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by Thomas OBrien
2/07/2008 / Writing
It was a summer's day with the sun at its highest, when Phillip plopped himself onto the couch in the upstairs study. Its material- a beige imitation suede - clung to Phillip's sweated body as he lay staring at the ceiling fan directly above. He listened to the cadent whirr of the fan's blades, watched its circling motion. His eyes felt heavy, weighted by the dreaminess of the fan's somniferous effects; thoughts drifted in and out of his head. When the question, "what now" trickled in he felt his stomach tighten, his heart quicken. In a jerk he sat upright and positioned his back against the couch arm searching for resolution. "I'll go back to teaching," he reasoned, "But I barely had enough energy to make it through last year." I could teach part time, but there weren't any part time openings Besides I can't make it working part time, money is running out."I suppose I'll have to start dialysisbut does it mean I'm not being patient, not trusting God for healing?" Finally he closed his eyes and took in a long, deep breath trying to swallow the uncertainty. "Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer anduhm," he muttered, trying to remember the rest of the verse floating amidst the deluge of thought. He opened his eyes and panned the room, aware of how stark the white walls appeared. Next he glanced over at the denim recliner in the corner and the cream colored night stand beside it; a blue lamp sat on top of it. "The lamp is almost the same shade as the denim" he thought, "Wellmaybe a shade or two lighter". "One, two, three, four," stains he counted on its lampshade. "Guess it's time for a new one." He caught himself wishing the room held more, something to avert his attention from the uneasiness erupted within. He forced himself to remember the reason for such simplistic surroundings. "Solitude, no distractions," he resounded. He wanted quiet, a place to pray, or just listen, to hear God speak. He recalled first moving in, intentionally placing the couch by the window because of the way light flooded in. He wanted to be part of that light, often laying there bathing in its warmth, allowing it to penetrate his brow, seep into his bones as if it were a healing balm. It was there he felt closest to God, imagined this warmth as God himself breathing favor upon him, upon the room. From there he could look out, see the distant mountains. Sometimes he watched at dusk as an orange sun settled between its peaks, leaving behind a stratum of pastels, pale pinks blending with soft blues, blues with grays; each sunset a different painting. It was there, staring out at the distant mountains, he would occasionally catch a glimpse of eagles soaring amongst its peaks.
Below this window, slightly left, stood a tall maple; its outstretched branches grew long and weighty, some climbing along the clapboards to cover the window itself. The entwinement of branch and leaves now closed off much of the light leaving the room a shroud of grey. He wanted for the light to pour in once again, wanted to lie in its warmth, imagine it as God's breath upon him, His healing breath mending his kidneys. "I've gotta get around to pruning that tree one of these days." he told himself. I've gotta get around to was a phrase he found himself saying more and more recently.
As a youngster Phillip first learned of his kidney disease, but it was not until this past year did he feel its real affects. The daily nausea and lack of energy made it difficult to get through the last few months of teaching. Changes were inevitable, but he was stuck, still clinging to life as he knew it, not yet knowing how to function beyond its familiarity.
