Insult Answered

“Go! Move stealthily through the city, marking everyone who was embarrassed on behalf of the King today. Every soul not insulted and apologetic for the way the King was handled, let him meet his fate.”

The being did as he was directed, and when he was done he returned to the Master.

“Have they been so marked? Young and old? Male and female? Street walker and CEO? Drunkard and sober companion? Have they been marked with my insignia, as was commanded?”

“They have,” the being replied.

“Was the number great?” the king asked.

“No. It was small,” said the being, “just as you predicted.”  Even still, those marked were blessed for they were saved from what was to come.

The skies turned inky black as his minions headed out, the ground beneath their feet rumbling.  Before the slaughter began, animals throughout the city shrieked. Plants of the field withered and dropped their heads of grain or bloom to the ground below, afraid to look upon the destruction about to occur. An eerie shimmer was cast across the horizon, as women everywhere began to bawl. Some cried tears of sorrow, others of repentance, but it was too late. The offense had been committed, and the decision made. No turning back.

No turning back, and so it was done.

The beings, for they were many now, found every sniveling liar, every wanton thief, every rapist and beater of women, and all those who victimized others and marginalized the poor. They found every hidden scoundrel and prideful miscreant and every mouth that prophesied falsely, and they silenced them all.  The purge diminished the population within the boundary walls by two-thirds.

In the aftermath, bodies lay strewn along rose-covered pathways. The fragrance of peonies could not cancel out the stench of blood pools filling the streets. Those who were dying suffered intensely now, but many more had already been dispatched to the world beyond this realm.

His anger subsided, the beings put away their swords and scabbards. They lay down hammers and scythes. They sang a mournful song as they went along, for brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers, families had perished today. Deservedly dead as they were the beings mourned them, for they’d been kinsmen. To their chagrin the king’s men felt a sympathy they knew was not deserved. No one spoke a word of it.

Deservedly, they’d died. That was the narrative, and no one dared say otherwise.

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The Crash

She knew something had to be said. Had to be done. Something had to happen to shake up the sameness with which she met each day. She was bored. She was disinterested. She was going to find herself in trouble soon, if she didn’t first find something purposeful to do with her life. That’s when she’d read the words from that classic book, My Utmost for His Highest.

“If you do not break the moorings, God will have to break them by a storm and send you out. Launch all on God, go out on the great swelling tide of His purpose, and you will get your eyes open (June 8 reading).”

“What was she missing?” she wondered. “What tide? What swelling? What purpose? What was she missing?”

The black.

Blurry vision. Pain. Someone was talking, but she couldn’t answer. Couldn’t think. Sounds. All around her, motion. She was being questioned, but by whom?

Moments passed. How many? Who could tell?

Touching. Hands moving over her body, attempting to find broken bones. Consciousness, then sleep again. A sharp pinch, or was it a poke? Metal sliding under skin.

Hands, again. Hands moving slowly, while consciousness tried again. Clothes ripping, or torn, or shredded…

“Can you move? Do you feel any pain? Can you tell us your name?”

Questions swirling around like bats in fog. Hard. Hard to understand. Harder, still, to respond. She couldn’t.

Black again, then light rising. “How long? How long had it been?”

White rectangle on black. Stiff. So close, but her arms wouldn’t rise to the occasion. Prayers? Tears? Family? Angels?!

A warm sensation came over her, enveloped her. She slept once more.

Come Here!

“Come here, girl!”

His tone was stern, but his brow relaxed. She knew he wasn’t upset, but rather, in need of the affection she’d hidden away from him since he’d entered the house. It was hard having him back for the afternoon only. She hated herself for wasting a moment of this precious time nursing a sullen attitude and pouting about her needs not being met. He’d only be here an hour; two at the most. How could she waste it wallowing in angst over his leaving again?

“I’ve got something for you,” he said.

“And for every pretty girl.” She replied. He acted as if he hadn’t heard.

He rose from the chair and headed to the back yard, to the wood pile and the bench where he’d held her in the past. The view of the sprawling oak was obscured by lace curtains he’d given her as a wedding gift, twelve years ago now.

‘He’s such an odd man,” she thought. “Who gives his bride valences for her wedding?” Then again, he wasn’t like any man she’d ever known before, ever thought to know; ever heard tell of.

“Eliza,” he called, “Eliza, look, there’s a squirrel on the roof.”

He pointed to the house, even as his eyes scanned the window pane in front of her for a glimpse of her figure standing at the sink. Her apron was fixed tightly around her waist, her hair falling down around her face, framing worry lines and catching tears. She looked a mess.

He knew her, knew she couldn’t hold out. Knew she couldn’t resist him; a creature wild, unkept, musky and uncontrollable. Against her better judgement, hungry now, she crossed the threshold of the cottage they’d built together. His eyes darkened with each step she took in drawing near. Near to the place where he’d lay her down. Near to the spot where she’d cry again.

Parental Angst

“Healing is a matter of time, but it is sometimes also a matter or opportunity.”

The slogan by Euripides was splashed across the front of her daughter’s t-shirt. As per usual, the tee was two sizes too small. Not only did her heavy bosoms stretch the fabric to its limits, but they also created a sort of oblong divot in the ruffled panels stretching between the two points.  The effect emphasized the generous gift God had given.  The neckline was obscene, even by 1970’s standards, which was saying a lot.  She imagined the slits in the back of the shirt were made by dragging a bare razor blade across the fabric panel as it was stretched over the back of their outdated toilet.  She’d seen slash marks on the toilet seat cover the other day and wondered aloud, “What the what??” 

Whatever way those slits had gotten on that tee, they exposed a Victoria’s Secret bra underneath that was having a tough time holding up under the strain.  “What must that thing have cost her, fifty bucks? And where’d that money come from?” her mother wondered.  She hoped she’d purchased it, and not just walked out in a moment when the clerk was otherwise occupied.

The girl chewed her gum, cracking and popping it with each downward stroke of her jowly jaw.

“I’m telling you, he’s creepy,” she said.  “Every time I get near ‘im, he wants to give me a hug. Did you see him pet my head at the picnic? Like I’m some dog…  No crap, he was petting the back of my head!!! She shivered a little shiver.  “I swear, I can almost hear him lickin’ his lips as he moves in to take a squeeze. Ugh…Sleaze!”

The girl pulled at shorts that appeared painted onto her skin. Chubby legs labored under the pressure, as she squirmed out of the bench seat at her favorite eatery and tried to get comfortable with denim riding up her cheeks.

“This too shall pass,” her mother murmured to herself, “this, too, shall pass.” In the meantime, she’d keep her trap shut and her opinions to herself. Like the therapist always said, she needed to pick her battles wisely. An opportunity would come along, just like the t-shirt advertised, and then she’d speak her truth. Until then she’d be praying, a lot.

email

The tests were done. The biopsies, complete. The news, not good!

“I prayed it would be anything but this!” she wrote. In an email. Too cowardly to call.

Words were easier to convey when chosen carefully and printed on a page, she thought, even if it was an electronic page.

Her conscience immediately kicked in, over-anxious as always. You shouldn’t have sent that, it yelled. What were you thinking?

She wasn’t thinking.

She, like her friend, was numb.