Bound by a dark act of hate and despair, high school freshmen, Andrew and Kiernan, learn that their untimely deaths did not bring an end to their pain, but only began the suffering of those left behind. While his lost memories return, Andrew must master seemingly impossible feats, both spiritual and physical.
As a dark spirit stalks Kiernan through the borderlands of life and death, he must also face the pain his actions have caused his loved ones. To save both their souls, Andrew must convince Kiernan to return to life and open his eyes to the love and beauty which had always been there.
Author Interview: E. L. Reedy & A. M. Wade
What was the inspiration for Upon Broken Wings?
E.L. – I wrote the first draft many years ago after the sudden and unexpected loss of a family friend. It was a way to let go of my grief. I wrote several more versions including a screenplay, but still the story felt incomplete. A few years back I had my sister read it, she loved it and that’s when we really got work, rebuilding characters and events from the ground up.
A.M. – Several friends and classmates took their own lives and left us reeling, so the book was born of wonder and regret.
Do you have a favorite character in your book? Who and why?
E.L. – My favorite character was our Narrator, Casey, a gifted boy, able to see angels and other assorted things unnoticed by us mere mortals. He was the speaker for all of those left behind after a suicide; he got to ask the questions left unasked and unleash the rants left unsaid to the departed.
A.M. – Casey. He loved fiercely, simply and with forgiveness. He also allowed himself to see that not everything was black and white, and that allowed him to see the angels.
Did you find co-authoring an easy process or more difficult?
E.L. I found it fairly easy. I’m great with story crafting, but my sister (A. M. Wade) is fantastic with creating characters, keeping track of details, and for the most part keeping me grounded.
A.M. – It took us a while to blend our styles, but we found that we had the same ideas, just traveled different roads to get there.
How did the two of you connect and decide to write a book together?
A.M. – Well, we started early picking games and teams to play as youngsters. Our family is really close, for the most part. We both love reading and have written things all our lives. I just never showed them to adults after high school.
Do you guys outline or just go with it?
E.L. – Before writing the rough draft, I use a very simple outline; five turning points used for screenplays (Michael Hauge theory) It seems to work for books too.
STAGE I: The Setup
TURNING POINT #1: The Opportunity (10%)
STAGE 2: The New Situation
TURNING POINT #2: The Change of Plans (25%)
STAGE III: Progress
TURNING POINT #3: The Point of No Return (50%)
STAGE IV: Complications and Higher Stakes
TURNING POINT #4: The Major Setback (75%)
STAGE V: The Final Push
TURNING POINT #5: The Climax (90-99%)
STAGE VI: The Aftermath
What do you find to be the hardest thing about writing? The best thing?
E.L.—The hardest thing is being able to let go of a story, when it is not ready to be told. The best? I would have to say that long exhilarating breath one gets to take when peening the words, “The End!”
A.M. – The hardest, giving up good ideas, when they just don’t work for the story. Sometimes we dumped whole storylines to come up with one good statement. Still, we ended up where we needed to be.
When did you know you wanted to be a writer?
A.M. – I have always written poems and stories in my head and have written some for the littles in my family. I am always saving scraps, ideas, and listening to songs, thinking, “I wish I could tell that story.”
What’s your favorite book you’ve read this year? And what’s your favorite book ever?
A.M. – My favorite book so far this year, is actually a reread. Sherrilyn Kenyon’s Born of Legend–not a YA book–lots of triggers, sex, violence, but also love, sacrifice, self-examination, and forgiveness. I don’t have a favorite book per se, but the first I ever read and reread was Black Beauty: Horses, big cats, and happy endings have always been draws for me. Most of my favorite books are adult reads, Dick Francis, Louis L’Amour, Sherrilyn Kenyon, Kristen Ashley. My favorite books are literally the books that make me forget I am reading. I am part of the story.
What future books do you have planned next?
E.L. – Our next project is a three-book saga (not in order, so I don’t believe it qualifies as an actual trilogy). The first two books will be set in the modern-day Midwest, where an ancient line of Druids, guards a much older secret, so terrible that a Goddess and the Prince of Darkness take an interest.
A.M. – YA stories that are connected but not sequels, so can be read one and done, or they can be read with each other to see the whole picture–sacrifice, love, demons, what’s not to love?
What’s your favorite color?
E.L. – Cyan, that color of a beautiful sky somewhere between green and blue after the sun has risen and the gold fire has faded.
A.M. – Blue, deep shimmering blue like the perfect sky just as sunset fades and darkness falls.
Do you have any advice for other writers out there?
