Tuesday, October 14, 2008


He has powers, you know. He can heal the sick and raise the dead. He would have prevented my death had I allowed it. Even in my newness, I would not let Solomon interfere with my decision ... for he is my assignment.

I detached from my fetal body and emerged from that dark womb-tomb for I am the Pure One. I walk with him in the placeless realm. I witness as tendrils of knowledge and wisdom penetrate his being. I tell him that there is no hell, and then I show him its gates where sulfurous clouds sting his eyes.

But wait ... I’m getting ahead of my story. Let’s go back to before I died, back before the scar-faced widow woman penetrated her granddaughter’s cervix with a dirty shard of wire, back before the sick and dying came to beg Solomon for healing. In fact, let’s go back to a stall in the girl’s bathroom at Rooster Cove School.

Chapter 1 - A Boy for a Midwife!

March 1943

Shirley braced herself against the walls of the stall in the girl’s bathroom. She sucked in her breath between clinched teeth and held it. She let it out with staccato gusts of panting. Her face twisted. She squeezed her eyes shut and pulled her lips tight. Pain blasted her in waves. What did a twelve-year-old know about having babies?

In the sixth grade classroom a little blond whispered to her teacher, “Miz Hamilton, Shirley’s sick.”

Mrs. Hamilton looked around the room. “Where is she?” She hadn’t noticed that one of her thirty-seven students was missing.

“She’s in the bathroom.”

Frances, Shirley’s younger sister, stood outside the stall holding the door open.

“Shirley,” Mrs. Hamilton said, “what’s wrong?”

“My stomach hurts real bad, ma’am,” she said leaning her head over on the wall of the stall. Shirley had always been a big boned, chunky girl. She’d never had a period in her life, and of course she didn’t have a clue how it felt to be pregnant. When her baby moved, she thought it was gas. And when her labor started, she thought it was a stomachache.

Shirley played down at the stone mill on Bristle Creek everyday with fifteen-year-old Edgar Taylor. They’d walked home from school together since the first grade. She screwed up her face again as another pain crashed into her. Mrs. Hamilton touched Shirley’s belly. It was rock hard.

“Go get Solomon,” Mrs. Hamilton said, “and hurry!”

Through grunts and groans Shirley said, “No, please don’t!” She thought, I’ll die if he sees me on the pot like this. All the girls in the sixth grade had a crush on Solomon. Just seeing him in the hallway was cause for giggling outbursts. And if for some reason he spoke to them, they’d brag on it all day. His Greek-god look was the reason he’d been voted Most Handsome in the school and Prom King too. Dear God, don’t let him see me like this.

Frances burst into Mr. Allen’s room. Mr. Allen had grades nine, ten, and eleven. It was study break, and Solomon was kicked back in a chair by the windows reading his history book. His chair was balanced on two back legs as he tapped or pulled on the desk in front of him to keep a perfect balance. Frances gasped for breath, “Mr. Allen…we need Solomon…in the girl’s bathroom!” Her frantic eyes searched the room for him.

Solomon pulled his chair into an upright position and paused for a second. When he sensed panic in others, his mind kicked into calmness. He stood up and all six feet of his lanky frame moved towards the door. Frances took off running for the bathroom. Solomon trotted to keep up with her. Mr. Allen followed Solomon, and the rest of the class watched with heads peeking out the classroom door.

They snickered and speculated that some girl had probably fainted. They knew that Solomon helped his grandmother with her midwifery. A girl could ask him questions about female stuff, and she could tell him things like when she had cramps. He didn’t mind hearing that kind a stuff. He even looked like he cared.

Mrs. Hamilton grabbed Solomon’s arm. “I think Shirley’s in labor,” she whispered.

Solomon, in a manner of speaking, wore two hats. He was a sixteen-year-old boy, but right now he was a midwife. And there could be no doubt that he was in charge. He squatted down in front of Shirley and put his hands on her knees. “What’s going on, hon?” He ran his fingers through his hair to brush the curls off his forehead.

“I don’t know. I got a bad stomachache,” she answered. He was already pulling her panties off over her boots. They’d been down around her ankles.

Shirley’s face turned blood red as she put her hands on the walls of the stall pushing them away from her. They swayed outward. She was a strong girl. “Uurrgghh,” she strained.

Solomon felt of her belly. It was solid. Her abdominal muscles had clamped down on her in a cramp from hell. “Shirley, don’t push! Pant for me.” He pursed his lips and panted to show her what he wanted.

“I…can’t…help…it,” she grunted as she strained. She hurt too bad to pay attention to him. She pushed harder, “UURRGGHH!” Her grunts were punctuated at the end by a rush of air from her throat.

He waited for the pain to ease up, and then he said, “Shirley, walk with me to the cot.” The school kept a cot in the girl’s bathroom and first aid supplies in a cabinet.

“I can’t,” she whined.

“Yes, you can,” he told her. He put his arms around her and pulled her up to a standing position. I’d rather catch the baby on the way to the cot than fish it out of the toilet, he thought.

“Oh no, please no! I have to go to the bathroom!” She complained, but she cooperated. She dropped into a fetal position on the cot and buried her face in her hands.

Solomon knelt beside her and said, “Shirley, do you know what’s happening?”

She shook her head, no.

“You’re having a baby.” His eyes scanned her face as he moved the hair off her forehead with his fingertip.

She looked at him with wide unbelieving eyes. “No, please don’t say that!”

“You’re going be fine,” he said wiping her wet forehead. “Roll over for me, hon,” he said as he rolled her on her back so he could palpate her abdomen. He was feeling for the baby’s position.

“But I can’t be pregnant,” she said, “honest.”

Mr. Allen leaned over to Mrs. Hamilton and whispered, “Yeah, right.”

Solomon cut his eyes at his teachers and glared. “Mr. Allen,” he said, “go get Ma Patsy.”

“Okay,” he said hurriedly leaving the bathroom. He was ashamed of his comment.

Solomon touched Shirley’s knee. “Hon, I need to look,” he said.

“At what?” she asked. “Please don’t hurt me!”

Mrs. Hamilton said, “Just let Solomon look, Shirley.”

Solomon took off Shirley’s boots. He put the bottoms of her feet together, which spread her legs like a lab frog. The saggy cot swayed under her bottom so he picked up the leg closest to him and pushed her knee up towards her belly. A three-inch-wide circle of baby’s head glistened at the entrance to her vagina.

Solomon looked up at Mrs. Hamilton. “She’s crowning, and her water’s broken,” he said as he stood up and pulled the cot away from the wall. Urgency was in his voice and his movements.

“Raise your hips, Shirley, before you have another pain,” he said stuffing a pillow under her bottom. He grabbed an armful of towels and sheets out of the first aid cabinet and spread a sheet over her. He hurriedly washed his hands and wished for a pair of gloves. I’ll have to do this barehanded, he thought shaking his head.

Shirley began a high-pitched squeal building up to her next contraction. “Please help me!” she cried.

Solomon straddled the bottom of the cot and pushed the sheet out of his way. The pillow had raised Shirley’s hips up high enough that he could see now. “Put your hands behind your knees, Shirley,” he said, “and pull your legs up against your belly. I want you to push like you have to go poop.”

He barely had the words out of his mouth when she began pushing. Her bottom swelled out with the baby’s head. “You’re doing good, Shirley,” he said, “push and hold it while I count to ten.” There was less than thirty seconds between her pains now. “That’s right, push and one…two…three… keep pushing, four…five…six, quick breath and hold and push, seven…eight…nine… and ten.”

He put his palm against the baby’s head to control its movement. Then he inserted the tip of his index finger between the baby’s head and Shirley. He ran his fingertip round and round gently stretching the vaginal opening so it wouldn’t tear. He massaged her perineum which had blanched white from the pressure of the baby’s head. Her abdomen bowed up with another contraction. “Push, Shirley,” he said, “you’re almost there, hon. Push your little boy out.”

Mrs. Hamilton smiled. She’d never known Solomon’s predictions about a baby’s gender to be wrong.

Shirley curled over her abdomen and pushed with all her strength, “UUURRRGGGHHH!” A fat little head with curly dark hair popped out.

“Good job, Shirley. Stop pushing,” he said quickly.

Shirley relaxed back onto her pillow. Her little sister, Frances, squealed with delight. She’d never seen a baby being born.

Solomon held onto the baby’s head as it turned sideways. I wish I had a suction bulb, he thought. In one smooth motion, he swiped his index finger through the baby’s mouth. He slid two fingers under the cord and slipped it over the baby’s head. Then he carefully pushed the head downward. He stuck the same fingers inside Shirley feeling for the baby’s armpit. When he found it, he rotated it counterclockwise. A shoulder popped out, and immediately the rest of the baby spilled out.

“You did perfect, Shirley.” The infant lay on Solomon’s forearm while he wiped it briskly with a towel. It let out a healthy howl. “I’m proud of you,” he said placing the baby on her belly.

Mrs. Hamilton echoed, “Yes, you did great, Shirley! Solomon, you did great too!”

“Thanks,” he said with a little blush as he got up to wash his hands and forearms. The pulsating umbilical cord still hung out of Shirley. Drying his hands and arms, he eyed it and decided that it was long enough to let her nurse her baby. He knew that would help deliver the placenta.

The baby’s mouth made contact and closed around Shirley’s nipple. With the eagerness of a newborn, it buried its face in her breast. The audible swallows thrilled Shirley. She was the picture of maternal love.

There had been very little bleeding during Shirley’s delivery and within a few minutes, the cord had quit pulsating. Solomon looped a finger around it and gently pulled. It suddenly lengthened and a gush of blood flowed out as the placenta released from the uterine wall. He looked up at Shirley, “Give me one more push, hon.”

She pushed, and the placenta tumbled out of her. He caught it with towel.

Solomon bent over Shirley and the baby boy sleeping on her belly. His hair hung down in his face now. He blew a puff of air at the curl tickling his eyelashes. It fluttered up and fell down again. He pushed it back with the forearm of the hand that held the scissors.

Shirley gasped, “What you gonna do with those?”

“It won’t hurt,” he said turning the baby on its side. He tied off the umbilical cord a few inches from the baby with a strip of gauze, and then he tied a second one closer to the placenta. He cut between them and laid the placenta on a cafeteria tray. He spread it out to make sure it had come away intact.

Frances grimaced and said, “Yuck, don’t send that tray back to the kitchen.”

Mr. Allen stuck his head into the bathroom. “Ma Patsy said she could be here in an hour,” he said.

Solomon smiled and nodded.

Copyright © 2008 by Robbin Renee Bridges
Coping with Grief through Afterlife Communication

Chapter 2 - An Abortifacient

March 1943

Ma Patsy had been running around all morning like a chicken with its head cut off. It wasn’t quite noon yet and already six patients had been in to see her. Doc Wall had called and said that he had her package from the drug company. He’d ordered Patsy’s quinine when he ordered his monthly supplies of medicine. He didn’t have much need for quinine. It was an anti-malarial medicine, and he didn’t see much malaria in Rooster Cove since TVA had waged war on mosquitoes.

He knew what Patsy intended to do with the quinine. She’d mix it up with some cocoa butter and make vaginal suppositories for her patients. It was an abortifacient. If one of Patsy’s patients missed her period, she’d come in for her to take care of it. Patsy would slip one of her quinine suppositories into her, and she’d be bleeding again in a few days.

