Mind Over Muscle

Conner’s Reward


By Rex Torres

Frank and Janice Vander Steen had finally made time to go on a vacation to Aruba. Frank had worked all year long as a sales representative for a large furniture store in Thomasville, which is a city in southern Georgia, while saving up for this trip. Janice has worked all year round as a fifth-grade school teacher at a public elementary school, so this opportunity to get out of town couldn’t have come at a better time.

Not only were Frank and Janice looking forward to some time to relax, but they also needed to leave behind the pressures of work. They had just had a stressful year behind them. Their fourteen year-old son Conner was confined to a wheelchair, due to a birth defect. He was a bright kid, but he never got to enjoy the use of his legs. They had purchased a new wheelchair, which Conner could steer using just a joystick in his left hand.

Their oldest son, Marcus, was seventeen years-old and he was on the basketball team at his high school. He was a tall, lanky kid; he was athletic and weighed about 170 pounds. He loved to go out to play sports and hang out with his friends, without having to worry about Conner. Unfortunately, he was often left at home, so he could care for his little brother. That annoyed him tremendously.

As soon as the Vander Steen’s had checked in at the hotel, located near the southern coast of Aruba, they wandered around the beautiful beaches. There was white sand everywhere. The weather was awesome, the sun was shining, and the cool easterly breeze blew into their hair.

Marcus immediately headed for the sandy beach, where he dove straight into the ocean so he could enjoy his first swim on the island. Frank and Janice just wandered around the small shops at the hotel, while they were pushing Conner’s wheelchair on the sidewalk.

After thirty minutes, Marcus came running towards them, soaking wet.

“Hey mom, dad! They have a small gym here for hotel guests! I want to go and have a short workout in there…” he said excitedly.

“Well, we want to go for a swim. You can go work out, as long as you keep an eye on Conner!” Janice told him.

“Awwww come on! I don’t want to have to watch Conner again! Give me a break…” he protested.

“Marcus! Conner is part of the family, too!” Frank said sternly. “Just because you can run and walk and do all the things you want, doesn’t mean that we have to leave Conner all alone. He’s also on vacation! You have to take care of your little brother now and then!”

“Why can’t you watch him?” Marcus asked his mother.

“We’d like to wander around the shops. So, take Conner with you. We’ll meet you back at the hotel when we return…” Janice instructed the boy.

“Oh, alright…” Marcus grumbled, as he turned around to walk to the gym.

“Hey, Marcus!” Frank shouted at him.

Marcus turned around and stared at him in anger.

“Forgetting somebody?”

Marcus let out a deep sigh.

“Come on, Conner… Follow me!”

“Okay… See you later, mom and dad!” Conner said cheerfully, as he pushed the small lever on the joystick forward, which made the wheelchair move forward, while following his older brother. “Wait for me, Marcus!”

When Marcus opened the door to the gym, he patiently waited for his little brother to steer the wheelchair through the door. Once inside, Marcus filled out a sign-up sheet, so he could work out in the small gym, which was located on the property of the hotel.

Conner parked his wheelchair by the registration desk, where there was a small TV set. He watched TV, while his big brother worked out. He was bored to tears, but he didn’t want to say anything to his brother, because he realized that he would become very angry if he did.

After a few moments, Conner became thirsty, and asked for a drink of water. The receptionist told him that there was a water fountain, but it was outside, just a few yards away. The lady opened the door and allowed Conner to roll his wheelchair out the door.

“Just knock on the door when you get back, okay?” the lady said to the boy. “I’ll open the door for you.”

“Thank you!” Conner said, as he started to ride down the sidewalk.

A few yards up ahead, he spotted the water fountain. He tried to take a short drink of water, but he was just too low to reach the spout. He was about give up and just turn around, when he spotted a young girl and an older man with dark skin. They walked up to him and greeted him.

“Bon bini” the girl said to the boy in the wheelchair. “Do you need some help with that?”

The older man noticed how Conner had to struggle to raise himself up so that he could reach the top of the water fountain.

“I’ll get you a cup so you can drink the water…” the girl said. She turned around and ran into the hotel, where she got a plastic cup from one of the restaurants. After a few moments, she returned with a plastic, red cup, which she held under the short stream of water, which came from the spout on top of the water fountain.

“Here you go!” she said, as she handed the boy the cup, which was filled with cold drinking water.

Conner drank the water, and stared at the girl when he was finished. The girl was about thirteen years old. She had long, black hair and chocolate colored skin. She was skinny; she had dark brown eyes, and a friendly face.

“Thank you so much for helping me…” he said to the girl.

“It’s our pleasure, my young guest. We’re here to help each other. Welcome to Aruba!” the older man said. He seemed too old to be the girl’s father, so Conner correctly assumed that he must have been her grandfather.

“Could you give us some money?” the man asked him. “We’re very poor, and we won’t be getting any more money from the government for another three days…”

“Well… All I have is one Dollar…” Conner said, reaching into his pocket on the side of his shorts. “I don’t have anything else…”

“It’s not the amount what matters…” the man replied. “It’s the heart that is important! I can tell that you’re a very generous boy, indeed…”

Conner took the Dollar bill out of his pocket and handed it to the older man.

