Trisha Johnson  

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Extract from 'Miracles Don't Come Cheap'

Everyone in the audience craned their neck to see who would appear next. It was Joyce King, a sixty year-old paraplegic, pushed onstage in a wheelchair by her husband, Robert. Both she and her husband were wearing the ‘Dwyer uniform’ as Melissa had coined it, and her knees were covered with a tartan blanket. Dwyer crouched in front of her and reached for her hand. Though she was clearly in considerable pain, with her neck supported by a brace, she managed to smile. Dwyer twisted on the balls of his feet and addressed Robert, “How did she come to this tragic condition?”

Robert, scarcely able to hold back the tears, answered, in a barely audible voice, “A car accident.”

Dwyer held the microphone towards him and said, “Can I ask you to speak a little louder?” In response to Robert repeating his previous answer, Dwyer said, “Tragic, indeed.” After a brief glance in the direction of the audience, he asked, “And, how long has she had to endure this suffering?”

“Six months, three weeks and two days,” Robert replied.

“Six months, three weeks and two days,” Dwyer repeated. He shot the audience a long glance. It was a carefully contrived mixture of sympathy and hopelessness, as if, as before, he was intent on encouraging them to imagine, for themselves, Joyce’s suffering. “Tell me, Robert… I may call you Robert?”

Robert nodded.

Dwyer stood, still holding Joyce’s hand and, half turning towards the audience, asked, in a voice tinged with sadness, “So, tell me, Robert, is there no hope she will ever walk again?”

Robert shook his head. His knuckles turned white as he squeezed the handles of the wheelchair more tightly.

Dwyer released Joyce’s hand and crouched in front of her. “Tell me, Joyce,” he said, “do you believe in the Lord?”

Joyce’s composure left her. Tears ran down her cheeks as she whispered, “Yes.”

Dwyer made to move the microphone closer to her, but Robert answered for her in the affirmative. Dwyer, hadn’t achieved fame and fortune by seeming to be indifferent to people’s feelings and, aware that pressuring Joyce further might break the trance-like state he’d worked so hard to place his audience in, he pulled back and cried out, “The Lord watches over us. He sees our troubles, he shares our tribulations. It is through his love that we find within us the strength to carry on.” He withdrew the velvet bag from his pocket and extracted the crystal. “Can you hold this for me?” he asked Joyce, placing it in her extended hands. He wrapped his own hands around hers and asked Robert to move backwards a couple of paces. Without prompting, the audience called out, “A man needs room to do the Lord’s work!” Dwyer twisted and gave them a knowing smile, still holding her hands as the air began to vibrate. The soft, blue glow enveloped them, gradually growing in intensity until it was so bright that their bodies were no longer discernible. Once again, time seemed to slow. The glow slowly faded, revealing them positioned, as before, however the blanket was no longer draped over her knees, but folded neatly in her lap. Having returned the crystal to its bag, and slipped it into his inside jacket pocket, Dwyer removed the neck brace and held it above his head as he walked to the front of the stage and threw it into the audience. “She will not need this, again.” He turned on his heels and stood before her, extending his arms and inviting her to take a hold of his hands.

Joyce hesitated, and then reached for them.

“The Lord is merciful,” Dwyer crooned, tensing his back and legs.

“The Lord is merciful,” the audience echoed.

He started to pull Joyce to a standing position. “The Lord is merciful,” he said, breathing harder. “Praise the Lord.”

“Praise the Lord,” the audience repeated.

“Praise the Lord, for he is merciful,” Dwyer cried, pulling Joyce to her feet. The blanket fell to the stage and lay between their feet. Dwyer kicked it clear and moved backwards, slightly, bringing Joyce with him. She managed to drag her right foot a few inches. Dwyer tensed as she tried to move the left foot a similar distance. He supported her for a few moments, and then released her. She seemed about to fall, but her atrophied muscles still had sufficient strength to allow her to stand, if only for a while. Robert reached her just as she was about to fall. She wrapped her arms about his neck and he helped her back to the wheelchair. Perspiration soaked her hair and ran down her face, but her expression was one of pure triumph. The audience, with the exception of Melissa jumped to its feet, crying, “She is healed. Praise the Lord for he is merciful.”

Dwyer, clearly weakened by the tremendous effort of lifting Joyce’s dead weight, wobbled and looked as if he might fall. Robert extended his arm, which Dwyer took with a smile of thanks. He moved back behind the curtain track as Robert and Joyce were escorted from the stage. He opened his arms wide. “May the Lord bless you and keep you.”

The curtains closed.


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