by Penny Luker
If you met Alan in the street, you probably wouldn’t notice him much. He is a most unremarkable man. He dresses in subtle colours and plain classic clothes, ignoring the fashions of the day. Nobody loves him, but neither does anyone dislike him.
Alan had been brought up by his grandmother. She was a quirky lady, full of love and kindness. When he was about ten, she realised he was like her and had the gift. She quietly taught him how to use his hands to heal people who were sick. Through all the years, his grandmother instilled in him that the gift must be kept secret and never used for monetary gain.
After his grandmother died, when he was nearly forty, he was left her house. They’d always been close, but suddenly, out of the blue, his mother turned up on his doorstep. She was deeply aggrieved that the house had not passed to her. It didn’t matter that she’d dumped her son with her mother at birth and not been back for nearly forty years. When she failed to persuade Alan to hand over the house, which was the only home he’d ever known, she moved in. Alan thought it might be good to get to know her, as he’d always wondered what she was like, which was how he ended up living with her. He should have known better, really, because soon he found he was waiting on her hand and foot and paying all the household bills.
Her resentment at not being given the house meant she was never grateful or kind, but complained about everything, so he spent much of his time at work.
One day, while at work, he noticed that Jodie, one of the typists, was particularly quiet.
‘Are you all right?’ he asked. ‘You don’t look happy.’
‘Go away,’ she snapped.
He was quite taken aback. Sometimes she chatted to him to pass the time, not as a friend, but she was never rude. He knew he was considered dull by everyone – a safe pair of hands, but he couldn’t help wondering what was wrong with Jodie. Later that day, he heard from Melvin, the office charmer, that Jodie’s son had a brain tumour, and it was inoperable. No wonder she’d been short-tempered. As he was going home that night, he popped into her office.
‘Sorry, I was rude earlier. Lot on my mind at the moment,’ she said.
‘That’s okay, Jodie. It’s just I have a friend who’s a healer, and I know he’d come and try to help your son if you’d like me to ask.’
‘Really?’ she said in a scornful way. ‘And I suppose he charges a fortune. I’m not an idiot, Alan.’
‘No, you don’t understand. He can’t guarantee success. That’s not possible, but he doesn’t charge anything. He won’t take any money, whether he’s successful or fails. I just thought that if the tumour is inoperable, what have you to lose?’
‘So what’s the catch?’
‘There’s no catch. If you want him to try, I’ll ask him. While he works, he’ll need silence; so you can be in the room, but you can’t talk to him; so any questions, you have to ask before he begins or when he’s finished. He only has one request.’
‘Here it comes,’ she said, ‘What is it?’
‘You must never tell anyone who he is or what he’s done.’
‘Why not? You’d think he’d like some recognition.’
‘Well, he wouldn’t. Anyway, let me know.’ He turned to walk away, but she called him back.
‘Yes. Ask him. As you say what can we lose? We haven’t got long. Tim’s going downhill fast.’
Alan nodded and left for home.
* * *
When he got in, he cooked his mother a meal and then went to get ready, phoning Jodie to say that Mr Guerisseur had agreed to help and would be arriving in half an hour. He then donned his ginger wig, false moustache and beard and changed his clothes. He looked completely different. No-one would recognise him.
* * *
Jodie opened the door, and he began explaining that he would need to lay his hands on the child’s head. It should only take ten minutes, but of course, it could take longer, and she did understand that there were no guarantees.
At that moment, the front door opened and in burst Jodie’s husband, Giles.
‘So you are cheating on me, you bitch. And with this wimp, at this terrible time. Why?’ he shouted.
‘Sit down,’ she said to him firmly. ‘Mr. Guerisseur is a healer, and he’s going to try to help Tim.’
‘Don’t be so stupid, woman. I know we’re desperate, but I bet he’s a con man.’
‘You will sit down and not say a word. I mean it. Not a word. This gentleman is Tim’s only hope. He’s not promising anything, and he won’t take any money. Now, if you’re going to argue, you can get out.’
Giles pursed his lips but promised silence, and Jodie took a chair to sit with him in Tim’s room. Alan set to work by laying on his hands and focussing. He could see the child’s tumour in his own mind. He began the visualisation of it disintegrating and then disappearing. The minutes passed, and Giles went to speak, but Jodie gave him a warning look. Alan kept his concentration and continued his work. After half an hour, he stood up.
‘We’ll only really know if we have success when the doctors do another scan, but I’m hopeful. Tim will probably sleep until morning. Remember, whatever the outcome, to keep your promise of not disclosing what I’ve done or who I am.’
Jodie thanked him and let him out. She watched him as he walked away. I know that walk, she thought.
During the next week, two things happened. Jodie returned to work after a couple of days off, with a smile on her face.
‘I have the greatest news. Tim has had a scan, and his tumour has gone. I feel it’s a miracle, but the doctor says they must’ve muddled up his previous scan with someone else’s. I don’t care. I’m so happy.’
Nobody noticed that she smiled directly at Alan. He was happy too. He knew he’d helped a child, and Jodie kept her word by not revealing the child’s recovery journey.
The second thing that happened was that his mother was taken to the hospital while he was at work. She had a really bad fall and had multiple fractures. He thought about going to the hospital to try to heal her broken bones, but as this thought crossed his mind, he could hear what she would say to him. You’re barking mad if you think you can heal people. You can’t even cook a decent meal or iron the sheets properly. What on earth would give you a crazy idea like that?
So he bought her a bunch of grapes and sat by her hospital bed for an hour. When she’d fallen, she’d banged her head, which had caused a bleed on the brain. She died about a week later, but Alan didn’t beat himself up about it. After all, life would be a lot easier without her, and although he always tried to be a good person, nobody’s perfect.
Selected from Next Steps: and other stories