Chapter 12: God's Law
Ted was missing meetings on a regular basis. He no longer went out in service or prayed. He had lost his spirituality at the cost of much guilt. For a long time he agonized over what to believe. He came close to rejecting Arthur's view; perhaps he was just a senile old man whose good memories of the Society had been lost somehow, leaving all the bad ones to take their place and be exaggerated. But the facts piled up on him, and they were not to be denied so easily.
So now he went to meetings merely out of pretense, so that Richard wouldn't be disappointed with him, and he could retain his friends at the hall. At the same time, he realized that he was slowly becoming marked as another George Butler: coming there bodily only, and the color of their skin no doubt added to the similarity.
He devoted himself more to his work now. It was an easy, pleasant job, running small errands. And Bill Jackson, he found, was someone he could really talk to. Over the months heíd told him all about the genius of Arthur Olson and pointed out that someone so smart wouldn't belong to the Witnesses unless they were right. Bill always listened with intense interest as Ted went over the details of his talks with Arthur, though he didn't ever seem to draw the conclusion Ted was trying to lead him to. But he did pick up the desperately concealed signals Ted was inadvertently sending in regard to his own deep doubt. Although Ted never verbally admitted that he was anything but a dedicated Witness, Bill could sense that such was no longer the case, and he gradually attempted to dig beneath the surface and bring the truth to light.
"You know what you need?" Bill asked Ted one afternoon on break.
"Yeah, I need to study a lot more and get to the bottom of things," Ted replied.
"No," Bill laughed, "you need a woman to help you forget all about it."
Ted blushed, "Why would I want to forget the Truth?"
"Nobody said anything about your forgetting the Truth. I'm talking about forgetting the Witnesses -- and don't tell me it's the same thing because I know you know better."
Ted remained silent, stirring his lukewarm cocoa with a plastic spoon. He felt like crying, but bit his lip to control the emotion.
"I saw Cynthia Rose the other night," Bill said.
Ted looked up in surprise and waited forever for him to continue.
"They started up a poetry group at the U. I just heard about it and went the other night, and she was there."
"How was she?' Ted asked, trying to remain calm.
"She misses you."
"Did she say that?"
"Not in so many words."
"What did she say exactly?"
"We didn't speak. She doesn't like me, you know. But she read a poem about lost love. It was quite sad and touching."
"Who was she sitting with?" Ted asked anxiously. "Was someone with her?"
"No, she was alone as far as I could tell. Why don't you call her or go see her? That's the only way youíll find out if she's still yours. I mean, now that you're --"
"Now that I'm what?" Ted demanded with a nervous laugh.
"Well, you're not quite so unreasonably strict about your religion. You might be friendlier to her now. Isn't that why she left you in the first place? It's hard for a woman to compete with an ideal utopian society."
"Is that what you think?"
"It doesn't matter. What do you think?"
"I think you're right," Ted admitted, "I've even begun thinking of the Society as a woman since Cyn left me. That's not as crazy as it sounds because the Bible does speak of Israel as married to God, and spiritual Israel as Christ's bride, and it's the remnant of them that makes up the governing body of the Society."
"Yes," Bill replied with a worried look, "those are just the type of thoughts I want you to rid yourself of; they're unhealthy. Let me ask you if you feel happy the way things are now, you being in relationship with this 'Society woman' instead of a real woman?"
"No, I must tell you that I've been very depressed these last months," Ted slowly admitted, but then quickly added: "But that's because I've been unfaithful to the Society."
"But one should be unfaithful to an unfaithful Society!" Bill exclaimed.
With that, the end of the break was reached, and Ted was left to contemplate calling on Cyn for the rest of the workday. He decided that calling her would be too impersonal and give her too good a chance to hang up on him. So he trudged through the snow to her place, stopping at a florist's on the way to pick up a dozen yellow roses.
He walked up the familiar wooden steps to the top floor and stood outside her door. He heard a male voice inside, and gripped the newsprint so tightly that a thorn pushed its way out and stabbed his palm. He thought to leave, but hesitated for a moment, wondering what to do with the flowers. Maybe he would leave them at the door with a note. As he was pondering this, a neighbor's door opened a crack and out peered an elderly lady. He realized how suspicious he must look standing listening at the door, so he raised his hand and forcefully knocked, instantly regretting his need to do so. The lady shut her door, satisfied that he was no burglar, and then he heard that wonderful voice call, "Just a minute!"
The door opened and the two beheld one another. She had on a bathrobe and her hair was wrapped in a towel. Her mouth fell open a little, and then started curling into a faint smile. Ted stood there with the roses stuck in his hand, not knowing what to do or say. He vaguely noted that the male voice was still intoning on. It sounded like he was reading her poems aloud.
"Hello," she said in a voice full of question, "I was just taking a bath."
"I brought these for you. But if it's an inconvenient time --"
"No, come in," she said in full smile, taking the roses in both hands and pulling the man in with them. "Oh, you stuck yourself!"
"It's nothing, just a prick -- like I've been all this while," he added, coming close to unclean speech.
"You said it, not me," she replied.
They stood there awkwardly, and he wondered if he was going to be introduced to the man who just wouldn't stop reading aloud.
"Who's here?" he asked.
"Nobody," she said innocently. Then, realizing what he was thinking, she began laughing uncontrollably.
"What's so funny?" he asked, barely smiling since he feared she was making a fool of him.
She couldn't answer as the tears rolled down her cheeks, contorted with gales of laughter, and seeing his evident distress raised her to new heights of hysteria. She pulled him into the living room by the arm and pointed.
It was a record player she pointed to in the otherwise empty room.
