A cool rain fell from the thick, grey clouds that hung low over the
green fields and blacktop driveways. The air remained warm and muggy in
the early summer and the wet smell of fresh rain mingled with the smell
of exhaust from the cars cluttering the roads of the early morning rush
Jude Shannon stabbed the key in the ignition of his blue Honda Civic and
waited for the engine to settle into its low idle before he pulled on
the little silver button to roll the window up. He had forgotten that
the forecast called for rain, despite noticing the clouds in the sky,
and left the windows of his car slightly open as he made his trip into
St. David's hospital to see a patient.
A new baby had been born in the early morning hours and the mother
selected Dr. Shannon to be the baby's pediatrician. Jude always felt
somewhat honored to be selected. It seemed that the majority of his new
patients ended up simply being his because the new moms had not selected
a pediatrician for their baby during the previous 9 months of their
pregnancy. All of the docs in town took turns accepting these
"unassigned" patients. But this mother had actually chosen him. She took
the time to meet him at the office on another rainy day in the middle of
her pregnancy. Jude happily discussed his practice and offered her some
tips for during and after the pregnancy, regardless of her choice in
pediatrician. The new mom appreciated Jude's approach and had informed
the obstetrician and the nurses in the hospital that she wanted Dr.
Shannon to be the child's Doctor.
The baby was a beautiful baby girl, with glowing pink skin and a little
bit of matted and curly, red hair. She strongly cried out with the
repetitive, but somewhat musical cry of a newborn baby. As her new
doctor examined the six-hour-old baby from head to toe, he reassured the
watching parents that their little girl was "beautiful" and "perfect."
And she was.
There were no nurses at the nurse station when Jude was finished
examining the baby. He sat down and filled out the preprinted "Normal
Newborn" form sheet and put the baby's chart down on the counter. He
hopped down the back stairway to return to the doctors' parking lot.
Sitting in his car with his clothes slightly damp from the rain and from
sitting on his wet seat, he looked vacantly to the west at the grey sky
of the early mid-morning. It was just after 8 a.m. A daring blackbird
flapped its way across the tree line a few hundred yards ahead. Jude
flipped back and forth from three different classic rock radio stations
until he found a song he was in the mood to hear. The song should be
not too slow. He definitely wasn't in the mood for hard rock or metal.
He wanted something he could sing along with, although he probably
Jude had one more hospital to visit before journeying to his office.
Della Regional Hospital was just under a ten-minute drive away across
town. It was the older of the two hospitals and showed its age. But
Della was well equipped and had a better supply of specialists
available. Still, there were very few pediatric sub-specialists in the
city with a population of about 60,000 people, by no means small, but
not even close to a major medical center. Some of the adult specialists
would see pediatric patients, but most specialty referrals would need to
go to the University Children's Hospital, a little over two hours' drive
away. Della hospital and St David's were similar in terms of their
actual volume of patients, but on any given day, one or the other was
Recalling that he had discharged his two patients at Della the previous
day, he pulled out his cell phone to call the hospital and check to see
if any new babies had been born during the night. If there weren't,
Jude might be able to skip doing morning rounds there, as he would have
no patients to see. He growled softly to himself as he realized he had
left his hands free headset for his cell phone on the kitchen table. He
turned down the radio as the phone rang. There was no answer at the
Della nursery. He sat and listened to the phone ringing, imagining the
nurses either sitting just out of earshot of the phone, chatting about
their favorite reality television programs and what they had seen the
week before. The nurses were generally conscientious and hard working.
Perhaps they were all involved in a code, helping a sick baby. But
being the on-call physician, Jude should have had a call if that were
the case. He resigned himself to not having any idea why the phone was
not answered. Still not wishing to waste a trip across town, he dialed
the pediatric floor, where the ward clerk answered the phone
"Della Pediatrics, this is Mary. How can I help you?" She had a soft
voice, with the slight crackle that gave a hint of her age, but did not
reveal much about her. It was the type of voice that made people wonder
what type of person they were talking to and most people to not make the
connection when they did meet her. Mary did not look like her voice
sounded. After two years of admitting patients in Della hospital, Jude
knew her well. He knew he was talking to an overweight woman in her
early fifties whose shoulder-length muddy brown hair had grayish
highlights. She would be wearing the standard maroon scrubs that all
ward clerks at Della wore. Mary would probably be leaning forward in
her chair against the desk, as she usually did and fidgeting with a pen
in case she would need to write down anything she was told over the
Jude stretched his neck as he prepared to converse pleasantly with Mary.
A noisy motorcycle zoomed down the road in front of the hospital
doctors’ parking lot where Jude sat in his car. Jude was momentarily
distracted by the thought that the rider, a forty-something man wearing
leather in the summer heat, sweat on his bald head, should be wearing a
"Hi, Mary," Jude began. "It's Jude Shannon here."
"Oh, hi, Dr. Shannon. How are you this morning? Rough night on call?"
"Not terrible," Jude replied. "I know I don't have anybody on Peds this
morning, but I couldn't get ahold of anybody in the nursery and wondered
if you could check my census and see if I have anyone in the nursery."
