All the little green hands closed tight, because Montana's terror was so unpleasant to see. The head zoo keeper ordered a crane operator, who was standing by, to drop a navy blue canopy over the dome, thus simulating Earthling night inside. Real night came to the zoo for only one Earthling hour out of every sixty-two.
Billy switched on a floor lamp. The light from the single source threw the baroque detailing of Montana's body into sharp relief. Billy was reminded of fantastic architecture in Dresden, before it was bombed.
Montana has lost control of her life, if she ever had control of it at all. She was sunning herself next to a swimming pool in Palm Springs, and she suddenly finds herself in a zoo on the planet Tralfamadore without a single notion of how she got there. Complete loss of control. She is at the mercy of her zookeeper. And it terrifies her. The veil of her life has been torn away, and what's behind the curtain isn't too pleasant.
I must admit that I'm a little bit of a control freak. I like routine. Getting up at the same time every day. Doing the same things every day. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner at the same time every day. Going to bed around the same time every day. I find great comfort in that kind of schedule. It allows me to believe that I'm in control of my life.
Of course, I know that isn't true. Just like every other human being on the planet, I am at the mercy of lots of factors. Environment--yes, global warming is real. Health--can't control illness. Finances--money does make the world go 'round. I could go on, but you get the idea. My routine is built on a pretty shaky foundation. One little shift in that foundation and everything falls apart.
In the last few years, I've experienced a lot of shifts in the foundation. Some good, some bad. That's life. When that happens, the veil that covers the dome of my life is torn away for a while, and I'm reminded how little control I actually have of my existence. Don't get me wrong. I'm not saying that God is some race of aliens from a distant planet. I'm saying that most of us walk around, confident in our places in the world, and then God sends us reminders of Who's really in control.
Now, when this happens, we can react like Montana. Scream and scream. Or we can accept the reminder (good or bad) as a blessing. A moment of grace. As Flannery O'Connor said, "All human nature vigorously resists grace because grace changes us and the change is painful." Most people think of grace as the Holy Spirit descending in a beautiful cloud. I'm here to tell you that grace can hurt like a bitch sometimes.
But, grace, in whatever form, is good. And Saint Marty gives thanks for it in his life.