This is Installment Three of the novel Rose and Justice. It includes Chapters I.v, I.vi, I.vii, and I.iii. It is 5,254 words long. As other installments are posted, links for each will be added under the tab labeled “The Novel” at the top of this page. Enjoy!
Nancy Carter squeezed the hand of her husband, then the nurse made Dan leave the room. In the years of The Great Depression, it was unheard of for a father to watch his children being born. Nancy’s last pain-free moment seemed so long ago she could hardly remember it. The bright, bare bulbs of light in the delivery room at Dr. Clifton’s clinic added to her physical exertion and made her sweat all the more. Perspiration ran down her face and dripped off her chin. It coursed between her breasts like a river.
She was tired, but Dan found that hard to believe. She still had the energy to grip his hand until he thought the bones would snap like dry twigs. He hadn’t left her side since he had driven her to the clinic over 24 hours ago. When he was finally asked to leave the room, he grinned and backed out the door knowing the wait was about over. This was their first child, and Dan wouldn’t listen when the doctor had tried to convince him to catch a few minutes rest. Just a month ago Dan’s aunt Nelly had studied the position of the bulge on Nancy’s abdomen and predicted a boy. She hadn’t been wrong in over twenty years, and Dan Carter wouldn’t miss the birth of his son for all the cotton in Alabama. He paced back and forth in the waiting room, absentmindedly fiddled with the cigars he had stuffed in his shirt pocket, and listened intently for anything he could hear from the other side of the door, for the infant cry he knew was to come.
“We’re almost there, Nancy,” Dr. Clifton said calmly. “Just a few more pushes and it’ll be all over. Let’s go. Let’s have another big push, Nancy.”
Nancy Carter bellowed as she tensed her body for another push. At this point, she just wanted this thing out of her so she could rest. Her last thought right now was on her baby. Her pregnancy had been perfect. Why was the birth taking so damn long?
“One more, Nancy. One more and we’ll have a baby. C’mon, give me everything you’ve got now.” Dr. Clifton loved this part of the delivery as much as new mothers hated it. Within a matter of seconds, he would be holding a new life in his arms. Some doctors grew immune to this over the years, but not Crandall Clifton. He felt like the luckiest man alive because he had been the first person to hold 346 babies. This would be number 347.
Nancy rested for a brief second and gathered every ounce of reserve and focus she had left. If this push didn’t do it, she didn’t know if she would have any more to give. She bore down on her abdomen and screeched. If there had been any other patients in Dr. Clifton’s two-room clinic, the closest thing to a hospital that Cullman, Alabama had, they wouldn’t be getting much rest with all this commotion. Nancy pushed long and hard. She kept pushing until Dr. Clifton stopped her.
“All righty then! Here we are! Would ya’ look at this!” Dr. Clifton held up a bloody, mucus-covered, screaming baby boy.
Dr. Clifton’s words seemed to give permission, so Nancy fell back hard against the bed, collapsing under the exhaustion she suddenly felt clearly, then struggled to crane her neck forward, to look over her still distended belly to the wiggling, slimy being cradled in the doctor’s hands.
“Oh, lord, he’s so beautiful!” Nancy started to cry because she was so happy and so relieved at the same time.
Dr. Clifton washed his hands and arms in the sink by the door, then went out to tell Dan the good news. Dr. Clifton’s nurse, Delores, cleaned up Daniel Christopher Carter, Junior, measured and weighed him, and put his first diaper on him. She wrapped him tightly in a blanket and laid him in Nancy’s arms just as Dan entered the room.
“For the record,” Delores spoke, “little Daniel weighed in at 7 pounds, 12 ounces, is 22 inches long, and entered this world at precisely 5:17 am, April 12th, 1932. You’ll have all of this on the birth certificate, of course, but I thought you’d like to know.” The nurse smiled and left.
Daniel slept and suckled intermittently, lying securely at his mother’s breast. Nancy and Dan just stared at him. They were in awe of this tiny wonder and treasured these first precious moments with their child. The nurse would be back soon to take him to the makeshift nursery set up in an empty examining room so Nancy could get some rest, but for now he was all theirs and the Carter family held closely to each other without saying a word.
