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William J. Schrader

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The Healing Road
by William J. Schrader   

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Category: 

Literary Fiction

Publisher:  iUniverse ISBN-10:  0595390676 Type: 
Pages: 

272

Copyright:  2006
Fiction

John is driving north to escape Mexico and the thousand memories that peck constantly at his festering wounds. He has no destination, but seeks only a severance from pain, as he stumbles down his road to nowhere. He picks up a bedraggled hitchhiker, hoping the company will keep him awake on the long boring desert highway. What he expected would be a brief diversion from boredom turns out to be a long road strewn with fear, frustration and terror. John finds his career as an engineer has ill-prepared him to cope with the problems of the new world into which he gets dragged by this dusty, cynical but beautiful hitchhiker. John and Sarah run from problems of both past and present, and though they now flee from darkness to darkness, together they bring light, love and enlightenment into each other’s lives and confront their fates with a new passion for living.
New Mexico serves as a backdrop for their fleeing, their hiding and the lancing of wounds that had set them both on their journey down THE HEALING ROAD.

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CHAPTER ONE


The crack of gunfire in the house caused Sarah to bolt from the bed and stumble around in darkness. She groped along the walls and stumbled over furniture until her hands found a door, but when she heard terrified voices beyond, she hesitated to open it…Her drug-clouded mind screamed…Where in hell am I? The wild beating of her heart and the clatter of running feet confused her struggle to find a reality.
She eased the door open and peered into the dark hallway. Vague forms stampeded passed. Panic drew her into the fleeing mob and she was immediately slammed against a wall and shoved over a body on the floor, where she was kicked and crushed beneath another body falling on top of her.
“Shit, God damn it!” A male voice growled in her face as his knee dug into her groin in his struggle to stand.
She screamed, “Jeff, is that you? What’s happening?”
“Sarah? We gotta get outta here.” He grasped in the darkness, found an arm and jerked her upright, to battle toward a faint light at the end of the hall.
They lurched down an outside stairway where a burst of night air filled her lungs and gave relief from the odors of marijuana, vomit and the smell of human fear.
She was pulled across the lawn toward a driveway crammed with gleaming expensive cars. Jeff paused at one—pawed at the dash—then jerked her down the line to repeat his search at the next and the next until he stopped, threw open the door and pushed her inside. He jammed a backpack into the back seat as he rammed himself in beside her. The engine roared to life and the car slammed back and forth, crashing into bumpers of the cars fore and aft, until with a squeal of tires they spun off the driveway, across the lawn and through a gate onto the street. They were blocks away before he turned on the headlights, just as a line of siren-screaming police cars streamed past in the opposite direction, their red and blue lights flashing in the darkness.
Jeff shouted, “Get on the floor and stay there.”
She slid off the leather seat and wedged herself under the dash to seek protection from the jolting and beating being given her by the careening Mercedes. Her clouded mind was jostled also—by demons—with their own flashing lights, and carrying memories of other fear and hate.
“What happened?” She screamed. “Was that a gun? Who was shooting? Where are we going?”
“Shut up!” He hovered over the stirring wheel as he aimed and weaved the car through traffic and searched for signs to direct him north and his escape from Guadalajara.
She slumped lower on the floor and rested her head on the seat, until the booze and drugs regained control of her mind and she fell asleep—to re-live her nightmares of a thousand nights.”

