By Bruce A. Smith
Chapter 30 – Saying Hello
I did some construction work, but my heart wasn’t into it. Nor did I join the crowd chasing the vanishing therapy jobs. Unity offered me an entry-level position in a satellite clinic in Bangor, Maine, but I didn’t want to relocate. Truth be told, I didn’t know what I wanted to do. I didn’t even pursue my divorce. I just moved out of my sister’s house and rented an RV trailer on Nantucket Island.
For four months, I lived on the $296 a week from unemployment and walked the beaches. One night in March, while listening to Motown and drinking a bottle of Berenger’s, I started writing this story. I wrote ‘til dawn.
Hearing the birds chirping at first light, I admonished myself, Hey, ya gotta get some sleep, but I was so wired I couldn’t. I lay in bed stiff and buzzing, like I was levitating.
Nightly, in twilight dreams, I was filled with the nectar of remembrance – nourishing and heady. I saw the faces of the Men of Honor. I replayed what we did, heard who said what to whom, and embraced it all.
I wrote steadily for two months, and the joy of life began to flow in my heart again.
Just as unemployment was running out another shining light appeared. Dr. Kim called with the good news that our healing work and maybe even the electromagnetic counter-frequency machines had done something significant.
He had conducted a statistical analysis of all the deaths from radiation, and had evaluated the efficacy of treatments, such as the HF-2200 and bone marrow transplants.
He divvied up all the deaths according to Roentgen levels of exposure, how long people survived, and measured their immunity response levels, such as “T” cell production, gamma globulin uptake, or the rate of bone marrow loss.
He found that the guys we had prayed for, shouted and sang over, laid our hands on, focused and pushed healing energy into, well, our Men of Honor, Willy and Trey, and even Ryan, were at the top of the list. There was nobody out of the thousands who died who was a close second to their length of survival or who possessed comparable indicators of health and had also faced the same levels of exposure.
Not only that, all the patients who had spent time recovering, or had been treated at Unity before they succumbed, they too, were among the highest rates of survival. Their length of endurance before death was the highest single group of the 47,000 fatalities.
Even in death the Men of Honor shone.
Also, Dr. Kim told me he’s applying for a major grant from the National Institute of Health to expand his research into these phenomena. He’s already begun building a team and guess who he’s calling? Their names are Karen, TT, Eric, Terry, and yours truly. It’ll be like old home week, and most of us need the job, too.
One more thing; word spread that I was writing a book about the Men of Honor and I began receiving phone calls.
Kevin P was the first to get in touch. He let me know that even though he had bounced out of his foster placement, he was now back there again and really digging it, or at least the Jr. ROTC part.
“I’m a squad leader, Dave, and the commandant says I’m qualified to be an officer next semester. So, I’m really looking forward to that. I tried to join the military on an ‘early-enlist’ but I gotta get my record clean ‘cause of my juvy time for the pot and stuff, like the fightin.’ So, I’m gonna get my GED, keep my butt clean and then volunteer. The Army recruiter says they’ll take me then.”
“Sounds good to me, Kevin.”
“I still have my scarf and beret.”
“You still a Man of Honor?”
“Well, trying means…”
“Yeah, I know Dave,” Kevin interrupted. “‘Trying’ means you hope it’s okay that you don’t do what you promised. C’mon man, don’t give me shit for trying to do what’s right.”
“You’re right Kevin. I’m glad to hear you’re still trying to be a Man of Honor. Makes me proud. Say, let me know if you’d like me to write a letter of recommendation to the Army. Okay?”
“Yeah, thanks. Well…I gotta go.”
“Take care, Kevin. All my best to ya.”
“Yeah… say, um… will you come to my graduation?’
“For your GED?”
“I didn’t know they had graduations for GEDs.”
“Well, I’ve got one. Can you come?”
“Sure. Let me know where and when, and tell your social worker to put me on your list.”
“Okay. Say, Dave…”
“Are you still good for that cigar? Ya know when I’m eighteen.”
“Of course. I made a promise. I’m good for it. When are you gonna be eighteen?”
“Oh, that’s still six months away.”
“Really, September is that far away?”
“Yes, Kevin. April, May, June…”
“Dave,” he interrupted again, “you’re not my teacher any more…”
“But Kevin…” it was my turn to interrupt. “I want you to know the months of the year.”
“Don’t worry about that, Dave. It ain’t on the GED.”
“Okay, Kevin. You take care. Bye.”
Terry called next to tell me that she was volunteering at her church.
“I’m helping teenage girls, Dave. I’ve had enough of boys for a while.”
“Guess you won’t need that gun, eh?”
“Oh, you – shut up!” she said with a laugh. “I’m not packin’ anything anymore. I’m not carrying a lot of things, Dave. I like it.”
“Yeah, I am.”
“I like how that sounds.”
“I like saying it.”
Kevin A was next. He got a manuscript of the book and my phone number from his social worker.
“Dave, this book you wrote about me isn’t about me. It’s different.”
“I know. I changed everybody, but it’s based on the real Men of Honor and what happened.”
“I needed to protect you guys in case anybody found out you were a foster kid, or learned about some of the stuff you’ve done. You wouldn’t want the world to know you broke your foster brother’s arm, or threw a knife at your mom, or any of that other stuff, like exposing yourself?”
“Okay, okay. No… but, if I write a book about you, I might change a few things about you too, ya know.
