THE MYSTERIOUS MR. STEVENS
Wednesday, 6 August 2014, 18:00hrs
Inside the Wasatch Front Senior Citizen Center, Layton, Utah
Fifteen people diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease sat at the tables in
the main assembly hall, each one in a different stage of the illness and
experiencing their own unique set of symptoms. These symptoms extended
along the entire spectrum of the debilitating brain ailment, and
included those that were severely noticeable to ones that remained
imperceptible. The ages and genders of the patients were also diverse,
ranging from a man in his mid-forties to a woman in her early-eighties,
which portrayed both the nondiscriminatory nature of the disease and the
unfairness of life. Next to the patients sat their significant others,
some of whom were now delegated to the role of caregiver for their loved
one. In front of these brave patients and the heroes taking care of them
was where my wife Madison and I found ourselves this early summer
I thought about how much the group had grown from when we had our first
meeting. At that time only seven people attended and I was beginning to
think this support group idea was going to be a failure. But as the word
spread, more and more people started coming out until we reached an
all-time high of fifty people at our Christmas party last December.
I remembered the day a little over two-and-a-half years ago when I was
diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, and subsequently came up with the
idea of starting a support group.
As I gathered my notes and prepared to make a few announcements, I
looked around and noticed him again, sitting in the farthest chair in
the back of the assembly hall. This was the fourth time I had seen the
thin man, and I was beginning to wonder who he was. Was he a
Parkinson’s patient? Was he a caregiver to a spouse who had the
disease? Or maybe he was just an average senior citizen living nearby
who was dropping in to see what was on the menu for tomorrow’s lunch?
Every previous attempt I’d made to meet this man had been unsuccessful
because he always left the hour-long meeting early. In addition, when I
made my announcements at the start of the night, I always made it a
point to remind the new people to write their address or email on a
roster so that they can receive news about future meetings and upcoming
events. For the last three months, however, there were no new entries on
the list that would identify who this strange man might be.
Each time I noticed him, he was wearing the same attire: black slacks,
white dress shirt, black tie and overcoat, black fedora hat and white
sneakers. He appeared to be a little older than me, mid-to-late fifties,
walked with a limp and used a cane. I suspected his limp was caused by
him having Parkinson’s disease, but I hadn’t been able to get close
enough to him to know for sure.
Two months ago I gave Madison the job of finding out who this man was
and to persuade him to come up and introduce himself to the group. Since
she is one of the most personable and friendly people I’ve ever known,
I thought if anyone could make him feel welcome and get him talking, she
could. Each time she approached him, however, he would suddenly leave
the room. The first time, he quickly made his way down the long hallway
toward the entrance door and ducked into the men’s room. The next
month, he hurriedly left the building altogether.
Since that happened, I concluded that this man must be extremely shy
about coming to a support group, which I found to be the case with other
Parkinson’s sufferers, and decided to stop trying to initiate contact,
hoping he would eventually feel comfortable enough to come forward on
I had the most unsettling feeling that I’d seen this man before, but I
couldn’t place where or when. The more I searched my memory, the more
I drew a blank on who he might be. I also began to suspect he’d been
following me, but I just wasn’t one-hundred percent sure. For example,
last month I was selected as the 2014 honoree for the Pedal Away
Parkinson’s bike ride. We were about two miles into the course,
winding through one of our town’s older neighborhoods, when I thought
I saw him standing in the shade of an oak tree. As we got closer,
Madison said something which drew my attention away from the tree, and
when I looked back he was gone.
A couple of weeks earlier, I experienced a similar situation while we
were riding in a vehicle that was pulling the Pedal Away Parkinson’s
float in our town’s Fourth of July parade. We were nearing the final
turn of the parade route when I thought I saw him. Making the turn,
however, I suddenly heard the familiar voices of our two grandkids
shouting, and after a few brief moments of smiling and waving back to
them, I turned back and found him gone.
Now here he was again, wearing the same attire and sitting in the same
place as the previous three meetings: farthest away from Madison and me
but closest to the exit door.
“Do you want me to go on another secret mission and see if I can find
out who he is?” Madison asked.
I shook my head. “Hopefully, when he feels comfortable enough, he’ll
come up and talk to us.”
Although I was displaying a calm demeanor in front of Madison, his
continued appearances were starting to make me nervous.
An hour and thirty minutes later, after the last of the support group
members had departed, Madison and I were finishing straightening up the
assembly hall and gathering up the flyers and handouts I provide at the
meetings. Except for Tiffany, the facility’s caretaker who normally
stays until we are gone, we were the only ones to my knowledge still in
“I didn’t see our mystery man leave,” I said.
“Me neither,” Madison replied. “I wonder what his story is and why
he’s so afraid of coming in and meeting everyone?”
“I don’t know, but I’m not going to embarrass him. If he wants to
be anti-social that’s his business.”
A few minutes later, after pulling our truck up to the entrance and
loading everything, I felt the need to visit the restroom. While making
my way back inside, I passed Tiffany.
“Did you forget something?” she asked.
“No, I just need to use the men’s room.”
“Okay, just make sure the door is closed and locked when you leave.
I’m out of here.”
“Will do, and thanks again for everything.”
After going and washing up, I turned to the paper towel dispenser to
wipe off my dripping hands and found myself suddenly face to face with
the strange man! Normally I’m not that jumpy of a person, but his
sudden and unexpected appearance scared me half to death. I hadn’t
heard the door open, nor had I heard him walk up to within three feet of
“I’m so sorry if I frightened you, Mr. d’Clare,” he said,
“that was not my intention.”
