Thursday, March 16, 2017

Segment Sixteen - Escape from the Belfry Copyright 2013 Doris Gaines Rapp

Chapter Thirty

Adam had gone back into the church, hungry and tired. Mrs. Gunderman had sent four peanut butter sandwiches, spread on one side with her own strawberry preserves. Mr. G. had suggested the food, but didn’t tell his wife that Adam would have little to eat since the holidays were nearly over and all the special meals and treats that are part of the celebration would be over too. Only the New Years Eve party was left and that was days away. There would be the usual cookies and punch on Sunday after church. He would have had the four dollars Mrs. G had paid him for the work he had done in the yard, but his wallet was missing. The leather billfold had to be in the belfry but he couldn’t find it. How was that possible? He certainly didn’t have a lot of dresser drawers to lose his stuff in. He had started working at the church and would receive his first paycheck soon. Then there was the five dollars a week Moms would earn to keep an eye on Mr. G. For that moment, however, he had no money.
            Adam’s legs felt heavy as he trudged through the empty, dark church. He could hear the sleet and wind pick up outside and was glad he wasn’t on the streets. But, he wasn’t home either. He hadn’t been home in months.
            Out of habit, he started up the ladder to the bell tower and pushed the door open. Ice peppered the small window like a sand storm. Adam shivered. He didn’t know if he was too hungry or too tired to hold any heat in his body, but he was cold. The thought of laying sick and alone in the dark bell tower, like a hobo crouched down in a door way or along a railroad track crowded into his thoughts. That made his body chill more violently. He looked around his wretched garret. With no light at that hour of the evening, he couldn’t see if the little hummingbird had come back.
            He dragged his blanket and pillow back down the ladder. “Mr. G. knows I’m living here,” he spoke out loud to the rough beams and bare floor. “I might as well get warm tonight, before they find me frozen stiff some day.”
            He pulled the bedding into the youth room where a couch and some overstuffed chairs made a cozy place for the high school kids to meet. Adam spread the blanket on the sofa and threw himself onto his new bed. He could have turned on the light, but he had gotten used to the darkness. With no light, he didn’t have to see how alone he was.
            Why has God forgotten all about me? He thought the same thoughts that had no answers. Why has he left me utterly alone?
            He looked at the sandwiches on the side table and broke off a corner. “Not bad,” he whispered to the wind. Then his eye caught sight of something that had been there all along. An upright Philco radio stood on the floor across the room. Could it be? Would he actually hear another’s voice as he lay on the couch with Mrs. Simington’s quilt pulled over him?
            Adam pushed one of the station selection buttons on the Philco, then curled up on the sofa.  He broke off another piece of sandwich and closed his eyes. A singer was just finishing a song from a recent movie, The Picture of Dorian Gray.
            “Goodbye, little yellow bird,” the song began. Adam sat up and listened. “It finished with the words, “in a cage of gold.”
            Birdcage. The word leaped in Adam’s mind and would not let go. He got up, went into the church kitchen and prepared a fresh saucer of sugar water. He took the dish back up the ladder but didn’t even go to the top. The belfry was cold and dreary. He simply scooted the plate across the floor from the opening.
            “Little Hummer, you may leave me, Pops may desert me, Fritzy may turn on me, but, Bright One, I will not abandon you.”