Beside it he could see the album cover, "Poetry Readings by --" that was all the farther he got as he too joined in the laughter.
"I almost didn't come in because I heard that!" he cried, sending Cyn into grand hysteria as she collapsed on the love seat, holding her stomach and emitting high-pitched screams of laughter. Ted soon found himself caught up in the same overwhelming convulsions and joined her, doubled-up for a moment, on the love seat. Before it was over they were both on the floor. The incident in itself, of course, was not all that humorous. Their hysteria was a combination of joy at being together again and relief. Their very strong emotion at this reunion had fortunately found a release, but being touched off by a comic incident, it vented itself in uncontrollable laughter. When they had finally composed themselves after several short-lived attempts, they sat together and spoke seriously.
"Cyn, I think I've changed enough now that we could try again, that is, if you haven't found someone else, and you'll have me."
"There's no one else," she said matter-of-factly. "Tell me how you've changed. Have you left them?"
"No, not really. But Bill Jackson says I'm not as strict as I was."
"Does that mean we can make love now?" she asked hopefully.
He sat and thought a moment. So far he'd done nothing wrong. He'd only cooled off towards the Truth. But now she was asking him to defy it. There was no question in his mind that the Bible strictly forbade sex outside of marriage. This had nothing to do with the Society being right or wrong; this was a direct command issued by God himself. So he replied, "I don't think so. I think we should wait till we're married --" He stopped himself realizing that he'd just implied that they were going to be married, when this is not what he meant at all. He was only making a general statement like "all people should wait till their married"; unfortunately he'd personalized the statement.
"Why, do you want to marry me now?" she asked in surprise, "I thought you couldn't marry anyone but another Witness."
"There again the Bible itself seems pretty clear when it says to marry 'only in the Lord.'" Ted replied.
"Wow! You've really changed," she cried.
"I can understand your sarcasm," he said, "but I have changed in other ways. It's not so important to me anymore. I still have to go by the Bible though, and these things are very clear in the Bible. And I think, or, rather, I feel that the Witnesses are the group I belong with in spite of all their faults. But now that I recognize their faults, I no longer follow blindly; I take them with a grain of salt."
"Well, I still admire you for doing what you believe in."
Ted smiled and continued, "And aren't you the one who's always telling me to go with my feelings? Well, I am in this matter. I've stopped trusting in intellectual reasons for being a Witness; that only leads in a circle at best. So now I'm a Witness because I feel I should be, not because it seems the only way to survive Armageddon. I don't know how much of that I believe anymore; I don't think God will kill everyone who's not a Witness."
"But heíll kill you if you make love to me?"
"I'm a special case; knowing the Truth, I'm more responsible."
"Because you know a 'truth' that 'leads in a circle at best'?" she asked, crinkling up her nose. "That makes a lot of sense. Maybe you shouldn't go with a feeling on a matter that's so totally intellectual. Because that's all the Witness religion is, it seems to me: intellectual. They have no real love for anyone; they're looking forward to seeing them all die --"
This recalled to Ted's mind the prayer of the Bethel brother who looked forward to the time God would wipe off the face of the earth every 'two-legged germ'.
"Why don't you go all the way with your thoughts and your feelings for a change," she asked, "and abandon what you know to be false and what you feel to be wrong?"
"Well, I --"
"Shhh," she whispered, pressing her tender hand against his lips.
"You don't mind if I go with my feelings now, do you?" she asked, and replaced her hand with her own lips.
After a minute of intimate caresses she struggled out of her robe with his help. When he saw her perfect, young body, all thoughts of resistance were effaced. He swooped her up and carried her into her bedroom. Although he didn't notice, it was quite different from how he had pictured it. There was no table filled with makeup and brushes, and there were no stuffed toys. There was just a plain queen-size bed, a dresser, and a nightstand crammed with books. Most of the latter toppled onto the floor in the first couple of minutes.
Instead of the immediate guilt he'd experienced whenever he'd finished masturbating, he just felt good after climaxing inside her.
They lay together on their sides catching their breath.
"I can't get over how beautiful you are," he sighed, gently sliding his hand across the length of her body.
"You're not so bad yourself," she returned the compliment and began licking his lips and tongue, giggling as if it tickled.
Several hours passed in which they made love again and followed it with similar love-play as they explored each other and pleasured one another.
At last they lay exhausted, flat on their backs, staring alternately at the ceiling and at each other. Ted commented, "And to think I was publicly reproved for masturbating!" They had a good laugh over this.
Cyn, who had seen Phyllis on several occasions since their break-up, knew that he'd been reproved, but she didn't know why.
"That's really medieval!" she exclaimed, "Do they really think all their young people don't do it?"
"All of them but those of us stupid enough to confess it," he said.
"Why? What's wrong with it?" she asked. "Everybody does it. Now it's wrong to touch your own body and give yourself pleasure?"
"It's even wrong for two people to kiss unless they're at least engaged," he explained. "The Society doesn't even like hand-holding because they say it's a link in a chain that will lead to -- well, to this."
Cyn smiled and said, "And do they also object to it when you close your mouth and your lower lip kisses your upper? No. So why then should they object when other lips touch? Or what's the difference between clasping your hands together and holding someone else's hand? Where's the evil in it? The only difference is a good one: you share your pleasure with another. And the same can be said for getting off by yourself as opposed to getting it on together. They don't object to a husband and wife getting it on, do they?"
"No, they don't," Ted replied. "They even allow them to enjoy it. Only there's a few restrictions, like oral sex for instance, that they can't do."
"Doesn't anyone ever ask why?" she demanded, "All their ideas are so inconsistent! How can they say it's all right for a married couple to have sex between them, but wrong for a single person to masturbate? Do they allow married people to masturbate?"
