Christian Short Stories



Lydia
By Web Ruble

Web Ruble writes: I am a retired newspaper reporter of some 40 years, and a couple of those years I was religion writer at The Oregonian, Oregon's largest daily. Now I am a novelist and short story writer. My wife Norma and I live in Fairview, OR but split our time between there and Tucson, AZ where we are now until about April 15. We are lay leaders and deacons at Smith Memorial Presbyterian Church in Fairview, OR (near Portland). We also are volunteers on Thursdays about nine months out of the year in a soup kitchen in Gresham, OR.


After reading a few passages in my Bible, I close it and begin a slow enjoyable walk. I slow my stroll and cautiously amble to the twisted wire fence around the school yard.

The kids are out. Must be recess. The playground is full. Staging in front of me is a delightful rusty-wire-enclosed frost-lifting morning of squealing, yelling, laughing and downright boastful cheer.

I look carefully and there she is – my fifth grade beauty.

Just look at her splendid frame, her soft curls, her flashing eyes, her mid-shoulder-length of nearly black hair with tantalizingly reddish highlights.

Oh what a splendid sight. Moreover, for shy me she is a measure of pure pride. Oh, how I love her. How could I be so fortunate as to have such a lovely creature in front of me as well as in my heated heart?

Unfortunately, I can’t just go up to her and say “Hi.” At least not here. People would notice me – a trampy-looking old, unshaven derelict of 66 years. “A dirty old man who’s around children all too much . . .his intentions can’t be good,” they most certainly would say.

What’s true, is that they’d be mostly right. Although, those parts about intentions and my being around small children too much would be bogus. I haven’t been around my heart-pounding Slavic vision here or any other child very much lately.

A grinding-down noise behind me causes me to glance over my shoulder. Here comes a police car. It screeches to a leaning halt and disgorges two true blue dudes. Encased forever in leather-faced armor, they are coming right at me.

Since my last wounding, arrest and jail term, I’ve given up on trying to explain matters to “blue” or others who can’t even begin to understand. First of all, they just don’t listen. Or they are either too dense and too simplistic to handle the situation or even listen to my explanation. Moreover, they are too leather-holstering and trigger-pulling for anyone to be safe.

So these days, when they show I bolt. It’s easier.

So I am leaving like a flyin’ eagle.

Oh oh. Here now comes more trouble in green-brown. No doubt county mounties. They, too, are moving in my direction. Oh no. The duo includes a she and she looks downright uncompromising.

That’s all right, I don’t want to try to reason with her, anyway. Quick over another fence. Can’t scramble soon enough. Tumult. Shouting. She’s issuing some sort of command. My hearing is terrible. Can’t determine what she wants. But I can imagine. No doubt ‘tis, “Halt and put your hands up where I can see them.”

Dog poop. The jig is up. Now comes the insufferable razzamatazz.

Somebody is tackling me. It’s the brown-green-garbed woman. She’s grinding my face into the dirt. A few months ago the whole confrontation would have been intolerably humiliating. Well not so much any more. It is merely an outrage. She goes to put the cuffs on me and I see an opportunity. I jam my leg between hers, lift, and smash an elbow into her Adam’s apple.

She gurgles and collapses.

I’m about to skip out of when my world explodes. A bullet tears through my shoulder. And I fear I caught a couple of other slugs in my chest because everything is fading and I am having trouble breathing. Fairyland.

Darkness. Then twilight, shouting, voices, and a screech. Confusion. Blackness.

I regain consciousness in a complex tangle of tubes, bags, bandages, and I feel terrible. After a while it swamps me like a moon over Carolina that I’m in a hospital emergency room. A blue-tunic form -- an officer I would assume -- is standing near my bed. “Hi, jerk,” a voice says. It’s no doubt fresh from the throat of eternal “blue.”

