New Stories for March 18, 2019
It did happen again, but never this intensely. I don’t know how or why it happened, just that it did. It was strange to think about. Why would God wish it upon a girl only twelve years old? She was barely old enough to stay home alone, and yet, with everything that was going on, it sometimes seemed as if she was the wisest among them.
Her relationship with God was what kept them hoping. Without her constant, heartfelt prayers and confident reassurances that “Jesus is with us,” I don’t know how they would have overcome all that they did. “Overcome” is a loose term, though. Yes, it was over. But they never truly recovered. There was always that underlying fear, a subtle, subconscious warning that something was still there… watching… breathing.
It’s early March, though it still feels like the dead of winter. The icy bite of the wind cuts through tattered fleece jackets and well-worn tennis shoes, sending shivers down their spines. Dry, crusty leaves sift over the pavement as a lone Ford Pinto rattles out of the neighborhood.
Their yard is the one with the tall, pale grass and boarded windows. The siding is freckled with spots of black mold, and big swirling letters spell out a spray-painted expletive across the garage door.
It’s not a nice house, though it could have been at one time. Maybe in a different era, before this part of town became “No Man’s Land.” The slang term had been around for longer than they could remember, and while it wasn’t endearing, it was appropriate. No man wants to live here. It’s a trash heap… the dregs of society.
But for them, it doesn’t matter what it’s called, or even what it’s like. All they need is a place to stay for a while, before moving on, and this house fits the bill.
While “dilapidated” seems too nice of a term to describe the exterior of the house, the interior is not as bad. A red, leather sofa sits against the long back wall, beneath what used to be a window. The kitchen, although quite grimy, appears usable. The floor is dirty, but well-constructed. The floorboards sometimes squeak, but that is mostly due to age, not disrepair.
The best part is that they each get a bed to themselves, which in previous residences, was not the case. She always had to sleep with Father and Mother, the former who snored, and the latter who kept dragging away the thin sheets. Not an ideal situation.
Now, as she snuggles into her sleeping bag, she has a lumpy, floor bound mattress all to herself.
“Have you tucked yourself in, lille venn?” Father asks, crouching down next to the bed. His lips stretch into a firm smile.
“Yes, Pappa,” she replies, grinning up at him. He reaches down and knocks a lock of brown hair away from her eyes.
“Are you going to be okay in here by yourself?” The lines in his brow deepen, and his blue eyes are tinged with worry.
“I’ll be okay,” she says with an air of childish nonchalance. “Jesus is with me!” Father smiles, again, though the worry has not fled his face.
He has always been uncertain about Jesus. Mother is a devout Protestant and often shares her feelings about his lost and confused soul and his reluctance to accept what she believes is truth. Father is just unsure. He will see eventually, but it will take time.
Father bends over the old mattress and presses his lips lightly against her forehead. “Natta, vennen min,” he whispers, softly stepping to the door of the room. It’s essentially a closet, but to her, it feels special, like how a new home should feel.
But it’s colder.
The crisp crease in her book corner
Demarcates a ceasefire
That she may rest for fresh wars to rage in her heart tomorrow.
She watches the tired pages, set standing sternly on the dreary shelf,
As they look at her.
She is sure they’re as jealous at being apart as she, yearning also to unfold themselves.
Her weary eyes wrest sleep from her curious heart.
I half expect Will to pull up to my house with the words “Free Candy!” spray painted on the side one day. A large rectangular hooptie of a vehicle. Dusty ebony in color. One single window at the rear. My friend and I mount ourselves into his creeper van.
Will agreed to join me on this journey. An adventure of sorts for a couple of teens. We have planned a drive, from Fife to Eatonville, to knock on what I suspected was my mother’s door.
She isn’t expecting us.
As a matter of fact, she hadn’t seen me in 11 years. Like many kids, my parents divorced when I was still very young. When they parted ways, they distributed their belongings as well. You get the couch, I get the car. Those dishes are mine. I never did like those drapes anyhow. You take this kid, I’ll take the other. And with that my baby sister and I parted ways – the same as our parents. We didn’t live far from each other, always within an hour of one another and yet somehow the distance between us was vast.
Sometimes during public transit routes I’d wonder if my mother or sister were on the same bus. Would I recognize them? Would they know me? Or would we sit side by side, knees nearly touching none the wiser?