art by Cheryl Owen-Wilson
by Helen E. Davis
The man, sitting at the desk, thinks he is alone. His head is bowed and his fingers touch the edge of a grainy photograph. All day he radiates youth and energy, but here he lets himself feel the pain that gnaws at his bones. Weariness shows in the slump of his shoulders, in the sag of his chin. War, pain, grief--all these things have bowed him, but never broken him. He is not the kind of man we can touch.
But now we have our chance. His finger taps what looks like cigars laid upon the ground, if Cuban cigars can be twenty feet long. I taste despair. It rolls across my tongue like a fine brandy; I savor it before I speak. "I can make that go away."
He looks up, face darkening, staring at where my face should be. All he sees is flickering shadow; all he hears is the echo of my voice. There is just a hint of fear in his eyes--this is not our first talk. Then he laughs, this untouchable man. "Can you?"
"Certainly. I'll do it as a favor."
"A favor?" The man leans back, stiffly. "Why?"
"We make things happen. I can stop this, and all your followers will think it is a miracle." In truth, I created it--a temptation here, a favor called in there. All of it done just for this man, just for this moment.