E.L. – My best advice is to ignore all advice when writing your rough draft. Everyone’s mind works differently, and you have to discover how yours works for you. Once you’ve finished the rough draft, however, to get past any publisher’s door, Indie or Mainstream, your work manuscript must be formatted properly, grammar and spelling should be as close to flawless as possible, and the story should be original and above all else, entertaining.
A.M. – Keep writing, even if no one sees it, just keep writing till your story is told.
Upon Broken Wings
Elmer. L. Reedy & Ann M. Wade
So, do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
A Recollection of Death
—from Andrew Harowitz, Memories of the Living
My dearest Michael.
I still remember the moment I surrendered my broken heart on that last bitter, rainy day of October, burying it with a tattered piece of my soul beneath the cold, still ground.
You were there of course, dressed in your finest black suit and a matching dark tie, and I am sure you saw, as did I, the last traces of autumn fade to winter, in a cycle unbroken since the twilight of the Ice Age—in those ancient times when the last glaciers melted away from the northern continents and poured their essence into every sea and ocean of the world.
Great and small flocks of blackbirds and crows swept over us in their mysterious formations, some late to start their journey to the south, others simply launching into the sky—those that never leave our lands—they are like the keepers of death, winter’s closest ally. Tell me Michael, if you remember, did you hear them sing, as their melodies soared high into the heavens? It was a lonely sound like that of a train whistle before sunrise, or the roar of the long-trucks, rolling down the highways between cities late at night.
Did you know that it’s on the first day of spring that life truly begins for the newborns and young? It renews for the old still blessed to be with us, and for those of us caught up in the turbulent in-between years, it is just another marker of the slow passage of time.
We followed the long hearse that day in a car, black as coal, with windows tinted for the privacy of all. Your parents sat on the back seat beside me. Did you see them there? Listen to your mother’s cries? Watch your father’s falling tears? Did you look upon me, lost so far inside myself that I showed no emotion at all?
Our procession crossed the city of Fair Cedar on a journey spanning from the church to the cemetery. As has always been custom, we ignored the stoplights and stop signs on the way, cutting off traffic and slowing only for turns and bumpy sections of road.
When we at last entered the misty graveyard, the rust-shrouded iron gates squeaked as they swung open. I heard and even felt their haunting echo that followed us along the curving drive through the forest of tombstones and trees.
I saw yellow and orange lilies, and roses, both white and red, among the grave markers and stones. Did you see them dying in weather more unstable than crackling ice on a thawing lake? Looking past them, I saw statues of angels and saints, bright as stars, when brief breaks in the gray clouds let the sunshine pass down to the earth below.
I remember every bump in the road, Michael, as from my window, I watched the passing trees, without a leaf on their branches—they seemed naked in the cold, half hidden by distance, the thickness of the haze, but more so by the tears that refused to drip from my burning red eyes.
Our sad parade parked, stretched along the side of the road, and I lost count of those who stepped out from their warm cars to join us in the damp, cold air. I followed just behind your parents and they followed their parish priest. He was dressed in his cassock and robe and carrying his crucifix before him like an upraised sword. For reasons I still don’t understand, I think I cracked a smile at the oddity of it all, but it was gone before anyone else saw it.
Your mother and father walked close, their hands held tight between them. But I only held white roses, still on their stems, which I had done all too often, and everyone else clutched tightly to umbrella handles, sympathy cards, and bouquets of many colors.
I heard a haunting whistle that filled my soul with dread, but it was only the echo of the wind, blowing through the branches of the trees. It made me feel so alone, Michael, in a place all gray, empty, and almost silent. I truly wept then. I cried in those days and more times after that than I could ever hope to count.
Though it was cold, I wore only a black jacket and matching pants, no coat or gloves to keep me warm. My suit was an older one of yours that your parents let me borrow, not brand new like the one you wore that day. My arms were too short for my hands to even reach the ends of the sleeves. I looked silly and I wanted to laugh, but by then, I had forgotten how.
We came at last to a casket resting at the center of a large velvet cloth—it was the second I’d seen that day, Michael. Do you remember why? I think they were trying to hide from us the open pit beneath it, but we all knew the truth—the ever-hungry earth awaited on yet another feast.
I stayed near you and your parents throughout the entire service, but not too close. I was not their beloved son. They were not my heartbroken parents.
A fire burned inside of me, Michael. Twice, I think I nearly threw up, but I stayed steady and strong. I stood firm for the soul once belonging to the body resting in the mahogany box, too long for a child and too short for an adult, but just the right size for a fourteen-year-old boy. The lid of course remained closed. We both knew why, didn’t we?
