Monthly Archives: October 2013

Soul Cages – Part One. Dreams in the Desert. 18.

Well, back to Soul Cages (PG-13). Marian is about to head off to her first youth group meeting for Andervender’s church.

Soul Cages

 Lynn Kilmore

Second edition copyright © 2014 by Lynn Kilmore

Published by Osuna Publishing

This story is a work of fiction. The characters, incidents, dialogue, and locales are either drawn from the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, and locales is entirely coincidental.

Part One. Dreams in the Desert

18

At four-thirty when Mom opened the front door, I heard her say, “Matthew! How good to see you—er, John, you’re here too. Come on in.”

Thank God. I didn’t know how John had pulled off coming with Matthew, but I was grateful he’d done so.

Despite Mom’s hints to change, I had stayed in jeans and white cotton shirt, keeping my hair in its ponytail, refusing to put on make-up. I wanted to look as boring as possible.

Dad was more welcoming of John’s presence than Mom. Which lifted my spirits, for it meant he didn’t truly care if I dated Matthew or not.

Matthew stepped into the living room smelling of his dad’s aftershave—a massive turn-off. He said to me in accusation, “John said you told him to come too.”

John lightly kicked Matthew’s heel. As realization dawned on Matthew that he’d been rude to me, he froze up like a deer in the headlights.

“Of course I did,” I said. “John has been a great help in explaining First Beginnings to me and Henry.” Let my parents ponder that. With any luck, they’d insist on John coming over any time Matthew did.

Matthew said, “Oh, what I meant to say was I’m glad you asked my brother to, uh, help you all get adjusted to our church.”

I watched John close his eyes. From his perspective this had to be like watching a train wreck in slow motion. Give it up, John. Your brother’s as sensitive as a brick. And there’s no way in hell I’d date someone who had chased down my brother.

Giving Matthew an easy time of it didn’t appeal to me at all. So I kept my mouth shut. Mom was forced to make small talk with Matthew about the weather while Dad wandered off to do more unpacking. John picked up on my simmering hostility and made warning gestures to Matthew, which were ignored.

After a few more failed attempts to bring me into the conversation, Matthew and Mom ran out of things to say. So Mom shooed us out of the house to go to Youth Group. The Andervenders’ SUV was parked in the driveway.

Matthew unlocked the SUV remotely, which gave me the opportunity to slip into a back seat before he or John could object.

What followed was a drive of utter silence for the first five minutes. Then John filled the void by talking to Matthew about his and Mr. Brown’s latest travails in trying to get Brown’s old house ready for sale. John’s tales of fire-prone aluminum electrical wiring, a sagging roof, black widows, and nests of mice hidden in the walls made the ride pass quickly.

Matthew turned off Tramway Boulevard onto a paved road that, to my surprise, changed to dirt. We drove past adobe houses on fenced two-acre lots covered in native scrub. Some lots had horses wandering around.

The SUV pulled through the open gate of an adobe wall. I saw a sprawled-out ranch house, which had to be twice the size of my own home. There’s no way they can afford this on a pastor’s salary. I searched my memory for anything Mom might have said about money.

A gravel driveway made a U-shape to the front porch, on which teenagers were sitting or standing. A line of cars and trucks were parked in a makeshift gravel lot near the property wall.

A memory came to me—Dad saying, “Must be nice to have a trust fund.” And Mom said, “It was God’s gift to Gena so her husband could dedicate himself to ministry.”

Matthew parked outside the garage. He said, “Well, this is our house. First is the Scripture reading from Corinthians, then pizza, then discussion.”

“Hmm,” I said. I opened my door and hopped down before Matthew could get out.

Cries of greeting came from the porch. A cluster of girls, all wearing dresses, came over and surrounded me, asking if the thin air still bothered me. The girls also chatted with John, but mostly ignored Matthew. After a few minutes of being passed over, Matthew left for the porch.

All the boys stuck to the porch and spoke in voices too low for me to make the words out.

My cell phone was hidden in my purse, set to OFF. The last thing I wanted was my owning a cell phone becoming a sore point with these teenagers. My parents would get pressured to take it away.

The talking stopped when the screen door opened. Pastor Andervender came out, Laura following behind him. He said, “Time is wasting. Downstairs, please.”

The house’s interior was polished wood floors and whitewashed walls. Unlike my house, it had air conditioning and smelled of lemons. The artificial chill gave me goosebumps after being in the desert heat.

As we passed through a living room of bookcases and leather furniture, Laura maneuvered to walk next to me. She whispered in my ear, “The rec room door is to the left.”

The stairs were narrow and circled around and around. There was no chatter or jokes. Andervender’s creaking tread could be heard from the end of the line.

The rec room was halfway buried into the earth and had high narrow windows.

