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Bethlehem Rescue Mission Chapter 8

Chapter Eight

Ned was kneeling on his hands and knees on the grimy shag carpet, his

head down, tears rolling down his face, sobbing. As the memory of what had

caused this emotional reaction returned, as he remembered the movie, as he

glanced at the TV now showing the credits to It’s a Wonderful Life, he felt

a rising fury within him. What had happened to the Ned Phillips who had

calmly walked into this room several hours ago?

He thought of what someone would think if they could see him in this

position. A dignified, self controlled, well respected man had entered

room 7 of the Atlas Motel with the sole aim of ending his life with dignity

and rationality. Instead, he was going through emotional and intellectual

convulsions. His entire belief system was coming under attack, his world

view beginning to crumble. He was having delusions, hallucinations and who

knew what else. He was coming apart at the seams.

He angrily rubbed the tears from his eyes and quickly stood up, which

instantly made him feel better. He consciously sought to do nothing but

empty his mind and control his body. Slowly the sobs ebbed, and the tears

stopped and gradually his breathing went back to normal. He was not going

to think about what had just happened. He may not believe in God, but at

this point he was almost willing to recognize the existence of the devil

and hell. He had always thought they were easier to believe in than God in

this world anyway.

He knew instinctively that he had little time left. If he didn’t

finish what he had come to do quickly, he wouldn’t do it. Time was quickly

passing, but more important, his conviction was quickly ebbing. There was

an internal war going on. Hundreds of years of evolutionary instinct were

fighting a battle to keep him alive, throwing every punch in the book at

him. Buried deep within his psyche, that survival instinct was much

stronger than he had ever imagined. He looked down at the naugahyde chair

and saw the pistol. Nothing had ever looked so comforting.

He reached down to pick it up and finish what he had come to do. He

no longer worried what time it was. He didn’t care about the symbolism any

more, or the statement he had planned on making. He just didn’t want to

live with his pain anymore. If that was capitulation, so be it. He would,

however, be in control of his final destiny. He would overcome the

emotional barrages that had been sent against him. He grabbed the pistol

and raised it to his head, and closed his eyes. There was a deep silence.

Finally everything had stopped. He was being left alone.

Then his iPhone rang.

Ned froze. There was no special ring tone this time. He steeled

himself against the tide of hope that would surge against him. But this

time he drew more comfort in the thought of ending his life than anything

else. Hope was gone. What was broken in his life could not be repaired.

There were too many broken pieces, and not enough time, energy, motivation

or love left. He was able with great effort to keep Dee’s or Beth’s face

from appearing. He squinted in concentration when the phone rang again.

Then in a final act of desperation, he grabbed the iPhone and hurled it

against the back wall, and turned away. He heard the iPhone crack as it

hit the back wall and bounced off.

It had landed behind the bed and he could barely hear its muffled

ring. He sighed in relief. Then a red light began to flash on the back

wall he was staring at. He felt an anger begin to well up inside him.

Someone…something…some force was treating him like a voodoo doll sticking

one pin in him after another. The phone was now on its third ring, only

three rings left and it would stop and be answered by voice mail. He

should have hung it up before he threw it, but he had been too upset. But

he refused to turn around and read the message. It didn’t matter what the

message was, he didn’t want to know. He refused to let anyone control his

life anymore.

That thought suddenly jolted Ned harshly back to reality. There was

no one controlling his fate. He wasn’t some Pinocchio on a string while

the Great Invisible Puppeteer stood and played with his life. The phone

rang again. For the first time Ned felt a rising emotion that was

unfamiliar to him. It was fear. He didn’t want to admit it, but he knew

it was true. He was growing afraid. His emotions were getting the better

of him, threatening to overrule his rational intellect. To kill yourself

to escape some fate, deity, or force was anathema to him. He wasn’t

escaping anything, he was making an informed rational decision.

The light continued to flash. Ned felt his heart race. He knew he

needed to turn around, he needed to prove to himself that all was normal,

that he wasn’t going crazy, that no “coded messages” were being sent to

him. There was no one there to send him coded messages. He didn’t believe

in aliens, UFO’s, pixies, fairies, or God. The phone rang for the fifth

time. Ned steeled himself, took a deep breath, and turned around.

The red letters scrolled down over and over, the message repeated,










Over and over, the sign simply read JES. Ned went numb. There was

no way this was what it sounded like. Jes was his son. He hadn’t talked

to him in over two years. But that was the way they had spelled Jes’ name.

Why would Jes call him? This was ridiculous. There were a thousand

different people that could be calling him, and the most likely prospects

were bosses or clients needing information from him, working late on

Christmas Eve so they could enjoy their Christmas holiday. It just wasn’t


The phone rang for the sixth time.

Ned stood frozen in place, looking at the repeating letters, J E S.

The word JESUS just wasn’t fully appearing. That’s all there was to it.

