Saturday, November 17, 2012

brass crown capped

“This is where the ritual must be executed,” Chance said as they entered the Sanctuary. The altar was draped in white cloths and on top of it were a vase of flowers and two candleholders with unlit candles—Fiona couldn’t help remembering Chance saying that unlit candles avoided moths, yet here the four of them were—and in the center of the altar was a thick white candle, capped with a brass crown through which the wick burned brightly. Fiona looked at it. In Sunday school, they always called it the Everlasting Light. After their long spell in the dark, its brightness cut at their eyes.

“Kinda hurts,” Strep said.

“It should,” Chance answered. “It’s His pain.” He leaned the bag against the back of the altar. “It’s why we’re here."

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

unwinding the clock

Chance pressed forward. “The dark will take us down these halls counter-clockwise as the ritual wisely guides us. Light would break this dark wisdom and leave it lifeless.” Strep followed him, mumbling about flashlights.

“Come on.” Fiona took Dane’s hand and pulled him along. “What’s a few extra steps?” He followed grudgingly, but kept a warm grip on her hand.

This route was longer and would bring them to the back of the Sanctuary, where they would emerge as the pastor did every Sunday, from behind the altar. Following Chance and Strep, Fiona pulled Dane forward into the dark and through the halls, bearing always to the left—counter-clockwise as the ritual demanded, though no one but Chance knew why. Fiona wondered if maybe they were rewinding the clock, moving back to the time before God was captured by the light, but then it struck her, as they rounded the last corner, that maybe this was the route Chance followed through the halls of the building that was trapped inside him, the building with a thousand rooms full of all those confusing voices. At the end of the hall, a dim light flickered through the open door of the Sanctuary. Dane’s hand slipped from hers, as he moved to join his brother. Maybe they were only trying to unwind the clock to the time before the voices started to speak and if they reached that dim light there and completed this ritual, Chance would find the relief the medicine didn’t give him.
this one's for the Th. Bastard

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

slightly antiseptic

Chance pulled the church door open and a wave of stale air reached out at them. More sterile, than stale, Fiona thought as she followed Chance and Strep into the building, but old as well. The church smelled like its elderly congregants, gray and worn and slightly antiseptic. Tired, she thought. The building is tired of all this praising and mourning and joy. The building wants to sleep, she thought. 

They just want to sleep peacefully

Friday, November 2, 2012

dead end

The four of them rounded the last corner and began walking up the hill to the church. The street leading to the church was a dead end, a fact that always made Fiona smile. Whoever put the church there must have secretly agreed with her.

Walking up the hill, the church was to their right and across from it were the houses of Party Alley. Strep had called it that a few years back and the name had stuck. Party Alley houses were a raggedy bunch. Grass grew knee-high or didn’t grow at all and beer bottles littered the yards or piled up on the steps in front of screen doors that hung cockeyed from half-broken hinges. Even this late in the summer, even on a weeknight like this, the pulsing thrum of music and voices rose from the backyards. Fiona remembered walking to Sunday school and seeing more than one person laying in the deep grass, sleeping off their last night. Strep, in the semi-perverted manner of the teen-aged boy that he was, 
the true story
sometimes waded through the grass and skirted the front and sides of the house looking for panties that some girls stripped off when they got good and drunk and slipped away with some  similarly beery guy. Red-hot, drunken passion was a way of life on Party Alley and it was among Fiona’s greatest hopes, now that she thought about it, that they would complete Chance’s mission before the night got that red-hot and passionate across the way.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

we go up

“Now what?” Strep asked as Fiona picked up the bag by its handle. Her knuckle scraped against a flat piece of metal that seemed to fill most of the bag. She could hear what sounded like a box of matches in there too. It wasn’t that heavy, either. She handed it to Chance.

“We go up,” Chance said as he pushed through the hedge. “Up and over the top.”

“Everything’s over the top with him these days,” Dane muttered, but followed.

“Ever dutiful,” Fiona said to him as she climbed out of the well.

“And so are we,” Strep said.

Once passed the hedge, they stuck close to the wall. What little moon there was that night was on the other side of the building. Fiona could see the shadow of steeple on the edge of the parking lot, but what little light there was didn’t reach into the deep shadow along the wall. Fiona began to believe what Chance had said about the darkness being love. The shadow there kept them safe from the eyes of the party dudes; it must’ve loved them.

They edged along the wall until they reached an inside corner, where the wall of the parking lot entry met the wall of the hallway that led to the sanctuary.

“We need to grab the gutter and pull ourselves up,” Chance said. “Dane you go first.”


“Because you’re the strongest and quickest. You might need to help pull me up.”

“No,” Dane said. “Why do we need to pull ourselves up?”

“Because that’s the way in.”

“There’s a hole in the roof?” Strep asked.

“No hole, but we can get in from the courtyard.”

Fiona understood now. The church was built around a little courtyard full of decorative trees and plants; she’d always considered it the congregation’s own little Eden. Once they dropped down into it, they could go through the doors there and get wherever it was that Chance was taking them.

Friday, October 26, 2012

bigger than a stained glass jesus

this prince of peace
The church, Fiona knew, was the red brick Lutheran one whose two-story tall stained glass Jesus overlooked the state highway below it. It was only a few blocks away, a five- or ten-minute walk she’d made hundreds of times. The hill that the church stood atop was a favorite sledding spot. She, Dane, and Chance had gone to Sunday school there and learned their small catechism as well. Dane and Chance had also been confirmed there, but she hadn’t been able to work her way through all the confirmation lessons because, frankly, it hadn’t mattered all that much to her.

The God she met at church struck her as small-minded and while others credited Him with all manner of miracles and glories, she didn’t see anything around her that needed omnipotence to explain it. Oh, but look at the sunrise, some would say when she shared her doubts, or the delicate colors on a butterfly’s wing. Feel the warm cheek of that little newborn there or breathe in the perfume of those beautiful blossoming flowers there, they would say offering her proof of their faith. She didn’t deny the beauty in the world, was willing to even to see it in a humble little miller moth lit up by kerosene heat, but the true glory in all these things lay not in their creation by someone who didn’t exist, but in the simple fact that they lived. Life was omnipotent, it was everywhere, and it was never jealous.

She knew life was bigger than God. We all came out of the swamp at some point, she thought and up onto the land. Then we stood up and took a look at how rich in life the          
swamp came from here
world was, here on Earth, sure, but on all the Earths around all the suns throughout all the galaxies as well. Life was huge—bigger than any stained glass Jesus—and it didn’t ask us to worship it, it just asked us to live it. Her grandpa’s poems—the bigfoot revelations, she called them—the ones he sent to her ten years after he disappeared, confirmed that her vision of the world was the one she’d been born to.
Chance didn’t like her to talk about life being bigger than God. “He’s jealous, Fiona,” Chance had told her the last time she’d shared her thoughts. “He broaches no discord and Jesus may suffer the little children but God doesn’t gladly suffer fools. Pagan fools talk the talk you talk.” So she’d stopped talking that talk, just to appease Chance; but not talking didn’t mean she needed to abandon what she knew life was.