"No, although they do allow artificial insemination, and then leave it up to the individuals as to how the sperm is to be obtained. So in that instance it's allowed."
Cyn giggled and said, "So the man can come inside his wife, but not in his hand! Sounds sort of like a candy commercial!" At this they both broke down in gales of laughter as they hugged each other's shaking sides.
"But," Cyn continued, "the point I was getting at is that their thinking is so backwards; it's like they're making the vagina a special, sacred place -- the only place a man can put his erection, and only then if he's married to it. He can't put it in his wife's hand, much less his own, at least not for the purpose of pleasure.
"Now, I know they permit birth control, so how can they issue a blanket condemnation of all sexual activities that are considered 'perverted' because they fail to deliver semen to the vagina? If you allow birth control, the same thing is prevented, even when the man is where he's 'supposed to be'. So what's the difference? If you wear a condom, for example -- do you mind me talking so frankly?"
"How could I after we've acted so frankly?" Ted asked.
"Well, then, if you were to wear a rubber, your skin would never really touch mine, so what difference does it make what particular area of skin you're not touching? It's all the same. There's no reason behind any of their restrictions so long as they allow fertilization to be prevented.
"And if the Bible says that a man and woman 'become one flesh' when they're married, and then it's all right for them to have sex, it follows that it's all right for one person to have sex with himself, in other words, masturbate. Or, as I prefer to think of it, to pleasure one's self."
"You know, I've thought of that myself, too," Ted acknowledged. "If the 'two become one' and then can have sex, it's the same as 'one' having sex, and that's masturbation. If the one is permissible, so is the other."
"So you agree that pleasuring one's self is a good thing and not evil in any way?" she asked.
"Yes, I think I do, because even Brother Olson admitted that he used to do it, and that nothing was really wrong with it."
"Okay then, let's be consistent and take it one step further. If it's all right for me to lay over here and give myself pleasure, and it's all right for you to lay over there and do the same, why shouldn't we be allowed to give each other pleasure?" Cyn reasoned.
"I admit it's reasonable, but we should be married."
"Why?" she cried. "Always ask why; you don't do that enough. Were Adam and Eve ever married? Is there any marriage ritual set down in the Bible for us to go by? Is there even any record of one person actually marrying another, rather than just saying so-and-so was his wife?"
"The groom," Ted explained, "would just go one night to his bride's tent, and then they were considered husband and wife."
"And what do you suppose they did all night?" she asked.
Ted smiled, and Cyn continued, "So if you really want to go by the Bible, rather than by the Watchtower, your coming here and spending this night with me makes us husband and wife right now. So even the Society shouldnít frown on our activities here tonight."
It was a startling thought to be suddenly married. It made sense, and even going by what his former self would do in this situation, he should marry her; he wanted to marry her. But was he, in fact, married to her now? "So you consider us married now?" he asked.
"I just said that if you want to go by the Bible, as you claim you do, we are married now."
"But the law of the land doesn't recognize us as married," he argued.
"That's just a formality," she replied, "and it doesn't matter. I don't need a legal document to tell me that you love me or to bind you by law to faithfulness. If you can't do that of yourself, springing from your own love for me, then I don't want you around in the first place. But I think what's really bothering you is that I tricked you into marrying someone 'out of the Truth'; that still matters to you, doesn't it?"
"No," Ted lied, "it's just that I don't know if we're really married or not. You see, if I tell them all at the hall that I've married you, they'll ask where and when and --"
"Tell them tonight and here at my apartment."
"No, seriously, they'll assume I mean a legal marriage, and I can't lie to them. And they'll consider anything else living in sin."
"Just tell them God's laws are higher than man's. That's something they quote often enough when it means not serving their country. If God recognizes our marriage here tonight, what difference does it make if we have a government-issued license to make love or not?"
"Iíd rest easier with one, nonetheless." He said, searching her drooping eyes, hoping for a glimmer of giving-in to replace her current stubbornness. "It would make life easier for us all around, I think." He paused and remembered the word "proposal". He certainly never imagined it like this, lying naked in bed with his woman about to drift off to blissful sleep. "I love you, Cyn, will you marry me?"
"I already have," she yawned, closed her eyes, and turned on her side, pulling the sheets up around her, "but we'll make it legal and everything. In fact, Iíll go you one better -- you'll see. I have a surprise for you."
In another minute they were both asleep.
She fixed him breakfast the next morning and they arranged for her to meet him at his place after work with her surprise.
"Iíll be in trouble for not being home last night," he commented, biting his lip. "I'll have to think of some excuse that won't be a lie. But we won't be able to do this again till we get legally married. So you'll have to leave early tonight."
"Well, sure. I don't want to be in your room with all the kids around. But it's a meeting night, isn't it? Then we'll have all that time together till they get back." They both smiled in anticipation.
"I'll see you about seven, then," he said, hand on the door, "they should be gone by then." He gave her a parting kiss.
"If I can't sneak in earlier -- never trust me," she smiled and watched him walk down the hall.
The elderly lady peeked out her door at him again, imagining that she wasn't seen. "Good morning!" Ted called to her in a much too cheery voice that took her by surprise. "Morning," she replied in a rather crabby tone.
Ted went directly to work, thinking up an excuse while on the bus so that he could promptly phone the Johnson's when he arrived.
It was Vonnie who answered the phone; "Where have you been?" She demanded, sounding like a worried mother, "The kids said you didn't come home at all last night. We're worried sick about you. Are you all right? Why didn't you call?"
