Practice Makes Perfect; Father Son, Holy SpiritJul 2nd, 2011 | By Ian Hilgendorf | Category: Short Stories | 731 views
There was a house down the street from where the Sweitzers lived that had been abandoned for years. Its windows, or those that hadn’t been broken out by teenage boys throwing rocks through them, were now gray from dust and cobwebs. The planks of porch were rotten and walking on them was sure to produce a trip to the emergency room as several of the boys seeking midnight thrills had unfortunately done. Each came home with a leg in a cast, doomed to a summer of wheelchairs and libraries, watching television all afternoon while everyone else rode their bikes to Deville Lake.
The plot of land was vast with barns and silos scattered among the acreage, a rotting apple orchard took up the back third of the property, and among the trees were old cinderblock huts that had been built for the migrant workers who used to tend the fields during picking season. The tin roofs, now rusted from years of neglect, were polka dotted with holes that let snow and rain seep in through out the year, and the old wooden floors inside were moss covered.
Elliot Sweitzer knelt in the corner of the western most hut where a blaze of light pierced through one of the holes in the tin roof striking him in the face. He had picked this specific location after a week of exploring the property. He’d tested other plots of earth, some more tedious on his small knees, others too invitingly soft where he feared he might fall asleep in a moment of weakness. No, this was the place to kneel, to bow his head and pray to the Almighty before beginning practice.
The light through the roof was the deciding factor between this and a few other enticing places across the property. There stood a wood shed closer to the house, dark and quiet, though, Elliot found it terribly infested with bees. At night it would have been perfect, but during the day he constantly feared getting stung, and the perpetual humming distracted him to no end.
A knotty tree not far from where Elliot stooped was the other option, but he found sitting in a tree to pray was a little like going to the movies to do his homework; a wonderful idea at the onset, but in the end ineffective.
As he bowed his head in quiet meditation, the intensity of the sun increased as a thin layer of cloud rolled out of the way. To Elliot, it seemed as though his Heavenly Father was smiling down at him and lighting on his face. He could hear the glorious thunder of God’s voice echo across the world, traveling faster than the speed of sound just to reach his little ears.
He mouthed the words of his prayer and clenched his fists together, folding his hands in front of his face. When clouds covered the sun again, Elliot sensed God telling him he no longer needed to pray. Prayer was important, but God wanted him to act too. Action was the foundation of his Catholic faith. Elliot crossed himself- Father, Son, and Holy Spirit- before he got back to his feet and walked out of the hut.
A soft breeze carried the stale scent of apples, tinted by the aroma of the lake nearby to Elliot’s nose. He inhaled a lung full of air, expanding his small chest and filling out his t-shirt, taking in the richness of the world around him- sunlight, smell, beauty. Elliot felt he might burst like a balloon overfilled with helium.
He walked through waste-tall weeds to the knotted tree with spider leg branches. Propped up against the hind wheel of his bike was his school backpack and he squatted down to pick it up. With all his strength, Elliot hoisted up the bag and placed it on his shoulder. The rocks inside clunked and jostled against each other as they displaced into two groups inside the bag, one on each side of his shoulder. Elliot hauled the backpack through the tall grass, stumbling only once over an unfettered piece of dirt clod, and dropped it against the wall of the cinderblock hut, the rocks again cracking together.
Elliot began to unpack the rocks from his backpack, smaller ones first, mere pebbles, then working his way to the bottom toward some of the larger ones. One of them, a grapefruit sized stone, probably weighed ten pounds. He had no idea how he would ever move that one, but he had to have faith. Faith to move mountains, faith to heal the sick, faith to take away the cancer eating away his mother’s brain.
In his faith formation class, Sister Martha read from the book of Matthew:
“Why couldn’t we drive it out?” the disciples asked.
Jesus replied, “Because you have so little faith. I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed you can say to this mountain ‘Move from here to there’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”
Sister Martha asked them to search their own hearts. How much faith did they have? Faith to grow up and be whatever they wanted? Faith to accomplish all of the goals they would set out for themselves? Faith to tell their friends at school about Jesus?
