Hua Taylor was small in stature. He was a loner. He was slow in speech, but he had an active, intelligent mind. With 85 percent of his hearing gone, he was declared legally deaf. He mastered the art of lip reading and so hid his handicap from his classmates, and Peafish. Hua could spy a housefly from a thousand miles. Eagle Eyes, that’s what his granny called him.
But the man in the white suit was Hua’s salvation. The man had told Hua he was special, in spite of his handicap. The man said he had a special gift, too, which he should use wisely, except Hua didn’t know what that special gift was.
Who was this man? Not even Hua could answer that, except to say that the man first appeared the day Dan Peafish had pushed him into the lake and left him to drown. When the man had reached into the water and plucked him out to safety, Hua thought he had died and gone to heaven. “It’s my fault for not learning to swim,” Hua had confessed. “I wouldn’t have drowned otherwise.”
“Drowned?” the man with the steely blue eyes had answered. “You think you’re dead? No lad; your time has not yet come. You have a purpose to fulfill, and fulfill it you must.”
“Purpose?” mumbled Hua, drawing himself back to the present. "What purpose could a deaf, skinny, wimpy boy like me have?”
“In your weakness He is made strong,” Hua remembered hearing his grandmother say, but he had no idea who she was talking about, and never bothered asking.
“Yeah, in my weakness, Hua is made strong,” mumbled Hua, kicking angrily at a pinecone. “Now I must write his story too. Well, maybe I won’t.” It annoyed Hua that he couldn't face up to Peafish like a man. But he wasn't a man; he was a boy, a puny one at that.
Hua hated Dan Peafish even though his grandmother often told him it was wrong to hate anyone. “Fill your heart with love, Eagle Eyes. Love conquers all.” But when Hua had done anything to annoy her, she would say, “I don’t know where they found you, boy.” That was a strange thing to say to a young boy, thought Hua, especially when he didn’t have parents, or as his grandmother had told him, his parents didn’t want a deaf child. So they shoved him on her, and for that he must be grateful. Hua’s thoughts reeled from one thing to another.
“So you didn’t use your gift?” The man in the white suit suddenly appeared in front of Hua, startling him.
Hua jarred his mind to the present. “What is this special gift I'm supposed to have?”
“You’ll know when it surfaces.”
“Does it mean you don't know what it is either?” Hua challenged.
"Of course I do…for you to find it, your thoughts must be still and your heart right."
“Who exactly are you? Don't you have a proper name?” Hua asked, remembering how the man had come to his rescue the day Dan Peafish had bound him to a pine tree.
“The Man will do…you can call me that.”
“That’s a strange sort of name.”
The Man nodded. “I know.”
“Where are you from?”
“Ah…that, too, you must discover yourself—”
“Yeah! Yeah! Like everything else I have to discover.” Hua dared to laugh then, thinking the man was a figment of his imagination. Besides, no one just appeared and disappeared. Everyone had a proper name. Everyone came from some place.
"My mind sure knows how to play tricks on a person," Hua said aloud.
"How so?" asked The Man.
"You don't really exist, you know. You're just in my imagination."
“I know things about you no one else knows, except your grandmother,” said The Man.
"You're legally deaf," he said.
“Lucky guess,” said Hua with a shrug.
“And you’re afraid of Peafish.”
“You’re so afraid of Peafish, you wet your pants when he fixes you with one of his hop-to-it-Hua stares.”
Okay, that was a lucky guess too, thought Hua. He recalled another Peafish incident. It was in the boys’ toilet at school. He had gone to wash his hands at the sink when Peafish came up behind him, picked him up by the seat of his pants and the scruff of his neck, and planted him back into a cubicle, which Peafish had just vacated. It stunk so badly, Hua almost passed out.
“Wash your hands in there,” Peafish had commanded, setting Hua down on his knees.
“Don’t be a donkey,” Hua tried to argue, but Peafish was bigger and stronger. He forced Hua’s hands into the toilet bowl.
Hua cringed in disgust. The memory was so vivid; Hua felt his stomach turn and he retched. To this day, he still could not touch food with his bare hands, and this brought further "I-don’t-know-where-they-found-you" comments from his grandmother.
“It was a stupid and thoughtless thing to do, wasn’t it?” said The Man.
Hua wiped his mouth with his shoulder. “How did you know what I was thinking?”
“You don’t have to be afraid, you know. Stand up to him.”
“God did not give you a spirit of timidity, you know,” said The Man in a quiet voice.
Hua began to wonder whether The Man could be real! He poked The Man's arm with his index finger. Flesh and bone! Hua gulped. That sealed it. This was no figment of his imagination. "Who are you? Please tell me?" begged Hua.
The Man smiled, deepening the crows’ feet at the corners of his eyes. "Consider me your special friend. I help those in need," he answered. "Come." He flexed his index finger.
Hua stood his ground. "My grandmother told me not to trust strangers," said Hua. "She said I must trust only God and put no confidence in people, especially strangers."
"And she is right. But I'm not a stranger to you, Hua. Have I not come to your rescue on many occasions? Have I not always encouraged you?"
"Yes, but…" True, The Man had saved him many times. The Man had never tried to harm him. He felt safe and comfortable around The Man. If was as if The Man was his guardian angel. But such things don’t exist. My grandmother would have told me, though Hua.
"You know a friend by his deeds. A friend will give even his life to save another’s. Ask your grandmother what a shepherd does when he’s lost one of his sheep."
“What will that prove?” asked Hua.
“Your grandmother’s answer will tell you who I am. Now, you have a story to write and I want to help. So, follow me, but only if your heart tells you to.”
The Man walked off.
TO BE CONTINUED...