WORKSHOP STORY … DANA THOMAS AND THE BIG BLACK SCAR

You know what sucks, this is the edited version of my story. I will say that I got more than a few good comments on how to fix this story, so being the open and great guy I am, I fixed it. By the way, I love this story, it’s so f-ing me it’s scary.

DANA THOMAS AND THE BIG BLACK SCAR by Kael

Judging from Dana’s initial and subsequent reaction to the entire incident, it seemed pretty clear that he wasn’t looking for fame the day he placed his hands on Agnes Nickelbacken, a young woman he hit with his car. If it weren’t for the Wal-Mart security cameras monitoring union activity in the parking lot, no one would have known it had happened at all. Now, of course, the story is famous.

Agnes had walked out of the Wal-Mart after picking up a box of tampons she needed unexpectedly. Agnes and her husband had been trying to have a baby for months, and finally Agnes had missed her cycle and was convinced she had conceived. What it really ended up being was a hormonal imbalance and not pregnancy. Upset that the miracle she expected had gone awry, she wasn’t paying attention as she walked into the path of Dana’s moving car. By the position of her legs it was apparent that she had broken at least one of them, and there was a fair amount of blood flowing from multiple cuts and abrasions all over her body.

Dana later claimed that he had no idea that he had this kind of ability, and why he bent down, calmly put his hands on her body, jerked his head backwards, and let out a loud moaning was anyone’s guess. Witnesses say they had seen a glow, or a light emanating from his hands, although the cameras never picked it up.

Further healings that just happened be filmed, showed nothing but slight static electricity that evidently flowed through his body and out his head, causing a small but noticeable elevation of his hair.

The case became famous when Agnes decided to sue Dana and Wal-Mart for an undisclosed amount. She stated that Dana had caused a huge blackened scar to appear on her left cheek, and in retrospect, although Dana never touched her face, this is true. It has been documented in countless cases; Dana Thomas really did have the ability to heal people by mere touch, but in every case, days later, a long black scar appeared on the left cheek of the healed. It should also be noted that Dana was unable, or unwilling to heal diseases of the mind or body.

Naturally there were skeptics. Nonetheless he was inundated with offers from daytime TV to appear on talk shows and the occasional news magazine gabfests. He was offered spot after spot, which he always turned down. His phone rang off the hook with people wanting to be healed, some of which he did. His most famous case was Reggie Halbrook.

Reggie was a pro basketball player who was discovered one day playing basketball in downtown Denver. It was quite by accident really that a coach, Gordon Gatrell, from Seattle was visiting his brother and family in Denver, and annoyed by his brother’s lesbian-like wife and her passive aggressive tendencies to associate basketball (and all organized sports) as man’s desperate attempts to cover up his constant insecurities about the inadequacies of his penis size, he decided to take a drive to check out Denver. He stopped at a downtown basketball court where a pick up game was taking place with some local kids. One of the kids, Reggie, stuck out since he was six-foot-eight-inches tall towering above the rest. He was also the only white kid playing. Reggie was from an upper middle class family in the suburbs of Denver, but at sixteen decided to run away from home and join a gang. He was famous around town because of his unusual taste in music. He drove his lowered Toyota truck with James Taylor playing full blast …heavy on bass of course. His ability to play basketball was only hindered by a gunshot wound he received a couple years prior to his left leg. The wound caused a slight hobble.

This injury didn’t prevent him from kicking some serious playground ass, but his chances of making it as a professional were marginal at best. Coach Gatrell had read about Dana’s abilities to heal, and decided to offer him a trip to Denver to heal Reggie’s leg. It was a long shot, indeed, but Coach Gatrell decided that he had nothing to lose, and because of the press that seemed to follow Dana everywhere he went, he had everything to gain.

Two days before the Reggie incident, and during the lawsuit by Agnes, a reporter from WKRP saw Dana in the grocery store, and in the check out line, as Dana was reading a story about himself being an Alien, the reporter asked Dana a couple questions about his ability to heal, and where he thought this gift had come from. Dana told the reporter, who he just thought was an innocent fellow grocery store go-er that he was just as baffled as everyone else was, and that if he hadn’t seen if for himself, he would have thought the whole thing a hoax. He wasn’t sure if his hands glowed because his eyes were always closed. And as he was healing people he always thought of that episode of MASH where Henry Blake’s plane was shot down over the Sea of Japan and died. He said that some people call him a faith healer, which never made sense to him because he had never had a belief in God, and probably never would. He joked that that probably made him more like other faith healers than not like them, but that comment never made it to the paper.

