Category: Childhood

F is for Faith Healer

“Eve, ride with your mother and the nurse in the ambulance,” the man said.

After the hospital bed bearing her mother had been loaded in, Eve climbed in and one of the drivers slammed the heavy door shut.

As the vehicle pulled away, I stood on the sidewalk hugging my coat in the chill night air.

“Get in this car, Mel,” the man shouted.

f is for faith healerI jumped and scrambled into the empty seat between between Claire and Gerrard. We drove a long way. The man sang Blessed Assurance to himself raising his voice during the chorus:

This is my story, this is my song,
Praising my Savior all the day long.
This is my story, this is my song,
Praising my Savior all the day long.

We rode huddled in silence. Finally, we arrived at an open field. The dark silhouette of a huge tent loomed in the night sky. We waited behind a long queue of cars that sought space among the parked rows filled by earlier arrivals.

The man hunched his shoulders, shook his head, and muttered, “Quel désordre!” He lowered his window and, waving a sheaf of tickets, called to a guard who wielded a flashlight, “I have a reservation. My wife’s ambulance should be here… That’s her,” he cried out pointing at the large, white shape as it moved into the yellow light near the tent entrance.

“Pull over here,” the guard directed. We parked in an area surrounded by red tape on which “reserved” had been printed in white.

Inside, we sat under the bluish light cast by bare, fluorescent bulbs. Giant space heaters sent warmth towards our shoulders but missed the chilly seats of the metal folding chairs. The woman lay under piles of blankets on her hospital bed.

“Who’s he?” Gerrard whispered to Charles.

“A faith healer,” Charles answered. Gerrard’s brow furrowed. “He’s going to try to heal mummy like the one last week.”

“Oh!” Gerard’s voice rose.

The man snapped his head in our direction, “Hush! Show some respect.” He leaned over to the large woman next to him, “I’ve got to be father and mother to them.” She nodded. “But I know God will heal my wife and give them back their mother.”

“Amen!” she replied.

“What is your name?” the faith healer lay his hand atop the pile of blankets.

“Roberta,” the woman’s voice was a whisper.

“Roberta,” the man spoke clearly.

“Roberta,” the faith healer’s drawled. “Do you believe God can heal you?”

“Yes,” the woman whispered.

“Then in the name of Jesus, be healed!”

He lifted her off the bed holding her under her arms. Spasms of pain tore across her face. She hung from his hands, a limp rag doll; her toes, in black, leather slippers, barely touched the floor.

“Walk Roberta,” the man urged.

The woman hung suspended from the faith healer’s hands. The nurse stepped forward. She and the man lifted the woman back onto the hospital bed.

“You” have to fast and pray,” the faith healer told the man. “But if you believe,” his voice boomed out through the microphone, “God will heal you.”

“I’ll fast for forty days and forty nights,” the man declared shaking the faith healer’s hand. “Just like Jesus.”

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C is for Calm and Comfort

“Shall we get flowers for Marmar?” Papa’s big, warm hand clasped mine. Icy blue eyes gazed into my brown ones. My legs beneath my navy coat raised and lowered my black leather Mary Janes in a prancing dance.

C is for ComfortI vigourously nodded. A small smile lifted the corners of my mouth as we entered the shop. I pressed my nose and lips against the counter’s glass front as a blond woman in a blue overall spoke with Papa. A pink and gold bow congratulated me: “It’s a girl!”

“What of peonies, Lysse?” he asked holding one fluffy pink stem.

I breathed in its soft, powdery fragrance then looked up at him with a wide smile and nodded again. As Papa turned away, my eyes collided with the attendant hazel gaze.

“What a lovely little miss,” she said.

I pressed against Papa’s leg reaching for his hand and caught hold of the hem of his tweed jacket, “Huh… Huh…” I whimpered. Tears stung my eyes, “Huh… Huh…” I buried my face in his grey flannel trousers, clutched the soft fabric in my small fingers. “Huh… Huh…”

Papa lifted and held me so that our faces were about a foot apart. “Calm yourself,” he said in his Lysse-does-not-behave-this-way voice. The whimpers petered out as he repeated, “Calm yourself.” A hot tear fell onto his lapel. He gathered me close in his arms against his shoulder. My tears ceased.