That’s what Clara Cash had come in for this morning.

“Clara,” Ma Patsy said looking up from what she was doing, “don’t Henry have any condoms left? These quinine suppositories don’t always work, ye know.” She unwound the wax paper she’d wrapped around the suppository. She kept them in the icebox so the cocoa butter wouldn’t lose its bullet shape.

“Yeah, he’s got a plenty left,” Clara said. “He don’t like rubbers.”

Ma Patsy looked exasperated. “Why in God’s name is Henry so pigheaded? Ye’ve had five babies already and three miscarriages. Ask him if he’d cotton to raisin’ five young’uns by hisself. This is gonna be cold, hon.” Ma Patsy said as she slid the suppository into Clara’s vagina. She pushed a tampon in after it so the quinine wouldn’t leak out. “Be sure and take this tampon out in the morning, Clara,” she said pulling off her rubber gloves, “and let me know if you don’t start bleeding in a few days.”

Clara sat up and swung her legs off the side of the examining table. Pa Shiver had made the table before he died. It was just a narrow table with some quilt batting under a red and white checkered oilcloth. He’d nailed the oilcloth to the underside of the table. The batting made it almost comfortable, and the red and white tablecloth was waterproof. Ma Patsy kept a white rubber sheet on top of that so she could keep things clean. At the end of the table Pa Shiver had drilled two holes. They were for the dowels that held two wooden contraptions where Patsy’s patients could rest their feet during a pelvic examination or during delivery.

Clara stood up still holding her panties in her hand. She stepped into them and straightened up smoothing her calico dress over her hips. Clara was only thirty-one years old, and she already had a potbelly from too many pregnancies. Her stringy hair was dull. It looked like last year’s straw. Her gray eyes were tired and bloodshot from not enough sleep. Clara worked hard to keep herself, her house, and her five kids clean. She was a good mother. She was just caught in a situation like a lot of other women in the cove.

She loved Henry, her husband, and she loved to sing and play the guitar that he’d bought her out of a catalog. Every night she’d croon sweet lullabies to her kids with a voice like a nightingale. You could hear her Irish roots when she sang.

Ma Patsy straightened up her instrument tray and wiped down the white rubber sheet on the exam table with chlorine water. She looked over at Clara and asked, “When have ye been to see Doc Wall? Ye look pale.”

“I hain’t never seen him fer myself,” Clara said. “I taken Henry Junior to him when he broke his arm. Ye remember that?”

“Yes, I remember,” Ma Patsy said. “Well, ye need to go see him. He should check yer blood. Ye look anemic.” She pulled down Clara’s lower eyelid and looked at the pale mucosa. She pinched Clara’s fingernail. It blanched and slowly turned pale pink. “Until ye get over there to see the Doc, put a rusty nail in an apple and leave it overnight,” Patsy said. “Come morning, take the nail out an’ eat the apple. Do that everyday ‘til ye get to see Doc Wall. Okay?”

“Yeah, I’ll do that.” Clara replied.

Solomon left school at noon and trotted the mile across the cove to his house on Rooster Cove’s main drag. He’d lived there with his grandmother since he was two years old. He hit the front steps taking them three at a time. The screen door banged against the door jam when he let it go. The commotion announced to Ma that Solomon was home from school.

He only went to school in the mornings now. Not many kids stayed at the high school in the afternoon. The ones that did were the few that were going on to college. Solomon planned to go to college, but he needed to work in the afternoons to save money for the University in Knoxville. Ma had been paying him to help her with patients and with things that had to be done around the office like sterilizing instruments. Solomon wrapped each item in butcher’s brown wrapping paper and put it in the oven for an hour or so according to how many things needed sterilizing.

Delivering a baby like he did this morning at school was nothing out of the ordinary for Solomon. He’d hung around Ma’s office for as long as he could remember. He’d seen or heard of most female complaints and conditions. He was like a sponge. He remembered everything, and he wanted to help with everything that Ma did.

When he helped her with the herb garden, he wanted to know the name of every plant and what it was for. Of course that led to more questions like, “What’s asthma?” and “What’s a poultice do?” The herbs looked different when Ma brought them in the house and dried them. She’d hang them in little bundles from the ceiling. Some she’d hang in the kitchen where they’d stay moist. And some she’d hang in a cool storage room that she kept closed off. Solomon would ask, “What’s this one for? And what does that one smell like?” He stayed by Ma’s side as she chopped, shredded, or mashed the stems, leaves, and flowers. Some of them she’d boil on the stove, some she’d mix with alcohol for a tincture, and some were just dried and put in jars to make tea.

With plants like the dandelions nothing went to waste. She’d collect the milky white liquid that oozed out when the stem was cut and save it in a jar to use for warts, corns, and eczema. The leaves she dried to make a tea for patients that needed a diuretic. Of course, Solomon’s next question was “What’s a diuretic?” He cackled like a hen when Ma called it “piss-a-bed tea.” Finally, she gave the flower heads to Pa Shiver so he could make dandelion wine. Sometimes he’d even let Solomon try a sip after supper.

For the past four years, Ma had been officially instructing Solomon in the art of midwifery. He’d delivered his first baby all by himself when he was fourteen years old. The mother that he’d delivered was his same age—fourteen. Her name was Missy Hawkins. He’d been in grammar school with Missy, but she’d dropped out after the fifth grade to help her ma around the house with the little’uns. Now she was having little’uns of her own. Ma had watched the delivery from the sidelines, but she didn’t need to say a word. Solomon’s labor and delivery skills were perfect … something that the folks at school could attest to after this morning.

By the time Solomon was fifteen years old, he could do anything Ma Patsy could do from setting broken bones and sewing up cuts to delivering babies and, if need be, executing a perfect mediolateral episiotomy to prevent tearing of the vaginal opening, which he then expertly sutured.

Ma’s womenfolk patients didn’t mind the teenaged boy’s presence at their most intimate moments. They knew that he would be taking over Ma Patsy’s work and probably Doc Wall’s too. They didn’t think of him as a teenaged observer. They thought of themselves as helping to train the man who would take care of their families for decades to come.

He had decided a long time ago that he wanted to be a doctor for Rooster Cove. Now that he was sixteen years old, he planned to ask Doc Wall if he could help out around his clinic. That way he could save the money for college and medical school faster. Solomon was a good saver. He hardly ever spent any money on foolishness.

Ma Patsy heard him coming into the house, and she hollered, “Solomon, come in here, please.”

He could heard Clara Cash’s voice in there with Ma, so he slowly opened the door to the exam room and peeked in. He didn’t want to embarrass Clara. There was no telling what Ma might be doing to her. The coast was clear. Clara was dressed and just standing there with her arms crossed in front of her breasts. She looks awful tired, he thought. “Afternoon, Miz Cash, how are you?” he said.

“Fair to middlin’ thank ye, Solomon.” Clara couldn’t have cared less what Solomon saw. He’d helped Ma Patsy deliver her last baby, and he’d been the one to slip the quinine suppository into her more than once in the past. Solomon was just overly sensitive about the way people felt. It was as if he walked around with his psychic radar up. Sometimes people would say they didn’t mind the things that he did to them, but he sensed it when they were afraid or embarrassed. Whatever they might say didn’t fool Solomon.

“Sounds like ye had a tad of excitement at school this morning,” Ma said.

Solomon grinned, “Yeah, a little bit.”

“Would ye run over to Doc Wall’s?” she asked. “He says my quinine’s here. I need ye to fetch it.”

Copyright © 2008 by Robbin Renee Bridges
Coping with Grief through Afterlife Communication

Chapter 3 - The Clinic

March 1943

Dr. Wall’s clinic was half a mile down the road from Ma Patsy’s office. It was where Rooster Cove Road met Knoxville Highway. The road going into the cove had been paved in 1940 by the Work Projects Administration, better known as the New Deal’s WPA. It was paved for six miles up into the cove, which made it easy now for the folks of Rooster Cove and the neighboring hollows to get in and out. Before that, the old dirt road was full of ruts and holes that turned into mud bogs when it rained. The old logging roads into the hollows weren’t paved, so they still turned into mud bogs when it rained.

Spring flowers were already popping up along the edge of the asphalt. Just looking at them made Solomon feel happy. He had a scientific kind of mind. He had to know why about everything. He had cogitated about the little spring flowers, and he figured that the asphalt trapped water underneath and held heat so the edge of the pavement was the first place to blanket itself in flowers at the end of winter.

Something about the asphalt looks strange today, Solomon thought. Distorted waves rose from it. They reminded him of pictures that he’d seen of heat waves rising from the desert floor. But this was March, and it was Tennessee. Solomon slowed his pace. He stopped beside a power pole and cautiously stepped closer to it. A hum came from inside the pole. He watched in fascination as it became translucent and then transparent. A frenzy of activity buzzed within the outline of what had been the power pole. He looked up at the power lines that ran the length of Rooster Cove Road. They looked like Fourth of July sparklers throwing white-hot sparks. Solomon turned round and round in the road. The asphalt itself glistened with twinkling, swirling red lights. Solomon’s feet stirred the sparkling red lights into a mini-tornado. What’s going on? He thought. Is this the world Ma sees when she goes into her transfiguration chamber?

The half-mile to the clinic didn’t take Solomon long. At sixteen he already had the long, lean musculature of a runner. That fact had won him many trophies. His dark brown, wavy hair was long enough that it fell down on his forehead. When he was working, he’d brush it away, but a stray curl would manage to hang down and tickle him. Some of the kids at school had cut out a picture of the sculpture of David by Michelangelo. They’d called it “Solomon” which caused him some embarrassment because David in that picture was naked. Some kid even made up a little ditty that had taunted Solomon’s teenaged years.

Sepaugh, Say Paw
Mike a land gello
Carved hisself a statue
Of the Sepaugh we all know.

His resemblance to the statue was indeed remarkable. Even Solomon saw the similarity, but he firmly declared that he was much better endowed as far as the family jewels were concerned. That was just guy talk, but the rumor had spread nevertheless.

Solomon’s Mediterranean heritage through his Melungeon ancestors was apparent in his face and hair. The only departure from this heritage was the color of his eyes, which were a vivid blue like the color of the sky when you look straight up on a summer day.

Dimples dotted his cheeks when he smiled, and Solomon smiled all the time. He smiled when he was happy, and he smiled when he was mad. He even smiled when he was worried. It was as if the corners of his mouth didn’t know how to turn down. And behind his smile straight white teeth sparkled. Ma had taught him to make a paste of baking soda and peroxide for brushing.

Today, Solomon was happy that he had an excuse to go to Doc Wall’s. This would be a chance to ask him about a part time job. He liked the old doctor, and he felt like he could be useful around his office. He already could do anything that Ma Patsy could do with her patients. Doc Wall could teach him a whole lot more. And considering the doctor’s failing health, Solomon felt like he could take some stress off the only physician within a thirty-mile radius of Rooster Cove. He just hoped he could convince the doctor of this.

Dr. Hezekiah Wall, whose father was a Bible scholar, had opened his clinic out on the highway between Black Fort and Knoxville in 1908. It was right after he’d graduated from medical school over in Chapel Hill. Since then, the medical office had been his home too. Its gingerbread front porch was a landmark out on the highway.

