“Your daughter’s condition requires the best in surgical skill.” Listening, Drygelski pressed his hand to his lips as he starred into the distance. “Under the conditions, no one expects you to operate.”
“Her mother died giving birth; Helena is the last of my hope.” The storm clouds of troubled memories gathered piercing randomly like lightning.
“They say he died because of a clinical error, poor soul.”
“Silence fool! The boy heard you.”
“Liar!” Vladimir shrieked, “tell me it’s not so,” only silent, compassionate, stares replied. “We had so much planned,” he turned to heaven, “why?”
“I’m going to live Daddy,” Helena placed her pale hand in his, “because we have a book to finish together.” She comforted him more than confidence in experience.
“You are an excellent student Vladimir, a passionate man fueled by a thirst for revenge; yet you study to save lives. Upon who, does your vengeance fall?”
“In saving lives I snatch lives from the hand that snatched my father’s.”
“No, the author of death.”
“Beep,” the electrocardiograph monitored Helena’s heart brimming with love as she starred up at her father while each golden lock of hair fell to the ground.
“Daddy, I understand why you gave me spankings; like the surgery on my head, they were the lesser pains to spare me the greater.”
“You are brave, like your mother.” With an assuring smile, Drygelski turned on his heals and left to prepare for surgery. Sober, and apprehensive, Drygelski’s mind wandered as he submerged his hands in water.
“Father, the truck is loaded for tomorrow’s fishing; we’ve enough gear for two weeks. Has it been five years since?”
“Too long Vladimir; but we have many more years to replace the lost. Joy! We’re all right now; we’re a family again….”
“Doctor, are you alright?”
Restraining tears, Drygelski whispered, “memories.”
“Relax, you’re the greatest in your field, and your in our prayers; a formula for success.” Drygelski’s eyes glazed as he recalled his final prayer as a youth.
“…come into my heart, and save me Lord Jesus. Amen.”
“God will never let you down Vladimir; beware though, Satan is going to attempt to extinguish the flame burning within your soul tonight.”
“God is my protector; tonight, I tell my family the good news, so we will always be together….”
“Beep,” no prayer escaped his lips as he skillfully began cutting into Helena’s skull.
“Daddy,” whispered a memory, “who is God?”
“Mastermind of the chess-board of life: Like the Greeks described, cruel….”
“Beep,” Drygelski thanked no-one but skill for her each respiration; he feared God’s hand like a viper in his daughter’s crib.
With each cut of the tumor, fear consumed his soul; there was no being to turn to for support.
“How could you?” Amongst the truck bed of camping gear, Vladimir cried into the silent heavens. “I hate you! I’ll be damned to hell before I spend eternity with you!”
“Her pulse rate is weakening.”
“No!” Drygelski cried helplessly as he mechanically persevered. “I’ve never prepared her for death; fetch the chaplain! Hang in their baby, the book is worthless without you.”
“Beep,” who could he thank as her heart-rate steadied when he finished the last stitch?
“We can take it from here.” Drygelski assented, and fled the unbearable presence of the room; one he had not known since childhood.
With vodka for succor, Drygelski starred out upon the breaking of dawn as the chaplain entered the room.
“She’s in a state of coma.”
“Why aren’t you praying?”
“It is not my prayer; but yours that will save her.”
“God is cruel!” His tightened grip shattered the glass.
“Igor Drygelski, your father, accepted Jesus the night of his death.”
“How do you know?”
“I was there.”
“Why was I not told?”
“You never let me….”
“Beep,” her body laid tranquil, head wrapped with bandages, yet beautiful; beside the bed, her father knelt before God.
“So many years,” he starred toward heaven, “what a fool I am. Grant me her life, that’s all I ask.” Each day he fasted as fervently as he prayed; without ceasing, dampening the sheets with tears.
“God,” he moaned, “she is not to pay for my sin! I am an empty bottle; remorse has sucked me dry. What more?” He paused as if to hear reply.
“Helena!” he embraced her with kisses as Heaven’s joy filled the emptiness of his soul. He glanced toward heaven, “thank-you.”
“I know what I’ll call our book.”
“The Gift of Pain.”
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