I headed toward a cracked leather chair at the periphery of the gathering, but Laura and another girl (whose name I could not remember) tugged me over to the ripped green couch and had me sit between them.

I sank into the foam padding, and tried to ignore the curious looks. There were ten teenagers here, not counting myself, and Pastor Andervender. This would likely be my entire high school group if I obeyed my parents about going to First Beginnings.

This is WAY too small a group for me.

Andervender sat in a scratched dining chair near the stairs. He checked his cell phone, and I noticed how the others stared at his phone. “Let me make sure this rude contraption doesn’t disturb us. Its racket can ruin the soul’s contemplation.” He put the cell phone away.

John stood next to a glass coffee table with a hairline crack. He picked up the Bible from the table and began to read.

To my relief the reading had nothing to do with hate, but was instead about gifts of the Spirit. He read in a lively manner that soothed, as if I’d found a warm patch of sunlight in a cold room.

After John finished, Andervender huffed to his feet. I felt shoved back into an unwelcome reality.

“Very good, John.” Andervender launched into a sermon. I blanked out by thinking about ways to get my parents to say yes to the Sandia Crest trip, and how to coax them into getting Henry’s therapy programs restarted.

Andervender startled me out of my musings by saying, “So, Marian, what gift of the Spirit do you bring us?”

I blushed. The question was too intimate to talk about in front of all these strangers. Unbidden, my mind turned to the vivid dreams I’d been having.

Andervender frowned. “What are you thinking about?”

Dreams. I searched the wall behind him for a distraction. “The fish-shaped clock. I’ve never seen one before.”

“Well, we’re waiting.”

“I’m sorry, but my mind is blank.”

“Blank?” He blinked at me as if he couldn’t believe his ears. “Those who are blank slates are easily written upon by Satan.” He harrumphed. “Well, you weren’t properly guided, so your spiritual development is nonexistent.”

John made a noise of protest.

Andervender glared at him. “Be silentor leave.”

Teenagers squirmed as the tension rose between John and Andervender. I watched John’s mouth twist into a bitter thin line.

Andervender took John’s silence as acquiescence. The pastor looked around the room with a challenging stare. I was shifted around on the couch as Laura and the other girl leaned away.

Satisfied, Andervender turned his attention back to me. “Have you ever had a vision? Spoken in tongues? Testified? Preached? Laid hands of healing on someone?” He flexed his fingers. “Anything?”

Harsh words choked in my throat as I again recollected him grabbing Henry’s head.

He pointed an index finger at my face. “You’re hiding something.”

I stared straight back at him, trying not to flinch.

The rec room door opened. I could smell melted cheese and risen crust. “The pizzas are here,” Gena called down.

Andervender broke eye contact with me. He called up, “We’re coming.” He said to the others, “Okay, time for dinner.”

I jumped up, and reached the stairs first, leaping them two at a time.

Gena caught sight of me as I emerged, “Marian, w—”

I skidded on the slick wood, but rushed past Gena, throwing open the front screen door with a bang.

The driveway gate was open. I headed for it, my sneakers crunching on the gravel, the air smelling of hot stone. The sky felt broad and wide after the confines of the Andervenders’ house.

John called out, “Marian, wait!”

I stopped so John could catch up with me.

John said, “Where are you going?”

“I don’t know.” I began to stride parallel to the adobe wall, and John fell in step beside me. The Andervenders’ front yard was scrub and neatly trimmed evergreens.

“Dad hates it when I interfere with his searching of the Spirit,” John said. “I made things worse.”

“It doesn’t matter. I’m never going to fit in at First Beginnings.”

“I know.” He took a deep shuddering breath. “Sydney always said she didn’t belong.”

I linked my hands behind my back and tilted my head toward him. I didn’t dare say anything for fear of making him stop talking.

“Last day of classes before winter break, she broke down and told me about the teachers and students harassing her to dump Donovan. She’d kept it secret from me for weeks. Her dad told her she’d be grounded if I found out.” John bunched his hands into fists. “Mr. Bauer asked them to ‘help’ him. They knew I’d interfere.” He looked away. “After lunch I proceeded to tell everyone exactly what I thought of them. I got thrown out and sent off to Texas because of my ‘disorderly conduct.'”

I stopped, and laid a hand on his covered arm. This time he didn’t flinch away. I waited for him to speak, but he didn’t. “Did you … did you get a chance to talk to her before—”

“Yeah, I called her the night I got kicked out.” John stared unseeing at my hand on his arm. “She sounded disconnected. Told me everything was fine, and that she’d see me after I got back from Texas. Damn, I should have realized how depressed she was.”

The screen door opened. John stepped back from me, and I swiftly dropped my hand as Gena emerged. Gena called out, “Dinner’s almost done.”

