The Miracle Worker by Frederick K. Foote, Jr.
The Miracle Worker by Frederick K. Foote, Jr.
My name is Pablo Sanders. I’m gonna tell you what really happened with the Miracle Worker. I was there from the moment he arrived till the time he disappeared. I saw the whole thing. I know who was there. And more importantly, I know who wasn’t.
The Sail In Restaurant and Grill is a 24/7 greasy spoon two blocks north of Pier 12. The Sail has been around for about 65 years in the same spot. It burnt down twice and blew up once. There’s a lot of history in the Sail. I have been a regular there for about 12 years. I know the owners, Pepper and Maria Mendez, and their kids, Mitch and Audrey.
I know all the regulars, and they know me. Check my story out with them. You’ll see I was there.
It was Monday at 5:33 am in the first week of November. It was 23 degrees outside with a wicked, wet wind off the river.
At that time of year in San Juan, California, our average temperature was the low forties.
Mitch was working the grill. Audrey was waiting and wondering where the dockworkers and commercial fisherman customers were.
Dotty Malone had just arrived at 5:25 to help with the morning rush that usually came between 5:30 and 6:30.
This morning the crowd didn’t arrive.
I was there in my usual booth writing the great American novel on my laptop.
Our almost MIT graduate, Lin Yee, was having breakfast with her boyfriend, Reasons Dorsey, an Amazon truck driver, poet, and spoken word artist.
Julio Castro was coming off his night watchman shift on the docks.
Echo Anderson, a pro, who provided horny dockworkers a morning quickie in the back of her Dodge pickup, was taking refuge from the cold.
Back from his second tour of Afghanistan, Bill Blaze was recovering from a night of excessive vices.
Germund Morningside, my favorite public defender and wife of twenty years to my best friend and San Juan City poet laureate, White Rock Road, was at the counter. She was waiting to interview a possible witness in a big-time murder case.
Germund felt safe here. We had her back. We had each other’s back.
We all recognized the other customer, who was not a regular, Pastor Will Barns, of the Rising Faith Baptist Church. The Pastor was alone in a booth looking lost and exhausted.
A 5:33, the door opened, a frigid wave of damp air caught everyone’s attention. And there was no one there. The door was wide open. We could all see there was nothing there but darkness and the Artic wind. That’s when I glanced up at the clock over the door, 5:33 am. And then the Miracle Worker was there standing in the doorway with a big smile on his shiny black face.
He was five-nine or ten. He was coal black, with bright eyes and dazzling white teeth. He was wearing blue jeans, a blue jean jacket, hiking boots, a black navy watch cap, and carried a blue backpack and a brown, polished wood walking stick as tall as he was.
He chuckled as he entered the room, the door closing behind him. “Good morning! Good morning! Wow! It is chilly in your town. Not exactly what I expected.”
We sit there in stunned silence as he took a seat at the counter and smiled at Dotty. “What’s good for breakfast? I’m hungry as 20 lumberjacks, Dotty.” He picks up a plastic-covered menu from its holder on the counter. He studies it for a minute. “Yeah, this is the place. I can feel it in my bones. Give me three Captain’s Table meals, with English muffins, a pot of black coffee, a double order of French toast, and whatever fresh fruit you got for dessert.”
Dotty snorts, “Look, that is too much food for one or even two men. The Captain’s Table comes with three eggs, hash browns, four slices of bacon, four-link sausages, a slice of ham, toast, and grits. And you want three of those?”
“Ahh, Dotty, I feel you. I do. But, man, I’m hungry as six grizzly bears after their winter nap. Add a quart of OJ to that order.”
Dotty laughs, “Mister, can you even afford what you ordered. I need to see your cash before I order that much cooking.”
“Dotty, that is an excellent question. Let me check my cash in hand.” He claps his hands, opens them, and he looks at the counter. He shakes his head in confusion. “Well, I thought I had some money. Let me try again.” He claps again. And there still is no money on the table. He tries to clap up some money a third time with the same results.
Dotty sucks her teeth and shakes her head in disgust.
The stranger leans over the counter, reaches into the pocket of Dotty’s apron. He pulls out three brand new $100 bills.
He laughs and waves the bills at Dotty. “Now, Dotty, will this cover my meal?”
Dotty snatches the bills and scrutinizes each one. Mitch and Audrey form an inspection line, and they all conclude the bills are real.
Julio laughs, “That is a hell of a trick, man. How the hell you do that? Are you a magician?”
The stranger smiles at Julio and laughs with him. “No, not at all. I’m a Miracle Worker. And—”.
Dotty sneers, “I think you are a cheap con. I should keep these Franklins. They did come out of my pocket.”
The Miracle Worker scratches his chin, “Are you saying the $300 is yours?”
Before Dotty can respond, Germund interrupts, “Dotty, you don’t know the source of that cash or how it was obtained. You don’t want to be involved with it, understand?”
“Germund, it was in my pocket. That must mean something. Look, it was at least an invasion of my personal space. I should get paid for that.”
