Where you think he is?” Tie Li asked, shifting her position on the cold, hard log.
“Where who is?” Tony looked up from the snowman he was building.
Tony pointed in the direction of the field bordering the woods beyond the farmhouse. “Out there, I guess.”
Tie Li stood up and walked a few paces toward the field. She stopped and shielded her eyes against the glare of the sun. “What he do when snow come down?”
“He probably went underground to sleep the winter away.” Tony stepped back to admire his frozen handiwork.
“Not fair.” Tie Li crossed her arms over her chest.
“Why do you say that?”
“Chipmunk get to sleep in winter. We have to go to school.”
Tony smiled. “Don’t you want to be smart and know everything?”
“I think I’d rather be chipmunk,” Tie Li said, returning to the log. “At least he doesn’t have Simon Gorby to bother him.”
“No. Chipmunk just has high-flying hawks to worry about.”
“Oh, yeah.” Tie Li shook her head thoughtfully. “I guess I rather have Simon than hawk.”
“Good choice!” The kids jumped at the sound of another voice coming from behind. They turned to see Simon walking up from the direction of the house. “I’m glad you’d choose me over a hawk.”
“Will you stop sneaking up on people!” Tony said, trying to calm his racing heart. “You scared us half to death.”
“Sorry ’bout that,” the bully grinned. “You guys are too nervous. You need to calm down, relax, try to be at harmony with the world.”
Tie Li tilted her face up and began searching the skies. “I change my mind. I rather have hawk.”
“You don’t understand,” Simon continued. “I’m reading a book about relaxation. It says that if you sit and concentrate on one thing for 20 minutes, you’ll gain peace of mind and become one with the world.”
Tony sat down beside Tie Li. “And I suppose you’ve tried it?”
“Well, sort of,” Simon said. “Every day last week I closed my eyes and concentrated for 20 minutes, just like the book said.”
“What’d you concentrate on?”
“Yeah. It says you’re supposed to choose something pleasant to think about.”
“And you chose ice cream?”
“Swiss chocolate almond.” Simon spoke the words reverently.
“And what did you gain from this experience?”
“About 10 pounds.” Simon looked embarrassed. “Each time I concentrated, I got so hungry I raided the refrigerator. Peace of mind sure is fattening.”
Tony and Tie Li burst out laughing, almost tumbling off the log in their glee.
Simon’s face grew red. “Hey, I never said I was good at this relaxing stuff. It still seems like a good idea, if I could just learn to concentrate on something else.”
Tony held his stomach, trying to speak. “Simon Gorby, you are one crazy person!”
A smile played at Simon’s lips. “Well, maybe I am.” The smile grew wider. “I don’t want you to be the only smart person around.”
Tie Li rubbed her rosy cheeks with her gloves. “Stop making me laugh so much. My face hurt.”
Simon joined the brother and sister on the big log and enjoyed being the center of their attention, even if they were laughing at him. He felt comfortable in their company. Even Tie Li’s friendly teasing made him feel at home. It was as if he was becoming part of something worthwhile.
Often he would relive the trips in Voyager. In his mind he could see the Creator in the garden talking to Adam and Eve. He could see the serpent, hear the words that changed human history.
Lately, deep inside he’d felt a growing disgust for sin and evil, a yearning for a better world. These feelings were strongest when he found himself falling prey to old habits—when he was unkind, unthinking, cruel.
He glanced over at Tie Li. She’d often felt the brunt of his frustrations with life. He’d seen how Tony cared for her, and jealousy for that kind of love had driven him to attack the two of them relentlessly. Yet they’d always treated him with a degree of respect, however undeserving it was.
Suddenly, there on the log, Simon began to understand something that had been right in front of his eyes all along. It was as though a light flickered in his mind. Tony and Tie Li only reacted negatively to him when he did something unkind or mean. All other times they seemed to treat him just like they treated everybody else. It was as if they didn’t like what he did, yet they liked him OK as a person. Even if he was crazy, like Tony said.
Hadn’t it been the same with the Creator? God certainly wasn’t happy with what Adam and Eve had done. But He still loved them. He promised to help them in their fight against Satan. “Enmity,” He had called it.
