Visits From A Man Named Nobody 78

Visits From A Man Named Nobody 78

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“Yes.” Paul’s mother actually found a gasp of air necessary to join the conversation. 

Paul watched her take a few shaky breaths. “What?” He hadn’t paid any attention to the holographic projection.

“I asked if there was any blood in the vomit.” 

Paul looked in the bowl. The green and yellow mess didn’t have a hint of red in it.


“Please make sure,” the woman said. “It might look black or even like coffee grounds.”

Paul looked again, half terrified that he’d find specks of black in the vomit, but no matter how hard he looked, all he saw was green and yellow. 

“I’m sure,” Paul said. The relief at what he didn’t see helped him get a handle on his temper. “That’s good, right?”

“Yes.” The woman actually smiled. “It’s horribly uncomfortable and painful to vomit, but as long as there’s no blood, then it’s very likely just bile.”

“Very likely?”

“Almost certainly,” the woman said. “How much has she had to eat?”

“Not nearly as much as she’s vomited,” Paul said.

“Some fruit,” his mother added. “Just a few servings here or there.”

“OK.” The woman gave a smile as she nodded. “What’s probably happening is something called delayed nausea, which is very frightening, but not terribly uncommon. That combined with fruit and the color of the vomit indicates that it is just bile.”

Her eyes glanced down, and Paul herd some distinct clicking, fingers pressing keys on a keyboard. 

“I’m sending you a list of food that will probably go down better and will be less likely to come up.” A small envelope appeared in the bottom right of the holographic projection to indicate the file had already arrived. “Give her some water and maybe a bit of broth, and try to help her get back to sleep.”

“That’s it?” Paul asked. 

“You can always bring her to the hospital to get checked up, but it seems like the worst of it is over, and what she needs right now is something to ease her stomach and help her rest,” the woman replied. 

Paul gently rubbed his mother’s back. “Do you want to go to the hospital?”

She shook her head.

“OK,” Paul said. 

“How should I know if I need to take her in,” he asked the hologram.

“Bleeding or blood in any situation is cause for concern. The darker the color of that blood, the more serious it is,” she said. “I want to be clear that you can and should always visit the hospital if you feel it is an emergency.”

Paul nodded as he listened. She stayed on the line for what had to be a full minute, watching Paul’s mother. 

Paul looked at the woman. “Thank you.” It was clear she was just giving his mother a bit of attention. 

“Your welcome,” she said. “Get some water and broth in her, just a little, and see if you can get her back to sleep.”

“OK,” Paul said.

The hologram blinked out of existence. Paul gently helped his mother up and into her bedroom. Just a few weeks ago, his mother seemed so vibrant. Now he worried he might break something if he gripped her too hard. 

And this is just after one treatment? How bad is it gonna get?

He tried to hide his concern as he covered her up. He went into the bathroom, flushed the toilet, washed his hands, and grabbed the PID before coming back out. He set the PID back on the night stand next to her bed.

“I’ll be right back.” 

True to his word, Paul fought himself to avoid sprinting to get his mother something to drink. He filled a pitcher with ice and water and brought a small cup back to his mother’s room. Some small part of his mind reminded him to snag a hand towel as he walked, and he set it on the night stand to catch the condensation of the water in the pitcher. His mother would go insane if something put a ring on any of her furniture. 

He poured water into the small glass, and helped his mother drink. She only managed a few sips. The cup couldn’t have contained 8 ounces, and she still only drank half of it, but at least she drank.  

“It’s right here for you, and if you need help, just tap your PID. I’m just going to make you some broth.”

Paul waited for his mother to nod before heading to the kitchen. He grabbed a can of soup and got to work cooking it. Once he had the contents heating in a pot, he made his way back to her room.

She was there, sleeping. Her hands were still folded together in prayer. She was clearly exhausted, but she didn’t look uncomfortable. Paul took a moment to finally head to his room and grab his PID. Then he returned to his mother’s side and watched her sleep until the soup was ready.

He quickly went to the kitchen to turn off the stove. He carefully used a lid to pour the broth into one container and the rest of the soup, vegetables and chunks of chicken, into a bowl. He covered the broth to keep it warm and set the bowl on top. He carefully walked back to his mother’s room, breathing out a relieved sigh when he saw she was still sleeping. He set the broth and noodles down and pulled up a chair. 

He left for another moment just to get two spoons. She was still resting comfortably when he returned, so he picked up the bowl, deciding to eat the noodles and chicken while he watched over her.

… to be continued …

Visits From A Man Named Nobody 77

Visits From A Man Named Nobody 77

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March 27, 2038, 2:24 a.m. 

13 Years, 252 Days Ago

Paul wasn’t sure what woke him. He looked around from his bed. Did he hear that strange surge of electricity that accompanied an appearance of Nobody?

