “They chose badly.”

Bettie smiled widely at him. “No, no trouble. Particularly not after we tell her the naughty, naughty thing we caught the imbecile doing to our precious little brother.”

Nate laughed. He reached over and took her hand.

They walked toward the house, where Jacob slept and Mattie did the washing, and where worse things were to come.

You see, there are always heroes. Even simple ones.

That’s all for tonight. Maybe I’ll see you tomorrow, maybe not. It’s up to you. Remember, too, that people always have choices. Always.

Copyright 2015by Stephen B. Bagley. All rights reserved.

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