Literary Yard

Search for meaning


By: Duane L Herrmann

     Troy Rubin, sat at his desk quietly working in the midst of the hustle and bustle of the office: phones ringing, people carrying papers and files back and forth and computers beeping once in a while.  Most of the people who work in the office are unaware he is a superhero; some know of one or two of the things he’s done, but no one knows the whole story; not even Troy himself knows the whole story.

     Some of his obvious actions include carrying a woman out of a burning building, rescuing a baby from drowning in a lake and a young woman from downing in her car.  Less obvious was the care and nurturing he gave his younger brothers when he himself was a child which resulted in them not developing dyslexia or ADD as he did, and the attention he continues to give, on his own time, to institutionally handicapped children, and to residents of a nursing home near him.

     No one notices that his hand shakes as he reaches for the phone to answer it.  He responds to 60 to 80 calls a day, nearly all of them about complex legal or financial matters and he has 30 seconds after the call to decide its basic content and code it into the phone log.  During the phone call he has to enter information about the call and possibly change information in one of a dozen data-bases.  If people are angry, he gets those calls too.  The stress of this has already once sent him directly to the hospital emergency room, he fears it may happen again.

     On this Monday morning, after a three day absence, he could not remember which computer password to put into which screen.  The computer programs he worked with necessitated six different passwords, some chosen by himself with different replacement cycles, others assigned according to the work areas.  Being dyslexic, this was a very frustrating situation for him.  The brains of dyslexic people process information as images of things not abstract concepts, that is why reading is difficult for them.  The word ‘cow’ represents a concrete thing; the word ‘though’ represents a concept, not a thing.  A blank computer screen has no visual clues at all as to what to do next.

     It took Troy an hour that day, when he should have been doing paper work, to finally get into all the programs he needed to access.  During that time he had been on the phone four times with the technical support personnel, the last one of whom yelled at his incompetence.  The IT person had no understanding of the difficulties computers present to dyslexic people.  It was not long after the phone calls began coming, and Monday’s are the worst days, when pains began occurring in his chest.  Stabbing pains in the center of his chest.

     As a child Troy had been forced to work in uncomfortable and difficult, even dangerous, situations, so he ignored the pains except when they were so sharp he could not breathe.  Only at those moments did he consciously notice the pain, then the phone would ring again and he would be distracted.  Having Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder has its disadvantages.

     Suddenly, a massive tight pain returned to his chest, only this time more intense than any of the others and, as he gasped for breath, he felt a new pain shooting down his arm.  He could barely register this new pain, and its possible meaning, as he tried to reach for the phone, it was ringing again.  Then he stopped thinking and sounds faded away.

     He felt very peaceful, embraced by a depth of love and welcome as he had never felt before.  While held in this love he began to remember parts of his life….

     He was holding the baby bottle up so the baby could be fed.  The bottle was thick glass and very heavy for Troy’s little arms.  He was only two himself.  The necessity of holding the bottle so that there was always milk at the end had been severely impressed on him.  When his mind wandered, or his arm grew tired, and he heard the sound of air being sucked, he quickly returned his attention to the task.  The bottle was so heavy he figured out to lie on his left side, hold the bottle in his right hand and support that arm with his left.  It was work!  But the baby listened to him and was grateful for the attention.

     The babies changed and new ones came into the family, but somehow it remained his job to feed each of them.  He did not know that by his doing this job he was saving his brothers from becoming dyslexic.  Unlike their mother, he looked at the babies as he held their bottle.  He often talked to

them.  Both seeing his face and hearing his voice, were crucial to their mental development.  Troy was the first baby and his mother had became bored with nursing him, she did not look at him often as she read a book, and while reading, did not talk to him.  He was shut off with only her profile.

     Every baby needs to see a face as much as possible to reassure its existence.  With its mother looking away, the baby could only see a profile, therefore the baby was forced to create the face it needed.  This teaches the brain to disregard what is actually seen for what it needs to see.  The visual image is not sufficient.  This is why dyslexics see letters and words backwards, because the brain cannot trust the visual image and changes it in hopes the change makes more sense.  At the same time, memory is visual because it is the bits of visual information that are clues to what is needed.  By looking at his baby brothers, Troy gave them the visual image they could trust as real and they did not become dyslexic as he was.

