Wednesday, March 02, 2011

A Moment of Pure Magic

This is a story that involves my Madeleina, the electric company, my ayahuasquero, Julio Jerena and blind faith. I thought I had told it and written it down a couple of years ago, but yesterday when I was telling it to my friend Lynn, who has heard an awful lot of my stories--and lived a bunch of them with me--he said he'd never heard it. So maybe I didn't write it down afterall.

Years ago, perhaps in 2004, I was in Peru with my friend Lynn. We were at my friend and teacher Julio's home on the Aucayacu River in Peru's Amazon. We drank ayahuasca and during the course of the evening, Julio gave me two guardians to help me with all sorts of things. Like guardian angels but much more imposing and frightening.
I've written about them.
But that particular night I asked them if they could help me make a living writing. I mean, I'd been a journalist for 20 years, and a damned good one, but after having moved to Texas in 2002, I couldn't catch a break. Nobody knew me, I didn't know what interested Texas readers--heck I didn't have any contacts here and so was having a hard time keeping a roof over our heads.
The guardians told me not to worry: that if I did the work and did it well, the work would be there for me. I didn't really believe them and so was pleasantly surprised when, a few days after I returned to the US I got a call from someone in Canada. The caller said he was the publisher of a new magazine called SKUNK, an irreverent marijuana magazine, and that his key staffers had told him I needed to be involved. "So here's the deal: I don't know who you are, but my guys say I have to have you, so what are you going to do for us and how much is it gonna cost me?"
That was a very cool line. I thought for about three seconds, told him I'd write a regular column and he should pay me $1000 an issue. "$1000?a Are you crazy? How bout $100?"
We settled on $400 and I've done 48 columns for them--at 8 per year--since then.
Other work came in as well. Unexpectedly. And that's when the Fort Worth Weekly, our local and fantastic alternative, decided I should be on a weekly stipend rather than just freelancing for them.
So I thanked the guardians and worked my butt off. And I told Madeleina, then maybe 7, why I was suddenly getting work. She was thrilled. "I'm glad Julio decided to help you, dad. Now you won't have to worry about money all the time..."
Unfortunately, in the world of magazine writing, having the job, even doing the job, doesn't produce instant money. It's often several months from turning in a story before you get paid. So several months later, when Madeleina was 8, I think, the electric was going to be turned off. I'd begged and pleaded, told the electric company I had checks coming in soon, but it was no use. "We really can't wait any longer, Mr. Gorman. We've done our best and we'll get it on as soon as you get caught up. I promise."
Well, the next day or maybe two days later, was the turn-off day.
The truck came shortly after I brought Madeleina home from school. Guy said he was here to turn off the electric.
Madeleina called me aside: "Dad, the guardians don't lie. They said you would have the work if you did the work and you've been doing it. So they have to fix it."
"Honey, I have the work. They never promised people would pay in time to pay the bills..."
"That's not fair. That has to be part of the deal or they were lying. And you said the guardians don't lie. So tell the man to wait."
"Wait for what, baby? The mail already came and there were no checks today. We'll get a check in the next few days and we'll get the lights turned back on."
"No. Tell him to wait a few miniutes. Just tell him, dad!"
So I walked over to the guy who was waiting impatiently to turn off our electricity and explained that my daughter believed in miracles and could he wait just 10 minutes to humor her? Maybe go to another house and then come back?
He wasn't keen, but started to chat a little about the bushes in my front lawn, which would buy me enough time to satisfy Madeleina.
And then, over the hill at the far end of the road, came a yellow DHL truck. I wouldn't have paid it any mind but somehow knew it was coming to our house. And it did. It turned into the driveway and the fellow asked if I was Peter Gorman. I said I was and signed for an envelope and off he went.
I opened the envelope. Inside was a bank check for $1000. It was from a magazine I'd done a story for nearly a year earlier. A story I'd already been paid for.
"I knew it, dad! The spirits don't lie!!!" shrieked Madeleina.
I showed the electric company guy the check and asked him if I could have half-an-hour to cash it and I'd bring him the dough. He laughed, said he couldn't believe it, then left. I said a silent thank you to the spirits and apologized to the company who was paying me a second time, then went to the bank, cashed the check, returned, paid the electric company and that was that.
And then I called the outfit and explained that I'd already been paid for the story but had cheated and cashed the check anyway and told the editor that I'd pay it back as soon as I could. He said that would so completely gum up the people who handled paying the freelancers that it was better I just kept it.
And Madeleina? Well, she had faith. Extraordinary faith that if the spirits really told me we'd have the work as long as I was willing to do the work, that that included avoiding things like electricity turn-offs. I don't know if it was her faith that made that check appear or not. I do know it showed up out of the blue, no advance warning, and that it was not due. And that it was a bank check, not a regular check. And that it came after I asked the guy to stall to give Madeleina's faith a chance to play out.
I don't know why I've never written that up before. Or why I've forgotten that I did if I did. I do know that when a friend who is at the end of his rope came over yesterday I told him that story and told him to keep the faith. That maybe just over the next hill was his DHL truck with a solution to his current problems.
I hope it is.
Thanks, Madeleina, for teaching me just how deep you have to believe to truly have faith in something. And thanks for coming through, guardian spirits.


Dr. Grossman said...

Pure magic indeed. What a story, Peter. I can't help but wonder, in a totally illogical and supernatural way: would the check have arrived that way without Madeleina's faith?

Somehow I think not,

Kuchinta said...

Beautiful story, Peter.