Monday, June 16, 2008

In Mysterious Ways

Brendan Heartheton had to jog in order to make the 5:21 train that ran express from the city. At home, or what she called his home, his mother was waiting for him sick and bedridden. She couldn’t cook in her frail condition and the sandwiches Brendan prepared for her every morning would only keep her satisfied until seven at the latest. So he jogged.

It was a fairly bitter and wind beaten night that Brendan missed that 5:21 train and had to wait half an hour for another which wasn’t an express either and didn’t make it home until very late. Stressed and worried he sprinted through the hard flicking rain up the stretch from the station to his mother’s door. The sight which greeted him though was unthinkable. Instead of a dark house and a sad, sick old lady, his mother was out of bed and singing softly in the warm kitchen as she rolled dough.

“What are you doing!?”

“Brendan! You’re home late tonight, oh I was waiting for you! I feel simply fantastic!”

“But you’re out of bed, you should be saving any strength you have.”

“Nonsense. I’ve been in that damn bed for almost a year, it’s time I took positive action.”

“Something is wrong. What happened to you? What the hell is going on?”

“Oh stop fussing Bren! I feel much better, you should be happy. And I’m making quiche.”

Brendan shook his head and shivered. He threw down his wet clothes in the bathroom and splashed his face with warm water before toweling himself dry and throwing a robe over his underwear. His world was spinning suddenly in a different direction. Just this morning when he had cut her sandwiches and left them underneath the fly-net beside her bed she had barely the strength to raise her head and see what filling they held. It was as though she had become possessed by an unnatural force with ambiguous intentions.

In the poorly lit living room Brendan poured himself a large tumbler of vodka and avoided the light and song from the kitchen. Maybe if he ignored it then it would just go away. She would be sick and ailing again.

The truth was, Brendan didn’t particularly like his mother. She was extremely protective of him as a young boy and her fearsome and dominating approach to life left him feeling weak-bowelled around her always. She ruled his life with the loving manipulation that only a selfish parent can. A devoted son to the point of self-impediment he found in her crippling sickness the first real breath of freedom in his life. Suddenly they had been on equal footing; She was as physically diminished as he had always emotionally been. Now some freakish, hellish, miracle had re-imbued her with the strength to hit back. Maybe even punish him for the tastes of that forbidden life outside of her shadow.

No! Brendan was determined not to let that happen. So what if she was up and out of bed? Was she not still just an old and powerless woman? Without the reinforcement of his father’s belt her matriarchal dictates were empty. He would let nothing change, he would eat the fruit that had been given to every mother’s child but him.

“I think you should sit for a while, mother,” he called into the kitchen. “It can’t be good for you to do too much at once.”

“Oh Bren, there you are. I thought you were still in the shower.” It was like she heard the words he’d said without listening. “Come into the kitchen and help me chop these onions.”

“I’m just going to sit in here a while longer I think.”

“…ok. Suit yourself.”

Something was wrong. Horribly out of place. It was a big risk Brendan took, directly disobeying her and that reaction of acquiescence was surely the most dangerous of all.

Some time later she came into the living room with a freshly baked quiche and a jug of orange juice. Brendan jumped. He felt as if somehow in missing that train the tables had been turned on him. He had caught the wrong train and come home to the wrong life, in which he instead was frozen incapacitated as his mother brought him hot dinner and ruled his life once again.

“You started, I hope I didn’t wake or scare you,” said his mother. In fact, in the half light, she looked monstrous. The skin of her face melted into her neck, rippled like windswept desert sands. The light of the kitchen cast one side of her face into stark and eerie relief, and her hair which had not been trimmed or tamed in months of sickness spewed from her head like tree roots. Had she looked even remotely like this on the night around forty years ago that Brendan had been conceived he was sure no such intercourse would have occurred.

“Not at all.”

“Are you drinking alcohol?”

“Yes, mother.”

“Brendan we need to have a discussion.”

Brendan was well aware that any attempt at discussion would involve a lot of dissing, a lot of cussing, but not a great deal of dialogue.

“Something happened to me today Brendan,” his mother intoned with intense sincerity and gravity.

“Something very big.”

“I’d noticed.”

