A toy sail boat blew across a quiet pond, with a small boy watching it sail as his father kept watchful eye to see that he didn’t try to jump in the water after it. Couples, holding hands, lying on picnic blankets under a warm summer sky, with music drifting from an oldie, somewhere in the distance; “I only have eyes for you…”
Paul Johnson looked into the eyes of a woman he had once thought about marrying, but his thoughts were not of love and romance, and the deep blue eyes he looked into were not those of a smiling face.
“I’m sorry to hear about Cal” he said, as tenderly as his voice could allow.
The woman’s eyes welled with tears and she wiped them again with the handkerchief that Paul found in his pocket.
Paul groped helplessly for the impossible words, those that never answer, nor can they, when you’ve lost the love of your life.
“If I can help in any way…” be began.
“I know” she interrupted, “Cal said I should get in touch with you if anything happened”.
“But why? I haven’t seen Cal since our college days. He went in one direction…with you…and I went another”.
“Someone…someone you know” she said.
She hesitated. “I’m not sure if I should say”.
Paul instinctively touched her hand. He hadn’t meant to do that, but it took him back those years, looking into her eyes, and he had wanted to touch her since he sat down with her. “Anything I can do”.
She looked directly into his eyes. “Bill Jamison”.
“Bill Jamison? What’s he got to do with anything? ”
“Cal was studying strange things before he died. I know you’ll think I’m crazy, and I wonder about it myself, sometimes…but I think Bill might get to the bottom of this”.
“Bottom of what?”
“What?! Oh, Helen, surely you don’t want to see Bill Jamison. You must know what kind of person he is”.
“Yes…but Cal seemed to think…”
“Helen, I’ve known Bill for several years. I knew him before his wife died, when he was actually a decent sort of person, but Helen, Bill would be dangerous”.
“Well, Helen, you’re in a very fragile state right now. You’re talking about UFOs, and good God, Helen, this is something Bill will take and rip to shreds, right along with you”.
“That’s why Cal wanted him. He knew that Bill was…a nonbeliever”.
“That’s putting it mildly. Bill Jamison believes in nothing except making a buck. Believer? If you think you’re going to convert him to some wild eyed notion of…I’m sorry. I’m not trying to hurt you, Helen. I’m trying to spare you”.
“I know, believe me, I know. But Cal wanted someone like Bill, who didn’t believe in anything.”
“He couldn’t have picked a better man. If Bill Jamison ever had a heart, he doesn’t have it now”.
“Yes. Cal thought that if Bill could be convinced, then everyone would know, and understand”.
“Won’t happen. Bill wouldn’t believe in Santa Clause if you took him to the North Pole and introduced him.”
“There’s no Santa Clause”.
“It wouldn’t matter if there were. Bill gets this sadistic kick out of destroying all beliefs. Then again, he might support your idea if it gets people to questioning God. He might trade off one fantasy to get at another. You never know”.
“Paul…Cal began investigating UFOs for a reason. He didn’t believe such nonsense himself until….”
“Something happened….to me”.
“Like what? You saw a UFO? Lots of people think they see them, but it usually turns out to be something that can be explained”.
“No, I didn’t see a UFO. I never really saw anything.”
“So what happ-” He stared at her. “No. You’re not going to say you were kidnapped by them. Are you?”
“I don’t know. I don’t remember anything”.
“You mean you lost time? Blacked out?”
“Yes, but there’s more….”
“I gave birth nine months after it happened”.
“You know my background…my stepfather….”
“I’m still lost here. What are you saying?”
“I never wanted to have children. After he raped me, I was so terrified of the act of sex… that I had my tubes tied as soon as I could do it without my mother’s permission. I never even wanted to get married, but….”
“Okay, all right. It all starts to make sense now. When I started to kiss you that night…”
“I was afraid. I liked you, Paul. I liked you a lot. I thought I could handle it, but…”
“Yes, and I acted like a jerk. I made it worse, probably. You could have told me. You could have explained”.
“You seemed so angry… like my stepfather…I couldn’t speak because, well, it brought back memories”.
“I’m sorry. I’m very sorry. I didn’t know. But I wasn’t mad, I was…frustrated. We had dated so long, and I just, I was just too young to realize, I guess.”
“It wasn’t you. It was me”.
“The classic rejection line. At least that’s what I thought when you said it back then. It hurt. It hurt for a long time. I’m truly sorry if I caused you any more pain…but Helen, you don’t need to talk to Bill Jamison. If I couldn’t save you any pain before, but I can now. Just…let it go, or I’ll help you find somebody else”.
“Cal made me promise”.
Paul thought he had forgotten, but now he hated Cal again, for a different reason. He knew Cal from college, they had been friends. But Cal ended up with Helen. Cal understood something that Paul could not, had broken through a barrier that Helen wouldn’t share with him. She trusted Cal more.
“Why did you marry Cal?” he blurted it, suddenly realizing that he was so absorbed he was literally thinking out loud.
