Couldn’t heal him, but they did wash away his sins.
December 27, 2013
A VG Serial: Borrowed to the Bone
Ben Tom took Willy back when he was well enough and spent the next thirty days driving back and forth from Riverby to Willy’s house, repairing the roof, paying off his back taxes, retrieving his tools from various pawn shops, getting utilities turned back on, and repairing his pickup—all with borrowed money.
He even took Colleen to a doctor who prescribed pills for what he said was probably a manic- depressive or schizophrenic disorder. The pills calmed her down, brought her out from under the porch, placed her in a chair where she sat in a stupor all day until the pills’ effects wore off.
Ben Tom had spent all his nights for a month working on Riverby properties, but without Purcell to look after things, he felt his situation slipping out of control. It had been years since he had done any work of substance on his historical home on the banks of the Red River. He had never completed the inside, and nothing had been done outside. It was in a serious state of disrepair, and Penny was losing patience.
Ben Tom explained that he needed to get back and resume work on the house, hoping that Willy might offer to come along and help as his way of paying him back. But Willy did not offer. As they stood on the porch and Ben Tom prepared to leave, Willy had a coughing spasm and could not catch his breath. He spat off the porch and Ben Tom saw blood.
“Noticed you been coughing a lot lately.”
“Reckon I’m coughing up my lungs. Docs that took out my spleen told me I had cancer in both lungs. Said it had spread to my liver and bones.”
Ben Tom leaned on a porch post for support. “Why did you never mention this?”
“What good would it do?”
“What do you aim to do?”
“No idea. Colleen is so sick in the head she can’t take care of herself, much less me. Kids too sorry to come back. When the pain gets too bad, I’ll end it with that .45 I showed you.”
“That’s a sin that will send you straight to hell.”
“You got a better idea?”
“Yeah, I do.”
Two hours later, they stopped in front of Ben Tom’s vacant church. An hour after that, Willy was comfortably installed in Josiah Welch’s living quarters. Two hours more, the refrigerator was full, and the bed was made. Willy reclined in the chair Ben Tom had scavenged from one of his buildings.
Ben Tom handed his brother a beer and took a Coke for himself. “Where better to get well than a church. We’ll call this a wellness house.”
For next several days, Ben Tom stopped by morning, noon, and night to bring groceries and supplies to his brother. He carried him back and forth to Parkland Hospital in Dallas twice a week for treatment, made sure that he took all his meds.
They sat on the porch and reminisced about old times and their hardscrabble upbringing. The illness softened Willy. He said he had always wanted a Jeep, so Ben Tom made a trip to Dallas and bought him a nice used one with borrowed money. Willy was so sick he could barely drive it from the church to Riverby and back.
During one of their nightly discussions on the church porch, a car pulled into the church parking lot and two women, a blonde and a redhead, walked boldly toward them. The redhead spoke first. “Sorry to intrude, but we sensed a negative aura coming from this church when we drove by. Is there anything we can do to help?”
Willy looked at Ben Tom, who spoke first. “A negative aura, you say. You girls preachers or something?” They certainly did not look like the evangelists Ben Tom had encountered before. They were both pretty, wore light makeup and were stylishly dressed.
“We’re evangelists. We conduct healing ceremonies.” She pointed at Willy. “I sense that you are very ill. Forgive me if I am wrong.”
Willy looked past them and up to the moon. “You ain’t wrong.”
“We want to help. There are no guarantees, but if you’re interested, we could try.”
Ben Tom looked at Willy, who shrugged. “What do you do in one of these healing ceremonies?”
The redhead answered. “We lay our hands on the sick person, say a few words you won’t understand, offer up prayers.” She stepped up on the porch and gestured toward Willy. “May we approach?”
Willy nodded. She waved her hands slowly over his head and then put one hand on his head, pressing down hard. She put the other hand on his heart. “I sense heat and despair. Do you feel your life has been wasted?”
Tears welled up in Willy’s eyes. “It ain’t amounted to much.”
Both women’s eyes glistened as the blonde spoke. “The negative aura came not only from your illness, but my hands tell me you have not been saved. Is that correct?”
The brothers both nodded. The blonde pushed Ben Tom to a corner of the porch. “We can save your brother. Maybe not from cancer, but we can give him new life in the Kingdom of God. But he must be born again.”
“The preacher who ran this church left. And I know Willy won’t go into a big church.”
“We can baptize him right here, if he agrees to accept Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior.”
The next Sunday morning, Ben Tom pulled his heavy equipment trailer into the Rivers Crossing church parking lot. A big horse trough filled with water and covered with a sheet of plywood was held in place on the trailer with come-a-longs. Ben Tom used six wood pallets to make three steps onto the trailer. The evangelicals stepped up and stood by the trough.
Even with the steps, Willy was too weak and had to be carried up. Ben Tom held his brother in his arms while the two women alternately laid their hands on his head and heart, chanting and praying in a language neither Ben Tom nor Willy understood.
At their signal, Ben Tom eased his brother into the water-filled trough. The women stood on opposite sides of the trough and held Willy’s head in a cradle made with their joined fingers.
The redhead spoke first. “Do you freely confess that you are a sinner?” Willy nodded.
“Do you place your trust in Christ as your savior and repent of your sins?”
Willy’s affirmative answer was filled with emotion. “Yes.”
“In accordance with our Lord’s teachings and by His command, I baptize you my Christian brother in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit”.
The blonde put her hand gently on Willy’s forehead and pushed his head under the water. He arose crying.
After the baptism, the two women came every day to care for Willy, finally telling Ben Tom that they were trained hospice nurses and that Willy needed hospice care. Ben Tom offered to pay them, but they declined. Willy died peacefully in his sleep a month after being baptized.
Chapters of the serial are published on Friday.
You can learn more about Borrowed to the Bone and other titles by Jim H. Ainsworth on his Amazon Author Page.