The fact that Dana was an atheist hit the news cycles the previous morning, and it almost dissuaded Coach Gatrell and Reggie from going through with it, but Gatrell’s career was on a downward spiral since losing the playoffs last year, and Reggie had three warrants and two sons who were two months apart, and he was being hounded to pay child support by the two mothers, and he figured this job was as good as any. His ambivalent attitude towards having a pro-basketball career, later caused fans to dub him the laziest player in the NBA.

It’s common knowledge that Reggie was indeed healed, and he played basketball for three years before he was shot again, this time by one of his baby’s mothers. The importance of Reggie’s case was not that the black scar ended up being his trademark, and landed him on the cover of every sports magazine, and People, but that his Grandmother, Belle Halbrook, had contacted Father Michael Harrold from her local parish and asked him about this non-faith healer. It was this association that began the whole controversy.

Father Michael Harrold headed a small parish in the Denver suburb of Lakewood. He, like everyone else in the world, had been following Dana’s rise to fame, and was more than a little interested in the black scar that Dana’s healing would leave behind. Of course, to everyone but the African American Community, black meant evil, doom, or at the very least something bad. For years now the Father had known he had a calling, ever since he had those ill fated “encounters” with Robin Gilroy in his (Robin’s) basement some ten years ago.

Although it happened more than once, Father Harrold chalked it up to a childhood phase, and even used the encounter as fodder in his counseling sessions. He almost always neglected to mention that these several encounters happened a little under ten years ago, and the good Father, although looking pretty old for his age, was still a mere 35 years old. When the good Father found out that Dana did not believe in God, and that one of his parishioners, Belle, had noticed that Reggie’s personality changed after he was healed, it was all he needed to go on a rampage. He would talk to everyone who would listen. He insisted that Dana was demonic, and he needed to stop healing people.

At first no one would listen, since although Dana was a lengthy young man, he was actually quite attractive. Candid pictures of him would show up on the covers of various magazines, and young women (and men for that matter) would send him their pictures with proposals of love, sex, marriage, or Kathy Lee Cruises. The fact that he neither required, nor sought out fame of any kind made him an American folk hero of sorts.

Agnes Nickelbacken, the woman who sued him and Wal-Mart for the scar he left on her face, ended up giving all the money she won to a foundation that provided early pregnancy kits to women of third world countries who would otherwise have to wait until they gave birth to confirm their pregnancy. (Agnes and her husband ended up having identical twins nine months and three days after the initial accident, she does not credit Dana for the conception, but privately she does wonder.)

Convinced that Dana’s powers came from some source other than above, Father Mike formed demonstrations outside Dana’s apartment, and followed him everywhere and protested. It didn’t take long for a small group of followers to form in line behind father Mike as he traveled around with signs reading things like “Satan Dealing is no Healing,” “Hey Ho, Dana’s got to go,” “Dana needs to go out like Plato,” or Dana’s personal favorite “Healing Schmealing!”

The fact of the matter was, however, that Dana never sought out to heal anyone. The actual healing itself was quite painful for him. The pain began in his bones, and permeated into the organs, and then outwards towards the flesh. The final thing he felt was an overwhelming burning of his skin that lasted at least 30 seconds. He almost could have stood this if it weren’t for a key portion of his skin that burned that 30 seconds that made it impossible to use it for other more enjoyable things for at least a couple days afterwards.

Every time Dana would go to the Starbucks for his Grande Latte with two Splendas, or down the grocery store for some Cap’n Crunch and milk, he would be followed by a mob of people with signs chanting inane slogans at him, and sometimes even make fun of his hair, pants, or Superman sweatshirt.

It didn’t take long for Dana to decide against healing. He had never made any money doing it, and it took a lot of time away from his job, “product security tag placement consultant.” Although truth be told, after deciding to put the tag inside the packaging, most of his job was just writing a report justifying it. He made a public statement and actually held a press conference stating this very fact. He said that the good Father Michael Harrold had won. He said that it was irresponsible for him to provide to the world something that he had no way of understanding, and to be frank, had no right to wield. He had been given no formal training in who or what to heal, or that if healing anything that came his way was moral or ethical. He said that the good Father had shown him the error of his ways, and that perhaps making his public vow he would once and for all stop the menacing phone calls, crowds of people who kept constant vigil at his front door, and most of all, the good father getting on the news almost every night calling him a Satan worshiper and a harbinger of all things evil.