“You only need a little,” Sister Martha said. “Just a pinch of faith and you can do anything.”
Elliot stacked the rocks against the wall of the hut, then sat down in the tall weeds to catch his breath. His shirt was cool with sweat around the collar and the bangs of his hair had pasted against his forehead. He thought he had no energy left for practice, but after resting awhile, he went back inside of the hut where he knelt back down, crossed himself- Father, Son, Holy Spirit- and went back to his praying.
From around his neck, Elliot removed his rosary. Hail Mary, Our Father, The Glory Be…, he recited them by heart, eyes closed, heart in earnest. He prayed until the sun started to change from its yellow rays to the long golden glow of late afternoon. When he left the hut for the evening, Elliot took his backpack and mounted his bike for the ride home. He crossed the orchard and trekked through the barns and silos until he passed the old boarded up house.
Elliot made a wide arch around the domicile, too afraid to draw close, then jutted through a neighboring lawn and into the street that led to his house. At the end of the road, Elliot turned down a long dirt driveway and began peddling as hard as he could. Dust blossomed in his wake, trailing him like a looming spirit. It continued to billow from his back tire before he careened into the lawn and over a large dirt pile beside one of the pine trees that lined the driveway. He jerked his handlebars upward and propelled the bike into the air before slamming back into earth again. Elliot dodged a cropping of trees, then swerved again into the driveway where he skidded the brakes and pulled to a halt. A cloud of dirt swirled around him and a patter of applause sounded from a corner of the porch. Elliot wheeled his bike down the walking path to the steps near the door.
“That was quite the jump over there.”
“Did you see how high I got the back tire that time, Mom?” Elliot asked, puffing out his chest. “Probably the highest I ever got, don’t you think?”
She scrunched up her nose and shrugged, her motion obstructed beneath a thick quilt draped over her lap. The skin on her face stretched tightly against her bones and the eyes that had once been so vibrant and full of life caved in more and more each day.
I don’t know about that,” she replied. “That one you had last Thursday was a little higher, I think.”
“Yeah, but I crashed that time,” Elliot replied. To remind her Elliot showed her the scab still on his elbow, a leathery patch of brownish skin that looked like it was ready to flake off.
“You know, you’re right. That was, positively, your best jump of all time.”
Elliot let his bike drop to the ground and took his backpack off his shoulder as he climbed the stoop. He sat down on the porch swing beside his Mom and she wrapped her arm around him, kissing his forehead. Her arms felt thin and cold around him, more like ropes than human limbs.
“How do you feel today?” he asked. Elliot’s eyes traced the outline of their lawn, his head bobbed up and down as he drew the contours of each tree, memorized every mound and mogul, sketched each blade of grass.
“I’m good today. Better than yesterday.”
She dusted something from her shoulder though Elliot didn’t see anything there to begin with.
“No, I didn’t have a single headache today. Great, right?”
She gathered the blanket around her neck before reaching for Elliot’s hand.
“Help me to the dining room, won’t you? I’m starting to feel hungry.”
Elliot jumped to his feet and wrapped his arm around his mother’s waist. She let her weight fall onto him and he guided her into the house. Half way to the kitchen, they had to stop so that she could sit and rest. Elliot waited for her and said another prayer as she tried to regain her strength.
“Help me over to that chair, please.”
When she found the bottom of the seat, she let out an exhausted sigh. She closed her eyes and Elliot watched as her eyeballs rolled back and forth beneath paper thin eyelids. They had taken on a gray tint in the last few days and Elliot thought that they looked like lumps of ash.
“Water please, Elliot,” she said, her eyes still closed, a cracked parchment quality taking over the gentile contours of her voice and throat.
She set her jaw and drummed her fingers on the arm rest of the chair. Elliot ran to the kitchen where he drew a glass of water from the tap. When he returned to the living room his mom was sleeping, her head forward, chin against her chest. To watch her breath was like witnessing a miracle over and over again. He only hoped that the miracle did not have to end.