“Are you there?” 

Nobody didn’t usually just sit quietly, but Paul struggled to remember the last time he’d seen him. Nobody didn’t visit when Paul’s mom got diagnosed. He didn’t appear during the surgery. Maybe he finally gave up on Paul.

Paul wasn’t sure how he felt about that. While listening for a footstep or a soft word, he heard a distant coughing. That coughing quickly became a retching sound.

Paul launched out of the bed, throwing the comforter and sheets off his body. He was into his mother’s room and into the adjoining bathroom before the night air could nip at his bare calves and feet.

His mother was huddled over the toilet. Paul dropped to his knees and held gently rested his hands on her.

A stream of vomit erupted from her mouth. It could have been the stress of the moment, but Paul thought the yellow-green fluid poured out of her for a solid five seconds. It felt like it took for ever. 

His mother let out a few couches. “I’m .. .”

Another surge of sickness hit her. This time she only had a moment to take in a shuddering breath before another, longer attack struck. 

However long it really was, it felt like an eternity, and his mother had only managed a few inhalations through it all. 

Paul tried to keep the nervousness out of his voice and offer her words of love and encouragement, but she just kept on throwing up. Even as she began to weep from the pain and fear she had to have felt, she just couldn’t stop. 

She hadn’t even had that much to eat! There couldn’t have been much left in her stomach to force out. 

A fifth stream of bile flowed out of her, and finally, she managed a deep shuddering breath, and then another. 

Then the weeping resumed. She didn’t seem like she was going to be sick again, but she moaned.

“It’s hard.” It was barely more than a whisper. 

“It’s OK,” Paul replied. “I’m here.”

“Please give me strength.” 

Paul realized she was praying, so he just focused on holding her. He wasn’t sure if he did it intentionally, but his hand was on her back, and he couldn’t resist feeling her back expand and contract with each deep breath. 

She was halfway through one such breath when her body convulsed, and she leaned over the white, porcelain bowl. Nothing came out. There wasn’t anything left to come out, but her body still shook even as she coughed and hunched over.

“Please … “ It was one of only two words she could choke out. “God.”

Another round of hacks and full-body tremors struck her before her body seemed to be able to recover. By that time, she focused on her breathing. 

For some reason, Paul started counting his mother’s breaths. Each one seemed to be every bit as relieving as it was nerve-racking. Each one she offered made him hope she’d made it through, but it also made him wonder if it would be the last before another fit hit her. 

Five breaths passed. Ten breaths. 

“I’m going to call someone.” He should have called when this all started, but he didn’t want to leave her side.

He surged to his feet and went to his mother’s room, grabbing her PID rather than leaving to retrieve his from the night stand by his own bed. Even then, he returned to find her over the bowl again, coughing when she wasn’t sobbing. 

“Please … God.”

Paul positioned himself next to her again. Whatever he missed was over just as quickly this time. 

“I need your face,” Paul said gently. He positioned the PID in front of his mother to activate the facial recognition and unlock the device. 

He tapped frantically, bringing up the emergency contact he had received from the hospital. 

The PID gave a few blinks before a woman’s holographic face appeared. “Oncology Emergency Support. How can I … Oh.”

Whatever illness was attacking Paul’s mother chose that moment to give a brutal example of what was going on.

“You said it would happen within hours,” Paul said. “And nothing said it would be this bad!”

He shook with anger, but his mother had most of his attention. Paul set the PID on the water tank as he tried to console his mother. 

“It’s been more than 24 hours?” 

Visits From A Man Named Nobody 75

Visits From A Man Named Nobody 75

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March 26, 2038, 3:55 p.m. 

13 Years, 253 Days Ago

Paul didn’t exactly know what to expect, but it wasn’t a recliner. They were in an enormous room full of identical cubicles. Each of those had a recliner, bookshelf, and television, which was mounted on the wall and positioned perfectly in front of whoever was seated on the recliner. 

For some reason, the IV pole felt like the center of everything. No amount of buttons or books or TV background noise was enough to erase the presence of that slender metal stand positioned on the white tile floor next to the recliner, where his mother sat.

She offered him a mischievous grin. “This might be the nicest chair I’ve ever sat in.”

Paul offered a smile that didn’t have any humor in it. “Want me to buy you one?”

She shook her head, but her smile remained. “It’s not your job to buy me things.” 

“Why not?” Paul wanted to keep things light, so he let his sarcasm loose. “I could remodel the living room just like this.”

She looked over at the IV pole. 

“I’ll leave that part out,” Paul whispered.

That earned him a melodious laugh that caused a few people in other areas to glare over at them. Paul didn’t care; it was the first laugh he’d heard in three weeks. 

