“Did you hear that?”
“I said did you hear that?”
“Did I hear what?”
“Sort of a tapping ... there it is again.”
Both listened. Above the noise of the TV there was nothing.
“I can’t hear anything – you must be imagining things.”
She bridled. “I am not imagining things. I am supposed to be the deaf one here ....”
Before she had completed her sentence he went on the attack. “Where are your hearing aids?”
“I’m not listening to anything, I don’t need them.”
“Well how could you hear something I can’t hear then? You are imagining things.”
“I am not! There it is again.”
She stopped. The tapping sound ceased. Her husband took a deep breath but as he opened his mouth there was a positive hammering on the front door and a voice called, “Is there anyone there?”
Vera ran from her chair to open the door, apologising as she did so, “I am so sor....”
Her son gave her a kiss on the top of her head as he entered. “Is everyone deaf around here? Hi, Dad – no don’t get up.”
He pulled out a chair and sat. His mother fussed. “It’s so good to see you, Paul. Would you have time for a cup ...?”
“Tea, Mum, please. Too late for coffee. May I borrow a bed for the night?”
Her face lit up. “Of course! I’ll just put the kettle on.”
Father and son began a desultory conversation while Vera busied herself in the kitchen, returning with cups of tea for each of them and a plate of sandwiches for their visitor.
Settling herself she asked, “What is happening? Where are you heading this time?” His work occasioned many travels from headquarters to works in progress.
Paul shook his head. “I’m on leave. I have come to ask you a favour?”
“You could have telephoned,” his father began.
Again Paul shook his head. He took his mother’s hand and held it tightly. “Hear me out and then I’ll answer questions.”
Vera’s heart lurched. “Bobby,” she whispered.
“Yes, Mum, it’s Bobby. You know he’s been having a bad time this last year or two. Rebellion, depression, bad choices, and now – well, this time he’s in real trouble. He took his mother’s car and he smashed it. I mean, he smashed it deliberately, and I think he was hoping to smash himself as well. So he’s in hospital and the doctors say if he lives he will probably be paraplegic.”
His face crumpled and he stopped and took a deep breath before continuing.
“How did it get this way? He’s only seventeen! Mum, he is asking for you. He says you don’t like him anymore and he wants to say sorry, and he wants his grandfather to pray for him. He was getting a bit agitated so I promised to come and ask you. What are your commitments just now? Would you be able to come?”
Vera didn’t hesitate. “I’ll get my things...” Paul kept hold of her hand, “Tomorrow, Mum. I need a sleep before driving back.”
His father’s answer came more slowly. “I can pray for him here as well as there. I think I’d better stay ...”
Vera turned on her husband, spitting her words, “When the Roman centurion asked Jesus to pray for his servant Jesus said he would come right away. It was the centurion who said it wasn’t necessary, and when Jairus wanted him to pray for his daughter He went, even when the servants came and said it was too late.” She glared her displeasure while tears dripped from her chin.
Their son glanced from one to the other, thinking, ‘There’s been a paradigm shift here ...’
They entered the hospital ward quietly, Vera and Paul moving to the left side of the bed, Albert to the right. The boy’s eyes were closed. One hand lay on the coverlet. Apart from the bandage covering his left ear and forehead he might just have been asleep. But his fingers twitched and he grimaced. Was he in pain?
Vera cradled his hand into hers, stroking the fingers. Bobby’s eyes fluttered open and his fingers clutched her hand. She bent to kiss his bared cheek. Anticipating his attempt to speak she went on, “Sssh! Granddad has come to pray for you, but first I want to tell you how much I love you, love you, love you. And to assure you that only Jesus loves you more!”
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