This is the first 8 chapters of my book Liberty, Out of a Clear, Blue Sky. The book was published in December 2017 on Amazon and January 8, 2018 in IngramSpark.
Out of a Clear, Blue Sky
By Kenneth S. Sumerford
Copyright © 2016, 2017 by Kenneth S. Sumerford
All Rights Reserved
This novel is a work of fiction. Names, places, characters, and incidences are either products of the author’s imagination or used fictitiously. All characters are fictional, and any similarity to people living or dead is purely coincidental.
This book is not intended as a substitute for the medical advice of physicians. Any information of a medical nature is of a general nature. The reader should regularly consult a physician in matters relating to his/her health and particularly with respect to any symptoms that may require diagnosis or medical attention.
Credo Christus Press, U.S.A.
Printed in U.S.A.
To my wife Donna E. Sumerford and to my parents M. Scott Sumerford and Martha Lucille Sumerford.
Thanks to my wife Donna E. Sumerford for supporting me in this long adventure of writing Liberty: Out of a Clear, Blue Sky. The book was started in November 2006 and completed in August 2017. The total writing time was about 19 months, mostly during February 2016 through June 2017.
Thanks also to Scott Sumerford, my son, at Credo Christus Press, Keller, Texas, USA.
Special thanks to the Creator who created the universe, including our Milky Way Galaxy and our special solar system. He created life on planet Earth and so much more.
[ from Advance Review Copy, 10/23/2017 ]
Chapter 1, Their Worlds Collide
The frigid, wet November wind encouraged her to seek shelter in the warmth of stacks of books. She was reading a book in the university’s library in North Texas and glancing at the men near her. Loneliness followed her like freezing rain from her home to the doors of the library, but had to leave when she gazed at the books and the individuals reading the volumes.
The professor slowed his pace. His eyes were caught by the sunlight reflecting off her blonde hair. Her face was like a Miss Texas winner. Her shoulders were straight and her blouse concealed her sculptured chest. A blue skirt rode about two inches above her knees and a brown cotton jacket hung from her shoulders.
“Are you a teacher or student in science?” He stopped.
“No, I’m just reading a book on intelligent design and evolution,” she replied on seeing the professor and then buried her head back into the book.
“Oh, who wrote it?”
She smiled and looked up. “A scientist named Stephen Meyer.”
“I don’t recognize the name.” He raised his eyebrows and displayed a condescending smile.
Her expression hardened. “Dr. Meyer has done some excellent work in science and wrote this book explaining how God used intelligent design to create the universe and develop life on Earth.”
He laughed. “So you’re telling me that God designed a physical universe with galaxies, stars and a planet we call Earth? Sorry, but I’m an atheist and do not believe in all that nonsense.”
She hadn’t taken a good look at who had been speaking with her, but his statement made her take a closer look at him. She raised her voice, “Nonsense? Do you know anything about the human body and DNA, or are you one of those atheists who—“ She didn’t finish the sentence as her eyes grasped the image of a well-dressed, rather handsome man, about six feet tall, with dark-brown hair and a short beard.
“. . . Who is a professor of Biology at this well-respected university? Yes, I have studied DNA and hundreds of other organic molecules at M.I.T., Massachusetts Institute of Technology,” he completed her response in a harsh tone.
She gazed at his broad shoulders and handsome face, she answered calmly, “So you are one of those professors who are secure in their ivory tower and unwilling to see the facts that contradict their ideas?” She smiled in defiance as she stared him in the face.
He began to answer with a rant against the Bible and religion, but the face of his ex-girlfriend Sally appeared in his angry mind. They were only together for three weeks but he said some hurtful things to her. That was only two months ago. The loss still smoldered in his chest and lingered in his mind.
“Well, aren’t you going to say something?” The look on her face was one of puzzled amusement.
She is even pretty when she frowns, he pondered and displayed a kind smile. “Are you a Bible-believing Christian?” he asked, in a more sympathetic voice.
“Yes, that is correct.”
His shoulders and face relaxed. “I probably do not share some of your beliefs, but I do respect you and your right to express them.”
Her frown changed to a Mona-Lisa smile. She breathed in deeply, looked sideways over her shoulder and stared him in the eyes. “You do, huh?” Her face did not conceal her doubts about his truthfulness.
“I am Doctor Ernest Siegfried, a teacher and student of science.” He smiled and extended his right hand.
She reached out her right hand, and then withdrew it back to her side. “What kind of a doctorate do you have?”
“I have a Ph.D. from M.I.T. in Biochemistry.” He held his hand out and waited. “I won’t bite; and if I do, you can sue the university for millions.”
She smiled broadly and stretched out her hand. “My name is Liberty Adair and I have a Bachelor’s degree in Biology. I was half-way through a Master’s degree in Bacteriology when I dropped out and got married.”
“It is a pleasure to meet you, Liberty.”
She pushed back her long blonde hair from her left shoulder. “I came here last week but couldn’t find what I needed.” Her right hand snatched a book and she scanned a few pages.
“What are you reading?”
“A book on cell biology.” Her eyes stared at the ceiling, and then she looked at him and frowned.
“What’s wrong? I teach biology and biochemistry, plus do research. That is why I came to this section of the library. Maybe I can help.” The warmth of his smile resonated in his voice.
“Maybe you can help, Dr. Siegfried.” Her eyes brightened.
“I do have a doctorate but call me Ernest, unless you are in one of my classes,” he said with another smile.
“Okay, Ernest. My questions are about science, causes and how do we know.”
“How can we know what?” he asked mystified.
She paused. “This will probably sound silly.” She looked away from his face and penetrating eyes. “I don’t know the right questions, but how do we know what is real and what is commonly believed by most people?”
The beauty of her face was a natural attraction to his eyes and mind. Then he stared at her fiery-red lips. “That is often a good place to start; formulating good questions can help us focus our research.”
She took a step toward him. “Have you ever felt that you had all the right questions and most of the correct answers; and then unexpectedly, your world changed in a few weeks?” For a moment the thought of her ex-husband flooded her mind, and then it turned into a reddish-gray cloud that floated away. The man in front of her had her full attention.
He noticed the perplexity and hurt on her face. “Well, perhaps a few times in my life. There was the time I was fourteen and was lost for two hours in the woods. It was sunset when my dad found me.”
“No, that’s not what I mean.” Her eyes locked on his, but her voice was soft. “Are you married or ever been married?”
“No, but I was engaged for a little longer than a year.”
“We were engaged for several months, and then the love died.” He smiled briefly. “I have two explanations for why our relationship failed, but that doesn’t seem to matter now. That was about nine years ago.”
“Too bad about the breakup,” she responded, with sympathy in her voice.
“We both pretended to still be in love for the last two or three months. It was probably for the best that it ended.” He looked down the long rows of books. “We weren’t made for each other.”
“I’m sorry.” She thought, He doesn’t seem upset about it now.
She appears to mean it; her eyes match her words. He took a step toward her; gazing at her beautiful face and blonde hair. “We broke up several days before Christmas. Next week is the first of December.” He rubbed his right hand across the back of his neck. “Did you say that you had been married?”
She folded her arms. “Oh yes, I have been married. It lasted for about four years.”
“Why did it end?” His eyebrows furrowed. “I’m sorry; I’m being too personal and too intrusive.”
His handsome face and rugged build caught her blue eyes, again. “We were married for almost four years. The divorce was final a year ago, in November.”
“Where did you work during those four years?”
“As I said, before we married I earned a Bachelor’s degree in Biology. I taught high school for a year before we were married and for another year after we married. My husband wanted me to quit and spend more time with him. I wanted to teach until we had our first baby.” She placed her left hand on her stomach. “We never had that first child.”
“I’m sorry your marriage didn’t work out. What do you do now for employment?”
“I’m looking for a job,” she replied.
“What type of work?”
She was getting quite uncomfortable. “I have to go.” She didn’t but wanted not to think about the last five years. “Goodbye.” She walked briskly and out the large door to her car.
Dr. Siegfried checked his watch. “Ten after three.” It will be more than a week before he finds her again, though he stands lookout at the same place every day. Like a sentry, he arrives at 2:45 PM and leaves around 3:30 PM.
◊ ◊ ◊ ◊ ◊
Today on December first, he starts to leave the library but feels a pain in his chest. Where did that come from? Probably nothing to worry about, he thought. But then he thinks about his father who died in his forties of a heart attack.
The temperature was in the lower thirties and a cutting wind blew from the northwest. It pierced the professor’s suit coat and expensive shirt.
He felt a little tired and a slight pain labored around his shoulder blades. But as he walked outside the library, the discomfort only lasted for a minute.
The cold wind pushed at his body. He found his Ford SUV and drove back home. A desolate feeling invaded his heart. Thoughts of Liberty ran through his mind and a grin started to build on his face. He thought she might be the medicine for his loneliness.
Chapter 2, Liberty Adair and Dr. Siegfried
There were ivory-white snowflakes in the wind the tenth of December in North Texas. Children outside the library were catching snowflakes on their tongues and smiling with delight. Ernest checked his watch; it was 3:25 PM. He picked up his attaché case to leave the library.
Liberty Adair took quick, long strides as she opened the library door and entered, her Navy-blue skirt clinging to her body.
Earnest beamed with joy as he slowly walked toward her, an expensive dark-brown suit hugging his six-foot-one-inch brawny body. She is even better looking than I remember, he pondered.
Several seconds later she arrived at where they first met. “Dr. Siegfried, I was hoping you would be here today. An Internet search led me to five books about evolution, intelligent design and related scientific evidence.” She stopped about eight feet from him. Her eyes glided from his waist to his shoulders, then to his warm brown eyes.
“I’m glad to see you too, Liberty.” He straightened his shoulders, stuck out his chest a little and pulled in his stomach. He felt a bit nervous and he noticed a book in her right hand. “Which book are you reading today?”
“The Hidden Face of God by Doctor Gerald Schroeder,” she replied, smiling and looking him over again.
“What are his credentials, M.D. or Ph.D.?” he asked, as he checked her out with admiring eyes.
“He has a Ph.D. in physics from Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He now lives in Israel, teaching and writing books.” An exuberant smile graced her lovely face. “This book is primarily about microbiology, physics, evolution and God, as revealed in nature.”
“Dr. Gerald Schroeder, you say? That name sounds familiar, but I haven’t read any of his books.” A puzzled look passed across his handsome face. “Aha.” A cheerful smile settled on his face.
“What is it?” Her eyes raked over his body and settled on his face.
“John MacGregor was telling me about some exciting stuff he had been reading from a book by Dr. Schroeder. Even though he doesn’t work in science anymore, he still learns about biology and physics. John has two degrees in science, one a Bachelor’s and one a Master’s degree, in Biology. He also has a M.B.A. in Business.”
“Does he teach or do research at this university?”
“No, he does not. A long time ago he earned a M.S. in Bacteriology. A few years later he got a M.B.A. in Marketing with a minor in Economics. He worked a few years and then went to get his Ph.D. in Marketing. That did not work out, so he went into business and made millions.”
“He seems like a very well-educated and remarkably smart guy.”
Ernest took one step closer to her and felt a warm attraction. “Yes, John is brilliant and knowledgeable in several fields. He is definitely one of the smartest guys that I have met during the last twenty years.”
She moved a little closer and almost touched his arm with her elbow. “A lot of guys claim to be very smart. So how smart is he?”
“His wife said he was a member of Mensa, one time at dinner in their home. I asked him what his I.Q. was. He smiled and said that I probably did not want to know. I pressed him and he said his I.Q. was 152. That places him in the genius camp.”
“So he must be a real genius. Does he know much about evolution and intelligent design?”
