Snippet: Family Bible

The big, gold edged book rests on a crocheted lace doily atop the revolving bookstand in the dining room bay window. I reach for it.

“Don’t play with that,” the woman says in passing.

I follow her, “I want to read the big Bible.”

Wrinkles appear between her eyebrows. “That’s our family Bible. It’s very precious.”

“I’ll be careful.”

She sighs, “Are your hands clean?”

I lift them.


She scrubs them at the kitchen sink with a little brush until my skin is red. Then she places the Bible on the dining room table.

“You may stand on the chair and read for a little while.”

I remove my sneakers and climb up.

One hand braces me against the polished table, I turn the pages. One reads, “Births, Deaths, Marriages.” “François, 3 March 1975” is the last entry. “Ames. 6 November 1969” is written above François’ entry. My name does not appear.

Where am I?

Dark fear suffuses my legs and stomach. I know I must not ask them. I turn the pages and begin reading Genesis.

“Eight Books!”

A small sign on the light wood desk reads “LIBRARIAN.”

“May I help you?” a curly haired woman asks.

The woman glances at my summer reading list which she keeps in her bag. “We’re looking for Pippi Long-Stocking,” she says. “What else would you like to read?” she asks.

“Can I have five?” I ask.

The librarian asks, “Do you have a library card?”

“Yes!” I say.

“Then, yes. You may take out five.”

My feet bounce me up and down.

“How old are you?” the curly haired woman asks.

I hold up five fingers.

The woman sighs. “She’s six.”

I’m five, I tell my Friend.

The librarian leads me to a bookcase.

“You should be able to read these books,” she says.

I pick up Good Night, Moon and sigh.

“That’s a good book,” she says.

“It’s a baby book,” I say. “Do you have Lion, Witch and Wardrobe?”

“That’s probably a little too advanced for you,” she says.

“I can read it,” I say. “I’ve read almost the whole Bible. Except he didn’t like it when I said the Woman clothed with the sun is Mary.”

The curly haired woman chuckles.

“But I did read it!” I say stamping my foot.

“I’m sure you did.” The chuckle remains in her eyes.

“The Narnia books are over here.“ She leads me to a tall bookshelf. “You’ll need the stool.”

Standing on a small stool, I reach for The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe.

Eight Books“Oh!” I cry. “There are one, two, three, four, five …six more!”

I pull the pastel books in their impervious cellophane covers down and carry them to the librarian’s desk.

“May I take three extra?” I ask.

“I’m sorry,” she says. “I can only allow you to take five.”

I stand at the desk staring at each cover. Which can I leave behind?

The woman’s voice sounds behind me, “Did you find what you wanted?”

“Yes, but I can’t take them all out.” My mouth is upside down.

The woman tells the librarian, “You can put the extra books on my card.”

My smile pours itself into my eyes, sinks into my feet.

“Eight books!” I softly announce to my Friend. “Eight books!”

Photographs Of Me – Another Snippet

I carry a large white envelope in the crook of my left arm.

“Photographs of me,” I whisper to my Friend.

The trees and rocks appear crisp and solid. My face is in none of the photographs on the polished tables in the living room and hanging on the wall above the stairs. Neither do I appear in the family photograph that resides in a golden frame in next to the woman’s bed.

The man is sitting on the porch.

“Look, Daddy,” Claire says. “We got our school pictures.”

She shoves her envelope into the man’s hand.

“Did you bring me anything?” Ames and Charles demand.

“You’re home early,” Eve says.

“I finally sold the garage.” His voice is gruff. “I deserve a little time off.”

He strokes Claire’s hair, “Let’s see what you’ve got!”

He reviews each child’s photographs. Finally, he peers at my prints for a long moment.

“You could be a model when you grow up,” he says.

“I Wanna Bi-i-te You!” – A Snippet

Why are you in here alone?” the man asks from the door of the playroom. “Come read in the living room.”

I carry my book into the other room. Eve is playing the piano. The woman is embroidering and watching Claire sew two pieces of fabric together. I sit in the rocker. Under cover of my book, I suck my thumb.

“Take your thumb out of your mouth!” the man says.

I pull my thumb out and continue reading.

“Your legs are so tender and delicious, I’ll just have to eat them all up.” The man is sitting on the floor with Ames nibbling his calves.

