A Second Chance!
A Second Chance!
Sometimes when someone dies and is given their ‘wings’, there’s a catch. When John Taylor died on May 16, 1967 at the age of 40 at home just before breakfast from a heart attack he was in for another shock. When he had ascended the steps to heaven’s gate, the angel on the other side shook his head no when John asked to be let in. “But I have my angel’s wings. Why won’t you let me enter heaven?” he pleaded.
The angel was compassionate in his answer and told John what he had to do first before he could enter the gates of heaven. “The wings God has given you aren’t the same as mine John and there’s a reason for that. In ‘The book of names’ are the names of those who are allowed to enter heaven, but there also names of men and women who haven’t fully earned their angel’s wings.
What this means is that they must complete one more task on earth to show God they are worthy to enter these gates.” he said. John was desperate and confused and pleaded with the angel to tell him what task he had to complete. “When you return to earth John, you will find yourself near a town in which a woman will desperately need your guidance.
She too in the end will pass away but before that happens; she will fulfill something very important to her and to God. Neither she nor anyone on earth will see your angel’s wings until the time is right. You will be a stranger to her and look just like anyone in her town. A child’s life will rest in her hands and what she does or doesn’t do will depend on whether she will earn her angel’s wings and pass through this gate.
Your task is to guide her John and be a source of comfort and strength to her. However, you cannot tell her what to do or intervene and alter in any way that which is to come to pass. I cannot tell you if the child who desperately needs her help will live or die. I can only tell you that she must follow her heart or mind. By completing this task you will have fully earned your angel’s wings John and they will be as pure and white as mine are. Only then can I open this gate for you.” the angel said.
As John looked at his feet and then back up into the angel’s eyes he asked two important questions. First, he asked how he would find the place on earth where the woman he was. “These stairs will end up near the woman’s town John.” the angel said. Next John asked, “How old is the woman and how will I know she is the one I am to help?” John asked anxiously.
The angel looked through the gate and explained. “Her name is Lisa Montgomery and she lives in a small town called Hoodsport in the state of Washington. You cannot tell her or anyone on earth that you are an angel John nor can you do anything to choose the fate of the child. What you can do is do what you do the best, be her friend. As her friend you can influence her in the choices or decisions she makes.” the angel explained.
Tears were now falling from John’s eyes as he realized that he might not be able to enter the gates of heaven if the woman he had to help made the wrong choice. “You said that a child’s life rests in her hands. I know she must decide to save the child’s life or let the child die. But if the woman chooses wrong and doesn’t earn her angel’s wings will I be allowed to enter these gates?” John asked in a fearful voice.
The angel paused for the longest moment and John saw he was deep in thought. “If the woman makes the right choice, you both will pass through these gates. But if she chooses wrong John, I’m sorry but your wings will be taken back and you cannot enter heaven.” The angel said in a sad voice. With a heavy heart John turned around and began walking down the long stairway back to earth.
The stairway ended inside the ruins of an old stone church in a forest. As quickly as the stairway disappeared behind him so did John’s wings. Beside him appeared a large box. John found clothing, a watch, money, sleeping bag and a canvas bag with a shoulder strap. Inside the bag were a variety of handyman tools. John put the shirt, watch and jacket on before picking up the sleeping bag. Then he slipped the tool bag of over his shoulder.
He made his way down a hiking trail to the town below. The forest had a deep smell of earthiness to it as he heard the sounds of squirrels, frogs and birds. Bright green sword ferns were seen to his left and right as he kept his balance. Soon he could see buildings below and he smelled saltwater in the air. Hoodsport was a small town beside a saltwater canal leading to the ocean. The waterway was called Hood Canal.
When he reached the road, he saw that Highway 101 ran through the town with shops on both sides of the highway. A small school sat on the hillside to his left surrounded by trees. He saw an aquarium, motel, café, gas station and not more than a dozen other businesses. Surely it wouldn’t be hard for him to find the woman whose name was Lisa Montgomery.
As John stared at the cars, trucks and eighteen wheeler trucks passing by him, he regretted not asking the angel at the gate to heaven how old Lisa Montgomery was or what she looked like.