John led the way back, holding open the screen door for me. Faint chatter could be heard from the direction of the rec room. I followed John into the kitchen, and got a slice of pizza and a soda.

Shrieks and giggles came from upstairs, and the thump of shoes running across the ceiling. Mark and Luke.

Gena glanced up, and shook her head. “Those two sillies. They’re all excited. Time for me to get them in the bath.”

I overheard Gena whisper to John while he was at the sink, “You have such a gift for calming people.” John tensed, then whirled away from the sink to leave the kitchen. I followed him back to the rec room.

Silence fell as soon as I came in view on the stairs. Everyone stopped eating, and gave me and Andervender nervous looks.

Andervender paused in perusing the Bible, his finger holding his place. He now sat in the cracked leather chair I’d eyed earlier. He said to John, “So, you gathered up our lost sheep.” He beckoned for me to come closer.

I made myself take each step—going forward was the only way out of here.

Andervender said, “So, do you have something to tell me?”

I realized he expected me to apologize, then pour out my guts in public. “I doubt I have any gift of the Spirit. To ask me in front of strangers was rude—not to mention I hardly know you. I’d like to go home now, please.”

Andervender clenched his Bible so tightly I feared he’d rip it in half. He gave me a ghastly smile. “Matthew, please drive Marian home. Marian, I’ll talk to you later. Everyone, let’s begin the discussion.”

John watched me as I dumped my pizza and soda in a trash can. From his bitter expression, I knew the fear of making things worse kept him silent. I followed a sullen Matthew up the stairs.

I was not surprised when Matthew slammed the Andervenders’ front door and his SUV door. He didn’t look at me while driving, just kept his eyes on the road. We went the entire distance without speaking.

After he parked in my driveway, I said, “We need to talk.”

Matthew shifted in his seat, but kept looking forward, his hands draped across the steering wheel. “Make it quick.”

“I know our folks were thinking about us going out, but it’s impossible. We’re too different.”

“You’ve got that right.” He gripped the steering wheel so hard his fingers turned white. “How dare you treat my Dad like that!”

“After what you and your father did to my brother, I don’t care.” I threw open my door and jumped down, slamming it so hard the SUV rocked.

Matthew leapt out, and got in front of me before I could reach the house. “What’s that supposed to mean?” He was flushed, guilty as hell.

“You know exactly what I mean! You pinned Henry while your dad grabbed his head, you jerk.” I tried to get past him, but he blocked me.

“My Dad is trying to help your brother!”

I heard the front door open. “His ‘help’ sucks. Get out of my way!”

Mom stood in the doorway, her hand over her mouth.

Matthew became aware Mom was watching and stood aside. But as I passed, he whispered, “You leave my brother alone.”

I glared up at him. “He cares a hell of a lot more than you about Henry.”

Matthew said nothing more as I stalked up to the door.

Mom stood there wide-eyed, blocking the entrance, and I yelled, “Let me through!”

Matthew took off in a squeal of tires.

To my dismay, Mom trailed after me as I went to my bedroom. Mom said, “You didn’t have to be so nasty to him.”

I shot back over my shoulder, “Yes I did. He is such a jerk,” and slammed my bedroom door in Mom’s face.

************** End of Part One. 18. *****************

Have a great Halloween, and see you next week, L.M.

Soul Cages – Part One. Dreams in the Desert. 16 and 17.

Well, back to the story. Here’s Part One. 16 and 17. of Soul Cages (PG-13). Marian has returned from the church service to search for more clues about Sydney, and to meet with Ben.

Soul Cages

 Lynn Kilmore

Second edition copyright © 2014 by Lynn Kilmore

Published by Osuna Publishing

This story is a work of fiction. The characters, incidents, dialogue, and locales are either drawn from the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, and locales is entirely coincidental.

Part One. Dreams in the Desert

16

After changing out of the loathed dress back home, I reluctantly approached Henry’s bedroom. I’d avoided entering his room since finding out about Sydney on Friday, but I couldn’t postpone going in any longer. I needed to find the box with Henry’s therapy stuff so I could start doing exercises with him at the park; the sooner we got him back into his regular routine the better.

I tapped on his open bedroom door, but there was no answer. Inside, Henry lay curled up on his bed with his DVD player on, earplugs in, pillows piled on his body.

Henry had left the closet door open a crack so it wouldn’t get stuck again.

Maneuvering between the stacked moving boxes, I read the labels, but couldn’t find the therapy box. I’m going to have to look through the boxes put in the closet. Crap.

I pulled open the closet door, stirring up the scent of roses, to find no boxes inside. When I flicked on the closet light, I saw dead flies and moths trapped in the frosted glass covering the bulb.

Someone—Sydney?—had put down rose-decorated contact paper on the shelves, but the pink roses looked washed out under the dim light.

God, how depressing.