Paul actually liked this specific cubical. While it was identical to every other section of the treatment room, it was tucked in the middle, making them unable to see either entrance at the front and rear of the room. Almost they could believe that they were in the strangest movie theatre ever. If only that stupid pole weren’t standing in the middle of it all. It felt like a pole, awaiting the rising of its flag to declare that this was not a comfortable lounge area. It was a treatment room, where, at any moment, someone would come by and hang that poison-filled flag up and let it flow into his mother. At least medical terms didn’t dress it up the way hospital rooms did. They called this a treatment center. But the term chemotherapy was quite clear. They were going to flood his mother’s body with chemicals in the hope that it would shrink the brain tumor down. 

His mother pulled up her PID and activated her reading app. There was no need for him to try and figure out what she was reading. While she’d read a lot in her life, she’d lost interest in any other book.

“Did you want to watch something?” She pointed at the TV.

Paul shook his head. “I’m just here to be with you.”

She gave him a warm smile and set her hand on his arm. “You’ve been wonderful. I’m grateful for all the people who’ve helped.”

That much was a relief. Paul had worried he’d have to do everything, but if someone from her church didn’t stop by once a day to see if she needed anything at all, they showed up every other day. And they always brought food. Paul wasn’t the worst cook in the world, but he’d hardly needed to operate a microwave with all the stuff people delivered or just left on the porch. 

“It’s pretty great how people are helping you,” Paul admitted. 

She smiled at him again, avoiding an obvious opportunity to talk about God. Paul appreciated that, and she probably knew it. 

They didn’t make her change into a hospital gown. That was another small kindness. She wore a blue sun dress that ran from the middle of her calves to a pair of straps that wrapped around her shoulders like a necklace.  

Paul wore a simple T-shirt and jeans. He pulled a note-pad and pencil of of his back pocket and started scribbling. He’d had time to think, and he’d come up with a few ideas to present to his boss, who said he could work from there so long as he delivered. 

The pencil and paper were antiquated systems, but Paul liked having the ability to just jot down ideas. If anything of note really caught his imagination, he’d transfer the notes to his PID for further review. For the moment, he was just trying to find anything to focus on instead of that stupid pole.


The word caused both Paul and his mother to jump. A young man who didn’t look old enough to drive, let alone operate medical equipment, stood at the entrance to the cube. The boy, there was no way he was 21, wore a lab coat, and it looked like he was just dressed for Halloween.

“How old are you?” Paul asked.

His mom lightly swatted his arm. “Paul!”

The boy laughed. “I’m actually 32.” He shrugged. “I think the fact that I’m short and skinny fools people.”

“32.” Paul couldn’t hide his skepticism. 

The kid offered another shrug. “You wouldn’t be the first person I’ve had to show my driver’s license to.”

“That won’t be necessary,” Paul’s mother said. “We’re ready.”

The man, Paul really did want to see that ID, got started setting up the bags. “My name’s Derek.” He hung up one bag. “I’m a physician’s assistant. I’ll be helping you out while you’re here.”

“You’re assigned to my mom?” Paul asked.

Derek nodded. “I’m on the team, and you can expect me to run this part for you guys.” He had hung another three bags by the time he’d finished speaking. “There’s not much to it, honestly. We deliver the treatment intravenously,” he looked at Paul’s mother and smiled. “So all you have to do is sit back and relax.”

Paul felt a strange relief. It wasn’t that Derek did anything special with the bags or even the IV he inserted into Mary’s arm. But the way Paul’s mother smiled at Derek made Paul feel better for some reason. It was like she saw some young man she’d just decided to adopt right there. 

As he watched the man set up the treatment, he codlin’t blame his mother. The guy’s shaggy brown hair and thin facial features just made it hard to see anything but a boy.

Visits From A Man Named Nobody 74

Visits From A Man Named Nobody 74

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They held each other for a time. Paul thought she was still just trying to come to terms with the information. At the very least, that’s what he was doing. She might have been trying to support him. He didn’t ask. Instead he remained content to sit there as long as she was.

Time passed, and she eventually pulled away. “I have to change. Then you can take me home.”

Paul stepped out of the room and waited. He thought about how best to help his mom, trying to tamp down frustration at his utter powerlessness. After several minutes of telling himself there wasn’t much of a point in trying to do anything but be there throughout the treatments, he realized she hadn’t come out. 

He tapped on the door. “Mom? Did you fall asleep?”

“I’m fine.” The response was immediate, but he noted the tremor in her voice. She’d ben crying again. 

Somehow, her reply hurt him in a way he couldn’t completely understand. He wanted to be there to support her, but she wanted to be alone to cry. There was some sense in anyone wanting space, but Paul worried she felt like she needed that space. Paul’s mind started gnawing on the idea, but he wasn’t sure what else to do.

