“Christ, Jesus wasn’t a patch on this guy, I’m tellin’ you, Harve!”
“C’mon, Daniel, you’re kiddin’ me, right?”
“I’m tellin’ you straight, he puts his hands on their shoulders, closes his goddamn eyes and two minutes later they’re healed. Cancer, heart disease, squints, you name it!”
“And you’ve seen this?”
“Goddamn right I’ve seen it. I seen it with my own eyes! Saul came to me first thing Monday morning. ‘Daniel, you ain’t gonna believe it,’ he says, ‘I took momma to see this new healer guy. After two minutes with the guy – Abraham he’s called – Wham! Her cataracts were gone!’ So, I took myself out to Shady Creek. He’s got a big tent set up. I watched for mebbe half an hour. Everyone he touched came away healed, I swear to God!”
“OK, OK, I’m interested! What’s he chargin’?”
“That’s just it, he don’t want no money, says he’s doin’ ‘God’s work.’ All he wants is eight hours’ sleep, some bread and water, and he’ll work twelve hours straight. It’s incredible.”
“Don’t he want nothin’ else? What about, y’know, chicks? Mebbe some dope?”
“He’ll eat a meal at night, that’s it. Spends an hour meditatin,’ then – lights out, as I understan’ it.”
“Wow, this is some guy! We could use him and if he don’t want no money, then he’s a schmuck! It don’t stop us chargin’ though, mebbe just a few dollars to start with. We’ve got the organisation, the management power, to make this sucker world famous! Send Saul and the boys down to Shady Creek pronto and make sure they don’t return without our friend Abe’s signature!”
“Will do, Boss!”
“There’s just one thing, Daniel.”
“Two minutes per healing, That’s thirty clients an hour, three hundred and sixty a day. At, say, five dollars, that’s only 1800 bucks a day. Take into account the tour bus, road crew, radio and TV advertising, insurance, an’ all the rest of it, not forgettin’ our commission, of course, and it ain’t so profitable. Not till we get the merchandising going big time, anyhows. Maybe even get this joker a record deal, who knows? See if you can’t get him to speed up a tad – say ninety seconds a healing. God’s all powerful ain’t he? See what you can do!”
Abraham splashed his face with cold water and looked in the mirror. A pale ascetic face, framed by curly brown hair stared back. The eyes were the palest jade in colour, almost translucent. In here, his private bathroom, he had a moment of tranquillity, away from the queue snaking into the distance. Away from tempers flaring over who was next. Away from ‘minders’ bellowing at anyone who tried to jump the queue.
A voice in his head told him he was doing God’s work. Hadn’t Jesus himself said ‘Heal the sick’ and ‘Give without pay’? He knew he was being exploited by Harvey and Daniel, the ‘gruesome twosome,’ yet, at the end of the day, they’d got him all the patients he could handle – and then some. But he felt pain for those who queued up for hours in the baking heat, and who, when his God-assigned twelve hours were up, were turned away, unhealed.
The door crashed open and there stood a man, wide-eyed, red-faced and sweating profusely. One arm hung limply by his side, emaciated and useless. “Heal me, please. Heal my arm. Make me whole again!”
“How did you get past security, friend?”
“What does it matter? Won’t you heal me? Please.”
“I’m sorry, friend, I only heal those in the queue, in the order they arrive each day. That is God’s will.”
The man’s other arm raised a gun. “Heal me or I’ll kill you.”
A lady with fingers gnarled and twisted with arthritis, patiently waiting at the head of the queue, looked up at the nearby report. She called to the guards, “Hey, I’m next, what was that bang? It sounded like a gun. Where’s Abraham?”
A guard approached. “Nothing to worry about, lady. Abraham’s just in the bathroom. Taking a well-earned break. He won’t be long.”
She took his arm, “Listen, I’m next, you hear. I want to move my fingers again, be able to touch and feel my grandchildren, be free of the pain, y’know. Tell him to come out. Now, do you hear?”
A frantic voice came in the man’s earphone. She saw his face change. It looked like a piece of grey Plasticine.
She inspected her fingers, a travesty of their former selves, once able to sew, knit, play the piano … stroke her mother’s cheeks – then at the pandemonium breaking loose all around her. “Tell him to hurry up, goddamn it!” With an effort she took out a tissue and wiped the tears from her eyes.
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