Thursday, August 20, 2009

The Messenger

One hot, sunny afternoon in a long-gone summer Cary and I set out in my ill-fated '72 Corvette convertible for some father-daughter time.  At a remote back-road intersection as I accelerated past the stop sign my exhaust pipe separated from the engine and lodged in the sun-softened macadam road surface, acting like a pole, vaulting the car up, up, and away.  By the time we figured out what had happened the fiberglass body was cracking and splitting. I reversed and set the damaged vintage muscle car back on the road, got out and had an instant meltdown. I was twirling like some desperate, demented dervish shouting at the sky Why Don't You Just Kill Me? and other crazy threats against myself. Cary was sitting in the car, probably scared to death, watching her father mutate into a beast.
Suddenly, a beautiful vintage Oldsmobile coupe pulls up and a young man with a great tan and red bandana leans out the window and offers to help. I wave him off saying we're way beyond help. He insists, telling us that he's an auto mechanic. Cary grabs my arm and pleads with me to accept help.
The young man reaches into his back seat and pulls out a bicycle tire...OK. I'm positively out of my mind now. He pulls another wheel out and then gets his wheel-chair frame.  I tell him to stop, we're OK now, I'm over the breakdown. He looks at me and asks Why? Because I'm paralyzed? I don't know what to say, so I ask him to continue.
The young paralytic assembles his chair, wheels around to the trunk, gets out a huge tool-chest and cardboard sheet, and wheels over to the Corvette. He throws the cardboard on the road surface and gets under the car and cuts the exhaust system off the car. All fixed in about 5 minutes.
He wheels back to his car and puts everything away. He disassembles his wheel-chair and gets back in the car. By now I notice the terrible scar running the length of his back--about 1" wide, a sickly, milky white color against his dark tan.  There are also 6 puncture wounds--2 at the top, middle and bottom of the scar. I ask him What happened to you? He tells us the story of riding with his father when he was 11 years old. He says something terrible happened--carefully avoiding any details-- and he's been paralyzed from the waist down ever since. His upper body is like a Greek God's but his legs are like tentacles--no apparent bone structure.
I start were paralyzed at age 11 from the waist will never control your bladder or colon...never have sex...never walk...never...never...Oh my god.
By now, he's in his car and smiling out the window again. He starts to drive off, then stops, backs up and looks me in the eyes and says,  Every Day I Wake Up And Say 'Today's The Day I'm Going To Walk'.

And then he drove off...Time slowed and colors changed--almost as if a heavy yellow filter had been put over the sun.
I looked at Cary. She asked, Do you think he was an Angel??

For many years I kept a wrench on my night-table to remind me of that afternoon encounter with the heavenly mechanic. He might have been an Angel, but I know for sure he was a Messenger. And for many years I kept that message of Hope and Courage in my heart.

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