     As he became older, his jobs at home expanded until, during the summer he was thirteen, he took care of the household, and his younger brothers, in the absence of his mother.  That fall his father put him on a tractor to begin farming.  In effect, isolated on the farm, he never had a childhood, nor a teenage social life….

     Troy was in a new scene, one when he was eighteen, walking alone at the shoe of a lake.  He heard a splash behind his back.  Without seeing, he knew it meant someone had fallen into the water.

     “Daddy!!!” screamed a little boy.

     Troy turned and saw the boy pointing to the lake, there a little head bobbed and went down.  Troy was the closest adult, he didn’t see any others around.  He raced down the grassy bank and into the lake, throwing his billfold out of his pocket at the last minute.  He splashed into the lake, saw a little body dimly in the dirty water and grabbed for it.  His fingers touched cloth and reached further for something more to hold on to.  He grabbed and raised it up.

–  Beginning  –  2

     The child was a girl about two years old.  Water came out of her mouth and she began to cough.  He held her upside down to help the water come out of her lungs.  She coughed and began to cry and gasp for breath, all at the same time.

     Everything happened so suddenly.  The toddler soon realized she did not know who was holding her and began to cry some more, in real fright now.  Troy rubbed her back to reassure her and spoke softly to her.  He stood for a moment trying to calm her down before walking out of the water.

     The little boy, probably an older brother, had run off screaming in the direction of some trees where there were tables and clusters of people.  Troy watched as adults began to look in his direction, and one young man began to run towards them.

     Troy walked out of the water, found his billfold on the ground, and began to walk slowly toward the father.  He turned the baby so she could see her father coming and she held out her arms toward him as she continued to cry.

     “Daddy!”  She cried and began to wriggle to be free of this stranger.

     An older woman in the group picked up the little boy and began to walk with him toward Troy.  A few other women in the group found towels and came too.

     “Sheila!  Sheila!!  Oh, my God!!” the father exclaimed as he ran toward Troy and the baby with his arms outstretched.  “Oh, Sheila!  Oh, baby!”

     By the time he reached them, Sheila had begun to shiver through her crying.  Her father took her from Troy’s arms and held her tight.  He buried his face next to hers and crooned softly to her.  One of the women put a towel around the baby and helped the father sit down.  Another put a towel around Troy and urged him to sit down too.

     “Take the baby’s clothes off, so she can get dry,” one of the women said.  “Wet clothes will keep her cold.”  She began to help the father take off the clothes and wrap the baby in a fresh towel.

     “Thank you so much,” said the older woman with the boy coming to Troy.  “We didn’t realize these two had gone so far by themselves.  It’s been a hectic day, and now this too!!”  She paused.  “My name is Lorenza.  This is Kendrek,” she pointed to the little boy still in her arms, “and their father, Jaron.  We are so glad you pulled the baby out.  I don’t know what we’d have done if we lost another one.”

    “Mommy dead,” said the little boy solemnly.

     “Yes,” the woman agreed.  “She was killed last week in an accident.  Their older sister is in the hospital.  We had to pry Jaron away so he could spend some time with these two.  We’ve all been too distracted.  Maybe the lake was the wrong place to come, we just never imagined this…”

     “You need some dry clothes,” a man said as he walked up to Troy.  “I brought an extra shirt.  Here.”  He handed it to Troy.

     “I have an extra pair of shorts I think will fit you,” said another.  “Here.”

     “You ought to change the shirt now before you get a chill,” said one of the women.  “The breeze is cool.”

     Troy nodded without connecting the words to any action.

     “Let me help you,” the woman added.  Troy simply raised his arms up so she could pull the tight, wet tee shirt off him.  Then she handed him a towel and helped him dry.  He put on the dry shirt

–  Beginning  –  3

automatically.  She then wrapped a new, dry towel around him.

     “We’ll make a wall,” said one of the men.  “So you can change the shorts.  There’s no place close.”  The two men stood side by side and the women turned away.

     “Will you join our picnic?” asked the grandmother when Troy finished changing.  “I don’t know if you’re hungry or not, but you can at least sit in a chair.”