Thunder rumbled far and near, and the crows cried out, launching from the trees in formation for reasons unknown. My world went hazy. I wiped the tears away with my sleeves, but they just kept flowing like a waterfall down both of my frozen cheeks.
I watched your mother and father, leaning on one another, as the stone-faced priest read from his prayer book. I wanted a shoulder for my weary head. I needed a hug or at least some sort of touch, but you would not even look my way. You only stared at the sky with your eyelids closed tight. No one, Michael, no one consoled me—my grief ran through me unchecked, a sorrow much too deep for an already grieving boy of thirteen years to bear alone.
A shadow of the approaching storm fell upon us. It grew dark. A strong wind ripped away flowers and stole umbrellas. Then it started to drizzle. And the drizzle became a downpour.
I opened my eyes wide and tilted back my head, with my mouth open. Do you remember when we used to catch raindrops on the tips of our tongues? We were younger then, and the drops tasted sweet, not like the bitterness I felt in those passing days of loneliness and death.
Your father, who had always been kind, offered me his umbrella, but I only shook my head. I wanted—no, I needed—to feel every icy touch of water, as it soaked through my suit. I shivered, but the fires of grief flowing through me remained. I burned inside, hot like an open flame.
The priest’s words seemed mumbled, but I am sure that it was a fine eulogy. My attention was focused on a coffin containing a boy only a year older than me. He was but a child stolen away by twisting metal, exploding glass, and the unquenchable thirst of a river swollen well past its banks.
Your mother lost it then, Michael, did you see? Did you hear her cries? She beat her fists against your father’s chest, and he just held her, whispering words of comfort for her alone.
I watched in tearful silence, as other wives, sisters, and daughters fell into the arms of their brothers, husbands, and sons. Their weeping seemed like a great and sorrowful symphony that only brought pain to my ears. There were no shoulders for me to rest my head upon, though, no one held me. You kept your arms at your sides, and you stared at the sky with your eyes shut tight.
I fell to the ground, and the sky unleashed a deluge. My knees splashed in the sodden muck, but I barely noticed. Then I heard a scream, a roar that knocked me flat. Michael, do you remember? I do. I’ll never forget. That scream was mine, from my own lips, but it came from somewhere much deeper.
I thought that you touched me then on my shoulder, and I thought I heard your gentle laugh, and even a whispering of your voice, sad and quiet. I looked up then, but it was only your father, reaching out to help me back to my feet.
I was all alone, Michael. You were there, but you would not meet my eyes. You didn’t even look my way. You only stared, as ever you will, into that mysterious beyond. I buried my heart that day, Michael. I buried my love on the last day of October, in the rain, when we buried you.
Rehearsal and the following dinner had ended some hours earlier, but something had drawn me back to the gothic church and held me there—a feeling I could not even begin to name. Small wisps and curling tendrils of candle smoke still twirled about here and there above the extinguished candles, riding those strange drafts that move mindlessly through the air in large enclosed places. I could smell the hints of smoke amongst the mixed scents of wood polish, sweat, old-lady perfume, and all the other mysterious odors that hover about old churches. I regarded the distant altar, behind which a crucifix towered, and the statues of angels and saints along either side of the altar, but my thoughts were too hushed for even me to hear.
Radiant streams of moonlight poured in through the stained-glass windows displaying the Stations of the Cross—the story of Christ’s last day on this earth as a man—along either side of the great gothic cathedral and shed a multi-color nimbus upon countless rows of pews, empty of people, but decorated with bouquets and arrangements of roses of nearly every color. Haunting voices of the practicing choir, aloft in the air, mingling with the deep notes of the church organ, touched me with a bittersweet feeling of familiarity.
I bubbled inside with happiness, I brooded in sorrow, and stewed in anger. I was entrenched in confusion—I was overwhelmed with every emotion in between. I honestly don’t know what all I felt—my feelings were not my own that night. In my brief fourteen years of existence, churches had only represented death and loss, but that night, the next day, this holy place would represent new life, as my brother took the vows of matrimony, and yet… And yet…
“Yet you fear you’ll somehow lose him,” someone said from behind me. It sounded like the high-one-moment, low-the-next voice of any other boy my age, but I knew better—I did not hear him with my ears—instead his words echoed in my mind.
“Hello,” I said, turning about and releasing my breath, which I never even realized had been pent up. “To you, too,” I added as I nodded at the new arrivals. “It’s been so long. What—seven years now? I was beginning to wonder whether or not you two would even show up.”