The door suddenly opened, and she offered him a fake smile. “Let’s go.”

The doctor was good to his word. When they went to receptionist to offer the co-pay for the insurance, the woman at the desk provided a packet of information about chemotherapy and its possible side effect. The stack of paper, containing information on both sides of each page, couldn’t have been an eighth of an inch thick, but it felt heavy in Paul’s hand. He kept the packet and used his other hand to hold his mother’s arm as they exited the hospital and got to the car. 

They drove in silence. Paul put the packet of information in the glove box, and his mother would glance at the compartment’s latch from time to time. She never reached for it, but it was clear she was thinking about it. 

The entire trip home was quiet. Paul pulled into the driveway and cut the engine. 

“You can cry around me.” Paul spoke before his mother’s hand reached the door handle. 

She froze there, looking at him as if she wasn’t sure what he meant.

“I’m worried about you. I don’t want to lose you, but you don’t have to be brave for me. You don’t have to hide somewhere alone if you’re mad or afraid.” He wasn’t sure why, but he didn’t look at her until he’d finished speaking. 

When he did, she was smiling at him. “Thank you.”

While a single tear rolled down her cheek, she didn’t fall into his arms or begin wearing. It wasn’t like that’s what he wanted her to do. He just wanted her to know she could.

Paul reached over and pulled the information packet out of the glove box. Then he got out, rushing around the car to be there to help his mother out as well. 

They got inside and took a seat on the couch in the living room. Paul, ever the scientist, itched to read the packet. He wanted to understand. He wanted to be prepared. But he codlin’t stop thinking about how his mother avoided it.

“Are you hungry?” He asked her.

“Not really,” she replied.

Paul looked at the packet again. “I understand if you’re not ready to go over that information. We can do it later.”

“When are you leaving?” she asked.

He stared at her. “Leaving?”

“To go back to work,” she explained.

He shook his head. “I’m not going anywhere. I’m going to be right here.”

She smiled, shaking her head. “You can’t take a half-year off from work.”

“I’ll figure all of that out,” he said. “But whatever happens, I’m not leaving you until this is over.”

Her bottom lip trembled. She leaned over and wrapped her arms around him. The shift in position left her resting her head on his chest. That’s when the crying started.

“Thank you,” she said between shuddered breaths.  

“I won’t leave you alone,” he said.

She pulled back a bit, looking at him. “Oh, I’m not ever alone.”

He smiled. “I know.” He knew she was talking about her faith. He didn’t understand it at all, but it was something she took comfort in, so he had no intention of taking that, or any, solace away from her.

She placed her head back on his chest. “It’s still nice that you’ll be here though.”

While tears fell, she somehow sounded more cheerful. “I know you want to look at that information.”
“Yes,” Paul admitted, “but I know that you’re just not ready to do that yet. We have time. For now, just rest. Let me know if you want anything.”

“Thank you,” she said again. “Thank you, and thank God for you.”

A part of Paul was upset. He needed to be doing something. He wanted to say more to her, to make her feel better. But each time he opened his mouth, he remembered what his mother had said about sitting and listening. 

It was hard, listening to her cry without wanting to go over the information or formulate a plan for treatment, but it’s what she wanted, so that’s what he did.

The end of Chapter twenty-one.

… To be continued …

Visits From A Man Named Nobody 73

Visits From A Man Named Nobody 73

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“And how long will that take?” Paul asked.

The doctor might have shrugged or been hit by a particularly strong gust of air conditioning. “We’ll do six treatments. Each treatment will be three weeks apart.”

Paul ran the math. “So almost five months?”

Feniker nodded. “We’ll give your mother another few weeks to recover, and then we’ll do another MRI. If everything goes well, we’ll be able to do the surgery then.”

“What,” Paul’s mother took in a deep breath before continuing. “How bad will the side effects be?”

Feniker’s face seemed to scrunch up like he smelled something particularly rotten. Was that his thinking face? “There’s no real way to know. There’s usually sickness, nausea. The severity of the nausea ranges from mild to severe. I’ll make sure the receptionist gives you a packet that has all the details and possible side effects, but I’d advise you to consider them as a possible list instead of a comprehensive list.”

As the doctor spoke, Paul’s mother folded her hands together so tightly her knuckles went white. Somehow, even thought she was obviously afraid, her voice was even and clear. “Thank you.”

They spoke some more, scheduling the first treatment for two weeks from then. Paul tried to keep his thoughts calm. The doctor was clearly trying to maintain a positive demeanor, but Paul couldn’t keep from feeling like he was acting like he didn’t care. No amount of effort let him see it any other way. Luckily for Paul, the doctor excused himself before Paul could work himself into what even he realized would have been an unjustified tantrum.

