Once more John Worace sat in the pews trying not to fall asleep during that snooty Pete Hermans lesson at church saying in the one hundredth way how wonderful God is. Seems like that’s all he blabbers about. Then afterwards he would listen to the compliments of how wonderful his lesson was. John thought it absolutely pointless to go. If it was up to him, he would be sleeping in and not going anywhere, but that wouldn’t make his wife happy, and he loved her and their children enough to go to church.
“The Lord is so amazing…” Pete said the five-thousandth time. In five minutes John knew he’d change the subject to something totally random that would lead to how gracious he is, and he was right.
“Poppycock,” John thought as Pete Herman said how gracious God was. Oh, what an argument he could make with him, how much he wanted he wanted to argue that if he was so, why is it he once tried to wipe out most of the human race? What about Hitler? Plague? How many wars in his name? Finally, church was over. Pete got off the stage. The plump man smiled giddily as everyone applauded. Everyone swarmed around him and smothered him with compliments. John got up and stretched. Beth, his wife, was talking with her large group of friends. All of John’s friends were most likely asleep. It wasn’t really one of his priorities. Unlike his teenage daughter Constance, who’s world revolved around her social life. Then their was Cole, he was just a lovable three-year-old. He ran around the auditorium while Constance talked to the other girls her age.
In the car, as John drove with all of them were squished in their small convertible, the chatter began. “Dad,” Constance said, “don’t forget to drop me off at Edith’s birthday party at twelve, then you can pick me up at two and drop me off at the mall, and I’ll be back by ten with friends.”
“Whoa, this is the first I’ve heard of this,” John said.
“Don’t worry, the present is in the trunk, she told me on Friday,” Beth reassured him on the passenger’s side.
“We’re in the white car!” Cole said happily.
“Yes, we are, good job,” Beth said, looking back at him.
“White car!” Cole interrupted.
“Mom! He always-”
“White car!” he said again.
“Shut up!” Constance screamed at Cole.
“Constance!” John yelled at her.
“He won’t stop interrupting me!” Constance yelled over Cole’s cries.
“He’s three!” Beth said.
“I know, but that doesn’t mean-”
“You need to be more patient with him,” John said.
“Would you please let me finish?” Constance said.
“Give me your phone,” Beth said.
“Give me your phone.”
“Excuse me? Who bought it?” Beth asked. Constance gave in and reluctantly gave Beth her phone. “You’ll get this back when you’re decent.”
“What? What if my friends call?” she demanded.
“Then it’ll go to me. No further discussion.”
“I don’t understand. What did I ever do?”
“I don’t want to hear about it,” John said.
“Not one word!” John said. By that time they had stopped at the restaurant.
“Barbeque again?” Constance complained.
“Not one word!” Beth said as they got out of the car.
“Ugh!” Constance groaned.
“One time, just one time,” Beth muttered to John.
Inside the restaurant, they took a seat. “Hi, I’m Claire, would you like to start with a drink?” she asked.
“Milk!” Cole said, slapping his wooden high chair.
“Lemonade,” Beth said.
“Root beer,” John said.
“Got it, thanks,” Claire said, slapping down the orders with her pen.
“Alright,” Constance said, looking at the menu, “I’ll take a light salad.” Everyone looked at her like she said gibberish. “What?” she asked.
“Okay,” John said, “I’m going to have the jumbo steak.”
“Do you know how many calories that is? There were these girls at school-”
“So that’s what the salad was about,” Beth said.
“What? What do you mean?” Constance asked.
“Constance, you are not fat,” Beth said.
“Constance, not fat, no no no,” Cole said. Constance smiled and gave him a hug.
“So how about we share an order of steak?” Beth asked.
“Sure, but, can it be a small?” she asked.
“Alright,” Beth agreed. Soon Claire came back with their beverages and asked what to eat. After they gave their orders, Claire walked away and once again, the chatter continued (Well, more like random noises from Cole.).
“Gau-blah-booger,” Cole said, pointing to a small man across the table with a huge booger hanging down his nose. Constance swallowed down her vomit while Beth took Cole’s finger down before the man noticed.
“Okay, I’ve got an extra plate for the small steak order, your large steak, and his kid’s chicken nuggets,” Claire said, handing them their meals. Cole clapped as the food reached his high chair. Even then he did not touch his food until they had prayed prayed. Beth and John had taught him that early.
