March 12, 2012
When Abe Smith’s daughter and son-in-law arrived at the scene of the devastation, they found Abe sitting on the tailgate of a pickup truck, his head bandaged in white rags, a shattered picture frame in his hands. Behind the frame’s shattered glass, the eyes of Abe’s deceased wife stared out at them.
Next to the truck a bare slab was all that remained of the home Abe and his wife had built for their family and paid off with dollars they purchased one at a time with the sweat of their brows.
That evening, the Saturday before Easter, at a neighbor’s house, a house the tornado spared as it hop-scotched through the countryside, Abe retired to the guest bedroom, took a borrowed Bible from the night stand. He turned to the Gospel of John and read his favorite passage, chapter eleven, verse twenty-five: “Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live.”
Abe knelt beside the bed and recited the Lord’s Prayer. When he reached the part that said, “Thy will be done, thy Kingdom come, on earth as it is in heaven,” he could not make himself continue.
“Get thee behind me, Satan,” he said as he flailed his arms at the darkness that encompassed him.
He lay face down on the floor the rest of the night, prostrate before a relentless God, the God that the holy book said brought release to the captives, salvation to his people, abundant life. Abe knew the same book told of a God who sent the angel of death to kill innocent children, who ordered his soldiers to decimate the people of the lands they conquered, who gave up his innocent Son to be crucified by sinners not worthy to touch the hem of his garment.
He slept not at all that evening. An hour before sunrise, he stood up, showered, put on a borrowed set of clean clothes. He unlatched the back screen door, careful not to wake the other occupants of the house, and wandered through the pine forest, dodging the fallen tree tops twisted to the breaking point by the voracious wind. He came to a ridge that overlooked the countryside, a ridge with an eastern view.
He found a large rock, one that reminded him of Gethsemane and Calvary.
There he waited.
In about thirty minutes, he saw the beams of flashlights as they bounced off the black tree trunks. Soon, he heard his daughter’s voice.
“Daddy, where are you? Daddy where are you?” she cried.
She stopped shouting when she broke into the clearing, and her light fell on Abe’s back. Her husband caught up with her and turned off his flashlight as they walked next to Abe.
She put her arm around her father.
“We were so worried about you, daddy,” she said as she leaned her head against him. “We thought we had lost you, too.”
Abe rested his hand on her head, comforted her. He put his index finger to his lips to quiet her. Then he pointed at the eastern horizon.
At that moment, the sun broke free of the bounds of earth and covered them in its light. The three of them sat on the great rock and watched without speaking for a long time.
Abe placed his feet on the ground, straightened his shoulders.
“It’s Easter Sunday. Momma would want us in church this morning,” he said.
He turned and walked back towards the neighbor’s house. His daughter and her husband trailed behind him, holding hands while they wept.
(Written for The Writers Collection to the prompt “Easter.”)