Maranatha: Chapter 13.

Part II

– Chapter 13 –

Law offices set Gideon’s teeth on edge—and with good reason. He envied the millions of people who got to live their whole lives with little to no contact with the justice system. They were lucky, traipsing joyously about, nursing benign delusions about the effectiveness of Law, and luckier still were those for whom Law was simply an abstraction to bandy about at dinner parties.

They would never know the sting of arrest or accusation. Central booking ink would never blacken their fingers. Their mugshots wouldn’t be Googleable. Their paychecks would never be garnished. They wouldn’t have to explain their complicated history with law enforcement on an additional sheet of a job application.

And above all, they’d never have to suffer a fidgety paralegal repeatedly offering room temperature water from a dusty pitcher in a windowless room like this one.

He’d worked with Cooper, Willis, and Dunn once before. They specialized in discrimination and child advocacy and they’d settled his case with Maranatha’s father. They were a much smaller firm then and what he remembered most about them was that they weren’t hard-nosed about agreeing to settle, even though pushing that case to trial would’ve brought them very high-profile publicity.

They seemed fair and he was appreciative, but that didn’t mean he wanted to be here a minute longer than he needed to be. The stuffiness of the room and his inability to look outside it made him feel like an interrogation was imminent. The overhead light was abrasive. The print on the wall, of a boy at the edge of a pond filled with water lilies, was cloying and, for whatever reason, that made him uncomfortable, too.

Continue reading “Maranatha: Chapter 13.”

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Maranatha: Chapter 11.

get caught up with a visit to the archives.

– Chapter 11 –

The Law Offices of Cooper, Willis, and Dunn were in an office park near a shallow manmade lake. Shady elms encircled the lake and ducks flitted back and forth between the brackish water and the long grass. When Maranatha pulled into the labyrinthine parking lot, she angled her car into a spot under one of the trees, even though the building she wanted was much farther back in the complex. She stared out at the water for a while and at a pair of agitated ducks, boxing one another with wildly flapping wings. Then she leaned forward, resting her chin on her steering wheel, and gazed up at the sky.

She couldn’t see the sun, obscured as it was by tufts of cloud, but its beams barreled down in angled rays; and she imagined God holding a scepter refracting the light. Maranatha had always thought of God as air, intangible and shapeless unless He compressed Himself into something small enough for her attempt to fathom—like a white giant in a robe with stone tablets, holding a scepter of sun.

Jesus, on the other hand, was always very human to her. She had no doubt that, if she shuttled back in time two millennia, he’d be there. He’d have rebel eyes and a wry grin and she’d be madly in love with him, so in love that when he died, she’d cut her own wrists and hope to die along with him. But then, as she awaited her end, the gashes she’d opened would seal and her life, so amazingly spared, would be listed among the last of the pre-resurrection miracles.

The Holy Spirit seemed something else entirely. It was what she felt when she made bad decisions, constantly, impartially observing. It was what the “something” whenever she heard the words, “Something told me to…” It was the complicated scriptures that still floated up to her, all these years after she’d memorized them. The Holy Spirit hovered and always felt really close by, too close sometimes, like a person whose slightly stale breath you felt clinging to your barely conscious face, as he checked your vitals.

Maranatha liked the way she imagined the Trinity. It helped her to conceive of each branch in a very personal way. She’d never told anyone of the grand tales she’d spun, dating back to early girlhood, of God as avenger and Jesus as rescuer and Holy Spirit as conscience and key. She feared accusations of blasphemy from people who were part of her old life—Anne and all the old church folks she might meet during the course of the trial. And she feared skepticism and ridicule from the people who were part of her life now—the academics at the colleges where she taught, the few acquaintances she still knew from college, her Tuesday Night Writers Circle.

It was a part of herself she’d learned to fiercely guard. Holy Pentecost Academy had been cruel. Sometimes, it was even vicious. But she’d stopped believing that anyone there represented the God she knew by the time she was ten years old. After that, their behavior stood on its own, apart from what she thought Christianity was or what she hoped it could be.

Holy Pentecost was just a nightmarish Evangelical factory where she’d been trapped until she turned eighteen. She’d been reminding herself of that her whole adult life. The Academy was just something to get over; it didn’t hold the truths of her faith and she shouldn’t allow it to shape her future.