"Hang on. I had to stay overnight at a Bible study's house. A real friendly person -- just wouldn't let me go -- kind of lonely, you know. We talked about the Truth all night till it was too late to come home. So when the offer was made to stay over, I figured it would be a real gesture of friendship to do so."
"A new study?" she asked, sounding somewhat suspicious, "What's his name?"
"Newness is relative;" he hedged, "we're all new to the Truth, as Brother Olson always says." Actually, Brother Olson never said this to Ted's knowledge, and it caused him to wonder just how many sayings of his were apocryphal. "Oops! It's starting time -- gotta run. See you!" He hung up and breathed a sigh of relief. It was now up to Vonnie to relate the story believably or as an unlikely excuse.
Turning around, he saw Bill Jackson standing there with a knowing smile. "Been out all night at a Bible study, huh? You really expect them to believe that?"
"Don't you know it's impolite to eavesdrop?"
"Sorry. But tell me about last night. You know I was the one who suggested you go see Cynthia, so if you did and you hit it off -- well, you should thank me."
"Very well, thank you," Ted said as Bill motioned him into the chair opposite him by one of the break-room tables. "I was with her all night, it's true. We're back together again, and I'm glad I went over there. But that wasn't a lie I told just now, because she is my Bible study."
"Yes, and it's very important never to lie, isn't it," Bill responded as if he didn't mean it. "But donít you feel the least bit guilty about spending the night with her like that? That doesn't sound like you."
"I know. I always figured that if I did something like that I'd be real guilty, but it didn't happen. I jut felt good about it, and I couldn't convince myself that there was anything wrong with it."
"Yes," Bill agreed, "I've always wondered how anyone could imagine that God doesn't like us to enjoy ourselves, and that he gets real mad about it. Why should God care what you do? How could it possibly affect him if you go to a meeting or stay home? What difference could it possibly make to him if you swear or not, or if you sleep alone or with someone? Why should he get upset about it? It's the height of egotism to think that he would, or that there's a multitude of demons cheering you on to do the very opposite of what God wants you to do. It's not only nonsense, it's megalomania and paranoia as well."
"I'm not so sure about that," Ted said, "I believe that God cares."
"You've still got a long way to go then. Look around the world and tell me what it is that God cares about. Lives? Peace and plenty? Love? Show me one thing he cares about enough to actually do something about it. And if you're fool enough to tell me that he has done something somewhere, Iíll force you to admit that he's done a poor job of it.
"You can't go through life striving to do what God wants you to do," Bill argued, "because it's always just what you think your God wants you to do, or, even worse, what someone else tells you their God wants you to do. You can never know if any God exists, much less what he wants of you, if anything at all. For if such an all-powerful being really exists with all the infinite cosmos at his disposal, do you imagine for one moment that your little life would have any effect at all on his vast eternal plan? Or that God cares whether or not you get enough subscriptions to the Watchtower and Awake magazines; or whether you sleep alone, like a good little boy, or make love to your woman?"
"You do make it sound ridiculous," Ted admitted.
"I can make it sound more ridiculous," Bill continued. "Imagine, if you can, (for I surely can't), that this omnipotent being who created the entire universe, somehow patterned himself after the gods of mythology and had a son through a virgin woman on earth. And he let his son die so that mankind could live forever so long as they believed this incredible story."
"That I find little difficulty in believing," Ted insisted.
"That's because it's part of your culture. But you should start thinking for yourself." Bill advised. Then, looking at the clock he concluded, "Well, it's time to go to work now. You think about what I said."
And he did. It seemed to him that Satan was doing his best to pull the Truth out from under him like a rug and leave him tumbling down to utter destruction. Bill could make his atheism sound logical, and Arthur could make Christendom's views tenable, so that all three sides of the triangle seemed correct at the same time. But he had to choose just one side on faith rather than reason, like Arthur had done. But which side did Ted belong to?
He had convinced himself once of having committed the unforgivable sin when he'd masturbated. Now he'd committed fornication, which was considered much worse: a disfellowshipping crime if ever there was one. But he no longer believed that being out of the organization meant death, and he couldn't make himself feel guilty about loving Cyn. He was smack-dab in the middle of the triangle, spinning dizzily.
He stopped at the liquor store after work and picked up a bottle of wine for the occasion. When he got home, he started right in cleaning the place. He especially fixed up the bedroom, taking pains to make the boys' beds as well as his own. "Iíll have to remember to mess them up again before they get back tonight," he thought.
They hadn't planned on eating or anything, so he wondered what else he could do in preparation. He wanted to get candles out and set the table for a romantic dinner, but what if she'd eaten already? Besides, he wasn't a cook. So he put on romantic music instead.
"Maybe we can dance," he said to himself, clearing a spot in the living room by moving the furniture tight against the walls.
And then he waited, glancing through the Kingdom Ministry just to get an idea of what would be discussed at the meeting that night.
Eventually he heard Richard's car doors slam and a couple minutes later the horn honked. Still he waited.
He heard footsteps running up the steps and a forceful, rapid knock. "Ted!" Bobby's voice called through the door, "Ted, are you in there? C'mon, we're waiting for you!"
"Iím not feeling very well," Ted called back, pinching his arm so as not to lie about what he was feeling, "Tell them to go without me."
"Okay," Bobby yelled and ran back down the steps. In a moment the car door slammed again and Ted listened as the car took off. Cyn, he recalled, was going to try to make it here before now. But maybe she was hanging around close by waiting for them to leave. He waited.
He was still waiting at 7:30, and he was getting nervous. He went downstairs and, using the key they'd given him in case of emergencies, tried to open the Johnson's door. It wouldn't turn. So he went back upstairs and put on his heavy coat and winter boots.
