The pain had slowly stolen back into Paul’s consciousness. He remembered the morphine drip and he pushed the button a couple of times.
Then he thought, “Maybe I could push it about twenty times; might solve a few other problems, too.”
That line of thinking caused him recall the confrontation with Ramona. She was right, he supposed. He had been a jerk, though that was so hard to admit for a man with an ego as big as his. He hoped that she would agree to listen to his . . . well; he didn’t quite know what to call it; confession was just too humbling a word.
The next morning, Ed Hammberg, the truck driver, was sitting in court waiting to talk to the judge about his version of the accident. He had “fortified” his courage with an adult beverage prior to arriving, contrary to his lawyer’s advice, but with his record, he figured was going to need all the help he could get.
Ed was Pastor Marlowe’s son-in-law and a long-time church attendee. Of course, there was a time when he was a Sunday school boy and knew all the Bible stories. He was fascinated by the flannel graph cutouts and loved the songs. Nobody else could sing I’m in the Lord’s Army and do all the motions as vigorously as he. But, like Ramona, he had rebelled against the pastor’s strong directives and his constant intervention in the smallest details of the lives of his congregation.
He was deeply struck by Marlowe’s daughter, however, and he played along with the whole system just so he could win Mary Elizabeth’s heart. Though a very pretty girl, no one ever suspected she had any thoughts of her own. She dressed very conservatively and tended to be introverted. With a strongly opinionated father, how else could she be?
Not very long after they were married, Ed started to miss church and within a year he had joined his work buddies at the nightly bar stop before going home. Mary Elizabeth, on the advice of her father, left him and moved back in with her parents. That only served to give Ed permission to engage in whatever he wanted. After a DUI last January, he slowed down for a while but resumed the plunge into self-destruction soon after probation.
Now, as his name was called, he moved to the front of the courtroom.
“Edward Hammberg?” The bailiff called out.
“Well young man, you look familiar. When were you before me last?” the judge inquired.
“Uh, last January, sir,” Ed stated.
“Yes, I believe that’s right, and my record states that we had a conversation about alcohol abuse. How have you been doing with that? Are you attending those classes I sent you to?”
“Oh yes, sir. I went to all of them, sir. All ten weeks.”
Ed was a bit nervous about the question but had attended the AA classes faithfully through the probationary time.
“So then, tell me what happened on the 25th; last Wednesday evening.” Judge Parker prompted.
Becky and Ramona stood next to each other serving in the meal line at City Reach. As each person passed in front of her she placed a generous portion of scrambled eggs on their plate and gave them a smile. She also noticed that as the morning flew by she recognized the feeling of joy at participating in this act of kindness and that it energized her. In fact, it became a genuine, fulfilling activity that affirmed her in ways that little else had for a long time. This must be what Becky had referred to last night about becoming who she was wired to be.
She was also to be something else. Morning sickness seemed to be passing more easily but now she had noticed her body starting to exhibit physical signs of pregnancy. Standing that morning in front of Becky’s mirror she could see her profile was changing. The idea of motherhood was settling in to a certain degree and unlike her initial rejection, acceptance of this idea was truly a miracle.
“I don’t know Becky, but I’m thinking I might be able to do this mothering thing; that is, I think I might want to try.”
“I’m glad to hear that, Ramona. I’ll help but I believe you have the self-confidence inside you to raise a child once you’ve made that decision. You are a strong person, you know. Just look at how your conversation went with Paul. You showed your strong side!”
“Yeah, I kind of surprised myself there. But I was ticked and he needed to hear the truth. Of course, I guess I need to hear the truth about my own actions, too.”
“Marona; I mean Ra-mo-na,” Marcy had just moved into view. “How’s your Dad doin’ today; how’s he doin’ I mean?”
“Good morning, Marcy! Well, I saw him last night and he fell asleep on me so I plan to get back after I’m done here. Thank you for asking.”
“Awright, that sounds good. Tell him I’m prayin’ for him, OK, I’m prayin’.”
Then Ramona said something she wouldn’t have dreamed of proposing six months ago.
“Would you like to go with me, Marcy, to see my Dad?”
“Yup, I would. Then I can pray for him myself! I’ll be waitin’; whenever you’re ready! I’m goin’ to the hospital to pray for her dad,” she told the man in line next to her. “He’s real sick!”
Ed finished his rehearsal of the night of the accident. The responding officer that night gave his report, which largely matched what Ed said. To the judge, the facts were pretty clear that Ed really was not at fault. However, since the judge knew Ed and his propensity for alcohol addiction, he decided an additional rehabilitation effort might be helpful. The judge knew Pastor Marlowe and a little of the home life situation of the Hammbergs and in his wisdom he had a brilliant idea.
“Mr. Hammberg,” he started, “your story and the officer’s story are close enough that I feel like this Mr. Paul Wieser, the victim in this incident, was primarily at fault here, even though you should have maintained control of your vehicle. I also believe that with your record and tendency to want to drive when you have had more alcohol than you should, you need a little accountability in your life. I will call your employer and have a conversation with him but I am assigning you some community service.”
Ed shifted on his feet.
“I am going to have you show up three days a week for three hours a day for a total of six weeks at the service organization, City Reach, down on Main. You can find it. Report back to me in six weeks and we will debrief. Understood?”
“Yes sir, your honor!” Ed replied.
“Next?” the judge queried.
Ed paused for a minute before shuffling off. What was this place? Six weeks? Talk to his boss? Little did he know what was in store for his and Mary Elizabeth’s future.