It’s been awhile since I published to my blog (I no longer apologize for this fact – writing a novel takes up most of my scribbling power on any given day). However, I had the idea that I’d like to write something for the holidays. I wanted to dash off a little Christmas tale, something with a twist that wold be amusing and provoke a little conversation. But then I started writing, and as usual, the story went somewhere I didn’t anticipate.
So, instead of a story I can sell on Amazon for a buck, I’ve got part of something longer that I think might be worth publishing if I give it the time and attention it deserves. Something that might even be ready by NEXT Christmas, har, har, ho, ho, ho.
Since it’s the holidays, I will share the first bit of it here, with you, my beloved Hordelings. Please let me know your thoughts.
I am asleep on my kid sister’s couch, and my father is visiting me in a dream.
It must be my father—same broad shoulders, same wispy hair, same perpetually-out-of-fashion spectacles sliding down the bridge of his oft-broken nose—but when he speaks to me, his voice is gentle, and free of the anger that ran like a red thread through his voice when he was, y’know, alive.
There’s also the matter of the rainbow-tinted light streaming off his pale skin like cold fire, but in my dream this is of small account.
“Dad?” I say, just as I have every night since I came back to Sparta, using my dream-elbows to push my dream-self into a sitting position on a fairly faithful rendering of my sister’s battered old sofa. He gives me his lopsided smile, the one that sometimes emerged when he forgot to be furious with the world. “My Joey. Nice haircut. You tell ‘em to save what they took for me?” he says, gesturing to his own thinly-covered pate.
It’s an old joke, but one of my favorites. “I told ‘em to send it air mail,” I reply, waggling my fingers at him like a vaudeville magician. He gives me another grin and air-combs an invisible pompadour. “I knew I could count on you, kiddo.”
I give him a smile of my own and say, “So what brings you to town, Dad?” We’ve been having this conversation every night for a week now, and we both know our parts by heart.
My father regards me silently, his grin fading. “You know what, Joey. You have an obligation. You are making a mistake, and I need you to listen to me.”
I draw a hand across my mouth, saying nothing. He leans toward me and I pull my legs in, my back against the broad arm of the sofa as I curl into a ball. “She cheated on me, Dad,” I say sadly. My anger doesn’t seem to transfer to the dream; just the soul-cutting sadness that has left me curled up on this beaten sofa in a pair of yoga pants and a Mighty Mouse t-shirt.
My father’s hand hangs in the air for a moment, and then drops to his glowing lap. He looks a little dejected. He’s still wearing the same suit we buried him in, and for a minute I want to pull him to me and whisper about a million things I’ve left unsaid. In a minute, I’m going to wake up, and then it’ll be another slow day of bad reality TV and take-away Thai from TigerGarden before we get to do all of this again tomorrow night.
“Joey, use your head. Use your heart. Mae loves you, and I know you love her. What else matters? You gonna let a little thing like this get in the way of your happiness?”
“A little thing?” I sputter. It seems some of the anger transfers to the dream after all. “I gave my heart to her, Dad. I was building a life with her. And she fucking CHEATED ON ME! And not only that, but with a man! A MAN, Dad! Can you even begin to understand a betrayal like that?”
Pale blue eyes regard me with sympathy. “Joey, you ain’t got all the facts, kid. Just hear me out, okay, and then maybe…”
I raise my hand, cutting him off. I don’t want to fight with him, not now. We did enough of that when he was still upright. The sudden rush of anger has left me, and the grief is welling up to take its place. “Dad, I love you, but you gotta leave me alone,” I say, the tears starting to fall. “Just leave me the fuck alone.” He looks stricken, but resigned, and I know he’ll get up in a moment and vanish, the glow surrounding him replaced by the dusty beams of dawnlight pouring through the living room windows.
My father plants his hands on his knees and stands. I notice for the first time that he’s crying, too. This is different from the other dreams, and it sends a frisson of trepidation up my spine.
“Oh, Joey. My sweet Joey.” He sounds as weary as Atlas. “My aspect is upon me, and out of love must I fulfill my duty.”
I rise and take a step toward him, unsure and more than a little scared. “Dad, what are you talking about?” His eyes are full of sadness, but the spark growing in their depths is something else. The fabric of his suit coat is rippling now, warping. I reach out for him anyway, unable to stop myself.
“Come hither and I shall light a candle of understanding in thine heart, which shall not be put out,” he murmurs. He turns away from me for a moment, his broad shoulders spasming. “Dad?” I say again, moving to embrace him. Then he turns around, and the world is aflame with white.
My father is gone; in his place is a man-shaped hole in the world, arms spread in wings made to straddle the Earth. A cold wind springs up, the air in the room rushing toward him like someone’s opened an airlock in a bad sci-fi movie. His voice remains gentle, but each word falls from his brilliant lips and thuds against my heart like a stone.
“Josefina, daughter of David, do not be afraid to take Mae as your wife…”
He’s become the sun. Cold fire slams against me, into me.
“…for the Child who has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit…
The light is everything. His voice is a whisper to shake Creation.
“She will bear this Child, and you shall call Her name…”
“JESUS!” I cry, falling back against the sofa. My ass hits the edge of the cushion, and I drop between the sofa and the coffee table, barking my shin. The pain is distant as I raise an arm to shield my eyes against the glare. The remote for the cable box streaks past my head and vanishes into the white void, along with a pillow and one of my slippers. I’m screaming, but my words are lost in the thunderous murmuring of the apparition. I squeeze my eyes shut and turn away, hands over my ears now, but his words are inescapable. I start to slide toward that scintillating emptiness, and I know without a doubt that death is in the room with me.
The roar of an imploding mountain. The susurration of a single, perfect dove.
It stops. No more alabaster monster. No more disco-ball doomsday in the middle of suburbia. I take in a long, shuddering breath and lower my arm. I am alone, in the dark, with tears on my face and blood soaking through the leg of my yoga pants. My heart is pounding so hard that stars pulse at the edge of my vision, and my mind is full of echoes.
A shaft of morning sun pierces the gloom, illuminating the table and a huge, snow-white feather, its tip wet with blood. Scrawled on the back of a Tiger Garden menu is a single rust-colored line: “I knew I could count on you, kiddo.”