Filtering by Tag: short story

the visitors

 

“Gold, as to a king; myrrh, as to one who was mortal; and incense, as to a God.”

They sat in the front room, silent.
“A star, you said?”
“Yes,” replied one of them, speaking for the group.
“Hmm,” she replied. She nodded and looked over at Joseph, who smiled. She looked at their robes, the stitching and texture of the fabrics. “I’m sorry we don’t have more than the bread to serve.”
The one who spoke for the group shook his head. “Please,” he said, “there’s no need to apologize.”
There was a pause. They searched for questions. “Does he sleep well?” Asked the first.
“For a young child, yes. He has nights, as children do. He is learning to sleep.”
“Of course, yes.” 

A second visitor nodded, then leaned forward toward the mother and father. “And it was…it was a manger? In a stable?”
She nodded. “There was no room elsewhere.”
“Was it cold?”
“Yes — but Joseph brought blankets. We were warm enough.”
“Was it painful?”
“Yes — but all births are painful.”
“Do you remember it? The birth?”

Mary looked at the visitor. She looked again at his ornate clothes, his formality and posture. “I remember the taste of the tears I shed during the birth, and I remember the steam from the blood, and I remember his voice — like laughter, also — the cattle, and he.” She thought back to the moment, and she grinned. “I thought his voice would split me and the ceiling of the stable in two.”

After a moment, the third visitor interjected. “Were you afraid?”
Mary looked over at Joseph. “At times, yes.”
“What changed your minds?”
“An angel appeared to both of us and told us not to be afraid.”
“And that was all?”
Mary again looked over at Joseph, who spoke to the third visitor. “It was an angel; a messenger. It was an issue of whether or not to trust the one who sent the message.”
The visitor nodded and thought about the angel. 
Mary studied his face. “Do you have children?”
“No,” said the third visitor.
“You?” She asked the first.
“No.”
“You?” She asked the second.
“No.”
“Did any of you ever wish to have children?”
The first and second visitors shook their heads. The third, after pausing to reflect, spoke. “Yes.”
Mary turned her eyes toward him, and the third visitor continued. “I feel like I’ve been faithful to a calling — I feel — I feel peace about what I’ve done, and on most evenings, I sleep well because of it.”
“And the other nights?”

The third visitor managed a weak smile. “On those nights, I remember when I was a child, and I remember my own father, my mother — and I feel like there’s an empty room inside my heart — I can’t always see the details of the room — the shape or if anyone’s inside, but it always seems to take the shape of a child. It is a child’s room — a child-shaped room.”

Mary’s eyes welled with tears. She opened her mouth to speak — but then stopped. Her focus turned toward the other room. She heard something.
“Is everything alright?” Asked the third visitor.
Mary smiled. She turned back to him. “I think he’s awake. Would you like to meet him?”

And now it was the visitor’s turn to cry. He smiled.
“Yes,” he said. “I would.”  

 

The Basket Weaver

“I do not believe your stories,” she thought to herself. “All the promises of Father Abraham, the promises of Israel — how we are a mighty nation, more numerous than the stars.”

“And yet,” she thought, “Here we are — enslaved. Here we are, building monuments for kings we’re not supposed to serve, for gods whose names are not supposed to rest on our lips.” 

“Perhaps you grow angry when we choose to worship other gods we know to be grotesque or fickle, other gods we know to be made of stone.”

“Perhaps you would also forgive us our frustration for generations of silence.” 

“My father’s father did not hear you. He sowed love and reaped nothing. He toiled, and prayed, and grew crooked with work, and he did not hear from you. When he died, he told us of the words his father’s father heard from you — those words passed down from his father’s father.”

“See how far we must reach back to speak of when we spoke with you?"
"See how trembling our hands are as we reach back into dark?”

“How more joyful might we be to hear your words fresh on our ears as rain — like hot coals might your presence seem to our unaccustomed skin.” 

