(Read Luke 17:11-19.)
            Danny sat in Dr. Spradlin’s waiting room.  He had struck up a conversation with the receptionist, a pretty young blond.  Her telephone beeped.  She listened for her orders and then looked at Danny.  “OK, you can go in.  Second door on the right.”
            Danny entered the spacious office.  Dr. Spradlin swung around on his desk chair.  “Danny! My man.  Come in.”  He leaned across the desk, and Danny and he pumped hands.  Danny was grinning.
            He settled into the chair across from the doctor.  He was wearing a sports jacket and slacks and tie.  The doctor and he spent five minutes discussing various common interests—sports, especially.  Then, when he felt the time was right, Danny said, “Dr. Spradlin, I am applying for medical school.”
            Great!  I know you’ll get in, son.”
            “Well, they want two recommendations, besides the ones from our teachers.  I, uh, I was wondering if you would write one for me.”
            “Danny!  I’d be glad to.”
            Danny pulled out a card from the inside pocket of his sports jacket.  He had written the directions about whom to send the recommendation to.  “You’re supposed to send it to this address.”
            Dr. Spradlin waved Danny off.  “Just give it to my secretary.  Danny, you’ve come a long way.”  He stood and walked around his desk and toward the door.  Danny snapped to his feet and met him at the door.  The big meaty hand was twice the size of Danny’s.  “Welcome to Medicine, son.  I’m so glad that the cancer is gone and you’re making this step.”
            “Well, I really appreciated what you did for me,”  Danny could say no more.  The door was open, and their eyes met briefly as they pumped hands in silence.
            That afternoon, Danny was ready for a little free time.  He made his way down to the beach.  He locked his car and put the key in a tummy pack.  He kicked off his clogs and stretched out a towel.  The breeze off the water was pleasant as he wiped lotion on and leaned back on both elbows.
            Staring into the frothy waves, he was carried back across five years into the recliner-like chair in the silence of the cubicle.  The technician was a skinny, homely little woman.  She had reddish-brown hair, cut extremely short to reveal every feature of her face, head, and neck.  Her arms were tiny, but her hands seemed large, strong, with rolled-back thumbs.  She smelled of cigarette smoke.
            Danny studied her features, her eyes, her expression.  He was a natural-born people watcher.  He kept his eyes on her as she, with swift, competent, confident movements, wrapped the tourniquet, tapped his veins, and plunged the needle in to draw his blood.
            “I guess this one tells the story?”  Danny asked.
            “Well, I’ll let the Doctor know what I find.”  She was like all of them.  The nurses and technicians would never commit themselves about anything, always referring back to the doctors.  She placed the cotton ball on his arm and quickly emptied the syringe of blood into a stoppered test tube.  “Well, good luck,” were her final words.
            Danny’s mother came into the room.  “Did they get the blood?”
            “Yeah.”  Danny was holding the cotton ball in the bend of his elbow.  He was about to lean back on the chair.
            “Well, then, let’s go.  That’s all they need right now.”
            Danny wearily arose from his seat and followed her out of the room and down the hall of the giant cancer center.  They reached the elevator and descended to the first floor.  The elevator door slid open to reveal a large plaza-like area.  The ceiling was three stories high,  There was a fountain in the middle of the tile with a minimalist kind of statue in the middle that reminded one of the stump from a body part.  A soft ray of sunshine from a skylight created a glowing spot beside the fountain.  The spray from the fountain had chilled Danny slightly and now the sunshine cast its warm glow upon him.
            The two of them walked across the plaza without speaking, their shoes clicking harshly on the tile.  They passed the information desk and security station and were almost to the automatic double doors.  The “Enter” door swung inward and in walked Chris with his father.
            “Hey, Chris!”  Danny recognized the face of his compadre from chemotherapy days.
            Chris turned and grinned his enormous grin.  “Hey, uglier-than-I-am.  Where you going?”
            The four of them stopped, and then moved as a unit over close to the security station to allow the heavy traffic to continue its flow.  Danny explained that he and his mother were going to the motel to wait until the next day.  They hoped to have his white cell count results by then.  That would tell the story of whether the bone-marrow transplant and chemo had worked.
            “I got to go through that next month,” sad Chris.  “I’m just here for a checkup.”
            Danny’s mother and Chris’s father were in a big discussion, comparing notes of what their sons were going through.
            “D’hear that Dallas is making this big trade?” asked Danny.
            “What trade?”
            “About three defensive linemen for some future draft choice or something.”
            “Sounds                 to me.”  Chris said the expletive low enough so the adults would not hear.  “Hey, I told you about Cynthia, didn’t I?”
            “You talking about that one that…?”  They both grinned at memories of conversations from the past, when they had been seated in the puke-rose recliners with intracaths stuck in their arms.
            “Well, she called the other day.  I said a bunch of stuff…I  think she still likes me.”  Chris grinned that grin of a boy who has always had something going with some girl somewhere.
            Danny grinned appreciatively.  He had found it difficult to think much about girls.  Though he had still been able to flirt with girls occasionally when he felt well, he had not been able to get very involved.
            For two years his view of the world had been from an examining table.  For two years people had wanted to know, “How’s Danny?”  There had been generous gifts and prayers and great thoughtfulness.  But, somehow, no one wanted anything from Danny.  Danny no longer had to worry that much about homework.  He was not elected to any offices at school.  No coach came to say Danny needed to step up to the plate for the team.  No girl had demanded his attention.  Danny was no longer needed.  The world was going to go on without him.
            Chris’s father was calling to him.  The two pairs separated.  Chris and his father headed for the elevator bank.  Danny and his mother went through the automatic doors and into the baking heat of Texas in August.
