The Green Sun
In a world which attacks the depths of our hearts with its morbidity and unpleasantness, forgiveness paves the easiest way to peace. Our hearts are castles which we fortify with misconceptions and bias of our surroundings. Penetrating through the walls of one’s castle requires persistent love and unconditional forgiveness.
Edward Garland was as an industrialist in Chicago and owned a chain of factories throughout the city. He was a man of contradictions, all of which destroyed him daily. Edward projected himself with brashness and arrogance equal to that of ten men but barely looked like half a man himself. Aside from work where he was forced to be presentable, Mr. Garland was an unhygienic recluse. His study was a disaster and scattered around were numerous cigarette butts and whiskey bottles. His son David was compelled to clean it on numerous occasions. Mr. Garland wasted most of his time in his sanctuary and other than drinking only God knows what he did inside his prison. He never entertained guests and never went out. The only times the industrialist would leave would be for work-related dinners. None of those interactions were genuine, and Mr. Garland would only be able to initiate conversation after a few instant and immediate pegs.
Mr. Garland was devoted to his son, or at least tried his hardest to be and made sure David excelled and involved himself in anything and everything. Despite David’s disapproval of his father, he had to credit him for being a stellar student and athlete. Despite Mr. Garland’s unpredictable temper, his noisy and violent rants, his lack of understanding, and his lack of communication, David valued him in his mind but not in his heart, understanding his madness ever since his mother Josephine passed away when he was seven years old.
Mr. Garland was such a different man before his wife died, demonstrating charm, class, and elegance. He always managed to put his family in the best of moods. Sometimes Mr. Garland and David walked to the park and spent the evening there. Other times the entire family would go out to dinner and then the theater. Mr. Garland was the soul of every cocktail party in Chicago and everyone wanted to meet him at some point in their career. His jokes with their biting punchlines were known far and wide .
But one night destroyed any further hope of any sociability. One night Mr. Garland, Josephine, and David visited a friend’s for dinner. When it was time to leave Josephine insisted on driving home but Edward refused. They fought for a few minutes and of course she won the argument. Everything was normal on the drive home until suddenly a large truck smashed into their car, making it spin out of control and crash into a tree. Once the paramedics arrived and took them to the hospital, Mr. Garland and David received devastating news. Josephine was dead, murdered by a reckless drunk driver who ended up murdering the entire family. For the first time in his life, David saw his father cry. For the next five minutes Mr. Garland sat screaming amidst several nurses trying to calm him down. And then he lay still and from that moment, nothing was ever the same.
Mr. Garland began to turn into a vile shadow of his former self. He blamed himself for Josephine’s death. “If only I was driving”, he’d mumble. “If only I was driving.” Mr. Garland began to drink. Before work, after work, it never mattered to Mr. Garland. His only friend was the bottle. After a while Mr. Garland wouldn’t want to nor be able to talk to his son. David was forced to look after himself. Fortunately, David was blessed with a large reserve of common sense. And raised himself and his father. David began to use school as an escape, trying each day to find someone stay with for the night. His performance plummeted and eventually his teachers scheduled a conference with Mr. Garland, who forgot to attend. As a result, David pushed himself to the limit. In the meantime, Mr. Garland further deteriorated. The brash businessman was forced to sell one of his factories at a loss due to his own foolishness. It seemed as if Mr. Garland would rip his family to shreds.
But one day, this notion vanished. David was around seventeen, and school had just let out for spring break. David arrived home to discover Mr. Garland with a smile plastered on his normally stoic face. They stared at each other for a few moments. Then Mr. Garland in a quivering voice attempted to make conversation.
“David, how was school today?”
“Dear God. The way he said that was awkward. And why is he even talking to me? He doesn’t even seem drunk”, David thought. “Fine. Is something wrong?”, he mumbled.
Mr. Garland startled David by looking genuinely shocked. “Nothing’s wrong. Can’t a father ask his son how his day was? I have some incredible news.”
“If it’s about the stupid merger he’s been raving about for the last three weeks I might go insane”, David thought. Instead, David held his tongue and muttered, “Go on.”
Mr. Garland began, “I’ve been thinking, it’s been ages since we’ve taken a trip. We’ve been imprisoned in this house for centuries it seems like.”
“No you have. I’ve been out though I’m sure you never noticed”, David thought, his head getting heavier with his father’s ranting.
