I’m caught. I have a panic inside me and I know I won’t see mother again. If I could turn into a falcon and fly high, or a rabbit and use my quickness to run, or even a member of the dead, I would remain free. I am not any of those and, so I follow my captors. The sea is rough, and the boat is crowded. Other slaves are tied like me. We wear the look of confinement, too frightened to speak, too weak with hunger to move. The waters are brooding, a witching hour. If I cast myself into the sea would it be preferable to the life of a slave? But I hear a small voice inside my head, trust in me, Patrick.
If I were a slave to the Trinity, and not to the pagans I would accept all means of suffering, even to the desire to be nailed to a cross. Yet, the gods they serve are now my gods and I cannot escape full knowledge of their beliefs. But, no doubt is in me as the beating of my heart and the sweating of my skin testify that flesh is no place for spiritual things to dwell. And yet you dwell within me in the hours of darkness with stars as the only testament to the power of the true God far removed from the land I now call home. You are still here on this mountain waiting to hear my cries. The island has been my home for five years now and yet I awake from a dream in which I heard the voice of God describe a boat that will take me back to my mother and father. Do I trust the voice? If I am caught I certainly will be beaten. Still, if today God speaks to me, how will I answer him when my life is poured out into its final hours? Would I trust and be a fool or deny and be unfaithful? Better a fool and I throw off my blanket.
A fire burns the interior of my heart, the fire of spirit-driven truth. I go again to the land that took my freedom in youth, but in my advancing years I go freely to convert the peoples I heard cry out to me in a dream. I am free to sacrifice myself; to follow in the cross of Christ.
Still, the will of the Lord is hazy, and I’m void of unwavering confidence. Yes, only a fool would have no fear. Yet, the fire in me speaks not of its own accord, but is driven to say words that are His.
I am a slave in the happiest sense, for I am free to serve or not. I give myself to God in hopes of gaining the freedom of heaven as I draw my last sigh. To the ends of the earth he sends his followers who trust not in themselves, but in the one who sends them.
Smooth cannot describe the glass. Smooth meant it would be easy. Nothing in the realm of magic is easy, Andrea knew. It was the Earth that ushered in hopelessness. The Great, a magician of extraordinary talent, knew. He knew the ways to happiness.
She touched the mirror, the reflection. In it her long locks flowed as if in space. She touched her head; her hair was flat and straight, not curling and wild like it was in the mirror.
Andrea turned, startled to be face-to-face with The Great. She was told he would not meet her. Still, she came anyway. She had been shown the glass room with the glass chairs and the mounted mirror as large as a wall.
“What’s there?” she asked him. He was a small man, or elf, or whatever form of creature he was.
His hands were crossed and behind his back. As if in thought he was silent.
Andrea said, “You came.”
She looked in the mirror and she touched her scar that ran from her ear to her jaw.
“The mirror captures it well,” he said.
“I hate that scar! I wish it could be erased! I wish I could be erased!”
“The scar is a sign of life. The scar is a healing of what has wounded us. Why did you come?” The Great asked.
“You know why.”
“Tell the mirror. It’s a living thing, like you. Touch it.”
Andrea did as he commanded. The hand went inside the instrument of transformation that the mirror represented.
“Why did you come?” he asked again.
“To trade places.”
“A life for a life?”
“Pull back your hand.”
Andrea obeyed the Great as if transfixed by the magic and not rational thought; she trusted him.
“If you agree to the terms, you will trade your life for the woman in the mirror. If you agree, you then walk through it and begin a new life, and she will take your place.”
“She gets no say?”
“It is a cost. The mirror has the power, it chooses for you both. If you do not agree, then you have the power to break the magic. The women in the mirror owe too much to magic to object. They have squandered its power before.”
“I am free of my burdens if I chose to trade?” Andrea wiped away a tear that had formed at the thought.
“Yes,” The Great placed his right hand on her shoulder.
She turned to the mirror and her hair was not brown, but black and she was dark-skinned and wearing a diamond necklace around her neck.
