This was sent to me by email shortly after my father died. I’ve told the author I wouldn’t reveal his real name. But we share the same parents. It may help to know that Dad went into the hospital and didn’t die when “they” thought he would. He fought through surgery, and lived to see my Mom turn 90 and also to see their 70th wedding anniversary. Then he went to sleep. This story below picks up there.
“Ben – A Novel”
Ben was a scrapper. He had lived a life that began in hard times. He had little, but he did have a large and strong family. He was smart and learned to work hard. He went off to war with the intent to be a fighter but was put to using his mechanical skills to repair the damaged tools of war so others could carry on the fight. He returned, married Hazel, and, with intelligence and diligence, made a better life for his children than he had ever known. He was generous and forgiving, but he was ever the young scrapper.
Ben was old and weak with a failing mind when Death came to visit. He only had hours, maybe minutes, left when a child yelled “He needs help, now!”. The young scrapper in Ben balled his fists, crouched and leaped at Death. Over the next days, off and on, they fought while his children and grandchildren cheered him on. Ben would not quit, ever. Arnold, Ben’s friend, came to guard and keep Death at bay so that Ben might rest between bouts. After a time, Death had had enough. Death left battered, but with arrogant confidence that this would not be their last meeting.
Ben grew stronger over the next weeks and regained much of his faculties, though he did not return home. The young scrapper in him still plotted his escape to roam the places he had known, but this was not to be. Hazel came with their daughter to quietly celebrate seventy years of marriage. When the day was done, Hazel kissed him good night. As they left, he turned to the daughter saying, “Take good care of your mother.”. He went to sleep that night and slipped away in his own time on his own terms.
A very young and healthy Ben finds himself walking barefoot along a narrow wooded path. Where it leads he does not know but he knows he must travel it. Presently, a small, cocky devil, slightly taller and stockier than the young Ben, blocks his path. He yells, “Hey, boy! You can’t travel this path! I’m here to take you to Hell.” Ben replies, “The hell you say!”, and the young scrapper balls his fists, takes a fighting stance, and leaps into the demon, biting, gouging, kicking, and scratching. In short order, he has the fat demon pinned to the ground trying to cover himself from the pounding of young Ben’s fists. The demon begs, “Let me up! You can walk anywhere you damned well please! Just, let me up!. Ben rolls off and comes up still in his fighting stance. The demon staggers back a short distance and yells, “I’ll be back with my friends and we’ll take you to Hell! You’ll see!” and runs off into the woods.
Ben, not knowing how many friends may return, picks up his pace. He jogs on down the path, still not knowing where it goes. After a while he hears feet running behind him. He looks over his shoulder and sees the cocky demon and two slightly smaller demons gaining on him. His instinct is to turn and fight no matter how many there are but, they are three to his one and he might find a better battle ground farther on, so he runs…fast. They still gain on him and, just as they are closing, – POW! – one demon is knocked off the path by someone sprinting out of the woods. Then, – POW! – the other small demon is taken out. He turns on the cocky demon and the coward runs like a rabbit back down the path abandoning his two friends. A young Andy yells, “Go for the fence!”, as he releases one demon that runs off into the woods. Ray turns his demon loose who follows the first and runs to hold the wire for Ben to slip through.
With all three on the other side, Andy says, “We’re safe for now.”. Ben asks, “Where is this?”. Andy replies, “Heaven.”. “Ain’t it supposed to have a big gate?”, asks Ben. Andy says, “That’s on the front side. This is the back fence. You didn’t see it because you’re late. Saint Peter’s been looking for you for a month and he was mad as hell when Death came back without you. We’ll have to hide you back here somewhere until he cools off. It could take years.”
After a while, they are sneaking along a small creek as they search for a place for Ben to hide. A tall, bearded figure approaches from a distance when Andy and Ray begin to cower in fear as if anticipating a good switching. As the figure draws near, Ben bristles that someone is frightening his brothers, and asks, “Just who are you?”. “I am Saint Peter!”, comes the answer in a booming voice, “You are late! I sent Death to kindly guide you here a month ago and he came back with a black eye! What do you have to say for yourself!”. The young Ben stands straight and replies, “Well, ‘Pete’. I’m well aware that I was called for. But, I’ll be damned if I was going to let Hazel have sorrow on her wedding anniversary. I came in my own time. Just what is a month compared to an eternity?”. Saint Peter, now very agitated, growls, “You may very well be damned! You are late, you have taken me from my duties at the gate, and you have tried the very patience of Heaven itself! I will have to take this to higher authority.” With that Saint Peter stood silent as if to count to ten then silently prayed. Ray and Andy awaited the wrath of God.
After a moment that seemed like a fear filled hour, Saint Peter spoke. “I will never pretend to know the mind of the Almighty, but it seems that, after a lot of badgering from Janie and Ruth, hundreds of prayers from your living family and friends, and an appeal from a soul named Sofia, who said you made the best fried apples, Christ has decided to forgive you and you may stay … but, you will have to calm that temper and mind your language.” Ben calms himself, bows and agrees to the terms.
Before he leaves, Saint Peter bends down to the young Ben and whispers, “Just between the two of us, I was rather pleased to see that cocky demon put in his place. It will be a while before bullies any more lost souls.”.
– Graymoss Stillwater –
Categories: Dad's Stories
I write. I fix computers. I feed cats.