“He had a major stroke caused by a subarachnoid hemorrhage.” Lucent Keener informed her audience. “And what is that, exactly? Well, while I’m no expert, it basically is a bleeding into the subarachnoid space in and around the brain. Causes? I believe, though it may occur spontaneously, often times it results from a ruptured cerebral aneurism, or … may result from head injury.”
“And from what we’ve heard, he entered the hospital after having two minor heart attacks accompanied by a nervous breakdown, during which he evidently sustained a head injury,” Sage Wiseman added.
The Keener house was packed full this morning. Both Moxie and Able had decided to skip morning classes, something they rarely did, and Effete was grateful for their presence. They’d been practical miracle workers in getting Rue and Bane ready for a day with Dr. Pert Kibitz instead of going to school, where they’d likely be bombarded by questions. Kibitz said she had a light schedule that day, and really had wanted to spend a good deal of one-on-one time with the boys anyway … so it worked out perfectly with Able and Moxie dropping them off at her home.
Blue Poorman was slouched in one of the recliners, his favorite, while Sage sat upright in another. Even Angelica and Morris Graver were there, each sitting on the couch, and of course Joy Brighterday. Lucent couldn’t sit down. Tense medical situations, no matter who it involved, always got her blood pumping too much to relax. She was in nurse practitioner mode now and wanted to talk medical science, symptoms, care and treatment, and whatnot. “They’re transporting him ASAP to Grand Oak, of course, where they’ll likely assess whether or not they’re capable of performing the neurosurgery so immediately needed… I don’t understand that decision in the least, to put it mildly. Following a subarachnoid hemorrhage, treatment absolutely must be almost instantaneous; they should have fast-tracked him to the Glendale-Virginia Apgar Memorial Hospital.”
“Umm … so we care now whether he lives or dies?” Angelica wondered from where she was curled up Indian-style in the corner of the sofa. “Really, I’m kind of having a hard time digesting the feeling that … you know, that like … something awful’s happened to poor, ole Fen Sloughheart. Am I just off and awful, or something … but I kind of want him to die, ya know?”
“Not exactly bad, Angelica,” Joy answered from the other corner of the couch. “It’s just if he dies, well … what dies with him? That’s a pretty serious consideration … at least for me.”
“Do you think they’ll be able to perform the surgery,” Moxie asked her mother. “Or, at least, adequately?”
“Well, ‘adequately’ is probably the key term, my dear,” Lucent answered, taking another sip of her hot Earl Grey. “They might pull him through, but what will be the after effects? All of this could, of course, have great cognitive and physiological implications; in fact, this stroke is certain to have severe repercussions.”
“So, where does that leave us?” Blue ventured.
“So far as I can tell, basically in the same place we were before,” Wiseman answered. “Angelica, Morris, Grace, Suĳnwe and I will meet with Judge Love Fairman in her chambers tomorrow, along with Captain Bernard Ruff, one of his colleagues, and the district attorney. Phoenix Rising is hoping that, after issuing an arrest warrant for Morris, which is inevitable, Fairman will then immediately issue an injunction to stay any judicial proceedings upon the case pending further investigation into Sloughheart and his alleged, gross criminal activities that certainly, directly impinge upon Morris and his actions … indeed, his whole life, not to mention that of his mother. Of course, if she does this – if she’s able to do this – Fairman will probably also put Morris under house arrest, in which he’ll only be allowed to leave home for work, school, medical treatment, therapy or counseling, and so forth.”
Joy was in the room. She was interested. She was listening and, of course, she was especially concerned for Morris, Angelica, Effete, Rue and Bane. Yet part of her mind couldn’t help considering what was happening to Fen Sloughheart. The reality of it all gave her chills. Was she being superstitious? Was the living, terrifying God confronting Fen Sloughheart … punishing him? Would the God in whom she had believed all of her life act so … what? Arbitrarily? Haphazardly? Striking one wicked man, while allowing thousands upon thousands go on untouched? Bringing justice to bear for five people, while denying justice to five thousand … five million? Was God erratic? Impulsive? Volatile? What would her guardian say? Again she longer for his presence.