"I think you do have one up here in Peds, actually," Mary said. Jude
could feel his blood boil. He was not notified of any admissions. Would
there have been any reason someone he discharged yesterday did not go
home? Occasionally that happened, but he was supposed to get a call if
it did. Hospital work was not Jude's favorite task. He did not dislike
it, but he certainly did not like it. He saw himself as a clinic doctor
and would be quite pleased if there would eventually be hospitalists in
one or both of the hospitals to take over this task for him. But neither
hospital considered itself big enough for a physician who only did
inpatient hospital work for pediatric patients, and neither wanted to
consider hiring one to share. Mary continued.
"Yeah, there was a little guy with abdominal pain came up from ER last
night." Jude made a face. It was against protocol for patients to be
admitted without an admitting physician being notified and accepting the
patient. Rarely, but occasionally, an ER doc would forget to do this, or
call the wrong doctor, and a new patient would appear on the floor and
become the responsibility of the on-call doc.
"Oh," moaned Jude. "I did not get a call on that. I guess I better talk
to his nurse."
"OK," Mary said. "No. Wait. That's Dr. Connor's patient and he's already
been to see her. Computer says you're clear in the nursery, unless
there's anything brand new and not in the computer yet."
"Thanks, Mary." Jude sighed. "Can you let them know over there that I
couldn't get a hold of them and to call me if there is anything they
need from me?"
"Sure thing, Dr. Shannon."
"Thanks, Mary. Bye." He hung up the phone and shifted his car into
Jude Shannon walked across the stage under a warm halogen light with 200
other people in a dimly lit and barely air-conditioned auditorium on an
early summer afternoon in 1997. For the previous four years, he had
been managing to pull himself through each day under the mantra "I'm
going to be a doctor," which he believed on some days and didn't on
others. As he reached for the diploma that made it official, Jude
officially changed his mantra to, "I'm a doctor." But it would take much
longer for him to actually believe it. It was a goal since childhood,
much to the delight of his parents. He remembered fondly the high school
science teacher who particularly supported him, even through a period of
slacking grades and school effort.
"He's brilliant," Mr. Jackson announced to the entire class on a Tuesday
morning during junior year. "But it takes more than brains to accomplish
anything. You can live your life in a mansion or under a bridge." He
addressed the young Jude directly, while the student still beamed a
little from the compliment from his teacher.
"Talent is only as good as what you do with it," the teacher explained.
"So do something."
That was at a time in Jude's life when he was not of the belief that
anything he did in high school would make much difference. He had
discovered marijuana, baked into brownies, was particularly tasty. It
helped him forget about the pressures he felt to succeed, the grades he
no longer cared much about, or the girl who turned him down flat.
Jude never really enjoyed smoking marijuana or smoking anything, for
that matter, which was what most of his friends did. Nearly every Friday
night, he sat with two of his other "brilliant" friends and ate brownies
while they smoked. Mixed with a little alcohol, the boys numbed the
pains of adolescence and laughed incessantly about nothing in
But one Friday night during their junior year, there were only two.
Miles Emery, the youngest of the three - short, overweight, and awkward
- had acquired a girlfriend. He began spending most of those Friday
nights with a freshman girl named Heather. Occasionally, the three boys
and Heather would all go to a movie or meet at Taco Bell, but Heather
had no interest in their usual Friday night activities. She and Miles
almost always broke off from the group.
Darrell Henry, the other of the three friends, relished in making double
entendre jokes, loaded with sexual innuendo, about Miles and Heather.
The jokes clearly made both uncomfortable, and partially at Jude’s
suggestion, Darrell made most of these jokes only in Jude’s presence.
Jude thought that it was about time he had a girlfriend, too. Now, he
only had to figure out how to get one. This was a problem for Jude. He
knew girls he would love to date, but he was hesitant to talk to them,
just couldn't bring himself to call any, and didn't even know what to
say to actually ask anyone out.
An after-school art project brought Jude some luck in this area. For
extra credit in art class, which was not a strong subject for him, Jude
volunteered to work on some scenery for the school play, partially
because his mother insisted that he “do something” to participate in
some school activity. He was assigned to work with a pretty girl from
his class named Danielle Collins. She was a thin, blonde girl with
bright green eyes and a smile that made Jude smile back involuntarily,
even when he was in a bad mood. He had known Danielle since the seventh
grade, but had rarely actually spoken with her. As the two worked next
to each other for hours each day, they found they had quite a lot in
common. Frequently, Jude offered Danielle a ride home. On one rainy
evening, Jude turned to her as she gathered up her things and found some
words slipping out of his mouth that he wasn't sure he completely
"Are you doing anything this Friday night?" the Words said to the pretty
girl sitting next to him.
"No, I'm not busy," she said back. Jude looked into her eyes. There was
no worry, no hesitation, but no clear signal of how she might respond to
the next question. The Words did not care, and somehow kept coming.