The Great began, “The first offering is the life of a doctor’s wife. No burden of want, there is plenty. You are adored by your mate. He is steadfast and strong. You have two children and many luxuries. You are the envy of all the women in your social circle.”
“This would be my life?” Andrea asked.
“Yes,” The Great answered.
“It would be a dream come true.”
“Yes. That is why you came.”
“Do I just move forward to make the switch? Her life for mine?”
“Just like that, you’ve decided?”
Andrea turned away from the woman in the mirror and glanced to the magician. “Is there a trick?”
“No trick, but a truth.”
Andrea breathed heavily. “Do tell. How will I decide otherwise?”
“The woman whose life you will lead dies in an accident in five years’ time. Your life will be cut short. You do not see your children raised.”
Andrea turned back to the mirror. “No, I do not want it. Show me another life. A longer life.”
Then she saw a swirl inside the mirror like a wave crashing inside. The next image was of a plump woman who wore an expensive suit and designer glasses.”
“She will live to be ninety-four,” The Great said.
“Children?” Andrea said.
The Great chuckled softly. “She is the CEO of a major corporation. This woman is passionate about her work. She is well-respected.”
“Oh, yes! That is what I want! I want to trade!” Andrea said.
“Do you wish to hear the rest?”
Andrea placed her hand against the mirror. “There is more?”
“She never finds love after her husband divorces her. She is lonely. He only child moved far away to avoid her. Her staff hates her. Her friends don’t like her, but they fear if they don’t return her calls she will retaliate against them, for most work for her. She spends the holidays traveling alone to a remote beach. She has no one willing to visit her on those days and so she goes alone to a place where she can pay for company to relieve her loneliness.”
Andrea pulls her hand away from the mirror. “No, I don’t want that!”
The mirror produces a new image. It’s her as a fair-skinned beauty.
Andrea says, “Who is she?”
“Me? But she is beautiful.”
“How is her life? What is wrong with it?”
“Oh, magician, if you pull off this third choice, I will be eternally grateful. Tell me how is her life?”
“Perfect. She is adored. Her family has wealth.”
“So why would I not trade places with her? Is she happy?”
“She is not valued for her true self, only for her beauty. She has no value other than this. No intelligence, no talents, nothing else but being beautiful. As she ages, she will hate herself more and more. She will be rejected for the upcoming beautiful girls by her lovers.”
“Oh, no it is not worth the joy of beauty if there is nothing else. Is this all there is to choose from?” Andrea asked.
The Great rubbed his chin. “There is one more.”
The mirror displayed Andrea as she was. “It is a simple life. Illness cuts short the vigor of youth. There is a tiredness of life, a weariness of the journey. So many problems of day-to-day living…”
“Who would want this life?” Andrea looks down to the floor.
“But you only heard the bad, not the good."
“This, Great One, is my own life. Are you saying there is nothing better for me?”
“The good of this life is hidden. It is a love of children for their mother, a spouse for his wife, a love for her by her friends.”
“Isn’t there any other choice?” Andrea says
“You have those the mirror offers you.”
“But they are far worse than my own life!” Andrea said.
“Yes, but that is the truth. Whoever you trade your life with will carry your burdens, but you must carry theirs. Is your life better or worse than these?”
“Love. You use it as a trick.”
“It is a gift,” The Great said.
“But I have much love already.”
“And these lives have flaws beyond your understanding as is the case for every life.”
“I shall choose my own life,” Andrea said.
“You choose wisely. And Andrea, your scar…”
She looked in the mirror at her own reflection. The scar was gone.
"See where the bullet exited his head?” Hal said.
“What kind of man would do such a thing?” Dan asked.
“The worst possible type,” Hal said.
“Just a real shame,” Dan said.
“He was hunted down in cold blood,” Hal said.
“For sport!” Dan replied.
“Yes, he must be a calculating murderer,” Hal said.
“The worst part is her. I bet you it was all for her. She treated Tom with such little regard,” Dan said.
“Just look at her. She looks so calm. Just talking to her husband, as if nothing happened.”
“Do you think Flora will cover for him?” Dan said.