Elliot set the water on the table next to the armchair, secured the blanket around her shoulders again, then went into the kitchen to take the pre-made dinner out of the refrigerator and put it into the oven. He turned the knob to 350 degrees before sliding the tin-foiled pan onto the second shelf. After setting the timer, he took his backpack upstairs and put it in the corner where the rest of his rocks were piled.
Elliot lay on top of his bed, staring up at the ceiling and wondering when his dad would get home from work. He’d mentioned something about a short business trip in the morning and wasn’t exactly sure when he’d get home. Typically he arrived before dinner made it to the table, and Elliot was sure that he’d be pulling up the driveway soon.
Elliot often imagined his father at work, talking on the phone or pounding away at his keyboard trying to ready a report for a meeting. It had been a long time since he had been to his father’s office, sitting behind his large wooden desk and playing solitaire on the computer. The large, uncluttered room had a bookshelf fashioned behind his chair and an ugly lamp on the desk corner. On the walls hung several pictures of his family- himself, Mrs. Sweitzer, and Elliot- they smiled like fools, expectant of a wonderful life, sure to last an eternity. Most of the pictures looked to be three years old or more. Since the cancer, there had been very little picture taking in the Sweitzer household.
Elliot had tried to model his room after his father’s office; free of junk, neatly organized, a place where he could get things done. Like his dad, Elliot was task oriented and a day planner. In the morning he liked to wake up early and read for a while before getting out of bed and eating breakfast. Then, in quick succession, Elliot did his devotions, took a shower, and cleaned his room. He spent the rest of his time with friends, or as of late, passing days at the old hut trying to move rocks through prayer and faith.
He looked over at the pile of rocks hidden by his backpack in the corner of the room. A cluster of small pebbles topped the heap and he crossed himself- Father, Son, and Holy Spirit- before entering into solemn prayer.
Kneeling at the foot of his bed, Elliot prayed aloud, “Heavenly Father, You said in Your word that through Faith we can move mountains. So I ask You to please help me move these rocks so that I can have the faith needed to save my mom.”
He began to recite from memory, over and over, the Hail Mary, followed by the Our Father.
Hail Mary Full of Grace, the Lord is with you…
Our father, who art in Heaven, hallowed be thy name…
Blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb Jesus…
Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven…
Holy Mary, mother of God…
Give us this day our daily bread…
Pray for us sinners…
And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us…
Now and at the hour of our death…
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil…
A knock on his door pulled Elliot from his meditation. He jumped up from his place on the floor and looked at his dad who stood at the mouth of his room with his hands behind his back.
“Hey pal, I didn’t mean to interrupt you,” He said as he loosened his tie. “What were you praying for?”
Elliot shrugged his shoulders and looked away.
“Mom,” he said. “Praying for Mom.”
His father nodded, then looked away before turning from the room and walking through the hallway and down the stairs. At the landing on the first floor he called for Elliot to come downstairs and help set up for dinner. He crossed himself again- Father, Son, and Holy Spirit- then started for the kitchen.
Elliot set the table and filled the water glasses, watching condensation germinate before his eyes. A bead of water ran down the lip of his cup, and he wiped it away with a napkin. His mom hobbled into the kitchen supported by a steal-framed walker; her body trembled with every step. She swayed like the Walls of Jericho before its ultimate collapse then sat herself at the table and smiled at Elliot and her husband as they prepared what was left of dinner, their hurried movements darting back and forth before her.
“What are we eating tonight?” she asked, too tired to look in the tin foiled pan.
“Lasagna,” his dad said, setting a bowl of green beans on a heating pad.
The three Sweitzers gathered around the table and offered a blessing before portioning off the pan of lasagna and scooping a helping of vegetables onto their plates.
“So Elliot,” his mother said as she pushed her food around with her fork, “Did you do anything fun today?”
“I’ll bet he went to the beach with his friends,” his dad added. “Am I right?”