“Are you serious? I wouldn’t miss it for the world,” a boy with golden curls and star-blue eyes, said with a wide grin. “When last we met, your brother made me a special promise. We’re mostly just here to make sure that he’s kept it. It’s not like we just stopped in to visit the world or anything.”
They each wore a white karate gi over loose fitting tunics and pants, simple brown sandals adorned their sockless feet, and there was an unmistakable otherworldly aura about them.
A taller boy with straight golden locks, chuckled. “You keep telling yourself that.” He turned his own twinkling brown eyes upon me. “Casey, it’s good to finally meet you in person—well, as personable as can be expected that is.”
“Why show yourselves now?” I pondered aloud. “I know you guys have been hanging around on and off ever since, well, you know. I mean, I couldn’t always see you, but I could feel when you and others like you were there.”
The shorter angel regarded the taller one with a peculiar look of victory. “You see? I told you. He’s the one. And when you think about it, it makes perfect sense. Who better to tell the—”
“Patience,” the taller one said, putting his finger to the tip of his nose. “How many times have I told you? We can’t just blurt these things out. They take time. Detailed explanations. Some level of tact. In a word, a plan.”
The shorter tilted his head to one side and shot his friend a look of disbelief. “Oh really? What about that time when you told that grandmother that her grandbabies were—”
“It’s not polite to bring up old mistakes,” the other boy said, crossing his arms. “Besides, I was much younger then. Less experienced.”
The other put his hands together and twiddled his thumbs, while smiling and never taking his eyes off his partner. “That was three days ago.”
“There you go again, so worried about time.”
I chuckled as they continued arguing on and on like two little kids, as if they had forgotten my presence all together. The funny thing was that there was no animosity between them—only friendship and it resounded with their every word. It felt like watching a show made especially for me. I felt the arrival of another presence then that started at first as a tickle against my cheek that soon became a soft tug at a tuft of hair, which led to a sense of overwhelming peace. It was very much like how my mother could make me feel simply by listening whenever I was feeling down.
“The roses are beautiful, there’s no doubt, but I could not help but to notice that among the many gathered colors that my favorite is missing.” A woman glowing with a light from within appeared between me and my other unexpected guests. Her hair swept over her shoulders in long golden strands and her blue eyes even outshone the moonlight. She wore a robe that somehow surpassed the whites worn by the other two—she was beauty incarnate.
I found it odd and yet, somehow comforting, that she did not bother with an attempt at masking who and what she and the two boys with her really were. I had seen her once before, seven years ago, when she had sent me a simple nod and kissed me on my cheek, but the endearing memory of that brief encounter had stayed with me.
“Roses? Oh, yeah… That. Well, white’s a popular color this time of year, this week especially. Every store was sold out—could have used some help.” I said perhaps a bit too defensively. “I mean, I’ve seen many others like you. Most of them never even noticed me noticing, but neither of us has seen you three since that day. It was kinda hard on all of us. I’m not sure if it really hurt his feelings though, or if he’d just rather forget the whole thing.”
“Unless foreordained, few in the living world can sense our presence, fewer still catch the briefest of glimpses, but you, you notice much more than you show—by far, more than you reveal, even to your brother,” the angelic woman said. She rested her hand on the side of my face and for a moment I felt joy and sorrow, both so deep and powerful that my knees buckled. I did not falter, however. Her will held me aloft. “Like my own son when he was a toddler, you never lost the ability to see and hear what escapes most others. Would you walk with me?” She indicated the two boys. “When they get done playing, they have a chore to complete, and if you’re willing, so too will you.”
“Me? But I’m just a kid,” I muttered as I followed her down the main aisle to the rear of the church, where we paused and turned about to regard the distant altar. “I’m only human. What can I possibly do that you guys can’t?”
“Time has many effects on the world of the living,” she said, meeting my eyes. “Wounds tend to heal. The world itself ages with every tick of the clock. And people… People unfortunately—they tend to forget, even the most important things, unless there is something to remind them.”
“Believe me,” I said as I met her eyes, “no one in my family has forgotten any of what happened.”
She returned my stare with a look that I am sure saw through to the heart of me. “Has your brother gone back to the way he was when—”
“Oh, no, it’s nothing like that,” I stammered quickly. “It’s just that since he introduced us to his fiancé, he’s been so distant. He hardly ever calls. Sometimes I think he’s forgotten all about us … about me.”
“I assure you, he has not,” she said. “But that’s the rub of it. You, like so many children before, you fear you’ll lose a brother or sister when they enter the bonds of marriage.” She kissed my forehead. “My dearest Casey, you won’t be losing a sibling, you’ll be gaining another! And did you know that they argued for well over a week over who should get to ask you to be their best man?”