Dr. Clifton had delivered both Nancy and Dan. Delores Jackson was a personal friend of Dan’s mother. Dan and Nancy knew everybody in Cullman so it seemed, and they loved it here. It was home. And now they had a son. He would play baseball, catch frogs, and learn all the words to “Dixie” right here in Cullman. And, Dan and Nancy assumed, he would also fall in love here, marry a local girl, and give them lots of Cullman grandbabies one day.
The baby started to stir and Nancy adjusted to give him better access to her swollen breasts. He began to cry and, being new parents, Dan and Nancy felt helpless as to what to do. The baby reached a tiny arm out from under the blanket and opened his eyes for the first time. Unable to focus yet, he looked at the only thing he could distinguish. Through the window of the delivery room, Daniel Christopher Carter, Junior saw and reached for the rising sun in the eastern sky.
Juliet and Hal sat in a meadow with a sumptuous picnic feast spread out before them. Silver platters were heavily laden with fruit, cheese, bread, honey, and some sort of delicious creamy spread which tasted good on everything. Two goblets of wine washed down the food. Juliet felt famished, yet all she could do was to stare at the horizon flooded with light.
“My dear, you must eat. Even Here one needs nourishment, you know. It will help your awakening.” Hal directed her.
“I’m sorry.” Juliet responded absentmindedly and reached for a small slice of apple. She put it between her lips and sucked lightly.
“You can bite the fruit. You won’t hurt it. When you eat fruit, you help it to fulfill its destiny.” Hal explained.
Juliet put the apple slice down. “Hal, is this heaven?”
Hal laughed. “You young ones! Still so wrapped up in human ideology that you must have polarization to provide definition. Black and white, good and bad, heaven and hell. Yes, in your way of thinking, I suppose this is heaven. However, sometimes things which seem or feel bad happen here.”
“Like what?” Juliet looked at Hal in surprise.
Hal reached over and took her hand. “Like saying goodbye to Romeo.”
“Oh, yes, that.”
“So many people arrive here thinking that because earth was imperfect, this place must be perfection. But the fact is that this place and earth are not separate at all. We are simply vibrating at a higher frequency than the incarnated beings. They are all around us and we are all around them, just on different planes of existence. Perfection is available to everyone at any time. In fact, we always already possess perfection. We just forget that in the fog that is known as being human.”
“After I return to earth, I mean, the earth-plane…”
Hal smiled. Of course she had already made up her mind. He would have been foolish to think that she would want it otherwise. He could hope, though, and to have her stay would have been his hope. He loved her in the purest way, a love created in the heart and needing no other definition or logic. So many people on the earth-plane created love out of image or actions, looks and even clothing, things so far below unimportant that they didn‘t even register on that scale. His love was total and unfettered. This kind of love could happen in the blink of an eye. It only needed the recognition of a kindred soul to spark it into a flame. This kind of love happened to a lucky few on earth, but usually everyone else thought they were crazy. His love for Juliet made no demands and sought no selfish reason. He didn’t even think of expressing it in a sexual way, although sex was certainly a part of this almost perfect world and could express the greatest love almost as well as a smile or a hug or a sacrifice even. He knew that she would give her body to no one but Romeo. Hal’s perfect love wanted her to return to Romeo more than anything in this world. Hal’s perfect love would keep him from ever being happy until Juliet was happy.
“After I return to earth,” Juliet repeated, “will I know any of this?”
“You will know the most important things somewhere deep within you. You may live your entire life being driven to something with no logical explanation. But, that drive is the very soul of you trying to take you where you need to be.”
“Will I be Juliet?”
“You will always be you. But, chances are slim that you will be named Juliet.”
“Has Romeo arrived back there yet?”
“Is he…is he a boy?”
“Yes, he is, although he could have been female. That was a very astute question, my dear.”
“What is his name?” Juliet asked in an almost whisper.
“Daniel. His name is Daniel.” Hal hesitated. “Did you know that name means brave? It’s quite fitting. Romeo has been very brave in his search for you.”
“Will he love another while he’s there?”