John’s grief-stricken words came back to me: I wish I’d been here … our church, and Sydney’s dad, didn’t approve … she said I was someone she could talk to.

She killed herself in here. Sympathy and anger stirred in me.

Impulsively I grabbed a box and shoved it into the closet. I stood on it to study the farthest recesses of the shelves. But there were no hidden notes or conveniently missed diary, and no carvings.

Then I pushed the moving box back out and inspected the lower shelves, running my hands along their rough sides. Nothing. Neither was there anything around the clothing rod that ran along the other side of the closet.

The empty silence of the closet got to me. I backed out, wiping my hands against my jeans to get rid of the dust on them.

Once Sydney had existed, and now she was gone, leaving behind only a few traces of her life. I wasn’t sure what upset me more—Sydney’s suicide, or First Beginning’s fervid attempts to pretend it hadn’t happened.

 17

Piñon Park was too hot for Henry and Sarah to swing for long. We ended up sitting together under the trees while Fermat ran back and forth. Ben and I talked about Juan Tabo teachers and classes until Henry interrupted to say how boring our discussion was.

Ben gave Henry and Sarah each a handful of dog biscuits to give to Fermat. My brother joyfully tossed one biscuit after another for the dog to catch. Then Henry proceeded to study Fermat from nose to tail, which the dog endured with lots of tail wagging.

While Henry and Sarah were preoccupied with Fermat, Ben said, “Jin was wondering if you and Henry have been up to Sandia Crest yet.”

“Nope,” I said. Sounds like Jin is Ben’s girlfriend.

“We were thinking next Saturday you and Henry could visit the crest with us. Sarah would come, as well as Miguel and Angela.”

“I’ll talk to my parents, but I’m not sure how willing they’ll be to have us going off so soon after moving.” Today Ben wore a T-shirt with Einstein sticking out his tongue. I added, “What’s the name of the head covering you were wearing yesterday?”

“Oh that. It’s a yarmulke.”

I made my voice stay even. “What is the large flat cracker called?”

“Oh, matzo?” He laughed. “I get so tired of eating that at Passover.”

So the man in my dream had given me a broken piece of matzo. Strange how vivid it still seemed; I could easily recall the worry wrinkle lines that had been around the man’s eyes.

With his sneaker, Ben nudged a chunk of grass that Fermat had kicked up. “So, what does your family think about First Beginnings?”

“Henry hates it. Mom and Dad are the ones that want to go.” It was on the tip of my tongue to mention the miracle healing hopes of my parents. “My grandparents are all dead. Mom was raised by her Uncle William—Henry almost got named after him—in Texas after her parents died. He passed away when I was twelve. Then Grannie died last year. There’s only Dad’s sister, Aunt Letty, left.”

“I’m sorry.”

Henry ran for the swings, Sarah following.

“Dad and Aunt Letty don’t get along.” I jerked my chin toward Henry. “They argue a lot about how to deal with Henry’s Asperger’s.”

“Your brother would make a great animal behaviorist.”

All the things Henry needed to learn to survive in the world made me feel overwhelmed. I had to convince Mom and Dad to find a speech therapist and occupational therapist for Henry.

“You okay?” Ben said.

“Sorry, just thinking about how busy this summer is going to be.”

Henry came running back, hot and sweaty. I squirted him down with one of the water bottles—Sarah ran over, expecting to be squirted too. Then Henry lay on his stomach in the shade to search for ants while Sarah played with Fermat.

Ben said, “Dad is afraid I won’t be able to get a job if I major in mathematics—he wants me to be a doctor like Mom. She’s a part-time pediatrician. He prints out pre-med requirements and leaves them lying around the house.” Ben flicked at a blade of grass. “My girlfriend Jin wants to be an electrical engineer.”

“Oh, that’s great.” Ah, I was right about Jin.

Jinkies, that ant is red,” Henry said.

Ben did a slight double take.

“Henry has seen every Scooby-Doo movie and show he can get his hands on,” I said. “I’m afraid I can recite several Scooby-Doo movies by heart.”

We chatted about Asperger’s versus Down’s Syndrome, and then my cell phone went off. I became aware of how much the sun had angled downward.

Mom said, “You’re going to be late for Youth Group.”

“All right. We’ll head back now.” I flipped the cell phone shut. “Time for us to go.”

No,” Henry said.

I kept my voice calm. “Mom says we have to go, Henry. She needs us back.”

“No!” Henry tore at the grass. “It smells!”

I racked my brains for a way to motivate Henry to go home. Ordering him to leave would only trigger a stress meltdown. Aha! I know what’ll get him moving. “If we get grounded, we won’t be able to hunt for sewer roaches tonight.”

Ben looked at me like I was out of my mind, but Henry scrambled up.

Roaches?” Ben asked.

