Friday, July 22, 2011

Crushed--Part VI

The dream was so real. We were in a forest. Actually, it felt like the ribcage of a forest. I felt its respiration—in, out. Or rather, expand, deflate. It was damp there. Inside the woody bubble. Smelled like the ocean. Or clean sweat. Was that the air or him?
            He, Jake, was around me. Behind me. I sat in the circle of him. Felt his breath stir my hair. He kissed the indentation at the base of my neck.  Right there. I put my fingers up to touch the spot and he kissed them too. There was pressure and softness, all at the same time.
            Wake up. I remember hearing the silent command. Inside my head. My eyes opened. Focused. I was alone. My heartrate slowed. Eventually.
I’ve got this. There’s a sentence I know. All I have to do is chant it. Over and over. Better yet, I’ll write it on my hand. Both of them if necessary. With a Sharpie marker. Look at it on the hour.  And then some.
            “But when you are tempted, He will provide a way out so you can stand up under it.”
            Promise me, God, that I’ll see the way out. When it comes.  

Millie and I waited for Silas on the front porch.  While he ran back in for her joint supplement.  
            “Can’t forget that,” Silas said.
            “You’re such a good doggy daddy,” I told him.
            He pulled the front door shut.  I stretched to hand him the house key.  He paused inside the screen door. 
            “What?” I said.
            “The phone’s ringing.  Should I get it?”
            “Look at the caller i.d..” Is this the way out, Lord? Right now? 
            “It’s Grandma,” he said from the foyer.
            “Don’t answer it.  I’ll call her when we get back.”
            We headed down the steps.  I surveyed the flowers by the curb. Orange daylillies waned. Black-eyed Susans were coming on.  You all are gorgeous. Keep up the good work. Millie did her business.  A block down. Right beside Mrs. Hinkle's recycling bin.
            I looked up from scooping. “Daddy forgot to put recycling out.  Should we . . ." 'Cause God could use trash. As a way out.
            Silas shook his head.  “Not now. He’s waiting.”
            Millie led the way.  She sniffed. Peed.  Munched strands of grass. Whenever she spied a cat or rabbit, she’d freeze. Crouch slightly. Her eyes would narrow.  I considered letting the leash fall.  To see if she’d give chase. But what if—What if she ran so hard, so fast, something broke, like it did with— I wrapped the leash around my wrist.
            “Come on, girl. Not today.”  Not ever.
            Silas bumped me with his shoulder. On purpose.
            “Did you remember your notebook? With your stories?”
            I nodded.  Patted the tote bag at my side. 
            “Cool,” he said. “And if he asks about why he's blind, what're you gonna say?”
             “I think I’ll just tell him my theory.”
            Silas's eyes crinkled. “What theory?”
            “That when faced with a crisis or tragedy, I haven’t decided which word to use there, people either turn to God or away. And then I'll expound upon that.”
            Silas's face went funny.
            I stuck my bottom lip out.  “No good?” I tugged the lead. “Millie.  Come on.  We’re not going that way. Or Job.  I could go with Job.  Remember how God didn’t do all that sucky stuff to Job? He just allowed the devil to?”
            “But then maybe Jake’d be mad at God for allowing him to go blind.”
            I puffed at my bangs.  “Guess I’ll have to use my go-to prayer.”
            “What’s that?”
            I put my palms together and looked at the sky. “God, do something. Please.”
            “Or you could just tell him ‘God works all things for the good of those who love him.’”
            My mouth dropped open. “Wow! How did I get such a smart son?” I handed him the leash. “Your turn.”
            We walked another block or so.  Silas broke into a trot. Glanced back to see if Millie’d do the same. She didn’t. He slowed.
            “Hey, look,” I said. I pointed up the street. “There’s Miss Wise. Out in her yard. We used to go to church with her. Back when you were a baby.”
            A thin woman with a blue-grey bob took tiny steps toward the sidewalk. Once there, she awaited our approach. Her hands made a shelf over her brow, shaded her eyes. 
           “Why, is that who I think it is?” she said.
            I smiled. “Yes, ma’am,” I said. “Dana and Silas Martinelli. And our dog, Millie.”
            She reached out to Silas. Her hand trembled. A lot.
“This young man was swaddled last time I saw him,” she said. “Pastor Agnew sprinkled that little round head with baptismal water. But it was bald back then. Just look at it now.”
            I leaned against the telephone pole beside me. Felt a sudden and tender warmth for this woman I hadn’t seen in almost twelve years. 
           She gripped Silas’s hand and looked him in the eye. “I just made cookies. Do you like peanut butter cookies, Silas?" she said. She let go of him so she could talk with her hands. "The ones with the crisscross fork marks? Fresh from the oven? If you pick one up, it’ll probably fold or break in half.  They’re that warm.”
Silas looked over his shoulder at me. His teeth were clenched. His eyes wide. He’s embarrassed.Cause she’s making a fuss over him. My mama’s heart knew.  I nodded. It’s okay.
He faced her again. “That’s warm, all right.”
“And ice cold milk,” she said. “I shake the carton real good so it gets froth on top when you pour it.”
Miss Wise moved her right hand to his forearm. Gripped it. When she headed for the house, he carefully matched his steps with hers. I closed my eyes. Felt a sting of tears.  My boy’s a good boy. I made him that way. Joel and I did.
Miss Wise glanced back. “I have coffee too, Dana. Folgers, not Starbucks, but I make it good and strong.”
I caught up with them. Took Millie’s leash from Si. “All the same to me,” I said. I looked up. Pinched the thumb and pointer finger of my left hand together. Sorry, Lord. It was just a little lie.