“Dear God,” John began, “thank you for this meal so that it may nourish our bodies. In Jesus name, amen,” they let go of each others hands, Cole got his mouth out of his mouth and they silently ate, too busy to talk.
“Dad,” Constance said, finished, “what time is it?”
“Don’t worry,” John said, “we have plenty of time.”
“Just check the time,” she urged.
John checked the time, “Eleven twenty-five.”
“Oh no! We’re going to be late!” Constance exclaimed in a panic.
“Relax, we have plenty of time,” Beth reassured her.
“We won’t if Dad plans on eating that,” she argued.
“Hey, I can eat this,” John said, a little hurt.
“Dad, there are five huge steaks there and you’re still eating your first,” Constance said.
“I agree, I hope you don’t plan on eating all of that,” Beth said.
In John’s offense, the steak was a bit tough and hard to chew, and he ate three. Also, he did get Constance to Edith’s birthday party on time before any of her other friends came.
After Constance was dropped off, they headed to the grocery market, and off Cole went, running around wild before they even left the parking lot. Then, of course, Cole had to get the punishment of being imprisoned at the seat of that wretched kart, then, five minutes later, having an unfortunate accident in his diaper. “This was a terrible shopping trip,” Cole thought to himself, but like all good three-year-olds, he looked on the more positive side of things, which is a lovely thing to be able to do. It’s a shame that one day he won’t be able to see that bright side, but for now his smiles were true and his laughter was contagious. God bless him.
Beth picked Cole from the kart and bought the many groceries. They all drove back home with John in the front with an upset stomach.
At home, Cole’s nap time lasted two hours, which meant two hours of cleaning up from Beth, and two hours of specific chores for John.
Two hours, Cole woke up. John went to pick Constance up. At the mall, John stopped and looked at her. “Are you sure you don’t want me to come in?” John asked nervously.
“Dad, I’m fifteen, I have my phone, I’ll be with friends, I’ll be back by ten.”
“Too late,” he argued. Constance sighed and got out of the car. John laughed and drove home.
When he came into the house, his smile went away. Cole was lying on the floor, screaming and crying, because lying there across from him, unconscious, was his loving wife Beth.
Ever had that feeling deep down in your gut, that feeling of utter sadness? That feeling of panic, where your mind has just gone blank? That was how John felt, on his knees. When his mind had finally wrapped itself around the situation, he rushed to Cole and picked him up. He rushed to the phone and dialed 911.
“911, how may I help you?” the lady from the other line asked.
“My wife, she-she collapsed,” he said shakily.
“Okay, just calm down, is she breathing?” John nervously checked Beth’s pulse. He felt a light pound on her wrist.
“Yes,” he said, relieved.
“Okay, we’ll send an ambulance your way, could you give me your address?” she asked. John gave the address shakily. He hung up the phone and his fingers felt numb. Slowly, he dialed the number of his daughter’s phone.
“Hello?” Constance said from the other end.
“C-Constance? Something happened to Beth,” he said.
“What happened?” she asked, nervous.
“I don’t know, I-I came in and she was lying on the floor. The ambulance is coming, I’ll pick you up soon,” John said from the phone. After a short pause, Constance hung up. John put Cole in the other room, he didn’t need to see his mother like that.
Not like it took Cole long to realize what happened. His mom was in trouble. Even a three-year-old could connect those dots.
When the ambulance arrived, they checked her pulse and put her on the gurney. John stayed behind. After the ambulance left, John went to the mall and picked Constance up. Her face white and full of worry.
“Where’s Mom?” she asked as soon as she entered the car.
“In the hospital, I’m taking you home with Cole so I can visit Beth,” John said, driving out of the parking lot.
“What?” she asked angrily.
“Constance!” he yelled. Constance stayed silent as he quickly drove to the house. When they got there, Constance got out of the car and grabbed Cole.
At the hospital, John rushed to the nurse. “I’m here to see Beth, Beth Worace?” he asked in a panic.
“I’m sorry, she isn’t here,” the lady said, quickly scanning the computer. Then came a gurney, rushing in with doctors around the woman, the woman who was Beth. John rushed to follow them into the doctor’s office.
