Hosanna to all my disciples this Palm Sunday.
I've had a very relaxing day. I've read some. Graded some. Napped some. Watched Frozen
with my daughter some. And I'll probably grade some more before I go to bed. Of course, I haven't completed half the tasks I set out to do today, but I never do. I tend to over-plan. Some. Actually, all the time.
This is the first Holy Week in close to 15 years that I haven't had all kinds of worship services to plan, arrange, direct, accompany, act, sing. play. I must say that I'm a little lost. I'm used to being really busy right now. Palm Sunday. Maunday Thursday. Good Friday. Holy Saturday. Easter Sunday. It's like the Olympics of the Christian year, and I've planned the opening and closing ceremonies for a very long time.
I'm trying to figure out what God is trying to teach me. I've been trying to figure that out for a while, and maybe that's my problem. Perhaps, I just need to sit back and watch the games, so to speak, but I'm not much for spectator sports.
Anyway, I have a Classic Saint Marty from May, 2011. It contains a story I wrote for a friend's birthday. This year, that same friend has asked me to write a sequel to the story. So, I thought I'd post the original tonight and the second part when I get it done. It's a tough story. Be prepared.
May 3, 2011: Story Curse, "Frogs and Snails," Hunger
I'm really hungry right now. Not just eat a few jelly beans hungry.
I want to sit down and eat a three-course meal. I don't know why I'm
this hungry. I know I don't have a tapeworm, and I haven't been
starving myself this morning at all. I just want to eat. And eat. And
eat. Just thought you'd like to know.
I e-mailed my new short story to my sister, who is really good at
formatting and making documents look pretty. I asked her to read my
story and add whatever graphic she thought was appropriate. I didn't
give it another thought until I got home. My wife told me, "Your sister
called. She sounded really upset." I listened to the message my
sister left on our answering machine.
"I did what you
asked me to do. But I really didn't appreciate it." She sounded like
she was crying. "You should have warned me." She hung up.
I tried to call her, she refused to talk to me. When my wife read my
story later, she handed it back to me, crying, and said, "I never want
to read that story again."
The story seems to evoke
really strong reactions in readers. I'm not sure if that's good. I try
not to be emotionally manipulative with my writing, and I really tried
to make this story ring true. You, my readers, need to tell me if this
story is a sentimental piece of crap or not. As it is, I'm getting a
little gun shy about giving it to my friend this afternoon.
I will post the story, and if I start getting death threats, I know
something is seriously wrong. I don't really want to have to hire bodyguards. But I'm beginning to think this story is cursed.
Saint Marty is going to post his story now, but then he's going into hiding until the dust settles.
Frogs and Snails
for Karen on her birthday
I found myself at my son’s tree house three months after I killed him. The
peepers sang under the full moon, and Nick, our cocker spaniel, raced
through the tall grass, stirring up clouds of fireflies that winked and
sparked. In the distance, I could see the black water of Mud Lake, still as sleeping crows. I could smell fish and something else. Skunk? I couldn’t be sure. Wild and secret, the musk sat on my skin like sweat.
Cooper, my son, loved the smell of skunk. A few weeks before I murdered him, we’d paced a skunk as it waddled down our road, nosed through garbages. I had to hold Coop back, kept saying, “Too close, too close.” Nothing would have made him happier than to be sprayed. To be able to take that stink to bed with him like a favorite pillow. Smell it all night. Wake up with it.
Nick bounded to me, his red hair slick with night dew. He jumped up on my legs, left muddy prints on my jeans. Before I could scold, he leaped away again.
I hadn’t wanted to go for this walk, but Nick had been desperate, insistent with his whines and scratches at the door. As if his life or my life depended on it. I avoided going outside as much as possible these days. I couldn’t stand the looks of my neighbors. Most wanted to say something to me, but nobody knew what to say. So I spared them the effort. Spent most evenings on the couch, listening to Billy Joel. My son’s favorite song. “Goodnight, My Angel.” I’d sing it to him before he went to sleep.
Good night, my angel
Time to close your eyes
Nick barked a few yards away from me. He’d been my son’s dog, bought right around the same time Coop was born. Nick slept next to my son every night, his black nose tucked under my son’s chin. The day after Coop’s funeral, I almost took Nick to the county Humane Society. Had him sitting in the Sable next to me. But I couldn’t.
I looked down at the base of the oak that held my son’s tree house. On a root, a frog perched, its throat expanding, contracting like a bubble of milk. On the dirt beside the frog was the knuckle of snail shell. I held my breath, listened to the frog call. Pweee-pweee-pweee-pweee.
Good night, my angel
Now it’s time to dream
Nick was at my side again. He stared down at the peeper at my feet. I expected him to pounce, bat the frog around with his paws. But Nick just stood, pink tongue hanging out, panting. The frog didn’t seem to notice, just kept crying. Pweee-pweee-pweee-pweee.
I reached down, rubbed Nick’s back. His tail swayed back-and-forth. Slow. Content. I could feel his quick breaths.
I closed my eyes, remembered the last time I’d had my hand on my son’s chest, felt the work of his lungs under my fingertips.
Coop had been hiding behind my Sable, waiting to jump, surprise me as I stepped out of the car. It had been a long workday, and light was already faded from the sky. My wife had asked me to pick up a gallon of milk on my way home. I’d forgotten. Sighing, I shifted my car into reverse and started backing down the driveway to go to the IGA.
And dream how wonderful your life will be
Cooper was heaving liquid breaths when I got to him. I heard myself saying, “Oh, God, God, God, no, no, no, God, no.” I put my hand on his eight-year-old chest, stared into his wide eyes. “Sshhhh,” I said. “I’m sorry. I’m sorry. Sshhh.”
Before my wife got to us, Coop smiled up at me, “Surprise,” he said. Then he was gone.
Then in your heart
There will always be a part of me
I knelt beside Nick, kept rubbing his wet back. He looked up, licked my chin, the way I’d seen him lick Cooper hundreds of times. I never cried for my son. Not at the hospital or funeral or after the funeral. I reached down, touched the thick finger of Nick’s tail, which moved and moved.
Over my son’s crib, my wife hung a plaque when he was born. Precious Moments, which I hated. A poem:
What are little boys made of?
What are little boys made of?
Frogs and snails and puppy-dogs’ tails,
That’s what little boys are made of.
At the base of the oak. Underneath the tree house and stars and moon. In air of fish and skunk. The peeper sang. The snail crawled. Nick nosed my hand. And I wept in the dark.
Someday we’ll all be gone
But lullabyes go on and on...
They never die
That's how you
Confessions of Saint Marty