Elliot scooped a bite of lasagna and crammed it into his mouth. Without looking at either of his parents, he nodded, then went back to making his food disappear. The trouble was, after lying, Elliot always had a hard time eating. The desire went away, and the place where the hunger once resided was filled with a cement block of guilt.
They peppered him with questions about what he did, where he went, who he went with, what he ate for lunch, did he use sunscreen, and on and on. Elliot responded in a hushed tone, never lifting his eyes from the plate of food that was no longer appetizing.
When he chanced to scan the table, Elliot realized no one had eaten their lasagna either. It had become an all too common cuisine at their dinner table. All of the women from St. Luke’s parish made lasagna, or linguini. It was a Catholic church full of Italians; their hearts were in the right place, but they had failed to coordinate and had been providing the same meal rotation for the last two months. It made Elliot feel a little better knowing he wasn’t the only one dissatisfied with the food. At least he could hide his upset stomach with the rest of his family behind a dinner that had become too frequent.
While his father cleaned up dinner, Elliot sat on the couch next to his mother reading A Wrinkle in Time and listening to the slow, laborious breathing that wheezed out of her dying lungs. She sounded like an old man suffering from emphysema. Elliot knew so because of one of the old men at church, Mr. Benzinni- white hair, wrinkled hands, the smell of pipe tobacco- he wheezed. He also wore oxygen tubes under his nose and rode around in a motorized cart. When they sang hymns during mass, he mouthed the words, but never uttered a sound. All he could ever hear from him were his strangled attempts at breathing.
Mrs. Sweitzer rested a book of her own on her chest. Her labored breathing raised and lowered the book so that Elliot thought it might slip off her body.
“Why don’t you go outside and play awhile,” his mother said as she noticed how Elliot watched her. “The sun’s still out. You probably have two good hours before its dark.”
Elliot sat the book down on the coffee table and kissed his mother on the cheek. She was so still that Elliot thought she must be sleeping again but she patted his hand before letting him run from the house.
Outside, he went to his bike which still lay in a heap on the ground where he picked it up and pedaled around the yard. The entire time he mumbled prayers beneath his breath as he imagined touching the beads on his rosary.
It was dark outside before he knew it and Elliot wheeled his bike into the garage where he propped it up against a wall. Then he went inside, took a shower and read a chapter of his book. His dad came into the bedroom to say prayers and the two crossed themselves- Father, Son, and Holy Spirit- before turning out the light and shutting the door.
That night, Elliot dreamed of the house down the street, its rotten porch, the broken windows, a certain smell that permeated from inside; it was as though he were the house, a piece of timber that helped support it, or the rooster weathervane on the topmost steeple. It, or he, groaned with longing. It swelled from inside, like a treasure hunter stretching for a prized jewel. The walls shook, strained to the point of rupture. The window panes, or what remained of them, trembled. Shards of glass from shattered windows danced on the floors. Something was happening to the house; it was destroying itself from the inside, tearing limb from limb every last piece that could keep it standing.
When he opened his eyes, Elliot knew what was happening without having to go downstairs. Trouble, the dangerous kind which required fast action, a steady mind, nimble fingers ready to produce results. A moment later, a gentle knocking at his door, then a stream of light burst from the swelling crack.
“Elliot, are you awake?” his father asked him. The light from the hallway made Mr. Sweitzer’s face disappear. All Elliot could see of him was the outline of his tall and slender frame, his bathrobe wrapped around his trembling shoulders.
“Yes, I’m awake. What’s wrong?”
“It’s your mother, Elliot. Something’s happened. We’re taking her to the hospital.”
“Can I come too?” Elliot asked, though knowing the answer before one was even offered.
His dad crossed the room and sat on the edge of the bed. Mr. Sweitzer put his hand on Elliot’s shoulder and kissed his forehead.
“Not now son, Mom is really sick. I’m going to ride with her in the ambulance and Mrs. Montello from church is going to come and watch you for a while. I’ll give her a call and ask her to bring you in a little while, OK?”
Elliot nodded and wrapped his arms around his father’s neck. He kissed his cheek.
