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WHAT KIND OF SMOKE
News item from The Westbridge County (Va.) Sentinel, January 3, 1985:
Her name is Theodora Amory, her friends call her Teddy, and the doctors at the Westbridge Medical Center are calling her a modern-day miracle.
Teddy, who is all of 7 years old, was ice skating with her older brother, Jake, late yesterday afternoon on Clear Lake, when the ice gave way beneath her. Teddy went through the ice, while her brother struggled in vain to reach her. Several Pontefract Preparatory School students witnessed the accident from the football field and went out onto the ice, forming a human chain to try and aid in Jake Amory's rescue attempts of his sister. But it was Teddy's own father, Riland "Riley" Amory, who arrived shortly upon the scene and dove into the icy water to bring the little girl out of the freezing water just as an emergency unit arrived.
According to Mr. Amory, his daughter was beneath the water's surface for the better part of forty minutes. "But she's an Amory, and her mama's a Houston," he is reported to have told one of the paramedics, "and that means, she'll come through." Teddy was presumed dead by many of the witnesses, but after she'd been covered in warm towels and laid in the back of the ambulance, Mr. Amory administered some good old mouth-to-mouth resuscitation and within seconds, she was breathing again.
Upon Teddy Amory's arrival at Westbridge Medical, Dr. Walter Scott told Mr. Amory, "There's nothing wrong with this little girl. What's she doing in Emergency?"
Teddy, who will remain at the medical center for observation until Tuesday, told the Sentinel, "It was kind of scary and real cold. You know, the kind of scary that gets inside you? I guess I drank a lot of water, too, and my mommy says it's good for you. Lots of water. Maybe scary's good for you, too. Because I guess I knew it would be okay. My daddy says it's in my blood. And maybe it is."
Her father, Riley, Director of Buildings and Grounds at the Pontefract School, added, "My little baby's something else, ain't she?"
Obituary from The Westbridge County (Va.) Sentinel, August 27, 1986:
PONTEFRACT - Riland "Riley" Amory died August 21 in Pontefract.
A lifetime resident of Westbridge County, Riley was Director of Buildings and Grounds at the Pontefract Preparatory School for Boys.
He is survived by his wife, Odessa Houston Amory, and two children, Jacob and Theodora.
Services were held at Gethsemane Baptist Church on August 26.
But what the obituary didn't say:
A man by the name of Riley Amory, a family man, a man who loved his work, a man who once upon a time took his wife to the Gethsemane Baptist Annual Potluck Supper, took his son skeet shooting, in other words, a regular guy; this man found a clearing on a hillside a few miles outside his hometown. He put a shotgun into his mouth, stroking the barrel lightly against his tonsils, savoring mat rusty coldness as the last thing he would ever feel. He shut his eyes and sent out a prayer for his family and squeezed the trigger.
If you could've been there to ask him, before he did it, he might've told you about the funny smell he noticed in the air. A smell that meant for most folks sweat, lakewater, dying fish, and the end of summer, but which for him was a terrible, sweet smell. One that he'd inhaled one winter with a couple of friends. It was a smell that had gotten him high that night, and he'd never felt that young or strong since. That night when all hell broke loose.
Riley might also tell you that one of those friends had come back. That friend was talking to him in his dreams, and recently, when he was awake, too. But always late at night.
That friend told Riley about his daughter.
The power she wielded.
What had crawled inside her underwater.
Riley's little girl.
Something inside her, the thing that was causing her epilepsy, as well as her communion.
But on that lone hillside there was no one for Riley Amory to tell all this to. The blast from his gun was probably not even heard - there was no one within a three-mile radius to listen for it. The last thing Riley saw were some sparrows in the oak tree that he leaned against as he squeezed that trigger.
In the next second, the birds would fly out of the oak's branches into the fair morning air.