            At the motel, Danny’s mother was making telephone calls.  Danny picked up his book.  A scientist with a flair for writing had produced a series of books on various aspects of the biomedical sciences.  Danny had gotten hooked:  he had already read three in the series.  The descriptions of giant molecules, subcellular organelles, hormones, messenger chemicals, DNA, and other marvels of biochemistry and physiology—it all sparked his imagination.
            Sometimes, he and Dr. Spradlin had gotten involved in long talks about such things.  The doctor and he had hit it off.  When he discovered that he liked science, Spradlin became willing to spend more time explaining his treatments to the young patient.
            It all sort of embarrassed, yet intrigued his mother.  She had gotten beaten down by the whole process of Danny’s illness.  It had become a duty that must be performed because medical science demanded it—the chemotherapy, the bone-marrow transplant, trip after trip to the Center, page after page of paperwork to fill out.  So, she had reached a point that she saw the doctors, nurses, and technicians as uniforms that blended with tile walls.  She could not discern them as people, but only as Demanders to please.  Thus, she steeled herself against any sort of personal connection.  When Dr. Spradlin and Danny made that connection, she just was not ready for it.  “Now, we can’t waste the doctor’s time,” she would caution.
            The next morning, at ten, the two of them were in the waiting room of Dr. Spradlin’s office.  Danny’s mother wore a business suit that expressed the importance of the occasion.  She had made Danny wear a pair of slacks and a white shirt.  Today was the day.
            “Danny.”  The receptionist stood at the entrance to the hall that led to the suit of examining rooms and offices.  “Second door on the right.”
            They entered Dr. Spradlin’s office.  He came around the immense desk, piled with papers, and greeted each of them warmly.  He led them over to the corner where four armchairs were arranged around a low, circular table.  Once they were seated and had refused offers of something to drink, she went to the point:  “What did the tests show?”
            “They were very good results.  Your white cell count has come back to close to normal.  Your blood picture is very good overall.”  His mother clasped her hands together and bounced in her chair.  Danny did not react at first.  He was trying to focus on what the doctor was saying.
            The next fifteen minutes were spent in going over the tests and the future of Danny’s treatment.  Danny listened carefully and tried to follow every aspect of the doctor’s explanations.  He was lost part of the time and was somewhat shy about asking questions, but, mostly, he followed what was going on.
            As they were rising and about to end the session, Dr. Spradlin said, “Danny, I think you are cured of cancer.  I think you are going to have a normal life again soon.”  He reached out his hand, as though congratulating Danny for graduating.  Danny shyly took the big, meaty hand of the doctor.  Something was caught in his throat:  he could hardly speak.
            “Thank you so much, Dr. Spradlin,” his mother gushed.  She embraced him as the tears ran over her cheeks.
            Danny and his mother made their way out of the Center and back to the motel.  She called his dad back home, and then they packed.  She let Danny drive them out of the huge city back to their tiny home town.
            The beach was almost deserted on this weekday.  A lifeguard was reading a paperback as he sat on his perch.  A couple was making out embarrassingly thirty yards away.  A beachcomber searched for nothing.  The water was inviting.
            Danny removed his tummy pack and slipped it under his towel.  He laid his sunglasses on his clogs and walked out into the surf.  He struggled through the waves far enough to do a little swimming and laid back into a relaxing backstroke.
            A subliminal message, perhaps, made him look back at the beach.  Fear and anger gripped him simultaneously.  Some jerk was stealing his tummy pack!  He rolled into a crawl and swam as fast as he could into the shallow water.  He touched the sand with his foot and began walking, using his arms to help drive himself through the water.  Now  he was in waist-deep water and was sprinting.  The man had fastened the pack around his waist and was walking away casually.  Then, he caught sight of Danny’s furious thrashing out of the surf onto the sand.  The man took a quick look and began to run toward the parking lot.  Danny was now plowing a path across the sand.  He stretched his legs, battling the resistance of the soft sand and wet bathing suit.  The culprit had light shorts over spandex and sneakers, so he was better equipped, but Danny’s powerful legs caught up quickly.
            His mind and body calculated the strategy of the tackle.  It was more like a quarterback sack by a huge defensive end:  slam him to the turf quickly without the bone-crushing impact of a head-on tackle.  Then, Danny stood over his captive and had time for his first real look at him.
            The thief had long, wavy black hair, which hung in strings down his shoulders, now matted with beach sand.  Three days of beard stubble covered his jaws and chin.  The eyes were blood shot, and Danny had caught a wiff of alcohol.  But, for Danny, the shocking revelation was that he knew him.
            “Chris!”  Danny yelled.  It began with anger and then turned to shock.  “Chris! What the            are you doing?  You stole my tummy pack.”
            The return look was blank.  “How do you know who I am?”
            “I’m Danny.  Don’t you recognize me?”  Danny squatted down beside Chris, who was stretched flat on his back.
            “Danny.  Danny.”  Chris rolled onto one elbow and looked at Danny.  “Oh, yeah.  You’re the guy that went through treatment with me.”  The old grin flashed for a moment.
            “Chris.  What’s going on with you?  I heard you got OK.  So, what are you doing here?”
            Chris’s face was blank again.  “Hey, man can I have this?  I’ll let you have your money and stuff.  I just need a tummy pack like this, ya know?”
            Danny reached over and snapped open the tummy pack.  He pulled out his key ring.  He remained squatted beside Chris for a few more seconds, studying the vacant eyes.  Then, he rose and walked back to his towel.  He retrieved his clogs and sunglasses and walked back to the parking lot.

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