Paul wrapped an arm around his mother as the doctor shut the door behind himself. The echo of the closing door hadn’t faded before his mother turned into his chest and wept. He held her. He didn’t have a clue what to say, so he remained silent.

“Peace I leave with you,” she whispered. “My peace I give with you. I do not give as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not be afraid.”

She cried for another few moments and then repeated the phrase. Each time she said it, she seemed to need a little less time to cry, but she gripped him more tightly with each rotation. By the fourth time, her grip was just a shade less than painful, but Paul sat there, quietly holding his mother. 

“Thank you for your support.” Paul would have thought she was still quoting scripture if she hadn’t have looked into his eyes and offered a smile. “I’m so glad you’re here with me.”
“I’d prefer to be with you in a restaurant, but I suppose this’ll do.” He offered her one of his fake smiles, but she laughed anyway. 

“I mean it,” she said. “Whatever happens, I will cherish the memory of how kind and sympathetic you’ve been.”

“Kind?” He was ready to punch the first person he could find who had a reasonably punchable face. “I just sat here.”

“Oh, if more people were willing to just sit quietly and support others.” She chuckled as she spoke. 

… to be continued …

Visits From A Man Named Nobody 72

Visits From A Man Named Nobody 72

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“No thanks.” She grimaced as she repositioned herself on the bed. “How’d it go?”

Paul looked away. “I think the doctor should explain it.”

“So it’s not good news.” She gave him a smile that didn’t do a very good job of hiding her fear. 

Paul shook his head. “They told me they couldn’t pull it out because of where it was.”

She nodded, reaching out and gripping his hand. Her hand felt oddly fragile to him. When had they become so small in comparison to his own?

He stood, intending to go find someone to get the doctor, but she only gripped his hand tighter. He looked down at his hand and then over to her before sitting back down. He used his free hand to press the call button before offering her a smile. “OK,” he said. “I won’t leave you.”

She bowed her head, and her lips moved as she offered a quiet prayer. Paul had to fight a surge of anger. It wasn’t directed at his mother. It was just hard watching her continue to reach out to a god that would let anything like this happen. 

As soon as the thought crossed his mind, his mother opened her eyes, which turned at him. 

“Because whatever he’s taken from me, he gave me two things.” Paul wasn’t sure how she knew what he was thinking. She probably read his face. “If you don’t understand the value of forgiveness, I don’t think I can explain it to you, but the second should make a little sense.”

“What could any god possibly give you that would make you this loyal even now?” Paul’s words came out in a chocked whisper. He was too angry, too tired, too devastated to stoke emotions into a shout.

“You,” she said smiling. “I can endure anything if I have Christ, and to top that off, I have you, and I love you so very much.” 

Her lip quivered, and a tear rolled down her cheek. Paul wrapped his arms around her. They held each other even as a nurse walked in. Paul heard her walk in and say something about notifying the doctor.

Paul and his mother just continued to hold each other and cry. The silence only broke each time his mother said she was so grateful for him. The words seemed to cut at him. What had he ever done? He hardly visited. He was a terrible kid to her. He was too wrapped up in his own sorrow to comfort her after Bill’s death. He just gripped her as tightly as he dared until the doctor showed up.

Feniker shambled in on spindly legs, so Paul turned toward him. His mother gripped his hand more tightly, but she needed worry; he didn’t have any intention of letting her go. 

“Obviously things didn’t go how we’d hoped,” he said. 

He went on about where the tumor was located and how it was too dangerous to pull the tumor out. Then he laid out a chemotherapy plan.

“What will that do?” Paul asked.

“We’re hoping it shrinks the tumor down so we can get at it more easily,” Feniker said. “It would be wonderful if it killed the tumor, but I don’t want you to have that false hope. The goal here is just to shrink it down.”

… to be continued …

Visits From A Man Named Nobody 71

Visits From A Man Named Nobody 71

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March 5, 2038, 4:05 p.m. 

13 Years, 274 Days Ago

Paul sat next to his sleeping mother. His knee bounced as if he’d had four servings of the world’s largest cup of coffee. He watched her every breath. Her chest rose and fell. There was always a horrifying pause before her chest would rise again. It rose; it fell. Paul waited, worried that something happened. An agonizing moment would pass. He’d jerk forward intending to call for help, until he saw his mother take another breath. 

Her head was wrapped in bandages, but her face was free. That was at least something. Paul figured his mom would have been afraid to wake like that. 

“I really figured you’d be here.” Paul kept expecting Nobody to show up. “Where’s your sermon? Where are all those piffy thoughts and fortune cookie Bible versus?”