“Beth!” he yelled, trying to see what they were doing to her, but the nurses stopped him from coming in. So John waited outside nervously. He got out his phone and called Constance.
“Hello?” she asked shakily.
“Constance, I still don’t know how bad it is, I’ll call Grandma to help you babysit, I don’t know how long I’ll be here,” John said, after he hung up, he buried his face in his to hide his tears.
After he called his mom, the doctor came into the hall. “Your wife is fine and breathing, she is still unconscious, we’re running a few tests, but I wouldn’t expect anything today, so she will be staying here until we figure it out,” he said.
“Thanks,” John said, sniffing.
“Doctor,” one of the nurses said, “we need you.” Off the doctor went, leaving John in the hall. As John was about to leave, the most frightening thing happened, his phone rang, and on the other end was something truly terrible.
“Hello?” he asked.
“John! I came to your house and they were gone! I tried calling Constance but she wouldn’t answer!”
“Mom?” John asked.
“No, the queen of England, yes your mother! I’m sorry for being snappish, but I’m worried for them, I’m coming over in hopes that they’ll show up,” she said.
“Okay, thanks,” John said, he hung up and took a deep breath. “Keep it together,” he thought to himself, and he did. He closed his eyes and listened to the sounds of the hospital, joyful, and painful. Then he heard the familiar rush of a gurney with nurses and doctors crowding around it, this time two. Sadly, he looked up at the gurneys, and saw his kids in each one. Both were awake, at least, but they still looked terrible.
“Constance! What happened?” John yelled, running up to her, speaking over Cole’s cries.
“I’m sorry, I had to see Mom, then… he was drunk and came up from the side,” she said wearily. Then, he turned to Cole, who was terribly bruised. Then, his mother came in, and cried, then started yelling at Constance for making her so scared, then cried and asked for forgiveness (which John didn’t really understand).
After a few hours there, telling the family of the bad news, he left to clear his mind. So he drove mindlessly around the town for a long time, even stopped for gas, but soon, he got lost. I know it seems strange, a man that has driven for years and lived in this town, still not knowing every place there and how to get back, but this part of town wasn’t a very safe one, full of twists and turns that were confusing, and since he wasn’t really paying attention to where he was going, so he didn’t know where to go. John, not wanting to ask directions from the people in this dangerous neighborhood that looked ready to beat him, so he did what made him lost, he mindlessly drove around.
John didn’t know how his car got him there, it just… did. John didn’t even know it was around the neighborhood he was at. Where was he, you might ask? Church. He found himself in the parking lot of church. So, he parked, for there was a car there, so it must be opened. John entered because he thought that since Constance had forgotten her hundred dollar head phones there, he could pick them up and go home, but when he came in, he looked in the classes, in the bathroom (where he took a quick bathroom break), and finally went into the small auditorium. There, he didn’t find her head phones, but a very big African American sitting in a pew.
“Hi,” John said.
“Hi, it’s about time,” he said. The man’s voice was deep and soothing, maybe, even, in a way, made him sound wiser.
“Have I seen you in church?” John asked.
“No, I’m sorry, I’m Gabriel. I like it much more when I am alone with him. Do you know why you are here?” the man named Gabriel asked.
“To get my daughter’s extremely expensive head phones back?” John said.
“These?” Gabriel asked, he held up the head phones.
“Yes, thank you,” John said, reaching out for the head phones. Gabriel laughed. “What?” he asked.
“Oh, people pleasure things such as this just because it is expensive. If you took a sunflower seed and sell it for as much as those head phones?” Gabriel asked.
“No,” John answered, confused.
“Why? Would these head phones give you beauty? Produce clean oxygen? Give pollen to the bees?” Gabriel asked.
“Well, no,” John said.
“Yes, they fail to try and capture the sound and give it only to the wearer. Yes, that is worth one hundred dollars,” Gabriel said.
“Well-Uh! Just give me the the head phones,” John said in frustration. “Wait a minute, how did you know it was one hundred dollars?”
“The same way I know that your wife and kids are in the hospital, and I know how to help,” Gabriel said.
“Oh, yeah right,” John grumbled.
“You know, if you let go of your pride, I could show you,” Gabriel said. John turned around and walked over to him.
“Look, I don’t really know you. I don’t know how you know so much about me, but, I think the doctors know what they’re doing,” he said. For some reason, Gabriel was making him mad.