“He studied evolution in the universities and has studied it together with intelligent design during the last twenty years and more. He reads several books a year in such areas as biology, physics, business, psychology and theology.”
“I would like to meet him and discuss some things, especially in those areas,” she stated and brushed her fingers across the professor’s arm.
“I will try to arrange that. John is a nice person and you would probably enjoy talking to him.”
“Does he know the Bible and philosophy?” she asked, as she looked intently into his chocolate eyes.
Ernest nodded. “Yes, he has studied the Bible and philosophy as well.”
“Is he a Christian?” Then she thought, Am I asking too many questions of this guy I just met recently?
“Yes, John is a Christian; but he is not like most of those stupid ones that I have encountered.” Oh, what was I thinking to say that to her?
“Do you consider me one of those stupid, uneducated Christians?” Her face turned stern and her voice betrayed a little anger. She drew her lips tight and took two steps away from him.
Ernest showed a sheepish grin. “Of course not.”
“Are you sure, Ernest?” She folded her arms and glared at him.
“I’m sorry, Liberty. I should have been more, ahhh—“
“More what? Slick and politically correct?” She waited a few seconds then added, “Well, Dr. Atheist, what is your answer?”
“Oh, boy, for a guy with a Ph.D. and several published papers, I can say some awkward, stupid things.” He laughed and hoped she would forgive him.
She smiled, only half-believing his apology. Then she shifted her gaze to the books on the shelf in front of her.
A long minute passed. Liberty was obviously stalling for time to collect her thoughts and plan the next move.
Her mind flashed back to a church service a few weeks before she separated from her ex-husband. He was on the platform and speaking. The audience was listening, including one of his girlfriends. This girl adored him, as he glanced at her trim body in a white dress with red trim on the bottom and across her jam-packed chest. Liberty shook her head, as to shake out the painful memory.
“What’s the matter, Liberty?”
“Dr. Siegfried, I was just thinking about something in the past.” Shadows of confusion and sadness floated over her beautiful face. A few seconds had passed before she had the courage to say that which was in her heart. “I believe that there is a God, but some days I wonder. How can we be sure? How can we be sure of anything these days?”
“That is a hard and thorny question. Science provides many answers. I personally do not see much evidence of God in science. John, on the other hand, sees a harmony between the Creator and the natural world.”
“You are an atheist and I am a believer in God, but how can either of us be sure?” She stared at the floor for a moment and then gazed into his handsome face. “The world is constantly changing and we don’t know who to believe. I thought that I had everything figured out.” She thought of the pretty girlfriend (of her husband) who smiled sweetly as she passed Liberty on the way out of the church.
He slid closer to her, touching his shoulder to her shoulder. “Well-educated, intelligent people can use tools to find out causes and effects. For some things, there seem to be no satisfactory answers. We may wait years to find reasonable explanations.”
“What tools? You cannot measure God on a scale or see Him through a telescope.”
“The tools of science, math and logic. John MacGregor tells me that. You should talk to him soon. You would also enjoy talking with his wife. She is an intelligent, well-educated and attractive woman. They both are in their fifties.”
“For all my life things seemed, ah—,” she said with a perplexed look.
“Yes, go on.” He placed his hand softly on her shoulder.
“My life seemed predictable, safe and secure. I didn’t worry that my whole life would change in less than a year. Then my husband cheated on me, and my world changed. Some days it seems like the shadows will stick around for a week or more. A few days ago I felt this gloomy, horrid presence near me when I walked into my house at night.” She shivered and felt a coldness.
“I’m sorry to hear that.” His hand rubbed her right shoulder gently; his eyes looked into her tear-filled eyes. “Life is often unfair and some nights are dark and depressing.”
She sighed and reached for a tissue in her coat pocket. “They had been having an affair for almost a year before a friend of mine told me. Of course, I didn’t believe it at first. I couldn’t believe it!”
“Let’s go to a more private place to talk about this.” His voice was calm and he gave her a hug.
“Where?” she asked with a bit of apprehension.
“There is a small café about two miles from here. We can go in my SUV to get some drinks and a snack.”
“Do you want to go right now?”
“I don’t know you.” But she did check him out on Facebook and a few other places on the Internet yesterday. “On second thought, you don’t look too dangerous,” she added, smiling and bumping him to the side with her hip.
“I have been vaccinated and am not a registered sex offender,” he said smiling mischievously. “My Ford Expedition has at least half-a-tank of gas and a good heater.”
“Well, let’s get some cake and coffee,” she said with some excitement and a bit of anxiety.
◊ ◊ ◊ ◊ ◊
They arrived at the café, waited to be seated and sat down at a dark-brown wood table.
Trivia talk filled the first ten minutes after their arrival.
“He was gone out of town for one or two days, about once a month,” she confided.
“Was he a salesman or an executive?” He forgot what she said about her ex-husband. He was too interested in this magnificent woman in front of him.
“No, he was a Baptist preacher.”
“A preacher?!” Then he smiled broadly and began to snicker.
“He was a preacher of a large Baptist church. His name was Bill.”
“And his last name was Adair?”
“No.” She pushed back from the table and sat like a straight block of pain and smoldering coals of wood. “I took back my maiden name a few days after the divorce was finalized.”
“So he committed adultery with a woman who attended his church and then you got divorced?”
“There were four women,” she interrupted in a strained voice, “that I know about and he confessed to committing adultery with all of them. I suspect there were a few more.” She pursed her red lips and her eyes narrowed. The muscles in her neck tensed and her pulse rate increased.
“Did they all go to your church?” He sat up straight and took a sip of coffee.
The waiter came back with two pieces of cake—chocolate for him and carrot cake for her.
She gulped her coffee and waited until the waiter left. “Two of the women went to our church; two did not.” Liberty cut the cake and then stabbed it with her metal fork. “That coffee helps; my throat is a little sore.”
He placed his right hand on her empty hand on the table. “That must have been a shock.”
“He confessed his infidelities with those four wicked women.” She started to say more, but checked herself. Her eyes became cold and flinty.
“Did you and Bill go to counseling?” he asked in a soothing voice.
“Yes, after the first woman in the church; then again after the second affair and confession.” Her neck muscles became less tense.
“Did that help at all?”
She laughed and felt sweat trickle down her back. “It seemed to help for a few weeks, and then Bill said he had to go on a trip to a conference in Atlanta.” She took another drink of coffee but wanted something alcoholic. “Of course he did not have to go because he was the head minister and no committee was forcing him to go.”
“What happened when he returned from Atlanta?”
She sneered and shifted her eyes to a table with a young woman and a handsome young man who were talking and laughing. “The conference was for three days but he got back in two. I suspect he stayed the third day with his girlfriend.”
“How did you know he came back early?” asked Ernest, as he raised his eyebrows.
“A preacher friend of Bill’s called and asked if Bill was OK. The friend said that Bill complained of being sick and flew home a day early. But Bill did not arrive Saturday night but drove into our drive around 10 o’clock Sunday night.”
“Then what happened?”
“I asked him about the 20-plus hours that were missing. He lied and said the preacher friend was mistaken. Bill accused me of checking up on him, being unreasonable.”
She smiled deliciously. “I did check on him. I called the hotel in Atlanta and found out that he left the hotel around 4 PM Saturday. Then I checked online. There were two flights from Atlanta to the Dallas-Ft. Worth International Airport. One was at 6:15 PM and the other around 8 PM that Saturday night. Bill got back to our house around 10 PM on Sunday night.” Liberty put her shoulders back and then toasted Ernest to her detective work.
“What did you do then?” He looked at her with concern. “Did you get even and do some cheating of your own? I wouldn’t blame you if you did have a few one-night stands.” He displayed a wicked smile.
“No, I stayed faithful to my husband.” She blushed and added, “That episode led to our third and final set of counseling sessions.”
“And after you found out about the fourth girlfriend you filed for divorce, right?”
“Faster than lightning. We sold our $2 million mansion and I gave Bill 60 percent of the proceeds. His parents gave us $130,000 for a down payment on the house,” she further revealed, then gave a heavy sigh. A pained expression clouded her face. “They have plenty of money. I liked the house, so we went deep into debt to buy it. But I got almost $140,000 after we sold our dream home.”
She changed the subject, and they talked in quiet tones for another twenty minutes and both decided it was time to leave.
“Can I see you again, soon?” he asked as they walked toward the front door of the café.
“I don’t know.”
“Maybe next week we can go out for dinner.”
“Well, OK. Let me give you my phone number,” Liberty said, opening her petite yellow purse with two thin red stripes down it and she retrieved a gold-plated pen.
He opened his wallet and gave her two business cards.
She hurriedly wrote down her name and phone number on one card. “Here, call me on Wednesday or Thursday of next week.”
“I will call you next week.” But he was thinking, I was afraid she would say no.
Chapter 3, Heart Attack
Dr. Ernest Siegfried grabbed his keys and walked toward the door to his three-car garage. “Oh, that hurt,“ he exclaimed as he thrust his right hand upon his chest. “Maybe I should sit down and relax.” He went back and sat on the couch, and looked at the grandfather clock that showed 6:05 PM. He waited five minutes before getting up. The pain disappeared, so he walked into the kitchen and got a drink of water.
A minute later the pain returned to his chest and under his shoulder blades, then up to the top of his back. That is some of the worst pain in my life, he thought. This time he sat on the couch for three more minutes. His jaw now felt pain.
Two minutes later nausea started. “I cannot be having a heart attack,” Ernest gasped. “I’m only thirty-nine.”
A few minutes later and nothing was better, except the nausea left. The pains in his chest and upper back got a little worse. “This cannot be happening,” he said standing and reaching for the phone.
The ambulance arrived with lights glaring sixteen minutes later. Ernest felt oppression and had a few panic attacks. “God, help me if you are there?” he yelled. There was no visible answer, but the current panic attack vanished in a few seconds.
◊ ◊ ◊ ◊ ◊
His eyes closed and images of the Emergency Room and nurses filled his mind. Earnest was tempted to pray. But he laughed at the idea: an atheist, since the age of twenty, praying to God for help. The doctors and nurses will provide all the help I need, he thought. Where am I? He looked around the room. I’m still in the ER.
“You are having a heart attack,” said the female doctor who had dark-brown hair and appeared to be in her forties. “The heart team is on its way. Dr. Langley, a cardiologist, will be at the hospital soon.”
Ernest had trouble keeping track of time. It seemed he was in the ER about half-an-hour and then was lying down on the bed and rolled to the Cath Lab or Catheterization Lab for diagnosis and treatment.
“Dr. Langley will see you now, Dr. Siegfried,” announced the attractive R.N. who was standing a few feet from the foot of his bed. He had been in the Cath Lab for about 20 minutes. The heart or cardiac team was assembled and ready for action.
Small beads of sweat rose on his forehead and he rubbed the back of his moist neck. He felt somewhat overheated though the room was slightly chilly. Calm down, Ernest. Don’t make it worse by getting too agitated, he commanded himself. But he had another panic attack for about one minute and felt terrible.
The medical center was in the Dallas-Grapevine area of North Texas. Ernest comforted himself, They have good doctors here and I will be all right soon.
The R.N. appeared to be in her late thirties, Caucasian and about 5’ 6” with an attractive face and lovely figure, Ernest thought.
“Where are you at, Dr. Siegfried?” She smiled as she took his blood pressure for the third time.
“In a hospital in Texas. I am in the Emergency Room.” He clutched the sheet and rolled his shoulders. “No; I am in the Cath Lab now.”
“Good. What is your name and when were you born?” she asked, staring into his eyes.
“My name is Doctor Ernest Siegfried. Today is Wednesday, December 17.” He was startled by the sound of a door closing. Then he told her his date of birth. He thought about his father who died at age 46 of a heart attack.
“How old are you?”
