Chapter Thirteen V
Janah, “Good enough. You’re right, his days are numbered. We may still have to deal with him. He must be followed and reported on. Please tell David the birds should continue to follow him and report if he appears to be making trouble.”
Despite her instruction, Janah is uncertain. She is reluctant to kill him outright, but she takes Chan’s observation seriously. It unsettles her.
I can feel your dissonance. Let Black put him out of everyone’s misery.
I’m thinking it over.
Chan leaves to deliver the message, understanding he could not avoid the birds telling David what they knew regarding any killing.
David Li answers his father’s unspoken concern, “Father, do you think I don’t understand death? I hear from my friends of the deaths of their companions all the time. They do not fear death because they do not dwell on it. They are saddened for a time, but soon forget. They do not live as long as we, they have a different sense of time. They are killed by old age, by accidents, or as a consequence of some other animal’s need for food. They eat grain, but they eat insects and worms as well. Death recycles life.”
Chan nods. His son is more familiar with death than he himself. That’s why, he determines, Janah has no concern over David receiving reports from the birds. Even reports about his Aunt Nikko or his father hurting or killing someone. His animal friends do what’s necessary to drive off predators or to survive. It is Chan who has learned, he bows to his son. David Li smiles at his powerful dad.
Chan, “As always, Master J understands ahead of the rest of us. And understands a parent’s concern for their child.”
Janah, “Daphne and I meditate for the relief of suffering. The universe gave us Nikko, you, Black and now David Li to help. We are poor stewards of our gifts if we do no nurture and protect them. There is no guarantee of safety. If our friends decide the danger is too great for their families, then Daphne and I continue alone. There is no obligation.”
Chan, “There is no question of our continuing.”
Black, “You already know where I am. Besides, even if I was inclined to back off, I’d never be able to face Sonia. She knows who saved her life. We gonna finish this one, then take on whatever comes next.”
Two weeks go by, things are as normal as life allows for us. Nikko’s experience facing down Huang apparently has flooded her with an intense need for frequent sex.
I hope she doesn’t have to whack off too many heads, we may never leave the bedroom.
Janah giggles, Well, if the necessity does arise, I’ll just have to do my part to help her reset. I don’t see you complaining any about getting jumped everyday.
When have I ever complained about being jumped?
Janah, No, you couldn’t. That’s your role in life, to give it up. Thank goodness.
I thought you sought me out for help and protection?
Janah, Sex is the help part.
Chan is coming.
Janah, God, that hearing. Ning I can hear clicking up in her heels. Chan doesn’t make noise.
A knock on the door, it’s….well, we already know who it is.
Chan, “David Li is on the roof. There’s a problem with Fourth.”
Janah, “Anyone hurt?”
“Not yet, but he’s finagled an old woman for a free room, and asking for, or demanding, money, food or clothes from shop owners. He leaves with packages or cash.”
David Li comes in the still open door, “Bird says Fourth has injured a small boy, only for being in his way as he climbed the stairs. He told the boy to move, when he took too long, Fourth waved his hand and the boy’s head cracked against the bricks bordering the stairs. He is unconscious. Someone saw him there and they took him to the hospital. We don’t know anymore.”
Janah, “Where is he living?’
David gives her an address in Brooklyn.
Janah, “Thank you for your attentiveness. Thank your friends for me please. By the way, do they know which apartment Fourth lives in?’
“Of course, third floor, back left. They sit on his small windowsill, or sometimes the building facing his. There is an alleyway between them. He sits alone, eats, does a lot of meditation, practices some sort of exercise like Aunt Daphne’s gung fu, but not the same exactly. Very slow.”
Chan, “Tai chi, it would serve his purpose for qi meditation.”
Janah calls Black, “I’ve made a serious error in judgment. Fourth is making more than just an annoyance of himself, a child had been hospitalized. Do you want to do it, do you need Daphne or Nikko?
Black. “Just give me the address. I wanted that puke the first time I laid eyes on him, guess I’m not such a great Buddhist.”
Janah, “You are who you are. Your sense of him was better than mine. I’m going to inquire after the boy, we don’t have a name, just where he was injured and where he was taken. The Society will find him. Hopefully a concussion and an overnight stay. But Fourth has been up to other annoyances, he’s not going to follow any rules. I have made an error I will not make again.”