     Someone reached out to guide Troy to the picnic tables.  The father was helped up and they all walked back to the picnic.  The baby was calmer now, just gulping in huge sobs, feeling safer and warm.

     “There is no way I can thank you enough,” the father said to Troy.  “I heard Mom telling you about what we’ve been through.  We just couldn’t handle another one.  I don’t…”

     “I understand,” said Troy.  There wasn’t much more to say.

     “Would you like a chair you can recline in and rest a bit?” someone asked Troy as they arrived at the picnic area.  He nodded, yes.

     “We’re about to eat,” said another.  “Would you like to eat with us?”  Troy nodded again.  Someone brought him a plate of food as he sat down.

     “If you don’t think you’ll like something, don’t worry about eating it, we won’t mind,” the girl with the plate said.


     “Would you like water, tea or a soft drink?” Another person asked.  She was holding two cups and nodded to the boy beside her with several cans in his hands.  Troy selected one of the cans.

     “Thanks,” he said.

     “Don’t even think about it,” she replied.  “We can’t begin to thank you enough.”

     As he ate, Troy looked around the family and began to notice that it was different from other families he had known.  No one raised their voice, no one was contentious or dominated the outing.  And, they weren’t all the same color.  Some were black, some were white, many were different shades of brown or tan.  The adults were easier to distinguish than the children. The children were puzzling – they were various shades of brown, most with curly or wavy hair, some not.  The father of the baby and the grandmother were white, but the baby and her brother were tan.  Their skin was a warm golden color.  Troy was amazed.  He’d never seen such a serene family or such a colorful one.  He was silently impressed.  Not wanting to appear rude, he kept his observation to himself; if they didn’t think it was odd, he certainly wasn’t going to mention it.

     He visited with different members of the family as they came to thank him for pulling the baby from the lake.  They were all embarrassed and ashamed that they hadn’t watched the children more closely.

     “You were an angel today,” said one young boy.  “Did you know that?”

     Troy shook his head, no.

     “Yes,” the boy said earnestly.  “People can be angels when they sacrifice themselves for someone else.  And you did that.  You could have drownded out there.”

     “Well, it wasn’t really very deep,” Troy answered.

     “But you didn’t know that.  You could have stepped off an underwater cliff.”

–  Beginning  –  4


     “Being an angel doesn’t mean you’re dead,” the boy clarified solemnly.  “It just means that you’ve given more of yourself than expected,” he added seriously, nodding to himself.  “More than thinking of any benefit to yourself,” he paused.  “Bahá’u’lláh said so,” he concluded, satisfied that he had said everything he knew.

     “You’re right, Jakeem,” said a young man coming up behind the boy.  “But maybe our new friend doesn’t know about Bahá’u’lláh.”

     “You don’t?” the boy asked in astonishment.

     “Well, now I do,” replied Troy.  “You just told me.”

     “Oh.”  The boy had a slightly puzzled look on his face, not understanding the comment.

     “Jakeem!”  A girl on the nearby swing set called, and the boy ran off in her direction.

     “My son thinks everyone knows about Bahá’u’lláh,” said the young man said.  “He’s still surprised when people don’t.  I hope he didn’t bother you.”

     “No,” answered Troy.  “He told me that I’m an angel, that was a bit of a surprise.”

     “Yes, most people are surprised to hear that.  But, humans are spiritual beings and we can be angels when we rise above ourselves.”

     “That’s what he said,” Troy agreed….

     The scene faded and another appeared before Troy.

     This time he was driving on a dark and winding country road late at night.  As Troy rounded a curve he saw a beam of light shining oddly into the trees by the side of the road.  The light seemed to be coming from the creek which ran along beside the road.  As he approached the light, he slowed his car: something had to be wrong for the light to shine like that.

     When he stopped the car and looked over the edge of the road, he saw a car – upside down, partially submerged in the water.  Troy let himself down the side of the creek.  It was steep but there were tree roots and

saplings to hold on to so he would not slip or roll down.

     “Is anyone here?” he called loudly.  “Can you hear me?”

     “Oh, help,” he heard a faint female voice reply.  “I can’t move, it’s hard to breathe.”