A part of him truly hated Nobody. He’d become this person who was always there when Paul needed, but he was there less and less. His mother was sick and possibly dying. There was a tumor in her brain that would consume her if no one did anything, and nothing was being done. 

“What am I supposed to learn?” 

The room was too quiet. His mother was still sound asleep after hours of people just poking around her brain. He watched her chest rise and fall and nearly panicked until her chest rose and fell again. 

“What I’m learning is that I’m cursed,” Paul said. “If you want me to believe in a God, then I have to believe he hates me. Not only does he take everyone I love from me, he does it in the worst possible way. Bill was killed in a stupid car accident before he could even marry my mother. Jordan is happily married to Lidia, and I’m left alone. The project is dead in the water. Now my mom is lying here helpless.”

He stared at his mother some more, feeling intense relief with every breath she took. 

In a rush of frustration, he flung his hands in her direction. “She turned to your god! And look what he’s done for her! Is this the great life of a Christian? Serve a God, and he’ll watch you pray to him all day just to give you some terrible disease and kill you. No thanks!”

He shut his eyes, pointlessly trying to keep himself from screaming. He let out an exasperated chuckle that somehow managed to keep him from breaking down. “Of course you’d remind me I had them in the first place. He gives and takes away, and all that. But if he takes what he gives, was it ever a gift in the first place?”

A tear rolled down his cheek. He couldn’t hold it back. His lip quivered as he sat helplessly watching his mom. 

“Am I supposed to learn I’m powerless?” It came out in a whine. He rubbed his face with his hands until the urge to sob dwindled away. “I get it! I’m the weak mortal, and God is the all powerful being. But why follow a God who’d let all this happen?”

He let out another laugh. “Oh, yeah, I forgot. This is all my fault. This is humanity’s fault. We ate some stupid piece of fruit, and now everyone has to suffer and die. The all powerful God who can do everything can’t just wipe it away. So I’m supposed to learn I deserve it. Well I do. I admit it. But she doesn’t!”

He looked at her again as more tears fell. “She didn’t deserve to be beaten. She didn’t deserve to lose Bill.”

“Of course you say no one is good. My mom isn’t perfect. Of course she isn’t. No one is perfect, so am I supposed to learn that we all deserve to die? If that’s the case what’s the point? What is it all for?”

His mother stirred, letting out a low groan. Paul shot to his feet, using the bottom of his t-shirt to wipe his tears away. 


She clenched her eyes. “Are you talking to someone?” Her voice was dry and raspy. 

He swiveled his head around until he found a pink plastic pitcher of water. He grabbed one of the pink cups and filled it. 

“No, just thinking out loud,” he answered. “Here, have some water.”

She was still grimacing, but even with her eyes shut tightly, she held out her hand for cup and drank it all in one tip of the cup. She handed the cup back, and Paul moved to fill it again, but she finally cracked one eye for a second to see him. She shook her head, clenching her eyes shut again.

“No thanks,” she said.

… to be continued …

Visits From A Man Named Nobody 70

Visits From A Man Named Nobody 70

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He wandered over to the cafeteria and got some food. As he set his tray down and sat down, he considered conceding to his mother’s second request, but he couldn’t bring himself to do it. Instead, he ate mechanically, working to consume time more than calories. He used a knife to cut meat that tore readily enough. He slowly brought each bite to his mouth and chewed his food. After each bite, he took a small sip of his water. 

He managed to make a simple meat, vegetable, and bread meal last 45 minutes. He grabbed up some napkins and a pencil. Then he sat down to work over some formulas he’d been considering. The problem there was that he couldn’t really focus. He frustrated himself for  another 30 minutes trying to get his thoughts in order, but after that, he crumbled the napkins up and threw them away rather than even try to review the nonsense he was scribbling. 

He tried social media videos next. He watched a few informative videos, trading with some that promised guaranteed laughter. He didn’t so much as chuckle, and he couldn’t focus enough on the informative vids to get anything of value. The process of searching for something that might occupy his thoughts was somewhat useful, but he ultimately only spent another 15 minutes on that.

He looked around, realizing he’d been expecting Nobody to show up. There were plenty of places he could have secretly teleported to. And this sort of thing usually warranted at least a letter. Would he want to talk to Nobody if he did show up? His more recent visits have been much more accusatory than helpful. Nobody always had some angle that seemed to be more about forcing Paul to evaluate his motivations than anything else, but he still visited.

Had he grown tired of Paul? Had he finally given up? He thought about it as he wandered back to the waiting area. He watched his feet step on each white tile of the floor. Paul wasn’t sure if he cared whether or not Nobody had lost interest. The race to figure out how he used teleportation was done. The experiment was cancelled. Nobody’s visits might have been helpful when Paul was a kid, but they’d been more annoying as Paul grew older.