The doctor had lived there alone for the past fifteen years. Since his wife died from breast cancer, his health had been slowly going down hill. It was hard on him to be available for late night or weekend emergencies. His daughter, Alice Moriah, had been trying to get him to move into her home a few miles west of the clinic, but he’d told her that he wasn’t ready to give in yet. He was seventy-two years young this year, and he figured that he had a few more good years left in him. The old doctor’s nurse had retired last year, and since then, he’d had to do literally everything by himself.

Solomon knew that Doc Wall and Ma Patsy had an arrangement of sorts. They respected each other’s territory. Ma Patsy knew when her patients needed modern medicine, and she didn’t hesitate to send them to Dr. Wall. In return Dr. Wall considered Ma Patsy an extension of his health care system. He supplied her with prescription medicine that required a doctor’s signature, like the quinine.

As Solomon approached the clinic, he saw Dr. Wall struggling to get heavy boxes off the back of a truck. Doc Wall saw him running towards him, and he stopped what he was doing. “Hey, Solomon, Patsy must have sent you for her quinine.”

“Yes,” Solomon said, “can I help you get these boxes into the clinic?”

“Thank you,” Dr. Wall said, “that would be mighty kind of you.”

Solomon already had two of them in his arms, and he was walking towards the back door. “Just show me where you want them, and I’ll bring them all in for you.”

“This really is my lucky day,” Dr. Wall smiled as he held open the back door for Solomon. “Down the hall and to the room on the left,” he pointed for Solomon then followed him. “Put them on the floor over there,” he said.

As soon as the boxes were out of his arms, Solomon was on his way back for more. Dr. Wall knew that Patsy’s quinine would be in one of the smaller boxes, so he followed Solomon out to the truck. Solomon picked up two more large boxes, and Dr. Wall scooped up three small ones. As Solomon put his boxes on the floor, he said, “There’s only one left,” and he was on his way back out to the truck.

Dr. Wall put his three small boxes on a low chest, took out a box cutter, and opened one of them. Patsy’s quinine was on top. Ah hah! he thought, am I psychic, or what? As Solomon brought in the last box, Dr. Wall put the little amber bottle into his coat pocket. He patted Solomon on the shoulder and said, “How about a glass of iced tea, young man?”

“Okay, thanks,” Solomon replied as he followed the aging doctor down the hallway to the kitchen.

Dr. Wall was a few inches over six feet, and his back was straight as an arrow. His white hair he kept short, and he was balding on the very top of his head. His eyes were surprisingly good for his age. He only needed reading glasses, which he’d let slide to the end of his nose. He tilted his head backwards when he needed to read a label. The rest of the time he looked over the top of his little half spectacles. He motioned for Solomon to sit down at the kitchen table. He took the amber bottle out of his pocket and sat it in front of Solomon.

Solomon turned the little bottle round and round in his fingers, trying to decide the best way to start this conversation about his working part time at the clinic. Dr. Wall set a glass of sweet tea in front of Solomon and said, “Solomon, what would you think about coming to work for me here at the clinic?”

Solomon looked startled, “Really?” He smiled and said to the doctor, “I was planning to ask you if you might be able to use me around here.”

“Great minds think alike.” Dr. Wall raised one white eyebrow. “By the way, how old are you, son?”

“Sixteen,” he answered.

“That’s good,” Dr. Wall said. “I don’t want to get in trouble with that new labor law for children. I couldn’t remember whether you were fifteen or sixteen. When can you start?”

“Anytime,” Solomon said, “now if you want.”

“Well, I know you work some for Patsy. Is that going to mess up anything for her?”

“No, I’ve already talked to Ma about it… I mean about asking you for a job. She’s fine on it. I can still help Ma,” he said. “I can be here for your afternoon patients, and I can help Ma at night and on the weekends.”

“That’s a lot on you, son. Do you graduate from high school this year?” Dr. Wall asked.

“No sir, I’m in the tenth grade. I’ve got one more year in school. I go to school in the mornings, but I get out at noon. School’s real easy for me,” he said. “I won’t have a problem. I promise.”

“What kind of grades do you make?” Dr. Wall asked.

“I make all A’s, sir,” Solomon answered.

“That’s good,” Dr. Wall said. “You’ll let me know if this creates a problem for you, won’t you?”
“Yes, sir,” Solomon said, “I promise.”

Someone rang the bell in the waiting room. Dr. Wall put his arm on Solomon’s shoulder and guided him towards the waiting room. The doctor stuck his head through the door. An older gentleman was there. Solomon recognized him. It was Toby something. He lived in a hollow across the highway. Dr. Wall said to the man, “Hello there, Toby. I’ll be with you in a minute. I need to get this young man started on a project in the dispensary.”

Dr. Wall shut the door to the waiting room and said to Solomon. “Unpack the boxes we just brought in. It will be a good way for you to get familiar with the dispensary.”

“Okay,” Solomon said following the doctor into the room.

“Over here I keep all the medicine.” Dr. Wall pointed to rows of glass encased shelves. “They’re all alphabetical.” He opened one of the glass cases to show Solomon. “The ones over there,” he pointed to the glass cases near the window, “These are the ones I use everyday. They’re not in any order. The ones most used are closest to the table.” He gestured towards the table in front of the window. On the table sat a mortar and pestle for grinding tablets into a powder. Beside that were funnels in various sizes. “You’ll get the gist of it. Here I keep the distilled water, tincture of iodine, alcohol, glycerin,” the doctor said touching his assorted bottles. Some were in clear glass bottles. Others were in amber, cobalt blue, or dark green glass bottles. Some were pint-sized and some were ounce-sized bottles, and lots were in between. A few were gallon-sized and sat on the floor beneath the table.

“This is where I compound the elixirs and capsules and whatever else I need,” he said as he pulled out a drawer beneath the table, “and here’s the rest of it.” The drawer contained empty capsule shells and little bottles with cork stoppers that would be filled with medicine that the doctor could send home with his patients.

Dr. Wall walked to the other side of the room to a tall cabinet with forty narrow, shallow drawers. “Over here is where I keep equipment for injections, sutures, gauze, cotton balls, and so forth.” He pulled out a drawer with assorted stainless steel needles. “Different situations call for different sized needles. You’ll learn all this as we go,” Dr. Wall said.

Beside the large cabinet was a small table with a stainless steel box that had a round door like a porthole. “What’s this?” Solomon asked touching the top of it.

“That’s an autoclave,” Dr. Wall said. “I use it to sterilize my instruments. I’ll show you how to use it later. How does Patsy sterilize equipment?”

“In the oven,” Solomon replied.

Dr. Wall said, “This works basically the same way.” The doctor turned to leave, “I need to find out what Toby wants. You start unpacking and put things where you think they belong. You’ll find that I already have at least one of all the things that are in the boxes. So put the new one behind the old one on the shelf.

“Alright,” Solomon said feeling a combination of excitement and awe as he looked around the room. This was so much more than he’d expected for today. There was a telephone on the compounding table so he called Ma to tell her his good news. “Ma, I’m still at Doc Wall’s. He’s put me to work already.”

“That’s great, Solomon!” Ma Patsy could hear the excitement in Solomon’s voice. He had a squeaky sound when he was excited about something.

“I just wanted to tell you not to wait supper for me,” he said. “I don’t know when I’ll get home with this being my first day and all. Dr. Wall’s got so many things to tell me.”

“That’s fine, son. I’ll see ye when I see ye,” Ma giggled.

One wall of the dispensary had Dr. Wall’s medical textbooks and journals. I could spend the next ten years just reading, Solomon thought as he thumbed through some of the books. It was hard to put them down. Reading and looking at the graphic pictures of body parts made him want to look through another and another and another. I don’t want Dr. Wall to think I’m malingering. Solomon grabbed the box cutter and opened another box.

Except for the medicine, which was easy to put away because it was alphabetical, Solomon was taking much longer than he would have liked. Finding the right place for everything was tedious. Dr. Wall came back into the dispensary. “I forgot to tell you to mark things off the packing list as you unpack the boxes.”

“I was doing that. I figured you’d want to know that everything on the list was in the box,” Solomon said.

“Good, and as for the books on those shelves,” Dr. Wall pointed to the wall of books, “you’re welcome to spend all the time you want reading. I figure the more you know about medicine, the more help you’ll be.”

Solomon was in heaven. He explored the room, the equipment, and the medications. If he found something that he wasn’t familiar with, he’d look it up in the medical texts. He looked up all the drugs in alphabetical order. He started memorizing the drugs and each drug’s indications and contraindications. He wanted to be sure that he understood why a patient would need a specific drug, and he wanted to be even clearer on why they shouldn’t take the drug. He memorized side effects and dosages.

After several hours, Dr. Wall came back to the dispensary. The old doctor stood in the doorway for a few seconds. He looked pleased. He said, “Solomon, you’ve outdone yourself. This room hasn’t been this organized since my nurse retired last year. Thank you for your industriousness.”

“You’re welcome, Dr. Wall.” Solomon blushed.

Dr. Wall walked around the room tenderly touching a cabinet here, a bookshelf there. Memories of his lifetime of caring for patients flooded his mind. Solomon watched him carefully. When a person experienced high levels of emotional energy, like Dr. Wall was feeling now, Solomon could feel what they felt. He was empathic; Ma had told him. The feeling that he was getting from Dr. Wall right now was one of joy and profound satisfaction. The doctor took Solomon’s hand. His voice trembled as he said, “Your enthusiasm is contagious, son. Thank you for coming to work for me.”

“Thank you for hiring me,” Solomon said. His smile was so wide that it hurt. His heart felt so big inside his chest that he thought it might burst open with happiness.

“Can you be back here at one o’clock tomorrow afternoon?” Dr. Wall asked.

“Oh gosh, I can’t wait to get back to this room,” Solomon beamed at him. On the way home his feet barely touched the ground.

This turned out to be the perfect arrangement. Dr. Wall taught Solomon how to take a good medical history, and then he’d let Solomon figure out what kinds of tests or treatments the patient needed. Solomon dog-eared the Grey’s Anatomy. He’d put a piece of paper over the illustrations, and then he’d trace them. Later he’d sit down and label all the parts without looking at the book. “He’s a smart boy, that Solomon,” Dr. Wall would say.

Solomon sterilized the equipment in the autoclave. He kept inventory of all the supplies, and he ordered more when anything was needed. Doc Wall laughed and told people that his job was to sit in a rocker on the front porch of his clinic and to answer Solomon’s questions. Both mentor and mentee were happier than two hogs in a mud puddle on a summer’s day.

Copyright © 2008 by Robbin Renee Bridges
Coping with Grief through Afterlife Communication

Chapter 4 - Dementia and Demons

March 1947

Solomon knew he’d need a running start if he was going to get up enough speed to fly off the cliff and soar above Lake Blarney. He backed up, sprinted along the pathway, and then jumped over the precipice. Fleecy white clouds billowed in the purple sky. He spread his arms and sailed in circles over the lake until he got close enough to splash down in the blue-green waters. As he floated on the water, a beautiful Indian maiden in a canoe asked him, “Do you have the Sign?”