“She’s tired,” Papa told the attendant then completed ordering. Mouth serious, eyes wide, I peered over his shoulder at her smiling face as he carried me from the shop.

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B is for Book

My back kneaded the wall outside the woman’s bedroom. Through the cracked door, I saw the woman sitting on her bed, taking things from a round, red, velvet box. Pressed my face against the crack, widening it. My mouth was a small O, my eyes pleading.

“You may come in,” she told me.

I approached the bed stopping with my hands on the white, linen coverlet. One green embroidered flower rested under my fingers. I stroked the bumpy needlework.

b is for bookA few ribbon-tied piles of yellowing envelopes already lay on the bed. The woman removed a small cream coloured book with gold edged pages from the box and placed it next to the envelopes.

“What’s this?” I asked, my hand on the book.

“It’s a children’s missal. My father gave it to me.”

I opened it. A berobed man held a cup and, above it, a small, round, shining white wafer. A sudden stillness filled my insides, rang through my heart and, without sound, through my ears. Tears welled in my eyes. The woman gently took the book from my hands and placed it back on the bed.

“Go play, now,” she told me.

Half way to the door, I stopped and gazed back at the small, cream book.

I returned to the bedroom I shared with Eve and Claire. My face sheltered behind an immense book of Mother Goose nursery rhymes propped against my knees, I sat with my back pressed against the closet wall; the closet door remained ajar.

Peas porridge hot, peas porridge cold, peas porridge in the pot nine days old, I chanted under my breath. After each stanza, I raised my head and listened. The rays of the sun on the window seat beckoned me to my accustomed place but I remained in the closet.

The woman’s door closed. She traversed the hallway and descended the stairs. As the sound of her steps died away, I tip toed to her room and tried the handle. It was unlocked. The red, velvet box was not on her bed. I went into her closet. There it was on a shelf above my head. I climbed onto her shoe shelf and lifted the box down. Beneath letters and dried flowers, I found the missal. I took it and returned to the closet in the room I shared.

Slowly, I read each page, drinking in each picture. On the page with the man holding the cup and the small, white, round thing, the words read: ‘Look, the priest is holding up Jesus so you can see him.’

Something tugged at my heart. My chest heaved. A stuttering “Huh! Huh! Huh!” came from the recesses of my chest. The well of tears gushed over. When it receded and the stuttering ended, I left the closet and pushed the book as far as I could under the my mattress.

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Forget: Five Minute Friday

Working out ways to express a whole host of lessons and experiences.

girl being bullied (1)“You have to forgive and forget,” Claire ejaculated. Her straight, dark hair shimmered as she punctuated her words with vigorous bobs of her head. “Besides, I’ve been really nice to you all summer. You know you can tell me.”

“What?” It was a surprised squeak. “Every time I drop my guard, you betray and attack me.”

“Me?” her voice screeched. “Attack? Betray? When?”

“All the time,” I told her. “The night you pulled a lock of my hair out and pretended you were asleep. The Christmases and birthdays when you so very, kindly tell your father that you have a beautiful dress for me and give me one of your dirty, cast-off rags. The time you threw a glass at me, broke the window, and blamed me for it because I ducked. The times you promised to keep a secret and then went and told your father. You attack and betray me all the time.”

“You’re just touchy,” she pouted at me. “You take things so personally.”

“Look at my leg!” I showed her the dime-sized wound on the back of my right calf. “Two days ago you pinched a chunk out of me right there,” I jabbed at the spot. “And when I threatened to tell, you said, ‘You don’t count. You’re adopted anyway.'”

“You are,” Claire solemnly replied as if that was sufficient excuse.

“That doesn’t give you the right to hurt me,” my voice was fierce; my small fists clenched in tight balls.

“Daddy should never have brought you here,” Claire insisted.

“But you’d never tell him that, would you?” She took a step back. My eyes narrowed until my near-sighted, impression of Claire sharpened. “So what…? You take it out on me instead?”

I shook my head. “I may forgive you.” The volume of my voice raised so that its sound reverberated around the glass walls of the breakfast nook, “I pray to God to forgive you.”

