“Dad says he is going to kill them the next time he sees them; and you know Dad!”
Published on: 12-01-2019
Mahlon was starting a new job as director of the X-Ray Department in a hospital in Cape Cod, Massachusetts, United States. He was excited about the job, about working with new colleagues, eager to be living on the cape, and thrilled to be only 32 kilometers (20 miles) away from his girlfriend, Feryl. Life was good and getting better.
Several days into the job Mahlon arrived home one evening to the sound of his phone ringing. It was one of those incessant rings in which the person on the other end of the line refuses to give up. They just hang on as the phone rings and rings and rings.
“I think I answered it because I was irritated at the harsh sound breaking into my pleasant day,” Mahlon remembers.
“Hello. This is Mahlon. How may I—”
The voice on the other end broke into his greeting. “Do you still want to go to California?”
“Audrey, I have a brand-new job here in Cape Cod and there’s no way I can go to California, especially if I have to go anytime soon.” Audrey was Feryl’s sister.
“Pack your bags and tell your boss that you have to be away for a couple weeks. Family business. You’re going to California right away.”
“Yes, you can; and yes, you must. Feryl and Mom have had to move out of their house and into the academy principal’s house. Dad says he is going to kill them the next time he sees them; and you know Dad!”
Mahlon listened in amazement. He knew about Feryl’s father’s strong temper, but could hardly believe it would go this far. As he listened, he felt fear, cold and hard, moving up his spine.
“Please leave right away. Go to the principal’s house at the academy, pick up Feryl and Mom, and take them to visit your parents in Vermont for a couple days. Once things settle down a bit, drive them across the country to San Diego, where the principal’s sister lives. You’ll need to help them find a place to live there.”
“But I have a new job, and I can’t go to California right now.”
“Mahlon, leave right away. Tonight. Now!”
Mahlon finally agreed, said goodbye, hung up the phone, and called his boss. An hour later he was in the car, driving the 20 miles (32 kilometers) north to the principal’s house at Greater Boston Academy. By the time he arrived snow had begun to fall, and he knew the trip to Vermont was going to be a challenge. Sure enough, with mother Emily and girlfriend Feryl in the car, Mahlon drove directly into a monster blizzard. Snow fell in sheets, and the wind blew with hurricane power. It was February, and the snow was heavy and wet, quickly covering the road and the windshield like a pail of white glue.
“Here,” Mahlon told Feryl, “you sit in the driver’s seat and take the wheel. I’ll walk beside the car and give you directions till we get out of the storm.”
There were no other cars on the road. None. Mahlon walked with one hand trying to clean a clear patch on the windshield and the other holding onto the windowsill as he gave directions to Feryl. Emily sat in the back seat in terror. She was vulnerable to cold weather and had wrapped herself in every blanket she could find, closed her eyes, and scrunched down into being as small as she could be.
“We finally got to my parents’ home about 3:00 in the morning,” Mahlon says. “By then the snow had frozen the doors of the car closed, and we had to pull Mom and Feryl out of a car window.”
They stayed in Vermont for several days, slowly warming Mom up for the trip to California while making sure Feryl’s father didn’t know where they were or where they were going.
With his boss’s permission, Mahlon drove Feryl and her mom the 3,000 miles (4,800 kilometers) across the United States from Vermont to safety in San Diego, California.
“I have thought about that trip so many times,” recalls Mahlon. “It was frightening to be called and told to do something so drastic so quickly, but I have always been happy I took the trip. Later Feryl and I got married and lived a wonderful life together. I am so glad she and her mother were able to go on with their lives safely in San Diego.”
It is a good story, a tale of a good deed done in a difficult situation. But when Mahlon had finished telling me the story, he added this extra bit of information.
“I decided to write the story down, and as I wrote I felt that I ought to call Audrey and be sure I got her words right. I called her, explained what I was doing, and asked her to repeat what she had told me on her urgent call that night. Her answer stopped me cold.”
“What call?” Audrey asked. “I did not call you that night. I didn’t tell you to leave your job and drive to Vermont and California with Mom and Feryl. I didn’t call you at all. I always wondered why you drove up there so quickly.”