***

The dust-browned tank-truck hurtled down the narrow mountain road, oblivious to sharp curves and the thousand-foot drop only inches from the asphalt’s crumbling edge. The truck swung wide around a curve and loomed like a charging dinosaur at John’s windshield; he swerved toward the road edge and slid to a jarring stop just as the rumpled rusting pile of terror screamed passed and rocked his van with its blast. John beat his fist against the stirring wheel and blurted, “Asshole!!”
His hands shook on the steering wheel as he grumbled, “Welcome to Mexico!” A modicum of composure allowed him to move back onto the road and continue his two-day tedious trek to the U. S. border. He dreaded the drive, but there were too many memories down there—he had to get away from the thousand sights, sounds and smells that pecked constantly at his wounds—wounds Laurina had suffered him.
His jaw was set in painful remembrance as he maneuvered the Toyota through narrow streets of a mountain village. If there had ever been signs marking the highway they’d disappeared long ago, and now he could only follow the trucks that rattled over speed-bumps, belched their fumes through muffler-less exhaust pipes and spread clouds of dust over shops standing only few feet from the street and the huge rolling wheels.
He bumped and shook through the town, coming to a complete stop before easing over each bottom-scraping speed bump.
“Hey, Poop,” he said to Scooter, his ten year old white Lhasa Apso, “maybe we should start an oil pan repair shop on the edge of town; we could make a fortune by…” He stopped in mid-sentence when he saw the young woman walking along the sidewalk ahead, her hips swaying gently in-rhythm with her arms, her slender hands articulating a delicate grace.
“Laurina!!” He shouted at his closed windows. The girl turned to cross the street. Her long shining black hair shimmered under the bright Mexican sun; her bare shoulders glowed golden and her smile sparkled; she was lovely, she was delectable—but she wasn’t Laurina. She nodded and smiled a ‘Gracias’ at his motion for her to cross in front of him.
He dropped his forehead onto clenched fists grasping the steering wheel. He couldn’t escape the memories—she looked like Laurina, she walked like Laurina—but she’d only served to open a wound that still festered, despite the endless months of torment he’d spent nursing his pain at home in Cordova. He now sought an escape—a diversion north of the border—that would help him heal. It was against his nature to run away from problems, but his nature had never faced a problem like the one she’d given him. Solving problems was his business, and coping was foreign to his nature, but this problem he was determined to eradicate.
The blast of a truck’s horn from behind jarred him out of his excursion into the past, but his hands still shook as he eased away from the scene. He’d regained his composure by the time he reached the edge of town and aimed his van down the narrow highway that became a thin strip of pink asphalt stretching across the broad valley until it disappeared into desert heat waves. Between him and a distant range of low brown mountains, he could see nothing but sand, cactus and a half dozen dust devils swirling across the land.
The yuccas were in blossom, their white flowers giving life to desert birds and insects, while beside the highway, windblown pink, blue and white plastic bags hung on fences and mesquite bushes—the petroleum industry’s gift to those who may be around fifty millenniums in the future.
An occasional concrete bus stop would pop up in the middle of absolutely nowhere, and behind it, a path winding off through the brush to nothing…no buildings, no crops, no animals of any kind to support a farming life. He wondered, ‘Where did the people come from who waited for a bus. How did they scratch out enough money from desert sand to pay a fare to the anywhere that had to be hours away.’
John had puzzled over that question the first time he’d driven this road—when he and Betsy had begun their retirement adventure into Mexico; when a sizable inheritance from Betsy’s mother had allowed them to retire while still young enough to enjoy adventure.
He chuckled to himself now, remembering the total naiveté with which they’d nosed their van south—down into the unknown—neither of them knowing much more Spanish than sí, gracias and por favor. They’d stopped for refills at nearly every Pemex station—never knowing when or if they’d find another before running out of gas.
Guadalajara’s size had intimidated them, but they’d stumbled their way across Mexico’s second largest city to signs directing them to Cordova, where other expatriates and a lot of good luck helped them muddle through their first few months. They eventually purchased a home on the side of a mountain overlooking Lake Cordova. Betsy loved the lake and Mexico, but even a love of life couldn’t save her from the cancer that took her from him a short while later.
He’d eased his loneliness without Betsy by becoming involved in volunteer work, but an empty heart cannot be filled with busy hands, and his need for companionship made him receptive to the smiles and honest affection of lovely Laurina. She gave him cause to dream again and taught his heart to soar. They’d found each other, shared a moment of Eternity…and then…
Now he was fleeing north—to nowhere he wanted to go—but there was too much of her in his house; too many memories surrounded everything she’d touched there, and she had touched everything in his life.


Excerpt

CHAPTER THIRTY-THREE


Sarah stared at the ceiling of their Rio Rancho motel room, listened to John in his morning shower and thought about Albuquerque and the ‘big city life.’ She’d enjoyed wandering and sightseeing with John, but she was getting tired of people—she yearned for their home in the woods—life there was simple and she’d had John all to herself. She wanted to go ‘home,’ but didn’t know how he’d feel about her desires—He loved exploring the Southwest.
She shuffled her bare feet across the carpet to the bathroom door, opened it a crack and asked, "May I come in?"
"Of course, Luv."
She stepped in, examined herself in the mirror and started her morning preparations
He spoke from the shower, "Honey, do you know what?"
"What?" She asked around her toothbrush.
"These weeks up here have been great fun, but ya know, I'm a getting kinda homesick."
Pangs of fear surged through her as she asked, "You…you mean you want to go home to Mexico?"
"Mexico? Heavens no, I mean I'm homesick for our place back in Ruidoso."
Blood returned to her face and she caught a deep breath. "Oooh, I'm glad to hear you say that; I've been homesick for our little cabin in the pines for days. I didn't wanna say anything because you seemed to be so happy wandering around up here… Don't get me wrong, I've loved every minute of it, but you know, I have a particular attachment to that place; many beautiful memories were created there.”
He stuck his head out of the shower, took her face in his hands and kissed her. "Let's go home."