Nobody is going to get away with an insult like that. I try to move but seem to be strapped down. I don’t care if I rip out my tubes and trusses, I am going to hop all over this fat slob in blue . . . or maybe he’s not so fat. He’s just an ugly, rude rider.

But the effort to get at him is too much. I hurt and feel faint. Everything is dimming . . .

A warping, trapezoidal haze is lifting. I’m still trussed in terminal tubes and bandages. A nurse in white is here. After several attempts I get the words across to her that I want to see my pastor, the Rev. Herb Holloway.

The effort to speak is too much and I feel myself slipping.

- - - -

Several hours later. The Rev. Mr. Holloway entered St. Michael’s and began searching for Room 303 which is adjacent to the emergency room. The door to 303 was closed with a sign on the door, forbidding entry, saying any visitor needs to contact the head nurse at the nearby nurse’s station.

Cyril Sikorksky had died.

Outraged, Holloway sought answers. A policeman still on duty near the room cautiously tried to fill him in – to wit: “He’s a dirty old man, and most likely a child molester, and he was hanging out AGAIN at the schoolyard watching a young girl at recess playing with other children near the swings.

“Some teacher saw him and called us and we came immediately. He was still there, leering at the child. So we hopped on him before he could get away. But, he’s quick and violent. He resisted the efforts of a female officer to cuff him so we shot his ass. Good riddance, I say. He’s a creep. We saved the taxpayers money.”

“Wha . . .?”

The officer continued, “He’s also been seen several times in the back of All Souls Church on Wednesday evenings, watching the children’s choir. The same little girl is in it, too. Some frightened citizen saw him there, and reported it to us. We came running. He escaped out a side door.

“We’ve had dozens of reports. So we’ve been on the lookout for this guy who our commander says is real trouble. There’re so many worthless dirty creeps out there. There’s too much of this child-molesting stuff going on. These days you can’t be too careful. This guy was so obvious but elusive. Well, we finally got him . . . dead to rights. Hah hah.”

“What?” Rev. Holloway repeated, just staring at the cop.

Finally, he blurted, “Do you realize what you’ve done? Did you really know anything about this guy? Not a whit. You will have a lot trouble over this.” He did a dosi-do on his shoe soles and stomped with visible combat-like outrage out of the emergency room area.

- - - - - - - - -

Several months later, Rev. Holloway and an entourage that included three popular attorneys were striding through a soggy, dripping-tree park on the way to the Multnomah County Courthouse. The day was dreary, gray, windy, and rainy. It seemed to offer nothing but gloom.

Though not buoyant, the Rev. Holloway was alive with purpose. He felt slightly lifted as if by a narcotic or the Holy Spirit. He was not moving with terminal dread. Rather he was still hoofing with determined shoes. This, you see, was to be a day of reckoning. Or at least it would be a day that would launch an effort to land some sort of justice.

Some of Portland’s many publics had screamed foul play. The police shooting of Sikorsky was but one of several “incidents” in the last 18 months wherein either city police or county officers used what some called unnecessary force after jumping to conclusions about a suspect.

Even though it was now 6 months later, Multnomah County was just this moment holding a joint city-county-citizens-police inquiry into the man’s shooting and death. Rev. Holloway, friends, and others were more than a little concerned about the plight of the indigent with health or mental health problems.

Rev. Holloway – linked with a ministerial alliance – had vowed not to let the matter be pushed aside by officials who obviously were unconcerned about “just another” bum-indigent who had run afoul of the law. Holloway and allies kept screaming about it and finally the Police Review Committee –a citizens-police review task force – decided to hold hearings.

Today is the third day and Holloway is up to bat with both prepared and off-the-cuff comments about the circumstances surrounding Sikorsky’s death.

With the proceedings in progress, we hear the Rev. Holloway, “You guys, Portland’s and Multnomah County’s finest, just went with popular hearsay and made no effort to find out much about Sikorsky. Hey, I really don’t blame the duty officers for this.