With an overwhelming sense of relief, I exhaled sharply. It is funny when you think about it, how sometimes others can see through many of our problems to the heart of our true concerns. Of course, to be fair, she is wiser than most and, well, she and my other two visitors have one heck of an advantage—they’ve been dead for at least seven years now. “The wedding tomorrow. Does it have something to do with the chore you mentioned?”
She raised her brow and offered a half-smile. “Tell me, young Casey Quinn, what helps people to remember? What keeps them from forgetting?” She indicated my laptop, plugged in and charging in a hidden cubby hole just to the right of the main entrance. “I understand you like to write. I’ve heard that you even keep a journal.”
My eyes shot to the laptop then back to her. “It’s kinda like a diary, my personal thoughts,” I said, glancing away. “You, um… You haven’t been reading—”
“No, dear child,” she interrupted. “Our thoughts belong to us alone and none of us, in either world, need share them with anyone, unless by choice. That being said…”
It came to me then like that jolt you get if you drag your feet over a carpet. “History,” I said, pacing back and forth. “The writings of men and women of old. That’s what this is all about. You want me to tell Kiernan’s story? But I’m no writer! And Mom and Kiernan—they won’t even talk about most of what happened.”
“But you were there, too,” she countered. “You saw much of what took place and you won’t be alone on such an endeavor. You’ll have help of a sort—from the three of us, help on a scale rarely offered to mortals. Only to those with a true and high purpose.”
I slipped my hands in my pockets, looked down, and regarded my shoes. They were scuffed, and I’d have to polish them up before the wedding tomorrow… My brother’s wedding—still not used to saying that. “Why me?” It’s a question we all ask eventually, and I figured it was my turn.
“There are many reasons, but I will give you the best three,” Judith said suddenly quite serious. “You were there when it all happened. And you have a certain gift that allows you to see and hear what most others tend to miss.” She smiled and a light like none I’d ever seen rose up around and encompassed us. For less than a heartbeat I knew everything! I felt everything—the breath of the universe, the names of every star in the sky, and the hopes and wishes of every living man, woman, and child.
The feeling left though, as the light began to dim, leaving me somehow empty inside. The light softened but did not go completely out. She took both of my hands into hers. “And lastly,” she said in wonder. “My dearest Casey. Casey Quinn. Son of Kylie. Brother of Kiernan. Know this. It is neither me, nor my sons, who asks this of you.”
All right, so this is all new to me. Where should I start? Where do I even begin? What to include? What to ignore? What to shy away from altogether?
I’ll start by making it very clear that I’ve never written anything this crazy big. I once wrote a four-page paper about dinosaurs, but I don’t think that counts. And another thing—I’m just a young teenager—part of that caught-between period between tween and adult when we are still treated like children but expected to act like adults. From my limited experience, however, little changes as we grow older, except that prejudices grow stronger in our hearts, hate coils deeper within our life-wounded spirits, and there is a great loss that many never even notice when it has gone. Unlike most, I still hear the music on sunbeams, I taste the colors of purple and orange, and feel and express love in an innocent form, unhampered by the trials of aging. I am still utterly free of worry. And if you believe the free of worry part, I have this bridge I’d like to sell—got a hundred bucks? Or maybe even just fifty….
At fourteen years, three months, and seven days, I already have such memories filled with laughter and love, and yet, painted by sorrow and marked by tears. I am changed now from who I was back when it all happened. When my dear friends, angels who had once walked the world, appeared and asked, I was hesitant to share this tale, but the writing of it and the knowledge that if only one lost soul reads my words and truly understands my message, and they are saved from the greatest fall—well, then, I guess that’s enough for me .
I decided to open this story with a letter which was never actually written. Instead it was shared on the wings of thought and the light of a spirit. Nothing is free, however. In the writing of this tale, in some ways, I was forced to relive all that took place and so, I required the same of them. My celestial assistants and I captured moments of the thoughts and deepest feelings of everyone involved, and for the record, that is how I know so many things, so many feelings, when clearly, I was not and could not have been there.
They played a trick on me, of course. Take my word—never fully trust an immortal. Look and listen, so they say. There were many times that random thoughts and experiences just came to me, from people whose identities were never revealed. Several I recognized, but the sharing of their names is impossible—the pain they remind me of is still too near. I included all of them at key points—perhaps you might recognize them, when I did not. But then again, who knows?
