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.

Monday, October 22, 2012

god loves moth life


“But the light killed the moth.” Dane leaned forward into the lampglow. “It’s not alive, it’s stupid. Brainless.” Fiona wasn’t sure if Dane was aiming this last word at the moth or at his brother.

“The light did, kill it, brainless, dumbful, innocent, regardless. Moths dying of light is evil. Evil is light is the opposite of ‘live.’” Chance leaned back but then rocked forward abruptly, pointing his cigarette at the lamp. “Light is the problem. Light is not life; light kills. It’s hungry and it pulled what was living in that little bug right out of its body and made it into a no-body, a nobody.” He began to rock more steadily, gathering force and Fiona knew he was moving through that building that he said was inside him, a building full of a thousand rooms, joined by short hallways that branched off in a thousand directions. Voices emerged from some of the rooms, Chance said, but he could never find their bodies if he looked for them. The voices were no-bodies.

Fiona could picture the building and what she saw was a hospital in the form of a maze, a place cold and sterile. Dark, too, she thought it, lit always just ahead of where Chance was in it, and the halls and rooms filled to overflowing, obscuring whatever it was he was hoping to find. So cluttered that his thoughts were sometimes difficult to follow, but still he would talk and talk his way down those halls and through those rooms, but he never stayed in one place too long. His thoughts tumbled out of his mouth as if every step in every room was a different thought. Word salad is what the shrinks call it, Dane had told them, but if she just listened, if she didn’t try too hard to make sense of it, Fiona found herself understanding exactly what it was Chance meant.

“Switch off the light and turn on life,” he said. “Don’t you see, unlit candles avoid moths. God doesn’t live in light; God does not kill brainless moths because they're dumbful; God blows the dust back onto their wings when it rubs off on our hands. God loves moth life.”

From the look on Strep’s face, Fiona knew the word “trippy” would come up again at some point this evening.

“God doesn’t live in light. He lives in the dark, out there.” Chance gestured at the yard beyond the table with his cigarette hand. “Churches sell light, sell candles, put everlasting lights on their altars and they do it to kill God and the love that is God. God was a moth that turned to ash in the church light.” 

moths die here
He put his finger on some of the cigarette ash that had fallen on his knee. “This ash is God. Taste it.” He touched it to his tongue delicately at first but then smeared it on hard, the way the priests did to the Catholic kids on Ash Wednesday. “It has no flavor of light. All the light went out of it when I tapped it loose from this little fire.” He flicked the tip of his cigarette and the embers flared into tiny fireflies for a moment and then disappeared in the cool night air. “God is trapped in the light.” He flicked sparks from his cigarette again. “God is love. A moth in the dark lives and in the light love dies. I loved that moth.” He stopped rocking. “I am that moth. We are all that moth. The love we need is all around us.” He wound the wick back into the lamp until it went out. Fiona thought the dark seemed darker as she adjusted to the absence of light. “This is love,” Chance declared. 

Fiona imagined him spreading his arms wide to show them all the darkness.


Friday, October 19, 2012

a brief burst of white light


Tonight was cooler than most and Strep, like Fiona, leaned toward the lamp and cupped his hands around the base of it. “School’s coming soon,” he said. Strep—John Strepkowski to the scant handful of teachers who liked him and Mr. Strepkowski to the bulk of the faculty from whom he got in trouble—didn’t care much for school, had always struggled with straight rows, tucked in shirts, and most types of academic discipline. Last summer Chance had told Strep that he was smart about people and teachers hated that because they didn’t have a test for human relations. As soon as Chance said he was smart about something, Strep had started hanging out with the three of them again. Since middle school they’d seen less and less of Strep, as he’d taken to running with some of the other troublemakers at school, which did little to endear him to most teachers and, of course, that lack of endearment made school all the more painful for him.
Fiona looked at his face in the yellow glow of the lamp, that scraggly peachfuzz on his upper lip might have been a shadow from the smoke if she didn’t know it was what he called his “’stache’.” If only he was as smart about himself as he was about others, Fiona thought, he’d have a much easier time. But then, she knew, he wouldn’t be Strep. Still, he spent more time with them this summer than he did last. Maybe he was smartening up about himself, leaving the troublemakers to their troubles.
Strep stroked his fingers over his upper lip. “I was really thinking this would have come in a little thicker by now.” He pursed his lips and tried to catch the reflection of his ‘stache in the lamp glass. Fiona smiled. For being so thin and insignificant, that ‘stache had certainly eaten up many hours of conversation, and consternation, this summer.
A moth, fluttering towards Strep’s face, caught Chance’s eye. Fiona watched him watching it. It was his habit to take a quick drag on his cigarette and then rest his hand on his jittering knee for just a second before raising the butt and taking another quick drag. Dane often told Chance if he laid off the coffee, he wouldn’t be so jittery and so obsessed with his smokes, but Chance said it was the meds that hyped him up. “Either way,” Strep said, “smoking hardly looks like the relaxing thing they show us in the movies.” As Chance followed the moth, Fiona noticed his cigarette was midway between his mouth and his knee, and the jittering had stopped for the moment.
Strep still had his lips pursed and as the moth approached the lamp chimney, it rose up, drawn as moths are to the light, and got caught in the updraft of heat from the lamp and was incinerated. It became a brief burst of white light, reminding Fiona of a delicate plum blossom, then fell to ash. 

Friday, October 12, 2012

gathering more heat


 An image popped into her head from a few weeks back: It was Chance offering her a bowlful of peanuts soaked in soy sauce. Dane said, “Don’t be an idiot; no one wants to eat crap like that” in that clipped manner he’d developed, talking quietly, through clenched jaws, and glaring at his brother.
found this here
She found Dane’s behavior both unappealing and attractive. His anger was ugly, but she understood where it came from. The little brother had to be the big brother now and he resented it, hated the responsibility that no one had put on him, but that his mom and dad still expected. He didn’t know how to be the older brother, he didn’t know how to direct an adult to be responsible, he didn’t know how to deal with the voices and give his brother some kind of relief and it made him mean. It made him attractive as well; Fiona felt for his struggle so deeply that she had begun to feel deeply for him. She wanted to lean back against him and let what was warm inside of her melt what was cold inside of him, but she couldn’t allow herself to do that; they’d been friends since before kindergarten and so she couldn’t allow herself to even say anything. Instead she found herself leaning toward the warmth from the lamp, gathering more heat should she need it.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

what is this darkness?

thin threads
She thought Chance very fragile, as delicate as the moths fluttering above their heads in the plum’s thin branches, and his words were thin threads that he used to try to hold himself together. Fiona knew people lost their minds, but what intrigued her about Chance was what he’d found in losing his. It was a question, one that he worried over every evening, rambling through long digressions about angles and perspectives and monstrous visions of things lurking at the edges of normal life that wanted nothing more than to drive people away from what he always called their best path. He never stated this worry as a question but Fiona, a voracious reader of mystery novels, had deduced it and thought it best understood as a concern with the dark and the dark places in people’s hearts. What was this darkness? That was what Chance wanted to know, though he couldn’t ask it so simply. It seemed like the voices had other ideas and whenever he got close to what he wanted to say, they would begin speaking—saying she knew not what—and drive his words back inside. He would drop his chin to his chest and just kind of fold into a retreat when that happened. She thought he looked so small then, not the oldest member of their little evening gang, but rather a little child. Those voices chastised him. The pills made them quieter, but it didn’t make them go away.