Tonka Trucks in Heaven – Part II

Several weeks later, just as Zachary’s hope of finding a Tonka Truck began to grow very thin, he was visited by one of the angels. “Master Zachary,” he began, “Joseph has asked me to bring you to Heaven’s Gate. He said that he has news. You must come quickly!” Zachary jumped to his feet and started running in circles about the angel’s feet. “What did he say? What did he say? Did he find a Tonka Truck for me? Did he? Come on, you have to tell me!” Zachary’s frantic questioning did nothing but make the angel smile. “Let’s go,” said the angel, “take my hand, and follow me.” Grabbing the angel’s hand, and turning quickly to look behind him, nearly tripping himself with the effort, Zachary yelled, “Grandma Lois! Grandma Lois! Come on! Joseph found some Tonka Trucks! Yippee!”

So the angel, Zachary, and Grandma Lois made their way to Heaven’s Gate. Zachary was certain that they could get there quicker if they ran, but the angel reminded him that they needed to proceed at a slower pace so that Grandma Lois wouldn’t be left behind. “Well, can’t you carry us there? Can’t you just pick us up and get us there as quick as a thought?” “I can do that,” said the angel, “but we are only supposed to do that when going down to the Earth, or when we are responding to some kind of danger. Up here in Heaven, we angels are to walk like everyone else.”

Some moments later, the trio arrived at Heaven’s Gate. They found Joseph, as always, just sitting there, rocking back and forth in his favorite chair, humming a little tune. “You found them! You found them! Where are the Tonka Trucks?” said Zachary, as he ran up to Joseph. “How did you get them here? Did one of the angels bring them up from the Earth?” “Slow down there,” said Joseph, “hang on just a minute. I didn’t tell the angel that I found any of your trucks. I just asked him to tell you that I had some news.” With that, Zachary stopped his questions, and with a suddenly very sad face, he just stood there, silent, and unmoving. “What do you mean?” said the little boy, “You didn’t get any Tonka Trucks? That’s not the news?” “Well, in a way, it is,” replied the old saint; “I have found the secret that will allow you to find them for yourself.” Zachary was confused, but when Joseph turned to look at Grandma Lois, the kind woman had a big, beautiful smile on her face, for she, too, knew the secret. “Zachary,” Grandma Lois said, “come here. Come here and listen to Joseph. I know you have already looked in every possible place, but just listen to what your friend has to tell you. He is going to share the secret that we all come to learn after we have been in Heaven for a while. Joseph is going to help you figure it out, so be still, and listen.”

“Zachary,” said Joseph, “come here and sit with me. Climb up here on my lap and sit facing me. There. Now, lean forward and rest your head against mine, like this. We are going to take a little journey, right here, where we are sitting. We’re not actually going to leave, but we are going to go far, far away.” “I don’t know what you mean, Joseph. How can we go somewhere if we’re not going to leave your rocker, if we’re going to stay right here?” said Zachary. “Close your eyes and listen to me,” responded Joseph, “just close your eyes.” Suddenly, Zachary could see inside of Joseph’s mind. “Wow!” he said, “how did you do that?” “Sit still Little One. Lean your head against mine, now, and just sit still.” Again, Zachary was joined with Joseph inside the old man’s mind. He truly did feel that he was going on a journey. He felt almost like he was being carried about on a wing, nearly flying through his friend’s thoughts and consciousness. Zachary felt warm, and at peace. He saw images of Joseph’s life, old people, children, statues, masks, flowers, and an unending sky. His friend was a wonderful man, thought Zachary. He was amazed at all the sensations, emotions, and states of consciousness that were new and strange to his little mind.

After what seemed to be a very long time, Zachary’s feeling of flight stopped and he could see that he and Joseph were standing before a magnificent, ancient building. “Zachary,” the old man said, “we are here.” Looking toward the arch overhead, the little boy, with Joseph’s mind, read the graven inscription ‘hall of answers’ and understood it to mean – ‘Hall of Answers.’ “This, My Little Friend, is where I find the answers to fill all of the holes that Hope brings. It is in this place, that I find my peace.”

In his mind, Joseph took the little boy’s hand and led him up the stairs, through the immense, wooden door, and into the great Hall. Zachary stood in awe of the thousands of shelves, racks, and stands that contained the books of Joseph’s knowledge. The old sage began walking up one aisle, and then back down the next, searching the stacks and piles of monstrous notebooks and ledgers, hoping to find that one hidden something. “Ah! I remember where I put it,” said Joseph, “follow me!” Back to the far side of the building, up two flights of circular stairs, and back again to the middle of the Hall, but on the third floor, the old man led his companion to yet another remote corner of his mind, where they found in a toppled pile, several ancient, cracked, leather-bound manuscripts. “This is it,” said the old man, “this is where the answer lies.” Joseph dug to the bottom of the heap and extracted three small, red, leather-covered books. Their golden edges were dull with time, and in the dim light, Zachary could barely make out the embossed letters of their title – ‘The Contents of Heaven.’