Though I am quite often involved in the pages that follow, it’s very important that you understand—this is not my story. In truth, it belongs to two others who were also young teenagers at the time, a boy named Andrew, who dwelt just within the Autistic Spectrum and another, my brother, Kiernan, who spent his early childhood hiding who he was, even, I think, from himself. They both made mistakes, as we all do, but theirs were catastrophic in nature and left repercussions in their wake that still echo throughout my part of the living world today.
Andrew Harowitz, a fourteen-year-old boy who in some ways will never age, was a kind child, who loved deeply, but for the most part, was unable to show or express such feelings. He was a gentle soul, one who spent much of his waking life somewhere inside of himself.
It all began, or maybe I only recognized it as a beginning, with a holy vision or sorts, or perhaps it was only a surreal dream, where an alabaster angel of hand-carved marble, somehow stoic in the rising light of dawn, took to watching over Andrew’s family’s plot in a cemetery—if not over the whole of the world. Thick gray clouds rolled in shortly after Andrew’s first sight of her, shielding the earth beneath her feet from the warm touch of the sun, and draping the winged lady of exquisite beauty in a veil of both shadow and mourning.
She was a pristine lady, flawless even, and despite the weather and the cruel passing of time, whenever anyone approached, it would always seem as if she were very much alive, aware, and her so-human eyes, would follow their every movement. She claimed the left-most of four granite pedestals along the top of a curved, wall-like monument that marked the boundaries of the Harowitz family plot—his family’s final resting place. In her left hand, she held a long-stemmed white rose that rested against her heart, and in her right, she wielded a heavenly blade, held high, toward heaven, yet poised and ready if need be to strike below.
She had an unmistakable wisdom about her—you could almost see it in her eyes—an ancient understanding, if you will, of the questions we must each be prepared to answer when death takes us home, about who we were to others in our lives and who they were to us, all of it to lead us to an understanding of life’s greatest truth.
The questions are few and worded simply, and yet, their answers have the power to determine our eternities in the afterlife. While amongst the living, who truly loved us? Who in turn did we love? Who wept for us upon our passing? Upon their loss, for whom did we weep? Can we forgive those who brought us pain? And finally, upon whom did we bring undue harm?
Perhaps if Andrew, her only son, had asked himself these questions and recognized this important truth before he died, his death and the near-death of my brother, Kiernan, who remains very dear to me, might have been far less complicated. And on further thought, maybe if everyone in the world considered these questions as they lived out their own lives—the world could be a much better place.
To be fair to Andrew though, back during those days, his soul had been grievously wounded and she—the white stone angel—was at that time only an unrecognized semblance of his mother. His first true memory of her, the living woman, however, was very different—they were both very much alive in those early days of light and darkness, joy and despair.
When he first learned to speak, he came to call her, Mommy, and then changed later to calling her Mom, but her name was in truth, Judith, and she was a woman of rare beauty.
A gentleman in blue gripped tightly the hand of a dying man who lay trapped in the wreckage of torn metal before him.
No! No! No! Not like this. Don’t you dare! Not on my first day solo. Not ready for this. No way. No freaking way! I just got my own squad car, my own beat—hell I only graduated from the academy a few months back. Can’t help it but to think of Sarah. You poor sot, you’d like her—young, pretty, well above my level, but she loves me anyway. Just like you love your woman, Judith. You’ve said her name three times already.
“Keep fighting, damn you!” the man screamed. “Hold on to her—her name, her face, everything about her—a kid on the way, she needs you now! They need you…”
What else to say to a dying man? The blood, so much blood, pooling beneath my new shoes. Doesn’t matter, I signed up for this. But no, not this! No dying on my first shift, you hear me? I’ve never even seen a dead body, ‘cept at Grandpa’s funeral many years ago. Everybody’s rooting for ya. Don’t give up.
He glanced up, unable to react to the sounds of ripping and tearing metal that rung in his ears. “That noise? Sounds terrible, but they call it the Jaws of Life,” he said. “Cuts through steel and glass both, but it takes time. Another minute, maybe two, just hold on. Just stay here with me.”
The dying man gestured so he lowered his head down close to his face and listened with a sad sort of acceptance to the whisper of his final words. “I’ll tell them,” he promised as he watched the light go out of the man’s eyes and felt the hand within his go limp and cold. “I’ll tell them myself,” he whispered to no one, for the man was already gone.
It was a few minutes past noon on a cold spring day that Andrew first encountered his mother in a private birth suite of St. Abrams Hospital. Icy sprinkles of a misty rain fell from a dense gray sky and light gusts of chill wind teased at all those living in Fair Cedar, a small Midwestern city, here in Iowa—at least those who found reason to be out and about in such unwelcoming weather.