Hal hesitated. He knew he must answer this question carefully. “He will love many. Just as you have loved many.”
“I have only loved one. Only Romeo.” Juliet insisted.
“Only Romeo in the way you love Romeo. Juliet, do you love me?”
“Of course I do, Hal, but it’s different.”
“But, no less. Am I right? Different, but no less?”
Juliet thought for a moment. “No. No less. Different, but not less. Odd, I wouldn’t have thought that possible.”
“Most people on earth can’t conceive of it. They believe that love is one portion they receive and any love subtracts from other love. Love grows exponentially. The more you love me and the more you love others, the more you will love Romeo.”
“So, Romeo will love others the way that I love you?”
“Romeo will love in his own way. There are as many different loves as there are combinations of beings. Each being is a force of love. When two beings connect with their forces of love, the love they create is totally unique, unequalled anywhere else.”
“Will he love someone more than he loves me?”
Hal smiled. “I can promise you this, my dear, Romeo will never love anyone like he loves you. You are his soul’s mate. You are his completion. His creation cannot be finished without you.”
“Daniel! Daniel, you’re going to be late!”
“O.k., mom!” Daniel screamed from his upstairs room. Then under his breath, “Sheez, I’m almost ready. Leave me alone, would ya’?” Daniel tried to tie his bowtie for the third time. The salesman at the tuxedo store had shown him how, and it had seemed so easy then. Now he just wanted to rip the damn thing off his neck. He was sure it would choke him. Or maybe he was hoping.
D.C. Carter, Jr., had turned 18 three weeks ago, had graduated from high school four weeks ago, had impregnated Sandy Jenkins six weeks ago, and was getting married today. He always knew that he would marry someone from Cullman, settle down and raise babies. He just couldn’t fight the idea that what he had always known was not what he had always wanted. He wanted to see the world. He wanted to be free from responsibilities and family. Mostly, he wanted to see any place but Cullman, Alabama, outside his window each morning. All of the things that were happening to him seemed almost out of his control and certainly against his wishes.
When D.C., Sr., heard about the upcoming grandchild, there had been no other choice. Daniel would marry Sandy and that was it. Not only that, but Daniel would be as happy about this new arrival as his daddy had been when he was born. In 1950, it was the unwritten law of the land in Alabama and especially in the Carter household. The worst part was that he hadn’t even wanted to lose his virginity to Sandy. She had seduced him so strongly that he would have looked like a pansy if he had refused. But, no one would believe that now, that he hadn’t wanted to have sex, hadn’t wanted to make a baby at all. Sure, it had been fun, but it sure as hell hadn’t been worth this.
“Daniel! Get down here before Sandy and the whole crowd at the church start panicking!” Nancy Carter yelled with a woman’s fervor.
“I’m comin’, ma” Daniel said as he ran down the stairs two at a time. As he reached the ground floor, Nancy Carter met him with a beaming smile.
“Oh, baby, you look so handsome. I remember the day you were born. And now here you are, minutes away from bein’ a married man.”
Daniel forced a smile and swallowed hard. “C’mon, ma. We’re gonna’ be late.”
D.C.’s knees locked and he could almost feel the blood flow being restricted as he stood at the front of the church waiting for Sandy to come down the aisle. Daniel, Sr., was best man, a tradition in the south for all but the most unloving of fathers and sons. Three of D.C.’s football teammates from high school made up the rest of the groomsmen lined up nervously behind him. Sandy’s mother had insisted upon a large church wedding regardless of the fact that Sandy was in a family way, and Nancy Carter was pleased by the decision. Daniel had been her only child, and she wanted this wedding as badly as anyone.
Sandy’s younger sister was the acting maid of honor, even though Daniel knew for a fact that she was neither a maid nor honorable. A trio of Cullman High School pep club members filled out Sandy’s side of the church platform. Most of Cullman was crowded into the First Baptist Church and most of Cullman, including the minister performing the ceremony, were fully aware of Sandy’s condition. No one could pin down where the information leak had come from, but news seemed to get around by osmosis in Cullman.