Janah gives him the location, Black hangs up.
Chapter Fourteen V
If you're not failing every now and again, it's a sign you're not doing anything very innovative.
Fourth isn’t simple, ready when Black busted in the door. Black gets his eye popped, and the smaller man hit him hard. It isn’t going to be like dealing with Chan, but it’s going to be a handful.
Fourth takes a swipe at Black again, earns a busted rib for his trouble. He throws a knife, Black dodges getting it in the chest, but the blade catches him in the triceps. Black pulls it out and forwards it at Fourth’s head. He twists away, still cuts him across the cheek.
Fourth tries to lay him out with a shoulder tackle, does a good job for man his size. Black is pushed against the wall, grabs the doorjamb, Fourth slams the door against it and breaks a finger.
Black is getting tired of the asshole, he smiles. Fourth can’t process the smile and what must be a very painful finger, and a deep puncture in the big man’s arm. Confused is how he lived his life, and confused is how he dies. The knuckles on Blacks’ massive fist crush his breastbone and stop his heart, dead even as Black’s second strike, four straightened fingertips, crushes his thorax.
Black smiled because he realized that if his sister Nikko had come instead, Fourth would have been headless before he got to say hello. Then he thought it more likely, because of the little boy, Fourth would have still died, just over two or three days. Probably why Janah sent him instead.
Black retrieves the knife, wipes what he’d touched. He goes to the sink and washes his hands; fingers through the throat had been bloody work. He pours bleach over and down the sink, and on any spatters that he thought might have been from the cut on his arm. He’s bald, no hair fibers to find.
He gets cubes out of the ice bin in the refrigerator, packs them into a doubled plastic bag, lays the bag against his eye, and holds a few cubes in the hand with the broken finger.
He looks around. Fourth had talked himself into a nice place, new refrigerator, automatic ice maker, even a washer and dryer. One bedroom, a remodeled bathroom, the apartment is too good for him. It’s already a mess, stuff in the sink unwashed, the garbage can overflows. His few clothes are draped over a couple of chairs and in a heap in the floor.
Black wonders, ‘Think a dude with all that qi power would use some of it to keep his crib clean.’
He closes the busted door and leaves. There had been unusual noises in a respectable apartment building. Being New York, most people ignored it, but somebody hadn’t. Black takes the back way and as he emerges a block further down the street, a police car pulls up to the building. He keeps to the shadows in the opposite direction. A mile of zigzags later, he calls Sonia, she picks him up.
“Sorry to drag you out baby, but I can’t get on the subway bleeding like this, with a busted finger and a swollen eye. The transit cops would be all over me.”
“You think I wouldn’t be more pissed if you hadn’t called? You said you had serious temple business. I’m not so stupid as to think it meant going to a meditation session?”
Black, “Slow down, I got to lose these shoes.”
He tosses his big sneakers one at a time over the rail on the Brooklyn Bridge.
Sonia picks up speed again and soon they’re at the temple.
Janah fusses quietly, “Did somebody tell you to take that gel pack off your eye? Leave it where I put it.”
Black, “Geez, it’s frozen solid already.”
Janah, “It’s a gel pack, you aren’t getting frostbite, Just do what you’re told, and lie still.”
She jams a needle of Lidocaine in his arm, another in his finger, then stitches his arm, “It’s deep, but we got it full of antibiotic, and the bleeding has stopped. Good thing it’s so much muscle or he might have caught an artery.”
She yanks his finger straight, even with the Lidocaine, he flinches.
“It’s broken, not fractured, he got it good. It feels lined up. But there’s no way to tell without an x-ray. I’ll splint it for now, but we need to call dad and see if we can get an x-ray without a lot of questions.”
She calls James, “I need for Black to have an x-ray, one that never happened.”
James, “I’ll call the lab, you know where it is. Take him directly there, not to admissions. Wear robes. Nobody will ask. Get the x-ray copies from the tech, you can read them well enough. If his finger is lined up properly, it will be obvious. If it’s not, then you have to give it another go. It’ll hurt like hell, but there’s no alternative without admitting him. I’ll see you at the lab.”
The tech does his job and evaporates. Janah had lined up the finger as good as it would get without operating on it.
Black, “If it’s a bit crooked, who cares. Will it work normally?”