Andrew’s father, Matthew Harowitz, a soft-spoken man who had married the girl of his dreams right out of high school, in a near perfect fairytale wedding, was one such person, and the news of Andrew’s imminent arrival was his reason. He unfortunately encountered a woman, who was not only a fellow weary traveler, but also an embodiment of the fates, who had chosen a different path for the man Andrew’s mother loved, or perhaps the new path was meant for his family.
They met amid an intersection on that blustery day. The woman, whose name we never learned, was running late for a meeting, with a bunch of papers in one hand, a hot drink in the other, and the steering wheel of her car barely controlled with the fingertips of both, as she sped through her light, which she had failed to notice was no longer yellow, or even orange as I’ve hear people say, but instead a glaring red. Matthew’s only mistake that day, in his growing excitement to finally meet his son, was his failure to check to his right when his light turned green, before pulling out into the intersection right into the path of destiny.
It was said by the only witness, Charles Scott, a young police officer, fresh out of the academy, on his way home after a double shift, who had stopped in for coffee at his favorite corner shop, that the scream of brakes and following impact had been surreal and he knew even before he dashed outside to investigate that Death was there stalking the streets, waiting and watching with ravenous eyes.
The sprinkle became a rain over the misty scene, where blood and glass covered the street all around the marriage of the two vehicles, one with its motor pushed back, well into its back seat. The other car, Matthew’s, had been neatly folded in half and wrapped around the first, with twisted metal fitting together tighter than any glove.
While a rescue crew raced against time with the Jaws of Life to save Andrew’s father, his mother’s body lay aching from birthing pains under bright lights in the delivery room. Judith’s long dark hair, which was normally neatly brushed, was pulled back in tatters and matted with the dank sweat of exhaustion. Surrounded by a team of nurses, specialist, and her family doctor, Doctor G. Chouser, she waited for the arrival of both father and son.
It was a fast delivery, or so I was told, and despite her weariness, there was immeasurable joy in her eyes, but a sort of sadness, too. Andrew’s parents had planned from the moment they were sure he was coming to welcome him into the world together, but it was not meant to be. After the usual cleanup, checkup, and measurements, a nurse placed him carefully into his mother’s arms and they both squalled—her in utter joy at his arrival, and him in the indignation at his unexpected expulsion from a newborn’s sense of bliss into the questionable folds of the outside world. The new sights and sounds were overwhelming for him, more so than usual, for reasons he would learn about some years later.
Doctor Chouser, who had briefly exited the room, returned with a haggard, unshaven police officer, who looked like he had not slept in days and that he had just witnessed some horror. Through his face mask, he told Judith words she never shared with anyone to the fate of Andrew’s father. She did tell her son years later, when he inquired, however, that though his father’s final words were said in pain and the knowledge that he would die, they were nonetheless spoken with immeasurable pride. “I have a son,” he had said with his last gasping breath. “A beautiful son. I’ll wait for him past the bridge.”
By now in your own life you might realize that we have countless opportunities to meet other people, to expand our horizons, and to become more than who we are. Often, however, fear of rejection keeps us from taking that simple step, to the detriment of us all.
On the last day of their stay in the hospital, there was another new mother. present in the maternity ward when Judith went to retrieve Andrew. She was a beautiful young woman of Irish decent, freckled and with long red hair, who held her own recent newborn—a boy also freckled and with a flame colored mop atop his own head. Judith, however, still reeling from the loss of Matthew, saw only Andrew, and the other woman, wrapped up in her own struggles and tribulations at the time, had eyes for only her new babe. They held their children close to them, never meeting each other’s eyes, as they rocked and cooed to them, the redhead singing to her boy, Andrew’s mother humming only a sad tune.
It was a missed opportunity, like I already mentioned, a chance for all of them to see beyond their individual worlds to reach out and connect with other people—the first of several opportunities. It almost seemed as if there was a much grander plan involving them all, but they were each of them so wrapped up in their own worlds, that none of them could see it, or perhaps they only chose not to.
It was just over a year later when Andrew caught his first glimpse of the one who would eventually become the center of his heart, though that eventuality would not take place until some years later. His name was Michael, a year at most older than Andrew, a dark-haired toddler with a face that wielded an open grin—a perfect window to the soul of the boy who later revealed himself the very definition of a kind and loving person.
