Friday, July 16, 2010
The Dead Raiser--Part IV
No one spoke as we walked the five blocks to the graveyard. The night was silent. Almost. I could hear the Dobie Brothers howl, even though they lived two miles away. When we got to the cemetery, we climbed the low stone wall and squatted on the other side. I flipped my flashlight on and pointed it in the direction of Mama’s grave. The beam lit up tons of tiny water particles.
"Got foggy all of a sudden,” Tabby said.
I tried to talk, but nothing came out, so I cleared my throat.
“When we get there, I’ll do my thing. Then we’ll wait and see what happens.”
Tabby looked at Miss Sandy. “Maybe you should say a little prayer for us. For her,” she said.
I tilted my head. For me, or Mama?
Miss Sandy stood, Bible tucked under her arm. “Everyone up. Let’s hold hands.”
I stood and turned my flashlight off. Put it in the back pocket of my jeans.
Vince’s hand was sweaty. Miss Sandy’s felt clammy. She lowered her head. We did the same.
“Dear Father God. Your word says where two or more are gathered, you are there. We’re so glad you’re here. I’m kind of freaked out and I’m a grown up, so I’m guessing these kids are scared too. Lord, you know what these kids want, and you know what’s best. That’s what I want. What’s best.”
I started to let go of her hand, but she started talking again.
“And Lord? Please protect us from the evil one. And all the people said—“
Tabby and I knew this part from VBS. “Amen.”
After we dropped hands, everyone just stood there. I figured they were waiting on me.
“Just my light,” I said.
I got it out and flipped it on again. Pointed the beam at our feet. We found the road and followed it to the top of the hill. I looked back at the group and saw Vince pointing.
“There it is,” he said. “There’s Mama’s grave.”
We lined up in front of it. I put my flashlight at my feet. It flickered a few times then died.
I huffed. “Aw, man!”
“Don’t worry about it,” Miss Sandy said.
Vince and Tabby stood to my right. Miss Sandy put her arm around me on my left. I looked at the sky. There was no moon. No light at all now. Miss Sandy squeezed my shoulder.
“Go on,” she said.
I shut my eyes. Hey. Jesus. I guess it’s you I’m talking to. You know what me and Vince want—“
All of a sudden something screamed. Goosebumps exploded on my arms. I opened my eyes and spun around. Couldn’t see a thing. We all huddled together.
"What was that?” Vince said.
“I think it was a cat,” Miss Sandy said. “I'm pretty sure it was.”
I felt her gaze on me. “Keep going, Kat.”
I bowed my head again. Tried to remember where I left off. Like I was saying, sir. You know what me and Vince want. This is the last time I’ll do this. Promise. And, sir? Just so you know--
My eyes flew open when I heard the first growl. It was low. Guttural. Vince yelled. I heard him hit the ground. Hard. He yelped. I heard thrashing in the grass.
I stumbled around, my arms straight out in front of me.
“Vince! Where are you?”
“It got me!” he said. “In the chest."
He was crying for real now. "I think I’m dying.”
I dropped on all fours and started crawling around. Ignored the pain from landing on gravel.
“Vince? Say something!”
The growling never stopped, 'cept for an occasional snap of teeth. And some weird grinding noise. Or is it chewing?
I sat on my heels. “Vince, you gotta talk to me. Otherwise I can’t find you.”
Finally he spoke. His voice sounded weak. Hopeless.
“I can’t . . . breathe.”
I turned toward his voice.
“Vince! What? What’s got you? Talk to--”
I heard thumps. What? Is he hitting it? My wrist brushed against something. I pulled it back, then reached out again. Fingers splayed. Touched it. Whatever it was, it felt sleek. Powerful. I screamed when it turned on me. Its exhale smelled like a garden. Of death.
Waves of heat came at me. Jaws snapped inches from my face. Spit splashed in my eye. I swiped my face with my forearm. My hands balled into fists. Stupid, freak! Messing with my little--
I launched myself at the thing. Flailing. Thrashing. Pounding.
“Get off my little brother, you gosh darned varmint!”
All of a sudden, there was another one. I heard it. Behind me. I arched my back to get away. It snarled. The vibrations rattled my ribs.
Tabs was yelling now. I finally figured out what she was saying. “Dobies! Kat! It’s the Dobie Brothers!”
And then, quiet. As fast as the fuss started, it was over. I couldn’t hear Vince rolling around anymore. He just whimpered.
A weak light caught my eye. It was my flashlight. On the ground where I'd left it. It flickered and came back on. I picked it up and aimed it at the group. Everyone was hunkered down, their eyes wide.
“What happened?” I said.
Tabby shushed me. Pointed at Miss Sandy. She stood slowly, holding her Bible up in the air. I followed her gaze. She was staring at the Dobermans. I thought they’d left, but there they were. Not even ten feet away from us. They looked frozen.