     Troy hurried down to the car and looked inside.  The window was open so he could easily look in.  The interior was only faintly lit from the reflection of the headlights.  He could see the driver hanging upside down from her seat belt.  The top of the car had been crushed as it landed, so there was less headroom than normal and the water of the creek was high enough to get her wet.

     “The water…” the driver sputtered.  “I can’t breathe…  Can’t hold my head up much longer.  It hurts.”

     “Let me see what I can do,” said Troy as he tried to open the front passenger side door, the one closest to him.  He struggled with it, the top, which was in the water, was bent, but he was eventually able to open the door enough to crawl in the water into the car.  He raised the driver’s head above the water; that solved the first, most immediate problem.  Together they tried to unbuckle her seat belt.  She said she was glad to have it on.  She was sure she would have been killed without it; but it was jammed or broke.  She was stuck.

–  Beginning  –  5

     Troy helped her get as comfortable as possible and they talked about different ways to get help.  Among this conversation, they introduced themselves to each other.  Her name was Lurleen.  She had been rushing to a friend’s house and forgot the road curved abruptly along the creek.  The road was not well-traveled, so it was not likely anyone else would drive by.  Using the car horn to get attention would not be effective.  Then she thought of her cell phone.  She couldn’t reach for her purse and assumed it was under water, but with Troy to help, maybe he could find it.  He didn’t have one.

     Troy began to feel around in the dark among her things that had landed on the ceiling, not all of which was under water.  There were quite a few papers, books and clothes that had been thrown around.  Troy began to feel through the stuff that was dry in hopes her phone was there.  If it was wet, it would do no good.

     He had to change his position, sticking his legs and feet into the water below Lurleen’s head so she could rest her head on the top of his legs which were above the water.  This freed his arms to reach and feel through the stuff on the ceiling.

     As he felt each item he described it to Lurleen.  If it wasn’t her purse, he pushed it out of the way, but higher away from the water.  It was slow going in the dark.

     They had almost given up hope that it was above the water, when he found her purse at the edge of the water.  Inside was her cell phone.  The dial lit up and Troy was easily able to dial 911 and describe the situation.  When that call was finished he also called her family.  Lurleen was able to talk to her parents who scrambled out of bed to come.  Eventually Troy and Lurleen heard sirens in the distance and all kinds of commotion commenced.

     Then that memory, too, faded….

     The sound of the sirens was replaced by another alarm going off.  It didn’t take a genius to know that the blaring in the hall was a fire alarm.  Troy woke in his apartment with the alarm screaming outside his door.  The smell of smoke in the air was also evidence that this was a serious situation.  As he pulled some shorts on, Troy reviewed the residents on his floor of this small apartment building.  They all knew each other to some degree.  Two of the units were empty, that left Dennis, next door, on his side of the hall, who was now heard yelling, “Fire!  Fire!  Get OUT!!”  And, three women on the other side of the hall.

     A door slammed shut just before Troy opened his door.  Going out he saw the head of Alice Simpson, from across the hall, going down the back stairs as black smoke rolled upwards on the ceiling above her.  He pounded on the middle door, that of Mrs. Watkins.  She was older but able-bodied and a bit standoffish, she wouldn’t even exchange greetings as they would pass in the hall.  Troy didn’t wait for a response, but went on to the last door, that of the frail Mrs. Jones.  He knew she couldn’t get down the stairs as quickly as she needed to.  The smoke on the ceiling was now thicker and lower, very close to the top of his head.  She might not even comprehend the situation.

     He was right.

     Troy pounded on her door and called her name.  They were on friendly terms and he had done little favors for her from time to time, so he knew she felt she could trust him even at this hideous hour of the night.  He started to pound on the door again.

–  Beginning  –  6

     “What…?”  the small, frail woman looked at him with sleep and bewilderment through the door which she had opened just a slight ways, not comprehending the possibility of an emergency..

     “The building’s on fire, we’ve got to get out!”

     She stared at him not comprehending.  There was no time.

     “I’ll carry you!”  Troy announced as he scooped her up in his arms

     “OH!” she exclaimed as she grabbed her arms around his neck.  “My slipper!”