“Don’t be flippant with me please, son, not now. Not after the events of this afternoon. It was at exactly 3:47, and I needed to use the bathroom but I felt so weak, everything was blurry. I tried to look at the clock to see the time and suddenly, out of the digital number seven, out of the number came… Him.”

“A man came out of your clock?”

“Not a man Brendan! Him! The Lord! Don’t you see Brendan? It’s a miracle! From the clock beside my bed a great and warm light burst – I thought I was dying! The world began to swim and my arm went tingly and numb and I tried to cry out but my voice was garbled. Then as though the fires and all the light of the next world surged through my body all at once I jerked awake, standing in the middle of the room, my arms outstretched like Christ.”

“It sounds as though you had another stroke! Have you seen a doctor?”

“I do not need a doctor Brendan. It is a miracle, I am healed. I feel young again. And this is what I want to talk to you about. We have never been a religious family. You know as well as I do that your father would have no such talk, and we respected that. But God is in us all Brendan, He is all about and he loves us.”

“He’s got a fucking funny way of showing it,” Brendan wanted to say, and had he been a stronger man may well have.

“God in his infinite glory may have been ignored by your father but I trust through our prayers he may be forgiven in heaven.”

“Our prayers?” Brendan couldn’t keep silent any longer at that.

“Yes Brendan. This is what I have decided; we are to become messengers of the Lord, for he is Almighty and through His power am I restored.”

Something cold and hard felt like it fell into Brendan’s stomach. Down through his ears dropped his mother’s words and dripped into the deepest part of his gut like a lurid familiar poison. “This is what I have decided,” she had said, and with all the force of a hydrogen bomb such a decision was always irreversible. But no! What had he said? He would not, he could not any longer let this happen! In the second life of his mother so too would Brendan find a new life. Away from her! Her turning point was his turning point and this was the time and place, the only possible time and place to make it so.

“I… I won’t,” he choked on his words.

“You what?”

“I won’t. I won’t mother, I’m not going to become religious just because, because you said so.”

There was a terrible silence throughout the room. A stillness that fought against the rain and wind outside. It had become quite late. Brendan was tense, waiting for how his mother would respond. Would he be free? Would she try to hurt him? To yell, to hit? What other outcomes could a frail old lady bring about – she could not make him believe, that much was for sure.

The silence was broken suddenly by a loud three knocks at the door. Deep, gothic knocks on the thick old wood. Brendan almost leapt from his chair.

“Who could that be?!” He shrieked, his voice breaking mid sentence.

“Oh that’s just Martin,” his mother said a little too casually and deliberately, walking across to the hall.

“Martin? Who is Martin?”

“Martin is our priest.”

“Our what!? Our priest!?” Brendan was standing now, an electric shock of fear had thrown him from the chair and his hands were shaking. He flailed, and sent the pitcher of orange juice spilling across the room. He heard low voices in the hall as the juice dripped from the table and soaked into the carpet.

“Hello Brendan,” said Martin, walking into the living room. Martin was huge. He looked like a bear accidentally got tangled in vestigial robes while devouring a real priest.


“Are you ready for the Lord to come into your heart? To accept Christ God as your savior?”

“I… I…” Brendan moved backwards in fear, but trod bare-footed on a shard of glass and screamed. Martin reached out, but Brendan drew back, still screaming and slipped and fell, his robe untying and falling behind him. He lay whimpering, almost completely naked behind a lake of juice and blood.

“Do you accept the Lord as your guide!?” Roared Martin. Brendan’s mother was behind the priest, face and hands raised to the ceiling muttering some kind of adulation to God.

Brendan saw flashes of light as he lost more blood. He had more than that though – he had lost control. Scenes of his childhood ran past the backs of eyes. Martin’s face blurred. He swam out of Brendan’s focus for a second, and in his delirium he believed for a second the priest was gone, but he had simply bent down and dipped his mighty paw in the pool of liquid at his feet.

Screaming, Brendan tried to crawl backwards on his elbows, but he was too weak.

“In the name of the father…”


“…the son…”

“God no!”

“…And the Holy Ghost…”


“I baptise you.”

And the blood dripped down Brendan’s face, it swam with his tears and the priest offered him his warm red hand.


Blogger rosemarie said...

nice. interestingly, my word verification was 'dio'

sweet coincidences

October 14, 2008 4:50 AM  

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