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The scenes flash like neon signs on the empty walls, even as my mind resists the images of horror that replaced every good and loving act I could have remembered.
Can the dead ask forgiveness? Can the murdered forgive? Can the dead praise God?
Did Satan win?
The details of my mother’s face elude me as other memories crowd my mind. What do I remember about her face? Could I conjure up the loving smile, the sparkle of excitement, the encouraging word? Or can I only remember the resignation as death reached its arms and embraced her? Too young, everyone said. She was too young to die in such a way. I wonder now how that determination is made. What is too young to die? When is the threshold of a life crossed when we become “old enough” to die?
We were all there that day. I don’t know why he chose that day. Did he forget, as he planned his act of annihilation, about his children? Can a father forget his children? Can a man hold his newborn son in his arms, rock him to sleep, watch him grow, carry him fishing and play ball in the yard and then, in an instant, forget him? These questions hang in the air of the desolate house, but no one answers, for the ones who could answer no longer have a voice.
A sudden burst of anger rips through my chest, bringing the taste of bile and a pounding in my head. I clench my hand into a fist and strike the wall in frustration because I know my search is hopeless. I will never know.
I was only a child, bent on my own agenda. My childish pursuits of making the ball team and surviving in a world of competition must have insulated me in some way.
I remember with sharp longing the carefree times: A certain Christmas when snow fell unexpectedly. We had bundled up and hurried out into the pure whiteness. Mother was with us. Her eyes had sparkled with childish excitement and her cheeks were flushed from the cold. We had built a snow man.
The smells and sounds are suddenly all around me.
I remember how our hands got colder and colder as we gathered up the snow, rolled it quickly into balls, and then stacked them atop each other to form the snowman. Our mood was one of heady euphoria. Five pairs of hands made short work of the snow man, who grew and grew until Mother had to stretch upon her toes to place his head atop his body.
Shannon had fallen into the snow, waving her arms and legs, as she made a snow angel. Derrick searched frantically for a stick to make the nose. Rachel ran inside to find buttons for the eyes and mouth. Randy picked up handfuls of snow, threw them into the air, and watched them float down onto his arms and into his hands. I remember the spellbound look of his face, for he had never seen snow before that day.
I remember the moment we stood back to view our handiwork. I had stood a little apart from the others, so they were all in my vision. The sun had emerged from the clouds at that instant, flooding the yard with bright yellow light. As though the stage had been set and the spotlight found its target, the scene was forever printed on the screen of my mind. Mother stood, hands on her hips, watching. The others were frozen in time, each with an expression of youthful innocence, gazing upon the snowman.
Patsy Lewis books
This is an excerpt from my book, The Silent House, an ongoing work.
The house is silent, now.
Nothing remains of the life of the family who occupied these rooms. No sound of running feet, no outburst of laughter or mischievous giggling late at night. Even the odors of life are gone: The smell of frying chicken and baking bread. The pleasant has been swallowed up by the unspeakable.
Sadness permeates the air. I walk from room to room and the house shrinks into itself as though to hide from the memories left within its walls.
“Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
In retrospect, were we oblivious to the existence of smoldering anger and resentment? Did we cover the tension with childish chatter, hoping to hold back impending tragedy? Could we have known, deep within our hearts, the evil that was working on my daddy?
There, I’ve said it. The reason has a name. EVIL. Even as we awoke each morning, ate our breakfast, dressed for school, and waved good-bye, was Evil at work on my daddy’s mind?
Did Evil whisper slyly, “I’ll give you a way out of your unhappiness.”
Did Evil taunt cruelly, “You can never be what she expects.”
Did Evil laugh when an unexpected kiss or a tender embrace sent rays of hope into the dark recesses of a tormented soul?
The house remains silent. My questions echo through the emptiness, bounce back from the bare walls, fall like stones into the pool of grief within my spirit. I will find no answers here. I leave the desolate house to its own memories, close the door gently and return to my car.