The Cheesy Religion
(A short story by Steven R. Harrel)
“Oh my God! Oh my God, no!” Nancy’s cries stung as she buried herself in Tom’s chest. “What about my babies” Nancy wept? What are we going to do about my Shana and Danny?
Tom envelops his wife attempting to shield her from the world of pain. Deflated he turns pleading eyes on his friend. “There has to be something Freddy. There just has to be something we can do?”
“Not That I’m aware of Tom. There’s not even an experimental drug or treatment program available, and I’ve looked.
Knowing there is nothing else he can really say, Dr. Anderson pushes aside his coffee and stands to his feet. “I’m gonna go. You and Nance need some time to digest and pray. If nothing else, a bit of one on one time wouldn’t hurt.”
Tom pats Nancy’s leg as he gets up and leads Dr. Anderson towards the front door, “Freddy, thanks a lot for coming to the house. It was hard enough hearing this at home. Thanks buddy.” Tom hugs his longtime friend before ushering him to the door.
the least I could do, Tom. Just so sorry I can’t do more,” Crestfallen Dr. Anderson leans in and hugs Tom gently.
“Okay Doc. Be safe. Drive carefully. The roads are a bit messy tonight”.
As he closes the door Tom can hear Nancy weeping softly in the kitchen. He gathers himself wanting to be strong for her. He attempts to rally his thoughts, “I can’t be grief stricken. She needs me.” Tom then shoulders a confidence he hopes he can pull off when he gets to the kitchen. He mutters to himself, “There’s going to be something we can do, I know it, there has to be.”
As he passes the front room Tom thinks about their two children; children who were just playing so joyfully just a short time ago, “Both are so young,” Tom thinks to himself. “Still under five. Freddy said she had maybe a year; better than six months.” He squeezes his eyes shut, “What will the babies do without their mother? What will I do without my best friend? There just hasta be something we can do!”
Tom drops beside Nancy taking hold of her hand. “It’s going to be all right sweetheart. We’ll find an answer. Somewhere, somehow there’s gotta be an answer. We’ll find it, I promise.”
Nancy swallows hard as she wipes her eyes and clears her throat. Her words were but a whisper, “Tom, promise me something… promise me you’ll find Shauna and Daniel another Mommy after I’m gone?” Tears stream from their eyes as a wave of hopelessness and sorrow washes over them. Once again they embrace, more tightly this time. Tom ached for Nancy, wanting so desperately to somehow console his love and wash her tears away.
“I won’t have to sweetie”, Tom says as he tries to hold back his own tears again. We are not going to let this happen!”
For several hours Tom and Nancy sat consoling one another at their kitchen table; speaking in whispered tones, weeping a little here and there, all the while discussing a myriad of possibilities over and over.
Sometime just before sun rise Nancy began telling Tom an old family fairy tale; a story her Grandmother told the family when Nance was no more than a kid.
“My Grandmother used to tell this story about a little town during the civil war. It was a place where people from all over the county would seek out her Great-Grand-Nana’s family looking for a healing. The story goes that people from all walks of life would get healed in their little town… and from all sorts of ailments and injuries.”
As Nancy told the story she began rummaging through an old box in the cupboard. “What are you looking for,” Tom asked?
Nancy replied, “I put some old family heirlooms someplace in this dusty closet near the hall. I just know there was some things in here from my ole’ Grand-Nana’s time.” Tom watched her open an old cedar chest.
“What are you looking for sweetheart?” Tom asks a little frustrated, “You’re going to wake the kids.”
“I said I’m looking for some old artifacts my grandmother left me.” Several minutes later, Nancy utters a cry of success, “Ah ha! Here it is! I almost forgot we had this ole thing.” Nancy then produced a small antique cigar box.
“That looks pretty cool, what’s in it?” Tom peers around Nancy’s shoulder.
“Well, ‑ you know that story I was just telling you?”
“The one your great-grands used to tell your family when you were a kid?”
“Yea.” Nancy nods as she sits the box on the table.
“Yeah, what about it?” Tom looked puzzled.
“Well… just before my grandmother passed away she gave me this old cigar box and said it was from her great-grandmother. Anyways, it’s filled with paraphernalia from that little town she used to talk about.”
“Really, Tom replied? I thought you said it was just a myth?”
Nancy just shrugged her shoulders. “I don’t know. My grandmother always seemed convinced her people came from there and even said some of the family swore they were actually healed in that little community. She didn’t claim to know them or know how they were healed, but she did say one of her mother’s closest friends was healed of a terminal illness.”
Nancy opened the little box and started pulling out artifacts and laying them on the table. There were several buttons off old Confederate uniforms and a hand full of Confederate coins and even an old pocket watch tucked in with several unidentifiable trinkets.
Surprised, Nancy hoisted the watch and whistled softly, “Wow, look at this old pocket-watch! My goodness it’s old! Just look at the intricate detail and craftsmanship carved into its casing!”
“Let me see that.” Tom said reaching for the tarnished timepiece.
Suddenly, as Tom’s fingers brush the old timepiece, Tom swoons and falls back into his chair. In his head, with what seemed something akin to a great distance, Tom hears a liquid voice, “You must be filled before she can be healed!” The voice echoed several times and then faded into his soul…
(End Part 2)