The white wooden rocker creaked under Bill. The large, covered porch brought back memories of the administrator’s historic brick home in North Carolina. Joshua sat silently next to Bill, just like when he was a child. The two men stared blankly across the compound towards the empty bungalows. The sound of the ocean breeze and local birds was all that could be heard.
Bill reached over and took a drink from his sweet tea. The terror of his battle with Chuck just two days earlier seemed a distant memory. A heron flew across the Bungalow roofs and disappeared into the overgrowth behind the buildings.
Joshua said, “I’ve learned with Harold that dreams and visions are not always what they seem. You had a near-death experience, and the brain and spirit are still a mystery to science in many ways.”
Bill looked over at the doctor. “According to Carol, I wasn’t near death. I was dead.”
Joshua nodded, “Yes, well, as I said, much of this is still a mystery. Your heart wasn’t beating from a medical perspective, and you stopped breathing for a few minutes. However, some theories believe the body can go a certain amount of time in that condition and still revive, so there is some debate over when death actually happens.”
Bill asked, “So, what? Are you saying my vision of God, Lori, and my son were tricks of my mind?”
Joshua answered, “I’m saying as a doctor I don’t know.”
Bill stared up into the clear blue sky and squinted. He asked, “What about not as a doctor?”
Joshua cleared his throat. “Well, as your brother in Christ, I would say God has given you a wonderful gift. There aren’t too many people He reaches out to so directly, or allows to see loved ones after they have passed.”
“So, you think I did see something?” asked Bill.
Joshua responded, “I think you’re the only one who can answer that question. What does your spirit tell you? Down in your gut, what do you think?”
Bill looked down at the ground, and his lips curled up. He answered, “God said I was his child of many questions. I guess even when I get the answers, I have a hard time accepting them without more questions.”
Joshua said, “Well, I suppose you have to ask yourself this question. Are your questions more important than the answers you were given?”
Bill sat back and stared into Joshua’s peaceful eyes. He answered, “That’s a good question.”
The two men sat quietly and slowly finished their drinks. Bill heard a door close on his left and saw Carol coming down from her bungalow next to his. She had on a yellow bikini with a white wrap. Bill could not take his eyes off her until she was standing in front of him.
Carol smiled and said, “You know, you can blink now.”
Bill’s eyes fluttered, and his face felt flush. “Sorry, I was thinking about something.”
“Obviously,” responded Carol.
Joshua asked, “Are you headed to the pool?”
Carol nodded, “I’m going to live the good life and hang out with the girls. You boys aren’t invited.”
Joshua answered, “This sounds like trouble.”
Carol started to walk towards the main house, looked over her shoulder, and said, “I’ll let Maria know you said that.”
Joshua looked over at Bill and quietly said, “Now I am in trouble.”
Bill laughed and stood up. “If you’ll excuse me, I think I’d like to go for a walk alone. I want to hide before your wife shows up.”
Joshua looked up. “Coward.”
“You know it.”
The two men laughed as Bill headed towards the familiar trail he had found when he first came to the island. There was a peacefulness to the place now that the Franks had left. Maria made sure food was available, and it was everyone for themselves when it came to cleaning. Harold promised staff would arrive in a couple of days to handle the maintenance.
Bill made his way down the path towards the beach. He stopped halfway and listened. There were no sounds of footsteps, an engine starting up, wheels on the crushed shelled road, or distant voice on the breeze. A momentary change in the wind direction brought the sound of women laughing, and Bill wondered if Carol was joking about Joshua and him. Rustling in the bushes nearby made Bill jump, and he continued his journey at a brisk pace.
He arrived at the empty beach and looked at Harold’s favorite rock. Climbing up on top, he noticed the great view of the clear water. Small barracuda, blackjack, and others swam in the shallows to avoid larger predators. A short distance out, dark grasses covered the deeper bottom, and Bill wondered if he would be fortunate enough to see a manatee.
He was tempted for a moment to wade into the shallows. Then scowled and pull his knees up to his chest.
Bill looked up towards the sky and said, “I don’t know what to think. Everything I have asked you answered. Or at least it seems like you did. Did you really let me see Lori and my son? Am I going to have a family with Carol?”
“What about me?” Harold’s voice caused Bill to release his knees and almost fall off the rock.
“When did you walk up?”
Harold continued his way over to Bill, “When you started praying.”
Bill’s forehead furrowed, “I wanted to be alone.”
Harold slapped Bill on the back, “Yea, that’s what Doc said. I figured I’d find you here. I need a fishing buddy.”
Bill answered, “Some other time. I have some things to think about.”
“Some of my best thinking has been done on that fishing boat. Well, maybe not my best thinking.”
“What does that mean?” asked Bill.
“It’s a long story. Look, you and Doc like to sit around and think alone too much. Sometimes it helps to bounce your thoughts of someone you can trust. You can’t trust anyone more than your own brother, especially after I saved your life.”
Bill nodded, “Where are the poles?”
“On the boat.”
Bill started to slip off the rock but stopped and scowled, “I don’t know. I’ve had enough of boats and water for a lifetime, thanks.”
Harold shook his head, “Oh, no, you haven’t. My dad taught me a valuable lesson when I was a kid. He used to take me camping out in the Mojave. We would hike, have campfires, the whole bit. Anyway, when I was big enough, he taught me to ride a motorcycle. The first day I soloed, I crashed and bruised my shin. I wanted nothing to do with that motorbike.
“Dad told me that if a horse throws you off, you have to get back on, or you’ll be afraid of horses the rest of your life. I didn’t understand what he meant at first. He said allowing external things to control me would cause me to live in fear and never reach my potential.”
Bill answered, “So, you’re saying that me wanting to avoid the water and boats two days after I was almost killed could ruin the rest of my life?”
Harold smiled, “Exactly. Now, come on, let’s see if we can catch something worth eating.”
Bill hung his legs over the rock, “I suppose if I keep saying no, you’re going to bug me until I relent.”
Bill sighed, slipped off the rock, and followed Harold off the beach.