“But I can learn, Elohim. We can learn if you speak to us.” 

“I am not proud of these bricks, but these are the things I see. I am not proud of these idols, but these are the things I know.”  

“What is worse, Adonai — to worship a God you know is false, or to love a God you know to be real but who refuses to speak?”

“We are told our ancestors wrestled angels, and saw visions of ladders ascending to heaven. You gave them dreams that saved from jail and protected us from famine. They made covenants with you and built arks for you. They walked with you in gardens.” 

“You turned us to salt and provided a sacrifice to save Isaac.”
“You flooded the earth and painted colors across the sky.”
“And now, we are steeped in mud. We are entombed in lives that are not our own.” 
“Still, we pray. And our masters think us foolish.”
“Still, we pray. And I think us foolish also.” 
“But I believe, still.”

+    +    + 

She thought as she wove, and she prayed, and she wept. 

The child fought against the swaddling. She tucked the cloth back and rested her hand on his shoulder. “Peace, Moses. Peace. Your mother loves you. Your mother loves you so much.”

She paused, and noticed her hands, scratched and coarse due to the weaving of the reeds, held against his soft skin; against his unblemished face. “Though I will not see him grow,” she thought, “at least he will have something in common with me…”

“…He will not know the touch or voice of the one who claims to love him most…”
“…He will have to believe as I believe.”

And then, still weeping, she closed the basket. 

FICTION: STATION MANAGER

Esmerelda leaned against the inside of the doors; she felt her shoulders flush against the wood. Her eyes looked right down the center aisle, trained on Christ at the far end of the room. Another sweltering day. Another fan-less, breeze-less day. 

"I believe in God the Father Almighty, the maker of Heaven and Earth.”

The sun began to scale the stained-glass on Ezzie's left. Stations One through Six. Stations like the radio. The radio, like music. Music, like Jazz.

Christ, Jazz.

"I believe in God the Father Almighty, the maker of Heaven and Earth and Jazz.”

A figure interrupted the light, near station three. She saw his shadow, and she heard his voice. “Hello? Is anyone in there? Hello? Hello?”

Station Three. Jesus falls for the first time.

"Jesus, the cross you have been carrying is very heavy. You are becoming weak and almost ready to faint, and you fall down.”

"Hello? Please! Anyone at all!”

Station Three, thought Ezzie. Oldies. Smokey Robinson and the Miracles. “Tracks of my Tears.” “Second That Emotion. “Tears of a Clown.”

Now if there's a smile upon my face
it's only there trying to fool the public
but when it comes down to fooling you
now honey that's quite a diff'rent subject

That could’ve been Christ in the garden, thought Ezzie. Christ might’ve been all smiles and ‘love thy neighbor’, but he knew he’d have to die. He could feel the sin and the shit of the world, and He knew there’d need to be an accounting. 

He knew his time was coming.

The shadow knocked on the glass of the third station. Ezzie hushed him.

“Quiet! They’ll hear.”
“I wasn’t followed. I swear. I swear. Please let me in.”

It’d been forty-eight days since the dead broke the soil at St. Timothy’s on Third Street. Ezzie had been holed up in the church for the past eleven.  

When the stone rolled away, it was a miracle. This time, however, it meant no more jazz or Smokey Robinson. The thought of her past life filled Ezzie with grief, and she wanted so dearly to cry. But If Jesus could sweat blood at Gethsemane and still not escape his punishment, thought Ezzie, then what good would crying about the lack of Motown do her?

Nothing. No amount of Gethsemane Sweat would bring back Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, Martha and the Vandellas, The Four Tops, the Supremes, or The Temptations. 

The shadow knocked once more. And once more, Ezzie hushed him.

“Asshole! Quiet.”
“Like I said, no one followed me. And watch your language.”

Ezzie stopped. Her eyes went back to Christ for a moment.

“Just between you and me,” she thought, “I hope this guy goes next.”