     “There’s no time.”  Troy was nearly to the stairway when it registered that she had lost a slipper.  He glanced back and saw it on the floor in front of her open door, but the smoke was his main concern.  It was in his face now.

     He focused his eyes on each step as he carefully, deliberately stepped down one from another.  If he missed a step and fell it could be fatal to his frail burden.  Not only would her bones break on impact, but he was likely to crush her just by his weight alone.  And the smoke was getting in his eyes.

     At the landing between the two floors of the building Troy began to see smoke around his waist and smell it more strongly.  It was odd to see the smoke at waist level rolling towards him in little black clouds.  Soon the smoke rose to his eyes and became darker to see through and painful to breathe.  In the far distance Troy began to hear sirens, but kept his concentration on his stepping   down and breathing carefully.  He didn’t want to drop her.

     At the main hallway level he turned to descend the last short flight of steps.  Here the smoke was billowing thickly and directly up from the lower level.  The air was black!  He took a breath and held it then began the last steps down.  He could just barely see the edge of the steps: step down, step down, step down, step down.  All of his concentration was focused on stepping carefully down…down….down.  And two more steps to the door!  By now, he could see nothing.  All was black.  Push!

     In the closed entry, hot, stale air filled his lungs.  He staggered through the door and let Mrs. Jones down to her feet.  Both of them stumbled over to the wall to breathe a bit.  They were not completely out of the building, but in the vestibule, separated from the rest of the interior.  At least they were separated from the smoke and could breathe!

     As Troy went to the exterior door to hold it open for Mrs. Jones, he could see the sweeping red and white lights of the fire trucks and other emergency vehicles.  He opened the door just as they arrived; cold, moist, fresh air rushed at him like a shock.  The sirens screamed until the vehicles pulled up to the building then were abruptly shut off.  He helped Mrs. Jones out of the building and out of the way of the emergency personnel.

     “Oxygen,” he said and pointed to her….

     Now, this memory too, faded.  Troy found himself in a space that was placeless.

     He understood that his acts of patience, resignation, selflessness and self sacrifice far outweighed any lapses of kindness that occasionally occurred.  He had constantly, time and again, set aside his own desires and wishes in order to be of assistance to other people.  The consequence, some would say “reward,” was now to be evident, and would be eternal.  The suffering and pain of his life fell away as if they were nothing, because they, in truth, were nothing – not even worth a memory.

–  Beginning  –  7

     Suddenly Troy felt the urge to stretch and stretch, so he did.  As he stretched, he began to unfold.  After he had stretched, as if in a good, satisfying yawn, he stretched some more.  He felt like he was exercising muscles that he’d never known existed – they truly hadn’t.  He stretched his arms to impossible lengths.  He took great gasps of air and felt his body expanding with every inhalation.  He felt he was expanding like a balloon!  He stretched his legs and they seemed to lengthen forever.  His whole body felt different; he felt energized and revitalized as never before in his life.  He felt electric!  And he felt joy.  Such joy as he had never known; more joy than he could contain.  Joy and energy seemed to be rushing through him and radiate from him.  It was the most exhilarating sensation of his life!  He felt as if he could do anything!!

     As his need to stretch lessened, Troy became more curious about his surroundings.  There was his office and a figure slumped over his desk with the phone blinking.  Troy recognized his body, but it didn’t concern him.  He was not that body.  It was an old, used thing, that he had no more use for.  In a moment, it seemed a very long moment, a supervisor came around the corner of the cubicle to see why the phone wasn’t being answered.  She moved in slow motion, as if underwater.  She had a scowl on her face and opened her mouth to speak, but Troy paid no attention to the words.  He didn’t even hear them.  He knew her anger.

     She approached Troy’s body, then tentatively shook it.  The chair rolled back from the desk and the figure fell to the floor.  Troy could not hear a sound but he knew the pain and distress that came from his supervisor; so many things had been painful in her life and the shock of seeing one of her staff dead on the floor was too much to contain.  As she gave herself over to the pain that had been building for decades, she staggered and grabbed for support, then collapsed.  Others in the office heard, and there was more commotion.

     Troy felt sorry for them all.  They shouldn’t care so much for the body that was his on the floor, he was fine, but they could help the supervisor.  He wished them all peace and comfort and brought his hands together as if to push a wave of peace over them.  As he did so, he saw his new arms for the first time.