“I think it’s great that you would want to write about your experiences, Kevin. I’d love to read it.”
“Well, I’m just saying that if I wrote about you, I’d probably change a few things, too.”
“Well, like your ghetto car for starters. I can’t believe a therapist like you drives such zero car.”
“It’s a pickup truck.”
“Whatever. It’s still ghetto. And you always wear the same sweater, Dave. You got no taste, and I think that sucks.”
“Ah, Kevin, you’re right about that. But am I a good therapist?” I asked chuckling.
“Oh, Dave! You can really piss me off sometimes!”
“Sorry, Kevin. I was just teasing a little.”
“Well, you suck. You and your know-it-all attitude? Now, that I’d put in my book.”
“You know, you’re right about my attitude. I’m working on it, so thanks for the feedback. By the way, do you still have your scarf and beret?”
“I’m thinking of getting the Men and Women of Honor together. Y’know, dress up, go out to dinner and catch up on things.”
“You gonna invite Monica and Tracey?”
“Ah, now that you mention it, I think that’s a good idea. Wanna join us when we get together.”
“I’ll let you know. By the way, how’s your new foster placement?”
“It’s okay. They let me cook, but the other kids here are bogus. They’re babies and they go through my stuff. One of them wrecked my favorite CD yesterday.”
“Maybe we should teach them about the Men of Honor. Straighten them out. Whaddaya say?”
“You’d better do something, because if they mess with me again, I’m gonna mess with them.”
“Now, now, Kevin. A Man of Honor seeks the highest good and always keeps a light heart.”
“Ohhh, Dave, you can really piss me off…”
“I know, Kevin. I’m just trying to be a therapist here. Listen, I’ll call ya when we’re getting together as the Men and Women of Honor.”
The next call was from a foster dad. He had read a copy of a copy of my manuscript and invited me to speak to the foster parent support group he had set up in Cambridge. He asked if I would help them develop a Men of Honor program.
“Just tell me where and when, my friend.”
“We can’t pay you; we don’t have any money for that kind of thing.”
“That’s okay. Just promise you’ll buy copies of my book for fifty years after it’s published. Give ‘em out as wedding presents, okay?”
“You got it, brother.”
“Stay tight, as the boys say.”
Chapter 31 – Naleef and Grammy Say Hello
Deon made contact in a most unusual manner. His Grammy came to me in a dream:
I was on a beach with a lot of marshy areas behind me. It reminded me of where I grew up near Jones Beach, New York. I was walking in the dunes when a female lifeguard stood up in her big lookout chair and blew her whistle in my direction.
She motioned me out of the dunes. I hesitated.
She jumped off the chair and ran toward me. When she got close, I was surprised to see that the figure underneath the hooded sweatshirt was an elderly black woman. She smiled, and said, “Hi, I’m Grammy.”
She pointed to the ocean. I knew to go into the water. Diving in, the water felt exceptionally refreshing. Then, while riding the waves, I saw a kid being pulled into deep water by a rip tide.
He panicked and floundered in water over his head, but he was only a few yards away from me, so I swum over and pulled him into shallower waters. It was Deon.
The next day, I called McGrady Hall to see if Deon was in juvy. He was. I left a message with the switchboard saying a friend of his Grammy’s just wanted to say ‘hello’ and would be getting on his approved contacts list so he could visit.
“Plus, tell him that his Grammy told me to tell him, ‘Remember, you’re the best little boy in the world.’”
When I spoke with Deon a week later, he told me he actually had gotten the message. Surprisingly to me, he was nonplussed when I told him I had had a dream about his Grammy, and had gotten in touch with him at her urging. I guess he was used to that kind of thing.
Further, I think he was pleased that I visited. He said he was, although he was embarrassed by my wearing my new yellow scarf and red beret.
He brightened, however, when I mentioned I wanted the Men and Women of Honor to get together and go out to dinner. He promised to get himself out of juvy and be ready to join us.
New addition to the Code: A Man of Honor never abandons hope.
The last call came from Naleef, again thanks to a social worker’s suggestion.
“Dave?” I heard a soft whisper one night on the phone.
“Yes, who is this?”
“This is Naleef, Dave. Naleef Sa.”
“Oh, hi, Naleef. How are you?”
“I’m okay. Dave, my mother wants to talk with you. She’s out of prison, and I’ve been telling her about my scarf and hat, and our Honorable Men’s Group. She wants you to come to dinner at our home, if you can. Can you come?”
“Sure, Naleef, I’d be happy to have dinner with you and your mother.” I was touched by his simple, heartfelt request.
“Thank you.” He paused.
“Dave…I have been telling her about the group, and I was wondering if you could tell her what all the things are that we promise to do to be in the group, like when we got our scarves. I don’t remember them all, and I was hoping you could help me tell her. She really wants to know them. Could you…please…?”
Hearing such a heart-felt request, my eyes filled and mucous choked my throat. I couldn’t breathe. Gasping, I forced air into my lungs. Embarrassed, I had to hold the phone away from my snorting, and pawed the air with my arms as a distraction to gain composure.
“Sure… Naleef,” I said after a few moments of throat clearing. “Can I…call ya back? Give me…your number… and I’ll call ya… right back… in a minute.”
And I did.
You can call too, you know.
© 2005/2011/2020 Bruce A. Smith