“Oh, that’s all right. Just give me a chance to catch my breath and
change my underwear.”
He laughed and extended his hand in friendship.
“My name is James Stevens, but you can call me Jim.”
This was the first time I’d seen him this close, and I immediately
noticed his eyes were a piercing color of blue, and his intense stare
instantly commanded my attention. His face looked tired, but not from
physical exhaustion or lack of sleep. Instead, his weary expression
seemed to come from a profound worry or loss he carried with him, as if
he’d been laden with the weight of the world on his shoulders for a
very long time. Up close, he also appeared younger than I first thought,
probably in his mid-forties to early fifties by my estimation.
The question of whether he had Parkinson’s disease was immediately
answered. His voice was soft, just above a whisper, and his left hand
showed an unmistakable tremor. Another thing about his voice I found
interesting was that he spoke in a very articulate and distinct manner,
as if he wanted to convey his feelings or thoughts to me as clearly as
possible. Although I had just met him and knew nothing of his
background, I suspected he was a highly educated and intelligent man.
“Okay Jim,” I replied, obliging him with the handshake, “nice to
“You’re probably wondering why I chose this setting to formally
I smiled. “The thought had crossed my mind, especially since I don’t
usually meet new members of the support group late at night in the
men’s room of the senior center.”
He laughed again. “As I said, it was not my intention to frighten you.
My real purpose was to meet you alone and without interruption. You see,
I’m a very private person, Mr. d’Clare, and I value my privacy as
much as I do my money in the bank. That being said, I don’t venture
out of the house and into the public very often.”
“Parkinson’s can easily turn anyone into a recluse, especially if
depression sets in.”
“How true, but in my case I choose to be private due to my life’s
work, not because of the affliction we both share.”
“And what is your life’s work?”
“I’m a retired physics professor. I spend most of my time
researching theories, working out equations, studying the interactions
of energy and matter, things of that nature.”
“Wow, that sounds pretty cool. Physics and math were my worst subjects
in college, totally out of my element, but like anything else, if you
get into it I bet it can be pretty interesting.”
I knew in an instant that my assumption was correct, and that this
man’s knowledge and education level were well above mine.
“Don’t let my chosen profession intimidate you, Mr. d’Clare,” he
said. “I’m sure that if I were to try to restore a 1949 Seeburg
Select-o-matic 100A jukebox, I would be totally out of my element.”
“You heard about my old jukebox? Who told you about that?” Now I was
“You’d be surprised what you hear in the back of the room during one
of your support group meetings.”
“I guess I would.”
“I don’t want to take up any more of your time, because by now your
beautiful wife might be wondering if you’re sick or incapacitated. But
I did want to meet you and introduce myself, and as a token of my
goodwill give you this little donation for the support group.”
He handed me a fresh, crisp one-hundred-dollar bill.
“By the way, you certainly have done a wonderful thing here by
starting this group and giving hope to others who share our affliction.
Good night, Mr. d’Clare. I’ll be in touch.”
He turned and immediately exited the men’s room.
“Oh, good night Jim and thank you,” I stuttered, “thank you very,
I stood there for a moment staring at the large bill before stuffing it
in my pocket and proceeding back to our truck. When I climbed in,
Madison asked me what took so long, jokingly wondering if the restroom
was now unsafe for human habitation.
I smiled. “No, I got held up. Did you see him?”
“Our mystery man. He came into the restroom and scared the living
you-know-what out of me. He left just before I did, so I thought you
might’ve seen him come out the door.”
“Really? I didn’t see anyone come out but you, and I’ve been
sitting here the whole time.”
We both looked over the parking lot, then back to the front doors of the
“Did he say anything?”
“Yes, he said his name is Jim Stevens and that he’s a retired
physics professor. And just as I thought, he’s got Parkinson’s. He
also praised us for starting the support group and then he gave me
I reached into my pocket and pulled out the one-hundred-dollar bill.
“He said it was a token of his goodwill.”
“Oh my goodness. Did he say anything else?”
“Yes, he said a lot of things. He even knew about our old jukebox.”
I relayed to her the main points of the conversation.
“That is really weird.”
“No kidding. And I got the feeling that he knew even more about us
than he let on.”
She laughed. “Maybe if you hang out in the men’s room more often we
could raise enough money to afford that vacation I’ve been wanting to
“No thank you,” I said, trying to keep a straight face. “My heart
couldn’t take more scares like that one.”
We both laughed as I pulled out of the parking lot.
As I drove home, I couldn’t stop thinking about the strange restroom
encounter with Mr. Stevens. How could he have known about our old
jukebox? I didn’t buy his story about overhearing it at one of the
support group meetings. On the few occasions that I’d mentioned it to
group members, I never used the term, “100A,” nor had I called it
I also wondered why he was so standoffish at the previous meetings,
seemingly not wanting to engage with us or the group at all. He even
went out of his way not to meet us, and ran away when Madison tried to
get close to him. This entire episode left me with more questions than
answers, and I wondered what other surprises were in store for us the
next time we crossed paths with him.
* * *
I was unaware at the time that this strange man who called himself James
Stevens carried with him an incredible secret. A secret that would not
only cause Madison and I to question all we knew about science, physics
and the known laws of the universe, but also offer me the unfathomable
opportunity to find the cure for Parkinson’s disease.
Excerpted from "The Device [Kindle Edition]" by Dale C George. Copyright © 2017 by Dale C George. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Excerpts are provided solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.