There was no denying that Sandy made a beautiful picture as she slowly walked down the aisle on the arm of her father, a stern man who looked even more so in this situation. Even D.C. forced a smile when he saw her in her white gown and veil, however inappropriate they might be. He bent his knees slightly to avert a possible blackout and nervously moved his weight from one foot to the other.
Sandy wasn’t so bad. He could certainly do a lot worse in Cullman. But, Cullman wasn’t the whole world and, for some reason, he seemed to be the only person in this god-forsaken town who realized that. In many ways, he felt like he was attending his own funeral. D.C. Carter, Jr., would disappear today and in his place would be a respectable family man who looked remarkably like him. But, that wasn’t all. D.C. couldn’t shake the feeling that something else was going away today, something far deeper than anything he had ever felt before. He had figured it was just pre-wedding jitters. But, today the feeling was so strong that he almost had a hard time breathing. All he knew right then was that Sandy suddenly looked like a stranger, even though he had known her since kindergarten. He had this odd thought that he had never met her before in his life.
Sandy and her father reached the front, and she smiled a photograph smile at D.C. The preacher asked who gave her away and her father made the standard reply. She kissed her daddy’s stony cheek, then turned to Daniel. She took his arm, but he kept it hanging straight down at his side. They faced the minister. Daniel remembered nothing of the ceremony except that somehow he was able to repeat after the minister in the appropriate places and that he was eternally grateful when the Rev. Maynard said, “Do you, Daniel, take Sandy …” Sandy! That was her name! He had completely forgotten.
The reception was held at the V.F.W. hall. Any wedding was almost countywide news and the place was packed with Cullmanites eating finger sandwiches of tuna fish on slightly crusty triangles of white bread and white cake with white icing that was not much more than molded sugar. Everyone seemed to be having a good time so D.C. resigned himself to do the same. His buddies had packed a small trashcan with ice and Budweiser and hid it under the head table where the new Mr. and Mrs. Daniel Christopher Carter, Jr., sat while everyone stared at them. D.C. discreetly poured the beer into a plastic cup and drank it like it was water. He had learned long ago to hide the signs of intoxication from his strait-laced mother, so no one knew that he was getting quickly numb. The worst parts of the evening were when some jerk would start banging a spoon on a glass, then others would join in and wouldn’t stop until D.C. leaned over and kissed his bride.
After the party, D.C. and Sandy retired to their room on the second floor of the Midtown Hotel. It was a plain, monkish room with no paintings and drab brown drapes. A queen-sized bed took up too much space in the small room and a ceiling fan only seemed to stir up the smell of mildew. Sandy excused herself to the ladies room, giggling like a schoolgirl, and Daniel sat on the edge of the bed with his head in his hands. This, he thought dreadfully, was the horrible beginning to the rest of his life.
All too quickly, Sandy emerged from the bathroom wearing a slinky red negligee. Daniel wasn’t the least bit turned on, but suddenly felt a little sorry for her so he managed a smile. The movement of the smile was all he needed to instantly realize he was drunk. The room began to spin, and he fell back on the bed. He woke up in the same position, still in his tuxedo shirt and pants, eight hours later, demons in his head banging on the walls of his skull to get out.
Juliet and Hal were spending most of their time in great leisure. Their main activity was talking or, more precisely, Hal teaching and Juliet learning. She had acquired so much information that she was truly amazed at herself for remembering it all. The most awe-inspiring part was that the more she learned, the more she realized how much there was to learn. She still knew relatively little in regards to the entire world of knowledge and truth.
She did know that somehow Hal was keeping tabs on Romeo. He often gave her small tidbits about the current incarnation. She also knew that there was a great deal he wasn’t telling her. When she would push him for more information, she would receive less. When she asked the secret of how Hal was getting this information, he would clam up completely. He just kept saying that he would only tell her what she absolutely needed to know. She knew his name was Daniel, he was an only child, and he lived in a town even smaller than Verona. She knew his birth date and time and she also knew that he was deeply unhappy, although Hal refused to give her any reasons for this. She simply chose to believe that he was miserable because she wasn’t with him. She wasn’t far from the truth.
She was beginning to feel very awake and worried that she would have to go back before she and Hal figured out their strategy. Hal told her not to worry, they still had plenty of time, but he did seem diligent about formulating a plan.