He decided to walk the four block length of the town and acquaint himself with the businesses. But before he had even walked a block, a blue 1967 VW van driven by a woman with long blonde hair stopped ahead of him.
As he reached the passenger door he saw her smiling as she reached over to the window and rolled it down. “If you’re headed up to Lake Cushman, I’m happy to give ya a ride.” she said as she smiled up at John. Just as he was about to say no thanks, she spoke, “My name is Lisa, what’s yours?” As John looked down he saw she had beautiful blue eyes.
“Well Lisa, my name is John Taylor and I just got into town. I don’t have a place to stay yet and was going to get myself a room at that motel over there.” he said in a friendly voice. “You looking for work?” Lisa asked in a friendly voice. John nodded. “What sort of things are ya good at?” Lisa asked as a freight truck noisily passed them. John gave out a laugh as he replied, “Well Lisa, the truth is I’m a ‘jack of all trades’ and a master at none.” as he let out a laugh.
Lisa pulled on the door handle and gave the door a push as she told John, “Well if ya don’t mind working for a woman, I might just be able to put you to work.” Go ahead and slide my van’s door open and you can put your things in there.” she said with a smile. After John got in and sat down in the seat beside her, Lisa looked over her shoulder for traffic and pulled back out onto the road.
“I don’t pick up hikers often. Truth is you’re the first man I have ever picked up. What’s your name?” she asked. John told the woman his name and she told him it was nice to meet him. As she made a left hand turn, he saw the green sign that said, ‘Lake Cushman Resort’ 7 miles ahead. When she saw him eyeing the sign she began to smile as she touched his shoulder to get his attention.
“I saw ya looking at that resort sign. That’s where we’re headed. I own the resort. It’s a beautiful place nestled at the edge of Lake Cushman. I have 10 cabins, a restaurant and a dock with boat rentals. But what I don’t have is a handyman.” Lisa said with a laugh in her voice. I can give ya a cabin to live in and a salary once you look the place over and decide if you could do the things I need done.
Frank was my handyman until about a week ago and he had a drinking problem. A couple bringing in one of my aluminum fishing boats found him floating beside the dock near a whiskey bottle. Since then I’ve had a hard time holding the resort together. George is my cook and he lives at one of my cabins. My waitresses drive up here from Hoodsport and I have a man named Jess who runs the bait shop.
Frank handled the painting, electrical, plumbing problems and kept all the trash cans around the resort dumped. That and keeping the burned out light bulbs replaced are my biggest concerns. I’m afraid of heights.” Lisa said as she let out an embarrassed laugh and looked over at John. “Plus, I don’t have the strongest arms to lift up the trash cans high enough to get then shaken into the large dumpster.
So you see how a handyman would help me keep up my business John. After I show you around the resort, if you’re looking for a steady job, we’ll talk about your wages. If not, I’ll be glad to take you back down the mountain to Hoodsport.” Lisa said. In truth she hoped John would take the job she offered him. She had a good sense of people and she had a nice feeling about him.
Lisa kept shifting gears as her van made its way up the steep winding mountain road. Suddenly Lisa stepped on the clutch and put her van in neutral as she stopped her van. A half a dozen deer were running across the road in front of her. As Lisa’s eyes sparkled, she looked over at John and told him that she loved catching a glimpse of deer on her way up or down the mountain. “I always worry about them deer jumping right out in front of me and making me hit one of them.” Lisa said in a worried voice.
By the time they reached the ‘Lake Cushman Resort’ rustic wood sign, she stopped her van and said, “Darn it!” Standing right next to the resort sign was a large bull elk with a huge rack. Lisa and John stared at the elk that turned his massive head and looked right at her van. They stared at each other for almost five minutes before the elk slowly wandered off into the woods.
When Lisa looked over at John she looked very disappointed. “I should have had my camera John. That picture would have been made into a million dollar postcard. I could have had my resort packed all season.” she said as laughed and shook her head. John liked Lisa and it hurt him to know that was going to die. He just didn’t know when. The angel hadn’t told him when.
