Daughter of the Teardrop Sea
by H. M. Cooper
Chapter One: A Cold Fire
Saturday afternoon, downtown in mid-summer. A cool breeze blows. The glass fronted buildings shine in the sun. Shoppers dressed in summer colors drink coffee, soft drinks, beer in air conditioned plazas. Young men with burning eyes and cool demeanors shine their glances on the head to toe splendor of young women wrapped in cotton shifts and the like. Old men sit on wooden benches under the shade of public landscaping.
Up from the river comes a tall, thin young man wearing denim jeans and a pink and blue cotton shirt. The shirt hangs out at the back and is unbuttoned to mid-chest. He is noticed by no one. He runs up the main street to a large maple tree, leaps up, grabs a low hanging branch, and pulls himself up.
First his shirt drops to the ground beneath the tree. Then his pants. Then his underwear. He is sitting in the tree wearing nothing at all. He starts to sing in a very loud voice. Then people stop at the base of the tree to see what is going on.
The young man is sitting about half way up to the top of the tree, dangling his feet over the branch. He looks to be in his late teens or early twenties. His hair is sandy colored and cut very short, and he is very thin. His ribs stand out dramatically around his chest as it rises and falls with his singing. Some of the people who are gathered beneath him under the tree are giggling and covering their mouths with their hands. Some are laughing and joking out loud, some calling up to the boy things like "Jump! Jump!", and some are calling out things that are crude and disgusting. Mothers whose young children want to peek at the naked man drag them by the hand saying, "There's nothing to look at. Come on. Come on." Some of the people are singing along with him, some as if they mean it and some as if they are at a sporting event. The song is "Onward Christian Soldiers."
The police arrive just as the boy is finishing his final verse. He looks down at the crowd beneath him. "Happy?" he asks. "Sure.", someone replies. "Huba huba." says another. The boy stands up on his branch and urinates.
He watches the crowd part. He does not smile or frown or laugh or make faces. He stands proudly, one hand against the trunk of the tree and the other guiding his gesture. When he is finished he sits back down again on his branch.
Someone has stolen his clothes. When the firetrucks arrive he is brought down from the limb with no undue disorder and quickly wraped in a sheet. From the back of the police car he holds it loosly about his chest and observes the waves of heat rising from the pavement. The police determine, after some deliberation, to take the young boy to the hospital. He appears to be some kind of nut.
The boy sat in a small room just off the main reception area. A burly policeman stood outside the door. Laura Sawchuck, the Psychiatric resident on staff that shift, made her way from the seventh floor to the Ground floor to interview him. When she arrived the admitting nurse gave her a clip board with almost no information on it. The boy would not talk to anyone. Any time he was asked a question he would either withdraw or burst into a verse of "Onward Christian Soldiers". There was a brief account of what had happened on The Mall by one of the policemen. That was all.
Laura was 28 years old and six months pregnant. Her husband, Larry, was one of the surgeons on staff at the hospital. Unlike many of her peers, Laura had entered Psychiatry not because she loved science and the clinical side of medicine but because she had a very inately caring soul. She wanted to help people who had trouble in their lives and Psychiatry seemed to be a good venue or accomplishing that. She was warm, had a healthy streak of humor in her personality and took great care not be indifferent to the care of her patients.
When she was ushered by the policeman into the small room the boy was sitting in a huddled mass, the sheet pulled loosly around him, on a two seater couch. He did not acknowledge Laura at all. She sat in a chair that was beside the couch and looked directly into the boy's face. It was a sullen mask of feigned indifference. She spoke to him in confident but warm tones.
"I'm Dr. Sawchuck." she said. "I don't know your name. I'm not here to hurt you in any way. I only want to know what happened in The Mall and what led up to it. Everything you tell me is confidential and will only be used to help you. Will you talk to me now?"
The boy said nothing. The boy did nothing. After a moment of silence he simply opened his mouth and sang a chorus of "Onward Christian Soldiers"
"That's a very nice song and you seem to know it very well. But singing it here is not going to help you; this isn't a church its a hospital and you are, right now, in a little bit of trouble. I can help you but you have to help me too. Together we can discover why you are here and what we can do about it. Will you speak to me?"
The boy smiled; it was more like a knowing smirk. He did something potentially dangerous and Laura watched as he did so. He bound the sheet up with his left fist and extended his right hand towards Laura's pregnant belly. She took a chance. She let him reach out.
When his hand reached Laura's belly it came to rest. Then it slowly, cautiously, gently and unoffensively carressed it with a few short, even strokes. Laura said, "You like children?" The boy nodded and withdrew his thin, long hand.
