Robbie's Miracle "Fiver"
Excerpted from My BooK of ‘nevers’ By james robinson
This chapter may also be a little unsettling mainly because if the events you area about to read had gone the other way, this author’s life would have ended then and consequently – no book! Do you believe in miracles? I never really did. Oh, I know all the Sunday school stories about Moses turning the Nile to blood and Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead. But, they were only stories and never affected me personally. Now read on and see how my whole world was turned “upside down” the day I had a “revelation” and found you should “never deny the existence of miracles”
Months of “search and destroy” missions at sea had completely drained the entire crew and our captain asked the Commander of the Pacific Fleet for a bit of R & R. For the benefit of you laymen out there, R & R stands for “rest and relaxation”. We immediately received orders to leave our corridor in the South China Sea and set course for Hong Kong as our destination.
In 1962, Hong Kong was still a protectorate of the British Empire for 99 years. It was a melting pot for dozens of cultures, nationalities, and religions. Our purpose for going there was threefold: First it was a nice area to take tours. Second, it was the ultimate shopping place in the Orient, and last it was a wonderful place to enjoy the finest Asian cuisine.
Denny had the duty and was unable to join me, so my two friends (and I prefer they
stay unnamed, as you will soon see) teamed up with me to visit the China Fleet Club. This is a free port or free-tax shopping complex where you can purchase anything your heart desires at great savings. I bought Mother a complete 12-piece set of Noritake china to ship home and my eye also caught a Hitachi 8-mm movie camera. I surprisingly bought both for under $100. We left and decided to take a free tram ride up to the top of a mountain that overlooks the beautiful Hong Kong harbor. I shot over 20 feet of film with my new camera capturing the picturesque scene that lay below us.
Then one friend suggested we hire a “hack” driver to take us on a tour of the surrounding hills. I agreed because I wanted to get more pictures of the entire area. We stopped a nearby driver and he spoke to the guys in broken English, then loaded all three of us up and we were off. I should go into a bit more detail and explain exactly what a “hack” is.
The true name is rickshaw and it is a type of cart with a wide basket weave seat and has a canvas cover over the top that can be lowered like a convertible on nice days. That day was nice and the cover was buttoned down on the back of the cart. The whole thing is pulled by a person, in this case, a Chinese who wears a leather harness and he tucks the long bars that extend from the sides of the cart under each armpit and then jogs or “pedals” along the street or path with his passengers in tow.
Okay, with that said we can forge ahead. He took us a long way out from the city to an area that was nothing but rolling hills covered with buttercups and some of the greenest grass I had ever seen. After a while, the driver stopped and motioned for us to get out. I walked over to a nice vantage point and began to shoot more of the surrounding sights. I was so absorbed in my task, that it took me a minute or two for my ears to pick up the sound of people running. When I turned around, I saw my two buddies flying down the hill as fast as they could go. I figured they had seen something really interesting and started to run after them.
I only got a couple of feet when a muscular arm encircled my neck and stopped me cold! The nice, amicable Chinese hack driver spun me around so I could face him and said, “You pay!” His former happy grin had faded into a menacing scowl. I was confused. I assumed the driver was paid earlier as I was getting settled into my seat. My thoughts were suddenly interrupted by yelling in my ear. “You pay now – fhivve dollah!”. I had been in jams before and thought. “Okay, I can handle this". I asked the driver to let me get to my wallet. He loosened his hold on me just a little and I maneuvered to pluck my wallet out of my hip pocket. Nervousness caused me to fumble around with it and as I searched for my bills, my ID. driver license, and pictures of my family fell to the ground. I pulled open every pocket and literally tore the stitching apart trying desperately to find just a crumpled dollar or even an MPC.
This was not going well. The driver watched closely as I continued to frantically search the entire wallet, all the while keeping my head in the crook of his massive arm. Clearly there were no bills, not even one dollar. The next thing that happened has left images that I have lived with forever. The hack driver, who made two of me, tightened his arm on my neck again and then reached inside his sash and produced a hidden 8-inch blade that he brought up and rested its edge against my neck and my feet were barely touching the ground.
