Sunday, May 10, 2015

The File on the Table

Larry Johnston had spent most of his time in one office or another.  He had worked his way up from the closet sized ones, and the barely-enough-space-to-swing-a-cat ones to the ones so big you needed a compass to find your way around.  This office was neither.

He took a seat beside a large desk spurning the comfortable sofa and low coffee table on the other side of the room.  He hadn’t come to chat but to do business – serious business.

His eyes scanned the bookcases. It reminded him of the office at home.  Children’s books spilled across one of the shelves in an untidy pile. He noted a bird’s nest perched on the edge of one shelf and a scattering of stones and shells from a beach day adventure. Yes, the thought, it was very like the bookcase in the office at home. He softened a little as he remembered Ellie.  Then he frowned and straightened his shoulders turning his gaze away.

The desk was free of clutter. There were no trays stacked one upon another.   A phone was placed in one corner, the spiral flex in an untidy tangle. There were no photographs in silver frames.  It seemed not to be a working desk at all with no evidence of any recent activity.

A solitary file had been tossed onto the desk at one time.  In the absence of an elastic band the contents had spilled a little.  Larry couldn’t help but crane his neck to get a glimpse of some of the sheets.

The door opened and he jumped a little and flushed pink with guilt.

“Larry, it’s good to see you.”

There was an awkward pause.  Larry poked out a firm hand.  There was a slight nod before the two men shook hands.

“I thought you were out.  They said it was OK for me to sit here for a while.”

The staff at the Complaint’s Department of the Kingdom of God were used to people just asking to sit awhile in the Father’s office. After an offer of tea, which was refused, they gently closed the door.  Larry hadn’t asked to speak to the Father although that didn’t mean that the Father didn’t want to speak to him.  The Father heard Larry’s heart call out to him and had come.

The Father moved the chair from the other side of the table and placed it near to Larry, their knees almost touching. He reached across the table lifting the file and pushed it in front of Larry opening it carefully.

“I thought you might like to have a look through this,” he said.

The sheet on the top was familiar.  He didn’t need to translate the medical terms and all the Latin words written in an untidy scrawl to know it was Ellie’s diagnosis.  The prognosis wasn’t good.  The cancer had replicated itself and moved on to various organs.  Six months or less was their best offering.

“Are you going to do anything about it?” whispered Larry, a tear sliding down one cheek.

“No,” said the Father choosing not to explain His decision.

“But…” Larry knew the scriptures.  He had written so many positive verses on blank cards and posted them about the house.  He stopped often and held one of the cards praying a promise and reminding the Father of His word.

He picked up a photograph recognising the Kodak print from many years ago.  The birthday cake took up most of the picture and Ellie sat, mouth pursed, ready to blow out the candles.

“I remember that…,” said Larry. “She was six.  She asked for a horse.”

“She asked me for something else,” said the Father, “She asked me to stop you and Helen yelling at each other.”

Larry dropped his head. He and Helen had been going through a difficult time.  So much grief from the miscarriage that they didn’t know how to handle.  Larry remembered then that he and the Father sat on the sofa that time. 

“She asked what her baby sister looked like.  Did she have blue eyes? Ellie used to ask me for blue eyes all the time.  I told her that her brown eyes were exactly the way I wanted them.”

More pictures of Ellie.  And her school reports. A diary that Larry had never read.  And so many things that Larry didn’t know about his daughter.

He and the Father talked about them all.

Larry never noticed just when they had moved over to the sofa.

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