Good Friday | Richard Stimac
His mother knew each storm told its own story. Above the farmer’s empty fields, the hard red spring wheat not yet sown, pillars of lightning cleaved the sky in two and pustulant-green columnar clouds flattened like anvils for God to forge his anger. The thunder of each hammer stroke echoed across the heavens as if an immortal blacksmith pounded out his own nails for a yet unnamed, yet predestined, divine blood appeasement of a prophet yet unchosen by this fickle jealous god.
“It rains every Good Friday,” his mother said. “Because of Jesus.”
She sat on the love seat of fake black leather fastened by rivets to staves. She slipped each bead of her rosary through the needle of her index finger and thumb. Her lips moved but no words ushered forth, as if she adored a dumb god of a bygone pagan race, a people that worshipped hewn stone and chiseled wood.
On the wall hung a crucifix that slipped open to reveal a vial of holy water and two wax candles. Bent like supplicants, palm fronds haloed the head of Jesus. In hours, these leaves would be burnt as offerings and their ash smudged upon the foreheads of the devout. But now, now, they were brown and dry and crumbled to the touch.
“Church in ten minutes,” she said.
It was not Mass, not on Good Friday. His mother knew better, and knowing better is the cornerstone of faith.
“Go,” she said, “wash your hands.”
He did as his mother commanded.
His father lay on the couch and watched football.
“Off to church?” the man said.
The boy nodded.
“Come here,” his father said. “Help me up.”
His father moved like drunk men move. First, he reached upward, to nothing, until his son took hold of the man’s wrists and helped him pivot upright to sitting.
“Help me swing my legs around,” his father said.
The son took one leg and then the other and helped his father place his feet flat on the floor.
“Get me a beer.”
“Tell your father he doesn’t need another beer,” the woman with the rosary said.
“Tell your mother that I’ll drink beer when I want to drink beer.”
“I pray to God for patience,” the woman said as she crossed herself, kissed the crucifix of the rosary, and wound it into a small plastic case that she placed on the end table.
“Pray to God to get me a beer.”
The boy stood between his parents. His father was a heavy, mounding rain cloud of the plains. His mother, the cold dark soil of the Midwest.
The mother nodded to her son, then disappeared down the unlit hall as if she were the high priest entered the adytum.
“What’s she praying to God for?” his father said. “Go on. Get me that beer.”
The boy went to the kitchen and opened the refrigerator door.
“Take one from a pack already open. I don’t like to have so many things open and not used up?”
The son brought his father a beer.
“Sit down,” the man said. The boy sat next to him.
Outside, a strong wind hummed. In a matter of seconds, the sun was blotted out and darkness descended upon the land. A bruise-blue glow from lightning dashed between the curtain gaps and danced like drunken Angels of the Lord against the wall.
“Let me tell you something,” his father said. “You hear me? Are you listening to me?”
By this time, the boy’s mother returned from the bathroom. She stood in the hallway door and watched her husband speak to her son.
“She don’t know,” the man said. “She, her Jesus. But she don’t know. If her Jesus can do so much, how come I can’t walk? Jesus maked other men walk. But he don’t make me walk.”
The drunk man downed the beer.
“Go get me another one.”
“Put your shoes on,” his mother said.
“I said, get me another beer.”
“He is not getting you another beer.”
“If I tell him to, then he is.”
“You are already drunk. At 11 a.m. On Good Friday.”
“When you’re drunk, every Friday is good.”
The boy looked at the floor. The shadows from the rain against the window mottled on the carpet as if a flood had come to the house.
“Beer,” the man said. He put his arm around the boy’s shoulders and pushed him off the couch. Instead of standing on his own two feet, the boy fell to the floor. In his mind, he sunk into a dark abyss.
“Don’t hit him.”
“I didn’t hit him. He’s just dramatic.”
The woman knelt next to the boy drowning in his own imagination.
“Get up, Goddamnit.”
“Woman, what do you want me to do?”
“Just do nothing.”
At that moment, one thunderclap literally shook the house. The lights flickered. Both the man and the woman paused and looked upward. The boy broke through the waves in his mind, stood upright, and ran from the living room, through the kitchen, and out the backdoor.
Outside, the rain fell hard, like small pellets. The boy sat in a dirt patch in the middle of the chain-link fenced yard. He took handfuls of dust and poured it over his head. Soon, mixed with the rain, black streaks streamed down his face.
His mother ran after him to lead him back into the house. His father wailed an apology barely audible through the storm.
About the Author:
Richard Stimac has a full-length book of poetry Bricolage (Spartan Press) and a forthcoming poetry chapbook Of Water and of Stone (Moonstone). He has also published flash fiction in BarBar (2023 BarBe nominee), The Blue Mountain Review, Book of Matches, Bridge Eight, Bright Flash, Drunk Monkeys, Flash Fiction Magazine, Half and One, New Feathers, Paperbark, Prometheus Dreaming, Proud to Be (SEMO Press), On the Run, Scribble, Talon Review, The Typescript, The Wild Word, Your Impossible Voice, and Transitions Sydney Hammond Memorial Short Story Anthology (Hawkeye Press).