Sneak Preview: April 2011

Suddenly fed up with writing non-fiction, I offer you something different this month than my usual info-pinions. Here is a story written after I'd started our first creative Bible study, Making a Mark. It is part of the soon to be printed (please God) compilation of Word Shop Writings entitled, This is Terrible; The Writer's Lament.

Reading the quote below I was struck by a tone that seemed to assume everyone knew Alexander and Rufus. As I wondered about Simon's two sons the story emerged--with a surprising Oaky flavor.

"And they compel one Simon a Cyrenian, who passed by, coming out of the country, the father of Alexander and Rufus, to bear his cross." --Mark 15:21

When Dad got back from the city, he was changed. Quieter, although Dad never did run off with the mouth much. Still, when he snapped something out, you better listen up, and I mean now. Rufus said that Dad got more mileage out of five words than most people got out of a half hour's jawing; not that Rufus would ever stop bouncing around long enough to actually hear anyone for a half an hour.

The quietness was more than not talking. It permeated everything from the way Dad made the morning fire to the way he lifted his spoon to his mouth. Oh, we still jumped when he said, “Go,” but his voice was different, gentled; made you actually want to slop out the barn instead of spending half the morning with an edge up your back, thinking about how in a year or two you were going to be out-a-here with nobody giving you orders, no how.

Rufus said he heard Mom tell Sarah Jane, that the Romans had made Dad carry some guy's cross. Maybe that's what did it—have somebody order YOU around for a change. Sara Jane said it was God got him back here alive; once those Romans get their claws into you, you could be stuck forever.

Once I saw a glimmer of the old Dad. Me and Rufus were teasing a possum that the dogs had scared up. Dad raged in bellowing, “knock it off. ” But it wasn't that we were making too much noise or anything. More that he just didn't like what we were doing—like he felt sorry for the old possum. Not that he said anything; just caught himself mid-roar and shook his head. Then he walked away sad-like.

After that, any fun in the possum plain evaporated. We felt funny, Rufus and I; didn't even much want to look at each other.

One morning I came upon Dad in the field just standing there, like he was doing more and more. In the barn, in the house, you' d find him standing, listening like. Then he'd notice you and get moving again. But this time he stood in the corn and there was a tear rolling down his cheek. I' d swear it. Rufus said it was probably sweat, 'cause no way does Dad ever cry, even when they set that bone in his arm there wasn't a sound or nothing. But this was early morning, that surely wasn't sweat rolling down his cheek in a big fat drop that caught the light of the sun coming up over the hill.

Now it seems he has gone plain bonkers. Rufus came back from the village with some story about a guy rising from the dead and Dad started shaking him and asking what, and then before Rufus could sputter anything out he just dropped him and went to hear for himself. When he got back he was shouting and he swung Rufus around laughing like he did once when he was a baby, ' cept he was drunk before. This time he just kept laughing and yelling for us to pack up cause we were going to the city; yes Rufus and me too.

Mom said she wasn't going anywhere and he said, yes she was, Bless God. That's what he said, Bless God. And then he said that Sara Jane would look after things…unless she wanted to come too. So you know he's gone crazy because he never wanted to be in the same room as Sara Jane, never mind a whole trip.

Well, finally we were starting up the road, me carrying everything in the world that Mom seemed to think we'd need for the journey. Rufus was just beginning to think that I should carry his stuff too, when this guy shows up around the bend and Dad dropped everything right in the middle of the road. After he talked with him a bit, he said to turn around now, we can go back. Simple, like we hadn't spent all afternoon getting ready. And the man just looked at us with a little smile.

"I tell you his face is still with me, even though he was gone before I could blink back the tears. His face is still here, inside. And I think it will always be with me, now. Always."
--Alexander Bar Simon
Happy Easter,
Alliee +

PS Check out the "Stories for Worship" link on the home page for other stories that also work well as read-aloud or performance pieces.