Lord? Do I really want to forgive her?

“But I’ll never again be stupid enough to forget.”

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On Friday (and occasionally Saturday if Friday is filled with an excess of other activities),100s of bloggers set a timer, write for 5 minutes, and then post the results over at Kate Motaung’s blog, Heading Home. She provides the prompt on Thursday evening. We don’t edit or concern ourselves with whether our writing is flawless or worthy to be seen. We expose our incomplete, unpolished thoughts and words to each other and our readers and tweet them with the hashtag #FMFParty. Join us.

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Time – Five Minute Friday

rageIt only takes one time. Just one time. And then it’s awakened. Rage. A bigger rage than any child can fathom. The desire to destroy, the desire to rend, the desire to annihilate… One molestation, one rape, one instance of sexually abusing a child unleashes forces no child ought ever experience.

Rage is for hell. Rage is for the self absorbed. God did not make a child’s heart for rage.

Sometimes friends post images of molesters being punished in horrible ways. Sometimes they make excruciating statements about what ought to happen to child rapists. Those hurt the victims. Such images and comments beckon the rage that we work so hard to keep under control. They take us back to the desire we must fight, that we must allow God to fight within us.

We were never created to do horrible things to others, even when we’ve been shattered by their actions. We don’t need more insanity. We need to know that we haven’t been made crazy by what has been done to us. The only hope is forgiveness and that takes prayer and work and time and an enormous amount of grace. We need to mark the debt paid because those who have hurt us can never undo or repay. We need to let the sins committed against us be washed away by the Blood of the Lamb.

Lock up abusers. Stop them. But don’t delight in harming them. Don’t be like them. And please, don’t tempt those of us who have been weakened to nail those who have abused us to the crosses their sins have placed upon our shoulders.

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On Friday (and occasionally Saturday if Friday is filled with an excess of other activities),100s of bloggers set a timer, write for 5 minutes, and then post the results over at Kate Motaung’s blog, Heading Home. She provides the prompt on Thursday evening. We don’t edit or concern ourselves with whether our writing is flawless or worthy to be seen. We expose our incomplete, unpolished thoughts and words to each other and our readers and tweet them with the hashtag #FMFParty. Join us.

Image source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Rage.jpg

Away III

This week’s assignment was to rewrite a previous submission. My goal is to blend Mel’s interior life with her Friend and the internal censor she has developed with her everyday experience. You comments and suggestions are most welcome:

…But you’re somehow a part of my life
And you won’t go away
(1)

Carly Simon’s voice continued on as my clear soprano cracked and faded to a whisper. The rubbery, dark, barrier spanned my heart and mind. I raised my broken soul to my Friend like a shocked child holding a dead bird, pleading, ‘It’s broke. Fix it.’ My Friend’s arms suffused me with radiant warmth; He neither explained nor eradicated the pain.

“She’s off key,” Verna sneered.

I raised my head to look at her indistinct form through blurred eyes, then wiped away my tears with the soft cotton of my pale blue sleeve.

Verna stood with her back to the frosted window. I did not respond. Neither did the other occupants in our dorm room.

“She is.” This time her voice was shrill.

Sprawled across my bed in her pajamas and robe, Kelli swiped a yellow highlight across another sentence in her economics text then looked up and said, “No she isn’t.”

Her dark gaze caught and held Verna’s hazel eyes. Verna lowered her lashes. Kelli returned to her studies.

Verna muttered, “I can hear it even if you can’t.”

“Huh?” Diana, flopped down like a rag doll, shared the braided rug in the middle of the floor with me. She lowered the typed page she was marking with red, green, and blue fine point pens away from her face, and told Verna, “You’re tone deaf. You can’t even play a kazoo.”

We chuckled. I turned my eyes back to the psychology text in my lap.

Verna opened the window a crack and sniffed, “It smells like snow.”

Ama, twirling one of her many slender braids, uttered a breathy plea, “Verna, it’s cold. We have our French final tomorrow.”

Verna shut the window and bounced towards her friend. The phone rang as she passed.