When Miss Sandy spoke, hairs stood up on the back of my neck. I’d never heard her talk like that. Her voice was low. Stern.
"This is the word of God, you hell hounds,” she said. “And I will use it. You and I know it’s sharper than any double-edged sword. It will slice you up.”
My mouth hung open as the dogs cringed and started backing away. Their heads turned at odd angles. They whined as if they were in pain. I blinked. They were gone.
I heard Tabby’s breath come out in a rush. “Holy cow!” she said. “That was awesome, Miss Sandy.”
Miss Sandy glanced over at us then up at the sky. “Thank you, Jesus.”
I knelt beside Vince. He clutched his little boy chest.
I brushed hair out of his eyes. “You okay, little buddy?” I said. “Let me see your--”
I bit my lip and pointed the light at him. Shone it on his chest, then face, then legs. Not a scratch. I gently lifted his hands from over his heart. There was no blood. His shirt wasn’t even torn. I looked at Miss Sandy and shook my head.
“There’s nothing,” I said. “No marks or anything.”
She shrugged. “Jesus probably healed him,” she said. “Vince, honey. Does it hurt?”
Vince pounced his chest with his fingertips. “Nope. Not at all.”
Miss Sandy reached out a hand to help him up. Then she motioned for us to make a circle.
“Okay, then. Where were we?”
I took a deep breath and shut my eyes. Again. Wow, Jesus! Sir. That was epic. Now I believe. I mean, I’ve been believing, bit by bit, all week, but after what just happened? I really believe now.
I snuck a look at the sky, grinned, and rolled my fingers. I put my hands back together and bowed my head.
"So. Where was I? Oh, yeah. In case you need reminding, sir, Mama was just 34 when she . . . you know. Don’t you think she should have more—She should have another—“
“Shhh! You’re supposed to be praying.”
I opened my eyes. Tabby’s pointer finger was in front of her lips.
“What?” I said.
“You’re talking out loud.”
Vince gasped. “Look!”
He pointed to Mama’s headstone. A silvery mist covered the dark granite. It seemed as if the night itself had exhaled onto the stone. My eyes felt like they were drying out, but I didn’t dare blink. A hand, almost see-through, materialized to the right of the monument. It flowed over and wrote something. On Mama’s grave.
No one spoke. None of us moved. I couldn’t hear anyone breathe for what seemed like forever.
Miss Sandy leaned over and whispered in my ear. “It’s like in the book of Daniel.”
“The hand writing.”
“What’s it say?” Vince said. His voice cracked.
“Tetelestai,” Miss Sandy said, after the hand disappeared.
“Te-tell-a-what??” I said. “That’s not English.”
“No,” Miss Sandy said. “It’s Greek.”
“What’s it mean?” I said.
Miss Sandy pulled her jacket closer around her.
“It’s the last thing Jesus said. From the cross. It means, ‘It is finished.’”
I huffed. “What do you mean--” I said. “What does the hand mean, ‘it is finished?’”
“I have no idea. Let’s wait and see if anything . . .”
We sat cross-legged in the grass. We stared at Mama’s grave even though the writing was gone now. I put my head on Miss Sandy’s shoulder. That’s the last thing I remember.
I woke first. I looked around, then tapped Miss Sandy on the leg.
“The sun’s coming up,” I said. “Mama didn’t come. It didn’t work.”
I pinched the inside corners of my eyes. They burned.
Miss Sandy looked down at me. Her face looked like it was melting again.
“I’m sorry, Kat,” she said. “I think . . . maybe Tetelestai meant your dead raising days are over. You know, like they’re finished.”
My voice sounded loud when I finally found it. “But I believed. Really hard. Way more than the other times.”
I stood and put my hands on my hips. I looked at Miss Sandy. I knew my voice sounded harsh, like she was to blame, but I didn't stop.
“Isn’t that why you said God raised people from the dead? So that folks who don’t believe, would start?”
Miss Sandy stood and came over and put her arm around my waist. “I’m sure you—“
I squirmed out of her grip. “This isn’t fair! I was so—“
Miss Sandy reached for my shoulder. “I know, honey,” she said. “I’m sorry.”
I looked down at Tabby. She was focused on the ground in front of her.
I glanced at Vince. Tears ran down his cheeks and polka-dotted his t-shirt.
Miss Sandy brushed the seat of her pants. “Come on, kids,” she said. “I have to get you home.”
Tetelestai. That was the first thing I thought when I woke up. I looked over at the clock. It was eleven. I’ve never slept this late.
“Katherine! Vincent! Get down here. Right now! Your breakfast is getting cold! I swear. Getting you two up in the summer is like trying to raise the dead.”
I threw back the covers and ran for the stairs. Vince and I almost collided. He rubbed his eyes and looked at me. Did it again.
I shook my head. “I know what you’re thinking, little buddy,” I said.
“We’re awake.” I poked him in the side. “See? It’s not a dream. It’s a miracle.”
And with that, we tore down the steps.