It was clear to most people of average intelligence that Dana gave the good father credit for various reasons. First because although he didn’t think he had the moral authority to sit in judgment over people, he also didn’t think he had the moral right to withhold his gift either. By giving Father Mike and his “Gang of 14” the blame for stopping his activity, he was also holding them, and not himself, accountable for any repercussions that may happen as a result of it. He was obviously also giving them credit so that they would stop bothering him. He figured that if he told the world that they had indeed won, that father Mike would go back to Breckenridge, and leave him alone.

For reasons that only Father Mike is privy to, that did not happen. The Priest, perhaps all too accustomed to fame and notoriety was not about to give any of that up. His new vigil was to perform an exorcism on Dana to rid him of his possession. Dana, of course, flatly refused. He had seen the movie The Exorcist, and the thought of spitting up, and 360-degree turns of his head seemed unappealing. Father Mike had also been Dana’s constant companion for months now, and if Dana had to be totally honest, he would tell you that he didn’t care for him. Dana didn’t have any faith that Father Mike could do anything but get closer to him than he would like.

Father Mike was almost the exact opposite of Dana. Where Dana was tall, thin, with a swimmer’s build, Father Mike was a portly man, almost as wide as he was tall. Dana had longer dirty blond hair that tended to get in his eyes, where Father Mike had slicked-back black hair via some kind of petroleum product that was unfamiliar to Dana. Dana had grown up with braces, and later whitened his smile, while Mike was missing one of his side teeth, but did not have the good sense not to smile. Father Mike wore oversized glasses that dwarfed his already small face. That face did not have an obvious area to stop shaving on, and a little bit of chest hair always stuck up above his collar. Dana had a face that magazines loved to take and publish pictures of.

Dana was none too pleased, however, that the man never left his front door. This is when Yolanda Burke entered the picture. Not much is known of Yolanda Burke before this incident, other than her obsession for Dana and all the coincidences. Yolanda Burke was a twenty-seven year old woman of Vietnamese decent. She was adopted by a young gay black couple when she was three. She was from Denver, and was the mother to Ho Chi Burke (Halbrook). Ho Chi was the illegitimate son of Reggie Halbrook, and Yolanda was the mother who didn’t shoot him. She was briefly married to Robin Gilroy (Father Mike’s indiscretion), but left him when she found him French kissing the young man next door (for the fourth time).

Perhaps the biggest coincidence was that while in Las Vegas to catch a Celine Dion concert, she met a young woman while killing time playing the slots. The woman was intoxicated, and quickly decided that Yolanda was her best friend. After countless free drinks, and later that night, Yolanda, Randy, and Agnes (Nickelbacken) went to an Elvis Presley Wedding Chapel, where Yolanda was the maid of honor at Agnes and Randy’s wedding.

She had only obsessed over Dana from afar. Later, after the incident, the news media would show photos of her in the background of almost every one of Father Mike’s protests rolling her eyes in disgust. It was speculated that the pictures without her, were only pictures that had missed her. She originally became obsessed over Dana while he was in Denver healing Reggie. She had always been attracted to tall pretty white boys, but Dana was something different to her. Dana was a hero, of sort, and outside of her childhood crush on Zach Morris from Saved By The Bell, she had never felt anything this strong before. At first her obsession was limited to printing pictures of him off the internet, but soon grew to leaving her son with her two fathers, and traveling around the country following Dana around.

Father Mike had continued his cries for Dana’s exorcism, and held vigil outside of Dana’s apartment. The chanting, in shifts, went on almost 24 hours a day. Dana had tried to call the cops on him, but the local police in Boston were mostly filled with old Irish Catholic officers who were, quite unbelievably, afraid of the priest. Dana had considered moving several times, but it seemed pretty obvious that Father Mike wasn’t going to give up on him that easily. He finally did get a court order that all of Father Mike’s flock would have to stay at least 50 feet from him at all times. Father Mike and several key figures of his group purchased laser measuring devices, and every time Dana left his apartment, several red laser beams were affixed to him at all times.

The decision that Dana had made to stop healing in hopes that the good father would go away didn’t seem to be working. Dana’s apathy, to the contrary, had the opposite effect on Father Mike. His flock of followers actually grew, due to the increased media attention that he got. The protests became more and more invasive and bothersome. News crew after news crews did stories about how Dana deserved this treatment, and his mere gesture of placing his hands on Agnes and healing her gave all these people the right to protest and picket. The media that had been in his corner for years had turned on him and questioned his motives and abilities. More than a few people considered him a fraud, and the high profile healing of the Seattle Basketball player just added to their hysteria.

