The following is a true story. . .
Imagination is a quality given a man to compensate him for what he is not,
and a sense of humor was provided to console him for what he is.
Wisdom is ofttimes nearer when we stoop than when we soar.
THE MAGIC STONE
by D.W. Webster (©1992)
Certain events in one's life leave an indelible mark. For me, even as nearly four decades have past, I can still clearly recall my childhood quest for an enchanted object: a magic stone.
At the tender age of five, growing up in the small Gulf Coast town of Venice, Florida, I was not what you'd call the picture of health. I stood a mere thirty-three inches tall and weighed just thirty-three pounds. A skinny, knocked kneed kid, whose only goal in life was to be like Roy Rogers, The King of the Cowboys.
My parents, concerned by my lack of appetite and puny physique, learned after a trip to the local doctor, that I had tonsillitis. An operation was in order immediately. So, the very next day, my mother put my "jammies" into a small overnight bag and tried to explain to me what an "operation" was in the car on the way. . .
The small town, two story hospital resembled an old fashioned high school wide steps to the front door with an embossed emblem over the entry. I remember that we parked right in front [as I said, a small town] and I climbed those wide steps clutching my mother's hand.
A nurse greeted us soon after entering, nodded to my mother and took my hand saying, "We have to take some blood." Mom's look of concern did worry me some as I recall, but I went along without incident.
Once inside a small room, the nurse sat me down and held my left hand over a small table as she took out a tiny cork, a pin point projecting from its end, and with the time worn phrase, "This won't hurt a bit," pricked my middle finger. It didn't hurt, not even when she squeezed out a few drops of blood onto a slide tray. Heck, I'd had much worse scrapes and bruises by then.
The next thing I remember was putting on a hospital smock, and being lifted onto a hospital dolly, my tiny bare butt hanging out. Two orderlies wheeled me through swinging doors into the operating room where everyone wore white smocks and funny white caps with matching face masks.
A voice from just beyond the bright lights shining in my eyes said, "Are you feeling all right?". Next someone covered my mouth with what looked like a tea strainer with cloth on it and told me to, "Breath slowly. Don't be afraid." Soon the room began to fade as the ether took effect and the most extraordinary event of my burgeoning youth took place.
I remember it felt as if I was sleeping but I was somehow still awake. All I could see was what looked like a movie screen with black and white diagonal lines. It had reminded me of the advertisement at the local cinema for coming attractions, but without any letters. I recall feeling that it was like the film was stuck in that position and I was waiting for it to continue with the movie.
There were voices.
The doctors talking over my head made no sense to me although I recall thinking that I knew exactly everything that was going on, but I was paralyzed, and couldn't do anything about it.
For the next two weeks or so I was under special care at home. Mom gave me ice cream to soothe my throat whenever I wanted, and my confined-to-the-house days, were filled with hours on end of looking at Superman comic books. The neighbor boy next door would come every day with a stack of Detective Comics adventures and kept me enthralled as he read the captions to the stories. The thing that really fascinated me was that Superman could fly. That part really got to me.
I'd climbed to the top of the tree to the side of the house and swayed in the breeze imagining what it might be to soar like a bird. My sister and I had often played tag in the thick growth of bamboo down the street. The crisscrossed shafts of bamboo enabled us to climb around inside the clump and never have to touch the ground. Though gravity defying, it was a far cry from flying, which had become a fixation with me and soon an obsession.
By the time I had fully recovered from the tonsillectomy I was a complete devotee of the super hero. Mom would pin a special towel around my neck my super-cape and I'd pretend to fly around the house. I would leap through the air onto my parents bed; spring across Trixy, our dog; jump from the sofa to the armchair screaming all the way. "Pipe down and get off that furniture!" Mom would yell, but it served no purpose. I was lost in a child's fantasy world. With each passing day the fantasy grew broader until one night something incredible happened. I had a flying dream.
There I was, just floating along a few feet off the ground, moving down the street in front of the house. It felt so real! It was like the sensation of being under the ether: I knew what was going on, only this time, I knew exactly what to do. The unique perspective from the operation had set up my mind with an ability to induce a lucid dream experience, one that could be repeated, again and again.
Soon, I was eager to go to sleep and conjure up another revelry of flying higher and higher around the neighborhood. Each experience was more intense than the one before and my ecstasy grew proportionately. Finally, I arrived at the conclusion that I would be able to actually fly during my waking time as well, if only I could find a special object, an enchanted object: a magic stone.
I became convinced that such an object existed and it was my appointed quest to locate it.
Days on end were spent in earnest looking for my fantastic prize. On hands and knees over the entire playground next to the house; scouring the vacant lot across the street that had all kinds of untold mysteries; staring out the window of the car to the side of the road as we came and went from the house. I searched and searched for what seemed an incalculable amount of time to me probably a whole week but to no avail.
I'd nearly given up hope, when one warm afternoon, while making mudpies with my sister and her friend, I spotted it. There, lodged between my fingers in the gook, a smooth limpid pebble about the size of a bean caught my eye. I knew it was special by the way it glowed when I held it up to the light, like nothing I had ever seen. I said nothing, but slipped it into my pocket for later examination.
Right after dinner I ran to the bathroom and pulled the stone from my mud caked pocket and rinsed it in the sink. I held it up to the light and gasped at the opaque glow. It was beautiful! This had to be the one. This must surely be the magic stone.
That night I slept with the found gem under my pillow and had the most exquisite dream of turning loop to loops over the neighborhood. I awoke stimulated and ready to put my enchanted object to the test. I pulled the stone from beneath my pillow and starred at it quizzically. An inner voice was urging me on, assuring me of its authenticity. All I had to do was swallow the pebble and I would be able to fly.
I decided to do it.
Mom grumbled at my insistence that she drag my special super-cape from the dirty laundry and pin it around my neck. I waited until she had returned to the kitchen before backing up against my bedroom wall, which was in direct line with the front porch screen door, some fifty feet away.
I stared down at the stone in my hand, took a few deep breaths, looked up at the door, then back again at the stone. A seed of doubt crept into my mind. What if I would die from swallowing it? No! This was the real thing I assured myself, and with one final breath, opened my mouth, popped in the rock, and made my run for liberation.
The stone lodged in my tonsiless throat for a second and hurt as I swallowed it. By then I was half way through the living room and picking up speed.
Mom was in the kitchen with her back to me no problem there really digging in now, going full speed. I dashed through the porch, sprang open the screen door, and leapt into the air from the small concrete stoop.
My arms extended out in front with my head arched upward toward the sky. My body floated off the ground as I felt the air move beneath me. Like some super slow motion action scene, my exalted body moved upward with a blissful rise. My dream had become a reality. I was transcendental. . . I was metaphysical. . . I was flying!
But, as Newton and the real world would have it, gravity finally took over. My horizontal body dropped to the earth like Icarus with a resounding thud!
All the air was knocked from my lungs. I slowly rolled over and searched a sky filled with little dizzy stars for some explanation.
What had happened? Why did I fall? Where was my breath?
The answers came from some deep recess of my being where perhaps my first rationalization was formed. Fortunately, my youthful optimism would keep my dream alive. For although I hadn't found the real enchanted object that day, something else was found it its place: hope-faith.
So intense was the experience that even to this day I continue to look from the corner of my eye for that enchanted object, that magic stone.
As I lay on my back that fateful morning, the air just returning to my lungs in short gasps, I gathered all the courage and conviction left in my being and uttered the words that stay with me to this very day:
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