Mitch picks up the bills and hands them to the Miracle Worker. “I’ll start your breakfast.” Mitch returns to the kitchen and cooking.
The Miracle Worker thanks Mitch and Germund and addresses the room, “I apologize for the disruption.” He turns back to Dotty, “Dotty, I’m paying for whatever they had and whatever they want until our money runs out.”
Echo responds, “What do you want, Mister? What do you want from us?”
Lin adds, “Are you trying to make a fool of us. Is this a joke?”
Bill snarls, “If you looking for an ass-kicking, you came to the right place.”
Audrey refills Bill’s coffee. She speaks softly to Bill. “Knock it off, Bill. It’s almost time for you to go home anyway.”
Bill starts to protest, but Audrey stares him down.
The Miracle Worker turns on his stool to face the patrons at the tables and in the booths. “I don’t mean to offend. Look, I believe that if I came through that door without one red cent to my name and told you I was hungry but couldn’t afford a meal. I would not leave here hungry. Tell me if I’m wrong?”
The Miracle Worker looks at each of us. No one says anything.
“So, I have a little money. I want to do for you what you would do for me. That’s it plain and simple.”
“Reasons asks, “What kind of miracles do you do? You did say you were a miracle worker, right?”
“I did say that. I am a Miracle Worker. I don’t have a specialty. You might call me a general practice Miracle Worker.”
Audrey asks, “Are you an angel?”
“No, no, I don’t associate with angels. I prefer to work alone.”
Bill chimes in, “Name a miracle you have done? Something we can verify.”
The Miracle Worker laughs again, “Bill—”
Bill is on his feet, about to charge the Miracle Worker, “How the fuck do you know my name?”
Still smiling, the Miracle Worker replies, “Well, for one thing, Audrey, called you, ‘Bill.’ And I know Audrey and Dotty by their name tags. And you know it’s nearly impossible for me to prove I caused a miracle even if we agree there was a miracle. And even deciding on what is a miracle can be pretty tricky.”
Julio reinserts himself in the conversation, “Well, if we actually saw you perform the miracle like with the three hundred bucks, that could prove something to me anyway.”
“Well, I don’t need to prove anything else to you, right? I’ve already performed your miracle.”
Lin adds, “How long have you been in the miracle business? Does it pay well? Do you have retirement and benefits?”
“Excellent questions. I’ve been a miracle worker for too long to remember. I think I was born a miracle worker. My pay is the satisfaction of a job well done. My benefit is I get to meet and mingle with fine folks like you.”
Reasons inquires, “How do you pay for your daily bread, shelter, and clothes?”
The Miracle Worker points to the three bills still on the counter. “Money comes. Money goes. But to answer Bill’s question, Bill, your miracle was at Ahmad Shah Baba International Airport. You can tell us what that was.”
Bill looks around the room as he responds, “This guy ain’t right. How the hell does he know I was at Kandahar?”
Dotty asks, “Ahmad, what? Where is Kandahar?”
Germund responds, “Afghanistan. Ahmad Shah Baba used to be called the Kandahar Airport.”
The Miracle Worker again laughs and turns to Germund, “Right. Right you are.” The Miracle Worker turns back to Bill. “Bill, we were there at the same time. I saw you there. There is no big mystery.”
Bill shouts, “Bullshit! And I suppose you’re going to tell me it is a coincidence that we meet up here in San Juan, California?”
The Miracle Worker looks thoughtful before he responds, “Bill, maybe it is not a coincidence; maybe it is another miracle.”
Audrey asks, “What was the first miracle?”
Everyone turns to look at Bill.
Bill clenches and unclenches his fist, takes a deep breath. “There was a, a mortar attack just three shells—one hit our tent. We, there, were six injured, three dead.”
Audrey asks, “That’s awful. But where is the miracle, Bill?”
“I was in that tent. I didn’t get a scratch. I was untouched.”
The Miracle Worker adds, “Bill was famous. Everyone knew him or about him.”
Bill snarls, “Fuck you! I was cursed. I should have been hit. That was no fucking miracle.”
No one speaks as Dotty sets the first meal in front of the Miracle Worker. He digs in with enthusiasm.
Echo hisses, “And you take credit for what happened or didn’t happen to Bill?”
The Miracle Worker pauses with a link sausage halfway to his mouth. “Ah, I was there. And a lot of people thought what happened was a miracle. So—”
Bill spits out, “Bullshit!”
Julio shakes his head in wonder. “I think the Miracle Worker is for real. I mean, just both of you being here is, like, amazing.”
Echo snorts, “Julio, let me sell you a bridge in Brooklyn.”
Dotty adds, “Just because something happened, and you were there don’t mean you caused it.”
Germund asks, “Why were you at Ahmad Shah Baba?”
The Miracle Worker waves at Mitch in the kitchen, “This is splendid. I love your cooking, man.” He turns to Germund, “Like here. I was there to make a miracle or two.”
Lin laughs, “Oh yeah, I’m sure. Should we wait for the mortar attack?”
Reasons chides Lin, “Hey, hang-up on that rude. You don’t know who this dude is.”
Lin replies, “Do you believe him?”