“Crazy coeds r us!” Nancy and I exhaled audibly. Kelli shook her head. “Meh-el,” Verna bleated, her mouth gloating, her eyes like Claire’s had been whenever she lied and the minister beat me. “It’s your fazher!”

I glared at her and snatched the beige receiver from her hand. “Hello?”

“Who was that?” I knew the minister’s voice could be heard throughout the room.

“My roommate.”

“Get a new one.”

“What’s up?”

‘Good,’ the inner censor commended me. ‘Keep it casual, relaxed.’

Mon Dieu! You don’t ask how I am?” he accused.

“I’m studying for finals,” I told him my voice raising nearly an octave.

‘Stay calm,’ the censor warned.

“You can pick up your ticket tomorrow,” the minister told me.

“Thanks. I’ll get it at the airport Wednesday.”

“Get it tomorrow.” His voice held the same menace as when he unbuckled his belt to hit one of us.
“I have finals every day.” An image flashed through my mind. I held my breath; my heart began to pound. “The ticket… it’s round-trip, right?!”

‘Don’t screech,’ the censor chided.

Zut! Don’t raise your voice to me!” the minister commanded. “I said I’d get a round trip ticket. Are you calling me a liar?”

I soundlessly released my breath but did not speak.

‘Good,’ the censor assured me. ‘Ignore his accusation.’

The minister continued, “Bring all your things back with you.”

“Why?” My heart began pounding again.

“Someone will steal them. Nouille!” He muttered the last word, idiot.

I ignored the insult. “My room and the dorm will be locked. No one can get in.”

“Bring everything anyway.” He spoke in his prophecy-from-on-high voice that I had learned to ignore when I was twelve.

“I have a final in the morning,” I sighed.

‘Perfect,’ the censor told me. ‘Remind him that you have a lot of work.’

“Just because you have that scholarship, you think you know everything.”

“I have insurance.” The words tumbled out before the censor stopped them. I ignored her indignant jolt. “It’s nearly midnight here. I’ve got to go. Tell Matthieu I love him.”

I gently replaced the receiver; he would ring back and rebuke me if I let it slam. Kelli’s eyes caught mine. She gave me a small, I’m-sorry smile. My shoulders ached. The darkness of the rubbery barrier loomed within me.

At the stereo, Nancy put on Janis Ian’s Stars. Her elder sister had owned it before she was killed by a drunk driver. We had not listened to it since the Sunday evening after Thanksgiving when Verna had taken extra holiday time and we had the room to ourselves. In the unaccustomed quiet, Nancy played it after she told me she missed her family.

“Why does your fazher sound like…” Verna proceeded to articulate each word, “a loud, old, French peasant?”

I breathed in through gritted teeth, “He’s not my father.” My lips were a tight line.

“He raised you.” All innocence.

I shook my head with such violence my sinuses ached.

Ama dropped her braid, propped her elbows on Verna’s desktop and said, “Verna said he adopted you.”

Only Kelli kept her eyes on her book; I knew she was not reading. I breathed out a defeated sigh, “No.”

‘Careful,’ the censor warned.

“I can’t find a birth certificate or adoption papers. There’s nothing, not even any pictures of me before I was about five.” My Friend’s arms had supported me Verna and the minister lacerated my heart. But now my body sagged under the continuing assault.​

“Did you ever ask?” Diana interest was genuine. Still her question was another blow. “I don’t mean to pry,” she added in a gentle tone.

“This was his answer,” I pointed to the scar above my right eyebrow, shrugged one shoulder, and lowered my head to my book.

“You’re a foundling!” Verna crowed with delight. “Your parents abandoned you.”

“They didn’t!” Heat suffused my body. Unheeded, my book slid to the floor. My fists curled themselves into tight balls. “I just don’t know what,” my forehead crumpled as the rubbery darkness overshadowed me, “happened to them…” The last three words were a whisper. My fists unclenched, became limp. My eyes pleaded for answers I knew none of them had. My face felt stretched, parched.

“What about you?” Nancy cut in with unusual sharpness. “Your father abandoned you.”

Verna’s back straightened, “Mummy divorced my father.” Her voice held a faint British accent that she had picked up during a semester in London; she used it to proclaim her superiority.