“After you and I…I told Cal what happened. I told him my problem with my stepfather. I told him how I felt, and that I couldn’t have children…”
“What? Wait!” It suddenly broke through Paul’s self pity what she was saying. “You couldn’t have children! Of course! But you gave birth nine months after this ‘sighting’, or whatever you think it was”.
“You’re saying…” he stared at her, “You’re saying that this, this something, untied your tubes and caused you to get pregnant?”
“And that’s how you plan to convert Bill Jamison?”
Paul sat quietly for a long moment. “It might work. Can you prove you had yourself ‘fixed’ before all this?”
“And now everything’s back to normal? How do I know you didn’t find some expert doctor who could do this and get things working again?”
“Then find him. Look all you want. I never went to any doctor”.
“How about DNA?”
“Nothing out of the ordinary. Cal shows to be his father”.
“There. There goes your case. Strange DNA, something, anything different. Do you realize what you’re setting yourself up for? Especially with somebody like Bill Jamison. He’s going to the equivalent of a rape if he takes this thing public”.
“I have to do it….for Cal”.
“For Cal? Did Cal lose his mind? Surely he would know what would happen if this thing goes public!”
“I have to try”.
“Helen, for whatever we might once have meant to each other, I’m begging, don’t do this”.
“If you don’t help me, I’ll find him myself”.
Paul forced himself to smile. He touched her hand again, instinctively. “Such courage. All right. If you’re determined, I can try and help , but Helen, this won’t be pretty. ”
“Thank you. This really means a lot.”
“It’s nothing”. He lied. It was something, a lot bigger than he wished to admit. He realized he still cared.
“Tell, me, why is this Jamison so terrible? What would make him as mean as you say?”
“It’s kind of a long story, but I guess it’s best you should know. Bill Jamison, many years ago, was a true believer. He believed in Gd, he believed in a better world, all those good things people are supposed to believe in.”
“What changed him?”
“His wife. She died. You see, Bill was a believer because mostly he believed in her. He met her when he was just a teen-ager, and his family moved into the house next door. He was smitten from the first time he saw her.”
” It sounds wonderful”.
“For him, it was. He loved her so much that he forgot about himself. All he could do was please her, not that it was wrong, because she seemed to be as taken with him as he was of her. She was just one of those people who was always smiling. Y’know, the kind of person who makes you feel special just being around her”.
“Cal was like that for me”.
“Yeah, well, Bill couldn’t wait to get married out of high school, but he felt he had a military obligation, so he joined the Marines. She was fine with it. He knew she would wait. It was one of those perfect relationships that you know have to work. No two people were more devoted.
“Bill came back from the war, and he was changed. He was very bitter, didn’t talk a lot, but she was so patient. She accepted what he had become, and she waited. He gradually put it all behind him, and he got a job as a writer. Started out with the local paper, and worked his way up to bigger papers, and finally decided to start writing his own books”.
“No, nothing like that. Bill wanted to make people feel good about themselves, because that’s what his wife did. She made everyone feel so much better, and Bill wanted to help people who had been traumatized by war, people who had suffered deep pain. Bill, believe it or not, studied to become a minister”.
“Oh yes. Bill began writing and preaching, spreading the good news. She encouraged him, stood beside him, loved him completely, no matter what. And then she had cancer. Breast cancer. Bill did everything, took her for surgery. She lost her breasts, but he kept telling her it didn’t matter. he tried to be for her what she was to him, but she kept getting worse. The cancer spread. Bill stopped sleeping, stopped writing, started drinking. It was like everything he experienced began to back up inside him and make him remember. He told me later that all he could do was pray, so he prayed constantly, asking God to take him, give her his life, but she died. It broke him mentally and spiritually. He changed. All the love he tried to feel before, just rotted away and turned into a nasty hatred for everything good. He wrote for the money. He wrote for the hatred. He wrote because he wanted to crush the goodness inside of others like it was crushed inside of him….and, he became rich doing it”.
“Rich and hated”.
“Yes, but he didn’t care. It proved to him that everyone was really degenerate, deep down. For every person who hated him, or spit on him, it only proved in his mind that people aren’t worth life or effort.”
“And that’s why you think he’ll hurt me?”
“I know he will. He will because he’s destroyed anything resembling a soul in himself. He lives only to die, just waiting, but too big a coward to take his own life”.
“Then you know how I felt after Cal died”.
“You’re not like him, Helen. He’s evil”.
“Then why do you stay around him?”
“Honestly? I don’t know. I used to be his agent, when he needed one, but now I just hang around. He’s a strangely interesting man”.
“Maybe Cal knew something.”
“Then Cal wasn’t thinking about you…I’m sorry”.
“It’s all right. I’m too numb right now to feel hurt. I just want to get this over with”.
“Then forget this. Just let it go. Raise your son, and don’t tell anyone”.
“I can’t do that. Either you get in touch with him, or I’ll find a way”.
“All right. For you, for Cal, for old times. I’ll do it. But don’t say I didn’t warn you”.