“Sure, she has so much to gain from it all. I know the type,” Hal said.
“Why did he do it?” Dan said.
“Lots of reasons. Greed, envy, avarice, pride, and a hunger so deep-seated that he went for the kill.”
“He was young,” Dan said.
“Too young to die,” Hal agreed.
“Here she's comes. Quick, put him back in the freezer before she sees him,” Dan said.
Flora shimmied in as they stared at her in utter disgust.
“Hello, boys,” she said.
“Mrs. Andersen. How's your husband?” Hal said.
“Fine. Why do you ask?” Fora said.
“Where was he yesterday morning?” Dan asked.
“He was out,” she said.
“Out you say?” Hal said.
“Yes. He left the house house early. I remember he was gone before I was up,” Flora said.
“So at say five-thirty you have no idea where he was?” Hal said.
“Be careful how you answer,” Dan said.
“Wait, just wait while I think. He was still in bed until six,” she said.
“So you're changing your story?” Hal said.
“I'm sure. He was with me at five-thirty,” Flora said.
“We think you're not being truthful, Mrs. Andersen. We think your husband was eager to find Tom that morning. We think he took his rifle and went into the woods early, and returned with a body and you helped him clean up the scene!” Dan said.
“I...I couldn't have stopped him if I tried. It's something he wanted to do for a long time,” Flora said.
“This is a bad outcome. I think you know what happens now,” Hal said.
“Yes, if you'll kindly move away from the freezer,” Flora said.
“How cruel you are!” Dan said.
“Maybe to you it seems that way. All I know is we're having company soon and I need to take care of this now,” Flora said.
“This has gone too far, Flora,” Hal said.
“Yes it has. I have ten people waiting for a proper Thanksgiving dinner and you boys have delayed me from cooking this turkey that my husband shot yesterday for long enough. I know you vegans won't care, but now my bird won't be done until after the second football game.”
Plastic banner flags attached to a string fly above my head. They hold an artificial pleasantness comparable to banana Popsicles, or blueberry muffins bought from a store; the triangular flags’ function is solely to mark off the carnivals games from the food booths. Oh, the foods — tamales, tostadas, flautas, halupki, haluski, hot dogs, French fries — all flavorful offerings to customers of discriminating taste who don’t see the women and men tucked in the kitchen cooking hot foods in the heat of the summer sizzle. I apply sauces to the flautas from the condiments table — spicy green, tangy red, cool cream colored – homemade is better when combined with the outside air. I walk into the area where games of chance are played.
Looking upward, the plastic nature of the flags contained a hidden beauty to my eyes I confess. That material which to a child adds texture and color is ignored by the festival guests who walk unaware underneath it. The markers remain unremarkable to the bifocal-eyed men lined up against the rope of the beer garden. Unimportant to all but my eyes I assume.
I watch with wonder the carnival that contains a combined crew of white-haired and sturdy church ladies and tough looking Puerto Rican men wearing yellow tees with Spanish words splashed across which I cannot read (but I recognize the rosary decal on their backs). The races mixing — Eastern European old immigrants with young Puerto Rican ones sharing a faith, a nod, a laugh. Side-by-side, the people stop to listen to the eight-piece band of aging men reliving the glory days of yesterday when their hair was long, and their futures bright. Fading into old age as ungracefully as they may, the music was the same as twenty years before. They play with skill acquired over time, where years before passion led them.
The band members take turns demonstrating the prowess, while a silver haired lady in tight spandex pants (whose black color does little to hide her girth) dances with the abandonment she must have used forty years before as a beautiful young woman, hair flowing over her back, when she danced with her sweetheart, beckoning her to come away with him. Then joining her on the grass dance floor, a Latino lady a foot taller than her middle-aged partner sways to the tunes as she leads him in the steps. I stare at his stubbly fingers and thick glasses which give away his Down Syndrome. His exuberance overcomes me; he looks as if he dances in this hour a thousand times more happily than I did in my youth. I envy him — full of joy in the middle of a sparse crowd of church going people and town folks who love the festive atmosphere on a sweaty night in August.