“It’ll be OK, Dad.”
“I know it will,” he said. “It’s just hard because we love Mom so much, right?”
“Yeah, we love her a lot.”
His dad kissed him again, then exited the bedroom, door open. He bounded down the stairs in a few quick steps and Elliot could hear him talking to the paramedics on the ground floor. His voice was clear and alert, resolute in every word he spoke. It was the kind of thing he always did, making deliberate decisions, following through.
Elliot climbed out of bed and stepped into his slippers, then crept through the hallway and down the stairs. He sat on the bottom step with his arms wrapped around his chest, chin pressed down almost to his knees, and watched as his mother was removed from the house on a stretcher, oxygen mask strapped over her face. His dad followed close behind, though now clothed in his regular attire. He waved to Elliot as they exited the front door and said, “Do what Mrs. Montello says,” before closing the door.
Mrs. Montello crossed the living room to where Elliot sat and placed her hand on his shoulder.
“How about a cup of cocoa,” she said in her thick Italian accent.
“No thank you,” Elliot replied, “I think I’d rather go back to sleep.”
Mrs. Montello ruffled his hair, then let him go back upstairs to his bedroom. Elliot shut the door, then flipped on the light and began moving around the room. He pulled on a pair of jeans and his sneakers, then found a sweatshirt buried in his closet and pulled it on over his head.
Elliot turned off his light and eased his way down the stairs. He listened for the sound of Mrs. Montello moving around the house, though heard only the splintered saw of her snoring. He slipped down the stairs careful to avoid the creaky step.
Mrs. Montello lay on the couch clutching the phone in her bear paws, her eyes pinched shut, and a strange uneasiness upon her jowly face. Elliot left her on the couch as he opened the side door into the garage. Inside, he mounted his bike and peddled down the driveway.
No light guided his path and he had to chart his way by memory. Every contour of the street flooded his thoughts. The bike guided itself until he crossed the yard of the abandoned house where he ditched it and set out on foot through the apple orchard.
He wound his way down a path lined by apple trees before turning into the cluster of cinderblock huts. Elliot spotted his hut and walked to the side where all of his rocks were stacked. Kneeling down, he went for the bottommost rock; the ten pounder, the size of a grapefruit. He hoisted it up with both hands and lugged it inside where he placed it in the center of the hut before kneeling down in his designated corner and crossing himself- Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
This time he kept his eyes open, though rather than mouthing the words to the prayer he spoke them out loud. He wanted God to hear his voice asking for help. He wanted the rock to sense the power of the Lord as he entered in. Elliot prayed so loud that he thought his voice might bring the hut down right there on top of him. His body began to sway back and forth, his fingers moving frantically over the rosary, and he was sweating like when he was playing a heated game of basketbal. Still, the rock remained motionless.
He said the Hail Mary, and the Glory Be. He quoted from memory the Our Father, then cycled back through again. The rock stayed put in the middle of the floor.
Tears rolled down Elliot’s cheeks as he began to feel that there was nothing to be done. His faith was not good enough, he had failed his mother and God.
“God, give me faith,” he screamed.
Elliot’s vision grew blurry. Along with the swaying of his body, he could no longer distinguish if the rock was stationary or not, though it seemed nothing had happened.
At last, he closed his eyes, too ashamed to watch, feeling a failure for being too weak to even move the simple rock. Yet as he opened his eyes, Elliot no longer saw the rock in the middle of the floor. At first he thought the shaking of his body had turned him away from the center of the room.
Then, there it was, hovering like a spinning top in the middle of the room, nothing supporting it but the faith that propped it up. Unsure of how it would work, Elliot pointed across the room and watched the stone follow his command. It darted from wall to wall, ceiling to floor, flew out the door and back in through a window.
