It took two months before I wound up here, staring in the mirror at this Budget Inn just outside the middle-of-something Mississippi. A stack of newspapers as high as my knee are laid out on top of the queen-size mattress, and according to the bathroom mirror, I look like hell. I know I’m close though, God, I’m so close to finding him.
The idea hit me on a Sunday, April 8 in fact, hovering around that period where you might want to call it the morning if you’re lazy, or strictly afternoon if you’re a purist, or someone who believes that high noon still means something. I was sitting on the couch, the Sunday newspaper in my hands, and the exorbitant innards of ads laying on the coffee table. I hit the funnies first, laid the page with the crossword puzzle next to me. Sixty percent of the newspaper to me was worthless, but damn did I like reading the letters to the editor and that self-help section.
She caught my eye. It was a letter from a woman named Abby (not TO Abby, not the famous Abby), who said she met a man in the lobby of St. George’s hospital downtown. I read the column, the tight black type on reassuringly resilient gray, and it was one particular line that really caught me. “You know what he did? He grabbed my hands, held them so gently, and he said, ‘Abby, your husband is going to be fine. The Lord is with him, and he is going to be fine.’ I thought it very sweet of him to say so, but I also thought you might expect a lot of people to say those kinds of things in a hospital. Well wouldn’t you know, when we met the doctor that afternoon, he said that the chemotherapy was showing some very positive results! He even said that my husband kept that sort of progress, we may have that awful cancer in full remission before the end of the year! Oh, I was so happy! If I can find this Miracle Man, I want him to know I said thank you!”
I was sitting on the couch at the time, feet nestled among several empty beer cans on the coffee table. I ran my thumbs along the edges of the paper and folded it on my lap, looked at the ceiling, wondering if God had any quick words of wisdom for me. No. Just the ceiling fan, dust-caked on the leading edges, still. “Miracle man, huh?” I chattered my teeth, a bad habit, some stupid habit whenever I realize I mentally come up to a crossroads that’s either going to lead me to some sort of glory or a whole hell of a lot of disappointment. I was mighty experienced in the latter.
My apartment was simple, kept it simple, but dirty. An empty pizza box from last Friday night was still out, just past the beer cans. Ash tray, but that was clean at least. Maybe I needed to meet this guy, probably could use a miracle or two. I stood up from that couch to look out the front window, a stunning view of plain bushes, parked cars and another row of brick-façade apartments with ugly brown trim and balconies. I can tell you, I lived comfortably enough, my job saw to that, and I put in just enough effort to make sure the bills got paid on time. But there wasn’t enough motivation left in my bones for anything else in life. The angel on the shoulder told me a few months back that everything was alright, that the plus side of having most of my small family dead from dementia or disease, that it just wasn’t very probable to have another loss anytime soon. Bastard angel. The devil told me to forget anything the other spirit says. The way to heaven is through donation, and you can’t donate unless you’re at Church, and only sinners go to Church, so drink up son, grab another bottle, another can, drink on up, it’s the only way.
I figured on a Sunday, it couldn’t hurt me to try to look, find this “Miracle Man”. I was bored, and my Sundays weren’t going to be occupied with approved company anymore, so what did I have to lose? A job, maybe, depending. So on that Sunday, I looked up St. George’s and called the lobby, see if I could get any sort of information. And that’s how all this started.