“Yup,” I said, slinging my backpack onto my shoulder.

“Dad wouldn’t let me put the dead sewer roach in my bug box,” Henry said. He said to me, “Let’s bring a jar tonight to catch some.” Henry began humming.

Ben grinned. “Do you need a ride back to your house?”

“No thanks. Not until my parents meet you.” My parents would freak if Henry and I pulled up in Ben’s car. I’d have to introduce Ben to them slowly, and hope they left First Beginnings before they found out Ben was Jewish.

I said goodbye, and prodded Henry to do the same. About two-thirds of the way back, we encountered Dad coming up the trail.

Dad was out of breath and scowling when he reached us. He said, “You’re running late. Mom is worried.”

I said, “I’d rather skip Youth Group.”

“You’re going,” Dad said.

It was worth a try. I kicked a stone off the trail. “We met a student from Juan Tabo who just graduated. His name is Ben. He told me all about the high school.”

“What!” Dad said, stopping. “You talked to a stranger?”

“Give me a break, Dad. He’s going to major in mathematics at Stanford. I got to meet his sister, who has Down’s Syndrome and was willing to play with Henry. I’d say she was about nine.” I knew the mention of a prestigious university and a play buddy for Henry would mollify Dad.

Dad said to Henry, “Who did you meet at the park today?”

Henry was searching the Chamisa bushes near the trail for lizards. “Sarah. Can swing higher than her. Ben has a dog named Fermat. Fermat is a Beabull.”

Dad grunted. He said to me, “I want to meet this guy before you see him any more.”

Dad, he’s okay,” I said.

“I’ll be the judge of that.”

I rolled my eyes. “Fine. I’ll ask if he can stop by this week.”

“I start work tomorrow. It’ll have to be next weekend … might have to work on Saturday. Make it Sunday afternoon.”

Dad’s mention of working on Saturday made me uneasy. Mom’s going to get upset when she finds out.

************** End of Part One. 16 and 17. *****************

Have a good week! L.M.

Soul Cages – Part One. Dreams in the Desert. 15.

Hope you all are having a great October. The first giveaway of a signed copy of Soul Cages on Goodreads went so well that I will have 9 more copies to offer in a Goodreads giveaway from Oct. 19 to Nov. 18.

Here comes Part One. 15. of Soul Cages (PG-13). Enjoy.

Soul Cages

 Lynn Kilmore

Second edition copyright © 2014 by Lynn Kilmore

Published by Osuna Publishing

This story is a work of fiction. The characters, incidents, dialogue, and locales are either drawn from the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, and locales is entirely coincidental.

Part One. Dreams in the Desert

15

Dad, with Henry next to him, found me in the dining area. “Are you all right?” Dad said.

Mom came over. “She’s okay. Thin air got to her. Barbara thinks she’s dehydrated.”

Dad took my empty cup from the table, walked over to a carafe of ice water, filled it up, and brought it back. “Drink.”

Henry fidgeted as the crowding got worse. I swallowed the water as quickly as I could.

Andervender’s voice came closer from the other side of the curtains, which meant he was trying to make his way toward the dining area.

I said, “Maybe I should take Henry to see the Sunday School room. It’d be empty now.”

Dad studied Henry, then nodded. “We’ll come and get you when it’s time.”

The door to the back rooms had been propped open with a brick. Henry and I hurried to the Sunday School door. Peering through the mesh glass, I checked that the kids were gone. All clear.

We went in. I shoved the door shut while Henry went up to a crude painting of Noah’s ark covering a wall. He touched each animal, naming it. “Elephant, zebra, deer, rabbit, giraffe, …”

A comforting litany, and the smell of markers and finger paint would help Henry feel safe.

Then I heard Andervender’s muffled voice coming closer and closer. He must be headed to his office to get out of that black robe.

I peeked out. Andervender’s office door was open, while Matthew and John lingered outside. Both of them caught sight of me before I could duck back. Crap, I shouldn’t have looked.

I studied the room’s concrete walls—no windows, just the one door. We’re stuck. Tempting to lock the door, but that would create a fuss if the Andervenders did stop by to visit Henry and me. With any luck they’d just go back to the dining area.

I heard footsteps, and knew with a sinking sensation it had to be them. So I scrambled over to the teacher’s chair, moved it so I blocked access to Henry, and sat down.

Andervender came to stand at the glass, looking in, and opened the door when he caught sight of us. He said, “May I come in?” as he stepped inside. “Feeling better?”

Henry froze in tracing a penguin’s flipper.

“Yeah.” I fought the urge to scoot my chair as far away from him as possible. His aura of hate was gone, but it lurked there underneath the surface, like beetles waiting to be exposed by overturning a rock.