***

The cabin never looked so good to them, and Sarah shed tears as they drove up to it. She declined his invitation for steaks in town in favor of making them a home-cooked meal, which she prepared while he and Scooter re-acquainted them selves with the immediate area again.
Sarah hummed and swung gracefully around and straightened up the cabin—in between chopping, stirring, cooking and setting the table. She was happy being the ‘woman of John's house,’ and her contentment showed as she wandered outside and surrounded herself with nature. She picked a pine needle off the porch, rolled it between her fingertips and remembered John's universe of pine needles. She relaxed into a porch chair, broke the needle and sniffed its pine scent…

I shall never see or smell a pine needle again without feeling John’s presence. He has touched the very depths of my soul… SOUL?? What's with this soul thing? I start thinking I have a soul, and next I'll be thinking there’s a God...
I wonder if John believes in a God? The word comes up casually at times, but he's never really talked about his spiritual beliefs. He is spiritual thought—it shows in the way he reveres the universe. Ooh sure, he doesn't go around spouting the Bible and all that crap—like those Bible-thumping hypocrites in my father's church—their false smiles and over-tithing belies their true hearts.
John shows his Godliness—if you'll pardon the expression—in just the way he is…and he’s good because that’s his nature—not a goal he seeks or a facade he displays. I'll bet he doesn't talk about God because he knows how I feel about the subject and he doesn't want to preach—but in a way—he’s preaching to me by just being the person he is. I suppose it’s only right I should know how he feels about the meaning of life an’ all that; guess I'll have to broach the subject myself…



