Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: Reading (01/25/07)
TITLE: Late Night Reading
By Connie Pilston Shoemaker
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She didn’t know the date, but they said she’d been there for several weeks. It was only yesterday she heard about the bombing of which she’d been a victim. She still didn’t know the whereabouts of her friends or her coworkers.
There was no recollection of the violent events that brought her here but her heart was heavy and though she couldn’t see, her eyes still knew how to tear and those tears flowed freely.
The occasional visitor would come but it wasn’t till night fell that she had anything to look forward to. It was when the warmth of the room was replaced with a cotton blanket and the nurses tucked everyone in for the night that she felt a sense of anticipation.
She didn’t know his name and she didn’t ask. His voice was the only thing that comforted her or gave her hope. She asked the nurses who he was but they didn’t seem to know of any visitors she’d had during the night.
A gentle touch would alert her that he was near and then she’d hear the chair scraping on the floor as he pulled his chair next to her bedside and read her passages from the Bible in a hushed voice. Somehow he seemed to know what she was feeling. The passages she had heard before in church, but only now did the words come to life in the voice of a stranger.
His voice was a comfort soft and gentle. He read to her as though he was reading to a little child, animated yet tender and calm. On the nights he didn’t come, her sleep was restless and troubling visions kept her from slumber. But as he closed the book after reading several passages she slept like a baby. The only visions were that of streams and pastures that he’d read about.
Finally one night after the reading, he told her that he would not be back again. At this she sensed he was a patient and was immediately despondent. “But I don’t know your name,” she said hopelessly. “I don’t know who you are or why you chose me to read to,” she said breathlessly. Again she felt the gauze bandages moistening as she was bidding farewell to a stranger who brought her the only comfort she had ever known during this whole nightmare.
Sensing her anguish the soft voice replied, “You do know me Michelle.” At this, the sound of her name rolling off his lips, she bristled. He’d known her all along?
“Well…who are you then?” she stammered somewhat uncomfortably. “I am someone you know and I will be here on Thursday when they take off the bandages,” he replied reassuringly. At this he gently touched her hair and said good bye. She could hear sounds of him leaving.
She thought about her life and what it might be like if the doctors were right and the bandages revealed the scarring they feared. The burning air and imbedded debris had threatened to leave her blind or at best with scant vision.
To be blind, how would she survive? As a graphic artist, color shape and form were all she’d ever known. As she pondered her uncertain future she still felt a tingle of excitement in learning about her gentle reader on Thursday.
On Thursday morning she asked the nurses to wash her hair and try to make her look a little nicer than her normal patient look. They tended to her not asking about the request. They were brushing her hair when she heard the familiar noise and then the words, “Well today is the day,” spoken gently by her reader.
As the bandages fell away, the stranger stood before her. She willed her eyes to focus as the light and shadows become a bit clearer. Her reader was no stranger. She had seen him each day when she went into her office. Funny she thought now, that she’d never heard him speak. He was the security guard on her floor. Then she remembered vaguely seeing his face close to hers on that horrific day. “You, it was you who carried me down the stairs,” at this both their eyes filled with tears.
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