Ames gushes, “Do it again, daddy! Do it again!”

The man nips his legs again.

He looks up and sees me watching, “Come here. Let me see your legs.”

I hesitate. He lunges forward, grabs my arm, and pulls me onto the floor. He pushes up the leg of my jeans and bites me.

“No!” I cry. “You’re hurting me!”

I push at him, struggle to escape. He puts one leg over my body. I continue to struggle.
He smacks my thigh, “That didn’t hurt you! Ne fais pas le bébé!”

He bites again and again. Finally he releases me. My legs are covered with angry, red welts.

I see his leg between his sock and trouser. I lunge and sink my teeth into him. He jumps. Sobbing, I say, “I wanna bi-i-te you! I wanna bi-i-te you!”

The man hold me at arms length, laughs, mimics me, I wanna bi-i-te you!” Then, “Bébé! I didn’t hurt you!” He smacks my bottom. “Go change for bed.”

The woman’s voice stalks me as I limp from the room, “I wanna bi-i-te you!”

I Want To Sing Like That

New people fill the pews. I stare at the big, empty table inscribed with ‘This Do In Remembrance Of Me.’

Do what?

People in long blue robes march in singing “I am on the battlefield for my Lord, I’m on the battlefield for my Lord; And I promised Him that I would serve Him till I die. I am on the battlefield for my Lord.” A bald man, punching the air in time to the music, precedes them.

My feet itch to prance in the aisle. I prance in my heart where only my Friend sees. Some of the new people clap and sway.

One voice rises up, “Ay-I took the Master-er’s hand, A-and I joined the Christian band, Ay-’m on the battlefield fo-or-or my-ay-ay-ay-ay Lord.” Her voice wrenches my heart.

I want to sing like that.

A Woman Whose Face Looks Like Mine – Snippet

We stand and sing: “Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine.” The woman’s voice, so beautiful alone, screeches amid the other voices. I wince. An old woman sings the words but doesn’t know the music. I wince again. The man prays for a long time. We prayed the wrong Lord’s Prayer.

The senior pastor stands, “Sit down, please.” When we are quiet he continues, “We all know, what with the woods development, it’s been difficult with so many moving away. Calvary Baptist is struggling too. The pastors and deacons from both have met and prayed together. We really believe God is calling us to join both churches into one. Over the next weeks, we’ll start the transition that will bring us all together.”

There are fried Spam sandwiches instead of soup for lunch. Afterwards, we settle in the living room for the Sunday movie. It’s in black and white. I sit tailor fashion on the floor, absorbed in Mary’s visits to Bernadette.

“Don’t sit so close to the TV.”

I jump.

“What’s wrong with you?” the man asks. “Why are you so jumpy? What can you be thinking about?”

I remain silent. An image hangs in my mind: A woman whose face looks like mine. Her scent is still in my nose. Her long, dark hair falls rippling down to her waist. She laughs and I laugh too. She sings to me; I almost hear the words.

Gerard asks with a sneer, “Can Mary come to earth as God’s messenger?”

The man replies, “Yes — if God wills it.”

Sewing Machine – Another Snippet

There is a humming sound downstairs. I dress myself in robe and slippers and tip toe down the steps. The woman has removed the embroidered cloth from a small table. She leans over it working at a white machine.

“What is that?” I ask drawing close.

The woman jumps. “Oh! You’re awake!,” she said. “Can’t you sleep?”

I’m always awake, I think. I ask aloud, “What is that?”

“My sewing machine,” she says. “I’m making you a dress for your first day of school.”

She lifts a cornflower blue dress and a cream coloured cotton pinafore printed with yellow flowers and liver-spotted cocker spaniel puppies.

“Do you like it?” she asks. “I dyed Claire’s old yellow dress but there are still spots so I added the pinafore to cover them.” I stoke one of the spaniels. “Do you like the pockets?” she asks.

“Oh yes,” I say and blink away a tear. I glance at the television. “There’s no colour? Is it broken?”

“That’s an old movie. Old movies aren’t in colour.” She smooths the pinafore fabric then tilts her head and asks, “Are you hungry? Would you like some ice cream?”
I nod.

She goes to the kitchen and returns with two bowls of vanilla ice cream.

