My friend Ben used to watch old Lewis hobble along the sidewalk of the downtown square back in
. Lewis always had his crutches, one under each arm, and he literally dragged his legs and feet along as he pivoted the crutches back and forth. He had gotten really good at it. Ben had seen him going along without missing a beat even when the streets and sidewalks were covered with a layer of ice. Enid, Oklahoma
Ben never knew how Lewis became crippled, and he could not remember a time when Lewis was not using his crutches. His imagination led him down many paths: polio, a car wreck, thrown from a horse, a war injury, plane crash … Ben never knew. He had only heard it could not be fixed. Lewis would always be hopelessly crippled. Ben had to admire his spirit, though. He’d often whistle as he swung himself along and nearly always had a smile to share when anyone passed him on the street.
One evening, Ben was having a Coke with Uncle Charlie who was having something a little stronger. Uncle Charlie was himself a fixture in town: red close-cropped hair in a flat top, and a huge red handlebar mustache that he kept neatly waxed and curled up at the ends. Ben and Charlie were not really related, but Ben, along with everyone else, called him Uncle Charlie. Ben thought he was kind of like that strange uncle every family seemed to have.
So, Uncle Charlie took a long drink of his adult beverage and ordered another one. Ben didn’t know how many he had finished before Ben got there, but Uncle Charlie did like to operate from a higher place than most people.
“Hey, did I tell you what happened to Lewis?”
Suddenly, Ben’s heart sank. Had something happened to Lewis? “No … what?”
Uncle Charlie wiped the beer foam from the bottom of his mustache. “I saw him the other evening out at the big tent revival, you know, up there on that vacant lot at the north end of town. Some traveling preacher came into town and put up a big tent. The preacher claimed that God talks to him personally and tells him to travel around and spread His word. Says God gave him the power to heal just by placing his hands on people of faith, and all he asks of them is donations to keep him going. There were a lot of people there, and old Lewis was one of them.”
“I never knew Lewis was particularly religious,” Ben said, “and I thought he had long given up any thought of ever walking again.”
“Well, Lewis was there nonetheless, a lot of people were, the place was packed. It was a warm night and the preacher was really wound up. I’m telling you, he had the people standing up and shouting out praises right along with him. And then he got to the healing part. Lewis was standing with a crutch under each arm yelling just about as loud as everyone else. The preacher spotted Lewis in the crowd and came right down off the little stage he’d set up and walked right over to him.” Uncle Charlie took another drink and continued.
“That preacher had already taken off his coat, and he was sweating and swinging his arms around and practically shouting at the top of his lungs. He stopped directly in front of Lewis and slapped his right hand firmly down on the top of his head, almost knocking him over.
“Do you believe?” the preacher shouted to Lewis. “Do you believe that the Lord God Almighty gave me the power to heal you?”
“Lewis started shaking. The preacher asked the audience to join him in calling up the power. He pressed down harder on the top of Lewis’s head.”
“If you truly believe that God gave me this power, you will be healed! You will walk again! I command you now, be healed!”
Uncle Charlie went on. “He took the crutch from under Lewis’s right arm, held it high in the air, and then tossed it into the crowd. The place went wild. Women and men were weeping and raising their arms and shouting praises. Lewis was staring straight ahead in disbelief.”
“Then the preacher, with his hand still on Lewis’s head, again shouted, ‘God told me to heal you … be healed!’ and took the crutch from under Lewis’s left arm, held it in the air and threw it nearly to the back of the crowd in the tent. Again, the crowd went crazy, more so than before. It was truly a sight to see; I’ll never forget it as long as I live.” Uncle Charlie took another long drink of his beverage and then carefully wiped the foam from his mustache as before.
Ben couldn’t wait any longer to hear the rest. “What happened next, Uncle Charlie?”
Uncle Charlie gave the tip of his red mustache a little twist and turned right to Ben. “Well, Lewis fell on his ass. He’s crippled you know.”
From the book "Twisted by the Wind" by Tom Hays