“Thirty-nine and almost forty. What is my blood pressure this time?” His face turned ashen and a cold sweat started again. He shook his head and breathed in deeply, then slowly exhaled.
“Your pressure is 155 over 94, down a little from last time,” she answered.
Ernest looked at the instruments in the room, as he heard footsteps coming closer.
Several seconds later the cardiologist entered the room. “My name is Doctor Michael Langley, your cardiologist.”
Ernest looked up at the doctor. Ernest estimated him to be about 6’ 2” and of medium build. He appeared to be in his mid- or late-forties with a few strands of gray in his brown hair.
The R.N. stepped closer to the bed and waited.
“How are you feeling now, Dr. Siegfried?” he asked in a calm voice.
“Like I have been run over by a truck filled with rocks,” answered Ernest, as he stared at the doctor and tried to smile. He could tell that the physician’s eyes were scanning his face, maybe for information on his emotional and psychological conditions.
“You are having a heart attack and we need to keep you in the Cath Lab for awhile. Here we will do an angioplasty and look at your heart to see which vessels are clogged. I will run a catheter up from your groin into your heart region. We will do a few exams. Then we will put a stent in the artery, to re-open the artery and keep it open.” The doctor appeared relaxed and said in an easy going manner, “Your vital signs are better now and we expect a good result.”
“I feel a little dizzy and thirsty, doctor.” Ernest was laying down and took three deep breaths. “I feel better now.”
“How is your pain?” asked the cardiologist, as he glanced at the nurse. He then skimmed a few outputs from the screens from medical equipment.
“They gave me some pain medicine when I came into the ER.” Earnest relaxed a bit and laced his fingers behind his head.
“On a scale of 1 to 10, how is your pain level now?” asked Doctor Langley.
“About a 4. I feel a lot better than ten minutes ago.” He looked at the attractive nurse and his neck muscles relaxed. “The shot the nurse gave me was fast-acting and just what I needed.”
“OK. Tell me a little about your family history. Have either of your immediate family had heart issues?” the doctor asked in a soothing tone.
Ernest reflected on his father’s stay in the hospital and later funeral. He avoided eye contact with the doctor and felt a tingling in both arms.
“Dr. Siegfried, did you understand the question?” asked the cardiologist as he stared at the lights and graphs on the medical monitors behind Ernest’s head.
The patient jumped back to the present and he coughed twice, then answered with a little embarrassment, “Ahhh, yes. My father had a massive heart attack when he was 40. He survived that and did well for a few years. He had another heart attack at age 46 when he died.”
“Was there anyone else in your family with heart problems? Do you have brothers and sisters who had heart complications?”
“I’m an only child. My mother had no heart issues; she is now sixty-two.” Ernest remembered the fishing trip in Canada a few years before his dad passed away. They did not catch many fish but the three had a good time, including his mother who cooked the fish. She also caught two nice-sized fish up in Alberta, Canada during the trip.
The cardiologist looked worried. His eyebrows drew together as he rubbed his right hand over his eyebrows.
“My dad was forty-six and I was only twenty when he died,” he commented, as an angry look flashed across his face. He remembered being in the church and people filing by his dad and coffin. “Why did he die so young?” Where was God in the hospital? “Maybe God couldn’t find the room number, or he was out in another section of the galaxy.” Ernest laughed.
The nurse looked at the doctor and rolled her eyes.
The doctor grinned. “I don’t know the answers to a lot of theological questions.”
“Neither do I know,” retorted Ernest.
“We will take a look at your heart; see what the problem is; and see what we can do to fix it.” The doctor appeared relaxed and brought his shoulders back.
Ernest placed his left hand on his chest. “I feel a little nausea. Are you going to do open-heart surgery today?”
“No, we are going to check out your arteries and heart. Then we will know how to proceed. Most likely it will require a stent and angioplasty, but not open heart surgery. The angioplasty is where the surgeon inserts a balloon-type device into your artery.” He paused a few seconds to see the effects of his words on the patient. “Don’t worry; I have done hundreds of these procedures during the last eighteen years.”
Ernest thought back to a diagram in a human physiology book. “So the balloon opens up the artery and the stent is a tube that keeps the artery open. Correct?”
“Yes, that is basically correct,” replied the cardiologist with a compassionate voice, as his forehead wrinkled and he took two steps backward. Then he said, “It could have been much worse. Your heart is now in a stable condition, and we can start the procedure in less than ten minutes.”
Ernest’s mind reflected on visiting his father’s grave when the snow swirled like a cold, gray ghost. Snow drifts, like cold hands, were two feet up the tombstone. It was winter and the wind blew in cruel bursts against his body. His mother held a large cluster of red roses and she placed them in a vase near the foot of the grave. Energy left his legs, as he placed a dozen red-and-yellow roses on the grave near the headstone. He stared at the sky, which looked unforgiving and unsympathetic. Brown, wet leaves danced in the wind and a few stuck to the ground above the body of the deceased. Ernest pressed a fist against his chest and his nose started to run. His mother’s eyes were reddish-blue and she dug into her black purse for tissues. The frigid wind struck against her back and legs. “He is in a better place. We will see him in heaven, son.” Young Ernest lowered his head and whispered, “I hope so, Mom.” It was two days after the funeral. The cemetery was almost barren of people; Ernest felt strangely alone. A tall Maple tree stood several feet in front of him, stripped of its leaves and spotted with snow.
Ernest’s eyes portrayed a distant stare and his vision blurred slightly. A heavy sigh rushed between his dry lips.
Five minutes later the last member of the cardiac team arrived for the procedures.
The workers in the team took Ernest from a stretcher to where he was placed on a special table. The cardiologist talked to the nurses for a minute. Then the patient was primed, positioned and slated for the ordeal.
The cardiologist inserted the catheter tube into a vein in his groin. Several tests were performed to diagnose the exact situations of the heart arteries and the heart. A monitor showed the electrical activity of the heart, including irregular heart waves.
Later a cardiac stent was inserted into the right coronary artery in the heart. The procedure went well and lasted about one hour. Then a second stent was inserted into another coronary artery, which required about 30 minutes.
The procedures were finished, and the patient was taken to the Coronary Intensive Care Unit.
The cardiologist visited Ernest at 11:15 PM to check on his vital signs and review his blood tests.
◊ ◊ ◊ ◊ ◊
After Ernest had eaten a light breakfast the next day, Dr. Langley came into Ernest’s room at about 10:30 AM.
“Good morning, Dr. Langley.” Ernest was sitting up in bed with a pillow behind his back and one behind his head.
“How is my patient feeling today?” he asked with a broad smile.
“Like a martial artist who has been beaten up by six heavyweight contenders.” Ernest sat up in bed and smiled weakly. “No, actually I feel a lot better today. There is a little soreness in my groin area and my heart feels much improved.”
“The procedure went fine, as I told you last night. Now you need to exercise, eat a healthy diet, stop smoking and keep the right weight.” The cardiologist gave Ernest a firm handshake. “You also need to take it easy for the next six weeks. That includes no heavy lifting and no strenuous activities.”
“I only smoke a pipe or cigar two or three times a week, but I’ll cut that down to once a week.” Ernest gave the “thumbs up” sign and pulled his shoulders back.
“That will do for starters,” replied the cardiologist.
“I will exercise five or six days a week, instead of one or two.”
“That will be a nice improvement.” Dr. Langley seemed pleased. “Your dad had a massive heart attack at the age of 40 and his last one at 46, so there is nothing you can do about your heredity.” The doctor lifted up his hands and then let them fall by his sides. He followed with a forced smile.
“My mom is sixty-two and her heart seems OK,” Ernest quipped, as he looked up at the cardiologist.
“Has she had any recent heart tests and evaluations?” His smile disappeared.
“My mother had some tests at age 55 and again at age 60. Her cardiologist said she had less than a 10 percent blockage in her heart arteries and could live another 20 years. She is rather health conscious and is usually on a healthy diet.”
“Good.” He paused a few seconds. “Was your father over-weight or did he have diabetes?” The doctor started to take more notes. He gazed at the notepad and away from the patient.
“Yes, he was about thirty pounds overweight and had diabetes the last few years of his life. He did not do weekly exercises such as in a gym. He did fish and hunt each year.”
“Did he smoke?”
“He smoked about a pack-a-day until his first heart attack. He quit, but it was probably too late.”
“If you take care of yourself, you will probably live at least another twenty years.” The cardiologist smiled at Ernest.
Ernest blinked four times and said in a shaky voice, “So I could die of a heart attack around the age of sixty?” He raised his right eyebrow and looked away from the doctor. “Are you kidding?”
Dr. Langley appeared relaxed and looked directly at Ernest. “You or I could get killed in a car accident next week. Take care of yourself, do what you can do and you might live another twenty-five years.”
Ernest sat straighter in bed and rubbed his chin with his right hand. “So I can go home in a few days?” Calm had returned to his voice and his neck muscles relaxed.
“Yes. We will have you out of here in two or three days, after today.”
“That sounds OK,” Ernest replied.
“We need to run more tests, including examining blood samples. Your heart has been damaged and we need to monitor it during the next few days. The nurses will be giving you more medicines to help you recover. Your body is retaining too much fluid, so we are giving you Lasix. It will take off the excess fluid, to protect your heart.”
“I woke up around six o’clock this morning. The nurse took a blood sample and gave me a shot in the stomach.”
“You will not get much rest in the hospital. I can prescribe a sleeping pill for around ten tonight.”
“Thanks that should help me get at least five or six hours of sleep tonight.”
Around 1:30 PM Ernest complained of nervousness and anxiety. The nurse gave him a pill that removed the anxiety, but he was going from consciousness to semi-consciousness from 2 PM Thursday to around 9 PM Friday when he asked the visiting doctor to stop the anti-anxiety medicine.
John MacGregor came to Ernest’s room at 1:50 PM that Thursday. “Your mother called me around 10 o’clock this morning and said you had a heart attack. How do you feel now?”
“I feel better but these panic attacks and anxiety are awful. The nurse gave me a pill several minutes ago and I should feel much better soon.” Ernest looked a bit pale.
“You were fortunate that the heart team got to you soon. Your mom said the angioplasty and the cardiac stents stopped your heart attack. She said your heart was damaged but the cardiologist said you might have a full recovery. It might take you five or six months for your heart to heal, but that is only my guess.”
“I came very close to death. In fact, I was dying. My cardiologist told me earlier today that the pain in my heart was because my heart was dying from lack of oxygen. Unclogging the two arteries restored the blood flow, my pain mostly ceased, and I stopped dying.”
“You don’t believe in God, but it seems to me that the Giver of Life brought you back from the gates of death and hell. Each year many people die of heart attacks. Your heart attack had started before you arrived at the medical center. You might have died on the way to the ER, or even a few days after surgery.”
Ernest nodded his head yes and his hands trembled for a few seconds. “That was the first time in my life that I felt death and the pangs of death. I had thought about death and read about it, but those pains are much worse than I anticipated. Maybe we can talk about it some other time.” He felt a cloud of dizziness descend on him for a moment, and then the light-headedness left.
John placed a vase of flowers, mostly yellow Mums, on the table near Ernest’s bed. Then he handed him a get well card from him and his wife. “Meghan and I bought you some flowers and here is a card. We hope these will cheer you up.”
Ernest read the card, smiled and then said in a warm voice, “Thank you very much for the card and flowers. My mother called me earlier today and told me she had ordered some flowers to be sent to my room. She said that she would fly down here within a few days. I told her not to worry, that I was doing fine.”
“Is there anyone who I need to contact in Texas and let them know you are in the hospital?” asked John.
Ernest thought about the woman he met at the university’s library. “Please contact Liberty Adair, a woman I met recently. I don’t know her well, but she might want to know that I am in the hospital.” He got the information out of his billfold and John copied it on a piece of paper.