It was snowing fast and thick as he walked out into the white night towards the phone booth. He slipped around and actually fell once into a snow-bank. Conditions were bad, and maybe Cyn had decided for that reason not to come. "It must've started just as soon as I got home from work," he reasoned as he trudged down the unshoveled walk to the corner phone booth that swallowed his dimes.
The phone rang and rang, and no one answered it. He counted the rings until they totaled twelve -- still no answer. He sadly hung up the phone and turned to leave. But, thinking that he may have dialed the wrong number, he tried once more. This time it stopped ringing on the third count, but no one answered. The phone just plain went dead -- no dial tone or any other sound.
He walked to the edge of the street to look down the lane in case he should spot her walking along. Instead, he saw the flashing red light of a police car a couple of blocks away with the usual crowd milling about the sight of an accident. Ted had never felt any particular desire to be at the scene of a fire or accident, and had always wondered why others raced to the spot when they didn't care. Perhaps it was just to see some violence or to say they were there. (What empty lives they all led!) But he figured he'd better hurry home in case Cyn got there ahead of him.
Now, the phone booth happened to be in front of a pizza parlor, and Ted thought this would be the perfect solution to having something to eat on hand. It wasn't really romantic food, but it was good. So he went in and ordered one with the works. As he stood there waiting impatiently and wishing he'd left a note for Cyn on his door, a young man came into the place and immediately began talking to the man who was preparing Ted's pizza.
"Big accident down the street," he announced as if proud to have been an eyewitness after the fact. "This guy comes flyin' down the street in a '67 ChevÖ" There followed a long description of the car before he resumed the story, "skiddin' like hell all over the road, and he slams into this black chick crossin' the street way over on the left side --"
"What?" Ted shouted in anger.
"A black girl -- okay, a Ďcolored womaní. What d'ya want from me, man? So anyway, his rear-end slams into her, and he's tryin' to steer out of it, or maybe he's tryin' to get away. Anyway, he steps on it, really floors it, and smacks right into a telephone pole!" At this he burst out laughing at what he considered a funny situation. "The cops and the ambulance arrived at the same time, and the cops wanted to give him a breath-test, but the ambulance guys wouldn't let 'em; they whisked him right off to the hospital. But I don't think there was anything wrong with him, he was just goin' too fast on all that new snow."
"What happened to the girl?" Ted asked, excitedly.
"Oh, they took her away in an ambulance too."
"Was she hurt? What did she look like?"
"Hell, how should I know if she was hurt? It's dark out there, you know. They took her off in a stretcher, so I don't think she was conscious."
"What did she look like? Did she have on a long beige coat with an eskimo-type hood?"
"Yeah, that's her. You know her?"
"What hospital did they take her to?"
"Hell, I don't know; the County I suppose."
Ted ran out and started running down the busy street, wondering about the best way to get there quick. He didn't know what bus went out that way. On the next corner he saw a taxi stopped for a light, so he ran up to it and hopped in.
"Listen, Mack, I'm on a call here. Find yourself another cab!"
"This is an emergency! My wife's just been hit by a car. Take me to the County Hospital."
"Sure, everything's an emergency. But that don't pay the bills. I gotta pick up a fare and take 'em to the airport. Now that's an eight-dollar tab plus a dollar tip at least. You willin' to pay me that to take you downtown? 'Cause if you're not --"
"Iíll pay it, just move!"
The driver sped off beyond the speed limit, but at every stoplight an eternity ticked away which seemed to be dragged out even longer by the man's constantly running mouth. "Yeah, a lotta accidents today, I'll bet. People don't know how to take it a little easy when they don't know how to drive in this stuff. Ninety percent of your drivers shouldn't be allowed on the road. You got old ladies out there on the road that can't even see. Hell, they can't even walk, some of 'em, an' what the hell they givin' 'em a license for? I'll bet it was a woman what hit your old lady, huh?"
"Listen, could you just shut-up and drive? I'm very upset right now."
"Sure Mack. But don't worry, I seen 'em come outta some pretty tight scrapes. I once saw a guy get pinned under the wheel of a semi--" And so he went on and on long after Ted had shut him out completely.
"Okay, you got ten bucks?" the driver asked as he pulled up in front of the hospital entrance.
"No, I've got $4.15; but since the meter only reads $3.75, I'm sure you'll be happy to keep the extra change." Ted handed him the money and ran out, hearing the torrent of abuse the cabby heaped upon him as he hurried through the glass door.
"Did you just get a car accident victim in here by the name of Cynthia Rose?" he asked the nurse at the counter.
She quickly ran her finger down the list and responded, "Yes we did. Are you a relative?"
"No, I'm her fiancé. Is she all right?"
"I'm afraid the doctor has placed her on the critical list for the moment. If you'll just wait here a minute Iíll call the doctor for you."
"No, let him stay with her if she need him."
"Well, there's a little problem I understand about blood, and they can't do anything until they get permission from a relative. Just a minute."
In a minute an imposing looking doctor stood before Ted. He was in his fifties, about a foot taller than Ted, with a magnificent beard. "Hello, I'm Dr. Schwartz," he said, shaking Ted's hand briefly, "I understand you're Miss Rose's fiancé?"
"That's right. How is she?"
"Iíll be frank with you, young man, she's in a very bad way. She's lost a lot of blood and it needs to be replaced. But we found this in her purse." He held a little card in his hand that was instantly familiar to Ted. It was the old style baptism card with a "no blood" statement on the other side.
"It says here," the doctor continued, "that she's a baptized Jehovah's Witness and refuses any blood transfusion. Our hands are tied unless some relative is going to take responsibility. I know what these people are like. They're likely to sue you for saving their life. Would you sign a paper taking responsibility? She'll die within the hour without blood."