Matthew and John stood at the open doorway. I cursed my dress, for Matthew was way more interested in looking at me today. John’s gaze kept anxiously going from Andervender to Henry and back.

Andervender cleared his throat. “I know this may be awkward for you, but sometimes, well—sometimes a parishioner will be overcome by the Holy Spirit during one of my sermons.”

I clamped my mouth shut. The words were there in my mind, waiting to be spoken, like a prophecy. But there was no way I was going to tell him what I’d sensed as I’d listened to him preach.

Be careful, an inner voice warned. This man is dangerous, and he won’t like it if you criticize his sermons.

Andervender said, “Well, make sure you drink every hour for the next couple of days. We’ll see you at Youth Group this evening.” He slapped his hands together and rubbed them. “I’d better get back to my flock.”

He squeezed past Matthew and John, and disappeared out of sight.

Matthew blocked the doorway. I couldn’t help scowling at him. He said, “I’ll be by at four-thirty with the SUV.”

Like I didn’t already know that. Jerk.

Henry had scrunched himself down, making sure his back was to the door, to stare at the painting of a dolphin.

John glanced down the hall. “Here come your parents. Matt, I think you need to move. You’re blocking the door.”

Matthew twitched. “Oh, so I am. Here.” He stepped backward until there was space to get out.

I suspected Matthew was too close, but maybe Henry could handle it. “Come on, Henry, time to go.”

Henry got as far as the door, then scrunched up against the door frame. He wouldn’t look at Matthew.

John said, “I think Henry is spooked about yesterday. Take two steps back, Matt.”

Matthew folded his arms across his chest, but did take two steps backward.

I could see through the propped-open door that Dad and Mom had stopped to speak to Mr. Rickmand. I sensed Matthew was gathering up the nerve to make small talk with me while we waited for my parents.

Well, I wanted none of it. “Henry, let’s go out the back.”

“Wait,” Matthew said.

“I’m taking a short cut to the car.” I shoved open the back entrance so Henry could rush through. “This way is much quieter for Henry.”

“That’s a good idea,” John said. He clapped Matthew on the arm. “How about we see how Mom is doing?”

Matthew called out, “I’ll be there at four-thirty.”

As the steel door closed, I heard John saying to Matthew, “You know, if you were le—”

The door clunked shut.

************** End of Part One. 15. *****************

Cheers, L.M.

Soul Cages – Part One. Dreams in the Desert. 14.

We have now reached Part One. 14. of Soul Cages. This is a YA novel with a Gothic streak, which is why it’s PG-13. When we last left off, Marian had finished talking to her friend Nicole before going to bed.

Soul Cages

 Lynn Kilmore

Second edition copyright © 2014 by Lynn Kilmore

Published by Osuna Publishing

This story is a work of fiction. The characters, incidents, dialogue, and locales are either drawn from the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, and locales is entirely coincidental.

Part One. Dreams in the Desert

14

In the dream I was in the reception area outside the cruise ship dining hall; gold-gilt mirrors covered the pale blue walls. Weeping Jewish men and women stood in a crowd around me.

A waiter threw open the dining hall doors, and stepped back. I entered amidst the crowd. The dining hall was filled with piles and piles and piles of shoes on the blue plush of the carpet. A woman, her hair teased into gray curls, stopped at a waist-high mound of decaying shoes to grab hold of a man’s brown loafer, clutching it to her chest while crying.

The woman said to me, “When you’re young, you think it will last forever. Then the end comes.”

I saw in the mound black patent girls’ shoes, green rain boots, work boots with tar stains, hiking boots, dress shoes, and sneakers.

I wandered among the piles, feeling dazed, and then drawn toward the flickering candles of quiet alcove.

Within the alcove was an elderly Jewish man, in skullcap and business suit, standing next to human-high menorahs with all the candles flaming. He said to me in an Eastern European accent, “Remember the dead,” and handed me a piece of cracker like cardboard, which had on top a thin layer of ashes.

He said, “Eat, and remember the dead, carry it within you.”

I placed it in my mouth, and swallowed it without chewing. It had no taste.

“Marian, wake up!” Dad rattled my locked doorknob.

“All right, all right already,” I called out. My mind felt blurred. I looked for my alarm clock, then realized it was packed away, so I pulled out my cell phone from underneath a pillow. 7:51 a.m.—no time for a run.

The intensity of the dream shook me. I could almost imagine I could hear weeping.

Get a hold of yourself. Talking to Ben triggered that dream.

I dug out jeans and a white blouse, yanked my hair back into my usual ponytail, smeared on a thick layer of cherry lip balm, slathered on skin lotion—the air is so incredibly dry here—and slipped out into the kitchen.

Dad took one look at me and said, “Nope. Go change.”