He knew it. He just knew it. The last ring was dying out. Then he knew

with absolute certainty that if he was wrong and this was Jes—

Without even thinking about it, Ned took one step and dove wildly

headfirst across the first bed, and half of the second bed and landed half

against the wall with his legs on the bed. He felt around desperately on

the floor where he’d landed, searching for his iPhone, realizing it was

probably too late already. Then, he spied it, face down on the carpet

about a foot under the bed. He lunged for it as his feet slid off the bed

and landed against the wall. He was half upside down, his legs resting

against the back wall, his feet above his head when he grabbed the iPhone.

His fingers had never felt so large and bulky. The buttons on the

iPhone had never felt so small and difficult. The light was bad since the

only light in the room was dim and now obscured by the bed. The display

light was on his iPhone, but the front shield had cracked from the impact

of the wall. It was still working, however. He finally found the answer

button and pushed it, holding the phone against his ear, a look of

desperation on his face. All he heard was silence.

“Hello? Hello?” Ned cried desperately.


Ned cursed himself. What a cheap shot. If this was God, he was a

real cruel piece of work. Ned put his finger on the red end button when

suddenly he heard a strange noise coming from the phone. He suddenly

pushed the iPhone’s speaker so close to his ear that it hurt, straining to

catch the sound. No one spoke, but it sounded like furniture being moved,

or something being pushed. Then his heart sank. He was being butt dialed.

Someone had accidentally hit his number on their phone which was in their

pocket, or their purse, but didn’t know it, so they weren’t answering and

were just going about their business. His jaw clenched and he cocked his

arm back with his hand holding the phone, preparing to hurl it. This time

the iPhone would not survive.

“Dad, don’t talk. Either hang up now, or shut up and listen. I

don’t really care which,” said a young raspy voice.

Suddenly goose bumps ran up and down Ned’s body like a fast moving

wave. It was Jes’ voice. Then the phone went quiet again. There were

some very distant sounds, as if someone was sitting down and grabbing

something. Ned was confused.

Slowly, the lilting sounds of an acoustic guitar in the background

could be heard. Ned’s face twisted in confusion. What was going on? Then

he heard Jes slowly singing in his husky tenor voice. He was singing a

song. What was he singing.

Silent Night. Ned’s head shook back and forth in tormented


As Jes sang Silent Night Ned’s body was contorted on the floor, half

on the bed, half off. He didn’t breathe, straining to hear every note,

every sound of Jes voice. Jes’ raspy velvet voice, his expert playing, it

was the most beautiful sound he had ever heard. And against his will,

against all his rational logic, against his resolve Ned felt himself begin

to crumble.

The powerful sobs came from so far deep within him that they were

seismic, tectonic plates in his emotion shifting violently. As Jes sang,

Ned was filled with scenes of Jes as a little boy, of Jes waving good bye

to him as he went off to work, of playing catch with Jes in the back yard,

of Jes with angry tears in his eyes storming out of the house for the final

time after their big blowout.

Ned was dissolving into some kind of human silly putty. He couldn’t

let Jes know his father, his strong, rational, in control father was crying

like a little child on the floor. His body wracked with sobs; tears were

streaming down his face, the salty liquid dripping in his mouth. He

covered the microphone with his hands. He couldn’t have talked if he

wanted to. The sound of Jes voice seemed to touch him at every point, his

mind, his emotions, his will. His son whom he had thought he had lost

forever had reached out to him, had called him. It was truly the last

thing that Ned had ever thought would happen. Why here, why now? He felt

his resolve melting.

Finally, Jes sang the last verse, and there was more background

noise, and then the sound of the phone being picked back up.

“Dad, it’s Jes. I know you hate Christmas, so I won’t wish you a

Merry Christmas. But it is Christmas Eve, and you are my dad, and well,

I…love you. This is the only present I could give you that I could be sure

you wouldn’t return,” Jes finished.

Ned felt like a knife had pierced his heart. He suddenly remembered

all those gifts that young Jes had given him for Christmas, or his birthday

that he had returned. He had told Jes that a present, if you have to give

one, should be something the person really needs, not just something you

think they’d like. He could still see the disappointment on young Jes’

face. He had thought he was helping Jes, making a man out of him. Now it

looked so incredibly stupid—and heartless. How he wished he could have

those moments back.

“I know you don’t believe in Christmas,” Jes continued, “and all the

holiday junk, but this song…I don’t know. As a musician, I just always

thought it was a rad song—it’s so simple, so, I don’t know, pure.”

Ned tried desperately to stifle a sob, his expression was full of

anguish, as if his finger nails were being slowly torn off, and it probably

wouldn’t have hurt anymore. He tried to catch his breath, to calm himself.

He couldn’t let Jes hear him like this. It was too hard, he just couldn’t

talk. What could he do? He was trying desperately to control himself,

torn between his desire to speak to his son and his desire to be back in

control. He was almost there. He took one last cleansing breath.

“Yeah,” Jes said quietly, disappointment evident in his voice, “Well,

I thought you’d like it.” “Wrong again. I won’t bother you any more.


The line went dead.

young man looking pensive


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