"Well, I thought maybe you and I could get together, go out maybe." The
Words were starting to leave Jude, yielding control of the conversation
back to him. He was not at all sure how to handle it from there.
"Sure," Danielle said simply and got out of the car, running for her
door. She waved from the doorway and went inside. That was it. Jude and
Danielle had a date. Jude was elated and terrified at the same time. He
had never gone on a date before. He had seen many of them in movies, but
really had no idea how to have one in real life. He hoped that his dad
would let him use the car, since the plan was somewhat spontaneous.
When Friday came, Jude was nervous, but remained calm. He wore a shirt
that he thought was nice, although his mom disagreed. He left plenty
early as he didn't want to be late, and stopped at the grocery store on
the way to pick up flowers at the floral counter.
"Can I help you?" said the lady at he counter. She must have been in
her 50's. She was overweight but not fat, wearing some sort of brown
suit under her green apron. She did not look overly friendly, but Jude
would need her help if he was going to get through this.
"I need some flowers," he stammered.
"Well, we sell those here," she replied. "What kind would you like?"
Jude swallowed hard. He knew nothing about flowers. He didn't have any
idea what to even ask about them.
"Um, I have a date..."
Her expression softened as she realized his situation.
"First date?" she asked.
He nodded again.
"She's lucky," the flower lady smiled at Jude. "You are sweet, I can
tell. Go with carnations. I think she'll like them. They're pretty easy
to care for and they're our special today."
Jude took the flowers to the cash register, and looked behind him at the
flower lady as he got in line. As he looked over his shoulder, he
stepped on the heel of the main front of him and narrowly avoided
crashing into him with the paper-wrapped carnations.
"Careful, buddy," said a stubbled 40-something man with coarse dark
hair, wearing denim from head to toe and dirty work shoes which had just
been kicked. He was purchasing some small leafy vegetables, which Jude
did not recognize, and frozen entrees. Apparently, the man was just
getting a few food items for the weekend.
"Sorry, I didn't mean to..."
"No problem, Jude," said the man with a smile as he walked out the
grocery store door. Jude was reasonably certain he had never seen the
man before and wondered how he knew his name. But the concern didn't
last long as his continued anxieties occupied his thoughts.
It was only a short while later that Jude knocked on the big brown door
with a tiny window set in the front of a stucco house where he had
dropped Danielle off many times. He was struck speechless when the man
who had been in front of him in the grocery store line opened the door.
The man invited him in.
"I was pretty sure when I saw you at the store that you were the boy my
daughter told me about." The work shoes were off, but the denim
remained. Danielle's father looked friendly, but not the sort of guy to
"I'm Frank Collins," he said and extended a hand to Jude.
"It's nice to meet you, sir. I'm Jude Shannon." Jude could not think of
anything else to say. He figured he needed to make a good impression on
Danielle's father. So he smiled and acted as politely as he could.
Fortunately for Jude, he did not have to do so for long. Danielle soon
came out from a hallway. She was casually dressed, and if she wore
make-up of any kind, Jude couldn't tell.
Jude had an image of Danielle in some flowing gown and fancy make-up,
and wasn't sure if her everyday appearance was some indicator that this
date wasn't a big deal to her. Jude slapped himself inside of his head.
They weren't going to prom. It was dinner and a movie. Jude actually
liked the way she looked every day.
Once they were on their way, the date was refreshingly like their other
conversations, when they enjoyed each other's company as they worked on
scenery for the play. They ate a good dinner at a fairly nice place
recommended by Miles and Heather. They saw a thoroughly unremarkable
movie and Jude's heart skipped a beat as he found Danielle's hand and
held it awkwardly though the last 20 or so minutes.
In Danielle's driveway, when Jude brought her home, he tried to stir up
the courage to kiss the girl. He found that he only had to begin a
motion towards her and somehow, she came to him and their lips met. It
was a brief kiss. Then Danielle withdrew with a soft little giggle.
"Isn't there some thing about kissing on a first date?" she asked.
"Probably that you should do it?"
"You're silly," she giggled. Perhaps she felt a little awkward, too.
"Is there anything wrong?" Jude asked, not sure what the giggling meant.
"Nope." She kissed him again quickly and got out of the car before he
cold say anything else. She nearly ran to the door, but turned around
and waved in an exaggerated way when she got there.
Jude wanted to get drunk. He felt like he already was drunk. It was too
late at night, but he wanted to talk to Miles. He wanted to talk to
Danielle. He felt like there was a secret in his heart that he could
tell no one. He sat in the car until Danielle's front light went off,
then drove around town as his mind wandered in its own haze.
When he got home, his parents were asleep, fortunately . He dug around
under his bed for something. He had a few pot-laced cookies, which he
ate quickly, but it wasn't enough to have much effect on him. He had no
beer or anything and dared not raid his parents' alcohol while they were
in the house, in case they would wake. So he went to bed and stared at
the ceiling for a good hour or two before he finally slept until noon
the next day.
Excerpted from "Tea With Jesus" by Jason Kessler. Copyright © 2018 by Jason Kessler. 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.