The man with Down Syndrome and his neighbor exit the grassy place dedicated to those too carefree to mind if the rest of us stare at the spectacle of their happiness.
A man with thin hair and a thin beard moves past the metal chairs on the other side of our table where I sit with my grown son and daughter. Following him is his companion, a woman who’s probably his age, but he looks younger somehow. He turns to us and asks, “Can we sit here?”
There are many empty chairs in the beer garden. I reply, “Sure.” The friendly nature of the carnival has made it impossible to deny such a small favor.
He replies, “I can’t face that.” He points to the band.
I nod in an almost agreement. His companion sits down across from us; her buttered pierogies contain irregular lines which is a telltale sign a hand rather than a machine created them.
The man looks as if the Flower Revolution had captured him in a time warp, but his lady wears a sensible tee shirt and shorts and looks like today’s ordinary woman. He returns with his beer in a small plastic cup. I glance and notice that a truck is facing the band and three taps are attached to the silver wall in its bed, and so the beer flows from a pick-up. He starts to talk. He’s a talker. The lady is not.
We begin a dance of questions followed by answers as the band takes a break. He’s a cook and he told us he likes beer; beer is good any day, so is weed — as he says it, he covers his mouth remembering he is at a church festival (as if the covering of the instrument of revelation might protect his admission). Not missing a beat of timing, I change the topic to address his lady and how are her pierogies? I mention my grandmother’s Pigs in the Blanket (we never called them by the polish name of halupki, but we are not Poles) were superior to the ones being served. I point out she used half pork and half beef. The man states that’s the proper way to make them for pork contains grease. He explains he learned such things in his four years in cooking school, things like adding stout beer to turkey. We become friends, and he asks me my name. His is Slim and he tells me he won’t remember mine, but it’s okay as we’ll probably never meet again anyway.
The band begins again after their break, and it’s too loud to talk to Slim and so I look across the triangle colored flags and see a young Hispanic woman full of vitality and youth walking across the grassy field. She has dark ringlets of hair long and lovely, full lips, dark eyes, and a voluptuous shape with her tube top orange dress flowing over her large breast and skimming her slight tummy. She is captivating as only someone who is unaware she is beautiful can be, and she manages to weave past the lawn chairs dotting the field and scoops up her month-old baby from a white-haired woman and kisses the child. Then the saxophone playing brings me back the table and to Slim. He is surprised that these two are my children as I suppose he thinks I look too young to have raised them. All the years of wishing to look older seems to have tilted back to wishing to be younger. But I tell him I am very near to the number of his years lived wandering this earth.
A man who looks the part of a young hippie, pink tank top, braided hair, glasses and stubbled chin, walks over to us and says my son’s name. They spent their teenage years playing music together in various places around the town. I ask him how is his little girl, and say she must now be walking instead of crawling. He replies his apartment is small and so chasing her down is easy. Those happy days of too small apartments glow inside my mind as I look at my own children sipping beer. My son gets up and faces his friend, and they converse as if his years away at college hadn’t happened as it goes when meeting an old friend.
Then it was time for me to go back to working at the games. I bid everyone good-bye. As I walk out of the beer garden, I spy some now grown neighborhood children looking the part of musicians with dreadlocks, beards, and bare feet. These were gentle kids, almost sweet little boys and I knew them well when they played music in my living room. Looking at them, I wonder if middle-aged ladies clutch their purses when the musicians pass them on the street, but yet these are the best of men I would attest.
I notice a good looking young man, shaved head, sunglasses blocking out the sun, and his lady; she’s taller, with a hooped ring hanging off of her long, upturned nose. Something about the ring doesn’t quite work, and it appears out-of-place rather than a symbol of rebellion. His demeanor is that of a movie star as he holds firmly onto her hand.
I turn my head as a flute sounds over the noise of the people sitting in lawn chairs. As I walk underneath the plastic flags, I see an artless Spanish Madonna statue that sits on a table that I pass. Still, Mary’s crayon sky blue dress and golden shiny crown have a childlike attraction to me.