He directed the hovering stone out the front door and guided it back toward the house, walking it like a dog. Each step closer to the house brought him nearer to God. Nothing was impossible! This was the power of the Holy Spirit working through him, and he felt so overcome he wondered for a moment if he was still dreaming. Elliot guided the rock through the yard to the place where he’d left his bike. He wanted to keep the stone forever, to use it as a tool to teach others about what faith could do. Yet he knew that keeping such an artifact would defeat the purpose of what God had in store for him. Moving mountains was just a metaphor for being able to do the impossible, suddenly Elliot realized that. He pointed at the highest window of the old house and watched as the stone hurdled itself through the glass. Elliot heard it crash to the floor and tumble around until silence overtook him.
On his bike again, Elliot peddled faster than ever before. He had to reach home, to get to the hospital, to heal his mother. God had called him, and Elliot would obey.
As he started down the long dirt driveway he was temped to jut off into the yard again and to hurl himself across the mound of dirt beside the tree. He felt like doing so might catapult him into the air where he would be free to fly. But prudence kept him grounded and he skidded to a halt at the mouth of the opened garage where he dumped his bike and ran inside.
The clatter of his feet brought Mrs. Montello tottering around the corner and Elliot ran face first into her as she bent down to scoop him up in her arms. He felt like he was suffocating as she pressed him firmly against her bosom.
“Oh Elliot!” she cried squeezing him tighter and tighter, “Oh Elliot, where have you been?”
She held him at arm’s length and examined his features, awaiting an answer.
Elliot shook his head, there was no time to explain. He needed to get to the hospital.
“My mom,” he whispered. “I have to go to the hospital to see her!”
Mrs. Montello’s face wrinkled into a horrible grimace and she tried to force him down onto the bottom step.
“Elliot, please. Sit, sit sit.”
Her superior strength brought him to the step.
“Elliot. Your mother… she…”
He brushed her paws from his shoulders. “You don’t understand, I don’t have time! We’ve got to go see her.”
“Elliot, no,” she said. “She is gone. Your mother, she went to be with Jesus. She died, sweetheart!”
As she tried to pull Elliot into her arms again, his body went rigid and he placed his hands on her shoulders.
“It’s OK, you can cry if you-”
“I don’t want to cry!” Elliot shouted, his face turning red, the muscles in his neck thickening with blood and rage. “Take me to the hospital. I need to go to her. It’s not too late!”
“Elliot, you don’t know what you’re saying. She’s gone.”
“No! Take me there. I have to see her!”
Elliot could see she didn’t believe him. He didn’t care. Saving his mom was the only thing that mattered.
“Please,” he said, this time more controlled. “Will you just take me to the hospital?”
Mrs. Montello gave him another hug and she kissed him on both cheeks.
She led him through the front of the house where she had parked her sleek blue Cadillac with its ferocious grill and a rosary hanging from the rearview mirror. Elliot buckled himself in the back seat of the car while Mrs. Montello arranged herself in the front. He could feel Mrs. Montello’s eyes on him through the rearview mirror. She shook her head, lips pursed, eyes downcast, as she drove through town, passing the old house and the apple orchard, to the hospital. Shadows loomed across the streets and the flickering street lamps illuminated their path.
When they arrived at the hospital, Elliot leapt from the car and took off through the parking lot, leaving Mrs. Montello behind. He looked over his shoulder and saw her in pursuit, heavy footed and short of breath. Running across a set of driveways, he jumped over a curb, then walked through a set of sliding doors with the words ‘Emergency Room’ in bold white letters embossed across the glass.
Elliot found his father sitting in a chair next to a vending machine, head in his hands, his hair askew atop his head.
“Dad,” Elliot said, “where is she?”
His father’s head tilted up and he looked at Elliot with bloodshot eyes. His mouth was carved out in a straight line and the dimples in his cheeks were prominent and pinched.
“She’s gone, Elliot. I’m sorry.”
Elliot shook his head.
“That’s not what I mean. Where is she now? ”
“She’s upstairs. They’ll be taking her soon though.”
“Can I go see her?”
His father rose to his feet and with one hand on Elliot’s shoulder, he guided him to the elevator. They climbed to the third floor in relative quiet, Elliot muttering prayers beneath his breath, and his father staring at his reflection in the doors.