Mr. Garland continued, “So I got us two tickets for a ten day tour in Peru. The mountains. The Amazon. Canoeing, fishing, and hunting”, he said with a hint of shyness. David stared at him. Of all the things he had said in the last ten years this was the most pleasant. “Here, see?”, he said, exuberantly showing David the tickets.
“Of course, dad”, he said, trembling. “I’m excited to go. When do we leave?”
“Three days. Make sure you pack everything that you would need for the outdoors. Your tent, fishing pole, flashlight, you know the drill. See you for dinner in a few hours. I have some last minute work before we leave.” Leaving David amazed, Mr. Garland retreated to his study.
David raced to his room and began to pack, his mind flooded with questions. As he grabbed his suitcase he asked himself, “What possible motivation does he now suddenly have?” As he was packing he thought, “If this turns out to be a business deal, business related, or if he gets drunk the entire time” and many more “if” statements, “then I refuse to associate with him again.” Several hours later he finished packing and Mr. Garland emerged from his study with his packed suitcase, the day’s second surprise.
“Are you sure you packed everything, dad? I should probably check.” As David walked forward to check his suitcase, Mr. Garland waved him away.
“No, David I checked twice. It’s all in there. ”David nodded, knowing how futile it would be to argue, “Come downstairs for dinner. I ordered. It should be here any moment.” He grabbed his Bourbon and took a large gulp before stumbling down the stairs. The food arrived and they ate quietly. Once they finished dinner Mr. Garland retreated to his bedroom. David snuck upstairs and checked his suitcase and was shocked to discover it was neatly packed with everything necessary. “Life surprises us sometimes”, David muttered.
The Garlands disembarked the plane, weary and exhausted. A large man holding a sign with their names introduced himself as their guide. When David looked at him for the first time something didn’t sit well with him. He was an intimidating and imposing figure. He was six-foot-four and very dark, with large, chapped hands from years of hard labor in the unforgiving relentless sun. When he smiled David noticed he was missing a few teeth.. On his side he had two leather pouches strapped to him, and in each one was a large hunting knife, the blade six or seven inches long. He wore earrings as well, not ordinary earrings but ones made from the bone of some animal. On his feet he wore leather moccasins, made from the skin of some wild animal. But none of these intimidated David as much as the large emerald necklace that he wore. It was a sun on its own, radiating fiercely. “My name is Pascual”, the guide said. “And I’ll be your guide for the trip. Pleasure to meet you.”
He extended his hand and smiled again.
They shook hands and introduced themselves. “The car is right over there”, Pascual said pointing at a small station wagon about twenty feet from where they stood. “Give me your luggage, I’ll tie it to the roof right away. Mr. Garland handed him the luggage and then he and David seated themselves in the car. While Pascual was fastening the luggage to the roof, an old vagrant knocked on the window and asked for chang and David pulled out a bill and gave it to her. She thanked him and stared into his face and said, “The blood of blood shall be spilt” , scampering off as Pascual shooed her away. And then they began to drive.
They drove from the airport to some abandoned clearing next to the Amazon where Pascual parked the car. On the journey Pascual told us a bit about himself. He was from one of the forest tribes. When he was ten years old his parents had died and the tribe was forced to move to the mountains after a band of loggers mowed down their home. Mr. Garland’s heart went out to him at once and he told Pascual his own story of loss.. Once they reached the clearing, they got out of the car and Pascual untied the luggage. While Mr. Garland and David followed, Pascual proceeded to pull the luggage towards a large canoe located at the shoreline of the river. While Pascual smoked a cigarette, David pulled Mr. Garland aside and said, “Dad, I have this bad feeling about the guide.” Mr. Garland looked at him in amazement.
“What? Why? He’s been nothing but polite and professional since we came here. I spent five thousand dollars on this trip. I refuse to waste it because of some delusion. Unbelievable.”
David shook his head and walked away and then they began the voyage.
It was nice and peaceful. The river as they left the shore was calm and gentle. The verdant landscape and the cool air brushing the company’s faces were pleasant distractions. The landscape was a collection of many universes. The sky was painted with the plumages of various birds, and their songs were synchronized in harmony. The water was filled with little minnows and other varieties of fish. Just ahead two monkeys were yelling at each other in the tree when out of nowhere a large eagle snatched one away and flew high in the air. “Such is the fragility of life”, David thought. David looked at his father canoeing with Pascual and decided to swallow his pride and enjoy the trip at all costs.