"But I'm not a relative," he declared, trying to pass off the responsibility and not yet thinking clearly.
"Do we have time to contact any others? Do you know where her family is?"
"No, she's got an uncle somewhere, but they're out of touch."
"That leaves you, and time's a wasting. Will you sign the paper?"
"It's not that easy, doctor. You see, I'm a Jehovah Witness --"
"Oh God!" Dr. Schwartz exclaimed, holding his hands to his head and walking away from him down the hall.
"Doctor!" the nurse on station called after him, causing him to turn around, "I've called the local Jehovah's Witness church and they're sending someone right out. Meanwhile there's someone there who wants to talk to you."
The doctor picked up the phone and was informed that there was no record of Cynthia Rose having been baptized, but that if she had a card saying that she was, and that she refused blood transfusion, the Witnesses would stand behind her as she upheld that Biblical principle.
"Under no circumstances are you to give that girl blood, or you'll have a lawsuit on your hands," the brother told him. Ted was to learn later that it was Bob Morrow who was on the other end.
"Well?" Ted asked as the doctor hung up the phone.
"What do you think? They say she wasn't baptized, but that I'd better not give her blood anyway! So now you'll have to fight them as well as her if you want her to live. But you won't do that, will you?"
"What authority do I have?"
"What authority do you have?" Dr. Schwartz repeated in astonishment, "What authority do they have? Don't you love this girl? Are you going to let her die because of what they say?"
'No, I wouldn't if it were just that, but the Bible itself is very clear. It says we must abstain from blood.
"Listen," Dr. Schwartz said sternly, "I'm a Jew, and we know what the Law means. It means not to eat the blood of animals. It doesn't mean blood transfusions; how could it when they didn't have blood transfusions back then? You Christians claim that those dietary restrictions all passed away anyway; you eat pork, don't you? So why not blood? How can you let someone you love die over semantics?"
"But that law didn't pass away," Ted argued in a daze, "and transfusion is the same as eating because when you can't eat normally they feed you intravenously, so the restriction holds."
"So God wants Cynthia Rose to die rather than have blood in her veins? What kind of monster is it you worship! Come with me and see what you're doing first-hand." He grabbed Ted roughly by the shoulder and ushered him down the hall, through the doors, and up to the emergency room. He didn't let him go in, not being sterile, but had him peer though the window in the door. There she was, hardly recognizable with tubes leading into her nose and a large black tube in her mouth connected to a respirator. The sheets were soaked in blood, even though most of the bleeding had been stopped. The air was pricked with the steady bleep of the monitors as doctors and nurses scurried around but didn't seem to be doing anything to immediately help Cyn.
"Why aren't they doing something to help her?" Ted asked through his tears. He felt faint.
"What her body needs right now is blood." Dr. Schwartz explained, "The cells need the oxygen and corpuscles in blood to begin the massive healing that must take place. There's nothing else we can do till she gets that."
"Let me make a quick phone call," Ted requested, "and then Iíll tell you. I just don't know what to do right now."
The doctor took him back to the waiting area and Ted called the nursing home. Arthur was already asleep and the nurse was loath to wake him, but Ted insisted. A groggy-voiced brother greeted him.
"Hello, is that you, brother?"
"It's Ted Evanston, Brother Olson. I'm sorry to disturb you but I need your advice in an emergency. Cyn Rose has been hit by a car and they want to give her blood. What should I do?"
"Blood? No blood," Arthur groaned as if someone was trying to force him into taking it; he was really only half awake.
"So I shouldnít let them give her blood?" he asked. Doctor Schwartz looked on in exasperation, motioning to let him speak to the crank on the phone, but Ted wouldn't let him.
"Your own conscience," Arthur was wheezing over and over.
"But I don't know," Ted confessed, "What would you do? The Bible says to abstain from blood. I don't want both of us to lose out on eternal life because I gave her blood!"
"Mark 7:15," Arthur breathed, scarcely audible, "Mark 7:15; nothing. Nothing." Arthur replaced the receiver and fell back to sleep.
"I need a Bible," Ted told the doctor who stood in impatient expectation of a yes or no. He slipped into an empty room and took a Gideon Bible out of a drawer, came back and handed it to Ted.
Quickly turning to Mark 7:15, he read, ĎThere is nothing from without man, that entering into him can defile him: but the things which come out of him, those are they that defile a man.í
"Well, what's it say?" the doctor demanded.
Ted was about to answer, when, looking up, he spotted a furiously determined-looking David Nelson storm into sight.
"Did they give her any blood yet?" David asked, out of breath.
"No we didn't. She's dying rapidly because of your insane rule," Dr. Schwartz reported.
"We're not insane by obeying God's laws." David explained. "We must abstain from blood, even if it means our lives, which it very seldom does. There are blood substitutes, you know. Have you given her saline solution?"
"Oh God!" Dr. Schwartz shouted, "Now he's going to tell me how to practice medicine! They tell you that you can live without blood even when the doctors say blood is necessary, don't they. Well, that all looks very fine on paper, I'm sure. But this is real life, gentlemen, and it doesn't quite work as well as your dreams. That girl will be dead very shortly unless she has whole blood and nothing but blood. She needs the oxygen in it that you just can't get from salt-water."
"Give her blood," Ted declared, "Iíll take full responsibility."
David Nelson's mouth dropped open in shock. "Brother, you don't know what you're saying!" Then, turning to the doctor, "I forbid this absolutely. He has no say in this matter. She's thrown herself on the sanctuary of the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society by means of signing that baptism card and carrying it on her, and we mean to protect her everlasting life by keeping her unconscious body from blood. If you don't want an enormous malpractice suit on your hands, you'd better forget about transfusion and give her a substitute."
