Ready to begin her morning run and checking her watch Deidra allows exactly nine minutes to reach her classroom on the third floor of the physics building. As she races across the campus her strides are long and graceful and she moved with an easy rhythm until, seeing something in her path, Deidra breaks her stride and loses her balance momentarily. With no minutes to spare, Deidra doesn’t stop to see what had caught her attention. She rushes on to her Theory of Chaos class, the course her boyfriend, who’s a senior, told her separates the physics students from the wannabes. She’s determined to prove to Tennyson that engineering is not a male only major.
But Deidra can listens only half-way in class; she revisits her run and keeps wondering why she didn’t stop and see what it was that lay in her path. “What a bummer,” she thinks--and as soon as class ends Deidra rushes back, praying the item is still there. With relief, she picks it up and sees it’s a very small book, about four inches by four inches and maybe a half inch thick. The miniature book is old and worn. Opening the book to the fly page, Deidra is touched by the message written long ago: “Son, May God comfort and protect you in battle. Love, Mama”
This book’s seen lots of wear, obviously not always kept clean, but it’s been handled with great care, Deidra observes and she concludes that a young soldier loved this book—and back home a mother prayed for her son and was afraid for him. And for awhile Deidra thought about another soldier, her father—who never came home and she was sad because she’d never known her dad. He had died in Vietnam.
She looks at the book she’s holding and imagines the reason she couldn’t forget seeing the book and having to go back and get it was somehow tied to losing her father before she knew what a father was. I must find the soldier who lost this book, she vows. With that thought a new hope crept in, maybe this soldier was in ‘Nam and knew my dad.
Tennyson was waiting for Deidra at their lunch break. Breathlessly, Deidra tells Tennyson about the New Testament she found on her run. His response, “What do you want for lunch?”
“Huh,” she replies, annoyed and distracted.
“Lunch, babe, Lunch!”
“Tea and a BLT—I guess.”
”What’s going on with you, Dee?”
“Look, I have something to do. Eat without me. I’ll see you tonight!” she says as she grabs up her books, pecks Tennyson on the forehead and rushes from the room.
“Damn, Women. You can’t expect an engineering major to be maternal. My parents are going to go ballistic when they meet Dee!”
Deidra is already searching Lost & Found listings on the college internet system by the time Tennyson has finished his lunch.
Nothing about anyone losing anything on State U campus, she concludes. Deidra begins to weave a story of the owner of the New Testament. “It has to be a WWII soldier because of the age of the book and the mother’s message that sound so fortyish!” she says aloud as she holds the book to her nose and inhales the musty aroma.
Deidra glances through the local paper’s Lost & Found. Nothing there! However, a story catches her attention. “Local veterans scheduled to speak at Veterans’ Day celebration.” Deidra can’t move on--maybe the secret of the young soldier is revealed in this article, she reasons while fearing otherwise. She read the article carefully and one name stood out, “WW11 Master Sgt. Orvis Megs, an engineer who fought in Germany with the Third Infantry, will speak at 1p.m.”
Could this be the man who lost the New Testament? He must be about 75 years old (a Bible his mother sent him; probably sixty something years ago)…an engineer (could that be the reason the book was near the physics building?)…a religious mother (mothers, believers or not, turn to religion with son in war) …Orvis Megs (a name associated with State U). Knowing she’s spurred on by her fantasy, Deidra tries to contain her emotions but finally admits she can neither sleep nor study until she finds Orvis Megs.
Searching the microfiche records at the library Deidra turns up the name Orvis Z. Megs, PhD, a physics professor at Carnegie Mellon in the early fifties. Scanning his list of publications, Deidra notices that early on Professor Megs wrote about Chaos theory. Finally, it occurs to Deidra that her professor has pointed to Dr. Megs’ works in his lectures. Deidra thinks she’s on to something exciting.
Since retiring Dr. Megs lives much of the year on an isolated island almost a
hundred miles south, off the coast of Georgia, and the only way to reach his home is by a ferry that makes infrequent runs from the mainland to the island when the river currents are favorable.
“I have to do this,” Deidra tells Tennyson that evening when they meet at their study carrel.