Solomon answered, “Not yet, but I will.”

The alarm clock jolted him out of his dream. He shut it off and lay there for a moment trying to shake off his disorientation. Good grief! That was a weird dream, he thought.

He shaved and went downstairs to have breakfast with Ma.

“Morning, son,” she said spooning oatmeal into two bowls.

“How many patients are scheduled this morning?” he asked pouring a glass of milk.

“There’s three. They’re all simple prenatals...nothing complicated,” she said.

He nodded. “I had the weirdest dream last night. Have you ever heard of the Sign?”

“No, I can’t say that I have, son. What is it?”

“I don’t know,” he laughed, “some Indian maiden asked me if I had it.”

“Aaah law, son,” Ma giggled, “maybe I shouldn’t put so much spice in my spaghetti.”

Dr. Wall fidgeted with the salt shaker on the kitchen table. Solomon had been working for him four years now. It was noon, and he’d be walking in the back door any minute. Patients were filling up the waiting room. Almost all of Dr. Wall’s patients came in the afternoon now…to see Solomon. If Dr. Wall told his patients that Solomon was busy, they told him they’d wait. Dr. Wall had no idea how he could remedy this dilemma. If he got rid of Solomon, patients would just go to Patsy’s to see him anyway.

Solomon’s twenty-year-old enthusiasm still had an invigorating effect on the seventy-six-year-old doctor. He just hadn’t been prepared for how quickly his new employee learned. Nor had he expected his patients to accept Solomon so readily. Granted, the young man was handsome, sensitive, intelligent, skilled, and compassionate...all those things ad nauseum.

The fact that the old doctor had more energy than he’d felt in thirty years had not connected in his mind with the possibility that Solomon was the source of that energy. He just knew that he felt better than he’d felt in years, and he wondered why he’d ever asked the whippersnapper to come and work for him.

Then being the astute observer that he was, Dr. Wall observed that he felt jealous of his young apprentice’s youth. Yes, that was what he felt… jealous. But not just jealous of Solomon’s youth, the doctor was jealous of Solomon’s skill with patients too. While Dr. Wall was still gathering a history on a patient, Solomon would have the patient’s problem diagnosed…just by looking at him or her. Solomon could look with his hands. Patients reported that his hands felt warm right before they got better.

When Solomon came in the back door, the doctor was standing at the kitchen sink with his back to him. “How are things going today, Dr. Wall?” Solomon asked.

Dr. Wall ignored him.

Solomon went to the dispensary, put on his white coat, and stuffed his stethoscope into his pocket. He went back to the kitchen where Dr. Wall puttered over the sink. Solomon asked, “What would you like me to do today?”

Dr. Wall turned around and glared at Solomon. “There are seven patients in the waiting room, and they’re ALL waiting for you!” The doctor’s face was turning red. “They’ve forgotten that I’m the doctor, and you’re a twenty-year-old kid with no degree to your name! They’ve forgotten that I run this clinic!”

“I haven’t forgotten, Dr. Wall,” Solomon said calmly. “I haven’t forgotten that you are my mentor. I haven’t forgotten that I owe it all to you.” Solomon knew that was a slight stretch of the truth. If anyone, he owed it all to Ma. But making Dr. Wall feel better was the issue at hand.

“Just look at you!” Dr. Wall sputtered. “It’s only noon, and you’ve got a five o’clock shadow already. Why don’t you clean yourself up before you come to work?”

"I'm sorry,” Solomon responded, “I’ll go shave.”

Solomon headed off to the bathroom beside the dispensary. He kept a razor in there, and everyday he shaved when he came in to work, whether he needed it or not. Dr. Wall’s daily repetition of this scene indicated that his mentor was sinking deeper into senile dementia. A few weeks ago, Dr. Wall had come into the kitchen in his bare feet. They were blue with the tiny purple veins of peripheral vascular disease. Solomon knew that if his cardiovascular system was compromised in his feet, it was also compromised in his brain.

Solomon shaved, and then he went back to the kitchen. “Is that better, Dr. Wall?”

Dr. Wall grunted and poured a cup of coffee for himself. Solomon shut the icebox door that Dr. Wall had left open. He didn’t point these things out to the doctor. He just went behind him and put things in order. Solomon knew that his old friend couldn’t help forgetting things. The only time it became a problem for Solomon was with patient care. He had to be more aggressive when Dr. Wall forgot something or tried to do a procedure the wrong way. The patients were well aware of this. That’s why they waited for Solomon to get to the clinic. Solomon tried to be tactful with Dr. Wall concerning patient care. He didn’t want to hurt the aging doctor’s feelings. He knew that even though his memory was failing, his feelings were more sensitive than ever.

“Dr. Wall, is Alice Moriah coming over on Sunday?” Solomon wanted to talk to the doctor’s daughter about her father’s health.

“Well, I suppose she is,” Dr. Wall snapped, “doesn’t she come over here everyday?”

Solomon knew it had been almost two decades since Alice Moriah visited her father everyday. That was when her mother was dying of cancer. Now that Solomon worked at the clinic, she came on the weekends when the doctor was alone. I’ll call her in the morning, Solomon thought.

Screams from the waiting room jolted Solomon and Dr. Wall. “Solomon! Solomon!” They heard shouts and what sounded like chairs scattering. A female voice punctuated the melee, “Oh God, help!”

Solomon ran into the waiting room to find three men man-handling a teenaged boy, who was in the throes of the clonic-tonic phase of a grand mal seizure. “Put him on the floor,” Solomon shouted. The men laid the boy down leaving a trail of urine as the boy’s bladder released its contents. Solomon knelt down and rolled him over to one side. He held his head while it jerked uncontrollably. His eyes rolled back and bloody sputum frothed around his mouth where he’d chewed his tongue and cheeks.

“I need a bite stick and phenobarbital,” Solomon said to the doctor. Dr. Wall staggered backwards, and then he left the room. Solomon wasn’t sure that the old doctor would return with what he needed. He said, “Melanie, go with him…a bite stick and phenobarbital.”

A man offered Solomon a spoon. “Here’s a spoon to keep Tater from swallerin’ his tongue. I’m his daddy.”

Solomon said, “He can’t swallow his tongue. It’s attached to his mouth. When Tater has a seizure, roll him on his side. That clears his airway. Just keep him from hurting himself. Put something soft in his mouth to keep him from biting, but don’t put anything in there that would break his teeth.”

Tater’s daddy looked surprised.

Dr. Wall and Melanie appeared at Solomon’s side with the bite stick, a hypodermic syringe loaded with phenobarbital, and a towel. He handed Solomon the bite stick and the towel.

Solomon wiped the boy’s face and tossed the towel into the pool of urine. He didn’t want anyone to slip in it. Then he forced the bite stick between Tater’s back teeth so he couldn’t bite.

Dr. Wall gave Tater the shot. He was still pretty good with skills he’d done all his life. He still knew what common conditions needed which medications and treatments. But if you asked him what he had for lunch, he couldn’t tell you.

Solomon sat down on the floor beside the boy carefully avoiding the puddle of pee. The seizures had slowed. Solomon put the boy’s head on his knee and stroked his forehead. “You’re okay, Tater.”

Tater moaned and looked around the room. He looked bewildered.

Solomon asked Tater’s father, “Do you give Tater the capsules Dr. Wall gave him?”

“Yeah, but we missed a few. My brother says hit’s the devil makes people have fits like this.”

“It’s the devil?” Solomon raised his eyebrows. He didn’t want to get into that right now.

“Mortimer Demon’s come back to the holler,” Tater’s daddy said, “we’s under attack.”

Over supper Solomon said to Ma, “Today at the clinic somebody said the Mortimer Demon is back. Do you know what they’re talking about?”

“Mortimer Demon?” Ma chuckled, “Land a mercy, that was fifty years ago. I was just a girl. Everybody in Rooster Cove was scared to death of it. People wouldn’t go out after dark. They said it carried off chickens and dogs and cats. And some folks said it killed a baby.”

Solomon asked, “Did they ever find out what it was?”

“Not that I know of,” Ma said. “Some folks said they seen it. It was supposed to be big and hairy and stank like rotten meat. They said it could jump from the ground up on to the roof of a house.”

“Are any of the folks that saw it still around the cove?” Solomon asked.

“None in their right mind,” Ma chuckled. “Alfred Hicks over in Mortimer Holler says his grandpa died when he seen it.”

“If he died when he saw it,” Solomon said, “then somebody had to be there and live to tell the story.”

Ma grinned, “Yep, you’d think that. You’ll have to go ask Alfred what he knows about it.”

Copyright © 2008 by Robbin Renee Bridges
Coping with Grief through Afterlife Communication

Chapter 5 - Amour and a Miracle

December 1947

The week before Christmas, Alice Hope arrived home from the University in Ohio where she was a freshman. She had gone there to get away from the smothering influence of her mother, Alice Moriah. She wasn’t too excited about the prospect of being away from her friends at school, but that’s the way these holidays went. You just had to get through them. The only person in the area that she was remotely interested in spending time with was Solomon, the guy that worked at her grandfather’s clinic. She thought he was handsome enough to be a movie star, but he was too shy to suit her. She’d flirted with him for years, but he’d ignored her like he thought she was a child. When she asked him why, he’d told her that he didn’t think it would be appropriate for him to date his employer’s granddaughter. “You’re a fuddy duddy just like Grandfather,” Alice Hope had said to him.

Alice Moriah came out of the kitchen where she’d been preparing dinner. “Alice Hope, I think you should go caroling with the folks at church tonight,” she said, “and I think you should ask Solomon to go with you.” Alice Hope’s mother wasn’t trying to initiate anything between her daughter and Solomon. She was just thinking about her daughter's being out after dark in Black Fort. She knew that Solomon would protect her.

Alice Hope thought about it for a minute. “That might be fun,” she said. She picked up the phone and called the clinic. Actually she was thinking that it might be fun to mess Solomon. I wonder what it would take to get his attention, she grinned mischievously.

Solomon answered, “Dr. Wall’s office.”

“Hi Solomon, this is Alice Hope,” she said playing with the phone cord.

“Heeeyyy! Welcome home, Alice.”

“Thanks Solomon.” She took a deep breath. “I have a proposition for you. Mother wants me to go caroling tonight, and she wants you to go with me. I suppose to protect her precious daughter.”

Solomon laughed, “Well, you are precious, Alice Hope.”

“I’m not a child,” she said.

“Okay, what’s your proposition?” he asked. He sounded like a big brother, which was the way he felt about her.

She lowered her voice. “I’ll agree to go, if you’ll agree not to tell anybody that I smoke.”

Solomon laughed heartily. “Do you really think they don’t know? There’s nothing more pungent than the smell of tobacco smoke to a non-smoker.”

“Your attitude pisses me off.” She slammed the phone down.

Solomon smiled and hung up the phone. I’ll give her five minutes before she calls back, he thought.

It didn’t take that long. “Alice Hope, I’d be happy to accompany you to the caroling tonight,” he said.

She was at the clinic as soon as the last patient left. She sat down at the kitchen table with her grandfather. Solomon stuck his head in the door and said, “I’ll be ready in fifteen minutes.”

Dr. Wall listened to Alice Hope’s stories about college. She had him wrapped around her little finger, and she knew it.