I glanced at Mom, who was wearing a blue dress, microwaving frozen pancakes. My dresses were hidden deep in one of the boxes. I’d have to waste time digging them out. And then there would be the hassle of wearing pantyhose. “It’ll take too long. We’ll be late for church.”

Dad scowled. “You should have gotten ready last night. You had plenty of time to do so.”

“I passed out instead of unpacking.”

Dad tapped his fork against his plate. “That’s too bad. Go change.” He’d put on a blazer, tie, and slacks.

I retreated to my room, cursing under my breath. I hated wearing dresses and pantyhose, except for dances.

It took too long for my taste, but I finally found a creamy long-sleeve dress with tiny violets. Mom had bought it for me two months ago, despite my protests.

“Time to go,” Dad called out.

I raced for the kitchen, grabbed two pancakes, rolled a sausage into them, and took quick bites.

Henry sat before an empty syrup-coated plate. He was wearing khakis and a button-down shirt, but no tie (ties triggered his gag reflex).

We trooped into the two-car garage, which had one side piled high with boxes. Mom and Dad chatted about unpacking. I asked if I could take Henry for a walk in the afternoon.

“Do it,” Dad said, “the fresh air will do him good.”

Mom opened her mouth as if to object, then closed it, and instead tapped her glossy fingernails on the car window in a tap, tap-tap, tap rhythm.

The drive to First Beginnings took about fifteen minutes. We pulled into the parking lot of a small shopping center gone to seed. Most of the storefronts had empty windows. In the center was a retail space with its windows covered over with white paper decorated with cross paintings.

“They just moved here,” said Mom. “They got too big for their old space.” She pointed eagerly at a sign that hung above the entrance. “Gena said they got the sign up two weeks ago.”

The storefront sign read FIRST BEGINNINGS OF THE GODLY CHRISTIAN CHURCH in gold letters.

The parking lot in front of the church was filling up with cars and trucks. Most of the people, all white, were over forty. Some had children, and one man pulled an oxygen tank on wheels behind him. A tube wound its way up from the tank to his nose.

“That’s Mr. Rickmand,” Mom whispered, pointing at the man with the tank.

To me he looked to be in only middling health, despite his miracle healing.

My doubt must have shown, for Mom added, “He was bed-ridden six months ago. Now the cancer is in remission, and he can go out and drive himself places.”

As we got closer to Mr. Rickmand, I heard his oxygen tank make a hissing noise every couple of seconds, like a balloon being deflated. He held the glass door open with his body so that we could enter.

Inside I found the store shelves had been removed, but there were faint impressions in the linoleum where they had been. The front of the empty space had been filled with polished wooden benches.

I’d guess there were over a hundred people. Mom had said something about the First Beginnings congregation nearly doubling as word of Pastor Andervender’s healing gift got around.

The benches faced a lectern which stood before blue velvet curtains hung across from wall to wall. It reminded me of the stage curtains at East Alexandria High. Certain curtains were closer than others, so people could walk “backstage” easily.

Next to the lectern was an American flag on a pole. A huge silver satin cross had been sewn onto the curtain fabric behind the lectern.

Dad chose a bench close to the exit, despite an usher trying to coax us to sit closer to the lectern—a smart choice in case Henry couldn’t handle the scents or crowd. Henry was wedged between Mom and Dad, while I sat between Mom and an elderly lady with frayed sleeves.

Various strangers came up to greet us, and it did not end until the Andervender family filed in from behind a curtain to take their reserved places in the first row. Luke and Mark were missing. There must be a Sunday school for younger kids. John’s head was down in contemplation, but Matthew looked around and waved at my Mom and Dad. Gena made a tiny wave with a gloved hand as well.

An usher near the lectern made a motion for all to rise. Pastor Andervender came from behind a curtain wearing a black robe and ascended the lectern.

Andervender fiddled with the microphone pinned to his robe, then started a long prayer. Flashbacks of Henry struggling under his hands made it hard for me to listen. My hands trembled, so I squeezed them into fists at my sides.

Then we were allowed to sit. Andervender read various verses from a big leather Bible on the lectern. But all I caught were fragments that floated up to my consciousness like corks bobbing to the surface: kingdomdarknessweepinggnashing.

I checked on Henry, to find him zoned out, eyes closed, rocking slightly, his hand covering his nose.

Andervender’s eyes flicked around, studying the faces, and he launched into his sermon. “We have been given the gift of spiritual truth, a truth rejected by the Jews, and lost by many of our Christian brethren. So few grains winnowed from the chaff, and it pains me to see it. I see before me those righteous few who—”

My breaths came faster. I put my hands over my ears, rubbing at my temples so that it would look like I had a headache.

His voice muffled, I watched Andervender’s face contort with breaking waves of pride. Underneath, like oceanic depths under a crust of ice, was abiding anger and fear. He described with relish what hell would do to all the unrighteous ones.