“Well, hey, at least that’s moving in the right direction,” Able said almost too cheerfully while looking at Morris. “I mean, whatever ultimately happens to Sloughheart, the investigation is moving forward, the truth will eventually come out, and people – probably multitudes of people – will be helped and eventually enabled to heal.” The normally melancholic young artist was trying desperately to put an upbeat spin on the situation. “Sloughheart has been, and really still is, an aggressive and hideous monster, but the monster’s finally being caged … one way or another!”
“Yeah. Yeah, he’s an ugly monster, alright,” Morris somberly replied, staring at the floor. “He just happens to be the ugly monster who tore apart my mother and me, and now … now it seems like he’s getting away with it. I mean … yeah, he’s suffering, but … will he ever have to stand trial for his grotesque cruelty and wickedness? Will he ever have to really pay?”
Silence hung heavily in the room. No one seemed to have an immediate answer. It was an important question. If Fen Sloughheart lived, would he be in such a condition that he would simply be confined somewhere under constant medical care? Would that be punishment? Would that kind of outcome be authentic justice for his victims? Angelica and Morris would just as soon the medical professionals leave him be and let him die … in agony. Effete felt almost the same way, though she might be merciful enough to have him injected with something that would simply put him to sleep for good, but she wanted him out of the picture, too. Sage and Lucent were both professionals in the care of people, and somewhat more removed from the evils of Fen Sloughheart, so there hopes and prayers were strictly for justice to prevail. Moxie and Able were confused on the point – unusual for these two very bright, young minds – and though Blue Poorman genuinely wanted full justice, he did feel just a twinge of pity for the man. And Joy?
“You know, I do fully believe he will have to pay,” Joy broke the silence. “Either now or in eternity, and you can throw whatever you want to at me. I am an ordained minister, after all, and I believe what I believe. It may be confusing at times and certainly disconcerting; nevertheless, for all I admittedly don’t understand, I do believe there is God and that this God is not far removed from our pain and suffering, and not unconcerned about fairness and justice, and not impervious to the evil and wickedness of monsters like Fen Sloughheart!” Joy surprised the others with the choler of her reaction. “God will have his day,” she nearly whispered. “God will have his day.”
Angelica couldn’t help it. Looking at Joy in that moment, she had to raise a hand to her mouth to stifle a laugh. There was the great Reverend Joy Brighterday with naked feet on the sofa, one leg straight up with the other down to form a 90 degree angle; she was decked out in baggy, black night pants, an extra-large V-neck that came down to her sternum, with no bra because of the discomfort it caused. No make-up covered her regal face, and her wavy, dark hair was, oddly enough, attractively unkempt, but like she had just gotten out of bed … which she had!
“Well, I’m sure glad to know you’ve got some real fire in your belly!” Angelica risked an appraisal. “Makes me feel good!” She winked at Joy. “I think I’ll nickname you the Dragon Sage.” Morris just chortled and shook his head at his mother’s penchant for fantasy.
“And methinks she needs some more coffee in her belly, too!” Effete added without hesitation, “or the dragon’s gonna start breathing fire and we’ll all be crisp toast!”
“I’m on it,” Lucent said, marching over to the side table where she retrieved Joy’s empty mug.
Joy looked taken aback somewhat, but everyone else just chuckled. They loved her and she knew it. Very likely, she also knew she hadn’t had quite enough coffee in order to make good conversation. Joy took it in stride, then, and laughed. “O.k. you guys, remember, I’m still a patient in recovery. You’ve got to treat me nicely.”
“Ha! You won’t have that excuse much longer, preacher!” Angelica beamed at Joy, then turned to Moxie. “Hey, they tell me you’re quite a cuffer. What do you make of all this, especially what Joy just said? Morris tells me you’re quite the young and brash philosopher.”
“Brash? Me?” Moxie’s reaction brought another round of laughter. “And I don’t know about ‘cuffer,’ either, but since you asked…” Smiles lit up the room. “I claim to be an agnostic Christian, so my approach to the whole subject will be from that vantage point. Having said this, let me begin by admitting what any agnostic would, and that is that I have no proof, no concrete evidence, for the existence of God. However, I believe in the existence of some higher power – let’s call it the Supranatural One to make some distinction from any particular religion – and there are three fundamental functions I attribute to the Supranatural One: 1) Creation, 2) Maintenance, or Subsistence and 3) Superintendence, or Governance. This is more or less the general framework from within which I ‘understand’ the Supranatural One.”
