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Chapter Twenty-nine

Irena Czinko sat in the center of her sofa bent over a paper she
was signing on the coffee table amidst a clutter of other papers and
manila folders. Her red hair hung down to the tabletop on either side,
softly tracing its own signature on the adjacent papers. The signing
completed, she plunked down the pen emphatically and then swung a
triumphant fist in the air as she shouted, "Yes! Yes!"

It was nearly 11 p.m., and she had just completed arrangements
for Tommy Troulson to receive help on a weekly basis through the
Child and Family Counselling Center. Sliding her thumbs under her
ears, she lifted her hair in both hands and fell backwards against the
couch. The bright red strands spread out behind her like a sunburst
as they came to rest on green velvet upholstery. Irena stared
motionless at the ceiling of her studio apartment, deep in thought.

As she lay there reviewing the day's activities her eyes blinked in
disbelief. The Department of Social Services had become so inefficient
that even a ten-year veteran like herself was astounded. Her efforts
earlier in the week to arrange counselling for Tommy had met with
every sort of delay imaginable, but then she thought she had finally
broken through the red tape, only to discover at four o'clock this
afternoon that her request had found its way to the "In" basket of a
bureaucrat away on a month's vacation. No wonder she had been
dreaming all week about swimming upstream in a river of molasses!

Desperate to get help for the boy before it was too late, Irena had
decided to do a "no-no" and circumvent the system. She used the final
hour of the workday to gather up Tommy's files, all sorts of blank
forms, and the home phone numbers of virtually everyone in the
Department and at Child and Family Counseling. Calling co-workers at
home on DSS business was a cardinal sin, but Irena saw no alternative.

She picked up a large Coke, cheeseburger, and fries at Burger King's
drive-thru window, drove home, and got on the phone. It took an
entire evening of begging, pleading, bullying, threatening and
screaming, but half a dozen reluctant cogs in the bureaucratic machine
had all agreed to sign the papers Irena filled out for them. All that
was left was to visit the Troulsons in the morning to inform them that
Tommy had an appointment with Dr. Rita Muller -- an outstanding
child psychologist -- at three o'clock that afternoon. Whew!

Reaching for what was left of the Coke, Irena congratulated herself
on earning the ill-will of so many of her fellow workers in one
evening. But it was worth it! She figured she would henceforth be
known in the office as "the bulldozer." But she could live with that
label better than with the names her conscience would have called her
had she failed to act.

The Coke was warm, of course, and flat after six hours in the cup.
But its caffeine content was intact. So, it would help Irena through her
final task of the day. Gathering up the papers on the coffee table she
sorted through them, put them in the proper manila folders, inserted
the folders in her bag, and put the bag by the door. Then she turned
to the end table beside the couch and, with both hands, lifted onto her
lap the large book that had been gathering dust there -- her mother's
old family Bible.

"Holy Bible" it said on the cover, "Holy Family Edition." She opened
it first to the pictures, colorful works of art she had often looked at as
a little girl. But this time she was determined to learn what the Bible
actually said, the words not the pictures. As she flipped through the
huge volume, though, the immensity of the task ahead overwhelmed
her. "Where should I begin, and how can I ever read all of this?" she
wondered. But then the text in Matthew caught her eye because it
was printed in both red and black. "The words in red are Jesus," she
remembered from somewhere, a piece of information once useful only
as an answer in a trivia game but now a guide to finding the heart of
the message in this holy book. "I'll start off by reading the words of
Jesus -- all of them."

Too heavy to hold in her hands, she kept the leather-bound Bible
on her lap. With her head bowed over it, strands of red hair hung
down to the gold leafed edges of the pages on either side, like curtains
dividing the sacred from the profane. As she read on into the night
tears began falling onto the pages and she wiped them off with her
hair. But in her mind it was Jesus' feet that she was wiping as He
spoke to her His wonderful words of forgiveness and comfort.

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