When Solomon came back into the kitchen, Dr. Wall handed him the keys to the Cadillac and a ten-dollar bill saying, “You young folks have supper on me, and Solomon, you have her back here by ten o’clock.”

“Yes, sir, I’ll do that,” he said.

Alice Hope looked Solomon over. He had on chocolate brown wool pants with a pale blue oxford shirt and brown wingtips. He looks good, she thought, but that pea coat’s got to go. “Grandfather,” she crooned, “could Solomon wear your cashmere coat?”

“Alice!” Solomon said.

“Anything you want, precious,” Dr. Wall replied.

“Alice pulled the caramel colored cashmere coat out of the hall closet. She held it over one arm and stroked it. “This is so pretty. Come on, Solomon, try it on. You’re as tall as Grandfather.”

Solomon did what she asked.

She smiled real big. “Now you look like someone, who could take me out to dinner.” She twirled around the kitchen sashaying her hips, “How do you think I look?”

Sexually active, Solomon thought to himself. Her pink cashmere sweater stretched tightly across her ample eighteen-year-old breasts. Her rouged cheeks with eyelashes fluttering under theatrical make-up and a pouty pink mouth suggested her availability. “You look beautiful, Alice,” he said instead. “Your pink sweater brings out the pink in your cheeks and the strawberry blonde of your hair.”

Dr. Wall put one hand over his eyes. Peeking through two fingers he said, “You’re scaring your old granddaddy. When did you become a woman?”

Alice Hope beamed.

When they were out of sight of the clinic, Alice slid to the middle of the Cadillac’s front seat and put her hand on Solomon’s leg. “Do you think I look like a woman?” She watched his face as she lightly traced figure eights on the inside of his thigh.

“As a matter of fact, you do, Alice.” He tried not to show the effect her fingertips were having on him. He felt her little finger stretching higher up his thigh getting dangerously close to his manhood. His breathe came deeper and faster.

Alice watched his nostrils flare and his mouth grow slack. “Do I have your attention now?” she purred.

“You definitely have my attention,” he said as his erection pushed against his zipper.

“Mmmm good,” she pressed the back of her hand against it. “Oooh yes, I do have your attention, don’t I?” She stretched up to his neck and gently sucked.

“Your grandfather will know if you give me a hickey,” he whispered through a raspy throat.

“You’re right,” she said moving her hand from his groin to his biceps. She smiled and put her head on his shoulder. She knew she could have him. That made her happy.

As they drove into Black Fort, he asked, “Where do you want to eat?”

“I feel like a steak,” she said grinning, “and you look like you could use some red meat.”

Solomon pulled the Cadillac into the steak house parking lot. He got out, walked around the car, and opened her door. She pulled her skirt up showing off the garter belt that held up her silk stockings. She smiled when she saw him looking at her legs. He offered his hand, and she pulled herself out of the car.

The steak house was dark inside. A fat candle lit every table. Alice Hope asked for one of the circular booths. Solomon helped with her coat and hung it with his on the hook beside the booth. They sat down and Alice slid all the way around the table until she was inches from him.

“What subjects are you taking at the university?” Solomon asked.

“Regular freshman subjects,” she said turning towards him. She put her leg up on the seat with her knee lying on his thigh—a perfect position for his hand to easily reach her where she wanted him to touch her. He could see the top of her silk stockings.

“Uh, are you doing in a dorm? I...I mean, do you live in a dorm?” he stammered.

Alice Hope grinned. She was enjoying his awkward discomfort. She put her hand on the back of his neck and ran her fingers through his hair. She leaned closer so that her breast was touching his arm. She moved it slowly and deliberately. “How many women have you been with?” she asked in a sultry voice.

“Alice Hope, the people over there are watching you.” He cut his eyes toward a table near them.

“Why do you care?” she asked.

“I care,” he whispered firmly. “I’m not into public displays of...of...sex.”

“Alright, alright,” she said putting both her hands on the table and sitting up straight.

“Alice,” he said, “you’re a beautiful and desirable woman. Do you know what you do to a man?”

She sounded annoyed. “I’ve had sex with lots of guys. Don’t make this a big deal.”

Solomon looked concerned. He touched her chin and turned her face to his. “Do you use protection?”

She smiled impishly. “Yeah, I got a diaphragm. I’m not stupid.” She leaned close to him again and said, “I put it in before I left home. I put my diaphragm in and left my panties at home, and you spoiled my surprise.” She turned her head in a mock pout.

Solomon said, “I’m glad you’re not stupid.” He leaned over and kissed her on the cheek. “You better not let your mother find your diaphragm.”

“You’re telling me!” She winked and said, “I can’t believe you turned down the best sex you ever had.”

“Let’s just say I postponed it,” he said touching the tip of her nose. “Anticipation makes sex better.”

As they pulled into the church parking lot, people were bundling their coats around them and hurrying into the fellowship hall. The wind had picked up making the twenty-five degree temperature feel like zero. Solomon laughed and said to Alice, “You’re going to freeze your butt off…literally.”

She giggled. She was glad he’d remembered that she wasn’t wearing panties.

Confusion reigned inside the fellowship hall. A five-year-old boy was missing. His frantic parents paced and wrung their hands. Solomon got bits and pieces of the story. The child had been playing with siblings. The older ones had gotten cold and had come into the fellowship hall to warm up. That’s when the mother first missed five-year-old Charlie. It had been an hour ago, and they still hadn’t found the boy. Hope had faded, and gut-wrenching grief had taken over. The wails of the family stood out over the crowd’s judgments, “Why were they not watchin’ that young’un?”

The boy’s uncle burst through the door screaming, “They fount Charlie floatin’ face down on the north side of the pond!” He threw his arms around the boy’s father and sobbed, “He’s dead, Charles. Your boy is dead.”

Solomon was instantly alert to the situation. He remembered resuscitating animals after they’d apparently drowned in cold water, and he had a feeling that the child wasn’t dead. Dr. Wall’s cashmere coat flapped in the wind as Solomon hurried down the hill to the pond where men were pulling the boy out of the icy water. They flopped him up on the beach. The child’s face was blue and ice crystals clung to his hair.

“Don’t move him!” Solomon ordered.

The men didn’t know who Solomon was, but his sound of authority stunned them into compliance. They backed away. Solomon took off Dr. Wall’s coat and laid it over the child. He touched the boy’s cheek with the back of his hand and detected a weak electric current between the hair on his hand and the boy’s icy face. “He’s alive,” he said, “get a plank to carry him on.”

The child’s parents ran towards Solomon and the boy. Solomon put his arms out to slow them down. “Don’t move him!” he shouted as he blocked them. He knew that when the blood in an extremity was not circulating, like when a tourniquet was on it, poisons built up in the stagnant blood. He reasoned that if the boy was moved quickly, the poisons would go to his heart and brain.

The child’s mother looked at Solomon with pleading eyes. “Is he alive?” She gasped as she looked at his blue face. “Oh no, he’s dead,” she cried as she dropped to the ground.

“He’s alive. Trust me.” Solomon said it with such conviction that she believed him.

She carefully put her hand on her son’s forehead and said, “Oh God, he’s so cold.”

“I know,” Solomon said, “we’re going to fix that.”

When the men arrived with the plank, Solomon gently slid the boy onto it. He put Dr. Wall’s coat over the child and stood up with the boy and the board in his arms. Solomon’s foot skidded on the ice. “Steady me, fellas,” he said, “don’t let me fall.” They walked up the hill beside Solomon and his precious cargo.

In the fellowship hall, Solomon laid the board and the boy on a table.

A rotund middle-aged man introduced himself as Pastor Hall. “What can I do?” he asked anxiously.

“I need scissors and warm blankets,” Solomon said

A heavy-set woman stood watching with her hands over her mouth. Solomon said to her, “Ma’am, warm some towels in the oven and bring them to me.” She hurried off.

Another woman handed him scissors.

He cut the boy’s clothes off underneath Dr. Wall’s coat and threw the pieces of cold, wet material on the floor. He looked towards the kitchen and shouted, “I need those warm towels!”

The ice in the boy’s hair had melted, and his skin was pale but no longer blue. Solomon saw that the boy’s chest was beginning to move. The mother tenderly stroked her son’s forehead as Solomon said, “You’re doing good, Mama. Breathe your love on your son.”

Solomon put his fingertip against the child’s carotid artery. He felt a small bump from it. He placed a finger under the boy’s chin and slowly lifted it opening his airway. He showed the boy’s mother how to blow very small puffs of air from her own lungs into her son’s. “Blow slowly so he doesn’t start coughing, and then let the air just flow out of Charlie’s lungs.”

Solomon threw Dr. Wall’s wet and muddy cashmere coat on the floor and replaced it with layers of warm towels and wool blankets. He was unaware of a roomful of people standing around him silently witnessing what they considered a miracle. Whispers spread around the room. “He’s brangin’ Charlie back to life.” “I drug that child outta them icy waters. He was dead as a hammer.” “It’s a miracle.”

The boy’s eye’s fluttered as his face turned pink. His mother’s tears dropped onto his face. She wiped them away with her fingertip. She looked at Solomon and said, “Thank you, and God bless you.”

As the crowd pressed closer, Solomon motioned them to back away with a wave of his hand.

An older gentleman with a doctor’s bag came over to the table in time to see the child open his eyes and recognize his mother. The boy’s weak voice trembled, “Mommy?”

Dr. Jones from Black Fort had been called by one of the church members. The preacher said, “Doc, this is Solomon Sepaugh from Rooster Cove. This child was pulled from the icy waters of the duck pond after being under that water for at least an hour. He was dead, and now he is risen. Like Lazarus, this child is risen.”

Dr. Jones cut his eyes at Solomon. Solomon shrugged and raised his eyebrows. Dr. Jones obviously didn’t know what to make of the situation. Solomon said, “The child was severely hypothermic. His bodily functions were so minimal that he appeared dead. We’ve gently warmed him. I believe he needs to be kept warm and rehydrated with intravenous dextrose and water.”

The doctor seemed grateful for information that he could deal with.

“The child shouldn’t be moved until his core temperature is closer to normal,” Solomon added, “and I’m sure he has some acidosis due to the pooling of his blood.”

Dr. Jones nodded as he took over the boy’s treatment.

Solomon picked up Dr. Wall’s muddy cashmere coat. He saw Alice Hope across the room and waved her to him. She hurried over. “Let’s get out of here,” he whispered.

She followed him into the kitchen where they could escape out the back door. They managed to get into the Cadillac without anyone seeing them. Solomon started the engine and waited for the motor to warm up.

Alice Hope was staring at him. He looked at her and grinned. He raised his eyebrows and said, “What?”

“That was amazing. You were amazing,” she said.

“I’m happy it worked out for little Charlie,” Solomon said looking in the rear view mirror.

Alice Hope moved closer. She stuck her arm through his and put her head on his shoulder. He drove out of the parking lot before anyone noticed they were gone. Alice didn’t move on the way home. She was so quiet that Solomon wondered if she was asleep. She wasn’t. She was thinking about what Solomon had done.

Solomon drove the Cadillac into the clinic parking lot and looked at his watch…eight-thirty. They were back early. He remembered the doctor’s muddy cashmere coat with dread.