Lisa turned left off the asphalt and made her way down hill on a rough dirt road through the woods. Soon the resort and lake were coming into view with scattered cabins here and there. In addition to the 10 cabins that were rentals, five other cabins were in need of repair. Being an alcoholic, Frank hadn’t been the most reliable of handymen but she felt sorry for him.
After she parked, she asked John if he would help her take in all the boxes of groceries she had bought in Shelton into her café. She introduced John to George her cook. He was a full blooded Skokomish Native American.
He chose not to live on the nearby reservation. Sarah and Christine were her waitresses but the café wasn’t open right now. They both worked evenings.
After all the boxes were brought in, Lisa asked John if she could give him a tour of her resort and let him decide whether he wanted the job or a ride back down the mountain. They walked first west along the road following the edge of the lake and then walked north uphill and then east making a loop. John saw the 30 foot long dumpster and understood why it would be hard for Lisa to dump the row of garbage cans beside it piling up.
Then she led the way down to the fishing and boating dock. It was a beautiful lake surrounded by heavily timbered mountains. The water was as smooth as a sheet of glass. Here and John saw trout jumping and making ripples in the water. John saw a dozen 12 foot aluminum boats, some with motors and some with only oars. She pointed out the cook’s cabin on a small hill to her left.
Suddenly a huge spotted owl flew above Lisa and John’s heads carrying a rodent in its claws. “Lisa put her hand over her heart as she looked at the owl flying away from them. It wasn’t more that 18 inches tall when seen sitting on a tree limb but its wing span was nearly four feet wide. As she composed herself and smiled over at John she told him she called the owl ‘Barney’.
Lord knows why I call that owl Barney. The name just sorta jumped out at me.” she said with a laugh. When they were finally standing back by her van, she turned and asked John her all important question. “Well John, I just gave ya the $5 tour. As you can see, it’s a rustic resort. Not much is complicated I think. If ya have a strong back and a little handyman skills, I think that you’d like it here.
Ya see that cabin up on the hill behind the main building?” Lisa asked as she pointed to the left of the lodge. “I can let ya live there. It’s the nicest cabin and has the most spectacular view of the lake and mountains. As for salary, you’ve seen the place. You tell me a salary that is reasonable to you and I’ll tell ya what I think. It’s not a 40 hour a week position. It’s more like fixing everything and then just handling someone’s complaints. So, what do ya think?” Lisa asked nervously.
John didn’t have to think twice. He knew he had to take the job and knew he could keep her place up. The truth was he liked Lisa and that complicated his feelings about her knowing what lay ahead of her. Lisa thought John was about to say no and that he wanted a ride back down the mountain. When she saw his smile and the look in his beautiful blue eyes she knew his answer.
I’d feel very lucky to be working for you Lisa. This is a beautiful place. It’s nestled so nicely in the woods and away from the main road I can barely hear when a car passes. As for wages, I’ll be happy with whatever you can afford to pay. Money doesn’t mean much to me.” John said as he extended his hand to Lisa. She eagerly shook his hand and asked him to come into the office and fill out the employment paperwork.
George will make your breakfast, lunch and supper John. Just walk in the back door and tell him what you’d like. There are also several soda and snack machines in front of the buildings. Let me give ya the key to cabin #4 and I’ll walk ya up there. After you put your things away stop by the front of the café and I’ll give ya a list of all the problems needing fixing.
Mind ya; they all don’t need to be fixed at once. We don’t open for fishing season for another month. Just do what ya can each day. If you need supplies I’ll be happy to drive you to Shelton to let ya get what ya need. Once all those things are fixed, it’s really just a matter of being available if something pops up. I’ll also give ya a pager. Cell phones don’t work up in the mountains.
If you get a page, just come down to the bait shop and I’ll meet ya out front.” Lisa said as her eyes sparkled. John nodded. “Well, if you get the cabin key and pager Lisa, I’ll take my things out of your van and we’ll walk up to the cabin.” John said with a smile. “If you look behind the work sheet I wrote down John, you’ll see a map of the resort.
It shows where each trash can go’s and where the floodlight poles are. The ladder you’ll need is in the storeroom too.” Lisa said as she smiled and walked away. John knew as he looked down at the work sheet in a few days he would have everything fixed. When Lisa returned, she gave John a pager for his belt and a key to the storeroom.