To me it felt as if a sly awareness seeped into the store with each word out of Andervender’s mouth. I looked around in a panic.

There were engrossed faces, tiny nods of agreement. Henry was oblivious. Dad shifted in discomfort, but Mom was drawn in, as well as Matthew and Gena. John looked as if he’d left his body behind to play dutiful pastor’s son while his mind escaped.

I dug my thumbs into my ears, trying to block Andervender out.

Mom poked my elbow and said close to my ear, “Are you all right?”

I shook my head.

So Mom grabbed hold of my arm, helped me to stumble past Henry and Dad, and took me outside.

I placed a hand against the pitted glass window to steady myself as the dizziness faded. The glass vibrated with Andervender’s microphone-enhanced words.

Mom held out a handkerchief. “Are you going to be sick?”

I took deep breaths of the dry fume-scented air. A blaring of horns could be heard from down the street at the intersection. I had to try twice before I could get any words out. “Just dizzy.”

“They say the thin air can sneak up on you. How about we go around to the back door, and get you some juice from the church kitchen?”

“Could we sit in the car for a few minutes? I’d like to put my head between my legs. That would look weird in the kitchen.”

“Fine.”

I plodded to the car. Mom put a hand on my shoulder—it felt like having a bird alight there.

After Mom unlocked our car remotely, I fumbled my way into the front passenger seat, pushed it back, and tucked my head close to my knees. Mom got in the driver’s seat to turn on the air conditioning.

With the car doors closed I couldn’t hear Andervender’s voice anymore. The tight coil of my muscles loosened.

Mom said, “Stomach bug?”

“No. Tired, and the thin air.”

Mom tapped the steering wheel. “I know this move has been hard on you and Henry. It’ll take time to adjust.”

There’s an understatement. “Uh-huh.”

I heard Mom relax back into her seat with a squeak of leather.

My breathing was almost back to normal, and the shakes were gone. What the heck am I going to do? I can’t stand Andervender’s voice. The thought of having to spend months, let alone years, listening to Andervender every Sunday brought the quivers back.

“Oh dear, you look green again. You sure you’re not getting the flu?” Mom reached over and opened the glove compartment, taking out a plastic bag. “Here, throw up in this if you need to. Or maybe we should open the car doors. It’s so hot in here even with the air conditioning.”

There was a knock on Mom’s window. I peered up to see Barbara studying us.

Mom lowered her window. “Oh, hi Barbara. I think the thin air has gotten to Marian.”

Barbara said, “Would it help if I brought a cup of water?”

“Oh, could you?” Mom said.

“I’ll be right back.” Barbara disappeared.

I racked my brain for a good excuse to stay in the car. But all the excuses I could think of sounded lame, so unless I could make myself throw up I’d have to go back in.

Barbara brought back a Styrofoam cup filled with water. I drank it in small sips. I saw Barbara point at the gold watch on her wrist.

Mom said, “Marian, I promised to help in the dining area after the service.”

The two women herded me out of the car, and around the side of the shopping center to the back entrance. Barbara reassured Mom that many people had trouble with the thin air the first few weeks in Albuquerque, and that it would pass.

Barbara led us past splotches of broken glass amongst the concrete, and yanked open a steel door. The back entrance opened onto a narrow corridor with one door on either side, and another in front of us. The right door had a glass window embedded with mesh wire, and SUNDAY SCHOOL painted on it. I could hear kids giggling from inside.

The door on the left had a wooden plaque with PASTOR ANDERVENDER’S OFFICE scrolled in gold letters.

Barbara took us through the door at the end of the corridor. I found myself in a makeshift break area curtained off from the sanctuary where the church service was still going on.

Two long tables were against the wall, and on one were carafes of water or orange juice amongst plugged-in urns for coffee or hot water. The other table had Danishes in bakery boxes, and orange and pineapple slices piled high on platters.

There were no walls to block out Andervender’s booming voice as he led the congregation in prayer.

Try to ignore him. Pretend it’s the surf.

“Sit here,” Mom said to me, pulling out a folding chair from one of the scattered dining tables.

I muttered “Thanks” and sank into the chair. The air-conditioned metal chilled the back of my knees.

Barbara double-checked the urns and carafes, while Mom rearranged the paper plates and plastic forks into smaller piles on the food table.

I heard Andervender call out, “Anyone who wishes to ask for God’s healing, please come forward.” The congregation became silent in expectancy. Andervender said the same healing prayer for each person, six in all. I noticed he had none of the fierceness he’d shown with Henry. And not once did he say “affliction” or “spirits.” At the end, there were faint sighs of disappointment. No miracle healings today.

One last prayer, then a roar of “Amen.” The service was over.

************** End of Part One. 14. *****************

Have a great week! L.M.