“Trade places,” Alice said, “I’ll drive you home, and I’ll come back and tell Grandfather about tonight. I’ll have his coat cleaned tomorrow.”

She drove the short half-mile to Ma Patsy’s. She pulled into the driveway and put the car in park. “This was quite an evening,” she said.

Solomon felt awkward. Should I kiss her goodnight?

“You never told me how many women you’ve been with,” she said playfully.

Solomon looked at his hands like he was counting, and then he grinned, “None,” he said.

“None?” she gawked. “I guess you get disgusted with all the gross female stuff you see.”

“No, that’s not it. I’ve just been so busy that I haven’t had the time to give to a woman...you know to romance her and all that.”

“I wanted to be with you when we were in high school,” she said, “but you never noticed me.”

“Oh, I noticed you. I just thought your grandfather would kill me if he thought I was interested in you.” He put his hand on her shoulder and squeezed. “Yeah, I noticed you for sure.”

She put her cheek on his hand and turned and kissed it. She nuzzled it until his finger was in her mouth. Her eyes locked on his as he watched her curl her tongue around the end of his finger. He closed his eyes for a moment savoring the heat rising in his loins. He ran his hand under her hair and caressed her neck. Then he pulled her towards him.

He meant it to be a simple kiss, but he lingered with it, and sensuously moving his mouth on hers, he closed his eyes. The warmth and softness of her lips started a flood of heat cascading from his loins. His tongue slowly explored her lips, which she parted obligingly for him. He touched her breast and felt her softness through the cashmere sweater. She sucked in her breath in response to his caressing her nipple. It grew hard under his fingertips. Solomon wanted to bury himself in her softness. He pulled her out of the driver’s seat and into his arms. He kissed her deeply, probing with his tongue.

Alice hit the gearshift with her knee as she twisted her body towards him. Solomon reached over her and turned off the ignition and the headlights. He ran his hands over her legs relishing the smooth feel of the silk stockings on her legs. He fondled the naked skin above the stockings, first on the outside of her thigh, and then he moved his sensitive fingertips around the top of her stockings to the inside. He followed her garter belt…until he felt her coarse pubic hair. He watched her face while he explored her. His knowledgeable fingers followed her contour until his middle finger sank into her. Her half-closed eyes fluttered. Her jaw relaxed and her tongue was visible between her parted lips. Her head rolled back, and she groaned a guttural sound in the back of her throat.

With his hand on the small of her back, Solomon pulled her forward. She lay back on the car seat. Without her knowing, he checked to make certain that her diaphragm was still in place on her cervix. Then his finger found the swollen roughness of the vaginal wall on the underside of her clitoris. He cupped his hand so that he applied pressure to her clitoris with his palm while his middle finger was planted inside beneath it. He pleasured her inside and outside. She moved her hips with the primal rhythm of sexual excitement as his massage took up the rhythm she was showing him. She rode a crest of pleasure until…her eyes squeezed shut and her mouth pulled taunt. She stiffened the muscles in her legs and feet. Solomon felt her vaginal muscles grasping and releasing around his fingers in their orgasmic dance.

When the contractions slowed, he unzipped his pants and freed himself. He picked her up. She was as relaxed and limp as a rag doll. When she realized what he was doing, she guided him into her. She was hot and swollen inside and wet with slick secretions. She buried him deeply inside, and then she ground herself into him in slow voluptuous circles. Solomon took her face into his hands and kissed her tenderly, and then passionately. Her orgasmic contractions surrounded him…massaged him as the firmness of the roots of her clitoral erection encircled his organ. He was so close to ejaculating that he dared not move lest this paradise end.

Alice put her hands on his shoulders and then around his neck. She whispered to him, “Move my hips the way it feels good to you.” With his hands around her waist, he moved her up and down. She felt his pleasure as his thighs grew hard. He pushed his hips up out of the seat. He exploded inside her again and again until he relaxed and sank back into the seat. They sat coupled together relaxing into bliss.

Solomon was the first to move when he looked at his watch. “Nine-thirty,” he said.

Alice Hope slowly raised her head from his shoulder and looked at him.

He smiled and whispered, “You look like you’ve just had sex.”

She smiled at him and said, “Yes, I sure have.”

“Come in my house and freshen up before you go to the clinic,” Solomon said to her. “Your grandfather will know what we’ve been doing. I can promise you that.”

Solomon opened the car door. They both climbed out on the same side. When Alice stood up, she grimaced, “Oh crap, bring a towel next time.”

Solomon laughed and pulled her to him. He teased, “Can I help you in the bathroom?”

“I think you’ve helped me enough tonight,” she grinned and winked at him.

Alice Hope came out of the bathroom looking perfect again. Solomon walked her back to the Cadillac, kissed her on the cheek, and watched her drive out of sight. He bounded up the front porch steps taking them three at a time. He couldn’t remember ever feeling so happy…or so satisfied.

Copyright © 2008 by Robbin Renee Bridges
Coping with Grief through Afterlife Communication

Monday, October 13, 2008

Chapter 6 - A Miscarriage Matters

December 1947

Solomon walked in the back door of the clinic hoping to see Alice Hope sitting with her grandfather, but no such luck. Dr. Wall was in a better mood than usual. Alice must have done a good job of convincing him that his cashmere coat had been soiled for good reason. The old doctor didn’t say anything about it, or the so-called miracle resuscitation of little Charlie.

Solomon put on his white coat, stuffed his stethoscope into his pocket, and walked into the waiting room. Three patients were there. Mrs. Collins was in for her B12 shot. Jared Fox needed to have his blood pressure checked, and Clara Cash had brought little Henry to get his most recent stitches taken out. He’d cracked his head open this time on a swing set at school. Solomon hadn’t seen Clara in several months. She had looked anemic for years, actually since her last miscarriage. “Clara,” Solomon said to her, “why don’t you let me draw some blood on you while you’re here.”

“I’m fine, Solomon. I can’t afford doctoring on myself.”

“You can pay with one of your apple pies,” he said.

“Naw thanks,” she said.

“Okay,” he smiled, “but the offer’s good when you want it.”

Solomon decided to make a quick call to Alice Hope before he got started with patients.

“Hello?” Alice Hope’s mother answered.

“Afternoon, Miz Wells, is Alice Hope around?”

“Oh hello, Solomon. No, she’s gone to Gatlinburg with some friends from the Country Club. She’ll be back home tomorrow,” she said. “By the way, Solomon, I want to thank you for accompanying her to the church last night. She told me about the little boy you saved. I’m real proud of you.”

“Oh, thank you, Miz Wells. We were in the right place at the right time. I hope the boy doesn’t have any permanent damage from the hypothermia.”

Alice Moriah laughed, “You sound just like my father, Solomon.”

“Oh, okay,” he laughed, “would you tell Alice Hope that I called?”

“I sure will. Did you want her to call you?”

“Uh…no, just tell her I called.” It’s strange how sex makes a man feel possessive, Solomon thought. I wonder why she didn’t mention her out of town trip to me last night. When Solomon thought about last night in the car, he started to feel aroused again. Get a grip, man, he said to himself.

“Solomon, I need you,” Dr. Wall shouted.

Solomon left the swivel chair spinning. Dr. Wall’s voice sounded urgent.

A young woman stood in the waiting room holding a bloody towel between her legs. Dr. Wall reached for it and blood clots the size of his fist dropped to the floor and splattered on the linoleum. The woman moaned and bent over holding her abdomen. An older woman carrying a baby on her hip tried to help. “She be pregnant,” the woman said. “She commenced to bleedin’ come morning, but we had to wait ‘til her brother got home with the truck to brang her over here.”

Holding her by the arm Solomon asked, “Can you walk a few more feet?” She left a trail of blood as he led her into the examining room. He helped her get up on the exam table, and then he got a quick set of vitals.

“What’s your name little lady?” Dr. Wall asked as he put two fingers up against her cervix and palpated her abdomen for the top of her uterus.

“Kelly Craven,” she answered.

He said to Solomon, “She’s dilated about a centimeter.”

Solomon spread a sheet over her and said, “Raise your hips, Kelly. Let’s get this dress off.” He helped her sit up so he could pull the bloody dress over her head. He held an exam gown in front of her. Her face twisted with nauseating cramps, and she groaned as he helped her lie back and get her feet into the stirrups.

Dr. Wall pulled the lamp down to spotlight her perineum, and then he inserted a speculum. The stainless steel duck-billed instrument exposed her cervix. “Do you have any kids, Kelly?”

“Yes, sir, I got four,” she answered.

“Has this ever happened to you before?” Dr. Wall asked.

She shook her head no.

Solomon drew up morphine sulfate in a hypodermic. He pinched up the muscle on the side of her hip. “You’re going to feel a sting.” He said it automatically. He knew that the little sting was a non-issue when she was being body-slammed by cramps. “It will help with your pain,” he told her.

Dr. Wall squinted as he peered at her cervix through the opening in the speculum. “The fetus hasn’t been expelled yet,” he said. “How far along is your pregnancy, Kelly?”

She had a blank look on her face.

When was your last period?” Solomon asked.

“Early October,” she said.

“I need to get some blood, Kelly,” Solomon said as he wiped her finger with an alcohol-soaked cotton ball. He squeezed it and then hit it with the lancet. A bead of blood popped up. He touched a slide to it. Then he tied a tourniquet above her elbow. He wiped the vein with the alcohol cotton ball and held the needle over it. He turned the needle until it was bevel up, and then he stuck the vein being careful not to go through the backside of it. He pulled the plunger back sucking blood into the glass tube. He released the tourniquet with a snap.

Dr. Wall said, “Hon, I think we can pass on the ether. It will be over in a minute. This way you won’t be throwing up.”

Solomon remembered that he’d ordered lidocaine that they would be able to use in the future for D & C’s. It could be injected right into the cervix to numb it before dilation. Solomon kept up with the new medicine and the new techniques in the medical journals.

Dr. Wall inserted a dilator into Kelly’s cervix to make certain it was one centimeter. That’s how much room he needed to pass the curette through her cervix. The old doctor picked up the stainless steel, sharp-edged, spoon-shaped instrument and carefully inserted it into Kelly’s uterus.

Solomon started the lab tests on her blood. His back was to the exam table as he looked at the blood under the microscope. Kelly’s groans and grunts accelerated. Solomon turned around on the lab stool. Dr. Wall was sweating. He frowned as he peered though the hole in the speculum. The doctor cut his eyes toward Solomon and realized that he was watching him. He pulled the curette through the speculum and threw it on the floor.

Solomon slid off the stool and walked over to Dr. Wall. The old doctor wiped his forehead with a sleeve and stood up. He stepped back indicating to Solomon that he should sit down. Solomon straddled the stool. He was eye level with the hole in the speculum. He peered through it, and then he picked up a small square of sterile gauze with forceps. He pulled up on the tenaculum that Dr. Wall had clamped to Kelly’s cervix. He wiped her cervix with the gauze. Bright red blood oozed out of it.

The blood from Kelly’s miscarriage was dark and thick from its exposure to oxygen. Solomon knew that the bright red blood indicated arterial blood from a new source. It could be something simple like a cut on the uterine wall from the curette, or it could be more serious like a perforation through the wall.