     He was startled.  His “arms” were no longer really arms.  They were different, somewhat like wings, but not like wings either – or at least not like birds wings.  They were more beautiful than anything he had ever seen before.

     His arms, and all the rest of what he’d thought of as his “body,” were lights and colors.  Lights emanated out from himself.  Troy was now composed of Light.

     Lights and colors radiated from him in all directions.  Bits of light, energy and peace sparkled out from him as if joy personified.  And, music.  He could hear music as part of the light and color.  He was amazed at this transformation.

     ‘Is this what the little boy meant about angels?’ Troy wondered.

     “At the time of death you will be given the form best suited to your immortality.”

     Troy did not exactly hear the words, but the knowledge flooded through him that his self-sacrificing actions in life had earned him this form of beauty and glory.  Here was an unknown reward for the efforts and actions of his life.  There was justice after all.

     Troy looked down to see more of his amazing new form and noticed far below him – he seemed

–  Beginning  –  8

to be suspended in air – tiny black forms moving with apparent intensity and purpose.

     ‘What…?’ he thought.

     “Those are souls, too.  They are people who lived differently than you.  They could not see past their own self interest.  They did not reach out to others.  They did not help anyone.  Their souls did not grow through their actions.  They are content and at peace, but they cannot imagine you, just as you cannot comprehend My reality.  Do not feel regret for them, they earned their condition.  They have a peace now that they lacked on earth.  There are some souls even less developed than they.”

     Troy was astonished.  ‘There are different levels of life here, just as in the earthly world.  Plant life on earth cannot comprehend animal life.  Animals were aware of but cannot comprehend humans.  It’s amazing to find the same relationships between souls after death, only the separation now is by degrees of spiritual development.’  It was a new concept to Troy, but so reasonable and obvious.

     ‘It proves out some of the teachings of many very different religions,’ Troy thought.  ‘As if they all had a vision of the future reality, but not a comprehensive view.  Yet, if people followed the spiritual teachings of their religions, they would advance in this new reality, but few apparently do. Most get caught up in details that have nothing to do with becoming a more selfless, spiritually advanced person.

      Troy simply marveled at this new awareness.  It was beyond his imagination.  Gratitude flooded through him for such a balance in the universe.  He understood that not only his self sacrifice had resulted in this new, unimaginable form, but the fact that he had not allowed himself to become bitter because of the ignorant treatment of others towards him.  While he had suffered in life, his soul was growing and his new condition was the natural, inevitable consequence.  Even if he had hoped for such a result as this, it would not have happened so spectacularly.  He had thought of no reward, no vengeance or retribution. He just did the best he could do – and this was the mind boggling result!

     He had never imagined this possibility.  In life, he had assumed he was insignificant.  Now his true essence was clearly manifest.  It could no longer be hidden.  He was a tremendously powerful spiritual being.  Conditions governing life on earth had prevented anyone there from knowing this truth.  His form was now magnificent.

     He was astonished and laughed in the pure joy of it.

     As he laughed, he could see joy pulsing away from him like waves of water rushing outward. He could see those waves go out to touch every person who had intersected his life.  Unaware of the cause, each of those people paused and remembered him for a moment and smiled at the memory.  Troy now sent special, focused waves of love to his family, his brothers and sisters, their wives and husbands and children, and all his other relatives he had ever seen or known; and then to those who had come before him, whose lives had led to his.  Then he sent a wave of joy to his friends that he’d shared in his life’s journey.  This message of joy was his farewell to his earthly life and connections.

     “Now I’m ready,” he said to whatever forces in the universe that were responsible for his

–  Beginning  –  9

 transformation.  In an instant he was transcending the limitations of the physical realm and entering into a new dimension of reality, far beyond the reality of all the less developed souls he had just seen.  He was far more advanced than they.  His next world had no limitations.

     Troy’s true journey, his real life, and purpose, had just begun.  He would soon learn what that would be.  Troy KNEW it would be GLORIOUS!!!!


  1. Very creative. A bit autobiographical? I hope the ending is true for us all. It fits with what the Bahai Revelation reveals.

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