James, “Yes, actually the broken part will be stronger once it mends. But give it time. Screw up and bust it again, then we have to cut it open, put in a pin, then more time to heal and limited flexibility.”
Sonia, “He’ll be good, or he’ll have a lot more pain than just a busted finger.”
Black smiles at his woman. She isn’t joking. Sonia nearly died, but found the strength to live with the help of Janah and a booster from me. What emerged from her trauma is a tough, capable young woman. She loves her big man, but she could go toe to toe with him when it comes to personal matters. She knows his life will occasionally involve danger, possibly deadly danger. But that has passed for now, and he would mind Janah’s instruction or face Sonia’s wrath. Seems easier to just to follow the simple directions.
“I get it. Don’t worry. I want this to heal up and be done with it. So everybody can chill. At least it’s the same arm he stuck the knife in. I still have one fully operational, that’s something.”
Sonia kisses her honey, “Let’s get home and start your recuperation. Janah could probably do some things to move it along faster, but it’s going to heal up one way or the other.”
Janah, “Good. Let us know how things are mending. If there’s the slightest problem, call. We’ll get him any necessary treatment. Keep the wound clean, but don’t go into overkill, redressing it daily will be plenty. Don’t be shy about the antibiotic cream. The black eye will be gone in a couple of days with ice and liniment. His finger will be fine if he leaves it alone for at least three weeks, then slow movements and light massage. For now, use the liniment on his finger, not the wound. It contains capsaicin, which will make the blood flow and facilitate healing. It’s a strong variety, it will burn for a while, that’s normal. After three weeks, start to squeeze a tennis ball, flex it, but don’t go crazy. In a couple of months, you’ll be all set.”
Black hugs Janah, he and Sonia leave. James gives Janah a ride back to the temple.
“I don’t suppose there’s much you can tell me about this?’
“If it’s under doctor patient confidentiality.”
“Of course. But if you don’t want to say, even under the ground rules, I understand.”
Janah, “Only because it’s rather ugly, and I’m never comfortable with the things we sometimes do.”
She recaps the story of the OM, his disciples and the necessity of two killings. James recalls Janah telling him about the time, long ago, when she had seen a grown man bully and hit a woman, nearly hit a young boy, and getting pushed to ground as a consequence of intervening. He knows his daughter. She is hardly naïve, she studied abuse, they had talked about it. For all her compassion, she has little tolerance for sheer meanness. Compassion is not suffering, it is the removal of suffering. If making some dork absent from the living relieved suffering, then that’s how it would be.
James, “There’s nothing else to do Janah. There’s no police evidence. The child doesn’t likely know that the one you call Fourth had anything to do with him hitting his head. Black had no choice. Hell, he’d already been dealt with once, given a chance he proved he didn’t deserve.”
Janah’s cell goes off, it is Mrs. Epstein, “Hello dearest. Where are you, can you talk?”
Janah, “Dad’s giving me a ride to the temple. Black needed a finger x-rayed without the complications of forms and nosy questions.”
Mrs. Epstein, “Tell James hello for me, do you have a moment?’
Janah, “Yes, what about the boy? I presume that’s why you’re calling.”
“He’s not dead, and that’s the only good news. His skull wasn’t cracked. Bernie tells me that’s not always good. There is swelling, they’ve drained the fluid, but had to leave an opening until the injury quits producing so much liquid. Your father will know, perhaps you already do.
Janah, “More than I want to. Who’s the doctor?”
“Dr. Franklin Parsons, it’s a Brooklyn hospital, your dad may not have even heard of him. We’ve checked his background, deeply. Two malpractice suits, one he refused to settle and he won. The second settled with no admission on his side of anything. Sounds like a cost efficiency decision. Otherwise, he’s got a good rep. He’s been in the brain business a long time, he’s bound to have been sued. Almost more surprising he hasn’t been sued more often, thirty years of surgeries, two suits. He must be pretty damn good.”
“Thank you, I’ll tell dad,” they ring off.
Janah recaps the story to James.
“I’ll call Ted Jensen in the morning. He’ll know the guy. If he’s as described then the boy is in good hands.”
Chapter Fifteen V
I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favor to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all.
James calls early.