◊ ◊ ◊ ◊ ◊
The next day, Friday, Liberty Adair came into Ernest’s room around two o’clock. “Good afternoon, Dr. Ernest Siegfried. You look a little pale, but other than that you look okay for a man who had a heart attack a few days ago.” She smiled at him and took off her knee-length, brown leather jacket and placed it in a chair.
He rubbed his right hand over his face and then smiled. “Ms. Liberty Adair, please call me Ernest. Thanks for coming today to see me.”
She handed him a get well card and then brushed her long blonde hair out of her face with her left hand. “John MacGregor called me yesterday. He said you almost died of a heart attack, but the doctors and nurses got you over the rough spots.”
“I was fortunate. A cardiologist and his heart team took good care of me.” He read the card and then gazed at her beautiful face and long hair.
She looked around the room and waited for the words to say.
“Hospital rooms are a little small but adequate. Did I miss anything that happened in the world while I’ve been in the hospital? Of course, I haven’t been interested in the outside world for the last three days.”
She reached over and fluffed his pillow for his head. “No, you didn’t miss much. The world has been pretty calm, except for news of fighting in Ukraine.” She stood a foot away from his bed and didn’t know what to say next. “There is a major battle brewing in Iraq.” She didn’t know Ernest, but she felt drawn to him.
They made small talk for about ten minutes and then she left.
“Goodbye. I will call you the day after I get out of the hospital. Thanks again for coming by to see me today.”
She picked up her coat and walked to the door. “It was my pleasure. I hope and pray that you will have a quick recovery. Goodbye.”
◊ ◊ ◊ ◊ ◊
That same Friday, John and Meghan MacGregor visited Ernest around 2:30 PM for about twenty minutes. Meghan brought him a box of candies. “You probably should wait until you get home to eat most of these candies. The lab and the doctors will be checking your sugar levels and your cholesterol levels,” Meghan said.
“The doctors and nurses want more blood to test. It seems like my room is the local café for vampires. I will be very glad to go home.”
“John said you weren’t getting much sleep here. When do you think you will be able to go home?” she asked.
“Dr. Langley, my cardiologist, said that I might go home in the morning. He wanted to check the results of one more blood test later today.”
She placed the box of candies, mostly chocolates, on the small table by Ernest’s bed. “That is encouraging. I know that you will be glad to get back home.”
“My own bed will feel very nice, and maybe I can get eight hours sleep.”
“Your mother will be here in a few days,” said John. “I talked to here on the phone last night around eight o’clock our time. She seemed anxious, but I assured her that the doctors and nurses were handling things well.”
“I will be glad to see her. I was thinking of her and my father a few minutes ago.” Ernest’s shoulders drooped, his eyes appeared red, and his chest was aching. “I was thinking about a vacation we took the year before my dad died. We went to Colorado and then to Arizona for five days to see the Grand Canyon National Park and a few other sites. We took a hike for about two hours around the South Rim of the canyon. But that seems like a hundred years ago.”
John gave an understanding nod and spoke in a quiet voice, “I hear you, man. I lost my dad last year. He was 79 years old.”
“My dad was a lot younger when he died. It was not completely unexpected since he had a heart attack a few years earlier. But it was still a shock.”
“The death of a close relative makes a person think about death and their own mortality,” replied John.
“Thanks a lot for that joyful comment, Mr. Grim,” retorted Ernest with a sneer.
“You know what John meant,” defended Meghan. “It is not pleasant, but at least once a year we should think about our life and what might happen during the next decade. We don’t have a guarantee of twenty-four hours, but you will probably live many more years.”
“Maybe even twenty more, according to my cardiologist,” rejoined Ernest.
“It could be a lot worse. You could dead. It seems that God has given you more time on planet Earth.” John raised his eyebrows and had a somber look on his face.
“Yeah, you could be attending my funeral today.” Ernest glanced at his chest and then at the IV in his right arm.
“Rest now and take good care of yourself,” admonished Meghan, in a tender voice.
The subject changed to fishing and Ernest felt better. He was free of pains for a while and enjoyed the company of his friends.
The MacGregors stayed for twenty minutes and then said Goodbye.
Chapter 4, Going Home
John MacGregor took the elevator to the second floor of the medical center. He quickly found the room and knocked on the heavy wood door at 10:35 AM on Saturday, December 20.
“Who is it?” Ernest asked, as he put down the cell biology book on the small table near his bed.
“John MacGregor. Is that you Ernest?”
“Yeah, alive and kicking. Come in John.” Ernest sat straight up in bed and then stood up. It took effort for his weak legs to lift his body.
John pushed on the heavy door and it swung open, like a large tree hit by a bulldozer. Bang.
“Careful John, you are going to put a hole in the wall and I bet that is not covered by insurance,” yelled Ernest with a grin. He sat down in the bed, feeling weak.
John looked a little sheepish. “They should make these doors and walls out of stronger materials.” He walked into the room and looked around.
“This is not Fort Knox.” Ernest bent over and started putting on his shoes.
“Here is a card,” John said, as he extended his sturdy arm and held out a get well card. It had a vulture on the front in black, white and purple colors.
Ernest took the card and started reading it. “I hope you get well soon.” Then he opened the card and read the inside lines, “But if you don’t, I will have an early dinner. Cheers!” Ernest laughed and placed the card on the small brown table. “That was thoughtful of you, John. This was not as nice as the first card. I bet your wife picked out the first one.”
“Yeah, I know. I wanted something warm and loving.”
Ernest turned to the phone. “Give me a few minutes. I’m calling Liberty.” He raised his eyebrows to imply, this could be the start of something exciting and romantic. “She might be my new girlfriend.”
The phone rang at her house and she answered on the second ring.
“Hello, this is Ernest Siegfried.” He looked down at his feet as his forehead wrinkled.
“Hi, Ernest. How are you today,” she answered with some excitement in her voice.
“Well, I feel a little doped-up with medicines. But the cardiologist said I could go home tomorrow.” He rubbed his right hand across his chin and glanced at the bed. “He said that the procedure went well.” I sure hope it went well but today I wonder about that, he thought.
She frowned and asked, “Are you sure you are going home tomorrow?”
“That is what the doctor said about twenty minutes ago.”
She frowned again and rubbed the back of her neck with her left hand and squeezed the phone with her right one. “Today is a few days before Christmas. At least you will be out of the hospital before Christmas.”
“I didn’t realize it. Christmas doesn’t mean much to me, but my mother enjoys it.”
“I guess it would not mean a lot to an atheist.” She wondered, What am I doing talking to an atheist?
I better patch this up quickly if I want to date her, he thought in retrospect. “Liberty, I have been busy with this heart attack and talking with the cardiologist; too busy to think about next week or the holiday season.” He glanced at John, who shook his head yes.
Maybe I have been a little too hard on him. “Of course, I understand. Get plenty of rest and don’t worry about next week.” She took the phone away from her mouth and gave out a heavy sigh. Then she hurriedly placed the phone near her crimson lips.
They talked a few minutes on the phone and then Ernest stated, “I will call you tomorrow when I am out of this place.”
“OK, I’m glad you’re feeling better. ‘Talk with you later. Goodbye, Ernest.” She hung up the phone, then thought, I wonder if he is really doing OK. Maybe I’m worrying too much. He is only thirty-nine and should recover quickly. Then she took wide steps, pulled back her shoulders and opened the refrigerator. What shall I have for lunch today? Another day with not much to do. She fidgeted with the bottom of her skirt and then smoothed down her blouse. There is not much mustard in the bottle and I don’t see any sweet pickles in the frig. I need to go shopping tomorrow. I must create a list of items to buy.
After making her list, she picked up the phone to call her brother, but the phone was busy. Then she called her parents and talked for an hour. The last ten minutes was about Ernest.
◊ ◊ ◊ ◊ ◊
Sunday, the next day, the cardiologist told Ernest that he can check out of the hospital between 2 PM and 3 PM. John MacGregor arrived at his room at 1:57 PM and helped Ernest check out.
Ernest placed his medicines and papers from the hospital in a small suitcase. His clothes were already in the suitcase before John arrived.
A woman R.N. rolled Ernest in a wheelchair to an outside door and then a few steps from John’s truck.
The men got into John’s Ford F-150 pickup and headed toward Ernest’s house.
“I called Liberty a half-hour ago. She said she was cleaning her apartment and could only talk for a few minutes.” Ernest’s shoulders drooped and he had a distant stare.
“It seems that cleaning her house is a big project in her life.” John raised his eyebrows. “Is she pretty and agreeable?”
“Both, except she is more than pretty—she is beautiful.” His mind flashed back to seeing her for the first time in the university library. “Her face and long blonde hair make her look like a professional model. She also has a nice body.”
“It seems like you have found the pot-of-gold at the end of the rainbow.” He looked down at the speedometer, glanced at his friend and then focused on the road. “But she seems to be avoiding you.”
“Maybe she is playing hard-to-get.” Ernest frowned and gazed out the side window at a gray-and-blue bank of clouds. They hid the sun except for a spike of sunshine. “We don’t have a lot in common, it seems.”
“Your religious views are almost opposite, but you both have interests in biology and nature. Maybe you two could go boating in several weeks. You two could discuss nature in a beautiful outdoor setting.”
“John, you are the problem solver. That is an excellent idea.”
“Did you say she has been married before but has no children?”
Ernest flashed a sly smile and replied, “She was married to a preacher, praise the Lord.” He crossed his arms over his chest and scowled. “It seems the minister had a mistress.”
John replied in a sharp tone as he felt some pain in his jaws, “So he had a girlfriend for some infidelity. That is too bad. He should have been a lawyer or a politician and not a preacher.”
“He had more than one girlfriend.” His voice raised and his shoulders tightened. “He had at least four girlfriends and at least two went to his church.”
John stiffened in his seat and he answered with scorn, “It seems that at least one-third of the preachers in this country have adultery and covetousness as sins.” He paused for a few seconds. “Preachers should be mission-minded, and they like new adventures. Maybe we can send a few of them on a mission to Mars. I heard that there is probably some water on the red planet.”
“Of course that would be a one-way trip,” snickered Ernest.
“It is a good thing that she did not have children.” John waited until the light turned green and then unhurriedly pressed the gas pedal. The hefty truck had plenty of power to spare and the engine had a husky sound.
“She was lucky in that respect.” His forehead wrinkled. “I am not going to teach in the spring semester. My heart needs a few months of rest and relaxation,” Ernest said in a strained voice as his neck muscles tensed up again. “My cardiologist said I needed three or four months of rest and little stress.”
“Some relaxation would be good for a college professor like you.” John cleared his throat. “Of course you college professors don’t have hard jobs teaching. And your graduate students do about half of your work in most classes.” He avoided eye contact and slapped the steering wheel with his left hand. Then he chuckled and glanced at Ernest.
“I plead guilty, in most of my classes.” Ernest stared at his friend and his ears turned pinkish-red. “Do you millionaires have employees that do most of your hard work?”
John coughed twice and his chin dipped down. “Yes, they do about ninety-five percent of my work but they all get paid well.” He looked at Ernest and unveiled a sly grin. “Do any of your graduate students get paid at least eighty-five thousand per year? At least eighty percent of my employees get annual bonuses. Last year they received a 9 percent bonus; later every employee received a 6 percent cost-of-living adjustment. What do yours get, doctor Siegfried?”
“Well, no. Maybe the university will give them all twenty percent raises next year.”
“And maybe the leaders of Iran will give Israel four billion dollars in military aid next year.” John snickered and his eyes sparkled with delight. “But don’t count on either event occurring next year or any year during the next two decades.”