"No, brother, listen," Ted foolishly pleaded, "Nothing that enters into a person can defile him."
"That's the Bible -- Jesus' words at Mark 7:15. Nothing that enters a person's body can defile him -- nothing! That's what Jesus said! So a blood transfusion can't defile her. It's all right. Brother Olson told me --"
"Nonsense!" David cried, "Jesus was talking about something else there. He was talking about eating in the first place."
"But isn't that one of our main arguments:" Ted asked, "that a blood transfusion is eating blood just like intravenous feeding is eating? I just used it on this doctor here."
"But Jesus went on to say," David explained, "that the reason unclean foods didn't defile a person was because they passed through his body and out into the sewer. That doesn't happen with blood; it enters right into the bloodstream and is retained in the body."
"Then it's not like eating after all, is it?" Ted reasoned, "And we've wasted all that paper and all those words in arguing that it was. But if it isn't eating blood, then it's all right, isn't it? The Bible just had the eating of blood in mind. But if you say that transfusion isn't eating, then there's no law against it!" Ted argued.
"But it is eating," David insisted.
"Then Jesus' words must apply that 'nothing entering into a person can defile him'; they must apply in any case because he says 'nothing,' and that must include blood," Ted reasoned.
"And I suppose," David began in his best oratorical sarcasm, "that poison mushrooms and marijuana can also enter the body and not defile it in that case?"
"Blood isn't a poisonous drug," the doctor commented.
"It is to our everlasting life," David countered.
"Why? Certainly God wants us to do all we can to save life!"
"No, not all we can. The Witnesses of Jehovah are prepared to give up their lives on the basis of principles. We would rather die than commit idolatry such as saluting the flag, for instance. Don't you agree that it would cost a Christian his everlasting life to commit idolatry or fornication? And why is that? Because these acts break God's laws. Well, abstaining from blood is also one of God's laws, so we must not break it either. In fact, all these things are classed together in Acts the fifteenth chapter, just to show that they are all of the same seriousness:
"'To abstain from things polluted by idols and from fornication and from what is strangled and from blood,' in verse 20; and again in verses 28 and 29:
"'For the holy spirit and we ourselves have favored adding no further burden to you, except these necessary things, to keep abstaining from things sacrificed to idols and from blood and from things strangled and from fornication. If you carefully keep yourselves from these things you will prosper. Good health to you!'"
"Ha! a lot of good health it brings, doesn't it!" Dr. Schwartz commented sarcastically.
"But brother, listen," Ted implored, "it just came to me: that classifies taking blood with fornication and things sacrificed to idols, right?"
"That it does, and they're very serious offenses, so you can see how serious taking blood is," David assured.
"But on this eating of foods sacrificed to idols, the Watchtower says it's all right. Because Paul said in 1 Corinthians that we could eat meat sacrificed to idols and not worry about it. That it was all right unless it bothered someone else, and then if it offended them you shouldn't do it for their sake."
"Yes, that's right," David agreed.
"Well, then, if this thing that's classed with taking blood is in fact permissible, and was only to be avoided if it would offend someone else's weak conscience, blood must be all right too. You see what I mean?"
"Yes, that's one of Christendom's arguments," David explained. "They claim that abstaining from blood was just a temporary measure imposed so as not to stumble the believing Jews. The gentiles who became Christians had to abstain from eating of blood and food sacrificed to idols because they'd stumble their Jewish brethren who'd become Christians. Christendom claims that it was never meant as an everlasting law."
"Well, doesn't that fit in with what Paul says about eating food sacrificed to idols?" Ted asked.
"What Paul says in First Corinthians, chapter ten, verses 25 through 30," David pronounced, taking great pride in knowing exactly where the quote in question was from, "has nothing to do with what Acts, chapter fifteen is talking about. The one has to do with eating at a friend's home and the other with eating at the temple of the idol --"
"It says nothing about the location, " Ted corrected, "only to abstain, period."
"Brother," David began in a condescending tone, "it's against God's law to take blood, believe me. Better minds than yours have spent years studying this question. We wouldn't enforce it on God's people unless we knew it to be his law. You've only been in the Truth a few months; not even a year, and you're succumbing to the pressure of the situation and not seeing things too clearly."
"No, brother, you're wrong," Ted replied. "I'm seeing things more clearly now that I ever have. I'll tell you why the Society lets us die; it's not because it's God's law. God doesn't want us to die. It's just for publicity. The Society will do anything, believe anything, no matter how outlandish, in fact the more outlandish the better, just to get publicity."
David was shocked at Tedís impertinence and said, "You don't know what you're saying."
"Don't I? What did Jesus say when he was accused of breaking the precious Sabbath law? The law the Jews were certain was from God, the law they knew God would punish them for breaking? He said the law was for man's good, not man for the law's good. He told them that if they ever really read the Scriptures they'd see where David entered into the holy place and ate the showbread which it was unlawful for anyone but the High Priest to eat. And he and his men ate it because they were starving to death --"
"Actually, it was any of the priests that could eat it, not just the High Priest," David noted matter-of-factly, "The account is in Mark, chapter two, verses 23 through 28."
"Damn it! Listen to me!" Ted screamed, "Christ himself spoke of that incident approvingly; he used it as an example of his own actions of breaking the law and eating something that was forbidden under God's law to eat in order to save life! Don't you see that it's the same thing here? If a blood transfusion is eating blood, and that's forbidden under God's law, it's still all right to have the transfusion in order to save life. King David did the same thing, and Jesus approved. What higher authority could you want?" And turning to the doctor Ted once again ordered, "Give her the blood."