“I could have called last night, Jensen was still at the hospital, I should have known. Dr. Parsons is well known to him, they’ve golfed occasionally, talked neurosurgery and played poker in the club’s locker room. Parson’s a decent golfer, twelve handicap, a lousy poker player, Jensen loves it when he’s in the game, says he always cleans him out. To the point, the boy will be touch and go for weeks. Until the swelling subsides and Parsons can have a scan that means something, and perhaps take a look inside, he can’t render an opinion of any real substance. He says if the boy emerges unscathed, it will be the first time he’s see this level of swelling with no consequences. I’m sorry baby. What can I do?”
“Do you think there’s anything we can do?”
“Something you did pulled Sonia through. Ted has, of course, heard the story, it’s been a bit of a legend at our hospital. I’ll ask him, and maybe Bernie, to run it by Parsons. He’s the doc, it’s his call.”
The next day, Janah sits with Dr. Parsons in his office at Brooklyn Medical.
“I’m skeptical, and we wouldn’t be sitting here at all if you had called out of the blue. But I’ve got a lot of respect for Ted Jensen, and I’ve given him a lot of my money over the poker table, so I pay attention when he makes a suggestion. The boy’s skull wasn’t cracked open, in a way that’s the problem, the tests showed swelling, so I installed a "relief valve" (intra-cranial pressure monitor or ICP) to let off the excess pressure.”
Janah, “But there’s no way to tell what tearing may have occurred, connections broken.”
“You seem to know something about this. Been talking to your dad I guess.”
Janah doesn’t elaborate. She’d read all the current literature on traumatic brain injury and the treatment modalities. There is nothing to do until he regains consciousness, can be talked to and monitored for abnormalities. As best the surgeon can tell from talking with the parents he is a normal child, no pre-injury brain dysfunction, just a kid like any other.
Parsons, “What do you think you can do?”
Janah, “Maybe nothing. We practice an form of internal energy, which allows for a particular sensitivity to the energy flow in another. Mostly, I have to touch the person to get a feel for this energy flow. It is not invasive, I just get a feel for his internal strength. After that, we talk about any next steps.”
Parsons, “His vitals are fine, heart rate normal. A little slow but he’s just lying there. Blood pressure is a bit low, he was bleeding internally after all. His breathing is regular. He is immobile, there are no jerky movements, as if he were dreaming, or there was some physical abnormality emanating from his brain. There’s no reason you can’t see him, I’ll have to discuss it with the parents. Do you want me to do it with or without you?”
“If I can be in the room, I will be able to tell if they are concerned, or dubious. If they are hiding anything, I’ll know. You can check with my father or Dr. Epstein. I don’t expect you to just take my word for it. I’m not offended, you’d be doing your job.”
“Let me make a few calls, then perhaps we can talk to the parents.”
An hour later, Janah is with Dr. Parsons and two obviously distraught parents. Thirty minutes later she’s in the room with the boy and a priest. The parents are Catholic, they consulted the priest; he saw no reason not to see what Janah came up with.
Janah lays her hand on the boy’s head, then his neck, then his chest. She ends up holding her hands on his bare feet. It takes about fifteen minutes, then Janah and the priest are back in Parson’s office.
Janah, “He’s not going to die. He’s young, his energy level, as your tests indicated, is good. He will have trouble walking at first, and his speech will be slow. That is, he will be slow to respond, but I think he will understand what he’s told. Please ask the parents to be patient with him. His muscle tone is excellent, he was an active little boy, and will be again, but not for a while. If you wish, we can visit him when he’s awake and stronger. We can perhaps speed up his recovery with some gentle energy application. But I do not want to frighten the parents. They are free to believe the help comes from God, or to not have any additional involvement with us at all.”
The priest asks, “Who is “us?”
“There are several monks with healing qi. You need not believe in it for it to work.”
“These people aren’t rich.”
Janah, “We require no payment, we do not want any recognition. In fact, it’s better if nothing is said.”
The priest says, “God provides. I don’t mean that in some Christian Science way. God brought you here from my point of view. I’ll talk to the parents. We’ll see.”
Janah turns to Parsons, “Good enough. If you want us back, all you need to do is call. In a way, it will be better to find out what, if anything, is the real long term damage. We can, if you wish, speed up the healing of his brain as well. But you will naturally want to consider that. You have no reason to think we can do anything, nor that anything we do won’t make things worse. I understand.”