Reasons licks his lips, “I got no cause to disbelieve him.”
Audrey says, “I’m with you, Reasons. I give the Miracle Worker the benefit of the doubt.”
Pastor Barns’ deep bass voice rumbles through the restaurant. “Miracles are the province of God, not man.”
Everyone except the Miracle Worker turns toward the Pastor.
The Miracle Worker belches and responds, “So, what’s your point?”
The Pastor stands. “My point is that you are a fraud. You are not what you say you are. You are here to mislead and deceive.”
The Miracle Worker shifts aside his plate to accept a second plate from Dotty. “Pastor, you are not what you say you are. You are misleading and deceiving. But those are your issues.”
Pastor Barns grumbles, twitches, and bellows. “Everyone knows me. I have been a minister here for twenty years. I have been president of the NAACP, the mayor, and a city councilman. Everyone knows what I stand for. You, on the other hand, are a stranger with a false message and wicked intent. You should leave here now—this very second.”
The Miracle Worker finally turns to face Pastor Barns, “What weighs so heavy on your broad shoulders that brings you here so early in this wretched weather?”
“That is not your business. You should leave now.”
“Pastor, I’m on the clock. Miracle making is any time anywhere work. You should know that. I mean, you have your own self miracle. Our first Black Governor of the Golden State is part of your flock. That must be a lot of responsibility.”
The Pastor points at the Miracle Worker. “You don’t know my business or anything about my flock. You need to leave.”
“The Governor is a family man first and above all else. So, I have been told. Is that correct?”
“Satan, get thee behind me. You are spreading lies and filth about—”
“I’m just asking if the Governor is dedicated to his family? You have his confidence. You know him better than any of us. Is the Governor as loving and caring a family man as he seems?”
“Of course, he is. He is not perfect. None of us are. But—”
“Understood, but sometimes abuse is disguised as loving. Is that—”
“You bastard. You slimy Black bastard. Who are you to accuse anyone—”
“I’m not accusing Pastor. I’m just asking about our Governor. He has a 13-year-old daughter, Naomi, I think—”
“You have gone too far with your evil insinuations. The rumors, vile rumors, are false and defamatory.”
“I don’t know which rumors you’re talking about. But I’m delighted to learn that all is well in the Governors’ family. Thank you for that reassurance. I’m going to return to my outstanding meal.”
Germund addresses the Pastor, “Your defensive attitude gives me grave concern about what could be happening—”
“Who the hell are you to question me?”
“I’m Germund. I’m a Public Defender for San Juan County. Pastor, you know you have an obligation to report any child or adult abuse to the proper authorities. And—”
“Shut up! Just shut up. I don’t need you or any of you explaining my legal and moral obligations. I have tended my flocks for 20 years, and no one has questioned my integrity. No one.”
Lin remarks, “Reverend, excuse me, but I’m like the public defender. There is something rotten in Denmark.”
Julio adds, “You are over the top with your response, man.”
Echo stands with her hands on her hips, “Jesus, Pastor, it sounds like you are as guilty as those Catholic priest child molesters and those who covered up for them.”
“There is no molest! Things were misperceived and misunderstood. Children are so impressionable and—”
Audrey says, “Pastor, I think it’s about time you went home. Don’t worry about the bill. It’s on the house.”
The Pastor grabs his coat and hat off the seat beside him. “You, none of you could ever understand the burdens of a pastor or Governor. You can’t imagine the pressures.” He points to the miracle worker. “You have let this spawn of the devil mislead you. I pray for all your souls.” Pastor Barns puts on his coat and hat and strides out of the diner with his head held high.
I asked the Miracle Worker, “Is your miracle here getting justice for the Governor’s daughter?”
“No. At least, I don’t think so. My miracle is in the sky.”
“Dotty slams her fist on the counter, “I’ve had about enough of your bullshit for one night.”
Reasons asks, “What’s in the sky?”
The Miracle Worker stands, stretches, and yawns, “Come on, I will show you. Grab your coats, and we can join the crowd down on the docks.”
There’s a bit of the hustle and bustle as we all prepare to follow the Miracle Worker. Bill, who still doesn’t trust the dark stranger, decides to stay and watch the restaurant.
It’s the Northern Lights! We have never seen the Northern Lights this far south. It is like a street party down on the docks.
We are like children getting the best, most unexpected gift ever until the gas leak explosion destroys the Sail In and takes Bill Blazes’ life.
The San Juan Times, our local paper, calls it the Northern Light Miracle that saves many lives.
I don’t know if it was a miracle or not. I know I’m grateful, like many customers of the Sale In, to still be around. I don’t know if the Miracle Worker was who he said he was. I don’t know what to believe anymore. I’m just glad to be here to try to figure it all out.
Oh, our Governor resigned. He is under investigation by Children’s Protective Services and the police.
The Miracle Worker disappeared while we were watching the Northern Lights.
That’s my story. I’m sticking to it.
Copyright Frederick K. Foote, Jr. 2020
Check out Frederick’s new collection of short-stories at https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08MHT18QQ/