A stroll after a delicious dinner, a shared glorious sunset and the scene was set for stretching out before the fireplace and it's crackling fire—brandy snifters in hand and Scooter curled at their feet.
Sarah sighed, "Does it get any better than this, John?"
"Not in this life, mi Luv, not in this life."
"In this life? Does that mean, you believe in an after-life?"
"To answer that question I'll have to get into the subject of the universe according to John.”
"I remember your saying something about your universe once, but that's the last I've heard of it. Now I’d like to learn how the man I love feels about life, death and whatever’s next."
He leaned back, stretched and read his thoughts on the knotty-pine ceiling before saying, "Weeelll, to tell you all that will take us into the realm of God. Are you sure you want to go there?"
"Yes. If you believe in a God, then I want to hear your thoughts on the subject."
"Ookaaay. Lemme see…After-life, you say… Do I believe in an after-life? What you really mean is, a life after-death…I don’t believe in death."
"You once said you were never born. Does that fit-in with your not believing in death?"
"Right-on, mi Luv. Do you remember my saying, ‘Never was there a time when I was not, and there never shall be?’"
"Yes, but I didn't understand it then and don't now."
"Then you'd better get ready, 'cause here comes the part about God…or what ever you want to call Him or Her, or It—but for just the sake of discussion—let’s agree that there is such a thing as a Supreme Being. Okay?"
"What if I don’t agree?”
“Then the discussion ends before it begins. If you want me to prove there is a God before we discuss the idea, it isn’t going to happen. As an Engineer/Philosopher I think I could argue either the pro or the con on the subject, but I don’t argue about religion, it’s against my religion.”
“What is your religion?”
“Who I am is my religion…I don’t believe in or subscribe to any of the commercialized insanities that run rampant around the world.”
She smiled her agreement, “Okay Mr. Philosophizing Engineer, we’ll agree to agree there is a Godhead.”
"Good. Now then, if there is a Godhead—and a Godhead by definition must be infinite—then there is nothing in the universe that is not God. Agreed?"
"Why?"
"Remember what I said once before?…If we say that God isn’t everything, then we must answer the obvious question, ‘What isn’t God?’ When we say something is not God, then we—the finite—are limiting the Infinite; and who are we to say what God can or cannot be?”
"Hummm, I guess you're right, but I know a lot of people who think they have that right... Okay, I'll accept your definition of God."
He grinned and kissed her on the tip of the nose, "Actually, we can’t have my definition either, because that would be defining the Infinite, and that in its self is putting a boundary around infinity…but we won't go there right now…Okay, if God is infinite, then there is nothing that is, or has ever been or ever will be that is not God…and it follows, everything that is happening, or has ever happened or ever will happen—that too is God, because all those things are a part of infinity. Do you follow me?"
"Let me digest that a little…they didn't teach me that in Sunday school."
"Well, let me use a for-instance…take the fire there in the fireplace; if all the universe is God, then that fire is also a part of God…God is the flame, He is also the burning, He is the log that burns, He is the warmth that is felt, He is the feeling of that warmth, He is we who are warmed, He is our joy of our being warmed… I could go on forever—He is Forever too. He is all that is perceived or not perceived—He is also the perceiver and the perceiving…How we doing?"
"Go for it."
"Okay. Now, let's squeeze the whole universe—all that is—into a smaller conception…say, this piece of firewood.” He picked up and held a small log before them. "Let's say that this log is the whole universe, everything that is, was or ever will be—right here; one condensed homogenous hunk of all matter, energy and thought—even time."
"Time?"
"Sure, time is as much a part of the universe as anything else. Don't you think?"
She frowned in thought then mused, "Hummmm. Yeah-but, I never thought of time as something solid, like the stars and all."
"How about the space between the stars…isn't that also a part of the universe? How solid it that?"
She grinned and sipped her brandy, "I guess you're right, I never thought of it that way… What about time?"
"Time? Well, time is just a concept for humans to think about the past, present and future. In reality, there is no past or future—it’s all in the mind as memory or anticipation. The only reality is now, and there are some who’ll argue the reality of now—saying it’s all an illusion."
"Humm, I was afraid of that, these months have all been a dream.” She turned in his arms and kissed him, "A wonderful, beautiful dream; but if I’m dreaming, I'll kill the person who wakes me up."
He smiled, “I'll second that motion.” He struggled to his feet and retrieved the brandy bottle from the kitchen, refreshed both their glasses and sat down beside her again.
She sipped her brandy and stared into the fire, thinking before she asked, "All that’s very interesting, but what about an after-life?"
"Oh yeah, I forgot what we started with…After-life, yes, well if all that is, is right here in this log—including birth, life, death and whatever—where do we spend an after-life?"
She was silent in thought for a long moment, "Weeell, if heaven and hell are a part of the universe, then I guess we'd have to spend it in this log too."
"And if the log is one homogeneous hunk of everything—and everything is God—then we too are a part of that God—the One. And everything that is, was or ever shall be is in that One also. Hence, our birth, life and death are One, all happening at this very instant…as are all the millions of lives we have ever lived and shall live… That is why I said many weeks ago, I was never born, therefore, I can never die…referring to the self which presently inhabits this mound of flesh you and I call John."
“Ya-but, what about that flesh? It isn’t going to be around forever.”
“Oooh? Why not? Every cell in my body has been replaced many times in my lifetime. After I quit this ‘mortal garb’ all these atoms will still be around; they may be buzzing around in different molecules, but they’ll still be around— somewhere—as something.”
She was silent, then let out a great sigh, "Whoa, and I only wanted to know if you believe in a God.”
He chuckled, "It reminds me of something Tia might say, ‘Thanks, Dad, but I didn't really want to know all that.’”
“No, I did want to know all that, I just didn't know there was so much to think about God. I was brought up believing God was an all powerful and vengeful guy with a flowing white beard, throwing down bolts of hellfire and damnation at all us sinners…Yeah, what about all us sinners, where do we fit into this fire log? And Satan, where is his log?"
"Us sinners? Speak for yourself, Jane."
"Oh, don't you think we’re gonna to be punished for all this fornicating we've been doing?” She grinned into her brandy snifter.
John chuckled, "Your father might call it fornicating, I call it love; and in our ‘God-log,’ it can't be anything else but pure love, my love."
She snuggled up close to him, "You sure know the right things to say to a gal, padner."
"Did I answer your question?"
She frowned into the firelight, "What was my question? Oh yeah, about an after-life. Lemme think, well…you didn't really answer my question about Satan…and Hell."
"How come you haven't asked me about Heaven? Do you fear Hell more than you yearn for Heaven?"
She grinned, "Ya know, I think you hit the nail on the head; my learning about God, has been more of fear than of love…and the fear of Satan who’s always lurking around, just waiting for me to get close to his pit so he could push me in…I never had time to think about loving Jesus, I was always too busy running from Satan."
"Well, you don't have to fear Hell. Where would it be? It can't be in our log, that's all God. It can't be outside our log, because our log is the whole homogeneous universe. If God is all there is, then He had to have created the universe out of Himself, which means He must have created Satan also…however, I think Satan was created by somebody else, just to scare little children…and to inspire full collection plates on Sunday mornings."
She burst out laughing. “Are you sure you've never been to my father's church?"
John stood up and rearranged the fire to receive another log. He turned and knelt before her. "Sarah, yes there is an after-life. We are living in an after-life right now, one of millions we have lived and will live in the infinite cycle of God experiencing Her self. When you remember your true self, you will remember also that you are—at once—infinitesimal and infinite, because you too are one with the One."
Sarah was silent for a long while, staring over her brandy glass, while the fire reflected in her eyes. At long last, she asked herself and the dancing flames… And just where does my Father fit into all this God-log?




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