■  ■  ■
            “What is that?” Adam spoke into the darkness of the night. If he had been in the bell tower, he would not have heard the sound. In the Senior High Sunday School room, every creak grated on his ears like George Hanson’s first violin solo in the high school Assembly Hall.
            Probably nothing,this time he did not speak out loud. He turned over and pulled the pillow over his ears.
            What the . . .? That is not nothing. That is something. He sat up and listened to the blackness all around him. Thud. Someone else is in this church.
            Adam slowly lowered one sock-covered foot to the floor. I cannot just lay here and wait
for someone to bash me in the head. Thoughts raced through his mind he had never thought of
before. What would happen to Moms if Pops and I were both gone? Pops, where are you?
            Adam was angry, confused, and scared all at the same time. As one emotion rolled and crashed into another, his stomach churned and boiled and fell with them. How can I do this?
He sat down on his couch-bed. Maybe the intruder won’t hear me if I’m really quiet. Maybe it’s those two idiots who took the carving in the first place.
            Adam realized he was holding his breath and exhaled. There was a closet across the room from his bed. He could hide in there, but he couldn’t bring himself to do that. Hide again? Not this time.
            He cautiously got up and crossed the room with silent steps. Then he thought of Good King Wenceslas and laughed bitterly. There was no heat in the floor he walked on. There were no footprints to walk in. There was no pillar of light by night or cloud of dust by day. There was silence. There was nobody. There was nothing.
            Then I have nothing to lose. A stream of light cast a plumb line on the floor through the slightly opened door that led into the hallway. If he opened the door, he would no longer be able to hide in the shadows. I have been hiding in the dark for months now. I know I will be exposed out there, but I don’t care. He knew that the thought of exposure had two meanings but that was okay with him.
            If the tiny hummingbird can endure a long flight across the gulf, I can walk out that door. Mr. G. had said, Adam, you can endure what you are dealt.”
            The boy followed the light and pushed gently. Maybe this is my pillar. He held his breath until he thought his lungs would explode. The door hinges might squawk and announce his presence. That could not happen.
            Silence Shaddi, silence.
            “Silence and peace my son.”
            He pulled on the doorknob and waited for a sound. There was nothing. He stepped into the Honeywell Lounge and looked around. The large room was not totally dark. The street-lamp  flooded the floor across to the crank-up door. He could see no one. Silently, like kittens’ paws on the kitchen linoleum, he crept closer to the sanctuary.
            His eyes took a while to adjust to the lesser light. He slowly made his way to the altar area where the creche still stood. The scene had announced a miraculous birth that Adam had not truly celebrated. He expected to see the doll from the nursery that Fritzy had wrapped and placed in the manger on Christmas Eve.
            “Isn’t he beautiful?” Pastor Silverman suggested. “Come closer Adam.”
            “No thank you,” Adam cringed from the scene.
            “The child is for you too, Adam. Come.”
            Adam crawled near the scene of love on the knees of his heart. There, in the straw lay the  exquisite wood carving, with a patina of chestnut gold. Two chubby arms reached dimpled hands to the boy who stood over the place where the Baby Jesus lay. That was his first sight of the Christ Child carving. He hadn’t even opened the bag when he returned duffel.
            Pastor Silverman spoke softly. “A long time ago Adam, Alfred Gunderman helped an angry, disbelieving young boy to trust. Mr. G. vowed to stand with the boy. Now look, our carving has returned.”
            Adam could not take his eyes from the Christ Child in the manger reaching out to him.
He touched the small hand of the babe who represented all the love in the world. Tears rolled
down his cheeks.
            “I know. I know Adam. I’ve been there. Adam Shoemaker’s name is written on God’s  heart from this moment on.”
            “Schumacher, Pastor. Make sure God spells it right. My name is Adam Schumacher.”
Chapter Thirty-One

Adam woke up the next morning in the Silverman’s guest room. He shook his head and tried to clear his thinking.
            Where am I? He questioned momentarily while the events of the previous day gathered around the edges of his mind. 
            “Adam?” Pastor Silverman tapped on the bedroom door.
            “May I come in?”
            “Sure.” Adam pulled the covers over him again, sat up and leaned on his elbow.
            “A couple of people have been by to see you this morning.”
            “How did they know where to find me?”
            “Actually, Frederica Breman stopped by to see if I knew where you were. I guess she knew you had been living in the church’s bell tower.”
            “Yeah, I guess. I’m that crazy boy that lives with the bats in the belfry.”
            “Speaking of bats in the belfry, you know what I found over there this morning. I hope you don’t mind. I had gone up the ladder to get your school books, clothing and stuff. Look what I found.”
            Pastor Silverman reached around into the hallway and brought in B.B. Brumble’s basket-purse turned birdcage. The basket was covered with a white cloth with embroidered corners.
            Adam’s breath caught in his throat. So many things tumbled through his mind like a quarterback tackled by the full opposing line. B.B.’s basket was another jab in the gut. The little hummer was gone. He didn’t realize until that moment how much the little ruby-throated hummingbird meant to him.
            “So you found the basket?” Adam was sure, once he was found with the silly purse, no one would believe him or trust him now.
            “That’s right. I found it.”
            “Pastor Silverman―”
            “This is the most appropriate use of B.B.’s bag I can think of.”
            “It’s okay that I had the purse?” Adam was confused. If everything was all right, then why was the pastor confronting him with the bag now?
            “Okay? Of course Adam. The basket-purse was there for the taking.” He pulled one of Mrs. Silverman’s card-table cloths from the top of the cage. There in the center of the basket was the little hummingbird, hopping and fluttering in his space.
            Adam leaped from the bed and grabbed the cage. “How did he survive? How is this possible? I thought the little guy was either gone or dead.”
            He pulled the cage close to his face and studied the bird from every angle. Great tears of joy, and other feelings he had stuffed away to deal with another time, rolled down Adam’s cheeks. He looked over the bright red throat of the little green feathers and saw how proud the bird looked.
            The hummer appeared to be healthy and strong. Suddenly, he began chirping his long, ‘Look at me, aren’t I great’ song.
            “He’s showing off,” Adam grinned. “He is amazing.” He looked again at the little bird. “I am shocked, Pastor?” He took the birdcage and sat down on the edge of the bed. He couldn’t take his eyes off his only roommate, as small and amazing as the hummer was.
            “How could any of these things happen? Adam, I don’t know. I’m not the author of any  of this. I just know, there are so many little miracles that gather around us each day, we would trip over them if we saw them all. Most of us see only a few in a lifetime.”
            “And some of us miss them all,” Adam admitted. How many chances to see miracles in his life had he missed? “You said Fritzy was here?”
            “She left you a card she made. Trust me, I didn’t look at the message. She said she had wanted to give the card to you but hadn’t and that things had changed recently. She still wanted you to have it because, she said that you two have a date for the New Year’s Eve Party. She said to remind you that you had promised.” The pastor waited for Adam to reply. The response had to be his.
            “Oh and here is her card,” Pastor offered.
            Adam took the envelope and withdrew the handmade card Fritzy had written for him.
There were two verses with a hand drawn cover, just like a card from Woolworth’s. The cover had a watercolor painting of a ruby throated hummingbird, signed by Fritzy. Inside, the words sound like that had been written just for him. He thought about all that had happened to him recently. He saw the path he had walked written within the ten lines of Fritzy’s poem.
God bless you with–
Truth to speak
The home you seek
Grace for living
A cause for giving.