“Your father still abandoned you,” Kelli told her. “You haven’t seen him since you were a baby.”

Verna glanced at each of us. I followed the hasty swivel of her head. First, her eyes met Nancy’s hard, blue ones, then Kelli’s dark, exotic stare, then Diana’s dim sighted, hazel look, then my eyes as dark and exotic as Kelli’s, and finally the steady, blue gaze of her best friend, Ama. No one spoke. Even Ama, twirling her braids, waited with us for Verna’s response. Verna turned her eyes to L’Etranger. I picked up my book as Janis Ian explained:

…I’m leaving a light on the stairs
No I’m not scared – I wait for you
(2)

Rubbery blackness blocked the present from the past, an unassailable barrier. I blinked away tears. An electric tingle saturated my body from head to toe; my Friend was hiding me in the safety of His wounds.
____________
(1) Stephen Sondheim, “​Not A Day Goes By
(2) Janis Ian, “​Jesse

Away II

This was the second assignment I submitted:

…But you’re somehow a part of my life
And you won’t go away
(1)

Carly Simon’s voice continued as my clear soprano cracked and descended to a whisper. The dark barrier stretched within. My Friend’s arms held me in radiant warmth.

“She’s off key.”

I raised my head, peered through blurred eyes, wiped tears on my blue, shirt sleeve.

Verna stood with her back to the window. We did not respond. Her voice grew shrill, “She is.”

Sprawled across my bed, Kelli highlighted another sentence in her book, then looked up and said, “No she isn’t.” Her dark gaze caught and held Verna’s hazel eyes. Verna lowered her lashes. Kelli returned to her studies.

Verna muttered, “I can hear it even if you can’t.”

“Huh?” Diana, plopped down in the middle of the floor, pulled herself to her knees. “You’re tone deaf. You can’t even play a kazoo.”

We chuckled. I turned my eyes to the psychology text in my lap.

Verna opened the window and sniffed, “It smells like snow.”

Ama, twirling one of her many slender braids, uttered a breathy plea, “Verna, it’s cold. We have our French final tomorrow.” Verna shut the window and bounced towards her friend. The phone rang.

“Crazy coeds r us!” Nancy and I exhaled audibly. Kelli shook her head. “Meh-el,” Verna bleated, her smile gaped, her eyes like Claire’s had been whenever she lied and I got the beating. “It’s your fazher!”

I took the receiver. “Hello?”

“Who was that?” The man’s voice was audible throughout the room.

“My roommate.”

“Get a new one.”

“What’s up?”

Good, the censor commended. Keep it casual, relaxed.

“You don’t ask how I am?” he accused.

“I’m studying for a final,” my voice ascended on the final syllable.

Calm, the censor warned.

“You can pick up your ticket tomorrow.”

“Thanks. I’ll get it at the airport Wednesday.”

“Get it tomorrow.” His voice held the same menace as when he unbuckled his belt.

“I have finals every day.” My breath stopped. My heart began to pound. “The ticket is round-trip?!”

Don’t screech, the censor chided.

“Didn’t I say it would be?” I breathed. He continued, “Bring all your things back with you.”

“Why?” Pounding again.

“To keep them safe.” He used his this-world-is-a-sorry-place tone.

“My room and the dorm will be locked. No one can get in.”

“Bring everything anyway.” It was his prophecy-from-on-high voice. I had learned to ignore it when I was twelve.

“I have a final in the morning.”

“That scholarship doesn’t mean you know everything.”

“I have insurance.” The words were out before the censor stopped them. I ignored her indignant jolt. “I’ve got to go. Tell Matthieu I love him.”

I gently replaced the receiver so he wouldn’t ring back to rebuke me for slamming it down. Kelli’s eyes caught mine. She gave me a small, I’m-sorry smile. My shoulders ached. The barrier overshadowed me.

At the stereo, Nancy played an album that her elder sister had owned before she was killed by a drunk driver.

“Why does your fazher sound like…” Verna proceeded to articulate each word, “a raucous, old, French peasant?”

I breathed in through gritted teeth, “He’s not my father.” My lips were a tight line.

“He raised you,” in an innocent tone.

I shook my head.

