Tuesday, June 17, 2008

The Intruder

The Gloria Stories, Part 6

Gloria was visiting her parents in their third-floor flat in Brooklyn.

Her father, Hyman, was very sick. Lung cancer had made his lungs so inefficient that his feet were swollen from the fluids that weren’t being extracted from them. He was in a wheelchair, his feet wrapped in ace bandages. Breathing was so difficult he could no longer sleep lying down. Instead, his wife, Roz, would pull up a card table and heap it with pillows. Hy would lean his head on these to sleep.

On the last morning of Gloria’s visit, Hyman woke up as dawn was streaming through the east window, facing him. He looked up to see a stranger standing in front of him, silhouetted by the bright sun. The shadowy figure wore a long robe, hooded.

Hy knew all the doors and windows of the apartment were triple-locked. There were deadbolts throughout. This must be some smart man, to have gotten in. He must have some serious motivation, too, and he must surely be armed.

“What do you want?” Hy croaked, his voice almost too frightened to make any sound.

Gesturing toward Hy’s feet, the stranger said, “Take off those rags and stand up and walk.”

So Hy unwrapped the ace bandages. He knew he couldn’t walk, hadn’t been able to for weeks, but as there was probably a gun pointed at him, he thought he had better try. He stood up. He took a step, then another. “I have to go to the bathroom,” he said to the shadowy figure. The intruderer nodded, and Hy walked all the way into the bathroom.

When he came out again, a few moments later, the stranger was gone.

Hy walked over to the bed, where his wife was still sleeping, and shook her awake. “Roz, Roz! Look at me; I can walk!” And he told her what had happened.

“Well, is he still here?” Roz demanded.

“I don’t know. I don’t think so.”

They sat in the bed several more minutes, listening. All was silent. Gloria was still asleep in the next room.

Finally, they both got up and walked together through the whole apartment, checking every room, every closet. There was no stranger. And nothing appeared to be missing.

They woke Gloria up and told her to get home and ask me my opinion of what had happened.

Gloria caught me at 7:00 the next morning, when she came to pick up her dogs that I had been keeping for her. I said, “Gloria, give me some time to think about it and talk with your dad.” Just then, I had to rush to get to work.

On her way out the back door, Gloria passed the refrigerator, where the kids had stuck a picture of Jesus, brought home from Bible School. “That is Who it was!” she said. “And don’t you try to tell me otherwise!”

“Oh, no, no, I wasn’t going to do that!” I assured her.

That evening, I telephoned Hy and had him tell me the story firsthand. It was the same in all points but one: he left out the part about going to the bathroom. (“From a sense of delicacy,” Gloria said.)

“So what do you think it means?” I asked.

“I’m hoping it means Someone upstairs loves me.”

“Yes!" I said. “Yes, it means at least that! Then, with Gloria there, I read him the Gospel story of the healing of the paralytic. They were in silent awe as I read the words, “Arise, take up your bed, and walk.”

After Hy's death a few months later, Roz told me, “Now he has taken off his rags, his torn up body. And now he is walking.”