Solomon looked up at Dr. Wall. The doctor was annoyed as he said, “I perforated it. I felt the curette go through the wall.” He backed up and sat down in a chair beside the counter.

Solomon asked, “How far had you gotten?”

“I was on the right side. I didn’t get to the left side yet,” he said.

Solomon eyed the small bowl containing the tissues that Dr. Wall had pulled through Kelly’s cervix. He put on sterile gloves and picked up a clean curette. He began to scrape the inside of the uterus. He listened for the gritty sound the curette made when he touched the wall. As he pulled out the curette, a tiny foot protruded through the cervix. This was the part of a D & C that he hated. He reached for it with small forceps, and then he placed the foot in the bowl. He would examine all the pieces later. When he finished, he turned to the doctor and said, “It clotted off. It was a minor perforation.”

The old doctor sighed and leaned his head back against the wall.

Solomon unclamped the tenaculum used to stabilize Kelly’s cervix during the procedure and pulled the speculum out of her vagina. He put the towels and instruments into the sink. He placed a towel over the “products of conception” and put them on the counter.

Dr. Wall got up and walked out of the room.

Solomon said, “Kelly, we need to keep you here tonight.” They didn’t usually do that for a D & C, but he was concerned about the perforation. He wanted to make sure that she didn’t hemorrhage during the night.

The clinic had one hospital-type room for patients. When a patient was in the room, Solomon stayed at the clinic so Dr. Wall wouldn’t have to do night duty. The old doctor’s balance was worse at night, and Solomon feared he might fall getting up for a patient.

Solomon fixed a bowl of warm soapy water. He got a clean wash cloth and towel and a bed pan out of a cabinet. He asked the old woman with the baby if she would help Kelly clean up. She shook her head no and backed out of the room. What the...? Solomon thought. At times like this he wished they had a female working at the clinic. Doing personal care for women didn’t bother him, but he could tell it bothered the patients. He tried to respect their modesty as much as possible, but sometimes there was no choice. He had to do what he had to do.

He washed Kelly’s perineum and thighs where the blood had dried and pressed a sanitary napkin against her. He lowered the hem of her gown and pulled out the exam table’s extension. “You can get out of the stirrups, Kelly,” he said.

He drew up penicillin in a hypodermic and gave her a shot of it in the hip. “This will keep you from getting an infection,” he said. It was another precaution because of the perforation.

Solomon grabbed a gurney from the back wall and rolled it beside Kelly. He patted it and said, “Can you scoot over here?” He held her hand as she leveraged his arm to scoot over. Solomon covered her with a sheet and rolled her into the room where she would spend the night.

The whole procedure had taken less than an hour. On his way back to clean up the exam room, he stopped by the kitchen where the doctor sat at the table. The old man looked glum with his hands neatly folded on the table. Solomon said, “She’s fine, Dr. Wall. She’s just fine.”

Dr. Wall said, “Thank you, Solomon.” He didn’t look up from his hands.

“I’ll clean up the exam room,” Solomon said, “and then we can talk, okay?”

Solomon pushed the gurney back into the exam room. He uncovered the small bowl with the “products of conception.” It was like a macabre jigsaw puzzle. He put the body parts on a napkin in the appropriate positions ... two arms, two legs, one torso, and one head. As much as he disliked this he needed to know that the complete fetus had been removed. Tissue left inside a uterus could lead to infection. As he worked, Solomon talked to the tiny three-inch long fetus. “Little baby girl, your body died before you could be born into our world. You’re in the Light World now. You don’t need this fragile flesh. You have your spirit body, and it’s beautiful.” It was Solomon’s way of having a funeral for her before he took her to the incinerator.

When Solomon returned to the kitchen, Dr. Wall wasn’t there. He looked into the doctor’s bedroom and saw that he was sleeping. He covered him with the quilt at the foot of the bed.

He looked in on Kelly. She was sleeping peacefully too. He felt for her radial pulse. Its rhythm and rate felt normal. He didn’t have to count to know that.

It was getting close to suppertime. Solomon found some ground-up steak in the icebox and some potatoes in the pantry. He found canned green beans in the pantry too. That would make a good meal for them.

Dr. Wall appeared at the kitchen door. “I need to talk to you, Solomon,” he said.

“Okay,” Solomon replied, “did I wake you?”

Dr. Wall sat down at the table. Solomon checked the food that he was cooking, and then he sat down too. He waited for the doctor to speak. When he didn’t, Solomon said, “Dr. Wall, you know as well as I do that a perforated uterus is rarely a problem. They heal on their own.”

Dr. Wall’s hands were folded neatly on the table again. He was looking at them when he said, “Son, these hands can’t do the things they used to do. They shake when I want them to be still, and they’re still when I need them to move. If you hadn’t come to work for me four years ago, I would have had to close the clinic by now.”

Solomon said, “Rooster Cove needs this clinic, Dr. Wall. It can never be closed.”

“Oh, I know the needs of Rooster Cove,” the doctor said. “Before you came to work for me, I tried to get a young doctor to take over my practice. Couldn’t find one interested. When I found you, I didn’t need another doctor. You became my failing eyes, my failing hands, and my failing mind.”

Solomon said, “Dr. Wall you’ve taught me more than I could learn in a decade of medical school.”

“That’s another thing that bothers me,” the doctor said. “You should be in college now, but I don’t know what will happen to the folks in the cove when you go off to college. What will they do for medical care? I’m not knocking what Patsy does, but you do so much more.”

Solomon said, “We have to find a way to meet the medical needs of the cove before I leave for school.”

“I don’t know the answer,” the old doctor said sadly. He got up from the table and looked at supper cooking on the stove. He took the potatoes off and drained them into the sink.

Solomon said, “I’ll go check on Kelly. She should come eat with us.”

Kelly was awake when he went into her room. He felt for her pulse. It was normal. He pulled a chair over to her bedside and sat down, “Are you cramping bad?” he asked her.

“It’s tolerable,” she said.

He took her hand in his and studied her face a moment. “How do you feel about what happened to you?”

“I don’t know,” she said, “I guess I feel a little sad.”

“I know you do. Losing a baby is sad,” he said. “She was part of you, and she is still part of you.”

Kelly’s eyes welled up with tears. “It was a girl?”

“Yes,” he said. He sat with her in silence for several minutes holding her hand between his hands. Then he said, “You’ll have some bleeding that will taper off in a day or two. If you have any pain, you call me.” He paused to give her a chance to speak. “Do you have any questions?”

She nodded no.

“You should have a period in four to seven weeks,” he said. “If you don’t, you call me. Okay?”

She nodded yes.

“Do you feel like you could eat something?” he asked.

“It smells good,” she said.

Solomon stood up. “Good,” he said, “let me check your pad to see how much you’re bleeding.”

She nodded, and then she shut her eyes.

He smiled and thought … She shut her eyes. If she doesn’t look at me, it’s like I’m not looking at her. He pulled back the sheet and looked at the pad. A spot the size of a silver dollar was on it. He covered her up and said, “You’re doing fine.” He walked to the water closet in the room and turned a light on. “There are more pads on this table. And there are towels, wash clothes, and a robe hanging in here. They’re for you. Go ahead and clean up and come to the kitchen for supper.”

She said, “Thank ye, doctor.”

Solomon grinned. It sounded nice to be called doctor. He went into the kitchen where Dr. Wall was taking the hamburger steaks off the stove. “Kelly’s having supper with us. She’s doing fine.”

“I’m glad,” the doctor said. Then he said, “Solomon, my granddaughter seems to be quite fond of you.”

“Does she?” Solomon responded. He wasn’t sure of that since she hadn’t bothered to tell him that she was going out of town with her country club buddies.

“Yes,” the doctor said, “and I was just thinking. If you feel the same way about her…I mean…if in the future you both should decide to become more than friends…uh, if you two were to marry, I would be happy to pay for your college and medical school.” He looked at Solomon for his reaction.

Solomon said, “Well, that could be in the future, I suppose. Alice Hope and I have been friends for so long that I don’t know if we could ever be anything more than just friends. But it’s a pleasant thought to consider.”

Dr. Wall said, “She’s a woman. I hadn’t noticed that until last night. I think a young man like you would be good for her. She’s immature about a lot of things, but she’ll be looking for a husband soon. I can see that her hormones are stirring.” He smiled about his statement.

The fact that he’d noticed it too was the last thing Solomon wanted to relay to Dr. Wall. “She’s eighteen years old. You’re probably right,” he said.

After supper, Solomon went into the dispensary and sank back into the big chair with the ottoman. He held a book in his lap, but his mind was on Alice Hope. She’d told him that she’d had sex with a lot of men. Is she with a man tonight?

Copyright © 2008 by Robbin Renee Bridges
Coping with Grief through Afterlife Communication

Chapter 7 - The Transfiguration Chamber

March 1948

Springtime in Rooster Cove is a blessing, Solomon thought. Walking home from the clinic today, he counted blessings. It was a little game that he and Ma played over supper. He’d count off all the blessings he could think of, and then Ma would count hers. The walk home from work was always a blessing. It was time to commune with nature, to celebrate the forest creatures, to delight in the wild flowers, to marvel at the ancient folds in the mountains, to wonder at the handiwork of God.

The clinic and all that he’d learned in it was a blessing. Dr. Wall was a lot more pleasant to him since he and Alice were dating. That was a blessing. The sex was great and most definitely a blessing.

When he walked in the house, Ma said, “Solomon, yer great-great grandmother wants to meet with ye.”

Solomon’s mind snapped to attention. He knew that Ma was talking about Sarah O’Hara.

Sarah had spent her youth in County Limerick in the River Shannon’s tidal basin in the heart of southwest Ireland. She was of the Scot-Irish Ulster lineage, and she had been raised on stories of the new land across the sea.

In 1736, Sarah’s great-aunt Hazel had arrived in Pennsylvania and traveled through the Cumberland Gap to Tennessee. Hazel wrote to her sister, Sarah’s grandmother, of the beauty of the Appalachians and of the religious and political freedom she’d found there. Sarah O’Hara knew that when she grew up, she would go there too.

When Sarah was twenty-one, she bought her passage to America. She traveled with a shipload of Ulster Presbyterians. Sarah was not Presbyterian like the others. She followed the old ways of her Celtic ancestors for she had grown up in the meadows of the stone circles of Lock Gur.

In 1792, Sarah’s ship arrived in Charleston, South Carolina. By 1796, she had made her way to a cove in the mountains of East Tennessee. She declared it to be her home. The blue Appalachians reminded her of the Slieve Bloom Mountains and the Ballyhouras of her homeland.

It was there that she fell in love with a ruggedly handsome frontier man named Joseph. His family, descendants of Spanish conquistadors, had settled in the Tennessee Valley two hundred years before the first Irish immigrants came. He was of a proud race called the Melungeons. Ma Patsy and Solomon had the large eyes and the full sensuous lips of their Mediterranean heritage.

Sarah handed down her woodland medicines and her Celtic spiritualism to her daughters and to her daughter’s daughters. She passed down the knowledge of the transfiguration chamber. She instructed her daughters in how to bridge what seemed to be a gaping abyss between this world and the afterlife…so that the chasm was no more…but in its place the Light World—closer than a life vein—beat within the seeker’s breast. Solomon would be the first man-child of Sarah’s offspring to receive her wisdom.