Ama dropped her braid, propped her elbows on Verna’s desktop and told me, “Verna said he adopted you.”

“No.” Only Kelli, though she was not reading, kept her eyes on her book. I breathed out a defeated sigh.

Careful, the censor warned.

“I can’t find a birth certificate or adoption papers. There’s nothing.” The warmth of my Friend’s arms held the pieces of me together.

“Did you ask?” Diana’s voice held genuine interest but the weight grew heavier. “I don’t mean to pry,” she added in a gentle tone.

“This was his answer,” I pointed to the scar above my right eyebrow, shrugged one shoulder, and lowered my head to my book.

“You’re a foundling,” Verna crowed with delight. “Your parents abandoned you.”

“They didn’t!” Angry heat suffused my body. I glared at her, “I just don’t know what,” my forehead crumpled as the darkness bore down, “happened to them…” My eyes pleaded for answers I knew they did not have.

“What about you?” Nancy’s voice held unusual sharpness. “Your father abandoned you.”

“My parents divorced,” Verna said with pride.

“Your father still abandoned you,” Kelli told her.

Verna swung her head from side to side, found no one to support her cause. I lowered my eyes to my book as Janis Ian explained:

…I’m leaving a light on the stairs
No I’m not scared – I wait for you
(2)

The barrier loomed within. I blinked away tears. My Friend pulled me closer.

____________
(1) Stephen Sondheim, “Not A Day Goes By
(2) Janis Ian, “Jesse

Good Times

Though I planned to post my work from last week, writing the same scene from two different perspectives, I want to give it another pass. In the meantime, this week’s assignment asked me to write of characters who remember the same experience(s) differently. Your comments are desired:

picnic in Bristol“We had good times when Mummy was alive,” Claire mused as she lay out two rows of honey wheat bread. She took ham, sliced cheddar, mayonnaise, and mustard from the refrigerator.

“Yes,” Eve responded dreamily one elbow leaning on her mother’s old Formica kitchen table. “But then she got sick… and died.”

“Mel,” Claire turned from a kitchen drawer holding the small spatula. A wide smile lit her face. “Do you remember the swings? I used to push you and you’d call out ‘Higher! Push me higher!'”

“I remember,” I told them. “There were picnics with olive loaf sandwiches and potato chips.”

“Weren’t those good times? Remember the zoo in Bristol? And the grape vines and olive trees in Gard?” Claire sighed, “We had the best picnics there. That was the best summer.”

“We should’ve stayed in Bristol,” Eve said. “We could’ve lived in Bristol with Mummy’s cousin. We’d have been happy but…” Eve’s voiced trailed off.

“But she wouldn’t leave. And even when she did, she didn’t take us.” Unshed tears highlighted Claire’s hazel eyes. She scooped out a shiny blob of cream colored mayonnaise with her spatula and spread it on the bread.

Eve stood, retrieved a six-box, shrink wrapped package of raisins from the cupboard and placed them in the basket. “Mel, when were you happy?” she asked.

“Me?” It was a squeak. “Never.”

“But there were good times,” Claire insisted her voice raising almost an octave.

I shook my head, “No. Not one day, not one moment when I was happy.”

“But you were happy when I pushed you on the swings,” Claire insisted.

“No,” I shook my head again. “Sometimes I escaped for…” My forehead rumpled. “A few seconds? Maybe a few minutes? But it was always there.” Tears threatened to leak out; I blinked them away. I hid my face, looking down at the scrubbed, yellow table top, where we had all learned to peel potatoes, helped to make biscuits, picnic sandwiches, and birthday cakes.

“What?” Claire asked.

“The hurt. I always hurt,” I said softly.

“Don’t you remember anything good?” Eve pleaded softly.

“Swimming, dancing, horseback riding, books — those help. But, no.” I shook my head,

“Nothing?” Claire asked.

I did not answer. The small kitchen grew silent except for the soft sounds of Claire arranging meat, cheese, and pickles.

I looked up at Eve, ​”I remember when he beat you. Your blood was all over your blue uniform blouse. Blood everywhere. So much blood…” I closed my eyes against the red tide.

“Why did Grandpère die?” my fingers picked at the roughness of Papa’s brown, herringbone tweed clad knee.