“I do not directly attribute either moral evil or goodness to this One, nor do I believe the Everlasting One – another term I use – very often intervenes in the day-to-day affairs of humanity. If you ask me what basis I have for this view, then I will probably disappoint you. I will say that in humanity’s … relationship with and discourse about the Divine, we find myriad varieties of thoughts, ideas, feelings and perspectives; enough to lead one to believe that no one religion or spirituality or school of philosophy has ‘cornered the market’ on God. This has led me, personally, to simply ask, out of all the religions, with any attendant philosophy I suppose, which is the best … the most suited, or fitting, to life and the world in which we live? My answer has been that of Judeo-Christianity tinged, perhaps, with neo-Thomist philosophy.”
“Of course, I highly respect and absolutely adore my Joy Brighterday,” Moxie reached up from where she was seated on the floor next to Joy to give her a bear hug and kiss. “So I don’t know about God having his day. If Joy says it so dogmatically, I’m very tempted to believe it, but… really, all in all, so many people give the Supranatural One a helluva time because we live in an imperfect world filled with an awful lot of pain and suffering and, of course, horrible injustice. From my vantage point, though, we really don’t know enough about the Divine to be angry… I mean, the Supranatural One can very easily carry out the three functions I’ve just enumerated and yet not be at all personal, at least in the sense in which we mean personal. It may be, after all, that the Supranatural One is more the creative, sustaining, governing factor, or principle, of the Cosmos than otherwise. We want someone higher, bigger, brighter, stronger, kinder, and whatever to whom we can relate; it’s a deep, burning desire … very human, I think, but… the Everlasting may not provide this for us. The Supranatural One may not be able to provide this for us.”
“Which leaves us with us,” Effete chimed in. “And whatever else I might believe – whether I completely agree with Moxie or not – I sure am glad and thankful for each and every person in this room… Really, although it may sound crazy, if God is present here right now, I’d say God’s present in and through each one of you … for me, anyway.”
“We always seem to delve into the philosophical and theological,” Blue observed. “And I’m certainly one of the main culprits for this, but this time I’m going to make a pragmatic observation.”
“Really!” Both Moxie and Able were shocked.
“Yes, really, and here it is,” Blue continued from his favorite, old easy-chair. “Anyway we cut it, whether there has been direct divine intervention or not, several facts remain true that we need to lay out on the table, so to speak, very clearly and concisely. First, within a shockingly short amount of time really, Fen Sloughheart has lost his marriage – his wife and children – and he has lost his church, school, and entire ministry. Peripherally, in terms of importance, he has lost a great deal of time, effort, and expenditure, and will continue losing finances in making reparations. Second, he has suffered two heart attacks, one nervous breakdown, and now one major stroke for which he is probably even now undergoing radically important surgery. Third, and finally, Fen Sloughheart is still the primary subject of an intense ongoing investigation that will continue, no matter his outcome at Grand Oak. Now, if he comes through well enough, then he will be facing very serious charges that will inevitably lead to more material loss, of course, but also further reputable loss to his already greatly damaged character. This will leave him in quite a purgatorial quandary, if I may put it as such. At any rate, all of this taken together certainly ought to leave us – this morning, at least … at this moment – with a sober gratitude for what assuredly appears to be pure justice.”
“Well, that’s very well stated, indeed; very succinct, Mr. Poorman,” Angelica remarked. “And I guess for right now – at this moment, as you say – I am … soberly grateful, I guess, but not at all satisfied… I don’t believe I’ll ever be able to forgive that man, no matter what the Good Book says, or however psychologically important it may be for my overall health and well-being.”
“Not that I even begin to think you should forgive Sloughheart right here, right now, even if you and Morris possessed that capacity … but at some point … at some point down the road, it will need to be part of your healing. After all, I believe it was the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. who taught so wisely, ‘We must develop and maintain the capacity to forgive (even in the worst of situations), for he who is devoid of the power to forgive is also devoid of the power to love.’ And that, my dear, is simply a deficiency with which we cannot truly live.”
“Well, maybe one day,” Angelica considered Blue’s wise counsel. “But you know, I think before that day comes, God will have to have his day with Sloughheart, just like Joy was talking about … whatever exactly she meant. Cruel-sounding and bitter, maybe, but so much has been ripped away from Morris and me … and, well, Effete, and others, too, I imagine that … yeah, God will have his day.”