Dr. Parsons, “Then let’s see what develops. I’ll call Jensen with an update.”
Janah stops by to see the grieving parents with the priest in tow. She doesn’t want anyone thinking she talked them into something.”
“Senor and Senora Hernandez,” she speaks to them in Spanish.
“Your son is strong. He will get better. I appreciate the difficulty of the decisions you will have to make. I have spoken to the doctor with Father Geraldo. He is free to relate our conversation to you. We are Shaolin priests, and we have offered our services to any degree we are capable. We will be in constant meditation for the swift healing of your son.”
“Gracias, senorita. How did you hear about him?”
Janah wondered when someone would ask, she couldn’t go into how of course, she said, “A lady I don’t know told a friend of ours, I felt compelled to ask after him, I’m not sure why.”
“God decides, He gave you the inspiration.”
Janah nods, nothing else to do, she bows and leaves, the priest sits with them and they bend their heads together in what appears to be prayer. When Janah gets on the elevator they are staring at her, then begin to talk. I’m waiting for her in the lobby downstairs, we return to the temple.
“I followed the conversation. You think the doctor is skeptical, the priest is open minded and the parents can’t think at all right now.”
Janah, “Pretty well sums it up. I have an issue to struggle with.”
“You mean that we didn’t take out Fourth in the first place? That’s not an issue, Janah. If we had, then you would be wondering if we could have refocused him rather than taking his life. Black gave that a go the first time. This is a no win thought process.”
“Okay, you’re right. The boy speaks mostly Spanish, I can tell from listening to the parents, who speak little English themselves. They struggle to get into a decent apartment building, to raise their child out of some barrio, and they get this for their trouble. Likely the boy was only trying to process what Fourth was saying. This is what happens when qi sensitivity goes wrong.”
“So what do we do about the other three?”
Janah, “I don’t know. Do we kill everybody involved? The other three are children in the art. They can’t do any damage with their skills, they aren’t nearly well formed enough. Are they likely to do something stupid?”
“If we start killing stupid people, we’ll be pretty busy.”
Chapter Sixteen V
The evening star was on the hill, but soon she would drop from sight. In the distance an owl was calling, and all about one the insect world of the night was alive and busy; yet the stillness was not broken. It held everything in it, the stars, the lonely owl, the myriad insects. If one listened to it, one lost it; but if one were of it, it welcomed one. The watcher can never be of this stillness; he is an outsider looking in, but he is not of it. The observer only experiences, he is never the experience, the thing itself.
J. Krishnamurti, Commentaries on Living
Three weeks pass. The boy is recovering, conscious and talking. His comprehension, as Janah had suggested, is slow, and he has trouble with balance. He said that a man got angry with him, and he fell against the wall, unclear on whether he’d been hit. Consequently, the family has only a vague idea of what happened, but they were told the man was just a brute, and had obviously been in some sort of trouble as he was subsequently found dead. They made it seem like he was a scared, angry bully and left it at that. That he was dead didn’t hurt the parents’ feelings any.
Dr. Parsons didn’t ask. He assumed the boy had fallen on his own. Father Geraldo, on the other hand, understands evil. He didn’t know much about qi, he looked it up. In his Christian mind, Christ had healed by laying his hands on people. But that was the Son of God, not a girl in a Manhattan Buddhist temple. Still, he thought, God did what He did through human agency, miracles had been few and far between in Father Geraldo’s experience. In fact, he had never witnessed one that couldn’t be explained without the miracle part. Naturally, he’d heard about Our Lady of this and the Madonna that, but he put no stock in weeping statues or water at Lourdes. He is a middle aged priest, not a mystic.
His conversation with the parents is simple. He could not say if we could help the boy heal. He did ease their concerns by saying Buddhists did not try and convert anyone to any beliefs, and that there are actually Christian Buddhists in certain parts of the world.
The parents found the young woman comforting in their short conversation, and she spoke Spanish. They told Father Geraldo that if he would monitor the child as best he could given his other duties, they would give their consent.
The boy, Manolo, is home finally. He watches television, walking is an effort, he loses his balance frequently. He comprehends, but is slow in responding, the effort for him is enormous.
“Let’s bring him to the temple for a couple of weeks. The priest can visit, the parents can visit. The monks will see it as their obligation to help him with his balance, and to talk with him. He speaks enough English, and you’ll be there to help him over any language hurdles. His brain is rewiring, he’s not otherwise physically injured, his skull didn’t crack.”