“Look, I know you’re frustrated, but if you love your family as much as I can tell, then you will listen to me,” Gabriel said, leaning forward.
“Fine. How?” he asked. Gabriel bent down and went to praying position.
“Pray,” he said.
“You’ve got to be kidding,” John said.
“No, he’s listening. Always has, you just haven’t meant it,” Gabriel said.
“Fine,” John said. He bent down and prayed quickly to make Gabriel happy. After five minutes, John got up and was about to leave.
“That was not a prayer,” Gabriel said.
“What else do you want?!” John asked angrily.
“Do you think that will help your family?” Gabriel asked, perfectly calm. “God is not like a genie, who you ask petty questions to and gives it to you.”
“Okay, well then, what do you want?” John asked, frustrated at, what he knows deep down is true.
“You love your family, and God can help them, you just need to pray,” Gabriel said.
“Fine!” John said, he sulked as he got down to his knees angrily like a child. At first, his prayer was full of anger and was empty, just a want to get home, sure, he did as he always did, and he looked up at Gabriel, who was standing over him.
“They never learn,” Gabriel said, shaking his head, and left. John got up and happily left.
The next day, Beth was still asleep. Constance and Cole still needed to be in the care of the hospital. Looks like John’s prayers really weren’t any good, just petty, angry prayers.
After a few hours at the hospital, John realized that he never got the headphones from church. So, he drove back there, and, he looked and saw the same car parked there as it was before. John sighed, but just wanted the headphones back! So he came in and went into the auditorium and saw as he expected, Gabriel.
“I just want the headphones, okay! Your prayer suggestion didn’t work,” John said, walking over and grabbing what he wanted all along.
“Okay, nobody’s stopping you,” Gabriel said.
“What? Where’s the incredibly annoying speech that sounds like it was from Yoda on Star Wars?” John said. Secretly, he was hoping that Gabriel would make another wise remark.
“Why? You won’t listen, besides, you have more important things to do,” he said.
“Well, yeah, your right, I do, and I should get to that, uh, watching the house,” John said.
“Yes, yes, that sounds very important,” Gabriel said.
“Okay, well… Aren’t you going to do something like you did last time?” John said.
“No. You won’t listen,” Gabriel said.
“Oh, I see what your doing, your trying to mess with my head and make me pray without me even knowing, but that isn’t going to work,” John said.
“No, you can leave now, you do have them already, right?” Gabriel said.
“Fine! Look, I’m praying, and I’m going to mean it,” John got down and looked up at him, “See?” Then he prayed, and it was actually meaningful. He prayed longer than five minutes, in fact, he lost track of time.
By the time he was done, he looked up, and Gabriel had left. John laughed at how he had tricked him, and left, forgetting once again to get Constance’s headphones.
The next day, John went to work. He worked for some card company where he answered calls to unhappy customers or people with concerned questions.
“Hello?” he once said from the other line.
“I need toilet paper,” a scratchy voice from the other line had said.
“I need toilet paper.”
“I’m sorry, we don’t sell toilet paper,” he said.
“Never mind,” the voice groaned, and hung up. John laughed, and answered the next call.
After work, he came to the hospital with roses for Beth and chocolate for the kids more hopeful than before. There, he was given much happier news.
Cole was better, a broken arm and some bad scars along with some bruises here and there. Nothing too bad. Constance, on the other hand, had two broken legs, and required surgery, but even in the hospital under the care of nurses and doctors, she was still stubborn.
“No! I do not want surgery. I told you I’m fine. Ow!” Constance said, clutching her right leg.
“Stop moving your legs so much, it’ll hurt, and you don’t want to get them any more injured,” a nurse snapped. So Constance calmed down. John laughed and gave her a kiss on the forehead.
Of course, plenty of family and friends were there. “Oh, quit your whining,” John’s mom said. “I’ve had worse.”
“She’s right,” John said.
Beth was still asleep.
After another few hours John left again, and grunted in frustration as he learned that he had forgotten the headphones! John drove back to church, but Gabriel’s car wasn’t there, but he went to the door to see if it was open. They were, they need to lock their doors once in a while, seriously, somebody could break in!
John entered the auditorium, but it didn’t feel right not to pray, so he set the headphones down and prayed. He prayed for Cole, Constance, Beth, and this time, he prayed for forgiveness.