For This New Year:
I wish you peace to share
Those who care
A song to sing
And hummingbirds in the Spring.
            Adam brushed tears away with the back of his hand. “I didn’t think I would be able to take
her to the party. I don’t have any money. I lost my billfold on my way back from Gundermans’ house.”
            “Now, that is another thing. A man stopped by and asked if I knew where the Schumacher family lived. I said I had just met Adam Schumacher last evening.” Pastor paused to let Adam have time to remember the miracle of the night before.
            “Did you tell him?” Adam’s muscles trembled again as he prepared for another flight.
            “Well, yes.” He studied the boy for a moment. “Isn’t that okay, Adam? He found your wallet and gave it to me.”                                             
            “I have met him. I don’t know who he is. Do you know where is he now?”
            “He said he had to get home. He had taken a few days out of his Christmas vacation
already, trying to find the Schumacher family. But, he had to go back home. He needed to be
with his family for a few days before his children went back to school.”
            “What did he want—besides giving back the billfold? I saw him around long before he found my wallet. ”
            “He had a message for you and your mother. That’s all he wanted. He said he shouldn’t give the information to anyone but the Schumacher family. He claimed there were rules. One is just a privacy restriction. But, the other is the respect he has for the family. He said that someone had told him that a man, believed to be your father, William Schumacher, had been found in an Army hospital. He said the source was reliable. Your father has evidently been there since a Prisoner of War camp was liberated at the end of the war. The man, your father, doesn’t remember his own name, but a patient in the same ward, said he recognized him. Sargent Smith said they didn’t know who he was because he also had no identification on him. He was thin and ill but getting stronger. The war buddy was positive the fellow was him and said he had picked these up off the battlefield when they were pulled from your father’s neck when the enemy drug him away. Sargent Smith wanted you and your mother to have them.”
            Pastor Silverman reached in his pocket and pulled something out. He took the bird from Adam and put the cage on a table in front of a window.
            “This is for you and your mom,” he said as he dropped Will Schumacher’s Army dog-tags into Adam’s hand.
            “Oh no! The man in the blue car had these all along? Where is he? Where’s Pops?”
            “The Sargent left his name, address and phone number. He said he would like you and your mom to write to him. He can make arrangements for you two to meet the man believed to be William Schumacher.” The pastor handed the card with the contact information to a stunned
young man, the newly renamed Adam Schumacher.
            I will go with you, My Son. I’ll help you find your father, Shaddi blew into Adam’s ear with certainty.
            “I will find him. I know I will find Pops as soon as Spring comes. Thank you, Reverend,” Adam grabbed the pastor and held onto the dog-tags. They were the only reality he had known in months. They were not a fantasy. They were a truth about Pops he could live with.
            “I did nothing Son. You thank God.” Pastor patted the boy’s shoulders then added. “I saw no suit among your clothes in the belfry. You are going to need one for the party.”
            “Sounds to me like you promised Fritzy Breman you would take her to the party and she is an awful nice girl to back out on your promise.” He didn’t give Adam a chance to protest but continued, “I have a suit hanging in the back of the closet that I have not warn in years. I guess I kept the suit of clothes to remind me of how slim I was at one time. My wife can take in the pants a little for you.”

            Could it be? Had I actually witnessed a miracle and almost didn’t see it? He looked at the hummer and the wallet and the dog tags and wondered how much more proof he would need?

Sequel, Escape from the Shadows, is available on and b&  If you remember snail-mail, for a better price, check out offer at                                      

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