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For The Strength of Youth

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    Ch. 44 The Wisdom of the Wise
 
Submitted by Dave Free on 1 December 2006 - 10:31am.

CLANK! CLANK! CLANK! CLANK! The pounding in Steve’s head would not stop. It got louder and louder and louder until he was sure his head would burst. Finally, in desperation he put both hands to his ears and screamed, “Ahhhhhh!”

“Elder! Elder! Wake up, Elder! You’ve had a bad dream! Wake up!” Someone was shaking Steve by the shoulders and yelling in his ear, but even the shouting didn’t drowned out the constant CLANK! CLANK! CLANK! in his head. With some struggle, he managed to open his eyes and then immediately slammed them shut again to avoid the bright sunlight.

“Elder, are you Ok? Shall I get the captain?” Whoever had been shaking and yelling at Steve was again talking to him and rubbing his hand. Very slowly and cautiously, Steve opened his eyes just a crack and looked in the direction of the voice. Expecting to see a member of the ski patrol, or a paramedic, or a nurse, or even a doctor, Steve jumped to his feet when his eyes focused on a young girl about his age wearing a long-sleeved, white blouse and a long, woolen skirt. Jumping up so quickly, he failed to see the shelf above his head and smashed directly into it. Involuntarily, he slumped back down in his seat holding his head with both hands.

“Oh baby, that hurt like a monster!” he moaned.

“Baby? What baby, Elder?” The young girl sitting next to Steve looked at him with a truly perplexed look on her face.

Steve looked back at her with an equally puzzled look and she ventured a weak smile. He couldn’t bring himself to smile, he was too confused and his head hurt too much. “Why do you keep calling me Elder, who are you, and where are we?” he asked in a demanding tone.

The smile on the girl’s face quickly turned to surprise and then terror. She stood quickly and said, “I better get the captain, you’re not well.” Before Steve could stop her, she turned and almost ran away. Steve groaned again and took in his surroundings. Though he had never been on a train before, he’d seen enough movies to know that he was now on one. From the looks of it, it was a pretty old one. The clanking in his head was at least partially caused by the constant clickety-clack of the train. The seat he sat on was wooden and not at all comfortable. The glass in the windows gave in plenty of light but had many irregularities which distorted the green countryside quickly slipping by. Looking up to see where he had brained himself, Steve found the overhead luggage shelf. It was stacked high on both sides with all kinds of old-fashioned bundles: Mary Poppins type carpet bags, burlap bags, wooden chests, round hat boxes. Steve shook his head in amazement and as he lowered his gaze he quickly became aware that he wasn’t alone. In fact he was the center of attention.

All of the seats in the car were full and every eye seemed to be focused on him. On the bench directly across from him sat what appeared to be an entire family: mother, father, two sons and a daughter. Their clothes were as old fashioned as the rest of the train. The little girl was wearing a bonnet tied tightly below her chin. She sat on her mother’s lap and stared with wide eyes at Steve. Feeling suddenly self-conscious, Steve looked down at himself to make sure he wasn’t covered with blood. He was so surprised to see what he was wearing he again jumped to his feet and smashed his head into the overhead shelf. The little girl giggled as Steve frantically searched through the pockets of the broad cloth suit he was wearing. Nothing! His wallet, his glasses, his money--everything was gone. And this suit! Where had this suit come from? It looked just like the clothes all the rest of the people were wearing. A “Joseph Smith” suit that’s what it was. The shirt collar came up high on both sides, nearly touching Steve’s chin. The tie was as white as the shirt and was tied in more of a bow than the traditional tie knots that Steve had learned as a deacon. Steve had to admit that the jacket was much more comfortable than his blazer at home. It was cut high in the front at about the waist, but was long in the back with tails.

He was just bending over to examine the old-fashioned boots that had replaced his ski boots when a commotion began at the front end of the car. The young girl that had been sitting next to Steve had reentered the car with a the man. They were working their way down the center isle toward Steve, greeting everyone along the way.

While they were still a couple of rows away the young lady called out to Steve, “I’m back, Elder, and I’ve brought the captain.” She motioned to the man that followed her and Steve’s eyes opened wide as he took in the man she called the captain. He was shorter than Steve and rather stocky. His suit was almost identical to Steve’s, but his tie was black rather than white and was tied in a neat square knot. He had very little beard on the front of his face, but rather thick growth down both sides and under the chin. His hair was fairly long, about jaw level, and easily covered both ears. It was combed straight down on the sides and seemed to naturally curl under at the ends.

By this time, Steve was convinced he had died and this train was taking him to spirit prison or paradise (though he hadn’t decided which yet). Seeing whom he believed to be Brigham Young added evidence to his death theory and so without guile he stuck out his hand to the man called the captain and said with awe, “Brigham Young! I wanted to meet you my whole life. Is Joseph Smith on this train as well?”

The two boys on the bench across from Steve began to giggle and the young girl who had gone for the captain slumped down on Steve’s bench her face suddenly gone white with worry. A grin almost as wide as his beard spread across the captain’s face as he took Steve’s hand, “Sorry Elder, you’ll have to walk fifteen hundred miles before you can take President Young by the hand and I suppose you’ll have to wait to get to heaven to meet the Prophet Joseph. But, in the mean time, I’m Captain Edward Martin and I’m very pleased to make your acquaintance.” He laughed a hearty laugh and shook Steve’s hand vigorously. Steve was now totally confused.

“You, you mean I’m not dead?” he muttered out weakly.

“Dead? My no lad! You’re nearly to Iowa City with the rest of these good saints.” He motioned to the others sitting in the car and continued, “In a few months you’ll be in Zion with your family.”