We eat and watch in silence. When I finish, the woman takes my bowl and says, “Back to bed with you. But first wash your face and hands and brush your teeth.”

A Snippet

You must have a nap today,” the woman says. “I can hardly wake you each morning, you’re sleepy all day.”

After lunch, she sends me to my room. I climb under the large bureau, place my throat over the stretcher, and wait for the executioner. As I wait, I suck my thumb and rub my private area. My Friend strokes comfort into my back.

“When will the executioner come?” I whisper. The executioner will chop off my head.

He Knows You!

Eve! Gerard! Get down here and bring your Bibles!” the man shouts from the bottom of the stairs.

“A family should read the Bible together,” he says as Eve and Gerard find seats. “You can find time for everything else.”

My ears perk up, What is this?

The man reads several pages. Then the woman reads. Then the older children each read a verse. I sit with my feet planted on the carpet to keep the small rocker still. After Charles stumbles through a verse, I rock forward and ask, “May I read?”

“You may have a turn when you learn to read,” the woman says.

My bottom lifts itself a few inches out of the chair. “I can read.”

“No you can’t,” the man says. “Why does she sit there and lie…”

“But I can read!” I squeak.

The man flips through his book. He stabs a finger down on a page and says, “Read this.”

I move my face closer until the blur resolves into words: “Jesus wept.”

“Read the next verse,” he says.

“Then said the Jews, Behold how he loved him!”

The man and the woman look at each other. A huge grin breaks across my face.

The man talks for a long time. The other children sleep. The woman’s head nods. A loud snore sounds from the corner.

The man removes his leather slipper, throws it, “Wake up!”

“I’m awake!” Charles wails rubbing his arm.

“Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come,” the man says.

He’s talking about You, I tell my Friend bouncing in my seat. I didn’t know there was a big book all about You.

The man asks, “Are there any questions?”

“What does Jesus wept mean?” I ask.

This is grand! I tell my Friend. My heart pounds. I hug myself. He knows You!

* Scripture for this post taken from the King James Version

Tense Changes

In the annals of rewriting, something as simple as changing the tense can make a huge difference. This post is an initial rewrite of a vignette with the rewritten rewrite. The big difference is the tense. Please let me know in the comments which you prefer.

1 – Rewrite

Acrid smoke assaulted my nose. I coughed, clambered off the bed in the dark, pushed my feet into too big slippers, my arms into a tattered robe. Clasping a ragged bear with no eyes, I walked to the door where the switch had first turned me on and out into the chill night.
People stood watching as smoke poured from the side of the house. With flashing lights and screeching sirens, giant red trucks pulled up. Men in yellow suits and big black boots sprayed water onto the house. I stood amid there legs.
The woman kept a strong hold on the hand of a little boy. Other children gathered around her. A man came out the back door pulling a girl by the hand, “Can you believe it! Eve locked herself in the bathroom. Quelle stupide!” He jerked her arm with a sharp tug that undulated through her shoulder. The girl whimpered, pushed aside long, dark hair, and rubbed her eye with a fist.
The man and woman counted the children around them, repeating their names.
The fire out, I left the forest of legs and returned to the house. The woman, standing in the light of the door, looked down at me as I walked in behind the girl who had locked herself in. Her eyes widened, “Oh!”

2 – Rewritten Rewrite

An acrid smell assaults my nose. I cough, clamber off the bed in the dark, push my feet into too big slippers, my arms into a tattered robe. Clasping a ragged bear with no eyes, I walk to the door where I first turned on and out into the chill night.
People stand watching. Smoke pours from the side of the house. Red trucks flashing lights and screeching sirens pull up. Big, yellow suited men wearing big black boots attack the house with axes, shower water on it.
Through the legs fire watchers’ legs, I see the woman tightly holding the hand of a little boy. Other children gather round her. A man comes out the back door pulling a tall girl by the hand.
“Can you believe it! Eve locked herself in the bathroom. Quelle stupide!”
He jerks her arm. The girl whimpers, pushes aside long, dark hair, rubs her eye with a fist.
The man and woman count the children around them, repeating their names.
The last of the smoke drifts away. I leave the forest of legs, return to the house. The woman, is standing in the light of the door, looks down at me as I follow behind the tall girl. Her eyes widen, “Oh!”

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