A half hour later, Silas and I inched toward her front door.
            "Oh, don't go," Miss Wise said. "You just got  here. Sit a spell."
            "We'll come back," I said. "We promise. Right, Silas?" Or, are we supposed to stay here with her all day? Is this the way out, Lord?              
            "Yeah," he said. "It's just, we have some place to be right now."
            I gave her a hug. "Take care, Miss Wise." I said. "We'll try to stop by next week."
             “You called her Miss Wise. Was she ever married?” Silas said when we got to the street.
            His brow furrowed. “Wonder why? She’s so nice.”
            “You sure you don’t want to take some cookies with you?” she called from her porch.
            Silas turned. Shook his head and patted his tummy. 
           “No, thanks," he yelled. "I’m stuffed. But thanks."
            “I have no idea,” I said.  “I think she’s beautiful.”
            Once we turned the corner, we couldn’t see her wave anymore. Silas picked up the pace.
            “I hope Jake’s not freaking out.”
            I took bigger strides to keep up. Squinted up the hill at Jake’s yard. He wasn’t out. There were no camp chairs either.
            Silas stopped. Faced me. “Do you think he forgot?”
            I shrugged. “Not sure,” I said. Or did something happen at the doctor? I felt my heart skip over the place where it usually beat. We stepped up on the curb and into the yard. The high grass tickled my ankles.
            Silas cupped his hands around his mouth. “Jake!”
            I pushed his hands down. Held his wrists. “He might be resting,” I said.
            Silas pulled loose. Handed me Millie’s leash.
“Hold her,” he said. “Something’s on the door.” He ran to see. That’s when I knew. This, that thing on the door, whatever it is, is the way out.
            I watched Silas cross the yard. Go up the steps. Stand in front of the door. Blood pulsed in my ears--ba-bum, ba-bum.  What is it? A note? A sign? What does it say? He yanked the paper off the door and ran back. Handed it to me.
            “What’s wrong?” I said as I took it. To make you look like that?
            “Read it.” 
            I smoothed the crumples on my thigh. Held it at arm's length. Waited for my eyes to focus.

            Dear Intruders:
            My dad doesn’t need your company or your sympathy. He has me!
            And we do just fine without you! Lady, I can see the way you look
            at him, but you’re not my mom. You never will be!! So both of you
            just stay away from him!
            Don’t come back,
            His real son

            I gulped. Noticed the instant slickness of my palms. And my underarms. I folded the paper in half. Did it again. And once more. Used my fingers to sharpen the creases. Tucked the note in the knee pocket of my cargo capris. Millie tugged toward the house. Whined.
            “Sorry, girl,” I said. “Not today." Not ever again.
            Silas didn’t move.  He kept looking back at the house.
            “Come one, Si. Let’s go.”
            He huffed. “But why? We don’t even know who wrote it.”
            “Oh, Silas,” I said. “Kevin did. Obviously he doesn’t want us here.”
            “But he’s at soccer.”
            I reached for his elbow. “No, he’s not, hon. I’m guessing he didn’t make the team.”
            I made sure not to look at the house. At the windows. I knew he was in there. Probably watching us. Maybe holding up his middle finger. I felt his anger throb. And burn. It was like a lighthouse beam. Come closer and you’re in big trouble, people.
            Silas’s eyes shone. Almost spilled over. “I don’t get it. Why doesn’t he want us to hang out with Jake? It’s not like he does. And what did he mean about the way you--”
           I rested my palm in the small of his back. Steered him and Millie toward home.
“I’m not sure.” I winced. Peeked up at the clouds. Another one. Not so little. Sorry.
Halfway home I put Millie's lead in my right hand and opened my left. Saw my sentence smeared. Maybe I should get a tatoo. Just in case.

1 comment:

writingdianet said...

So . . . it's finished. What did you think? I wanted to write a story about a married Christian woman having a crush and how she dealt with it. I know it's happening. The divorce rates for folks who call themselves believers is the same as those who don't. Sad but true.

I had one of my kids compose Kevin's note. Did it sound authentic to you?

Anyone want to weigh in here with your own experience, or one you've witnessed (no names please!). I'm listening . . .


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