“It seems you won that round. Can you drive and stop babbling?” Ernest watched his friend to see John’s reaction.
“OK, but I reserve the right to take up this conversation after your heart is better.”
“Deal, but remember my delicate condition,” he said, grinning with glee. Ernest thought about Liberty and started daydreaming. Then he said, “Even when we argue she is enchanting. I hope that I can see her within the next few days. Maybe we could go out to a fancy restaurant or to a movie after Christmas.”
“Buddy, you are staring into space and seem to be enjoying something, or someone.”
“What did you say?” Ernest stared at his friend and then looked annoyed.
“I said you looked like you were in another world and liked it.”
Ernest smiled and leaned back in his bucket seat. “Did I ever tell you that Liberty had beautiful blonde hair, a gorgeous face and a sexy body?”
John glanced at him and grinned, “Only six or seven times during the last three days.”
Chapter 5, Of Boys, Microscopes and Science
The first time Ernest had his own microscope was when he was twelve years old. His father gave him a few hundred dollars for his birthday. Ernest marched into a large department store two days later with his father behind him. The microscope was all of his birthday money plus $87 and it was worth every dollar to him. The maximum power was 800X; the smallest 100 times.
His first specimens were drops of water collected from a small creek about a mile from his parents’ house. He trapped his first beasts, paramecium and amoebas, from a mixture of hay and creek water.
He admired sports heroes like the other boys, but he marveled at the giants of science. These were Albert Einstein, Jonas Salk, Robert Oppenheimer, Stephen Hawking and a pair of DNA explorers named Francis Crick and James Watson. These men were like gods. Then there were other brilliant scientists from earlier centuries. These immortals included Leonardo da Vinci, Nicolas Copernicus, Galileo Galilei, Charles Babbage, Charles Darwin, Louis Pasteur, Gregor Mendel the geneticist, and Sir Isaac Newton who was probably the greatest scientist. When he was a senior in high school, he learned about Nikola Tesla who was perhaps the greatest inventor in the twentieth century.
But the scientists that bothered, annoyed him in his teenage years were the atheists, mainly Charles Darwin the evolutionist, Stephen Hawking the physicist and a few others. Why did these scientists believe in a logical, well-structured universe with no God? How could Isaac Newton be great in physics and math plus believe in a Creator, while some leading scientists believed in random mutations, selection of the fittest with no God to build such marvels as DNA and thousands of proteins?
During his freshman year in high school, he decided to invest his life in biology. The living organisms on planet Earth were his passion. His science project in the science fair in the ninth grade was his first major project in biology. Twenty-five glass slides had specimens that he and the microscope had examined. Three-feet-by-four-feet poster boards were adorned with computer-generated pictures and text. The living-drops-of-water specimens were joined by printed photos of one-celled plants and animals plus small multi-cellular animals from the new information world called the Internet. He won fourth place. With more than 80 contestants, he was delighted with his fourth-place certificate.
Ernest graduated high school in the top ten percent of his class. He had two girlfriends in his senior year, but they found other boyfriends. The second girlfriend left him in the summer, a month after graduation. This was a little painful, but he looked with anticipation toward college and science.
◊ ◊ ◊ ◊ ◊
Ernest was 18 ½ years old when he entered a university. His main studies were in biology, chemistry and math. His first semester grades were two A’s and two B’s. He was a little disappointed with the first semester, but he was determined to do better. And he finished his undergraduate work with a 3.7/4.0 grade average.
His father, Hugh Siegfried, was a very intelligent person. He studied business and economics in college and earned a 3.8/4.0 grade average. He finished the four-year program in 3 years and 1 semester. He was hired a few weeks out of college by a medium-sized manufacturing company that produced electrical components for cars and trucks.
While interested in girls in high school in his freshman year, he didn’t date until his senior year. But a mixture of hormones and mild feelings of love caused him to date once a week in his last year of high school. Dates with girls were mostly on Friday or Saturday nights and included the regular combo of dinner and a movie. Sex was not on the menu in high school, but there were lots of kissing and hugging.
The first year at M.I.T. (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) was challenging, exciting and romantic.
M.I.T. is located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, near Harvard University and the Charles River. The university is legendary. Ernest was in love with it, biology and Susan. She was his first girlfriend at M.I.T., and he met her in a biology class in his freshman year.
Susan was pretty, blonde and hot in bed. He was inexperienced. She was from Boston and went back home every weekend. Their dates were usually two days a week, but never on a Sunday. The love affair was intriguing, heavenly and passionate. It lasted about three months. She left Ernest for another man from Harvard, who was a junior and in all likelihood more exciting and wealthier than Ernest. In fact Ernest was from the lower-middle class and his family was not big spenders.
Ernest was an undergraduate and twenty years old when his dad died of a heart attack. He had been drifting away from Christianity for a few years. The atheistic evolution taught in high school and college convinced him that the creation of the universe and life on planet Earth did not require a Creator, but Albert Einstein did write about a Mind that was involved in the creation of the physical universe, physics and creation of life. Most of his associates and friends at the university were non-Christians and some of them were fervent atheists. Plus his daily life did not seem to require God. He became an atheist a few months after the death of his father. He and his father were close and enjoyed such activities as talking together, hunting and fishing.
When Earnest was a junior and later a senior in high school, he had so many questions about the Bible and God. His mom, dad and he went to church almost every Sunday morning. He enjoyed the singing, Sunday school class and the preaching service. But when he asked serious and profound intellectual questions about the creation of the universe, the evolution of life on planet Earth, about God and His justice, Ernest could not get dependable, logical answers. He was told that the Bible said such and such, and to “just have faith.” When he asked questions about the evolution of life, he received Creationist answers. Responses included: planet Earth is 6,000 to 10,000 years old; God created galaxies, the Earth, plants and animals, and two humans all in six 24-hour days. And modern science is wrong about many beliefs such as: the age of the Earth and the fossil record; individuals have free will, but God knows everything in the future; and the only way to Salvation is through Jesus Christ. But what about people who lived before Abraham was born?! Was there any path to God and eternal life for people born before Abraham, or were all these individuals doomed to hell? Sure there were a few after Jonah, but what about American Indians who lived in North America around 5,000 B.C.? He was convinced that there were no simple answers to such complex questions.
Charles Darwin and other atheistic scientists had the world figured out correctly, he was told in science class and in most books about biology. For example, the science books said that the universe was about 14 billion years old and the Earth was roughly 4 ½ billion years old. And life first appeared on planet Earth about 3.5 billion years ago and then evolved through genetic mutations and natural selection. Plus no God, angels or other intelligent beings were required for the creation of one-celled creatures all the way to Homo sapiens.
But while archeology, biology and logic gave mountains of evidence to life going back to roughly 3.5 to 3.8 billion years ago and evolving into current life forms, science did not answer questions about the Cambrian Explosion and several other key issues in science and philosophy. The Cambrian geological period gave evidence for the appearance of birds, mammals and other new life forms with no logical reasons why these new modern life forms would develop during a small percentage of the last 3.5 billion years. Most of these new forms of life appeared in less than 25 million years.
For at least 3 billion years (or at least 2,960 million years) life forms (mostly bacteria and algae) were one-celled or composed of several cells, as recorded in fossil records. Then about 530-540 million years ago, new multi-cellular forms began to appear on planet Earth.
New structures such as appendages and eyes appeared without any past developing structures. The first eyes appeared with lens suited for seeing in water, and water was where the animals lived in the early Cambrian Era. During the entire Cambrian Era, well-formed and functional eyes appeared in the Animal Kingdom in the phyla of these: Arthropoda, such as insects, spiders and crustaceans; Phylum Mollusca which include snails, oysters and octopus; Phylum Chordata which include fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals.
Ernest had some major questions to answer in the evolution or development of life forms on planet Earth. What answers would he find and would they lead to or away from belief in the Creator?
Chapter 6, Graduate School
Ernest Siegfried spent his first year in graduate school at M.I.T. The twelve months were hard but they did pass.
He had a few girlfriends in his undergraduate days at M.I.T. and few went past the third date, but Ellen was an exception. She was a little like Susan. Ellen was blonde, bright, well-built and also hot in bed. Ernest compared her to a statue of a Greek goddess, and sometimes just as cold as a granite statue in January in New England. Ernest and Ellen made love on the third date. But after about six months she found Jack and lost interest in Earnest. Jack was in his first year in the chase for the prized Harvard MBA. He was also from a wealthy, old New York family.
Ernest and Ellen spent two days with her parents on a yacht off the coast of Main. The winds were cold in March, but her lips were warm and the scenery was magnificent. The coastline was harsh and beautiful.
Wealthy Jack purchased a used Ferrari sports car for around $120,000 a few weeks after he started dating Ellen. She was impressed, and four months later she and Jack got engaged. They planned a “small wedding” with roughly 160 guests. Their honeymoon was to be perfect—three weeks in Europe including London and Paris, with two days in a castle in Scotland.
The last time Ernest heard from Ellen was when she called from Paris. Her voice was full of wonder and honeymoon excitement. Ernest’s heart was feeling like a snowman in April. The next day all that was left was a puddle of cool water in the green grass.
Ernest went back to M.I.T. and started his doctorate in biochemistry. His studies included the study of enzymes, chemical properties of proteins, nucleic acids (found in genetic materials of DNA and RNA), protein-nucleic acid complexes, and analysis of gene cloning. His doctoral dissertation was on RNA splicing and protein-nucleic acid complexes in mammals.
His doctorate took four years of study, work at a biotechnology company in the Harvard-M.I.T-Boston area and nine months of teaching undergrads in biology at M.I.T. He passed his written exams and defense of his doctoral dissertation. Finally he passed his oral exams and was awarded a Ph.D. in Biochemistry!
He thought earning his doctorate was the best event of his life. He had survived eight years in science and math at perhaps one of the top ten science universities in the United States. Ernest was now ready for a career in teaching and research in biology. His income would be very good and he could be an associate or assistant professor at a leading university within a few months. Life was good and getting better.
The exhilaration lasted about a year.
At age thirty, Ernest was an assistant professor of biochemistry at Harvard University. He was teaching mostly graduate classes and doing post-doctoral research in biochemistry and cell biology. The pay was substantial, so he bought his first house. It was not a mansion, but it was nice and roomy with 2,600 square feet on a one-half acre of land about 30 miles from Harvard. He had saved some money and put twenty percent down on the house.
He was still single, but that was not a problem. After Ellen, Ernest dated several young women from ages 21 to 35. They were all white, except for one woman who was Caucasian and American Indian or Native American. Chenoa had dark-brown hair and beautiful brown skin. She was also tall at 5’ 10” and had a well-built body. Her bedroom was decorated with photos and paintings of Irish, Scottish and Native American ancestors dating back to a painting of a Scottish man in 1802. His eyes were brown, warm and intelligent-looking.
Chenoa was warm, joyful and willing. Why did they break up? He wondered about that a few weeks after their separating. He called her, but she had already moved on to another boyfriend. Did he make a huge mistake, he wondered. If his loss of this lovely and unique woman was a great mistake, he swore never to make that kind of a mistake again. But would he?
He looked up her first name in a book and found out that Chenoa meant dove. She was tall and muscular, however sometimes she seemed like a gentle, golden dove. She was athletic and beat him at tennis about half of their games.
One starry night in the winter, Ernest and Chenoa were standing near the banks of the Charles River off Highway 3, not more than 8 miles from M.I.T. and not far from Harvard. The night was frigid and clear, with a full moon and gray clouds passing in front of the moon.