When the doors slid open again, the two of them turned down a short corridor with a nurses’ station at the corner. Two women in colorful scrubs stood behind a computer with notepads in hand, jotting down notations and sipping Diet Cokes.
“I’m just going to take him into the room if that’s OK,” his dad said.
One of the nurses looked up from her notepad, first at Elliot’s father then down at him.
“Sure thing,” she replied, “they’ll be in to take her out in a little while though, just so you know.”
Elliot nodded then took his father’s hand as they entered his mother’s room. The number on the wall read 3777, and he thought it a sign of providence that the Lord’s number should be so prominent. Elliot felt his dad leading him to the bed where his mother lay, her eyelids were dark and the lips that were normally pink and full of life were now turning blue.
“Are you OK, pal?” his father asked.
“I’ll be fine. Can I have a minute alone with her though?”
“I don’t know if that’s such a good-”
His dad nodded, then left him standing alone by the bed. Taking her hand in his, he rubbed the bluish veins with his index finger, running his free hand over the loose skin around her mouth.
“Mom,” he whispered.
The air conditioning in the room hummed to life and the noise startled Elliot. He half-expected to see a horde of angels pouring through the window. When none showed themselves, he turned his attention back to the shell that had once been his mother. She wasn’t there now, but soon, she would return.
“Mom, wake up,” he said, this time with feeling behind the voice.
“In the name of the Lord, I command you to rise,” he said, then, outstretching his hand, he tapped her on the bridge of her nose.
Nothing happened. His mother’s lifeless body remained rigid and dead. Her chest did not begin to rise, nor did her eyes flutter.
“I command you to rise, in the name of God,” Elliot said again.
“I command you! Rise!”
The door opened, and Elliot’s father poked his head in.
“Elliot, what are you doing in here?”
“She won’t do it,” Elliot said. “She’s supposed to be raised from the dead. Why won’t she?”
“Elliot,” his dad started, crossing the room and sitting on the edge of his mother’s bed. “She’s gone. She’s with Jesus and she isn’t coming back. Do you understand?”
Elliot looked at his father then back at the body of his mother. Tears welled up in his eyes, and he wanted to scream so that all sound would be beneath the tearing, ripping shards of his fractured voice. He wanted to throw himself through the concrete wall, to rip and burn and punch.
But he did not. Rather, Elliot turned to his dad and said, “Can I please go home? I think I need to sleep.”
“Sure Elliot. Mrs. Montello will take you.”
He walked out of the room followed by his dad, their steps echoing down the corridor. They entered the elevator and went down to the first floor. Mrs. Montello sat in a chair in the waiting room, a blank stare on her face, when they approached her. Elliot did not stop, but continued toward the exit and out to the parking lot. Mrs. Montello hurried to catch up.
When they got home, Elliot climbed the stairs without a word, closed his door to the world, and got into bed where he stared at the wall until he fell asleep.
Four days later, under a blazing sun, the wind buffeting the row of maple trees, a line of people filed passed the casket beside her open grave. Elliot watched as friends and relatives placed flowers next to the headstone. People cried, their tissues clasped in their hands, husbands arms wrapped around their wives as children stood beside their parents looking awkward and bored.
Elliot sat in a chair next to his father, both of them looking at the headstone and listening to the words of condolence issued them as if in a dream. As the crowd dwindled away, Elliot felt his father stand up and place his hand on his shoulder.
“Come on, we need to get going. People will be gathering at the house.”
Elliot stood up and began to follow his father. Then, he turned back and looked at the headstone again. Extending his hand, Elliot pointed at the slab of granite and saw it wiggle from side to side. He let his hand drop, then turned to follow his father again.
As they left the cemetery, they passed the corner where the old house was supposed to be. A demolition crew was tearing it down. In the front yard a sign indicated that a pharmacy was being built in its place. Elliot leaned his head against the window as they passed. The sound of jackhammers and bulldozers ushered them back to their house.Help Support T21 with your Dollar Donation Today
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