Phillip heard the creaking of the kitchen door accompanied by a quick "Hello." "Hello," came once again this time a little louder. "Up here." Phillip mumbled. From the clop, clop coming up the back stairs Phillip knew it had to be Jim Webber. Jim was a neighbor living a few houses down. He was tall guy, probably a head more than Phillip; he was just under six foot himself. Years of physical work left him with wide shoulders, and years of eating well left him with a sizable paunch. His once dark hair was peppered and lines creased his bearded face. Usually he dressed in a plaid shirt and jeans, and always wore work boots, the same ones Phillip recognized clopping up his stairs. Jim seldom spoke and when he did the last words of each sentence trailed off so he never quite seemed to finish a sentence. One had to either guess at or finish sentences for him. When he found out Phillip no longer worked he would stop by for a quick hello, make sure he was okay. Mostly it was times of awkward silences though, Jim was not really a talker and Phillip didn't offer much in the way of conversation, never quite knowing what to talk about. "What a ya doin?" Jim asked, breathing hard from the climb up the stairs. "Oh I'm just staring out this window here, trying to see past this clump of branches I like to look at the mountains," Jim said, searching for conversation. " Like to see if I can spot any eagles near the peaks." Jim stepped over by the sofa and looked out. After a pause he asked, "Did you know I grew up at the foothill of them?" "No, I didn't," Phillip answered guessing the last word to be mountains. "Yeah, I'd see them all the time eagles that is. They're such strong, independent creatures. Majestic." Phillip listened as Jim went on. "Did ya know when they build their nests they line it with little twigs to make it feel more comfortable? Both parents help build it Yeah, they fill in between all those little twigs with mud and mulch, and line it with animal furs." "I've never heard him talk so much," Phillip thought. "Now when the eaglets are about twelve weeks and they are out on the rocks the mother starts pulling the fur out of the nest making it uncomfortable. The next day it pulls all the twigs out and the next day she completely destroys it. The eaglets spend that night out on the cold rocks. The morning after the mother lets them crawl on her back to warm up, so they think. She takes off into the air heading for the sun. She'll turn upside down so that they fall for awhile, then she catches them. She does this until they eventually fly themselves." Jim paused for a breath then continued. "You know, when I lived by those foothills, I'd sometimes spot one of those eagles down in the wilderness. Seems that many of them go through a phase known as their moping period. Phillip noticed Jim looking directly at him now, so turned away. "Yeah at a certain age, I forget now what it is, they descend from the rocks down into the wilderness and stop using all their strength. Why they do it, people don't really know. In the rocks they can fly about a hundred and thirty-seven miles an hour, but in the wilderness it's much, much less. And chalky stuff starts building up on their beaks Mucus builds up on their eyes closing up their tear ducts and they can't cry anymore. They can't eat or breathe right. Now other eagles who themselves have gone through this, understand and drop them fresh pieces of meat so they can get their strength back, make their way out of there up to the peaks again. Once there they soak up the sun, get rid of the chalky stuff from their eyes, sharpen their claws and fly. The trouble is some never find it in themselves to try to get out, even with the others helping them. It's a shame." He talked some more but Phillip no longer paid attention, thinking only now what he said about their moping period. It wasn't until he said, "Well, I guess I'd better get g that Phillip again listened. Anything you n" "No, I'm all set," Phillip answered, wishing now he would stay longer. "Thanks for stopping by." With that Jim clopped back down the stairs. Phillip heard the kitchen door creak once again and he was gone.
Phillip reclined on the couch once again staring at the ceiling fan, thinking about all Jim had said. He closed his eyes welcoming that beyond closed lids. There he stood amongst the peaks of those distant mountains watching as eagles swooped by him. One came close enough so Phillip could mount his back, cling to its wings. They descended together higher and higher skirting the heavens, drawing closer and closer to the sun. Phillip could feel its warmth on his body. Suddenly he let go but did not descend. Instead he floated there with the sun directly overhead. A figure appeared, standing beside him dressed in white. He wore dark rimmed glasses and his head was also covered in white. Below his glasses a white mask covered his nose and mouth and in his right hand was an instrument. Phillip winced as he cut into his stomach with the instrument then stuck a long plastic tube into the insertion. Afterwards the figure faded and a machine appeared in its place, the size of a microwave, with buttons in the front of it. The tube was attached to it. Phillip felt a cool sensation as solution ran from the machine through the tube into his body. Suddenly he was energized, feeling healthy again. Now both the tube and machine faded and he was left there staring into the light. He cupped his right hand over his eyes because of its brightness. He realized then he was awake and once again staring out the window. Light poured in. Phillip heard "swoosh" as a branch fell into other branches then with a thud hit the ground. He sat up and looked out. Down below he saw Jim grab the branch dragging it off towards the woods. "Thanks," he yelled out. Jim let go of the branch with his right hand and waved still dragging it. Phillip rested his back against the sofa's arm and smiled, knowing a way out of his wilderness was being blazed.
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