Janah, “It’s either that or I send you and Nikko to Brooklyn to work with him on balance. His language will pick up, but he must be talked to, and be required to respond. If you’re patient, he won’t be intimidated.”
“Maybe that’s best to start, let the folks get used to us rather than take off their injured son to Manhattan. The priest says he sits and watches TV all day. His parents do their best, but they both work and there’s a grandmother who speaks no English at home caring for him, that’s it.”
Janah calls Father Geraldo and explains the idea. He likes it. The doctor said the boy needed physical and verbal stimulation. Dr. Parsons wanted to be reassured there would be nothing physically strenuous, and warns us that he might tire easily. He’s leery, but the parents are also erratic about bringing him in for physical therapy, we’re a better than nothing alternative.
Nikko and I go to Brooklyn four times a week. We clear out a space in the small yard, then I do two gung fu forms while Nikko explains. The boy’s eye’s wide as I sail through the air, hardly able to follow my hands and feet. Nikko does the beginner taekwondo forms, Il Jang.
I ask him if he would like to learn it.
It’s better than asking him if he wanted to be a rock star. He nods eagerly.
“Do you really want to learn? It takes a while to get it right.”
The boy nods again.
“You have to tell me you want to learn. If Nikko is going to instruct you she has to hear you say it, in either English or Spanish. You must say, ‘I want Senorita Nikko to teach me taekwondo.”
He hesitates, bobbing his head, looks up at me, my smile trumps his frustration, “I w…w..want Seniorita….n…n.nnn. Nikko….I ffff
I start again, word by word, until he can tell Nikko he wants her to teach him. Then she gets him to say it all in Spanish. Then in English again, then again in Spanish. It takes a half hour, but he does it. Nikko high fives him, he beams like he’s gotten an A in rhetoric.
“You can relearn how to balance. I’m sure you are tired of falling and running into things. We can teach you to be a regular boy again, but you have to do two things. Ask me what they are.”
“First, do the best you can. It won’t be perfect, we don’t care. What is important is that you try. Second, when you are tired, you must say so. If we practice for fifteen minutes and you are tired, it’s okay. We’ll quit and practice the next time. Do you promise?”
“You have to answer,’” I smile my blazing heartthrob smile, “I know you can do it.”
Manolo, “I…will do my…b…best and…uh….”
“You will tell us when you are tired.”
Manolo starts to nod, I cock my head, Manolo gets it, “I will….say, wh...wh…when…I…am…tired.”
I smile again, which makes Manolo grin. He wants to do well for us. That will have to do, we’ll teach him to do well for himself, but first things first.
“Do you want to learn a few steps of the form Nikko showed you? Just a few. It’s how we teach everyone. It takes all new students a while to learn the steps. And sometimes they fall down when they are learning. It’s good to fall down, it’s fun. And Nikko will show you how to fall down without hurting yourself.”
Manolo, “Sh….She can…do…th…that?”
“Nikko is a wonderful instructor. Just remember your promise, what was it?”
Manolo is blank for a while, then, “I have…to do…as…g….good …as I….can, and…..”
I wait, he brightens, “And I have to….s…say….if...I am tired.”
We high five again.
I go inside, Nikko takes Manolo very slowly through the first four or five movements of Tae Geuk Il Jang. Manolo has trouble coordinating the left step movement and his down block. They do it tai chi style, very slowly. I watch from the kitchen window, drinking a cup of coffee so strong it reminds me of Miss Alva’s.
Manolo’s mother is there, she is silently weeping. The priest is watching from the kitchen table. This is the closest thing to a miracle he’d ever seen, and it’s damn well good enough he decides.
Every other day, we go to the boy’s house. After a month, the parents let us take him to the temple for a two week stay. That turns into a week at home, two weeks back at the temple, then a full month. Janah works on him for an hour, but he is so fascinated with the gung fu practice he can’t sit still any longer than that. She decides his interest is a good thing. His parents come every weekend, the priest at least once during the week, then one day Dr. Parsons shows up.
“I had to come see for myself. I’m having trouble digesting what I’m being told. I hope you don’t mind if I observe for a while.”
