Mike had been looking forward to today for weeks. Nineteen years old, he had just finished finals and his freshman year at St. Anthony’s.
He and his brother, sixteen year old Justin, talked about what to do today. Paintball or fishing?
Finally they decided on paintball. After attending Mass with Dad at St. Christopher’s, the boys drove to Panther Plus, the best paintball field in the state.
Mom was in Texas visiting relatives. She’d be back tonight so they could celebrate Mother’s Day. Next Sunday the whole family planned to go fishing with Mike’s girlfriend, Brittany.
Fishing was Mike’s other love. When he wasn’t playing paintball or gardening or running or playing his trombone or teaching eighth grade religious ed classes or serving as youth ministry leader or volunteering at the local homeless shelter, he was fishing.
After a great game of paintball the boys together with a teammate, headed for Dairy Queen. Mike had his favorite--an old fashioned hot fudge sundae.
They got in the Honda Accord, fastened their seatbelts, and dropped off their friend. By 5 PM they were heading home. Justin put on “Here Without You”, Mike’s favorite song.
A few miles north up Route 26, Justin dialed Mom from his cell phone.
“Love ya’ Mom!” he said. “Mike loves ya’ too.”
Just as Justin ended the call a red Chevy Corvette, traveling south in the northbound lane, headed straight towards them.
Mike swerved into a small cleared area to the right of the road.
The airbags inflated.
What a jolt! But I’m okay. I feel fine.
An elderly gentleman was standing beside him.
“You’re fine son. Everything’s fine.”
“Thanks for helping me out, sir.”
“Not a problem. Glad to be of help.”
Flashing red and blue lights. Policemen diverting traffic. White skid marks where he had swerved. Sunglasses, wallets, and loose change scattered about. The red Chevy Corvette at a forty-five degree angle to the road, its front end smashed.
“They—I—will I be---blamed for the crash? You know how it is—if a teen’s involved, everyone figures it had to be their fault.”
“Not in this case. That fellow who rammed into you was speeding. Passing in a No Passing zone. Weaving in and out. Tailgating. Marijuana in his car and an empty beer can. He’ll flunk the breathalyzer test. Fifty years old. You’d think he’d know better.”
Mike was shocked. Perhaps the elderly gentleman was out of touch and didn’t realize how litigious people were these days. You just couldn’t go around making accusations without proof.
“Don’t worry son. I saw the whole thing. And so did half a dozen witnesses.”
Now that the first shock had worn off, Mike was his usual gregarious self.
“I just finished my freshman year at St. Anthony’s College,” he said proudly.
“St. Anthony’s is a great school. I taught history there for many years.”
“You might say that.”
“What’s your name, sir?”
“Say, I’ve heard of you. One of my buddies on the track team had you for history. He said you were tough—oh sorry sir---I meant that he found your class very challenging.”
Professor Appleby laughed. “Glad to hear my reputation’s still intact.”
They watched as two EMTs lifted Justin out of the passenger side, placed him on a stretcher, and carried him to the waiting ambulance.
“Justin!” Mike cried. “Justin!”
“Your brother’s going to be fine,” assured the Professor.
“But he---the ambulance---“
“It’s just a precaution. They’ll keep him in the hospital overnight but he’ll be home tomorrow.”
“You saved your brother’s life,” continued Professor Appleby. “Had it not been for your quick thinking and swerving to the right, he might not have survived the collision.”
“Yes, we were luck---”
It was then that Mike saw that his car was completely mangled on the driver’s side where the Chevy Corvette had caught it full on. The metal had crumpled like tissue paper.
He looked at Professor Appleby. Something stirred in his memory----an e-mail announcement in February……
“Professor, you—you didn’t retire.”
“No Mike. I’m teaching in another place.”
Now Mike remembered.
The Professor smiled. “That’s right son.”
“You mean---this is the end?”
“The end?! It’s just the beginning!
“Look up yonder!”
The hill before them was bathed in a golden white light.
“Let’s head up that hill Mike. A fellow there is waiting to meet you. He’s a fisherman. Like yourself.”
AUTHOR’S NOTE: On May 11, 2008 Mike was killed by a drunk driver. This is a true story. Only the names and locations have been changed. At the funeral Mass the priest called Mike a “fisher of men.” (Matthew 4:19, Mark 1:17)
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