Rivers

In her life, she has crossed many rivers
Some she swam with sure, steady strokes
Some she walked over on burning bridges
Some were so shallow, she easily waded
But fording the last one, she almost drowned
Failed to reach the other side

The swift, black waters dragged her down
Filled her lungs with life’s heartaches
Then cast her battered body back to shore
Left her choking, gasping, gagging,
Down but not defeated
Never defeated

Older and wiser, she bided her time
Waited at the river for the dire wolves to come drink
And built a raft from their strong bones
Made a cape from their warm, gray fur
Then floated across upon the cold choppy surface
And stepped off safe and warm on the other side

She fashioned a home from the raft bones
Made a bed from the sleek fur cape
And she abided there in the high desert
Content and happy as she grew old
Until the time came for her to leave
For there was one more river yet to cross

The Preacherman–conclusion

Part 1 here

“Adam…wake up.”

Something was shaking me, bouncing my brain around inside my head, each bounce setting of a sick boom of pain.

“Adam…please.”

I didn’t want to wake up, didn’t want to open my eyes.

“Adam…”

Warm breath fanned my cheek, soft lips pressed gently against mine. Loi’s lips. And it was Loi’s voice that again whispered a name: “Adam…”

Adam? Who was…

Oh yeah, Adam was me.

My eyes opened to darkness, to a shadowed face hovering over mine. I sensed more than saw her: my sweet Loi. She was here in my bedroom, where she’d never been before. Something must be wrong. “What—”

“Shhhh.” Loi’s hand covered my mouth. “Don’t say anything or you might wake her. Just come with me.”

Wake her? Wake the Other? She didn’t want the Other to wake up? What was going on?

Loi tugged on my arm. “Hurry.”

Then it all crashed into my head in one giant wave. The church house. The crying babe. The Other strangling it. Loi screaming. And someone, most likely the Preacherman, knocking me out.

I swung my legs over the side of the bed and sat up. My head pounded harder. I sucked in a couple of deep breaths and the pounding eased up, settled into a steady, throbbing pain. And swimming around inside my head with the hurt was a thought: just where was Loi wanting us to go? Continue reading

The Preacherman–part 3

Part 1 here

Part of me was curious as to what the “some things” were, but a bigger part didn’t want to go sit in that chair, didn’t want to know “some things”. And judging from the frown on the Preacherman’s face, I was sure what he was fixing to tell me weren’t good. But I did what I was told.

I sat down on the edge of the chair, too edgy to relax. Though the Preacherman had been good to me, I knew his kindness was conditional. One wrong move and he’d swat me like a fly.

God’s Book lay open on the Preacherman’s lap. His fingers moved over the squiggles covering the pages while he stared through the night-black eye of the window that looked out over the flatlands. I wondered what the Book told him. When I was a youngen, old folks said it was the black marks that did the talking, but I’d never heard a peep out of the Book or the marks either. The few times I’d laid my hand on Ma’s God’s Book, it hadn’t said nothing. But then I weren’t no preacherman.

“I’m sorry to have to tell you this, son, but what you’re wanting ain’t never gonna happen.”

Heat flooded my face. My ears burned. I couldn’t look up; my eyes stayed pinned on the Book as he gently closed the well-worn cover.

“I can see you love my daughters as much as I loved their mother,” he said. “And I know very well what you’re feeling. I’m a man, I know what you want. But it ain’t gonna happen. It can’t happen.”

His hand drew away from God’s Book, and I felt the meaty weight of it settle on my shoulder. Cold. Like the Other’s.

“You’ve been a good son, Adam, you’ve done everything I’ve asked of you.”

And here I thought I’d been told what to do. And was fixing to be told again. Continue reading

The Preacherman–part 2

Part 1 here

I didn’t know what I expected, though what came through that door surely weren’t it.

A gal edged sort of sideways through the opening, and it was her. “Is he awake now, Pa?” she asked, her eyes all big and bright with excitement. She smiled my way.

That beautiful smile pulled an answering one out of me. Forgetting that I didn’t have so much as a stitch on, I started sitting up in bed, and then I saw the Other come through the door, and Lord, they looked exactly the same. But where the first’s smile was sweet and warm and held everything that was good, the second’s was cold and hostile and filled with a jittery darkness.

And it only got worse.

As the two of them glided across the floor toward me, I remembered what I’d seen when they were perched up on the wagon seat: three arms. One arm on her right, one arm on the Other’s left, and where their shoulders touched, one more perfect arm. And I knew good and well that if I could see up under the long, full skirt of that gray dress, I’d see three legs.

What in God’s name was she?

Her lips quavered. She looked confused. The Other’s grin widened, showing all those cruel white teeth. Continue reading