The Minstrel

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A snow was falling. The bleak gray of dinginess was cleaned into angelic white.

He spent each night talking to Lupe and Raulita. When he spoke to Jesus, he would tell Him to give them messages. He still loved them. Now that he knew where they were, he wished to join them. His greatest joy was to be with the Lord and his family, resting in eternal peace. What he needed to do here, he was nearly done with. Tomorrow, he would complete what he needed to do. Then, whenever He was ready to take him, he was ready to go to Him.

He was going to live with Carmen and Carlos in their new house. It had just been closed on, just after Thanksgiving. He had never lived in a house. At the Thanksgiving dinner, he rejoiced, and he cried. There had been so many people he had met over the years; from squatters to aliens to women escaping the beasts of home, and none of them had seen a spread as fine as this, nor had they been fortunate to have the friends he had. Even with all that had been taken, much had been given to him. He felt like David, a sinner that had been truly blessed. The snow that fell cleansed the soul. He felt rich indeed.

By the next day, the snow had melted.

Jonathan went with Raul to the hospital the first day he was home. When Raul said to him that he wanted to see Emmanuel Jackson, he was baffled. When he told him that it was because Emmanuel needed to be forgiven by him before he could leave this earth, Jonathan was astonished. He could not imagine forgiving anyone that even touched his family, let alone take their lives. Even Carmen protested. After all, he had just learned that his family was killed to begin with. Going to see their murderer and forgiving him seemed like sheer lunacy and pure impossibility to Jonathan. He wanted to react with anger like Carmen, trying to pretend he was protecting Raul from some unseen harm, when in reality, he knew that Raul of all people needed no protection, and in truth, he was jealous. He wondered how it was That Raul was rewarded with such a rich gift of serenity, one that he had no comprehension of. He wondered why he, why all people weren’t like Raul. And even his jealousy, he knew, made him even a little less like the person Raul was, and yet, he was unable to stop himself.

The hospital ward was deserted and still when they reached it. It was just around dinnertime, and any who were visiting was probably sitting in the hospital cafeteria gaining what strength they could. The nurse at the front desk hardly glanced at them. Raul Valesquez was no longer a subject to be gawked at, but he was impressive. His hair, which he’d cut over the years himself, was groomed so it was full, yet short enough for any military officer to give a nod of approval. He looked modern yet adult in brand new Levi’s and a corduroy jacket. His cowboy boots added tow inches to his already immense height. Proud looking even when he had been estranged, he now looked almost regal. Power radiated from him. Jonathan felt diminished just being in his presence.

He asked the nurse for Emmanuel’s room. It took the nurse a few seconds to recover from the awe before she could answer. She still had her eyes on him as they left. She hardly even noticed Jonathan. And Jonathan always thought he was such a handsome guy.

Jonathan felt himself getting butterflies in his stomach as they approached Emmanuel’s room/ He peered inside, not knowing what to expect as he looked in the room. The unassuming mass of white blankets and tubes embarrassed him, partially because of his phobia, and the intrusion of privacy he felt he was violation. It was hard to believe the small bundle under the sheets was either the murderer of two people or a charismatic religious leader.

Raul motioned to Jonathan to stop as he began to walk in the room. Jonathan steeped back, unsure, yet relieved. Unsure because he didn’t know if he should leave Raul alone in a situation like this, relieved because he really didn’t want to fulfill that role seeing the lifeless lump under the covers. Raul silently closed the door behind him. Jonathan stood outside the room and waited.

He looked back into the room before he began to pace back and forth. Hen he was two doors down, a security guard passed by Emmanuel’s room without so much as a glance. Just three weeks earlier, the room had been mobbed with security, partially because of the media that hounded the room, and the demand by the influential blacks for security to protect its hero. But now, it was different. A hero couldn’t be someone who killed a good man’s wife and daughter before his very eyes. Even the media were repulsed. Raul Valesquez was an enigmatic hero. The media wanted him, but they couldn’t find him. And they would never think to find them here.

There was an old woman looking at him, straight through him. She sat in a wheelchair, her gaunt skeleton bent inquisitively to greet him. He smiled at her, and she squinted. Jonathan made a move to talk to her, but she wheeled away into her room. When Jonathan looked into the room which she disappeared, there was no one there, just a TV in the corner of the room, playing “I Love Lucy” reruns to itself. In his periphery, Jonathan caught the glance of a fallen pitcher of water. He hesitated for a moment as canned laughter filled his ears, wondering if he should get a nurse or not. Then, he acted, compelled by a tiny force within him. Silently, he mopped the tray with a washcloth that was near the pitcher. Then he took the pitcher to a sink just outside the room, somewhat leery about walking into the bathroom, not knowing what he’d find. Silently, he put the pitcher back on its tray. Still no sound form any of the rooms.

He went back into the hallway to look for a chair. Exhaustion was suddenly setting in. He could find none. Slowly, he made his way back to the waiting area, feeling more and more drowsy with each step. He barely made it into a chair before dropping into sleep.

After what seemed like seconds he was jarred awake, alert as though he’d slept for hours, though after looking at his watch, he was aware he’d slept for only twenty minutes. The room seemed lighter than before. As he stood there, he basked in it, feeling a deep sense of serenity that he’d never felt before. He smiled.

