June 22, 2007

Fiction Friday: bad news (new entry)

This week's theme: Write the first thing that comes to mind when you read this line: Bad news cures all things.

Mama called it a silver lining. "See that cloud up there," she'd say, pointing off into the distance where it looked like a tornado might drop from the sky any second and gobble up half of Kansas City. "It's a cloud, and it's raining--you can see the lines in the sky where the rain is falling." I'd nod, though I never saw any lines. "That rain cloud has a silver lining. That's why it looks so dark and gray on the outside."

When my ice cream fell off the cone one day, Mama told me that it was God's way of keeping the sugar from rotting my teeth. When I ran over a nail with my bike and the tire popped, Mama said it was God's way of protecting me from falling off a few minutes later. Only God would know what was going to happen next, and He was just protecting me.

We were coming home from church that day, the day the tornado touched down outside Liberty. We heard it on the radio, and Mama thanked God that it was a Sunday and the tornado had come that day and taken the elementary school when the children were in church. Daddy said God was punishing the school board for something they did. I wanted the radio to play more music and stop talking about tornadoes. It was sunny in our town.

Mama sat between me and Daddy in the old truck. She wore her white gloves, and it being so hot and muggy she had on her sun dress with the yellow flowers on it, and her hat with the big rim sat on my lap where I liked to hold it when we drove. Daddy said it got in the way of the mirror if Mama wore it.

It happened quick, a little boy's ball bouncing out into the street. He was a boy who didn't go to church, leastwise not our church, but I think he didn't go to any church. He was dirty, dirt all over his face and his hands and holes in the side of his coverall pants and no shirt. He chased out after the ball, and I saw his eyes in front of the truck, his big dirty brown eyes.

The ambulance came. Some sirens had woke me up, and big, cold hands held my head. I saw the boy's eyes again above me with some dark clouds behind him. It must have got cloudy, I thought. Maybe a tornado picked us up and set us down in Liberty, I thought. Some men picked me up and set me down inside an ambulance. Mama was there, holding a big white thing against her ear.

"Darling," she said, and she looked scared. One of the men said something to her, and she looked less scared. "God looked out for us today," she said. "God sent that boy to save us, you and me" she said.

"Where's Daddy?" I asked her, feeling like someone had taken out my teeth and stuffed my mouth with straw.

"I guess," Mama said, "God had to talk to Daddy, so He took your Daddy away."

"Maybe God forgot to tell Daddy something when we were at church," I said, and I felt the ambulance jerk a bit and then bump around.

Mama laughed, but she had tears in her eyes. "Yes, darling," she said, and when she put her hand on my forehead she moved the towel and I could see a lot of blood. One of the ambulance men touched her arm, and she put the towel back up to her head. "I think," she whispered, "I think God wanted to tell him not to hit you any more."


bluesugarpoet said...

Oh - you are good. On many different levels. And I like your writing too. :)

First off, the last line was brilliant. Didn't see that coming. Second, I loved how the piece really seemed as if it were written from a child's perspective. Third, I liked how the boy saw the dirty brown eyes first in front of them, and then when the boy regained consciousness, hovering above him. That let the reader know that the boy lost some time there and that the dirty eyed boy didn't get hit after all. And fourth - well, I don't have a fourth really; I just wanted to say "and fourth."

Great piece! Glad you decided to play today after all. :)

~willow~ said...

bluesugarpoet pretty much captured what I wanted to say; I just want to add [fourthly?] that I was reacting "against" the entire piece because of the whole "everything that happens is a message from God" thing [I have some history with it...], but the very reason I have a problem with this attitude produced the twist that made this piece an excellent one: "I think God wanted to tell him not to hit you any more." - brilliant!

Megan said...

I really like this. The language, the simplicity of it, was wonderful. Really well done.

I guess it was a good thing you couldn't get to this until later, wasn't it?

Lyn said...

I agree, brilliant ending. And that "God talk" worked as Willow said because of the ending. (God sure does have a lot of people doing his 'splaining for him :-) I thought the child was a girl though (is gender mentioned?) and I picture a 1970s era family with no seat belts. But I don't think buckling up was your message. lol, Lyn

writtenwyrdd said...

Oh! Sucker punch ending. I loved it.

I was left wondering: did the dirty brown-eyed boy die? And when you had the mother say the kid saved the mom and child, I got at the end that it was saving them from dad because he died. At the moment she says it, though, it puzzled me a bit.

I really liked this offering.

paisley said...

i , too, have a god problem,, and was resisting the story... but i must say you won me over... i loved it....

Lily said...

i don't have a god problem but i do have a religion problem...

I imagined:
The location, American south.
The mother, a grown up Pollyanna until the end when I imagined that she was a woman clinging to hope and embracing justice.

Great twist.

PJD said...

Thank you all so much for your kind words. After realizing yesterday that I was not selected as a PNWA contest finalist, I appreciate the nice comments all the more.

Interesting that some thought the speaker was a boy, some thought a girl. My intent was for it to be a little girl, but I think I got the age a little muddied and never really said anything about the gender.

Regarding the "god" thing: I am not a strong believer in God, though I am definitely of the mind that there are things in this world way beyond the limited scope of my human understanding. I lean toward the pastafarian persuasion, though I recently came upon this persuasive idea. (Read the part where it says that religion is based on science and faith.)

Anyway, as you can tell I have little use for (R|r)eligion (that's "religion" with a big or little "R"), though I allow a huge amount of space for spirituality. In this particular piece of fiction, I simply wanted it to be a Midwestern family some time in the not-too-distant past (seventies seems about right, maybe a little earlier), and blaming/crediting God with everything seemed the way a person could justify bad news curing everything.

All that is to say a very hearty "thanks" to all of you who read it and felt compelled to comment. I very much appreciate it.