“In each of us,” said Joseph, “there is a precious, secret place that tells us of Heaven. These little, red books tell of my Paradise. Now that you have made the journey with me, Zachary, you are prepared to take that same trek inside of your own, little self.” Joseph’s tiny friend just stood there, hugging the old man’s leg, softly crying to himself, being overcome with the emotion he felt for his wise friend. Then, slowly, Zachary began to smile with the youthful realization that he could now find the Tonka Trucks that he so dearly wanted. “Can we go now?” said Zachary. “We’re already there,” replied his old friend, “just open your eyes.”

Later that night, many hours after Grandma Lois had tucked Zachary into his bed, the unconscious self of Heaven’s little wanderer continued to search the far reaches of his mind, hoping to find his own, ‘Hall of Answers.’ Whether or not he actually found his own ‘Book of Heaven’ is unknown, but it is my understanding that, shortly before waking the next morning, Zachary dreamed that he had found his beloved Tonka Trucks.

Jumping from his feather comforter, Zachary awoke with the full excitement of his discovery. “I know where they are!” he shouted. “Grandma Lois, I know where they are!” Running out of their cottage and down the path through the Cottonwood forest, Zachary continued running, skipping, and hopping until he came to Heaven’s Gate. “Joseph, I know where they are! I know where to find the Tonka Trucks!” And on he went!

Zachary ran through fields of wild flowers and waist-high grass, splashed through a shallow stream, and came at last, to the edge of Heaven’s Lake. “There they are!” he shouted, “just like in my dream!” Joseph and Grandma Lois, assisted by one of the swiftly flying angels, arrived just in time to see their little friend reveal his find. Zachary climbed over the rocks, and disappeared for a moment behind the spilling stream of water, then stepped out again, triumphant, holding a Tonka Truck in each hand. “Yippee, yippee! Look what I found! Joseph! Grandma Lois! Look what I found! There are Tonka Trucks in Heaven!”  The end.
This story is dedicated to the memory of Zachary Fleshman, a three year-old boy who was murdered by his mother’s boyfriend – for playing too loudly with the new Tonka Truck that he received for his birthday a couple days before his death – April 21, 1996.  I wrote the story to comfort Grandma Lois’ granddaughter, my wife, as she struggled with the horribleness of Zachary’s death.  Whether we hold with the world-view that we might go on to a ‘better’ place when we die, or not, this story speaks to the hope or wish that while we are alive, or while we exist, wherever that is and in whatever form, that our lives and existence can be full of the people and things that we love, be they pets, toys, or whatever else it is that we cherish.

17 responses

  1. Katrina

    I need kleenex!

    September 18, 2009 at 12:23 pm

  2. C.Stone

    Amazing, thank you for sharing that. I am very glad to have had the chance to read that.

    September 19, 2009 at 12:12 am

    • seekraz

      Thank you, Chris, for your comments and for visiting the blog. And you’re welcome, too. It’s nice to hear from you again, my friend. 🙂

      September 19, 2009 at 6:45 am

  3. me

    having been a part of this horrific and true piece of depraved human history, it is still hard for me to even read the story. i love the hope it provides, the wish that there were a hereafter, that my precious grandmother were really there to hold and cradle little Zachary, that i would someday see them. it would be comforting to even believe that, but i cannot.

    for those of you who read scott/dad’s beautiful story, what you cannot see is the copy of Zachary’s ECG (electrocardiogram) where his heart beat for the last time. we have it still, and i keep it in a treasured place. i have seen a lot, know a lot of stories and terrible instances of children hurting, but some stay inside the heart forever. i have awoken before with Zachary’s name on my lips.

    September 19, 2009 at 1:08 pm

    • seekraz

      I, too, love the hope that the story provides or inspires and wish that there might be some way to spend an eternity with your precious grandmother, Zachary, and our other loved ones, but that is nigh unto a dream, and according to our world-view, nothing that we’ll get the chance to do. I’ve looked at the ECG several times, not near as many as you have, but it is chilling, all the same…it speaks to a violent end of innocence and the shattering of hopes and dreams and unknown possibilities of what Zachary’s life might have been…. Thank you, Lori.