Before they headed for the cabin she showed him where the storeroom was. Then they walked back to her van and John took his bags out. Lisa led the way and she was excited that things were going to finally be fixed up at her resort. John didn’t seem like the lazy type and she had a good feeling about him. When they reached the cabin she stopped outside the door and turned around.
As she pointed out to the lake she spoke, “Just look at this view John.” It truly was a beautiful view. “Do ya like to fish, John?” Lisa asked. John was honest and told her he really hadn’t fished much. List shared her biggest grin as she said, “That’s what I like John, honesty. I don’t want a man lying to me to say what I want to hear. I feel the truth is always best.”
Little did Lisa know as John nodded that he could never tell the truth about why he had accepted the job at her resort. She unlocked the door and told him just to open the windows and air out the musty smell as she handed him the key. Lisa asked him what he wanted to do first as he held the clipboard in his hand. As he looked in the direction of the dumpster, he smiled and told her he probably should get the trash cans dumped first.
As she nodded, she told him that each cabin needed a trash can beside its front porch and that six trash cans were needed at the rear of the café and six more behind the bait shop. “Four trash cans go at the top of the dock and they have to have a rope tied to each handle so they don’t fall into the water or get strewn around by black bear.” Lisa said.
“You have black bear wandering around here?” asked John in a surprised voice. As Lisa put her hand on John’s forearm, she reassured him that cougar or black bear only came around at night and if they did come, they’d be snooping around the dumpster. “But I still tell everyone who stays in one of the cabins overnight not to come out after dark. That’s one of the reasons it’s important to keep the floodlights on John.
John headed in the direction of the trash dumpster as he smiled. In his left hand he carried the clipboard. Meanwhile, Lisa was making her way down the hill back to her office and she too was smiling. It wasn’t easy for John to empty each can as he strained to lift each one over his head. They were as full as they could be. When he got all the cans emptied, he looked at his clipboard and began walking down the road with a trash can in each hand.
When he finally got the last two trash cans where they went, he headed for the back door of the café. He found George sweating in front of the grill. George put his spatula down when he saw John and wiped his right hand on his apron before shaking John’s hand. “It’s nice to meet ya John. Lisa told me she hired someone ya as our handyman and that’s good news. There’s always something going wrong with the plumbing or electrical around here.” George said with a laugh.
John told the man he was glad to meet him. “You’ll find me here in this kitchen from sun up until everyone’s finished their supper. Once fishing season has started I’ll be here until about an hour before midnight.” George said with a grin. “But I love living out here, working for Lisa and I even find time to do some fishing.” George said as he let out a laugh. “Whenever you want breakfast, lunch or supper, just stop by and tell me what you’d like John.
There are six picnic tables out by the dock and when it’s raining you’ll appreciate the roof over the tables.” George said as he grinned. George asked John if he he’d like some lunch but John told him he had work to do. “I’ll come back for some supper when I get as much done as I can this afternoon.” John said as he turned and walked out the door. John went to the storeroom and brought out the extension ladder.
The map of the resort had red x’s where all the burned out floodlights were. One by one he replaced the light bulbs. Then he replaced the light bulbs that were burned out around the buildings. As the weeks passed, John crossed off each problem needing to be fixed. It was also his job to bail out the water that filled the boat rentals after it had rained. When fishing season started, John, Lisa and George found themselves quite busy.
By the time ‘Opening Day’ of fishing season arrived, the road down to the resort began filling with trucks or cars bulling boat trailers as well as campers, motor homes, RV’s and cars filled with anxious families whose children hoped to catch their first fish. With the opening of Lisa’s resort brought plenty of money into the café, bait shop and from boat rentals but also plenty of worries too.
Children were running around with parents being with them, adults were drinking alcohol and driver’s were short on patience when it came to what empty parking spaces two drivers would spot at the same time. Car break-ins weren’t uncommon and two large signs were posted asking customer’s to please lock up their vehicles. Another warning sign was posted at the top of dock ramp leading to where four floats were.