Janah, “Manolo is in the garden with David Li, the son of Chan Li, one of our monks. Manolo has been learning about plants from Master David.
We call the David Li, his full name, Master David is Chan’s childhood friend, they entered the temple together, Chan named his son after David. Manolo is also learning and about birds, plants and insects from David Li. Please, let’s go quietly, we can observe from the edge of the garden.”
Dr. Parson’s is awestruck, he can barely process what he’s seeing. There are a dozen birds surrounding the two boys. The Chinese boy appears to be talking with them. They sit on his knees, his shoulders, he holds out grain and they approach and eat fearlessly. Manolo is also feeding them, laughing and jabbering away a mile a minute. Talking to the young boy beside him and turning to ask questions.
Janah and the doctor slip back to her office.
“I never imagined such a thing as possible. His parents tell me he is learning taekwondo from a Japanese girl, that he is incessantly asking questions and, while still speaking somewhat hesitantly, has no balance problems, in fact is precision itself. He asked them if he can live here, and become a Shaolin student.”
Janah, “And we would delight in having him. He’s quite bright, he is devoted to Nikko, who has taught him a bit of taekwondo. He observes the gung fu classes and I’ve caught him practicing on his own. His new friend David Li, well, let’s say he has certain special capacities.
Dr. Parsons, “What’s with all the birds?’
Janah, “I’m not sure you will think me sane, but I’ll give it a shot. David Li has a gift, he can relate to living creatures in ways we do not fully understand. He has a sensitivity that few humans possess. The birds are far more sensitive than you and I. In their eyes, we are the ignorant.”
Dr. Parsons, “And you know this how?’
Janah, “They have demonstrated it to me, to Daphne, to David Li, among others. You have seen for yourself the level of trust they have in David Li and now Manolo. Talk to him for yourself, then decide.”
Janah mentals me to bring Manolo to her office. We appear as if we dropped from the sky.
Manolo bows deeply to Janah, then says to Dr. Parsons, “Master J…. tells me that…..that…. I have you to thank for keep….keeping….me alive, when I…..was first….injured. I am deeply…..grateful.”
Parsons doesn’t have a clue what to say. This is a boy who is supposed to be, at best, stuttering his way along, walking with a cane, and processing information very slowly. Even that should have taken a year or more of speech and physical therapy. He hasn’t been out of the hospital for more than four months.
Dr. Parsons finally finds his voice, “Manolo, it is so good to see how well you are doing. Your parents are so delighted I had to come see for myself.”
Manolo, “I am honored…by….your visit….sir. I apologize…it is…..still taking…time….for me…..to….speak.”
Parsons, “I understand you perfectly Manolo. Take all the time you need.”
Manolo bows, “May I return to the garden Master J? David Li is talking to his friends, and Master David has promised to let me help with preparation of his special liniment.”
Janah, “Yes, student Manolo, return to your studies.”
Manolo bows again, then bows to Dr. Parsons and runs out the door.
Parsons, “I thought I knew how the brain worked. I am clearly a novice. I also notice he doesn’t slow his speech around you.”
Janah smiles, “It’s partially his natural shyness. When he’s here with his friends, he has some occasional hesitancy, it’s mostly around people he doesn’t know well.”
Dr. Parsons, “His recovery is beyond me. There is something in what you do here, and you carry with you personally. I can’t put my finger on it, but I feel it.”
Janah, “The resiliency of the brain is more than either of us yet understand. We study the same thing. Your specialty is the mechanics, ours is the consequence of the mechanics. We are both still in our infancy.”
They talk synapses, neurons, neurotransmitters, dendrites, and neuroplasticity for nearly an hour. Parsons gradually realizes she knows as much as he does about the mechanics, and significantly more about human nature.
Parsons stands, “I have no words. Of course, you are right, I’ve witnessed it. The brain is far more complex, and capable, than I ever understood. I have given it my limitations, looked at it only from my training and personal observation. Thank you for your patient instruction.”
They shake hands, then Parsons does something he didn’t understand but feels compelled to do, he bows to Janah, leaves. He wonders to himself on the drive home, what had made him do it. He is a master surgeon, not a Buddhist. Why bow? He realizes that he has been in the presence of one whose temperament, skill and ability make him look like a first year med student. He hadn’t felt humble in a very long time, he decides he is overdue.