After several hours of canoeing, they reached the campsite, their arms numb and heavy and their bodies drenched in sweat. Pascual broke the silence at last. “That was a good day’s work. David, Mr. Garland, we certainly need a campfire. Would you mind assisting me in gathering wood? There should be plenty around this clearing.
As they gathered wood, Mr. Garland came beside David. “Enjoyed the first day, son? You seemed silent.”
David smiled. “Yes dad I did. I was just taking in the landscape that’s all. It’s so beautiful out here.”
Mr. Garland nodded. “Glad you are”, he said, and went back to collecting wood.
Once they brought the wood, Pascual began the fire and brought out some deer meat and a pot and began to cook. Everyone sat as close as they could to the fire, basking in its heat. They filled their stomachs and went to sleep.
The next few days were lazily passed by. On the seventh day, they woke up and prepared the canoe. Today the river was enraged. They started down the river and Pascual was able to maneuver against the raging water. When the river turned peaceful again, David noticed Pascual dropping some crumbs that looked like meat into the river. All of a sudden, Pascual screamed, “Piranhas! Quick! Get out! Grab what you can.” David and Mr. Garland looked at the water and noticed a swarm approaching them. David panicked and stayed frozen in the boat. At this point there must have been at least fifty flesh-eating, ravenous fish by the boat. And then, the boat overturned. The fish started to attack them, biting at their knees and ankles. The pain was searing and David could feel the blood leaking from his leg. Pascual grabbed David and swam with him back to the shore.
“Are you alright?”, Pascual asked.
“Yes, I’m fine, at least I think.” Then David saw that Mr. Garland wasn’t there. “My father! Pascual, please save him”
Pascual looked at David and grunted. “Alright, I’ll get him.”
Then Pascual swam back to the middle of the river and grabbed Mr. Garland’s hand and pulled him back to shore. “Here he is”, he said, dropping him on the sand.
They set up camp at the shore by where they were attacked earlier. Pascual caught fish and fried them. As they ate, he brought out bandages and dressed their wounds. He began to speak.
“David, Mr. Garland, seeing as you have almost no supplies, what do you say we head to my village tomorrow? We are by the mountains and it’s not terribly far from here.”
Mr. Garland said, “We would be most grateful for that, Pascual. Thank you so much for the generosity.” Pascual nodded at him, pleased.
They ate and then pitched their tents which were somehow saved. That night David was drifting off to sleep when his father told him something that would change his life forever.
“Son, are you asleep?”, Mr. Garland asked. David didn’t feel like replying and pressed his eyes shut. Mr. Garland shook him. “Son, are you asleep?”, he said more loudly.
“No dad, I’m not. What is it?”, he asked, struggling to open his eyes.
“David, after that attack today, I’ve been thinking and I realize I need to apologize.” David jolted awake. “Apologize for what?”, he said.
Mr. Garland thought for a moment, struggling to find the right words. “Well David”, he began. “I wanted to say that I’ve enjoyed every moment of this trip with you. I know I’ve been distant with you the last few years. It was because I was afraid of losing you like we lost your mother. I know I’m not good at expressing my love for you. I want you to know it’s there, son. From my mind to my heart to my soul it’s there. I know you’ve had to raise yourself for the last ten years. Words cannot express how proud of you I am for everything you accomplished in your young life, only seventeen years and so many more left. I know I used your mother’s death as an excuse to delve into my own selfishness. In this horrible world of selfishness and despair, a mother’s love is the only truly unselfish love. It’s an unbounded ocean of never ending, unconditional forgiveness. No other love is the same, since even if we love someone else we expect them to love us back. But your mother and I didn’t have that pure love. She was my wife. You lost more than I did and I couldn’t meet my own expectations.” Mr. Garland hung his head in shame.
Even though he was young that night, David still remembered her in great detail. He remembered her contagious laugh, her vibrant personality, and her incredible sense of humor, and most of all, the delicious chocolate chip cookies she would bake when David would return home from school. David felt that tears should be reserved, but he felt tears well up in his eyes.
Mr. Garland continued. “ I know you’ve been more of a father to me than I have to you. I know you stayed away from home on purpose to avoid me. I know you know this. I want to let you know that I know and that I care. I know I can never give you those lost years of your life back. But I can try.”
David didn’t even what to say, his mind overflowing with emotions.“Yes dad, I forgive you. Of course I do. Be good to yourself.” And the father and son embraced each other for a long time for the first time in years.