Chenoa gazed across the river and at the moon while softly talking to Ernest. “When I was fourteen and near a river, my mother’s father would tell me things about nature and about the Creator. My grandfather was pure American Indian. He married a woman of Irish descent. She came over from Ireland when she was only two years old. Her father, mother and siblings started farming in the United States. They initially bought forty acres of land in Pennsylvania and rented more acres. This Irish woman was proficient at cooking, farming and painting. She painted a picture of each of her five siblings, one of herself at sixteen, and a picture of her mother and one of her father, and one large painting of her mother and father together. She also painted other individuals and sold most of those. She loved to paint nature scenes in Pennsylvania, Ohio and upper New York. Her mother and father did not want her to marry an Indian. But they were in love and married in May. There were about two hundred Indians and white people, some of them were part Indian, at the wedding. Her dad did not attend the wedding, but one year later gave them ten acres of very productive farming land as a wedding present. Then they all got along well and lived in tranquility.”
Chenoa grabbed his arm and continued, “Grandfather would talk with wonder and reverence in his voice.” She smiled, glanced at Ernest and gazed at the canopy of stars in the heavens. “My grandfather called God the Great Spirit and sometimes the Great Mystery. Some Indian nations call the Great Mystery Grandfather. But some nations do not assign gender to God.”
He was speechless for a few seconds. “I haven’t thought much about divinities or gods for a while. Animal life, humans and science do not seem to require a Creator.” He stuck his hands in his pockets, bit the bottom of his lip; and then in a few moments placed his right arm around her shoulders. “Of course we Homo sapiens could destroy most life on planet Earth during the next twenty years, or twenty weeks.”
She stared into Ernest’s eyes. “My grandfather knew about several tribes or nations. He said the Hopi nation believed that the Great Sprit was all powerful and taught humans how to live, farm and worship.”
Ernest let her loose and walked a few steps closer to the river. She followed him and then stood tight against his side. “When I was a teenager, my father and I would go fishing. My mom would go with us sometimes. Out in the woods or on a creek bank, I often felt at peace and near God. Some days God seemed close but unseen; other days He seemed far away like the sun when it is night. You cannot see it or feel it, but you believe it is there and will appear within a few hours.” He made firm eye contact with Chenoa and the muscles in his neck loosened. “A few times my dad said to me, ‘close to nature, close to God’ and he would look confident and at peace with himself and with nature.”
“Close to nature, close to the Creator makes sense. The Great Spirit created this galaxy, the stars, planets and their moons. Later the Creator took materials from planet Earth, arranged the chemicals, molded the life forms and breathed life into them.” She took his hand and squeezed it hard. “Do you believe what I have said?”
He avoided looking into her chocolate-brown eyes and gathered his thoughts. “Maybe I do, a few days in a year. I stopped believing in gods, angels and demons when I was twenty years old.” He looked uncertain and rubbed his jaw with his right hand. “Tell me more about your Native American grandfather.”
“He was tall, a little more than six-feet tall and had a sturdy build. He liked to fish, hunt and farm. My grandfather also loved to tell stories to his children and grandchildren. The things I remember most about him was fishing and telling stories. He took his children and grandchildren on fishing trips in the Northeast. A few that I remember were overnight adventures. He usually carried a rifle and a revolver in his pickup truck, though that was probably illegal. Legal or not, he had enough sense to protect himself and his children. Grandfather believed in being strong and defending his family from all dangers.” She spread the blanket on the ground and they both reclined, looking at the moon and stars.
Chenoa then turned to Ernest and said, “There is a story by the Okanogan about how God or the Old One made the Earth from a woman.”
He stretched out on the blanket, put his hands behind his neck and waited for Chenoa’s story, as remembered by her grandfather. “OK, tell me more about the creation of planet Earth.”
Chenoa turned on her side to face him and placed a hand under her chin, then rolled up a smaller blanket for a pillow for her head. “The Okanogan tribe had this story about the creation of this planet, soil, rocks, trees, very ancient people and humans. Planet Earth was made from an immense woman by Old One, who was the Creator and above other beings. The Earth is still alive but vastly changed by Old One. Her flesh has become soil, bones are now rocks and trees come from her hair.”
“Later Old One took some earth, which had been a little of her flesh, and made balls. The first group was changed into the ancients. These somewhat human-like people lived in the world before humans. These ancients came in a few categories. They were human-like and animals. One category looked a lot like humans, one category could swim like fish, and another category could fly and were bird-like creatures but also somewhat human-like. All the Ancients had the gift of speech, were cunning and they had great powers.”
Chenoa smiled, then pulled her coat up closer to her neck and shivered once. “Many years later Old One took the last balls of mud and created humans.”
Ernest grinned, “Was that Homo sapiens or some other species?”
She turned away from him and then hit Ernest on his right arm with her fist. “The storytellers did not say. White man needs to shut big mouth and listen attentively.”
“OK Chenoa, professor of evolutionary biology and folklore,” he said with a broad smile.
“Now you have the right attitude.” She hit him with the palm of her left hand and then stared into his eyes.
“Ouch, I felt that!”
“Good. That will help white man to learn better and respect his teachers.” She laughed and then kissed his lips. “So Old One created people and rolled them over and shaped them into Indians. But they were not alive yet. So Old One breathed on them, and they became alive. But these Indians were unlearned, weak and not cunning. “
“That sounds a lot like the Bible story of Adam and Eve. God created Adam from some clay or mud, but he was not alive. Then the Creator blew life into Adam, according to the Genesis account,” Ernest added.
“Old One created males and females in the lines of people and animals,” she continued. “They could breed to produce more, so eventually the earth was populated with living beings.”
“Again, that sounds like a story out of the book of Genesis in the Bible. There may have been people who lived before humans, and they could also talk.” Ernest kissed her and then held her hand. They had gloves on and coats with hoods to shield them against the frigid wind.
“The ancient world became cruel and dangerous.” She kissed him again on the lips and leaned against him. “Most of the Ancients were not good and some were fiends, evil beings. Ancients became selfish, and that produced trouble and warfare. Some of the Ancients killed humans and ate them, thinking they were deer or similar animals. Or maybe these Ancients did not care, they were hungry and cruel.”
Ernest pulled up the hood tighter around his head. “The humans needed some appropriate weapons such as spears, bows and arrows.”
“Old One said that all the humans would be killed, given enough days and enough evil Ancients. Then Old One came up with a solution,” she continued. “He commissioned and ordered Coyote to destroy the monsters and other evil Ancients. Some of these Ancients were human-like, and some were monsters. And Coyote was commissioned to teach the Indians how to work and other useful things. So Coyote traveled and taught the Indians and killed the dangerous Ancients.”
Ernest nodded in approval and said, “That was an interesting story on the development of our planet and evolution of life. On one of our hunting trips, my dad told me a story he read in a book about The Immortals. These people lived many years before humans. Perhaps they existed 10,000 years before Adam and Eve. They lived very long lives of thousands of years, they were healthy and good-looking. But they later joined Lucifer in the rebellion against the Creator.”
She looked worried. “What happened to the Immortals?”
“The Creator destroyed them when they became evil. Their physical bodies were destroyed in a cataclysm or catastrophe. However, their spirit bodies lived and were not destroyed on planet Earth. Most of the Immortals were sent to a place within the Earth. Some of these spirits are probably residing in this world today. One notion is that these creatures are demons, or a group of demons.”
“The stories have some major similarities, though they were told by different nations who lived thousands of miles from each other,” she replied.
“My dad might say that the original story came before Noah and was passed down and changed over many generations.” Ernest sat up, felt heaviness in his stomach and took a deep breath. “I wish that my dad had lived at least another ten years. He was brilliant and knew about several areas of study including economics, the Bible and biology.”
They stayed near the river for about another hour and then went to his place.
Chapter 7, Liberty and the End of Marriage
Liberty Adair, her maiden name, wanted a good husband and children. She desired to be a near-perfect wife of a preacher in a respectable and influential church. Liberty cherished a faithful, successful husband and smart, good-looking and nice children. She got few of those desires.
Her husband Bill was the talented, handsome, main pastor at a large Baptist church in the North Texas area. The church had modern music, gifted musicians, a large and growing youth group, missionary trips to Mexico and Brazil, and a beautiful set of buildings with a main church building seating around 2,000 people. Bill was considered to be a person skilled at preaching, had a good “positive attitude” and not a “boring theologian.” He was down-to-earth and shined a big smile to the congregation. But a few of the older men and women found him to be too modern, not theological enough, not deep enough into the Bible and too materialistic. There were few things to find in his sermons that were wrong; he didn’t realize the importance of adding some areas such as apologetics, politics and science. But most of the church members liked him.
Ten married couples met with Bill to discuss public education. They were concerned with the lack of acknowledgment of the existence of God and the work of the Creator in developing life on planet Earth. These married couples pointed out that the public schools were indoctrinating their children into areas of socialism, atheism and political correctness. They brought several textbooks (in their state) with examples of the slant toward secular, non-Christian beliefs. While the couples agreed that most textbooks in their state were much better than textbooks in other states; several of the textbooks were secular, taught immorality and were even anti-Christian.
The preacher listened with interest and said he would study the situation. Four weeks later he met with the ten married couples again. He said they had some good points and they should talk with some of the Sunday school teachers. The couples asked him to mention these areas in a few sermons. He smiled and said he would put some concerns into a future sermon. Two weeks later he spent about ten minutes on these areas. For the next six months, there was no mention of the problems in public education in their state in his sermons or in church announcements.
One morning a few minutes after the main church service, an elder deacon in his sixties walked up to Liberty. “Your husband has a way with words and most people like him,” the deacon said with a pained smile. “But he doesn’t preach enough of the Bible and he talks too much about money and giving lots of it to the church.” He paused and stared at the red carpet near the exit doors. “Liberty, I probably shouldn’t say this, but there is something fake and manipulative about him. Bill likes the young women to adore him. He must have his way at the deacons’ meetings. He seems to resent any criticisms of his decisions in the church.” Then the old deacon rushed to the door to join his wife.
Liberty heard no voices and saw no daggers of lightning, but she felt a dagger of foreboding in her heart. Her mind reflected on the story she heard a few weeks ago about a preacher’s wife and adultery. The wife was unaware that her husband had been dating a woman for more than a year. They ended up getting a divorce within a few months of the wife finding out about it. Liberty thought it strange that she would think of this story while she had not considered it in more than a week.
Two months later she found out. Her husband was guilty of his first adulterous affair, if it was his first.
Bill and Liberty went to marriage counseling. After three months it seemed like problems were solved and their marriage was intact. The church was not told and she thought that was the best thing to do. She put on a happy smile in church and things seemed fine.
Bill’s first illicit girlfriend lived in Oklahoma. His second girlfriend went to their church. She was pretty and well-endowed in her chest. Liberty found out that the other woman was twenty-four and had been divorced almost one year. Bill gave her some counseling and a lot more.
When he didn’t come home until eleven-thirty one night, when he should have been home from the church by nine o’clock, she hired a detective agency in Dallas. Her mom and dad paid the detectives, but hoped they would find no evidence against their daughter’s husband.
The detective agency worked the case for ten weeks, collecting data and doing surveillance. Two weeks into the investigation, a private investigator took some pictures of Bill and his girlfriend entering a motel room at 7:10 PM and coming out laughing at 9:13 PM.
A total of nine very suspicious events were recorded in the ten weeks. In the ninth week, the couple went to a casino in Oklahoma, leaving Dallas around two in the afternoon and arriving back at her apartment at 9:36 PM. Bill left her place at 9:49 PM. But at the casino in Oklahoma, Bill and his girlfriend left the slot machines and entered a room at 6:02 PM. The P. I. didn’t know what was going on in the hotel room, but he could guess when they came out at exactly 7:04 PM. This gave them an hour for some love making. The ninth week was the week of high activity according to the detectives; Bill went into hotel and casino private rooms four times.