He went to see the old lady. He passed by Emmanuel’s room. Raul was crying, holding Emmanuel’s hand. But the amazing thing, was that Emmanuel was awake with him, crying into his shoulder. Awe-stricken, Jonathan stood for awhile to watch, then just as mesmerized, walked away.

He looked down the corridor for a brief few seconds before remembering his purpose. He moved without being aware of moving, and he was by the old lady’s room again.

There was no movement, just as before. The TV was now playing “Leave it to Beaver”. With some trepidation, he went to the bathroom and knocked. No answer. He carefully opened the door to find no one there. He turned away and surveyed the room. There was an object on the tray next to the pitcher. Jonathan went to it, looking into the pitcher as he approached. It was empty. A glass that was nearly empty was next to it. The object next to it was a perfect white lily. Jonathan picked it up and looked at it, somehow realizing that it was meant for him. He looked around the room once more, and his feeling was confirmed. He took his gift and left, feeling shifted into a state of mind that seemed free but unfamiliar to him.

Raul was standing by Emmanuel’s room, waiting for him. He looked at Jonathan with bemusement.

“Tienes novia?” He still spoke Spanish with Jonathan.

“It seems so,” Jonathan said with one last look at Emmanuel. The man was peaceful, almost seeming like he was restfully sleeping rather than in a painful coma. He felt himself torn between compassion and hatred for this man. He looked at Raul, who was watching him with a smile. He sighed, feeling himself guided to the figure lying on the bed, going through the door and confronted with his presence. He watched the man, and from somewhere inside him, a voice asked for Emmanuel to have peace. He could feel the compassion in him quelling his anger as the voice spoke. Without thinking, he placed the lily by his pillow, and left. He never saw Emmanuel Jackson again.

And with that, Emmanuel Jackson left this world. He had been forgiven, and went to make peace with the God that he’d asked into his life fourteen years earlier. And like David and Moses, fellow murderers who’d come to love God, he knew in his last moments that though man may have deserted him, God would never leave or forsake him. In his last moments, even after all the years of preaching and proselyting, this was when he truly learned what power God’s love truly had.

Cindy DiEsposito and Russell Frawley were living in style.

Joan Taylor Frawley had disappeared into nowhere, and Frawley pulled had disappeared into nowhere, and Frawley pulled strings to get an unresponsive divorce a little earlier than the seven years needed for abandonmentnamely, six years and ten months earlier. Because she was gone, he got everythingthe two houses, the three million dollars, the works. He was a man of stature, in a place to meet the likes of the rich widow Hughes, as well as to snatch her next to her heartactually his bed. Business was booming once more, though the Pfeifer kid was no longer with him. He didn’t need him. He had Cindy to be his secretary, and damn, what a secretary she was. She turned heads, brought in business. Everyone wanted Russell Frawley to represent them. He was back on track.

Unfortunately, he’d been stuck with the Haines case. No evidence, no leads. Plus it was a prosecutor’s case. He’d make no money on it. The neighbors found a new black kid that they thought did the crimes. First Velda, then Velasquez, now some Victor guy. The Case of the Lethal Veez. It was the never-ending bullshit story of New York. Their money would find someone else to put in jail, even though the right man was probably free. The first one was free because he was black. The next one, because he was some kind of hero freak like Jesus. Someone else would go free, and someone would be convicted because he was white and wouldn’t get a break because of some bullshit idea of white power, or some black guy would get it when people got sick of the bullshit, or some in-between that checked other would get it because only white and black mattered. That was how it would be.

He soon put the house on the market. His ex-wife’s abandonment led the formal end of the Project though work had disbanded much earlier. Demolition crews came to knock down the wall with the Presidents heads. He didn’t feel unpatriotic about it, especially when William Jefferson Clinton’s head bit the dust. He authorized the wreck, and it gave him pleasure to undo the insanity hid ex created. All this fighting, it was bullshit. He was too old to carry on with it. He could die any day. Hell, even his son was gone. You never knew. So why waste it on shit that never would be resolved? He could tolerate the newspapers, even the late great Emmanuel Jackson’s house having swastikas painted on it. That was just childish. A form of freedom of speech. But when the barbed wire popped up where the ex’s project left off, well, he’d had enough. He told Cindy he would move to Florida in his other house, where people had more common sense. She said she’d go with him. And so one day he drove to Florida , in a Winnebago pulling the Mercedes with its bumper stickers saying, my other car is a Yugo, and don’t like my driving call 1-800 eat shit, with a beautiful brunette holding his hand, and the hot sun on him while everyone was freezing their asses off in New York. He took a swig of Perrier, the pure drink of his new life, and said, damn, it felt good. And he knew that, with all this, that he had arrived.

He remembered all of the life that he lived before coming here, sometimes with awe, mostly with reverence. For all this time, he had been protected. God had chosen that one moment to reveal what had been hidden. He was not angry at God for deception, but humbled at the love of His protection. Every day since then, he visited Lupe and Raulita at their graves. His heart still felt like breaking every time he wanted to reach and hold them, knowing that for right now, he could not do that. But he knew that they were being held in the palm of the one God who had loved him so tenderly for so many years, and he knew they were in good hands. He knew, too, that one day he would be with them.

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