“Do you have any wishes or desires, you would like to share with us?” the man asked him.

“Well…” Conner explained, as he bowed his head. “I realize that I’ll never be able to walk. I just wish that I could be more helpful to my big brother Marcus…”

“Why is that?”

“Marcus is really big into sports and working out” he continued. “I just wish there was some way I could do something to help him and his friends. I feel so useless sometimes, just because I’m stuck in this wheelchair…”

“Don’t say that! You’re not useless at all!” the girl replied.

“My boy… You’re not useless! On the contrary, you are very giving and very loving… The spirits like to work through souls like you…” the man said in a soft voice. “You have proven your generosity by giving me this money. You have passed the test!”

“Test? What test?” Conner asked.

“We can make you very useful towards your brother and his friends!” the girl added to her grandfather’s comments.

“What? How?” Conner wondered out loud.

“My boy… You’re very selfless… Your wish is to help others rather than to help yourself! This is precisely what the spirits are looking for… Yes… You will do great things!” the man whispered to the boy. “You will change the lives of many… I can feel it!”

For the moment, Conner got scared. What were these two people talking about? What were they going to do to him? What was all this talk about spirits supposed to mean?

“Don’t be afraid! Just tell us: What is your brother’s wish?” the girl asked him.

“He’s always talking about playing sports, becoming bigger and stronger, and working out in the gym. He’s just obsessed with having big muscles… But, how can I help him?”

“If you can call upon the spirits, my boy, then you can help your brother, his friends, and anyone else you’ll meet, who can use your assistance!” the older man responded.

“But, I’m stuck in a wheelchair. I can’t do anything…” Conner said dejectedly. “I’m nothing but a handicapped kid…”

“Ahh… But, you have your mind, and that seems to be working fine!” the girl replied. “You’re a very smart and intelligent young man!”

“My… My mind? What do you mean?” Conner asked. He began to get nervous.

“Can you imagine what your brother would look like, if he were suddenly to grow bigger and more muscular?” the man explained. “Or, could you imagine him growing bigger and taller? Or, becoming older or even younger?”

“Yes…” Conner pondered. “But, that’s just in my mind… Those are just fantasies!”

“What if your wishes were to become reality? What if you could change how other people looked, by just using your mind? What if you could manipulate the muscles and the bodies of your brother, his friends, and just about anyone else?” the girl said in all sincerity.

“That’s impossible!” Conner shouted. “You two are crazy! Nobody can manipulate the muscles of others by just thinking about how they should look! You’re insane!”

“The spirits can make it possible! I can assure you!” the man said. “I can give you the power to call on the spirits, by simply using your mind… Would you like to be able to do this?”

Conner sighed deeply.

“Sure… Why not? What do I have to lose?”

“Consider this gift as a reward for your generosity…” the man said with a grin. “You can’t use it on yourself, but you could use it on anybody else…”

“Okay… I guess I could try it. So, what do I need to do?” Conner asked him.

“Just close your eyes and I will place my hand on your forehead. I will give you the ability to call upon the spirits, so you can manipulate others using your mind…” the man said calmly. “You will command the spirits, and they will change, form, mold and sculpt any person’s body the way you order them to!”

Conner closed his eyes.

The man placed both hands over the boy’s forehead. He then spoke a few verses in a strange language, which sounded like a mix between Spanish, English, Dutch, and a local Creole tongue.

“Muchah homber generoso… Muchah homber sinsero… Mi ta dunabo eh poder di mandah eh spiritunan pah hasi lokeh boh tah mandah nan hasih pah boh… Kambia, kreseh, y yudah otroh hendenan kuh boh poder… Tur eh spiritunan tah bai hasi lokeh aboh keh feh awor… Esaki tah mi regalo pah boh, mi muchah… Huseleh bon…” the man spoke while resting the palms of his hands against Conner’s forehead.

After a few moments, Conner felt sleepy and dozed off. A few minutes had passed, when he woke up again, feeling hot and sweaty for sitting directly in the burning sun. When he opened his eyes, the old man and the girl were no longer there. He was still sitting in his wheelchair, in the same place, just besides the water fountain. What happened? Was it all a dream?

Conner just pushed the lever on his joystick, and allowed the wheelchair to ride back to the gym where Marcus was working out. He looked both ways, while riding back. He wondered if he would see the old man and the young, tanned girl again.

When he finally made it back to the gym, he tapped with his finger on the glass door, so that the receptionist could let him in. It felt good being inside again. The humidity on the island was very high, and the heat had caused Conner to sweat a bit. There was an air conditioner inside the gym, and he was happy to be back inside again.

Conner just looked on and smiled, as he watched Marcus finish up his workout on the weight bench. Somehow, he knew, in the back of his mind, that he now had the ability to help out his brother in ways Marcus had never dreamed of possible. Conner couldn’t wait to put his new ability to the test… •

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