When confronted, Bill repented of this second immoral affair and the married couple went back to counseling. After only four weeks Liberty felt better. She forgave Bill and he bought her a new Chevy car. They talked about having their first child. They purchased new carpet for half of the house, though the old carpet was only a few years old.
The new car ran well and they took a trip to Florida for two weeks. The beaches were warm and the water was cool but not frigid. The couple and other lovers walked along the beaches of southern Florida. It was like a dream come true for Liberty. They ate at fish restaurants near Miami and later at an upscale restaurant in Key West. They were in Florida for twelve days. Ten of those days they had an ocean view.
When they got back from Florida, the honeymoon feeling lasted about one week. Then Bill became busy at work but he came home by six-thirty for dinner. About two months later there was a trip to Chicago where he wanted to hear a favorite preacher and get inspired to grow a greater ministry. She stayed home in Texas at his request or maybe at his demand.
Then there was the third girlfriend. She was 21 and beautiful. Liberty and Bill went back to counseling which lasted four months. Liberty was not convinced that Bill was going to change and hired the same detective agency about three months into the counseling sessions.
After the fourth adultery the saga was over. The investigators found that Bill and his new girlfriend entered a hotel room in Frisco, Texas at 5:06 PM and came out at 8:01 PM. Bill arrived home around 9 o’clock and told his wife that he made a late hospital visit and did some counseling at the church with a young woman. This occurred during the last two weeks of marriage counseling. Liberty felt she had been used, tricked and abused. Her father told her that Bill probably had several more girlfriends than four.
After the fourth twisted love affair, Bill did not say much to Liberty. There were no counseling sessions and she left their mansion in two days, only speaking to him three times. She was shocked and numb. There were few tears on her face, and she knew her marriage was terminated.
After about two months, her feelings slowly returned and she felt free. The alimony she received was an adequate amount for eight years. The settlement was generous and would provide her enough money to live for eight years, but she wanted to work at something that brought meaning and fulfillment into her life.
She initially lived with her parents and then lived in a charming apartment in Frisco, Texas for two months. She traded the Chevy for a Ford car and bought some new clothes. Three weeks later she traded the Ford for another Chevy car. Her wedding dress and most of her old clothes were donated to the Salvation Army. She sold her diamond wedding ring for $9,450. They took up a collection in her Sunday school class for her. One wealthy family put in a lot and the total was $5,325. Liberty left her husband’s church a few weeks after she left the mansion.
She now attended church about once a month with her parents and went to a Christian women’s group twice a month. She still prayed and read her Bible every day, but doubts were growing in her mind, and her heart felt cool instead of warm toward Christians and God.
Bill took the divorce rather well. He had to quit his lucrative job at the church, but he had three offers to be an assistant pastor at churches in Texas and Georgia within two months after his divorce was finalized. The pay was about one-fourth of what he had earned. Bill’s parents had plenty of money, so he wasn’t worried about his financial future.
Liberty moved in with her parents for a few months. She wanted to clear her head and think about the future. She started doing some research, including buying a few books.
She later rented an apartment and then purchased a house in Denton, Texas. Bill gave her enough money to make a decent down payment on the house. Liberty continued her research, bought more books and started reading some in books at local libraries in North Texas.
“Some days I have a lot of questions on my mind,” Liberty told her mother, while she was moving into her new house. “I don’t know what God wants me to do. I need to take a few months to try to figure things out.” She unlocked the door to the house and they went inside.
Her mother nodded in agreement. “Life is very complicated. We want simple solutions for complex problems. It will be very difficult, but try to be patient and keep thinking. God gave us minds to use to help us figure things out. We also have the Bible, family and our friends. We may not find all the answers, but we should not stop thinking and doing our research.”
Liberty felt better, set her jaw and looked determined to find her way in the world. “Mom, you always give me good advice. You and dad have been great in helping me through this ordeal. I could not have made it this far without both of you.”
Her mom gave Liberty a hug; they chatted for a few minutes, and then they went out to lunch at a nearby Tex-Mex restaurant.
In early November Liberty started going to a university library in North Texas. Where were the real answers in her new world? The old questions were known, but now she had new questions with no good answers. Even a few of the old questions had answers that now seemed dubious. She felt alone in her house most days, and needed companionship and affection. Could there be a new love in her life before Christmas?
Chapter 8, Ernest’s Mom Visits
On the 23rd of December, which was a Tuesday, a few days after Ernest was released from the hospital, John MacGregor and Ernest’s mom left the DFW International Airport in Grapevine, Texas. She brought two suitcases and a bag of mother’s worries.
John drove his Ford F-150 truck into the drive at Ernest’s house around three o’clock in the sunny afternoon. Ernest was watching for them and opened the front, heavy wooden door. “Mom, John, come on in. I thought you were going to be here about an hour ago. Did you have any trouble?”
John looked annoyed as he carried the two heavy suitcases up the sidewalk. “We ran into some bad weather flying over the Red River a few miles before we crossed over from Oklahoma into Texas. Earlier flying over Little Rock, Arkansas we had some rough weather with lightning. We ran into a thunderstorm in Arkansas and the turbulence was rather intense for about twenty minutes.” John looked at her and smiled, “But I knew that your mom would hold my hand if things got too fierce.”
Meredith (meaning protector of the sea) responded, “We were OK, in God’s Hands.” She winked at John as she walked toward the open arms of her son.
Ernest walked toward her, “I’m glad you are both OK. How have you been today, Mom?” He gave her a kiss on the cheek.
“I’m a little tired from the trip. John met me at the airport in Philadelphia. John didn’t have to fly all the way to Pennsylvania.”
“You live in Harrisburg and drove to Philadelphia by yourself. I wanted to fly up to the airport and make sure you got to Ernest’s house OK,” John clarified.
“It costs a lot of money to fly up and back from Texas to Pennsylvania,” she continued.
“No problem,” John smiled with a wicked grin. “I had your son’s credit card and flew to Los Vegas before I came to Philly. Boy, did I give the casinos thousands of his money; but I had fun.”
Ernest smiled, “I wouldn’t loan you my credit card to go to the grocery store and hustle back in thirty minutes.” He sneered at him and turned his head away.
“You grew up in Harrisburg, PA didn’t you?” asked John.
“Yes and my father and I hunted and fished in the woods and creeks of Pennsylvania, and ran our motor boat on the Susquehanna River near Harrisburg.” Ernest looked down as the picture of his father fishing from a 24-foot boat with a 90 horsepower outboard Evinrude motor ran through his mind. The memory was clear as he saw his dad pull in a large fish.
“I went with them most of the time fishing and boating on the Susquehanna.” Her face brightened as scenes of family and the river flashed through her mind, chasing out the rain and dark-gray storm clouds that had assembled. Her shoulders straightened but her eyes appeared a bit red.
“Some days my mom, dad and I would start fishing at sunrise and fish until about two in the afternoon. Those early-morning trips were on Saturdays from April through September. We usually went to church on Sunday mornings. Some days in the spring and summer months, my dad and I would leave from home after lunch and come back home after dark. A few times each year mom would go fishing with us on Sundays, but mostly it was just dad and me.” Ernest smiled and his face shined with joy.
“We went to both Sunday school and church services most Sundays, unless we were sick,” Meredith added, as she smiled and relaxed. “Ernest had some questions in high school that his Sunday school teacher could not answer. I told him to just trust and obey.”
“Yep, those were the days of trusting and obeying the written word and the sayings of preachers.” Ernest’s eyes widened and he raised a single eyebrow. Some thoughts scrambled in his mind, and then he turned and walked a few steps away from her. “The preachers could have used more logic and science, and a little less faith.”
John took a step toward him and his forehead wrinkled, “Didn’t you get some good answers back in high school?”
“There were a few.” Ernest turned and looked at John.
“Maybe you can get some more answers this year, my friend,” he tried to console. But hope was not on John’s face at that moment.
“Some say that God will reveal Himself at appropriate times,” replied Ernest.
“People who come closer to God are those individuals who He will come closer to them. You must search to find appropriate answers. Correct?” inquired John. “You know that in science, you need to do experiments, consider the results and make conclusions. But the process begins with the search for truth.”
“You are correct. We must start on the path to understanding before we have any chance of finding answers. And we must ask the right questions.” Ernest appeared intrigued as he imagined a green path that meandered across golden-brown hills and disappeared around a larger hill with trees having brown trunks and orange leaves. In his mind, he saw himself as a man in his early twenties standing at the edge of the path. The younger man was hesitating in taking the first step onto the green path. An orange-yellow sun was hanging above the tall hill and an eagle was gracefully flying between the top of the hill and the bottom of the position of the sun, but the scene was silent. Slowly the green grass in the path turned to a brownish-green, and the sun shrank to half of its size and turned a pale yellow.
“Do you feel OK,” inquired his mom.
“Yeah, Mom. I am doing OK under the circumstances. This heart trouble has given me some worry.” He frowned and rubbed his jaw with his right hand. “I was just thinking of a path not traveled.” He glanced at John and then looked past his mom. “Perhaps I do need to seek some answers to both old and new questions about life and God.”
◊ ◊ ◊ ◊ ◊
Promptly at 6:30 PM the three started eating dinner. Meredith prepared the dinner, which took about one hour. The cuisine included sirloin steak, corn, mashed potatoes and gravy, biscuits, white Rhine wine and freshly-baked oatmeal-raisin cookies hot out of the oven. John poured them all glasses of wine and glasses of ice water with lemon. The large dining room table had places for eight, and eight chairs were under the expensive cherry-wood table.
Ernest had not expected to buy a house when he came to Texas in June of that year but he thought he could sell it later for a nice profit when he went back to teach at M.I.T., Harvard or another prestigious university in the Northeast.
“How much did you say that you paid down for this house?” asked his mom.
“The down payment was about 60 percent on the house here in Denton, Texas. It has 3,200 square feet and was a little too large for one person, but I like the space. It is located on one acre of land and has 25 trees of various types and sizes, including a Bald Cypress of about 20 feet tall and two Red Maple trees of about 15 feet each. The back yard is fenced with a tall, dark-brown wrought iron fence.”
“The photos you sent me a few months ago had a wooden fence in the back yard.” She took a sip of wine and fidgeted in her chair.
“The five-foot wooden fence was replaced after I moved in and after I hired painters to do some repainting of two rooms. The total costs were several thousand dollars, but they add to the market price of the house. The wood fence was somewhat weathered and gray-looking in places.”
Meredith stood up for a few seconds, then sat down and glanced at her son. “Who is going to pray?”
A trace of a smile crossed John’s face.
Ernest seemed nervous and leaned hard on the table. “You can pray, Mom.” His mom was silent. “I haven’t prayed much this whole year. Maybe John would like to pray over this fine meal.” Ernest almost spilled his wine.
John straightened up in his chair, cleared his throat and prayed with energy. “Dear God, please bless this food and protect all of us this month. Continue to heal Ernest and give peace to his mind.” He looked at Ernest who had tilted his head forward and half-way closed his eyes. He continued to pray concerning the safety of the country, the health of Meredith and then finished the prayer. John closed his eyes again. “We joyfully thank you for the blessings of life, including the opportunity to be together. We ask these things in the name of the Anointed One, our Lord. Amen.”
Meredith and her son said ‘Amen.’ Even though Ernest had been an atheist for more than eighteen years, he respected the feelings and traditions of his mom and friends. He did pray eight years ago when he was almost hit in Boston by a SUV on an icy street. Funny he thought at the time, an atheist praying to an absent deity. He escaped the traffic accident, but why? Maybe it was his good driving skills and quick reaction time, he pondered. But there was plenty of ice and snow on the street to exclude his driving skills as the primary variable in the equation.
