The world lost two great things on that dark and wet Sunday morning: A mother who knew all the love of her youngest, and a father who loved despite all the ignorance of his eldest. Heath wept bitterly for a long time, while Hawk watched over Luke. When the rain eased and the sun began to make the clouds glow, a new man sat up on the pavement. With crimson stains all over, Luke surveyed the destruction in the street, without a twinge of pain in his body. Though no one could detect it, something like scales fell from his eyes that day, and he saw for the first time, the wreckage he had made of his family. Later, when the orange beanie was removed and the grown-ups with suits had long conversations with Luke and other distant relatives, Heath sat quietly at his bedroom window, peering across the neighborhood in the direction of those dark trees. Joshua Christopher was gone. Mom was gone. And in a strange way, Luke was gone.
As the fog lifted from the asphalt that morning, it also lifted from the hearts of the Christopher family. Of course they were the first to arrive on the scene, but they were so engulfed in the flooding recollection of countless decades that all accusation fell silent beneath their own lament. That day the brothers met Peter, Joshua’s eldest son, heir to the Christopher estate. He said nothing at first, but only gazed in sorrow on the absent face of his father. After a long time of silence during which the rest of the family filed out of the black SUVs, Luke spoke meekly to Peter, explaining what had happened. Peter only asked a few questions which Heath could not hear due to the ringing of his own grief. His mother’s eyes were now as absent as Joshua’s. Luke told Peter who had been wounded and who had been healed and who had died and who should have died. Tears flowed freely as the two spoke without choking or sputtering. These two first-born sons shared much and confessed much, but of all that was uttered, Peter said something that very day that later became Luke’s favorite proverb,
“Let’s restore the wasted years.”
Heath had lost everything and yet, over time, he found himself gaining more than he could comprehend. This new man, who referred to Heath as “little bro”, eventually found a job in town and started to pay the bills. The bottles of lager in the fridge disappeared and were never replaced. The lime green hatchback stayed in the driveway for a long time, with a dented front end and a spider-web crack in the windshield, but Luke never drove it. There was a clarity in his voice that was different from all the upbeat (and two-faced) sales-talk he had mastered over the years. Of course, he and Heath were made to endure the emptying of their mother’s rooms and closets, but in the process this version of Luke never made snide comments, and to his own surprise, Heath never got the impression that his mother’s things were being looted. This Luke was a steward, a caretaker of sacred artifacts, treating them as if they belonged more to Heath than to himself. Honestly, Heath felt the same way. But then again, this Luke was easy to be generous towards, because he himself had become so generous. He no longer blessed himself, but appeared to have a growing ability to bless Heath with the care of a guardian. And that is exactly what he became. Of course there were many complicated legal issues that took a long time to work out, but Heath could afford to pay little heed to those, in the shadow of this new man. The new Luke carried all these along with a mysterious new strength and bore the brunt of conflict, accusation and attacks that now faced two brothers implicated in two suspicious deaths in suburbia. But somehow it all worked out. Perhaps the Cleaners had something to do with that.
A whole year later, while Luke drove Heath around the neighborhood early on a Sunday morning, he began to muse,
“You know Heath, being healed: it’s not what you think.”
“I know,” said Heath, “the healing hurts more than the wounding.” Luke continued,
“…yeah… it’s like a blind man who always has other people to do everything for him. But if he gets healed, he suddenly has the responsibility to do things for himself. When you’re finally able to see for yourself, then you kinda have to… see, for yourself. You know when people talk about winning the lottery, and they talk like everything in their life will be fixed and it will all be so easy. It seems like everybody thinks that…” Heath grinned,
“Yeah, they’re all wrong.” Luke thought for a moment and added,
“It doesn’t matter how hard you turn back from what’s killing you, if you’ve spent a lifetime wrecking things, it takes a lot of work to restore those wasted years.”
“You know it!” Heath replied, and he whipped another newspaper out the window.