“Probably just tell me more about how we don’t have any say in things,” Paul muttered. 

He arrived to the waiting area. The doctor wasn’t there, so Paul sat down and tried to watch some television. It was some sort of soap opera. Five minutes ticked by, and Paul gave up trying to figure out the plot. He stood up, hoping to convince one of the staff members to change the channel, when the doctor stepped in.

Paul smiled and walked over to greet him. “How long until we can take her home?”

Something about the way the doctor’s lips turned downward caused Paul to stop short. 

“We got in, but once we saw the tumor and how it was placed, we realized it wasn’t safe to remove,” the doctor said.

Paul stared at the doctor even as questions ran through is mind. What did he mean safe? It was a tumor; how safe was it to leave it in there? What did it matter how it was placed in the brain?

“We’re planning to talk to the oncologist, but my thoughts are we need to do a round of chemotherapy to bring the size of the tumor down. That will make it easier to remove,” the doctor said.

“You’re leaving a tumor in my mom because it’s not easy to remove? I don’t care how hard it is; I want it out!” Paul’s voice grew louder as he spoke.

“It’s too close to the hippocampus,” the doctor said. “One wrong move, and we could affect her memory. One mistake, and she forgets you and everyone else.”

“Then don’t make any wrong moves!” Paul loomed over the doctor. 

“There are no right moves, Mr. Autumn,” the twig of a man had no problem staring Paul in the eyes. “The tissue has wrapped around the tumor like a sort of blanket. The only way to get to it is to cut the tissue, which would have consequences. That’s why we need to reduce its size so that we can move tissue.”

“What if your blanket just folds over it more?” Even though the doctor didn’t respond to Paul’s height and tone of voice, he still kept shouting.

“Then the chemotherapy might still just kill the tumor anyway.” The louder Paul got, the softer the doctor’s voice became. “It’s not the immediate fix you wanted, but it is the right thing to do. Of course the oncologist will provide more data, and maybe an even better option will present itself, but surgery isn’t an option right now.”

Paul stumbled back like he’d been punched. The room spun, and it was hard for him to keep his breath. “No.” Paul practically gasped the word.

He reached over and grabbed a chair and somehow managed to fall into it. 

“You’re mother is in recovery.” Doctor Feniker remained where he’d been, clearly giving Paul space. “You can go in and be with her, but she’ll probably be sleeping for a while more. I’ll meet with the oncologist, and we’ll present you both with your options. I’m sorry this couldn’t be over as quickly as you’d like, but there’s still hope.”

Hope? In what universe did Paul ever have any real hope?

… to be continued …

Visits From A Man Named Nobody 69

Visits From A Man Named Nobody 69

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March 5, 2038, 8:32 a.m. 

13 Years, 274 Days Ago

Paul sat with his mother on a leather-cushioned bed in a stale examination room. She wore a typical hospital gown. She held her hands together and whispered prayer after prayer as Paul held her in one arm. 

“You want me to go see if I can find the doctor?” Paul asked.

She shook her head, “I understand he’s busy.”

The days leading up to the surgery where a whirlwind of visits to doctors and from friends. One guy came and mowed her lawn. A kind woman Paul had met a few times made seven separate meals and brought them over. His mother still hosted her weekly Bible study group, but she was far more an observer than group leader. 

Paul helped were he could, but he was simply impatient to get to this day, when they would pull the stupid tumor out, and everything could go back to the way it was.

But in order for that to happen, the doctor who told them to be there by 5 a.m. needed to show up. 

His mother separated her hands long enough to reach up and gently pat his face. “I think this is the sort of thing I’d rather not rush a person on.” She gave him a smile, but he noticed the squint of pain in her eyes. 

Paul glared at the door again. Why tell a family to be somewhere just to make them wait hours for a surgery that would save a person’s life? He wanted to go out there and tell someone to let him know what was going on, but he couldn’t bring himself to let his mother go.

He glanced down at her, and the sound of the door opening caused them both to jerk in surprise. 

The man who walked in had to be the thinnest person Paul had ever seen. The lab coat was obviously the smallest size available, but it still looked like it was devouring the man who wore it. Doctor Feniker might have been in his fifties or sixties. Gray hair topped a wrinkled head that seemed too big for the man’s neck and shoulders. 

“Are you ready to have that tumor out of you?” His voice was gentle and raspy. He offered a surprisingly bright smile.

“Yes,” his mother said. 

The doctor looked over her chart. “So far things look to be in order.” He flipped through a few more pages in the thin manila folder in his hands. “We’ll know much more when we go in. If it’s small enough, and it’s safe, we’ll take it out.”

“If!?” Paul moved to stand up, but his mother held him in a surprisingly strong grip. “You’re supposed to take it out!”

