This story is rather longer than my usual work and so I’ve split it into four posts. I hope that you enjoy it
The day that I pinpoint as heralding the change to my health and life began much like any other. That day, I remember that I arrived in the office later than usual. As I rode the elevator to the fourth floor of our building, I planned how I’d sneak in stealthily in the hope that I wouldn’t be noticed. This time my tardiness was not the result of a pressing assignment but to accommodate a visit to a masseuse recommended by my chiropractor. Her strong fingers probed and poked my back and neck for an hour. I told himself that the session helped, but I was still in acute pain and couldn’t help myself from walking with an unnaturally stiff stance. Truth be told, I felt as though I were my seventy-year-old father rather than a young man of thirty.
Just as the elevator doors opened my stomach cramped. I wanted to clutch it but desisted because that isn’t done in a public space. Instead I paused at the doors and moved even more slowly. I speculated that the pain was either; an ulcer due to work induced worry, or cancer, or could it be the shrimp that I had eaten the evening before? The shrimp had tasted good, at the time, served over linguini and smothered in a light marinara sauce with a hint of garlic. I swore to myself that from this day forward I’d add shrimp to my list of forbidden foods along with gluten, lactose and nuts.
The receptionist, who is always on the lookout, must have noticed my arrival. I caught a glimpse of her blush as I attempted to slip past her desk. Even with my chronic ailments I knew that I struck a handsome figure. I had changed at the spa and now wore Friday casual; pressed blue jeans, polished boots and a black short-sleeved shirt to accentuate my thick black hair. Subconsciously I deduced that the receptionist, along with the bevy of other unmarried women in the office, regarded me as an eligible bachelor, one that they could take in hand and ‘cure”. I sensed that my very indifference made me more desirable to them. The girl was smiling over her blush and stood up.
“Hey, Robert. Yes, you there, Robert Wright, good morning. Carl called about ten minutes ago; he wants to see you in his office asap.”
Now, as Carl Cole is my editor and boss, the summons worried me. It was good that the directive was immediate because this limited me to a few seconds of soul searching. My stomach began to cramp again as I hastily grabbed my note pad, and hurried, first to the men’s room, and then to Carl’s office. I had several reasons to worry. Had Carl noticed my recent writer’s block, or had he detected my boredom with my assignments? We publish a small specialist monthly magazine with a slant toward health and the environment. The truth is that I took this position because health-care issues interest me, but my heart wasn’t in it. When not preoccupied by my constant ailments I dreamt of writing my own best-selling novel. If I had been fitter I’d have quit the magazine to embrace the life of a full-time novelist. I had a nagging premonition that one day Carl would kick me out; “But not yet, Carl, not yet,” I secretly prayed as I entered his office.
Carl was standing looking out of his window. He cut a good figure with a slightly bulging waistline, almost a full head of hair and well-tailored clothes. He turned and pointed to the chair in front of his desk as he sat behind it.
“’Morning Rob, take a seat.” Carl was always abrupt and now I found the tone of his voice reassuring and hopefully deduced that I was not about to be fired.
“Good morning, sir!’ I said as I took a seat.
As was his custom Carl dispensed with every day pleasantries and got straight to the point; “You speak Spanish, don’t you?”
“Yes, my mom….” I was about to elaborate, but Carl forged on.
“You scuba dive don’t you?”
“Err yes,” I wondered where this was going. I hastily added, “I don’t get many chances to indulge; the magazine keeps me busy.” I felt pleased to have managed to sneak in this plug for myself.
“What would you say to a trip to Roatan?” Carl raised his hand as I opened my mouth to respond. “Now, Rob, a good reporter listens, so practice that skill.” He shook his finger at me and leaned forward in his chair. He lowered his voice to a conspiratorial whisper. “We’ve heard a report from a recent Honduran immigrant family of a missionary clinic in Honduras in which there is a gifted, perhaps miraculous, Healer. I want you to go down to Honduras and take a look; scope it out. You can fly to Roatan, take a few days off to scuba, and put your head in order, then you can travel on to mainland Honduras to see this Healer. If you decide that there is a story you shall notify the office so that we can fly in a photographer to take pictures”
“Sounds interesting!” I managed to blurt out, “Thank you sir! “Honduras Healer” makes a good headline. Can you tell me more?”
“Yes, Mary has the particulars; stop by her office on your way out! I’m glad that you’re game. I expect a stunning story.”
“Thank you, Sir. I won’t let you down! Yes, I can’t thank you enough.” I paused as I stood and walked to the door, then I turned to repeat “Thank you, Sir,” with the thought that, ‘being polite never hurts!’, but Carl already had his head down buried in reading something on his desk.
The next two days I diligently lost myself in research in an attempt to uncover more information about the Honduran mission. I learned that the clinic is located in a remote corner of Honduras. It is a place where the poverty of the people rivals that of the world’s neediest. In that area, most people live outside with a simple hut for sleep and rain protection. Their homes are built of mud or hand-made concrete block. They have dirt floors and thatched roofs. Electricity and water, available close to the pot-holed dirt access road, are both sporadic and unreliable. I read that worldwide Honduras is ranked fifteenth on the poverty scale, however, parts of the mainland rival the poorest because the country’s overall statistic is moderated by tourist attractions like the ancient pirate haven of the Island of Roatan.
to be continued.