Titles Are Hard

I’m comfortable with titling my stories. I’m not comfortable with titling blog posts. I don’t know why this is. If I were to take a shot in the dark, I would say it’s because I’m self conscious about my blog posts but I am completely comfortable writing fiction despite one being no less revealing than the other.

Going forward, I’m titling my blog posts by the name of the story (or story fragment) I’m writing. Not today, though. Because this blog post title speaks for itself. The story below (not a fragment – actually a whole story) is called The Burning Bush. That’s because, messages from God are supposed to come in the form of a booming voice from the sky or a burning bush. And my character received a message from God and she didn’t need a burning bush to add any meaning to it.

I remember locking myself in the dark bathroom and racing to the toilet. At breakfast, I’d dreamed of pancakes on Sunday. As I held my hair back and vomited Friday night’s hotdog dinner, those visions felt thousands of years old.

Dad pounded on the bathroom door, each thunderous hit making light from the hall pulse through the doorcrack.

“Downstairs! Now!”

“I want Mom!”

I heard slow, soft steps and imagined her standing behind him, letting him have his way.

“I don’t care what she says,” he said, his voice low and threatening through the dust falling from the now loosened hinges. “You’re going to church. You’re getting confirmed.”

He stormed to his bathroom to sulk and smoke under its wheezing fan.

“You know, your father built that church, Cricket.”

Cricket. Even then, lying on the floor, I resorted to rubbing my calves together, like I did as child.

“I was baptized in that church, Mom.”

My father saw value in baptism when he became a catholic church contractor. So, every Sunday for a year, we attended mass in a high-school gymnasium during its construction.

“In Grade One, all my friends talked about first communion. They thought I was weird I’d just been baptized.”

 “You’re Dad is proud of his work. This really upsets him.”

Because people would think something’s wrong, I thought as I lay steadfastedly refusing to leave the comforting pitch-black room, fearing when Dad’s assault would resume.

“Mom, why didn’t Uncle Virgil say hello at church?”

I heard a single, sharp inhale followed by a pause.

Uncle Virgil had been Dad’s sponsor when he was baptized along with me. Last Sunday, he refused my help up the church steps as he struggled on his crutches.

“Is that why you don’t want this?”

Just that week, I’d interrupted Mom and Dad as they sat at the kitchen table, secretively scraping the insides of shoes, boots and secret boxes, for five hundred dollars to pay some guy that “did some work for them”. The thin walls of the small townhouse we moved to after going bankrupt when the family business folded made sleeping difficult when they fought. Asking to help only kicked off another tirade from Dad that drove me to tears and back to my room.

 “That’s not it,” I said.

I leaned against the door, feeling the cheap plywood against my hand as I tried to sense Mom’s presence through it. “Does going to church make it so what you do is right?”

“No.” She paused. “That takes time and learning from your mistakes.”

“I don’t need God for that. Do I?”

Mom said it was okay to come out and I did.

Since then I’ve supported Mom, brought two children into the world, married a husband I love, pay a mortgage I loathe, refused to talk to Dad on his deathbed and have not attended a single mass.

I’m a slow learner but I don’t need a burning bush to get a message.

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