World Without End by Pepper Ckua

Hutch is fascinated by pictures of Jesus that make the prophet look like Barry Gibb.

One of those paintings is in the chapel at Memorial Hospital, a place Hutch had spent a lot of time in for more the solitude, truth be told, than the religious comfort.

The son of God in that cheesy portrait there is white, fangless, and has a calm, girlish face.

It makes Jesus look not so much like someone who kicked the moneylenders out of the temple but like a guy whoíd play a guitar around a campfire, talk about feelings and offer you a símore.

It sure isnít the Jesus with whom Hutch grew up, the one who was stern and seemed to have strong opinions about everything.

Hutch remembers sitting in church on Sundays when he was a boy. Heíd pay close attention to the minister as he read the holy word, broke the holy bread and shared the holy wine.

He had tried to wrap his brain around the frankly cannibalistic image of ingesting the body and blood of another person.

Looking over at his parents as they partook of the bread cubes and grape juice, Hutch wondered if they ever questioned and doubted, too.

It was Sunday school that gave Hutch visions of Moses parting the sea with the brush of his hand, of food being split into infinite portions, of a man who was ordered to sacrifice his own son but was stopped by the booming voice of God, and of Jesus walking on water and bringing dead to life.

As the adults shared the holy coffee and holy donuts after the service, Hutch remembered heíd felt sad that miracles like those really didnít happen anymore.

It was a feeling heíd carried into his life as a grown man.

But Hutch understands now that the real challenge is not to look for miracles, but to find places where there arenít any.

He knows thereís holiness to everything.

The crackle of a shattering windshield, three bullets to his partnerís back, and three words shouted too late have made a revelation in Hutchís brain, one that is lit by candles, hot and bright.

The miracles in the Bible, of his childhood, are miserly. They are eked out in increments so tiny that it takes far too many words to describe them.

Because Hutch understands now that wine from water is nothing but a good magic trick, and that while making a loaf of bread and a handful of fish feed a mob is frankly amazing, in the end those things are not unlike one of Starskyís card tricks.

As for holy water dribbled on a forehead? Hutch knows now it is sometimes all he can do to hold his breath as he swims in it, a sea so large it no longer has a shore.

Because this whole issue of bringing the dead back to life? When it happened to Starsky, it also happened to Hutch.

The way his partnerís chest moves with breath, in glorious life? It would be very hard to say this wasnít a testament.

That it isnít a sacrament for Starsky to have made it one more day? Hutch will tell you itís not possible to describe this wonder without that word.

Shortly before the doctors removed the machines that had helped Starsky breathe for the last two weeks, Hutch had been at the edge of the hospitalís parking lot.

Hutch was locking up the car when he glanced up and saw the flash of a robin. Its radiant orange breast was brighter than heíd ever remembered from the birds of his youth, the ones that gathered in the birch trees and scattered across the sky when he would shout.

With one hand on the car door, Hutch stood and listened. The robinís hymn was a bit of scripture, and the flash of color when it flew reminded Hutch of a burning bush against the gray sky.

Later that morning, Starskyís face was finally bare of the apparatus that forced air in and out of his lungs.

As he waited for Starsky to take a breath of his own, Hutch felt the universe tilt on a tiny, tiny axis.

Shortly after they both drew air into their lungs, Starsky looked up at Hutch and croaked, "Hey... there."

That miracles happen, Hutch has no doubt. But that they had happened to him, he is still in awe.

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