The next day they started towards the mountains, which were now visible. After canoeing for several hours, they arrived at the shore by the foot of the mountain and then started to climb. There were no signs of life like there were in the forest and the landscape changed to a stony gray. At last they reached Pascual’s village. There was no shortage of laughter at all. The children had a ball and were tossing it amongst themselves. The women and men were all drinking and gossiping together. Then they broke out into song and Pascual joined in, his heart at home. At last Pascual said, “Here is the elder’s tent. Let me tell him we’ve arrived.” After a few minutes a smiling old man came out with Pascual. “Welcome to our humble village, Garlands. Come inside.”
They entered the elder’s hut, the largest hut in the village. The elder brought out a large tumbler of water and poured everyone a glass.
“I trust you had a safe journey. You’re in good hands with Pascual”, he said, patting him on the back.
“We definitely did, Mr. Elder”, my father said. The men conversed for the next half hour. The conversation eventually reached the subject of the village. The elder smiled and began to speak.
“Mr. Garland, have you ever heard about the sacred stone?”
“Briefly, when I was talking to Pascual. I forgot the legend though. I thought of it as a fairy tale or something of the sort.”
The elder looked disappointed. “No, Mr. Garland. I can assure you it is not a mere tale. The sacred stone in this village allows those who touch it to experience a different world. You can be there for as long as you want. Think about it. You can have an abundant supply of scotch, a new factory, or who knows, maybe your wife might visit you again.”
‘“I would love to use this stone. Where is it?”, Mr. Garland eagerly said.
“It’s in our temple just behind here. Let’s go. David, come with us if you wish.” David shook his head.
The other three walked about fifty feet behind the elder’s hut to the temple. The elder opened the door and there lay the stone. The stone was a large, magnificent emerald, similar to Pascual’s in shape, only far larger. Next to it on each side lay two large lamps.
“Mr. Garland”, the elder said. “You need to touch the stone and concentrate.”
Mr. Garland nodded. He walked up to the emerald and grasped it. He waited for a few minutes. “Nothing’s happening”, he said.
The elder replied, “Concentrate harder. Sometimes these things take a while. I promise you’ll be seeing stars soon.”
Mr. Garland nodded and continued to concentrate, not hearing Pascual’s footsteps behind him. And then in a series of indiscernible movements Pascual grabbed Mr. Garland’s throat and began to push him into the opposite wall. Mr. Garland tried to run, but the elder blocked his path.
“Pascual, what are you doing?”, Mr. Garland said, cornered.
“Avenging my tribe, Mr. Garland. The tribe you destroyed thirteen years ago. Remember those loggers you sent to the forest? Well today is the day of retribution”, said Pascual, putting the struggling man in a chokehold. And then the elder rushed towards him and grabbed a long knife from his pocket and slit Mr. Garland’s throat. Mr. Garland began to convulse. His face turned from a milky white, then to red, and finally to mixtures of blue and purple as he struggled to gasp for air, kicking and screaming. Over the next few minutes, the kicks grew weaker, and his gasps for air grew more shallow until at last he lay still on the floor, his desire having devoured him.
The elder and Pascual had just returned to the room where David was sitting, not noticing him. “Well, justice has been served”, the elder said.
Pascual said, “I don’t feel sorry for him at all. He squealed like a pig when he died”, he said laughing. “In spite of what he caused he didn’t take his death like a real man would.”
David, shocked and speechless began screaming. “That was my father. I knew you were a horrible man all along”, he said, bursting into tears.
Pascual whipped around and walked over to David and placed his hand on David’s shoulder. “Well then, now we are even.” David looked up at him, confused. He continued. “Garland’s Paper Company. Your father was the one responsible for the death of my family and the destruction of my tribe. Why do you think I never cared when he was attacked by the fish? Had it not been for your pleading I would have let him drown. Son, I liked you and knew you were not like your father, else I would have found a way to kill you too. Now we will leave you here to grieve. I’ll drop you off at the airport in the morning. Pascual and the elder left.
David continued to sob, but didn’t know how to feel since Pascual didn’t kill his father out of malice. David reached for the whiskey in his dead father’s pocket and drank for the first time ever, trying to sleep. But David wasn’t able to sleep that night, despite how much he drank. And in the morning when David was about to leave the village, David said to himself, “Well dad, glad we fixed it. I’m just glad we fixed it.” And from that day on, whenever David looked up at the sky he always saw two extra stars side by side, and after that whenever he swigged some Bourbon he realized how much he understood his father.