"He has no authority to tell you that," David countered, "He's not a relative or anything."
"My God, man! He's the girl's fiancé. Aren't you gonna let him have any say in the matter?"
"No one has any say as long as she's carrying that card. And I'm here to make sure her wishes are complied with."
The nurse once again called to Dr. Schwartz, "Doctor, I have another one of those people on the line."
"One of what people?"
"Jehovah's Witnesses," she said quietly.
"You call them people? Let one of them answer it, I've heard enough!"
David stepped over to the counter and picked up the phone. Ted waited impatiently, aware for the first time how much time had lapsed since the doctor had given Cyn an hour to live.
"Well?" Ted asked a couple of minutes later when David had finished.
"Strange news," he said thoughtfully, "That was Terry Barton. Seems his wife is the one who baptized Cynthia."
"Yes. She wasn't at the meeting tonight, but Terry heard about what happened afterwards and decided he'd better call and tell me. He isn't sure when she did it."
"What difference does that make? I didn't know Phyllis had baptized Cyn. That must be the surprise she was going to tell me tonight: that she got baptized so I could marry her guilt-free!"
"It makes a great deal of difference." David explained, "If she baptized her after she was disfellowshipped, it couldn't possibly count. But if it was before then, I don't know. They're really supposed to be baptized by a brother unless it's an emergency situation. And then there are the 80 questions. There's no record of her having answered them at all."
"You mean the Society doesn't consider her baptized?"
"It's hard to say at this point. It's an interesting problem."
"An interesting problem?" Ted echoed in disbelief. "Cyn is dying in there! Do you have authority over whether she dies or not?"
"I don't know. Terry's on his way home to ask Phyllis when it was she baptized Cynthia. Then he's gonna call us back."
"We haven't got time for all that," Dr. Schwartz said in exasperation, "Can I give her the blood or not? It's probably already too late."
"In that case it's a moot question," David replied.
"I've never seen anyone so heartless," Dr. Schwartz replied in disbelief.
"Listen, Brother Nelson," Ted tried once more, "Doesn't the Bible say that love is the law's fulfillment? And doesn't Paul say that all things are lawful?"
'Yes, that's in 1 Corinthians 10:24."
"Could you just stop thinking about where things are for a minute and think about what they mean? I love this girl. That fulfills the law. That is the law! And my love for her wants to keep her alive. If all things are lawful, blood transfusion is lawful, isn't it? Or doesn't it come under the heading of 'all things'?"
"You've been talking too much to old Brother Olson, I can tell."
And so it went, with neither of them getting anywhere, and Cyn's life steadily flowing away.
But the mention of Brother Olson brought another argument to Ted's mind, and his mind was buzzing in an effort to argue life back into Cyn. "Brother Nelson," he began, "do you remember reading a question in the Kingdom Ministry where some brother wondered whether or not it would be against God's law to give blood for his own private use and have it stored in case he needed it? He figured it would be all right since it was his own blood he'd be giving in a transfusion, and the only thing wrong with it in the first place is that the life is in the blood, and you shouldn't take someone else's life."
"It was something like that, yes." David smiled condescendingly.
"Well," Ted continued, "that was wrong according to the Society because you should never store blood; you're supposed to pour it out on the ground and cover it up like when you drain the blood from an animal. Right?"
"That's what they said, yes."
"But in Brother Olson's dialysis, when the machine breaks down, his blood is stored in the machine for the length of time it takes them to fix it before it flows back into him. Isn't that the same thing as what that brother wanted to do, only the time interval is Shorter?"
"Essentially, yes. But the machine breaking down isn't an intentional thing, and we can't be responsible for accidents."
"Well, even if it doesn't break down, the blood flows out of him and is in the machine for a while before it flows back in. It's still the same thing, only the time interval is shorter still, and the Society says that's all right. You see, they don't know what they're talking about; they just make it up as they go along. Just like they used to say it was a sin to have a vaccination because they thought there was blood in it -- they were wrong but wouldn't listen to anyone."
Just then the phone rang. David answered it, and spoke with Phyllis. She related that Cyn wanted to get baptized as a surprise for Ted so he would more readily marry her. Phyllis, wanting to prove that a sister had just as much authority as a brother to make converts, dunked her in the bathtub without the formalities of all the 80 questions. None of this made the baptism invalid since no one could read what was in Cyn's heart when she made the "public declaration" for her faith. But Phyllis baptized Cyn after the elders told her she was going to be disfellowshipped and before the official announcement to the congregation. It was now left up to the Jesuitical mind of David Nelson to determine whether or not she was actually in a disfellowshipped state in that interval. If she was, then the baptism of Cyn, he figured, wouldn't count, and he would have no real authority to forbid the transfusion.
It was 'an interesting problem'.
The meeting had ended and a few of the elders, including the two new ones, Bob Morrow and Richard Johnson, joined Elder Nelson in his deliberations at the hospital. Forty-five minutes later they had reached the conclusion that Cyn's baptism was invalid; therefore, they would do nothing to interfere with the transfusion. Ted, of course, would have to consider himself disfellowshipped for pleading for the transfusion to take place. It took them another ten minutes to explain all this to Ted since David insisted on going through all the Scriptural considerations he'd taken into account before allowing anyone to talk to the doctor.
With these deliberations finally over, Ted rushed over to the nurse on station and asked her to inform Dr. Schwartz to go ahead with the transfusion.
"I'm afraid it's too late." the nurse said gently, "Cynthia Rose died three minutes ago."