Laura let a little sigh of relief escape from between her lips. She slipped forward in her chair and leaned towards the boy. She whispered, like it were a secret game between them, "What's your name?"
The boy leaned towards Laura. "Christian Church", he whispered back.
Laura shook her head gravely. "If you want to talk to me you have to tell the truth. Perhaps you think that you represent the Christian Church, that that is who you are. But it is not your name. I want you to tell me your given name. Will you?"
The boy hesitated for a moment. He drew the dirty sheet close around his shoulders and he assessed Laura with a look that was almost demure.
"My name is James.", he said softly.
"Thank you, James.", said Laura. "And will you tell me where you live?"
James told her where he lived.
"And what's the phone number there?" He told her his phone number.
Laura wrote the information on a piece of paper from her clip board. She ripped the piece of paper off the board and took it quickly to the door, which she opened in a smooth, official gesture. She gave the paper to the policeman at the door, closed it silently and returned to her seat across from James. She looked at him with a nearly affectionate glow on her very earnest face. Her countenance was caring and intense. "Do you know where you are, James?", she asked him. He nodded. "What happened today?", she asked.
James' smile, as it played like music across his face, was mysterious and secretive. "If you don't know," he said, "it wouldn't do any good for me to try to tell you."
Laura was undaunted; she attempted to open him up a little bit. "I know what happened to me today, James. That's my day, and it had its up and its down like any other. But something rather special or unusual must have happened to you today because you are sitting here with no clothes on after the police pulled you naked from a tree downtown. I have no information that this is normal for you, and I want to know what happened to you so that I can help you. I think that you need some help. Will you tell me in your own words the story of what happened? Will you let me try to help you?"
There was a pause while James decided what to do. He looked intently at the lines on his left hand, tracing them intricately with the forefinger of his right. The lines were a map that God had given him so that he could know what to do at times like these. The lines were deep and black and almost incoherent. But when he looked up at Laura she was radiant and bright. He decided to trust her with his story.
"God spoke to me.", he said matter-of-factly. "He spoke to me in His own voice."
There was no sound as the psychiatrist and her patient looked into each other's faces. "He has a beautiful voice.", James said.
"What did God's voice say to you, James?" Laura asked.
"The voice of God is not loud.", James said. "It is not soft either. It is the very movement of everything that moves, and the breathing of everything that breathes, and the thoughts of everything that thinks. The voice of God is so subtle that most cannot hear it, and those who listen and think they hear it mostly do not understand what it means. At the same time the voice of God is so bold that we all obey it all of the time without ever knowing that we are obeying it. And our obedience is the very music of God's voice."
"What did God's voice say to you today?", Laura asked.
James closed his eyes and took a deep breath. "God speaks to me every moment of every day.", he said. "But today was special. Today he announced that something special would occur. We are approaching a dangerous crossroads in the path of our evolution. We can either anhilate ourselves, for we certainly have that power, or we can create a new eden, for God has given us that power too. It is up to us, now, to decide whether we will bring our children into a paradise or a hell on earth."
"But why is today so special?", Laura asked again.
"When I woke up this morning my spirit was buzzing and alive. I felt full of energy and understanding and good will toward the world. I heard a noise at the window and I looked up to see a tiny sparrow, perched upon the windowpane, tapping at the glass. My soul was calmed because I knew that the finger of God was tapping at my window. I knew that it would be a special day for me. My father and mother were out shopping. I put on a record, Bob Dylan's 'Slow Train Comin' and the words were just for me. They told me that I had a special role to play in the battle against evil, because just at a certain line..when Dylan sings 'you can call me Zimmy'...a green and yellow leaf fell off of our Azalia plant. I was moved, humbled, because that's his Jewish name and a great swell of emotion rose up in my chest. This was God's way of telling me that I was a chosen one; that I could serve him. I listened to the whole abum and every word, every syllable, had meaning for me. Then I turned on the T.V. There was a fire downtown, the newsman said, and that was a sign for me to go out and do God's work before it was too late.
"Just as I left the house a red firetruck drove right past our door.
There was no siren, just a red
firetruck with the firemen all around it holding on. I waved at them,
and they waved back at me.
That was a good sign, a very good sign. It meant that it was safe for
me to do God's will. I would
"The trees on my street were green and the sky was a deep blue with
hazy white clouds running
through it. I saw a messsage in the clouds. I saw an infant in them. I
saw the infant swallowed up
by a great whale in a great sea, and then I saw the waves part and a
beautiful angel appear from
its waves. I sat down on the green grass of a neighbor's front lawn and
I wept, for I knew that I
was a witness to God's plan and a suplicant to His mercy.