The chamber was simply a small nine-foot square room in the center of the house—a cube. It had no windows. Its walls and ceiling were covered with plush black velvet. The only door to the chamber was also covered on the inside with black velvet. When the door was closed, there appeared to be no exit from the cube.

A Persian rug of the Bakhtiari tribe covered the floor. Sarah had brought the carpet with her across the Atlantic. Opposite the door, a large mirror leaned against the wall. If one sat on the floor in the middle of the room facing the mirror, it was impossible to see one’s reflection in it. The image in the mirror was of the wall behind and of the ceiling. The black velvet in the near darkness left no demarcation between the wall and the ceiling. The blackness seemed to float into infinity. A delicate wind chime hung above the mirror. Its brass and silver segments were as thin as paper and as tiny as a postage stamp. The smallest breeze set it tinkling.

When Ma entered the room, she called herself a seeker. Behind the seeker a small ceramic incense burner sat on a tripod. Ma Patsy made her incense pellets just as Sarah O’Hara had done. They smelled of vanilla, a fragrance reminiscent of mother’s milk. Behind the incense burner, a beeswax candle inside a blackened and shaded glass lantern flickered. After the seeker’s eyes adjusted to the darkness, the lantern gave the room a diffuse glow with subtle moving shadows.

Solomon was lost in his thoughts. Ma asked him again, “Will ye go into the chamber to meet with yer great-great grandmother?”

“Aye,” he said unaware that he had taken the Irish response from Sarah. Solomon had wanted this since he was a child. When he’d asked to go in, Ma had always told him that it wasn’t time yet.

“When we go inside,” Ma said, “I’ll say a prayer, and then we wait. Look into the mirror. At first ye will only see smoke from the incense. Soon it will look like a mist is swirling in the smoke, and a figure will begin to take shape. The figure will become clearer as ye watch it. Eventually ye will see the face of yer great-great grandmother, Sarah O’Hara.”

“Since this is yer first time,” Ma added, “I don’t know how clearly she will appear to ye. I don’t know how long it will take for ye to see her. I only know that she told me it was time to meet.” Ma touched his hand and said, “There is nothing to fear.”

Solomon nodded and said, “Okay.”

Both Ma and Solomon were quiet during supper. He felt that he on the brink of a momentous change. It wasn’t the beginning of the end; it was the beginning of the beginning. Ma was apprehensive. She knew that he would not be the same after tonight. Solomon sensed her uneasiness about the approaching metamorphosis. He would walk into the chamber a man-child. He would walk out a wayfarer journeying through a world of dust with his eyes fixed on his eternal destination…the Light World.

The cove was silent. Solomon had never known it to be so quiet. He heard no birds, no insects... nothing. He watched the sun go behind Bear Cave Mountain to the west. It sank into the trees on top of the ridge. Suddenly a ray of sunlight flashed through the tree branches. He closed his eyes. The after-image of a skeleton key floated before him. It jerked in response to his eye movements. A soft female voice said, “The universe is preparing thee for what thou wilt receive.” He looked at Ma. Her head was leaned back against the rocker. It wasn’t Ma’s voice, and she didn’t appear to have heard it.

The sounds of the forest took up again. The cicadas screeched. Crickets chirped, and a whip-o-will sang nearby. Solomon saw his first firefly of the season.

Ma raised her head and said, “Are ye ready, son?”

“Yes,” he murmured.

They went into the house as the rocking chairs continued to rock. Ma opened the door to the chamber and motioned for Solomon to come in. His heart pounded. He had wanted to do this for so long. She led him to the center of the room. “Sit here,” she said. He sat down Indian-style. The wind chime jingled in the draft of the open door. Ma closed the door and sat on the floor beside him.

His pupils dilated in the darkness. The chime stopped making any sound, but its shiny surfaces still moved and reflected the candlelight. It cast hypnotic patterns on the black walls and ceiling. It reminded him of the mirrored balls used in dance halls except that the light was more random. As it settled, the tiny lights grew still.

Solomon gazed into the mirror and waited. In the quiet darkness, he was alert to everything. He could hear Ma breathing. He could hear his own breathing. He heard the blood swooshing through his ears as his heart beat. Suddenly he felt as if the carpet beneath him moved! He became disoriented and dizzy.

“Slow ye breathing down, son,” Ma said softly.

“O Thou kind Lord,” she began, “O Thou, who art the Creator of all things, we humbly beseech Thy blessings upon all who assemble in this chamber. Thou knowest our hearts. We pray for Thy protection and for Thy guidance in both this world and the world to come. Thou art the Merciful, Thou art the All-Knowing.”

Shadow figures moved around the chamber in the flickering candlelight. Solomon tried to watch it all.

“Look into the mirror,” Ma whispered, “stay with the mirror.”

This isn’t working, he thought. He watched the shadowy figures in the mirror as they cavorted in smoke spiraling up from the incense. The wind chimes moved slightly. The sound gave Solomon goose bumps. It was moving in the stillness! Ma had told him to stay with the mirror, so he fixed his gaze on it again. The smoke spirals and the flickering shadow figures seemed to move in concert now. It was as if they were communicating with each other. The shadow figures paralleled the smoke’s spiral, mimicking the maneuvers. Intelligence is behind the movement! Solomon thought.

Within the smoke a mist emerged linking parts of the formation together. An amorphous shape expanded and contracted inside it. Solomon was mesmerized by what he was seeing. As he stared, the formless took on form. It metamorphosed into the shape of a woman...a beautiful woman. Transparency gave way to what seemed to be a solid form floating in the darkness and reflected in the mirror. Solomon watched her slowly descend out of range of the mirror. He looked behind, and there she stood! The most ravishingly beautiful creature he could ever have imagined was standing behind him. He could see her every feature. She glowed with a light from inside. She lit up the chamber. He twisted around so he could see her better.

She slowly raised her head and her eyes locked on Solomon’s eyes. They were the greenest eyes he’d ever seen. The woman’s long auburn hair fell in ringlets around her face. Part of her hair was swept up by a mass of white primroses gathered with small, white ribbons. Random knots were tied along the ribbon’s length. Her face shone with the color of youth. Her lips had the glossy velvet look of a red rose petal. A crimson skirt brushed the tops of her bare feet. One side was gathered up with ribbons. White petticoats of Irish lace showed at the gathering. A white peasant blouse was tucked in at the waist by a black bodice. It was the tiniest waist that Solomon had ever seen on a woman. Plump, ivory mounds rose above her low-cut blouse. A small Celtic cross lay in the cleavage of her breasts. She was a petite woman…no more than five feet three inches tall.

“Ye would be Solomon,” she said with a lilting Irish accent.

“Yes,” he said smiling, “and who are you?”

“I would be Sarah O’Hara,” she said.

A surprised Solomon said, “Sarah O’Hara! I thought you’d look older.”

“I can if ye’d like.” She tilted her pretty head.

“No, no, I like the way you look. It’s just hard to think of you as my great-great grandmother.”

Sarah walked around Ma. It was amazing. Instead of casting a shadow, she cast light where she walked. She said to Ma, “Thank ye, Patsy fer bringin’ yer man-child to meet me.”

Ma Patsy nodded and smiled.

Sarah sat cross-legged on the floor in front of Solomon and asked, “Do ye know how special ye are?”

“Special?” He shrugged his shoulders, “I’m not special.”

Sarah grinned, “Do ye know why ye’re here?”

“I’m going to be a doctor for Rooster Cove,” he said.

“Aye, that’s what ye’ll do everyday while ye’re goin’ about yer purpose,” she said.

“I guess I don’t understand your question,” he said.

Sarah leaned forward with her hands on her knees. Her elbows jutted out to the sides. “Ye’re here on earth for a fleeting moment, Solomon. Compared to yer eternity of existence, ye’re here only for an instant.” Leaning even closer she said, “But…it’s a bloody important instant.”

“Well, it definitely feels important to me,” Solomon chuckled.

Sarah straightened up. “Every soul has a purpose,” she said. “Ye see, God emits souls.” She bobbed her head. “That’s right, He gives off souls all the time…yer soul, my soul, Patsy’s soul, souls on the other side of the universe.”

Solomon knit his brows and frowned like he still didn’t understand.

“Think of it this way. God breathes out souls just like He breathes out His Spirit, and He wants to breathe all these souls back into Hisself.” She drew a circle in the air. “But…before He can breathe a soul back into Hisself, it has to be purified. It’s been out in the world,” she spread her arms in front of her, “and it has to be purified to return to Him.” She drew her hands to her breast.

Solomon said, “What do you mean by purified? Sounds like it could be painful.”

She smiled. “Aye, it can be. God has specific qualities, ye see. And each soul that returns to him has to have those qualities.”

“Do you have a list?” Solomon chuckled, and then he blushed. “I’m sorry,” he said.

Sarah smiled at him and winked at Ma Patsy.

“Actually, there is a list,” she said. “Moses gave ye the list, and then Jesus gave ye the list.

Solomon sat thinking. “Okay, I guess you’re saying that we have to keep the Ten Commandments and be like Jesus.”

“Well,” Sarah said with a twinkle in her green eyes, “if ye live in Arabia, then be like Mohammed. He gave ye the list too.” She smiled at the bewildered look on Solomon’s face. “And if ye live in India, well...Krishna gave the list too.” She hesitated to make sure he was following her. “The list—the qualities of God—is the same everywhere.”

“Oooooh, okay,” he said. He raised his eyebrows and looked at Ma.

“God’s a lot bigger than ye realize,” Ma said. “No matter what ye call Him, we all pray to the same God.”

“There’s something else, Solomon,” Sarah continued.

“I was afraid you’d say that,” he said.

“Ye have been chosen for something so important that ye canna begin to understand it right now.”

He raised his eyebrows and blinked. He was feeling more and more confused.

Ma looked puzzled too.

Sarah said, “Solomon, ye have been chosen to receive the Sign.”

He looked surprised. “I dreamed about that,” he said quickly, “but I don’t know what it is.”

“In the Light World it will appear as a bright beacon emanatin’ from ye,” Sarah said. “It’s like the floodlight of a lighthouse. It will flood the realms surrounding ye with light. Ye’ll attract lost souls that be needin’ yer help, and ye’ll attract other souls that just want to be near ye.” Sarah put the palms of her hands together under her chin and bowed towards Solomon. “It’s me profound honor and blessing to be kin to ye.”

“I don’t understand,” he said.

“Ye must pass five spiritual tests,” she said. “Each test is a key. When ye receive the fifth key, the encryption will unravel, and the Sign will be embedded in ye...for eternity.”

Solomon looked perplexed. Sarah knew he’d had more than enough for his first time in the chamber. “I’ll be leavin’ ye now. Ye have a lot to ponder, Solomon.”

“When can I see you again?” He looked worried.

“Think of me. It’s that easy,” she answered.

Solomon reached out his hand to her. She extended her hand towards him. His hand passed through hers. He laughed so loud that it echoed through the house. “That’s amazing,” he said to Ma.

Then Sarah O’Hara vanished into thin air.

Copyright © 2008 by Robbin Renee Bridges
Coping with Grief through Afterlife Communication