It was June eighth when it happened. The situation couldn’t have been written better, but real life is like that sometimes. Dana opened his front door, and announced to the crowd outside that he was going to work, and that all there needed to step back. He walked back into the house, leaving the lasers affixed on his door. Officers Roy O’Malley, and Holden Black were on duty that morning, but three blocks away, Jack Taylor and his husband Hershel Taylor-Jones were fighting again, and the neighbors called the police. No one was near the area but the two officers assigned to Dana. Officer O’Malley assumed that things had been quiet for so long that leaving wouldn’t matter.

Dana opened his front door, and walked down the stairs. As he was walking, one of the lasers from the measuring devices hit him in the eye, and he lost his balance and fell down the last two steps onto the sidewalk. Father Mike took this as his window, and a sign from God, and ran from across the street, with his entire makeshift local congregation following him, and tackled Dana back down to the ground as he struggled to get up. Father Mike started chanting something in Latin, while everyone around him yelled and screamed for the devil to vacate Dana’s body.

If you ask the people there, they would tell you that they could see a small black scar forming on Dana’s face as Father Mike performed his impromptu exorcism, although there was no way of proving that. As Dana tried to get up from under the priest, Father Mike continued to demand the evacuation of the demonic element inside of Dana, while telling him under his breath, that this was for his own good. Dana screamed profanities, and struggled to get up from under the priest’s enormous weight, but was making very little progress.

Suddenly from nowhere, Yolanda Burke came running and man-handled her way through the group, yelling “oh no you didn’t …” She violently pulled on Father Mike, yelling for him to get off Dana. The crowd of people around them were trying to get her off of him, but she was too small and too wiry and they couldn’t get a hold of her. No one saw what happened exactly, but one of the mob finally did manage to get a hold of Yolanda, and began tugging her back into the crowd, when she, with a sudden rush of adrenaline, broke free, and went flying into Father Mike, causing him to fall forward onto the steel banister knocking him unconscious. Yolanda then grabbed hold of Dana’s hand and helped him up.

The congregation began to move forward towards Dana and Yolanda when they stopped after Father Mike started convulsing, and flailing uncontrollably. Blood started to come up out of the priest’s mouth, and when Dana knelt down to touch him, no one did anything to prevent it. Dana hesitated a second, but then looked committed as he held his hands above the moving body and slowly let them fall onto his chest. He closed his eyes, and his head dipped forwards a bit before it violently jerked backwards and held there for at least a ten count. The assembly, in complete shock over what had just happened, watched, without moving, or reacting. Some say that Dana’s hands glowed; others say that didn’t happen at all.

The press were conflicted at Father Mike’s funeral. Some reporters felt as if Father Mike got what he deserved, while others speculated as to whether Dana could be convicted of murder if he ever cures again; proving that he chose not to heal the priest rather than just having lost his ability to, as he later stated. Yolanda was arrested, but freed after it was clear that she was only protecting Dana from his attacker, and showed up to the public funeral, but stayed in the back. As far as anyone knows, Dana Thomas never healed anyone again.

Weeks later I saw Dana walking down the street as if nothing had happened. There was no one following him, no one hiding in the bushes trying to take his picture and he looked different than when I had seen him before. Maybe he was more relaxed. I barely knew anything about him except what the press had told me. I read an article years ago about how no one knows their neighbors in the city, and I was proof it was true. For whatever reason, I walked up behind him tapped him on the shoulder and introduced myself as his neighbor from across the street. He seemed happy to meet me. There was a certain glint in his eye that put me at ease, and my apprehension about approaching him in the first place had disappeared.

We talked about Old Mrs. Henderson who lived downstairs from me and whom for some reason would always throw cats out of her window. We talked about the bar down the street closing, and how sorry we were we never went because it was a great little place. As we were parting ways, I worked up the courage and asked him why he thought he couldn’t heal that priest. He just stood there and stared over me for what seemed like forever. Then he put his hand on my shoulder, and said, “You know something, man, I don’t know. I mean … yeah, I think about it all the time, and you know something? I never believed I could heal anyone, but these people just kept getting up as I put my hands on them I began to figure that maybe … you know … maybe I was doing something. When I would heal people I would … push … yeah push is the right word … I would push on something, and I could feel something giving loose. I could feel the push, and then I would just fall into them, and they would get up, and everything was fine.

I waited for him to finish his story, but he smiled at me, and started to walk away. I stood there for a second, and walked up behind him and stopped him.

“Dana, so you didn’t finish … what happened with the priest?”

Dana looked at me soberly and said very softly, “He pushed back.”

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