“Parents! Please watch your children when going down this ramp and when getting in and out of the boats. All children under 18 must wear an orange life jacket! Thank You! Management.” Lisa had liability insurance coverage on her resort and adequately posted signs helped to defend her from any lawsuits that might arise. John too had his hands full. Not only did he have to pick up litter people threw down but also clean up broken glass.
One family in particular renting one of the cabins for a month was testing Lisa’s patience. They had a 10 year old red haired daughter by the name of Sabrina. Short and simple, she was a spoiled brat who didn’t like following rules. This child seemed to delight in breaking every rule at the resort and Lisa could see it in her eyes. At least four times she had told Sabrina that she had to wear an orange life jacket in order to fish on the floats.
Lisa didn’t want to have any child at her resort die from drowning. That would be a terrible loss to not just parents but also bad for business. So Lisa tried her best to resist the impulse to get into a shouting match with the child who obviously wasn’t going to cooperate. The weather when Lisa’s resort opened for business was perfect with blue sky and warm breezes. All of her rental cabins were full.
Two weeks after fishing season had started as John left his cabin for the dock to see how full the trash cans were he thought about why he was here. He knew what the angel had told him but the angel didn’t tell him how long it would be from the time he met Lisa until Lisa would choose between saving a child’s life or let the child die. The angel also hadn’t told him if the child was meant to die or live.
Therefore, if he witnessed Lisa doing something or nothing, he wouldn’t know if what she was doing was the right thing to do. But one thing he did know for sure. Lisa was going to die. It saddened him to know that because he liked the woman. Something else bothered him. The angel hadn’t told him when Lisa would die. What if she wasn’t going to die for 20 years?
Was he supposed to work at this resort for the next twenty years? What if she found the child she was supposed to let die or save and he wasn’t there? Was he supposed to witness what she did? All these questions troubled John. But those questions were about to be answered. When John reached the top of the ramp leading to the floats where row boats were tied up to, he saw the 10 year old red-haired girl fishing. He also saw she wasn’t wearing an orange life jacket.
John was about to call out to her when he was startled when Lisa touched the back of his shoulder. When he turned around, she apologized for startling him. “I’m glad to see ya check on the trash cans John.
I was about to page ya.” she said in a soft voice. As Lisa looked down at the floats and saw that the red haired girls was fishing on the floats without wearing a life jacket she shook her head.
“I wish I could get it through that child’s head or her parents how easy it is to fall off one of these floats and drown, John.” Lisa said in a concerned voice. “Have you talked to the girl’s parents?” John asked. Suddenly Lisa broke out into a laugh as she shook her head. “Where do ya think that brat got her attitude John?” Lisa asked as she continued to laugh.
At that moment, the child on the float below John and Lisa fishing slipped on a trout on the deck she had taken off her hook and let out a scram as she fell into the water. Both John and Lisa saw the girl frantically trying to swim before she slipped under the water. Lisa was closer to the ramp than John and as she shouted to him that she couldn’t swim. “As much as she’s been a thorn in my butt I can’t let any child drown.” she said as she ran down the ramp and jumped off the float into the water.
John ran down the ramp behind her too. Lisa’s head popped to the surface holding onto the child as she desperately lifted the child into the air so John could grab onto her hands. As John struggled to pull the child gasping for a breath up onto the float, he saw Lisa’s face slip under the water and not come back up. As the child coughed and coughed from swallowing water, John knew Lisa had died saving the little girl’s life.
Suddenly John found himself once again at the bottom of the stairway to heaven only this time Lisa stood beside him. At first she was confused until she realized that she had drowned. With tears in her eyes she asked John if she had saved the child’s life and John touched her cheek and smiled and nodded.
When she saw his angel’s wings, this time they were as white as snow. That was when John said, “Your angel’s wings are beautiful Lisa.” and he offered his hand for her to hold. Together they walked up the never ending stairs until they reached the entrance to heaven. Once again, John met the same angel at the gate who had told him he wouldn’t be allowed to enter. But this time the angel smiled and pulled the gate all the way open and welcomed them both into heaven.
© 2013 Raymond Cook (All rights reserved)