      September 19, 2009 at 7:44 pm

  4. Nathan

    What a beautiful story, Dad. This description of a place that can only be found in your words and our minds eye, somehow provides solace to an unbelievable tragedy. I remember hearing about this baby boy’s death when I was still rather young myself, and I know that it’s something that has haunted Mom since then. I can’t begin to fathom what his short three years on this earth must have been like, but I know that his life had tremendous meaning to my Mother, and as I’ve come to find out, you as well. I feel fortunate that I’ve never witnessed such atrocities as this, however, I have gained invaluable life lessons from the experiences that you and Mom have shared with us. I think that all little Zachary’s deserve their Tonka Trucks and Grandmother Lois’s love in their life, because it’s almost certainly the only chance they’ll get.

    September 21, 2009 at 12:49 pm

    • seekraz

      Thank you, Nate…and yes, this place is in my words and our collective minds’ eye. I do wish it could be true for Zachary and others like him, but know otherwise. And I’m glad, too, that you’ve not experienced this tragedy in the second-hand and very real state that your mom and I have. While sadness does cause us to be more aware of how life exists for others and causes us to cherish what we have, suggesting that it’s worthwhile, in this instance it might be better to learn of it through others. I don’t know if you remember, but the symbolism in the story is rich…the pets are some of ours that have already left us, the trees, flowers, and water fall are from our yard, and of course, Grandma Lois and her granddaughter are your own great grandmother and mom…our part of what heaven is or would be…. I’m glad you enjoyed the story. 🙂

      September 21, 2009 at 4:25 pm

  5. Nathan

    Until the end, I didn’t notice that the characters were great Grandma and Mom, but it all made sense as the story came to a close. Very nice inclusion of all the elements that would define “Heaven”, if there were such a place. It’s just as Mom would have it. Extremely beautiful and moving story 🙂

    September 22, 2009 at 9:39 am

    • seekraz

      Yes, our definition of heaven…the joys and goodness from our temporal lives. Thank you for the nice words!

      September 22, 2009 at 9:55 am

  6. Millie

    My cherished friend:

    It has been some time since I have had the opportunity to read one of your compositions and I had forgotten how your use of words had the ability to reach the innermost corners of my heart and soul. As I read of little Zachary and the tears rolled down my cheeks, I was transported both to a place of great pain and also of great joy. Your writing abilities are truly wonderful, and Zachary’s story is a great tribute to his spirit.

    September 22, 2009 at 9:59 am

    • seekraz

      Thank you, Miss Millie…for your own kind words, and for sharing how your heart was touched. And thank you, too, for visiting my blog. I hope you’ll be a frequent visitor. 🙂

      September 22, 2009 at 1:02 pm

  7. Scott, this is not something I would expect to come from you. Not in the sense of its creativity, literary excellence, and its profoundness, but rather the content itself, being about a place I know you don’t believe in. Great stuff.

    September 23, 2009 at 9:33 am

    • seekraz

      Well, you’re right Jason, heaven isn’t something that I believe in…I do, however, possess that human characteristic of ‘wishing’ that things could be better, ‘wishing’ that we could be rewarded for persevering, and ‘wishing’ that we could have our life-dreams fulfilled in something that comes after this sometimes hellish human life. I think I mentioned it somewhere, but here’s an appropriate place to repeat it…this is a ‘story,’ a myth that speaks to the hope that many have of that better place. Some people have taken it a bit far and have incorporated it into their world-view, placing it smack-dab in the middle of what is real to them…heaven and hell, etc, while it remains a figment of our collective imagination. Thank you for your comments, Jay, and for your kind words about the writing. 🙂

      September 23, 2009 at 9:42 am

      • nicholas starkey

        Well, hi, my name is Nicholas Starkey. I am the brother of Zachary Fleshman. I came across this story last night as I decided to Google my brother because I was curious to see if there was anything about him on the internet. So I started to read what turned out to be one of the most amazing stories I’ve ever read, but I’ve been puzzled by one thing. I would love to know who wrote it because I would like to see this turned into a children’s book so I can share the memory of my brother with the rest of the world and to thank them because this truly has touched my heart.

        September 7, 2013 at 11:06 am

        • Hello, Nicholas…my name is Scott and I’m the one who wrote the story. I will write to you at the email address you provided with your comment. Thank you for getting in touch with me…for letting me know that you were/are out there…and thank you for your precious words about your brother’s story. I will talk with you soon.

          September 7, 2013 at 4:02 pm

  8. dave_horney

    Beautiful my friend.

    September 27, 2009 at 2:41 pm

    • seekraz

      Thank you, Sir David. 🙂

      September 27, 2009 at 4:12 pm

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