Henry’s cane clicked along the tile floor as he made his way to the only empty chair. He eased his heavy frame down into the seat. The man sitting next to him folded his arms, looked in the other direction, and harrumphed loudly.
Henry retorted, “Shut up, Ted.”
Iva squinted her eyes at the two and shook her head. “Going to be trouble.”
Miss Joyce called for their attention. “Pastor Evans is here. Let’s begin.”
The pastor stood before the group and started reading scripture. A few listened, some mumbled to no one in particular, and some slept.
Ted’s bony elbow brushed against Henry. Henry snapped his arm out of the way and boomed, “Keep to yourself.”
Ted challenged Henry with a stare. “You old coot. I was here first.”
Nobody was listening to the pastor. All eyes were on the ensuing battle.
Iva stifled laughter. “You might as well separate those two, Miss Joyce. There won’t be much of a church service if you don’t.”
Pastor Evans cleared his throat uncomfortably. Miss Joyce approached the two just as Henry yanked the blanket from Ted’s lap.
Ted balled up his fist, and Miss Joyce intervened just in time. She pushed Ted’s wheelchair to the opposite side of the room.
Iva continued to snicker and poked a sleeping woman next to her. “Happens all the time. You miss too much when you sleep all day.”
Miss Joyce addressed the group. “Let’s allow Pastor Evans to continue.”
The pastor had just started to speak again when an eerie groaning sound came from Ted. His head lolled to one side in an unnatural position, and his eyes were closed.
Miss Joyce ran to him. “We need a nurse here.”
The nurses worked over him furiously. A few minutes later, Henry watched as the ambulance took Ted away.
They were served beef stew that night, but Henry didn’t have much of an appetite. Usually he liked the chunks of beef in the rich brown gravy. Normally he picked out the peas, but ate the potatoes and carrots. The stew had little appeal to him, and he left it on his plate. The nurse’s aide looked at him questioningly when she took his tray away.
He had a restless night. Visions of ambulances driving through rivers of beef stew invaded his dreams. He woke suddenly and saw that it was not yet daylight.
Instinct urged him out of bed. He retrieved his cane and walked to Ted’s room. The bed was still made, the covers pulled taut.
There was nothing for him to do but return to his room. He went back to bed and slept a restless sleep.
A few days later, an ambulance pulled up in front of the automated doors. The residents watched as a gurney wheeled by, carrying Ted.
Iva pointed at Henry. “Your enemy is back.”
Henry followed the gurney down the hall to Ted’s room. The staff pushed the door shut, but Henry could hear part of what they were saying. He caught the word “stroke.” A nurse talked of how Ted was unable to speak and would need speech therapy if he was ever to speak again.
He waited outside of Ted’s room. Shortly, all the medical personnel left, leaving the door to Ted’s room wide open.
Henry looked in. Ted was lying in the bed, staring up at the ceiling. Henry entered the room cautiously. His feuding partner turned his head slightly and watched as Henry sat down beside his bed.
They sat in silence for several minutes before Henry leaned forward. “You know the Lord, Ted. You‘ve got to trust him now.”
Ted stared backed.
“Talk to me, Ted. I know you can talk to me. Come on, you ornery old man.”
Ted looked blank.
“Let’s sing. You like to sing.” Henry barked out a hymn. “There is pow’r, pow’r, Wonder working pow’r.”
He stopped and touched Ted’s hand. “Sing with me. You know the song. You can do it.
“In the blood of the Lamb.”
The stroke victim twisted his mouth and moved his jaw slightly.
Henry nodded and motioned to him, coaxing him to sing. “There is pow’r, pow’r, Wonder working pow’r.”
“In the blood of the lamb.”
Ted mouthed the words. A faint grunt escaped his lips.
Henry smiled. “That’s the way, you old geezer.”
*Song lyrics from “There is Power in the Blood” by Lewis E. Jones
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