House in the Woods

Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die: for I have not found thy works perfect before God.
~ Revelation 3:2

A modern parable for he who has ears to hear

The day Guy Ichabod Heatherly V woke up, was the day he observed scratches on the outside window sill of his house. Some could be called scratches and some gouges, which Heatherly deduced to be the evidence of attempted forced entry. Guy Ichabod Heatherly V owned the house at the very end of a long, snaking road named, Ichor Trail. He was the legal, rightful owner. No question about that. All the paperwork was in order and securely kept in his safe. The house had belonged to the first Guy Ichabod Heatherly and had passed from father to legacy namesake son four times now, so it was in the possession of the fifth.

Guy did not live in his inherited house. He actually lived in town where he had a completely separate life from the isolated house in the woods. He would visit a couple of times each week and always followed the same procedure. Upon arriving, he would walk the perimeter of the house to make sure everything was in good repair and as it should be. He would enter through the front door and walk throughout the house and gaze at the many valuable family heirlooms throughout. He would open the safe and pull out the papers and read through them. Each time he was satisfied that his name was still there and he was the legal owner of the house. He would then sit at the table and eat some of the bread and cheese he brought with him. He would also drink a little of the vintage wine that was stored there. He reminisced a while about his dad and granddad and the good old days. After a while, he would return to the city after securing the house.

Guy had kept everything at the house just as it was when he inherited it. Some of his friends had asked why he didn’t do something with the old place and he would always respond, “It was in right order when I got it and I’ve only maintained it.” Everything had been the same for so many years now that Guy could go through the motions in his sleep. He often dreamed of the house and it was always the same as he found it. This went on until the day he noticed the scratches. He was satisfied from his investigation that no one had come into the house, but was certain it had been tried. He could only assume they would try again.

His checks became more frequent and more serious. He took more time looking at everything to make sure it was as it had always been. He couldn’t get his mind off the windows and began researching what he could do to make them more secure. He had the windows replaced with shatter proof units and chose a tinting that meant you could see out the windows but not into them from outside.

He began to become quite well known for window security expertise and even started his own design consulting business. He would travel all over to address window manufacturers, sellers, and installers. He addressed homeowners on the subject of window security. He inspected windows and graded them on their security and recommended replacements to increase the security.

He became so busy that his visits to the house in the woods became less frequent. His own checks there were given less time. One night he had a dream and saw the house, but it wasn’t in the woods. It was setting on top of a hill and it was shining with brightness overlooking all the lesser houses down in the valley beneath it. He awoke excited and realized it had been quite a long time since he had been to the house. He set out at once to visit his house in the woods.

When he arrived, there was no brightness and no mountain top. The house sat as always at the end of the road, dark and quiet. Guy was feeling quite pleased with himself as he walked around and admired the security of the windows. When he got back around to the front, he noticed the front door standing wide open. He rushed inside and the house was completely empty. No papers, no safe, no valuables, no wine, not even a candle to light. He sat down on the floor astonished for a long time. At last it occurred to him, he had secured the windows but forgot to lock the door.

Oranges and Apples

But he said unto them, I have meat to eat that ye know not of.
~ John 4:32

A modern parable. He who has ears to hear …

A knock and the door opened.

“See-mus Nielson. I’m Dr. Young.”

“It’s pronounced ‘shay-mus’. Seamus is an Irish name, but call me ‘Sham.’ That’s been my name since I was little.”

“Interesting, Mr. Nielson. What seems to be the trouble today?”

Sham’s first impression of the doc was unfavorable. At least his name was truth in advertising. Sham guessed he couldn’t be more than 35-years-old.

“I don’t know what’s wrong. I am exhausted all the time. Everything hurts. A small cut and I bleed like a stuck hog. Then it takes forever to heal up.”

Dr. Young stood up and began going through usual physical exam. “What are these bruises on your arm?”

Sham looked down at his arm. “Must’ve been the other day. I had to crawl under my car to get something I dropped.”

“Mr. Nielson, a nurse will be in in a minute to take some blood. We’re going to do some tests and I will be back in a little while.”

Sham knew the drill. The nurse would draw blood and he would be sitting in the little room for a long time. Events unfolded as expected and the doctor eventually came back in.

