This particular evening, when everyone else was watching TV or playing board games, Sammy sat alone in the study hall. Behind him on the wall was a famous picture of Napoleon's cavalry charging at Waterloo. The brave men did not yet know that disaster lay just ahead of them--an unseen sunken road. He liked this painting because of the dashing uniforms, but also because it reminded him of a harsh reality of life. Those who went happily running forward almost always ended up in the ditch.
Open before him on the long brown study table was the C-D volume of the World Book Encyclopedia. Just to the right lay the Doré illustrated Harvard Classics edition of Dante's Divine Commedy. In the encyclopedia, Sammy studied the map of Dante's world, which included hell, purgatory, and paradise. From time to time he cross referenced the map with the illustrations in the book, because the poem itself was a little beyond him. In this activity, Sammy felt like any world explorer. What he saw and experienced in his mind was equal to any traveller in the so called real world.
He loved to work out puzzles, whether of cardboard cut-out or the word games in the daily paper. But most of all he enjoyed puzzle from life, or mysteries as he called them. This evening, the mystery that he focused on was: where was his beloved grandfather? He just knew that with the facts in hand, he could work it out logically. A strange new confidence filled him ever since last Sunday when he had returned from his walk. The other boys hadn't noticed any change, but Mrs. Rosso did. "Why, I think little Sammy might be in love, " she sighed to herself, quickly adding, "I had better keep an eye on that."
Sammy began to work through the facts as he knew them. His grandfather had been a Christian, so he would not have been cast into hell. But he had never been a church-goer, so that ruled out a direct trip to paradise. Ah! That left purgatory! Sammy paged through the illustrations of prugatory as he read the descriptions of its various levels. The only question now was on which one of these would his grandfather be?
After twenty minutes of intense study, he slumped back in the chair with a sigh. It was , after all, a dificult task for one so young. And was everyone in purgatory really naked? It would be very embarrassing to se his grandfather that way, though he had seen his grandmother many times when he had helped her bathe. He shuddered as the memory clouded his mind...there was something just too wierd about that. Naked bodies! Why wouldn't God want people to keep their clothes on? He felt most protected in his clothing and his "gear" after all.
Then Sammy remembered the note in his pocket. Somehow, she had found him that afternoon as he poked among the thin stand of trees down the hill toward the bus stop. She had put her finger to her lips and quickly approached him to pass the note. Her eyes said it all: "Sorry, can't stay." And just as quickly, she was gone. Sammy hadn't yet found the courage to open the note, but he was confident that he would read it before bed-time.