The Visitor

by Jim Farrar (1976)

Morning had broken. The sun was rising slowly over the prairie which had been carpeted by frost the night before. It was a spectacular sunrise, one of the kind that makes a farmer in his field stop plowing for a few minutes and just look and possibly dream about enchanted lands, and storybook people in far off places.

The only house on the prairie was hidden now. The sun had swallowed it up in light as it was making its journey to the top of the sky. The frost was melting the dew sparkling like little slivers of glass as it did so. Yes it was beautiful, beautiful enough to convince one that God still had it in him to make the ordinary or even the ugly into something magnificent, yet at the same time this magnificence was underscored by serenity. Morning was off to a wonderful start. A hopeful start!

Many miles away the people in the city had paid no heed to the sunrise. Either they were too occupied with getting ready for work, or they were still asleep, their rest being too valuable to sacrifice just to watch the sun come up. They’d seen it before.

So had Albert Boss. He’d seen if from his hospital bed. Albert Boss was seventy-five yeas old, alone, and dying. He wondered how many more sunrises he’d seen before the invading cancer cells would achieve their ultimate objective. He really didn’t care.

He was pondering this question when a nurse came in and asked him what he’d like for breakfast. He didn’t hear her.

“Mr. Boss?” she said again.

“Oh! Excuse me. I didn’t hear you come in.”

“What would you like for breakfast?” she inquired.

“A poached egg and coffee will do fine,” he answered.

“We’ll have it ready in a few minutes.”

She smiled at him. Mr. Boss managed to smile back and thank her for her trouble. Albert Boss watched the nurse as she walked out of his room. She was young, pretty, and most important, she was abounding in life. He had struck out on all three counts, and he envied her. He hated his current status and wanted to change it as soon as possible. He just didn’t know how. He knew he’d be dead soon. He almost wished he could hasten the process.

He was visited by a doctor a few hours later. The physician wanted to advise him on his current condition. Albert Boss lost his composure and told the doctor, quite bluntly, that he didn’t give a damn about his current condition and would he please get the hell out of his room, he wanted to die in private. The good doctor could only shake his head in bewilderment as he got up. And that was the end of that.

It happened a few days after that. Albert Boss almost a pitiful figure of a man now, was lying in bed watching a soap opera, trying as best he could to pass the day away. He looked out the window. He saw a cloud. Nothing important, he’d seen clouds before.

The next time he turned his head toward the window, the cloud had changed its position, it was inside the room. Albert looked at the thing and saw that it had a phosphorescent appearance and was glowing brilliantly. Then, to Albert’s disbelief, this “floating light bulb” began to change form. Slowly, ever so slowly, it began to take the shape of a man. Albert couldn’t distinguish any features on his “visitor,” yet he did notice that it was wearing a robe. He knew he had to be having a nightmare. It must have been that chili he had for lunch.

The figure, pale and ghostly, walked over and stood by Albert’s bedside. He put a hand on Albert’s shoulder – it felt icy – and said in a voice that was soft, yet stern and seemed to be coming from outside the room: “It is not time for you to go. You still have time before you. Value it and use it, for it is a precious gift.”

“But I’m dying,” cried Albert in a very shaky voice. “I’ve got cancer. I’m terminal. The doctors even say so. I’m dying! I’m dead! Don’t’ you understand!"

“You will live!!” thundered the voice. “It is not time for us to take you! There is hope!”

Albert looked up at this, this thing in awestruck horror. There was a quality that he didn’t know or understand about his visitor that made Albert believe him. He buried his head in his pillow in hope that he might appease his fear.

When he looked up, he saw that his fearful guest had vanished almost as quickly as he had appeared. He figured it must have been a dream. He knew it was a dream. Then something at the foot of his bed caught his eye. Somebody had placed a large bone-white cross on his bedpost. He looked at it for a few minutes then he wept. That was all he really could do.

Back to Jim's Writing