“Iowa City? I was just skiing in Utah this morning. Did I fly out here? What day is it?” Steve was now getting frantic and the Captain took him by the arms and gently pushed him back down onto the bench seat. The captain’s smile had left his face.

“Today is July 8th, 1856. To my knowledge you’ve been on a mission in England with the rest of us for the last three years. I do believe in miracles Elder, but I have never seen a man fly and so I very much doubt that you were in Utah this morning.”

“No that can’t be!” Steve pushed away the captain’s arms and jumped to his feet, smashing his head for the third and final time into the overhead rack. The impact this time was more than Steve’s already very confused and very bruised head could take and he fainted out cold. The young girl gasped and the captain quickly grabbed him and lowered him back onto the train seat. As soon as he had settled him on the bench, he put his ear to Steve’s mouth to listen for breathing and loosened his tie.

“Somebody open a window! Give the poor lad some air!” There was a moment of shuffling and bustling and then nearly every window on the car was open.

“He’s going to be alright!” The captain had to shout to be heard over the rushing air and the clickety-clack of the train. “His heart is still beating and he’s still breathing.” Turning to the father of the family that sat across from Steve, he continued “Brother O’Malley, would you and your family mind keeping an eye on him until we get to Iowa City? We’ll find a doctor for him there.”

“Aye, we’d be happy to do that fer ya, Captain.” the father replied with a thick Irish accent. “Mum here twill care fer ‘im as one of ‘er own.” The captain seemed about to reply but was interrupted by a shout from the car door.

“Next stop Iowa City! End of the Line!” A cheer rose from the passengers and Brother O’Malley shouted to the captain. “Be off with ya now. The lad’ll be fine wit us.” The captain gave Brother O’Malley’s hand a final shake, smiled his appreciation, and made his way through the cheering saints to the front of the train.

Steve woke lying flat on his back looking up at a white plaster ceiling with more cracks than he could count. A kerosene lamp hung from the ceiling directly over him. His head throbbed with pain and it took some time before he could focus his mind on anything more than the cracks and the lamp. Slowly, through the mist that seemed to have settled over his mind, he began to realize that someone was carrying on a conversation in the room.

“He clearly has congestion of the brain and that has caused him to forget who he is.” The first voice was saying.

The second voice, which had a foreign accent, replied, “And with what would ye be curin’ him, doctor?”

“Drill through the skull and let the liquid drain. Otherwise he’ll go mad for sure.”

The foreign voice sighed. “In the old country a pint of the strong stuff would cure ‘im sure. Well, if ye must drill him, how long till he be up and about again?”

“Hard to say.” The first voice replied, “It’s still an experimental technique. But, I’ve had good success on a few dogs and a horse. Your friend would be the first human--but it may be his only chance.”

Steve’s brain was now as clear as a bell--nobody was going to drill a hole in his skull in a room lit by a kerosene lamp. He sat up and grimaced at the pain but forced a smile onto his face. He almost fainted again as he looked around the room and saw bottle after bottle filled with what he recognized as human organs on the shelves and counters. Another bed or table, like the one he sat on, was within touching distance. That patient apparently hadn’t fared as well as Steve. He, or she, was covered by a white sheet except for the arm that protruded from under the sheet on Steve’s side. The arm had apparently been dissected and Steve could see clear to the bone. Involuntarily, Steve had to cough and turn his head. The two men conversing heard his cough and came quickly to his side.

Steve recognized the one with the foreign accent as the father of the family on the train. The other one, who Steve gathered considered himself a doctor, was fondling an auger bit big enough to drill an oil well. Not waiting for a word from either of them Steve looked directly at the father from the train and said, “What are we doing here Brother St. Patrick? (the only name that Steve could think of that fit the accent) Where are the wagons? Zion’s waiting! Let’s get going!” Steve jumped down off the table he had been laying on and put his arm around the man’s shoulders.

“Aye, Elder, ye be back! Bless yer soul and tank the Lord!” The father smiled a huge smile and put his strong arm around Steve’s back. Turning to the doctor he said, “We’ll not be needing yer services professor. A miracle it is!” He gave Steve a firm squeeze and with their arms around each other, the two of them walked toward the door.

The doctor, seeing his first opportunity to perform brain surgery walking out the door, tried to stop them. “No wait! He still has fluid on his brain. I’m a professor of medicine and a doctor! I must insist that we operate!”

O’Malley smiled but kept walking with his arm firmly around Steve’s waist. “Not today, Doctor! As fit as a fiddle, he is! Top of the mornin’ to you sir!” He opened the door and they both stepped out into the lobby of the building. Steve breathed a sigh of relief, but neither of them slowed their pace as they headed to the light of day coming through the glass in the doors at the end of the lobby.

It took Steve’s eyes several seconds to adjust to the bright sunlight. He stumbled as he stepped out the door and had to steady himself on one of the massive pillars that were positioned at the top of the broad stairs leading down to the street. His new friend supported him by the arm and whispered in his ear. “Keep walking lad, keep walking! That butcher’ll get ya yet! A fine buildin’ for a university ‘tis, but they’ve got a wee bit o’ learnin’ to do ‘bout medicine.” Steve glanced back and saw the doctor in the lobby coming toward them. He still carried his drill bit in his hand.

Mustering all his strength, Steve stood upright. “I’m fine, really I am. I just lost my balance.” The two started down the stairs.

“Aye, and yer memory too!” replied the Irishman, “Me name is O’Malley, lad--not St. Patrick.”

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