“Mr. Nielson, tell me about your diet.”

“I’m not on a diet.”

“No, I mean what you eat regularly. Just give me a general rundown of what you typically eat.”

Sham scratched his chin and thought. “Well, just the usual stuff really. I might open up a pack of breakfast buns for breakfast. Candy bars, snack cakes, potato chips during the day. Occasionally I go out and get a burger and fries. I drink coffee and soda and sometimes water, but I tell you, I never much liked drinking water.”

Dr. Young looked up from his iPad. “Do you eat any fresh fruits and vegetables?”

“No, they go bad too quick, so I quit buying them a long time ago.”

“Mr. Nielson, do you cook any of your meals?”

Sham laughed. “Cook? No I don’t cook. Look, I’m busy and don’t have time for all that. I prefer to just grab something quick and easy that tastes good. You’re talking about taking time and work. You doctors are always giving the diet-and-exercise routine as if that’s the answer to everything. What’s all this got to do with anything?”

“Mr. Nielson, you have scurvy.”

“Scurvy? You mean like a pirate.”

“Well, yes. It’s a vitamin C deficiency, but it’s treatable.”

Sham leaned back in his chair. “How could this happen?”

“Mr. Nielson, you only eat processed and packaged foods. You’ve been depriving your body of the nutrients it needs for a long time and that’s why you’re experiencing the symptoms you are. Your body is telling you it’s not right and trying to get your attention. Again, it’s treatable, but untreated it’s fatal. I’m going to get you set up with some vitamin C supplements and you will begin feeling better pretty soon, though it usually takes a couple months or so to fully recover. But, Mr. Nielson, you have to change your diet to a balanced and healthy diet so your body gets the full nutrition it needs. I’m including a reference to a nutritionist, Dr. McLawson. He’s very good at this sort of thing and he has an Irish name too. Or, maybe it’s Scottish. Anyway, you need a plan and you need to stick to it.”

Sham stared at Dr. Young. “I don’t see how this could happen. I’m the spitting image of my dad. He was fit and healthy his whole life until he died. He played pro ball. Everybody’s always said I look just like him and sound just like him.”

“Mr. Nielson, it sounds like your dad was disciplined and balanced and took care of his health. Did he teach you anything about diet and exercise?”

You would have thought Dr. Young had just asked Sham to explain the theory of relativity. “I don’t know. I learned everything I know from him. I even got his sense of humor.”

“Mr. Nielson, you have a lot of love and respect for your dad. That’s great. You’ve inherited a lot from him genetically. But, Mr. Nielson, you can’t inherit good health really. You have to do the work and focus on the right things, like your dad did apparently, if you want to be healthy like he was.”

Sham thought for a minute and almost laughed. “Boy, you doctors think you know everything.”

Stretch

The secret things belong unto the LORD our God
~ Deuteronomy 29:29

A modern parable

Jim bobbed along in the sea of humanity outside the Smithsonian Castle. Plenty of lights still flashed and plenty of people still milled. He examined the notebook in his hand and aside from travel memorandum, to-do lists, and a tally of his weekly grocery needs, he had to admit he didn’t have much. He stuck the dot grid with heavy boards in his jacket pocket and capped and deposited his pen in the same.

He walked north across The Mall and spotted a cafe. Coffee was what he needed. He ordered a black coffee and moved to the end of the counter. A man stepped up to the counter.

“I’ll have a large cup of milk.”

The woman behind the counter looked up from the register.

“What? Like, just milk?”

“That’s right, though I would like it in a cup.”

This orderer of milk looked to be late fifties, early sixties. He wore a sport coat and white shirt, but no tie. His trousers were neatly pressed and creased and he was wearing comfortable walking shoes.

“COffee, black, and, uh, a milk.”

They both grabbed their cups and headed for the high round tables. Jim sat his cup on an open table, unslung his bag from his shoulder and slung it on the chair. As he settled in his seat, a large cup of milk came to rest in front of him. Connected to the milk was a hand, which was connected to an arm, which was connected to a shoulder … and you know how this goes with the leg bone connected to the knee bone and whatnot. Forthwith, the whole man was deposited in the chair directly across from Jim.

“New York.”

“Pardon,” said Jim.

“You from New York?”

“Well, yes I am.”