For a moment, I stare at the fake and unnatural red roses placed at the foot of the statue, and I see the irregular beauty of such a Madonna. The statue is shaped into an image that a child would hold in high esteem. It’s surrounded by Christmas lights. Small white bulbs attached to a string of green remind me of the Madonna’s role at the original Christmas.
The closing of the summer is marked by a calendar of festivals, and in the oppressively hot night, I wish it was almost Christmas again.
The setting sun casts off its white light over the puffed-up cloud. Florescent brightness illuminates the sky, so clear that it looks artificial. In the clarity of the sun’s rays, I hope for the moment to last a little while longer, yearning like I did when I was young and the church festival was comforting. The fear of summer ending became the joy of seeing old friends that would continue the journey alongside me as fall brought us back from the long break. For a moment I was that girl, small and insignificant, wanting to capture with words what I saw.
Seasons drafted by the slow daily hours eventually reach the finish line. Looking back, I can’t believe the summer is over — where has time gone? Could I already lived so many days?
I must admit that my summer has been over long before. Oh, how a glance of things seems like I’ve lived a life full and fruitful. The days may be numbered, but the heart is still studying its muse. Yet I wonder if hurried others see the plastic nature of a carnival; or seeing choose to gloss it over with an artificial smile?
“You do know that you are a genie, right?”
“Yes, Michael. And you do know that you are flunking Social Studies.”
“How do you do that?” Michael asked as the Genie made himself go from being very tiny to being a normal sized man although he was blue and not any earthly color.
“I'm a genie. I do the impossible. Like help you graduate from elementary school.”
“That's not impossible, that's inevitable because I'll outgrow the desk.”
“I can see why your teacher handed you this bottle.”
“How do you know my teacher?”
“Sandy Wilkins and I go way back to when she was a girl on vacation who happened to pick up my bottle from a pile of rocks. Now she has given you the noble task of controlling my bottle until your three wishes are up. Once they are done, you may set me free or command me to serve another Master.”
“Three wishes? I thought my graduation from elementary school would be my only wish.”
“Done!” The genie's words were followed by a flash of lightning inside Michael's cramped bedroom.
“How'd you do that?”
“It's part of the wish being granted.”
“Neat! I want to see it again!”
The next lightning bolt was followed by the Genie's observation, “That was your second wish. I'm not sure Sandy Wilkins knew what she was doing giving you this bottle.”
“I guess you're right. She handed it to me and said, “ 'Either you study or rub this lamp.' ”
The genie let out a groan and then said, “To think I've spent fifty years waiting for her to make this third wish and this is what it comes down to, a twelve-year-old flunkie.”
“I wish you'd be quiet!” Michael said and lightning dazzled him once again. “Wow! Hey, that wasn't my third wish, was it?”
The genie opened his mouth, but nothing was heard.
“Hey, no fair! I want my wish back!”
The genie tried to say something.
“I can't understand you. I think that I should give this bottle back to Mrs. Wilkins and let her take care of you. Then maybe she'll give you back to me once her three wishes are up and then I'll give her the bottle once my next three wishes are up... hey, stop hitting you head against the wall. My mother will hear you and then what will I tell her? That my teacher gave me a genie so I'd pass her class? You better go back in the bottle until I give you back to Mrs. Wilkins on Monday.”
And with that the genie produced a puff of smoke and disappeared into the bottle.
“I wonder how long it will take Mrs. Wilkins to make three wishes,” Michael said aloud.
The soldiers rode through the villages announcing recent events as if the lives of some were nothing more than a story.
The shock was fresh, and still the ashes had been discarded weeks before the news arrived. When she watched her own child leave to become a soldier, Isabelle had known it might be the last kiss she would bestow upon her lovely baby.
Isabelle had shed many tears of joy at the birth of her child, so many that the little one's flesh was wet with them. Her child grew stronger than the others. Soon a soldier's uniform draped over that child at the dawn of adulthood. War made many things necessary. Even death became necessary.
In a tribute to Isabelle's disbelief at the news, she shed no tears at the word of her child's death. It wasn't in battle where her baby died. If her sweet one fell there, then the honor and dignity would have allowed the tears to spring from her eyes to signal a noble end.
