The screen door slammed behind her. She slumped down onto the wooden bench. Her pigtails brushed against the back wall. The Cinderella on her sneakers smiled up at her. She didn’t smile back. Television voices wafted down the hall. Puzzled, she cocked her head. She perked up and listened.
Was that the news? He always watches the news.
Excitement tickled her stomach like bubbles in a soft drink. She tore off her shoes, dropping Cinderella in the middle of the floor.
She raced through the hall. Expectation, like on Christmas morning, beamed on her face. Bursting into the living room, she stumbled to a stop. Expectation plummeted. It knotted in her stomach. Her shoulders dragged down.
He wasn’t there.
She closed her eyes tight. Maybe if she wished hard enough, he would appear.
Please, please, please.
She opened them again. Nothing: no Daddy sitting on the yellow-gold rocking chair, feet propped up on the brown ottoman; no Daddy drinking Pepsi. No twinkle in his eyes.
“Hey, there, Miss Muffet. Come up here on your tuffet,” he’d say as he patted his lap.
She couldn’t crawl up into that lap and snuggle. There was no scent of the day’s work on him to sniff. The memory of his sandpaper chin on top of her head made it itch, even now. Hope sighed.
His empty chair occupied the room. She focused on the dent where they watched Saturday morning cartoons together. She sat on one side, her older brother on the other. The three of them over-filled the chair. Daddy squeezed her every time he sipped his coffee.
The night is dark, a cold chill in the air. Olive tree branches provide a protective canopy, their silver-green leaves reflect a sliver of moonlight. The wind rustles the leaves and the air weighs heavy. He lays prostrate and groans. His hands grip the ground and His face distorts in agony. He weeps, He moans, He cries and large drops of sweat trickle down His face, mingle with His tears, and fall to the ground around Him.
Nearby His friends sleep. One sits at the base of an olive tree leaned up against it’s gnarled trunk. The other two curl on the ground, their hands pillowing their heads. With their each slumbering-exhale His words, “My soul is swallowed up with sorrow. Stay awake with me,” fade into the night. His grief, palpable, is shared by no one. He is alone.
I sat across from the pastor at a local restaurant. The table between us was laid with a red cloth and salt and pepper shakers sat one on each side of the tin napkin holder in the middle of the table. We could hear the bustle from the kitchen and he asked the usual questions one would ask a thirteen year old, school and friends. And then home. I stared at my barely-eaten french fries, their smell churning my stomach. Tears formed and a lump in my throat prevented me from speaking.
“I hate him,” the quiet words penetrated the lump. I hesitated, “And the Bible says hating someone is murder,” I said quickly, in almost a whisper. I could not look at him. My cheeks were now saturated and I could taste the salt of my tears.
His eyes widened slightly, he shifted in his seat, cleared his throat about to speak, then closed his mouth. He took a deep breath and stammered something about Jesus and love and everything was going to be okay. His words briefly whriled around my head and dropped to the floor.