True, you may not have had the time at the spur of the moment to . . .well, let’s just say we agree that it was time for action and not navel gazing. But how about all those months when you, their supervisors, were trying to trap Sikorsky, acting on information coming from a complaining, ditzo woman, and not spending more than a minute or two checking stuff out.

Did you know the girl’s named was Lydia? Of course, you did.

But that was about the only thing you police learned. You made no effort to learn more and to check Sikorsky’s background. Did you know that he was a Vietnam war hero? That’s right. He was a marine and took out a whole platoon of Cong almost single-handedly. He also led worship services under crude conditions when the marines were back at base.

Did you know he was an ordained minister in the Methodist church? Didn’t know that, did you? But you would have, had you bothered to check things out. And just before his arrest and wounding by some apparently reckless, rogue police and subsequent hospitalization several years ago, he ran a winter come-in-out-of-the-cold dormitory for indigent veterans down near lower Burnside.

He loved his family and mankind and had a particular understanding of the plight of down-and-out vets.

And here’s the grabber . . .Lydia was his granddaughter. He told me that watching her at the schoolyard; viewing her at All Souls; watching from a distance at the Rocky Butte Boys And Girls Club, and even a few times at the Villa Community Club was his only chance to see his granddaughter. He had to maintain a safe distance, the courts said. Sikorsky was forbidden to talk to her or even approach her.

The complaining woman – she told lies about him being a sexual pervert and a child molester of the first water -- was his daughter, Margaret Sikorsky Smith. Because of some silly, ancient family brouhaha years ago, she had a mad-on for him, and went to authorities with all kinds of ridiculous stuff.

Sikorsky immediately and automatically was labeled a dirty old man and child molester and police regarded him as such without so much as even a cursory investigation.

Now Sikorsky doesn’t always dress the best -- as a matter of fact he often looks like an unshaven derelict – and he doesn’t react well to lawyers, courts, police and judges who he said, ‘get nosy and try to interfere.’ He has told ‘em on several occasions to ‘buzz off and mind you’re your own business.’. And a couple of times he waxed violent.

He seldom tried to explain himself, because he figured he didn’t need to. He claimed he lived on a higher plain than what he called ‘pantywaist, snot-nosed, wimp-doodle do gooders who never saw a day of combat or even peace-time military service.’ He said he flat out won’t talk to such people, even when it is to his advantage to do so.

Consequently, he was often in trouble with public servants and police. True . . . with this approach he didn’t do himself any favors. In that way he has been his own worst enemy. But in no way was he to die at the hands of a couple of thickies. Police and deputies need training, and certainly they need to learn to check things out. Oregon’s human-services system is broken, you know. And we here today would like to start fixing it.”

Silence. The courtroom remained in stunned sullenness.

Holloway cleared his throat and looked around. He then stepped down and went over to a table and began shuffling papers in and out of his briefcase.

The only noise was sobs and burbles of a woman at an adjacent table.

She -- Margaret Sikorsky Smith -- was up to bat next.

Weighted down by guilt, her father’s needless violent exit from the planet, and the words just spoken, she broke down and cried. It took several minutes for her to regain some composure.

The hearing room remained so quiet that onlookers could hear a motorcycle puffing down Fifth Avenue outside.

Margaret – by now puffy and red in the face and soggy with tears -- testified that she originally had lied and had stirred the public ire that ostracized her father. She even said that her 10-year-old daughter missed her grandfather. Lydia, she said, several times had wondered why her grandfather never visited anymore.

After her surprising testimony, the hearing room remained in shocked silence. One could hear a fly buzzin’ roun.

Several moments passed.

Finally, the chairman of the review committee rapped his gavel, cleared his tonsils and said, “In view of what we have just heard, these matters are closed.”

His final words – echoing as if from heaven itself -- took on new meaning, “But for the grace of God there goes I. . .”

(© 2010 Web Ruble – All rights reserved. Written material may not be duplicated without permission.)



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