Their mothers of course, like many parents, were harried and rushed, pushing their colorful strollers in opposing directions through a busy grocery store. They did, however, park them side-by-side for a few moments at the head of an aisle. They briefly nodded to one another, not in recognition, but instead in that mumbled way people react when they bump into strangers, as they scoured the shelves for various foodstuffs and other odds and ends.
Andrew’s wandering, curious eyes, attracted to the bright lights above, encountered those of Michael’s looking back at him in an overhead security mirror, and they shared a moment of perhaps predestined recognition. They only stared at first, then their tentative smiles became earnest giggles and despite their best efforts, they could only reach out toward one another—they could not even begin to cross that which to them seemed a vast gulf of space that may as well have been the entirety of the universe. Be it a gift of the same fates that had robbed Andrew of his father before they ever had a chance to meet, or just pure dumb luck, a spark was ignited between them that would remain forever.
I wonder if their mothers knew why they screamed and cried as they departed, taking the boys in opposite directions and barely noting one another’s presence. There was a third woman passing near them with her own baby carriage, the same red-haired mother who had been there in the nursery. Odd as the chance meeting was, no one spoke, all three women continued in different directions, wrapped up in their own personal worlds. Another chance to move beyond themselves slipped away from them forever.
As Andrew grew over the next couple of years, his focus moved inward and though at the time, he did not care, he developed a sense that when compared to others, something about him was amiss. His mother, Judith, shared the same concerns, but there were no answers to be found for either of them, until a child specialist gave it a proper name: Asperger’s Syndrome, which is a part of the Autism Spectrum.
Like so many others who shared that same fate, Andrew suffered with something called Sensory Disorders, which among other things, made communication difficult, caused him to wring his fingers, among other things, when stressed, also known as stimming, and left him at times, spinning in place, as perhaps he sought some sort of mystical connection to the earth. He had no sense of self-location and he always felt lost—in every meaning of the word.
Though Andrew dwelt just inside what is called the Spectrum, the sensory disorders were more than enough to leave him unable to tolerate even the lightest touch of others, including that of his mother, and it made him hypersensitive to the feel of nearly everything around him, from the materials of clothes and toys, to the gritty or smooth texture of even the ground beneath his feet—not even foods were immune to his condition. And though it was the syndrome that gave him bouts of depression throughout his early childhood, it was their shared situation that gave it to his mother, or so he naively thought for the longest time.
Though he never spoke of it to his mother—he later told me that he wished he had—Andrew remembered a life changing meeting from when he was about three or so, a few passing moments that he’s never forgotten that managed to greatly sadden his mother, and yet, offered her the faintest glimmer of hope at breaking through to him. As the first months and years of his life passed, he grew quiet and shy, at least to the outside world, lost ground in achieving the normal milestones of baby and toddlerhood, and even seemed to lose the ability to smile.
It was early in the morning at the therapist’s office when Judith offered Andrew every sort of toy, from stuffed bears and kittens and other creatures, to brightly colored blocks and noisy toy cars. He ignored her every attempt to reach through to him, as they both disregarded the droning voice of the therapist, who in all fairness, did his best to warn Judith of what to expect and watch for as she raised her son. That was one of the two ways he heard people—as an irritation to be overlooked, or as a reason to run away, screaming.
I am sure that the room grew heavy with her mounting exasperation, as Andrew all but ignored her presence and even the existence of the therapist. For the most part, he had no idea that she was there and in those early days, made no connection with her until hungry, or in need of something he could not acquire or figure out on his own.
Please do not assume that he was a cold person or uncaring. Truth be told, he loved his mother deeply. He simply had not yet found a way to reach out to her or to be touched, heart to heart and soul to soul.
He stood stock still at a windowsill, his attention transfixed on a vase of white roses aglow in the sunlight. They were the streetlight and he was the hapless moth, drawn in not by radiance alone, but also by a beauty within and the celestial music that as a young child, he still heard in every source of light. It was at these moments that he was able to ignore the sensory overload that he experienced in nearly every waking moment. Unlike how they brought fear to many Autistic people, the light, the color, the symphonic sound that came with sunlight, instead brought him an intense sense of peace.
“What do you hear? What do you see there in the light?” Judith wondered, as she watched her son closely with caring, and yet, exasperated eyes and it was then, in that moment, when Andrew stood aglow like a light-drenched angel, that Judith came up with a way to reach out to him, to the child who had not even started to realize that he was lonely in a vast world he had yet to discover.
Amazon – https://www.amazon.com/dp/1773396900
Our Blog – https://oflightandshadow.blog/
ELR– Amazon Author Page
AMW– Amazon Author Page
What did you think of the co-author interview?