Hal was rightly concerned that “the east” was inadequate direction for a potential rendezvous. He decided right from the start that he and Juliet would determine an exact location, then he would give Romeo his instructions when he returned, after Juliet was gone. After all, what was the east exactly? The Orient? Eastern Peru? East St. Louis?
Verona would have been ideal, but it was in the middle of northern Italy, a country in Western Europe, and failed to meet the east requirement in any way. Venice was the closest place to Verona that might qualify, sitting precariously as it did on the east coast of Italy, half swallowed by the Adriatic Sea. The possibilities were endless, but a specific place had to be chosen. Since Juliet was not yet totally aware and still knew relatively little about the earth and its geography, he felt this decision was primarily up to him. It seemed a small item, yet he took it very seriously. Hal felt that the environment must be just right for their long overdue reunion.
Juliet didn’t really care. She just wanted him to hurry. She wanted every detail in place as far ahead of time as possible. This was the conversation they had time and again. It was their current topic of discussion as they sat on the banks of a river skipping rocks.
“Well, if it isn’t Socrates and Plato with their heads together once again.” Malcolm had ambushed them from behind and proceeded to sit down without invitation.
“Malcolm, no offense, but we are discussing something of some importance here. Would you mind?” Hal tried to be polite.
Malcolm knew they wanted him to leave, but he opted to decipher the request in his own manner. “Not at all. What’s the problem? Maybe I can help.”
Juliet showed less restraint. “It really doesn’t concern you, Malcolm. Now, we have a lot of work to do and I would appreciate being alone with Hal, if you don’t mind.”
“Well, I do mind. And furthermore, I find both of your attitudes to be less than loving. Perhaps I should tell this to the light.” No matter how Malcolm tried to live in the light of love that defined the eternal Here, he couldn’t seem to shake an essential combativeness to his nature that seemed a thick leftover residue from previous lives.
“And what would the light say?” Hal, ever the teacher, was asking a leading question.
Malcolm sulked, then answered less assertively, “To mind my own business. Why are you always pointing out my faults, Hal. That isn’t very nice.”
“Sometimes it’s the nicest thing that can be done,” Hal responded.
“I swear you’re trying to get me kicked out of here.”
“I don’t have anything to do with it.”
“All right, I’m going. But, first, just tell me what you two are talking about. Please? I get left out of everything. Just this once and then I’ll leave. I promise.” Malcolm was probably the loneliest being here, but he only needed to look inside to find out why. His insistence on struggle was a weapon that could inflict pain on anyone around him if they allowed it. Perhaps realizing that the struggle was an illusion would be his lesson on his next trip, which was quickly becoming inevitable.
Hal looked to Juliet. He would never tell her business without her permission. Juliet sighed, then hoping it would actually get rid of him, told Malcolm about the dilemma of the future meeting place for her and Romeo.
“Oh, please! As if that’s a problem!” Malcolm was never satisfied. “Just pick a spot. How about Four Corners? You know, where the states of New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, and Colorado meet in a perfect corner. You can’t get much more distinct than that. There‘s not a single other thing there so it wouldn’t be hard to spot each other.”
“It has to be in the east.” Hal held up his hand to stop the next question. “Don’t ask why, it just does, that’s all.”
“Well, that’s eastern Utah. But, I understand why that really won’t work. So, somewhere in the east.” Malcolm mused over the situation briefly, obviously certain that it was up to him to solve this problem. “Well, since Hal’s last three trips will have been in the “New World,” he’ll feel more comfortable there. That rules out eastern Bangladesh. New World on the east coast would seem the most logical answer, but where? D.C.? Nah, too political. Boston? Umm, too stuffy. Philly, New York, Cape Cod, … none of those sound quite right either. Oh, wait a minute. I’ve got it! St. Simons. It’s a lovely little island just off the coast of Georgia. And you can‘t get any more east than an island off the eastern coast. I was there once and would highly recommend it, although not under the circumstances I was in.” Malcolm stood up and dusted himself off. He was greatly pleased with himself. “Well, I can see that my work here is done. If you need me further, I shall be at the baths.” He smiled triumphantly and left.