No, her lovely one was executed as a traitor, but not a traitor to country, which would have made her blush with shame, Instead, the claim was her child was a traitor to the faith, and this left Isabelle no recourse that tears might brush aside.
In the harrowing fire the soldier met her end, but would not to the fire of hell, of that Isabelle knew her sweet one would never enter. Death came with a court order to end a life by flames.
The fire of shame Isabelle's daughter was condemned to endure began until the flames silenced her voices forever. Yet the Maid would not bear her suffering alone. Isabelle would bear it too. Her darling child was a warrior, but not of earth, for only heaven would capture her spirit.
To the end of the days of earth, Joan of Arc would be recalled in the tears which fell at each rain, and her own mother, Isabelle of Arc, would keep watch for the storm clouds that would recall the flames of judgment by unjust men.
Gordon R. Howe was the richest man in the world. As he approached his ninety-second birthday, his lovely wife gushed about how he took three dollars and invested it in the stock market in oil way back before most people owned cars. It was a lucky guess he told her and one that shaped the rest of his life. Gordon's three mistresses arrived at the birthday bash each with a different cover, and were put into three separate rooms.
Gordon went to his office and poured himself a large highball and he recalled how his doctor told him he needed a new liver twenty years ago and warned him that it was rare to find a perfect match. Gordon's charitable foundation ran advertisements and a donor was found. Of course, the girl whose liver matched didn't understand that she couldn't live without her liver, but the check cleared and she showed up at the hospital because she had a nasty drug habit, which was exploited by the police chief with political ambitions after he picked her up off the streets for turning tricks.
Gordon R. Howe owned many powerful men in high standing. The private trips to white sandy beaches full of underage girls in bikinis made his business dealings grow and the richest man in the world wouldn't be charged even when the dead body of his former business partner found its way on his property. Gordon had the guards take photos of the prescription bottle next to the body. Gordon had no fear of being arrested as the law only applied to those unable to buy good help.
The birthday party was full of famous folks whom Gordon had helped in one way or the other and the woman wore diamonds and dresses by the most famous designers. The men took calls during the dinner party.
Gordon felt flush at the end of dessert.
The fabulous life of a gambler was coming to an end as Gordon slumped over at his seat. The lucky life had all ups and no downs, until the moment his soul was severed from his body. A very surprised Gordon R. Howe looked down at his dead self and up at a man holding a contract.
“Remember our deal?” the man said.
“I remember,” Gordon said.
“If you give me your soul, then your luck would never run out.”
“I never signed it! I never signed it!” Gordon protested.
“Your signature wasn't necessary, I have evidence.”
“What evidence?” Gordon asked.
“The evidence of how you lived your life.”
I shan’t look up. I use my fingers to sew and I move them rapidly. He glances down into my face as the softness of the candlelight warms me. Our congregation is blessed to have Reverend Arthur Dimmesdale here in Boston.
I, a mere youth, took to fancy the warmth of Roger’s offer of matrimony, for he was my superior in intellect, wisdom, and wealth. The safe hearth his home provided gave me all the reasons I needed to marry him. As an advancement of Roger’s age took away his desire, I resigned myself to the comfort of conversation.
The Reverend took this confession with little shock contrary to my fears. Tis a relief to confide in such a man of upmost character.
Arthur began to instruct me in my ignorance not long after Roger’s voyage across the Atlantic began. As a member of the church, the attention seemed not out of the ordinary at first.
This, the third month since we began our course of instruction, has proven to be the most wonderful of all my years. Arthur, he has insisted I pray call him Arthur, has moved his finger across my hand again. I shall not give in to the enjoyment of the closeness of his finger to the palm of my hand as he twists it as to see the way I stitch the letters. My vanity must not stir, and the beauty of my needlepoint speaketh for my heart. The letter “A” only a seamstress of skill could create is my silent profession of desire.
My face blushes as he asks me. “Hester, pray tell, what it doth represent?”