“That’s the plan,” Feniker said. “The scans appear to show that it’s safe to remove, but we can’t be certain until we go in.”

“But you made us wait a week! If you weren’t sure, why didn’t you go in the when you first saw it?” Even as Paul fired his questions, his mother gripped his arm.

“Paul,” it was barely more than a whisper from his mom, but it was enough to get him to stop. “I know you’re trying to protect me and care for me, and I love you, but this is frightening enough. I’d like to trust that Doctor Feniker is doing his best and using his best judgment.”

Paul wanted to tell Feniker exactly where he could shove his judgement, but his mother had a point. 

“So let’s get started,” Paul said.

Feniker gave a nod and a smile. “The nurses will be here shortly to take her up to surgery.” He gave Paul’s mom another smile and headed out.

Paul glanced at his PID: 8:36 a.m. “It’ll be alright,” he told his mom. He shut his eyes, holding her and trying to think. 

He glanced at the door. He studied whatever he could set his eyes on. He look at the gray counter that ended with a sink. He looked at the blood pressure machine across the room from him. He looked back at the door.

“How are you feeling?” He asked his mother.

“A little scared, I admit.” She still held her hands clasped firmly together. He studied them before reaching his own hand over to place them over hers.

“It’ll be OK,” he said again.

“I know,” she whispered. 

He looked over a the door again. Where were they? Were they going to make them wait another three or so hours before they came to take her to surgery? 

Footsteps came, causing Paul to perk up at the sound, but they just continued past the room. 

“Peace be to you.” Paul looked down at his mother, who was speaking with her eyes closed. “My peace I give to you. I do not give as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not be afraid.”

Paul let out a breath of air. He looked at the door. He looked back to his mother.

The door came open again. Paul was about to shout at them for taking an eternity, but as he brought up his arm to point an accusing finger at them, he noticed his PID: 8:37 a.m. Two men in blue scrubs rolled a gurney into the room. 

They were of equal height and had black hair. One was a little on the heavier side. The heavier one looked at Paul’s mother. “Let’s get you over to surgery.”

His mother nodded her head. Paul stood up to give her room. She got up from the examination table and sat on the gurney. Paul was by her side the moment her legs got up into the rolling bed. 

“I’ll be in the waiting room,” Paul said. “As soon as you get back, I”ll come see you.”

“Make sure you get some food while you wait,” she said. “You haven’t eaten yet.”

“I’ll be fine,” he argued.

“You think starving yourself will somehow make the doctor better at his job?” She cocked an eyebrow at him. “Get some food. Maybe say a prayer for your mom.”

He looked away. For the past week, people have been praying with and around his mother. They asked him to join them each time, and he’d politely refused. He didn’t begrudge them their faith, but he certainly didn’t share it. 

… to be continued …

Testimony: A Trial of Faith is Available For Preorder!

Testimony: A Trial of Faith is Available For Preorder!

Greetings all,

200113-Testimony-Cover2It’s my great joy to announce Testimony: A Trial of Faith is available for preorder for just 99 cents!

If you’ve read the blog series, you already know the story. This project is here for two primary reasons:

  1. I wanted to testify what God has done in my life in as broad a way as I could think. Having this as a title makes it possible to spread this testimony.
  2. I had always intended for this to raise money for cancer research.  As promised, all royalties from this title don’t go to me; they go to the American Brain Tumor Association.  To be clear, I will use some of the money to pay for printing and marketing (AMS campaigns and the like), but any actual profit goes to ABTA.

There are a few things I want to make clear.

  1.  This is a Christian book. I’ve never made a secret about my religion. I love entertainment and fantasy as much as the next person, but God is the most important being in life. This story is mostly about my growth in Christianity as my mom battled with cancer.
  2. This is personal. There are truths here that aren’t flattering toward me. This project isn’t designed to make me look good; it’s designed to show how God could take someone as sinful as me and open his heart. Reading this might very well change what you think of me. My hope is you see how I have changed. I still have so very far to go, but by the grace of God I am who I am.
  3. This has some edits. Rather than focus on my family (who I didn’t get to do much with), I focused on my own reflections through the process. There are interactions and discussions, but the story is far more about my reflections on what I learned about Christianity than it is my mom and her struggle with cancer.

I love God, and I pray every day that He wipes cancer from the face of the Earth. It is my great prayer that this testimony is pleasing to Him as an offering. It’s my great prayer that he work through this to provide a lot of funding for brain cancer research and maybe even (if it is His will) a cure.

If this can help lead to more effective treatments, perhaps some other son won’t have to mourn his mother as a result of this disease. I’d be honored if you’d help in this manner.

You can preorder the story here or in the link above.

Thank you for reading,