Marmar leaned over and placed her hands on my shoulders turning me to face her. Her dark brown eyes gazed intently into mine, “He died because it was time for him to go home and be with God.”

“No,” I shook my head. “God didn’t take my Grandpère. Soldiers shot him.”

He flung his hand out towards me, towards Marmar. Marmar’s hand gripped my shoulder. I was all eyes, absorbing a world that had changed with a thunderous Pop-Pop-Pop-Pop-Pop in the hallway; Marmar’s grasping fingers had prevented me running to see. Soldiers lumbered through the dark, wooden door of Grandpère’s study. The first wore a stiff cap, the second an olive green cap with a bill. Grandpère spared a rapid glance at Marmar and me standing on the raised area in front of the built-in bookshelves.

The first soldier spoke. Grandpère spoke. My forehead wrinkled at the rushing sound; their lips moved but I could not hear their words. The first soldier spoke again. The rushing sound still filled my ears. Voices had been sucked out of the room. The soldier in the olive green cap took a dark grey gun from the holster on his belt. He pointed it at Grandpère. His finger pressed a lever. Two immense explosion filled the room with the smell of rotten eggs. Grandpère’s back slammed against the white, plaster wall. He slid onto the floor. Blood gushed from his chest. His pale blue cotton shirt grew red with the hot, thick…

“Yes, they did,” Marmar’s replied in her soft, singing tones. “But when he fell, God was right there to catch him.”

My lip quivered. Papa pulled me onto his lap. I buried my tears in the softness of his grey wool sweater. My shoulders trembled as Marmar’s fingers stroked my curls.

“Mel!” Claire demanded.

But how could there be so much blood? It’s supposed to be inside.

I shook my head, “Huh?”

“Where were you?” Her tone was accusatory as if she’d caught me doing something shameful.

My forehead creased, my eyes narrowed. The image of blood across pale blue cotton, the scent of damp wool, slender fingers caressing my hair receded behind the dark, rubbery barrier. I shook my head again.

I blinked in the sunlight streaming through the sheer curtains. “The sun’s out,” I told them. “We can go for our picnic.” I stood and began placing wrapped sandwiches in the basket.

“The sun’s been out for five minutes,” Eve told me.

“Oh,” I shrugged.

Eve and Claire shared a glance.

“You know,” Eve told me, “It wasn’t that much blood.”

I blinked at her, my forehead crumpling again, “There was blue cotton soaked with blood, so much blood.”

Eve’s face was puzzled. Claire looked as if she longed to tap the side of her head and tell me, ‘You’re crazy.’ As I packed, silence again descended on the room.

“That’s why you don’t remember any good times?” Claire blurted out when I had finished with the basket.

“No!” my voice was an angry squeak. “I don’t know. I hurt. I always hurt.”

Tears welled up and threatened to spill. I sniffed and ran to the bathroom, fumbled with the handle, and made it inside before the tears broke free. I rinsed my eyes and face with warm water, then cleaned the tear stains from my glasses. Before replacing them, I looked at my swollen red face in the white-rimmed mirror.

There was blood, I told my Friend.

Image source: http://www.westcountrycottages.com/tag/national-picnic-week/

Family – Five Minute Friday (a day late)

Another rewrite:

guardedNancy heaved her bulging bag onto her narrow bed and began pulling out stacks of neatly folded garments that smelled of biting sweet detergent. “How was Thanksgiving?” she asked.

“Okay,” my said in soft, small tones. My forehead wrinkled, my voice grew stronger “The houses are so close together. I thought that was only in Manhattan.”

Nancy laughed, “That’s the way it is in New York. Everywhere except the suburbs.”

“Oh,” I sat up straight on the hard, wood chair, held my legs out, and pointed and flexed my feet.

“It must be hard for you to be so far from home,” Nancy continued.

I pulled in a deep, cautious breath, “I guess.”

“What was your home like?”

“More land, bigger gardens. There’s a barn and playhouse… and a kitchen garden” I replied. “The vegetables here are like plastic,” my voice rose, cutting the quiet of the room, resounding off the hard surfaces of the floor and the iron beds. “I miss tomatoes that taste like sunshine.” The words tumbled past the censor that had stood stiffly at her post since the day I woke with my mouth pressed against the rusty, dusty screen door.