"When I had stopped weeping I felt cleansed and pure. I followed
God's plan. He led me by
color. Green for purity and innocence. Red for pain and promise. Red
for the firetruck, heading
south. I followed the red. Red cars, red buildings, red clothes and red
lights. They led me
downtown, to the red-light district where the hookers hang out. I saw
them on the street, selling
their pussies like dog food. I saw the men, stalking like degraded
animals what God teaches us is
sacred and pure. I realized the plight of Moses, faced at Sinai with
the degeneracy of his tribe,
fearing God's wrath and feeling for the needs of his people.
"There was a young girl, younger than me I think, sitting on the
curb at the corner. She was small
and plump like a chicken. She was wearing bright pink shorts so tight
that you could see every
line of her body, and black fish net stockings. She wore a pink halter
top that barely covered her
fat breasts. She was also wearing a red braclet made out of huge
plastic beads. I went over to talk
"I stood beside her and I said 'Hi.' She looked up at me and smiled.
She said, 'Hi.'. She had a
beautiful smile. I said, 'What do you thnk that God expects of you?'
She laughed. She said, 'I
expect that God expects that I play fair. For thirty dollars I'll give
you a hand job in the park so
good you'll scream. For fifty dollars I'll take you into the alley and
suck your cock til you can't
take it any more. And for seventy five dollars you can screw me in my
room for an hour and if its
not a bloody religious experience you can do it for fifteen minutes
more for free til you really
see God. That's fair. I don't lie. I'll give you a good time, honey; I
know every trick in the book. If
you just want to convert me that's fine. I sing "God See's the Little
Sparrow Fall" in a see through
crotchless nighty for only fifty bucks. But for fifty bucks, honey, I
can give you a really
excellent time, so why don't you just step back here into my office and
go convert someone else
"I looked into her face and I could see the sureness and the
strength. But I could also see her
bluff, and behind those pale blue eyes and black mascara I could see
pain and fear as well. I said
to her...'If I give you ten dollars, will you just walk with me down by
the river for five minutes? I
have something I want to show you.' She hesitated looked up and down
the street and said, 'If
you make it twenty up front, cowboy, I'll hold your hand. But only for
five minutes.' I gave her
fifteen and we walked down to the river together. But we didn't touch.
"As we were walking I told her what was happening, that judgement
was about to fall and that it
was important to know what side you were on. She laughed and smiled and
didn't buy a single
word. Then we came to the park around the river. She said that was as
far as she could go, but
that if I could come up with anouther twenty dollars we could do some
business. I told her that I
only did God's business and she said that's all she ever did too. I
told her that she had God's light
in her eye but that the devil was right behind trying to smother it in
a bushel basket. She said that
was just about the way she felt about it too.
And I pointed to a seagull floating through the sky and I said 'Do
you suppose that she is troubled
by Satan?' and the girl said no. I said, ' God has made you what you
are and He tests you at every
turn. Turn to Him before you fall from his grace. The girl said 'sure.'
and began to leave. I
grabbed her arm. I asked her where she got the red beads. She said her
lover gave them to her. I
told her they were very nice and that the color suited her. She said
thanks and left.
"I was alone by the river. The birds were all around. God had led me
to that girl to show me that
there is hope, that corruption is real but that it has to battle the
human soul. We have a very
grave and hard battle ahead of us, but in the end we will win the war.
I knew this now, to the
very marrow of my bones. I knew it.
"And then I left the river,and I saw in the distance a beautiful
tree. It was in flames, but the fire
did not consume. I ran to it, lept up into it, kissed the bark and limb
of it. And I took off all my
clothes to be cleansed and purified in the fire. And a crowd gathered,
and I pissed on them and
they parted like the Red Sea. And the red firetruck came, and I was
protected, and I was brought
here to you, wrapped in a sheet, and you carry a baby in your belly. I
have been given great hope.
You are yet another sign to me of redemption."
James stopped. He closed his eyes. His lips parted and trembled a
litle. Laura looked at his face
in repose. It didn't look holy or serene. It looked deep and troubled.
"The fire in the tree, James...the fire that burns but does not
consume. Does it still burn for you
in that tree, or is it there as a beacon for others as well?"
"No.", James said. "The fire isn't there any more. I swallowed the
fire; I have it here with me. In
Laura thought for a moment. Then she said, "That was a clever thing
to do. Does it burn?"
"No.", James said, and he opened his eyes to gaze at Laura. "It
doesn't burn. Its a cold fire, and it
"Oh.", said Laura. "You have a cold fire in your heart and it
James drew the sheet more tightly around his chest. "Yes.", he said.
"I have a cold fire in my
heart and it freezes." And he began to weep.
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