This had gone far beyond a “scare” tactic. I knew I had to reason with this guy and quick. I said, “Listen sir, I don’t have any more money, but I can get some if you will give me a chance, okay? Just let me go for a minute, okay? He wasn’t buying it and pushed me hard against the cart with the full weight of his body immobilizing me completely. He pressed the knife blade tighter against my skin. I knew how cheap life was in that part of the world and I knew without a doubt that I was going to die. The wallet was knocked out of my free hand as images of my earlier life flashed in my mind. I could feel the blade as it went deeper and was slowly drawn across my neck. Futility – no way out. My eyes were tightly closed and I prayed. Even today, it is difficult to express the feelings I had at that exact moment knowing my life was going to end in mere seconds. I just kept praying to a long-neglected God. An eternity passed.
Then I heard a gruff laugh and I cautiously and slowly squinted my eyes that revealed an unbelievable scene. Unknown to me, the hack driver had removed his arm from my neck and I was no long being pinned against the cart. As I opened my eyes fully, I saw that he was holding my wallet and clutched between two of his fingers was a U.S currency minted in America, home of the free, genuine $5 dollar bill!
Is there an emotion on this whole “crazy” planet that can equal what I was feeling at that precise moment? How could this happen? I had torn my wallet literally to pieces ripping the stitches and exposing all the flaps and pockets. There was no money in that wallet; none. The driver was once again smiling as he held the “magical” fiver and reached down and picked up the items that had fallen on the ground earlier and straightened them up and handed them back to me. Bear in mind this was the same person who moments before was prepared to take my life for the price of a $5 bill.
As the realization fully restored my head and I knew then I was going to live, the driver motioned for me to get back in the hack for the ride back to town. I shook my head and said, “No thanks, I will walk.” I made the international symbol of walking by moving my fingers over my open palm. He understood and as he turned the hack around, I remembered to grab my camera and returned it to its case. The driver gave me a friendly wave and began to “pedal” his way back to Hong Kong to collect more fares. I just wondered how many notches were on the hilt of his blade for all the people he had killed for one reason or another.
It was a long walk back down that hill and I had to explain to the water taxi driver that I was broke and needed to get out to the Whitehurst anchored in the harbor. Evidently he had heard that story before and often and gave me a “freebie” to my home. The first person I saw when I went aboard was one of my “so-called friends”. He ran over, put his hands on both my shoulders and said, “Robbie, you aren’t sore are you? We just did it as a joke.” I brushed his hands off and told him I was nearly killed. He said, “Aw c'mon let’s not get dramatic about it! You were okay, It was just a prank, okay?”
I grabbed his shirt and pulled him close to my face. “Listen, joke, prank or whatever; that hack driver almost cut my throat!” His eyes widened and he knew I was telling him the truth. “Hey Robbie, no kidding, man. It wasn’t my idea. We’re sorry, really we didn’t know.” I told him I was tired and hungry so he walked away and I went below deck to my bunk. When I sat down on the familiar mattress, I felt numb and shook as my body had a delayed reaction from the afternoon’s experience. I closed my eyes again and truly thanked God. I now believed in miracles.
Epilog: Oh, sure there are those who will read this and will try to explain this episode as a “hidden” bill was in my wallet all along that I just missed in my nervous search. Or maybe they will excuse the whole thing by justifying the driver had the money all along and just wanted to throw a “scare” into me. I did feel the knife blade being pushed against my neck. But, friends, whatever you believe, or believe in, I know in my heart and soul that a merciful God wasn’t quite ready to receive me at that time of my life and somehow put the $5 bill in the hands of that merciless Chinese to save me from a horrible and early death.
Moral: Word to the Wise – “never deny the existence of miracles”
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