“Do you miss the family you lived with?” Nancy, her folded laundry now stored in the solid utilitarian bureau or stacked in her closet, sat on the edge of her bed, her chin resting in one cupped hand.

Images of the world which the man inhabited rose in my heart. I pushed most of them away before speaking, “I miss Matthieu.” I paused to review my feelings. “He’s the youngest.” I added. Internally, I scanned the remaining images. “I miss the mountains and Lake Mirren. And swimming everyday and my sewing machine.”

As I spoke, mountains, large green lake, my body slicing through chlorine water, the whir of my sewing machine presented themselves. The censor nodded. Each might be allowed public viewing.

Nancy sat gazing at me. Her patient, gentle attention hurt but there were no more images fit to be shared.

“What do you miss?” I asked trying to redirect her to herself.

“I miss my horse,”she told me.

“You have a horse?” I asked, my eyes wide, my heart rejoicing that she owned one of those magnificent beasts.

“Yes,” Nancy’s face held a small, wistful smile.

Then silence hung in the room. Something more seem expected of me. My voice faltered as the sentence left my lips, “I – I guess I’m looking forward to Christmas.”

She nodded her head. “I miss my family too.”

Nancy sighed, stood up, took her shower basket and one of her still fresh from being laundered towels and left the room.

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On Friday,100s of bloggers set a timer, write for 5 minutes, and then post the results over at Kate Motaung’s blog, Heading Home. She provides the prompt on Thursday evening. We don’t edit or concern ourselves with whether our writing is flawless or worthy to be seen. We expose our incomplete, unpolished thoughts and words to each other and our readers and tweet them with the hashtag #FMFParty. Join us.

Follow – Five Minute Friday

I’ve wanted to make “Loved As If” my magnum opus and answer all those who are amazed that I follow Christ even though my life has often been “solitary, poore, nasty, [and] brutish.”

Among other things, I’m a student of literature and especially of the stories we call myth and legend. Originally, they were simply the stories one generation handed down to another. Until fairly recently, humans weren’t interested in empirical proof of the facts. We wanted to pass on truth. Aesop and Gilgamesh pass on immense truths that have been part of what it means to be human since the beginning.

“The Epic of Gilgamesh” is one of my all time favourite pieces of literature. It’s also one of the oldest known to man. I’ve always been struck by Gilgamesh’s lament when he first realizes he will die. He prays to the god Shamash because he sees the bodies floating in the river; and realizes this too will be his lot. All that is left is to make a great name for himself. He and his dear friend, Enkidu, undergo many trials and adventures and win great renown. Then Enkidu dies and Gilgamesh loses himself. Death can do that to us.

jesus-and-child-10When I lost my parents, I lost myself. I did not know who I was or to whom I belonged. Knowing that I didn’t belong to the minister, that I gained no identity from him gave me a bit of information about who I was not but none about who I was. That knowledge came from my Friend, from Christ. He condescended to follow me and lead me through the horrifying labyrinth of my childhood. But eventually, I had to choose if I would follow Him. It made me cranky that I had to choose. Then I understood, Christ could not be a beloved magical teddy bear to comfort me, perform miracles when needed, and provide wisdom. He had to be my God as well as my Friend. I had to be willing to follow Him even if my life never became the image I had conjured in my mind and contained more heartache and pain.

He has always been so gracious to me. He has always been there. And I want to follow because of His graciousness and generosity but also because in Him, I know who I am; Christ gives me identity. It doesn’t matter if the identity I have now is the one I would have had my life had been different. This is me. It is the Lord’s doing and it is astoundingly marvelous in my eyes.

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Every Friday,100s of bloggers set a timer, write for 5 minutes, and then post the results. We don’t edit or concern ourselves with whether our writing is flawless or worthy to be seen. We expose our incomplete, unpolished thoughts and words to each other and our readers. Kate Motaung at  Heading Home provides the prompt on Thursday evening. We all link our posts there and tweet them with the hashtag #FMFParty. Join us.

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