The bully wondered if that was what he’d been feeling in his heart lately. Maybe God was saying, “Hey, Simon. I don’t like what you do, but I still love you as a person. To prove it, I’m going to make you feel lousy every time you do something you know you shouldn’t. It’ll remind you that I’m keeping the promise of enmity I made in the garden.”
“Simon?” Tie Li’s voice broke into his thoughts. “You concentrating on ice cream again?”
The big boy smiled. He looked over at Tony and Tie Li. In their eyes he could see a kind of peace not taught in books written by human hands. In their trusting, laughing faces he saw a reflection of Eden. For the first time in his life Simon Gorby knew the kind of love God had in mind when He formed the world. For the first time Simon felt unafraid to love in return.
On the other side of the world, far from the snowy pastures, a man tossed in his sleep. A small fan rattling on top of the crude wooden dresser did little but push hot air around the room. In the trees surrounding the jungle clearing, night creatures spoke in chirps and chatters, adding mystery to the darkness with their quiet conversations.
The halls of the clinic were empty and still. From each room the soft sounds of sleeping people filtered through the bare wood walls and tin roof. Occasionally a low moan would interrupt the solitude and drift among the shadows like an unwelcome dream. It was these sounds that reminded the man of his mission.
Pressing his feet into a pair of worn and shapeless slippers, the young doctor walked to an open window and stared into the jungle. He thought of home, of his wife and children so far away.
He took a deep breath, then let it out slowly. In the stillness he could hear his son practicing the piano in the living room, his daughter skipping rope and singing an old English tune in time to the slap, slap, slapping of her jump rope on cobblestones. “Tower of London standing tall/ In the storm you will not fall/ Tower of London standing still/ And I hope you always will.”
He rubbed his hands against his face. Sometimes it seemed like he’d left them in another world, another time. But he knew as soon as his one year of volunteer service was up, he’d return to his family, to his small-town medical practice, to the cobblestones of Mason Street.
There were other children who needed him just now. He walked out into the dark hallway and stood listening to the sleeping sounds of his new family in the clinic. They once had homes too. They once enjoyed the happy music of peace.
The doctor moved through the shadows, peering first into one room, then another. At a doorway he paused. The moonlight spilling through a window on the far side of the room illuminated the face of a young boy sitting on the edge of his bed.
The man walked over and sat down on the window ledge. He looked out into the night, then back at the boy. “You couldn’t sleep either, I see.” He spoke in a whisper. “It is rather hot, isn’t it?”
There was no response from the boy. Far off in the jungle a monkey chattered.
The doctor continued as if the lad had answered. “Yes, it is hard to sleep when it’s so hot. I guess I’m not used to it yet.”
The two sat in silence for a few moments. “You know, I have a boy about your age. His name is Toby. Tomorrow I’ll show you a photograph of him if you’d like. My wife says he looks like me, poor chap.” The doctor laughed quietly to himself. “Better me than his uncle, I guess.”
The boy remained motionless. He sat with his hands in his lap, rocking slowly forward and backward in an almost undetectable motion.
“I wish you could meet him—Toby, that is. I think the two of you would hit it off splendidly. He plays the piano. Someday he wants to be a great scientist and fly to the Moon or Mars or some such place. He has lots of pictures of spaceships and airplanes in his room. He builds those little models with tiny gas-powered engines and flies them in the fields behind our house. Sometimes the neighbors complain about the noise, but he’s a good boy, he is.”
The doctor looked around the room. “Sometimes he likes to play war. He and his buddies watch all those motion pictures about men who go and blow up buildings, shoot down airplanes, and make a general mess of things, all in the name of revenge for some wrongdoing. In the end, they are proclaimed heroes, mighty men, champions, as it were. They think the results of war are noble and just.” The man swept his hand slowly in front of him. “This is the result of war. I fail to see anything noble about it.”
His voice faltered. The boy on the bed turned slowly until his eyes met the man’s. In the young face the doctor saw a look of deep longing, of hurt beyond words. Then, like a door closing, the boy’s gaze returned to the shadows on the far wall.
The doctor stood and placed his hand on the boy’s shoulder. Without a word, he walked across the room and disappeared into the darkness.