“Weird; I was thinking about a traffic accident in winter in Boston. I didn’t get hit, but it was very close.” Ernest looked into his mom’s blue eyes. “It was so close that I even prayed to God for help,” he chuckled and looked away and down at his empty plate.
“Oh, how many years ago was that?,” quizzed John with surprise on his face.
Ernest leaned back in his wooden, well-padded chair and looked out the window at the barren Bald Cypress. “It was about eight years ago. A large black SUV almost hit me on the driver’s side. It might have been fatal.”
“You were spared for a reason,” Meredith added, with concern draped across her aging face. At sixty-two she still retained most of her good looks when she was forty.
Nine or ten seconds passed in uncomfortable silence. Then John spoke, “Pass me the mashed potatoes and gravy, please.”
Ernest was glad for the request and handed him the mashed potatoes first.
Meredith announced, “I forgot to prepare the dinner rolls, but I turned on the oven. It will only take about fourteen minutes to bake them.” She jumped up and headed for the refrigerator.
“Ohhh,” groaned Ernest as he placed his right hand on the middle of his chest.
“Are you all right?” asked John, as a fluttering feeling rose in his belly.
“Yeah, but I hurt in my chest.” He breathed deeply and then slowly exhaled. The anxiety lessened and he flopped back in his chair.
“Do you need a pain pill?” offered John, as he glanced at Meredith and then stared at Ernest.
“No, I don’t need a pain pill; at least not this minute.” Ernest rubbed his eyebrows with his left hand and then took a gulp of wine with his right hand.
“Grumpy and valiant son-of-a-gun aren’t you? You had heart surgery less than a week ago and now you pretend that you do not need a pain pill,” John heckled. “How long since your last medication?”
“It was not surgery; it was a procedure.” Ernest checked his watch and sighed, “It has been about four-and-a-half hours since the last one. Mom, please get me a codeine pill from that bottle near the sink.” His eyes cut toward the kitchen sink, glanced at his mom and he added in a tense voice, “I can have one every four hours.” He looked around the kitchen, his eyes never settling on one object or person. “They gave me enough codeine for seven days when I left the hospital, but the doctor said I would probably only need two pills per day for three or four days.”
She grabbed a bottle and then put it down. She picked up the second bottle and replied, “This is the one.” She handed him a tablet and he swallowed it with a gulp of water, followed by a sip of white wine.
“Careful, patient. You shouldn’t take a lot of alcohol with pain medicine,” scolded John. He touched his fingertips together, leaned back in his chair and said, “Did I ever tell you about a patient of mine that drank a quart of hard liquor and took six pain-killer pills?” He paused and then continued with a knowing look, “After that he didn’t have a care in the world. Ah, in this world. His wife enjoyed two hundred grand of his life insurance. The widow and her new boyfriend enjoyed a three-week vacation to Spain, England and France. That vacation probably lightened her spirits.”
“You are not a doctor, MacGregor,” rebuffed Ernest.
“That is just a small detail.” John shrugged his shoulders, looked at his wine glass and took another drink. “It was only a story and some of it happened outside the country.”
“I haven’t been living in a cave during the last twenty years and I did study biology.” Ernest pretended to be insulted.
“Well, I suppose a small glass of wine will not hurt, especially with a meal.” John laughed while Ernest reached for the corn. “Give me one of those pain killers too, Meredith.”
She smiled with amusement and checked the rolls in the oven. “Get your own heart attack and pills. The rolls are almost ready.”
“What?!” John feigned hurt; put his hands at his sides, almost knocking over his wine glass. “Oh, I’m hurt and insulted.” He hid his face in his big hands. “You don’t know how sensitive I am. I have feelings, you know.”
Meredith threw a wet wash rag at him while Ernest tried not to laugh, as the pain cut into his chest. “Stop, it hurts to laugh,” protested Ernest.
“OK, I will wait until your pain pill kicks in to tell you anything funny. Can I get you another glass of wine or whiskey?” John stood up and ran into the kitchen.
“No, at least not for a few minutes,” replied Ernest.
They finished the meal while Ernest told a story he heard from Chenoa, his old girlfriend.
“Several years ago I was dating a young, beautiful woman named Chenoa, which means dove in Native American. She was tall, said that she was 5’ 10” when I inquired, had beautiful dark-brown skin like a golden-reddish-brown goddess. Some of her ancestries was American Indian or Native American.”
“She had a well-built muscular body also, didn’t she?” asked John, who remembered Ernest telling about his ex-girlfriend a few weeks ago.
He replied with a satisfied smile, as his mind flashed a picture of her in tight jeans and then another one in a swimming pool with an enticing two-piece swimsuit that hugged her chest, hips and buns. “She was nicely put together.”
His mom smiled and remembered. “Oh, yes. I met her once or twice. You had finished your doctorate and were teaching at M.I.T., as I recall. She had a pleasant personality and was likeable.”
“That is correct, Mom. I was doing research and teaching at M.I.T. plus dating around.” Those were the days of good-looking, young women, he thought. “But it went too fast.”
“After age thirty the years fly by, like summer when we were teenagers,” sighed John. “I will be sixty in January.”
“Yeah and I will turn the dreaded forty in February,” said Ernest. He broke eye contact with John and started fidgeting. Ernest got up and walked into the living room. John and Meredith got up and followed him.
They all sat down. John spoke first. “Tell us one of those stories that she told you,” commanded John, as he stretched back in his chair and his muscles relaxed.
“Chenoa told me several stories of Indian folklore and legends.” Ernest sat in a comfortable leather chair that was a reddish-brown recliner. “The Indian tribes of North America had different legends and tribal stories, but most of the tribes had some similarities in legends about gods and creation.”
“Chenoa said that the Okanogan tribe supposed that God, who they called the Old One, took a woman and made planet Earth. The Earth was alive, but the woman was changed by the Old One. Her flesh became soil and her bones became rocks. Her breath transformed into the wind and her hair became alive as trees and grass.”
John seemed puzzled and his forehead wrinkled. “Where did the Old One get the woman?”
“Chenoa did not say.” Ernest smirked and added, “I was probably too busy looking at her face, hair and body to ask that question.”
“So how did the Old One create men and women?” asked his mom.
“According to tribal legend, Old One took some flesh from the woman and mad balls of earth, like you could make balls from mud. The first group of intelligent beings made from the ground was called The Ancients.”
“These Ancients were like people, but some were animals. Some of The Ancients could swim like fish and a few could fly like birds. They all could talk and had great powers and were more intelligent than animals and humans.” Ernest leaned back in his stuffed, leather chair.
“The Old One took more balls of mud and shaped them into Indians. They were not yet alive, so he breathed on them and they became alive,” added Ernest.
“That sounds a little like God in the book of Genesis,” exclaimed his mom. “According to the Bible, the Creator formed man out of mud or clay from the earth or ground. Then He breathed life into man and Adam became a living soul.” She winked at John, put her shoulders back and held her chin high. “As I understand it, the soul is the mind and emotions. Higher mammals have souls but do not have spirits, except humans.” She looked at her son and leaned forward in her chair. “Humans have souls and spirits. The spirit of a man or woman is the spiritual entity of the person. God is a spirit and we are spirits. Each human has a body, a soul and a spirit.”
“That is correct, Meredith.” John glanced at Ernest and then looked at his mom. “And when the Creator breathed into the man, the Creator breathed a human mind and spirit into the man.” John thought deeply before he continued. “In the Bible in Genesis chapter one, God created mankind—male and female. The Creator also blessed them and told them to be fruitful and to multiply. The Creator also commanded that the man and woman subdue the earth or land, and rule over planet Earth. In chapter two of Genesis, God put mankind into a garden called Eden, between the land surrounded by the Euphrates River and three other rivers. The Garden of Eden was probably more than a garden. It probably included a luxuriant, beautiful section of land with gardens and lakes, filled with many different types of plants and animals.”
“Where in Genesis did the Creator or the Great Spirit take a rib from Adam and create Eve the woman?” asked Ernest.
“The rib of the man is mentioned in chapter two,” replied John, as he thought about a Jewish commentary he read a few weeks earlier. “That is a mystery. Perhaps God created the first man and woman during the same hour and the story about the rib is a metaphor about how Adam and Eve were equal in most ways, since the woman was not created out of the head or the foot portions. However, it could be that the Creator did take a rib from the man and create a woman. Since God created our solar system and created original life on planet Earth, the Creator could have taken a human rib and then engineered a woman.”
“How did the Creator take a rib and create a whole human body from a rib?” inquired Ernest.
John put his right hand to his jaw and thought about the situation. “How do people take a few cells from a mammal and clone a whole animal, for example?”
“It all seems like a myth to me and the majority of scientists,” berated Ernest.
“Son, listen to John. He is making a major point,” added his mother. “If humans can clone a sheep, dog or some other higher mammal from a few cells, then don’t you think that God could create a human body from a whole rib?” She yanked her shoulders back, winked at John and then displayed a playful grin.
“Meredith, you have good insights,” smiled John. “In another twenty years, who knows what mankind can create in mammals? We can probably clone another person from a few cells of an existing person.” He put his eyebrows together and then appeared more worried. “Ernest, we might even clone ten of you. One could be teaching undergrads, one could teach graduate students, one could do research, another could be a bartender, and we would have a few left over.” He brought a shaky hand to his forehead and closed his eyes. “But maybe one is enough for the world.”
Ernest gave out a heavy sigh, lifted up both hands and then let them fall to his lap. “I should have kept my mouth shut around John.” He turned to his mom. “You both have some good points. If there is a Creator or Master Programmer, then he can probably take a human rib and make another person.” He raised his eyebrows, cleared his throat and then tapped his fingers on his knees. “What about cloning a woman from a man? Genetics and the electron microscope tell us that the man has a XY chromosome and a woman has a XX chromosome.”
“Professor, the man has the XY chromosome so the Creator could take the X and make another one from it. Then two X’s could produce a woman and the Y could be left out.” John leaned back in his chair, “Do you see a big problem with the creator of DNA and of chromosomes doing that, Dr. Siegfried?”
“Well, no. That might have been done by the Creator. But most of us scientists do not believe in gods and spirits performing miracles and creating animals.”
“So if the story of creating woman from a rib from Adam is a metaphor or literal account, either way it could easily be true.” John touched his fingertips together and a gleam appeared in his brown eyes. “Check and checkmate.”
“Not so fast, John.” Ernest looked his friend directly in the eyes and countered, “Most of the prominent scientists during the last thirty years have been atheists or agnostics.” A look of satisfaction bloomed on his face.
“Several atheist scientists in this country have changed their minds during the last twenty years and now believe that there is a God,” answered John with confidence.
All the while Meredith had been watching both men in admiration as they argued effectively.
Ernest rubbed the back of his neck and felt a little overheated. “Continuing, the Old One made humans from the earth or mud. These new creatures were ignorant and weak. There was a great problem: most of The Ancients were selfish and destructive. They started killing both deer and people.”
“After a long time, Old One said that soon The Ancients would kill all of the humans. So Old One ordered Coyote to destroy The Ancients who were evil and to teach the Indians in ways of conduct and work. Then Coyote taught the Indians, after killing most of The Ancients. Coyote was a mythical character in several tribes’ folklore. He was male, somewhat like a coyote and somewhat like a man. Europeans might consider him to be an angel-like character, but his animal characteristics make him earthier.” Ernest sat up straight and concluded, “So the Indian tribes were protected and also instructed in areas of farming, hunting, tribal ways and in personal conduct.”
After his story, they talked about when Ernest was twelve years old and his father taught him to shoot his first firearm. It was a 22-caliber rifle that Ernest still had in his new house in Texas.
John drove home around eleven o’clock that night, after calling his wife and telling her he was on the way.
The next day was Christmas Eve.