The next day John went to. Then he visited the hospital. Beth was still asleep. Constance was being prepared for surgery. She was worried, her friends were around her supporting her. Cole was happy, there was much improvement, almost ready to leave, but he still was kept just to make sure, only for a little longer.
This time he didn’t go to church, leaving the headphones, giving it up. At home, he prayed there. It seemed more comfortable at his house than at church, but the house was still empty. Empty of Constance’s chatter. Empty of Cole’s laughter. Empty of Beth’s warm meals. So John settled for leftovers again.
The same day, John went back when Constance was having her surgery. “I don’t want surgery,” she said.
“I know, nobody does,” John told her softly. Then they took her away into the room. John and everyone else left and sat in the waiting room. John said a quick prayer for Constance.
“What are doing?” one of her friends asked.
“Oh, I was just saying a quick prayer,” John said.
“Because Constance needs it, God will be with her, he was always,” John said.
“If God was with her, how did this happen?” she asked.
“Well… God works in mysterious ways,” John said.
“Beats me,” she said, and sat down next to her other friends.
“Hi,” Gabriel said.
“Gabriel? Why are you here? Not meaning to be rude but-”
Gabriel laughed, “Oh I’m just visiting a good friend.”
“Oh, my daughter’s in surgery, I really hope everything turns out well,” John said.
“Better than you think,” Gabriel mumbled.
“What?” John asked.
“John Worace?” the doctor said, entering the room. John stood up and followed the doctor into Beth’s room. “Do you know where your wife is?” he asked.
“No,” John said, noticing that the bed wasn’t there.
“Your wife is doing another test, we have gone nowhere with these tests. It’s a miracle that she’s still alive, yet still unconscious. On the other hand, my other patient Cole is doing much better, his arm will heal in another matter of days, in fact, you can take him home in a little bit, though Constance is still in surgery,” the doctor said.
“Thank you,” John said happily, he went back into the waiting room and told them of the news.
In a matter of hours, Constance came into the waiting room in her wheelchair. Her friends first swarmed around her and gave her hugs. Next the family rolled her into the middle and asked how she felt.
“I feel fine, but I think that its the medicine that made that hurt stuff go away,” Constance said in a kind of loopy way.
“She’s on medicine right now,” the doctor said. “It’ll wear off soon, and her legs shouldn’t hurt that much, in fact, you can take her home with Cole.” Everyone happily thanked the doctor and congratulated John, he smiled.
“What about Beth?” John asked, he couldn’t help it, I mean, he was happy that his kids got to go home, but it wouldn’t be complete.
“Beth did not past the test, but she is still alive, and we plan on keeping it that way, we’re going to have some professors from a university a few miles away to try and figure out your wife’s rare case,” the doctor said.
“Thank you,” John said.
“I’ll call you if there is any improvement,” he said.
“Okay.” John sat back down and thought about what to do.
The next day, John took Constance to school, Cole to daycare, and drove to work. John went in and worked extra hours so he could have a day off to himself and God. Then, like every day, he went home, but this time he went home to Constance’s chatter. She was trying to do her chores in her large wheelchair in their small house just big enough for three small rooms.
“Where’s Cole?” he asked.
“At daycare, you’re supposed to pick him up,” Constance said.
“Oh!” John said, and rushed out the door to get Cole. He picked Cole up and drove him home.
That night they had a victory pizza. They were happy. Yet that didn’t feel right. Beth wasn’t there.
The next day John worked extra hours at work again. He picked Cole up this time, and, as he was pulling out of the daycare driveway, he got a call.
“Hello?” he asked.
“Hi, Mr. Worace, your wife has awoken, the professor came, and I think your wife will be in very good hands,” the doctor said.
A month after Beth’s miraculous recovery from her mysterious illness, she was up and as healthy as ever. Sadly, John never met the professor that helped her leave her bed. The doctor described him as a large African American, but soon they learned that what the university had sent never came because of a tragic car accident a day before he was supposed to arrive. Cole had completely recovered while Constance had to now use crutches, but slowly healing.
Everything was great, everyone was healthy, and John was closer to God. As for Gabriel? Well, he was never seen again by John, or anybody else, but Gabriel didn’t need to be there to remind John of the wonderful miracles God had given him.