Hal and Juliet looked at each other. Juliet didn’t know enough about it all to pass judgment. Hal gave a reluctant grin and said, “It’s really not a bad idea.”
Juliet smiled. “It’s settled then. St. Simons Island, . . . where?”
“Georgia. St. Simons Island, Georgia. I like the sound of that.”
Malcolm dance-walked to the baths in the center of the village. “The baths” were really one large pool surrounded by columns and statues. All four sides of the pool had steps leading into the water that was infinitely deep. The water was continuously any temperature you wanted it to be. Malcolm liked luxurious warmth so the water was always about 102 degrees for him. The bodies of the beings up here were like nothing anyone could imagine on earth – a combination of the physical and the spiritual. One could feel sensations like hot and cold, wet and dry, but one could also control those sensations by a willing of the spirit.
Malcolm entered the pool at the end farthest away from the huts and gathering halls and lounged on the steps so that he could see the comings and goings of the other beings. For Malcolm this place had been truly heaven when he discovered that gossip and scandal still existed Here. The beings did all the things they would do on earth, except Here there were no excuses. Because the spirit was in complete control, a being couldn’t act out and then blame it on alcohol or the weather or any of the others in the myriad of reasons incarnated humans give for their behavior. One could drink as much as they wanted Here and never get drunk. Here nothing outside of beings had an impact not approved by their intention. All outside forces were controlled by their own wills so it was impossible to do anything but take full responsibility for all words, thoughts, and actions. That was often a burden for Malcolm, but he was so grateful to know that the beings around him could still give him conversational fodder that he accepted the less desirable parts of his life here. Just last week Peter The Great (yeah right, thought Malcolm) had called Napoleon Bonaparte an overrated strategist and a midget mind. This started a verbal brawl which soon drew a small crowd. Malcolm was pleased to find out that the root of the entire debacle originated in a testosterone war they were waging over the affections of a certain former Somali princess. It hadn’t been decided yet, but the odds were 2 to 1 that both would be sent back. Malcolm thought it was a good bet.
As Malcolm relaxed in the water, he noticed several fine-looking young beings stroll by naked. He loved the acceptance of nudity Here and could wile away hours watching the scenery. Sex was readily available, but much different than it had been on earth. It was much less complicated. You could still engage in the activity for mere immediate gratification, but only if both partners had the same expectation. Love was such an overpowering concept in this place that Malcolm had learned very quickly how much it enhanced even the physical pleasure in love-making. This was much different from his experience on earth. On earth, he had only known sex for the sake of sex. Here, he had at least begun to learn love.
It was still difficult though, and he often allowed less than loving thoughts to enter his mind. This happened as he lay in the baths lazily watching the passersby. He began to think about Hal and Juliet and the way they had attached themselves together, always away from the others and talking for hours. He knew Hal loved Juliet deeply, but that it wasn’t sexual. He also saw how Juliet turned to Hal for knowledge and approval. He wanted to be a part of their grand schemes, but they wanted no part of him. He was instantly filled with intense jealously. In several of his most recent incarnations, Malcolm had been driven by a strong ego, a need to be in charge, and an intense feeling of misfortune when he was not.
He thought it was very unloving of them not to include him and make him feel welcome. If it were up to him, he’d send them both back today. The idea that they were considered much more advanced than he bothered him even more. He knew that if any one of them got sent back it would most likely be him. He could live through that. He’d taken the trip many times before. But, he hated the idea that any beings could think themselves superior to him. He didn’t know that Hal and Juliet didn’t think themselves superior at all. They were far too advanced for that. Malcolm also didn’t know that he felt they were superior only because he thought of himself as inferior.
He seethed in the pool, building up their “transgressions” in his mind until he had thought them into evil twins. He envied their enjoyment of each other and would make them pay for it dearly. He felt a familiar tug inside of him pulling him to war and knew that he craved the battle as much as he feared its outcome. He was going on the offensive and would attack when they least expected it. He wasn’t sure how he would go about it. But, somehow, he would make them aware of him in a way that was sure to get their attention.
© Deborah E. Moore – 2011