“You’re not putting your grades in jeopardy to chase down some doting old vet who lost a New Testament, I hope” Tennyson scolds.
“It’s important to me—and I think it’s vitally important to him. I can’t study or rest until I find the owner of this book,” Deidra’s countenance stops her companion from rebutting.
“What about this weekend? Aren’t you putting us in jeopardy? My parents will be here Friday to meet you—the only day you must get to the island to return a New Testament to some broken-down vet. . . . Oh, all right. . . a has-been physicist, you feel may have returned in some apparition because he met your dad—and, and send you a message!”
“Give my regrets to your Mom and Dad and I do hope this doesn’t ruin any opportunity to get to know them. I have to do what I have to do!” she says as she walks away—and doesn’t look back.
Crossing the channel at dawn Deidra questions her mental state for setting out on this journey. She has never met Professor Megs—he may be deranged or perhaps angry that I’ve encroached on his privacy, she thinks as the boat docks at the tiny Island.
Taking a deep breath, Deidra let the warm moist air welcome her. She feels alone until she hears a deep resonant voice, “Is your name Deidra?”
The voice is kind; nevertheless, her heart pounds; she squints into the mist and sees, or thinks she sees, a man in a tattered coat and imagines he’s about the age of her father….or would be if her father were alive.
Finally Deidra says, “Yes, I’m Deidra.
” Who are you? Sir,” she adds.
“A stranger on a mission,” he replies in a hushed manner. “I’ve found you through trial and error—in a most unusual way.”
“But why?” She asks.
“You’ve revealed yourself through your mission, and now I can complete my mission. I have a package for you.”
The stranger hands Deidra a brown envelope. She looks at what he has given her and tries to understand what it is. Confused, Deidra opens the envelope and takes out a small picture of a soldier with a printed inscription, “To Deidra, from your dad who never held you, but I forever hold you in my heart!”
“Are you Professor Megs?” Deidra asked hopefully. “Are you the professor—who changed physics—you know, the butterfly effect,--- about predicting events?” she added, unable to contain her excitement—standing there with Dr. Megs…a man bigger than life to her and to all of the engineering students!” ‘Wait ‘till I get home and tell my friends,’ she thought but kept that to herself.
The stranger stepped closer, “Yes, Deidra, I’m Orvis Megs. And no, the butterfly effect, explanation wasn’t mine—that was a colleague’s—but I see you’ve studied the chaos theory. How exciting, Diedra.”
“Sir, many have studied your theory and many would probably “kill’ to be in my shoes—standing here talking with you. I’m honored, sir.”
“But it was the very chaos theory I relied on to leave a few cues, here and there” Dr. Megs chuckled, “testing the butterfly theory, as it were.”
“You were searching for me?” Deidra sounded incredulous. I thought I was searching for you so that I could return a worn small new testament that I found near the physics building at the college—my search led me to believe that the book might belong to you.”
“I haven’t shared all of the reason I was searching for you, Deidra.”
“Oh yes, You had the picture of me in the envelope. Did you meet my Dad, Dr Megs?”
“I did, Deidra…And you are so like your dad! Your voice, your excitement and more than that, your kindness and willingness to go to great lengths to do something you thought was important to someone else--that was something your father would do even when he was just a lad.”
“You knew dad when he was a boy?” Deidra asked, no longer seeing him as the great Dr. Megs, bigger than life, but as a loving father surrogate who was concerned about her and who she was.
“Your father and I were more than childhood friends…We shared a common grandparent.” He paused.
Tears rolled down Deidra’s cheeks. “Dr. Megs…”
“The Professor reached for Deidra and circled his arms around her, “Call me Uncle Orvis…”
“Oh Uncle Orvis, I want to hear more,” Deidra said. “I never saw my father but you’ve filled that empty space I’ve felt for so long.”
“Come Dear, lets go to my house—it’s just a short walk-- and we can talk and make plans. I have pictures and stories of our ancestors and a few special pictures of your dad that day I found him in ‘Nam.”
“So he knew about me?” Deidra asked as they moved, arm-in-arm toward the house.
Her voice had a smile in it and his was filled with laughter..