T J Hobbs : Day Trips to Heaven
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In two minds what to do, they both hesitated, looking towards the temple, when suddenly one of the paper panels creaked open and the head of a deer popped out. It looked right at them as they stared with mouths open, then it fully emerged from the paper and trotted towards them, quite unafraid. Jason gasped and moved instinctively behind Ethan, who smiled to himself as the deer stopped in front of the guide and looked around him straight at Jason.
“I won’t hurt you,” it said.
Jason gasped again and tugged Ethan’s clothes. “It spoke,” he whispered. Ethan looked down at him and nodded.
“They can up here,” he said.
“Oh!” Jason exclaimed in surprise.
“Aren’t you going to speak to me?” the deer said.
Jason gulped once, pulled himself up to his full height and said, “Yes, I am…” He didn’t quite know what else to say and the deer sighed.
“I was hoping you were going to help us.”
Jason frowned. “Help you?” he asked.
“That’s right. Don’t you remember what you promised to do on Earth before you went there?”
Ethan had the feeling that the hand of a certain archangel was firmly behind this encounter and subtlety was obviously not on the cards for Jason. He heard a faint laugh and knew he was right: poor Jason was going to get the message of his intended life purpose whether he liked it or not. This visit may be to meet Tom, but that wasn’t by any means the only reason for it and he felt he’d been just a little bit used again. But why be surprised? Jason edged cautiously around Ethan’s legs and gazed transfixed at the deer, who gazed back; its ability to talk seemed to render Jason speechless, and he still hadn’t answered the question. So it was asked again.
“Do you remember that you wanted to be able to help the world’s creatures?” Jason nodded hesitantly. “So, have you changed your mind?” Jason shook his head. “But you might be persuaded by others to do something different?”
Jason frowned at this. He didn’t know, though he did feel his father’s heavy hand on his shoulder sometimes and, since Tom died, his trips out into nature, walking and bird-watching, had ceased. When he’d asked why, his father had told him they were a waste of time that should be spending mastering his computer or doing more homework. He could hear his voice now, saying, “If you don’t learn your times tables, you won’t be able to be a banker.” Jason wasn’t sure what a banker was but he had a feeling that he didn’t want to be one.
Tom had never really got on with Jason’s father. He hadn’t wanted his daughter to marry a man with so little comprehension or feeling for the natural world. Gerry Rice was only really interested in one thing and that was money and how he could get more of it, and he judged people by the size of their pay-packets and the status of their jobs; this was always the first thing he tried to find out whenever he met someone new. Tom, on the other hand, believed that what you did spoke volumes and it wasn’t about money; that wasn’t very important to him, it was how you lived. Did you respect others, not just the people you judged were on equal terms with you but also those less fortunate than yourself? But it went deeper than that; he respected the land, the water, the air and the plants and all the creatures on the planet, and he tried to instil this into Jason. Not that it was hard, as Jason loved all these just as much as Tom did. He was nothing like his father, much to Tom’s relief, and Tom took the time to show Jason as much as he could. They walked for hours in the local woods, looking closely at the natural world and Jason would always remember these times together.
The deer gently nudged Jason once to remind him that he hadn’t responded to his last question. Jason wiped a tear from his eye as he thought of his beloved grandfather, then sighed heavily once and raised his eyes to look at the deer.
“I promise I’ll do what I want to do.”