“Mind if I sit here?”

“You already are.”

“You’re observant. Reporter?”

Jim wondered if the mostly monosyllabic line of questioning was going anywhere. “Yes, trying to be.”

“What brought you to The Castle today?”

Jim became interested. “I’m not the only observer of facts of here.”

The man laughed like he meant it.

“Yes, I saw you at The Castle. I followed your dejected trek here, even to this very table.”

“Why?”

The embracer of the produce of cows took a large drink. “What brought you to The Castle? Assignment?”

Jim wasn’t quite ready to submit to the inquisition, nor to give up his own line of questions. “How did you know I was a reporter and from New York?”

A grin formed and the right corner of the man’s mouth maintained form admirably. “I’ve spent many years observing and studying people. It’s been my life’s work.”

“Are you a reporter then?”

“No.”

Jim was still interested but a bit frustrated that he couldn’t manage to properly prime the pump of conversation. He was only getting fits and spurts. “I am not on assignment. I took a short leave and came here on my own to follow a lead.”

“Looking to break your first big story?”

“Something like that,” and Jim resumed his own flow of information. “I came to The Castle for the Arthur Sterling presentation. I wasn’t able to get inside no matter the methods I employed. Security was serious and, to not a few, I must have had an ill-favored look because none seemed willing to even open negotiations. The thing had hardly gotten started when the lights and cars came up and I barely got a glimpse of the top of Sterling’s head as he was whisked away. After that, it was just a lot of the old, ‘Move along,’ and ‘Nothing to see here,’ business. I couldn’t get at the right sort for information, so I’ve given up.”

“Why Sterling?”

Jim sat his cup down. “What do you mean, why Sterling?”

“Why are you interested in Sterling?”

Jim laid the notebook and pen on the table. “A guy I know put me onto him about a year ago. I saw him a few months ago when he presented in New York at the museum. Something didn’t add up with him. I know he’s the darling of the academics, but I’m not sure. He’s risen to fame and a lot of money in a short time. He’s been presenting at conferences all over the world. He seemed impeccable. At the event today, it looked like he was being escorted, but I think he was being arrested, or at least going to be. But I don’t know why.”

The man across from Jim took a long drink of his milk. “Interesting.”

Jim was hoping for a little more. He drank some more coffee. His companion sat his cup down and shifted to a more relaxed position in his chair. “You said he seemed impeccable but something didn’t add up.”

Question or comment, Jim couldn’t decide. “It’s just … he has all these wild theories and far-flung ideas no historian has ever conceived before. He has discovered items at sites the best and brightest archeologists have combed and yet never found. His presentations are dramatic and just when disbelief is at its height, lo and behold, he produces the artifact to the praise and admiration of all. It’s hard to argue with the evidence in his hands. I don’t know what happened today. He must have been spirited away to some undisclosed site for another extraordinary discovery.”

“What’s your name?”

“Jim.”

“Ah, short for James?”

“No, actually. It’s Jiminy.”

“Interesting. How do you suppose Sterling does it? These miraculous discoveries, I mean.”

“I don’t know. That’s what I’m trying to figure. I’ve heard a few theories. Some think he has a supernatural ability.”

The man laughed good and hard again.

Jim continued, “His stories are incredible, just about unbelievable. But it’s hard to argue when he brings out the goods.”

The man tilted his head to the right. “Jim, you’ve done some good work. You have a head on your shoulders all right. Let me ask you something. If a man approaches you on the street in New York having some authentic and valuable piece in his hands and tells you a moving story of his great need and the necessity to sacrifice what he says is a precious family heirloom that’s passed from father to son for ages in his family, do you believe him?”

Jim laughed. “No, the more likely the thing is real means the more likely it is stolen and he’s trying to drive the price with the waterworks story.”

The man laughed again. “Jim, you are a reporter. You’re looking for a story and you have a lot of spade work done. I’m going to give you a clue and you should be able to put the pieces into a mosaic. Sterling, as you call him, is not his real name.”

“What? What is his name?”

“No one knows for sure. We call him Stretch.”

“Stretch?”

The man stood up, and Jim asked, “What is your name, sir?”

“Why do you ask my name? See you around, Jiminy. I shall be reading the papers with interest.”

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