Chapter 21½ – Listening


My sheep listen to my voice;

I know them, and they follow me.

John 10:27, NIV 

(Originally a separate chapter between the current Chapters 21 and 22; parts were assimilated into current Chapter 22)

It was early April when Chris and Susana stood in the museum at Moundville Archaeological Park, gazing down at the re-creation of a burial site. When Susana suddenly pulled out her transmitter and activated it, Chris felt a twinge of envy. She’d obviously heard Doug’s untranslated voice over the receiver. Why couldn’t he?

Doug talked to Susana about a discouraged runner who was in the hospital in Tuscaloosa and asked her to visit that evening. When they finished talking, Chris activated his transmitter. “Doug, I guess Susana heard you call through the receiver portion of her device. Why is it I only hear you when the transmitter’s activated?”

Doug hesitated. “Son, would you meet me in the men’s room?”

“Um, sure.” Chris looked around for a sign. He shrugged to Susana as he headed off in the indicated direction. When he got to the empty restroom, he said, “Okay, Doug, why am I in the bathroom?”

“Well, I don’t much care for discussing personal issues in front of other runners. What you tell Susana yourself is up to you, but she won’t be hearing it from me.”

Did he have a “personal issue”? Chris began pacing, fingering his necklace as he did.

“Now as to answering your question, it’s like this. The translator translates my voice into sub-lashani frequencies so it’s easier for y’all outlanders to hear. What’s audible over the receiver, though, is my voice unaltered, in lashani frequencies.”

“I understand.” That much Josh had already told him. “So, Susana can hear the lashani wavelengths and I can’t. Why?”

There was a pause, during which Chris came to stand before the sinks. When he looked at the mirror in front of him, he noticed he was developing a mild rash under his necklace. He made a mental note to pick up some ointment for it.

“Chris,” Doug said at last, “this issue has been a hard one for you, and my own heart feels right heavy on account of it. But it comes down to one word, son: surrender. And, at this point, there’s not much use in me telling you more than that.”

As they ended the conversation, Chris again came to the mirrors and stood there, gazing into his own face. What could Doug possibly mean? Hadn’t he already given up or risked everything to run this race? What more could Doug possibly want?

After dinner that evening, Susana went into Tuscaloosa to visit the runner Doug had called about. Chris went along and, while she was at the hospital, picked up some ointment at the store. He picked up a few other things as well, including the largest, prettiest Granny Smith apple he could find. By the time Susana was through with her visit, he was all set.

As Susana came off the elevator, Chris rose from his chair in the lobby. “How’d things go?”

“Good.” Susana was glowing, as she always was when she’d helped someone. “Kenisha—that’s her name—had surgery this morning for a badly broken ankle. She’ll be out for several weeks and was really bummed. She still doesn’t have a coach.”

“Really?” Chris held the front door open. “It’s amazing she got this far without one.”

“It is. After we talked a while, though, she decided to accept one. So we talked to Doug and he’s sending her a coach tomorrow morning. She’ll be okay.”

“I see why Doug wanted you to visit her. You’re so empathetic. Just what she needed.”

Susana blushed and dipped her head.

“I got you something.” He plucked the apple he’d been working on from his backpack. “I saw them and remembered you like Granny Smiths.”

“Oh, that’s so sweet! Thank you.” She reached up to plant a kiss on his cheek before taking a bite of her prize. She munched happily for several bites while they walked to the car. Then she screamed and flung the apple up in the air.

Being prepared for this reaction, Chris managed to catch the apple. “What’s wrong?”

“There’s a worm in it!” She was spitting out all remnants left in her mouth.

“Yeah?” Chris, trying to hide a grin, turned his head away from her to look the apple over. “Oh, sure enough.”

The grin successfully under control, he turned toward her as he pulled the worm out of the apple and put it in his mouth. “Mm-mmm.”

Susana grimaced. “Eww. That’s just gro—” A smile crept across her face. “Oh, I get it.” She dove into Chris’s backpack and, finding a package of gummy worms, burst into laughter. “That was a good one. You really got me that time. But you ruined a perfectly beautiful apple.”

“Oh, about that …” Chris went deep into his backpack and pulled out a bag of Granny Smiths. “Here you go. And you owe me for those. Fruit’s really expensive around here compared to home.”

She smiled broadly and gave him another kiss on the cheek. “Thank you.”

“Hey, wait a minute. If a wormy apple’s worth a kiss on the cheek, a whole bag of good apples should be worth—”

Susana pulled him down by the collar and gave him a big kiss.

“That’s more like it.”

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