Of course, that was nearly impossible to accept, no matter how many mantras and positive confessions and “forgetting those things which are behind” sermons she heard. This was why she needed to sue the school. She needed sit among people who knew, and talk about how deeply this place scarred its students’ souls.

Continue reading “Maranatha: Chapter 11.”

Maranatha: Chapter 10.

turn to your neighbor and say, “visit the archives.”

– Chapter 10 –

In his dream, he was dead and meandering through an emptiness he assumed was heaven, in the absence of flame-melted flesh and the gnashing of teeth. Every minute, his chest swelled with a tidal wave of relief and gratitude. Every minute, that wave receded into a chasm of loneliness too certain and unchangeable to bear.

He woke, back home, gutted and hungry. The sunlight in his old room seemed dingy. The sounds he heard, his parents milling about, already hours into their day, were tinny and muffled but swift and efficient.

Being here reminded him of how he used to feel on Saturday mornings, when he’d wake to find the massive house creepily still and his heartbeat would quicken as he threw back his bedsheets and rushed through the halls. The longer it took him to find one of his parents, the more sure he became that the rapture had taken place in the middle of the night and he’d been left behind.

He’d check the bathrooms first, looking as much for his parents as for their pajamas in a pile on the floor. Then he’d run down the winding staircase and head to the kitchen. Then his father’s study. Then the sunken family room.

All the while, he’d hearken back to the movies he’d watched when he was little, with the bloodcurdling screams of a wife upon finding her husband missing and the multi-car highway pileups that began with the disappearance of one driver. He’d think of the scriptures that’d been drilled into him: Then shall two be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left. Two women shall be grinding at the mill; the one shall be taken, and the other left. Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come.

He’d freak out about the candy he stole at Giant and the lie he told about being sick in the men’s room, when he’d really ditched Sunday school for an Egg McMuffin from the McDonald’s up the street of the church. He’d mutter to himself, “Lord, I’m sorry! I repent! Please forgive me!” even though it was becoming increasingly clear that his pleas were too little, too late.

Then he would shudder at the thought of a microchip under his skin or a barcode branded on his forehead or the back of his hand or his neck: the Mark of the Beast. He’d imagine scorpions with the heads of women and the four horsemen of the apocalypse. And what about when things became so bad that he tried to kill himself—again and again and again—only to find that he couldn’t, that he was doomed to remain alive until Armageddon? And what if his head was shoved into a guillotine and he was asked to deny Christ to spare himself? Would he do it?

And then he’d double back to the kitchen, his shoulders slumped as he resigned himself to his fate as a kid left behind to manage post-apocalyptic life all alone.  He might as well toast himself some Eggos before food became unattainable, without the Mark of the Beast.

Continue reading “Maranatha: Chapter 10.”

Maranatha: Chapter 8.

catch yourself up with a visit to the archives.

– Chapter 8 –

This was Maranatha’s summer: sharing a bedroom with Anne at her nana’s apartment in Ridgewood; rabidly scanning the face of the driver in every car she passed, looking for signs of Gideon, on those rare occasions when she left the house; scrambling to write as much as she could before she was due back in Grand Rapids for the start of the fall semester, and preparing for the possibility of testifying in a class action suit against her alma mater.

It started slowly, as Ridgewood summers do, with steamy air clinging to her bare arms like cellophane and, in the wake of her recent breakup with Elias, a torturously silent Blackberry. But there were some perks to her lazy Maryland hometown, like the dollar-sales on plump, tart blueberries at the local produce stand all summer and the endless supply of dark, sweet cherries swollen with juice. There were the cheap matinees at Ridgewood 8 where the air conditioning kicked up to Icelandic and made you forget how sweaty and clammy and gross you’d felt before deciding to catch a movie.

“Look up in that cabinet and get me the vanilla extract.”

She spent most of her time with her mom, their minds elsewhere. It was curious to Maranatha, how painstakingly they avoided talking about the lawsuit or the complicated past that had precipitated it. She shouldn’t have been surprised; there were far more things Maranatha didn’t discuss with Anne these days than things she did. But it was still odd to dance around the details that loomed and the choices that would have to be made concerning them.

Continue reading “Maranatha: Chapter 8.”