I see his eyes full of fire as he speaketh. My finger trembles as he caresses my palm. The letter I hold presses dearer to my heart than my thumb. The fancy scarlet color as bright as the hottest embers give his name new meaning. The letter “A” has only one desire in my breast, for Arthur to forgetteth his duty to the church and become a mortal man. Mortal man of Adam’s heritage, to see the woman before him as part of him as the rib to which she was formed forth! Two are one and flesh will not deny my churning for his touch!
The slowness of his response brings forth a sorrow too harrowing for me to carry as a bundle! His love denied, his truth revealed. My scarlet letter as rich as fancy will be cast aside by his collar!
Lo, Arthur takes his hand and moves it to my head and I breathe rapidly as he loosens the pin which holds my hair fast. As my hair falls, my lover kisses my lips as the candle burns. He stoops low and his sweetest sigh tells me his name has been burned in my breast.
When my husband Roger was reported lost at sea, I knew tis meant he had gone to his reward. When my Reverend spoke at his memorial, “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him,” I knew he had the heart of a man close to God’s love.
Four months passed since the vows we severed brought forth the child in my womb. No longer shall I hide the secret from the townsfolk. Out of love God giveth desire, and from our love springs forth his child and my heart will never deny him. Henceforth, the church will turn against me and band me an adulterer. Tis truth pray I shall not deny, but his name shall never part from my lips. The last call he maketh upon our secret rendezvous, my heart speaketh truth again. Long will I live with my sin hidden. I spoketh the fear and folly for I have fallen far from God! My Arthur insists on his punishment being observed, yet I reproach him! Two to live a burden would break my heart, and secrets are meant to be held in reserve. My lover shakes his head and I plead!
“If I bear the shame alone, I feel atonement for my sin!” My Arthur turns his ear to listen. Methinks he has heard! He breaks down with his gentle hands placed into mine. As I kiss them with softness, I feel them tremble.
“No, dearest, do not weep,” I sayeth, “For my joy is to be born through labor’s pains. The child shall be my pearl and our love will bear her name.”
He kisses me with closed lips. Was it my imagination? I felt the genuine lack of warmth in his kiss.
Two years together, and lately he always followed me around. Yet, it's not like in the beginning when I loved his attention. Maybe I should leave him. We are predicable, me working and paying the bills, he is tinkering in the basement since he stopped working three months ago. Long ago we did everything together, from going to the grocery store, to weekends on wine tours. It happened to be lovely. Now, I doubted he'd glance up from the computer when I entered the room.
I go upstairs, like usual, when I got home from the hospital after my shift.
I jump in the shower. The warmth of the water washes away my doubt. I put on a robe and wrap my hair in a towel, which makes me look like a mummy.
I walk down the stairs and I hear a faucet left running. I go to the sink and turn the handle to close it. What's he up to now?
I see the back door is open a crack and I look outside and Dewy is moving the wood to the wood pile with his scarf flying in the wind. I shut the door and then I hear a sound. It's not a usual one, like the T.V. switching between programming and paid commercials, or the bark of a dog outside, or even the sound of the wind bellowing through the wooden frame of the house and down the fireplace. No, it's a gurgling.
I feel paralyzed as I listen. The I hear a banging. It's coming from the basement. Do I go down? I glance at Dewy and he is half way through the wood pile. Then I hear a loud boom. Is it the furnace? Maybe the water heater? My feet stick to the tile as I move to open the door to the basement. I flick on the light and I move down the stairs with a fast gallop.
I get to the water heater and I see nothing amiss. Then I turn to the furnace and I take a flashlight from Dewy's tool box and flash it to the back of the furnace. I hear another bang as the furnace grinds to a halt. The coolness of the cement floor and the grinding halt of the furnace make me shiver. It will never give us warmth again.
I flash the light to the very back of the machine, and as I peer through the spider webs, I see an adult skull set carefully behind the tubes. My heart flutters and skips wildly and I feel faint. The blood rushes from my face to my heart.
I must escape and I must go before he knows I've seen it. I turn to go and he's next to me. Dewy's long nails dig into my arm.
Written for maximum impact.